TRAVEL THERE – DEFINATELY NOT ON PAR WITH PUNTA CANA
The Dining Room
The happy face you see above only appeared one time in the dining room at Sandpiper Bay and when he actually sat down to eat this delicious looking crepe, he was sadly disappointed.
At Punta Cana we had three delicious choices for dining and we thoroughly enjoyed them all at various times. If it was a buffet meal, the tables were burdened with delicious choices. Whether we should blame stingy management or Covid, we’re not sure, but the one choice we had for meals at Sandpiper Bay was disappointing by comparison.
At Punta Cana, we wandered around multitudes of bounteous tables. We had a large plate in our hands and were allowed to serve ourselves whatever we wanted as much as we wanted. At Sandpiper Bay, they hid the food behind those irritating cough panels and dished up scanty servings of whatever was on for that particular meal.
At Punta Cana, you could always find a waitperson to get you more wine, more silverware, another napkin, whatever you needed. It wasn’t exactly five star service, but it was adequate. At Sandpiper Bay, you were virtually on your own. We figured out where they kept the opened bottles of wine and served ourselves most of the time, but the wine wasn’t as good as Punta Cana either.
At Punta Cana, meal time was one of our favorite events. At Sandpiper Bay we were lucky if we found enough of anything we liked to keep from being hungry. Not exactly the luxury experience we expected.
I hate to keep kicking Sandpiper Bay around the room, but the dining was a pretty sad situation. Before our four nights were over, we did find things to enjoy, but it just wasn’t the experience we’d anticipated from our previous Club Med stay.
Another marvelous thing about Punta Cana was the entertainment. The Boss of the Village was almost a natural entertainer and you could tell he made his people rehearse. Night after night we saw great shows. They were not professional, but they were something they could be proud of.
The entertainment at Sandpiper Bay was pitiful. It was so sloppy in its execution that you knew all they’d done is have a verbal walk thru. No one had a singing voice worth anything and instead of being funny, they were silly. And sloppy. Did I mention sloppy? Costumes never fit and were barely pulled up over shorts and bathing suits. Wigs were never combed and always awry. The Boss of the Village was there, but she was among the sloppiest and the silliest. She was barely filling in the blanks, not leading the way to quality anywhere in the resort.
I’m not bothering to catalog menus or describe any of the various shows, because nothing was worth noting. We’d show up each night in hopes of something, anything to eat, to drink, to pass the time, but always left a little hungry and very disgusted. None of the other meals were any better, but it was the evenings which were the most pathetic.
Come back next week and I will try to find something worthwhile to share with you. We were together and we weren’t working all the time, so there were good moments. We just had to make them ourselves, because there was little on offer from the resort.
Dressing up and going to the Opera had been one of the things Deb and I had fantasized about most as we looked forward to this trip. When we made it back from our trial run for Penn station, I was still raring to go. Deb was done in. She laid on the bed and said she was going to wear what she had on.
Now if you recall, her feet were in serious pain and had been ever since Tuesday night, yet we’d been walking all day, every day. The only shoes she could wear at this point was a pair of kitten printed canvas slippers. She was a little rung out from the train station episode and I’m not sure how much fun it would be to get all dressed up and finish the look with kitten shoes.
Here’s what’s so great about our friendship, I still wanted to get dressed up, so I did and she thought that was great. I pulled out all my finery and as I did, I also started prepping for the next morning, when we’d be going to the christening. That’s when I figured out I had no hosiery for the next day. In Dallas in May, that would be OK. In New York, I figured I would freeze to death.
So, I finished up getting cute and had time to spare to go to our drug store. I have no idea what we would have done without it. We’d gotten foot remedies, new skin for my finger, super glue for my sunglasses, late night snacks, numerous Diet Dr Peppers and now I was going for nude colored hose and something to treat a fever blister. Yep, it’s always something.
We were such pros on the subway now, that we probably could have made it just fine to Lincoln Center, but just to be sure we used Lyft. I could get used to this. Our driver dropped us off right in front and we didn’t even have to think about parking.
I do not have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe how wonderful it was to see the Franco Zeffirelli production and sets for Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera House. It is one of my favorite operas of all time and I have seen it a number of times at my beloved Dallas Opera, but there’s a reason The Met is The Met.
Turandot was the Ukranian, Luidmyla Ariltato and she did a remarkable job, but her Calaf was a South Korean, Yonghoon Lee. It was so fitting to see an Asian in this role and he knocked it out of the park, vocally. It really was special in my mind. Deb kept talking about how amazing the entire chorus was. “They were actually moving and acting,” she said, “not just standing around singing.”
Then there were the costumes. They were the perfect compliment to the outrageously wonderful sets created for each scene. If there is perfection in this world, short of heaven, then this production of Turandot is it. I can die happy.
Remember the grand nephew we visited across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Well, we made plans to join him for a bite after the show. We had a little difficulty finding his favorite sushi restaurant, even though it was close by. Lyft let us off at Columbus Circle and it was supposed to be right there, only we couldn’t find it. They were just about to quit serving when we finally got there, but we weren’t all that hungry after our feast at the Tavern on the Green earlier in the day.
Then he escorted us to the right subway station and sent us on our way. We made it back to the hotel just fine and felt very New Yorkish to be trotting around so late at night. I know horrible things happen to people on the streets of New York, but we never had a moment’s trouble.
The fun is almost over, but we have one more big event. Come back next week and we’ll take a little train ride.
So, sometime during the winter, Bill built a bunch of shelves in my attic. Yes, we have separate attics. What that means is that I get most of the larger attic. Now he built those shelves so he could navigate more easily to his stuff, but I’m not going to complain, because shelves are shelves and I love them.
