Mardi Gras at the Beach!

 

If you aren’t aware we have a great Mardis Gras in Galveston Texas. I was lucky enough to participate in the first ever revived Mardis Gras parade in 1985! Believe me it was one wild night. My wife and I were on one of the first floats, trying to toss beads. Needless to say there was plenty of fun for everyone! This is the “Press Release” from my friends at the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau:

 

Galveston Logo

 

GALVESTON ISLAND, TEXAS

3rd Largest Mardi Gras Celebration in U.S. Offers Beachfront Revelry on the Texas Coast

 

GALVESTON ISLAND, TEXAS (December 1, 2016) – If you’re looking for a unique Mardi Gras experience in 2017, grab some beads and hit the beach.

 

Mardi Gras! Galveston, the third largest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States, offers the unique chance to experience sand between your toes and gorgeous beach sunsets while taking in the revelry and lavish parades known to dominate Galveston Island during carnival season.

 

The island’s 106th Mardi Gras celebration, to be held February 17-28, 2017, is expected to draw more than 350,000 attendees for 30+ concerts, 24 parades, 20 balcony parties and several elegant balls. And, this island-style Mardi Gras has plenty of personality. Find your Mardi Gras style with these highlights:

 

The island’s 106th Mardi Gras celebration, to be held February 17-28, 2017, is expected to draw more than 350,000 attendees for 30+ concerts, 24 parades, 20 balcony parties and several elegant balls. And, this island-style Mardi Gras has plenty of personality. Find your Mardi Gras style with these highlights:

 

  • Classic Revelry – Galveston’s historic downtown entertainment district will put you in the center of classic Mardi Gras revelry complete with big crowds and plenty of beads. Nearly all parades go through downtown, where you can enjoy the view from the street or from above at a balcony party. Main concert stages are also located downtown, where the event’s headline performances will take place. The festival’s largest parades also run along the beachfront on Seawall Boulevard. New in 2017, Mardi Gras! Galveston will host the Krewe of Olympus Parade Feb. 17 supporting the LGBT community. On Sunday, Feb. 19, the event will include “A Salute to Tejano Music,” featuring live Tejano entertainment, two parades and other festivities.

 

  • Upscale Mardi Gras – If you’re looking to catch any of the colorful beads to be thrown from parade floats and downtown balconies, you don’t have to stand in the streets to do it. Mardi Gras! Galveston’s elegant side will feature several masked balls where black-tie attire, lavish buffets, live performers, dancing and parade viewing invoke the evening festivities. Popular events include the San Luis Salute hosted by Tilman and Paige Fertitta and The Tremont House’s A&M Mardi Gras Parade Viewing Party.

 

  • Family Gras – Sunday, Feb. 26 is Family Gras at Mardi Gras! Galveston, featuring live family entertainment, kids parades, a kids coloring contest and more. Donations will be taken at the gate to benefit The Sunshine Kids and Shriners Hospitals for Children. Highlights for the day include the Krewe of Barkus & Meoux pet parade and Mardi Gras Children’s Parade on among other events.

 

  • Electric Mardi Gras – Electric Mardi Gras will return in 2017 with a special concert area at 21st and Mechanic streets in downtown Galveston. This area will provide one big party for lovers of electronic dance music, with continuous concerts, beat-thumping DJs and laser light shows on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the celebration. Headliners in 2017 will include Bright Lights and Tropkillaz.

 

Tickets to Mardi Gras! Galveston are now on sale. For details, visit www.mardigrasgalveston.com.

 

About Mardi Gras! Galveston

 

Mardi Gras, the traditional festival of feasting and merrymaking that precedes the season of Lent, was first publicly observed on Galveston Island in 1867. Following a sabbatical imposed in 1941 by war and challenging times, Mardi Gras! Galveston was revived in 1985 by Galveston-born preservationist and developer George P. Mitchell. The largest celebration of its kind in Texas and the third largest in the nation, Mardi Gras! Galveston brings the island’s streets to life with parade viewers shouting for beads, lively tunes played by the colorful marching bands, and the infectious merriment that dominates the island for two full weeks.

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #1

 

As I barrel towards the sunset, my body reminds me daily of the aging process I am facing head on. There are days I spring out of bed (just kidding, I don’t think that has actually transpired in decades!) and hit the ground running (LOL, not in twenty years have I run, except my cardiac stress test every three years). Other days it is hard to find the floor as I roll out of the bed.

 

 

The older I get, the more I treasure the little things in life, like two days ago when our youngest son Chris was in town and decided to stop by to ask me to go to lunch. Of course I had already eaten (just my luck) and had an appointment I couldn’t miss, so we only got to see each other for a few minutes and he left. That made my day and put me on cloud nine (translation from Texan, “very happy”). The good news is he was able to eat with his Mother and see her briefly before going back to Dallas.

 

Viking Longship Modi

Viking Longship Modi

 

My first photo is a picture of the Longship Modi, the wonderful accommodation on our first cruise with Viking. This photo shows a portion of the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary, directly behind the longship. The Modi was built recently and we thought it was grand 5-star lodging. Our stateroom was very comfortable and actually larger than I expected, with a nice balcony to drink morning coffee on. We would take another cruise in a heart beat.

 

There is a saying “Some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you”! I love this for some odd reason and it’s my perspective on life. The other day, with seeing my son, I definitely “ate the bear”! After Chris left I started thinking of ways to write more, as some of you may or may  not know, writing doesn’t always pour out of your brain. There are days it flows smoothly, days it’s like a raging river pouring out by the gallon and days where no matter how hard you put forth the effort, nothing comes out and it’s like you have two blocks of concrete tied to your feet and being pushed overboard. Basically no matter how hard you try or what amount of effort you put forth, nothing comes out!

 

 

The third scenario has been commonplace recently. Then I thought about a series I had earlier in my career, called “Photo of the Day #???” This series motivated me to write more often and put forth effort with writing, centered around the photo I chose for the day. I checked back and I was at Photo of the Day #79. Then I thought about the hundreds, maybe thousands of photos I took on our Viking River Cruise in December. Why not do a feature series of the various photos I took in Europe? So I am starting a new series as of today with hopefully a photo daily, maybe more than one and if I get tied up with the concrete blocks I may miss a day or two.

 

 

Most days the verbiage will be less than today, but the photos will be original. I realize how fortunate Kim and I were and there are some readers that will never get the opportunity to take a trip with Viking River Cruises. Hopefully by sharing photos it will give you a minute taste of river cruises. Consequently, I am sharing photos with you from our experience and I sincerely hope you enjoy! Thank you and be kind to each other!

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Liberty Hall, Tyler Texas, Part Two

On December 3, 2015 I wrote my first blog post on Liberty Hall in Tyler Texas, an intimate music hall in East Texas, that is now a live music gem after the city refurbished The Liberty Theater. It has been renovated in an art-deco style for a considerable sum of money and is now a hub of downtown Tyler, which resonates with music and the arts. It is also the home of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra, who performs its “Noon Notes” events and smaller chamber performances at the venue.

 

Liberty Hall Exterior

Liberty Hall Exterior

 

After visiting and writing about several Texas Towns, I have adopted several. One of my favorites is Tyler, the “Rose Capitol of the United States”! The “Vision” of this fine city is “To be the standard for performance excellence in local government”. The “Vision” of Liberty Hall is “To support the City of Tyler’s efforts to revitalize downtown by creating an arts and entertainment culture, thereby attracting residents and visitors to the downtown district. This post shares a few of my favorite Texas musicians and I wish I had the time in my schedule to see all three upcoming artists.

 

Liberty Hall Interior

Liberty Hall Interior

 

I apologize for the brief window of the first act, but I guess its better than overlooking the upcoming acts. First up, this Friday night March 4, 2016 is Austin Texas based musician and former leader of the “Ugly Americans” Bob Schneider, raised in El Paso Texas and Munich Germany. After a two year stint with “The Scabs” Bob went solo in 1999. His career has genuinely blossomed ever since. This is Bob’s fourth time to perform at Liberty Hall. If you reside in the Dallas Ft. Worth area or east Texas, the brief drive will definitely be worth it to hear this virtuoso play.

 

Austin's Own Bob Schneider

Austin’s Own Bob Schneider

 

Schneider has an eclectic and diverse musical style and writes unconventional off-the-wall songs, with diversified genres of funk, country, rock, and folk compositions, lyrics and melodies. After recording or participating on over thirty albums, his latest release, The King Kong Suite, was released in three 5-track EPs over the course of 2015: King Kong Volume 1 in February, King Kong Volume 2 in June, and King Kong Volume 3 in October. Bob continues to display a stunning and talented array of music. His sensitive lyrics about estrangement, drug addiction, and lost love has enabled Bob to gain a international fan base and he continues to blossom in the industry. Bob Schneider is not only a gifted singer-songwriter, he is also an accomplished visual artist–his sculptures, paintings, prints and, most recently, collages rivaling the creative genius of his musical compositions.  We are quite proud Bob calls Austin home!

 

Bob Schneider, "The King Kong Suite" volumes 1-3 in 2015

Bob Schneider, “The King Kong Suite” volumes 1-3 in 2015

 

My next performer Junior Brown, is one I share a personal connection with and I have followed the man for over forty years. I guess that makes us both a little bit “on in our years”. It was in the 70’s at The Silver Dollar in Austin and I had heard his music on FM KBLJ and loved it. I was also starting to try and learn how to two step, even though I was more of a classic rock n roll guy. His music blew me away and I have been a fan ever since! Junior had stint with Asleep at the Wheel as a steel guitar player and other major recording artists like Hank Thompson, George Jones, The Beach Boys and Stone Temple Pilots, before branching out on his own. He and wife, Tanya Rae the rhythm guitar player, have settled in Austin. He honed his craft at the fabulous Continental Club on South Congress in Austin.

