Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Intro to At the Whim of the Gods

TRAVEL THERE: SOMETHING FUNNY HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING

1994 was a big year for me.

I got married in May and our honeymoon was a Hawaiian cruise. That should be enough to make any year big, but it was just the beginning of our adventures.

I had six weeks to update my passport with my new name, because Bill’s best friend was getting married in Wiesenkirche Zu Soest and we were on the guest list. We weren’t only on the guest list for the wedding, though. We were also invited along for the honeymoon.

The Way the World Was

Today life is framed by smartphones and social media, but in 1994 we somehow managed to live without either one. There was an internet, but we called it the web and it was just a place for nerds to go.

A computer with Windows and a mouse was a novelty, because most systems ran DOS. Our monitors were CRTs. People owned copiers, not printers, because printers were these loud dot matrix things that produced voluminous reports we called print-outs. We sent faxes, not emails, because email was also a novelty and texts weren’t a thing. (Watch the movie You’ve Got Mail.)

Every home had a land line, with multiple phones around the house and depended on an answering machine to get their messages. There were cellular phones, but they were very limited, because you actually subscribed to a particular set of cell towers. You actually had to pay extra to get Dallas-Ft. Worth service, instead of Dallas or Ft. Worth. When you got out of your cell, then you went on roaming which was astronomically expensive, so you just didn’t use it. There was no camera, no texting, no wi-fi, no internet. You just made and received calls. For all these reasons, there were more people with beepers than there were with cellphones and when you weren’t working, you left your beeper at home. Believe me, it was lovely.

When you traveled you used maps, atlases and travel guides, because GPS was something for pilots and the military. If you needed to make a call, you used a pay phone or you waited until you got to your hotel. Getting away from it all could actually be accomplished.

It Should Have Been a Breeze

I’ve been fortunate in my life. My vacations with Bill have been one Trip of a Lifetime after another – the Caribbean, Egypt, the Danube, the Mediterranean, cruises, road trips, you name it and I hadn’t exactly been sitting around on my keester before I met him.

Still, the itinerary for Tammy and Ludger’s wedding trip was like something out of a movie. Tammy was a flight attendant for an international airline, so all of our flights were comped. Ludger’s company owned the gorgeous hotel where the wedding party stayed, so our five star accommodations were comped. Limos were supposed to pick us up at one airport and whisk us to another, where we’d party in one of those restricted lounges. There would be days of rustic folk celebrations in Ludger’s small German village and the wedding would be in a spectacular cathedral. And that was just the beginning, because then we’d set out on a road trip to see the wonders of Bavaria.

But you know me! If something is going to go awry, then I’m probably on that train. Before this trip was over I would live some of the most spectacular moments of my life. It was remarkable in every possible way, but most remarkable and most frequently recounted is the disaster of a commute we made from DFW to the small town of Dortmund in Germany.

At the Whim of the Gods was Born

I turned these adventures into a manuscript sometime in the early 2000’s. I wasn’t sure then what I’d do with it. I just had the inspiration and went with it. I still had hopes of being the next Victoria Holt back in those days. At first I wrote it like a play, inspired by the Greater TUNA plays by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, which were popular at the time. Then, someone in a writing group said it would be more fun as a narrative. That captured my imagination and I did a rewrite. I had actually forgotten the rewrite until I was looking back in my files to retrieve the play.

I didn’t actually think I was going to be the next Victoria Holt. I just wanted to be a published author. I’d written a comic novel about a retirement home romance, but somewhere after the 50th rejection letter I found myself embroiled in the drama of being the primary caregiver for three failing senior citizens and I lost my momentum. Life went on and while I did manage to get some poems published, I’ve moved on to other dreams.

Now, I’ll share At the Whim of the Gods with you. I decided the narrative version is the more interesting of the two, even though it was never actually finished. Who knows, maybe I’ll get inspired again? Maybe I’ll finish it up by sharing the end of the play.

