Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Grapevine Vintage Railroad

TRAVEL HERE: FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Desperate for some travel-like experiences in the Covid haze, I planned a series of holiday outings, but I’ll be the first to admit things didn’t go as planned. While there’s many a time the thermometer has hovered in the seventies over the holiday season, that was not the case this holiday. Instead, my poor husband suffered a series of weather-related indignities, just so he wouldn’t have to peel me off the wall. Our excursion on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad was just such an experience.

Covid vs. The Weather

During the pandemic, virtually everything you wanted to do, you needed to have reservations. While that seems like a reasonable request, as I mentioned when I talking about the Dallas Arboretum, it just doesn’t work very well in our lives. Bill needs to be in the mood and the weather needs to be nice. During December, Bill was not in the mood, at all, and the weather was pretty awful.

Bill suffers from SAD, a condition related to those people whose emotions can be effected by the lack of certain light rays from the sun. He has special lights in his office and he takes extra vitamins to combat it, but when the weather is lousy, so is his mood. In December the weather was lousy , but in spite of his mood, Bill tried to enjoy the events I scheduled, unlike the weather.

A Rainy and Cold Excursion

The morning of our Grapevine Vintage Railroad excursion was not a pretty one. It was cold and it was trying to rain. There was mostly just a miserable mist, but on occasion it would gather it’s wits about it and give us some actual rain. We drove to Grapevine in the mist, which turned into a pretty nasty rain, just about the time we needed to make a dash to get on the train.

Damp and wet, we turned our reservations in for some souvenir tickets. I’ve got to hand it to the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, their cars are very authentic and they’d done a marvelous job decorating them for the holidays. However, as we settled into our seats the Covid effect was immediate. Everyone had on their masks and those everyone’s were few and far between.

Part of the fun of something like a train excursion it the energy you get from the people around you only none of the people around us were actually close enough to us to share their energy. I know there was a pandemic going on, but this just felt sad in a way that our other attempts at our Staycation had not.

We tried to jolly one another along as the train made it’s way to Fort Worth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see. The railway went through industrial areas and neighborhoods, but none of the neighborhoods were very scenic – just one leaning, washed-out privacy fence after another, behind houses desperately in need of maintenance. Preventative maintenance had been ignored about a decade ago. The railway made an attempt to entertain us with a faux train robbery, but with a mostly empty car the failure of it just rattled the windows.

Finally, the Fort Worth Stockyards

As we arrived, others were clamoring to get on, so the initial feel of it was that maybe we were on to something. Then we stepped outside. It was cold, really cold, and while it wasn’t raining or misting, there was enough humidity to make it feel even colder.

We made our way over to the Stock Exchange which was reportedly full of exhibits, museums, food and shops. NOT! And all the reported attractions which were missing from the Stock Exchange must have taken the rest of attractions in the area with them, because nothing was opened with the exception of a few stores and restaurants.

We spent some time in the Stockyards Hotel Lobby and that, at least, was interesting. They did have some historical photos which kept us occupied for awhile. Then we headed on our way along Exchange Avenue. Several of the stores were nothing but junk. Forty million things with Fort Worth Stockyards printed on them and nothing at all that we wanted.

Then, we found out that it was a good thing we didn’t want to be a Cowboy or Cowgirl, because we couldn’t afford it! As we made our way along Exchange Avenue the quality went up and there were no souvenir type slogans printed on things, but the price tags scared us to death. Cowboy boots in multiple thousands, pieces of clothing in the mid to high hundreds. Hats for custom blocking that were astronomical. And the jewelry? Tasteful, but exorbitant.

Getting a Bite at Booger’s

Our watches told us we had a some more time to kill before we could get back on the train and return to Grapevine. We decided to drown our sorrows in some food and drinks. The best option seemed to be Booger Red’s, a restaurant and bar attached to the Stockyards Hotel. We have no complaints, at all, concerning Booger’s. My Margarita was good, as were our quesadillas. The establishment has a Western feel to it and they’ve hung a number of amusing signs around for entertainment.

If you’ve heard of the Fort Worth Stockyards, then you’ve probably heard of Billy Bob’s. On a cold weekday during Covid, nothing was going on there. The other thing you might have heard of was the daily cattle drives. That did happen, but let me tell you, like a lot of small towns in Texas, if you blink you might miss it.

Then we were glad it was time to go. The train ride back was pretty much a repeat of the trip there. We got back to Grapevine and got off the train. We had a close eye on the weather, because the next morning we were supposed to head to Oklahoma and celebrate at a very special Bed and Breakfast Inn. Did we get to do it? Come back next week and find out.