 

Jr. Brown and his Guit-Steel

Jr. Brown and his Guit-Steel

 

Junior has played both an electric and pedal steel guitar throughout his career and combined with his unique voice and unique song writing ability has led him to a Country Music Association Award (CMA) and three Grammy nominations. In 1985 Junior invented a double necked guitar that is now called a “Guit-Steel” guitar. A fascinating invention for the music industry. Basically a compound of an electric guitar and a lap steel guitar. Junior plays mostly honky tonk and western swing with a little blues and TexMex usually at the finish, as well as surf rock. Junior with his one of a kind music is playing at Liberty Hall on April 9, 2016. The following two quotes represent the broad spectrum that Junior holds and demonstrates in his music.

 

“You don’t find stylists today like you did in the Ernest Tubb era. That’s what sets Junior aside from a lot of other artists. He’s got his own style. And his rapport with his fans, he draws a vast audience, from young college kids up to the older, traditional country music fans.”
–David McCormick, owner, Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Nashville

 

“Junior told me once that he was very impressed by Jimi Hendrix, by the way he was very wild, and yet he was very controlled. He knew where everything was going in a solo, and he (Junior), I think tries for the same effect, and I think he hits it virtually every time.”
–Mitch Mitchell, drummer, The Jimi Hendrix Experience

 

Jr. Brown "An American Original"

Jr. Brown “An American Original”

 

My final performer is John Fullbright who will perform at the Liberty Hall on May 13, 2016. In his brief career, his debut album “From the Ground Up” was released just two years ago and this young man from Oklahoma has gathered substantial acclaim. NPR hailed him as one of the 10 Artists You Should Have Known in 2012, saying “it’s not every day a new artist…earns comparisons to great songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Randy Newman, but Fullbright’s music makes sense in such lofty company.”

 

John Fullbright "From the Ground Up"

John Fullbright “From the Ground Up”

 

The Wall Street Journal crowned him as giving one of the year ’s 10 best live performances. If there was any doubt that his debut announced the arrival of a songwriting force to be reckoned with, it was put to rest when ‘From The Ground Up’ was nominated for Best Americana Album at the GRAMMY Awards, which placed Fullbright alongside some of the genre’s most iconic figures, including Bonnie Raitt.

 

John Fullbright "ASCAP Foundation’ s Harold Adamson Lyric Award"

John Fullbright “ASCAP Foundation’ s Harold Adamson Lyric Award”

 

“What’s so bad about happy?” John Fullbright sings on the opening track of his new album, ‘Songs.’ It’s a play on the writer’s curse, the notion that new material can only come through heartbreak or depression, that great art is only born from suffering.

 

“A normal person, if they find themselves in a position of turmoil or grief, they’ll say, ‘I need to get out of this as fast as I can,’” says Fullbright. “A writer will say, ‘How long can I stay in this until I get something good?’ And that’s a BS way to look at life,” he laughs.

 

 

If you can attend any of these great performances, I would highly recommend you take advantage of the great acoustics and fantastic atmosphere associated with the Liberty Hall in Tyler Texas. Better yet, if you are resident of Dallas Ft. Worth, then by all means go see all three artists. I am positive you will have a wonderful experience and Tyler is an incredible weekend get away!

Viking River Cruises, Vienna

As a young man growing up, I learned to love music at an early age. My father was a journalist and reviewed musical acts that came to our small town of Arlington Texas. My first concert was at the age of eleven, when we saw Louis Armstrong. My father favored Jazz and when he was sent an autographed photo of Lionel Hampton and me (I got the opportunity when I met him at The Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center), my father was in heaven.

 

Home of the Vienna Boys Choir, This plaque and Ribbons Designates a National Historical Marker

Home of the Vienna Boys Choir, This plaque and Ribbons Designates a National Historical Marker in Austria. It was located inside the Hofburg Palace.

 

In my early teens I heard classical music emanate from my father’s record player and I was hooked immediately. I listened to Bach, Brahms, Vivaldi, Wagner, Chopin, Strauss, Beethoven and Mozart from an early age. Through the years I learned how much classical music was composed or finalized in Vienna, Austria and I vowed, if ever given the chance, I would visit Vienna. When I noticed that the Danube Waltz Cruise from Viking River Cruises passed through Vienna, there was no doubt which cruise we would take.

 

Vienna Residence Orchestra, Viennese Palace

Vienna Residence Orchestra,  Palais Auersperg, Viennese Palace

 

While in Budapest, we mentioned we were interested in attending the Classical concert in the Viennese Palace the evening we arrived in Vienna. Thank goodness, as the available tickets were limited and some of our new “Viking” friends warned us not to wait and to purchase our tickets quickly . I would advise you purchase your tickets as soon as you are settled in for your cruise. Otherwise you take the chance of not witnessing an enchanting and memorable evening performance. It was an “Optional Excursion”, but well worth the nominal cost.

 

Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, former station of the Viennese Stadtbahn, Designed by Otto Wagner

Karlsplatz Station, formerly of the Viennese Stadtbahn, Designed by Otto Wagner

 

We arrived in the port of Vienna around 6:00 AM. Given we had a full day ahead of us, we ate breakfast early and prepared for our Shore Excursion: “Vienna City Tour”. We started by touring the Ringstrasse by bus. This is a large circular boulevard, which replaced the city walls built in the 13th century around the city for protection. Sometime in 1857 a decision was made to convert the wall into a boulevard intended to showcase the the grandeur and glory of the Habsburg Empire. The idea originated with Napolean III in Paris. As a consequence, all the nobility and plutocracy hurried and built garish and ornate structures along the boulevard, each trying to outdo the other. This resulted in a plethora of outstanding and opulent properties that remain gorgeous to this day.

 

Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Museum of Natural History

Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, Museum of Natural History

 

Austrian Parliament Building

Austrian Parliament Building

 

I personally love architecture and the examples scattered along the Ringstrasse throughout the city, at times took my breath away. Some of the essence of this period’s architecture can be seen in the Vienna State Opera, Academy of Fine Arts, Palace of Justice and the Austrian Parliament Building. We concluded the bus tour and were dropped at the Habsburg Palace, a huge complex used primarily as the residence and office of the President of Austria. It is one of the most gorgeous complexes I have ever seen. It also houses the world famous beautiful Lipazzan horses. If you are fortunate, you might visit during a training session. They were resting during our visit.

 

Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg Palace, most notably Adolf Hitler's ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938.

Heldenplatz in front of the Hofburg Palace, most notably remembered for Adolf Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss, to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938. It was held on these steps.

 

As we began the walking tour we entered the massive, historical and decorative complex of the Hofburg Palace. I couldn’t take enough photos fast enough. One could spend an entire day enjoying the art, the various buildings and courtyards. The construction began in the thirteenth century  and the palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history.

 

A gate from the 19th wing of the Hofburg Palace, to the complex center.

A gate from the 19th wing of the Hofburg Palace, to the complex center.

 

The complex was started in the 13th century when the Swiss Wing was constructed. Through the centuries each potentate of the Austrian-Hungarian empire attempted to outdo the prior monarch with larger and more ornate buildings and trim. Included are statues dedicated to themselves in many cases and again each new statue reflected a larger persona. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Festsaal – Festival Hall Wing, St. Michael’s Wing, Neue Burg Wing, Corps de Logis and the Palm House or Butterfly House were added, making it the second largest former palace complex behind only the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest Romania and slightly larger than the Louvre Palace in Paris.

 

A Vienna taxi for hire.

A Vienna taxi for hire.

 

As we exited the Hofburg Palace and continued our walking tour we strolled down a street with shops like Gucci, Cartier, Versace, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc. I thought we were back on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Thank goodness there wasn’t time to shop! We continued through the Historic Center of Vienna and were given time to grab a cup of Viennese coffee and a strudel. We chose a location near to us and turned out to be a wonderful break. Aida’s is a chain in Vienna and I personally highly recommend you give it a try, if you visit Vienna.

 

Aida is a coffee house chain in Vienna with wonderful Viennese coffees and pastries. Try the Strudel, we did!

Aida is a coffee house chain in Vienna with wonderful Viennese coffees and pastries. Try the Strudel, we did!

 

After the quick coffee, we had time to either explore St. Stephens Cathedral or take a quick walk through the small Christmas Market next to the Cathedral. We obviously opted for the Christmas Markets, but I did catch a glimpse of the Cathedral and took a photo for posterity. The roof tiles are gorgeous and the exterior is amazing. On my next visit to Vienna I will definitely enter and photograph the Cathedral. I love design and architecture of European Cathedrals. One of my favorite objects to photograph.

 

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

 

The last portion of the tour was basically to let us know where the Christmas Markets were. We spent a few minutes scanning the booths and registering our coordinates in the city. After the morning tour we returned to the ship for lunch. The afternoon gave us options to come back to the Christmas Markets, tour the Farmers’ Market with Chef de Cuisine Martin, or participate in an Optional Excursion: Schonbrunn Palace. Guess which one we chose? I would venture to say that most of you would say the Farmers’ Market or the Schonbrunn Palace. You would be incorrect. There were more and different wooden laser spoons waiting and we needed to add to Kim’s collection, so we came back to the Christmas Market. After all Vienna is one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe and had more booths than we could see.

 

 

 

Our new friends from the Boston area, Gail and Richard Douglas opted for the Schonbrunn Palace and once again Gail came through with a wonderful photograph for my blog. Thank you kindly young lady for your continual contributions.

 

Schonbrunn Palace, Photographed by Gail Douglas

Schonbrunn Palace, Photographed by Gail Douglas

 

Additionally we had the Optional Excursion: Classical Concert that night and it gave us more flexibility. Interpretation: we could get back to the ship, eat our early seating dinner and have sufficient time to dress for the concert and be mesmerized by one of the world’s best chamber orchestras, Wiener Residenzorchester. I was super excited to actually hear Mozart and Strauss in a venue, in Vienna with all the history associated with this city. The sculptures in the Palais Auersperg were extraordinary, as witnessed below.  Highlights of the concert for me were the Ouverture “Le Nozze di Figaro” (Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” by W.A. Mozart and The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss.

