Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – SHALL WE DANCE?

Checking In


Well, my bestie’s big weekend arrived, The Texas Lone Star Ball. Some time in the Fall she had gotten a new dance partner and I’ve been sharing her with him on weekends as they took lessons and practiced.

Around the first of the year, Deborah asked if I’d be available to go with her to their first competition in mid-March. I love any excuse to hang with my bestie and I try to see her dance any time I can, but I’d never seen behind the curtain at a competition, so sure, I was ready to check it out.

Friday, she picked me up around two and we headed off to the Galleria Westin. We checked in, took our luggage to the room and unpacked for the weekend. Then we hit the mall. Now, we are big shoppers, that’s for sure, but we weren’t casually checking the sales. We were on a mission. Deb needed pantyhose – not the big box store variety with reinforced panty, but sheer toe-to-waist pair.

See, while Dancing with the Stars competitors just come out with as little in the way of clothes as possible, in real competitions, each style of dance has a mode of dress. Deb would be dancing both Smooth and Latin numbers. Her smooth ensemble was complete, but she needed the panty hose for Latin. The ladies are supposed to wear fish net hose for Latin and apparently that’s a very uncomfortable prospect if you don’t have a regular pair on hose on underneath and in Latin, you also have open toed shoes and a very, very short skirt.

So, we hit Macy’s first and they recommended WalMart. Knowing WalMart didn’t have what Deb needed, we tried Nordstrom’s instead. Back in the day, the hosiery department was part of accessories and held pride of place on the first floor of any department store. A wide variety of brands in rows of self serve counters vied for your attention with promises of sleekness, durability and style.

Heck, I can remember when there was no self-serve. You walked up to a counter and discussed your hosiery needs with salesclerk which would then pull out selections for you to choose from. The your selection would be put in a thin box with tissue and sometimes a ribbon. I miss those days.

At Nordstrom’s we discovered hosiery had been demoted to the second floor and resided in one lonely fixture with very limited choices, but that put them lightyears ahead of Macy’s, who thought you could only get pantyhose at the big box stores.

That done we had one more small task. Though I’d been talking to Bill for days about the dance competition, he waited until thirty minutes before my departure to freak out about my absence, which resulted in me forgetting to put in a dress-up outfit for the Gala Dinner. Deb wasn’t even sure how dressed up they would get, but if everyone else was decked out, I didn’t want to be sitting there in the jeans and sweater set I’d be wearing the rest of the day.

I hit a store called Image, which had throw away fashion on the cheap, where a found a black swing jacket with silver glitter woven into it. At Lovisa I found a cheap rhinestone necklace to dress up the turtle neck sweater I’d wear under it. I was gala ready!

Dinner at Oceanaire

While Deb’s been dancing in competitions for a number of years, she’s always done it on the cheap, skipping the money eaters like Gala Dinners and expensive restaurants, but her new partner goes first class. So, she decided to go all in this time and I had the privilege of going with her. That meant dinner at Oceanaire with her partner and his teacher.

The prices on the menu were not the denominations Deb and I usually see. Sure, we’ll splurge on something like a birthday dinner, but Oceanaire was expensive, no two ways about it. There’s two ways to go about a meal like that. You can go in budget first, eat a Caesar salad and be practical. Or you can dive in with both feet and break the bank. Deb and I went for the latter.

We started with escargot, had the Seafood Mixed Grill for our entrée and finished off with cheesecake. Each and every bite was out of this world, but we ate so many bites that when we finished we felt like balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. After dinner, Deborah and Aimee (the dance instructor) went up to the room to try out hairstyles. I read for awhile, giving them a thumbs-up now and then, but eventually fell asleep. I woke up at mid-night, had to get ready for bed and then go back to sleep.

Why I Will Never Dance in Competition!

The alarm went off at 4 AM. Deb needed to be on the floor rehearsing at seven and she had a lot to do before then. Stage make-up is the first hurdle. A little lipstick and mascara will not do on the dance floor. Then there are all the things that go on before you put on your gown – this kind of hosiery, that kind of undergarment, etc. and so on. Then getting on the gown is like suiting up for a joust.