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.

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

The Road to Alligator Bottoms

TRAVEL HERE: THE ADVENT TEA WE WILL NEVER FORGET

I have been accused of making up some of my adventures purely to entertain you guys. While I am guilty of squeezing every laugh I can out of a situation, I assure you I have lived through each of these adventures, exactly as I have explained them to you. Whether it was the chagrin I felt on the tourist train in Monte Carlo or having a machinegun toting guard deliver me to a wedding in Cairo, it happened. Perhaps the truth of it is that I just look for more fun in a situation than most people do. What other people experience and forget about almost immediately, I enjoy retelling with relish over and over and over.

The Advent Tea

I go to a very Conservative church. The women all home school and some families are so large, they broke the Covid restrictions just by waking up each morning. A great majority of the families live far out in the country. I’ve never exactly understood why God decided that’s where He wanted me to go, but it couldn’t have been clearer it was His choice for me, even if He’d decided to hang a red “You Are Here” arrow over the roof.

What’s even more strange is that they’ve made me a member of the Ladies Ministry Committee. Early in 2020, before Covid was a thing, one really sweet lady said she had a great idea for a November event. We’d each buy a box of tea, adhere a Bible verse to each tea bag and bring the bags to the event. Then we’d share tea bags and each lady would walk away with collection of teas to enjoy during Advent. That sounded like my kind of event, so I was assigned to help organize it.

The hostess had things pretty well under control, but she was a little fuzzy on the receptacles for sharing the teas at the event and on the receptacle each person would take home with their own teas. I suggested my mom’s Christmas China for presenting the teas and decorative tin boxes to take them home. My suggestions were accepted.

What I Thought Would Happen

The location of the event was one of those homes out in the country that’s not exactly on my beaten track. That’s why I was glad I’d need to take a pre-event visit to deliver the china pieces we’d be using, as well as the cute matching tins I’d found at the dollar store. Based on that assumption, I thought I’d invite along my Bestie, who attends the church with me, but rarely gets to participates in Ladies Ministry Events, because her schedule is so demanding.

So, the day before the event I contacted the hostess and asked her when she wanted me to deliver the china. Well, somewhere along the way she’d decided she didn’t want to use the china after all. While she was probably under the impression that she was making life easier for me, she had no idea that after learning Mom’s china would not be making an appearance, I actually sat down and cried.

I also made note of the fact that I wouldn’t be making a trial run to the location, but we have GPS, right. Everything would be fine.

What Actually Happened

So, Bestie did her best to break away from work, but by the time I picked her up, dusk was setting in. We shot up I-30, took the appointed exit and then turned right when the GPS said to. Only in the dark, I took some kind of driveway rather than a street or road and we were soon turning around.

We got on the right road almost by Braille and continued to follow the GPS directions. Left here, right there – no you missed it, turn around as soon as you can, now left, OK, but we’re about to take a quick right…well you get the picture.

Eventually, the GPS was happy with the road we were traveling and we went deeper into the boonies. At one point I looked at the screen and saw we were on Alligator Bottoms Road. I kid you not. She laughed, I laughed, Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight laughed…I’m kidding.

Finally, the GPS said we were only a few minutes away and that’s when I saw the gate across the road with a whole bunch of official looking signs warning me not to go any further. That’s when Dueling Banjos began to play. Maybe not in reality, but it was on both our minds.

I tried to turn around, but in the inky blackness I was afraid I was going to end up in a ditch, so Bestie had to get out and direct. Once I had the car headed towards civilization I zoomed out of there. We tried calling someone, anyone – because it was time for the event to start and I still had the tin boxes, but to no avail. Believe me, if I hadn’t had those boxes, we would have been on our way to someplace with adult beverages, not tea.

The Boring Ending

With no one answering their phones or calling us back, Deb pulled out her phone and gave Waze a shot. Perhaps it would do a better job than my GPS did. After about 27 more twists and turns we arrived at the tea with a couple of other carloads of ladies. We were late, but not horribly so and there were others who were more lost than we were, apparently – though no one else went to Alligator Bottoms.

Instead of Mom’s Christmas China, the various teas were in small baskets, not an improvement to my eyes, Everybody loved their tins. We had a nice devotional and some prayer time. Then we headed back into the night and were back on a main road before you could say Deliverance – The Movie.

And that was our Adventurous Advent Tea. Next time these city girls are staying home!! Come back next week and we’ll go to the Kimbell for a real holiday treat!

