ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, TRAVEL

Dinner & a Show, But Not in That Order

The Masquerade Theater

TRAVEL HERE: WELCOME ABOARD SHOWTIME

Though he was still fighting the internet, my sweet husband put a good face on it and headed to the Masquerade Theater with me for the Welcome Aboard Showtime.  Live entertainment is something we really enjoy, but don’t often splurge on it.  It’s usually one of the highlights of our cruise.  Follow me to the 5th deck.

Getting There is Not Half the Fun

 Our least favorite space on any cruise boat is the casino.  The area is usually loud, and it also has lots of lights blinking, garish decorations and second hand smoke.  For some reason, the people who design ships think it’s cool to direct traffic through there.  We disagree with them, but apparently that doesn’t make any difference.

On Vision of the Seas going through the casino was just about the only way to get to the theater without going outside and when you’re all dolled up, outside is not preferable.  Those romantic shows you’ve seen, where a couple stands at the railing of a ship at the end of the evening, are lies.  Most evenings, unless you’re on a protected deck, the wind is enough to blow you and your carefully coiffed hair into the sea.

Bill probably didn’t even realize what kind of expression he had on his face as we walked through the casino, but I saw it.  It definitely said, “What have I gotten myself into?”  I was hoping the show would be good.

The Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers

For fun lets call them the RCSD for really-can’t-sing-or-dance.  Well, there was one guy who was a pretty good dancer, but I’m not sure whether he was all that good or they were all that bad.  When he’d do a high kick, he’d almost smash his nose, but none of the others were anywhere in his league, so even that was distracting rather than entertaining.  The singers were consistently weak.  I know there are all kinds of really talented people out there dying for an opportunity of any sort.  Where were they all when it was time for Royal Caribbean auditions?

 The Comedy of Nery Saenz

The best part of that evening’s entertainment was that the RCSD were not the whole show.  The bulk of the time was devoted to a really funny comedian.  I’m not all that crazy about comedy routines, because usually they cuss too much, use foul language, depend on sexual innuendo and insult people.  This comedian managed to be funny without resorting to any of that.

The comedian’s primary shtick focused on how un-glamorous it is to be a comedian on a cruise ship.  He poked fun at himself and his husbanding skills.  You got the idea that while being away from home all the time was difficult, he really loved his wife and family.  He also had a show later that evening, so he’s probably well-versed in cussing, foul language, sexual innuendo and insults, but I didn’t go to that show and I’m glad I didn’t.  If only people 18 and older are allowed, I’m probably not going to enjoy it.

After the show it was time for dinner.  You won’t want to miss that, so come back next week.

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Midnight at the Oasis

TRAVEL THERE: CLIMB ON YOUR QUAD AND DRIVE

Imagine a sheik has invited you to his desert oasis for a banquet.  What would you expect?  What would you wear?  Well, let’s pretend my nephew Ayman is the sheik and I’ll tell you about our night under the stars.

Transportation

For this adventure we had a van, that took us to a place that rented quads to tourists.  Some of the girls wanted their own vehicle but I was content to climb up behind my hubby.  Off we went into the horizon.  In every direction it seemed there were miles and miles of sand, but straight ahead was a mountain and we headed towards it.

As we departed the rental facility, the mountain appeared no further away than the length of a football field, but as we took out across the sand, it seemed to back away from us.  At the same time, it got bigger and bigger and bigger.  The ride was a lot of fun, even if it was a little tame.  We had to line up and follow the leader.  Bill tried to jazz it up a little bit, but was admonished to get back in line and behave.  It was kind of like one of those trail rides where your horse plods along in a rut he’s trodded along for decades. You were imagining galloping along with the wind in your hair and all you got was dirt between your teeth.  On the quad you got wind in the hair alright, but you also got sand in every imaginable crevice.  Still it was fun.

The Oasis

Our destination was no oasis.  I didn’t even see a palm tree – merely a collection of tables in a nook below the mountain.  We were among the first guests to arrive.  We settled around what seemed like an advantageous table and let the evening unfold.  Service was, to say the least, slow.

