Texas, New Mexico & Mexico

I received the text on 31st July, “What if I told you we’re having a wedding in October…”, it was all I could do to hold in my excitement texting a reply at top speed! My bestest friend in the world, the one person I could rely on to make me laugh, to give me unclouded truth, to party with me until the early hours was getting married!

I already knew everything about his bride-to-be Kelsey, of course I did! When he met her, I heard all about her for hours over the phone, and when I finally got to meet her for the first time in New York, and the second time back home in England, it was impossible not to love her genuine smile that gave away her sparkling personality!

When the time came to propose, he sent me photos of the rose gold ring set with an oval diamond and I knew she’d love it. I received a facetime whilst I was in Bali, he was going to pop the question tomorrow, he said. She said “Yes”, we facetimed some more. And now, finally, a month later, the date was set… for 3 month’s time… in Texas! Ahhhh!

It was so far, and such short notice, so naturally I told him I couldn’t make it…

“Mate, I will be there if I have to freakin’ swim! If I have to kidnap Beyoncé to impersonate her and set  up a concert in Texas just to fraudulently be transported to you, I will do it. If I have to charter a private jet…” You get the picture, this is my best friend, OF COURSE I would be there! This was then followed by an exchange of very animated gifs giving way to at least 10% of my excitement.

The next wave of excitement arrived in the post just in time for my birthday all the way from the USA… the card officially asking me to be a bridesmaid! Yay!

So all I needed to do was figure out how to get there…

 

Getting to Texas

So contrary to popular belief, the more in demand the flights to certain places are, the cheaper the tickets are. So if I was going to New York or Vegas, I could have found pretty reasonable tickets even at the short notice. But nobody says “Hey, I’m going on holiday… to Texas” although, having been and gone, I’d say they should!
Unfortunately, demands at work meant a limited window of time, and I wanted to maximise my time off to mean I could spend lots of time with my BFF and his wifey! So flights were looking pretty steep.

So, in case you are inspired and think, “Yeah I want to go to Texas on holiday”, I’ll save you the hard work and give you your options for low cost flying now.

  1. Try to leave and return on a week-day.
  2. Fly to Mexico, Cuidad Juarez is nearest to El Paso in Texas, and get an uber to the border (or hire a car but make sure it is allowed to cross the border).
  3. Use kiwi.com who I found to have the cheapest tickets, but beware that tickets don’t always include baggage. Also be aware that they sell seperate tickets which means you have to recheck your bags at each stop and if you miss a flight due to delays, you could be swallowing the cost.
  4. Flights to larger, more popular cities within Texas such as Houston or Dallas are cheaper, but be prepared to drive 12 hours or more if you want to visit El Paso.
  5. Flying to nearby states such as California, Arizona or Colorado and driving will save you significant amounts but the drive will be between 6 and 14 hours to El Paso.

In the end I booked tickets to El Paso via Dallas on the way there, and LA on the way back via a travel agent. The agent had managed to get a deal that reduced a £1,068 ticket to £870 by adding a hire car! It was a win-win in my eyes!

 

The Wedding

The Wedding!
Photo Credit: @veronica.cook.photography

I don’t even think words can describe how beautiful this day was.

We were all up from around 9am, the vibe was pretty relaxing as we had plenty of time until the wedding started at 5.30pm. That may seem a little late but this wedding was a little different than any other wedding I had ever attended, firstly it was an Unplugged wedding, which simply meant no phones! At least, not until the reception. Kelsey & Chello wanted everyone to be present with them and in the special moment that they were about to share, and it certainly was a special moment.

We had lots of fun getting ready, helping one another out with hair and makeup, listening to music, drinking bubbly and taking photos. It was certainly a challenge getting our white lace tops on following our hair and makeup but we did it with two or three people holding the neck open!

Kelsey’s father then had a first look, where he waited in the stunning garden and Kelsey tapped him on the shoulder, it was such a beautiful moment; I looked at the other bridesmaids and there were tears in their eyes too.

Marcelo, my best friend and the groom was allowed his first look next, but this time, the bride wanted it to be private, just between her and her husband.

I’d never heard of a first look until this day, but it was such a beautiful idea.

Guests arrived to the perfectly decorated back yard, Kelsey had always wanted to marry in her childhood home, and we all hid waiting for our moment. First Marcelo, then the parents, the grandparents and finally, paired with the groomsmen, were the bridesmaids down the ailse. We parted at the alter and watched the bride arrive in an emotional moment. I felt so proud as we stood alongside the bride and groom for the stunning ceremony to take place.

It seemed to be over in a flash and soon we were eating, drinking, dancing and drinking Tequila! They did it! My best friend became one with his beautiful bride.

 

El Paso

El Paso is 80% Latino, which is unsurprising being so close to the Mexican border. As you drive along the freeway, you can see the Mexican city of Juárez which is the most populated city in the state of Chihuahua, also ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the world in 2017.

