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The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – SHALL WE DANCE?

Checking In


Well, my bestie’s big weekend arrived, The Texas Lone Star Ball. Some time in the Fall she had gotten a new dance partner and I’ve been sharing her with him on weekends as they took lessons and practiced.

Around the first of the year, Deborah asked if I’d be available to go with her to their first competition in mid-March. I love any excuse to hang with my bestie and I try to see her dance any time I can, but I’d never seen behind the curtain at a competition, so sure, I was ready to check it out.

Friday, she picked me up around two and we headed off to the Galleria Westin. We checked in, took our luggage to the room and unpacked for the weekend. Then we hit the mall. Now, we are big shoppers, that’s for sure, but we weren’t casually checking the sales. We were on a mission. Deb needed pantyhose – not the big box store variety with reinforced panty, but sheer toe-to-waist pair.

See, while Dancing with the Stars competitors just come out with as little in the way of clothes as possible, in real competitions, each style of dance has a mode of dress. Deb would be dancing both Smooth and Latin numbers. Her smooth ensemble was complete, but she needed the panty hose for Latin. The ladies are supposed to wear fish net hose for Latin and apparently that’s a very uncomfortable prospect if you don’t have a regular pair on hose on underneath and in Latin, you also have open toed shoes and a very, very short skirt.

So, we hit Macy’s first and they recommended WalMart. Knowing WalMart didn’t have what Deb needed, we tried Nordstrom’s instead. Back in the day, the hosiery department was part of accessories and held pride of place on the first floor of any department store. A wide variety of brands in rows of self serve counters vied for your attention with promises of sleekness, durability and style.

Heck, I can remember when there was no self-serve. You walked up to a counter and discussed your hosiery needs with salesclerk which would then pull out selections for you to choose from. The your selection would be put in a thin box with tissue and sometimes a ribbon. I miss those days.

At Nordstrom’s we discovered hosiery had been demoted to the second floor and resided in one lonely fixture with very limited choices, but that put them lightyears ahead of Macy’s, who thought you could only get pantyhose at the big box stores.

That done we had one more small task. Though I’d been talking to Bill for days about the dance competition, he waited until thirty minutes before my departure to freak out about my absence, which resulted in me forgetting to put in a dress-up outfit for the Gala Dinner. Deb wasn’t even sure how dressed up they would get, but if everyone else was decked out, I didn’t want to be sitting there in the jeans and sweater set I’d be wearing the rest of the day.

I hit a store called Image, which had throw away fashion on the cheap, where a found a black swing jacket with silver glitter woven into it. At Lovisa I found a cheap rhinestone necklace to dress up the turtle neck sweater I’d wear under it. I was gala ready!

Dinner at Oceanaire

While Deb’s been dancing in competitions for a number of years, she’s always done it on the cheap, skipping the money eaters like Gala Dinners and expensive restaurants, but her new partner goes first class. So, she decided to go all in this time and I had the privilege of going with her. That meant dinner at Oceanaire with her partner and his teacher.

The prices on the menu were not the denominations Deb and I usually see. Sure, we’ll splurge on something like a birthday dinner, but Oceanaire was expensive, no two ways about it. There’s two ways to go about a meal like that. You can go in budget first, eat a Caesar salad and be practical. Or you can dive in with both feet and break the bank. Deb and I went for the latter.

We started with escargot, had the Seafood Mixed Grill for our entrée and finished off with cheesecake. Each and every bite was out of this world, but we ate so many bites that when we finished we felt like balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. After dinner, Deborah and Aimee (the dance instructor) went up to the room to try out hairstyles. I read for awhile, giving them a thumbs-up now and then, but eventually fell asleep. I woke up at mid-night, had to get ready for bed and then go back to sleep.

Why I Will Never Dance in Competition!

The alarm went off at 4 AM. Deb needed to be on the floor rehearsing at seven and she had a lot to do before then. Stage make-up is the first hurdle. A little lipstick and mascara will not do on the dance floor. Then there are all the things that go on before you put on your gown – this kind of hosiery, that kind of undergarment, etc. and so on. Then getting on the gown is like suiting up for a joust.

