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

Stardust in Our Eyes

Travel There – Ellen’s Amazing Stardust Diner

So, Deb and I are a great pair for traveling. I need her input. I am Museum Girl. I can find wonderful museums and historic homes almost anyplace you put me, but I am restaurant and bar challenged. In part, because I have a pretty solitary existence here in my home office, while Deb goes into a brick-and-mortar office everyday and has an eclectic group of coworkers who point her to the good stuff.

I’m so glad someone pointed her to the Stardust Diner. Believe me, it’s not the sort of place I would have wandered in on my own. It’s a neon-covered corner building which appears to have seen better days. At times it has a line wandering down the street from it, but that didn’t encourage me either. You wonder if they’ve got a gambling den or something nefarious going on.

Well, Ellen’s Stardust Diner is where future Broadway stars make a living until they make it big, alongside the guy and gals in the chorus, who need to pay rent. The diner is stuffed with linoleum topped tables and vinyl booths. There is no theme and the walls are covered with faded photographs. The menu is your basic diner food.

What set Ellen’s apart is the attitude and a slim catwalk running through the center of the restaurant. Other restaurants and establishments in the area employ wannabe Broadway stars, but they treat them like regular employees, who are supposed to show up for work, even if they have an audition, and if you actually end up getting a part, they’ll fill your spot and you won’t be invited back.

You also won’t sing. At Ellen’s auditions and casting are the lifeblood of her employees, so your work schedule is set around your singing career. When you finish with a booking, be it a few day or a few years, Ellen will fit you back into the schedule. And you will sing.

All day, every day, from the crack of dawn until after the bars close, someone is on that catwalk belting their heart out. And these folks are good. Not the girl-back-home-who-sings-solos-in-church good, but Broadway good. One after another, male, female and otherwise, tall, short, gorgeous and ugly, people with amazing voices grab a mic and balance on the catwalk, while belting out some of the best music you will hear in the Big Apple.

When we passed by the Diner just after sunset there was a very discouraging line running down the side of the building and it was misting rain. So, we gave it a little while and came back later. There was still a line, but it wasn’t raining and the line was somewhat shorter. We had nowhere else to be, so we just waited it out. And you are going to wait, because no one wants to move too quickly at the Stardust. Don’t go when you’re starving, because after you wait in line, you’ll need to wait on your food.

Singing is the main attraction at the Stardust, but there’s nothing wrong with the food. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a chocolate shake. Deb had the Ruby Rueben. Both meals were great. We thought about dessert, as an excuse to stay longer, but what with the Junior’s cheesecake earlier in the day and my chocolate shake, I couldn’t face it!

Time to head back to the hotel. You come back next week and join us on our visit to Lady Liberty. It’s one of those things you have to do and it is well worth the time and effort to do so.

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

Walking Tour of Broadway

Travel There – Just a Couple of Texas Girls in the Big City

As soon as we got our stuff stowed away we hit the streets of NYC. In just a few steps we figured out the Sheraton New York Times Square is the perfect place to stay. Don’t let them put you in the Four Points by Sheraton Times Square, that’s a whole ‘nother place and I am so glad a fought the battle to get where we wanted to be. We were right in the middle of everything without being in the insanity of Broadway itself.

Broadway, just a few blocks away, was insane and I am glad we had a buffer zone. They smoke pot everywhere in NYC, but on Broadway they smoke it a lot and they want to sell it to you. They also want to sell you fake designer bags. I could have done away with that whole vibe, but you just have to take New York City as it comes at you.

You also get mobs of people all the time. Later in the trip we’d be there on a weekend evening and we would really understand exactly how crazy it could get, but for our first day in the city, it was crazy enough.

We hadn’t scheduled anything specific for our day of arrival, because air travel is so unreliable these days. I didn’t want to have tickets riding on me getting there on time and we’re still stuck in the air somewhere. So the plan was to stroll Broadway and see what we could see…or eat.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Our first stop on our tour of Broadway was one of the best of the trip and we repeated it several times. I had read in my research that THE place to have authentic New York Cheesecake was Junior’s. I cannot speak to the authenticity, but oh my goodness, can I ever speak to how delicious it was. We both love cheesecake, but if possible we love Junior’s Cheesecake more than any other we’ve ever had. Deb liked it best topped with various fruits. I had mine plain, but there was nothing plain about it.

Our Key to the City

Broadway, Junior’s and a MetroCard. We were knocking it out of the park in the first few hours we were there. This was not Deb’s first NYC rodeo, so we decided we’d be brave and use the subway system. She had the app and I had the maps.

