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Walking Tour of Broadway

Travel There – Just a Couple of Texas Girls in the Big City

As soon as we got our stuff stowed away we hit the streets of NYC. In just a few steps we figured out the Sheraton New York Times Square is the perfect place to stay. Don’t let them put you in the Four Points by Sheraton Times Square, that’s a whole ‘nother place and I am so glad a fought the battle to get where we wanted to be. We were right in the middle of everything without being in the insanity of Broadway itself.

Broadway, just a few blocks away, was insane and I am glad we had a buffer zone. They smoke pot everywhere in NYC, but on Broadway they smoke it a lot and they want to sell it to you. They also want to sell you fake designer bags. I could have done away with that whole vibe, but you just have to take New York City as it comes at you.

You also get mobs of people all the time. Later in the trip we’d be there on a weekend evening and we would really understand exactly how crazy it could get, but for our first day in the city, it was crazy enough.

We hadn’t scheduled anything specific for our day of arrival, because air travel is so unreliable these days. I didn’t want to have tickets riding on me getting there on time and we’re still stuck in the air somewhere. So the plan was to stroll Broadway and see what we could see…or eat.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Our first stop on our tour of Broadway was one of the best of the trip and we repeated it several times. I had read in my research that THE place to have authentic New York Cheesecake was Junior’s. I cannot speak to the authenticity, but oh my goodness, can I ever speak to how delicious it was. We both love cheesecake, but if possible we love Junior’s Cheesecake more than any other we’ve ever had. Deb liked it best topped with various fruits. I had mine plain, but there was nothing plain about it.

Our Key to the City

Broadway, Junior’s and a MetroCard. We were knocking it out of the park in the first few hours we were there. This was not Deb’s first NYC rodeo, so we decided we’d be brave and use the subway system. She had the app and I had the maps.

On our stroll down Broadway we dipped into the subway and purchased a MetroCard, loading it up with rides for the next week. We weren’t ready to use it, but we’d be getting up early the next morning to head to the Statue of Liberty, so we wanted to be ready!

The Biggest Department Store in the World

Confession, I am not a big fan of Macy’s. Well, to tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of department stores, with perhaps the exception of Neiman’s and Nordstrom’s – but I don’t even shop there. I just eat and browse. I am a bargain hunter, so most of my purchases actually occur at one of the stores at the outlet mall.

However, this is New York, the home of Macy’s, so I wanted to be able to say I shopped there. We’d timed our trip to attend a christening, so I planned on buying my gift at the famous store. It is big, ridiculously big, but just like the closest one at Firewheel Town Center, they are short-handed and you are going to have to help yourself.

We found the baby department and I found a darling pink cotton knit sweater with matching socks in the Ralph Lauren section. They were embroidered with the familiar logo in baby blue. They do not, however, have gift wrapping, so I ended up buying a gift bag and card a few stories up in the stationary department.

Deb and I went all the way to the top and rode all the way down on the escalators. Towards the top, they still had the old original wooden escalators. That was something to write home about.

Back Up Broadway

Our goal was Greeley Square and we made it. We tucked over to the Empire State Building just to say I’d been there. We saw Herald Square, Times Square and Duffy Square. We were ticking off the sites!

The evening had set in, but we were still full of cheesecake and the line at the Stardust Cafe was intimidating. So, we went back to the Sheraton, found the bar and celebrated our first day in New York at Happy Hour.

Here’s a few photos from our day. Come back next week and we’ll visit the Stardust Cafe.

Accommodations, Architecture, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Friends Make Everything Better!

Travel There – Our Last Night in Vegas

We are so fortunate in our friends. I can’t even imagine life without the wonderful people who populate our days. The Busches are people we don’t see often enough, but they couldn’t be any dearer to us. When we found out Ludger would be arriving in Vegas, just as we were rounding out our visit, we immediately made plans to see him.

Ludger goes to Las Vegas on a fairly regular basis, but not for fun. He’s there to work and this trip was no different. But he does know where to stay. I didn’t think much about it when he said the Mandalay Bay would be his hotel, but when we got there and started looking around, we wished we’d thought to ask his opinion about where to stay!

From Paris to Myanmar

We left our tacky fake Paris, crossed the street to the Bellagio’s Renaissance splendor and rode the Deuce to the Mandalay Bay stop. Then I had no idea it was named after a Myanmar location, but the moment I entered the walled-in gardens, I knew I was someplace special.

In a place where almost everything is gaudy and much too far over the top, Mandalay Bay exudes understated elegance. If I ever go back, that’s where I’m staying. Even the casino is quieter and less hectic than the rest of the Strip.

