Thursday, 31 October 2013

San Antonio to New Orleans

After fabulous margaritas, dinner and dancing, with Jill & Rich, at La Fonda Hotel, we farewelled our friends and headed to New Orleans via San Antonio.  (The restaurant is in the area where the stage coaches pulled in to unload goods or passengers in the 1850's.  It was a beautiful old building.)

First stop, a town called Truth or Consequences.  That's right like there's a game show (for those old enough to remember the 1951 game show of the same name).  Residents in a small town called Hot Springs agreed that they would change the name of their town if the show was hosted in the town.  We stayed at the Sierra Grande Spa & Lodge.  A spa was included in the price of a room.  We decided to have our spa just before going to bed, in the outside (secluded) spa.  It was sooooo hot we were awake for hours 'til our bodies cooled down!  The town is a quiet, spread out place with some quirky shops and a very nice looking golf course, that unfortunately had to remain unplayed by the Tourin'Travellers.  BUT, it had a Walmart.  Robert dropped his camera in Santa Fe and the focus was damaged so we had our Walmart fix, buying a new one there.  

Dinner the previous night was at a very nice Italian establishment with an amazing wine selection. Mo, our waiter, suggested we leave the highway and take a scenic route via Hatch.  This was a welcome change and revealed groves of Pecan trees against a mountain range backdrop.  Worth taking the extra time.

Our route then took us via some amazing natural wonders.  Firstly, White Sands National Monument.  
Like no place on earth, glistening wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles (Aussie's you can convert this yourselves. It's a lot anyway!) of desert. Situated in the vast US missile testing range in New Mexico this phenomenon is amazingly, home to various animals that have evolved a white coloration for survival.  You are forgiven for thinking it looks like we were at the snow.  However the shorts are a give away to the heat.   Some photos look hazy, it was the wind constantly changing the face of the dunes by picking up the light gypsum particles, and blowing them everywhere (stinging your legs!)

Next stop was Carlsbad Caverns 
National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico. Rocky slopes and canyons, cactus, grass, thorny shrubs, and the occasional tree and beneath this rugged country are over 300 limestone caves - all formed when sulphuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, twelve to fourteen thousand years ago.  Yes, it was huge (and vey cold) but thankfully tastefully illuminated.  Entrance to the caves, was through the bat caves.  The smell was pretty awful, however once past that part the experience was fabulous.

After wandering through the 8.5 mile loop of caverns, we drove through some stunning landscape.

      Quite beautiful despite the dryness.

     The ranges looked like they'd been plowed into shape.

    On the road to San Antonio, and through out Texas, we saw many of these.

   The Alamo is one of San Antonio's attractions highlighting the drama of the Texas Revolution in 1836.  Mexicans who wanted the area as their state surrounded the Alamo for 13 days. All Texan defenders were killed, including Davey Crocket.  Texas settlers and adventurers, buoyed by a desire for revenge, joined the army. One month later, at the battle of San Jacinto, they defeated the Mexican army, by attacking them during the lunch time siesta. This ended the revolution.  Texans was no longer part of Mexico and for a time an independent country before becoming a state within the USA. This is the chapel attached to the Alamo fort. 

    A window of the fort.  Quite secure!  The vertical bars are solid wood.  Horizontal, steel.

We went to the theatre in San Antonio and saw the hilarious show, "Book of Mormon".  Written by the guys who wrote "South Park".  It was such a wonderful experience.  The play was in the Majestic Theatre, which is like the Forum Theatre, Melbourne, on steroids!  Both must have been built in the same era.  
     On the landing up stairs.
     Inside!  Above the stage area!
    To the right of the stage!
    On the left of the stage!
 Incredible hey?

San Antonio is famous for it's River Walk.  A three mile walk, on each side of the river, down below street level. The area has restaurants, bars and cafe's plus access to a hand crafted artist area, behind the small amphitheatre.  It was a lovely spot to saunter along.  Most of the town's attractions can be accessed from the walk. 
  This is the stage area of the amphitheatre, taken from the seating side. Across the river. Concerts are held here throughout summer. 

St Francis Basilica, built early last century was a beautiful place to visit.  There was a service to honour all of San Antonio's Services. Flags, uniforms, the Archbishop.  Pomp and ceremony. Fabulous!

The Post Office!  I needed to post a letter, so we walked in together.  I was wearing my backpack which had our lunch and a small knife to cut fruit.  To access the building there was a security check with a bag scanner. Completely forgetting about my knife, I put my bag through the scanner, walked through myself only to be told I had to leave the building immediately.  It was a Post Office, Court house complex! Naturally weapons of any sort are NOT allowed.  Robert had to take the bag outside while I went in to purchase the stamps and post my letter.   We walked across the road to the Alamo feeling a bit shaken!
     Some of the interesting architecture in the city.
    This one was empty.  