At that point, Aimee came in to go after the hair, which had been in hot rollers while the rest of the activity was going on. This is a big deal. Hair can’t just be fluffed up, it also has to be anchored into place so that it won’t fall as Deb makes her way around the floor. Apparently, there are hair pros who start styling even earlier than Deb and I woke up, but Deb doesn’t feel as if she’s in that league yet and she also doesn’t want to spend the money. They ended up with something which looked very 40’s starlet and I doubt a pro could have done any better.

After the hair was glued into place with copious amounts of hairspray, it was time to add the jewelry. The jewelry we’d selected for her smooth performances, a shimmering full length gown in in gunmetal gray decked out with pearls and crystals, was long dangling clear rhinestones earrings and a clear rhinestone necklace. The piece d’resistance was her bright red elbow length gloves which matched her bright red lipstick.

Meanwhile, I fell into a pair of jeans, a pair of sweaters and a pair of boots I’d brought to battle the extreme cold of the ballroom. I put on some makeup, but my hair was a total loss. That was OK, with peacocks like Deborah running around, no one was going to pay any attention to me anyway!

A Day of Dancing

At 7AM Deb and Richard, her partner, were on the floor to warm up. I was in charge of keeping up with the dance heats and videoing their performances. It’s more difficult than you might think. From 7:30 AM on into the evening, every 90 seconds there’s a new group marching out on the floor for their heat. Deb and Richard had 24 performances and then Richard has his pro had at least that many more.

Though Deb has explained how the heats work and how they score it doesn’t quite click with me. Some points are awarded for just showing up to dance and for the number of heats that you dance. When you are out on the floor, multiple judges are looking at multiple levels of competition. So, even though everyone may be dancing a Paso Dobles or a Viennese Waltz, there will be various age groups and categories of the dance competing at the same time. You and your partner may be the only Intermediate Silver in the Senior Amateur competition and you may end up with first place, but it was actually the only place.

You can usually tell some of this, like who’s dancing with a pro and whose dancing with an amateur, by the number the man wears on his back, but then there are amateurs like Richard, who dance with both and who dances in everything from Intermediate Silver to Full Gold levels. Yes, it’s confusing.

The morning was given over to smooth dances waltz, foxtrot, tango and Viennese waltz. Then while the country dancers took over the floor, Deb ran upstairs and put on her Latin outfit, changing everything from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. I have to confess, I thought the second half of the day was more fun – salsa, samba, paso dobles, bolero, even the hustle! Though I would have loved to get on the floor and rock out a bit, one look at the precise costumed dancers on the floor kept me permanently bolted to my chair, but I might have chair-danced a little.

By the end of the day, all the sambas and rumbas ran together and I did good to keep from falling asleep. The judges changed out every hour. I was glued to the table announcing heats and taking photos. I love DEb, but I was done.

Wrapping It Up

The Gala Buffet didn’t have much pizazz to it. I could have saved myself a few dollars, but we didn’t know that. After the buffet, the dancers went in to participate in the awards ceremony and see more dancing. I went to bed. I didn’t go to sleep until later, but I read while I reveled in the quiet of our hotel room, hoping the ringing in my ears would go away some day.

The next morning we got packed up and met for breakfast there in the hotel. After that we loaded up the car and headed home. I was glad to get there. I had a quiet day at the scrapbooking table and finished up my 2022 everyday album. I am now officially caught up.

Come back next week, Deb and I will be attending the Bubbles and Bunco Brunch to benefit Lone Star CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) – a fun party with bottomless mimosas and a great cause. All the other usual things will be happening, too. So, stay in touch.

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

Broadway Baby!

Travel There – Sardi’s and Moulin Rouge

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.

DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Scrapbooking, Shopping

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – ODDS & ENDS

Shopping Saturday

My Saturday highlight was FOREVER’s Pet Milestones Online Event, but I started my day at the scrapbooking table. I’m working on a personal album, because I will have a client’s album to start soon, and I want to be caught up with my own stuff. Over the weekend I got up to October 2022, so I only have a few more pages to go.

My bestie is a Memory Keeper, too, so she joined me to watch the Milestones program. She doesn’t do it as a business, but she is her family’s historian and has been working with me on albums for years. However, I think she’s about to abandon the traditional scrapbooking route and embrace the digital side of things, because her sons have no interest in her carefully created scrapbooks, but they dig digital.