On our stroll down Broadway we dipped into the subway and purchased a MetroCard, loading it up with rides for the next week. We weren’t ready to use it, but we’d be getting up early the next morning to head to the Statue of Liberty, so we wanted to be ready!

The Biggest Department Store in the World

Confession, I am not a big fan of Macy’s. Well, to tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of department stores, with perhaps the exception of Neiman’s and Nordstrom’s – but I don’t even shop there. I just eat and browse. I am a bargain hunter, so most of my purchases actually occur at one of the stores at the outlet mall.

However, this is New York, the home of Macy’s, so I wanted to be able to say I shopped there. We’d timed our trip to attend a christening, so I planned on buying my gift at the famous store. It is big, ridiculously big, but just like the closest one at Firewheel Town Center, they are short-handed and you are going to have to help yourself.

We found the baby department and I found a darling pink cotton knit sweater with matching socks in the Ralph Lauren section. They were embroidered with the familiar logo in baby blue. They do not, however, have gift wrapping, so I ended up buying a gift bag and card a few stories up in the stationary department.

Deb and I went all the way to the top and rode all the way down on the escalators. Towards the top, they still had the old original wooden escalators. That was something to write home about.

Back Up Broadway

Our goal was Greeley Square and we made it. We tucked over to the Empire State Building just to say I’d been there. We saw Herald Square, Times Square and Duffy Square. We were ticking off the sites!

The evening had set in, but we were still full of cheesecake and the line at the Stardust Cafe was intimidating. So, we went back to the Sheraton, found the bar and celebrated our first day in New York at Happy Hour.

Here’s a few photos from our day. Come back next week and we’ll visit the Stardust Cafe.

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

On Our Way to the Big City

Travel There – Gee Thanks WAYZ

Gotta Love Rush Hour – NOT

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

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

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

Google Maps or WAYZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Did Arrive in Time

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

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

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

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

Bye Bye Vegas – We’re Happy to Go!

Travel There – Trial by Footsteps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends Make Everything Better!

Travel There – Our Last Night in Vegas

We are so fortunate in our friends. I can’t even imagine life without the wonderful people who populate our days. The Busches are people we don’t see often enough, but they couldn’t be any dearer to us. When we found out Ludger would be arriving in Vegas, just as we were rounding out our visit, we immediately made plans to see him.

Ludger goes to Las Vegas on a fairly regular basis, but not for fun. He’s there to work and this trip was no different. But he does know where to stay. I didn’t think much about it when he said the Mandalay Bay would be his hotel, but when we got there and started looking around, we wished we’d thought to ask his opinion about where to stay!

From Paris to Myanmar

We left our tacky fake Paris, crossed the street to the Bellagio’s Renaissance splendor and rode the Deuce to the Mandalay Bay stop. Then I had no idea it was named after a Myanmar location, but the moment I entered the walled-in gardens, I knew I was someplace special.

In a place where almost everything is gaudy and much too far over the top, Mandalay Bay exudes understated elegance. If I ever go back, that’s where I’m staying. Even the casino is quieter and less hectic than the rest of the Strip.

Rhythms & Riffs

Our first stop was, of course, the M-Life desk. I had earned My Vegas Slots awards for both drinks and dinner. For drinks, Bill and I enjoyed the Rhythm & Riffs bar, where my first round was complimentary. That was when we started getting texts from Ludger that he’d be running late. Unfortunately, he missed the entire drinks portion of the evening, because sitting there in the lobby, enjoying a drink and watching the people go by was very pleasant.

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck

The time for our dinner reservation arrived and Ludger assured us he was on his way, so we went ahead and were seated at the restaurant. The understated, quiet part of the Mandalay Bay hotel did not enhance the dining experience. With a few lonely exceptions, we had not only the restaurant to ourselves, but that entire wing of the hotel, which should have been full of patrons for a variety of restaurants.

The total absence of patrons was a shame. I’d been eating and visiting all over the Strip for the last few days and nothing we’d seen or eaten compared to the experience we had a Lupo’s, but we were virtually all alone while enjoying it.

Thankfully, we had some of the best company we could have hoped for, sitting at our own table. We were able to relax and really chat about all the things happening in the Busche household – something we hadn’t been able to do when we saw him in Chicago in July. And we were able to do it while having a remarkable meal.

Bill tells me the price was remarkable to, in spite of one entree having been for free. I think Bill was most surprised by the cost of the bottled water. I confess, I had no idea that asking for bottle water rather than still water would break the bank.

Back to Paris

All good things come to an end. Ludger had early morning appointments, as well as work he still needed to do, so we had to say farewell and head back to our own accommodations.

