Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Welcome to Cancun

TRAVEL THERE: BROWSING AROUND THE SEADUST

Already our trip had its ups and downs, even though we’d just arrived, but ever the optimists, Bill and I set out to explore our resort.

Beautiful Beach

Escaping the disappointing buffet restaurant, we headed past the main pool to the line of palm trees at the edge of the beach.  OK – now we understood all the fuss!  Here was the epitome of white sugar-sand beach and brilliant turquoise water.  With flip flops in hand, I strolled along, enjoying the sound of splashing water and gleeful kids.

It was not a low flat beach like we’d seen in Punta Cana.  Here, the dry white sand made a quick drop of 6-12 inches where the waves rolled in.  So you had to decide whether to stroll along on the hard wet sand flirting with waves or up the small embankment on the dry sand.  We ended up trudging through the dry sand, because Bill was in sneakers.  We’d already discovered his leather slides had chosen to stay home.

No Visitors Allowed

The Cancun beach belongs to the Mexican government, so you can walk easily from one hotel area to the next without dodging no trespassing areas.  After passing a few smaller hotels we happened upon the Iberostar.  One of Bill’s favorite things to do on holiday is visit all the nearby hotels to compare them to our accommodations.  We headed up the stairs to the Iberostar and were immediately informed by security that we were not welcome.

I wish they would have let us in.  In Bill’s imagination, the Iberostar became the perfect hotel.  Anything that came up short at the Seadust, he believed would have been better at the the Iberostar.  After being turned away there, we headed back to the Seadust to sit by the pool.

Margarita Moment 

We were about to embark on one of our favorite moments at the Seadust.  On our way past the pool, I stopped at a bar and ordered my first Margarita.  We found a pair of lounge chairs and spent an hour enjoying the setting sun as it played among the clouds above the sea.

Every imaginable color danced in the sky as the palm trees swayed.  Nearby families frolicked in the deep blue pool.  AAAAAHHHHH, just what a resort holiday is supposed to be about.  We shared our impressions of the vacation so far and what our hopes were for the days to come.

Then we had a little comic relief.  As the sun faded and the sky began to darken, we noticed the lights around the pool began to change color.  Only it wasn’t the slow calming change of color you might expect around a pool.  Oh no, one color after another flipped past as if they were all frantically and unanimously  trying to decide which color they should be.  I couldn’t resist making a little video.  It gives you a peek at the frenetic lights and the family-oriented nature of the pool, not to mention the gorgeous sky and swaying palms.

A Bit More Poking Around

The flashing lights irritated us enough to pull us out of our loungers.  I had a little more discovering I wanted to do and I needed to talk to the Best Day rep about our return trip to the airport.  We made our way to the Best Day rep and found I would need my paperwork to arrange the pick-up.  We’d just gotten there, so I figured I had time.

We wandered down a few hallways to figure out the lay of the land.  One hallway led to Kid Heaven, which included a delightful looking waterpark.  Bill had no interest in it though, so we never came back down that way.  We also found the Mexican restaurant, but Bill was holding out for French.

Down another hallway was a theater and a convention center.  Nothing gave a clue when the theater would be offering entertainment, so we went back to the lobby and checked out a gift store.  Cute stuff and reasonable prices, but no buying was involved.

In the lobby they were building a Christmas tree.  It was big, but I can’t say it was all that attractive.  Sort of the bargain basement version of giant fake trees.  Time to find that French restaurant.  Come back next week and see how it went.

ART, DFW Metroplex, Photography, TRAVEL

Let the Scrapbooking Begin

TRAVEL HERE:  FROM ADHESIVE PHOTO ALBUMS TO COMPULSIVE SCRAPBOOKING

In many cultures throughout history, women entered into the contract of marriage with a dowry.  Bill wasn’t quite that lucky.  All he got when we married was a stack of photo albums, clothes to clutter his closet and a bunch of other things which didn’t exactly improve his net worth.  He convinced me to get rid of some of my property in a garage sale.  It didn’t do much for his bottom line, but he did regain a little of his space.  One thing he couldn’t convince me to get rid of was my photo albums.

Can You Say Tacky?

I’ll admit it.  My collection of mismatched photo albums was down right ugly.  Some had their spiral rings showing.  Others had hideous covers.  And yes, most of the photos were mediocre at best, but they held my memories, so they weren’t going anywhere.