She enjoyed the Pets focus of the presentation, because even though she’s inherited all her family’s media and memorabilia, her phone is full of cat photos and videos. A number of the segments were devoted to auto print projects and we were both fascinated with how quickly they could be print ready. I still enjoy the creative process, but for those who just want to get it done, Auto Print is auto-amazing!

After the hour long program it was time for lunch. We decided to try the new seafood restaurant around the corner. The Anchor is a casual restaurant and bar. There’s a patio, but it was a bit brisk for that on Saturday, and there’s a bar, but we were there to eat.

You go to the counter to order, get a number to display on your table and then they deliver the food to you. I opted for a shrimp basket and margarita. The food is affordable, but the drinks are a little pricey in my opinion. I guess one makes up for the other. However, both food and drinks were great.

I’m sure they will do fine on that busy corner, but I found the layout a little disappointing. The primary view is the business end of the restaurant, including a peek into the double door leading into the kitchen and the utility sink. Very utilitarian and it certainly embraced the industrial décor vibe, but I’d rather not look at it.

Then it was time to go shopping. I still had birthday coupons burning a hole in my pocket, so we went to Firewheel, where I could use them all. First stop, DSW! I walked out of the store with a new pair of shoes for all of $10. Then on to Kirkland’s, where I scored a 20% off deal on the cute rabbit in the meme above. Next stop was Chico’s and they had a valentine-themed top on the clearance rack. I hadn’t had any valentine-themed clothes for awhile and decided I’d get it for next year. I only had to contribute a few dollars to go along with my coupon. Last coupon stop was White House|Black Market. My coupon would have almost covered a cute pair of earrings, but I opted for a gorgeous bracelet which would take a few more dollars out of my pocket, but guess what! I had earned enough in their loyalty program over the years to pay the balance! Score!!

You work up a thirst when you’re coupon shopping! Or maybe it was the fried shrimp? Anyway, we went to Sonic to grab a soda and the server overheard us talking about my birthday coupons and gave me a large drink for 99 cents. Another score! Then we made our way to the plaza to enjoy the fountain (and a little people watching!) Then it was time to go home.

Lazy Sunday

Sunday was a quiet day. We visited Lutheran church and marked it off the list, which was too bad, since it is so close to home, but it didn’t meet any of our criteria, except perhaps for the decoration of their sanctuary, but that wasn’t enough to get us back.

We had a few stops to make before we went home. Deb and I had visited Tuesday Morning on the way home from Firewheel and I saw a few things I thought Bill might like. I was right and we did buy a Cuisinart frying pan, to replace the scratched up thing we needed to replace, a table cloth and Bill found a treat he wanted to try. Next was Costco for beverages and Bill found a few other things he wanted to try. Then we enjoyed some of our favorite fast food, Cane’s!

At home, Bill retired to the sofa for a little nap and I hit the scrapbooking table. And then the weekend was over.

The upcoming weekend I will be going to a dance competition with my bestie. She’s going to dance and I’m going to be her dresser and moral support. Come back next week for a report on the world of competitive dance, after traveling to NYC and enjoying some memory-keeping.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Travel There – Museum Girl Goes to the Met

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.

ART, Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Scrapbooking, Shopping

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE: CELEBRATING ME!

Get ready for a wild ride! It’s my birthday weekend!

Sear Steakhouse

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.

Thanks to Sarah Head of Sarah K Photography! Great photo of us!

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 at El 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.

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

What’s That About Dead Rabbits?

Travel There – Happy Hour and Dinner in Lower Manhattan

What a day Deb and I had! It was just the kind of day we love, running from early until late and seeing things we’ve never seen before. We rode the New York subway from Mid-Town to Downtown. We visited the sculptures around Battery Park. We island hopped on ferries. We climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty and connected with our ancestors. We saw museums, historical gravesites, a church and a famous sculpture.

Now it was time to slow down. Deb, my co-conspirator and best bestie ever, thought we should find The Dead Rabbit. The same person who suggested Fraunces Tavern ( a real winner in our book) had also said his friends and family enjoyed The Dead Rabbit. So, out came the phones and we googled it up. (See, I’m flexible. I don’t always have to have a map.)