At that point, Aimee came in to go after the hair, which had been in hot rollers while the rest of the activity was going on. This is a big deal. Hair can’t just be fluffed up, it also has to be anchored into place so that it won’t fall as Deb makes her way around the floor. Apparently, there are hair pros who start styling even earlier than Deb and I woke up, but Deb doesn’t feel as if she’s in that league yet and she also doesn’t want to spend the money. They ended up with something which looked very 40’s starlet and I doubt a pro could have done any better.

After the hair was glued into place with copious amounts of hairspray, it was time to add the jewelry. The jewelry we’d selected for her smooth performances, a shimmering full length gown in in gunmetal gray decked out with pearls and crystals, was long dangling clear rhinestones earrings and a clear rhinestone necklace. The piece d’resistance was her bright red elbow length gloves which matched her bright red lipstick.

Meanwhile, I fell into a pair of jeans, a pair of sweaters and a pair of boots I’d brought to battle the extreme cold of the ballroom. I put on some makeup, but my hair was a total loss. That was OK, with peacocks like Deborah running around, no one was going to pay any attention to me anyway!

A Day of Dancing

At 7AM Deb and Richard, her partner, were on the floor to warm up. I was in charge of keeping up with the dance heats and videoing their performances. It’s more difficult than you might think. From 7:30 AM on into the evening, every 90 seconds there’s a new group marching out on the floor for their heat. Deb and Richard had 24 performances and then Richard has his pro had at least that many more.

Though Deb has explained how the heats work and how they score it doesn’t quite click with me. Some points are awarded for just showing up to dance and for the number of heats that you dance. When you are out on the floor, multiple judges are looking at multiple levels of competition. So, even though everyone may be dancing a Paso Dobles or a Viennese Waltz, there will be various age groups and categories of the dance competing at the same time. You and your partner may be the only Intermediate Silver in the Senior Amateur competition and you may end up with first place, but it was actually the only place.

You can usually tell some of this, like who’s dancing with a pro and whose dancing with an amateur, by the number the man wears on his back, but then there are amateurs like Richard, who dance with both and who dances in everything from Intermediate Silver to Full Gold levels. Yes, it’s confusing.

The morning was given over to smooth dances waltz, foxtrot, tango and Viennese waltz. Then while the country dancers took over the floor, Deb ran upstairs and put on her Latin outfit, changing everything from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. I have to confess, I thought the second half of the day was more fun – salsa, samba, paso dobles, bolero, even the hustle! Though I would have loved to get on the floor and rock out a bit, one look at the precise costumed dancers on the floor kept me permanently bolted to my chair, but I might have chair-danced a little.

By the end of the day, all the sambas and rumbas ran together and I did good to keep from falling asleep. The judges changed out every hour. I was glued to the table announcing heats and taking photos. I love DEb, but I was done.

Wrapping It Up

The Gala Buffet didn’t have much pizazz to it. I could have saved myself a few dollars, but we didn’t know that. After the buffet, the dancers went in to participate in the awards ceremony and see more dancing. I went to bed. I didn’t go to sleep until later, but I read while I reveled in the quiet of our hotel room, hoping the ringing in my ears would go away some day.

The next morning we got packed up and met for breakfast there in the hotel. After that we loaded up the car and headed home. I was glad to get there. I had a quiet day at the scrapbooking table and finished up my 2022 everyday album. I am now officially caught up.

Come back next week, Deb and I will be attending the Bubbles and Bunco Brunch to benefit Lone Star CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) – a fun party with bottomless mimosas and a great cause. All the other usual things will be happening, too. So, stay in touch.

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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, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

On Our Way to the Big City

Travel There – Gee Thanks WAYZ

Gotta Love Rush Hour – NOT

Going to New York City has been on my bucket list for a long time and going with my bestie was a dream come true. I love to travel with Bill, too, but it just wasn’t going to be his kind of trip. We planned to get up early, stay up late, spend the day in museums and our evenings at shows, but we were never, ever going to take a nap. That just isn’t his idea of a vacation.

Even though Bill wasn’t thrilled about a week without me, he agreed to chauffeur us to the airport. I had put us on a mid-morning flight to keep him from having to do it at the crack of dawn, so instead we were in the middle of rush hour traffic. OOPS, being self employed, my commute is from the bed to my office upstairs. Should I need to be somewhere in the morning, I live in a little, teeny tiny community almost in the boonies and I know all the backroads.

