Travel: Dallas: Live Large, Think Big

I took my cowboy boots to Dallas a couple of weeks ago and they sure did feel at home! As did I!¬†The Dallasites (Dallastonians?) warmly welcomed me to their city and I covered quite a bit of ground in between my work obligations. Since the weather was perfect-for-me – 20C and sunny every day – I managed to stock up on some real vitamin D. I sure as heck did¬†not miss the snowy grey weather in London. Here’s my report for y’all…

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 never-ending Sonic drive-up area

Downtown

My conference was at the Sheraton downtown and this area is mostly modern and shiny and full of concrete. I barely saw any grass and trees were minimal. I was expecting more of a hustle-and-bustle atmosphere because of the cluster of hotels and office buildings but it was a pretty quiet neighbourhood. I honestly don’t know where everyone was.

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downtown Dallas

Fort Worth + Billy Bob’s

While I spent most of my days at the conference, I still managed to find energy to explore the city too. I was lucky to have a friend (of a friend of a friend) as my tour guide for a bit and together we stomped our boots at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth. Oh. My. Goodness. It was amazing! A feast for the senses, really. The country music, the cowboy boots, the plaid shirts, and the belts all grabbed my attention. And the hats – yes, please! I experienced a bit of culture shock to tell you the truth. There was just so much to look at. The people were friendly, happy, and their dance steps blew me away. Away, I say! I was completely jealous of all the couples – young and old – who were showing off their fancy footwork on the salt-dusted wood dance floor. Just incredible. It was definitely worth the drive to Fort Worth (about 40 minutes from Dallas).

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Shopping

I ventured out to Target (of course) and walked out of the store with less money in my wallet and a whole lot of – well, I’m not quite sure what. Isn’t how it always goes on trips to Target? (side note: Target opened in London while I was away!)

On my hunt to find a “quaint” or “charming” area, I stumbled on the West Village. Newly built (well, everything looked pretty new) residences, restaurants and shops fill a few blocks just around the corner from the City Place DART station. It was very convenient and easy to get to by public transportation. The boutiques carried a unique selection of clothing brands and if I had more time I’m sure I would have picked out some interesting items.

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West Village, Dallas

The Mavericks

This is the conversation I had with a scalper near the American Airlines Center when I noticed crowds of people and heard loud country music.

Me: What’s going on here tonight?
Scalper: The Mavericks are playing.
Me: Oh yeah. What sport is that?
Scalper: What? [you can imagine the look I got!]
Me: I’m a tourist.
Scalper: Basketball. Dallas Mavericks.
Me (noticing his t-shirt): Oh. I get it. Nice t-shirt.
Scalper: Where are you from?
Me: Toronto.
Scalper: Oh. You’ve got the Raptors.
Me: I don’t follow basketball. But yeah, the Raptors. Thanks.

So, after that exchange, I thought I should try to go see the game. So – guess how much I got a last minute single ticket for the Dallas Mavericks versus Oklahoma City (insert team name here) game? Um. $5. Yeah. Crazy, right? It was a right-place-right-time kind of thing. I would never have gone out of my way to go watch the game. Remember – I don’t follow basketball (but I may start now!). I was fully entertained throughout the (3 hour?) game. The excitement of the crowd was like nothing I’ve really experienced. Let’s Go Mavs!

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An intense basketball game at the American Airlines Center, Dallas

Transportation

Okay. So. I had some interesting experiences with transportation around Dallas. I didn’t rent a car for this trip (but would on a future trip) so I relied on public transportation (aka the DART light rail) and taxis to get me where I needed to go. The DART light rail was awesome. It is probably the cleanest version of a tram/metro/streetcar that I’ve come across.

Taxis – well – those were interesting. I think I took about six different taxi rides and I had to help each driver navigate. I pulled out my own map on at least three of the trips. It made me laugh in the end. Everyone was nice and pretty talkative and two of the drivers had actually been to Toronto which was cool. Niagara Falls is a big hit, apparently.

Oh – and every time I asked someone for walking directions they pretty much looked at me like I was crazy. I quickly learned that people don’t care much for walking and Dallas is really a driving city. The DART was mostly empty every time I took it.

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stonework at a DART station

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 Victory Station

Dallas_White Cabana_9stairs versus escalator at the City Place station

So there you have it – a short summary of my 4 days in Dallas. Would I go again? Yeah, probably. What better place to learn country dancing?

Photos by Jordana.

 

Travel: Pittsburgh

I spent this past weekend on a father-daughter trip to Pittsburgh*. In our short visit we managed to learn a bit about the history of the city and we explored quite a few neighbourhoods. Unfortunately I don’t have many photos to share because I mistakenly erased most of them while I was uploading them to my computer (darn!). Here are a few photos along with a recap of our trip highlights.

view of downtown Pittsburgh from Mount Washington

  • We stayed at the Wyndham downtown, located right at the tip of the city, where we enjoyed a beautiful view of Mount Washington as well as the intersection of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers.
  • From our hotel we walked to the Strip District where we browsed a few food stores. There are a lot of interesting old buildings and signs in this small area.
  • Did you know that Heinz is from Pittsburgh? Neither of us had any idea until we saw Heinz signs on buildings around town (e.g., the Heinz theatre, the Heinz lofts, Heinz field).

Heinz lofts, Pittsburgh

  • We took a drive up Mount Washington and we are glad we did because the view of the city was pretty spectacular. From the designated look-out points the downtown core looked amazing as did the rivers, and the many bridges that connect different sides of the city.

Carnegie library, Pittsburgh

here I am enjoying the view of the river and downtown Pittsburgh

  • Squirrel Hill and South Side were other neighbourhoods we visited – although very briefly – and I would be eager to spend more time in each of these places on a future visit.
  • We had some pretty good meals during our stay. We had read about Pamela’s Diner in several guides so we decided to give it a try (apparently President Obama is a fan of their hotcakes). The atmosphere was lively, the service was friendly, and the food (we each ordered hotcakes, of course!) was fresh and tasty. We ate dinner at Nola in Market Square one night and, again, we were treated to a delicious meal with a cajun influence (I had alligator tacos!).
  • And of course, no visit of a city is complete (for me) without a trip to the university (or, in this case, the universities). The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University are just two of the several universities that are in Pittsburgh. They are neighbours in the Oakland district. The University of Pittsburgh, affectionately called Pitt, was established in 1787 (wow!) and Carnegie Mellon is a well-known private institution which has beautifully kept buildings and grounds.

As you can imagine, it was a very full weekend of travel, work and sightseeing. Next time I head to Pittsburgh I’ll have to attend a sporting event – Pittsburghers (?) seem to really love supporting their teams (Steelers & Penguins, right?!). Do you have any other recommendations this US city?

*Truth be told – I was there for work and I’m pretty sure the only reason my dad wanted to come along was so that he could put his newly acquired GPS gadget to work. Ha ha.)