If you googled it up today, it says it is “The World’s Most Awarded Pub.” Last year it said the bar was Manhattan’s best kept secret. Personally, I’m glad I was there when it was a secret. The name of the pub is loosely related to a historical Irish gang that ran in the area back in the days when Ellis Island was busy. Personally, I think the founders of the pub heard about the gang and decided it would be cool to name the pub after it.

The founders also couldn’t quite decide what kind of establishment they wanted to have, so they have three – The Taproom, The Parlor and The Occasional Room. Though all three are part of the same place, they are three distinct destinations with three different audiences.

Deb and I just wanted a drink, so we went to The Taproom. Deb does cocktails. She loves to browse the drink menu, discuss things like bitters and ryes and then try new things. My cocktail is a Margarita and the rest of the time I drink white wine. I love red wine, but the histamines make me miserable, so I stick to white.

I think she either had an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan and I had either a Margarita or a Pinot Grigio – or we both had one of each. I don’t think it matters. Deb struck up one of her conversations about bitters and ryes with the bartendress which resulted in some ideas she wanted to try as soon as she got home. I mainly stared off into space and was so happy to be there. I was not working and it was blissful.

Back to the Fraunces Tavern

If you remember, we’d made dinner reservations at Fraunces while we were there and we were still just around the corner from it. Lower Manhattan is actually a pretty small place. After our two drinks at The Dead Rabbit Taproom, whatever they were, we struck out to follow up on our dinner plans.

The place was virtually empty, which was a crying shame. Not only do I want the restaurant to support the museum upstairs, but oh my goodness, did they ever have good food. We shared a ginormous porkchop with mac & cheese. It was time to get back to Mid-Town, so we headed to the subway and did a fine job of getting back to our hotel.

After our very active day, we needed a little patching up. Deb’s heels had been rubbed raw. I’d broken my prescription sunglasses and a finger I’d banged up back in Dallas needed further attention. We found a Walgreen’s and bought up what we needed to keep going – moleskin, super glue and New Skin. Oh, and they had Diet Dr Pepper!! Happy day!!

One might think we couldn’t top a day like we’d had, but that one wouldn’t know we had the Metropolitan Museum of Art on our schedule, something I’d been wanting to see my whole life – even more than I’d wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. The only reason we didn’t go to it on this day, the first full day in NYC, was because it was closed on Wednesdays.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Presidential, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Down in Downtown Manhattan

Travel There – Fraunces Travern & Trinity Church

These two books were were my bibles for NYC. I always like the Top 10 guides. They cover virtually everything, but they organize it into neat little lists of 10 items and they have fantastic laminated maps in a back pocket which fit in my handbag. The Top 10 guides have shown me a good time in a lot of cities.

The Knoff Mapguide was a new one for this trip. I’d never seen one before, but it was a perfect companion to my Top 10 guide and I will be looking for them in the future. It broke New York into 10 sections and then had a detailed map of each section with suggestions. No GPS to go off network. No touching the map and creating a new destination. No losing the screen to a call or a text. Just a map and a good one.

This is my idea of planning a route. For the rest of our time in NYC we’d be up in Mid-Town, so I wanted to see the best of what Downtown offered while I was in the neighborhood. Am I the only one who is confused by Downtown Manhattan being down? Usually, when I talk about downtown anywhere else, I mean down in the center of things, but in Manhattan, that’s actually Mid-Town!

On to Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern Today

Here’s another site I might have missed completely if it weren’t for my traveling companion and her co-workers. Someone who made a recent visit to NYC told Deb about the Tavern, its ties to Washington and its museum. What’s not to love and it was within walking distance of Battery Park, where we disembarked from the ferry.

So, Fraunces Tavern has been a part of Downtown NYC since the Revolutionary War, such a big part, as a matter of fact, when George Washington had a farewell dinner for his officers, this was where they had it. The tables and chairs from that party no longer exist, but the room where it happened is still there and they have furnished it as it would have been back in the day. That in itself is worth a visit, but there’s more.