While I wouldn’t say we were in a hurry, you really don’t want to leave these guys without any entertainment for very long – otherwise they will make it up.  Soon plastic cups and adult beverages came out of the bags some of the ladies had brought along.  As groups wandered in and began to fill the tables around us, our guys started providing some of that entertainment they are famous for coming up with.  Yes, that’s my husband waving the checkered scarf.

Just as night fell, the servers began to pass out platters of food.  It was, in fact, so dark that we had to guess at what we were eating.  While it was not the best food we had in Egypt, it was OK and no one got sick.  Then the entertainment began in earnest.  If you’ve been following this trip on my blog, you won’t be surprised to know there were belly dancers and sword dancers and belly dancers and fire dancers and belly dancers and native music and belly dancers and whirling dervishes.

The best part was the whirlers.  I’d seen quite a few of them by this time and pretty quickly you get down the shared repertoire.  However, these guys didn’t just whirl around on the stage and then go their merry way.  Oh no.  There was a rock ledge right behind the benches we were sitting on and suddenly we had a whirler doing his stuff right next to us.  Yes, it was pretty cool.

When the whirlers were done, the sword dancers came out and shortly thereafter it was time to drive back to the bus.  After our second quad trip, I felt grimy in places I didn’t even know were places.  We crawled onto the bus for the trip back to the hotel, but we couldn’t get into bed until we’d done something about the grime.  Sweet dreams until next week, when we’ll go yachting.

 

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Broadway on the Red Sea

TRAVEL THERE: WHAT’S NEXT SHARM?

I’m in Sharm el Sheik, a resort town on the Red Sea, and it’s past my bedtime.  I’m stuffed into the back seat of my niece’s car trying to stifle my yawns.  My husband is in our nephew’s car at some other location.  Our niece and nephew are on the phone discussing what we should do next.  It’s all in Arabic, so even though the whole conversation is on speaker phone, I have no idea what is going on.  Some resolution is made and we zoom across town to our next destination.  It might be late at night during the week, but you wouldn’t know it from the festival atmosphere.  Why all these people prefer to wander around inland,when there is a perfectly good Boardwalk on the Red Sea, just a few blocks away, I will never know.  That was my big question over the next few days as we scurried around trying to entertain ourselves.  Why were all these venues spread out all over town, when it had been so perfect to have everything right there at the beach?

Going to the Mall

Our destination was a mall, but is wasn’t like anything we have in Dallas.  Here in Dallas we are serious about shopping.  There they also shop.

My niece found parking, a constant challenge, as she continued her phone conversations, probably with her sons, who were wandering the city on public transportation.  We piled out of the car and reunited with our spouses.  All of us stomped through a virtually empty shopping center and I wondered where we would end up.  Don’t get me wrong, the place was beautiful with all kinds of lovely stores, but most everything was closed and it looked like a ghost town.

After what seemed like a long trek, across esplanades, around grand staircases and through narrow hallways, we arrived to the middle of everything, a large open-air patio, full of patrons smoking sheesha and enjoying a lively stage show.

My nephew Ayman started working the room and magic started happening – something I saw a lot of over the next few days.  Though it seemed our big group would have to break up into smaller bunches to enjoy the show, it was only an illusion, because we had Ayman.  Like the Red Sea parting, a large space opened in the center of the crowd and chairs began to appear out of nowhere.  In just moments our entire group was seated in the center of the action.

Drinks, food and hookahs were ordered and we sat back to enjoy the show.  The only problems were a few mosquitoes and the fact that I was about to fall asleep, but those were minor irritations.  The stage props suggested the show had a Broadway theme, but don’t let that fool you.  It was all the usual Arab entertainments, belly dancers, whirling dervishes, belly dancers, a magician, belly dancers, swords, belly dancers – well you get the picture.  I’ve included some photos below.

When the show was over we gathered up our belongings and headed back to the hotel.  This day, which had seeped over into the next, was over.  Within a few hours, we’d be climbing into another vehicle for our next entertainment.  Enjoy the images below and come back next week for more Sharm.

 

ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Music, Performing Arts, TRAVEL

A Great Night of On-board Entertainment

Cruise buddy Deb hams it up with the talent
Cruise buddy, Deb, hams it up with the talent

TRAVEL THERE: RODGERS, HAMMERSTEIN AND MOZART

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did!