Rhythms & Riffs

Our first stop was, of course, the M-Life desk. I had earned My Vegas Slots awards for both drinks and dinner. For drinks, Bill and I enjoyed the Rhythm & Riffs bar, where my first round was complimentary. That was when we started getting texts from Ludger that he’d be running late. Unfortunately, he missed the entire drinks portion of the evening, because sitting there in the lobby, enjoying a drink and watching the people go by was very pleasant.

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck

The time for our dinner reservation arrived and Ludger assured us he was on his way, so we went ahead and were seated at the restaurant. The understated, quiet part of the Mandalay Bay hotel did not enhance the dining experience. With a few lonely exceptions, we had not only the restaurant to ourselves, but that entire wing of the hotel, which should have been full of patrons for a variety of restaurants.

The total absence of patrons was a shame. I’d been eating and visiting all over the Strip for the last few days and nothing we’d seen or eaten compared to the experience we had a Lupo’s, but we were virtually all alone while enjoying it.

Thankfully, we had some of the best company we could have hoped for, sitting at our own table. We were able to relax and really chat about all the things happening in the Busche household – something we hadn’t been able to do when we saw him in Chicago in July. And we were able to do it while having a remarkable meal.

Bill tells me the price was remarkable to, in spite of one entree having been for free. I think Bill was most surprised by the cost of the bottled water. I confess, I had no idea that asking for bottle water rather than still water would break the bank.

Back to Paris

All good things come to an end. Ludger had early morning appointments, as well as work he still needed to do, so we had to say farewell and head back to our own accommodations.

Outside the Mandalay Bay the streets were empty. Had we disappeared between Ludger and our hotel, no one would have had a clue what happened. We were almost as glad to see the Deuce as we’d been during our Fremont Street Experience. The bus stopped at Paris and our Las Vegas adventure was almost over.

Come back next week and help us get to the airport. We’ll be Texas bound!

Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

San Antonio Stopover

TRAVEL THERE – SAN ANTONIO , MY FAVORITE CITY TO VISIT

What? No Luminaries AGAIN!!

So, I love any excuse to go to San Antonio and I would probably have suggested going by there under any circumstances, but I particularly wanted to go this time, because I thought I could see the Luminaries on the River. It’s a tradition San Antonio has done for years, but I’ve yet to see it. I tried once before and brought on an ice storm. No luck this time, either.

This trip happened fast, as I explained at the beginning of this Weekend Report, of which this is the fourth installment. As we hurried up and made plans to go to Galveston, I checked the dates of the Fiesta de Luminaries and the Luminaries were on. What I didn’t realize was that it was only on weekends.

Bill was a little put out that we had driven all that way to see something that wasn’t even happening, but then he got over it and managed to have a good time in my favorite city. I was very disappointed, but I can’t stay disappointed for long when the RiverWalk is calling.

The Crockett Hotel

We found a great deal on Expedia for the Crockett Hotel. I was a little taken aback at the prices, but last minute travel can be a little hard on the pocketbook. My favorites were running $250 a night and up. This wasn’t that kind of stay, so $120ish for a “cozy queen room” sounded good.

We didn’t realize how “cozy” it would be, but it was tight, as you can see by this shot we took the next morning. However, it served our purposes and while small, it was well appointed, so no complaints.

The Alamo Lights

So, ready for some adventure, we headed out of the hotel and went right next door to the Alamo. The idea was just to get a look at the landmark, because looking down on it from our hotel room we saw a lot of lights in the trees. We were directed to the front façade and someone there asked us if we had tickets. We asked what was going on and they said, “Alamo Lights.” “How much?” “$5” We forked over $10 and roamed inside.

We’d happened upon a very pleasant little event, that goes through January 2nd. The huge old trees surrounding the Alamo are all lighted up and a few Alamo related scenes are set up with lighted figures. The trees are certainly the star of the show and the price was right. It was a nice way to start our evening in San Antonio.

The River Walk

If I’m on the San Antonio River Walk, I’m happy. We strolled from the Alamo through the Hyatt Regency onto the River Walk’s restaurant row, past La Villita and around the horseshoe. Bill was fascinated by the area, especially all the holiday lights in the trees. I would have loved for there to be Luminaries and one day I will catch them, but he was happy with what was there. The photographer/videographer in him came out and if we’re lucky I will include some of his shots in this post before it goes live.

Bill kept remarking on how crowded it was and I had to laugh to myself. It was a slow night for the River Walk. (Note to self – go see the Luminaries with someone besides Bill.) Still the very best restaurants had a long wait list, so we just went to an old favorite Casa Rosa. There was a time when it was the star of the river for me, but those days have faded. I’ve sat on the patio and been serenaded by mariachis. I’ve ridden the river in their dinner boat. I am an old Casa Rosa aficionado. It may not be what it used to be, but the margaritas and nachos were pretty darned good and there was plenty of people watching available.