Then a couple of things sort of happened at once.  I met a girl at work who was a Creative Memories Consultant and I signed up for a scrapbooking class at church.  I found out that while I’d been smart to collect memorabilia and include it with photos in my albums, I learned I’d been doing pretty much everything else wrong.  I don’t recall who sold me my first album and stickers, but that day, a scrapbooking legend was born – and she was me!

After My First Album

What had inspired me to sign up for the scrapbooking class was a cruise I was about to take.  With one CM Consultant teaching me to scrapbook at church and another one giving me delicious catalogs at work, my days of sticking photos into adhesive albums were over.  I completed the first album in no time flat and then the girl at work invited me to bag up all my loose photos and let her help me sort them.

OK, I sort of get into organizing.  I’m not crazy about cleaning, but I will organize a messy desk drawer at the drop of a hat.  I actually stand in stores and neaten their displays.  I will be in the line at Fry’s and suddenly I’m sorting out their candy display and putting things back into a semblance of order.  Clothing is a particular favorite of mine – sleeve length, color, neckline, solid or pattern.  One minute I’m shopping for a blouse and in a few moments I organizing the rounder.   Drives my poor husband crazy.

The minute organizing was tied to scrapbooking the hook was set.  Not only were Creative Memory albums more attractive than the other albums, they preserved the pictures and memorabilia put into them and, most important for me, they were a great way to organize my pictures.  If I was scrapbooking along and discovered a cache of pictures that belonged in an album I had already finished, no problem, I could add pages into the completed album wherever I wanted to.  I could also keep on adding pictures to an album long after one of those adhesive albums would have been filled.  My first album is about an inch and a half wide.  The last one I finished was more like five and a half.

I made my first CM scrapbook in 1998.  Twenty years later, I’m still scrapping.  From my office chair I can count over 40 albums in my bookshelf  That doesn’t include all those I have done and given to other people or those in a closet I will not name.  Those 40 some odd are just my favorites!

But it’s time to go for today, so let’s pick up here next week!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

A Difference of Opinion

TRAVEL THERE: TRAVEL FROM TWO DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES

I’m home from Cancun.  My friends at CTC Travel gave me a stay at Seadust Cancun Family Resort.  Not like they sent me there on an assignment, more like a favor.  Someone else had won the trip at the CTC Travel Show in January and had never gone.  The trip needed to be used by the end of the year or it would be forfeited.  Bill and I are fortunate to have some flexibility in our schedule and our budget, so flying off to Cancun on short notice was not a hardship.  After we got there a difference of opinion arose.  Let me tell you about it.

How Do You Look at Life?

I believe, sincerely, that how much you enjoy life depends on how you look at it.  Do you start at zero and enjoy grading up or do you start at 100% and nitpick your way down? That philosophy extends to travel, but a problem arises, because Bill and I look at travel from opposite ends of the scale.

I want to go anywhere at anytime.  For the pleasure of going, seeing and experiencing, I’m perfectly willing to be inconvenienced.  I start at zero and am pleasantly surprised by what’s good.  Quite frankly, Bill likes the comforts of home.  A trip needs to give him a compelling reason to be there.  He hates to be captured by mediocrity. He starts with high expectations and grieves over the loss of every point.

We lived through mediocrity in February with the Royal Caribbean Cruise out of Galveston.  We were there to have a good time, but everywhere we turned it was like they were trying to keep us from enjoying ourselves.  Bad embarkation buffet, bad sail-away, bad internet, bad service, really bad dinner, even worse entertainment and then bad food the entire rest of the trip.   We managed to avoid being miserable through our own efforts, but barely.  Bill, bless his heart couldn’t keep from pointing out every disappointment, while I tried to ignore them.

Club Med Punta Cana saved us.  If it hadn’t been good, Bill might have given up traveling altogether.  Punta Cana wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough and Bill had a blast.  So, when we had a chance to do another all-inclusive in Cancun.  Why not?  Bill was ready to re-live the Club Med experience.

How This Trip Played Out

Bill arrived in Cancun happy as a clam at high tide.  I had purposely avoided begging him to pack, which meant he’d gotten around to it at about 10 PM the night before we left.  Better me crazy than him, right?  The whole air travel experience went well.  No $120 Spirit surprises at check-in.  No hassles at security.  Chik-fi-la for breakfast.  Comfortable flight.  The luggage arrived when we did and customs was a breeze.  So far so good.  Thank you American Airlines.