Outside the Mandalay Bay the streets were empty. Had we disappeared between Ludger and our hotel, no one would have had a clue what happened. We were almost as glad to see the Deuce as we’d been during our Fremont Street Experience. The bus stopped at Paris and our Las Vegas adventure was almost over.

Come back next week and help us get to the airport. We’ll be Texas bound!

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Ticking Attractions Off Our List

Travel There – The Fall of Atlantis and Barbie

Navigating Like Pros

On our final full day in Vegas, we lingered in our room all morning. We’d been out late the night before and were still managing our business long distance, so there were photos to deliver, appointments to schedule, etc.

When we did venture out on the Strip, it was for lunch. We hopped the Deuce to The Mirage and used one of the My Vegas Slots awards for lunch – bogo sandwiches at SNACKS. I had loved the burger we shared with the free beer and this time I got a whole one to myself, but it was too early for beer!

Then we hopped back on the Deuce and stopped at the The Forum. This was the day The Fall of Atlantis was supposed to be presented. We got there in time to see the end of it, but it was enough to tell us it we hadn’t missed much.

What now? We’d pretty much hit all the free attractions, so I had suggestions for how to spend our money and our time. Thankfully, Bill chose to see exactly what I wanted him to choose.

Barbie, A Cultural Icon Exhibition

My Barbie Collection

I was four when Barbie was born, so she and I have basically grown up together. I loved her with a passion! I had numerous dolls – Pony-tail Barbie, Bouffant Barbie, Midge, Ken, Allan and Skipper – multiple cases of clothes, the house and the car. On Christmas morning I would wake up to a living room floor covered in her pink striped packages. My grandmother sewed clothes for her. I wanted it all!

Her trunks of clothes were my treasures. The outfits were hung on tiny little hangers, the shoes were stored in their compartment and I had every accessory that was ever given to me. I didn’t actually “play” Barbie. It was more like curating a collection. I would dream up an occasion and get all my dolls dressed to attend it.

My Barbie House was a portable cardboard version that folded up with a plastic handle, so the fun was getting it all set up and placing my dolls in various positions. Then I’d have Ken and Allan drive up in the car and join the fun. At that point, it was time to put it all away again.

So imagine my chagrin when Mom gave my collection to my little sister. I came home from college to discover one of my dolls in my sister’s room, butt-naked and her hair sticking out in every direction. It was obvious my sister had been carrying her by the hair, something I would never have allowed.

I freaked out and demanded to see the rest of it, but there wasn’t much. My entire collection of treasures was reduced to one small case and what clothes still existed were stuffed inside in a jumble. No shoes, no hats, no gloves. It’s about the most angry I would ever be at my mom and my sister.

I can only guess the value the collection would have today. The cardboard house alone would be considered museum quality. It was pristine when I packed it away. Now it doesn’t exist. Yes, I’m still angry.

The Exhibition

I’ll start by saying I loved the exhibit and am so glad we went, but I also have to tell you it’s not worth the $45 price of admission – not when you can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $30. The Barbie memorabilia presented wouldn’t even fill up one of the galleries there. They also didn’t have much to show you. Sure the photo op with the hanging chair and the Barbie car were cute, but I wasn’t there for the hashtag. I wanted to see my old friends.

I wanted to see every single character with all their various hairstyles. I wanted to see every single outfit – the wedding dress, the ball gown, the red velvet coat, the hats, the shoes, all of it. What they had instead was all the Barbie career dolls, which came a long time after my Barbies had been destroyed. They wanted to show Barbies of various skin tones and ethnicities, when all of mine had been white. They wanted to impress on me how righteous and woke they were from the beginning, but I knew that was just a lie. Little white girls like me, whose parents had expendable income, had been their target audience in the beginning and no amount of virtue signaling at this point could erase that.

In the end, we paid $45 each to experience some committee of millennials’ idea of Barbie’s social significance. What I wanted instead was the good stuff. The young attractive attendants were very nice, but they knew nothing about Barbie. I tried to strike up a conversation with them about my treasures and they didn’t even know there had been a cardboard Barbie house.

Bill rounded out our time at the Crystals shopping mall by finding another gallery where he could chat up the sales clerk. This time it was a photographer’s gallery. The art was gorgeous. The sales clerk was a bag of hot air. We headed back to the hotel, stopping by Walgreens for an ice cream and a Diet Dr Pepper.

Next up we join a friend for dinner at Mandalay Bay. Come back next week and get a bite at Lupo’s.

