Dallas Diaries: Observations of America

Our Wrestlemania 32 adventure was was my first trip to the United States of America. Despite growing up watching American films and TV (The Kids From Fame played a major part in my childhood!) and having friends in America, it’s not somewhere I’ve ever particularly wanted to visit. But as we boarded the plane, I realised that I was really excited about going … and seeing if some of those things we Brits believe about America are actually true!

So here are my observations of America. Obviously these were formed during a very short time in Dallas, and I know they only apply to that tiny bit of America during the time we were there. So apologies if I’ve got it totally wrong …

The portions are enormous!

I’ve often watched an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and wondered at the enormous portions. Surely that’s only done for telly, I’ve found myself thinking. Surely the portions aren’t REALLY that big? Surely everyone would be enormous if they were!

Having visited Dallas I can tell you – yes the portions ARE that huge, generally! (And the people are pretty big too – see my next point.)

I have a very healthy appetite and I struggled to finish meals; in fact, I left quite a lot of food, which really pained me because I’m one of those people who hates leaving anything on the plate. And Dan struggled even more. Actually, we could probably have got away with a meal for one between us and been perfectly well fed!

2016-04-01 11.12.19This was my breakfast on the first morning, when we went to Cindi’s New York Deli in Downtown Dallas. Six (yes, 6!) pieces of thick French toast, plus bacon, plug egg, plus grits (ewwwww! Not a fan). The pancakes you can see were Dan’s – but they came with scrambled egg and salmon and grits. The next day I had a 3 egg spinach omelette – which came with hash browns and two pancakes. Seriously …. the pancakes weren’t needed!! (I have to add, the French toast was one of the most indulgent things I have ever eaten!)

We had a Tex Mex one night and that was huge too, and again we both struggled to finish. The only reasonable-sized portion we had was mac and cheese at a bakery … and even then I still couldn’t eat it all! And considering none of these meals cost more than $10 (about seven quid) it’s amazing the restaurants aren’t bankrupt.

The people are enormous too…

P1000678OK, so here in the UK we have an obesity problem – and at 16 stone, size 20 I’m part of it. I was aware that the situation was even more serious in the States – but I didn’t realise quite how serious … Especially at the wrestling events we went to, but generally everywhere we went in Dallas, there were enormous people. And I’m talking seriously enormous – man mountains. Women mountains. Even kid mountains. People who need two chairs to sit down. People who are so big they can barely walk. People whose bellies hang out from under their t-shirts. Whole families of severely overweight people – mum, dad and kids all huge.  Man, I felt quite small when I was there! Even the thin people all seemed to have guts on them … actually almost all the thin people I talked to were from Europe!

P1000649And when you go back to the issue of food portions, it’s no wonder. If I lived in America and ate out once a week, got a takeaway midweek – I don’t think it would be long before I’d be booking that double seat on the plane.

And you know what, that thought really galvanised me. Though I was quite small by American standards, I know I’m a big girl here in the UK. I’ve been fighting my weight for the best part of 20 years, losing a bit, putting on a bit more, losing a bit, putting on a bit more …. and so it goes. But seeing these mountains over there, and realising how badly it affected people’s health and quality of life, really made me want to nip my own weight issue in the bud (if you can call it that after 20 years!) and start doing something. So I’ve come home determined to eat healthily, drink less and do more exercise. Including doing the DDP Yoga programme, which I’m really enjoying.

Americans don’t do tea

I always thought this one was a joke, or at least vastly exaggerated … the idea that Americans are such big coffee drinkers that they don’t really do tea. But it’s true! Our hotel had a little machine and coffee bags – but no tea bags. They did manage to find me a couple one day, but tea was not on general offer. If I ever go back to America I’ll definitely be taking my own!

2016-04-04 18.12.15The first day we had breakfast in the diner we both asked for tea and got … iced tea. Hmmm. Yeah, it was nice – but not really what we wanted at that time of day! The next day we asked for hot tea and the waitress stared at us like we’d asked for roast rhinoceros or something. Eventually, she shrugged and said, “I can, but it’ll take a while.” This made no sense to me at all … after all, what can be easier than pouring some boiling water onto a teabag? But then the American couple we were dining with explained that kettles are pretty uncommon in the States and that the waitress would have to siphon some water from the coffee machine, which was going to cause her more work than just pouring a coffee. Anyway, finally our hot teas arrived – two pots of hot water, two mugs and two tea bags. Except, of course, to make the perfect cuppa the water needs to be poured onto the teabag when it’s at boiling point, so our hot tea left something to be desired… Finally, on our last day we found a fabulous bakery in Dallas’ West End district that did us a good cup of tea without any fuss. Thank you, Corner Bakery Cafe!

