Exchange Wk42 (Holiday Edition) – Houston and New Orleans

At the time of writing, I’ve now been back in Australia for over 4 months… Entering back to Australia, I’ve been inundated with work, and earlier this week on Monday, I submitted my last assignment for the Australian university semester. Needless to say, lots of time has gone by since I actually went on these trips to Houston and New Orleans. However, I know I’ll regret not finishing off this blog. I doubt many people will actually read this, but this is like my version of a diary, and I know that I’ll appreciate being able to look back at the time I had abroad.

Anyway, the journey continues! Leaving San Diego on the 6th of June, I flew to Houston (with a stop over in Denver). I spent a few days in Houston before commencing a long Amtrak trip to New Orleans on the 9th of June. I stayed in New Orleans until the 12 of June.

For the next few blog posts, there will be a map of the places I’ve been so far. The gold pentagon is Philadelphia (start location), and all other locations visited will be red pentagons where the number represents the order I visited these places.

🚀 Houston 🌕

For my first day in Houston, I went to the Houston Museum of Natural History. The museum had lots to offer, from exhibits of Texan wildlife, to a rare rocks and minerals display that even contained Australian opal (in the image below, the opal was mined in Lightning Ridge NSW). Inside the museum, I also went to the planetarium where I watched a short film on Black Holes.

The other highlight from my first day was walking around and looking at the different parks. Especially, I loved looking in the ponds because there were so many turtles swimming in the water. Below is a photo I took at the Japanese gardens where I saw three turtles perched on a rock arranged in descending order!

My next day in Houston was particularly special! I started the morning with a bus tour of Houston run by a tourist centre. I enjoyed seeing the murals throughout the city.

After that, this same tourist group took us in a mini-bus for the 45 minute drive to NASA’s Johnson Space Centre! You may be familiar with JSC from the well known line, “Houston, we have a problem.”

When reaching the Space Centre, we went to the visitors centre where there was so much to do and see. One of the first things that I went to see was a Saturn V rocket, which is the only Saturn V remaining in the world which is comprised of 100% flight-certified hardware (more info here).

There were so many other cool things to see in the centre, such as Space Shuttle Independence, a used Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, to man on the moon.

As mentioned earlier, JSC is a functioning Space Centre. Because of this, I was able able to go on a tour to the astronaut training facility! Inside the facility, they have different training spaces for astronauts, such as International Space Station modules to help astronauts become familiar with the space station before going on their missions (more info here).

With my two days in Houston wrapping up, it was time to head to the Amtrak station for my over nine hour trip to New Orleans.

🚊 Houston to New Orleans 🛤

On the 9th of June, I head to Houston Station where I would be taking the Amtrak to New Orleans. For those unfamiliar, Amtrak operates the inter-city train service throughout the continental United States, connecting 46 states.

My approximately 9h and 30mins trip was surprisingly not terrible! The train I was on (the Sunset Limited service) was overall relaxing. Whilst I was sitting in coach, the coach seats were large with lots of room to stretch. I however spent lots of my time in the observation cart, which offered panoramic views of country USA. Whilst the trip was comfortable, there was unforunately no Wi-Fi… However, I enjoyed sitting and reading on my Kindle, whilst enjoying my cup of noodle, gummy bears, and mac and cheese from the food cart.

🚃 New Orleans 🎹

The train pulled in to New Orleans quite late at night (around 10pm), and so my first moments in New Orleans were spend trying to quickly and safely get to my hotel. After sleeping in the following morning, I started my day with lunch at Raising Cane’s, a friend chicken shop that I had come to love in Philly. Ironically, the first Cane’s was opened in Louisiana (the state New Orleans is in), so I guess it was a good way to start the day!

After lunch, I went to the National World War II Museum. One of the first things I did was watch a 4D film called “Beyond All Boundaries” which was narrated by Tom Hanks, and commemorated different battles from WWII. I found this an effective way to begin your time at the museum, as it does an effective job at capturing the brutality and bravery of WWII, and also its historical significance.

One of my favourite parts of the museum was a room where they had different US aircraft from WWII suspended from the ceiling. There was also an exhibit where they showed a dummy paratrooper (known as “Ruperts”) which were dropped on mass in Normandy and Pas-de-Calais on D-Day. It was a deception for onlooking Nazi’s, who would believe that there was a large airborne troop deployment, and that troops would have to be deployed to deal with the troops parachuting from the sky. Overall, the museum was massive, and after spending hours inside, I had to force myself to move on!

Later that afternoon I walked to the French Quarter, but it was so hot (summer was soon approaching), and so I didn’t get to do much exploring. However, the next day, I took the tram back to the French Quarter to have a look around. One of the cool things I found was the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, where they had a free Jazz show!

In the afternoon I had the pleasure of catching up with my friend Abigail who lives in New Orleans! She took me to an awesome ice cream parlour. I am so grateful to have such a great network of friends all over the United States!

Abigail told me some of the different meals I should try whilst here in New Orleans, and so for dinner, I went to a place where I had a meal with Gumbo dip. I absolutely loved the gumbo dip, and it reminded me of pepper gravy here in Australia.

With my short trip to New Orleans complete, it was time to continue my trip up to Charlotte (North Carolina)!

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