Restaurants · travel

Day 42 of USA Road Trip – Palm Springs 

I am so in love with Palm Springs that I have been googling flight prices from London, desperate to book my next trip back. We only stayed one night but it was the most relaxing 24 hours of our trip so far. 

It was a rather long 4 hour drive from Vegas, made longer because California drivers are insane. Everyone drives like they have someone giving birth in their back seat and they are rushing to the hospital! We stopped halfway to swap drivers at Barstow McDonalds, which is set inside an old train station and you eat your meal inside a carriage. Very cool. 


From the moment we arrived in Palm Springs and drove along the gorgeous, palm-tree lined roads, surrounded by mountains, I knew I was going to love it. We checked in to our cute little hotel and went straight to the pool and stayed there until the sun disappeared behind the mountain. It was 105 degrees! 


For dinner, we drove into town and ate at Lulu’s California Kitchen. They have a great gluten free menu with pizzas, pastas, salads and more! I felt like I was in dire need of vegetables (and apparently craving mushrooms) after Vegas, so went for the Wild Mushroom Soup to start and the Portobello Mushroom Tower for my main. I washed all my fungi down with a pomegranate juice cocktail and was in food heaven! 


We wandered around the town for a bit after dinner and there were so many lovely restaurants and bars, including one that served unlimited champagne for $7 between 3-7pm weekdays. Yet another reason why I need to come back! 

We had to do laundry last night before our 3 days in San Diego, so while that was happening we went for a nighttime jacuzzi and swim. It was still 100 degrees, so there were people laying out on the sun loungers even in the dark! So relaxing. 

This morning, breakfast was served poolside. This is the first hotel we’ve stayed at where they actually offer gluten free food and I don’t have to bring my own cereal down to eat! God bless California and their gluten free health fads. After breakfast, we sunbathed and swam poolside until we had to check out. Currently writing this while in the car on the way to our next stop, one of my favourite cities, San Diego! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 30 of USA Road Trip – Denver

We are having the best time in Colorado, it’s really beautiful and I definitely want to come back during winter to see it all in the snow! Yesterday, we explored Denver. There was a Park & Ride only 5 minutes drive from the hotel, so we opted for that to get into the city. It was a 45 minute bus ride, but I didn’t mind as I had my excellent book with me; The Glass Castle. 

We arrived downtown and it felt so good to be in a big(ish) city with loads going on and lots to see. We walked along the 16th Street Mall and came across a sign advertising a Money Museum. We were only mildly interested until we saw the word ‘free’, at which point we marched enthusiastically towards the entrance. It was actually a really cool place, with loads of interactive exhibits and little bags of shredded money that you could take away with you. Ewan and I enjoyed acting like kids and designing our own dollar note using crayons and stencils (I know, we’re too cool) and I got a glimpse of what my face would look like on money. Personally, I don’t think anythings ever suited me more. 


After all this excitement, we headed for a walk along the river before grabbing a coffee and some gluten free cakes at a book store. We sat in front of Union Station with them, people watching and sunbathing. 


After a couple hours of wandering around the city, we headed to Larimer Square to find somewhere to have lunch. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that Ewan and I have a soft spot for Lederhosen. This soft spot for Germany also extends to German food, especially currywurst. As soon as we saw Rhein Haus and it’s cheery blue umbrellas, we knew we had a winner. They have a super cheap Happy Hour menu with loads of gluten free options, including currywurst for only $5! Thinking that the portions would be as small as the price, I went for the currywurst and potato salad. The food arrived and the portions were enormous – we definitely should have shared! You can also play Bocce Ball (Bowles to my UK readers) for free at the restaurant.  


After lunch, it was time to tick off some more of Denver’s top sights. We saw the huge Blue Bear peeking into the Convention Centre and the gorgeous Courthouse, which hilariously we mistook for a public attraction and went in. Two security guards asked us if we were due in court today, and upon seeing our confused faces, showed our tourist asses the door. 


Thankfully, we had more luck with the Capitol Building and enjoyed roaming around it and peeking into lots of interesting rooms. We spotted a plaque at the front of the building that marked the one mile above sea level point. It’s weird to think that Denver is so high up, but we could definitely feel the altitude as we were walking up all the steps inside the building (or that could have been the currywurst weighing us down). 