Back to Elegant Dining

I’d been disappointed by the over-hyped Taste of Austria dinner.  Visually, it had been lovely, but the culinary experience couldn’t beat what we’d already been enjoying.  Quality not quantity is my interest.

After my trot around Linz, we scurried back to the boat and I jumped into my evening attire.  This was the penultimate evening of the cruise and the captain was throwing a cocktail party.  That included a toast, which meant champagne would be served.  So I was janie-on-the spot in the lounge.  I didn’t want to miss any champagne.  The captain didn’t try to labor through another bout of English, thankfully.  Instead our cruise director translated for him.

After the toast, the lederhosen, dirndls and oom-pah-pah were gone from the dining room- much to our relief.  We waxed nostalgic about our service throughout the evening as if we’d been living on the boat for years, instead of a matter of days.  The Viking Daily had promised Mozart and the Sound of Music as our evenings entertainment and we wondered how that mixture would pan out.

A Salzburgian Romp

A troupe of singers appeared and offered a few tunes.  Their voices were wonderful and they wore authentic period costumes.  The evening started out very high-brow and then they began the audience participation part of the performance.  I was not surprised in the least that they chose Bill.  They always choose Bill.  I’m beginning to think he must be offering bribes.  Anyway,  here’s a few photos from his appearance.

That was fun, but the next part was even more wonderful.  They switched from classical to a classic, The Sound of Music.  I can’t say I was actually yearning for tunes from the Julie Andrews movie, but as soon as the first few bars of intro wafted through the lounge, I had tears in my eyes.  The singers merely zipped through the soundtrack, hitting the high points, which was lovely, but I secretly wanted more.  I wanted to be reminded of every frame of the movie and especially Edelweiss, which is on my personal top 10 (along with Leon Russell’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and  Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People.)  I’ve never streamed a movie to my phone, but it did cross my mind that evening.

The performers were real characters.  They were hamming it up with all the guests, so Bill wasn’t the only one to garner their attention.  He’s just the only one who entered the spotlight.  After the performers left, the tempo got much faster and the girls hit the dance floor.   I have a few more photos to share below.

The boat didn’t head towards our next destination until 10:30 and I’d entertained thoughts of taking another stroll onshore, but it didn’t happen.  If you let them, Viking will fill every moment of your day and that’s what happened on this particular day, except for the visit to the Mariendom.

Next up is Passau, Germany.  Come back next week and visit this lovely little town at the confluence of rivers.

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Durnstein, Gateway to the Wachau Valley

3D Tor (35)TRAVEL THERE: DARLING LITTLE DURNSTEIN

Going on a cruise, in some ways, is like travelling for dummies.  All I had to do was show up for a spoon-fed itinerary.  Sometimes that was great, like Budapest and Vienna.  Then again there were the Bratislavas out there, where things were not exactly the way I  wanted it.  Had I been planning a road trip through Austria, I doubt Durnstein would have made the cut, but having been there on a cruise, I found it a perfectly charming place to spend a morning.

3D (7)On Your Own or By Shore Excursion?

I knew less than nothing about Durnstein and what research I was able to do didn’t tell me much else.  Alone, I may have taken a hike up to the craggy ruins of Durnstein castle, but instead, I reserved spots for Bill and I on the Optional Shore Excursion.  I figured after Vienna he’d be pretty well done with me and my explorations – and I was right.  Even though we had to pay extra for the escorted walking tour, Bill was happy to do so.

The town is so tiny that it would be impossible to get lost, so we didn’t really need a guide.  In addition,the town has exactly one significant historical fact associated with it – Richard the Lionhearted was held for ransom in the castle on the hill.  The only other item of any interest was Princess Di and Dodi Fayed meeting there for their romantic trysts.  It’s funny the only claims to fame for this charming little place on the Danube River were both related to the British throne.

While I can’t exactly recommend the escorted walking tour as a good value, you absolutely must walk through the winding cobblestone streets and get a feel for the place.  I wished for a little freedom to check out the shopping opportunities, but the tour trotted right past them – perhaps because it was so early.  The walking tour began at 8:30 AM and that’s just about the time all the lorries were making their deliveries.  There was actually a traffic jam!