However, winter is not an optimum time to reorganize your attic, so I used the shelves to make Bill a path to his stuff and went on with my life, waiting for better attic weather. While winter is not optimal for attic cleaning, summer in Texas is impossible, so when spring hit, I started on the project. I began with a corner of the attic with books and games, but lo and behold my shelves were broken. So, I unloaded everything on Monday, but Bill didn’t get around to fixing them until the last thing Sunday evening.
That left my guest bedroom looking like a storage room, but to tell the truth, it had already been leaning that way, which was the second impetus for reorganizing the attic. Frustrated in my efforts to complete that job, I started working on summer-izing my closet. A lot of my clothes can be worn year round, especially since this is Texas, but I do have seasonal stuff and I keep the off-season on a third row of hanging bar in my closet.
Switching out the season in my closet is a big job and I made it bigger this year by forcing myself to actually try on everything that was going to stay in the to-wear area. Last year I lost down to my goal weight, but before I had any time to enjoy it, I got a monster case of hives, which threw all my discipline out the window. I couldn’t exercise and the meds turned me into an eating machine. That made me angry, which caused me to eat more and for months I just hid beneath those finger tip sweaters and coats I love to wear, trying to ignore those extra pounds.
In March, I worked on a serious attitude improvement program and at the end of it, I bit the bullet and started back on Noom. I’d say I know at least ten health and fitness coaches, but I’m just not into smoothies and supplements, so I go it alone with a little app to make me accountable. I’m having a rough start with a lots of up and down, but that’s the nature of weight loss at my age, so as long as I stay on the plan and the overall direction is down, I’m trying to suffer the spikes with grace.
A lot of people go on diets so they can buy new clothes in a different size. I go on diets so I can get back into the clothes I already have. After my time in the closet last week, I have four feet of summer clothes I can’t wear and at least four feet of clothes that I wish were too big. Segregating the too small stuff saves me time when I’m getting ready, but also provides a great motivation to stay on track with my diet, because those clothes I can’t wear are my favorites.
But wait, just going through my clothes did not satisfy that urge to purge. Next, I attacked the drawers and cabinets in my bathroom. On Good Friday I woke up with the same organizing bug, decided to skip the new networking meeting I had intended to attend and headed back into my closet. The hanging clothes were all organized, but the rest of it also needed a purge. All of this resulted in more stuff for the attic. So, Saturday night I moved all that next to the stairwell and carried it upstairs on Sunday. No, you do not want to see my upstairs right now, but Bill finally fixed the shelves, so guess what I did with all my “spare time” this week!
When I was a little kid, my parents did the whole Easter thing, but somewhere along the way, my dad quit going to Christmas and Easter services. He said he went the rest of the year, so he was going to make room for all the visitors. For years, we stayed away from church on these big attendance days. Once I was on my own, I did not follow his lead, but this year I was going to.
If you’ve been keeping up, Bill and I are church shopping, again, a job we don’t particularly enjoy, but becomes necessary from time to time. We’ve visited several churches with varying degrees of success, but haven’t found the one. Last week, Bill just wasn’t up to it and this week I wasn’t. So, when my bestie called and invited us to join her for Good Friday services, that was a good way to work in some worship without visiting a strange church – her church is my old church. It was a great service and I enjoyed seeing my friends.
Afterwards, we went to Casa Mama, again. It’s her favorite. I’m on a diet, so I didn’t care.
My plans for Saturday underwent many changes. Initially, I was going to meet my Dot friends, of the local Polka Dot Powerhouse chapter, for a walk. However, the organizer got sick and I was the only “for sure” attendee, so I redirected my exercise endeavors to my gym. Then I came home and organized my earrings for a while, which was the last job in organizing my closet.
I had been going to go meet my bestie on the other side of town after my walk, which would have been at the end of her dance lesson, but without the walk, it made more sense for us to meet on our own side of town. So she came and picked me up. For lunch, we went to one of my favorites, Fable & Fire. Yes, I know the service is slow and they’re a tad bit expensive, but I love the vibe. It was my first Saturday visit, so I was pleased to discover they have live music on Saturday afternoon. It made for a pleasant lunch. I had the salad with the fruit and nuts – yummy!!
After lunch I got back to my earrings and finished up the closet job. Hubby was taking a nap on the sofa, so I sat down to read a little, which turned into a lot.
Since I always wake up early, so matter whether I need to or not, I used the time to get ahead on my weekday tasks by doing some social media stuff. Bill and I shared a quiet coffee time together, then we went out in the yard for some of that unpleasant, but necessary stuff that needed to be done.
Afterwards, I got cleaned up, because we were supposed to be going out to run some errands, but when I walked out cute and ready to roll, someone was relaxing on the couch. So, I started reading again. He changed couches and I moved to the couch he vacated to continue reading. I was getting chilly and thought about changing clothes, but it seemed as if we were going to have an at home day, so I decided to just change into lounging clothes. The minute I sat back down on the couch, he was ready to roll, so I changed again, but this time into something a little warmer.
We needed to buy a birthday gift for a nephew and the last time I’d been to the Dallas Museum of Art, the gift shop had a good assortment of cute kid stuff. So, we went there, only to discover all the cute kid stuff had sold out. Nada! So, we just enjoyed the museum for awhile. We spent most of our time in the European Art, something we hadn’t done in a while and I must say I liked what was on display. Some old favorites were in different spots and there were other items I either hadn’t seen in a while or didn’t remember ever seeing.
From the museum we went to Fadi’s. He likes the schwerma and I love the veggies. It was delicious as always. Next stop the grocery store, then home again, home again jiggedy jig.
For a girl on a diet I sure did eat well this weekend, but it was a lot of salad and veggies, so nothing to feel guilty about. Come back next week for some more of New York and the usual Memory Keeping 101. Then we’ll see how I did on my diet this week and if I got my attic back together!