 

A Sculpture in the Palais Auersperg

A Sculpture in the Palais Auersperg

 

We left the concert after a long day fully energized by the Concertos and Arias of Mozart and Strauss. What I didn’t realize ahead of time was that we would have brief ballet and opera experiences at the concert. If you remember the photo at the beginning of the stage, you wouldn’t really think any ballet act could perform. Not only did were we entertained with excellent ballet, but a Pas de deux occurred with leaps, etc. I feared for the dancers safety at times, but they performed with nary an incident. We went back to the ship and turned in headed to our next ports in Austria, satisfied that we had tasted Vienna and would have exquisite memories of this grand city, until we returned again.

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

Viking River Cruises, Bratislava

We sailed from Budapest on our Viking River Cruise around 9:00 PM on December 6th. Passengers were invited to view the nightlights of Budapest as we sailed to Bratislava, but we were worn out and frankly it was a little too cold for two Texans to stand on the sun deck of the Viking Longship Modi. So we decided rest was the order of the day and went to sleep in our home for the next week, our stateroom. I sometimes wake in the middle of the night, but this particular night I slept like a baby and never got up, if memory serves me right. I am sure many will tell you that might be debatable.

 

 

 

The next morning we arose early rested and watching the Slovakian countryside roll by. My how that simple venue can be calming and relaxing. As we weren’t to arrive until 2:00 PM in Bratislava, we took our time with breakfast. Afterwards the staff had several options available. One was mandatory, the safety drill at 10:00 AM. Believe me when I tell you they ensure you attend. I was amazed that we could all assemble in such a rapid manner, but it went off as intended and all passengers were accounted for. It was kind of nice to have the cabin steward lay our life-vests out on our beds prior to the safety drill.

 

The staff also offered a tour of the Wheelhouse, a Cooking Demonstration with fantastic cookies and finished the morning with a presentation on coffee, as we were headed to Vienna right after Bratislava. The pastry chef and head chef Martin Carter, gave a wonderful lesson on preparing the cookies, handed out recipes and of course a huge sampling of each of the four cookies. Then we had lunch. Program Director Barry Summers then gave the presentation on coffee, that shared the history of this precious beverage since the beginning of time. It was very educational for this avid coffee drinker.

 

Ruins of War

 

Slovakia has only been a country for twenty three years, after Czechoslavakia dissolved. It has a population of just a little over five million people and Bratislava is the largest city and the capitol. Slovakia then joined the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone January of 2009. Slovakia is also a member of NATO, the United Nations and is in the Schengen area of Europe. As it is not really a wealthy nation, buildings like this remain and are scattered across the country still, leftover from World War II.

 

Viking Guide for the Shore Excursion

       Viking Guide for the Shore Excursion.  Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

The “Shore Excursion” was scheduled for 2:00 PM and included a bus tour of certain areas along with a walking tour of downtown, the Opera House and the Christmas Markets. Our daily briefing wasn’t until 6:45 PM, so we had plenty of time to see Bratislava on foot and of course the Christmas Markets were a priority!  The photo above clearly illustrates the way all the Viking Tour Guides dress in winter, with the infamous “lollipop” logo of Viking, held high for all to see. Each passenger is given their own headset and you follow at your own pace. Just don’t lose sight of your group’s lollipop!

 

Tunnel Example That Closes at Night. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Tunnel Example That Closes at Night.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

This photo was taken downtown and the buildings are all constructed in an adjoining manner. Foot traffic during the day traverses back and forth through these tunnels, but as there is a small crime issue late at night, they shut the rod iron gates visible at the entrance to ward off criminal elements.  Old Town in which most of the walking tour transpired was refurbished and had excellent architecture in my humble opinion. I was very surprised at the detail and trim.

 

 

Street Art Example.  Photography by Gail Douglas

Street Art Example.
Photography by Gail Douglas

 

One of the new symbols of Bratislava is this fella Cumil, he gives you an insight into the Slovak humor. This photo was taken and supplied by Gail Douglas, as stated. Thank you kindly young lady! She and her great husband Richard, in the yellow jacket above, became friends of ours and we ate many meals with them. We bonded immediately. Great sense of humor and we now exchange emails. Hope to cruise with them again soon!

 

Hanging Citrus Scent Ornaments. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Hanging Citrus Scent Ornaments.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

Bratislava had many booths filled with hanging potpourri items. These were particularly favorable to me, with the various citrus scents, especially lime. It reminded me of a cologne I used to wear back in the 70’s and it is still produced today I discovered. It’s name is Royall Lyme, produced and manufactured in the USA by Brooks Brothers, with permission from Royall Lyme (Bermuda), Hamilton Bermuda. I always loved the lime scent!

 

Blown Glass Booth. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Blown Glass Booth.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

This lady’s booth was  filled with glass products made in Slovakia. Kim lost her red heart necklace when we went through security in London, so I purchased her another red heart from this lady. She was very pleasant and helpful, although I doubt she understood my story exactly.

 

Kim's Spoon Collection. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Kim’s Spoon Collection.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

If  you followed our escapades, you know how the wooden spoons were popular with Kim and at most of the Christmas Markets we visited. If you didn’t, then take a good look at these examples where winter objects were laser burned into the spoons. Even I had to acknowledge how cute they were.

 

 

We were looking at a chocolate booth in the Bratislava Christmas Markets and out of nowhere I noticed a lady looking over my shoulder and right next to me. It was scary. I yelled at her to back away from me. She casually smiled and walked away. I wouldn’t have been this aware normally and without Viking’s persistent warnings. From that moment on I started carrying all my valuables inside my coat in zippered pockets. I have to truly thank Viking for saving me from losing my wallet, passport and money clip. Without their consistent emphasis, I am positive they would all be in this lady’s possession now. Be aware, it is not fiction, it really happens.

 

Wood Nativity Scene. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Wood Nativity Scene.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

As we walked the length of the Bratislava Christmas Markets, we came upon this nativity scene. It was beautifully carved from wood and grabbed my attention. I was taken back by the features and detail involved, with all the figures. It really was a beautiful sight.

 

Neon Running Man. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Neon Running Man.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

We turned around from the nativity scene and ice rink to see this neon running man series of lights. Whoever made it has a great mind and really has creative instincts. Each man would light up separately and timed to set aglow in consecutive order. It truly looked like the neon man was running every time they set him in motion. After several minutes, they turned all the neon men on a the same time and it was brilliant.

 

 

Coca Cola Has Names All Over the World. Photography by Nomadic Texan

Coca Cola Has Names All Over the World.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

 

On our way back to the ship, Kim and I decided to enter a local grocery store and see the differences. Slovakia has a genuine taste for fish. At the butcher area half the case was fish. It was fun trying to figure out what some of  the products were. It was also very evident, that some things are the same the world over. We were at the back of the store and came across the soda area. It was a little strange for us to see Slovakian names on Coca-Cola bottles, but really no surprise. Unfortunately my favorite, the “Selfie Queen” bottle, wasn’t in this photograph.

 

A Well Known Embassy. Photography by Nomadic Texan

A Well Known Embassy.
Photography by Nomadic Texan

 

Before we arrived at the river we ran across this sign at their embassy and I just had take a photo of this crest. I thought it was appropriate, given how famous this microstate on France’s Mediterranean coastline is. Its major district is Monte Carlo and it’s very well known for its Gran Prix motor race, casinos and its fabulous nightlife. We boarded our ship, ate a wonderful dinner and listened to the Bratislava Men’s choir sing Christmas Carols in Slovakian and English both. An excellent end to a wonderful day. We went to our room and knew we would wake up in Vienna, a city I had yearned to see since I first began traveling!

 

 

 

 

 

***Portions of our cruise were sponsored by Viking River Cruises. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.

 

Turkey’s Best Festivals

Turkey, as the melting pot of the East and West, brandishes plenty of religious and cultural festivals.  As a traveler and a keen observer, much can be learned of the country through these festivals. If you happen to be traveling in the country during any one of these, don’t miss out the chance to observe and participate in one.

 

While Turkey is a secular state with no official religion, 99.8% of Turkish people follow the Islam religion and uses the Muslim Hijra calendar in the observance of religious festivals.  Here are the most important events practiced in the country:

 

  • The Ramadan or Ramazan in Turkish is the most essential Islamic festival. The Ramadan is observed throughout the ninth month of the Muslim year, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Non-Muslims must be mindful of eating and drinking in front of Muslims observing the fast during the day as a sign of respect. After dark, practicing Muslims go to iftar tents to break their fast with family and friends. Travelers and non-Muslims are welcome to join the dinner.

 

  • The Ramadan month is followed by a three-day Sugar Holiday or Şeker Bayramı in Turkish. It marks the end of the 30-days fast. During this time, families meet for reunions and visit the elderly. Children also go around the neighborhood wishing everyone a happy bayram. Adults give them sweets in return. Restaurants are full with families celebrating and it’s always a good idea to call ahead for a reservation.

 

In case you miss the religious festivals, there’s a long list of arts and cultural festivals to choose from.  Some are held in the culture and entertainment hub of Istanbul, and other more quirky and intriguing festivals in smaller towns and villages around the country. Here’s our top arts and culture festivals around Turkey:

 

  • Witness a major Oil Wrestling event between June-July. Oil wrestling is Turkey’s national sport. This week-long event is held in Yağlı Güreş. Players from all-over the country flock here to compete. Watch men doused in olive oil try to pin each other down in attempt to expose the opponents navel to the sky. The rule is first wrestler whose “umbilicus is exposed to heaven” loses. Audiences are also treated to a fun week of music and dance performances.

 

  • Camel Wrestling Festival is also one of the festivals that takes its roots from the ancient times. The main event is held in Selçuk on the last two weekends of January. Camels are led to the grounds to fight and the first camel to fall on the ground or flee from the fight loses. In the recent years, animal welfare groups have protested citing the practice as a form of animal cruelty. Organisers have responded with modified rules and practices to prevent animal injury.

 

Camel-Wrestling

Camel-Wrestling

 

 

  • Art lovers can explore Turkish creative works. In the month of April, the much-celebrated Istanbul International Film Festival commences and Turkish films of good quality are shown in the movie theaters. Classical music fans can visit from June-July to witness extraordinary performances from orchestras and solo singers set in historical locations at the Istanbul International Classical Music Festival.

