The past week I have spent time in a number of different cities – 4 to be exact. Last weekend I travelled down to Texas with two of the other exchange students to see what the South had to offer. With that I had now covered multiple parts in each of the coordinates of America – North, South, East and West – so I feel as though this semester has really allowed me to get to know America that much better. I spent the week in DC of course for classes, etc and then at 3am on Saturday morning travelled to Ohio to visit a friend for the night. It’s been a pretty crazy week!
So let me start with Texas – what an experience! Firstly, I would highly recommend a trip there – we had such a good time! So don’t let people turn you off it with their consistent asking ‘why are you going to Texas?’ – there is heaps to see there and much of it is really pretty. I would totally go back on a future trip! We visited Dallas and Austin making it a whirlwind of a weekend that involved a lot of travelling but that was definitely worth it. We headed on down from DC to Dallas after class on Thursday and spent Friday exploring the city – especially everything that was JFK related as, in case anyone doesn’t know, that is where the president was assassinated in 1963. Accordingly, Dallas has been recovering from its reputation as the ‘city of hate’ since then but despite the horrible history that is well documented on Elm Street, really the southern chivalry is super evident in Texas – cowboys are very gentlemanly! We spent most of our first day in Dallas inside the 6th Floor Museum which is in the Book Depository building where Oswald allegedly shot from. For anyone visiting Dallas I would say that missing this museum would be a big mistake – it is so interesting and so well documented – it’s really a great museum!
We also went to the Grassy Knoll and stood on the exact spot of the road – which is marked off – that he was shot on. For a modern history lover and someone who is very interested in conspiracy theories like myself, this was a fantastic day, albeit based on a very saddening experience. The museum captures the sadness that was felt not only across the nation, but across the globe, really beautifully but also shows the build up to the event, and the bizarre series of events that followed. As I said, this museum is not to be missed when visiting Dallas.
We spent time on a historic street nearby where we had Mexican for lunch. Texas is apparently known for its Mexican food which I found strange at first, but later I learnt that Tex-Mex was invented in Dallas and so it made a bit more sense. Dallas apparently is also responsible for the inventions of 7/11, Dr Pepper, Lays Chips, Neiman Marcus, the Micro Chip, and so much more. Kind of crazy to think that all of that came from one, semi-random city!
That night we took the bus from Dallas to Austin which is just over a three hour trip. I have a friend who lives there who we stayed with for the night and who gave us a pretty great tour of Austin, starting with the bar scene that evening and a look at 6th Street which is a crazy part of town! We went to a couple places and saw some live music which was on our list of things to do in Austin. We also saw a bar with a mechanical bull so all-in-all we were definitely feeling like our experience was very Texan! My friend managed to raise that bar the next day when she took us out of Austin to this barbeque restaurant called Salt-Lick that was just about as Texan as it comes. It was fun to see and though we couldn’t get through a third of the enormous portions of food presented, it was definitely tasty. From there we went to my friend’s ranch to enjoy some of the amazing natural aspects of Austin – the property was absolutely gorgeous and we had a good time walking through the river and driving the golf buggy around the grounds.
Once back in the city we drove through some streets that looked quintessentially Austin – it’s a very eclectic city! We enjoyed a stop at the Capitol building because its really gorgeous and looks similar(ish) to the DC one but minus the scaffolding. That afternoon she took us to a place that had a vintage market and, again, really emphasized the ‘indy’ atmosphere of the whole city. Austin was definitely an experience and I will definitely go back some day!
That night there was a freak rainstorm to end all storms – it was crazy – and unfortunately it occurred right when we had to go to the bus to head back to Dallas so we got on the bus soaking wet – less than ideal! We got back to Dallas at like 1:30am so we just went to bed so that we could explore the rest of Dallas the next day. We began our last day in Texas with a trolley tour of the city which was a great way to see more than just the area in which we were staying and also to learn some interesting facts about Dallas and its history (including that they invented all the things I listed above). We went up to the top of Reunion Tower where we enjoyed 360 degree views of Dallas – it’s really quite a pretty city – lots of interesting architecture! From there we went to see the last few monuments we wanted to see before finishing off with dinner in the same historic district we had lunch at the first day – this time more authentic Southern food though.
Unfortunately, with that we had to head to the airport and our time in Texas came to an end. It was definitely an interesting weekend full of new experiences and I’m really glad we got to enjoy them! From there it was back to DC and back to a number of assignments for all of us!
On Friday night we had our exchange farewell dinner (although we are still here for a number of weeks, this is the last week I suppose before everyone gets really busy with finals) hosted at the Australian embassy by the Study Abroad Office. It was nice to see everyone again – obviously with 50 something of us here we weren’t all going to hang out every day and so everyone broke off into smaller groups – it was great to all reunite for one big final event. We had superlative awards that we had to vote for (including Exchange King and Queen), a trivia game that reunited us with our Orientation Week groups (and which my group won – yay!), some drinks and some nibbles – it was all a lot of fun although it is very sad to think of this experience coming to an end! I’m not going to talk about that until next week’s blog though – but I will say I definitely am not anywhere near ready for it to finish – it goes so quickly!
Because of the event on Friday night, I changed flights that I had booked to go to visit my friend and her family in Ohio for the weekend and so at 3:30am on Saturday morning I headed to the airport to make my way to Cleveland, via Chicago. It made for a very long day (we all went out after the dinner and so I managed to squeeze in a one hour nap between 2 and 3am but that was it) but it was so lovely to visit my friend that it was worth it – and I’m really glad that I didn’t miss the Friday night event! I would have been really disappointed if I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to everyone!!
Ohio is definitely not on every tourists’ list of things to do in America but spending time with my friend and her family was a lot of fun and it was nice to have a little feeling of home – even if only for a night. They were so sweet and I had such a great time seeing them! This time we also explored a bit more of Cleveland (they live an hour outside of the city so I didn’t really see Cleveland much last time I was in Ohio), so this morning we went to Little Italy and to the Cleveland Art Museum which, if you’re ever in Ohio, I would highly recommend – it’s a really beautiful museum! We had lunch with the whole family again at this crazy grilled cheese restaurant that had the biggest sandwiches I have ever seen in my life! It was insane! Although a quick trip – it was definitely a good one!
And so now, having just returned from the airport, I’m sitting down to what I’m positive will be a very late night of studying – finals are definitely approaching!