TRAVEL

Michigan Bound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAVEL

New Year, New Trip

What Have I Done Since the Last Trip?

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Go to Michigan!

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

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

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods, the Final Scene

Act III, Scene 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ludgar:  Hey, Jane!  Where are you going?

Jane:  This is Ringstrasse.

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

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

Ludgar:  Are you sure about this Jane?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zeus:  Ugly Americans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAVEL

A Six-Month Covid Hiatus

Photo by Peggy Anke on Pexels.com

An Apology and a Resumption

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

At the Whim of the Gods

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

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

Juggling the Balls

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

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

Getting Back to It

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

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

Intro to At the Whim of the Gods

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

1994 was a big year for me.

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

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

The Way the World Was

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

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

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

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

It Should Have Been a Breeze

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

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

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

At the Whim of the Gods was Born

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

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

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

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

I’ll break the narrative down into easily digestible chunks and so you can enjoy it serially.

The Blurb on the Cover

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

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

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

Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Gardens, Real Estate Photography, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Pandemic Blues

TRAVEL THERE: 2020 – A TRAVEL YEAR GONE AWRY

A Day at the Dallas Arboretum with timed entry and social distancing

When I got home from our great trip in Arizona, I actually had a year full of travel planned. In May I would travel to New York with my best friend and watch her son accept a diploma for his MFA from Pratt at Radio City Music Hall. I have another friend there I wanted to catch up with and we had lots of museums we hoped to see. Bestie and I were also planning to go to Ohio in August for her 50th High School Reunion. We were hoping to make it a road trip and squeeze in a few sights we hadn’t been able to see the last time we headed that way. Bill and I had plans to visit California to visit family and friends there, because we’d been offered one of those deals that you can’t resist. It didn’t happen.

What Did Happen

My husband and I have been very fortunate during this pandemic. Our health has been excellent and while we have mourned with many friends over their losses, no one in our inner circle of closest friends and family were lost or even suffered greatly from Covid. Sometimes they were inconvenienced by quarantine. Some because of exposure with no diagnosis, some with a positive test but no symptoms and a few who did experience mild symptoms.

Bill was more conscientious about following the protocols than I was. During the first days of the pandemic, I was locked down. He wouldn’t let me out of the house unless he was with me to be sure I followed every suggestion he gleaned from his intensive research. The real estate community was in a panic, so he was out every day, shooting listing photos, videos and drone shots, but he took elaborate measure with himself and our equipment. I wasn’t even allowed to help him unload the car, because everything, including him, had to be sanitized.

On another Arboretum visit Bestie Deborah visits with a faux gardener, another timed, masked and social distanced event.

My bestie kept me sane. We’d take walks, watch TV together or just do some scrapbooking, anything to give me a feeling of normalcy, while Bill monitored our plans to be sure we weren’t participating in any restricted activities, like shopping or eating out. Our first “normal” activity was church, but there wasn’t anything normal about it – no hugs and our seating had been rearranged so that we were properly social distanced, but it was better than watching it on TV.

Like everyone else, we watched the waves of infection. Some people used the downtime for travel, but Bill was having none of that. In our house, he felt as if he could maintain some kind of control over our circumstances. He had no hope of that in a plane or on the road. For awhile, I maintained hope that we might be able to take the trip out to California. I even planned out a road trip itinerary. Unfortunately, I ran into roadblocks. The Navajo nation closed themselves down, which took out most of my road trip plans. It also became apparent that if we were going to travel, California was the worst place to go, because they were virtually shut down. I planned that trip two different ways and didn’t get to use either itinerary.

Our day trip to the Fort Worth Stockyards via the Grapevine Railrooad

Then things got worse in almost every way possible. The whole election mess was a real downer and as Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around, so did a greater number of Covid cases. I entertained myself with planning a holiday road trip, even made all the reservations, but that didn’t work out either. So I settled for a staycation, complete with local museums, a carriage ride through a well-decorated neighborhood and a day trip train excursion. More about that later.

What’s Coming Up!

I did enjoy a few short excursions during the year, so I will share a few of those with you before moving on to 2021. Then I’ll tell you about an idea I dreamed up on vacation and executed in the early days of 2021, which has little to do with travel, but a lot to do with scrapbooking, my other passion.

