TRAVEL

Michigan Bound

The Bags Were Packed, But the Business Wouldn’t Let Go

For one of the few times in my life I left the planning to someone else. My nephew, Dr. Megala, had lots of good ideas about what we should do while we visited Michigan, so I left it to him. Meanwhile, I was squaring things away so our business would actually let us leave.

As fate would have it, we had to do five different shoots the day before we left. Thankfully, we had a second photographer, so Bill only had to do three, but while we had a second photographer, I was still the only one handling the post production end of things. This trip would be our first stab at remote operations. Bill had bought a new laptop in recent months, so my primary job was to make sure everything worked.

I had checked and double-checked every link, every app, every email address – anything I would need to do my job while I was gone. There were only a few jobs sprinkled throughout the time we’d be away, but I was still nervous. As a way to test everything, I was going to use my laptop to process the jobs that came in that day.

In order to speed up the process, Bill met me mid-day with a photo card with two of his jobs, so I could start downloading images. When I came home from picking it up, our second photographer had emailed me his first set of pictures, also. I sat down at the laptop and began to process the jobs. The laptop told me it would take about 20 minutes to download the first shoot. Nothing out of the ordinary. We use raw images which are huge.

Not long afterwards, the laptop changed its mind and told me 45 minutes. Soon it was reporting a new time frame – 5 hours. FIVE HOURS!! Assuming it must be something wrong with the laptop, I went to Bill’s computer and tried to download another set of photos. His computer said it would take 2 days. I went upstairs to my computer. It wanted 5 days!!

When Bill got home I had decided our network was broken. Oh, I could get email, social media and all kinds of other things on our wi-fi, but nothing was downloading anywhere. I had pulled out my mobile hotspot and was about to load it with gigabytes. He decided I must be doing something wrong, so he wanted me to explain everything I’d done in the hours since he’d left me the photo card.

Now, as much as I love this guy, I was frantic and he was using his calm, cool tech-support voice. My hair was was on fire and I was on the verge of a total meltdown. I tried to be calm, I really did, but I wasn’t very good at it. Somewhere along the way, as I explained the problem and recounted my steps, the computers decided perhaps they’d only need another half hour or so to finish downloading the first job. We don’t have a clue what changed, but something did.

On a good day, it would take about five hours to download five jobs and send them to the editors. I’ve improved the process in the months since, but I was still figuring things out back then. Having started with two of the jobs in mid-afternoon and the others coming in shortly afterwards, I should have been done by dinner time.

As it turned out, it was bedtime before I got all the images downloaded and sent to the editors. I’d asked for a rush on all of them, so even though I was exhausted and was supposed to wake up at 4, I wanted to get a confirmation the editors had them and to have some kind of idea when they’d be ready.

Up until then, when I asked for a rush, I got an immediate confirmation and the images would be returned within the hour. That’s not what happened this time. Finally, sometime after midnight I got the confirmation they’d received all the jobs, but in spite of all my begging emails, I didn’t get the five jobs back until 3 AM! THREE AM!!

Bleary-eyed from being awake for 22 hours or so, I was totally stressed out and started delivering the jobs via email with tears in my eyes. At 4:05 AM the jobs were all sent and I walked downstairs to get ready to leave the house at 4:30 AM.

Now, I thought I would receive a hero’s welcome when I reported to the bedroom. Instead someone in this household, who will remain nameless, started telling me I had done it all wrong. Some day I will forgive him, but I am still working on it. Come back next week and see what happened next.

TRAVEL

New Year, New Trip

What Have I Done Since the Last Trip?

The pandemic has been tough on this traveling girl. In 2020, I was still blogging about the adventures of of my Anniversary Cruise of 2019 and was glad for the chance to get caught up. When that was over, I shared a trip to Arizona we’d unknowingly squeezed in, right before Covid-19 became a thing. That took the blog through the early part of 2021, but in my real life, I hadn’t been anywhere since February of 2020. So, I recapped a few of the local things I’d done for distraction during what I thought was going to be the end of the pandemic.