 

  • The whirling Dervishes performance at the Mevlâna Festival is held during December in Konya. The dance is one of the highest forms of ceremonies from Mevlâna, an Islamic philosopher who believed that union with God is possible through dance. Another festive event happens to welcome spring known as the Hıdırellez Gypsy festival. Street parties are held in Edirne with performances from the local Gypsy bands. The tradition is to make a wish while jumping over bonfires.

 

Whirling-Dervishes

Whirling-Dervishes

 

 

  • Last but not least, the Marmaris Maritime and Spring Festival is gaining enourmous traction from not only visitors from Turkey but international guests as well. Held in mid May, this festival is all about celebrating the coastal region with sand sculpture competitions, fishing competitions, to markets, beach parties and concerts. The International Yachting Exhibition is held at the same time and most tourists and travelers will join a Marmaris to Fethiye gulet cruise following the festival and to top their holiday!

 

Blue-cruise-Marmaris

Blue-cruise-Marmaris

 

 

 

To make your stay in Turkey more memorable it’s definitely worth checking out one of Turkey’s festivals; it’s a true insight into the people and culture of this amazing country.

 

In collaboration with Alaturka Yachting & Travel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard Road to Travel

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

I set out in February of 2013, after a Christmas present from my then wife Kim, of enough cash to start a Travel Blog. I have loved to travel for over forty years and began as a buyer for Six Flags amusement parks in the early 70’s. I would spend two months a year in SE Asia and dealt with family manufactures, in many countries. Our days were usually long (over 12 hours) and we really only took one day off our first trip. We hit fourteen cities in nine countries and I was hooked. In addition, my Father was a journalist (a real one not the pre-fab attention getting farces of today). I am sure he is rolling over in his grave at the ridiculous charade called journalism today. I learned to write through his guidance.

 

I was surfing the Internet in regard to somewhere I might be able to afford to retire, as there have been a couple of financial fiascoes in my life and I wound up with no Golden parachute or nest egg after 50 years of laboring away. One day I came across a video from Barbara Weibel of “Hole in The Donut Cultural Travels“, in regard to Ecuador and I instantly thought “I could do that”! I became mesmerized and started making contact with travel bloggers and two stood out as Texas friendly and were amiable to this old man. They actually responded to me, when I posed a question and both became my mentors in design, name and advice about my Travel Blog to be. I cannot thank these two enough for giving me the courage and aid needed to launch the Nomadic Texan. Thank you kindly Lauren DiMarco and Leah Walker Puckett from the bottom of my heart! Of course it didn’t hurt they both were from Texas.

 

Lauren DiMarco of "Where in The World is Lola"?

Lauren DiMarco of “Where in The World is Lola“?

 

 

Leah Walker Puckett of "Leah Travels"!

Leah Walker Puckett of “Leah Travels“!

 

 

After setting up my Blog I cam across a very intelligent young man, with a big heart and a great mind! In addition, he always tells it like it is, regardless of your position or if it might slight your opinion or feelings. My type of man. He graduated from The University of Texas, served in our country’s Air Force and has started a charity for inner city kids that he asked me to help with. Does this young man really know me (I know you are asking that)? I of course said yes immediately and will help Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad walk through fire if I have to. He has become a true friend and confidante, ever since I was an hour late to eat Thai food with him in Austin and conduct my first interview. I was highly embarrassed and he just laughed it off. One of my closest friends in social media for sure! Hook ’em Horns Prince!

 

 

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

 

Let me tell you, I’m all alone, this lonesome road, I roam
I’ve got no love to call my very own
Oh, the river gets deeper, the hills get steeper
And the pain gets deeper every day, yeah

 

After two weeks in Cuenca Ecuador and a three day weekend in Tijuana building a house for an indigent Mexican family in Tijuana last year, I headed off to my first Travel Blogger Conference in Toronto and was completely blown away from the networking and Speed Dating processes. Because of my Panama Hat and apparently my overall brand, created in just under two months. A multitude of bloggers introduced themselves and strolled across the room at parties and functions just because they recognized my hat. Of course at my age I was only able to identify a few and tried valiantly to observe their name tags, without alerting the bloggers to the fact I had no idea what their name was. I recognized faces, as I have always been able to do, but names escaped me in many cases. At the conference I also made contact with a man who was destined to help me enormously and fast became a confidante and mentor, Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy. I can’t thank Stephen enough for his help, his mentoring and his friendship. He is a class act!

 

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

 

As I left the first night’s event I had to use the facilities and was accosted by Ted Nelson of Traveling Ted from Chicago. He was one of those people whose face I immediately recognized, but I struggled to recall his name. I had no alcohol either! We hit it off immediately as we both have a sick sense of humor and love the outdoors. I more so in my younger days! At one of my Speed Dates in Toronto, SATW had asked to meet with me. They told me I had to have 10, 000 followers on Twitter to qualify. I had around 2, 000 at that time and I asked why the appointment. They told me with 2,000 I could qualify as a photographer. I just laughed and thanked them. I did make it a personal goal to attain this number as soon as humanly possible, but I wanted to do it legitimately and not “purchase” followers, which some people do.

 

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago)

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago) Friend and Mentor

 

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

The months rolled by and I was asked to visit Palestine Texas for a weekend and produce a post that covered the city’s attributes. I wound up writing eight posts in total and fell in love with this charming small community. I still broadcast on social media for the town and this has led me into a couple more visits next spring of Tyler and Nacogdoches, both historic and beautiful Texas Towns. I can’t wait to visit each and cover their sites, via my Nomadic Texan blog.

 

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine My Hostess

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine, My Hostess

 

One more thing, I dream of a home, far beyond the sea
Where there is love and peace and joy for me
Oh, in my eyes, I see troubles and danger for me
But destiny where it leads me, I must go, hey

 

One day about a month after I finished my obligations with Palestine, a post went up in a Facebook travel group, announcing a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I was drooling and couldn’t submit my application fast enough. It was to be a 12 day adventure aimed at 5-star hotels, restaurants and spa activities. Anyone that reeally knows me understands this was my cup of tea and I hit the send button within seconds after finishing my application. It was announced that there was going to be a quick turnaround and they were going to choose the travel bloggers quickly. I couldn’t sleep.

 

The stars must have been aligned and God was in my corner. Bingo I was very fortunate and became one of three travel bloggers chosen along with three freelance writers. I had died and gone to heaven! I have loved SE Asia every since my youth and the first time I set foot on this continent’s soil way back in 1973, as a buyer with Six Flags amusement parks. In addition this trip established friendships that I cherish to this day, not to mention the social media benefits I received from starting my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, which have become fantastic platforms for my blog. Had no idea what I was missing.

 

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

 

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through

 

Upon my return I went to work and produced somewhere between 25 to 30 posts even though a significant less amount was all that was required. I genuinely cared for the sponsors representatives and made what I what I hope to be lifelong friends. These four individuals are some of the funniest people I have ever traveled with and were a joy to be around on a daily basis. Can’t wait to travel with them again! Thank you kindly #Tourism Authority of Thailand, #Thai Airways and #Tourism Malaysia USA. You are all wonderful human beings!

 

Help me somebody, somebody please

 

I returned generated my posts and my life unraveled. After 36 years of marriage my wife and I decided that we could no longer live in a toxic situation and it would be better for the both of us to divorce. I was devastated and still am. I can find no way to unravel the mental anguish I go through on a daily basis. It is like a fog that surrounds my body and never disappears. Thank God that I have social media and my blog, or I am fairly certain I would not be here. Of special note is a Facebook and Travel friend Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid who through the divorce and through my growth as a travel blogger, has always been there and helped this old man immensely. I finally had the opportunity to meet him in person recently in Austin prior to moving to Dallas. I was thrilled to say the least!

 

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dada 1 Kid

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid

 

Through it all I have struggled and worked to attain that magic number! I can remember a little less than a year ago how elated I felt when I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter. I knew with a little help and perseverance, eventually I would hit that magic number and qualify for the SATW! It has not been easy and I have worked until the middle of the early morning more times than I can count, but my efforts finally paid off and on November 24, 2014, @VacaRentalz of Vacation Bargains became my 10,000 follower on Twitter! Thank you kindly, to all the young women and young men who follow this old man on Twitter!

 

CLIFF, JIMMY

*** Lyrics By Jimmy Cliff from 

 

Jimmy Cliff – Hard Road To Travel Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Why I Deserve To Win The Viventura/Marketing Globetrotters Trip To Peru and Chile With Mike King and Yngrid Arnold

That is the $64 million dollar question. Why on earth should this little old man “Deserve to Win” this leg of the Marketing Globetrotters trips to South America? First of all it is the only leg I can actually take, as I have a prior obligation with a trip to Japan beginning November 28, 2014 to see my oldest son. Why should a travel and food blogger who basically been at it for around 18 months deserve this trip before what I am guessing will be tons of experienced bloggers, who have been doing this for many years longer than me? The good news is I have made “The Shortlist” and will hopefully continue to make the various cuts in the next two weeks. The decision for the November 3, 2014 through November 16, 2014 leg will be decided on October 25, 2014. #Video is coming!!!

 

 

Ladies Looking at Goods at The New Cathedral

Ladies Looking at Goods at The New Cathedral

 

 

Well for 1) I actually started writing at the age of eight, when I helped my father, Carter Hinshaw put out a weekly small town newspaper in Texas and ran a Linotype for him. I edited and proofread columns and was allowed to write a few stories. We usually worked all night long and I would always fall asleep in class the next day. The school finally called and told my Mother, Juanda Hinshaw that I should either get a little sleep or stay home from now on. Obviously I started going to bed at midnight from then on and our paper was distributed a little later the next day, but it was tremendous experience. So in effect, I have been writing for 56 years! And I actually have met and talked with Walter Cronkite, who was a true authentic journalist with the highest integrity! #Video is coming!!!

 

Indigenous Man

Indigenous Man

 

2) One of the qualifications has to do with Marketing and for many years in my former life as a retail executive in convenience stores, I oversaw and directed the entire processes associated with the department. This included contact negotiations with all vendors and suppliers, sales by SKU reviews, annual marketing plans broken down by category, with projected GP%’s, GP$’s and share of overall sales. Not to mention attaining total budgeted sales year after year which at the end, ran into over a billion dollars worth . #Video is coming!!!