One small warning – there won’t be many images. Bill had his camera bag, but remember, these were the days before we had smartphones and we didn’t break out the camera for the small moments, or our meals, or much of anything, except the sites.

I’ll break the narrative down into easily digestible chunks and make this post sticky, so that if anyone happens upon my blog they’ll know what’s up.

The Blurb on the Cover

If this story was on Amazon, there would be a paragraph to introduce it. It would go something like this:

What if the huge pantheon of gods from the ancient world are still with us? Since we stopped worshipping them, perhaps they’ve gotten a little bored. Taking a cue from humans, the gods and demi-gods watch reality shows on their scrying bowls. The favorite show might be Jagged Journeys, where human contestants have no idea they’re just entertainment fodder for Mount Olympus. Bill and Jane Sadek are real people who went on a real vacation in 1994. All these things actually happened to them. Was it just bad luck or were they AT THE WHIM OF THE GODS!

I really do hope you enjoy it. Come back next week for the first excerpt!

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.

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

Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

TRAVEL THERE: ARTSY FARTSY MORNING

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

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

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

What’s Not to Love?

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

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

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

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

How It Went This Time

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

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

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

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

Home Again

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

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

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

Downtown Sedona

TRAVEL THERE: ROLLING UP THE SIDEWALKS

As we made our way from Oak Creek Canyon to Downtown Sedona, I have to confess that Google was not much help.  Perhaps they need me there to help them get on Google My Business or maybe they just don’t care.  Anyway, what was listed was either fast food or pizza.  In self-defense, we chose pizza.

Sedona Pizza and Pasta

It was only about 6 PM, but they really were rolling up the sidewalks.  There was one jewelry store that seemed to have some activity, so we strolled in.  Everything cost the world and the proprietor was an as er… a jerk.  We didn’t stay there long.

Across the street was a little plaza where there were a couple of restaurants open.  The sandwich shop had big plate glass windows featuring the view, but it was virtually empty and the light was fading fast, so the view wasn’t going to be visible in the next few minutes.

We opted for Sedona Pizza and Pasta.  The prices were more than we would have expected for a casual dinner, but we didn’t have a choice.  So, we ordered up and watched the guys behind the counter cooking up and serving meals.  When our pizza was delivered we were disappointed.  We already knew it was going to be a thin crust pizza, which is not our favorite, but we’d never seen a crust so thin.  We’re talking paper thin.  The service was good, it was clean and the staff was really nice, but we really can’t recommend a pizza place that virtually puts their pizza fixings on paper.

Back at the Adobe Village Inn

We stopped by a convenience store on the way to the Inn and picked up a bottle of wine.  Back at the inn we chose some free DVD’s to watch – a documentary about Sedona and High Crimes with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. 

We also took advantage of the Inn’s hot tub.  We’d let the manager know we were interested and he had it all cued up for us.  It really was quiet nice.

After the hot tubbing and a shower, we crawled into bed and watched our selections.  After all the activity we had in Scottsdale and Phoenix, it was nice to take it easy – and after all the challenging driving we’d done during the day, we were pooped.

Up and Out

Breakfast was served from 8-9, so Bill could not linger in bed.  The Adobe Village Inn’s website is very proud of their breakfast tradition.  As soon as we made our reservations, they emailed to ask about food preferences.  I confessed to my prejudice against eggs and that resulted in a breakfast that was way too sweet for both of us.  I mean, in small bits, all of it was delicious, but breakfast is an important meal and we needed something besides carbs, sugar and fruit.  I’m betting if you didn’t tell them no eggs, you could get something absolutely perfect.

Our target for the morning was Tlaquepaque, but we took a driving tour first.  Come back next week and join us!

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

What Now Scottdale?

TRAVEL THERE: SIGHTSEEING BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS

Bill was loving the pace of this vacation.  We focused on one big thing for each day and then stuffed a few things around the edges.  I’ll admit we were having a great time, but now we had a full day with no primary event to build around.  What would we do with ourselves on our last day in Scottsdale?