Overall, I loved Denver and had such a good day exploring the city. We are in Colorado Springs at the moment and have lots of cool things on the agenda for tomorrow. Will update shortly!

Ps. Bug bite welts have all but gone. Yay! 

 

Restaurants · travel

Day 27 of USA Road Trip – Des Moines 

Can you believe that we’re almost 4 weeks into the road trip?! It’s going insanely quickly! 5 weeks still to go though, so I have a while before it’s time to head back to reality.

We’ve already had loads of incredible moments and this really has been the best trip of my life so far, but there have been a few less amazing experiences that never made it onto the blog, and seeing as today’s destination was another quick one, I’ll reveal a few secrets. 

1. Gluten free bread doesn’t seem to cope well in the heat of the car and subsequently moulds very quickly, so I was using corn tortillas to make my peanut butter and jam sandwich lunch for about a week. I’m back to bread now as that was just too weird.

2. Following on from the above, we originally found ourselves sans cutlery, so I was literally spreading peanut butter and jam onto the tacos with my fingers. 

3. Ewan and I have only had one argument on the trip, the first night in New Orleans. Obviously, it was over food and I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually cried because the only thing I could eat in the city was a salad (told you I was a salad dodger). 

4. I’ve had to stop painting my nails all the colours I like because mosquitos are attracted to the darker colours and keep biting my fingers. 

5. I’ve also had to stop fake tanning after we got caught in a downpour and my beautiful white Converse got soaked. All the fake tan came off my feet, staining my shoes orange. We’ve washed them twice and they are still peach! 

Back to the present day, this morning we drove 3 hours to Des Moines, Iowa. The ride was uneventful and we only stopped once for a ‘wee and wifi’ break in McDonalds. Des Moines is a cool place to visit; modern, clean, and interesting, but it’s missing one vital component – people. It was totally dead! Perhaps it’s busier on a weekday? 


We headed to the State Capitol, a gorgeous, gold-roofed building with lots of attractive gardens and interesting monuments all around it. There was a big brass bell out the front that Ewan rang, and almost pooed himself when it made an insanely loud booming noise. We were the only ones there which made for great photo opportunities, but the bloody roof had scaffolding on it! That always happens to me. Whatever city I’m in, whatever building I’ve gone to see, I guarantee it will be covered in scaffolding! The State Capitol is closed on a Sunday so we couldn’t go inside it, but if inside is anything like the outside, I bet it’s worth a look. 



We then headed to Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which if you were wondering, has nothing to do with the pizza joint (don’t pretend your mind didn’t go there). It was a very cool space and full of weird and wonderful statues. Below are a couple of my favourites. 


It was now time for DINNER! I was super excited because we had reservations at Louie’s Wine Dive and their gluten free menu looked incredible. I was not disappointed! Their gluten free menu is extensive; you can get everything from pasta to battered fish to Nutella torte. We started with the calamari to share but sadly (not sadly for me) it was dusted with Parmesan, so Ewan didn’t eat it. My main was the champagne fish and chips, which was a champers and rice flour battered cod served with fries and coleslaw. The coleslaw was rank by the rest was delish! I washed my battered fish down with a couple happy hour $5 glasses of champers and was definitely in my happy place. I couldn’t resist the chocolate torte for pudding either. Coeliacs, please check them out if there’s a Louie’s Wine Dive near you, the staff are adorable and the food is great! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 25 & 26 of USA Road Trip – Oklahoma City & Kansas City

The last couple of days have been quite light in terms of sightseeing as we are just ticking off states/passing through places at the moment, but we’ve still seen, and eaten, some cool stuff! In Oklahoma City, Ewan had a hilarious mental breakdown when he found out that parking was 50 cents more expensive per hour than we had expected (even though we’d only planned to park for 2 hours) and thankfully it turned out that 2 hours was just about enough time anyway! We first visited the eerily beautiful Oklahoma City National Memorial that honours the victims of the 1995 bombing. It was incredibly moving and I encourage everyone to visit if you’re ever near the area. 