After dinner we made our way up to street level and strolled back to the hotel. It had been a wonderful evening, but tomorrow was another day and we had a long way to drive.

The Chinese Tea Garden

The next morning I was up early and made my way to the lobby with the laptop, since the room was so small. I wanted Bill to get his beauty sleep, but not so much that I could lay in bed after 6 AM. I found a cozy corner near a plug and started pounding away.

He texted me when he woke up and I went back up to the room to entertain him while he had his coffee. We were headed to New Braunfels to have lunch with a friend, but Bill wanted to squeeze in one more sight-seeing jaunt. I told him if he moved things along we could probably go to the Chinese Tea Garden on the way out of town. We made it with no time to spare, but he got about a half an hour to enjoy it and he loved it.

Shana and the Huisache Grill

My friend Shana has been a part of my life since the late 90’s. We worked together, but it was more than that. Our hearts were knit together. We’re not the kind of friends who see each other often, but when we do see each other, we pick right up where we left off our last conversation. We also know that all we’d have to do is pick up the phone and the other person would be there, at the drop of a hat. We try to be there for each other’s important milestones, but we love it when we can just get together and laugh. My bestie has come to love her almost as much as I do. Connecting wonderful people is one of my favorite things.

So, while seeing the Luminaries on the River Walk was one reason to include San Antonio in our itinerary, the chance to also see Shana loomed large in my decision making. The Luminaries didn’t happen, but I did get to see Shana. She suggested we meet at the Huisache Grill for lunch. I’d been there with her before and I knew Bill would love it, so we planned to meet there at noon.

It was just a great visit. A lots of news to share about everything from family to embezzlement with lots of laughter thrown into the mix. It was a blessed time. I am so fortunate in my friends and thank God for them every day.

And Then Home

The drive to Heath from New Braunfels was brutal. We spent too much time inching along the highway – in San Marcos, in Austin and other places along the route. We were caught in rush hour traffic as we made the turn towards home and the last hour we crawled along I-20, finally taking some backroad across Forney to get to Heath. Why Forney? Because LBJ was a parking lot.

This has been a very long multi-day weekend report, but it was a very busy weekend. Come back Wednesday for more of Las Vegas and on Thursday we’ll get back to memory keeping. Thanks for dropping by!

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Gardens, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – SECOND WEEKEND IN NOVEMBER

Quiet Saturday Ends with a Great Meal

Last weekend I was finishing up a custom scrapbook for a client, so I was in hog heaven. I happily worked through the day in my studio, content with the knowledge I had a great evening planned. We were continuing the birthday celebration for my bestie with dinner at Lavendou.

Lavendou Bistro Provincial is one of my very favorite local restaurants, along with Javier’s, Brio and Bazille. Add in Joe T. Garcia’s over in Fort Worth and I really would never need another restaurant. That’s why Deb and I are so happy, waiting for our table on Saturday night. We were in for a treat.

I used to live just blocks away from Lavendou, so it was my go-to restaurant for lunch-time meet-ups. Once we moved to Heath, getting to Lavendou for lunch was a bit of a stretch and I miss it more than I can say.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when Deb said she wanted her birthday meal at my old favorite. Now, I have to tell you. I do not usually go to Lavendou for dinner, because it can get a little pricey, not a pricey as Dallas can get for a nice meal out, but pricier than we usually spend. However, it was a special occasion and the meal was outstanding.

Well, the only one who ate a meal was Bill. He actually ordered up a seafood entrée and ate every bite, which is unusual for him. He usually eats about half of his food and takes the rest home for another meal. This evening there was nary a crumb or a drop of sauce left on the plate.

Meals at Lavendou start out with warm, fresh baguette slices. Bill’s not much of one for bread either. He likes it and may use it to sop up the sauce, but he doesn’t just sit around and spread butter or oil on it. At Lavendou he gives Deb and I a run for our slices, because the sour dough bread is just that good.

Deb and I moved from bread to soup. She had French Onion, which she loved, but I had Lobster Bisque, which is an occasion all by itself. I could wax eloquent on it’s attributes, but I’ll just say you should have it when you go – and you are going to go aren’t you?

From there we moved on to escargot. Oh my goodness! How delicious!! Tender tasty meat bits smothered in garlic butter and yet another excuse to eat more bread slices. We were in heaven.