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

San Antonio Stopover

TRAVEL THERE – SAN ANTONIO , MY FAVORITE CITY TO VISIT

What? No Luminaries AGAIN!!

So, I love any excuse to go to San Antonio and I would probably have suggested going by there under any circumstances, but I particularly wanted to go this time, because I thought I could see the Luminaries on the River. It’s a tradition San Antonio has done for years, but I’ve yet to see it. I tried once before and brought on an ice storm. No luck this time, either.

This trip happened fast, as I explained at the beginning of this Weekend Report, of which this is the fourth installment. As we hurried up and made plans to go to Galveston, I checked the dates of the Fiesta de Luminaries and the Luminaries were on. What I didn’t realize was that it was only on weekends.

Bill was a little put out that we had driven all that way to see something that wasn’t even happening, but then he got over it and managed to have a good time in my favorite city. I was very disappointed, but I can’t stay disappointed for long when the RiverWalk is calling.

The Crockett Hotel

We found a great deal on Expedia for the Crockett Hotel. I was a little taken aback at the prices, but last minute travel can be a little hard on the pocketbook. My favorites were running $250 a night and up. This wasn’t that kind of stay, so $120ish for a “cozy queen room” sounded good.

We didn’t realize how “cozy” it would be, but it was tight, as you can see by this shot we took the next morning. However, it served our purposes and while small, it was well appointed, so no complaints.

The Alamo Lights

So, ready for some adventure, we headed out of the hotel and went right next door to the Alamo. The idea was just to get a look at the landmark, because looking down on it from our hotel room we saw a lot of lights in the trees. We were directed to the front façade and someone there asked us if we had tickets. We asked what was going on and they said, “Alamo Lights.” “How much?” “$5” We forked over $10 and roamed inside.

We’d happened upon a very pleasant little event, that goes through January 2nd. The huge old trees surrounding the Alamo are all lighted up and a few Alamo related scenes are set up with lighted figures. The trees are certainly the star of the show and the price was right. It was a nice way to start our evening in San Antonio.

The River Walk

If I’m on the San Antonio River Walk, I’m happy. We strolled from the Alamo through the Hyatt Regency onto the River Walk’s restaurant row, past La Villita and around the horseshoe. Bill was fascinated by the area, especially all the holiday lights in the trees. I would have loved for there to be Luminaries and one day I will catch them, but he was happy with what was there. The photographer/videographer in him came out and if we’re lucky I will include some of his shots in this post before it goes live.

Bill kept remarking on how crowded it was and I had to laugh to myself. It was a slow night for the River Walk. (Note to self – go see the Luminaries with someone besides Bill.) Still the very best restaurants had a long wait list, so we just went to an old favorite Casa Rosa. There was a time when it was the star of the river for me, but those days have faded. I’ve sat on the patio and been serenaded by mariachis. I’ve ridden the river in their dinner boat. I am an old Casa Rosa aficionado. It may not be what it used to be, but the margaritas and nachos were pretty darned good and there was plenty of people watching available.

After dinner we made our way up to street level and strolled back to the hotel. It had been a wonderful evening, but tomorrow was another day and we had a long way to drive.

The Chinese Tea Garden

The next morning I was up early and made my way to the lobby with the laptop, since the room was so small. I wanted Bill to get his beauty sleep, but not so much that I could lay in bed after 6 AM. I found a cozy corner near a plug and started pounding away.

He texted me when he woke up and I went back up to the room to entertain him while he had his coffee. We were headed to New Braunfels to have lunch with a friend, but Bill wanted to squeeze in one more sight-seeing jaunt. I told him if he moved things along we could probably go to the Chinese Tea Garden on the way out of town. We made it with no time to spare, but he got about a half an hour to enjoy it and he loved it.

Shana and the Huisache Grill

My friend Shana has been a part of my life since the late 90’s. We worked together, but it was more than that. Our hearts were knit together. We’re not the kind of friends who see each other often, but when we do see each other, we pick right up where we left off our last conversation. We also know that all we’d have to do is pick up the phone and the other person would be there, at the drop of a hat. We try to be there for each other’s important milestones, but we love it when we can just get together and laugh. My bestie has come to love her almost as much as I do. Connecting wonderful people is one of my favorite things.

So, while seeing the Luminaries on the River Walk was one reason to include San Antonio in our itinerary, the chance to also see Shana loomed large in my decision making. The Luminaries didn’t happen, but I did get to see Shana. She suggested we meet at the Huisache Grill for lunch. I’d been there with her before and I knew Bill would love it, so we planned to meet there at noon.

It was just a great visit. A lots of news to share about everything from family to embezzlement with lots of laughter thrown into the mix. It was a blessed time. I am so fortunate in my friends and thank God for them every day.