3D (25)The Crown Jewel of Durnstein

The tour ended at the church where we were delivered for an organ concert.  On the outside, the church, with its blue and white tower, looks much like other churches in the area.  What sets it apart is the interior.  During the 1700’s, it was renovated by one of its abbots.  Our day would be book-ended by abbey churches and Melk Abbey is, without a doubt, the most over-the-top religious edifice I have ever seen.  Still Durnstien, while smaller, gives Melk a run for its Baroque money.

Before the organ concert we were guided through an odd hallway along a series of alcoves filled with scenes from the Bible.  That was a little weird, kind of like window-shopping for a Bible story, but the guide who attends the church was quite proud of them.  Then we were seated in the pews and the organ concert began.

Organ concerts are an acquired taste and this organ had a sort of wheezy, high pitched shrill to it.  We were informed of the uniqueness of the small organ and the talent of the organist. I’m glad to have heard it, but would have been happier with a smaller taste of its product.

3D (41)Should you go to Durnstien, skip the escort and wander the enchanting lanes on your own.  Do see the interior of the church and if the concert is available, by all means take a seat and listen.  Then tighten up the laces on your hiking boots and head up the hill to the castle.  We didn’t have time for it, but those who went there, instead of taking the escorted tour, raved about the view.

From the church we strolled along the river’s edge and enjoyed the beautiful morning.  This seems to be a different Danube than the one we enjoyed earlier in the cruise.  It actually is the same river, but so quiet and so bucolic, that you can’t imagine it is also the lifeblood of vibrant cities like Budapest and Vienna.

I’ll leave you with various scenes from the lovely little town and next week we’ll visit the Wachau Valley,  a UNESCO Heritage Site.

 

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Museums, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

A Stroll Through Vienna

Now where was the boat?
Now where was the boat?

TRAVEL THERE: MILKING THE SHORE EXCURSION FOR ALL I CAN GET

So, after a morning of museums, Bill was done with Vienna and ready to go back to the boat for lunch.  However, if we went back, I knew he wouldn’t be getting off the boat again, so I convinced him to at least have some lunch in the city.  I told you how that went.  Shame on you Rick Steves!  Now I’ll tell you about the balance of the day.

A Drizzly Walking Tour

Because he loves me and maybe a little bit because he’d loved the architecture he’d seen so far, Mr.Bill agreed to a stroll around the Hofburg environs for awhile.  I was able to show him on the map that I didn’t plan to get more than a block or two away from the palace, so he set his teeth and headed off with me.

Whereas Mr. Bill was trying to be cooperative, the weather was not.  The sun played peek-a-boo (more boo that peek) with us and whenever the sun disappeared, the drizzle would return.  Was is miserable?  Yes!  Was I going to let it deter me? NO!

The Gang at the Opera
The Gang at the Opera – a bit damp but quite happy!

Our first stop after lunch was the State Opera House.  I would have dearly loved to go to one of their productions or take a tour of the interior, but that didn’t fit into our  schedule.  I have to confess that the exterior of the venerable old lady was not one of my favorite edifices of the day.  It really pales in comparison to surrounding buildings.  However, that’s where we ran into our shipmates and that was a bright spot in the day.  I have to admit they pranked me.  They pretended they were lost and asked me to show them how to get back to the boat.

After that Bill trudged along behind me snapping pictures of the sights along the Ringstrausse.  I got him all the way down to the Rathausplatz before he mutinied and demanded to be taken back to the boat.  So we strolled through the Volksgarten towards the Grabenplatz.  I reminded him of the Dortheum, an auction house he’d shown some interest in during my days of research.  Rick Steves redeemed himself, because that was quite interesting.  Maybe not as interesting as Rick made it sound, but interesting – and dry.

3V Walk (60)The Dortheum is about half a block from Grabenplatz and from there we entered the underground at Stephanplatz.  We had a little difficulty purchasing our return ticket, but the problem was with the machine, not us and a nice subway attendant lady came and helped.  Soon we were back on board the Tor – just in time for our afternoon tea break.  Bill was once again a happy boy.

Dinner was a little later this evening than it was during the rest of the cruise, because they were serving a special meal to those heading out to a night shore excursion.  Had I known how the day would go, I would have probably opted for one of them, but part of the adventure of traveling is not knowing.  Sometimes that’s good and sometimes you end up having a quiet evening on the boat.  Since our friends were on the evening shore excursion, we had a quieter than usual evening, but a good one.  We still very much enjoy each others’ company.