We also had just barely enough room left for dessert. Yes, we skipped right over the entrée. Now, Lavendou has a variety of delicious desserts, but when I’m there for dinner, there’s only one I care about and that’s the chocolate soufflé. You have to go in knowing you want it, because it has to be ordered with your meal, but just do it!

An absolutely perfect meal with my two favorite people in the world. You can’t ask for more than that. We did make one stop on the way home. Another thing we loved about living in Far North Dallas was Central Market. Whenever we’re over that way, Bill has to stop. He might also get a slice of Carrot Cake, a Crème Brulee or some sushi, but he’s there for the freshly made gelato. We always get a large box with at least three flavors. I say we, but I don’t eat much in the way of ice cream or gelato, so it’s all about Bill. Me, I hang out in the floral department. It’s spectacular. I don’t buy. I just look. I did buy some chicken salad from their chef’s selection, but that’s because I was feeling all kinds of luxurious.

A Sunday in Fort Worth Garden

As if I hadn’t already had an absolutely perfect weekend, Sunday was also special. I woke up early and put the finishing touches on the album I was working on. I had coffee with Bill (he has the coffee, while I drink my beloved Diet Dr Pepper) and then went to church. After church we ate our Central Market chicken salad and headed to Fort Worth.

Any day I spend with my husband can be quite special, but my very favorites are the ones he actually plans himself. While I was away at church, he researched ways to spend the afternoon and decided on a trip to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden where they were having a Fall Festival. He confessed he had checked the Dallas Arboretum first, where we have maintained a membership for years, but during the pandemic they started requiring us to schedule our visits. That’s a hassle! So we let our membership lag and since they are still requiring us to schedule our visits, we rarely go. Covid has yet another permanent impact on my life. Maybe some day they will wise up and we can go back to our casual drop-bys.

I’ve been making treks to Fort Worth for a long time and I remember when their botanic garden was both small and free, unless you visited the Japanese Garden. That was a long time ago. Now, there’s a Garden Center, a Conservatory, all the old gardens and some new gardens. Seniors pay $10 to enter, but then the Japanese Garden is included so, it was a very inexpensive way to spend a great afternoon. Since there was also a festival, then we were really doing good.

Rather than wear you out with more words I’ll just show you some pictures. The Japanese Festival was only one weekend, but they have another in the spring when the cherry blossoms are opening. They are also just about to start their holiday show, Lightscape and I think it’s going to be wonderful – so go!!

So – go to Lavendou and visit the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. We topped off our day with some Dickie’s ribs and okra. We had a bit of an adventure getting there which I’ll just skip over. The dangers of depending on Google and your GPS, but life was made for adventures, so stay tuned for more of them – here and there!

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

A Gastric Disappointment

Travel There – Chicago’s Millennial Park

The Bean

As I’ve mentioned before, Bill and I travel differently. I have my list and I want to check stuff off. Bill likes to meander. It’s not that I don’t like to meander. It’s just that I want to meander around something on my list.

At this point I wanted to meander over to Millennial Park and eat at Park Grill, but Bill just wanted to meander. He had no clue about where he was, what he was looking at or what was missing that might be more enjoyable. He just wanted to meander. So we did – for a while.

A Gastric Disappointment

One of my favorite memories from a previous visit to Chicago was lunch at the Park Grill in Millennium Park. Bill had been in a training class, so he had not joined me, but the memory of that lunch stuck with me. Yes, the burger had been good and the service attentive, but the real treat had been sitting in the middle of everything, watching it go by.

I’d done my homework and according to their Facebook page, Covid had closed down the Park Grill, but it was supposed to open just in time for me to share it with Bill. Not only was I getting hungry, but the meandering had not exactly offered up much in the way of entertainment. We finally turned towards my destination.

But wait, what’s this! I could see Millennial Park across the street but we had happened upon Chicago Cultural Center. As much as I wanted to get over there and find Park Grill, I took a deep breath and agreed we should go in and look around the Cultural Center. It is a remarkable building with beautiful architectural feature. Should you go to Chicago I think you should take a look at it, so I was not going to deny Bill a peek, just because I was anxious about what was next.


Awestruck by what we’d seen, we finally headed across the street, but there was no Park Grill. Their Facebook page had promised they’d opened a few days before, but there was nada. Now, I felt as I did when we stood at the empty showroom at the Merchandising Mart. Had I made a mistake about where it was? I didn’t think so, but just like at the Merchandising Mart NO ONE was there to help us. Of course, there was an app for the Millennial Park, but it told me less than I remembered from my previous visit.

The schism continued. Bill was still in meander mode. He hadn’t been to Park Grill, so he didn’t know what he was missing. He also wasn’t hungry yet, so he he wasn’t suffering in any way. I was desperate to find any food, but in particular I wanted the damned Park Grill to appear before me. Instead we discovered all the lovely sights below.

