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.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Scrapbooking

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – BORING!

Turning the Corner to 2023

Believe me when I say, last weekend 2022 was winding down. It wound down to nothing.

Friday morning I spent some time with my new Cricut – my favorite Christmas present. So far it’s been all learning curve and no real spectacular moments of craftiness. I’ve spent more time learning what it can’t do than I have making stuff. Leave it to me to find the edges of digital technology.

Friday afternoon, we had lunch at Community BBQ. For my bestie and I, it was a return trip, but we were joined this time by her brother and Mr. Bill. I shared a rack of ribs with hubby and avoided the loser mac & cheese, but I saw them take some to another table. It looked much improved.

This visit was not quite as good as our first. The wine was still free, because they haven’t gotten their liquor license, yet, but this time my ribs were fatty. The okra was delicious and I enjoyed a baked potato. Deb’s brother had the brisket and seemed to love it. She, like me, repeated the ribs and was happy. Mr. Bill was disappointed by the ribs, because they were beef ribs. He has very particular taste and if it’s not baby backs, he’d rather not.

Saturday morning I played Marian the Librarian. I keep the library at our small church going and we’d had a huge influx of books. I’d brought them home to prep them for the shelves and made a morning of it. That afternoon I went around the house and the yard taking down the Christmas decorations. The manger scene in the front was another of my favorite Christmas presents, but I got it early so we could display it for this season. Now, it’s in the garage. We have to figure out how to store it!

For New Year’s Eve, Bill and I ate our leftover ribs for dinner and sat on the sofa catching up on episodes of The Voice. That’s pretty lame for a couple who got engaged on Christmas Eve, almost three decades before, but we choose to stay home out of the madness. We drank good champagne at midnight and crawled into bed.

The New Year Arrives with a Bump

If it’s Sunday morning, then I’m probably at church. New Year’s Day was no exception. I shelved all the newly donated books, attended Sunday School and then during the worship service I got the bad news I knew was coming. Our pastor is leaving us here in the Bible Belt, where there’s an evangelical church on almost every corner, to lead a small church in one of the most neglected mission fields in the world – New England. Seriously!

My pastor and his wife had made it known about six months ago that they felt a calling away from us. At that time they didn’t know where they’d go, just that they knew they were done here. I was so sad. Finding my church had been a multi-year task. Worship formats everywhere have taken a turn away from what I love and I’d made the rounds without much luck. This church was an uneasy fit for me in some ways, but they have a traditional worship service and the teaching during the Sunday morning service was stellar, some of the best I’ve ever had.

Now I have to decide what to do with myself on Sunday mornings. No giant of theology is coming to fill the soon-to-be empty shoes of this marvelous teacher. In fact, the elders are going to take turns with the sermon. Natural attrition has taken away some of my favorite people in the congregation and while there are those I love, for the most part I am I fish out of water. I was there each Sunday for the teaching that won’t be there anymore.

Ten years ago, that wouldn’t be so much of a problem, I’d go find another evangelical church with a great teacher and a traditional worship service. Just finding a traditional worship service is one problem, but finding one with a live preacher is even more challenging. I’m just not ready for church on the big screen. So, God and I are chatting about what is next.

Strolling Down Memory Lane

As I mentioned earlier, Bill proposed to me at the stroke on midnight on NYE 1993/4. It had been a complete surprise to me – a good one, but he’d kept his secret well. So, January 1, 1994 I spent the day trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I was engaged to be married to the handsomest man in the whole wide world.

That afternoon we took a walk along the dock at Chandler’s Landing. Together we carved out our path for the coming months. Bill was ready to get married immediately, like could we do it in a few weeks as far as he was concerned. That was plausible if we had a small, quiet ceremony, which I thought was fine, except that he wanted a big wedding with all the trimmings. That meant I’d need a few months to pull it all together.

Chandler’s Landing was very members/residents only back in those days. There was no Yacht Club Restaurant open to the public. We were interlopers, but on that very quiet day, no one seemed to mind. On Sunday we still had to cheat a little, telling them we were going to the restaurant, when all we wanted was the restaurant parking lot, but we literally strolled down memory lane as we walked along the docks.