Being a senior citizen, I’ve gotten my first vaccination and have the second one scheduled next week, but that’s not going to make the pandemic restrictions go away immediately. So, there’s a trip I’ve never shared here – it happened before I started blogging – and I am going to pass it along here. However, it’s a bit of a departure from my usual blog. It’s a play I wrote based on a very difficult trip Bill and I took in the early days of our marriage, inspired in part by Greater Tuna. I’ll share it with you serial style and you should get a big kick form it. The travel frustrations I’ve shared here before can’t hold a candle to that trip. So stay tuned. Even though I haven’t traveled anywhere since February 2020, I have adventures to share.

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

Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

TRAVEL THERE: ARTSY FARTSY MORNING

So, I admit I love shopping, but what I love best is buying bargain clothes and shoes.  My favorite price is $9.99.  It’s like a game with me to find gorgeous things that the stores want to give away at ridiculous prices.  There are only a few people I buy for when I am traveling and while I enjoy that, I don’t usually hang out in retail establishments.

Bill is a lot more likely to shop on vacation.  He loves consignment stores and will wander around a shopping mall just to see the architecture.  Since we’re not going to buy anything, I sort of see it as a waste of time, but I accommodate his desires.

When we are in Sedona that all changes.  We both love Tlaquepaque with a passion.  We can’t afford most of it, but we want all of it.  Come along with us.   

What’s Not to Love?

So, to begin with, Tlaquepaque is in Sedona.  We pretty much love everything in Sedona.  Even when we have a pizza and think the crust was way too thin, we enjoy it and look back on it fondly.  Maybe there is something to that whole vortex thing.

Next up, Tlaquepaque is visually appealing.  You do not have to enter a single store to enjoy it.  Wandering among the archways and courtyards, listening to the splashing fountains, smelling the delicious food cooking, people watching…it’s all good.  The architecture is part Spanish colonial, part southwest –  tile roofs, black rod iron ornamentation, brick walkways, desert foliage…all the stuff we like – all gorgeous.

But what’s more, the shopping in fun.  It is perfectly OK to wander around for hours, stopping into shops, some multiple times and not buy a single thing.  Maybe they’re lonely.  Maybe they’re just nice.  Whatever it is, everyone is thrilled to see you.  They greet you and chat you up.  They do not hover over you as if you are about to steal the whole store or try to sell you everything you linger at.  They want your opinion on the goods they are unpacking or will ask you if a particular wall is a good place to hang something.  They will let you try on every ring in the case without huffing or puffing and won’t be the merchandise monitor limiting you to one item at a time.  Here – try them both on, go show your husband, step out in the courtyard to see it in the light.

Some of the stores are also studios, so you can watch someone do whatever they do.  Or there’s a partially finished something that allows you to see how they arrive at finished products.  You smell clay and leather and paints.  You’re just as likely to smell magnolia blossom essential oil, patchouli perfume or burning incense.  

How It Went This Time

Bill made friend in one of the first shops we entered.  He didn’t so much love the merchandise as he discovered the proprietor goes to Egypt every year – so Bill being Egyptian, they had a lot to talk about.  So much so that I had time to discover the bargain of the day – a pair of blue topaz earrings set in silver – but it was that blue topaz that is visually interchangeable with aquamarines, which are my birthstone.  They were quite a bit more than my $9.99 price, but a steam nonetheless.  So much so, that Bill bought them for me!

Then we wandered – for hours.  We barely scratched the surface.  We strolled without any particular pattern.  We had a marvelous time enjoying all the things I just described to you above.  About halfway through, I found a cute shop with unique hand-blown wine stoppers – not cheap, but reasonable.  I’d found the gifts I wanted to buy.

The weather was a little gray and a little nippy, so it didn’t beg us to linger outside or take photos.  Sorry about that.  Bill did fall in love with these pieces in one of the galleries, but they didn’t come home with us.

We could have gone on for hours more, but we had a plane to catch.  El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano was wafting amazing aromas into the courtyards.  We followed our noses and had an amazing meal before heading out to the airport.

Home Again

The drive back to Phoenix was without incident.  We returned our rental car with ease and the shuttle bus delivered us to our terminal without a hassle.  The Southwest plane was on time and the flight was fine.  Our car was right where we left it and we got home with no trouble.  See we can go on a trip without a single hassle.