Only the pandemic stayed and Bill wasn’t budging. He’d kept me home (as in, in the house) for months on end. Several of my friends had used the break from normal life to travel, but not Bill. For one thing, real estate had been deemed one of those necessary industries and Bill’s a real estate photographer. While many of the other photographers in our industry chose to take off, Bill kept on shooting and because of that we were busier than ever.

For the other thing, he was of the opinion that the closer you stayed to home, the less likely you were to get the virus. We didn’t get the virus, but I nearly went insane tied to the house. I was thrilled when various networking groups started meeting. I’m not that crazy about networking, but it was better than staying home.

During the pandemic, we had a vacation package I was dying to use and I must have planned a dozen different vacations to take advantage of it, but none of them came about for a variety of reasons. Then I planned a holiday road trip, but that didn’t happen either, because the pandemic had an uptick at the end of 2020 and on New Year’s Eve, hen we were going to pop up to Oklahoma, the sky started falling.

In March, as senior citizens, we got both our Pfizer vaccinations, but by then business picked up. Not that it had actually ever slowed down that much. December was a little slow, not dead as it had been in the past, but at least we got to breathe. In January, the phone started to ring again and by March we were in over our heads. We had to outsource our editing, just to keep up.

Let’s Go to Michigan!

About this time we got an invitation we couldn’t resist. For several years we’d been promising our niece and nephew in Michigan we’d come see them. The pandemic kept us from keeping that promise, but now we were vaccinated. When they extended the invitation again, we had to say yes. It’s not that we were in anyway reluctant to see them. It’s just that Bill still had his Covid concerns. However, my mental health was also a concern and if I didn’t go somewhere and soon, then who knew what might happen. So, even though the invitation was for July, the busiest time in our business, it was the right time to visit Michigan, so we started making plans.

Among those plans we started interviewing photographers, found one we liked and started training him to expand our ability to satisfy customer requests and to let us leave town. We still warned our best customers that while we’d have a photographer to handle them, if they wanted Bill, they needed to get the homes shot by a certain date. Come back next week and see how that went.

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods, the Final Scene

Act III, Scene 1

Zeus:  Good Morning!  Thank you for tuning into Jagged Journeys on KVOO radio, the voice of Olympus.  I’m your host, Zeus, Greek god of sky and thunder.  On the air with me is Isis, my lovely Egyptian co-host.  Today is the grand finale of the Bill and Jane episode of our game and what a journey it has been!

Isis:  You are absolutely right, Zeus.  There are several gods and goddesses we have to thank for contributing to the success of this episode, but I think we should start with Mercury, because he selected these amazing players.

Zeus:  Yes, Isis, Mercury played an important role, but how did you like the storm I cooked up on their first day of travel?

Isis:  It was certainly something, Zeus.  It’s now almost two weeks later and New York is still trying to sort out the luggage.  It’s no wonder that you are the god of thunder; but you weren’t the only member of your family who made this game exciting – how about your wife, Hera?

Zeus:  She certainly made a difference.  Without her, the travelers might still be lost in Dusseldorf, but that’s ancient history now.  Why don’t we check in and see what’s happening with Bill and Jane.  Are they almost home, Mercury?

Mercury:  Yes, Zeus, our travelers are already in DFW airspace and Jane’s parents are waiting for them at the terminal.  This last leg of the flight has been most uneventful – a real yawner!

Isis:  But that’s been the exception rather than the rule; hasn’t it, Mercury?

Mercury:  Absolutely, Isis.  Even after they escaped from the consequences of Zeus’s storm and joined their friends in Germany, the trip continued to be a roller coaster.

Isis:  I remember when Bill and Jane arrived at the Kettler Hotel in Bad Laer.  They were so exhausted they were barely civil to the wedding party.  Even though they’d been trying to them reach for three days, all they could do was sit staring into space. They would have enjoyed some food from the buffet, but it had all been eaten.  Before too long, they went right up to their room and almost slept through the wedding.

Mercury:  Yes, they certainly would have if the groom had not come and knocked on the door.  Ludgar thought they might actually be sick.

Isis:  But they weren’t – only a bit worse for the wear.  Bill and Jane immediately jumped up and started getting ready, but very quickly found out they hadn’t packed the cufflinks and studs for Bill’s tux.