Chandler’s Landing has changed. It was fairly shabby in 1994, a mere shadow of what it had been designed to be. Today, things are different than they were back then. The HOA has taken over the facilities and hired a very good management company to bring it all back to its former glory – and they are doing a good job of it. The restaurant is still hit and miss, but everywhere you look things are looking better than they were twenty-nine years ago.

Our Ham and Black-Eyed Peas

We skipped The Yacht Club on this visit. We had to eat our ham and black-eyed peas, which I had for us at home. Nothing fancy. I picked up a ham steak at Kroger to go with the can of black-eyed peas I already had on the shelf. I like cornbread with that meal, so I also picked up a package of cornbread mix. It didn’t take long to put on the table, but we enjoyed it. Afterwards, we watched a little TV.

The New Year is off to a good, if quiet start. I am wrapping my life around the resolutions I have made for a “Better Me in 2023.” As befits a new year, my Travel Talk posts will be taking a new turn to New York City. Then Memory Keeping 101 will focus on punches to go along with all that paper I love. I hope you’ll join me for the fun.

ART, Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Music, Performing Arts

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – SIX, A TRIUMPH AT THE WINSPEAR

So this year, Winter showed up with a bang. On the first day of winter, the warnings were ominous and quite accurate. I kept close to home on Thursday and Friday, working on a sorting job for one of my clients. I saved my gift wrapping until Christmas Eve and then it was time for the really big show.

Christmas Eve Treat

While most of the ads on Facebook are a waste of my time, occasionally they deliver just what I was looking for. After Thanksgiving I’d been shopping around the internet for a potential short trip, when we were offered the opportunity to barter some real estate photography for a weekend stay in a gorgeous beachside rental property. That satisfied my traveling bug, but I had my eye out for something to spice up the holidays.

During our 2020 holidays I had planned some epically bad holiday entertainment and in 2021 we’d won a trip to Las Vegas, which was almost as epically bad. I needed to up my game. The Galveston/San Antonio trip was a winner, but I needed a little something else. Facebook delivered SIX!

I had been in New York earlier in the year and opted for an oldie but goodie, because nothing Broadway was offering up looked better than Moulin Rouge. I hadn’t exactly kept my ear to the ground about what had come out since, but apparently SIX hit the Great White Way with sizzle! When Facebook let me know it was coming to the Winspear, I could tell immediately it was right up our alley. I sent Bill the video and he agreed.

So, we booked our seats and decided going on Christmas Eve would make it extra special. We were right! With our older generation on the other side and having never provided ourselves with a younger generation, when the holiday parties are over and everyone else focuses on family, we’re a bit at loose ends. A matinee at the Winspear was a perfect way to spend the day.

Bundle Up, Park Close & Get There On Time

Though the iciest temperatures were behind us, the temperature was quite nippy on Christmas Eve. Bill hates paying for parking, but I warned him I did not want to hoof it from the parking spaces on the other side of the DMA. Thankfully, he accommodated me and we parked in the Cathedral underground parking. My boots might have been made for walking, but not for walking far.

We even made it there with time to spare, which is not always the case. Bill’s not one for hanging around much before the show, but for me he got there about half an hour early. The Winspear had actually called me the day before and warned me about the theater’s closed door policy, because apparently the cold weather was a challenge for some of their patrons. The early arrival gave me time to make a potty stop and do a little people watching. We were amazed at the number of people standing in line for SIX merchandise. Haven’t they heard of the internet?

However, Bill didn’t want to get to our seats too early and held me back until about 10 minutes before the start of the show. Then we began our walking tour of the Winspear. About two levels up, we found an usher and asked her where we were headed. It didn’t do much good though, because with the mask she was wearing her instructions sounded like (mmm mmmmmm mmmmmm mm mmm mm). Thankfully, she also pointed, so up we went.

We found another human being and found out we were almost there. Just one more set of stairs. We found the right door and headed in. We were in the middle of the first row and everyone else was already in their seat, but it was fixing to get ugly.

I knew the Grand Tier was not a place for me to sit. Not only was it nosebleed high, the chairs are not even bolted to the floor. I’d sat in Dress Circle seats before and had enjoyed it, but the seats were higher up in the section. One might think sitting in the middle of the front row of the Dress Circle would be a good thing. If you’re not acrophobic, go for it, but I thought I might just head home!

