Adventures in Houston, Texas

Adventures in Houston, Texas

May 2012 I travelled to Houston, Texas for a NAFSA conference (National Association of Foreign Student Advisers).  I wanted to see what the city offered, so I bought a City Pass which offered discounts on five different attractions.

I arrived at my hotel at 2am Sunday morning, so after a brief “nap” I walked to the Downtown Aquarium. I saw many fascinating fish, reptiles, and a white tiger. I also took a ride on the Shark Train through a tunnel filled will many different species of sharks. I’m not a fan of sharks so I was crossing my fingers that the glass held as we drove through the tunnel!

Monday was Memorial Day so I took the train to the Houston Zoo. It was quite a hot day but I enjoyed exploring the park for many hours. I joined a group that fed the giraffes by hand. Giraffes look so docile and cute but don’t turn your back to them or they will knock you over with their heads! Here’s a video from the Zoo…no, I’m not in it. 🙂

[pullquote width=”240″ float=”left”]It was great to meet Rick Steves and shake his hand. Another one checked off my bucket list![/pullquote]The keynote speaker was Rick Steves…the travel guru. He spoke about how valuable it is for students to study abroad for a term or two, to experience other cultures. It was great to shake his hand and meet him in person, as I’ve only seen him on tv and social media.

One evening after the conference day was finished, I made my way to the Houston Museum District and saw a terracotta warriors exhibit. I find it fascinating that a whole army of statues were discovered underground in Xi’an, China. Some day I would like to visit that excavation site to see the discovery as a whole.

I also explored the Houston Museum of Natural Science and walked through an amazing butterfly exhibit. I was able to take close-up photos of butterflies with my iPhone. They must be used to people, as they did not fly away.  I also took in an IMAX movie “Tornado Alley” and the “Titanic” planetarium shows.

Friday night I took in a Houston Astros vs. Cincinnati Reds baseball game at Minute Maid Park. The Astros lost 4-1 (official scores) but at the end of the evening they rolled back the roof and we got to watch an amazing fireworks show.

Now I couldn’t go to Houston, Texas without a visit to NASA Space Center! I had quite an adventure starting out. I booked a tour a few days earlier, so Saturday morning I leaped from bed very excited about this day’s adventure. After breakfast in the hotel restaurant and chatting with the waiter about Canada, I waiting in the lobby for my ride. 30 minutes late, one hour late… the concierge was concerned and so was my waiter who could see me patiently waiting for my tour. After a number of calls to the tour company the concierge told me that they had decided not to go that day because there weren’t many people for the tour… and they did not let any of us know.

The concierge at the Doubletree Hilton was amazing. He made a deal with an independent cabbie to take me to NASA and pick me up at the end of the day. The cabbie was very friendly and chatty, and I could tell he enjoyed his job and meeting new people each day. He wouldn’t let me pay him, and said he’d be back to pick me up at 5pm.

[pullquote width=”240″ float=”right”]Yet another one checked off my bucket list! I heard Joel Osteen speak live at Lakewood Church![/pullquote]At the end of the day the same cabbie picked me up from NASA, waited at my hotel while I changed for church… then drove me to Lakewood Church to hear Joel Osteen speak…still not letting me pay. The service was fantastic and it seemed like the message was meant for me “Don’t Settle for Good Enough”.  Even though it is a large church — 18,000 people — they made me feel welcome.

Finally the cabbie let me pay him…after he safely delivered me back to my hotel from Lakewood Church. 🙂

It was a good trip — both the conference and my free time — and Houston is a city I’d like to visit again!