Mercury:  They lost a lot of points for that, too.  They were very irritable after sleeping so long and lost a lot of points for bickering.  This was a serious mistake after losing so many points for sleeping through the afternoon.  In fact, they lost so many points that they made the bride late for the wedding.  When they hit 498 points, Eris flew down and confused the driver of the bride’s car.  Even though everyone in the bride’s entourage saw the cathedral, they couldn’t figure out how to reach it.

Isis:  The bride saved the day.  They all got out and walked, leaving the cars to sort out the problem.  Things did go more smoothly after that.

Zeus:  You’re right Isis, for the first few days after the wedding it seemed as if the trip had turned into a real bore, but then Bill and Jane locked horns with The Couple from Hell.

Isis:  Actually they were from New York, but our contestants thought The Couple was sent from the devil – even though Lucifer certainly had nothing to do with it.  Remember the first time Bill and Jane noticed them.

Zeus:  Yes –initially, the couple from hell melted into the larger group of wedding guests – but as the days passed, more and more guests headed off with other agendas and the crowd dwindled down to our travelers, the newlyweds and The Couple From Hell.  That’s when they rode the cog wheel rails and cable cars up to the Zugspitze.

Mercury:  What a beautiful site that was!  Then the men decided to climb even higher than the observation deck to a shrine.  The Wife From Hell decided to go along, but she climbed the wrong way and had to be rescued.

Isis:  And it was Bill who rescued her, not her husband!

Mercury:  That’s right; and once again, Bill brought a lot of points to the board.  But that evening as they were looking for their hotel, The Couple From Hell nominated themselves as the official navigators and took everyone on quite a wild goose chase.  Somehow, Jane kept her mouth shut, but you could see how frustrated she was.

Zeus:  Yes, and The Couple from Hell insisted on holding on to their navigational position, but they weren’t exactly a pleasure to travel with.  If they’d been our players, this would’ve been a very different game, wouldn’t it Mercury? 

Mercury:  Absolutely, Zeus.  The husband loved spouting off about how capable he was at navigating, but never did take his turn driving – and that led to a completely different problem.  Didn’t it Isis?

Isis:  It did, Mercury.  Like school children on a bus, The Couple from Hell was jealous because they were stuck with the middle seat and didn’t get to sit in back.  They even complained to Tammy about it.

Mercury:  But, Bill and Jane had only been sitting in the back, to give The Couple from Hell a better seat.  Since The Couple from Hell didn’t appreciate it, our contestants were quick to move to the middle.  Then The Couple from Hell found out how hard it was to see out of the back and how uncomfortable it was.  Bill and Jane not only got points for cooperation, they got a better seat!

Zeus:  But they still had to put up with the hellish couple’s navigating.

Isis:  That is until Vienna, when Jane had finally had enough.  The entire group was on foot en route to a subway station.  Don’t you have that conversation cued up to play for our audience, Zeus?

Zeus:  Yes, I do.  The first man is the Hellish Husband, the second one is Ludgar and our audience should recognize Jane’s voice.

Hellish Husband:  OK, we continue on this street until we get to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Simply marvelous.  Isn’t this wonderful weather?  What do we do then?

Hellish Husband:  We’ll turn right and then it should only be a block to the underground station.

Ludgar:  I hope we find a place to eat when we get to the palace.  I’m a bit hungry.

Hellish Husband:  The lady at the hotel said there would be plenty of places to choose from.

Ludgar:  Hey, Jane!  Where are you going?

Jane:  This is Ringstrasse.

Hellish Husband:  No, this street is Joseph Something Street, we’re looking for Ringstrasse Street.

Jane:  No, you’re wrong!  The Ringstrasse is a series of streets – strasse – that make a ring around the city center, hence Ringstrasse.  The street has different names in different parts but it’s all The Ringstrasse.

Ludgar:  Are you sure about this Jane?

Jane:  Yes, I am.  This is not my first trip to Vienna.

Ludgar:  Come on guys, Jane thinks this is the way.

