Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Rockwall, TRAVEL

Staycation Fail

TRAVEL HERE: AND THE YEAR SPUTTERED TO AN END

We woke on New Year’s Eve to threats of snow. Though we had planned to drive up to the Two Hearts Inn, just outside Oklahoma City, our guts told us to cancel. We ran to the grocery store for some supplies and hunkered down for an at home celebration. While we managed to pull off a very nice meal and a fun evening, I’d grade my attempt at a Staycation as ZERO!

One Failure After Another

My idea of a Staycation was romantic brunches with my handsome husband, lazy afternoons playing games, sharing memories through my many scrapbooking albums and enjoying the excursions I’d planned for us to take. That’s not what happened.

One of our first planned activities was a cookie-baking day. Things started out well, but didn’t end that way. Our last cookies had to be pressed out of a cookie press and the one I had used for years decided it wasn’t going to work anymore. We were both tired and a little cranky when we had to face the biggest challenge of the day.

We lived through that and the next day we delivered all our cookies to our friends. That was pretty fun, but after the first few visits, it was more of a chore than I antisciapted.

Our visit to the Kimbell to see Nefertari went well, until we tried to have a nice meal. We were hoping for French food and white tablecloths, but ended up at McDonald’s. The carriage ride was a disaster. The Vintage Train Ride was disappointing. So, it was no surprise that the B&B idea for NYE didn’t work out either. The weather made trying to take a road trip insane.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. We cooked up a nice meal for Christmas dinner and my bestie had amazing leftovers the next evening from her own Christmas dinner, so she shared them with us. The meal we cooked up for NYE was amazing and we did actually play some games that Mr. Bill enjoyed. However, looking back over the last two weeks of the year, more went wrong than went right.

Plan B for Me

It didn’t take me long to understand that my romantic dreams for Staycation weren’t going to happen. I got very lucky, because a set of photos I wasn’t expecting until after Christmas showed up on my door step. So, I got busy doing one of my my favorite things. I can’t help it that I wake up between 5 & 6 every day, but instead of just going up to my desk and going to work on Spot On Images business, I happily worked on scrapbooking – the one thing I love to do almost as much as traveling.

It would have been very easy, almost tempting, to just go ahead and work or do the opposite and stare into the TV feeling sorry for myself. Instead I chose what was behind Door #3. That didn’t do a thing for Mr. Bill, but I have to let him live with his choices. I needed a break.

Door #3 ended up taking me on a journey I hadn’t planned on taking. Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Grapevine Vintage Railroad

TRAVEL HERE: FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Desperate for some travel-like experiences in the Covid haze, I planned a series of holiday outings, but I’ll be the first to admit things didn’t go as planned. While there’s many a time the thermometer has hovered in the seventies over the holiday season, that was not the case this holiday. Instead, my poor husband suffered a series of weather-related indignities, just so he wouldn’t have to peel me off the wall. Our excursion on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad was just such an experience.

Covid vs. The Weather

During the pandemic, virtually everything you wanted to do, you needed to have reservations. While that seems like a reasonable request, as I mentioned when I talking about the Dallas Arboretum, it just doesn’t work very well in our lives. Bill needs to be in the mood and the weather needs to be nice. During December, Bill was not in the mood, at all, and the weather was pretty awful.

Bill suffers from SAD, a condition related to those people whose emotions can be effected by the lack of certain light rays from the sun. He has special lights in his office and he takes extra vitamins to combat it, but when the weather is lousy, so is his mood. In December the weather was lousy , but in spite of his mood, Bill tried to enjoy the events I scheduled, unlike the weather.

A Rainy and Cold Excursion

The morning of our Grapevine Vintage Railroad excursion was not a pretty one. It was cold and it was trying to rain. There was mostly just a miserable mist, but on occasion it would gather it’s wits about it and give us some actual rain. We drove to Grapevine in the mist, which turned into a pretty nasty rain, just about the time we needed to make a dash to get on the train.

Damp and wet, we turned our reservations in for some souvenir tickets. I’ve got to hand it to the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, their cars are very authentic and they’d done a marvelous job decorating them for the holidays. However, as we settled into our seats the Covid effect was immediate. Everyone had on their masks and those everyone’s were few and far between.

Part of the fun of something like a train excursion it the energy you get from the people around you only none of the people around us were actually close enough to us to share their energy. I know there was a pandemic going on, but this just felt sad in a way that our other attempts at our Staycation had not.