And Then Home

The drive to Heath from New Braunfels was brutal. We spent too much time inching along the highway – in San Marcos, in Austin and other places along the route. We were caught in rush hour traffic as we made the turn towards home and the last hour we crawled along I-20, finally taking some backroad across Forney to get to Heath. Why Forney? Because LBJ was a parking lot.

This has been a very long multi-day weekend report, but it was a very busy weekend. Come back Wednesday for more of Las Vegas and on Thursday we’ll get back to memory keeping. Thanks for dropping by!

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

Gallivanting in Galveston

TRAVEL THERE – MEMORIES OF A BEACH HOUSE

Magical Memories

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

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

Lunch at The Sand Bar

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

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

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

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

A Walk on the Beach

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

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

Dinner with Friends at Waterman’s

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

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

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

A Morning at the Beach

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

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

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

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

Footsteps in the Sand Galveston

TRAVEL THERE – EARNING OUR STAY

Dark Thirty and Fog

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

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

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

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

Knock Us Over With a Feather

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

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

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

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

A Day of Shooting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Architecture, Decorative Arts, DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Real Estate Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – TRAVEL THERE: WORK & PLAY OUR WAY

Busy Business Saturday

We woke up with a to do list. Shoot a home in McKinney, pick up photos for a memory keeping project and then go home and pack. Two out of three ain’t bad – am I right?

The shoot went well. It was an amazing house and we were doing everything standard real estate photography for the MLS, drone work and videography. It took a long time, but it went smoothly.

There was a little time to kill between the shoot and the pick up, but no place to kill it. The locations were just around the corner from one another, but nary a Starbucks or a McDonald’s in sight. We were both a bit peckish since it was past our lunchtime, but we were forced to go from one place to the other without so much as a tater tot.

It was a quick handoff. Once the boxes of photos and memorabilia were safely stowed away, we started looking for food. We’d about decided we’d just go home and eat our leftovers when a Sonic came into sight. We pull into a stall, only to be told nothing was working. The food gods were not on our side.

The leftovers were back in play, until a Jason’s came into view. A Rueben for Bill and a Light Loaded Potato for me. Time to head home to pack.

A Hitch in our Get Along

So, it’s a little before 4. I’m driving us home and I take our exit off the George. As I go up the ramp to take the split for I-30 E, I realize there is something very, very wrong. The ramp is backed up to the split and the eastbound traffic is backed up as far as the eye can see in both directions. Welcome to the Rockwall Bridge!

Two hours later we’re being directed off the bridge at the DalRock exit to join the rest of the traffic trying to sort itself out. As we made our way across the 66 bridge, Bill decided Wayz would find us a shortcut. I am not a fan of Wayz. I have my little ruts I drive in and I like them, but I’m too tired to argue when he tells me to turn on Lakeshore. We made a few more turns and suddenly I am faced with the prospect of turning onto 205 without a light. I put ‘er in park and told Bill it was his turn.

It’s 6:30 now. I have a load of texts to answer and photos to send to the editor, but I’m not even home yet. How exactly am I supposed to pack for our trip? The short answer is that I wasn’t.

The hitch in our get along stayed with us through the next morning. My phone was blowing up. A lot had to do with our accommodations in Galveston, but there were also new appointments to book, which is not usually the case on a Sunday morning. It’s a bit difficult to pack when your phone is going off every 3 minutes.

Long story short, it was noon before we got away from the house. We were hoping to get away earlier, because Bill wanted to get some of the shots out of the way for the rental property we’d be shooting. Some of the interiors for instance, where we’d be spending our time or perhaps the twilight shots. But of course, that’s not how it turned out.

Going to Galveston

This trip had its inception at a Polka Dot meeting back in the summer. A friend with a short term rental in Galveston was making some changes to her property and wished Bill would shoot it, because no one down there had his eye. I told her if she’d put us up at her place, we’d be happy to shoot it for her. She said it would probably be September and that was cool.

September passed and so did October. By November it had fallen off our radar completely. So, when she texted me on November 29th letting me know the property was ready, we were taken by surprise. While December is traditionally a slow month for real estate photography, there is a lot on our calendar for the holiday. Also, we needed good weather, for a good shoot – especially since drone work was involved.

We checked the weather and our social calendar to discover December 4-6 would be the optimal dates for those two entities to cooperate. So we booked it. We just didn’t know they were going to close the Bridge down on December 3rd.

My weekend reports are usually a one day read, but I’m just getting started. Come back tomorrow and we’ll go to Galveston!