We could see our seats, but without the kindness of strangers, there was no way for us to get there. The first row of the Dress Circle at the good old Fair Park Music Hall was luxurious with extra leg room. At the Winspear there was no legroom. Here we were, several stories from the bottom floor, with nothing but a knee level bar to hold us back and we were supposed to scoot along in perhaps a foot of space. We were about to get up close and personal with a dozen or so people we didn’t know.

Bill went first, I looked toward the standing strangers we were inconveniencing (they had to stand or we couldn’t get by) and got ahold of him with a death grip. If I was going over, he was going with me! For a few moments I actually thought I was going to die!

When we got to our seats, I sat down and clutched the arm rests until my blood pressure went back to normal. I can’t say that I felt comfortable at that point, but it was better than hanging out over the great abyss. According to a Google search I just did, only about 9 people have died from falling out of a theater balcony, but I sincerely do not want to round that number out.

The show was about 5 minutes away and I browsed my program for pertinent facts about the show. The lights went down and the curtain went up.

A Rollicking Good Time

While I cannot in good conscious recommend our seats, I will say the show was marvelous. No complaints! It is an hour long thrill ride, loosely tied to good King Henry VIII and his six wives. The cast and musicians are all women and they do grind the whole women’s issue stone throughout the show, but I managed to ignore it, because most of it was in good fun. The costuming made whimsical nods to the fashion of good King Henry’s day, but was all firmly rooted in today.

The show is an hour with no intermissions and with the closed door policy firmly in place, if you show up late you are out of luck. I had no trouble hearing and understanding the lyrics of the songs, so that was great.

If there had been voting for the best wife, I would have chosen Catherine of Aragon for her song. It had the touch of a Latin beat and a distinctive Nuh-Nuh-Nuh-Nuh riff that became my earworm of the show.

Number two for me was Anne of Cleeves. I wanted to bust out laughing every time she sang, “I’m the queen of my castle,” with a definite nanny-nanny-poo-poo tone. The other wives disqualified her from winning the award for best wife, because she did not suffer enough. In fact Anne’s song was Bill’s favorite for the hilarious German accents they copped for it.

Anne Boleyn, was a little bitter in the funniest of ways. No matter what anyone else claimed to suffer, she would remind them of her beheading with a very firm nod, which left her pretty helpless in the face of Katherine Howard’s fate. Jane Seymore’s fate, death in childbirth, rendered her fairly saccharine as she spoke of how she was Henry’s only true love and the mother of his only son. She was all but disqualified from the competition and would have been if she hadn’t reminded them that she DIED. Katherine Howard was played as the whore of the castle who might have deserved what she got.

All this had to end somehow, so Catherine Parr calls and end to their competition. This was the weakest part of the show for me, but libbers everywhere probably loved it. They reprised their complaints and it was time to go home.

While we loved the show, we decided we don’t love the Winspear. We’ll try to take our entertainment doses at the Meyerson or the Majestic – or even the Eisemann Center, for that matter. The signage at the Winspear is non-existent and everything is just a little too tight or too high for our comfort.

Christmas Day

What can I say about Christmas? I started the day at my church’s worship service, then went over to my bestie’s to help get Christmas Dinner done. I love any time I spend with her. We enjoyed prosecco in the kitchen while her guys watched movies. By 5:30 or so, the other guests who had been variously entertained elsewhere arrived and dinner went on the table. The meal was glorious and opening our gifts was marvelous.

Come back next week. The last installment of Las Vegas will come on Wednesday and we’ll talk Memory Keeping on Thursday. Happy New year to you and be safe during your NYE celebration.

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!

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

Big Night at the Bellagio

There’s nothing quite like the Bellagio. She stands back from the hustle and bustle of the Strip, protected by the waving arms of her fountains. When you step into her looby, which by the way, is free of gaming tables, the Chihullys on the ceiling let you know you’ve enter the Queen of the Strip.

We were in a bit of a hurry, not only to make it in time for the Cirque du Soleil show, but we had friends who’d arrived in Las Vegas for a trip of their own and had tickets to O at the same time we did. We made our way to the theater and by luck ran right into them. The show was starting in minutes and Kathi needed to potty, so we hugged and promised to meet up after the show.