What’s next?  Right this minute I don’t know.  It’s July as I blog about this February trip and our lives are dominated by the pandemic.  I tried to plan another trip out west during December, but there are so many unknowns right now that I finally gave up.  Stay tuned, though.  You know I won’t be able to stay home!!

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

Downtown Sedona

TRAVEL THERE: ROLLING UP THE SIDEWALKS

As we made our way from Oak Creek Canyon to Downtown Sedona, I have to confess that Google was not much help.  Perhaps they need me there to help them get on Google My Business or maybe they just don’t care.  Anyway, what was listed was either fast food or pizza.  In self-defense, we chose pizza.

Sedona Pizza and Pasta

It was only about 6 PM, but they really were rolling up the sidewalks.  There was one jewelry store that seemed to have some activity, so we strolled in.  Everything cost the world and the proprietor was an as er… a jerk.  We didn’t stay there long.

Across the street was a little plaza where there were a couple of restaurants open.  The sandwich shop had big plate glass windows featuring the view, but it was virtually empty and the light was fading fast, so the view wasn’t going to be visible in the next few minutes.

We opted for Sedona Pizza and Pasta.  The prices were more than we would have expected for a casual dinner, but we didn’t have a choice.  So, we ordered up and watched the guys behind the counter cooking up and serving meals.  When our pizza was delivered we were disappointed.  We already knew it was going to be a thin crust pizza, which is not our favorite, but we’d never seen a crust so thin.  We’re talking paper thin.  The service was good, it was clean and the staff was really nice, but we really can’t recommend a pizza place that virtually puts their pizza fixings on paper.

Back at the Adobe Village Inn

We stopped by a convenience store on the way to the Inn and picked up a bottle of wine.  Back at the inn we chose some free DVD’s to watch – a documentary about Sedona and High Crimes with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. 

We also took advantage of the Inn’s hot tub.  We’d let the manager know we were interested and he had it all cued up for us.  It really was quiet nice.

After the hot tubbing and a shower, we crawled into bed and watched our selections.  After all the activity we had in Scottsdale and Phoenix, it was nice to take it easy – and after all the challenging driving we’d done during the day, we were pooped.

Up and Out

Breakfast was served from 8-9, so Bill could not linger in bed.  The Adobe Village Inn’s website is very proud of their breakfast tradition.  As soon as we made our reservations, they emailed to ask about food preferences.  I confessed to my prejudice against eggs and that resulted in a breakfast that was way too sweet for both of us.  I mean, in small bits, all of it was delicious, but breakfast is an important meal and we needed something besides carbs, sugar and fruit.  I’m betting if you didn’t tell them no eggs, you could get something absolutely perfect.

Our target for the morning was Tlaquepaque, but we took a driving tour first.  Come back next week and join us!

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Schnebly Road in Sedona AZ

TRAVEL THERE: 4 WHEELING FUN IN RED ROCK COUNTRY

Turn up the volume and enjoy the ride.  We had a blast on our own self-guided tour of Schnebly Road.

Detour to Hillside

Since Bill was into savoring on this adventure, I took advantage of it to get a few photos.  Just past Red Rock National Park, where the spectacular formations cluster, there’s a place called Hillside Sedona.  We were also looking for a snack, but in the middle of the afternoon, pretty much everything was closed.  We did, however, get these great shots.

From there we drove to Schnebly Hill Road and initially we were underwhelmed.  I was just another small road, unpaved but covered with gravel.  This was our 4 Wheel adventure?

Bye Bye Road!

Bill was not impressed and he wasn’t savoring it at all, but I showed him how the map indicated there was some normal road before the broken line that was “Schnebly Road Requires High Clearance Vehicles.,” so he decided to hang in there.  Good thing. 

To our delight, the road got worse and worse and worse.  Bill was in heaven.  Most of the vehicles on this part of the road were open-aired Jeep Wrangles with jacked up shocks, leaving them plenty of room to cruise over the rough spots.

We were in the more sedate Jeep Cherokee and that rental car might have hit bottom a time or two before we were over, but we were having a great time.  Here’s some of the road we tackled.

