I’m not entirely sure what Nick does for work but he was gone very early again this morning, assuming he’d been there at all so I passed on my gratitude and fond farewells via post-it note before heading back to the airport in the same way I’d left it – in the rain.
After another ordeal with American Airlines which did not get me a window seat, I passed through the gates where I indulged in one of my favourite airport rituals at the duty free shop. On travel days, I’ll often leave off my perfume so I can apply one worn by my mum or sisters. Our sense of smell being such a potent conjurer of memories, it’s my way of invoking their presence with me. Today’s virtual companion by the powers of Coco Chanel, is Rachael. Nice to have you aboard!
My actual travel companion and successful window-seat-getter was a 76 year old gentleman who on his way home to Los Angeles after visiting his girlfriend in Chicago. Apparently the tyranny of distance is taking its toll and they’re talking about shacking up together somewhere in between. I wished him well when we touched down in Dallas as we went our separate ways – he to his connecting flight and me to the Belmont Hotel.
Now I apologise for the crude reference in the title, it’s just that there are so few pop cultural references to Dallas and the alliteration was too good to ignore. The precious little else Dallas has to offer will be covered tomorrow but for today, I’m staying at the Belmont!
Set on the top of a hill about 5 kilometres out of the city, The Belmont Hotel is a bit of an indulgence for me. Like Chicago, my only reason for coming to Dallas is that the plane stopped here. Unlike Chicago, there is very little of interest to me so it made sense to stay somewhere I could just hang out and gather my wits. The Belmont is certainly that – an ‘historic boutique hotel’ with a very laid back tex-mex vibe with beautiful gardens and a pool.
I checked into my spacious room with perfect views of the city skyline to find a hand written note on my bed welcoming me to the hotel. I grabbed my camera and went for a walk around the place to take it all in, get the lay of the land and strategise how to get the most out of all the fanciness.
Back in my room, I decided priority number one in this very different climate (30 degrees celsius) was to break in one of my new cosies (aka swimsuit, bathers and so on. Henceforth referred to as cosies). A quick change and I headed to the pool to find I had the whole place to myself. I paddled up and down wishing my co-wailing-wading-woman, Janet, was with me. I hopped out and stretched out on the lawn to dry off and write in my journal. In a rare moment of peaceful solitude, I was content to be by myself, to own and enjoy the moment.
I took that feeling back to my room where I decided to get overdressed – also break in my new black dress from NYC – and take myself to dinner at ‘Smoke’, the acclaimed restaurant attached to the hotel. Feeling good for a change, I ordered a cocktail and meal before realising that all I could hear was the conversation of the unlikeliest couple in Texas nearby who, unbeknownst to them, spoke very specifically and loudly about the same set of circumstances that had bought me to this point in my life. So much for my happy place and appetite!
I managed to maintain composure long enough to get outside where I have to admit, I became a little undone but didn’t want to go back to my room and admit defeat. I took three very deep breaths, wiped my eyes and nose and resolved to take myself to the bar with the best views over the city and try and salvage the date I had promised to take myself on. I ordered a ‘Starry, Starry Night’ and perched on the balcony where indeed, the view was lovely.
I must have still looked a sorry sight because soon enough, the people at the table next to me took pity on me and invited me to join them. Mark and Jerry from Austin restored my faith in Southern hospitality as we talked the night away. They were charming, witty and kind and convinced me that Austin, not Dallas, is the place to be in Texas and I’ve now added it to my list of destinations, if only for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema!
I haven’t always depended on the kindness of strangers, but tonight I was very grateful for it.