Café Gelato

This should have been a signal to slow down, right. We were at the theater and the doors were open. We should go claim our seats, right? Au contrare!! I had earned a bogo award from My Vegas Slots for Cafe Gelato. That’s one award Bill wasn’t going to go unredeemed!

So we hustled off down the cavernous halls of the Bellagio to find Café Gelato. It was a beautiful place in the style of an old fashioned ice cream shop. They weren’t overrun with patrons, but it wasn’t exactly empty, either. I stood on one foot and then the other, wishing the dipper lady would dip a little faster. Our turn came and she dipped us servings of stracciatella. I’m not big on gelato, so Bill laid claim to both servings. I did have a few bites and they were wondrous.

It was past time to hoof it back to the theater. We zoomed into our seats and finished up our gelatos. The Main Event was about to begin.

O by Cirque du Soleil

If you’ve never gone to a Cirque du Soleil show, then you are missing out on a treat. They do not begin with the curtain going up. Instead you notice strange creatures wandering throughout the auditorium. Some interact with the audience. Others act out little vignettes with fellow cast members.

Eventually work their way to the stage where more of the cast file out across the apron. Suddenly, you realize the lights have gone all the way down and you realize the show actually began when the first cast member appeared in the audience.

Once, during a show in Dallas, Bill was drawn out of audience onto the stage and coerced to ride a bike during the warm up, but this time we strategically chose to sit somewhere out of the limelight. We also knew better than to sit down front where we’d get wet.

There is usually a strange sort of plot that loosely weaves the activity together, but don’t expect to understand exactly what it is, because nary a word is spoken and odd things will occur on the stage. You’ll understand who the main character is, but you’ll also understand they are confused as you are.

If all that sounds a bit weird, don’t worry. You’ll spend the entire show so mesmerized by the acrobatic and aquatic antics of the strangely costumed players on the fantastical stage sets, that the plot doesn’t really matter. The earliest Cirque shows did not have water. They kept their audience agog with acrobatics and costuming. With O, they added the water element and it was so well received they’ve figured out ways to include it in shows, even when they don’t have access to the amazing stage at the Bellagio.

There’s no way to fully explain the drama added by the water element. One moment the stage is just that, a traditional stage with oddly costumed characters cavorting on it. Then in the blink of an eye, characters are diving into the water from great heights or the stage itself will tilt up and somehow the characters are fighting a battle all atilt. I’m always exhausted when it’s all over, but that never keeps us from enjoying the show, wherever we happen to go to it.

Our big night at the Bellagio wasn’t over with the curtain call. Come back next week for more fun at the amazing resort.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Las Vegas High Life

Travel There – Riding High on the High Roller

Without air and accommodations to pay for, our big spend for Vegas was O by Cirque du Soleil at Bellagio, but we had other things to do before the show!

First up, the High Roller! I’d felt so wise when I bought a Big Bus package with two days of Hop Off/Hop On, the Night Tour and the High Roller. Well, you know how the Hop On/Hop Off went and I was too exhausted to do the Night Tour, so I wasn’t expecting much from the High Roller. I figured it was money down the drain.

We were all gussied up for our evening at the Bellagio when we arrived at the High Roller ticket office. We were dismayed to find their lobby chock full of people, standing in a line that snaked back and forth for several layers. What was worse was that there was no short line for people like us who had already paid and just needed to pick their tickets. We had to stand in line FOREVER with people who just happened by – people and their 47 kids. This was the biggest crowd we’d seen so far in Sin City.

I was not happy and my expectations were not being met. We’d allowed what should have been plenty of time with a will-call receipt, but the cookie was not crumbling our way. I was anxious as we creeped along towards the cashiers, hoping our package deal wasn’t going to ruin our big night out. We got our admission passes at the last possible moment, just before we had to walk away, and the wheel was about to turn, so we hotfooted it up the stairs and into our High Roller gondola.

Now truth be told, I would never have signed up for the High Roller on my own, but it was part of the package and I thought Bill might like it. Being somewhat acrophobic I don’t go around looking for high wire experiences, so with the exception of the Texas Star at the State Fair of Texas, I haven’t been on any of these new fangled Ferris wheels which are popping up all over the place.

I edged to the middle of the gondola, found a place to perch and held on for dear life. Bill, of course, stood with his nose inches from the glass. Despite my fears it was quite a lovely experience. Thank goodness we’d scored a gondola without any rowdy kids, so it was actually serene as we were pulled up into the sky.