Hellish Husband:  We are supposed to go to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Jane, why don’t you come a few more blocks this way with us and if we don’t see Ringstrasse Street, then we can come back.

Jane:  You guys go ahead, I’ll wait right here, because this is Ringstrasse.  I’ve already made too many extra steps on this trip and I’m not going on another wild goose chase.

Ludgar:  Come on, Jane, we should stay together.

Jane:  And we should turn right here.  If you don’t believe me, since you speak German, ask one of the locals.

Isis:  So Ludgar spoke to someone in German and headed off in the direction Jane insisted they should go.  The Couple from Hell followed reluctantly.

Zeus:  Ugly Americans!

Mercury:  Zeus, Isis, the plane has landed.  Bill and Jane are headed towards the terminal.

Zeus:  Then we should hurry up and tell them about my second storm.

Isis:  OK, Zeus.  Up in the Alps after a nice al fresco lunch, the group heard bells ringing and asked the waiter what they signified.  The waiter told them the bells meant a storm was coming.  Since ancient time the people living in the mountains rang the bells for storms, because the mountains hid them.

Zeus:  I always thought that was a nice touch.  Tell everyone what happened then!

Isis:  Well, Zeus, then the group walked down the street a few blocks to a pastry shop for dessert.  A funny noise made them look outside and your storm was pouring down.

Zeus:  Yeah – grape to golfball sized hail filling the street curb to curb!

Isis:  It was very impressive, Zeus, but since you are only allowed to interrupt the trip once in a game, by the time they ate their dessert, you had to move the hail out of the area.

Zeus:  That’s right, but it was something wasn’t it?  So where are they now, Mercury?

Mercury:  They’ve just exited the doors of the terminal and Jane’s parents are waving like crazy.  Jane has gone up to her mother and given her a hug.  They are breaking the embrace now and I’m going to see if I can get close enough for you to hear what they say.

Jane’s mother:  I’m glad you are home.  Did you have a good time?

Jane:  We certainly did, but for a lot of the trip, we felt like we were tossed about at the whim of the gods.   

TRAVEL

A Six-Month Covid Hiatus

Photo by Peggy Anke on Pexels.com

An Apology and a Resumption

Let’s start with the apology. I just ran out of energy. I had too many balls in the air and for the time being, my blog was the one with the least amount of consequences, should I drop it. I’ve turned a page and caught up with myself, to a certain extent – at least to the point that I’ve missed blogging. So, welcome back to my tales.

At the Whim of the Gods

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I left you guys at the altar. I was sharing a piece I’d written of a landmark travel experience, which took Bill and I to Germany for a wedding. I got as far as the rehearsal dinner and then life happened, as it has before, but it left us wishing the dinner buffet hadn’t been quite so popular with Tammy’s guests, because we were starving.

Part of the reason I stopped there, was because I had to change gears. I originally wrote the story as a play and what I was sharing with you was the re-write in narrative form, but I had never finished the rewrite. I toyed with the idea of completing it for the blog, but there were all those balls I was juggling, so it never happened.

Juggling the Balls

I should have known. I started the series during the early part of the year, which is slow in our real estate photography business and about the time I should have been completing the rewrite, the slow was over.

In fact, it was very over. This was the year we had to outsource our editing and hire extra photographers. I’d also started a little side gig. Something that seemed like a good idea in our slow season, but totally insane as I tried to juggle everything else. So the blog fell through the cracks. Eventually, my side gig also fell through the cracks, but more about that on another day.

Getting Back to It

So, we’ll go back to Germany, but there will be no rewrite. The final act will be in the form of a play. So, sit back and get ready to enjoy the show. I’ll be back next week with Zeus, Isis and the rest of the At the Whim of the Gods gang. And though I forgot to mention it before, I’ve missed you guys.

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

Intro to At the Whim of the Gods

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

1994 was a big year for me.