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.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Our Last Day of Cruising

TRAVEL HERE: A DAY AT SEA

For me, travel is usually about going somewhere.  I’m interested in seeing wonderful things and doing things I’ve never done before.  But this cruise was a little different.  It was supposed to be about relaxing and indulgence.  Maybe that’s why I resented the poor food quality.  Our last day really was a day devoted to relaxation and we had a good time.  Join us as we enjoy the ship.

AM Less Than Routine

I started the day in the gym and then returned to the room, so Bill could join me for our sit-down breakfast in the dining room.  That was an event!

The focus of the day was on chocolate, so I ordered the chocolate pancakes, but was delivered plain old buttermilk pancakes.  I’m usually the last person in the world to send something back, but I didn’t want to waste calories on just any pancake.  If I’m being bad, then I wanted to be exactly the bad I have chosen, not the bad someone else chooses for me.  However, that was merely a blip on the screen of the morning event.

As part of the chocolate extravaganza they were calling breakfast, a waitress came by with a tray of chocolate shakes.  That’s not usually a part of my breakfast, but I thought I’d try one.  Before I could take my first sip, there was a huge clatter.  The tray and most of the glasses were on the floor and many of the glasses shattered.  Infinitely worse was that most of the shakes ended up all over the man at the head of the table.

I would like to give big kudos to this guy.  I would have jumped up and screamed.  This man didn’t make a peep.  He merely stood up, wiped away as much as he could and then walked away to change.  WOW!  When he came back, he took his seat and finished his breakfast – also without a peep. More WOW!

His wife was a little more chatty.  While he was away we learned this was the first “real” vacation they had ever taken.  Always before they’d used their vacation to do good works.  She didn’t indicate whether their trips had been humanitarian and/or faith-based, but it doesn’t matter.  How amazing for them to give of themselves in that way!  What’s sad was that this cruise had not allowed them to enjoy themselves the way it should have.  She didn’t complain about the food or the mediocre quality of the entertainment.  She only said they’d had a lot of trouble and only that morning they’d finally been moved to another cabin.  (She didn’t say why and when asked she didn’t want to discuss it, but I’m thinking bedbugs or mold.  What do you think?)

The Balance of the Day

So, after our exciting breakfast, Bill wanted to give the rock-climbing wall a shot.  He’d loved rappelling when we were on Norwegian, but this boat only had the climbing wall.  Still, Bill suited up and gave it a try.  He made it pretty high up the wall, higher than anyone else did while we were there, but didn’t get to the top.  I pointed out that he’d chosen the toughest part of the wall to climb – it actually leaned outwards, but he couldn’t be convinced to give it another try.

Next up was some pool time, but we didn’t want to fight the constant noise and party next to the main pool.  Instead, we found our way to the Solarium pool and did a little relaxing.  I’m not a big swimmer, but I did enjoy some time in the hot tub.  Then I did a little poolside lounging.

At lunch we had the pleasant opportunity to reconnect with the nice lady we’d enjoyed at the first breakfast and this time she was with her husband.  We enjoyed their company so much that we were the very last people left in the dining room.

Then it was time to get our bags repacked.  We’d have to put the big bag out before bedtime.  When that was done, I washed my hair and spent some time relaxing, while Bill battled the stock market.

The final show may have been the worst entertainment of all.  This was a tribute to Broadway, but I’m not sure how much honor it showed to that wonderful institution.  They did the opening prologue to Cabaret, but opened the curtain on songs from Chicago.  I found that disconcerting, but not as bad as using the lyrics from famous Broadway songs with mediocre melodies.  They weren’t even bad arrangements of Broadway tunes, just a totally different song with the famous and familiar words.  It was also the production with the worst prop-dropping and zigzaggedy, uneven lines.  What a disappointment.

I don’t have to tell you that dinner was mediocre or breakfast downright bad.  The disembarkation went pretty smoothly, but we did seem to be in the line with all the troubled documentation.  (Why hadn’t that been caught embarking, rather than at the end of the cruise?)  Soon we were on our way home and were we ever glad to be heading back.  Usually there’s a little regret, but not this time.  We just wanted off that boat and back into our home!

As I write this final blog about this cruise it’s early March.  The previous week I had finished up with the posts about Egypt and they will take you into August, but right this minute I can’t guess what I’ll be writing about for my Monday blogs.  We’ll just have to see what kind of adventures I will get into.