 

Bicycle Mode of Transporation

Bicycle Mode of  Transportation 

 

3) I was identified byHolidaze in the first ever, “The Best New Travel Blogs You Haven’t Heard of Yet” awards, one of eight blogs awarded this award in the first ever nominations. I was literally dumbfounded that after only about nine months I was identified as a blogger on the rise and to watch. This was done on January 31, 2014. #Video is coming!!!

 

Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan

Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan

 

This was the verbiage written on my behalf: “Mike Hinshaw is one of the most kindhearted travel bloggers I’ve ever met in the course of my travels and it shows in his writing — although if you do something stupid then he’ll be the first one to let you know ;) Whether inspiring others to visit Texas (we’re both from Austin) or sharing the excitement from his most recent trek through southeast Asia, Mike’s posts are always a joy to read. This guy has more energy and life inside of him than other travelers half his age!” #Video is coming!!!

 

Perfect Pitch from the Harp

Perfect Pitch from the Harp

 

 

Additionally Bully Travel named me as their first ever Travel Blogger of the week. I was blown away again and this happened right at a year of actual blogging, on April 14, 2014.

 

 

Finally in August 16, 2014 I was identified as #76 on the list of Top Travel Tweeters of 2014, as identified by TrueNomads Here was the tweet that caught me again completely off guard “Top 90 Travel Tweeters of 2014: Wanderlust in 140 Characters or Less via . I was very honored and have significantly grown my followers on Twitter since this award and am nearing that magic 10,000 number. Fairly decent, given I have only been doing this for around 18 months and have never “Bought” any followers. I detest this avenue of growing your numbers. #Video is coming!!!

 

Nomadic Texan Grinding the Beans

Nomadic Texan Grinding the Cacao Beans

 

4) I have good numbers on other social media platforms and am amazed at how quickly some of these numbers have climbed and the fact that a few are responsible for additional followers and helping grow my audience. As an example I just looked at my Pinterest platform recently and found that I have 2,464 followers and represents about 1.5% of my referrals. On Google+ I have 3,141 followers and it accounts for 8% of my referrals. On Linkedin I have 6,146 followers and it represents about 2% of my referrals. I think we sometimes concentrate strictly on Twitter and Facebook and do not comprehend the value the additional social media platforms. These three additional platforms represent approximately 11.5 % of my referrals for my blog! Please feel free to connect on any platforms identified! Thanks. #Video is coming!!!

 

Interior Cacao Beans with Fruit

Interior Cacao Beans with Fruit

 

5) I have absolutely no knowledge of SEO and how to use it. I really could use a couple of weeks with Mike King and maybe even some one on one time to really get my numbers growing! How much more fortunate could a blogger get? #Video is coming!!!

 

A Meal Made for an Incan King, Cuy! With Chef Patricio from Restaurante Corvel in Paute Ecuador

A Meal Made for an Incan King, Cuy!  With Chef Patricio from Restaurante Corvel, in Paute Ecuador

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike King is a Digital Marketing genius and a very good rapper!

Yngrid Arnold is the CMO of Viventura of Berlin and co-founder of Trip.me

Galveston Revs Up for Lone Star Rally

Largest Four-Day Motorcycle Rally Rolls in this November with Added Bike Shows and Special Concert by Former Journey Singer Steve Augeri

 

Galveston Logo

             

 

         

    GALVESTON, Texas (September 24, 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

This November, visitors to Galveston will have a chance to experience the largest four-day biker event in the country as the Lone Star Rally makes its way to the island

Nov. 6-9. More than 400,000 motorcyclists and hundreds of vendors will gather in Galveston’s historic downtown for a celebration of the finest machines known to man. The

event will feature free concerts, bike shows and vendors showcasing everything from the hottest new accessories and bike enhancements to leatherwear and jewelry.

 

Biker Rally 2

Lone Star Biker Rally on The Strand 

 

The rally will kick off Nov. 6 with a concert by rock singer Steve Augeri at 9 p.m. on the Budweiser Stage in Saengerfest Park, located at the corner of 23rd and Strand streets.

Augeri is best known for his work as the lead vocalist for the group Journey from 1998 to 2006.

 

Lone Star Biker Rally Gets Busy

Lone Star Biker Rally Gets Busy 

 

Visitors to downtown Galveston can enjoy more live entertainment throughout the weekend, including performances from rock-tribute supermen Hairball Band, Nashvillerising stars Jared Blake and Alyssa Carr, southeast rocker-guitarist Bobby Friss and popular local bands.

 

Lone Star Biker Rally at Sunset

Lone Star Biker Rally at Sunset

 

This year’s rally will feature additional juried bike and car shows, and a variety of special events. For a lineup of festivities, visit www.lonestarrally.com.

For media inquiries, please contact Sharon Damante at (386) 846-6901 or SharonDamante@gmail.com.

 

The Annual Lone Star Bike Rally rooftop view of the Strand in Galveston, Texas.

The Annual Lone Star Bike Rally rooftop view of the Strand in Galveston, Texas. 

 

About Galveston Island

Galveston Island is a historic beach town located on the Gulf of Mexico just 50 miles from Houston. The island is best known as a vacation destination, offering 32 miles of beaches, a variety of family attractions, Texas’ premier cruise port and one of the largest and well-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country. For more information on Galveston Island visit www.galveston.com or call 1-888-GAL-ISLE.

 

 

 

 

150 Years BOMB Series, Article #1, Cannons in the Evening

As most of you know I am somewhat of a history buff and appreciate our nations events and past. So when I was contacted by Global Marketing Solutions, who manages Gulf Shores and Orange Beach (Alabama) Tourism’s blogger outreach program, in regard to covering the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay celebration, I couldn’t respond quick enough!

 

 

This illustrious Naval Battle was an effort by the Union forces to capture the last major port not occupied by the Union Forces. Fort Morgan was on one side of the Bay entrance and Fort Gaines on the other side or entrance to the Bay. The actual battle transpired on August 5th 1864 and involved 5500 Union soldiers and 1500 Confederate forces. The Union Naval forces were led by Rear Admiral David Farragut famous for his quote “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”, as the battle commenced. The Confederates had planted torpedoes below the surface in an effort to destroy ships from the Union Naval forces.  The Confederate Naval forces were led by Admiral Franklin Buchanan.

 

Confederate Artillery Specialits

Confederate Artillery Specialists

 

The first night Friday August 1, 2014 was dedicated to the artillery displays, with several cannons re-enacting firing on the Union Naval Fleets. The cannon were fired with the primer, a shot, copper tube filled with powder, which was inserted into the gun’s touchhole with priming wire. Spiking a gun to prevent its use by the enemy was frequently accomplished by driving priming wire, into the gun’s touchhole and bending it with the rammer. Once the touchhole was blocked the gun could not be fired. At Fort Morgan, the touchholes were probably blocked with long, thin metal spikes which would have had to been drilled out, after the eventual surrender of the Confederate forces.

 

 

I was able to capture several rounds from the cannons on video and at times the blast literally shook you enough to make one stumble. I was glad to see that the event had safety in mind and kept informing all viewers to remain behind the stripes in the parking lot across from the area where the cannons were fired. Amazingly, many individuals still tried to walk right up in the middle of the action for a close up photo. One young lady journalist kept sneaking around to the side and trying to capture the flames as they exited the cannons. Every time she was apprehended and instructed to move back. Personally I would have gotten very upset, as she could have been substantially harmed and had no regard for her own safety.

 

Large Artillery Specialists

Large Artillery Specialists

 

It was my first exposure to the period costumes and the fact that many of the re-enactors follow a circuit and make many events each year. They definitely are enamored with this period of history and I was flabbergasted at the financial aspects involved in attending these functions and outfitting themselves. Sometimes they are asked to ensure they have uniforms or costumes for both sides, so double the cost in effect.

 

Volunteers

Volunteers

 

I was thoroughly impressed by the event staff and the quality and quantity of the participants. Authenticity was the word of the day. Most of the re-enactors would not have been caught dead with a outfit that didn’t fit the period or the time frame of The Battle of Mobile Bay. After the cannon firing Bobby Horton, a Birmingham, Alabama native performed Civil War-era music. He is known for his authentic Civil War recordings performed with instruments from that era.

 

 

 

***This trip was partially sponsored by Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism

 

 

Photo of The Day #68, #BullyTravel #BloggerOfTheWeek #NomadicTexan #Travel #Texas #BloggerAwards14

So today I was going through my Twitter notifications and this popped up. “Nomadic Texan: Travel Blog of the Week @NomadicTexan #BloggerAwards14 #travel Article: http://www.bullytravel.com/nomadic-texan-travel-blog-week-bully-travel-041414/ …” I opened it up and found that I had been recognized for my blogging efforts. To say that I was surprised wasn’t even going to begin to express my gratitude.

 

 

I am a small time travel blogger, who doesn’t really do the SEO thing and have a few faithful followers. I am happy beyond belief and wish to thank Bully Travel for the honor of being their first ever Travel Blogger of the Week. Its not every day we get a pat on the back and told we are making a difference. Maybe its just a dream and somebody needs to wake me up. If its real, then by all means y’all come pick me up off the floor! Bully Travel thank you kindly from the bottom of my heart!

 

First Ever Bully Travel Travel Blogger of The Week

First Ever Bully Travel Travel Blogger of The Week

Photo of The Day #52, The Polar Express

There is still time to take advantage of a fabulous piece of Texas history this year. It is especially fascinating, if you have young children and  are familiar with the Polar Express story. The Texas State Railroad is running December 11-23 and December 26-29 in Palestine Texas. I recently experienced this wonderful little town on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods and fell head over hills in love with it. Santa Claus will be on board and your kids can interact with him. Don’t hesitate. Buy your tickets now!