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

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

The Way the World Was

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

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

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

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

It Should Have Been a Breeze

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

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

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

At the Whim of the Gods was Born

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

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

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

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

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

The Blurb on the Cover

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

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

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

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Rockwall, TRAVEL

Staycation Fail

TRAVEL HERE: AND THE YEAR SPUTTERED TO AN END

We woke on New Year’s Eve to threats of snow. Though we had planned to drive up to the Two Hearts Inn, just outside Oklahoma City, our guts told us to cancel. We ran to the grocery store for some supplies and hunkered down for an at home celebration. While we managed to pull off a very nice meal and a fun evening, I’d grade my attempt at a Staycation as ZERO!

One Failure After Another

My idea of a Staycation was romantic brunches with my handsome husband, lazy afternoons playing games, sharing memories through my many scrapbooking albums and enjoying the excursions I’d planned for us to take. That’s not what happened.

One of our first planned activities was a cookie-baking day. Things started out well, but didn’t end that way. Our last cookies had to be pressed out of a cookie press and the one I had used for years decided it wasn’t going to work anymore. We were both tired and a little cranky when we had to face the biggest challenge of the day.

We lived through that and the next day we delivered all our cookies to our friends. That was pretty fun, but after the first few visits, it was more of a chore than I antisciapted.

Our visit to the Kimbell to see Nefertari went well, until we tried to have a nice meal. We were hoping for French food and white tablecloths, but ended up at McDonald’s. The carriage ride was a disaster. The Vintage Train Ride was disappointing. So, it was no surprise that the B&B idea for NYE didn’t work out either. The weather made trying to take a road trip insane.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. We cooked up a nice meal for Christmas dinner and my bestie had amazing leftovers the next evening from her own Christmas dinner, so she shared them with us. The meal we cooked up for NYE was amazing and we did actually play some games that Mr. Bill enjoyed. However, looking back over the last two weeks of the year, more went wrong than went right.

Plan B for Me

It didn’t take me long to understand that my romantic dreams for Staycation weren’t going to happen. I got very lucky, because a set of photos I wasn’t expecting until after Christmas showed up on my door step. So, I got busy doing one of my my favorite things. I can’t help it that I wake up between 5 & 6 every day, but instead of just going up to my desk and going to work on Spot On Images business, I happily worked on scrapbooking – the one thing I love to do almost as much as traveling.

It would have been very easy, almost tempting, to just go ahead and work or do the opposite and stare into the TV feeling sorry for myself. Instead I chose what was behind Door #3. That didn’t do a thing for Mr. Bill, but I have to let him live with his choices. I needed a break.

Door #3 ended up taking me on a journey I hadn’t planned on taking. Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Carriage Ride Chilly, Not Charmed

TRAVEL HERE: CINDERELLA CARRIAGE RIDE THROUGH HIGHLAND PARK

I thought it would be an enchanted evening. I dreamed of it for decades. I imagined it as an event shared by friends. I imagined it as an romantic evening for two. I saw it as a typical Texas December evening with temperatures in the 60’s. I saw it as a crisp evening wrapped up in blankets and sipping hot cocoa. I probably thought of every possible version, except the Covid tainted evening I ended up with.

Believe Half of What You See and Less of What You Hear

I’m not sure where I first heard that, but it’s true. The people in this picture look like they are having a marvelous time. Well, They are not.

In my Staycation dreams, Bill and I were going to take a ride in a carriage designed for two. I researched the whole thing and eventually was able to discuss it with Bill to get his stamp of approval, but by the time I got that approval and went back to order our vehicle of romance, all that were left were larger carriages.

As I said, I’d been wanting to do this for a long time and who knew if I’d ever get Bill’s OK again. So, I ordered up the carriage, which by the way was a Cinderella Carriage for up to four people and hoped for the best, even though the larger carriage was more money. It wasn’t that much more, but it was more than we had discussed.

I am convinced that the most trouble I get into comes when I am trying to do good. I knew two things, that I’d paid more than I intended for the carriage ride and that my bestie wanted to take this excursion almost as much as I did. Somehow, all that turned into an invitation for Deb to join us and maybe her son would come along. I’m not sure how that was supposed to jive with the romantic carriage ride I sold Bill, but that’s the road I went down.