Upstairs is museum of artifacts from the Revolutionary War, from Washington, from the Tavern, etc. It’s very interesting and just costs a few dollars to enter. It’s not very big, but well worth the time spent. I was especially interested in everything, because it was founded and still supported by the Sons of the American Revolution.

My dad was a member of SAR and they do an amazing job of protecting our heritage. I spent the whole time of the verge of tears, because I thought about how much my father would have loved to see it and how proud he would have been of his organization. Without actually intending to do so, we visited Deborah’s heritage on Ellis Island and mine at the tavern. All on the same day and both so close to one another. On a day like that, I’m proud to be an American.

A Few Other Stops in the Neighborhood

I’d known that the day’s timing would be iffy. In a perfect world we’d have arrived at the tavern at meal time, but things weren’t perfect. After seeing the museum, we decided to make a dinner reservation for a little later and in the meantime see a few other sites.

Our first stop was Trinity Church. Unfortunately, choir practice was going on and we were not allowed into the church. That was a shame. One of my favorite memories ever is being at Salisbury Cathedral when the organist started practicing. I thought I’d fallen through some hole into the past – perhaps inspired by the visit to Stonehenge which I also did on that day.

Still, the exterior of the church was beautiful and it was haunting to think how many great men and women had walked where we were walking. This had been the church of our founding fathers, long before Washington D.C was a thing.

Our walk through downtown was not through, but things took a slightly different turn at our next site. So come back next week for a bit more irreverent look at Downtown Manhattan.

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

Coming to America Via Ellis Island

Travel There – Share the Immigrant Experience

My family, on both sides, got here before the 1890’s, so they did not go through Ellis Island or get dumped into the great melting pot of NYC. Some came when America was more wilderness than civilization. Some fought in the Revolutionary War. Others served as indentured servants to pay off their debts. Two brothers married Cherokee women in Georgia about the time of the Civil War. We didn’t come with the Conquistadors or sail to Plymouth Rock, but we did not sail past Lady Liberty as we entered New York Harbor, either.

However, Deborah’s family did. Hence, the whole experience was more profound for her than it was for me. She really identified with the challenges faced by those shuffling through the halls of Ellis Island with everything they owned in a satchel. She was disappointed the records center was closed on the day we were there, because she wanted to go and find her relatives listed on the logs they kept. To her, this was her family’s history and heritage.

A Shadow of Their Experience

Whether they intended it or not, there was a feeling of lostness as we arrived on Ellis Island. There were arrows and people pointing you in what was the right direction, but you had no way of knowing whether it was the direction you really wanted to go or not. What’s going to happen? Will there be someone to explain the process to me? Will I get a chance to sit down? What about food? Will there be any?

What they had for us were signs, but they were informative and told you what you were seeing and where to go next. You entered through the Baggage Room. Were you an immigrant, you would have had to let go of your luggage here. Imagine that everything you own in the world, the only things you could bring with you from your home, is in a carpet-covered satchel and first thing that happens to you in America is that someone takes it away.

In our modern day of mobile phones, apps and GPS, it is hard for us to imagine what it would have been like to arrive here. Some people had family or friends to connect with, but there would be no contact until they were through Ellis Island. How could they tell anyone they had actually arrived or had run into issues with immigration? And if you didn’t have anyone here, where were you going to eat and sleep? How would you protect your family and provide for them? It had to be so overwhelming.

Next you climbed the stairs to enter the Registry Room or what’s called The Great Hall. For most of the immigrants this was a crowded, potentially embarrassing and inconvenient experience, but soon enough they were on their way. Not everyone was so lucky. Some people were sent back where they came from. Others were held in dormitories on the island. The third floor has many exhibits that demonstrate the hardships of the less fortunate people who came to America through Ellis Island.

The Ellis Island Café

Deb and I had a big breakfast at the hotel, so we were able to last until the afternoon without thinking about food, but towards the end of our tour we were feeling the need for sustenance. I’d brought along a Meal Replacement Bar, but I desperately needed caffeine. Deb was looking for lunch. Our only option was The Ellis Island Café.

