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Omni Parker House (Boston, USA)

4 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located right in the centre of downtown, right next to freedom trails. Shops, bars, restaurants and everything of a downtown city is on the door step. Perfect location for tourism and business alike. From BOS airport it takes around 10 minutes. Room The room on the top floor was quite small but ok for one person. Classical style old room but clean with wooden decor and beige carpets in a historical theme. A high king size bed is offered in which was very comfortable. Either side are glass top bed side tables, each with lamp, telephone and easy-to access plug sockets built into the side of it.There was also an alarm clock set to wrong time. A wooden desk makes up one of them and is sufficient for working on a laptop, though a large mirror faces you. There is also some small basic coffee facilities. A not so comfortable armchair is also in room and this faces a corner unit that makes up the extensive mini bar. A large TV (with over 50 channels being offered) is on top but it means you annoyingly have to face it at an side view from bed. A small cupboard has a basic luggage rack, ironing board and safe with some robes and area to hang clothes. The bathroom is poky offering the typical combined bath and shower. Very dated and amenities include soaps, shampoo and body lotion from Omni hotels. Being on the top floor, room did have a view of the town hall and also offered blacked out drapes. The window can be opened. There is also a AC unit as well. The room is paper thin walls and got woken up at 3am thanks to neighbours having a party. Facilities The hotel offers a bar and restaurant set in nice grand historical decor. However did not try the food. WIFI is free if your a member of OMNI otherwise you have to pay. There is a business centre with a computer but it is not free to surf internet. Also a souvenir shop and star bucks is in the building. On the ground floor there is a historical walk with pictures plus a full modern gym. Staff Staff are mixed, reception are ok. Restaurant host was a little judgemental when asked where lobby toilet was as he assumed I wasn't a guest. Check-in took a while as behind loads of air crew in which they should have a separate check-in like most hotels- because it takes ages as they get rooms for all their crew. The hotel is in a stately home of classical and historical significance and therefore you pay for it- somewhat like boutique hotel. However for what you get room it seems a bit over priced and it was not a quiet room either. Noisy at 10pm then woken up at 3. Bring ear plugs.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 60 School St, Boston, MA 02108, USA
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Crowne Plaza JFK Airport (New York City, USA)

5 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located about 5 minutes drive from JFK airport. They have shuttle buses that go every 15-30 minutes depending on time of day. Manhattan, say Mid town is an hour by car or same via the E train from Jamaica, you can pick this up at Federal circle since hotel offer shuttle buses to pick you up from there. The area itself is next to the perimeter of JFK with other hotels nearby in a residential neighbourhood of Jamaica nearby with not much to walk to. However the view is very good of the airport if you like watching planes fly past. Room The room was a large suite. You enter into a large living room where there is a 3 seater nice wide leather sofa, kitchen area with an expresso machine with star bucks pods, microwave and tableware. There is a large nice living room table for 4. This is next to a large TV on the wall and there is also a walk in closet offering an ironing board and large laptop size safe. The bedroom was large and spacious with nice colourful decor and a very comfortable large king size bed. Lamps and bedside tables either side with phone and alarm clock. Lighting options are good and plug access is plentiful with US plugs built into the lamps. There is a desk and mini fridge plus filter coffee making facility. Large TV above with full US cable channels. Digital AC worked well. The bathroom was spacious with a large shower cubicle, though the fixed shower function hot water seemed to take longer than normal to heat up. Towels are nice and thick, Temple spa branded mini amenities are offered and they include everything but no toothbrush. However the sleep therapy kit is a stand out amenity for Crown Plaza. Overall room was very nice and spacious but for a suite standard it's a shame they don't include a bath tub. Facilities The hotel offers free WIFI for two devices only, its a bit slow but acceptable for email and social media. There are chargeable options for more devices and faster speed. Catering outlets include a bar and restaurant, bar kind of food which was mixed, burger was ok but fries were uncooked since I got a take-out decided to discard them. Breakfast buffet though had a good selection of hot and cold choices. Leisure outlets include a gym with modern cardio equipment with in built TV's plus they also offer a Zen room with Yoga mats and complimentary water. There is also a snack shop, ATM and some computers at reception. There is a large car park as well but unsure if its charged or not. Staff Staff are all really friendly in areas with fast check-in and check out. Overall a decent hotel for staying close to JFK, would definitely come again if in between flights if I had no need to go to city. Only disappointing thing is the high presence of immigration police that stay at hotel & walk around looking moody. Obviously not the hotels fault.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 138-10 135th Ave, Jamaica, NY 11436, USA
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USA – Boston Skyline (Boston)

USA – Big Foot (Seattle)

Days Inn Bellingham (Washington, USA)

4 Case Rating
Location The Days Inn is located on one of the main roads into centre of Bellingham, quite close to University. There is s big Arboretum a few blocks away, great for walks and the coast side park views is within 5-10 minute drive away. Seattle airport is about 2.5 hr drive /100 miles and Vancouver airport is 1hr 20 or so by car. In terms of walking distance there are fast food restaurants and a recreational dispensary across the road. Some other pharmacy and cafes not far to walk. Room The room was quite dated but comfortable for a Days Inn. A large soft double bed offered bed side tables, an alarm clock and each side had a lamp but you will need to unplug one if you need a plug. There is a large heater unit next to a large table with chairs suitable for dining. Facing the bed is a set of wardrobes with TV on top, it's connected to a separate box so it's not so easy to just turn on. However once figured, they offer about 70 channels such as main cable and HBO channels. A desk with mirror in front is shown with telephone, lamp and chair. There is also a coffee maker, microwave stacked on top of a small fridge on floor. A side open wall wardrobe with hangers if offered, and had a luggage rack, iron and ironing board. The bathroom is of standard motel size with combined bath shower unit offering small amenity bottles of body lotion, shampoo and conditioner plus soap. Overall the room was comfortable and reasonable for price paid. The only slight issue I had was the slight pong smell as you enter I think from the carpet. You don't really notice it after a while though. It does feel very dated. Facilities The hotel offers decent standard secure for multiple devices free wifi. Free parking and vending machines. It is a motel. There is a lounge seating area by reception. Breakfast is offered limited to a panacea machine, some breads, bagels, muffins and cereals. There is also some decent coffee offered. Staff Really nice reception staff, chilled out like most of the people in this town. Was able to check me in early and explained details well. The do annoyingly require a deposit despite empty mini bar but presume they have had cases of people walking off with their microwaves or TV etc. Overall good value for money in a town of the interstate between Seattle and Vancouver great for a stop over not far from Canadian border and also good for outlet shopping when not wanting to be close to Seattle area. The room could just do with a safe and some air freshener.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 215 N Samish Way, Bellingham, WA 98225-6030
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Mountain View Lodge (Washington, USA)