Bill was happy to wander all over Millennial Park and to watch the fountains forever, but finally I made him understand I was about ready to start chewing off my own flesh, if he didn’t feed me – and soon. Using good old google, we located a Shake Shack across the street and went for it.

Now, you may be a big fan of Shake Shack and probably don’t even have to look at the menu when you walk in to get your burger fix. Well, we didn’t know our way around and the wall full of icons and pricing didn’t help us one bit. We stood there lost as we had been for most of the day.

I am a Texan. I grew up in Dallas and now I live out in a teeny town on the edge of suburban Rockwall. Down here, we keep an eye out for one another and if someone looks the least bit as if they’re not sure where they are, someone offers to help them out. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Chicagoans don’t seem to have a ready eye to help anyone. Their eyes are glued to their phones. They don’t even look at each other. They may have to walk around you to get by, but they are still not going to talk to you. Heck, they won’t even look up from their phone!

Eventually, we did figure out something to order. I really wanted to try one of those Shake Shack Shakes, but Bill believes all fast food should be consumed with free tap water. I thought that after watching them go by during our entire meal, he might be tempted to share one for dessert. I may have even suggested it. He probably said, “Maybe next time,” which in Bill speak is, “Tough beans. I’m never darkening the door of a Shake Shack in my life!”

To start the day with dreams of re-living my Park Grill experience with the man I love and find myself at Shake Shack without the hope of a shake is a long way to fall in one day. It was time to meander back to our car, find our way to the airport and play that game. By the end of the day, we were home.

Come back next week and see where we are headed next!

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Gardens, Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Dallas Arboretum – My Breath of Fresh Air

TRAVEL HERE: An Oasis in the Pandemic

I love the Dallas Arboretum. My family has had a long term love affair with it that continues until today. I claim the credit for the original discovery. A friend invited me onsite to look around when it wasn’t even the Arboretum, yet. My mom takes credit for contributing the most to it, because for many, many years she was a faithful docent in the DeGolyer Estate. As my parents’ health deteriorated, she clung to that volunteer appointment for as long as she could, but finally, she felt she couldn’t abandon my dad for so long for such a selfish reason. I’m still a member, visiting as frequently as I can and dragging anyone who will go with me. During the pandemic it was a true respite from the oppression of the regulations designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The Garden is Closed?

I confess, we treat the Arboretum as if it were our very own garden. Most of the visits I make with my husband are part of the Sunday afternoon rambles we take together and we just happen to go there spontaneously. My bestie and I will make a little more effort in planning, but it’s usually more of a decision to go on a certain day, rather than at a certain time on that day. As a member, we never have to stand with the general public. We just flash our credentials at the members’ attendant and stroll into the garden.

For instance, I had visitors in January and thankfully we had nice weather, because I took them with me for a visit. Little did I know it would be my last for a while.

I may go several times in one week and then not go again for several months. It’s OK, it’s my garden. When I go, I love to be there for lunch on the patio, but then again, I may just take a walk down the Paseo and then be on my way. When Dallas shut down for the pandemic, so did the Arboretum and it was a shock to my system. It was like the death of a friend you didn’t talk to all that frequently, but you always knew they were there, until they weren’t.

Unfortunately, the shutdown began when the garden was at its best. Every year in the Spring, they have Blooms, a celebration of color. I try to find a reason to be there frequently, because it literally changes from day to day, and each day it gets more fragrant and beautiful. In 2020, it was closed during Blooms.

Timed Tickets

The next shock to my system was timed tickets. It is my garden after all! How could they tie me to a specific date and time? By then, however, I was learning to adjust to a lot of things that I didn’t like very much, so I went through the motions of planning a variety of specific visits – with my hubby, with my bestie, with whoever I could drag there.

And therein lay the next shock. The garden was virtually empty. The female statue above usually has people all over it, trying to get pictures. Professional photographers with all their gear, people with phones, all people with all kinds of equipment snapping shots around every corner. On a normal visit we complain at least once or twice about the crowds. On these pandemic visits we complained because we were all alone and because our favorite dining spots were closed.

The Visiting Statues

During the days of timed tickets, the Arboretum featured Seward Johnson’s “Celebrating the Familiar” Exhibit. Dotted around the garden were a series of very realistic statues. Were you not looking for them, you might have passed by them, assuming they were just another gardener or visitor, but on closer inspection you would discover a very clever piece of fine art. Here’s a gallery of some of the fun and surprising visitors.