El Paso, on the other hand, remains one of the safest cities in the US voted 4 years consecutively and stands on one side of the Rio Grande river across the Mexico-US border. El Paso, Cuidad Juárez and Las Cruces in state of New Mexico form an area sometimes referred to as the Paso del Norte or El Paso–Juárez–Las Cruces, all of which I had a chance to explore.

As with most places, El Paso has museums to visit, shops to explore, and restaurants to enjoy. Being close the the Mexican border, real Mexican food isn’t hard to come by; Gorditas, Tacos and the tastiest Guacamole you have ever had are among the options available to you. Taco Cabana and Leo’s Mexican Food are a couple of places I enjoyed some tasty Mexican cuisine. But of course there was also plenty of American restaurants to choose from, I may or may not have enjoyed a Chick-fil-A meal to myself. #guiltypleasure

I couldn’t leave El Paso without heading to a saddle shop to buy some souvenirs, Mission del Rey was fantastic and they gave me a little $3 discount on my purchases – yay!

Here are a few more things I think you shouldn’t miss.

 

Scenic Drive View

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Around 15 minutes away from downtown El Paso is a stunning drive that takes you up the southern edge of the Franklin mountains. As you drive up you will be surrounded by very expensive stately homes which are some of El Paso’s oldest homes, then when you turn off to the right you will have breathtaking views of downtown El Paso and Cuidad Juarez across the border!

There is a place to park up and an overlook to walk down where you can see panoramic views which are particularly stunning at sunset and at nighttime.

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On the rails of the staircase leading to the overlook are very familiar padlocks (read about Venice’s padlocks here) which appear to have become a visitor’s way of leaving their mark here before they leave. When you reach the bottom of the stairs, you can make your way to the edge immediately ahead of you to look through the round binocular stands, or you could veer to the right to sit on the benches facing the sunset as you take in the view.

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Look behind you to see the majestic mountain and the American flag flapping gently in the wind. Many people in El Paso also like to hike up the Franklin mountains, for fantastic views and challenging climbs.

 

New Mexico

Bordering Texas as well as Mexico is New Mexico. In Las Cruces you can find many wineries and vineyards, one of which we paid a visit to for the batchelorette party; the Luna Rossa Winery. It was 5 tasters for $5, seriously! And they were flipping good wines, I enjoyed the NINA best.

But I suppose marginally better than the super cheap wine tasting was one of the world’s natural wonders, White Sands.

White Sands is made up of gypsum which flowed from the mountain tops to create crystals that are broken down into fine particles that the wind has blown over time to create these huge sand dunes. The sand is almost as soft and fine as talcum powder making the sand itself cool to walk on even in the severe heat of the sun. The dunes stretch over a 275 square mile range of desert making it the world’s largest gypsum dune field.

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You can walk along the many miles of glistening white dunes, with trails available for hikers, or some like to camp overnight, sandboard, or like my bestie and his wifey, take amazing engagement photo shoots!

Monsoon
Monsoon in the Desert. Photo Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Whilst I was there, I saw a monsoon coming for us from afar like a dark cloud following us, it wasn’t long before we were surrounded by large raindrops and thunder as well as lightning. At this time, it is unsafe to be on the dunes as the sand conducts the electricity from the lightning and could harm you.

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But seriously though, these dunes are totally worth the visit, at only $5 per person for entry.

 

Mexico

El Paso is right next door to Mexico, so it would be crazy to be here and not pop across the border into Juarez. Yeah, Juarez was the most dangerous city in the world, yes there were horror stories of corruption, murder and greed BUT I had always wanted to visit Mexico! So, when a friend I met at the wedding invited me to join her and her husband for dinner in Mexico, how could I resist?!

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Crossing the border was easy, seriously, scarily easy. In fact, take the wrong road and you might find yourself in Mexico! So be careful; always carry a copy of your passport with you. So to get into Mexico, nobody checks your passport or anything – you can just drive straight through! It’s coming back that you have to worry about.

Juarez is a city in Chihuahua, I was sad that little Chihuahuas were not running around on the streets but it’s probably a good thing.

We headed to an awesome restaurant called Aaajiji! This taqueria was packed with local families and friends happily chatting away in Español, our party of 12 were soon sat and we ordered tasty pork and beef tacos that came served in heated dishes. We all headed to the salsa bar to get our sauces and toppings. On recommendation I ordered Orchata, a Mexican spiced rice milk drink which was absolutely delicious!

Following dinner, we all headed to the bar to celebrate my friend’s birthday, and what is the best way to celebrate a birthday in Mexico?? Tequilaaa!! We got a bottle of Don Julio and finished it quickly chanting the famous Mexican drinking toast, “¡Arriba! ¡Abajo! ¡Al centro! y Pa’dentro!”

The queue getting out of Mexico was long but the time passed quickly with the fun and laughter in our 7 seater car as we jammed to Dembow – Danny Ocean. To keep us going, we picked up some marzipan snacks from a street vendor who knocked on our car window. The clear plastic packet said “de la Rosa” in red writing with a picture of a rose. It tasted gorgeous!

No, they did not stamp my passport on crossing the border – boo!

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