4 Case Rating
Location Mountain view lodge is located just off HWY 12, a few minutes from the town of Backwood. Mt. Rainer national park is about a 18 mile drive away. From Seattle airport by car takes just under 3 hours drive and about 100 miles away. Portland is just over 2 hours away. The lodge is an area of stunning nature & about 3 min walk is a flowing river, great for photos. Packwood is small mountain type town with a small logging locals type vibe. It's very chilled & picturesque with Mt Rainer view seen from it. An old scene like going back in time and does offer a handful of restaurants, small food stores, liquor and tobacco store, a salon bar and a few shops and gas station. If you like Burgers then try Cliff dropper - delicious hand made burgers. Room The upstairs standard room was simple but cosy, it's located on inner side of the motel so my windows views was of the garden but directly outside windows are hotel corridors. However the curtains are thick. The room has nice old style wooden wall decor of bright colours. A heater unit and AC unit is offered, the heater worked well. There is a nice antique desk and drawers, all wooden style. The double bed was comfortable and one side has a wooden bed side table with a nice lamp. Plug sockets on wall nearby. Facing the bed on top of the wooden drawers is a smallish TV that offered plenty of local cable channels at least 40, it worked well and was sufficient. There is a fridge in the room and a old wooden desk with large mirror in front plus telephone. The wardrobe is an open closet with luggage rack and coat hangers. Bathroom offers a shower cubicle with plenty of towels plus body lotion and shower gel mini bottle amenities. Overall the room is cosy and appropriate value for money for this idyllic hiking country area. However don't expect a safe or hot drink making facilities. Facilities My room had free wifi with a password and worked fine. Note the area has no phone reception, so having wifi is helpful in planning your day. The lobby though does offer some leaflets and was told they offer breakfast there at 730 in the morning, however had to leave earlier than that so didn't experience it. There is a vending machine for drinks though outside. The grounds of the hotel offer a nice garden with small lodge rooms surrounding it & I believe a communal outdoor fire place. There is a pool that likely opens in the summer and a children's play area. The hotel offers free parking & the highway is right outside but it's very quiet at night. Staff Reception lady was really nice, she offered me a room upgrade on ground floor if I paid hotel directly and cancel my Hotel com reservation. However since I collect nights I declined. She did offer a helpful map of the area for forest hikes & where to eat. Overall it's a old lodge but cheapest in area and it was good, very cosy, very clean, quiet and comfortable at end of October which is not high season as the sky passes were closed. The proximity is great being close to drive to popular hikes and skiing area. Wildlife is also in this area & you may see a elks on the property. I would definitely stay here again if I came back to mount Rainer.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 13163 US Highway 12, Packwood, WA 98361-9786
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Rodeway Inn Encinitas North (California, USA)

3 Case Rating
Location The hotel is located in the town of Encinitas which is around 25 miles to San Diego and 100 to LAX airport. The beach is around 15 minutes walk away and on the immediate vicinity is some restaurants, bar and many surf shops- along a main road. The beach, at least moonlight is about 5 Minutes drive away and is very scenic and clean beach with cliffs etc suited more for surfers and families. US1 is about 2 miles away. Room Room was presented with door open in which concerned me as it was 5pm when I arrived but when returning back to reception told by staff they leave the doors open to air them, which seemed a bit odd since the place is a open motel so anyone could of just gone in and damaged or removed something. First place to stay which leave their doors open. The motel room is quite spacious with a soft double bed. Only one side has a bed side table, which has a lamp with a convenient plug socket. However to actually power the light initially you have to use a wall switch by the door. There is also a phone. In front of bed is a large set of drawers with a medium sized fridge and microwave on top. A smart TV faces the bed and includes a full cable. There is a open wardrobe and ironing board in corner of room plus a table with two chairs, say for eating. Above the bed is a large fan and also seperate AC / heater unit. The bathroom has a combined bath shower and separate area for the sink. Amenities include x2 small bottles of shampoo and soap. Tiny towels are offered as well. The pull switch to run the main bath tap requires quite a pull, the hotel need to oil it. Overall the room was ok & the bed was comfy, the carpet & bathroom taps just gives it this dated feel. Facilities The main facility is car parking though it does get full. They have placed a smoking area in the car park away from everything with no chairs. There is free wifi for multiple devices that is secure. In reception is some hot drink machines are offered which I believe are complimentary. Staff Staff were friendly but odd, when asked at reception, if an in & out burger place is nearby (a friend told me to try it) was kind of told your in the wrong town "people here are into mediation & cycling not fast food". Confirming that I probably have to drive to nearby city. However there are two in & out burger places in Encinitas & funnily enough the one I went to was so full all seats were taken - so I guess he is a in & out hater, though my short time in Encinitas did appear it's a holistic type city. I guess they have had prior problems but you have to sign a form for the plastic key card, agreeing to a fee incase you loose it and signing a $150 fee if you smoke in room. Overall and I stayed here over a weekend on a trip to LA as everywhere was so expensive & full. This was only reason I ended up here so unlikely I would come back - it doesn't offer great value for money.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 1444 N Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024-1443
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Dollar – Hyundai Tucson 2016

Car Rental Company: Dollar/Thrifty Company for Purchase : Expedia Location : HNL –  Honolulu International Airport Upon arrival at HNL, you need to get a bus. This is located outside of arrivals in the middle pavement - follow the clear car rental sign posts as all buses go from there.  The bus only for Dollar and Thrifty comes every 10 minutes or so and takes around 4-5 minutes drive to get from airport arrivals to car rental location. Getting back was quick as buses are frequent. The centre is quite small but offers four self-service machines or two desk clerks. Staff Staff at desk was fairly upbeat and friendly. As everything was pre-paid she simply confirmed his back to me and did not upsell for better car or say offer zero liability insurance upgrade or even mention GPS etc. Despite booking stating Jeep Cherokee or similar, she simply said we don’t have jeeps and assigned another mid-size SUV- the Hyundai Tucson. I also assumed there was zero liability since this was first car hire place I have been to where it was not mentioned. Upon returning the vehicle at 7am staff did a quick check and the service was very quick with bus wait time less than 10 minutes back to the terminal. Car  Selection There was only one mid-size SUV available: Hyundai Tucson. Car Review - Hyundai Tucson (Automatic) Mid Size SUV was only about £4 difference to the very basic model so I decided as I was in Hawaii, an SUV would be most suitable. Seating Excellent electronic functional seating including lumpur support up and down levels – all easy to understand side switches. Very comfortable seat including and would happily drive this for long periods. Overall 8/10- just an outer thicker armrest would be preferable for ultimate comfort, which is not offered. The central arm rest is comfortable with a spacious storage box inside. Controls Controls were very straight forward and simple- excellent user friendliness for someone unfamiliar with Hyundai. Bluetooth was easy to set up with I phone.  There is a small central screen which has many functions even shows live tyre pressure on each wheel which I guess is handy for long drives. Hand brake for instance is a push pedal seen clearly rather than a button. Economy power controls for saving on fuel plus easy to use cruise control. Weaknesses were no auto window blinds but type of motion shows up on the digital screen between the acceleration and rev dials- it just is not automatic. AC is not individual for each front seat which for a new 2016 car was disappointing. The car does offers great power options that include X3 12V car power sockets, 1 in boot & 2 under console with USB & AUX audio socket. Space and Storage Storage offers decent space for two large cases and more, as you expect on an SUV, but unfortunately the car hire company did not provide a cover. Therefore, people can see items thru the window, though they are tinted. Good spacious storage by central rest though and side pockets plus drink holders. Driving Car has generally adequate power & acceleration as you expect from an SUV, though felt more powerful than the Jeep Renegade- especially on flat roads at high end speeds. On road up hill and flat the drive is smooth & effortless. Strong braking as well. For an automatic the revving was not high on acceleration when moving up gears that I find on other cars. Audio Audio is adequate and very much like the Jeep Renegade in that precision sound positioning anywhere in the car worked very well with overall decent sound but not quite as good quality speakers as the Renegade. You can customize the treble, bass and mids but no general settings. There seemed to be a restriction on volume so found this annoying and this maybe the car hire did this rather than the car. But all types of music was fairly good though slightly lacking in bass. Fuel Efficiency Fuel wise I drove the whole island of Oahu, stopped numerous times but didn’t count the mileage however I did about half a tank which was only $17– but fuel at that time in Hawaii was exceptionally cheap considering I had a largish vehicle.  It seemed more efficient than the Jeep Renegade. Verdict The Hyundai Tucson impressed me, it was an easy to use controls, comfortable car to drive around Oahu. The price I paid via Expedia was £36.27 / $56 / € 57 with staff offering no upsell, assuming the price covered the insurance waiver – it seemed very good value for an SUV. Sound is not that great due to the sound level restrictions. There is also no personal AC per front seat which is unusual for a 2016 car. However, plenty of in car power options & connect-ability was good for phones. Storage whilst spacious could do with being covered but this may of been decision by rental company because with seats down in back, a surf board could easily fit in. I wanted a jeep and ended up with the Hyundai and was pleasantly surprised.