We had a little wander around Bricktown, a neighbourhood that’s basically a poor man’s San Antonio or Camden without the people, but it’s still a cute area to have a drink by the water! There’s lots of fairy lights so it’s probably prettier at night. What with the extortionate
parking, we headed out of the city for dinner and came across a Chili’s. Once seated, I explained my dietary requirements to the waitress. She was SO good and gave me a full allergen breakdown of every item on the menu, which even included information on cross contamination, meaning that I could make a safe choice for myself. I went for the chicken fajitas with corn tortillas and I was not disappointed! The whole thing was cooked in garlic butter so tasted divine, and the portion was huge! Very impressed with Chili’s and their gluten free options. 


We went for a little swim in the hotel pool before bed, which was nice but it was probably the randomest pool I’ve ever swam in. Imagine you’re in a dingy indoor car park and you come across a hole filled with water surrounded by a couple plastic chairs… that was the vibe of our hotel pool. It was clean though! 

Today has mainly been a driving day, around 6 hours in total to Kansas City. Once we checked in, we went straight for dinner at a BBQ restaurant called Q39. It gets super busy and the parking is a bloody nightmare, but it is 100% WORTH IT. Literally the best meal we’ve had on the road trip so far, and the best burnt ends I’ve ever had. Their menu is annotated to show the gluten free options, and I was happy to see that almost all the meats and sides were gluten free. From the suggestion of our waitress, we both went for the brisket platter with an extra rib added. Honestly, I’m almost sad that we loved it so much because it means that one day we might have to come back to Kansas City… and there’s really not much else here! Fingers crossed we find even better BBQ at one of next stops.  Note: Q39 also offer 3 varieties of gluten free beer, which I didn’t try because I think beer tastes like cats piss, but this is yet another reason why this place is amazing for coeliacs! 


We burnt off about 1/100th of our dinner with a walk around Penn Valley Park afterwards, and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up before going over to the casino across the road for a night of wine and gambling. Sadly, our plan was foiled when they wouldn’t accept our I.D. for the casino because it wasn’t American. Pffffft. Hope we don’t have this problem in Vegas! We had a glass of wine at a restaurant instead and I came back to the hotel to write this. Crazy Saturday night! Heading to Des Moines in the morning 🙂 

Restaurants · travel

Day 23 & 24 of USA Road Trip – Fort Worth & Dallas 

To fill you all in on the glamour of our road trip, we woke up this morning to a special guest in our bed…. a cockroach. I’ll never be the same again. 

Taking it back a couple days before the above incident, we arrived at our Fort Worth, cockroach-infested motel on Wednesday, an hour and a half before the official check in time. We’ve been pretty lucky with the other motels because all but one have let us check in early, and the one that didn’t let us store Big Red in their storage room so we didn’t have to leave ‘her’ on the backseat while parking downtown. We were not lucky this time. The parking lot and motel seemed completely empty, but the man behind the counter refused to check us in. Okay, no problem, could we perhaps sit by the pool until we can check in? No. Okay, can we leave our suitcase then? No. Why? I wouldn’t want to be responsible. Oh it’s literally just got clothes in, that’s fine. Actually, my storage unit is full. Right….. 

We gave up and headed to McDonalds with a plan to sit with a coffee and use the wifi until we could check in. It was the roughest McDonalds I’ve ever been in and they didn’t seem to appreciate out-of-towners. While I was in the queue, the lovely patrons were looking me up and down (sadly not in a complimentary way, and I was wearing my most flattering shorts), sneering, HISSING and a couple guys were hanging around our car, looking in the windows at our stuff. Unsurprisingly, we took that coffee to go and decided to head back to the hotel to sit in reception until check in time. When we got back, there was a different man at reception and he checked us in with zero issue, 15 minutes after we first arrived. Blurgh. 

All that palava aside, we dropped our stuff in the room and headed into Fort Worth on the bus. Our first stop was the beautiful Water Gardens, an amazing park with 3 stunning water features and a man-made mountain that you can climb. One of the water features was a large fountain with steps all the way down, meaning that you could walk right into the heart of it. Gorge! The second one was built to have the effect of mosaic tiles on water, and the third was an Alice in Wonderland themed Quiet Pool. We climbed the mountain and each step was 20 inches tall…. I’ve been living off BBQ food and haven’t worked out since we started the road trip so my legs definitely felt it and are still sore today! 



