Viking River Cruises, Budapest

For four years Kim and I have dreamed of taking a Viking River Cruise together through Europe. I have been disappointed year after year, as it never came to fruition. Neither one of us had ever been to the continent until this year. Miracle of miracles, I have been three times in 2015 and have completely become enamored with its architecture, people and food as a whole. I have fallen head over heels for the wonderful attributes of Europe. Most fortunately I also connected with Viking this year and Kim and I were able to participate in a trip of lifetime. In all our 37 years of marriage and vacations, nothing compares or can measure up to a river cruise with Viking. The overall impression is a 5-star involvement. We will treasure our memories the remainder of our living days.

 

Viking Longship Modi

Viking Longship Modi

 

We were given a list of four cruises to select from and I chose the “Danube Waltz Cruise”. Basically as a result of Kim’s creative abilities and the fact this cruise centered on Christmas Markets. I did not make the wrong choice, as I am sure you are aware, if you followed our escapades on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We were met at the airport by a terrific native Hungarian who spoke very good English and proceeded to elaborate on a fair portion of the history of Hungary. They loaded our luggage and the superlative service began instantly. We arrived at the Viking Longship Modi and boarded to check in. The staff was friendly, accommodating and impressed me immediately. We were led to our stateroom where we had champagne, water and fabulous fresh cookies waiting for us to arrive. We were hooked right away!

 

Reception Area and upstairs Library

Reception Area and upstairs Library

 

Even though we were worn out from an over 20 hour  flight, we jumped right in for the  “Welcome Walk” at 2:00 PM, after checking into the ship. We walked for approximately 90 minutes and saw a glimpse of the Budapest Christmas Markets and several statues of Heroic individuals, along with a plethora of beautiful constructed government buildings. Most of which escapes my memory since we were exhausted. I was instantaneously mesmerized by the architecture in Budapest. Kim immediately was drawn to the Christmas Markets and the laser cut wooden spoons, as those of you that followed us know full well by now.

 

Wooden Spoons from the Christmas Market, Budapest

Wooden Spoons from the Christmas Market, Budapest

 

Each night the ship holds a briefing of scheduled activities for the following day. We napped right through the first “Welcome briefing” and somehow woke up for dinner. I can’t say enough about the food on Viking and will devote an entire post to Viking food! After dinner we went straight to bed and slept like rocks. To my knowledge we neither one moved after going to sleep. We were worn out. We both woke up during the early morning around 3:00 AM or so, because of the time difference.

 

I have a greater respect for the fortitude of the Hungarian people over the years. They have survived countless invasions, wars and staunch oppressors without losing their desire for Independence. The young lady tour guide on our bus presented it in a humorous fashion, stating countries would come to help and then forget to leave. Our tour was a combination bus ride and walking tour. All along the walking tour Viking has a guide that speaks English very well and instructs you on the various works of art, government buildings and parks you may pass, along with taking us through the Christmas Markets in Budapest. The markets were very crowded and she managed to not lose any people. I thought that was as amazing as her dialogue. On each tour every participant is furnished with a wireless headset in which you receive the tour guides narrative.

 

Marzipan of Many Flavors (Yes we bought some)

Marzipan of Many Flavors (Yes we bought some)

 

We returned just in time for lunch. I must add that the Maitre D’ attends individually to everyone with dietary needs or restrictions. I was impressed beyond comprehension. He stopped by our table, introduced himself and greeted all of us at every meal. He inquired if any of us had any allergies or issues. As I cannot eat certain foods, he privately discussed my needs and told me he would stop by each morning at breakfast and discuss the lunch and dinner menus. Each day he made sure to let me know what was safe for me to eat and helped me choose my appetizers, entree and desserts daily at breakfast. As each meal was open seating I just had to give the waiter my room number. I have to tell you, since I am naturally introverted, sitting with complete strangers was at first a little scary. In the end though Kim and I met fabulous, well traveled people and made several lasting friends. We traded emails, phone numbers in some cases and I really enjoyed the various individuals more than I anticipated.