So, I was a little surprised when we we rolled to a stop in the vicinity of I-30 at Jim Miller. Deb and I both pulled out our phones and checked the traffic. It looked OK for a few moments and suddenly both of our phones demanded we get off I-30 and strike out across Dallas. But as we maneuvered across the city, they didn’t always agree.

Google Maps or WAYZ

One of my current theories about life today is that we have too many choices. It’s hard to find commonality when you have nothing in common. I grew up in a world with only 3 or 4 TV channels and virtually everyone watched the same thing. There were more radio stations, but in Dallas, we all listened to KVIL. No matter who you met, you were going to have something in common to talk about.

There could be fewer people in this world who are as close as the three people in that car on its way to Love Field, but we couldn’t even get our phones to agree on how to get there. No wonder the world is in such a mess.

Bill and Deb are WAYZ people. They swear by the reliability of the app. They turn it on even when they know where they are going for the traffic updates.

I’m old school. If I know the way, I’m going to drive the way I know. If I need help getting there, I will pull out my GPS and use that, because I don’t want to be messing with a phone as I try to drive. If I do need to look something up on the fly, I’m going to Google Maps. However, if Bill’s driving, he hates Google Maps, so I have to keep WAYZ on my phone for his benefit.

What we discovered on the way to Love Field is that our WAYZ apps couldn’t even agree on which way to go. Traffic really was awful, no matter where we turned. The apps were taking us through neighborhoods and down backstreets we’d never been on. Bill was driving, but I had his phone on WAYZ, mine on Google Maps and Deb was clicking back and forth between both. Sometimes each app on each phone was telling a different story.

Then Deb said, “Turn left at the next street.” Bill said, “Are you sure it’s left.” Deb hands me her phone and that’s when we got in trouble.

In case you didn’t know, these apps with their AI get to know us and give us different instructions based on what they learn about us. They also have their own internal algorithms. So, we poor humans are actually at their mercy.

Come to find out, Deb sets her WAYZ app to always point north. We set ours to point in the direction the car is headed. When Deb handed me her phone, I interpreted according to my settings and we were soon making U turns.

We Did Arrive in Time

In spite of dueling map apps, we did manage to arrive on time, but we were happy to see the curbside check-in. I hate waiting in line to do battle with a kiosk, so it was nice to be able to tip a human to take care of us and I tipped him well.

The flight was uneventful, our luggage arrived intact and Lyft was waiting for us as scheduled. We checked into the hotel, which had our reservations, and moved into our room for the week.

Come back next week and we’ll head out on the streets of the Big Apple. What fun we’ll have!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Bye Bye Vegas – We’re Happy to Go!

Travel There – Trial by Footsteps

Among Bill’s photos of our trip was this screenshot from his Fitbit. In spite of the Deuce and the Big Bus, we got in a lot of steps during our Vegas vacation. I was really surprised it was so many. It’s no wonder I was exhausted at the end of each day. I’m not accustomed to so much walking.

Now it was time to go. It was a busy morning for delivering photos, as most Fridays are in our business. Even though our flight was not until four, we needed to be out of the room by 11 and it was a close call.

We checked our luggage with the Bellman Desk and headed over to the Bellagio. Bill had visions of a lovely sit down breakfast, much as he does when he sleeps late on a cruise and the results were the same. All the sit-down breakfast venues were closed. We were left with a short order café called Quick Eats which featured American fare. Not exactly our dream come true. There was a lovely view onto a courtyard, but that’s about all there is to recommend it. Even the coffee was bad.

Still, we didn’t have much time to linger, because the company providing transfers wanted to deliver us to the airport hours and hours before our flight. We went to the bellman and retrieved our luggage, because we had to drag it over to that non-descript entrance at the back of the hotel where vans drop off and pick up their patrons. Paris, please note, this arrangement for arrivals and departures is not conducive to happy memories of a stay. You initial interaction with the hotel is less than warm and fuzzy, but it’s the departure that leaves the worst taste in your mouth, because you are stuck in this awkward place waiting for your transportation.