I’ll share our pictures from our walk about, then I hope you’ll come back next week for The Wachau Valley.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Music, Performing Arts, TRAVEL

Shore Excursion to Bratislava, Slovakia

TRAVEL THERE: NOT EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED IN BRATISLAVA

Bratislava is a lovely little town with the oldest surviving town gate in Continental Europe.  However, I ran into several complications in my efforts to enjoy this stop on our cruise.  The video includes the highlights of the shore excursion and I’ll tell you about my difficulties behind the scenes. 

The Walking Tour That Wasn’t the Walking Tour

I had carefully studied the available shore excursions back in Dallas and after a careful examination, decided the Bratislava Walking Tour was superior to the Bratislava City Tour.  Both involved walking around the Old City, but one included a bus trip to what I call Faux Castle.

See there once was a real castle up on Castle Hill.  However, it was nothing but a ruin when the Communists showed up.  They decided they needed to replace the castle, but all they did was build a modern building and call it a castle.  I had no desire to see their modern day monstrosity.

However, when I showed up on the dock, we were ushered to a bus and I got the distinct feeling I wasn’t going to be happy about it.  In Viking’s defense, I didn’t say anything to anybody once I feared I was on the wrong tour.  I guess the jet lag or something had finally hit me, because I wasn’t feeling completely up to par and I just didn’t have the desire to rock the boat – or the bus.  My bad.

I have no idea who this guy was, but he has pride of place on Castle Hill.
I have no idea who this guy was, but he has pride of place on Castle Hill.

The bus took us up Castle Hill and dumped us out at the Faux Castle for an orgy of picture taking.  The scenery was great, but there’s nothing that makes you feel more like a tourist than being dumped off for a photo opportunity when you don’t really understand why you are there in the first place.  The guide never even pretended the castle had any historical or architectural significance.  She just said we had ten minutes to take pictures and abandoned us.

On cue, we filed back on the bus after taking our photos and rode down the hill.  Then we went on a walking tour which was somewhat interesting, but not compelling.  That might have been because the grumblings in my stomach were getting most of my attention, but I was also wondering how the tour sans the Faux Castle would have differed.  My new friends assured me they had a great time on the real walking tour, but since Deb was the sort to have fun whatever she was doing, I don’t know if she can be trusted.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Andrew Petcher (a fellow travel blogger I highly recommend), suggested free-style wandering was the best way to see the town, but with Mr. Bill in tow, free-style can be problematic.  I think Andrew was probably right.  With my Rick Steves’ tour book in hand and no tour guide to keep up with, I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed the capital of Slovakia.  The architecture was charming and the quirky sculpture sprinkled throughout the town made for some great snickering.

The UFO Restaurant
The UFO Restaurant

I think it would be a great place to spend a quiet weekend, but it’s a little far from Dallas for me to check out that theory.  My greatest regret was not getting to the UFO Restaurant atop a bridge, another gift of the Communists.  After the walking tour we were given some free time, but by then I desperately needed a little private time in my cabin.

A Slovakian Evening

By 6:45 I had gotten myself back into cruise mode and was front and center for the Daily Briefing.  We had dinner with our cruise buddies and then made our way back to Lounge for “A Slovakian Evening.”

The entertainment was delightful.  Those great big ocean liners can provide productions to rival Broadway and Hollywood, but you have to share them with your 3000 new friends.  I’m sort of over that.  I much preferred the intimate setting of the Lounge, where we gathered comfortably with 178 (give or take a few) other passengers.  The show was marvelous.  In fact, after some expensive entertainment in Vienna, our friends told us the onboard entertainment had much better performers than the Viennese show.  We thoroughly enjoyed the Slovakian Evening, because the songs were familiar, the costumes were beautiful and performers were gifted.

Below I have included some photos of the entertainment.  I hope you’ll come back next week for Vienna – the highlight of the cruise.