We tried to jolly one another along as the train made it’s way to Fort Worth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see. The railway went through industrial areas and neighborhoods, but none of the neighborhoods were very scenic – just one leaning, washed-out privacy fence after another, behind houses desperately in need of maintenance. Preventative maintenance had been ignored about a decade ago. The railway made an attempt to entertain us with a faux train robbery, but with a mostly empty car the failure of it just rattled the windows.

Finally, the Fort Worth Stockyards

As we arrived, others were clamoring to get on, so the initial feel of it was that maybe we were on to something. Then we stepped outside. It was cold, really cold, and while it wasn’t raining or misting, there was enough humidity to make it feel even colder.

We made our way over to the Stock Exchange which was reportedly full of exhibits, museums, food and shops. NOT! And all the reported attractions which were missing from the Stock Exchange must have taken the rest of attractions in the area with them, because nothing was opened with the exception of a few stores and restaurants.

We spent some time in the Stockyards Hotel Lobby and that, at least, was interesting. They did have some historical photos which kept us occupied for awhile. Then we headed on our way along Exchange Avenue. Several of the stores were nothing but junk. Forty million things with Fort Worth Stockyards printed on them and nothing at all that we wanted.

Then, we found out that it was a good thing we didn’t want to be a Cowboy or Cowgirl, because we couldn’t afford it! As we made our way along Exchange Avenue the quality went up and there were no souvenir type slogans printed on things, but the price tags scared us to death. Cowboy boots in multiple thousands, pieces of clothing in the mid to high hundreds. Hats for custom blocking that were astronomical. And the jewelry? Tasteful, but exorbitant.

Getting a Bite at Booger’s

Our watches told us we had a some more time to kill before we could get back on the train and return to Grapevine. We decided to drown our sorrows in some food and drinks. The best option seemed to be Booger Red’s, a restaurant and bar attached to the Stockyards Hotel. We have no complaints, at all, concerning Booger’s. My Margarita was good, as were our quesadillas. The establishment has a Western feel to it and they’ve hung a number of amusing signs around for entertainment.

If you’ve heard of the Fort Worth Stockyards, then you’ve probably heard of Billy Bob’s. On a cold weekday during Covid, nothing was going on there. The other thing you might have heard of was the daily cattle drives. That did happen, but let me tell you, like a lot of small towns in Texas, if you blink you might miss it.

Then we were glad it was time to go. The train ride back was pretty much a repeat of the trip there. We got back to Grapevine and got off the train. We had a close eye on the weather, because the next morning we were supposed to head to Oklahoma and celebrate at a very special Bed and Breakfast Inn. Did we get to do it? Come back next week and find out.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Carriage Ride Chilly, Not Charmed

TRAVEL HERE: CINDERELLA CARRIAGE RIDE THROUGH HIGHLAND PARK

I thought it would be an enchanted evening. I dreamed of it for decades. I imagined it as an event shared by friends. I imagined it as an romantic evening for two. I saw it as a typical Texas December evening with temperatures in the 60’s. I saw it as a crisp evening wrapped up in blankets and sipping hot cocoa. I probably thought of every possible version, except the Covid tainted evening I ended up with.

Believe Half of What You See and Less of What You Hear

I’m not sure where I first heard that, but it’s true. The people in this picture look like they are having a marvelous time. Well, They are not.

In my Staycation dreams, Bill and I were going to take a ride in a carriage designed for two. I researched the whole thing and eventually was able to discuss it with Bill to get his stamp of approval, but by the time I got that approval and went back to order our vehicle of romance, all that were left were larger carriages.

As I said, I’d been wanting to do this for a long time and who knew if I’d ever get Bill’s OK again. So, I ordered up the carriage, which by the way was a Cinderella Carriage for up to four people and hoped for the best, even though the larger carriage was more money. It wasn’t that much more, but it was more than we had discussed.

I am convinced that the most trouble I get into comes when I am trying to do good. I knew two things, that I’d paid more than I intended for the carriage ride and that my bestie wanted to take this excursion almost as much as I did. Somehow, all that turned into an invitation for Deb to join us and maybe her son would come along. I’m not sure how that was supposed to jive with the romantic carriage ride I sold Bill, but that’s the road I went down.

The On Hold Music

So, I won’t bother you with all the details, but instead of driving down to Highland Park for our carriage ride with Christmas carols playing on the radio, we were instead treated to the horrendous “on hold” music of one of Bill’s investment brokers. The weather was worse than awful for an outside activity, but worse than the weather was Bill’s attitude. To say things didn’t start out on the right foot would be putting it mildly.