We did all the stuff you have to do to get on a plane these day, including all the stupidity Southwest includes as you board your plane. The most exciting thing about the whole thing was the Aunt Annie’s Pretzel I had for a snack.

Of course, we weren’t able to sit together, so it was a lonely flight. We arrived back in Dallas after 8:30 pm. Our bags arrived with no trouble, but then there’s that long walk to the long term parking. It was after 10 when we got home and I went straight to bed.

At that point I had no idea what my next trip would be and if you’d offered me another free trip to Las Vegas, I would have just laughed. I may have not known what my next trip would be, but if you come back next week, you’ll find out!

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!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Photography, Real Estate Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Gallivanting in Galveston

TRAVEL THERE – MEMORIES OF A BEACH HOUSE

Magical Memories

Were I to try and list all the marvelous things we enjoyed while we were staying in our friend Stephanie’s beach house, Footprints in the Sand Galveston, I’d be writing this Weekend Report for a long time, so I’ll try to stick to the highlights.

The house itself is the star of the show. What a beautiful, relaxing beach house it is. Because of our late arrival and the heavy fog, we were insulated from what a special place it was until the morning came around. I was up first, enjoying the quiet hours of the morning and for a while, it appeared we’d be socked in with fog again. I devoted some of my prayer time to chatting with God about that and he delivered a spectacular day for shooting. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the roar of the surf and my beautiful surroundings.

Lunch at The Sand Bar

By lunchtime, Galveston was really putting on a show. The weather could not have been more perfect. Gene Alton is my cool cousin. With his first hand knowledge of the area, we depend on him to recommend places to eat. His suggestion to go to the West End Marina for a bite was great!

The marina is extensive and there are several venues to enjoy, but on a Monday afternoon, the only one serving lunch was The Sandbar Grille. We found a seat on the patio and fell in love. Bill in particular enjoyed the scenery. He is fascinated by boats and loves the water. So he was in heaven.

Gene Alton and I caught up on family news and what each of us had been up to. Meanwhile, The Sand Bar was delivering up great drinks and an even better lunch. The margaritas were stellar and when the food arrived, it got very quiet. We were hungry and the food was good. A friend let us know we should have tried the Shrimp Kisses, but the news came too late.

Gene Alton’s shrimp poor boy looked great and I can tell you it was delicious, especially the sauce, because he gave up a few shrimp to me. Bill had the fried shrimp and nary a shrimp was left behind. I had the fish and chips, which were good, but surprising. There are no chips. There’s a big bowl of rice and beans, but no chips!

A Walk on the Beach

After lunch Bill had more shooting to do and then he took a nap, but I went to the beach. Beachcombing was one of my mom’s favorite things to do in the world, most likely because it was a way to do nothing at all and not feel guilty.

I felt her there with me as I strolled along the beach. I took pictures of the things she might find interesting as we walked along. Take a look at what the Gulf of Mexico offered up for the day.

Dinner with Friends at Waterman’s

Okay, after shooting photos all day long, we were total photography drop outs at dinner. Our good friends, Linda and Clay left their Penthouse on the beach in Galveston proper and drove to the West End to see us and the spectacular house.

We went to Waterman’s, which is beautiful and serves amazing food, but I can’t show you, because we didn’t take any pictures. Our server was so sweet, but I think she fibbed a little. She brought the wine to the table to serve and began to open the bottle, but she never cut the foil! It was a petite drama as she struggled to open the wine, disappeared for a while and came back to struggle again – and once again, she didn’t cut off the foil. I wrote it off to “new waitress” and wasn’t worried about it. Then she informed us she had opened “thousands of bottles of wine and never had such a hard time.” I’m not sure where she was working before, that they only had screw top wines, but I swear I think it was her first pour from a corked bottle.

The food was great, though. Bill and I shared a seafood pasta dish and I ate entirely too many of their hot rolls. The company was better than the food, but we were exhausted after a long day of shooting. We went back to the beach house and were soon in bed.

A Morning at the Beach

Some of my favorite hours at the beach were solitary. I really enjoyed the quiet time. The second morning there was our own, except for a quick delivery by the rental company and a few shots of the decor items they delivered. Some items had gotten broken in the renovation and they wanted us to be able to shoot the replacements before we left.