 

 

 

ART, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

A Ride to Houston in a Red Convertible

BPS02202016_0003
An on-stage extra, portraying an on-screen extra

TRAVEL BUG TALES: MY DAYS IN THE NFL

FYI, in my life, NFL stands for National Forensic League, not a sports league.  They don’t call it that anymore, but it sounds so much more interesting the way I remember it, than the way they have improved it. Unfortunately,  I find that to be true about more and more this day and time.  A few days ago I blogged about a speech tournament I judged and it brought back memories of my days in the NFL.  I thought I’d tell you about them.

Stairway Way to Paradise

I was unaware of it when I was in high school, (as far as I know the term hadn’t been coined) but I was a nerd.  Chances are my mother realized it, with or without the appellation, and that’s why she encouraged me to participate in pretty much anything that would get my nose out of a book.  One of my high school adventures was the Cothurnus Club, Bryan Adams’ drama club.  According to Dictionary.com, “cothurnus” is “a grave and elevated style of acting.”  I’m afraid there was nothing grave or elevated about our productions, but that was the name.

In my sophomore year, I had a couple of bit parts in a production called Stairway to Paradise.  One part actually involved a few lines, but the other  was more fun.  I played an on-stage extra, portraying an on-screen extra.  As such, I got the opportunity to spend most of my time dressed in the costume of a Southern Belle.

In spite of both parts, I spent most of the time hanging about backstage with the speech and drama students who recruited me into the NFL.  They also talked me into signing up for speech in my junior year, because then I could join the gang on a phenomena called speech tournaments.

The Red Convertible

Fast forward to October of my Junior year.  I was in speech 101 and I somehow convinced my parents attending a speech tournament was exactly the right thing for me to do at that point of my life.  I’d talked them into sending me on a mission trip over the summer and I had come home in one piece, so I was on a roll.

1972_Chevrolet_Impala_ConvertibleWhat was even more amazing to me was Jimmy Jordan had invited me to ride to Houston with him.  Jimmy was my favorite person in the speech department. Jimmy was not a football hero or my latest crush.  He was just my friend, Jimmy Jordan, but he was very groovy.(Groovy was “sick” or “the bomb” back in the days before words became synonymous with their antonym.)  He had a red Chevy convertible with white interior, which I thought was the coolest car I’d ever seen.  (At least it was the coolest car I’d ever seen since that Jaguar XKE at the 1966 State Fair – but that’s another story for another day.)

On the day in question, I threw my suitcase in the trunk of Jimmy Jordan’s car, along with his other passengers’ belongings, and we took off with the sun shining and and our hair blowing in the wind.  We got to the University of Houston early enough to drive around the campus and  feel very groovy.    The signature song of the trip was Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and it seems the disc jockeys were playing it several times an hour.  Or maybe it just seemed that way, because the other hit at the time was The Isley Brothers song, “Brother, Brother, Brother” and the word “brother” got a lot of play in in both songs.  Serendipitously, Marvin Gaye was crooning as we cruised the campus – one of my all-time favorite memories.

My Life as a Compulsive Big Mouth

That’s not a confession of some sort.  That’s the name of the speech-to-entertain I had prepared for the tournament.  I recall a few moments of dread as I was called up to give the speech and the immense relief I felt when it was over.  To my amazement, I made it to the next level of competition.  Another of my all-time favorite memories.  Pretty much everyone from our school made it to the semi-finals.  I was thrilled to be among them.

And Then There Was Galveston…

After a fast food dinner at Prince’s Drive-in (which was supposed to be the “it” place), we returned to our Ramada Inn and got a pep talk from our speech coach.  She was fresh out of college and proud to bursting that all her little fledglings were not only accounted for, but also in the semi-finals on the following day.  Our teen-aged bodies were casually draped across the whimsical components of the motel’s playground, as we listened to her schpiel.  I wish someone had taken a picture, but we didn’t do as much of that in the days before smartphones.  Taking a picture back then entailed posing.

Her final words to us were, “and don’t any of you dare to go to Galveston.”  Up until that very moment I sincerely believe not a single soul had even thought of the fact the beach was just a little bit down the road.  We were completely enthralled with being away from home without our parents and hanging out on a college campus.  We were also amazed that all our rehearsal time had paid off and we were all semi-finalists in the tournament.