Museum Girl vs. Adventure Boy

Were Museum Girl in charge of the world, I’d start each day at the entrance of a museum, historical home or palace about 10 minutes before opening.  For variety, I would visit gardens.  How long I spent there would depend on where I was.  It took all day to visit the Chicago Institute of Art and I would have been happy to go back the next morning and give it another shot.  My visits to the Dallas Arboretum last 2 or 3 hours, but I go frequently. Bestie and I can hit multiple venues in one day, going from bright and early to evening openings.

Adventure Guy likes to wake up slow.  He doesn’t mind sharing my cultural venues, but he likes to mix it up with golf games, shopping and perhaps a boat ride – stopping for coffee and ice cream when it suits him.  He saw everything he was interested in seeing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in about an hour. He really doesn’t want to plan out a whole day.  He just likes to ramble from one thing to the next and take naps from time to time.

Adventure Guy sometimes acknowledges this laid back approach to travel requires more research and planning on Museum Girl’s part than he even wants to know about, but he prefers to luxuriate in the fantasy that it all just comes together magically.  I’ve endeavored to make him interested in my more structured approach to travel, but after 26 years I know one thing – if Adventure Guy ain’t happy, Museum Girl is going to be miserable.  So, I’m in charge of seeing that everything goes the way he wants it to.

While I like some structure to my travel days, I learned one very important fact on the Anniversary Cruise. Seven days of 10.5 hour shore excursions do not make for a pleasant trip.  We’re trying to find some sort of balance between our two styles, because my style could be called Death by Vacation and his Loosing While Snoozing.

Fashion Square Art

Our Slow Start

I try to sleep in on vacation, but it just doesn’t work.  I’m doing good if I’m not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 AM.  On this particular morning I woke up and tried to get my thoughts organized.  We’d hit all the must-dos and had really enjoyed ourselves, but in researching for this casual approach to our vacation, I had found a whole lot of other things that I wished we could do, including some repeats, like Taliesin and the Desert Botanical Garden.  I prepared myself to present the potential activities in the most unbiased way I could, but I was really hoping for a peek at the Musical Instrument Museum.

Though I was up early, we didn’t walk out of our room until 11.  We headed over to Nellie Cashman’s Monday Club Cafe for what we thought was going to be Sunday Brunch, but come to find out, said brunch had been replaced by a fairly expensive breakfast buffet.  We had a $75 gift certificate we needed to use, but who would have guessed it all went to breakfast.

Of all the things I offered up to see, Bill opted to start at Fashion Square.  To be fair, I wanted him to see it.  Mom and I had visited when we came through in 2003 and it had been a great experience – upscale people-watching in a beautiful shopping mall.  I’ll be kind and say it just wasn’t what it used to be.  It’s still a gorgeous place, but all upscale people go somewhere else and the downscale people weren’t there either.  The caliber of stores had nose-dived since my visit, also.

That behind us, we decided to walk a little bit and come to find out, the travel god were with us – or at least with me!  Come back next week and we’ll visit the Waterfront Wine & Art Festival.

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

Dinner at Positano

Image from the Positano Website

TRAVEL THERE: IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WINE BAR

In my humble opinion, if an establishment advertises itself as a wine bar, then wine should be the main attraction.  In fact, I sort of expect to be able to get a wine flight.  That not the kind of wine bar Positano is.  Our food was quite good and the service was great, but wine bar? Nah!

Keirland Commons is Hopping

Remember a few days ago when we went to the Anticus Grand Re-Opening and had dinner at NORTH. Well, that’s when we figured out that Keirland Commons was the center of nightlife in Scottsdale.  After our golf game we checked out a few of the other entertainment areas in the same vicinity, but while they had lots of places to eat and lots of cars in the parking lot, they didn’t have the energy of Keirland Commons.

So, we decided to return.  We contemplated going back to NORTH – it was that good – but opted instead for its next door neighbor, Positano.  Let me tell you, we were not alone.  It was hopping!