The café is not some cozy little getaway with lace curtains. It is a very efficient little snack bar, but everything offered is prepackaged. You can get wraps and sandwiches, chips and candy bars. There’s plenty of bottled water and a variety of soft drinks. There is, however, no Diet Dr Pepper. I knew that going in, but if you’re me, it’s worth mentioning. A certain portion of my life is spent identifying places where I can score my favorite beverage. Just for the record, there’s no beer or wine either.

Refreshed and refueled, we discussed our options for the afternoon. Had the Records Room been open, we would have spent some time there, but now it was time to start our exploration of Manhattan in earnest. We headed for the ferry and were treated to a much easier cruise than we’d had that morning. The first picture in last week’s post is Deb and I on our way back to the mainland.

Come back next week and join us in Downtown New York City. We’ll be following in the footsteps of some of our Founding Fathers.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Blown Away by Lady Liberty

Travel There – A Morning with Battery Park Monuments and the Statue of Liberty

Yes, the Statue of Liberty is pretty mind blowing, but I’m what I’m talking about is that we were by the Statue of Liberty and were nearly blown elsewhere! The weather man had warned it might rain the whole time we were in NYC, but he didn’t tell us that we’d need grappling hooks to stay on the sidewalk.

On our second day in NYC, the threat of rain was melting away, but it was still very chilly. We bundled ourselves in all the cold weather gear we’d brought along and headed to the subway. With visions of huge crowds in our minds, we’d imagined both New Yorkers headed to work and tourists like us headed to the Statue Cruises, we were up and out early – but, in fact, it was too early.

I am still blown away by the efficiency of the New York Transit system. I wish we had something similar here in Dallas. We went all over Manhattan with the greatest of ease and even popped over to New Jersey for a christening. Clueless as to how good it actually was, we allowed entirely too much time for our trip to Battery Park, especially since it wasn’t exactly walking around weather.

Still Deb is the easiest person in the world to travel with, so we just made the best of it. Chilled to the bone, we walked around and looked at all the statuary one is supposed to view when one visits Battery Park. As I did my travel homework I had imagined Battery Park and an immense expanse of green, much like Central Park, but it’s actually quite manageable. If you have half an hour, you’ve got more than enough time for it. Here are some of the pictures we took as we tried very hard to enjoy the chilly morning.

Eventually, we saw some folks forming a line at the Statue City Cruises dock, so we joined them. A word of warning the Staten Island Ferry does not go to Liberty Island, neither do all the rest of the tours that say you’ll see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Some of theses tours and ferries also leave from this area, but if you take them, you may see the islands, but it will be from the deck of the boat. Only the Statue City Cruises will take you to Liberty and Ellis Islands.

Thankfully, the line was in the sun or we might have gotten frostbite, but the wind was deadly. It’s a darned good thing we are such fashionistas. The colorful scarves we wore to dress up our outfits ended up tied around our heads in desperation. Here is the line, the boat and some of the scenery on the way to the islands.

All the wind made the ride pretty choppy, but neither of us is prone to seasickness and it was a very short ride. We were also so excited about our destination there really wasn’t much room in us for anything else.

You get off the boat and stand in line to show someone in a box your ticket. They give you a brochure with a map and then you are on your own. We had timed access to the crown, which means you actually get to go up in the statue. so we headed off immediately to the Lady herself.

I can confess here, that going up in the crown was not the highlight of our day. I am glad we did it, because they have some amazing exhibits inside the pedestal. Deb and I wandered around for a very long time looking at it all. So, my travel tip to you is that even if you don’t want to climb up the stairs and go into the crown, get the crown access anyway, because the museum there is very good.

With our newly discovered knowledge about the Statue of Liberty, we made our way back to the entry area and almost by serendipity went into the Information Center. It felt backwards, because we felt we’d already attended the main event, so what were we going to get information about?

Hello Park Service! It is not an Information Center! You need to find a more compelling name for it. An Information Center has brochures, a nice person to answer questions and perhaps a diorama of the area.

The Information Center on Liberty Island is more a celebration of all things Lady Liberty. It was in no way a repeat of what we’d seen in the exhibits inside the statue. We spent at least another hour enjoying the exhibits in the “Information Center”.

Inside the Lady, the exhibits shared the struggle to make the monument a reality. Though a gift from our friends in France, she wasn’t exactly free. It took a concerted effort by many, many people to get her standing in New York Harbor. It’s a story of a man with a vision and cooperation between nations, but also a tribute to the can-do determination of Americans.