USA – Hawaii Surfboard Rentals (Oahu, Hawaii)

USA – Waimea Valley (Oahu, Hawaii)

USA – Traditional Hawaiian Hula Dancer (Oahu, Hawaii)

USA – Oahu Island Map (Oahu, Hawaii)

Paradise Bay Resort (Oahu, Hawaii)

3 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located in the Kahaluu Bay Area. It is around 40 minutes drive from HNL airport and around 45-1hr drive from Wakiki. It is just located of the Kamehameha highway which is the main road up to the north shore where in my opinion are the best beaches in Oahu. Nearby around 10 min drive is a the town of Kahaluu where you will find shopping outlets such as of Macy, Sears, etc. The hotel is located on a lagoon that is not a beach and low non-moving water so for beaches you will need a car. However the location is very idyllic and relaxing. Room The room was basically a one bedroom apartment offering three rooms plus a balcony with seating. The living room offers a large sofa, old wooden style but comfortable with a lounge glass table plus a high table with stools presumably for dining. On top they offer a free large bottle of water - but don't take it home otherwise it will cost you $25. However they also offer a complimentary eco friendly branded bag, perfect for the beach. Plus delicious Hawaiian macadamia nut chocolates plus large decaf and regular coffee but no tea. The room offers a large wooden TV cabinet with a medium sized TV offering time warner cable. There is a large wardrobe with an ironing board, iron and huge set of drawers. There is an overhead fan and the room is dimly lit giving a romantic feel for both dining & relaxing on the sofa. The next smallish room is a full functional kitchen offering electric stoves, microwave, coffee machine, toaster and medium size refrigerator. All with pans and plenty tableware/cutlery for 4 people. The bedroom is spacious offering a soft and comfortable king size bed with clean soft linen. Bed side drawers & lamp on each side, one with a alarm clock that offers the old style iPhone/iPod plug, which I doubt is used much. There is no phone in the room or TV. Another large set of drawers is offered and in front of bed is large sliding door wardrobe with at least 10 coat hangers. Two branded robes are also offered and luggage rack. Sliding doors in bedroom lead to the balcony with my room - 15 a view of foliage. Though heard other rooms do generally offer views. Two chairs are offered. The bedroom also has an Separate AC unit - old style which unfortunately blows to one side of the bed. Though there is an overhead fan. The bathroom is quite simple with the typical motel shower bath combo. Worked well but shower head is covered in limescale. Amenities include dispenser shampoo/body wash & conditioner plus body lotion, all hotel branded. Overall the room is self catering apartment, cosy & romantic for a one looking for simple cosy than luxury or anything innovative. There is no safe and no working desk but this is really for couples or friends on leisure travel. Overall a spacious apartment just quite an old creaky wooden property. Facilities The hotel offers free parking something hard to find in Oahu at any hotel that is less than $500 a night. Rooms are set up in 4 or 5 buildings so you park according to your building. Free wifi is also offered, which worked adequately until abut 11pm then simply couldn't even load my email but then worked fine at 530am next morning. This is a self catering hotel but they do offer free breakfast but had too leave too early to catch a flight to try it. There is a small pool with jacuzzi & sun loungers. Also on floating docks to sit & enjoy your drinks. Plus a barbecue. They also have a dog garden as well as the hotel is animal friendly. In addition because of the $30 resort fee (everywhere charges this) they do offer free beach towels, kayaks and snorkel rental. Various activities are offered thru the week. Dinner is only offered 3 nights a weeks but includes a set menu of various courses and includes Hawaiian entertainment at $40. There is no bar unless it's a dinner night. However in the sheet guide they give you, staff can arrange any activities etc. Staff Staff are the highlight, they were very helpful and hospitable. The only issue that I experienced was that they double charged me the resort fee and after numereous phone calls and emails they eventually refunded me. Other than that though, they were friendly staff.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 47-039 Lihikai Dr, Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii
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Killing a Day At The Mountains Near Los Angeles