While it would have been very easy to spend every waking hour of my New York week at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I didn’t, because I want to feel as if I know any city I visit, not just hit the top site. That’s why we stomped all over Mid-Town and Lower Manhattan, as well as taking advantage of the subway. Hopefully, some day, I will get back to The Met, but I needed more than one museum to know New York.
You could museum into perpetuity in New York. They have a little of everything. Museums like MOMA and Guggenheim are better known, but once I’d read about the Frick Mansion overlooking Central Park, I knew it was the choice for me. My choice was tested when I discovered they were renovating the mansion and a selection of the best items had been moved to a temporary home called Frick Madison, but reading through a list of items in the collection, I kept the Frick on my list.
While the Frick was no further away than our stroll to the Met, at this point of the vacation, less steps are better. As we ate meal bars in our hotel room (we were dead tired of their breakfasts and I could not face another egg) Deb pulled out her handy dandy Metro app and discovered we’d need bus service to get close to the Frick. So with the help of the app, we took the bus. It dropped us into a completely different world a few blocks from our destination.
This was residential New York, the Upper East Side and plenty swanky I will let you know. This was a quiet Saturday morning. We saw a few joggers. There were mommies and daddies out with the latest style of preambulars. We were on hallowed ground.
Coming to Madison Avenue, we made a left and continued to enjoy our surroundings. We arrived on the doorstep of the Frick with time to kill, so I backtracked to a small convenience store I’d seen along the way. You know those movies where someone steps into a small crowded bodega and is suddenly swept up in a robbery or a mugging? Yeah, well this wasn’t that place. The proprietors were oriental. Everything was neat, nothing was crowded and yet the space seemed to have a little of anything you might need.
I was in dire need of caffeine and I was ready to take it in whatever form I could get it, but to my absolute delight, they had my beloved Diet Dr Pepper in a screw top bottle. I could drink what I needed and save the rest for later. I was jubilant. I don’t think anyone had ever been jubilant in their store. They smiled and nodded, but I could tell they wanted the crazy person to leave and return them to their previously quiet and neat atmosphere.
Then it was Frick time. The first floor is a functional floor with offices, ticket sales and a store. We walked into the first gallery on the second floor. Holbiens, Hals and other fabulous painters from Holland and the Netherlands. Then BAM, the Rembrandt self portrait we all know. We may not even know it is a Rembrandt self portrait, but we’ve all seen the guy with a mustache in a funny hat, washed in golden light. A roomful of Van Dykes and three of the only 34 Vermeers which exist in the world today. We’re only in the first set of galleries and we’ve already seem more Old Master paintings than most bigger museums have in their entire collection!
The third floor has many of the decorative arts, which many of you will recall is my absolute favorite thing in a museum. Carpets, porcelain (so much Meissan) and of all things, clocks. There was a lot of Italian art of all varieties and in the Spanish section, several El Greco’s, which I love.
The decorative arts also filled the fourth floor and these were French – oooh la la! Not in necessarily in manufacture, but taste – think Sèvres and Meissan. Continuing on the fourth floor was a gallery filled with Frangonard’s Progress of Love. Like the Rembrandt self-portrait, these are paintings you’ve seen reproductions of all your life. To see them in person and all together was stunning.
Then, as if you are not already gob-smocked from all you’ve seen, there is a room of Impressionist paintings, finishes out the floor. Not a comprehensive collection, but stunning nonetheless. At that point, I just wanted to go back to the second floor and do it all over, but other entertainments beckoned and we were hungry!
If I went back to New York tomorrow, I would first go to The Met and then back to the Frick – and hopefully, the renovation of the mansion would be over and I could see these masterworks in their usual venue, placed in his gorgeous home, just as Mr. Frick thought they should be. Then I would go to the Guggenheim and MOMA. The Frick is just that good.
But it’s lunch time! Come back next week and we’ll cross Central Park to the Tavern on the Green.
Traveling is my thing and every year, when the Travel & Adventure Show comes to town, I feed that passion. I remember the first year I happened into it with my hubby at the Dallas Convention Center. He was more excited about the Belly Dancers on the Global Beats Stage and I didn’t worry him by picking up every brochure in sight, like I do these days, but I knew I’d found something.
The next year, bestie went with me and a tradition was born. We schedule our day around various speakers, grab every brochure that even slightly interests us and get our picture made at the photo booth. It’s a good time.
This year she had a dance lesson and we met afterwards. Confession, the last few times we’d been, it want’s the marvelous hit it had been in those first few years and we couldn’t even blame it on Covid. Somewhere along the way they’d moved to Dallas Market Hall and it just wasn’t what it had been. So, bestie and I decided we didn’t need to rush over there. We could have lunch first. I mean we’re not about to miss it, it had just fallen short in helpfulness since it first came along.
So, we grabbed lunch at Torchy’s Tacos, near one of her dance studios. We have one in Rockwall, but I rarely get there. In truth, I think it’s a little pricey for street tacos, but that’s me. This time it was well over $20, basically for fast food, but I did splurge and get a specialty margarita. It was bigger than the standard margarita and while Deb complained her regular margarita was a tad tart, mine was awesome.
Then it was on to Dallas Market Center. This year did not feature some of the big name travel types we’d seen in the past, but I thought it was an improvement over the last few years. The first time it was at DMC it was pathetic and the Covid years were tough, but we’ve hung in there and this year it really was worth the effort. It’s easy to be worth the price, because it was only $10. What else can you do for $10.
We started off with “How to Travel Solo, from the Experts” in the Savvy Traveler Theater, for Deb, who is contemplating a test drive in the world of Solo Travel. There had been a similar seminar last year, but it had been a total waste of time. This year was better – marginally so, but better. Deb was encouraged to discover more and more companies are doing away with an upcharge for solo travelers, but disappointed the cruise industry is slowest on the uptake.
