As mentioned in my February Roster, I had originally been rostered a 24 hour layover in New York with my old room mate Maria. However, she needed to swap it, so I managed to change mine for 51 hour layover in Houston, Texas which was a new destination for me as well. A 9am departure with a short (note my sarcasm) 16 hour flight over to Houston, we landed into George Bush Intercontinental Airport 15:35 the same day.
After checking in at our hotel, a few of us had arranged to go out for a quick bite to eat, with the majority of the crew collapsing straight into bed after 16+ hours at work and the 10 hour time difference between Houston and Dubai.
The First Officer had been to Houston before and suggested we went to a restaurant called the Flying Saucer that specialised in many different beers on tap with some classic American dishes. We shared hot queso and guacamole with a mountain of chips to start and I went for an appetiser of buffalo wings, which actually could have fed all four of us. I’d forgotten how huge the portion sizes were in America. Struggling to stay awake now with it being 7:30am in Dubai, we walked back to the hotel and went straight to bed.
The next day I wanted to go to NASA Johnson Space Centre but none of the crew seemed keen, not letting that hold me back, I booked onto a tour with the hotel which would drop me from door and get me my ticket for $55. The Captain from the day before flight had actually signed up as well, so I wasn’t alone for the entire trip and we began with a tour of the astronaut training facilities. I hadn’t even realised how huge the space centre was as we were taken on a little buggy right over to what could be described as a large campus.
The tour was so fascinating, I’m a bit of a space nerd as it is, but one thing I learnt is that for every 1 hour that the astronauts are in space, they will spend 6 hours on earth training in pools. The pools give a more “space like” training due to the jets installed into the waters to give the feel of defying gravity.
The centre also had the only life size replica of a Boeing 747-100 which carried the shuttle from Edwards Air Force Base back to the Kennedy Space Centre. You can actually enter both the space shuttle and the aircraft, I felt right at home after that 16 hour flight on our Boeing 777-300.
At 14:15 the driver came back to pick us up as the captain had to be back for the 15:10 wake up call, so I dropped my things back in my room, watched an episode of Parks and Recreation whilst deciding what to do when I thought I would walk into the city to try and do a bit of shopping and have a wander and find a place for something to eat. Only managing to find a Forever 21, I ended up stumbling across a Super Bowl Event in Memorial Green as Houston are hosting the Super Bowl in 2017 which was actually played last night, so the atmosphere in the city was electric. The event had all the different news stations set up, mini American football stadium, food and drink stands, fun fair rides, it was a really lovely venue and was free to enter so I wandered around for a while and got chatting to one of the volunteers who recommended I went to see the Basket Ball game that evening.
With directions of how to get to the Houston Toyota Stadium, I wandered through to the other side of the green googling who was going to be playing. It was the Houston Rockets vs. Atlanta Hawks, and when I got to the Box Office I asked for the cheapest ticket with the best view which turned out to be $25.
As it was 45 minutes before the game started, I grabbed a beer and people watched. The stadium was buzzing, I’d forgotten how much the American’s loved their sport, and the drummers kept walking past banging their drums so loudly and people were tagging along chanting their teams chant. Many people were dressed in basketball shirts, or the colour red and a lot had their faces painted too. Talk about team spirit! Making my way over to my seat, as I was walking around the edge of the arena suddenly everyone stopped what they were doing to face the court. I was confused at what was happening, when I realised everyone in the stadium had their hand on their chest and was singing the national anthem. I found myself too with my hand on my chest, I didn’t know the words, but I thought it was incredibly moving how everyone did that.
The game was incredibly intense and the Houston Rockets were actually winning right up until the last minute, the shrieks and cheers around me were so loud. People were massively invested in the game. I actually didn’t have much clue on a basketball game, but my American friend Conrad was guiding me through the game via text, so thanks for that Conrad!! I’d only ever watched one collegiate basketball game as well, so it was great to watch an NBA game.
The next morning I woke up at 7:30am, despite my wake up call not being till 3pm that following afternoon. After lazing about in bed, I decided I would call at CVS and do my standard American Drugstore haul before finding a place for brunch. After scouring google, I had decided on a place called The Honeymoon Cafe, and strolled through the crisp morning air to find my poached eggs.
The cafe was so cute, and super busy to say it was 10:30 on a Friday morning! I managed to grab a table with a high stool, opting for the poached eggs with smoked salmon on hash browns and rocket, with a vanilla latte. The coffee was probably one of the best coffees I have ever tasted and the food was to die for. The amount of smoked salmon was completely ridiculous though, it could have easily been enough for 4 meals. I really wanted my brunch with a Bloody Mary as they’re the best accompaniment when brunching, and seeing others around me drinking them looked so good, but as I was flying in the afternoon, I wasn’t in the time limit to have one.
Walking back to the hotel, I grabbed a Jimmy John’s sandwich for the flight home. Jimmy Johns was my favourite when I studied in America, and it was SO good to have another one of their sandwiches after 2 years!
I didn’t manage to sleep again before the flight, so I packed up my things and made the most of American Netflix by watching one and a half seasons of Parks and Recreation before my wake up call. Talk about travel envy, right?
Despite spending the entire layover by myself, with the exception of dinner on the first evening, I actually had a really lovely time and think Houston is such a fabulous city. I didn’t actually realise this, but Houston is the 4th biggest city in America too. I would be more than happy to see Houston on my roster again after a lovely flight both there and back.