Every time I visit LA my return flight is always at night, therefore with the hotel standard check –out times, there is always a whole day to kill until my return flight. With so many 24 hour visits, in last few years I have been hiring a car and exploring.  Prior to this website launch, I drove around Hollywood and had a few great meal and drinks in Malibu at Moon Shadow, saw Venice beach, saw Santa Monica, even drove out to Santa Barbara and San Diego. One thing has always intrigued me though; this comes from having a window seat as you fly in to LAX – that large mountain range in the east that really shows how huge LA is really is in terms of space. USA-Los-Angeles-Mountains_From-Aircraft Please note these picture were not taken during this visit as they show snow capped mountains, which wasn’t the case. USA-Los-Angeles-Mt.Brady_Mountain-Range_From-Aircraft I know it’s where the locals go Skiing in the winter, making LA the all-round place beach and Ski possible lifestyle. So I decided on this trip to spend my free day before my evening flight and check these mountain out. Some small research indicated Mt.Brady was the closest place to go and it is where the highest peak is. Looking at cities to stay nearby it seemed the city of Chino was a good location to stay, really because the road the hotel was located on leads directly all the way straight up to the Mt.Brady Road. Chino is famous for its Prisons. The city has the typical US atmosphere of a new city, large lots everywhere of main highways with super markets, large stores etc. Rather dull and no as such like walking main town area (like Santa Barbara), at least that I could see it seemed everywhere you need a car. It was a long drive from LAX, around 1.5 hours away. I hired, well choose the Jeep Renegade, I wanted a SUV to get up the mountain. It was ok of which fortunately had an excellent sound system so I was entertained for my driving experience with my music. So the next day I woke up late as shattered since I flew from London, via Manilla. I put Mt.Brady in the GPS and off I went. It took about 30 minutes until I got closer to the mountains, even in Chino, whilst looking at google maps it looks relatively close to the mountains but during the day light, the mountains seemed miles away. Mt. Brady road I heard is the road to the peak where my objective was to have a beer at the Top Of The Notch Restaurant (insert link) ; the restaurant on the top. So the road winds and turns through the dry California terrain, which shows scattered thin forest and dry rocky lands. You drive thru some tunnels and the road is quite fun with some stunning landscape scenary en route. USA - Mt.Brady-Road (California) USA - Mt.Brady-Rd-View (California) Eventually you arrive at the town of Mt. Brady. This small little town consists of a post office, restaurant, small store and information centre. The wooden cabin style buildings look unchanged for over 50 years, it gave a feeling of going back in time which was nice. So I stopped at the visitor information centre where I got my Mt. Brady magnet and was clearly directed by the enthusiastic old man as to where this top of the mountain restaurant is and ski lift. He even was encouraged to show me all the hikes to the top. Beyond Mt. Brady town, is when the road becomes the most fun, it winds with tight incline up bends round and round, and this is when the x4 wheel drive SUV really coped well. I mean any car would have got up there as this was spring with dry roads but I am not sure about small cars in the winter. There was a lots of road signs warnings of ice and mandatory chains on wheels so if you come in the winter prepare for this. The roads are quite tight, with not much places to stop, but if you’re lucky and no one is behind you you can stop and get a photo out of the window. Finally, I made it to the ski lift. There is a small porta cabin with car parking of which just sells clothes so was pleased I got my magnet in Mt. Brady town as there is nothing in the way of souvenirs at this place. This is where you have the option of hiking up there (3.5 Miles) or be like me and be lazy (also I was against time) and take the ski lift. The ski lift costs quite a lot I thought, round trip $25. But it was fun and worth it, if you don’t want to hike. USA - Mt.Baldy Ski Lift Sign (California) I love ski lifts, since never skiing before I am new to them and love how you just hang there.  It's my 2nd time, last time was in Krasnoyarsk Siberia and the route up to the restaurant takes about 15-20minutes. It was the end of April and warm in the car parking area, so I thought nothing of staying in t-shirt and boarded the ski lift but as I ascended I noticed how many people coming down on the opposite side had coats and wrapped around there face, a couple different people coming down screamed to me "bro its freezing up there" I guess highlighting the fact I as in a T-shirt only and yes the higher I got ascends the freezing winds lent chills thru my body. However not much I could do now, but anyone going up I would highly recommend a hoody even in summer, as its this high wind that is freezing. USA - Mt.Brady Ski Lift (California) As you see in the above picture the landscape is kind of unusual, its obviously so dry from the drought that has been damaging this state, but it’s like very rocky, dusty with the odd pine tree, bush here and there. There are walk ways below as I watched some of the hikers doing the various routes, some easy, winding but longer routes with slower incline and shorter like below the ski lift that had high inclines, I saw a few doing this one from my lift, they looked experienced both of which had climbing sticks. Either way when you get up it looked as though you will be tired and this I would not say is for the non-healthy un-recent exercised like myself. Also not for young children. Arriving at the top you land right by the restaurant, the people that warned me were right it was freezing up there a wind that blows freezing ice chills- even the ski lift guys have scarves covering their mouths with overhead hoodies. I even noticed on the mountains nearby snow still existed in patches and there I was in a T-shirt. USA - Mt.Brady Ski Lift (California) I headed straight to shelter to the famous restaurant ‘Top of The Notch’ after looking at the signage outside, confirming that it is over 10,000ft now.   A map shows the route to the actual summit is about 3.5 mile walk away, I was disappointed I didn’t have time and a jumper to do this but it simply was too cold to stay outside for more than 15 minutes. The Ski lift going up was painful enough and I was dreading the descent with winds ploughing face on at you. USA-Top-of-the-notch-restuarant mountain map (California) The restaurant is sort of bar cafeteria range. It’s simple, nothing special really just the view being the highlight and all the bar food reflected very high calorie junk food, burgers, hot dogs, the sort of food you would find at a dive bar. The bar tender explained people don’t want salads after they have climbed 7 miles, they need high calorie food to retain their energy. Overall a burger will set you back $14 and appetisers like fries are $8 so it’s not that cheap but to be fair you in a unique location and the price reflects that. Apparently a cafeteria is usually in operation but wasn’t when I was there. Other than the bar/restaurant there is not much else, some sort of shop with hoodies (I was tempted but at $45 I thought they were over priced). There was no staff at the shop either and sort of seemed not in operation as all clothes were disorderly. I wasn’t sure what to eat so went with the bar tenders advice and took chilli cheese fries. It was a mess to eat and quite heavy but was enjoyable with a beer. USA - Chilli-Cheese-Fries Mt.Brady (California) So I finally achieved my objective and had a beer outside looking over the view, which was stunning. [gallery type="slideshow" link="none" size="full" ids="5862,5863,5864"] After my beer, it was time to be brave and head back down on the ski lift. Certainly it was a struggle in the T-shirt but hey the view was so amazing that I just absorbed the atmosphere and allowed my arms to freeze up. Obviously the lower I got the warmer it became so once down at base, it was fine to be in a t-shirt. USA- Mt.Brady- Ski Lift Down On the drive back down the mountain I noticed more things like this awesome looking bar called Buckhorn Lodge, shame it was closed as it had a real old authenticity about it. Looked like an interesting place to stay if I ever came back. USA-Buckhorn Lodge-Mt.Brady Rd (California) At one point on the drive down I stopped for a photo, which really showed the different landscape ground from the top, which incidentally isn’t snow but rock and rumble to green pastures and forests. USA - Mt.Brady Landscape Photo (California) So that was Mt. Brady. Worth it for a day out of LA if you’re staying in the city and want some time out from the glitz to see some nature, as well as Ski if your there in winter. Don’t expect the Rockies, in Colorado but nonetheless a fun drive up, amazing view and interesting landscape. It was a day well spent finally seeing those mountains. If you’re like me and need to get to LAX after expect 2-2.5 hours’ drive at the least from the bottom of the Mt. Brady road.  This maybe because I did this at 5pm in rush hour. My GPS back to Alamo car rental in Inglewood took me off the interstate for some reason on to Slauson Avenue for 7 miles taking me thru the cities of Vernon (the smallest city in the LA metropolitan area) and Huntington park. Avoid this road if you can as so much traffic and took 1 hour to do 7 miles since so many traffic lights. However, it was interesting an area of LA that is far from the glitz, factories, poverty & derelict buildings. With the Sun slowly going down, it did feel a bit like the movie ‘Training day” as I drove past these neighbourhoods. USA - Slauson Av. Huntington Park City (California) This area of LA seems like the Mexican part of the city as there is so many taco places and shops in Spanish. It was interesting to see; making the wait in traffic I suppose better than be gridlocked on the interstate. I liked this Alloy place that I drove past. Overall a nice day out and made my flight to Manilla. USA - Miranda Tyres- Huntington Park City (California)  