The On Hold Music

So, I won’t bother you with all the details, but instead of driving down to Highland Park for our carriage ride with Christmas carols playing on the radio, we were instead treated to the horrendous “on hold” music of one of Bill’s investment brokers. The weather was worse than awful for an outside activity, but worse than the weather was Bill’s attitude. To say things didn’t start out on the right foot would be putting it mildly.

We also got there earlier than we needed to, which always irritates Bill, and that was just one more irritation heaped on several others. Bill and I were barely being civil to one another. It’s a good thing Deb loves us both or she’d have been done with us after that evening.

When our carriage was ready, we stepped out into the COLD, damp, misty evening and climbed aboard. Just a few minutes later, we took this shot. Anybody who says a picture doesn’t lie hasn’t seen this one.

The Meat of the Matter

So, the Highland Park Christmas lights are something to behold even on a bad night. The Cinderella Carriage seemed to fit the festive occasion and we all tried to make the best of what had turned into an ordeal, rather than an excursion. Our driver was really a nice guy and the horse was beautiful.

Our horse also had gas. Yes, I understood that horses sometimes defecate and urinate during their services to human beings. Those deposits fall onto the roadway and are soon left behind. When your horse has gas on a damp evening with no breeze, the funk lingers and lingers and lingers. I have no idea what they’d been feeding this horse, but the odor was foul.

I think you get the picture. My dream carriage ride turned into a nightmare. Not exactly a winner. Come back next week and maybe I’ll do better with my train excursion…maybe!

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

An Afternoon with Nefertari at the Kimball

TRAVEL HERE: QUEEN NEFERTARI VISITS FORT WORTH

Fast Forward to our Staycation. Pre-Covid I planned to spend the Holidays in sunny California enjoying a bargain I scored with Westin. During the year I had planned the trip three different ways, none of which we actually enjoyed. Then I planned a road trip around the Southeast, but rising Covid numbers nixed that, too. So I planned a Staycation. A major event during my Staycation calendar was a visit to the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth to see Queen Nefertari’s Egypt.

Yes, There Was a Pandemic Going On

A few weeks back I told you about the Flesh & Blood Exhibition we visited at the Kimbell earlier in the year. Mask were de rigueur, but otherwise life at the Kimbell was pretty much the same as always. By the time Nefertari arrived, they’d gotten a whole lot more Covid-conscious. In fact, even the audio tour had been recorded anticipating visitors would be spending more time than usual in line, so there was more intro stuff you were supposed to listen to before you entered.

Bill and I arrived for our visit on a weekday afternoon, so there wasn’t much of a line. Hence I spent my first few minutes in the exhibition trying to coordinate what I was seeing with what I was hearing, so I was audibly handicapped in the first room of the exhibit. On a later visit, shown above, I had the chance to listen to the intro bits the way they were designed to be heard.

There were little arrows on the floor to keep you going in the right direction. That didn’t suit me either. I usually listen to the audio tour as I view the art and Bill walks through occasionally reading a label as he enjoys the pieces on exhibition. Then we backtrack, him showing me what he liked and me explaining the backstory on some of the more esoteric pieces.

So, my first visit to the exhibition, I had to acclimate myself to the new rules. Don’t worry I visited several more times and was able to fully enjoy the whole thing completely, in spite of the Covid-inspired challenges.

Exhibit vs. Egypt

I’ve been to Egypt twice, enjoying most of their famous museums, including the Cairo Museum and the Alexandria Library. Those authentic experiences cannot be replaced by a trip to Fort Worth, but there are things the Kimbell does better than the Egyptians.

Perhaps the most obvious difference is the display cases. In Egypt, the case is crammed full, an overabundance of everything from mummies to faience, the lighting is often nonexistent and the cards explaining things create more questions than they answer . Americans carefully place a few items at eye level, with perfect lighting and cards that give you more information than you need, accompanied by more information on plaques on the walls and audio tours.

Now in Egypt, for a very reasonable fee you can hire a guide to tell you everything the cards and audio tours let you know, but the guides come with challenges of their own. Guides have no off button and you don’t get to select which items you prefer to focus on. They will tell you what they want to, in the order they want to and nothing you can do will slow them down, speed them up or get them to change the subject until they decide to.