 

Polar Express 2012

Polar Express 2012

My Amazing Life-Chapter 1, Thai Airways

I recently participated in a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I have been to Thailand many years ago, but never to Malaysia and I always get excited when my destination is SE Asia or that part of the world. I love the people, the food and the culture in this part of the world and was profoundly enthusiastic over the impending trip. I received my itinerary and saw that we would be visiting many 5-star hotels, one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. The basic theme was culinary and spa events. My cup of tea for sure! Our Airline of choice would be Thai Airways. Its slogan is “Smooth as Silk”. Little did I know that this airline would soon capture my heart!

 

Thai Airways Logo

Thai Airways Logo

 

I flew my old stand-by American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles and the service was typical and fairly unremarkable. One does not fly this airline to be impressed. If you live in Texas as I do, then you more than likely fly American, as many cities are hubs for American and American Eagle in smaller towns. Such is the case in Austin. The majority of the flights out of Austin are on American Airlines.

 

I landed at LAX, gathered my bags and started to walk out the door towards Tom Bradley Terminal, which houses the International flights and bumped into Mary Jo Manzanares, one of the other Travel Bloggers going on the trip. She is an elite blogger, director of #TBEX and a stewardess in her spare time. We walked together and made contact inside the terminal with our group.

 

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

 

I learned the group would be three travel bloggers, three print media writers and a representative from Thai Airways, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourism Malaysia USA and Saeshe the advertising company that put the trip together and organized the itinerary. We were quickly whisked upstairs to the Star Alliance Lounge. Having visited many Admirals Club locations I was knocked over by the offerings and easy access to WiFi at the Star Alliance Lounge. This was my wonderful Thai lunch with my choice of noodles, veggies and chicken.

 

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

 

I boarded in Economy for the first leg of our flight to Seoul from LAX. I was surprised, as the width of the seat was comfortable and had to be at least three to four inches wider that my usual seat in economy in American. All seats had video screens for viewing movies, playing games, etc. The seats leaned back with hardly any intrusion into the seat behind. I love that aspect of the plane.

 

I absolutely hate it when the passenger in front leans so far back that you cannot get out of your seat to move around. Given the 12.5 hour flight to Seoul South Korea; we had the opportunity to eat three different meals, but I could only handle two. Prior to the meal the stewardesses and stewards hand you a very warm washcloth to clean your hands and face with. It is very stimulating I must say. This was my first meal in economy, a curry pork dish with a shrimp appetizer.

 

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

 

Remember this is in Economy. It was fantastic and I ate every bite, as if I hadn’t eaten just before boarding at the Star Alliance Lounge. One of the first things I noticed on Thai Airways is the smiles of their people. I am not used to this on my domestic flights with airlines in the US. The majority of the stewardesses and stewards are just going through the motion and appear to be waiting for retirement in most cases. Not only do you visualize the smiles on Thai Airways, but you get the idea they are genuine and the employees really want to help you.

 

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

 

They continually walk the aisles and ask for your needs, unless you are sleeping and they respectfully leave you alone if that is the case. Another factor to consider is that all alcohol is no charge if you are 18 or older, regardless of seating class. I couldn’t believe this given what my old stand by airlines charges for one beer. Many passengers took advantage of this, but I did not see any that became inebriated, so I am guessing they “control” the flow to a certain degree.

 

One’s drink service (mine was water and Coca-Cola) is continuous and non stop as long as you desire. Its not like my normal American service where you get your one drink and the airlines personnel sit for the remainder of the trip, consuming first class meals and all the beverages they can ingest. The Thai Airways people work their rear ends off the entire flight. We landed in Seoul. South Korea has a strange policy and all passengers have to deplane and go through customs and security. I don’t get it but it is what it is!

 

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

 

On the first leg of our flight from LAX to Seoul I got the short straw. I rode as stated previously, in the Economy section. On the second leg from Seoul to Bangkok we all traded out, as there were several spots in Business class, that we used on both legs. This leg I flew in Business Class. Thank you Thai Airways for this experience. Business class is a drastic difference and the seats are wonderful. You can get a massage with one of the seat settings or adjust the seat to your liking and lean back as far as you like, without intruding on the people behind you. This is a photo of the controls. Notice the very front icon states bed. They really mean it, as your seat folds down completely and turns into a flat bed. Oh so good on long flights with major time zone variances.

 

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

 

So what were the meals like in business class you ask? Each passenger had an appetizer, an entree, a cheese and fruit tray and a desert. Not just once but twice on the longer legs. I was fortunate and received the Business class allocation for the return trip from Seoul to LAX. It was heaven. This is just an example of my dishes and courses served.

 

My appetizer in Business Class

My appetizer in Business Class

 

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

 

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

 

Desert in Business Class

Desert in Business Class

 

As the flights transpired I noticed that the Thai Airways personnel remained very active and were always there to pick up your empty glass or food tray. You didn’t have to wait for 45 minutes like on domestic airlines, to have someone retrieve your finished product. They never stopped working and passengers were all treated like royalty, regardless of the seating class I was in. This wasn’t my expectation, given normal transgressions on domestic flights in the US.

 

I have saved my finest point until last intentionally and one that may or may not effect you personally. Traveling frequently and consuming as much as I do with drinks and food, its only natural that I have to use the facilities. The good news is there are ample amounts of facilities, regardless of seating class on Thai Airways. As you know on domestic flights one has to literally wade through the swamp, referred to as a bathroom on flights. You know what I am talking about and how bad they get on flights over let’s say 3 hours long. What did the Thai Airways personnel do you ask?

 

I will gladly tell you as I saw this with my own eyes. They literally clean the restrooms from top to bottom on a regular basis. I am not talking every four hours or so. I am talking like almost between every passenger or as quickly as possible. They take a sanitizer and clean the walls, the toilet seat, the sink and yes even the floor. I was blown away when I turned the corner and saw a stewardess with plastic disposable gloves wiping down the floor of a restroom. They even fold the toilet paper just like in hotels.

 

Thai Airways may charge a little more than other airlines, but if you consider their service, their warm friendly personnel, the amazing food in all seating classes and the free alcohol, I think that their premium is not that much to ask. It is offset with your comfort and well being. I know this, I have found a new airline that I will go out of my way to fly from now on. They are far superior to any other airline I have ever flown in my forty plus years of flying. Thank you Abha Wangpaichitr for allowing me to experience your wonderful airline and for showing me that good old fashioned customer service, is still alive in the airline Industry! I will fly you again and again, when the opportunity arises.

 

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #51 “Calling All Hippies at Sweet Dreams”

Hippies

Hippies

 

One of Mike Pell’s signs that I loved at Sweet Dreams Winery, was this one. It got my attention as soon as I walked up and met him. I used to be one of these folks, as my longtime friends well know and now that I am a retired business executive, posing as a travel and food blogger, I get to use the front door!

 

 

Again I want to thank Palestine Texas for hosting Kim and I and for showing us the “Pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods”! Psst. Please don’t tell my readers about my past! Y’all be kind to each other and have a great day. Peace!

Article #5, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Sweet Dreams Winery”

 

Honestly, I was in the mood for a nap, after eating all that pie at the Oxbow Bakery & Antiques and wasn’t really sure if I wanted to experience a winery with such a full stomach. I tried valiantly to keep my eyelids open and view the gorgeous tall pines, that are more prevalent on the east side of Palestine Texas and especially here on ACR #441.

 

ACR #441 Near Sweet Dreams Winery Entrance

ACR #441 Near Sweet Dreams Winery Entrance

 

Then we made a right turn down a country road and the winery materialized. It’s name is “Sweet Dreams” Winery and that was just about where I went after completing the wine tasting at this great winery. If you surf Facebook you can check out the Sweet Dreams Facebook page at this link. If you need directions, this Sweet Dreams link has a map.

 

Sweet Dreams Winery

Sweet Dreams Winery

 

I had no idea what to expect, but as soon as we arrived I knew I liked Mike Pell, the owner. The minute we stepped out of the car, he greeted us. He had a very outgoing personality and just a tad sarcastic, which I like. I think he was a little on edge at first, but relaxed rapidly. Plus you can’t really miss the mustache! I have always called these Fu Manchu mustaches, but technically its name is a horseshoe mustache, for obvious reason. I showed Mike a wedding photo when mine was similar and we bonded instantly.

 

Mike     Owner of Sweet Dream Winery

Mike Pell, Owner of Sweet Dream Winery

 

 

Mike showed us the exterior grounds and attractions. He can handle a party of around 250 people I am guessing and has seating for about half of that, with a covered patio, large covered porch and many picnic tables near the covered porch. The exterior is decorated with a plethora of funny signs and decorations. I can tell this man likes to have a good time and more than likely ensures his guest have a great time.

 

Pay Up Front

Pay Up Front

 

We entered the tasting room and Mike relayed the fact that a majority of his wines are made from a vast array of fruit products and his collection is not conventional. I wasn’t aware of this, but he has to be doing something right as his awards are proudly displayed around the tasting room. He is the proud owner of over 20 International awards. My curiosity was peaked, as Kim has always talked about her Grandmother Bordeaux’s fabulous Rhubarb Wine and couldn’t help but think about this, as a comparison.

 

A Great Assembly of Award Winning Wine

A Great Assembly of Award Winning Wine

 

Mike also branched out and has created his own line of BBQ sauce. I was going to purchase and try his BBQ sauce, but we got “involved” in the tasting of several wines and I completely forgot. I really like BBQing and wanted to get his sauce and try it. Next time I will buy it when I walk in the door! Mike also carries a vast assortment of other products like fruit jams and butters, mostly made in Texas.

 

Associated Retail Products

Associated Retail Products

 

You know how when you visit a vineyard you taste three to five various wines? Well, that was what I expected, but as it turns out we ran the gamut tasting everything from Pear, Plum, Peach, Watermelon to a Jalapeno infused wine that had a serious bite. My favorites were the Honey Pear, Bumble Bee Kiss and Midnight in Texas wines. He gave us a score card to take notes on thank God or I might not have remembered the names.