Alamo – Jeep Renegade

Car Rental Company: Alamo Location - LAX Alamo and National Car rental are located in the same location, the location is further out than the other rental places I have used (Sixt, Thrifty & Budget). However way more efficient, at least time I was there. Alamo used many self-service machines, I was a bit wary of this since I have a foreign driving license but it meant at empty line to see an actual Human, since all American driving liciense holders were using these machines.  This made my check-in under 10 minutes, so far better than Thrifty (1 hour) and Sixt (20 minutes). Staff Staff at desk was pleasant enough and just literally did the paper work, he did no upsell or anything and literally within a few minutes just said go to Line 4 and choose your SUV. Nice and quick service. Prefer less of the upselling as its hard to understand some of the things they cover say damage waiver etc when you bought this online from a non-US website. Car Selection At the SUV selection there seemed to be the choice between Jeep or Chrysler. I already hired a Chrysler before so wanted to try a jeep. They had various kinds (about 3-4). The Renegade looked interesting and very new so went with that. The Jeep Renegade An SUV was hired on the basis because I was driving up to Mt. Brady so wanted a 4x4. Seating The car had fairly easy to use automatic seat functions to get comfortable, though in general its not as comfortable as the Chrysler, not sure why as the Renegade offers lower and upper lumper support, even at a slight recline it still felt too upright. You can raise your seat as well, perhaps I raised it too much. I don’t think I would choose this car if I was driving for long distances Controls The controls were all quite straight forward and user friendly, actually much better than most cars- the central computer screen is very easy to navigate. Without GPS it offers audio functions, telephone, media and displays things like outside temperature, direction of travel. The actual screen behind the steering wheel also offered options of time, speed or direction of travel- though there are traditional speed and rev circular counters. Lights set to auto were fine, except be wary of the fog light- it seems like a button easily hit I didn’t realise I had it on until an hour into my drive. The best part though of the controls was the audio function, I haven’t function so detailed that the touch screen can pin point where you want to audio to come to, for instance you can select just the rear right seat or in between the back seat. It really works well but I found the best is the middle of the four seat car. There is also an Audio in & USB in central area, plus another USB under central arm rest. The USB immediately recognised my I Phone so there was no time spent finding it, controls while driving for thing like EQ are very easy on the touch screen. AC are personal each side and worked fine – dial counters that were easy to use to select desired temperature. Space and Storage There is a sufficient size of boot for a large case seating is adequate at the back for comfortable space. The issue though remained that there is no cover for the boot. This made me worry since going to a shopping mall etc, meant all your belongings are clearly seen through the back window – making it desirable for break-in. I certainly wouldn’t leave it for any length of time. I had also two laptops in small basg in the front and there is no under seat space. Jeep renegade simply doesn’t offer any cover for your bags inside the vehicle, be wary of that- especially where your parking. Driving The Jeep renegade is a smooth ride, its benefits is driving up mountains, it coped well though reved up quite high. One thing is weak is interstate or motorway driving, its just boring. It really has a slow intake of acceleration. Comparing to say the Evoke in which obviously is a bad comparison, it just doesn’t have that much power behind it. Even putting your foot down takes a while for the car react and then hits the rev counter very high. I would say overall great car for mountain or offroad driving but boring for general car driving. Audio This was the stand out feature of the Jeep renegade, the sound system is pretty good, it was definitely better than the Mustang and Camaro. This is likely because of the box design of the car but bass lovers will love this car. I listened to a variety of music, drum n bass, Hip hop and techno and the bass really rumbles the car like your in a night club. Its maybe better for bassy music as classical was not that great. However it was really a powerful sound system they had in the standard model, it felt like I had a big sub-woofer inside. Fuel Efficiency I drove in total around 6-7 hours in total and the fuel gauge half a tank, which cost $27 to fill up- its efficient for a SUV. Verdict For the price paid £27 /US $40/ €35 for 24 hours, it was good value for money and was good for my drive into the mountains beyond Los Angeles. However, it’s a boring drive on normal roads but if you’re a music lover, the sound system will keep you well entertained. It looks pretty cool with nice alloys and felt like a safe/strong car in case of a crash.  The controls also very user friendly. Dropping off at Alamo was also straight forward with frequent bus services back and forth to airport made no long wait. The bus is conveniently right next to where you drop the car off.

USA – Mount Baldy (California)

BEST WESTERN Pine Tree Motel (Chino, California)

3 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located on the central avenue in Chino, which is an area south of the mountains, full of large US parking lots with variety of shops & fast food restaurants. There is a taco place nearby, CVS pharmacy, food market across the road etc. The main freeways of Intetstate 10 & route 60 are 5 min drive to hotel. Downtown LA is over an hour drive away with LAX & the beach 1.5 hrs drive. Mt. Baldy is about 45 minutes away. Room My ground level room offered a direct car parking space outside which was most convenient. Inside a compact room was presented very clean, decor of a brick wall behind the beds & white paint colours which had a warm cosy ranch motel feel. Two large comfortable, expect soft, double beds with a bedside table in the middle that had an alarm clock & lamp in the centre, with one side of the beds offering two plug sockets. The other had a built in AC/heating unit which was less than a foot away from the bed- this was a bit too close. Large windows that had white black out blinds was also next to this bed. Two random chairs are offered in the room in odd positions but only where space allowed since a large desk, plus large unit of drawers & medium size fridge is offered below a decent size Samsung TV that faces the beds. The TV offered well over 60 channels of a decent typical premium cable selection. The desk had a phone, lamp & small coffee machine, no tea so really only desirable for coffee lovers since it's the filter kind. The hall way to the bathroom offered a wardrobe with two portable luggage racks, iron & board plus an easy to use safe suitable for a 13' laptop & tablets. The bathroom was quite poky, small but nonetheless clean with bath/shower combo, amenities were slim offering only mini bottle shampoo & soap, plus a soap face bar. There were some old ceiling heat lamps with a timer on the side- quite unique. Overall the room is OK functional clean better than your average motel and they offer two complimentary water bottles. Facilities There was free secure wifi that worked well with multiple devices. Catering facilities included some vending machines outside and there is a small room that offered complimentary breakfast which consists of cereals and breads etc, it was ok but very small bagels. You are not allowed to take to rooms as signage says so strongly. Leisure facilities included a swimming pool open from 9am-9pm. Parking is also free. Staff There was very much minimal interaction from staff as i arrived late and had to deal through a blacked out window like at the bank, this is because the office closes after dusk. Staff was friendly enough and explained clearly some local food options in the area at 11pm. Overall the motel was above average and reasonably priced under $100. Room was comfortable and functional with decent enough WIFI, jus bathroom amenities were poor.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 12018 Central Ave, Chino, CA 91710, USA
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Wingate by Wyndham Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston, Texas)