While walking around downtown and visiting Sundance Square and the JFK memorial, we saw a hotel bar advertising ‘Bubble Hour’, where a glass of prosecco was only $3.50! We couldn’t resist and went in for a glass, and I realized just how much I’d missed prosecco! 


For dinner we went to Uno, a pizzeria chain we had been to in Orlando back in April and I’d fallen in love with their gluten free pizza. It was SO good to have it again, and perhaps even better than I remembered. They know their stuff about cross-contamination and offer gluten free burgers too if you aren’t into pizza (but why wouldn’t you be?!).


Thursday morning we drove to Fort Worth Stockyards (tip: street parking is free for 2 hours and you don’t really need longer than that), went in lots of shops selling cowboy boots and hats, and watched the cattle herd at 11.30am. 


Once the cattle had finished their performance (a short walk from one sign to another), we got back in the car and drove to Dallas. We stopped for lunch at Sonny Bryan’s BBQ and LOVED it. Nearly all their meats are gluten free, as are most of their sides. I went for the pulled pork, pulled chicken and brisket with potato salad and beans. YUM. Their BBQ sauce is gluten free but served in old Corona bottles, so perhaps skip the sauce if you’re a coeliac, unless you REALLY trust their dishwasher. 


We walked around Dallas, stopping at the location where JFK was assassinated back in 1963, and visiting his beautiful memorial. We also popped into the Dallas Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden (both free!) for a wander and took some pics of Founders Square. I’m glad we ticked Dallas off our bucket list, but Fort Worth was my favourite of the two. 


We had our first night in of the road trip last night – accompanied by a couple microwave meals from Walmart! We know how to live. 

Restaurants · travel

Day 20 & 21 of USA Road Trip – Houston, Texas 

The drive from New Orleans to Houston was messy. As I was driving, small splats of what looked like creamy liquid started hitting the windscreen. ‘What IS that?’, I asked Ewan. He told me they were bugs! Gross. When we stopped for petrol, we wiped off all the bug splats, only to have the car covered again 10 minutes later. We stopped at a Sonic Drive-Thru for lunch, and when I rolled down the window to place the order, there they were! Black bugs about the same size as flying ants were everywhere, and trying to get into the car! They were always attached in pairs which made them look so creepy. I freaked and had to park up and hide in the car while Ewan went to place the order. 

As soon as we had wifi, I googled to find out what they were. LOVE BUGS! They are only around twice a year and come in swarms. They can also take the paintwork off your car if you don’t clean them off quick enough! What a pain in the arse. Hoping we don’t get too many now that we’re out of Louisiana. 

When we finally got to Houston, we headed into town for a walk (free parking on Sundays!). It was super quiet everywhere except for Discovery Green, a big space with lots of kids play areas and a water fountain that you could run through. We got some gorgeous views of the city skyline from Tranquility Park (which was more like Tramp-quility Park to be honest) and checked out some huge fish at the aquarium. 


For dinner, we stopped at Pappas BBQ. They have loads of gluten free options, including almost all of their meats and sides, but make sure you tell them not to add bread to your plate! I went for the half chicken with green beans and yams (sweet potato). It was HUGE and the sides were delicious, but the chicken was a little… soggy? It tasted like what I imagine canned chicken to taste like, and that is obviously not a compliment. Ewan’s pork looked good though, so perhaps I just made a bad choice! 


We decided that we didn’t need to head back into Houston the following day, as we’d basically seen everything we’d wanted to see. Instead, we decided to drive to nearby Galveston for a beach day. It was really relaxing and a nice change of pace from the last few action-packed weeks! Once we were bored of the beach, we drove back to the hotel and chilled out by the pool. We tested out our underwater camera and it worked! 


For dinner we headed to the Mexican restaurant next to our hotel, Tampico. It was really random but actually pretty good! They give you the option of corn or flour tortillas so a lot of dishes can be made gluten free on request. I ordered the veggie medley because I definitely haven’t been eating my greens recently, but washed it down with an enormous Mango Margarita #balance. 