 

Cork Machine and Fermentation Tanks

Cork Machine and Fermentation Tanks

 

Mike then took us on a tour of his operation and explained how the process works. In the photo above you can see a sample of the fermentation tanks, with their spigots. He constantly tastes the various wines he is processing and filters out the sulfites, as he transfers the wines from tank to tank. When they are ready to be bottled, the wine is transferred to the final tank above, with a wooden platform inserted underneath. This makes it the perfect height for Mike to sit in his chair and fill the bottles. Afterwards he corks each bottle with the manual aquamarine colored press above.

 

A Retired Fire Cheif

A Retired Fire Chief

 

Mike is a retired Battalion Chief for the Palestine Fire department and spent many a year risking his life and fighting fires, for the good folks of this town. His men gave him this collection of patches, axe, helmet shield and I think it reflects a great deal of respect that his men had for him. He must have been a great leader and firefighter. The magazine “Sweet Heat” is about his Jalapeno wine, so make sure you remove any impure thoughts from the proverbial gutter!

 

Inventory of Various Wines

Inventory of Various Wines and Tasting Area

 

Mike buys his fruit products as locally as possible and really supports his community. The freeze this year had a major impact on buying peaches and he normally goes to Fairfield Texas. This year he had to make his search extend a little farther away to buy his peaches. He has a phenomenal array of wines and if you are a fan of fine wine I think you owe it to yourself to stop in and give this winery a try and sample his great wine. I guarantee you will be surprised at the quality and taste of his product.

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #4, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101 “The Best Pie I Have Ever Had”

As we walked toward the Oxbow Pies & Antiques entrance I had flashbacks of the Jersey Lilly at Six Flags amusement park in Arlington Texas, when I was younger. I just knew Judge Roy Bean was going to be inside sitting at the bench. I was curious about the theme as I have never seen an operation combine a restaurant and pie shop for a retail outlet. I am a “Pie” man from way back and have loved pies over cakes for my entire 63+ years. I was almost drooling as I entered, awaiting my impending pie tastings. Yes I said “plural”, as I couldn’t leave this place without trying at least a couple of different pies.

 

Oxbow Pies & Antiques

Oxbow Pies & Antiques

 

 

I opened the door and was faced with a myriad of antiques and worn wooden tables for eating your meals and pies. David Wolfe and his Mother Becky the proprietors, stepped forward as we entered and introduced themselves.  As expected, they were both genuine down-home people, that make you feel comfortable immediately. I apologized, as we were very late for a scheduled lunch. As you approach the counter you see this display of pies, which immediately make your mouth start watering.

 

Fresh Pies Display Case

Fresh Pies Display Case

 

We sat down and they started us off with a half of a chicken salad sandwich. It had grapes in it just like my Mother used to make. It was delicious with just enough Mayo. Thank God they didn’t serve us a complete sandwich. A great appetizer!

 

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Chicken Salad Sandwich

 

Then came a good old Frito Pie. For those not raised in Texas, we fill a heaping bowl of Frito’s with chili. I inhaled this magnificent concoction and I could not believe the taste of the chili. It was just like the chili that covered my enchilada’s, when I would go out with my parents as a child and eat Mexican food. It set my taste buds in action and I was in heaven. I hadn’t savored that flavor in years, but it brought back childhood memories immediately. Of course the cheese and onions enhanced an already fabulous dish. The Wolfe’s have been in the restaurant business for decades and their products reflect the experience. I absolutely loved this course. It may not be the healthiest, but Kim and I both scraped our bowls clean and there was nothing left.

 

Frito Pie

Frito Pie

 

Becky asked if we had enough room for pie left and I just laughed. I really didn’t care if I was full or not. The primary reason I came to this place was to sample their infamous pies. So I ordered a slice of Chocolate Pecan Pie and a slice of Pineapple Meringue Pie, as I have never heard or seen this pie. I have eaten chocolate and coconut Meringue pie, but never Pineapple Meringue Pie. I dove into the Chocolate Pecan and offered Kim a taste. She prefers the regular Pecan Pie but decided against ordering pie (I know exactly why she did this, as she always “samples’ my food–Just ask anybody in our or her family). It was very tasty.

 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie

 

I saved the Pineapple Meringue for last and tried to guess what it would taste like. Would it be like an upside down cake or what? I was mad with curiosity. I shoveled the first bite in my mouth and almost fell off the chair I was sitting in. I paused for a moment and let the bite lay on my tongue. I just gloated to myself over the gorgeous flavor and sat back to enjoy the rest of the slice. It was an outstanding piece of pie and one I will never forget. Each bite rolled around my mouth and caused my senses to explode with glee. It is now, simply stated, my favorite kind of pie. Good-Bye Cherry Pie!

 

Pineapple Meringue Pie

Pineapple Meringue Pie

 

Before I move on I want you to look at the height of the Meringue on this pie. It was at least 3″ high, maybe more. I don’t believe I have ever seen one that high. I asked Becky how she does it and she said a lot of egg whites and a lot of whipping. David makes the crusts (which are unbelievably good) and Becky makes the fillings. They both are early risers and are in the shop before sun up. If you are ever near Palestine you have to stop and sample a slice. I suggest you take home a whole pie and of course, my recommendation is the Pineapple Meringue Pie.

 

 

A room Full of Antiques

A room Full of Antiques

 

 

The shop has tables with benches and tables with chairs scattered all throughout the store. When you walk in you do not realize how large the shop really is or how many quality antiques are housed in the shop. Many of the antiques are for sale. I was a little taken back as Kim and I could have probably spent 3 to 4 hours looking at their treasures. One of my favorites was this old Root Beer and Coca-Cola soda barrel.

 

Soda Barrel

Soda Barrel

 

The restaurant and pie shop has been written up in Texas Farm and Home magazine and has a four page layout. I fell in love with this place and next time I visit the Oxbow Bakery & Antiques shop I am buying a whole Pineapple Meringue Pie and not sharing with Kim!

 

Texas Farm and Home Magazine

Texas Farm and Home Magazine

 

Eventually Kim did have her Pecan Pie and inhaled it just like me. Surprisingly I did get a taste. Here is a handwritten menu advertising the pies available that day. Hope it motivates you to try my new favorite pie shop in all of the country (I am talking the entire USA-It’s that good)!

 

Today's Pies Menu

Today’s Pies Menu

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

Article #2, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101 “All Aboard”

As I mentioned in my first article in the series about Palestine Texas, our first event was a ride on the “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. Breezy Lake-Wolfe, Marketing Manager for the city of Palestine Texas, picked us at the Hampton Inn and we arrived at the station at around 6:00 PM, as the train was scheduled to depart at 6:30 PM. I immediately recognized that this was a larger operation than I anticipated and asked Breezy to take Kim and my photo for posterity!

 

Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance

Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance

 

We headed into this wonderful piece of history for the state of Texas and started looking around. As a foodie I first noticed that they had a very decent spread of cheeses, crackers, fruit and champagne. It was a nice transition, as some passengers were not dining on the ride, like we were. We refrained and it was a good thing, as the line was at least 50 people deep! Must have been great snacks! Kim did manage to obtain a glass of champagne!

 

Reception with Appetizers

Reception with Appetizers

 

Music was played by a gentleman named Paul, on what I thought was a banjo. After he finished a tune I approached him and asked him how long he had been playing the banjo. He quickly corrected me and stated it was a Banjolin (It had 4 strings and a shorter neck than a banjo). It still was a great way to sit and wait for the train to leave and his music was excellent.

 

Paul the Banjolin Player

Paul the Banjolin Player

 

There are magnificent areas inside of the station, that reflect the train history and depict several annual trips. I was in love with several of the photos, awards and plaques from over the years. I even found a copy of an old ticket for my hometown of Austin, St. Louis and a ticket for a Mr J.W. Boyce and wife from Texarkana Texas to Longview Texas, purchased in 1950 about the time I was born! They had photos of Palestine from circa 1920, past employees and one for the “Polar Express” which runs from November 22 to December 28 this year. It is a magnificent trip for families with children.

 

Polar Express

Polar Express

 

We decided to leave the waiting area and venture out to where the locomotive was located and I wanted photos of this wonderful steam engine, originally built in 1901. You can obtain the history and all pertinent facts at the Texas State Railroad web site. In 1972, the railroad constructed in 1881, was turned over to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and the first public rides began in 1976. The railroad was privatized in 2007 and American Heritage Railways operated the line until 2012 when Iowa Pacific Holdings assumed operations. I am not sure if I can accurately describe the feeling one gets appropriately, when you see the steam engine emitting its strong waves of steam. Its almost an emotional experience or at least it was for me.

 

The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board

The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board

 

I was allowed in the engine compartment and started asking questions immediately about the train. Both gentlemen were more than open and eager to share their stories and answer my questions about the age of the engine, where it as made, by what company, etc. I discovered it was originally assembled in Patterson New Jersey, by Cooke Works and was Identified as Engine #316. I inquired if it was the oldest and they told me it was second oldest behind a steam engine in Grapevine Texas, built in 1886 that used to run on this line. The Fireman was Kenneth McCarty and this is the Engineer Scott Rohal. If you get the opportunity to ride this wonderful train make sure you stop and talk to these two employees. They are very friendly, courteous, and highly informed on the history of the train!

 

Scott Rohal--Engineer

Scott Rohal–Engineer

 

As the departure time neared Kim and I gravitated to what appeared to be the loading dock and as other passengers were lining up, we assumed we were following procedure. All of a sudden, just like in the movies, a loud speaker bellowed out “All Aboard”, “All Aboard for the Maiden Voyage of the Moonlight Special Train Ride”, “All Aboard”! I was taken back, as I wasn’t prepared for this melodramatic sounding and I wasn’t aware this was a “maiden voyage”. Kim and I entered the train and immediately fell in love with all its grandeur and enhanced decorations. Each and every passenger was greeted and treated like royalty. Perhaps I had slipped back in time.