3 Case Rating
Location The hotel is located just off the main noisy highway enroute to airport, other than a few other motel type places there is nothing in the vicinity. About 10-15minute walk gets you to a gas station where you'll find a Burger King. There is a complimentary hotel bus which you need to call to pick you up either at airport terminals or main rental car centre. It's very unpredictable as to when it arrives as its shared with another hotel and is branded as that hotel 'home wood suites'. They may say 10 minutes every time you call but in reality we waited most times up to 45 minutes. It leave the hotel though on the hour every hour. Room The large room was spacious & functional for those on a budget. The large bed was of adequate comfort but small square pillows were odd & was pleased to have my own travel pillow. Either side of bed were bedside tables & small lamps on top. Behind the table though were plug sockets but not so assessable (you have to pull put table). The room offered a wide arm chair that was comfortable enough to watch TV. This faces the bed on top of an empty set of drawers. Cable TV offered some 22 cable the typical US networks. A large wide wooden desk is offered of which a helpful power plug unit is on top of which 2 USB & 2 US plugs are on it. The was also a lamp with LAN connection and phone with a comfortable office style chair resulting in a decent work station. The room offered a cupboard that had a iron & ironing board in it & lap top size easy to use safe- plus many clothes hangers. A mini kitchen is offered next to bathroom with a medium size empty refrigerator, sink , coffee maker plus a few teas. The bathroom was of typical motel US standard - simple design bath / shower combo but with slight limescale offered on the shower head. They did offer some mini branded amenities of facial soap, shampoo & conditioner, body lotion branded as mineral fusion. Hair dryer & plenty of towels. Overall the room is definitely functional, but lacking much real ascetically pleasing comfort The decor reminded me of a retirement home, a little dull but is adequate .The main issue is the built in AC/heater it is noisy and just comes on randomly. There is though a fan above the bed. The walls are thin so you can hear all your neighbours activities. Facilities There is free wifi in which has many open routers but I initially was on 3rd floor & experienced issues. However once moving to first floor it worked fine. Catering facilities include a free breakfast of which a simple buffet of waffle making, bacon, scrambled egg plus plenty of cereals, bagels , fruit & breads are offered. Overall adequate but the polystyrene plates are a bit tacky. Food was of ok standard. For other catering options, a room service menu consists of delivery from a Chinese reataurant nearby but also Pizza Hut, Papa Johns & Dominos do deliver. Leisure facilities include a small pool, more dipping than doing a work out. A very basic small gym and a small convenience store next to reception that offers food for your microwave, cold snacks & bathroom products as well as basic medicine for colds & heartburn etc. Business facilities include one computer with a printer but it did not work the entire time I was there- at least to connect to Internet. There is also a small meeting room and also parking is free if you are a guest. The parking is also rented out to travelling passengers so can be full. Overall though basic a full set of facilities are offered. Staff Staff are really nice, helpful with any request with check-in/out being a smooth process with no issues. Overall this is a budget hotel, but it offers better than a motel, fairly comfortable for cheap budget option near to IAH airport. For less than $70 it was fine but by no means offers anything innovative or enhanced.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 1330 North Sam Houston Pkwy E, Houston, TX 77032, United States
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USA – 3d Rodeo Postcard (Houston, Texas)