The next seminar was right back in the same place, but it was Gabe Saglie of Travel Zoo talking about “How to Prioritize Travel in Uncertain Economic Times. He talked a lot about trends and offered up travel tips, but his goal in life was to get us to sign up for Travel Zoo. He made it sound good enough, that I actually just did so.
We immediately went to “”The Insider’s Guide to Visiting Arizona Parks,” but the seminar was misnamed. It should have been, “Look What I Did.” Some lady who worked for the Arizona Office of Tourism spent the time showing videos which are on the National Parks’ websites. Apparently, she had been tasked with making the National Parks websites more accessible and she was very proud of her videos. Thank you, I know how to use the internet. You have wasted my time. She got away with showing one. We left when she started showing the second one. She may have made the websites more accessible to the general public, but she made her presentation a real snorefest.
Next up was “Cruise Tips, Trends and Personal Stories from Our Adventures at Sea,” in the big Travel Theater. This seminar was also misnamed. It was an advertisement for Princess cruises to Alaska. The MC for this talk was Alanna Zingano, a social media travel influencer (No, thank you!) and Jeff Corwin. I confess, he looked a lot like Steve Irwin, the Australian Nature Dude who got killed by a stingray, so I thought he was that guy’s son. Not so. Somehow Jeff Corwin has gotten a job as the Nature & Adventure Ambassador, probably because I’m not the only one who thinks he’s Steve Irwin’s son. Anyway, Alaska is not at the top of my travel list and Deb has been four times, so that was a loser.
The final seminar of the day was probably the best. Someone named David McGuffin did a talk titled, “Exploring Europe: Top Destinations, Attractions and Experiences.” Of course, he was advertising his European travel company.
David and our friend from Travel Zoo were the most informative guys at the travel show, but I wish that wasn’t giving them more credit than they deserve. In the past, we’ve seen Samantha Brown, Rick Steves and other travel luminaires behind the podium. So, it was not a star-studded event. However, they have ramped up the quality of their vendors and I felt as if it was more worth the trip than it had been in recent years.
David Solomon at the Biblical Arts Museum
The other big event for the weekend was an opening reception for a new exhibition at the Biblical Arts Museum. I’m not sure how I get on these lists, but the museum invited me to opening of the “Flowers of the Holy Land” Exhibit. A little honesty here. I’m not really fond of this museum. It’s mostly a warehouse for copies of various religious art – including Thomas Kinkade prints. They also cram entirely to much stuff into the space they have, so actually enjoying one of their oversized look-alikes is difficult to do.
I can’t say I walked away from this exhibit with much more respect for what they are doing. Bill and I both thought an exhibit of my own photographs from the Dallas ARboretum would offer better photography and certainly FOREVER would have done a better job printing the large format photos. The refreshments offered were bad wine and bagels – a little odd, but the jazz band which played was actually pretty good.
Glad I went, so I know what’s up. I wonder if the exhibit will be there later this month when the Crowley Chamber Concert will be. While I’m not crazy about the museum, I do love the Crowley Chamber Concert Series.
For now, I must run! See you next week for travel, memory keeping and another weekend report.
It almost felt like pre-pandemic days. Something came in snail mail which invited us to a free event. Those used to come all the time from The Dallas Museum of Art, The Dallas Arboretum, various premium car dealerships and other organizations. Then we all went into hibernation and the world had changed. Nothing comes in snail mail anymore and the only thing that might be free is a ZOOM meeting.
But by golly, several months ago, our HOA magazine invited us to a free event to celebrate their name change, the Stroll Meet & Greet. They kicked it off with great fanfare, suggesting that once I made my reservations I’d be inundated with all kinds of follow up information. That didn’t happen. In fact, I had to do a little investigative research to figure out if it was actually going to happen or not.
Once we made the drive across town and arrived at the event, we discovered we were the only couple from our neighborhood to make the trek. The editor of our magazine and her daughter were there, but no one else. I would say that should give you a clue about the magazine’s readership, but on second thought, I realized the location of the event required residents of Buffalo Creek to cross the bridge and many folks out here in the Lake Cities, Rockwall, Heath, Fate etc. don’t go anywhere that requires crossing the bridge, especially if it’s at rush hour.
Well, Bill and I are just misplaced Dallasites, so while we may curse, moan and complain about the bridge, it is not a barrier to us attending a free event in Far North Dallas. The location of this particular event was Starpower, just off the Dallas Parkway. If you aren’t familiar with Starpower, I’m not surprised. It’s a high end appliance and home theater store by Ed Kellum and Sons, but most folks have never heard of it. It’s a beautiful showroom and served as a great venue for an homeowner event. Bill even looked at a frig.
All in all, it was a pretty nice event. There were some food stations, a photo booth and adult beverages With six neighborhoods in DFW N2 Publishing’s stable and free admission, I would have expected a larger crowd, but there you go. I said it ALMOST felt like pre-pandemic days and people staying home in droves is just one of the post-pandemic realities.
Another post-pandemic reality is that most people have forgotten how much fun it is to dress up. “Cocktail Attire” was requested and some of us rose to the occasion, but most people did not. Business Attire was also an option, so I gave those people a pass, but the slobs (and they know who they are) put a damper on the gala atmosphere. They may be comfortable and doing their own thing, but I’d just as soon they stayed home, too.
The sponsors did avoid another post-pandemic trend, of which I’m glad. To be honest, it’s a Millenial/Gen X trend, but it all tends to fit in the same bucket, in my humble opinion. There was no virtue-signaling claim of a charity or cause benefitting from it. Everywhere I go it seems someone wants a few to many dollars for their cause or for me to buy their raffle ticket or to donate something for their silent auction. If I donated to everyone with their hand out, I’d need someone to have a gala for me, because I’d be bankrupt. But I’ll get off that hobby horse. I’m a voice crying out in the wilderness and I’m totally off-trend.