We also got there earlier than we needed to, which always irritates Bill, and that was just one more irritation heaped on several others. Bill and I were barely being civil to one another. It’s a good thing Deb loves us both or she’d have been done with us after that evening.

When our carriage was ready, we stepped out into the COLD, damp, misty evening and climbed aboard. Just a few minutes later, we took this shot. Anybody who says a picture doesn’t lie hasn’t seen this one.

The Meat of the Matter

So, the Highland Park Christmas lights are something to behold even on a bad night. The Cinderella Carriage seemed to fit the festive occasion and we all tried to make the best of what had turned into an ordeal, rather than an excursion. Our driver was really a nice guy and the horse was beautiful.

Our horse also had gas. Yes, I understood that horses sometimes defecate and urinate during their services to human beings. Those deposits fall onto the roadway and are soon left behind. When your horse has gas on a damp evening with no breeze, the funk lingers and lingers and lingers. I have no idea what they’d been feeding this horse, but the odor was foul.

I think you get the picture. My dream carriage ride turned into a nightmare. Not exactly a winner. Come back next week and maybe I’ll do better with my train excursion…maybe!

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

An Afternoon with Nefertari at the Kimball

TRAVEL HERE: QUEEN NEFERTARI VISITS FORT WORTH

Fast Forward to our Staycation. Pre-Covid I planned to spend the Holidays in sunny California enjoying a bargain I scored with Westin. During the year I had planned the trip three different ways, none of which we actually enjoyed. Then I planned a road trip around the Southeast, but rising Covid numbers nixed that, too. So I planned a Staycation. A major event during my Staycation calendar was a visit to the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth to see Queen Nefertari’s Egypt.

Yes, There Was a Pandemic Going On

A few weeks back I told you about the Flesh & Blood Exhibition we visited at the Kimbell earlier in the year. Mask were de rigueur, but otherwise life at the Kimbell was pretty much the same as always. By the time Nefertari arrived, they’d gotten a whole lot more Covid-conscious. In fact, even the audio tour had been recorded anticipating visitors would be spending more time than usual in line, so there was more intro stuff you were supposed to listen to before you entered.

Bill and I arrived for our visit on a weekday afternoon, so there wasn’t much of a line. Hence I spent my first few minutes in the exhibition trying to coordinate what I was seeing with what I was hearing, so I was audibly handicapped in the first room of the exhibit. On a later visit, shown above, I had the chance to listen to the intro bits the way they were designed to be heard.

There were little arrows on the floor to keep you going in the right direction. That didn’t suit me either. I usually listen to the audio tour as I view the art and Bill walks through occasionally reading a label as he enjoys the pieces on exhibition. Then we backtrack, him showing me what he liked and me explaining the backstory on some of the more esoteric pieces.

So, my first visit to the exhibition, I had to acclimate myself to the new rules. Don’t worry I visited several more times and was able to fully enjoy the whole thing completely, in spite of the Covid-inspired challenges.

Exhibit vs. Egypt

I’ve been to Egypt twice, enjoying most of their famous museums, including the Cairo Museum and the Alexandria Library. Those authentic experiences cannot be replaced by a trip to Fort Worth, but there are things the Kimbell does better than the Egyptians.

Perhaps the most obvious difference is the display cases. In Egypt, the case is crammed full, an overabundance of everything from mummies to faience, the lighting is often nonexistent and the cards explaining things create more questions than they answer . Americans carefully place a few items at eye level, with perfect lighting and cards that give you more information than you need, accompanied by more information on plaques on the walls and audio tours.

Now in Egypt, for a very reasonable fee you can hire a guide to tell you everything the cards and audio tours let you know, but the guides come with challenges of their own. Guides have no off button and you don’t get to select which items you prefer to focus on. They will tell you what they want to, in the order they want to and nothing you can do will slow them down, speed them up or get them to change the subject until they decide to.

American exhibits also seem to make more sense. They carefully curate what will be shown and exhibit it logically. I got tickled during my first visit to the Cairo Museum, mostly because of the randomness of it all. There was no timeline, no themes, nothing I could identify except for room after room of amazing things thrown together willy nilly. The funniest part was the frequency with which I ran into display cases chock full of beads and small figurines of servants for the afterlife. They were virtually everywhere, in every room of the museum, often lined up one after the other along the walls with nothing but signs that said “faience.” I know more now, but then it was baffling.