    The Governor's palace.  Mexican adobe architecture.  Very interesting.
  Trolley buses that take the tourists around town.

    This is the Fairmont Hotel.  It made the Guinness book of records for being the largest building moved as a whole, to a new spot.  What we'd like to know is why? It's not a very special building really.  

So that ends the San Antonio tour and leads us into New Orleans.  
Cheers 'til the next blog,
Robyn & Robert,
The Tourin'Travellers 



  • Wednesday, 30 October 2013

    Kasha-Katuwe, Tent Rocks National Monument

    The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a remarkable outdoor geological formation of cone-shaped tent rock formations, products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Precariously perched on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents have lost their hard, resistant caprocks and are disintegrating. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet.  As the result of uniform layering of volcanic material, bands of grey are interspersed with beige and pink-coloured rock along the cliff face. Over time, wind and water cut into these deposits, creating canyons and arroyos (a steep sided gully formed by rushing water), scooping holes in the rock, and contouring the ends of small, inward ravines into smooth semi-circles.  Surveys recorded in numerous archaeological sites reflect human occupations spanning 4,000 years. During the 14th and 15th centuries, several large ancestral pueblos were established and their descendants, the Pueblo de Cochiti, still inhabit the surrounding area. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional Keresan language of the Pueblo.     This stunning place required some background knowledge for those first timers. Bear in mind pictures just can't fully capture this unique natural site. Enjoy.  We did.

    Spectacular isn't it.  Top gained and a fabulous panoramic view.  It was remarkable to see those trees growing somehow, their roots tenaciously adhering to rocks.    This is only a very small sample of photos taken by all four of us on the walk.  
    Next blog is of the journey down to New Orleans.
    Robyn & Robert
    The Tourin'Travellers

    Tuesday, 29 October 2013

    Santa Fe, take four!

    Whoops!  Said we were heading to New Orleans when we last posted, however that would miss out a spectacular part of our trip.  Santa Fe, New Mexico and friends Rich & Jill Merriman. 

    Another whoops!  Had trouble with the iPad not loading my working blog. So we found an Apple store in Memphis and helpful Sam, flicked a few buttons and pressed publish on the drafts I had running. So they are sitting below this one. Just ignore them.  He apologised for being too quick!

    Back to the trip. Following an overnight stay in Dallas, with Gail & Jo Barth, who we met in Thailand, we headed for New Mexico via the Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  A beautiful place that has the second largest canyon in the US.  As we drove into the Park we met these gorgeous creatures.

    There had been a lot of rain before we got there so our poor little Chevrolet "Sammy" Sonic had to nearly swim a few crossings!

    On the journey to Santa Fe we stayed in the town of Amarillo.  There was very little in the town except a military facility that manufactured and disarmed nuclear weapons.  Thanks to Rich, we had a lovely meal at the only decent place in town, and were very surprised to find this neon light on the walk back to our hotel.  Being the only one in town it was even more surprising to find that it was the entrance to the Amarillo National Bank's CAR PARK!  Breakfast the following morning was at the One Stop Donut shop.  You could get donuts, warm, off the assembly line.

    Onto Santa Fe and the welcoming company of Rich & Jill.  Picture here shows us about to walk through the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  More pictures of that stunning place later.
    Their lovely home and the view along the back.
    Santa Fe is an interesting town, that has no high rise buildings.  Dwellings are built in the Mexican Adobe style.  This means that they blend into the environment well and from a distance look as if they're not there.

    The Palace of Governors.  A historical building on the edge of the town square.

    No, it's not Jessie, but a bronze look alike outside a beautiful art shop in the Canyon Road.  A wonderful place to wander if you like hand crafted art works.

    This one was unbelievable.  Fancy putting all those seed beads on that difficult surface.

    Robert having a demonstration in how they made these beautiful containers woven out of a type of grass.  They were so intricate and very difficult to make.

    Robert checking out Kit Carson's pizza oven, in the courtyard of his house in Taos, an hour from Santa Fe.  It's not as good as the one at home!

    The oldest working adobe church in US. It was built in early 1800's and is a beautiful working model of the adobe style buildings that dominate this area.

    The earth ships just outside Taos, New Mexico.  Amazing homes built with recycled materials, and aim to be totally self sufficient, having the smallest impact on the environment as possible.  There were hundreds of buildings in the valley and you could hardly see them. Fantastic.

    The Rio Grande!  Crossed over just prior to getting to the earthships. Unforgiving country to live in.

    Our next trip was to Tent Rocks with Jill & Rich, but because it was such a beautiful place, and the camera was very busy, I'll keep that 'til next blog.
    Bye for now,
    Robyn & Robert 
    The Turin'Travellers