Lone Star CASA’s Bunco & Bubbles Brunch
While the Stroll Meet & Greet didn’t have a charitable agenda, the next event on my calendar did, the third annual Bunco and Bubbles Brunch. This was an unashamed fund-raising event for CASA and I heartily endorse Lone Star CASA and their mission. What I don’t like is the way a charity is tacked on to obvious marketing ploys, where someone or some organization wants to get credit for my donations to their charity. It just doesn’t sit well with me. Marketing is marketing and charity is charity.
That being said, this was a pretty fun event. Yes, they sold raffle tickets and yes there was both a live and a silent auction, but I can live with that. One draw is a brunch with bottomless mimosas. An improvement this year was the addition of cranberry juice to make poinsettias. My tummy cannot tolerate the acid in orange juice and apparently I am not alone. When I attended a couple of years ago, orange juice was all they had and a bottomless glass of champagne can be a little dangerous. I’m glad my car was able to drive home on its own.
The brunch itself was not exactly bountiful. There was a three-tiered plate stand with nibbles at each end of the tables. The choices were very skinny finger sandwiches, teeny tiny quiches and three-fruit hors d’oeuvres. Or you could go pick a cold glazed doughnut off a board with pegs on it. Were I in charge, I think I’d dump the brunch part and just provide a snack mix in bowls for finger food. A lot less hassle and expense. To boot, people like me wouldn’t show up hungry with visions of a buffet. They did refill the selections several times, but exactly how many mini-quiche can you eat to balance out your mimosas and poinsettias. If there were no brunch offered, folks would eat breakfast before they came. No charge for the advise.
The other draw was Bunco. I only play Bunco once in a blue moon and usually when I do, everyone has donated a few bucks to the pot, which is then split up among the winners. The head table (where the winners sit) sets the pace for the game, because you play until someone at the head table gets 21 points. If they roll a Bunco (all three dice have the target number) then it’s a really short game.
This game was played in four minute heats and were they ever hot. Some of the women were rolling the dice as if their lives depended on winning. Their goal was to get as many rolls as possible into the 4 minutes. That took all the fun out of it for me. With certain rolls, you’re supposed to call out for a token to mark your score, but instead of being able to celebrate your feat, these crazy women wanted you to continue rolling while you madly waved your hand to get your token – a cheap string of beads, which would be turned in for a ticket, which gave you a chance at a prize.
The heats were also very loud. You had some ladies coaching those who had never played Bunco, other women were counting the scoring dice rolls out loud, some people were cheering on their partners and then there was the desperate calls of “Bunco” and “Mini-Bunco”, so we could get our necklaces, while the self-selected Bunco bosses would shout, “Keep rolling! Keep rolling!” Over it all was the timekeeper shouting out how many minutes/seconds were left in the heat. Confession, it was all a little overwhelming for me.
Taking It Easy Sunday
After so much excitement, I was ready for a quiet Sunday. We visited Rockwall First Baptist in our continuing search for a church home. Like several of the churches we have visited, they were doing a lot of things right, but it just wasn’t for us. I grew up on 3-Points- &-A-Poem sermons, so it was all very familiar. Nothing theologically wrong with what was taught, it just wasn’t challenging enough intellectually and spiritually. I need something that’s going to keep me thinking all week long, until I can go back again the next Sunday to get more.
The music part of the journey is the toughest part. I actually liked the music they sang, but they only put the words up on the screens. I really, really need the actually bars of music or I’m left feeling around vocally, trying to figure out what the tune is. After struggling through several contemporary songs, I was so relieved to move to a very familiar hymn, that I could barely sing it for the tears. It shouldn’t be so hard to worship!
Next Bill got his Starbuck’s fix. I don’t drink coffee and relaxing is a very hard thing for me to do, but if he can go sit through a worship service he’s not all that interested in, then I can go hang out at Starbucks. From there we visited a few nurseries – also not my favorite things, but I was getting to spend the day with the love of my life, so what did I have to complain about. We did come home with some youpon hollies and a few nandina bushes – neither of which were on my short list, but at least we’ll get some shrubs planted. Bill and I have very different criteria for plants.
The day slid into evening and all too soon the work week started. Put the Bunco & Bubbles event on your calendar for next year and then come back next week for a little more NYC and some great Memory Keeping Advice. Then we’ll have another weekend report.
Travel There – Libraries, a Cathedral, an Architectural Tour and The Top of the Rock
There was only one thing wrong with our plan for the day and that was Deborah’s feet. Her shoes tore them up on that first afternoon, when we strolled Broadway and since then, all we’d done was walk – all over Liberty Island, Ellis Island, Lower Manhattan, Central Park and The Met, as well as a trip back up and down Broadway. Still, she is a trooper. She medicated her blisters, put on bandages, wore thick socks, pulled on shoes and kept on walking. I don’t know if I would have been so tough. I’ve had days ruined by a paper cut.
The Morgan Library
We had breakfast at the hotel since it was included, took a quick subway ride to save Deb’s feet a few steps and made our way to the Morgan Library. Our admission time was 10:30 and that’s all you get, admission. I sort of assumed someone would take us around and point out the highlights. I was wrong. They pinned a tag on each of us and set us free.
There is an audio tour available on their website and we did listen to some of that, but I like people. Yes, I know I am a dinosaur, but it is what it is. In the absence of a tour guide, it is still an amazing place. They were very serious about masks and overtly politically correct, but I can ignore almost anything.