Queen Nefertari’s Egypt

While there absolutely were numerous items related directly to Nefertari, the title of the exhibit was Queen Nefertari’s Egypt and that was the true focus, rather than the queen herself. What was the role of women? How did religion figure into their daily lives? These were the questions answered by this exhibit. However, some of the most fun display cases were devoted to jewelry and cosmetics. A pair of sandals found in her tomb, thought to be hers, were fascinating.

However, a large part of the exhibit was devoted to Deir el-Medina, the village where all the tomb workers lived. I found it very interesting, because I had actually spent some time in the village on my visit to the Valley of the Kings. A picture on the wall of the exhibit was the same as I have in my scrapbook. I love when I have those moments. Watching a travel show and saying, “We’ve been there,” is a blast.

In the exhibit, they expounded on the religious practices of the citizens of Deir el-Medina, but they missed out on what I thought was the most interesting. These workers, who spent most of their lives preparing an eternal resting place for royalty, spent their days off preparing their own tombs. The walls of the royal tombs were focused on the Book of the Dead, formulas and passages to send the kings and queens to live among the gods. For their own tombs, the workers carved and painted beautiful scenes from everyday life – a table burdened down with foods they loved to eat, rather than ritualistic meals to please the gods; natural wildlife scenes, rather than records of the victories they’d won and the slaves they’d captured. I thought the workers had the better idea of what to commemorate.

It was a marvelous exhibit and I am so proud of the Metroplex for hosting Queen Nefertari, but I wish it had been the DMA. Then next week we’ll ride a Cinderella Carriage through Highland Park. Yep, I ticked that one of my bucket list, too.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Kicking the Pandemic at The Kimbell

TRAVEL HERE – Flesh & Blood at the Kimbell Museum

I may be a Dallasite, but my heart belongs to the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth. I love the Dallas Museum of Art, too, but not in the same way. The DMA tends to cater to a more modern taste than mine. I almost grew up among the items in its permanent collection, so they are dear to my heart and frequently visited, but too often I look at what’s on special exhibition there, shrug my shoulders and head to Ft. Worth. There are notable exceptions in my recent memory, Dior, Tut, and Jean Paul Gaultier, for instance, but during the pandemic the exhibits were definitely not on my must see list.

Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum

They had me at Italian Masterpieces! I got goose bumps at the idea of Capodimonte! That’s the kind of art I’ll drive to Ft. Worth for.

I made a couple of visits. One was with Bill and to say he was under-impressed would be an understatement. I was surprised, because most of it was nudes, he’s a guy…you know the drill. But, he went through the gallery at lightening speed. Usually, after we’ve both seen everything at our own speed, he’s eager to walk back through with me and point out his favorites. He was ready to go. I didn’t get that at all. Look at these gorgeous things!

I adored the painting of the woman and spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how the outfit she was wearing worked in real life. The boy lighting the flame was very sweet. All the painting were glorious – but not according to my husband.

Bestie and I Return

Well, once was not enough for me, so I returned with my bestie. The show was supposed to be over in June, but due to the pandemic it stayed a little longer and we went in July. She was as gaga as I was over the gorgeous works of art. We lingered and strolled and lingered some more.

We also had a good laugh. To spice up the experience, they had costumed volunteers strolling the galleries. It was supposed to give you the feeling of being in a gallery when theses masterpieces were new. Somehow the pandemic masks killed it for me.

Sorry the photo is a little tilted and fuzzy, I was doing the best I could, but I was trying to be a little discreet about shooting it with my phone. So what next. Well, there were weddings, neighborhood parties, grocery store contests, restaurant visits and other distractions, but it was all social distanced and masked, so I wasn’t having the time of my life. Finally, there was the Staycation. Come back next week and I will tell you about that.

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!!

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Schnebly Road in Sedona AZ

TRAVEL THERE: 4 WHEELING FUN IN RED ROCK COUNTRY

Turn up the volume and enjoy the ride.  We had a blast on our own self-guided tour of Schnebly Road.

Detour to Hillside

Since Bill was into savoring on this adventure, I took advantage of it to get a few photos.  Just past Red Rock National Park, where the spectacular formations cluster, there’s a place called Hillside Sedona.  We were also looking for a snack, but in the middle of the afternoon, pretty much everything was closed.  We did, however, get these great shots.

From there we drove to Schnebly Hill Road and initially we were underwhelmed.  I was just another small road, unpaved but covered with gravel.  This was our 4 Wheel adventure?

Bye Bye Road!

Bill was not impressed and he wasn’t savoring it at all, but I showed him how the map indicated there was some normal road before the broken line that was “Schnebly Road Requires High Clearance Vehicles.,” so he decided to hang in there.  Good thing. 