The Information Center focuses more on the fabrication of the statue and what it has become since she climbed a top her pedestal. You get a sort of virtual peek at what it took to build her and then the role she has played standing watch in New York Harbor.

One of the challenges of being a tourist is deciding how to spend your time. If I were a New Yorker, a more frequent visitor to the Big Apple or someone with more than a week to see everything, I would have extended our tour of Liberty Island. There was certainly more to see.

Had it been a less windy and chilly day, we certainly would have spent more time on the pedestal of the statue, admiring the vistas of Manhattan and filling up our phones with photos. This really wasn’t an option in the powerful winds we experienced.

As it was, we’d passed mid-day and we wanted plenty of time on Ellis Island, so we headed to the Ferry Dock. From there it is a short hop to the second feature of the day. come back next week and experience Ellis Island with us. Please come back next week for the immigrant experience.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE: A BIG WEEKEND

A Good Excuse for Fun!

So last weekend was my husband’s birthday. It was sort of a milestone for him and he decided to live large! In fact, he started looking forward to it a day early, when usually he does his best to ignore it. So, Thursday afternoon he pulled out one of the good bottles of wine and enjoyed smoking his hookah in our sunroom.

Friday Night Date

The celebration, which started on Thursday, kept going on Friday night. You have to know that Friday nights are pretty quiet around here, usually. We don’t like to fight the big crowds, but we researched several Dallas restaurants, trying to find something new. We finally gave it up and went to Fire and Fable, something in Rockwall I’d tried out for coffee the week before. I found out they had a bar and stayed open 10 to 10, so we gave it a shot.

Warning it’s a little confusing. They bill themselves as a bookshop bistro, but when you walk in, the first thing you see is a pastry counter. In truth, the ladies at the counter were a tad bit more interested in whatever they were doing than they were about seeing if we were taken care of. We told them we were going to the bar, but then decided maybe we’d prefer to eat, but having already talked to us, they weren’t going to give us their attention again.

So, we walked through the next bit, which is actually bookshopish and found ourselves in a line, but we weren’t sure what we were waiting for. Chatting up the group ahead of us, we found out they’d just been called to their table, and we were in the right place to put our name on the list. They were seated and after a bit of a wait, the hostess asked us what we wanted.

She put us on the list for a table, but then found us a place to sit in the bar. We ordered drinks and an appetizer. Then we sat back to enjoy the show. All the cool kids were there being cool, so it was quiet entertaining. The service was slow, but I can only imagine what kind of chaos going on back in the kitchen, because the place was jamming.

Our appetizer was fried artichoke hearts and I cannot heartily endorse them, but in spite of that, I think you should go check it out – just maybe not on a Friday evening. We managed to wrench our check from the waiter and get it paid. Then we escaped out the back door. The hostess texted us our table was ready, just about the time we got home.

Saturday Night Date

You know it’s a big weekend if we go out twice!! Bill joined my bestie and I on our Saturday afternoon adventure, which happened to be a movie. We saw A Man Called Otto with Tom Hanks. It was really heartwarming, but you have to sit through a lot of sadness to get to the good part. All three of us gave it a thumbs up!

But that’s not all. On a walk around The Harbor earlier in the week, I suggested to Bill the new Sear Steakhouse might be a good place to celebrate his birthday. He allowed that it might be, but he hadn’t worn his glasses and couldn’t see the menu posted outside the restaurant. He checked out their website once he got home, which didn’t have pricing and decided it would not be a good place to go.

Well, Deb decided to take him to 360° for a drink. 360° is the circular bar outside Sear Steakhouse – perfect for a sunset drink, since it overlooks Lake Ray Hubbard, but it worked fine for a drink (or two) in the dark, too. I must say we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and after a look at the menu (he had his glasses) we decided we could even afford to eat there!

Sunday Night Date

Nah! We didn’t go out again. After church, we both went to our offices to catch up on things which needed our attention. When dinner rolled around, however, Mr. Bill did cook up some falafel sandwiches and it was very good.

It was a really good weekend and we had a lot of fun. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you’ll come to visit again next week.