There is the historical building from JP Morgan’s time, standing as a testimony to his taste and erudition, with a very, very modern building added as a sign they are keeping up with the times. By far, my favorite things were those in the historical part of the museum complex. Several interesting exhibitions were on view in the newer part when we visited – Hans Holbein, Gwendolyn Brooks and Woody Guthie. Of the three, I found Woody Guthrie’s the most compelling. I had known of him, but little about him until I saw this exhibit.
Then we went inside got our tickets for the Rose Main Reading Room, which is the main attraction for tourists. We had an hour to kill, oooohing and aaaaaahing at all there was to see, while we waited to get into their very special space. It was totally worth it. Gorgeous. My photos are awful, so browse the websites I’ve linked to.
From there we checked out Grand Central Station. First, because it is a landmark everyone should see, but also we thought that’s where we’d catch the train to New Jersey for the christening, but it wasn’t.
I’d seen several hints that I should go to The Lott New York Palace which was once the Villard Mansion. It’s located right behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so I didn’t see any reason not to check it out. Totally worth the side trip, even if you wouldn’t have guessed it from the outside. Serious construction was going on, but inside, yes, it was worth the side trip. Several really amazing things to see, including the Gold Room, which all by itself was worth the visit. You’ve seen it in so many movies!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Next up, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the travel gods once again smiled on me. A wedding was going on which included an ethereal voice singing Ave Maria. It meant I could not walk up close to the famous altar and such, but it was a great trade off!
We surprised Deb’s great nephew who was working at a store across the street, which I will not mention, because he no longer works there. That’s when we decided to be spontaneous and have a little break, because resting our dogs while sipping a little wine sounded like just the thing. NYC did not cooperate.
I thought standing right next to Rockefeller’s famous rink, darling little wine bars would be all over the place, but in spite of further irritating Deb’s feet by walking all over the place, the only thing we could find was fast food. Saks had a coffee bar, but it was not an inviting place to rest, there was no alcohol and I don’t do coffee. We killed all the time we had stomping around to find a place to relax, instead of relaxing.
Architectural Tour and Top of the Rock
Having used up all our break time trying to find a place to take a break, it was time to go on the Architectural WALKING Tour of Rockefeller Center. I heartily recommend this to anyone. On the tour, we were introduced to many beautiful works of art we’d passed in oblivion in our search for a glass of wine. We learned a lot about Rockefeller himself and were pleased to learn he was a little rebel, purchasing and displaying works of art thought scandalous at the time, in part because the artists weren’t nice white people, but also because they displayed hitherto covered parts of the body.
After the walking tour we finally found an outdoor wine bar, which was exactly what we’d wanted before the tour. The area was shaded by the surrounding buildings, so it was a little chilly and the wine was downright bad, but we didn’t sweat it. We chatted with some eccentric old woman who would have us believe she was the antique maven of the entire city, and she might have been, but mostly what we liked was not walking for a while and taking an edge off the stress of walking around NYC via maps and our wits.
While it would be nice to say we could have spent more time there, the wine really was bad and it was entirely too chilly to be comfortable, so when it came time for our Top of the Rock tour, we were ready to go. We walked a couple of blocks back to the elevator, took a couple of escalators and there we were at the Top of the Rock.
Deborah told me the Top of the Rock tour had been her sons’ favorite thing about their visit to New York. I am glad I went, but I did not have that kind of enthusiasm for it. It was one of the most expensive things we did (except for the shows we went to) and I thought all of them were more my cup of tea.
I did the Hancock Building in Chicago and I have to say I thought that was a better experience. They have decals on the window to let you know what you’re looking at. There are more exhibits explaining the city and the building to you. I also felt less like a member of a cattle herd. To boot, Chicago is one beautiful city, while New York is overwhelmingly big.
But wait! The day is not over!! Come back next week and we’ll have dinner at Carmine’s a famous and much recommended Italian restaurant in Times Square.
It was supposed to be Joe Allen’s and Moulin Rouge, but I had a little planning hiccup, so we ate at Sardi’s instead. All of my life I’d heard of Sardi’s, so I wasn’t too upset, until I got there. BORING!! There is no longer any sizzle, only a very tired restaurant, mediocre food and a zombie waitstaff. Let’s move on to more exciting things.
So, while Sardi’s was a real disappointment, Moulin Rouge was not. There was frisson in the air as we approached the Al Hirshfield Theater. Everything was under construction along the street, which added it’s own chaos to the gathering crowd, wearing their masks and whipping out their phones for entrance into the theater. Apparently, actual paper tickets are a thing of the past.
Once inside the theater, we were all Bohemians, but you’d better not be carefree enough to take off your mask. All around me I heard stories of a show being stopped while an usher beamed a light at unmasked people. Someone else said they’d seen people thrown out of the theater for taking off their masks. A flyer warned us of all the things we were not supposed to do and just in case we missed it, an usher explained the seriousness of the crime of masklessness.
The musical was everything you’d want a Broadway production to be. The set, as you can see above, was amazing. The costumes were great. And the voices? WOW!! We were in the balcony, but we could see and hear everything with ease. We loved it.
I’ll be honest though, I did not love the music of the musical as much as I did the music of the movie. It wasn’t the singers. It was the songs. What I didn’t know is that the show was written in a way to include current music in the story. I’d especially loved some of the songs in the movie and was waiting eagerly to hear them. One of the first songs belted out was Lourde’s Royals. It fit in perfectly and it’s a song I like, but it was my first clue that I’d be hearing different music that night than I had anticipated.
It’s a great show and very much like the movie, but not exactly like the movie, even beyond the music. Logistics was part of it. You just can’t fit the movie set of Moulin Rough into a Broadway theater, so you saw only the inside of Satine’s dressing room, not the huge elephant it was on. While absinthe, the dangerous green spirit, plays a role in the live show, it is somewhat different than the movie. In the movie it was almost exalted, while in the show it is more clearly a villain.