Pumpkins and Partridges

When fall rolls around, it is time for Autumn at the Arboretum and that means it is pumpkin time. I’ve documented those orange-hued days many times over in my blog, here for instance. This fall I visited with a young friend and my cameras battery was low, so I didn’t bother with my phone, since I already had so many photos of the DABS during that season.

Even before the pumpkins are all put away, the staff starts setting up for the Christmas Holidays and they have so much going on, I don’t know where to start. There are Holiday Gazebos full of scenes from the ever popular 12 Days of Christmas and a European Village full of faux shops to visit. Usually, Mom’s DeGolyer Mansion is decorated to the max, but alas, during the pandemic season it was closed. The photo below was taken during a previous holiday when masks were not de rigueur.

So, another year of fun is behind me at the Arboretum. Blooms is in full swing, but I keep forgetting I need a timed ticket to go, so I haven’t been yet. Hopefully, soon!

I hope you enjoyed this whirlwind, year-long visit. Next, we’ll visit the Kimbell, over in Ft. Worth, so don’t miss that.

Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Gardens, Real Estate Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Pandemic Blues

TRAVEL THERE: 2020 – A TRAVEL YEAR GONE AWRY

A Day at the Dallas Arboretum with timed entry and social distancing

When I got home from our great trip in Arizona, I actually had a year full of travel planned. In May I would travel to New York with my best friend and watch her son accept a diploma for his MFA from Pratt at Radio City Music Hall. I have another friend there I wanted to catch up with and we had lots of museums we hoped to see. Bestie and I were also planning to go to Ohio in August for her 50th High School Reunion. We were hoping to make it a road trip and squeeze in a few sights we hadn’t been able to see the last time we headed that way. Bill and I had plans to visit California to visit family and friends there, because we’d been offered one of those deals that you can’t resist. It didn’t happen.

What Did Happen

My husband and I have been very fortunate during this pandemic. Our health has been excellent and while we have mourned with many friends over their losses, no one in our inner circle of closest friends and family were lost or even suffered greatly from Covid. Sometimes they were inconvenienced by quarantine. Some because of exposure with no diagnosis, some with a positive test but no symptoms and a few who did experience mild symptoms.

Bill was more conscientious about following the protocols than I was. During the first days of the pandemic, I was locked down. He wouldn’t let me out of the house unless he was with me to be sure I followed every suggestion he gleaned from his intensive research. The real estate community was in a panic, so he was out every day, shooting listing photos, videos and drone shots, but he took elaborate measure with himself and our equipment. I wasn’t even allowed to help him unload the car, because everything, including him, had to be sanitized.

On another Arboretum visit Bestie Deborah visits with a faux gardener, another timed, masked and social distanced event.

My bestie kept me sane. We’d take walks, watch TV together or just do some scrapbooking, anything to give me a feeling of normalcy, while Bill monitored our plans to be sure we weren’t participating in any restricted activities, like shopping or eating out. Our first “normal” activity was church, but there wasn’t anything normal about it – no hugs and our seating had been rearranged so that we were properly social distanced, but it was better than watching it on TV.

Like everyone else, we watched the waves of infection. Some people used the downtime for travel, but Bill was having none of that. In our house, he felt as if he could maintain some kind of control over our circumstances. He had no hope of that in a plane or on the road. For awhile, I maintained hope that we might be able to take the trip out to California. I even planned out a road trip itinerary. Unfortunately, I ran into roadblocks. The Navajo nation closed themselves down, which took out most of my road trip plans. It also became apparent that if we were going to travel, California was the worst place to go, because they were virtually shut down. I planned that trip two different ways and didn’t get to use either itinerary.

Our day trip to the Fort Worth Stockyards via the Grapevine Railrooad

Then things got worse in almost every way possible. The whole election mess was a real downer and as Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around, so did a greater number of Covid cases. I entertained myself with planning a holiday road trip, even made all the reservations, but that didn’t work out either. So I settled for a staycation, complete with local museums, a carriage ride through a well-decorated neighborhood and a day trip train excursion. More about that later.

What’s Coming Up!

I did enjoy a few short excursions during the year, so I will share a few of those with you before moving on to 2021. Then I’ll tell you about an idea I dreamed up on vacation and executed in the early days of 2021, which has little to do with travel, but a lot to do with scrapbooking, my other passion.