Here I am, beach hair and all, checking out the beach with Bill. Too soon, we were loading up the car and heading to a new destination. I had managed to squeeze a night in San Antonio out of this trip.

That’s right, we loaded up the car and headed to San Antonio via the backroads, since we were on the west end of the island. A few hours later we checked into our hotel and went right to the Riverwalk. So come back again tomorrow and maybe, just maybe, I’ll wrap up this weekend report.

Accommodations, Decorative Arts, Photography, Real Estate Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Footsteps in the Sand Galveston

TRAVEL THERE – EARNING OUR STAY

Dark Thirty and Fog

Welcome back to the second part of The Weekend Report for the First Weekend in December. Let me remind you, we left Dallas behind schedule and made our way to Galveston to shoot a rental property for a good friend. We’d hoped to arrive in time to get some shots done that evening, but even if we’d left on time, the weather was not our friend. Galveston had been cloudy and foggy all day.

With nothing to shoot, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some wine. No need to waste the evening, right? At the Sea Wall, the GPS told us we still had some driving to do. Our adventures on the island had all been on the East End, where the hotels and cruise terminal dominate. Stephanie’s house, Footprints in the Sand Galveston, was at the West End, so off we drove with the city lights behind us.

The West End is a very different experience than the hustle and bustle of the island’s city. It was pitch black out there, with a few brightly lit exceptions, and it was quiet, very quiet. When we arrived, the rental company, Ryerson Vacation Rentals, had turned on the lights and unlocked the door for us, so our first peek at the house was merry and bright.

If you know Galveston, then you are familiar with its popular architectural style. Almost all the beach houses are on stilts, perhaps a garage downstairs, but never much else, because when a hurricane or tropical storm blows in you want your house to be there when it is done. So we parked under the house and made our way up the stairs.

Knock Us Over With a Feather

Now, we know, anything Stephanie gets involved with is going to be top notch and she has immaculate taste, but we were still blown away when we walked into the house. We looked at one another in glee at the prospect at staying at this beautiful place for a couple of days.

The first thing we did, even before bringing in our luggage, was explore every corner of the house to figure out which was the master bedroom. Each room was better than the next, but we hadn’t seen what we thought was the primary suite. We went back to the gorgeous living room and there was a spiral staircase leading to another floor. We climbed up there and it was like discovering heaven. A huge bedroom with its own private balcony and a spa-style bathroom. WOW.

We hustled back down the stairs and brought up our luggage. We wanted to start having fun as soon as we possible could. After stowing away our stuff, we poured ourselves some wine and hit the huge wraparound porch. It was too dark to see the beach, but we could hear it loud and clear – and we could smell the delightful scent of the sea.

Now, we were a bit of a surprise to the rental company. They’d just taken the property over from another company and had overseen some renovation. We were the first guests for them and they hadn’t even known we were coming until that morning, which was a Sunday, so the fact the house was ready at all was a miracle. However, they hadn’t had the chance to inspect everything before we arrived. We became the inspectors and discovered two things right off – there was no propane for the firepit and something was wrong with the hot tub. We called the next morning and had workmen there in minutes. Personally, I was impressed.

A Day of Shooting

So, it really doesn’t matter when I go to bed, I’m going to wake up between 5 and 6, even at the beach. So, very early I crept down the spiral staircase and fired up my computer. When Bill joined me, we didn’t have much time for enjoying where we were. It was time to go to work. I staged the areas we’d been in, while Bill started shooting.

First up, he took the standard interior and exterior shots for a short term rental – which is a lot more than it would be for a sale property. Renters are looking for different things than buyers. Once those shots were finished, it was time for the video. We took a lunch break with my cousin, who lives in the area. When we came back, Bill did the drone work.

Then Bill was exhausted. That’s a lot of shooting and he needed to take the twilight shots at sunset. With about an hour to kill, he needed a nap. I’m not good at napping. If I lay down, I’m going to sleep for eight hours or wish I would have. So, I went for a stroll on the beach.

At five, very good friends of ours, who make Galveston their home, arrived. Bill showed them around the house and served up some wine. Then he went outside to take twilight shots, while I caught our friends up on what we’d been up to.

We were almost through. The property management company was bringing by a few decorative items the next morning and we were going to reshoot the fireplace, but otherwise, we were able to take off our work hats and start enjoying the property. Whew!!