However, they could seat us if we were willing to go upstairs.  We were hungry, so we were willing.  To get upstairs we had to negotiate a winding metal staircase – not for the faint of heart.  Then they showed us to our table – a high two-top with tall bar stools.  That part was OK.  What got me was the view.  Over the rod iron railing, was a significant drop to the ground floor.  Have I ever mentioned the fact that I am a little acrophobic?

Bill could tell immediately I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of our seating option.  He quickly offered to sit next to the railing, but that would have meant I was looking over the railing for the whole meal.  I opted to sit next to the railing with my back to it.  That way I could look at my handsome husband and avoid contemplating what the splat would sound like if I fell.

Service, a Smile and Some Bruschetta

Things got better from that point.  Our waiter was very nice and chummy.  He identified us as neophytes and explained our menu options to us – they were (and I quote) “Snacky Things, The Boards, Bruchetta, Soup & Salad or Panini.”  I’ll be honest with you, to me that meant the whole menu was snacky things, but I like snacky things, so that’s OK.

The Boards were tempting.  I love your basic meat and cheese platter and they had several nice renditions, including one featuring “soft pretzel, schreiner’s chorizo, cornichon, aged cheddar and peruvian corn nuts.”  However, the waiter informed us it was all about the Bruschetta.  Now I’ll be honest with you, when I think bruschetta, my mind goes to a small over-toasted piece of baguette with a tomato, a basil leaf and some mozzarella.  

However, the waiter was so insistent we should have bruschetta we decided to give it a shot.  There were no pictures on the menu, so we thought we were getting some appetizers and we thought they sounded very expensive (4 for $15.75.)  In fact, we each got a bruschetta plate and thought we would be ordering a panini to share afterwards.

Instead of a baguetta slice, each bruschetta comes on a generous slice of French bread and we ended up with more than we could eat.  The descriptions read like this ” PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA, FIG & MASCARPONE”, “SWEET N’ SPICY PEPPER JAM & GOAT CHEESE” or “BRIE, APPLE & FIG SPREAD.”  I failed to note exactly which we chose, but it didn’t matter, everything was delish.

Coming Soon to Dallas

It got better.  We really did have a friendly waiter and it was like he had adopted us.  He chatted us up on-and-off throughout the evening.  A lot of the things he told us had to do with his personal life, but he did reveal (ta dah!) that Positano is coming to Dallas.  I checked the internet and they are supposed to come to Deep Ellum.  So keep your eyes peeled.  The bruschetta is great, but don’t expect a wine flight.

After dinner at Positano we went back to the resort and chilled.  The next day would be Bill’s choice, so come back and see what we got up to.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Museums, Music, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Phoenix Friday Art Walk

TRAVEL THERE: WILD & CRAZY ART EVENT

Still going with the flow, I was ready to sacrifice the Phoenix Friday Art Walk (#phxfridays) for the sake of harmony, but Bill proved he was up for it.  We changed into something more casual and headed for downtown Phoenix.  By the time we arrived, things were going strong.  The Phoenix Museum of Art seemed to be the epicenter of activity, but parking there was an impossibility, so we began to look for something else.  We did find an office building that allowed us to park and it really wasn’t far from the museum, but we were like the only people parking there.  Worse case scenario, it was a rent car and none of our belongings were in it, so if they stole it, fine!

Joining the Hordes

We discovered we were about a block from the museum, which meant we were soon part of the insanity of Art Walk.  We noted most of the participants were decades younger than us, but we did not let that deter us from our opportunity for adventure.  The museum, which has free admission on Fridays and was the focus of my attention, had ridiculous lines, so with little in the way of info, we hopped aboard one of the very full free trolleys and we were off into another world.