However, the moment the word “Galveston” was out of her mouth, we had to go.  I forget the logistics of the episode, but soon the red convertible was making it’s way to Galveston.  By the time we got there, we’d all run out of adrenaline.  Jimmy parked his car, we scampered on the beach for a few moments and then didn’t know what else to do.  So we hopped back in the convertible and rode back to the Ramada Inn.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Speech Coach Scorned

Today, there would have been a whole lot of texting going on.  By the time we made it back, there would have been a gaggle of angry parents, ready to snatch their darlings back to Dallas – all the more angry at money spent on airfare.  We might even have made the news or at least been included in an Amber Alert.  In the glorious days before smartphones, all that waited for us was one very mad speech coach.  Had our escapades become known, she would have probably lost her job, but thanks to the lack of smartphones, that didn’t happen either.

Come to find out, we probably hadn’t gotten all the way out of the parking lot before one of the girls went and ratted on us.  For the record, she’d been invited on the spontaneous road trip, but she had decided she didn’t want to join us.  When she turned us down, she’d claimed she needed to work on her presentation. After we returned there was a tearful episode where she testified of a sincere concern for our welfare, but we all knew she was just another brown-nosing snitch.

We were royally dressed down andwe regretted upsetting the coach, but we hadn’t intended any harm.  We were just teenagers – teenagers who needed their sleep.  Most of the presenters who are listed in the final paragraph of the article below were probably in on the escapade (I was Jane Cave in that phase of my life).  Bryan Adams ended up fifth in the tournament, but with talent like we had and a little more sleep, we might have brought home the gold.

My Forensic Career Winds Down

I was not among the talented.  Though I would end up talking for a living, I wasn’t so good at speech tournaments.  The only other tournament I attended was something called a Mock Legislature.  We went up to Denton and were supposed to be debating issues and operating committees like they do in Washington.  I confess I didn’t really understand what was going on, so I spent most of my time flirting with the competition.

We did host a speech tournament at Bryan Adams and I remember thoroughly enjoying the experience.  We had all been forgiven by then and showed our ability to handle responsibility by planning and executing a very successful tournament.  I think my job was to man the concession stand – another career foreshadowing activity.

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ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Fiesta Noche del Rio in San Antonio

Fiesta Noche del Rio, Arnesdon River Theater Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
The Master and Mistress of Ceremonies for Fiesta Noche del Rio in San Antonio

TRAVEL THERE: FABULOUS FIESTA NOCHE DEL RIO

Ya wanna have a good time in San Antonio? Then you hafta go to the Fiesta Noche del Rio. What began as a fundraiser for the local Kiwanas almost six decades ago is now one of the most entertaining evenings you can enjoy in San Antonio.

Our New Favorite Thing on the Riverwalk

We bought our tickets along the Riverwalk the day of the show and then did a little Margarita tasting, I mean sightseeing, before going back and snagging a seat in the Arneson River Theater.

The warm up act was an amazing flamenco guitarist with an acoustical twelve string.  He sat on a chair, pulled the guitar into his lap and plucked out beautiful music while providing a stomping percussion with his feet.  Absolutely fascinating and very stirring.

Fiesta Noche del Rio, Arneson River Theater, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
Deb recruited for a little audience participation. If they knew what kind of voice she had, they would have had her singing into the microphone instead of just holding it.

Soon the Master and Mistress of Ceremonies came out to lead us through the evening.  Both had marvelous voices and a serious dose of fun to share with the audience.  They not only led you through the performance, they initiated audience participation and entertained your socks off.  When it came to audience participation, you’d have to talk to my bestie and traveling companion, Deb.  They participated with her several times.

Musica and Danza

The dance numbers were amazing.  How those performers keep from passing out during their routines I have no idea.  The weather was actually quite pleasant for those of us merely sitting idle in the amphitheater.  For the fast moving, fully-costumed dancers under the lights, it was a whole ‘nother thing.  I want to tell you that in spite of the heat, every step was precise and vigorous and their smiles never faded by even a degree.

Fiesta Noche del Rio, Arneson River Theater, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
Beautiful Mariachi music performed by gorgeously costumed musicians was my favorite part.

If you are wondering what kind of music they danced to, then let me ask you this…what kind of music do you like?  If you like rap, then you would have been out of luck, but pretty much everything else was there, from the classical flamenco guitar to jazz to country to…well you name it.