Today we only have a 3 hour drive to San Antonio. Looking forward to seeing more of Texas, but hoping not ALL Texas drivers are as crazy as the ones around Houston. It’s no wonder that so many of the cars we’ve seen on the road have dents in them! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 16 & 17 of USA Road Trip – Memphis 

The 5 hour drive flew by thanks to the hilarious podcast ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’, and we were checking into our dodgy motel before we knew it. The room stank of weed and there were a couple suspicious stains on the wall, but we had arrived in Memphis! Time to go and explore. 
The hotel shuttle dropped us off on Beale Street, aka party central. It’s basically a geriatric version of Nashville, or at least it was when we were there – most of the patrons were over 60 and wearing rhinestoned Elvis shirts. To be fair, this could be because it’s the 40th anniversary of Elvis’s death this week! There were also a lot of motorbikes there for no apparent reason. 

We had a short wander around town before heading to dinner at Charles Vergos Rendezvous BBQ restaurant. EVERYTHING on the menu is gluten free except the bread, but make sure you tell your server that you’re gluten free as most of the meats are usually served on top of a slice of bread, even though it doesn’t say that on the menu. I went for the ribs with pork shoulder. The ribs were a little ‘meh’ but the pork shoulder was amazing! 


We went for a post dinner walk along the riverfront and had a drink while watching the sunset. The below bridge locals refer to as the Dolly Parton Bridge. I’ll let you guess why yourselves. 


The next morning, we headed into Memphis again to explore. We made our way to the Peabody Hotel for 11am to watch the ducks. For anyone who didn’t watch my Instagram video earlier, here’s an overview of what went down: 5 ducks come out of an elevator, waddle along a red carpet to an upbeat song, go up a set of red steps and into a fountain, where they spend the rest of the afternoon. It’s weird but I loved it. 


After the Peabody we walked to the Pro Bass Pyramid. For my UK readers, a Pro Bass shop generally sells hunting gear, weather wear, fishing apparatus…. etc. We had no need to go to this store but had been told that it used to be a sports arena so we were intrigued. If we ignored the hunting stuff, it was actually pretty cool. They had a bowling alley, a restaurant, a museum, a fudge shop and various aquariums. 


We stopped for lunch there and I was pleased to find out that they did a coeliac friendly burger with a gluten free bun. However, when it arrived, it was just a burger sandwiched between two freezing cold, rock solid slices of gluten free bread. It’s not going to win any burger awards any time soon, but I was happy to have options! 


After lunch we headed across to Mud Island Park, a very cool space that’s definitely worth checking out. You can walk back to town via the pedestrian bridge, which offers pretty great views of the city. It’s also completely free!


On our way back to town, we walked past a barber shop. Ewan’s been wanting to get his hair cut for a while, so we decided to go in while we had some free time. Ewan explained that he just wanted a 2 on the back and sides and the top trimmed a tiny bit. The barber seemed to understand and got to work. The first red flag was that the barber had Ewan facing away from the mirror, so Ewan had no idea what was happening to his hair. The second red flag was when he started shaving a crap load of hair off the top of Ewan’s head. I adopted the British plan of attack, which is to be very passive aggressive in the hope of controlling the situation. ‘Looks great but that’s probably enough off the top now?’ ‘Ewan, do you think you’d better take a look in the mirror?’ When these were ignored and he was still sheering Ewan like a sheep, I actually went over to the barber like some kind of overbearing pageant-Mom, and stopped him to say that he was taking too much off. Ewan caught sight of himself in the mirror and with a panicked expression, agreed that no more should be cut off. ‘Okay, I’ll just neaten up the front’, says the Barber, a second before he takes another 2 inches off. When he started working on Ewan’s beard, I had to avert my eyes, worried I’d be leaving the store with a 12 year old boy. THANKFULLY Ewan was a great sport about it and I actually think he looks gorgeous with her new surprise hair do! Proof of this below.


We HAD to go for an alcoholic drink after that, before heading home for an early night as we have a long drive to New Orleans tomorrow! Night all.