Mixed Feelings On Texas But A Positive Lasting Impression

5 hours in San Antonio, 15 hours in Austin and 2 evenings out in Houston There has been a delay with this blog about Texas and it has been amended slightly because it was initially quite negative and lacked a lot of information about Houston. However, since my first visit I was fortunate enough to return to Houston a second time. We’ll come to that towards the end of the blog. On my first visit I had 48 hours in Texas, arriving and departing in Houston with late arrival and departure times. I planned to check out Houston and it just seemed like there was nothing much there, other than some Museums, which I get bored of easily and off course there’s NASA. Everyone I spoke with, friends that had been and cabin crew, plus what I had read online prior to arriving described it as an ‘extremely underwhelming’ place to visit. It doesn’t even rate that highly on Trip Advisor. I wasn’t sold on staying here and mostly thought about finding other places nearby. From my old job and in general from my interest in Music, I had heard so much about Austin. I knew the famous South by South West festival takes place in Houston and for that reason I really wanted to visit this city. Unfortunately I was 10 days to early (for the festival) but I still wanted to check out what many have described as the coolest city in the southern states. Plus it gave me an excuse to drive, which I have missed immensely since moving to Bangkok. The first night I arrived so late that I just slept in Houston at the Hyatt in the Galleria area. This is the main shopping area of the city, where there is a large mall and not much else but shops and offices. It didn’t really seem to offer much else of any interest so I went straight to bed for the planned early start. I looked at maps and thought I’d check out the city of San Antonio first and then continue to Austin for the night to see a bit during the following day before returning to Houston for my late departure. The Drive The drive to San Antonio is four hours but it can be done quicker. However I avoided the tolls and planned to take some side routes in order to see the countryside of Eastern Texas. I was pretty excited to be back in a car for a nice long drive so John Digweed’s latest 2 hour set in London banged out of my hired Chrysler car speakers. Whenever I drive I need the music to fit the environment but this didn’t fit the location, I mean I wasn’t in California, so the music went from Digweed to The Chemical brothers and then to Burial followed by some Thom Yorke. Eventually I ended up listening to Sigor Ros. If you’re not familiar with any of this music I started listening to some decent techno and gradually ended up listening to well, kind of depressing atmospheric progressive rock. None of the music really fitted the journey, simply because it was just about the dullest drive I have ever had. One hundred and fifty miles of almost straight roads and barely anything to see - just dull eerie bleak plains of flat land into the horizon. The highway had huge tall signs adverting gun shops, ranges, adult stores and mortgage companies – it was depressing. Coming off the main highways was even worse - True Detective Season 1 is the best way to describe it. Run down houses, battered trailers and old rusty cars on the lawn every ten miles showed the poverty but also gave rise to my inner imagination that this really was the rural southern America in need of hope. Cults, guns, Jesus Christ and depravation. Judgemental and ignorant of me I know, but I was so bored on this straight endless road. I even thought some of these trailers on the side of the road would be an interesting photo but I wasn’t going to risk being shot as I was still very aware I was in Texas. The Travelman | Drive To San Antonio The Travelman | Drive To San Antonio | Eastern Texas Even this bull gave me the look as if to say ‘come on my land I’ll shoot ya’. The Travelman | Texas Angry Bull   Stop 1 – San Antonio So, I finally arrived in San Antonio. A historical city dated back to 1691 established by Spanish colonials. The sat-nav said I was one street away from ‘The Alamo’ – A UNESCO world heritage site. I looked around for somewhere to park and the only available place I could find was outside a bar that had a meter in front. A man stood outside on his phone looking at me in disgust like I had taken his space, so I asked if it was okay to park here. ‘So long as you got quarters’ which I didn’t so he said I’d better use the ATM in the bar while he watched the car. I ventured in, got the cash from the ATM and asked the bar lady for change. She seemed fed up and the change didn’t include many quarters so I figured I had better buy a beer so I can get some more. I started to notice the bar was kind of weird. It had a few pool tables, grubby looking characterless decor, the odd poster here; very run down and had no real character. It’s a local’s bar with a grainy screen showing a baseball game. A slightly rough atmosphere to the place. I overheard two men arguing about Donald trump, one thought he can get things done the other thought not. Many of the locals were pretty heavily tattooed and wearing bandanas, not the kind of place you’d take your Grandma. I sat and drank up and thought I’d take advantage of the toilet while I can. Wow. The graffiti in the toilet summed up where I was. This was by no means art, just the crazed mumbling writings of messy locals. My first experience in San Antonio appeared to be a visit to an angry cocaine/crack bar. The Travelman | San Antonio Cocaine Bar No sooner had I made this assumption than I heard a couple of guys shouting at each another. Definitely an angry bar, so for me it was time to leave and check out the sights of this city. This first experience was interesting. So the Alamo Mission. A very old looking brick building faces me, with a flag. I have no idea what this place is about. A cop outside with a cowboy hat says its free entry and then I see another guy shout “video about to start”. Perfect timing as I had no idea what this place was about. To cut a long a long story short, Texas was colonised by the Spanish and this former Roman Catholic mission was where the famous battle of Alamo occurred in 1836. Though the building dates back a 100 years earlier. It was actually built to educate Native Americans of Christianity. The Mexican army occupied it but then surrendered it to the Texan army following the Texan Revolution. However, this pissed off the General of the Mexican army & he wanted to fight the revolution that resulted in creating a siege around this building and the eventual deaths of all the Texan army in it including Davy Crockett. The building has some further history following on from this. It was saved by from demolition by two women in 1905, Adina Emilia De Zavala and Clara Driscoll. They successfully convinced the state to purchase and preserve the building. Various other things happened there but I’m not going to go on much more about it, if you’re interested there is plenty of information available online. It is great that it still remains standing and is probably one of the oldest buildings in the states and quite a popular tourist attraction for this reason. It is so important in American history that it has world heritage status. There is nothing much to see inside though other than the odd sword or metal cup used by soldiers. These are protected within glass cabinets that you not allowed to photograph. But it is free and quite a nice place to take a look at from the outside. The Travelman | Alamo Mission After leaving I noticed a tower, now as this is early days in my venture to the world of blogging many readers are probably not aware that I am obsessed with towers. Going up them and taking photos from above makes the Travelman a very happy man indeed. Most are dull but I feel I haven’t seen a city until I’ve seen it from the highest building I can. So far I have 26 city towers under my belt. This tower had to be done, it’s called ‘The Tower of the Americas”. Not that big but it’s a tower none the less. The ticket prices included a 4D video that I was told was a must see. This is where my impression of Texas went downhill. The video could have been interesting; it could have focused on the fascinating history of Texas, but no. It was like watching a propaganda film about ‘how Texas is a state of mind’, how it’s the greatest state and the best place on earth but there was no substance. I believe the narrator even said those words, ‘a state of mind’, no, it’s actually a state physically located in America along with a lot of other states. The video follows a helicopter hovering over each city and bumps you about with your seat moving in a tacky way while you wear 3d glasses. It’s not worth it, in fact, I would pay good money never to have to experience that again. The Travelman | Tower Of The Americas Anyway, I came out of it thinking yeah right, the state that has magnets showing guns saying ‘we don’t call 911’, the state that kills more people on death row, and lets not forget the war mongering Bush family and more recently Ted Cruz. Apologies for being political but Texas really can’t claim to have bred the best. Anyway the view from the top was equally unimpressive, a bit like Dubai but it didn’t matter, it was another tower ticked off the list. The Travelman | San Antonio Skyline Before leaving it was time to visit what Trip Advisor rates as the number one thing to do in San Antonio: The River Walk. So I thought I might as well check it out, grab a beer and some food. The river lived up to its expectations and I enjoyed the walk, it was very well constructed and had a sort of Disney (due to it being man made) Venice Canal feel to it. People go up and down on boats but I had a 25 minute gap on the new meter as I had moved my car from the angry cocaine bar. The Travelman | San Antonio River Walk The Travelman | San Antonio River Off course I had to go for the Tex-Mex food, which Texas is famous for. My goodness I must say the Chicken Quesadilla was very good and so good a duck joined me and we ate together. He was keener on the nachos and the guacamole; I guess cheese doesn’t digest too well on a duck. I wondered if he was on holiday from across the border, he was so at home with his nachos with a bit of guacamole on them. After making a mess with the cheese and having had the waiter look rather unimpressed with me, I decided it was time to drive to Austin. The Travelman | San Antonio Quesadilla The Travelman | San Antonio Duck   Stop 3 – Austin So I finally arrive in Austin after another tedious drive, but I did drive past what looked like the biggest petrol/gas station I have ever seen - maybe 100 pumps but read online it has 250 employees, it’s called Buc-ee's. Petrol or gas is so damn cheap in Texas, $20 will fill a tank. The Travelman | Buc-ee's Gas Station Upon arrival in Austin, which seemed like a big looking yet small city, I checked into my hotel, which had really very nice staff. A huge Texan guy comped my parking and gave me a free drinks voucher. Now that’s the kind of thing I like, just how it should be, so knocked back a gin as my throat was feeling a bit dry and I looked up and enjoyed the hotels décor watching the lifts go up and down. I