There was a little bit of Australian magic happening on and off the court at Houston’s Toyota Centre recently when a group of TravelManagers – touring Texas as guests of TravelCube and Air New Zealand – took their seats to watch a clash between NBA giants the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz.
Knowing that the Jazz line-up contained two Australian players – and that one of them, Joe Ingles, was a big Hawthorn fan – Melbourne-based consultant Darren Christensen decided to wear a jersey featuring the mighty Hawks. What he didn’t know was that in the audience for the game was one of Ingles’ best friends, Hawthorn player Jarryd Roughead.
“I walked into the Centre and he’s the first person I see,” says Christensen. “He came up and we had a good chat. He’s been off this season battling cancer and Inglis invited him to a few games. He just thought it was bizarre to run into a Hawks fan in an NBA basketball game in Texas.”
TravelCube’s Teena Hollwey says the agents – who stayed at two of Omni’s Houston hotels – also “played astronauts” with a visit to NASA’s famous Space Center Houston, just as a giant screen showed the International Space Station passing over Australia.
One of the highlights for TravelManagers’ Karen Dowling was a tour of Houston’s iconic graffiti walls, where a group of local street dancers put on an unscheduled performance.
“We also visited the pretty seaside town of Galveston where we took a bike ride past some beautiful houses in the East End Historical District,” says Dowling. “In the front lawns were these sculptures made from the remains of trees that were devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008. Instead of knocking them down they got local artists to turn them into pieces of art.”
The group also strolled along Kemah Boardwalk, a theme park built along the shores of Galveston Bay, and dined at some of Houston’s most popular restaurants.
“We ate our own body weight in seafood and burgers,” says Dowling. “You’re definitely not going to starve when you visit Texas.”