American exhibits also seem to make more sense. They carefully curate what will be shown and exhibit it logically. I got tickled during my first visit to the Cairo Museum, mostly because of the randomness of it all. There was no timeline, no themes, nothing I could identify except for room after room of amazing things thrown together willy nilly. The funniest part was the frequency with which I ran into display cases chock full of beads and small figurines of servants for the afterlife. They were virtually everywhere, in every room of the museum, often lined up one after the other along the walls with nothing but signs that said “faience.” I know more now, but then it was baffling.

Queen Nefertari’s Egypt

While there absolutely were numerous items related directly to Nefertari, the title of the exhibit was Queen Nefertari’s Egypt and that was the true focus, rather than the queen herself. What was the role of women? How did religion figure into their daily lives? These were the questions answered by this exhibit. However, some of the most fun display cases were devoted to jewelry and cosmetics. A pair of sandals found in her tomb, thought to be hers, were fascinating.

However, a large part of the exhibit was devoted to Deir el-Medina, the village where all the tomb workers lived. I found it very interesting, because I had actually spent some time in the village on my visit to the Valley of the Kings. A picture on the wall of the exhibit was the same as I have in my scrapbook. I love when I have those moments. Watching a travel show and saying, “We’ve been there,” is a blast.

In the exhibit, they expounded on the religious practices of the citizens of Deir el-Medina, but they missed out on what I thought was the most interesting. These workers, who spent most of their lives preparing an eternal resting place for royalty, spent their days off preparing their own tombs. The walls of the royal tombs were focused on the Book of the Dead, formulas and passages to send the kings and queens to live among the gods. For their own tombs, the workers carved and painted beautiful scenes from everyday life – a table burdened down with foods they loved to eat, rather than ritualistic meals to please the gods; natural wildlife scenes, rather than records of the victories they’d won and the slaves they’d captured. I thought the workers had the better idea of what to commemorate.

It was a marvelous exhibit and I am so proud of the Metroplex for hosting Queen Nefertari, but I wish it had been the DMA. Then next week we’ll ride a Cinderella Carriage through Highland Park. Yep, I ticked that one of my bucket list, too.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Kicking the Pandemic at The Kimbell

TRAVEL HERE – Flesh & Blood at the Kimbell Museum

I may be a Dallasite, but my heart belongs to the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth. I love the Dallas Museum of Art, too, but not in the same way. The DMA tends to cater to a more modern taste than mine. I almost grew up among the items in its permanent collection, so they are dear to my heart and frequently visited, but too often I look at what’s on special exhibition there, shrug my shoulders and head to Ft. Worth. There are notable exceptions in my recent memory, Dior, Tut, and Jean Paul Gaultier, for instance, but during the pandemic the exhibits were definitely not on my must see list.

Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum

They had me at Italian Masterpieces! I got goose bumps at the idea of Capodimonte! That’s the kind of art I’ll drive to Ft. Worth for.

I made a couple of visits. One was with Bill and to say he was under-impressed would be an understatement. I was surprised, because most of it was nudes, he’s a guy…you know the drill. But, he went through the gallery at lightening speed. Usually, after we’ve both seen everything at our own speed, he’s eager to walk back through with me and point out his favorites. He was ready to go. I didn’t get that at all. Look at these gorgeous things!

I adored the painting of the woman and spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how the outfit she was wearing worked in real life. The boy lighting the flame was very sweet. All the painting were glorious – but not according to my husband.

Bestie and I Return

Well, once was not enough for me, so I returned with my bestie. The show was supposed to be over in June, but due to the pandemic it stayed a little longer and we went in July. She was as gaga as I was over the gorgeous works of art. We lingered and strolled and lingered some more.

We also had a good laugh. To spice up the experience, they had costumed volunteers strolling the galleries. It was supposed to give you the feeling of being in a gallery when theses masterpieces were new. Somehow the pandemic masks killed it for me.

