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Tex Mex, Creole or All-American? Comparing the flavour of three Southern cities…

 

Over 12 months ago, when I embarked on my trip of a lifetime across the US of A, I was set to visit 23 states in 28 days; a mean feat for someone who had never left Europe before! Aptly named The Grand Southern Adventure, I knew most of my escapade would be spent discovering some of the best cities that the south had to offer, and knew that it’d be an adrenalin fuelled few weeks, and a real foodie haven too. Three of the cities on the trip really stole my heart, and not just because of their lively atmospheres and their colourful history. Spending two nights each in Orlando, Dallas and New Orleans gave me a chance to delve a little deeper into their charm, although I’m pretty sure I barely scratched the surface of these cities during my short time there. I enjoyed my few days in those places so much that, when the wonderful team at Trip.com asked me to take a look at the foodie history behind each city, I jumped at the chance to do a little more digging… Here’s how the three of them compare…

 

Dallas, Texas

 

The sun shining down on Dallas

 

The Texan powerhouse and one of America’s most famous cities, Dallas should be at the top of everyone’s bucket lists, and for good reason. Home to an enormous aquarium, along with a zoo, museums and memorials, Dallas is one of the liveliest cities in the deep South. Sadly, it’s also perhaps best known for being the site of President John F Kennedy’s assassination and has a memorial and museum dedicated to his untimely death. Whilst you’ll find large chunks of America’s history down in Dallas, you’ll also find it’s a complete foodie haven and a fantastic place for indulging in that iconic Tex-Mex cuisine.

A mouth-watering mix of Anglo and Mexican-Indian infusions, invented by Mexican immigrants in the late 1800s, Tex-Mex fast became one of the most popular dishes in the state of Texas, and across the rest of America and the world too. Although the main ingredients of the cuisine remain the same; think nachos, enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, chilli and tacos, the dishes have largely evolved over the years. It wouldn’t be right to devour some good ole Tex-Mex food in Dallas without a frozen margarita in hand though – it’s where it was first created back in 1974, and is still a hit with locals and tourists alike today. If you’re looking for the perfect hotel from which to base yourself on your next visit to this Texan city check out Trip.com’s best hotel deals in Dallas.

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

The fairy-tale that is Jackson Square

 

Positioned right on the Mississippi River, near the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is a Louisiana city packing a big punch. Nicknamed the “Big Easy,” New Orleans is famous for its crazy nightlife, fantastic live-music jazz scene and its eclectic cuisine. At the heart of the city you’ll find it’s French Quarter, the oldest part of the city and perhaps its most interesting. Jackson Square is the focal point of the district, complete with a pretty Church, manicured courtyard gardens and horse drawn carriages, making it look like something out of a fairy-tale. The biggest event on the calendar is of course the Mardi Gras parade, a winter carnival with show-stopping costumes, live music and fun filled street parties. New Orleans, and indeed the rest of Louisiana, is however best known for its delicious Creole cuisine; a spicy style of cooking which brings together a mixture of flavours from a whole host of different cultures including Spanish, Indian, Caribbean, West African and Latin American.

Invented in NOLA back in the 18th century, classic Creole dishes include fish and meat soups, shrimps in sauce, rice in gravy, baked chicken, red beans and smothered pork chops. The most popular dishes are gumbo (shrimp, chicken and sausage stew served with rice) and jambalaya (meat and vegetables mixed with rice). For dessert, Creole cuisine offers something for everyone, but NOLA’s most iconic sweet treat is the classic beignet – deep fried choux pastry served with powdered sugar on top and a café au lait (coffee with milk). Visit the world famous Café du Monde down in the French Quarter for the ultimate beignet experience. The café is open 24 hours all day every day and only has four items on the menu: dark-roasted coffee, white and chocolate milk, hot chocolate, freshly squeezed orange juice and, of course, the classic beignets. Whatever your foodie preferences, NOLA caters for all tastes and you’ll be sure to want to take a taste of Creole home with you when you leave the city! If you’re in need of a place to rest your head for a few hours after spending all night ‘dancing in the streets’ check out Trip.com’s best hotel deals in New Orleans.

 

Orlando, Florida

 

The happiest place on earth…

 

Nestled between the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the sunshine state of Florida is one of the most visited areas in the whole of the USA. With hundreds of miles of coastline and a population of over 20 million, Florida is a tropical paradise with gorgeous turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. In particular, Orlando is famed for its designer shopping malls, vibrant seaside resorts and of course it’s enormous theme parks. Nicknamed the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World’, Orlando is home to the Universal resorts, Sea World, Discovery Cove, Legoland, Gatorland, Epcot and the most famous resort on earth, Walt Disney World. Cuisine is Florida is just as famous, with their iconic oranges – you’ll find them everywhere you go – as well as their Cuban inspired mojito’s and of course their very own key lime pie.

Cuisine found in Orlando is typical of All-American dishes and, whilst it mainly consists of fried chicken, French fries and just about any kind of fried food you can find, there are dozens of signature dishes too. Frozen yogurt, or Fro-Yo as Floridians affectionately call it, is super popular over in Orlando, and is much needed during the exhausting heat and tropical temperatures that remain in place all year round. Alligator tail is also a popular dish in the city, deep fried and served with hot sauce and a heap of ranch dressing on the side. Perhaps the most famous piece of Floridian cuisine though is the mouth-watering key lime pie. Invented by ship salvager William Curry in the sunshine state back in the 1800s, Curry became Key West’s first millionaire and his legendary dish is still a hit today. Need somewhere to stay during your holiday with Mickey and Co? Take a look at Trip.com’s top hotel deals in Orlando.