Then it started.  I’d warned him of the hustlers in the airport.  I’d read him the notice from Best Day, which was providing our transportation.  Still, the hustlers managed to drag him over to a kiosk and tried to get him to visit a time share.  We left the area unscathed, but disgusted.

Due to some misinformation from the “helpful” hustler, we had a little problem finding Best Day, but that was our fault not Best Day’s.  They’d warned us.  We hadn’t been fed on the plane, so Bill was getting hungry.  Standing in the hot sun to get on our shared ride, Mr. Bill was peckish, but cooperative. 

We were lucky enough to be some of the first folks out of the van, but then there was the whole tipping thing.  The arrival lobby was open-air, making Mr. Bill hotter and hungrier, but he did get a room upgrade, so that made him happy.

He wanted to go directly to the buffet, but I suggested we at least find our room and freshen up.  The elevator was a sauna and slower than molasses.  I should have let him go to the buffet.  The elevator-disguised-as-an-oven dumped us on the 6th floor where the light fixtures, which had the room numbers on them, were so creative was impossible to tell which room was 606.  We had to figure it out by a process of elimination.

There was one benefit to waiting on the luggage.  Mr. Hot and Hungry was able to change into a cooler outfit.  As soon as that happened we were off to the buffet, which unfortunately was about to close.  One trip around the buffet restaurant told us everything we needed to know and it wasn’t good news.

The Seadust Cancun Family Resort ain’t no Club Med Punta.  I think Bill might have turned around and left right that minute if it weren’t for me.  Sure, he would have had to pay a fee for changing his flight, but he could have gone home.  However,  I was excited about getting to see Chichen Itza the next day – and he loves me.  Maybe dinner would be better – right?

Well, come back next week and find out!

TRAVEL, WRITING

How Are Your Holidays, So Far?

Travel There:  A Special Year Ahead

We’ve been a lot of places together this year.  As the year began I was still telling you all about our wonderful adventures in Egypt.  I shared some advice about cruising and then went on a short cruise of our own.  In August I finally wrapped up the series on Egypt and moved on from our Cheapie Birthday Cruise to the wonderful surprise of our trip to Club Med Punta Cana.  Along the way, I returned to my Travel Bug Tales and took you along on a Caribbean holiday from my younger days.  We’ve also been walking down memory lane with photography and scrapbooking.  

Why Do I Do This?

There’s been a lot of blogging this year, but that hasn’t been all I’ve been up to.  I also began sharing posts from our Spot On Images blog and some memories about my parents’ home, which is on the market, but that’s just another way for me to let people know what I’m up to.  I really don’t spend all my time traveling and writing about traveling.

I say that, because from time to time folks quiz me about blogging.  They’ve heard there’s lot of money to be made in it and they’re wondering how I’m doing.  Well, if income is the goal, this blog is a complete flop.  I don’t make one red cent from it.  If I say nice things about a destination, then I mean them sincerely and because no one pays me, I can tell you honestly when things disappoint me.  If you click on a link, there is no pay-per-click arrangement.  I’m just sharing the information in case you’re interested in finding out more.  You won’t find an advertisement anywhere on my pages.  In fact, I pay a premium to have a site without ads.

Now, people do hire me to build websites for them and to blog for them.  When they do that, I make money, but I use the information they give me and write with their voice.  I’m fortunate almost all my clients have been people I can heartily endorse, so writing about them is a pleasure, but you’re not going to find me endorsing them here and making a buck off of it.  This blog is a labor of love.

My sweet husband thinks I’m nuts to spend so much time writing words for a few hundred people or so – especially when there is no monetary benefit to it.  He still doesn’t understand that even if no one was reading, I’d still be spending my time writing.  Like John Keats, I can say, “I should write from the mere yearning and fondness I have for the Beautiful even if my night’s labours should be burnt every morning and no eye ever shine upon them.”

Taking a Blogging Breath

I’m about to embark on the pleasure of sharing my most recent travels with you, but I’m saving it until after the first of the year.  We just got back from Cancun and I can’t wait to tell you about Chichen Itza.  Before the year is over, I’ll be heading to the southern part of Texas for some time with family and friends.  You’ll hear about that, too.  I’ll also be continuing the series on photos and scrapbooking.  Travel Bug Tales will return and we’ll go to… Well, someplace magical.  I’ll leave it at at that – but you’ve got other things on your mid right now.