 

Texas and Pacific Locomotive

Texas and Pacific Locomotive

 

As the steam bellowed from the locomotive and the whistle blasted through the pines, I felt shimmers run down my spine and reminisced how it must have been at the turn of the last century.  The train continued to announce our exodus from the terminal, with loud blasts of the whistle and Kim and I settled in. There are three types of seating available on the excursion “Premium Lone Star Seating” (which we opted for, as it had a complete dinner–note it is a BYOB, if you are so inclined), “Standard Coach” with upholstered seating and enclosed car and the “Open Air” with bench style seating in an open car (Probably more authentic, but we are spoiled)!

 

Premium Lone Star Seating

Premium Lone Star Seating

 

The staff were great at attending to our needs and immediately started dinner service with beverages and a salad. Rolls were set on the table but to my displeasure, not refilled after the first consumption. Not that I really need the calories, but I wanted one with my meal. I never needed water, as my glass was continually topped off and the salad was a good healthy course with a spinach base.

 

Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Feta Cheese, Almonds, Red Onion andVvinaigrette

Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Feta Cheese, Almonds, Red Onion and Vinaigrette

 

 

The main course consisted of be pork medallions with brown gravy. Side dishes included a special recipe mashed potatoes and veggie bundles of asparagus, zucchini and carrots.  I must confess I started the main course and had to take a photo after a couple of bites. I have to improve on this function, but sometimes it looks so good that I can’t help but dive in! Dessert was individual mini-cheesecakes with strawberry and raspberry toppings. My apologies again. The desserts looked so good I forgot to take photos at all. The mini cheesecakes were fabulous and very tasty!

 

Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies

Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies

 

 

After dinner I left the dining car we were in and traveled up to the “Open Air” car with the wooden bench seating. It was a cloudy night and I hoped I would be able to capture the full moon. I took many photos and used my zoom, but the clouds wouldn’t lift. Alas, it was not to be and this photo displays the best moon picture I was able to get.

 

The Full Moon in All Its Glory

The Full Moon in All Its Glory

 

As we entered Maydelle the train came to a complete stop. I noticed we passed a fire engine with lights aglow and I feared there had been an accident at the crossing. Lo and behold the engine disconnected and traveled to a turntable right outside our window. It took the locomotive approximately 25 minutes to turn 180 degrees and prepare to hook up and take us back to Palestine. The engine started and then stopped right beside the fire engine. I realized at that moment that the fire engine was reloading the locomotive’s water supply, to provide for the steam. It was a “Duh” moment for sure.

 

A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air

A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air

 

We flew back home to Palestine, at around 25 MPH I am guessing and returned a few minutes after schedule. Kim and I enjoyed the ride and learning all about the steam engine and the Texas State Railroad’s history. It was a delightful evening and we were were ready to hit the hay. We needed our rest for Saturday, the big day with several events including tours of historical sites and homes, a couple of culinary events and a few vineyards. Not too full of a schedule!  Stay tuned for Article #3 in regard to the homes and historical district! #palestinetx!

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #1, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101

My travel blogging has been fairly well of the International perspective, until I received a comment on my blog around September 11th, the day after I returned from a five week trip to Cuenca Ecuador. As everyone knows, I have a passion for this city that is unmatched. This comment was entitled “Taste What Lies Behind the Pine Curtain”.

 

At first I thought it was spam and came very close to deleting it. I receive myriads of spam from all over the world and have to make very quick decisions whether comments are real or spam generated. As I read the comment I deduced it was actually a real post and an invitation to try the “culinary attributes” of Palestine Texas, on their nickel.

 

I made inquiries about my blogging and if they knew that my reputation is associated with my posts. I made sure they understood I consequently do not write favorable material, if it is not deserved. My feedback was that I would attend, but there could be no handcuffs or demands on my writing. They wrote back that they would expect nothing less.

 

Dogwood Blossom on  Our Card

Dogwood Blossom on Our Card

 

I knew very little about Palestine and “Googled” it to see what it offered. I was intrigued as it was on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods and growing up in Texas one learns where the beauty lies. As a child my parents, my brothers and I made the day trip to ride “The Dogwood Trail”. I can still remember the beauty of the white flowering trees.

 

I talked it over with Kim and we decided that we would try this new approach and look into a more local genre. I have written a few posts about Austin and a couple of its attractions, but this was a completely new category for me to cover. Obviously my passion for food made the offer distinctly attractive. We decided to take the city up on its offer.

 

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

 

 

As we drove into town the main highway was a typical small town with construction on the highway that was surrounded by run down buildings and generations of decayed equipment. Kim and I started to question whether we had made the correct decision. We turned at the loop and arrived at the Hampton Inn.

 

As I entered with our bags, Kim parked the car. Kimberly, the front desk clerk greeted me with a “Good afternoon Mr. Hinshaw”. I asked how she knew who I was and she stated Breezy-Lake Wolfe (the city’s marketing manager) told her to “Google” me, so she could recognize me when I arrived (of course I had my hat on). I was fairly surprised and broke out laughing.

 

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

 

Kim joined me after I checked in and we went to our room. It was a very clean, large suite with everything a blogger needs (Wi-Fi, direct Internet. Digital TV. a multitude of wall plugs to charge all my equipment and a coffee maker). Kim noticed we had an arrangement of flowers on the desk.

 

About 5 minutes after we arrived Kimberly called and and inquired if everything was acceptable in the room. I asked her if all the suites were like this and she replied “Yes, but they all don’t have fresh flowers like yours”. I couldn’t help but laugh again and started to feel like we were going to have a good weekend.

 

 

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

 

Our schedule was set up for us to meet Breezy in the lobby at 5:30 to attend the first event, a ride on the Texas State Railroad’s “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. We had a few minutes and I caught up on social media and Kim and got ready for the evening. We went downstairs at 5:25 PM and Breezy was already waiting to take us to the train ride. Instantly, I recognized this young lady was a whirlwind.

 

She conveyed every detail and fact available, in regard to each and every part of the weekend’s schedule between the hotel and the train. It was about a 20 minute ride. I knew she was nervous, but her East Texas charm won Kim and I over very quickly and we questioned whether we would be able to keep up with this bundle of energy over the next couple of days. We were delighted with our hostess and felt comfortable with Breezy immediately.

 

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

 

We had such  great time that I have decided to capture our visit in several blogs and hopefully connect you with this hidden pearl, in the East Texas Piney Woods.  Next in my #PalestineTx series is the “All Aboard” post,  describing our train ride. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

Why Don’t You Just Take Me Behind the Barn and Shoot me?

As most of my friends who truly know me are aware, I wear my emotions on my sleeve and can become very irate over stupid people who perform or state stupid things. I am also a member of several groups that share blog posts and generally help each other out with exposure, as we all have varied traffic levels. I was going through my process today and a post showed up that totally infuriated me. This young man, who I am sure possesses a degree and has a position with a large company, wrote about “Managing Older People”, as if we are a different species. It must be the third eye I am sporting these days.

 

 

Old But Still Employed at a Jimmy Buffett Concert in Vegas

Old But Still Employed, at a Jimmy Buffett Concert in Vegas

 

In the past year I have had friends that have lost their jobs strictly as a result of their age and salary. There is a huge tendency to push  the more mature crowd out the door and hire young individuals with a degree, that supposedly have as much acumen as the veterans. In one such case a dear friend had been with a company for over 40 years and had about two years left before retirement. It was a case of second generation inheriting the responsibilities of running the day to day operations and the descendant made the decision to release my friend, after the person had dedicated his life to building the business with the father. I wanted to throw up it made me so sick.

 

Another friend worked over 25 years for a company that I was employed with for 10 years and had a Bachelors and Masters degree. He was a very intelligent individual who moved his family many times, always at the request of “the company”. He finally received a nice promotion and salary and was considered an astute business manager by all vendors and peers. He walked in one day last year and discovered he was no longer needed. His salary and tenure had worked against him, just like many my age.

 

What Do I Do Now?

What Do I Do Now?

 

Today’s writer stated many factors that needed to be used in managing the older generations. He stated that one shouldn’t come across “too strongly”.  He is basically saying we need to be coddled and handled vastly differently than younger workers? I guess its okay to be strong with younger generations. When I was in management, age was not an issue and I managed all generations equally.

 

He states that a manager needs to work around the more mature workers schedule and definitely not plan social gatherings when its inconvenient for the older workers. I guess that mean no parties after 7:00 PM, since we all go to bed at 8:00 PM apparently. He talks about the (fact?) that older workers are not familiar with social media and we probably don’t have Facebook profiles, etc. Huh? I have a Twitter, Google+, Facebook. Linkedin, Pinterest page and I have my own web site. I am 63. I must be the exception.

 

Lover of Ecuador and Travel Blogger

Lover of Ecuador and Travel Blogger

 

He states that a younger manager needs to pay attention as older workers need “more benefits”. This baffles me as I would think all workers need the same benefits. He finishes by stating managing older workers is a tricky task. I sincerely hope that this “writer” never ages or faces the discrimination that is rampant in the business world for the more “Mature” population in this day and time.

 

Carter Vance Hinshaw

Carter Vance Hinshaw

 

My father was a night city editor at a large newspaper in the DFW area and was allowed to work up until he hit 70. I am amazed at how substantially our world has changed in regard to this philosophy. Funny how this phenomena parallels our economy landslide. Maybe we really do have something to contribute if given a chance!

 

In my younger days we were taught to respect our elders. In Japan they still have strong regard for their elders and actually endeavor to take care of them. They insure they are taken care of right up to the end. I have generally found this to be true all over the world, with the US being the only glaring exception. In the US there is a race to push my generation out to pasture as quickly as possible. Consequently I say, “Why Don’t You Just Take Me Out Behind the Barn and Shoot Me”? It might just be an easier end!

Photo of The Day #48

American Airlines Waiting to Take Me to Ecuador

American Airlines Waiting to Take Me to Ecuador

 

 

Yesterday I posted a blog post, which stated how unhappy I was with American Airlines and how I was discriminated against on my return flight from Guayaquil Ecuador to Miami. I was totally humiliated. I received a phone call from the executive office and my issue was resolved, after we discussed the situation.

 

 

Thank you American Airlines for doing the right thing for a 40 year loyal passenger. Most of all thank you to my social media supporters for helping with the campaign #AAFixItNow. Without you I am more than positive the resolution would never have had wings!

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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