To our delight, the road got worse and worse and worse.  Bill was in heaven.  Most of the vehicles on this part of the road were open-aired Jeep Wrangles with jacked up shocks, leaving them plenty of room to cruise over the rough spots.

We were in the more sedate Jeep Cherokee and that rental car might have hit bottom a time or two before we were over, but we were having a great time.  Here’s some of the road we tackled.

While some of you guys might consider this pretty lame 4 wheeling, we were having a blast.  We’re city folk and the biggest excitement we get driving around most of the time is an overlarge pothole in our flat Texas landscape.  Yahooo!  We were living large.

We kept on going on down the road until we came to a sign informing us that the rest of Schnebly Road was off limits due to it being out of season.  Drat.  We had to turn around and do it all again and some of it was more exciting heading back than it had been coming in.  Several open-aired jeeps passed us going in and coming out, but we couldn’t have had more fun if we’d been their passengers. This was definitely a highlight of the trip.

Oak Creek Canyon 

The gorgeous sky disappeared and sprinkling rain threatened worse conditions, but we were still in adventure mode.  I’d missed Oak Creek Canyon on the way to Sedona and now we had time to visit.  I consulted the map pointed took over driving from Bill.

The next time we head to Sedona, and I swear it will be sooner rather than later, I want to stay in Oak Creek Canyon.  Nestled in by high red cliffs on both sides, Oak Creek meanders along trading sides with the road about halfway along.  Cute little motels, cabins and campgrounds are sprinkled along the length of the canyon.  I imagine staying in any of them would be quite a treat.

Then you start to climb out of the canyon on a series of exciting switchbacks.  You can see from the GPS the twists and turns you encounter.  The ride was thrilling, which was a good thing, because when we got to our destination, the overlook, it had just closed and sleet was starting to come down.  We weren’t able to visit, but we were having fun.

The day was getting dark and with the weather getting messy, I was done driving. Reluctantly, Bill took back over and headed back to Sedona.  My job was to investigate possible meal opportunities.  Come back next week and see what we did. 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Going to the Chapel

TRAVEL THERE: CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS

Hopping from trail head to trail head, we soon found ourselves at a favorite attraction in the area – The Chapel of the Cross.  Come along for a visit.

A Little Savoring Side Trip

Confession, while I may not need to hone my skills at savoring a Mickey D’s breakfast, Bill is right that I do not savor enough.  I want to see everything right now and I want to see all of it fast

As soon as we caught sight of the chapel, I was ready to zip right up there and take it all in.  Mr. Bill was busy savoring things.  First, he savored a few more trail heads.  Then he drove around a residential neighborhood just below the chapel.  Though I was antsy at the beginning of the process, I did manage to slow down and begin dancing to the beat of his drummer. 

Visiting the Chapel

When you have a favorite place, you keep it pasted on the walls of your brain to retreat there whenever the desire arises.  When you go back to visit in reality, sometimes they have dared to change things.  Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad.  At the chapel it was a little bit of both.

The experience of arrival was pretty similar.  I think they may have moved the angel statue I was so fond of, but the elevated walkway was much the same and the exterior of the chapel was as it had always been.

However, when you actually entered the chapel things had changed drastically.  A huge life-sized crucifix has been placed inside, dominating the view of the valley from the interior.  I had fond memories of standing inside the chapel, close to the huge windows, looking down on the valley.  Am I allowed to say that I loved the sculpture of Christ on the Cross, but I didn’t like what it did to the chapel?

Instead of being allowed to appreciate the incredible view spread out below the chapel, you are now separated from it.  First, by tables of candles and then by the statue itself.  For some, this might make the chapel a more holy place, but for me, surveying the creation of a man, over God’s creation was a disappointment.  I don’t know how to tell them to fix it.  The copper sculpture needs to be inside to keep the beautiful finish, but the space is really to small for it.  I couldn’t get far enough away from it to really appreciate it and the barricade of candles before it ruined the truly awesome view of the valley.

On other visits I’d had a difficult time dragging myself away from the chapel.  This time, I was in and out in moments.  Once outside you became aware of something else that had changed – the view outside the chapel.  See that enormous house just to the left of center.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  Overly ostentatious and very distracting!

So, I’ve decided to retain my memories of the chapel before these latest additions.  The sculpture and the house will stay and other distractions may be added, but I’m just going to keep my old memories intact and go to the old chapel in my brain.   

After we finished with the chapel we decided to check into our Bed and Breakfast Inn, The Adobe Village Inn.  Join us next week and discover this delightful place to stay.