We’d come at twilight, when the lights of the big city had just begun to twinkle, but there was still a little light in the sky. When the ride was over, it was full dark. We’d timed it just right.

As soon as we hit the ground, the serenity disappeared. It was almost time for O! I trotted across the Linq and down the Strip as fast as my kitten-heled black peau de soie slides would allow.

Come back next week for our Big Night at the Bellagio!

ART, Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Music, Performing Arts, Road Trips

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – FLAMING FLAMENCO FEET

Quiet Saturday in the Country

One nice tradition for the women of my church is the Sweet Sixteen Tea held for our young ladies on that special birthday. In the past, the events have been held at the church, but this time, the location was moved to a member’s home who lives out in the rural area between Heath and Forney. She’s been doing a lot of remodeling and she was thrilled for an occasion to share it with her sisters.

Since my house is theoretically on the way to the hostess’ house, my bestie planned on picking me up. I say theoretically, because we didn’t count on the traffic and wrecks she’d encounter getting from her dance lesson to my house. Good old Wayz kept rerouting her and when she told me she was being sent to Hwy 80, I knew she would have been better off going directly to the tea. At that point, she would have had to stop and input the address of Victoria’s house into Wayz. So she came on to my house and we went together, as planned and we ended up being only about 10 minutes late.

The tea was lovely. We played some game which combines, among other things, Charades and Password, using words which were particular to the honoree. It was a lot of fun, mostly because there were so many delightful young ladies, who knew the honoree well and played the game often among themselves. I was reluctant to join in the timed game, because the timing thing flusters me, but by the final round, where we could only use 1 one-word clue, we’d already gone through the words twice, so I figured I didn’t need to be too clever. Then the honoree opened up her gifts and she was very thrilled with each and every item.

After the Tea, it was nearing dinner time, so we decided to pick up something to take to my house and share with Bill. Deb wanted BBQ, so even though Bill and I had been to a Dickey’s just a few days before, that’s where we went. Can any Texan get tired of BBQ or Tex Mex? It hasn’t happened to me yet. We enjoyed a feast of ribs, okra and slaw. Then we settled down in the den to look at scrapbook albums two and three I’d just finished for a client.

Sunday Starts Quietly, Too

I finished up my latest scrapbooking client’s albums early on Saturday, so before the tea and Sunday before and after church, I begun to prepare for a presentation I’m doing Friday – this Friday and if you’re reading this the day it is published, that’s today. It’s only a brief spotlight, so the primary impact will be the door prize and samples I give away. I spent the time packaging the mini-album samples and getting contact stickers on the catalogs I’d just received.

This will be the second spotlight I am doing for this group, but the first one was a couple of years ago when I still had not figured out most people just don’t have or won’t make time for memory keeping. Now the focus of my scrapbooking business is creating custom albums for them. I’m happier, because I never loved selling scrapbooking supplies, but I love scrapbooking! When I get a new client, that means I get to scrapbook more and someone is going to pay me for what I love doing.

A Paradigm Shift

Let’s face it. Dallas is expensive. When we lived in the small community of Pismo Beach, on the Central Coast of California for a few years, back in the early 2000’s, we’d get tickets to great events in the $35 -50 per person range. That’s not chicken feed, but it felt comfortable. When we came back to Dallas we were faced with sticker shock. Not only were things more expensive than they’d been on the Central Coast, but there had also been a huge jump in pricing from our previous days in Dallas. We’ve been back for over a decade, but we’ve been to very few live shows.

When we have attended something live, we’d usually see free or inexpensive performances at local colleges or we’d get reduced rates to events at the museums and gardens we belonged to. Season tickets to the opera, which I’d had in the past, were just not an affordable option, especially when Bill is not as taken with opera as I am. We’ve been to a few Cirque du Soleil events or won tickets to the odd sporting event, but outside that we’ve made our own entertainment.

Then came Covid and like everyone else, what used to be no longer existed. Our museum and garden memberships were not providing the types of entertainments we’d enjoyed in the past, so we’d let them go. We needed to get more aggressive in pursuing our entertainment. Recently, we bit the bullet and bought tickets to a Flamenco performance in a South Dallas venue. What WERE we getting ourselves into?

