24
Dec
17

Apple Chronicles: Exploring Houston

I only have eight days in Houston and most of it is occupied by official business.  I also only have a weekend so I have to make the most out of my time and forget about jetlag.  And so, my adventure started the following morning.

Map of Downtown Houston.

This is part of a series
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I honestly just got up that morning to catch breakfast.  My hotel accommodation included a free buffet breakfast so I didn’t pass on that.  It gave me time to plan my day ahead.  It’s my first time in Houston and I honestly don’t know which attractions to go to and how to get around.  And with the power of the internet, I figured that I should go get some bus tickets and pick a spot where to have lunch.

This pretty much represent what my usual breakfast was during my stay in Houston.

Getting outdoors for the first time, I realized that the Houston weather is pretty much like that of Manila during temperate months.  With that, I hardly had to make any adjustments as I could just go out in shorts and t-shirts and not worry that it might get cold.  That boosted my confidence to explore the city more.  But first, I have to get a ticket for the Metro.

Metro systems in most cities that have them refer to a network of trains that traverses the city.  In Houston, they have anything but that!  Instead, they have a network of buses and trams that go all around Downtown and beyond.  That meant you only need one ticket to ride them all, and you can get a 24-hour pass for just $3!

View just outside the lobby of my hotel.

It was a Saturday and I didn’t know that the bus company that sells bus tickets is closed on weekends.  Actually, most stores in Downtown is closed on weekends.  I only realized this after walking more than a kilometer from my hotel to the bus station after seeing the station was closed and looking at their operating hours posted on the door.  Even on weekdays, they close at 5PM.  It really got me by surprise as I don’t think I’ve been in any major city where store operating hours are this limited.  And so, I went back to my hotel and tried downloading the Metro’s mobile app to get tickets online.  And it actually was much more inaccessible for non-US credit card holders as the app only accepts local cards for payment.  They ask for a zip code associated with your credit card and naturally, it won’t recognize Philippine zip codes where my card was issued.  Good thing that I had an angel that helped me get a day pass from the app.

Look up!

After losing so much time to get my ticket, I was off to this mall called The Galleria for lunch.  I wasn’t familiar with the restaurants I saw and I was already quite hungry by then, so I picked a familiar one that I also miss to have my lunch: The Cheesecake Factory.

My first meal in Houston: Hibachi steak by The Cheesecake Factory.

And I would not miss their cheesecake for dessert!

I also did a quick visit to a nearby Apple store to check out the iPhone X.  Back then, I was still undecided on whether to get one so I was contented to just seeing it and testing it out.  It was just recently made available so it’s quite a challenge to secure one.

My first encounter with the iPhone X.

Taking a closer look at the space gray version.

Checking out the highly-reflective glass back of the silver version.

After checking out the rest of the mall, I went back to Downtown, cooled off a bit in my hotel room, and explored the area on foot.  Later that afternoon, my co-workers from around the world arrived and so it got more interesting.  We walked around later that night to find a good spot for dinner, and we ended up in an upscale wine and steak place in another nearby mall.

A portion of the skyline of Downtown Houston.

Houston Metro’s tram which remind me a lot of Metro Manila’s MRT.

This is a typical station of the tram.

I just love wide, open sidewalks! 😀

One of the nearby malls where we had our first dinner in Houston.

We went shopping the following day at one of the Outlet Malls just outside of Houston.  I got a few items that I think were really nice, but my co-workers really hauled a lot of great finds!  I had reservations on how many items I should buy as I still have two domestic flights to go through after Houston.

That night was the highlight of my day as we’d be watching an NBA game live at Toyota Center.  It was a game between Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets.  It was a great game made extra memorable as James Harden scored his career-high for most points in a game, just a point short of breaking the franchise record!  I also sat on the wrong seat for the first quarter of the game so that’s also something worth noting.

Toyota Center.

It’s crazy how many people turned up for the game.

And this is my dinner: probably the most expensive hotdog I’ve ever had!  And it’s one of the worst as the bread was really soggy it breaks apart when you try to lift the sandwich.

Playing of the US National Anthem before the start of the game.

James Harden’s stats early in the game… he later recorded his career-high for highest points in a game.

During the latter part of the game.

It was practically all business during the weekdays with just a few exceptions in between and around working hours.  Some of the more notable ones include discovering the vast underground pathways of Downtown where you can get from building to building without getting outside and where many folks also go get lunch; running around Downtown so early in the morning because I got up early due to jetlag, on the day that the temperature dropped to around 13°C; and doing the mentally-challenging “The Apartment” of Escape the Room for team-building wherein you have to solve the puzzles and decipher the clues in order to get out of the apartment in an hour or less.  And thankfully, we did escape the room!

No photos allowed inside the room and I won’t share any spoilers!

One of the parks I saw during my one and only run around Downtown.

One of the buildings that we got in had this very nice view of Houston.

Another very interesting experience we had was with Fogo de Chão where we had a steak buffet!

Of course we had to return to The Cheesecake Factory to try a different cheesecake flavor!

Houston from another perspective.

But the real highlight of my Houston trip did not happen until after our last official working day…

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