Both sides of the street were filled with revelers and the noise level was wild.  Bill pulled me off the trolley and we tried to get our bearings, but it was sort of what I think an acid trip might be similar to.  We were sharing the crowded sidewalk with people who didn’t look like us.  Hair was in every shape and color, except what we might consider normal.  Everyone was tattooed and pierced.  They wore clothes I’d probably throw away if I found them in my closet.  There was pushing and shoving in every direction, but there was no clear indication of which way one should head.

I did mention the noise, right?  It was Bill who pointed out, that in the immediate area where we were standing, five different bands were vying for the crowd’s attention.  While we were standing next to five bands, if we looked in any directions, we could see, not far down the sidewalk, crowds flowed around even more bands.  The result, cacophony. 

Just about that time, we both needed to visit restroom facilities and by some odd piece of luck we got into a nearby restaurant with minimal hassle.  I think the doorman took pity on the senior citizens lost among the millennials.  We took care of business and made our way out to the street, heading away from the five bands.  We found a sort of alley with various booths set up along the way.  The mob seemed less frenetic here and the noise of the various bands was tolerable.  We began to stroll along.

Abandoning the Hordes   

Though spread more thinly, the denizens of this art vendor alley were of the dread-locked, tattooed and pierced variety of the five band locale.  While they looked scary to us, they did seem to be minding their own business, so we entertained ourselves by looking in on the booths.  There were some artists selling their wares – nothing we’d hang on our walls, but interesting.  The most readily available merchandise seemed to be CBD oil, plus everything and anything made out of hemp.  Bill was sure he could smell “hemp”smoke wafting above the crowd.

After about a block, we ran out of booths and it began to look like an area senior citizens would not be welcome or safe, so we made a U-turn and visited the booths on the other side of the alley.  When we returned to the sidewalk, a band made of pre-teenagers and their parents, had begun to play headbanger/punk rock (?) at a remarkable volume.  Bill wondered what the best way back to the car was.  I pointed to a landmark on the skyline and we decided to walk back, instead of trying to find another trolley.

We crossed the street and discovered,what had been an alley on the other side, turned into more of a street.  On the street, vendors only took up one side, but they seemed to have pretty much the same merchandise as the previous guys.  On the other side of the street was a series of restaurants with outdoor seating – only all patrons looked as if they belonged to biker gangs, so we weren’t at all tempted to sit down for a respite, even though sitting down for a drink sounded like the perfect thing to do.

We kept our eye on the red neon sign we’d recognized earlier and when the street made an abrupt left, we headed right through what seemed to be a park.  The art you see on this page was displayed throughout the area and it is huge.  After the park was the library.  We could no longer see our landmark, but I had my bearings and continued that way.

Suddenly, we were back at the art museum and the lines had disappeared.  Our visit was delayed, but I was going to get to take advantage of the free admission.  Come back next week and enjoy the museum with us.

 

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

Bagpipes in the Desert

TRAVEL THERE: WESTIN KIERLAND RESORT OFFERS UNIQUE ENTERTAINMENT

Remember how I was reeling from lack of sleep when we got to the Westin Kierland Resort, but all the staff was trying to welcome me with more information than I could grasp.  Well, I figured I had misunderstood them when they told me I could go hear a bagpiper at the Dream Weaver Canyon on various evenings, but they do in fact have a bagpiper that comes and plays their bagpipe.  It was actually pretty cool.  Let’s go!

Farewell Phoenician

It was almost as hard to quit taking pictures at The Phoenician as it was to say, “No, thank you, we don’t want anymore, tea or dessert.”  We backtracked out of the resort through the golf courses and made our way back to the Westin.  Along the way we stopped to pick up another gallon of water.  You have to stay hydrated in the desert.

The Bagpipes Are Now!

Getting back to the hotel via the grocery store took a little more time than we anticipated, so we screeched into the parking lot and trotted into the hotel, hoping we could find the Dreamweaver Canyon.  The canyon is actually a patio outside the hotel and by the time we got there, all the good seating was gone and lo and behold, as advertised, there was a kilted bagpiper entertaining with his bagpipe.