Seat Selection & Parking

On Facebook, I’d seen tickets to a Fever Flamenco event. We love Flamenco music and dance, so we definitely wanted to go. The price seemed right, about $60 a person, until I read the fine print, ” 🎫 Basic Admission – fair visibility without seat selection.” That made me nervous. We’d have no control over where we sat and we’d have “fair” visibility. What did that even mean?

For $65 we still had to sit where they said and our visibility would be good, but that didn’t seem much more comforting. So we bit another bullet and opted for Preferential Admission, where we could pick our seats and have great visibility. It was $90 per person, but the other option was to stay home and watch more TV. We bought the tickets.

The venue was Edison’s on Cockrell Avenue. I’d never been to Edison’s, but when I was growing up in Dallas, Cockrell Hills was a no-go zone. I am very aware of the renewal efforts happening south of Dallas in areas like Bishop Arts, but living on an opposite side of town, I don’t have much personal experience with them. So we were venturing into strange territory.

Arriving at the venue we were directed to a pay parking lot. Getting out of the car I saw a sign which instructed us to text the lot id to a number. I tried, but didn’t get anywhere. The attendant tried and got far enough along to realize we didn’t have any credit card loaded onto our phone. No _ _ _ _ Sherlock! And I don’t plan to EVER have a credit card loaded on my phone.

So, Bill moved his car to a spot on the street. Thanks to the irritating digital world we saved a few bucks. That’s not always an available solution and some day we may have to navigate that little technical maneuver, but that didn’t happen on Sunday evening.

Now, Edison’s is a cool place in a sort of industrialized area. We felt quite safe It has a roomy entry area graced by an antique car, which opens onto a larger space, which opens onto other areas. The stage was set up in the main area and the seating is café chairs.

Our preferential seating put us on the front row of chairs, but in front of that row is the VIP table seating which was $120-135 per person. For that price you either got “amazing” or “best” visibility with “a charcuterie box with Spanish products, and meet and greet with the artists to take photos after the show.” If you should decide to go this weekend (it runs through Sunday) go ahead and opt for the VIP seats. You may not be interested in the charcuterie box or meeting the artists, but since this is Flamenco, you’re going to want to see their feet and you have to work at that when you sit anywhere behind the VIP seats.

Fever’s Flaming Flamenco Feet

All that being said, we loved it. The stage is very small, so the performance is very intimate. The musicians come out one at a time for a short solo and then take their chairs on the back of the stage. Then out come the dancers and you are whipsawed into the fantastic!

The musicians were talented. The costumes were beautiful. The dancers? Oh my goodness!!!! They were truly amazing. Some sets they danced together and others they danced solo. The woman and her trailing flamenco flounce were astounding. How she maneuvered on the tiny stage with all that dress was a wonder in itself. She put so much vigor in her performance that one time when she nodded her head, bobby pins flew out into the audience. She also had beautiful, fascinating hands. Sweat poured down her face and I decided her dress must be lined in plastic, because in spite of the sweat on her face, none leaked through her costume.

Now the guy was a whole different experience. His costume was very body conscious and he didn’t have a flounce to swing around. Instead, he just had it all going on, from the tips of his fingers above his head to the flaming red shoes that moved so fast you could barely see them. He had sweat pouring out of every pore and by the end of his solo performance, his hair was sopping wet and sweat drops were being peppered on the audience closest to the stage. Remember that during your seat selection. If you get the VIP seats, you might want to be on the far side of the table!

Both dancers totally captivated the audience and the musicians provided comic relief from time to time, as well as wonderful, authentic music. Yes, I think you should go. I loved it and am so glad we took a chance on it. We’ll be checking out other offerings from Fever, because this was wonderful.

Keep coming back for Travel Here, Travel There and Memory Keeping 101.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Gardens, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – SECOND WEEKEND IN NOVEMBER

Quiet Saturday Ends with a Great Meal

Last weekend I was finishing up a custom scrapbook for a client, so I was in hog heaven. I happily worked through the day in my studio, content with the knowledge I had a great evening planned. We were continuing the birthday celebration for my bestie with dinner at Lavendou.