Should you go? Absolutely! It was one of the highlights of the trip, but don’t eat at Sardi’s. All in all this was a red letter day. To go to the Met and a spectacular Broadway show, all in one day, was pretty amazing.
We trotted back up Broadway to our hotel, doctored our various ailments and got ready for the next day. Getting old really does suck, but it is better than the alternative.
Next up, a walking tour of Mid-Town, so be sure to come back next week for the Morgan Library, the New York Public Library, St. Patrick’s and Top of the Rock.
So far in NYC, our days have started with a long list of attractions. On this day the list narrowed down to the one thing I’d been wanting to do for as long as I could remember – visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. No aimless wandering for this Museum Girl. I’d read everything I could get my hands on. I had my tickets in hand. I had also printed out a map from the internet, highlighting the most important areas and numbering the order we should see them in.
I know sometimes you look forward to something for a long, long time and when you get there it is a disappointment. That was not the case in this situation. I loved every minute of it and would go back again tomorrow – but my map would look different.
Getting There was Part of the Fun
I’ve mentioned before how perfect the Sheraton New York Times Square hotel was as the headquarters of this vacation, but I’m going to say it again. If I ever get back, I’ll stay there again.
Excited about the day to come I woke up at 1:30, 3 and 5. At six I finally got out of bed and made myself ready for the day. We had our breakfast and set out on the sidewalk towards Central Park.
It was a glorious day, crisp and clear. Other tourists and New Yorkers went about their business. Something that surprised me about the city it was the lack of crowds. I thought the sidewalks would be shoulder to shoulder and the streets, bumper to bumper, but it was oddly sedate. Since I’d never been there before, I can’t tell you whether this was the result of the pandemic or I’d just over-imagined it.
I cannot tell you the joy I felt strolling through Central Park. It’s a beautiful place and the city is so lucky to have it. Even though I’d never been there, it felt familiar, because so many movies and TV shows are filmed here. I kept saying to myself, “I’m here! I’m really here!”
We took a turn to the east at the famous Bethesda Fountain and made our way to the Met. If I’d been wanting a crowd, here it was. A line snaked around the front of the building and down the sidewalk. Unfortunately, those were the people with tickets. It really didn’t take long, because it was just a security check and then we were in. We’d entered on some lower level and I’d planned my tour to begin on the main floor, so getting oriented was a bit disorienting, but soon I was gawking at all the things I’d dreamed of.
Galleries of Heaven
Our day at the Met began with European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. We saw the Robert Lehman Collection and visited the European Paintings. I was in heaven. I love it all. I really couldn’t believe I was really there.
We took a lunch break at The Eatery. Like the café on Ellis Island, everything is prepped and wrapped in cellophane, but the fare is a notch above. The atmosphere is much tonier also. Everything is modern, white and accented with blonde wood. If you’re going to be at the museum all day, like we were, then it was the perfect spot for lunch.
We enjoyed the break and headed towards the American Wing. Those Europeans might have been around longer than us, but we caught up fast. I wandered around just as amazed in this wing as I had been during the morning. As much as I love paintings and sculpture, decorative arts are my passion. I can look at vases, cups and spoons until the cows come home. The Met delivered. Deb and I wandered into a section which held case after case after case of humble items made beautiful. These are not the showstoppers of the museums, more like the pantry, but I loved them.
It was time for another break, so we went to the American Wing Café for a glass of wine. This is such a great space. You are actually in the American Wing Gallery, not hidden away like The Eatery. Table space is at a bit of a premium and I suppose the abandoned glasses, cups and plates were a sign they were a bit understaffed, but it was a break we needed.
I’d saved ancient history for the end of the day and we saw as much as we could, but we were pooped. I wish I’d had time to go back the next day and start filling in the blanks, because I know there were many, but there’s just so much that a brain can digest on a single day. We walked across Central Park to catch the subway, which delivered our weary bodies almost at the doorstep of our hotel.
But the day is not yet over! Come back next week for a taste of Broadway. We’ll go to the All Hirshfield Theater for Moulin Rouge.
Get ready for a wild ride! It’s my birthday weekend!
My favorite restaurant in Dallas is Javier’s, has been forever and it was my top choice for celebrating my birthday, this year and every year, but on Tuesday the earliest reservation possible on Friday night was 9:00. That wasn’t going to roll.
Bestie suggested the new Sear Steakhouse here in Rockwall and I was really glad, because I have been wanting to visit. I just can’t think past Javier’s on my birthday. We made reservations for hubby, bestie and me at 7:30. Here’s how it went.
Let me say first the food is AMAZING. I loved every bite and so did everyone else at our table. I started out with Lobster Bisque to die for, moved on the the perfect porkchop and topped it off with creamed corn better than my mother used to make. Bill stuck with a Wedge Salad and Deb did have a steak.
Let me also say the service was impeccable. Brandon guided us through a wonderful meal and fielded every complaint with grace. Complaint? Yes, there were a few.
The décor has a cool, hip edge we really enjoyed and the chairs were even comfortable, something some restaurants seem to think is no longer necessary. So what’s the beef? Sometimes, the closer something is to perfection, the more the flaws stick out.
The first jarring detail was the fake red rose in the cheap vase on the table. Had there been no floral offering, we wouldn’t even have noticed. Even the cheap vase would have been alright. What wasn’t right was the cheap fake rose. Any fake flower would have been a disappointment, but this was one of those tightly rolled numbers Amazon offers in bunches of 24 for $12.99. It didn’t even pretend like it wanted to look like a rose. It just looked fake. Don’t want to pay for real roses? I get it. Carnations and lilies are nice. In fact, a more convincing fake carnation would have been passable. What they chose was awful.