So, I’ll tell you more about the fun stuff tomorrow. This is a very long Weekend Report, but it wasn’t our usual weekend!

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

Getting Into a Groove

Travel There – Caesar’s Forum and a Luxor Lunch

It’s hard to believe this guy is smiling at me. So far it’s been as if someone should have done more than give us a free trip to Vegas. They should have paid us for our time, trouble and trauma. Seriously! We’re starting our third day in Vegas and the most fun we’ve had so far was getting our id cards and tickets for public transportation.

We headed out to McDonald’s. I was dying for one of those famous breakfast buffets, but Bill just couldn’t face that much food so early in the morning. He was being very patient with this disaster of a vacation, so I wasn’t going to make him go anywhere he didn’t want to. We waited a bit for the Deuce, but decided to walk when it didn’t come immediately. It was too chilly just standing there.

Along the way we came to the Flamingo and decided to step inside and see the Wild Life Habitat. It was a pleasant little garden, but honestly, not worth a mention in the guidebooks. Then onto Mickey D’s. We were becoming regulars.

Fun at the Forum

I’ve got to be honest with you. Things had been so bad on this vacation I was regretting we’d won it. The day before, the Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian had not been very entertaining, so I felt a bit of trepidation about heading to the Forum, but what the heck else were we going to do with ourselves – gamble? We’d rather stand and throw our money in the Bellagio Fountain!

Though I can’t exactly tell you exactly why, we enjoyed the Forum a lot more than we did the Grand Canal. Perhaps it was because it was fairly quiet that morning and the Grand Canal was bustling. Maybe we like classic Roman architecture better than Renaissance Italian. Maybe I was finally feeling better. Maybe it was the softer lighting and higher ceilings of the Forum. I don’t know. We just had fun.

One of the things that really helped us enjoy the Forum was a marvelous curator at one of the art galleries. Bill asked her a few questions and suddenly he had a new best friend. We were there for a long, long time.

Then there was the big grandiose fountains in the Forum. The Venetian had fountains, too, but they more like waterfalls and the fountains in the Forum made you feel as if you actually were in one of those faraway places I love so much.

Of course, like all things since Covid, we were supposed to wear masks and the stores would only let in a certain amount of people at a time. So places like Versace and Louis Vuitton had a roped off area in front of the store with patrons waiting to get in. Without the ropes we might have strolled in, but we weren’t going to wait. No loss to them I guess, because I’ve been carrying the same old Coach bag for years now and will probably be buried with it!

The worst part of being there during Covid was that they’d changed the schedule for The Fall of Atlantis attraction – instead of hourly every day, it was only on certain days at certain times. Wednesday wasn’t one of them!

Buffet Lunch at Luxor

It was awful! That’s all you really need to know. Here’s a serving of beef brisket from the carving station. Yuck!!

So, I knew breakfast was your best bet and I also knew there were better choices than the Luxor. I shared my information with my traveling companion, but we had My Vegas Slots rewards at the Luxor and Bill was interested in seeing it.

Now I stayed at Luxor a number of years ago and it was a wonderful experience. I also enjoyed a couple of different buffets, one in the lobby and a bigger one downstairs – but that was pre-Covid.

The last buffet standing was the one downstairs and I had remembered it as a bright bustling place full of eager tourists, busy employees and delicious food. That was no longer the case. We were almost alone in the establishment. The employees were begrudgingly shoving food onto the buffet tables and the food was nothing to write home about, unless it was to complain.

I tried to make the best of it. We were going bogo – right? Only it really was awful and for Bill, the brisket was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He actually went and found a manager to complain to – who gave us a coupon for a free meal on our next visit. Are you kidding us? I think Bill had hoped for a refund, but we wouldn’t be coming back to this place EVER!!

It was time to take another Deuce bus to Paris and get ready for our really big evening! Jane and Bill are going to stay out late in Vegas. come back next week and stay up late with us.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Big Bus Bombed Out

Travel There – Warning Tourist Trap

Now I am no stranger to Hop On/Hop Off tours. I’ve enjoyed them in other towns. I know it’s a little touristy, but the concept has worked for me many times. This time it did not. In fact, it was the biggest mistake I made on this vacation. It wasted my time, it wasted my money and it used up good will with my husband. Three strikes and you are out!!