was now in the so-called music capital of the world, though the clientele around me looked as if there were at a car insurance conference. I suppose I was in the Hyatt though. After trying to arrange to meet an old school friend I was told use Uber. The kind bar staff explained to me to how to use Uber, I had never used it before but had the app on my phone. They assisted me well and I thought ‘wow’ Texas people are really nice and natural. The view from the bar after knocking back some neat gin… San Antonio Hyatt | Bar View The Uber car arrives. I’m picked up by a fella that I think had just finished his shift at Walmart. “I do this on the side” he says and he briefly explained the concept of Uber to me. I asked if he had any run-ins with regular cab drivers and he ignored the question, like it was a touchy subject. So anyway, the planned bar to meet my friend turned out it to be in another part of the city but he made the effort to get me there. To cut along story short, a mishap meant that my planned meet up with the old school friend didn’t happen but I ended up on the very famous 6th Street anyway and so I decided to walk through the city back to the hotel. It was around an hour to walk back and I enjoyed observing everything on the way. Austin is a strange place. People mentioned to me prior to my visit that if I liked Boulder, which I did, then I’d love Austin. My view on that is that Boulder, Colorado is a hippyville, holistic, with no major corporations on the streets, yeah everyone is stoned but Austin doesn’t actually have that same vibe. Maybe it did years ago but just from my observations it feels more like a mix of hipsters, hippies and yuppies - this is a drinking city full of corporations. There is a decent artistic independent bar scene and many great food trucks, mostly trailers & streamers. I decided it was a bad comparison and nothing like Colorado. My walk started off great, I walked past a few very cool artistic looking bars but at the same time I asked one of the guys inside about directions, had a beer in another and I can’t deny while these bar looked cool the hipster vibe was try hard, not like London but that kind of “oh dear, did I wear the wrong t-shirt kind, is it not ironic enough kind of vibe”. Meaning I felt it was not that welcoming but I can be quite an introvert and at times and socially anxious so perhaps It was just in my mind. Anyway after half a beer I decided to continue my walk. I walked past these guys with a high tech projector on a wall, which they were using as a stencil to paint – I guessed this was because it was night and perhaps that is normal but I did also wonder if a real graffiti artist might consider this to be cheating. Were these guys just pretenders? The Travelman | Austin Texas Graffiti Artists As I continued to walk past more cool looking bars and trailer food stalls. I eventually entered the main city, it now felt a bit more like the live music capital it was claiming to be. You could hear bands playing loudly from the bars, all kind of indie stuff. The problem I found was looking at the patrons, they appeared to be an interesting mix of wannabe hipsters and yuppie businessmen acting like idiots on the sidewalks. Pissed and not dissimilar to what you might see in New York in midtown. It was here that I also walked past huge Ernst and Young offices, GE and other major healthcare/insurance type buildings. All major hotel chains are there too. Plus, now seeing the mayor’s office – it became very clear that this city to me felt like a southern Washington DC at the same time lacking the conveniences you would find in a place like that. For instance I needed something from a pharmacy like CVS – no sir this closes at 10pm. What this? It’s a major city, the capital of Texas the bars ram on until 2am but everything else closes. I also noticed for some odd reason that in the centre of the downtown area, tons of cyclists like doing their evening exercise, it looked fun but it was 10pm, so many streams of cyclists going along the streets. I thought maybe this is an Austin exercise ritual. However I kind of wished I had a bicycle and could join then. I continued my walk as my hotel was across the river, then I came across a huge highway with really cool purple neon lights on the underpass below it, it looked cool but as I got closer, it became obvious that this was the major homeless place. It was almost as if this city had them all placed there out of the way like rubbish shoved under a carpet. There were possibly a hundred homeless people, just lying like piles of unwanted rubbish. It was sad seeing so many poor people living like this and sad that the city of Austin clearly isn’t doing much to help them. Again it’s no different to DC where I saw many homeless people confined to the lawns. The Travelman | Austin Texas Homeless Area After getting back to my hotel I decided to get up early and take pictures of some of the things I saw at night when it was too dark for my iPhone to capture decently in the dark. This is Austin; the big corporate America capital of Texas. The Travelman | Corporate Texas The Travelman | Corporate Austin Texas At the same time full of cool art work and bars. Strange juxterposition. [gallery size="full" type="slideshow" ids="4974,4975,4976,4977,4995,4996"] I had this great smoothie at one of the food trailers, but must say it seemed a bit overpriced. I was due to go to a Rodeo that evening in Houston and I asked the guy what he thought about this. His response was interesting, “Well it’s like country music festivals, rodeo and nascar; I go to these places just to simply watch people to figure out why they like it”. I thought it a rather pretentious response. Why waste the money? The Travelman | Austin Texas Food Trailer In the end I never made the Rodeo, whilst the drive back to Houston was better than to San Antonio, I started to feel ill and went to a hotel to sleep it off before my flight that evening. Overall I took more photos and have to say I felt these two pictures sum up Austin perfectly. It’s a city of conflicting lifestyles and the original hippies know it. Texas is one of the most conservative states, whilst Gun laws are lax, it’s one of the strictest states for abortion, medical marijuana is still not fully legal from my understanding has the highest number of death row executions. It’s a harsh state ruled by some seriously conservative anal cowboys. When compared to states like California or Colorado it is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Whilst the Mexican food is good there are no Mexicans serving it. Perhaps the Texans like their food but not the people? I dunno, I’m just blogging my observations but this is my first impression of Texas. I guess if I spent some more time there it’s possible that I could view the place differently.
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" ids="4981,4980"]
Houston As few weeks later I was fortunate enough to fly back to Houston there on a business consultancy trip and met a variety of interesting characters, from the cow girl to the gun crazy duck shooter and everyone in between including various Uber drivers. My perspective sort of changed a bit about Texas or at least Houston. I think despite some differences of attitude to thing like Guns, and politics, which I never avoided debating. The strength of Houston is the people, everyone is so warm and friendly. There was no attitude felt at all like you might find in the major coastal cities of the US. I spent an evening in the Heights area of Houston where I went for some drinks with a colleague and we were both dumbstruck on how nice the bar tenders were. Maybe because we were English but really friendly bar tenders, millennial twenty year old girls that were not all about trump but did love a good Gun. It was interesting hearing their perspective and American society but there was no pretentiousness all like I sort of felt in Austin. Just down to earth people in a very arty neighbourhood that had some cool restaurants and bars, north of downtown in the suburbs. One such bar war was Little Woodbrow which had a great selection of beer and that kind of old nice US vibe to it. Despite looking older than 35, bald I was asked for ID which was first in a long time but took it as a compliment. The Travelman | Austin Texas | Little Woodbrow Another great place we visited was Christian’s Tail Gate Bar & Grill where we ended up chatting again to the bar tender and her colleague for ages, they have superb burgers. Apparently award winning but oddly they put bacon inside the meat as opposed to on top still delicious. Though the best burgers I had overall was at Ruby’s Diner in the international area at The George Bush Intercontinental Houston Airport. Amazing! Another evening we decided to visit Mid town, where we told is most active place in the city for bars and restaurants, so we went and did the Uber driver thing again. Again the driver was so chatty and it was very interesting learning about Uber, how he makes $25 an hour, no issue with cab drivers like in Paris as he explained current cab drivers are changing to Uber anyway. All it requires is a $200 investment a car over 2010, with more money to be made the newer the car, drug test from the city and an inspection. He liked the fact he had freedom to do it as you choose when you decide to work simply by turning on the app. Anyway he dropped us off in mid town near the Breakfast Klub, a Zagat rated place for the best breakfast in Houston, unfortunately we were there for dinner and the area Breakfast Klub is in has a odd vibe. A side corner of bars and antique shop then a kind of shady vibe in surrounding area. However I liked it, it had amazing street art but my colleagues wanted to go to where the main part of mid town was which was about 10-15 blocks walk away. The art as I say was really cool. [gallery type="slideshow" size="full" ids="4983,4984,4985"] As we walked, I felt this city is one of the downtown cities that has nothing, like no shops, just offices and the odd fast food or coffee shop. Sort of reminded me of downtown Orlando. We did finally find the main mid town area, but it is quite small and certainly is not of any comparison to Austin’s 6 street. We decided to eat in a restaurant called Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen and try the famous Mexican food. It was astoundingly good. Everyone was very impressed. Generally, it is a famous place for huge Margarita’s but seemed quite upmarket. Again very arty inside and loved the fabric interior of the washrooms. The Travelman | Cyclone Anayas Mexican Kitchen Austin Texas | Somewhere Between Here And There As a conclusion to Houston it is not the most exciting city but there is a very creative vibrant art scene here and the people, well the people are probably some of the warmest people I’ve met in the US. There isn’t really much to do in this city for a tourist but its great place to chat to people, so if your on business and staying in Houston for a short time. Check out the bars in the heights or go and eat in Mid town, you will meet some friendly characters and see some interesting art along the way. Overall this 2nd visit left me with more of a positive impression of Texas.
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