It really was a cool experience, but it was also quite incongruous.  The Dreamweaver Canyon area is by a small man made lake beside a golf course.  In the lake is modern non-figurative sculpture.  There’s also a fire-pit.  What that has to do with kilts, Danny Boy and the theme from Outlander beats me.

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Since seating was at a premium we found ourselves wandering around taking pictures from every possible angle and then just for the heck of it, we took pictures of each other.  I will also admit that while I like bagpipes, I’m really only interested in hearing a song or two.  This guy played for what seemed a long time and the more he played, the more people started wandering off to other places, so by the time he quit, there was actually room to take a seat around the firepit.

Photo Safari  

After the last lonely note had sounded over the fairway, we took a little photo safari around the lobby.  We were all done with our photo taking until we walked out the front door and were overwhelmed with the sunset. 

You might think we’d already done enough for one day, what with shopping at the Quarter, having tea and the Phoenician and then hearing the bagpipes, but no, the day is not yet over.  I was as surprised as you are.  Mr. Bill was ready for action and I had done my homework, so as soon as we got back to the room, we reorganized for another adventure and headed to downtown Phoenix for yet another adventure.

Enjoy these photos from our photo safari and then come back next week to enjoy the Phoenix First Friday Art Walk.

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

Yummy Delicious Incredible Afternoon Tea

TRAVEL THERE: AFTERNOON TEA AT THE PHOENICIAN

Often in life, you dream about, look forward to and anticipate something, and then when it happens it just wasn’t worth all that energy.  However, when you’ve looked forward to something for decades and it surpasses even your greatest expectations, how rewarding that is.  Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician was everything I ever hoped it would be and even more!  Come let’s sip and savor.

Entering by the Back Door

Of all the things that have ever been invented for travel, the GPS is by far one of the very best.  That being said, sometimes it has an odd way of getting you where you want to be.  On all my other visits to the Phoenician Resort, I had come in through the main entrance and in my imagination, that’s the way I thought we’d enter for our Afternoon Tea.  Instead, the GPS took us to some back entrance, through the golf courses.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was lovely, but it didn’t match my memory and it made finding where we should park a bit of a challenge.  Hence we were running a few minutes late and though I was keeping a clamp on my anxiety, after we did find someplace to park, instead of being near the lobby, we were wandering through the ballrooms and shops and every where except where we needed to be.

When we did get to the lobby cafe, where Tea is served, they seated us in what should have been a very advantageous table, overlooking the beautiful pools, but the sun was shining in so brightly, that even with my sunglasses I felt like someone was poking me in the eye.  As soon as we told the waitress our challenge we were moved to another table which was just as nice, but between the gauntlet we ran to get there and the small ado over moving, it took me a few moments to realize I was at the Phoenician for Afternoon Tea.

The Experience

Linen tablecloths and napkins, heavy flatware, Wedgewood china, elegrant crystal, clotted cream, orange marmalade and berry jam set the scene for our meal.  Huge pots of tea were delivered, which we enjoyed so much they had to be refilled throughout the meal.  Then they started bringing food and they just kept bringing it until we had to tell them to stop.

The first course was finger sandwiches:  cucumber, asparagus, salmon, chicken salad and egg salad.  Each tiny finger sandwich was a little masterpiece to look at.  And to eat – YUM! 

Next came the scones.  Bill decided he preferred what Starbucks calls scones, but those aren’t really traditional scones.  The Phoenician scones were what I call scones and they were good.  They weren’t the best I’d ever had.  That honor goes to the little tea shop I used to frequent in San Luis Obispo, but there was nothing wrong with the Phoenician version.

Once we’d had all the scones we wanted, the desserts started and they just kept coming.  Eclairs, coffee operas, scottish shortbreads, mango domes, fruit tartlets, milk chocolate bavarois, sable bretons, chocolate dipped strawberries and brandied cherry pompomettes.  