Perhaps I look perky in the photo, because I was asleep by 9:45 the night before and stayed in bed until 8 AM. That’s not my usual routine, but I wasn’t quite over a nasty cold. The early wake-up call in the wee hours of the morning resulted in early to-bed. We had a Mickey D’s breakfast and were waiting at the stop at the appointed time.

Someone else was at the stop, too and who gave us a glimpse at the dark side of Sin City. A very drunk lady perched herself at the Big Bus stop and began to inventory the empty bottles in her shopping bag. The Big Bus attendant, there to collect our tickets, gently suggested she had to go elsewhere. She put her bottles back in her bag and careened down the sidewalk. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, about a block away, she had fallen in a heap. As our bus arrived we noticed a flurry of activity up the street as an ambulance pulled up. Driving by on the bus, we realized it was the lady with all the empty bottles in her bag.

Touring at Its Worst

I like the Hop On/Hop Off concept, because you get both a form of transportation and a guided tour in one purchase. I had visions of riding up top with scads of excited tourists, taking in the sights of the Strip while a well-informed guide filled me in on all the secrets. Not exactly what happened.

Looking at the sunny picture above, you’d think it was a perfect day for a double decker bus tour, but there’s a reason I have on so much gear. It was cold! As we waited for the bus to arrive, the sun went behind some clouds and was not seen again that day. Before we’d gotten to the next stop, the weather had deteriorated further and it began to sprinkle.

As I said, it was damned cold, there was precipitation and we were the only people on the bus, but our idiot guide insisted that we would be making the most of our travel investment by riding in the open air. Nope, that’s wasn’t going to happen.

The scintillating secrets shared by our guide sounded something like this, “Ok, there’s Harrah’s and across the street is The Mirage. Now we’re coming up on the Venetian with the Palazzo Towers. Over there is Treasure Island and now we’re coming up on the Wynn…” And no it didn’t get any better.

At the Convention Center we picked up a lady, but I’m convinced she was the bus driver’s wife. She rode for a few stops and then got off at one of the hotels, where I think she worked. She had on a uniform and she certainly wasn’t a tourist.

We passed the Strat and the Bonneville Transit Center. So far we hadn’t seen or learned anything new. Up around Fremont a few people got on, but they were soon getting off again. It continued to be me, Bill, the bus driver and the guide. I was beginning to believe the guide was operating in an altered state and I don’t think it was alcohol.

As we made the loop near Fremont and headed back toward the Strip, we started to get the same dialog he’d given us before, but in reverse, “The tall building on the side of the bus is the Strat. Now we’re coming up to the Sahara and over there is Circus, Circus…”

We Escape the Big Bus Tour

At Treasure Island, Bill had reached his limit. We got off and attempted a walking tour led by ourselves. I’ve got to hand it to my husband. Bill really was trying to be cooperative, but I was just pissed off, damp and hungry. We wandered around the Grand Canal and visited galleries and shops – a few of which I’ve included for your viewing pleasure.

We were both hungry, but nothing we saw looked the least bit interesting. So ,we went into the Venetian and ate at The Grand Lux – a restaurant we have in Dallas. I opted for Chicken Alfredo and drowned my sorrows in one of my favorite comfort foods.

Waiting for the Deuce

Refreshed we went over to the bus stop at the Mirage to return to our part of the Strip. The Deuce was obviously not on schedule, but once we boarded the bus we got a taste of just how off schedule it was. We could have easily gotten to Paris faster if we’d walked, but the rain was pouring outside. Eventually, we discovered a car had turned over in front of the Bellagio and the entire Strip was in chaos.

It was still early evening with all of Las Vegas waiting for us. I’d planned for us to take the nighttime Big Bus, a part of the package we’d purchased and supposedly a real neon treat, but you could not have paid either of us enough money to get back on a bus, especially not a Big Bus. We went back to the room and I went directly to bed – again. I found out the next morning Bill did a little exploring on his own while I slept, but none of it sounded very exciting. There’s a reason Vegas was not at the top of my vacation wish list.

Day 3 was a lot better, so it’s safe to come back and check in with me next week!