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

Stardust in Our Eyes

Travel There – Ellen’s Amazing Stardust Diner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking Tour of Broadway

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

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

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

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

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

Junior’s Cheesecake

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

Our Key to the City

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

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

The Biggest Department Store in the World

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

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

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

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

Back Up Broadway

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

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

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

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

On Our Way to the Big City

Travel There – Gee Thanks WAYZ

Gotta Love Rush Hour – NOT

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

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

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

Google Maps or WAYZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Did Arrive in Time

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

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

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

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Bad Phone

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Travel There – If You Can

So, as I faced the slings and arrows of rebooking the NYC trip, I was also trying to book a trip for Bill and I. We had Southwest Airlines credit which would expire in June. After much discussion, we decided to try out the American Club Med in Florida. We’d had an amazing time at their Punta Canta resort and wanted to repeat it, but in the Post Covid World, we didn’t want to stray too far from home.

I had done all my homework for both NYC and Club Med. Since I was going to NYC first, I got that booked, then I went to work on the Florida trip. Club Med’s site told me to get their booking confirmed before I booked the airfare. Once I had the confirmation, I started booking the air, but something was horribly wrong. Almost all of my Southwest Airlines credit was gone!

I was on the site, had the perfect flight reserved and was trying to pay when I realized the cupboard was bare. Had I had any way to anticipate the ramifications of letting those two seats go, I would have paid for the seats and then chased down my credit, but at the time I was more worried about what happened to my credit. I thought if I went ahead and paid, it would be a case of too-bad-so-sad and I’d end up with more credits I needed to use up.

Chasing an Answer

It took a six page letter to Southwest Airlines to explain everything that happened next and eventually I did get some “Gee we’re sorry” credits from both Southwest Airlines and Southwest Vacations, but none of that helped me when it mattered.

Along the way, I was treated worse than I had ever been treated by any customer service rep, anywhere, at any time. The bottom line was that Renee had lied, but I was the one who was going to have to pay money for airline tickets that according to him, I would have the credit to cover. The very worst part was, the flight I wanted had filled up and I was going to have to pay a now outrageous amount of money for a flight that left at the crack of dawn. Who wants to end their time at a luxurious resort by getting up at 4 AM?

Thanks, but No Thanks

I have a $150 credit from Southwest Airlines, but I am in no hurry to use it. I went to St. Louis in September, but we drove. I couldn’t face the headache of trying to use the credit. They will probably expire someday, but I don’t care. Travel is my joy and I’m not letting them buy it with their paltry credit, which will involve me having to book with them again. I think they should have given me a refund, not a credit. They do not deserve for me to spend more money with them. I probably will, because the drive to DFW from Heat is brutal, but for now, I am pouting.

Southwest Vacations tried to play the same game with me, but I erupted on them in a less than pleasant way. I figured venting my spleen in such an aggressive way wouldn’t actually get me anywhere, but I’d been through hell with them. When the pain continued after I got home from the trip, that was too much. I’d paid for everything in advance and came home to over $600 in charges. Southwest Vacations got me back to even, but they thought we were even when they let me know I had a $100+ credit with them. I told them just how unhappy I was about the whole thing and said the least they could do was to return the value of that $100, since it had come about from their mistake in the first place. No promises were made, but I did get a refund on my credit card.

Things have gotten out of control in the customer service world. Companies hide behind their computer screens and phone trees. Consumers are left hanging out to dry and there’s really nothing we can do about it. If we’re lucky, perhaps we get some token credit, but it is never on par with what we’ve suffered.

Companies should have to answer phones in a reasonable amount of time. If a customer waits more than 10 minutes for a representative, then a clock should start ticking and the customer should earn money (not a credit) for the time they are forced to wait. If that were the case, you can bet a whole lot more customer service jobs would be created and the companies would find a way to be sure they answered calls on a timely basis. Go ahead, record my call, but also be sure you’re timing my wait!

Also, there should be a way to seek resolution besides suing the company. Once a company sticks it to you, the only thing you can do is take them to court, but we all know what will happen then. It will be Joe Blow versus Corporate America and you know Joe Blow is going to lose.

The only thing we Joe Blows have left after a bad encounter of the commercial kind is to resort to social media and what good, I ask you, does that actually do. Corporate America keeps counting their money on the other side of their phone tree and laughing all the way to the bank. I think this explains, in part, why people are so ugly on social media. It’s the court of last appeals, but they have already lost.