The coming year is going to be very special, because Bill and I are celebrating a landmark anniversary – our 25th in May.  We have a humdinger of a trip lined up in June to mark this milestone event.  I’m bubbling over with excitement, but like the upcoming series for Travel Bug Tales, I’ll keep you in suspense a little while longer.

I’m taking this little break from traveling to remind you of all the places we have been together this year and to thank you for taking this journey with me.  A few of you actually leave a comment from time to time, but I also hear from so many of you through other communications that you are out there, taking my trips with me, sharing my memories and enjoying the ride.

Thank you so much.  You mean so much to me.  While I’d write, even without an audience, it’s so much more fun to write when I’ve got you on my mind.  As I shuffle through my memories I think, this friend will remember this adventure, that cousin will enjoy that series of mishaps and my blogging friend over in England will get a kick out of this.

Enjoy your holiday celebrations.  You’ll be busy and so will I.  I’ll see you right here next year!

ART, Photography, Real Estate Photographry, TRAVEL

Hello to Real Photography

Bill and his camera at Stone Mountain. I took it with my disposable!

TRAVEL HERE: MARRYING INTO BETTER PHOTOS

I rarely run short of reasons to be glad I married Bill.  I may, at the same time, be so mad at him I can barely breathe, but the mad times come less frequently as we near our 25th wedding anniversary and when they do, they are short-lived.  He really is a wonderful man and he’s so darned handsome.  He’s also an amazing photographer, just ask any Spot On Images customer.

The 35mm vs The Disposable

By the time I met Bill, the Instamatic’s days were over and done with.  The digital camera was breaking into the market, but they were pretty expensive, so this working girl couldn’t afford one.  Most people were using some form of a 35mm, but not me.  I had a hard time finding film for my Instamatic, but I had discovered the disposable camera and that worked well enough for me.

Enter Bill with his fancy Canon Rebel.  By then he was already pretty darned good at photography.  He’d had some lessons and was fairly serious about the medium.  My disposable cameras probably made him a little crazy, but he was trying to romance me, so he left me to my point and shoot bliss.

Well he almost left me alone.  He gently began to introduce me to 35mm.  Not only did he think disposable cameras were a waste of money, he rightly pointed out the poor quality of the results and coerced me into giving his camera a try.  I guess here’s as good a place as any to admit he not only introduced me to 35mm photography, he also made me learn how to use a mouse and had me sign up for my first personal email address.  In other words, he brought me into the 20th Century, which was already on it’s way out.

Where’s the Auto Button?

His first attempts at turning me into a real photographer were not so good.  He was all about F-stops and exposure.  All he could get me to do was use the Auto Button.  Twenty-five years later, I’m still all about the Auto Button, but I do appreciate what he is able to do with a camera.

About this time he also decided to get a camcorder.   Video cameras were this huge thing you had to carry around on your shoulder and there was no sound.  Over time the cameras shrank and they figured out how to include sound.  Bill entered the market when Hi8 was all the rage.  If he had thought it was tough getting me to use a 35mm still camera, he quickly realized that was nothing compared to getting me to hold the camcorder.

That sneaky guy bought the camcorder into time capture his proposal – quite a treasure.  His plan was to get me up to speed on the 35mm, so he could be the videographer.  What happened was he ended up being the primary cameraman, regardless of the media, and I filled in when he forced me to.  Thanks to him we have a marvelous record of our early years together – yeah Mr. Bill!

There’s more to tell you about our photographic history together, so come on back next week!

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

On My Way Home

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE RETURN

Some folks might wonder if I ever spoke to my friends again, but dumping them was never on my agenda.  By breakfast the next morning everything was fine.  Frances even managed to make it to breakfast on time.

Going Home

At Customs our coconut rum friends discovered you could only take a certain amount of the elixir home with you, so they passed out bottles to whoever would take one.  I did.  I was scrutinized a little more carefully for the departure than I was for the entry.  Our flight stopped at some Florida airport for us to go through customs.  Then it was Houston Hobby and finally Love Field.

My dad was there to pick us up and I was rarely so glad to see him.  I loved him to death, but he was dad and I expected to always be able to see him.  After the disappointing week I’d had, he was especially good to see.  I can’t remember that he ever disappointed me, though I certainly managed to disappoint him often enough.

Dad asked if we were hungry and even though we weren’t particularly so, everyone agreed a Jack-in-the-Box taco would hit the spot.  It was one of my favorite meals ever.  All week long we’d dined on seafood, steaks and conch balls, but Jack-in-the-Box tacos meant I was home.