But I did come to appreciate iced tea – though maybe not for breakfast! But later in the day, when it’s hot and sticky and you’ve been on your feet for hours, an iced tea is perhaps the most refreshing thing you can drink. So thank you, Dallas, for that little insight!

Uber is awesome!

Unless you’ve been living under a stone you can’t fail to have heard of Uber, the app-driven taxi service that London’s black cab drivers are up in arms about. In fact, they’ve taken to the streets in protest, so angry are they about Uber’s arrival on the scene. But until we went to Dallas I’d never experienced Uber for myself …

Let me tell you a little about it, if you’ve never used it. The app is free, and you register with a phone number and add a debit or credit card simply by scanning the card – the app picks up the long number and asks for the security code. Once that’s done, you’re ready to roll! Open the app and it asks you to set your pickup location – you can either click an arrow to go to your actual GPS location, or type one in manually. Then you add your destination. You can ask for a quote or just go straight to requesting an Uber. They come in different types – uberX is the cheapest option for up to 4 people, uberXL is a people carrier, uberSelect and uberBlack are more expensive, classier cars (though we had an uberSelect once and it wasn’t much different to be honest). Sometimes there’s also the option for uberShare, when there might be other people wanting a car too.

2016-04-15 13.37.05Once you’ve requested an Uber the magic begins. You’re sent full details of your driver – including their name and photo, the type of car and the reg number plus an estimate of how long they will be. You can also contact your driver by text or phone – useful if your location is a bit tricky to find. The best bit is that you can actually see where they are on the map – maybe I’m sad but it’s great fun watching the car get closer and closer!

We used Uber every day we were in Dallas and were amazed by how good the service was. All bar one of the drivers were friendly and chatty, many shared their local knowledge with us, or told us how they came to be in Dallas. The cars were always clean and tidy and the journeys good. And best of all, it was CHEAP too. An Uber from the airport for two of us was $30, and it rarely cost us more than $5 or $6 to get around town. Even the uberSelect we got home one night was only $12 and that was a posh car on a 3.2x surge! (When there’s a rush on Uber requests, the price goes up – so when we came out of an event everyone was looking for a car and the cost rocketed. You can suck it up and take the higher price, or be notified when it drops – your choice!)

Uber exists in the major cities in the UK and I can understand why black cab drivers are worried. The technology of the app enables drivers to be busy all day long, picking up job after job after job, and because most phones have some sort of sat nav “the knowledge” isn’t needed any more. And if they are offering a competitive price too … well, it’s a no brainer!

If you live in an area served by Uber and fancy giving it a go, go to the site, download the app and use this code to get a free trip up to £10! alisont1265ue

American people are friendly

We Brits have a reputation for being a bit stiff upper lip. And I guess it’s true, to an extent. We like to keep ourselves to ourselves, we’re not generally good at striking up conversations with strangers or oversharing. (And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!) And Americans, by contrast, are always portrayed as being very out there, very friendly and open.

And I think that’s probably true! We met some great people in Dallas, both there for the wrestling and people who lived there. All the Uber drivers were very friendly and keen to talk about their lives or find out about ours, and the restaurant staff, on the whole, were friendly and talkative too. (There were a few exceptions but it was busy and I had just asked for hot tea!!) We met people from all over the country and many were keen to talk about stuff that … well, the kind of things I wouldn’t talk about with a total stranger! We met one young couple and quickly discovered that their relationship wasn’t all it cracked up to be, which left us feeling quite worried for the girl’s safety – but really, can you imagine a British woman sharing so much with a stranger, so quickly? I came away with the impression that American generally, and especially those in Dallas, are a friendly bunch and we could learn a lot from them.

But then my illusions were shattered at the airport. As we waited to pass through security, a guard was standing alongside the line chatting with people. “Ma’am, you know why people in Dallas are so friendly?” he asked me, in a low Texan drawl. “It’s because we’re all carrying guns. Every last one of us.”


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