Being a senior citizen, I’ve gotten my first vaccination and have the second one scheduled next week, but that’s not going to make the pandemic restrictions go away immediately. So, there’s a trip I’ve never shared here – it happened before I started blogging – and I am going to pass it along here. However, it’s a bit of a departure from my usual blog. It’s a play I wrote based on a very difficult trip Bill and I took in the early days of our marriage, inspired in part by Greater Tuna. I’ll share it with you serial style and you should get a big kick form it. The travel frustrations I’ve shared here before can’t hold a candle to that trip. So stay tuned. Even though I haven’t traveled anywhere since February 2020, I have adventures to share.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

TRAVEL THERE: ARTSY FARTSY MORNING

So, I admit I love shopping, but what I love best is buying bargain clothes and shoes.  My favorite price is $9.99.  It’s like a game with me to find gorgeous things that the stores want to give away at ridiculous prices.  There are only a few people I buy for when I am traveling and while I enjoy that, I don’t usually hang out in retail establishments.

Bill is a lot more likely to shop on vacation.  He loves consignment stores and will wander around a shopping mall just to see the architecture.  Since we’re not going to buy anything, I sort of see it as a waste of time, but I accommodate his desires.

When we are in Sedona that all changes.  We both love Tlaquepaque with a passion.  We can’t afford most of it, but we want all of it.  Come along with us.   

What’s Not to Love?

So, to begin with, Tlaquepaque is in Sedona.  We pretty much love everything in Sedona.  Even when we have a pizza and think the crust was way too thin, we enjoy it and look back on it fondly.  Maybe there is something to that whole vortex thing.

Next up, Tlaquepaque is visually appealing.  You do not have to enter a single store to enjoy it.  Wandering among the archways and courtyards, listening to the splashing fountains, smelling the delicious food cooking, people watching…it’s all good.  The architecture is part Spanish colonial, part southwest –  tile roofs, black rod iron ornamentation, brick walkways, desert foliage…all the stuff we like – all gorgeous.

But what’s more, the shopping in fun.  It is perfectly OK to wander around for hours, stopping into shops, some multiple times and not buy a single thing.  Maybe they’re lonely.  Maybe they’re just nice.  Whatever it is, everyone is thrilled to see you.  They greet you and chat you up.  They do not hover over you as if you are about to steal the whole store or try to sell you everything you linger at.  They want your opinion on the goods they are unpacking or will ask you if a particular wall is a good place to hang something.  They will let you try on every ring in the case without huffing or puffing and won’t be the merchandise monitor limiting you to one item at a time.  Here – try them both on, go show your husband, step out in the courtyard to see it in the light.

Some of the stores are also studios, so you can watch someone do whatever they do.  Or there’s a partially finished something that allows you to see how they arrive at finished products.  You smell clay and leather and paints.  You’re just as likely to smell magnolia blossom essential oil, patchouli perfume or burning incense.  

How It Went This Time

Bill made friend in one of the first shops we entered.  He didn’t so much love the merchandise as he discovered the proprietor goes to Egypt every year – so Bill being Egyptian, they had a lot to talk about.  So much so that I had time to discover the bargain of the day – a pair of blue topaz earrings set in silver – but it was that blue topaz that is visually interchangeable with aquamarines, which are my birthstone.  They were quite a bit more than my $9.99 price, but a steam nonetheless.  So much so, that Bill bought them for me!

Then we wandered – for hours.  We barely scratched the surface.  We strolled without any particular pattern.  We had a marvelous time enjoying all the things I just described to you above.  About halfway through, I found a cute shop with unique hand-blown wine stoppers – not cheap, but reasonable.  I’d found the gifts I wanted to buy.

The weather was a little gray and a little nippy, so it didn’t beg us to linger outside or take photos.  Sorry about that.  Bill did fall in love with these pieces in one of the galleries, but they didn’t come home with us.

We could have gone on for hours more, but we had a plane to catch.  El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano was wafting amazing aromas into the courtyards.  We followed our noses and had an amazing meal before heading out to the airport.

Home Again

The drive back to Phoenix was without incident.  We returned our rental car with ease and the shuttle bus delivered us to our terminal without a hassle.  The Southwest plane was on time and the flight was fine.  Our car was right where we left it and we got home with no trouble.  See we can go on a trip without a single hassle.

What’s next?  Right this minute I don’t know.  It’s July as I blog about this February trip and our lives are dominated by the pandemic.  I tried to plan another trip out west during December, but there are so many unknowns right now that I finally gave up.  Stay tuned, though.  You know I won’t be able to stay home!!

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, TRAVEL, United States

Adobe Village Inn

TRAVEL THERE: IN THE SHADOW OF BELL ROCK

This was the view from our window.  Though not immediately identifiable from this angle, with the trees in front of it, the formation to the left is Bell Rock.  On the right is Courthouse Butte.  We were very happy with our accommodations!