 

 

ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

We Won the Love & Marriage Game Show

TRAVEL THERE: ONE OF LIFE’S MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS

On Tuesday night when we saw the Perfect Couple Game Show, they mentioned they would be having a Newlywed-type Q&A game on the following evening. Bill suggested we should try out for it and I thought he was crazy, especially after I had seen what they put the Perfect Couples through.  They mentioned the game again at the Elton John Tribute show and Bill was even more adamant about participating.  I thought there was no way they’d choose a couple of oldsters like us, so I didn’t worry too much.

Killing Time 

We mentioned Bill’s desire to be in the game show at dinner time and our table mates promised to cheer us on if we did indeed end up as contestants.  We had some time to kill before the show once dinner was over, so we took the opportunity to visit some of the places on board that we hadn’t yet seen. 

One of the biggest disappointments was the Viking Crown Bar.  The Bar was the highest venue on the ship and was reported to have the best views.  The specialty sushi restaurant was up there and  I also saw they had late night disco action up there.  It was a beautiful bar and the view was amazing, but there was virtually no one up there enjoying it.  We can’t say whether the disco party heated the place up or not, because by then we were always in bed.

Reporting for Duty

After a little more strolling, it was time to get to the Masquerade Theater so we’d be considered as one of the contestant couples.  Some of the couples who were interested in this game show had been contestants in the Perfect Couple Game the night before.

The Love & Marriage Game had a twist.  One couple was a pair of newlyweds honeymooning on the boat.  Another couple was chosen because they had been married longer than anyone else in the theater.  There was stiff competition to fill that middle spot.

Bill and I stood in a line up of prospective couples and they had all the couples give one other a big kiss to demonstrate how much in love we still were.  Bill wrapped his arms around me and laid one on me.  To make it more fun I wrapped a leg around him.  The crowd went wild and we were chosen to be the middle couple.

The actual game was exactly like the Newlywed Show.  First they took the guys backstage and asked the women the questions.  When they brought the guys back out, Bill and I got every question right. Then they sent the women backstage and asked the guys the questions, but whereas the ladies’ questions had been pretty tame, they heated it up for the guys questions.  We missed one that time – something about what feature the guys had been attracted to when they first saw us.  I answered, “My butt,” because that’s what Bill has told me for years.  He’d been a little bashful about answering so specifically and had said it was my whole body.

Then they asked a question which was not something I really wanted to talk about on a stage, in a theater full of people, so I’m certainly not going to discuss it in print, but we got it right.  They made a big hoopla about us winning, but when they brought out our gifts, the other couples got the same thing, so there hadn’t been a real prize for revealing our deep dark secrets.  However, we were certainly celebrities on the ship for the rest of the cruise.

Then as we were about to leave the stage, they wanted our room number so they could deliver a DVD of the event to our cabin.  Oh, no!  I realized they had recorded the game and there was no end to the people who might watch it.  Then they said they’d be showing it on the on board information channel.  They did, because I watched- and no I won’t be posting the video!

One day left!  Come back next week and see how we spent our last day at sea.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Yucatan Adventure

TRAVEL HERE: DISCOVER THE YUCATAN & THE MAYAN WORLD

No time for working out or a sit-down breakfasts today.  Our shore excursion met on the pier at 9:15, so we grabbed breakfast in the Windjammer Buffet and disembarked.

Progresso, Mexico

I love cruising and one of my favorite moments is stepping off the boat at a port of call.  Progresso was not new to us.  We’d been there several years ago on a Carnival cruise, but that was before I started blogging.  On that trip we visited the Dzibilchaltun ruins, which I highly recommend.  This time we were taking a tour called “Discover the Yucatan & the Mayan World”.  It was a sort of compromise somewhere in between going all the way to Chichen Itza and spending the day on the beach.

The city of Progresso is developing their port and I’m pretty sure the cute little market at the end of the pier was not there last time.  We didn’t see anything that tempted us to pull out our wallets, but it was a nice commercial enterprise and it gave us something to do while we waited for our tour to be called.

How do you spell relief?

On the Bus

Once everyone on the tour had been accounted for, our guide led us to our bus for the day.  For the most part it was in good condition, but I could tell it had been in service for awhile.  Our guide had a shtick about his name.  He complained that all of us tourists didn’t know how to properly roll the “R” in Carlos, so he’d prefer it if we called him The Big Chihuahua or Uncle Chewy.

Our first stop was Xcampo.  (Well, actually the roadside restroom before you got to Xcampo.)  Xcampo was a temple complex, like Chichen Itza or Dzibilxhaltun, but on a much smaller scale.  The visit was not very long, but long enough to wander around and climb on the pyramids.