Every single one was more delicious than the last one and look how pretty they were.  Theoretically, we could still be there eating them, because they kept trying to get us to have more, but we were stuffed!

The service was gracious, friendly and attentive.  I was carried away with the china, almost as much as the food.  It was gorgeous.  The people watching was spectacular.  Once was not enough, I can’t wait to go back!

Enjoying the Resort

With our meal over, we wanted to see everything, especially the wonderful veranda which overlooks the pool.  We went on a little photo safari.  I hope you enjoy it.

Next up – a little bagpipe music.  You don’t want to miss that!  So, come back next week!

 

 

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

Why We Had Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician

TRAVEL THERE: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE PHOENICIAN

See that happy face.  I’ve dreamed of this day for a long, long time.  Let me tell you how it came about.

Love at First Sight and Beyond

So, way back in 1995, Bill and I took a trip to Arizona.  It was about three weeks long and included a side trip through Utah for skiing in Steamboat Springs.  With all the traveling we have done, it remains one of our very favorite vacations.

Two things contributed to its success – one was free airfare, thanks to Southwest overbooking a flight to Corpus Christi and a ski trip with the Lone Star Skiers.  We saw all of Arizona from the BioSphere outside Tucson, to the Grand Canyon, to Monument Valley.  It was our first of many trips to Sedona and we hope to make many, many more.

Did we stay at the Phoenician on this trip?  No, we did not.  Bill and I like to go check out resorts – have a drink or a meal and then wander around.  We loved it and told ourselves that one day we would be back for an extended stay.

Our next trip through Arizona in 2000 did not take us through Phoenix.  We were California-bound and stayed in Sedona instead, but that’s when we started talking about spending our 10th wedding anniversary at the Phoenician.

In 2003, I passed through Phoenix with my parents.  Bill and I had bought Aunt Edie’s Cadillac.  Bill was in the throes of getting the Pismo Beach house finished, so I had to drive the Caddie from Temple TX to our new home in Cali.  As it turns out, my parents weren’t about to let me make a cross-country drive all by myself (even though I sort of relished the idea) so I took them on what I called The Cadillac Tour.

It was a tough trip, with flat tires, the leatherette roof peeling off, a speeding ticket and Mom losing a crown, but it was also a trip of great memories and I love that we did it.  Phoenix was one of the places we stayed.  Mom and I visited Fashion Square and had afternoon cocktails at the Phoenician.  Though no photograph was taken, that respite from travel has stuck vividly in my mind, like a beacon, for all the years since.  That’s when I found out they had afternoon tea.

In 2004 we had our 10th wedding anniversary, but our dream of the Phoenician did not come to pass.  Our nephew was graduating from Wharton and the whole family would be there.  Instead of the Phoenician, we did a ramble that started in Philly and included the Brandywine Valley, Hudson Valley, the Adirondaks, 1000 Islands and Niagara Falls. 

In 2006, we happily left California to return to Texas, but we drove all the way through AZ without staying anywhere.  Talk about a tough trip.  The hotel in Gallup, New Mexico was so bad that our cat went into her crate all by herself while we were getting ready to go.  She wanted out of there. We had so much going on I didn’t even have time to wish we could go to the Phoenician.

On our return to Dallas, the Phoenician faded from our minds.  Not completely, but we were doing a lot of international and family-related travel.  After the Anniversary Cruise, we’d decided we were going to travel in the States for a few years and certainly Arizona was on our list, but we weren’t talking about an actual trip until that Westin invitation ended up in our mailbox.  As soon as I had approval to book the trip, I was back down in Bill’s office lobbying for afternoon tea at the Phoenician.  It’s not like its price is totally outrageous, but its more than Bill would usually want to pay for finger sandwiches, in our usual pursuit of happiness. 

It didn’t take a lot of lobbying.  He virtually had no interest in it, but he always wants to please me, so Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician was on.  Someday we may actually stay at the Phoenician, but come back next week and enjoy finger sandwiches and other delights with us.