My very favorite was the Mariachi.  It sounds like happy music to me – even when they sing sad songs.  The haunting horns seem to reach down to someplace in my soul.  My heritage is as about as Anglophile as you can get, but one of those guys from the Spanish Armada must have something to do with my DNA.

Fiesta Noche del Rio, Arneson Theater, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
Swirling Skirts

Of course, when the Mariachi’s come out to play, then you also get to see the dancers whirl around in the flowing skirts of their traditional costumes.  If I actually tried their thrilling spins, I’d end up on the floor with the skirt wrapped around my head, but as they twirl, I can imagine myself twirling with them and it is glorious.

I could go on with my rapturous description of the evening, but pictures really are worth thousands of words, so enjoy some of the others I took.

After the Fiesta

We strolled down to Durty Nellie’s after the show for a little of their more raucous entertainment, but my dreams were full of throbbing flamenco music and swirling skirts.  This was the best money I spent on my vacation, yet it was also one of the smallest ticket prices I’ve ever payed for live entertainment.  Do not miss it.  It’s really worth going down there just for the show!

Saturday was our museum marathon – and it was a marathon in more ways than one.  Come back next week and find out why.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Stranded in a Frozen Dickens

2013 Dickens on the Strand Program, Galveston TX

TRAVEL THERE: STRANDED IN A FROZEN DICKENSFEST

Galveston‘s 2013 Dickens-on-The-Strand Suffered from Chilblains! 

“You can’t always get what you want!”  The Rolling Stones were spot on with that one – especially when it came to this vacation.  The Polar Express gypped me out of my luminaries on the Riverwalk and then followed me to the beach.

My mom used to say things like, “If you had the sense God gave a goozle,” (and  I’m not exactly sure what a goozle is) but I’m sure my husband was thinking the same sort of thing as we froze our assets off, strolling down the Strand.

Important, but Chilly Anniversary 

I was expecting big things from this British-flavored festival with its side order of Victorian literature.  This was the fortieth Dickens-on-the-Strand and for the first time, it was a three day festival, not just an overnight flash in the pan.  What I didn’t expect was London!  Actually London has been warmer the few times I’ve been there.  This was more like the cold, wet, windy day I’d visited Coventry Cathedral and had nothing but a thin windbreaker between me and the chill.  I think that’s the coldest I’d ever been up until that day in Galveston.

Bill really does deserve the Champion Husband of the World Award – at least in the travel department.  Anyone with any sense would have headed back to Dallas after our frozen stay in San Antonio, but not me.  I was going to Dickens on the Strand and I had friends to see.  The friends were worth it.  Dickens? Not so much.  The festival may have been in full swing the day before, but on it’s inaugural first Sunday, it was a ghost story, and not in a cozy Christmas Carol way.

Still, we found a cheap place to park, walked several blocks to the entrance, paid our fee and landed virtually nowhere.  A few braves souls strolled the streets in their Victorian finery, but we had to decide who was dumber for showing up – us or them.  A few performers mounted stages and tried to entertain the lost souls wandering the Strand, but it was cold enough out there without stopping and standing in one place.  The greatest hub of activity was an area for steam-punk enthusiasts, an important factor in the popularity of the festival, but try as I may, I have very little, beyond a passing interest, in steampunk – and Bill had less than that.

When All Else Fails, Eat

We might have had an interest in chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but most of the heat seemed to be at Yaga’s Cafe.  The crowded interior didn’t seem to suffer from it’s lack of an identifiable theme in the decoration or menu.  The service was friendly, if not adequate, and the food adequate, if not tasty.

Lunch behind us, we explored the island by car for awhile and decided we’d certainly return, but next time, we’d rent a beachside cottage and the weather would be warmer.  For dinner we drove back towards Houston to meet some Pearland friends, Jimmy and Melanie, at Pappas Seafood House. Now that was good seafood and good company.  We are fortunate in our friends, even if we don’t always make the best decisions about when to visit the beach.

So, should you go to Dickens on the Strand?  I might go back someday, but I’d check the weather, go on Saturday and stay somewhere besides the Beachfront Palms.  Come back next week and we’ll start thinking about a new trip!