And speaking of climbing the pyramids, we learned that the steps of the pyramid were so steep to be sure that no one could turn their back on the god and walk down.  They’d have to crawl down to do honor to the god.  In addition, That’s the reason the door to their huts were so low – to remind people to bow and do honor to the home’s inhabitants.

On to Dzemul

Dzemul was a small town primarily occupied by descendants of the Mayans.  Our first stop in the town was an architecturally correct replica of a Mayan home.  When the bus arrived our hostess was nowhere in sight.  We sat there a few moments as the guide tried to decide what to do about her absense.  Just about the time he decided we’d go to the next stop, up comes this darling little lady on the orange human-powered vehicle you see in the picture gallery.  These were the most popular vehicles in town and came in a wide variety of colors and themes.

As Uncle Chewy explained the details of Mayan home-building, our hostess went out back, stoked up a fire and made us some tortillas.  They were good!

The next stop was the local Catholic church with a long history.  There we were greeted by this beautiful woman in her traditional hand-made dress.  Just so you don’t miss it, that’s cross-stitch and it covers the dress.  Can you imagine how long it took to make it?

We were enchanted by this lady.  She exuded pride and self-confidence.  She and some associates performed some folk dances for us and one performed with a tray of water-filled glasses.  The the tray of dancer in the picture got a little off balance and dribbled water on her as she danced.  She was such a pro that it didn’t even cause her to blink.  She completed the dance without ever touching the tray and behaved as if the water dripping on her was just part of the act.  The dancers on the ship could take lessons from her.

Inside the church we were treated to a little history. Bill was amazed to learn that they used to make church doors so large in order for people on horseback to ride in, without having to get of their horse, in times of emergency.

Cultural orientation completed it was time to go to the beach.  Come back next week and join us there.  In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of Dzemul.

ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Formal Night on Vision of the Seas

TRAVEL THERE: PUTTING ON THE RITZ

I love dressing for dinner.  It’s not required on most cruises anymore.  They discourage you from wearing flip flops and tank tops, but pretty much anything else goes.  Even on formal night dressing up is optional, but I dress up every evening and on formal night I pull out the stops.   

Free Champagne!

The Captain’s Greeting

I can only imagine how much the captain hates formal night.  He has to get all dressed up, spend an hour or so shaking hands and taking pictures with skads of people he has no interest in and then he has to get up and make a big welcoming speech.  It was probably fun the first hundred or so time, but he does this week after week after week!  He probably realizes that most of the people are just there to get the free champagne.

Then after he makes his speech he has to introduce his management staff and let them make their own speeches.  How would you like to take the top management out of your organization to entertain a crowd that just wants free champagne?  Yeah, who’s running the boat – right?  It was almost impossible to hear what they said, but as long as the trays of champagne wandered around the room, they had an audience.

Happy Birthday, Anniversary and Everything Else

Since this cruise was to celebrate Bill’s birthday, our travel agent asked which evening we’d like commemorate the occasion.  I chose Formal Night.  Bill’s birthday wasn’t the only celebration at the table.  The Youth Pastor and his wife also got feted for their anniversary.

Our table mates were a blast, so we were grateful for the delightful company.  The food continued in it’s mediocrity.  This was the night of the lousy lobster bisque and I followed it up with a steak.  Nothing to write home about.  One more meal down.

Another Show, Another Disappointment

For formal night the entertainment was Boogie Woogie Wonderland, which was supposed to highlight the music of the seventies.  They were a little loose about hitting their target.  The seventies were my boogie woogie wonderland, but I have no idea what inspired some of the costumes they wore.

The songs they chose to highlight were among some of my favorites, but the voices just weren’t up to the challenge of the music.  Overall, it was an entertaining show, but it just came up short in the quality department.

Awkward!

To top off our night, after the show we headed to the Some Enchanted Evening Lounge for The Perfect Couple Game Show.  We were expecting a “Newlyweds Game” knock-off, but instead got the Embarrassment Olympics.

When we arrived Adult Karaoke was still going on.  There was a group of drunken bridesmaids dominating the room whether they were on stage or not.  I was glad when the spectacle was over.

Instead of a Q&A of martial habits, The Perfect Couple was a series of party games designed to embarrass people who were unwitting enough to volunteer to be contestants.  Why pay entertainers when you can get passengers to entertain everyone with karaoke and awkward feats of skill.  We made it through a few rounds, but when they started with tennis balls in men’s jeans, we decided it was time for bed.

Come back next week for sure, because we arrive in the Yucatan and enjoy a marvelous shore excursion.o