Last year Alix Thepot from France won a spot for her an a friend on one of 3 epic road trips across America after entering, and winning, a global STA Travel competition to join this one and a life time travel experience.
The journey would see her, and her chosen ‘plus one’ Lorena Sorrentino from Italy, as well as winner number 2 Christian and his friend Max from Germany, 2 camera crew from New Zealand and an STA Travel staff member (which, on this occasion, was little old me) visit some of the USA’s most iconic travel spots and experience an authentic and exciting taste of this part of what is undoubtedly a diverse and fascinating country.
The journey took in the beaches of Miami and Florida Key West, cowboy country Dallas, Memphis, the birth place of rock and roll and the unique French influence of legendary New Orleans.
I caught up with Alix and Lorena to reflect on their time on the road in the USA and find out exactly what stood out for them to make their trip unforgettable.
L-R: Alix, Christian, Max and Lorena.
USA Road Trippin’ Through the Eyes of Alix and Lorena
WHAT WAS THE MOST SURPRISING PLACE YOU VISITED?
Alix: There were so many surprising places! All the places where different and surprising in one way or another.
For example, I loved the craziness of the night life and people in Miami, where people aged 21 (or less) up to around 70 years old were all dancing together. Key West was completely different it had a peacefulness, and I loved the kindness of the people there.
I loved Dallas too, the Texan atmosphere plus the historical side (JFK assassination museum etc) and the rodeo/cowboy traditions – amazing. It’s so hard, each city has something surprising!
Lorena: I would say Memphis because even if, as a city, it does not necessarily offer beautiful views or buildings and it does not have beaches and sand, it has a very special vibe.
It might be because of the SUN Studios tour we took to see where Elvis was discovered, or that Elvis had lived there, but walking in Beale Street was one of the most surprising moments because I was not expecting an environment like that; live blues, good music, good food and drinks, it was a wonderful moment.
Lorena relaxing in a hammock in Florida Keys.
WHAT’S THE PLACE YOU’D MOST LIKE TO RETURN TO?
Alix: New Orleans. The atmosphere is just amazing, but also Key West for its peacefulness and paradise spirit.
Lorena: Key West for me too, because it felt like paradise. We did amazing activities (jet ski tours, night time glass-bottom kayak tour, crab and lobster fishing, BBQ on a sand bar in the middle of the ocean and the location was just amazing.
ANYTHING YOU WOULD HAVE CHANGED OR DONE DIFFERENTLY?
Alix: Nothing. Well actually, I wish I could have stayed longer in New Orleans!
Lorena: I must say that, for me, it was perfect. We experienced the ‘real’ America and we discovered the local habits and culture.
Group Beerita outing in Dallas.
MOST MIND-BLOWING VIEW YOU SAW?
Alix: On our way to New Orleans, right before entering the city via Lake Pontchartrain Bridge, you could see clearly the sky and water divided by a horizontal line with dark grey on the top and all blue on the bottom.
Lorena: Waking up on the hammock and watching the sunrise in Key West.
FAVOURITE MEAL OF THE TRIP?
Lorena: In Florida Key West we stayed in the IBIS Bay Resort, we caught our own lobster and stoned crab and then cooked them ourselves for dinner.
ANY SCARY MOMENTS?
Alix: Holding an alligator in my hand in New Orleans!
Pontchartrain Bridge on the way to New Orleans.
FAVOURITE MOMENT OR MEMORY OF THE TRIP?
Alix: So many! Fishing for crabs and lobsters, cooking and eating them in Key West
Trying a Beerita for the first time in Dallas, (frozen margarita with a bottle of Corona upside down in it!) and swimming with Dolphins in Miami was also one of the best moments. It’s so hard to give just one, as we did so many different things!
Lorena: for me, it’s got to be drinking coconut milk on floating mattress in the sea between Cuba and the Keys
ANY ROAD-TRIP TIPS FOR FELLOW TRAVELLERS?
Alix: Bear in mind that on a road-trip, the unexpected can happen, it’s all part of it. So when a bus is late, the car rental place is far away, the car breaks down…keep smiling and enjoying!
Lorena: Pack only the essential things – a couple of t-shirts, a couple of shorts, a few bit of warm clothes and some comfortable ones (especially if you will have to travel on a bus!) Also, try everything! Any weird local food or any unusual local activity, this is the best way to travel and to get to know new places.