Staying Home

My next big adventure would be moving into the apartment with Debbie and Kathi.  That’s when the next section of my scrapbook begins. It’s called Wild in the Woods.  “Wild in the Woods” is the name of a song sung by my favorite local artist, Robert Lee Kolb.  His band was called the Local Heroes.  It is a fit title for the next years of my life.  I was wild and I was in the woods.

My gig at Sears ended after two years and I moved up to Little Rock, Arkansas for a job that I was only able to tolerate for about six months.  When I moved back to Dallas I moved in with my parents.  Debbie and Kathi had new roommates and new lives.  We were still buddies and I spent a lot of time in trouble for coming home late when we all went out together, but that’s another story for another time.

There was a very pivotal day in my life, that looked pretty ordinary at the start.  I was working at a bank and was a little at loose ends with my free time.  The wildness had been leeched out of me for a season and I wanted to avoid getting on that merry-go-round again.  So, I took at part-time job at Lord & Taylor’s to make a little money while I was staying out of trouble.  My first day on the job I met two very important people.  One was Deb Shera, who would turn out to be the very best friend anyone could have anywhere in the world.

After work I went to a party.  I’d been guilted into it by my old college friend Debbie, not to be confused with Deb, but I’ll admit it is confusing.  I’d plugged into a Singles Group at a local church and they were going bowling that evening.  Debbie wanted me to go to a party.  She was still looking for a love connection.  I was too, but I thought I would be more likely to find it with the church group than at some party with a bunch of people I had no personal connection to.  She pulled the ultimate threat on me, “If you were really my friend, you would…”  So I reluctantly went to the party.

The next album in my collection is called, “The Lost Years.”  The other person I met that fateful day would be the primary author of those days.  Come back next week and we’ll talk about him.

Photography, TRAVEL

Developing Memories

assorted color photo lot
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

TRAVEL HERE: THE OTHER PART OF ANALOG

While digital photography is here to stay, there are reasons I remember analog fondly.  Last week, though I moaned about the quality of analog snapshots, I found a number of reasons for enjoying photography the old fashioned way.  Whether you think taking pictures in analog was a blessing or a curse, let’s move on to the next part of the equation, getting the pictures developed.

Film Processing

Analog film came in different lengths.  A roll or cartridge of film could have anywhere from 12 to 36 shots on it.  When traveling, I always bought the 36 shot length, but when I was around home I switched to 12, so I could finish up the roll faster.  During some periods of my life, I was so boring it could take years to finish up 12 pictures.  One thing is for sure, you’d never just go ahead and develop an unfinished roll of film.  That would have been some kind of sacrilege.

So, whether I was finally through with a boring roll of film or had handfuls of rolls from a trip, when it was time to take them for processing, I first had to decide where to take them.  This is not unlike having photos developed today.  Sure you can share them indefinitely without printing them, but if you are a scrapbooker like me, you gotta print them.  (Yes, I know you can make online scrapbooks, but that’s not the same thing.)

Some people mailed off their rolls of film.  They’d boast of saving money or assure me that was the way to get the best quality processing, but that just didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to keep up with where to send them or store a stack of their envelopes or pay the postage, especially when I could drop them off around the corner and then go back by and pick them up later.

Used to be “later” was later than it is now.  One-hour photo processing has been the norm for so long, that most of us don’t remember a time when it wasn’t, but yes, you used to have to wait days to get back the photos you dropped off.  They were probably sending my photos to the same place they would have gone to had I been able to wrap my mind around mailing them, but whatever the case,  an hour or a week, the anticipation was part of the fun.

The Reveal

When you casually check out your phone to see the picture you just took, you can’t begin to imagine how much fun it was to wait.  I’ve already said not being able to immediately see the photos took some of the anxiety out of it.  Instead of anxiety, you had anticipation and lots of it.  You had to get home from vacation and unpack your bags.  Then you had to find time to drop off the film and time to go pick it up.  Then you got the envelope with your photos.

There was a time when I couldn’t even wait to get out to my car to look. I’d rip open the envelopes the second I got them and started looking at the pictures.  I’d go through the pictures two or three times before I could stand to put them away and go on with my business.  Many places would give you a refund for any picture you didn’t like, but it was only a few cents per picture and I thought even my worst picture was worth an ounce of gold.

Having to wait to see your pictures might seem like an inconvenience to many, but it was really just part of the fun.  Come back next week and we’ll share another stroll down the photographic memory lane.