 

NB. This post is brought to you as part of Trip.com’s Underdog Cities campaign but all words and photos are of course my own.

 

So food is pretty BIG in Dallas

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48hours in Miami- A guide to the US party capital

Palm trees, skyscraper hotels and a beautiful harbour.. It can only be M I A M I 🇺🇸🌴 #Florida #Miami #wanderlustwednesday

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Hi everyone,

On my American Adventure this summer I had the chance to explore the US party capital of Miami, somewhere I have wanted to visit for months and months! I only had two full days to explore whilst on my Contiki Grand Southern trip, but I definitely made the most of my short time there and it lived up to my crazy high expectations – Miami was INCREDIBLE! Two full days actually gives you enough time to see the main sights, although I would love to have embraced the beach life for a few days longer! Here is my list of must see’s and my guide on how to make the most of your time in the city…

 

Hit Lincoln Road Mall for the ultimate shopping experience

 

#tbt to M I A M I 🇺🇸🌴 #America #USA #contiki #grandsouthern #noregrets #throwbackthursday

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Lincoln Road Mall was the first stop of my Miami trip and it was the best way to get acclimatised to the city. We strolled up and down the boulevard checking out all the stores, picking up souvenirs and stopping for drinks whilst people-watching til our hearts were content! This place is THE premier shopping mall in Miami and stretches for miles with stores selling everything you can think of. I loved that the streets were lined with palm trees and there were market stalls on every corner – embracing the true Miami lifestyle was so much fun and it was one of the best shopping experiences I’ve ever had!

Take a thriller speed boat ride to Star Island

 

BRB, just gonna move in to ma new house 🌴🏡 #Miami #Florida #wanderlustwednesday #housegoals #agirlcandream

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This was an optional extra on my Contiki trip and I am SO glad I did it! I am usually really  bad with boats, or any kind of water based activity, as I suffer badly with both travel and sea sickness, so I really thought I’d struggle on this one, but the boat went SO FRIKKIN FAST that I don’t think my body even had time to start feeling sick! We sped across the ocean and sailed around Biscayne Bay before making our way over to Star Island to ogle at all the famous people’s houses that were on site! The 90 minute tour took us past amazing homes belonging to Will Smith, Julio Iglesias & Gloria Estefan before making our way back to the harbour where we were placed firmly back on the ground and came back to the real world! The boat tour was a really fun way of seeing Biscayne Bay – tours run every 2 hours departing from the harbour – and I’d 100% recommend it to anyone wanting to explore Miami from the ocean!

Embrace beach life

 

I'm in Miami bitchhh! 🇺🇸🎉🇺🇸🎉 #noregrets #grandsouthern #miami

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Miami is suuuuch a cool place and it has some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen! Both Miami Beach and South Beach were my faves; they were framed by skyscraper hotels, art-deco buildings and white sands with the bluest sea I have ever swam in! Beach life is a massive part of Miami, and these beaches are known to attract top celebs all year round – I tried my best to spot some A-Listers but sadly didn’t see anyone during my trip! After a hectic week exploring Florida it was so nice to just chill out on the beach and spend some time people-watching and seeing those ocean waves roll in… what I would give to be back there right now!

Take in the awesome skyline

 

 

So this kinda goes without saying, but as soon as you arrive in Miami you won’t be able to miss the incredible skyline that is present across the entire city. The best way to see it is by boat, look behind you and just gaze up at the sheer size of those buildings – they’re so iconic and you’ll pinch yourself to check whether you’re actually there or whether you’re just day dreaming! I know I did that, and I still can’t believe I’ve actually been to Miami, even four months after I got back!

Party like a local

 

Miami rooftops 🎉🇺🇸 #saturdaynight

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You can’t visit Miami without partying at least once, so go out like a local, hit the clubs and dance the night away! We had drinks on the rooftop of our hotel (Hotel Croydon on Collins Avenue – would highly recommend this as a place to stay) then headed out to the main strip and went in a few small bars first before getting into the clubs which were HUGE! Drinks and entrance charges were really expensive, think Vegas prices, but the venues are so luxurious and there’s no where else quite like Miami so it definitely has to be done at least once on your trip!

Sail around Miami Harbour

 

🇺🇸🇺🇸 #Miami #florida #contiki #grandsouthern #noregrets #starttheadventure #takemeback #traveltuesday

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So this was organised as part of my Contiki trip, but if you get the chance to hop on a party cruise and sail around Miami Harbour I would definitely recommend it! We saw the whole of the Miami skyline lit up at night which looked totally amazing, and sailing around the bay was sooo dreamy. Our big American flag flew proudly at the rear of the ship, and we had an on-board bar with our very own DJ which made for a brilliant party atmosphere! I know Miami is big on clubbing, but a party boat is suuuuch good fun and a really good way of getting to meet people if you’re travelling alone or in a small group, plus it’ll be cheaper than the clubs and less busy – winner!

So there we have it, my top tips on exploring Miami in a whirlwind 48 hours! Immerse yourself in the buzz of the city, visit the sites, relax on the beach and embrace the party vibe that is present throughout for the full Floridian experience. Hopefully this post inspires you for your trip to the city and helps with that all important planning!

Have you ever been to Miami? Tell me what you thought of it, I’d love to hear your comments!

Love Jess x

🇺🇸 M I A M I 🇺🇸 #wanderlustwednesday

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🏙🌊 #Miami #Florida #takemeback #wanderlustwednesday

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