It Looked Good and Got Better 

When the GPS told us we’d arrived at Adobe Village Inn, we patted ourselves on the back.  It was located right smack dab in the middle of the most awesome scenery.  From outside, the inn was a lovely adobe home with gardens.  Fountains, a tile roof and various statuary said this was going to be good.  We were greeted by a gentleman who looked like he belonged in a setting just like this and he welcomed us into the home.

We should have taken more pictures.  The living room was spectacular.  Expansive view, tile floor, lovely patio, charming decor and more and more and more.  We were so excited we were almost giggly.

The nice gentleman who looked like he fit right in was actually the manager, not the owner, but he gave us a nice tour and let us to our room.  Our room was great – if not perfect.  There was a fireplace, but it was crowded into a corner.  The only way to get cozy with it was a love seat, crammed into the same corner.  On the other side of the entry was a huge space that was a sort of dressing room/closet combo with bathroom.  I would have preferred more space around the fireplace, but they didn’t ask me.  I’m thinking many of their patrons do sporting things and the big closet space is for storing their equipment.

Further in the room, past the storage/bathroom there was a large piece of furniture, like a sideboard with coffee and such.  On the facing wall was the TV and other electronics.  Then the room opened up to embrace a king-sized bed.  Theoretically, you could watch the TV from the bed or love seat.  In reality, you weren’t there to watch TV and it wasn’t great viewing from either spot.    

They get an A for hospitality.  Snacks were available, the fire was going and nice music was playing.  I gave it a 9.5.  We retrieved our luggage and got settled in.  There was a patio, but the sign said we weren’t supposed to go out there.  Another window, next tot he bed gave us the view above.

In our discussion with the manager we discovered the Inn really was a village.  Besides the several rooms in the home, there were several casitas just up the hill a few steps away.  Wedding ceremonies are often held on the lovely patio and the wedding party stays in the casitas.  Up from the casitas are other full size homes and several of them belong to the inn to be rented out by larger groups.  I highly recommend this facility for a wedding or family reunion or even your next getaway.

The day was getting warmer and the sky was clearing of any threatening clouds.  We climbed back into our Jeep for our next adventure.  I’d seen something on the map that had caught my attention, “Schnebly Road Requires High Clearance Vehicles.”  Our guided 4-wheel expedition may have been cancelled, but we were going to see if we couldn’t find our own adventure. 

Please join us next week for some fun and sun! 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

TRAVEL THERE: SCOTTSDALE’S GORGEOUS DESERT GARDEN

Just warning you!  I’m going to rave about the beauties of the desert again. Here’s another warning.  After looking at the map, I’m guess we lucked into arriving at the “Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve”, because the trail head had parking, potable water, restrooms and other facilities, while the map warns most of the other entrances have nothing.  Sometimes the travel gods just love you!

Sightseers Not Hikers 

Trying to locate the Desert Preserve, Bill found an open house he wanted to visit.  We’d visited another open house earlier in the day, one that would be in our price range and confirmed Scottsdale was not an option for us.  The open house close to the preserve as a million dollar beauty you’d get for closer to six hundred thousand here in the Dallas area.  We were definitely just looking.

Arriving at the Preserve, it was immediately apparent we weren’t counted among the usual visitors.  These folks took their hiking seriously.  They had on hiking gear that made us look like the amateurs we were.  They passed us without so much as a nod of the head or any offers to help people who obviously didn’t know where we were going or what we were doing.  We took advantage of the facilities and then headed out on a stroll of our own.

We definitely didn’t have on the right shoes.  There was a trail, but it wasn’t a nice smooth flat space.  It was laced with deep cuts, from rain water (I suppose) and strewn with pebbles and good sized rocks.   After we had gone maybe 50 yards we reevaluated our desire to hike.  It was just about dusk and since we had no idea what we were doing, we decided to just take photos in the picturesque area we’d happened upon.

Of course, the first thing Bill wanted to do was get off the trail and get up close and personal with some of the unusual flora.  Finally, a passing hiker took notice of us and let us know stepping off the trail was a not only a conservationist’s no-no, there was also a pretty strong chance we’d end up snakebit.  I’m not sure why the hiker thought the snakes knew the difference between the trail and non-trail areas, but the vehemence of her warning about the fauna convinced Bill to get back on the not-quite straight, but certainly narrow trail.

Not a lot else went on.  We took a lot of pictures, which I am happy to share with you and then we went back to our car.  Considering our choices for dinner, we decided we wanted to take it easy and use the kitchenette in our casita.  We found a grocery store and went for comfort food – pot pies.  Back at the resort, we put on our comfy clothes and just vegged. 

Now, while we take some down time, you enjoy the photos.  I’ll see you next week for our road trip to Sedona.