So in a critical mood we looked around at the fake roses on all the tables and that’s when we noticed the big bouquet of fake tulips. I will admit these were a better quality silk flower than the rose, but they still looked fake. If they hadn’t been there, we would have had a better view of the lovely fireplace they must have spent a fortune on. And that’s my point. In this case, less is more. Give the fake flowers and cheap vases to a nursing home or something. Just don’t leave them in the restaurant to spoil what is otherwise a very delightful décor vibe.
Other complaints? Seven dollars for sauces. A good steak doesn’t need a sauce, but if you are going to offer sauces with your steaks, just add it to the price of the entrée or if you have to charge something (I looked at other steakhouses, like Lawry’s, and they do have an upcharge, but it’s $4, not $7). My creamed corn was $7. Why would a sauce be that price? We wondered if it was the size, but the corn was a generous serving and when our server showed us the size of the sauce plate, it was about the size of half a business card.
Bread was the final faux pas. They had bread and it was good, but we didn’t get any until we were almost to the main course. As we sat, enjoying our drinks, we asked if they had bread. The answer was yes and he’d bring it as soon as it was ready. We asked for it again when the appetizers were served. Then I got down right ornery about it when they started trying to remove my soup bowl. At that point it was a matter of principle. We had a reservation at 7:30 on a Friday night. If a restaurant is going to have hot bread, that seems the right time to put it on the table. When the bread finally arrived, I scooped of the last vestiges of the best lobster bisque I ever had and then I let them take my soup bowl.
We did have dessert. We shared some carrot cake and it was really good, but it wasn’t chocolate. They had chocolate bread pudding, but I don’t like bread pudding, and they had a flourless chocolate cake, but it was about as generous as the sauce servings and I wanted to share. The carrot cake slice was so big, we actually had enough to take some home, but I forgot the box on the table.
Super Sized Saturday
My birthday weekend was only beginning. I had a very busy Saturday. It started with some early morning scrapbooking and coffee with Mr. Bill in the sunroom. Then Deb and I headed across town. First stop was Sam Moon’s. Deb has a dance competition in a couple of weeks and nothing in her jewelry collection did justice to her Latin dress, which has flames sewn around the skirt. She also wanted brightly colors long gloves to go with her shimmery grey smooth dress. We found both and I managed to get out of there without buying anything. Sure I wanted to buy the very big white Easter hat which looked lovely on me, but Easter Sunday is not what it used to be. I’d need to have tickets to the Kentucky Derby or Ascot to justify it.
Next up was the Dallas Contemporary where her son Gino is the Director of Development. They were having an art book fair for the Dallas Library and Gino had a table selling some of his zines and such, with his girlfriend, who is also an artist.
Along with buying a surprise envelope from Gino’s old fashioned vending machine, we walked about the other tables, lingering at the Deep Vellum Bookstore offerings, where Deb showed me a t-shirt Gino had designed. When the girl behind the table started trying to tell us how talented the artist was, Deb said, “I’m his mom.” The girl got all flustered and excited like Deb was a celebrity.
The envelope is Gino’s work, the yellow lady was by another artist at the fair. I would have paid a quarter to get the envelope. I am a big fan of Gino’s work. I’m also a big fan of Shepard Fairey who is currently on exhibition is the galleries. Mr. Fairey’s beautiful and interesting work will be on display through late July and you should go see it. Those are his murals on the collage at the top.
So, for lunch, we stayed in the Design District and ate atEl Bolero. Now, this is a restaurant I can recommend with vigor. Is it perfect? No, but they also aren’t claiming to be Rockwall’s “local high end steakhouse” either. It’s just a funky Design District Mexican restaurant with great food and a really enjoyable patio. I had something called the Texas Peach Margarita. That’s reason enough to visit, right there. OMG good!! But then we shared the Nachos de Tejas and they are worth a visit, too. Just go, you’ll love it. We finished off the meal by sharing a Snickerdoodle Bundtlet from Nothing But Bundt Cakes, who had sent me a birthday coupon.
But my Super Saturday is not over! Then I left Deb at a dance lesson and picked up hubby for bowling. I don’t bowl. I hate bowling, but I love my Dots.Polka Dot Powerhouse is an international networking group for women. I belong to the Plano/North Dallas Chapter and I’ve got to tell you, it’s the bomb! Is there great business networking? Of course, take Sarah Head of Sarah K Photography. She and I connected, because Spot On Images does not do head shots and she doesn’t do real estate photography. Our meeting was just a couple of weeks ago and we’re already sharing leads.
However, what’s more important is that Sarah is a new friend. We don’t just see each other at lunch meetings, we also go bowling and we’re both looking forward to the pool party in July. And the same is true for a wonderful group of women I have met since November and have already begun to call friends. Want to visit? I’d love to host you one lunch or dinner meeting. You’ll be hooked!
Slow Down Sunday
After such a busy weekend, we were ready for a quiet Sunday. We visited another church. It was Church of Christ. While it was a good sermon and there were nice friendly people, the acapella music and the uber-plain sanctuary did not fit the model church in our head. We were going to try Lakepointe’s Classic Service, but it’s an 8 AM service. The goal is to get Bill to go with me more frequently and he was never going to attend at 8 AM. So, the search continues. We’re going Lutheran next week. Trying to find a mix that fits a born Baptist and a raised Coptic pair is not easy.
After church, a quick trip to In & Out, because we had a coupon. Because it was a coupon kind of day, we decided to visit a few of the stores who offered me birthday coupons. We picked up some stuff for the house at Target and At Home, but I saved the DSW, Chico’s and WHBM for shopping with my bestie. Mr. Bill was on the sofa for his nap by 3 PM. I read a little bit and started organizing photos for next album, but ended up just playing my favorite game on my phone.
And that’s it! Come and visit me next week when we’ll enjoy a little more Travel Talk about NYC and some Memory Keeping 101, before the next Weekend Report.