While some of you guys might consider this pretty lame 4 wheeling, we were having a blast.  We’re city folk and the biggest excitement we get driving around most of the time is an overlarge pothole in our flat Texas landscape.  Yahooo!  We were living large.

We kept on going on down the road until we came to a sign informing us that the rest of Schnebly Road was off limits due to it being out of season.  Drat.  We had to turn around and do it all again and some of it was more exciting heading back than it had been coming in.  Several open-aired jeeps passed us going in and coming out, but we couldn’t have had more fun if we’d been their passengers. This was definitely a highlight of the trip.

Oak Creek Canyon 

The gorgeous sky disappeared and sprinkling rain threatened worse conditions, but we were still in adventure mode.  I’d missed Oak Creek Canyon on the way to Sedona and now we had time to visit.  I consulted the map pointed took over driving from Bill.

The next time we head to Sedona, and I swear it will be sooner rather than later, I want to stay in Oak Creek Canyon.  Nestled in by high red cliffs on both sides, Oak Creek meanders along trading sides with the road about halfway along.  Cute little motels, cabins and campgrounds are sprinkled along the length of the canyon.  I imagine staying in any of them would be quite a treat.

Then you start to climb out of the canyon on a series of exciting switchbacks.  You can see from the GPS the twists and turns you encounter.  The ride was thrilling, which was a good thing, because when we got to our destination, the overlook, it had just closed and sleet was starting to come down.  We weren’t able to visit, but we were having fun.

The day was getting dark and with the weather getting messy, I was done driving. Reluctantly, Bill took back over and headed back to Sedona.  My job was to investigate possible meal opportunities.  Come back next week and see what we did. 

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, TRAVEL, United States

Adobe Village Inn

TRAVEL THERE: IN THE SHADOW OF BELL ROCK

This was the view from our window.  Though not immediately identifiable from this angle, with the trees in front of it, the formation to the left is Bell Rock.  On the right is Courthouse Butte.  We were very happy with our accommodations!

It Looked Good and Got Better 

When the GPS told us we’d arrived at Adobe Village Inn, we patted ourselves on the back.  It was located right smack dab in the middle of the most awesome scenery.  From outside, the inn was a lovely adobe home with gardens.  Fountains, a tile roof and various statuary said this was going to be good.  We were greeted by a gentleman who looked like he belonged in a setting just like this and he welcomed us into the home.

We should have taken more pictures.  The living room was spectacular.  Expansive view, tile floor, lovely patio, charming decor and more and more and more.  We were so excited we were almost giggly.

The nice gentleman who looked like he fit right in was actually the manager, not the owner, but he gave us a nice tour and let us to our room.  Our room was great – if not perfect.  There was a fireplace, but it was crowded into a corner.  The only way to get cozy with it was a love seat, crammed into the same corner.  On the other side of the entry was a huge space that was a sort of dressing room/closet combo with bathroom.  I would have preferred more space around the fireplace, but they didn’t ask me.  I’m thinking many of their patrons do sporting things and the big closet space is for storing their equipment.

Further in the room, past the storage/bathroom there was a large piece of furniture, like a sideboard with coffee and such.  On the facing wall was the TV and other electronics.  Then the room opened up to embrace a king-sized bed.  Theoretically, you could watch the TV from the bed or love seat.  In reality, you weren’t there to watch TV and it wasn’t great viewing from either spot.    

They get an A for hospitality.  Snacks were available, the fire was going and nice music was playing.  I gave it a 9.5.  We retrieved our luggage and got settled in.  There was a patio, but the sign said we weren’t supposed to go out there.  Another window, next tot he bed gave us the view above.

In our discussion with the manager we discovered the Inn really was a village.  Besides the several rooms in the home, there were several casitas just up the hill a few steps away.  Wedding ceremonies are often held on the lovely patio and the wedding party stays in the casitas.  Up from the casitas are other full size homes and several of them belong to the inn to be rented out by larger groups.  I highly recommend this facility for a wedding or family reunion or even your next getaway.

The day was getting warmer and the sky was clearing of any threatening clouds.  We climbed back into our Jeep for our next adventure.  I’d seen something on the map that had caught my attention, “Schnebly Road Requires High Clearance Vehicles.”  Our guided 4-wheel expedition may have been cancelled, but we were going to see if we couldn’t find our own adventure. 

Please join us next week for some fun and sun!