Sorry the photo is a little tilted and fuzzy, I was doing the best I could, but I was trying to be a little discreet about shooting it with my phone. So what next. Well, there were weddings, neighborhood parties, grocery store contests, restaurant visits and other distractions, but it was all social distanced and masked, so I wasn’t having the time of my life. Finally, there was the Staycation. Come back next week and I will tell you about that.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Gardens, Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Dallas Arboretum – My Breath of Fresh Air

TRAVEL HERE: An Oasis in the Pandemic

I love the Dallas Arboretum. My family has had a long term love affair with it that continues until today. I claim the credit for the original discovery. A friend invited me onsite to look around when it wasn’t even the Arboretum, yet. My mom takes credit for contributing the most to it, because for many, many years she was a faithful docent in the DeGolyer Estate. As my parents’ health deteriorated, she clung to that volunteer appointment for as long as she could, but finally, she felt she couldn’t abandon my dad for so long for such a selfish reason. I’m still a member, visiting as frequently as I can and dragging anyone who will go with me. During the pandemic it was a true respite from the oppression of the regulations designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The Garden is Closed?

I confess, we treat the Arboretum as if it were our very own garden. Most of the visits I make with my husband are part of the Sunday afternoon rambles we take together and we just happen to go there spontaneously. My bestie and I will make a little more effort in planning, but it’s usually more of a decision to go on a certain day, rather than at a certain time on that day. As a member, we never have to stand with the general public. We just flash our credentials at the members’ attendant and stroll into the garden.

For instance, I had visitors in January and thankfully we had nice weather, because I took them with me for a visit. Little did I know it would be my last for a while.

I may go several times in one week and then not go again for several months. It’s OK, it’s my garden. When I go, I love to be there for lunch on the patio, but then again, I may just take a walk down the Paseo and then be on my way. When Dallas shut down for the pandemic, so did the Arboretum and it was a shock to my system. It was like the death of a friend you didn’t talk to all that frequently, but you always knew they were there, until they weren’t.

Unfortunately, the shutdown began when the garden was at its best. Every year in the Spring, they have Blooms, a celebration of color. I try to find a reason to be there frequently, because it literally changes from day to day, and each day it gets more fragrant and beautiful. In 2020, it was closed during Blooms.

Timed Tickets

The next shock to my system was timed tickets. It is my garden after all! How could they tie me to a specific date and time? By then, however, I was learning to adjust to a lot of things that I didn’t like very much, so I went through the motions of planning a variety of specific visits – with my hubby, with my bestie, with whoever I could drag there.

And therein lay the next shock. The garden was virtually empty. The female statue above usually has people all over it, trying to get pictures. Professional photographers with all their gear, people with phones, all people with all kinds of equipment snapping shots around every corner. On a normal visit we complain at least once or twice about the crowds. On these pandemic visits we complained because we were all alone and because our favorite dining spots were closed.

The Visiting Statues

During the days of timed tickets, the Arboretum featured Seward Johnson’s “Celebrating the Familiar” Exhibit. Dotted around the garden were a series of very realistic statues. Were you not looking for them, you might have passed by them, assuming they were just another gardener or visitor, but on closer inspection you would discover a very clever piece of fine art. Here’s a gallery of some of the fun and surprising visitors.

Pumpkins and Partridges

When fall rolls around, it is time for Autumn at the Arboretum and that means it is pumpkin time. I’ve documented those orange-hued days many times over in my blog, here for instance. This fall I visited with a young friend and my cameras battery was low, so I didn’t bother with my phone, since I already had so many photos of the DABS during that season.

Even before the pumpkins are all put away, the staff starts setting up for the Christmas Holidays and they have so much going on, I don’t know where to start. There are Holiday Gazebos full of scenes from the ever popular 12 Days of Christmas and a European Village full of faux shops to visit. Usually, Mom’s DeGolyer Mansion is decorated to the max, but alas, during the pandemic season it was closed. The photo below was taken during a previous holiday when masks were not de rigueur.

So, another year of fun is behind me at the Arboretum. Blooms is in full swing, but I keep forgetting I need a timed ticket to go, so I haven’t been yet. Hopefully, soon!

I hope you enjoyed this whirlwind, year-long visit. Next, we’ll visit the Kimbell, over in Ft. Worth, so don’t miss that.