OK, I’ve gotten that off my chest, but I have to mention that when I got home from NYC the hotel charged me a bogus $600+. As happened with Renee, I will never know whether it was an honest mistake, stupidity or just standard operations for milking more money out of tourists. Through more wasted time, on the phone and on websites, I got it resolved, but I almost spent as much time on the phone dealing with all these issues as I did on my vacation!!

I’m through complaining. Come back next week and we’ll board our Southwest Airlines flight to NYC!

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.

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Gee Thanks Covid

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Travel There – Booking Nightmares in a Post-Covid World

When we returned from Vegas, the trip we hadn’t planned for or anticipated, I had loose travel ends I needed to decide what to do with. My bestie and I had credit with Southwest Vacations for the NYC trip Covid had obliterated and with Hubby I had credit with Southwest Airlines leftover from the resort deal we decided to abandon.

Plans for the Big Apple

The trip we’d planned to NYC for May of 2020 is not one that could easily be replaced. My bestie’s son, a young man I’d watch grow up, was graduating from Pratt and was scheduled to receive his MFA at Radio City Music Hall. That’s one of those events you can’t rewind. However, I’d never really been to NYC and I wanted very much to enjoy that orgy of entertainment.

Though Deb and I talked about using up our travel credits every time we got together there was always the lingering masks and Covid surges discouraging us from planning anything definite. Then she was invited to a christening by her family in New Jersey and that proved the impetus for us to go. We selected the week before the christening as our travel dates and I took on the responsibility for getting it booked.

Have I Reached the Party to Whom I am Speaking?

Perhaps you remember Lily Tomlin and her operator skirts or maybe you’ve just seen clips of her on You Tube. If you have then you’ve heard the question above. As I called around trying to figure out exactly how to use the credits we held from Southwest Vacations, I felt Lily’s question was appropriate.

My travel agent had been one of the early victims in the massive layoffs experienced by the travel industry. When NYC shutdown, I went through several different representatives with the company she’d worked for and eventually ended up having to contact the president of the company to get the credits we were due.

Two years later, I had no desire to reconnect with a company who had not only fired my favorite travel agent ever, but they’d done an awful job of helping me in the aftermath. So, I asked my old travel agent if she knew anyone still in the business which could help me. She gave me a name, but that name had no interest in helping me if there was no money on the table for the trip she’d be helping me with.

I anticipated what a nightmare the rebooking would be and did not want that headache. In the world before Covid, a travel agent would be happy to help you rebook travel, even if they didn’t make anything from it, because they wanted your business for the future. The travel industry is in such dire straits, courtesies like that no longer exist. That meant it was up to me.

The Nightmare Begins

I made the call to Southwest Vacations and I honestly thought the hour and a half I waited on hold would be the extent of my nightmare. When Renee finally got on the phone with me, he was so nice, I thought all of my troubles were over. I had no idea they had just begun. See, I don’t know whether he was stupid or he just lied, and after months of dealing with the aftermath of the conversation it’s still not clear.

The easy part was getting booked in the wrong hotel. I wanted the Sheraton New York Times Square. He put me in a Four Points by Sheraton in Times Square. During the call he always said Sheraton Times Square, so I thought we were good. It wasn’t until later I realized the gap between what I wanted and what I got. However, except for the LONG wait on hold, waiting for a representative, changing to the right was relatively easy or at least seemed that way at the time.

The hard part was what happened to my Southwest Airlines account. Renee said he was taking some credit from that account to cover my airfare for NYC. As we were talking he told me it would be about $25-30. I blissfully can’t remember at this moment, but at the time I had written down in my notes and it was in that range. I asked, “And that will leave me with XXX amount of credit with Southwest Air?” His answer was, “Absolutely,” but he was absolutely wrong.

The nightmare continues, so come back next week and let’s find out how badly Renee’s wrong answer messed me up!

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

Bye Bye Vegas – We’re Happy to Go!

Travel There – Trial by Footsteps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends Make Everything Better!

Travel There – Our Last Night in Vegas

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

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

From Paris to Myanmar

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

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

Rhythms & Riffs

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

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck

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

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

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

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

Back to Paris

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

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

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

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

Ticking Attractions Off Our List

Travel There – The Fall of Atlantis and Barbie

Navigating Like Pros

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

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

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

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

Barbie, A Cultural Icon Exhibition

My Barbie Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Exhibition

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Antonio Stopover

TRAVEL THERE – SAN ANTONIO , MY FAVORITE CITY TO VISIT

What? No Luminaries AGAIN!!

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

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

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

The Crockett Hotel

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

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

The Alamo Lights

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

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

The River Walk

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

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

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

The Chinese Tea Garden

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

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

Shana and the Huisache Grill

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

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

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

And Then Home

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

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