Lavendou Bistro Provincial is one of my very favorite local restaurants, along with Javier’s, Brio and Bazille. Add in Joe T. Garcia’s over in Fort Worth and I really would never need another restaurant. That’s why Deb and I are so happy, waiting for our table on Saturday night. We were in for a treat.

I used to live just blocks away from Lavendou, so it was my go-to restaurant for lunch-time meet-ups. Once we moved to Heath, getting to Lavendou for lunch was a bit of a stretch and I miss it more than I can say.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when Deb said she wanted her birthday meal at my old favorite. Now, I have to tell you. I do not usually go to Lavendou for dinner, because it can get a little pricey, not a pricey as Dallas can get for a nice meal out, but pricier than we usually spend. However, it was a special occasion and the meal was outstanding.

Well, the only one who ate a meal was Bill. He actually ordered up a seafood entrée and ate every bite, which is unusual for him. He usually eats about half of his food and takes the rest home for another meal. This evening there was nary a crumb or a drop of sauce left on the plate.

Meals at Lavendou start out with warm, fresh baguette slices. Bill’s not much of one for bread either. He likes it and may use it to sop up the sauce, but he doesn’t just sit around and spread butter or oil on it. At Lavendou he gives Deb and I a run for our slices, because the sour dough bread is just that good.

Deb and I moved from bread to soup. She had French Onion, which she loved, but I had Lobster Bisque, which is an occasion all by itself. I could wax eloquent on it’s attributes, but I’ll just say you should have it when you go – and you are going to go aren’t you?

From there we moved on to escargot. Oh my goodness! How delicious!! Tender tasty meat bits smothered in garlic butter and yet another excuse to eat more bread slices. We were in heaven.

We also had just barely enough room left for dessert. Yes, we skipped right over the entrée. Now, Lavendou has a variety of delicious desserts, but when I’m there for dinner, there’s only one I care about and that’s the chocolate soufflé. You have to go in knowing you want it, because it has to be ordered with your meal, but just do it!

An absolutely perfect meal with my two favorite people in the world. You can’t ask for more than that. We did make one stop on the way home. Another thing we loved about living in Far North Dallas was Central Market. Whenever we’re over that way, Bill has to stop. He might also get a slice of Carrot Cake, a Crème Brulee or some sushi, but he’s there for the freshly made gelato. We always get a large box with at least three flavors. I say we, but I don’t eat much in the way of ice cream or gelato, so it’s all about Bill. Me, I hang out in the floral department. It’s spectacular. I don’t buy. I just look. I did buy some chicken salad from their chef’s selection, but that’s because I was feeling all kinds of luxurious.

A Sunday in Fort Worth Garden

As if I hadn’t already had an absolutely perfect weekend, Sunday was also special. I woke up early and put the finishing touches on the album I was working on. I had coffee with Bill (he has the coffee, while I drink my beloved Diet Dr Pepper) and then went to church. After church we ate our Central Market chicken salad and headed to Fort Worth.

Any day I spend with my husband can be quite special, but my very favorites are the ones he actually plans himself. While I was away at church, he researched ways to spend the afternoon and decided on a trip to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden where they were having a Fall Festival. He confessed he had checked the Dallas Arboretum first, where we have maintained a membership for years, but during the pandemic they started requiring us to schedule our visits. That’s a hassle! So we let our membership lag and since they are still requiring us to schedule our visits, we rarely go. Covid has yet another permanent impact on my life. Maybe some day they will wise up and we can go back to our casual drop-bys.

I’ve been making treks to Fort Worth for a long time and I remember when their botanic garden was both small and free, unless you visited the Japanese Garden. That was a long time ago. Now, there’s a Garden Center, a Conservatory, all the old gardens and some new gardens. Seniors pay $10 to enter, but then the Japanese Garden is included so, it was a very inexpensive way to spend a great afternoon. Since there was also a festival, then we were really doing good.

Rather than wear you out with more words I’ll just show you some pictures. The Japanese Festival was only one weekend, but they have another in the spring when the cherry blossoms are opening. They are also just about to start their holiday show, Lightscape and I think it’s going to be wonderful – so go!!

So – go to Lavendou and visit the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. We topped off our day with some Dickie’s ribs and okra. We had a bit of an adventure getting there which I’ll just skip over. The dangers of depending on Google and your GPS, but life was made for adventures, so stay tuned for more of them – here and there!