 

One of the More Creative Packaging for Soap on a Rope

 

Little did we know our journey across some of Europe’s finest Christmas Markets was just beginning. These markets are beyond comprehension unless you have actually seen them. They all are a mixture of various crafts, souvenirs, foods and items particular to the individual countries. One item that was present at every Christmas Market was Gluhwein, both with alcohol and without. We didn’t realize until after Budapest, every market has their own mug and it comes with the Gluhwein! Some passengers collected mugs from every market. What a great way to remember each city’s Christmas Market. By the way Gluhwein tastes wonderful!

 

Buda Castle, as Seen From Our Side of the Danube

Buda Castle, as Seen From Our Side of the Danube

 

After lunch we had a choice between three “Optional Shore Excursions: The Godollo Palace and Gardens, The Dohany Synagogue or The Budapest Spa Experience. Optional tours cost additional funds. We chose to walk back to the Christmas Markets and explore them more in depth and review the remaining optional tours on the cruise. After all our main objective was to see and visit every Christmas Market, in every city we visited. We chose to revisit the Christmas Markets and explored until dinner on the ship. I barely made it through dinner and couldn’t eat my dessert, I was so full.

 

The next day we ate breakfast and joined the “Shore Excursion: Budapest” from 8:30 to 12:30 PM. Highlights were the National Opera House and the historic Heroes Square via a bus and then were able to walk along Fisherman’s Hill to Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. I learned of the sacrifices the Hungarian people made over the years and how many hundreds of thousands people perished during all the wars collectively.

 

Paprika is One of the Largest Exports of Budapest

Paprika is One of the Largest Exports of Budapest

 

We  loved the bus ride and guide for the excursion through both the Buda and Pest sides of the Danube. Pest is a flat city filled with historic architecture. I love buildings that have survived wars and conquests from outside armies and still are standing. Some had exquisite and detailed trim, which I favor. Overall Budapest was one of our favorite cities and we have pledged to return. Then we hit the retail shops on Fisherman’s Hill and glimpsed the Danube from Fisherman’s Bastion.

 

Handmade Linens Adorn the Shops on Fisherman's Hill in Buda

Handmade Linens Adorn the Shops on Fisherman’s Hill in Buda

 

We learned that all goods labeled as handmade in Hungary, have to be authentically crafted and sewn in Hungary. If a retail shop offers goods from China or another country that basically is a knock off, they stand the chance of losing their business. Obviously it is not worth the risk. The shop that Kim purchased a table linen runner was in fact actually handcrafted in Hungary. Kim validated this by looking at the stitching on the reverse side. I would have never known! She loved the linens and vowed to wait to purchase additional items. Lesson learned. We quickly discovered, if you really like something buy it then, don’t wait or you take the chance of not seeing the item ever again.

 

Matthias Church with Magnificent Architecture, Especially the Roof Tiles

Matthias Church with Magnificent Architecture, Especially the Roof Tiles

 

At the top of Fisherman’s Hill is a gorgeous Roman Catholic church, originally built in 1015. The current building was constructed in Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and was extensively restored in the late 19th century. It was the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of the Medieval Hungarian Kingdom. The first church on the site was founded by Saint Stephen, King of Hungary in 1015. This building was destroyed in 1241 by the Mongols; the current building was constructed in the latter half of the 13th century. Originally named after the Virgin Mary, taking names such as “The Church of Mary” and “The Church of Our Lady,” Matthias Church was named after King Matthias in the 19th Century.

 

We headed back to the Viking Longship Modi and sailed after dinner to our next destination, Bratislava.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liberty Hall, Tyler Texas, Part One

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.

 

Liberty Hall’s mission is to create an exciting, stimulating, arts and entertainment experience, that will integrate the arts into the downtown’s social, economic and community fabric, by providing diverse opportunities for entertainment, through film, theater, comedy and music.

 

Celebrating its Grand Opening in September of 2011, the theater is now and will continue presenting an array of quality entertainment, ranging from nationally known artists to regional and local entertainers from all genres of music, comedy, theater as well as classic movies. To be absolutely frank, I wasn’t aware that Liberty Hall was actually attracting the headline acts it has secured. If you are a fan of Texas music, you will definitely enjoy the next few months line up.

 

I apologize for the brief window of the first act, but I guess its better than overlooking the coming acts. First up, this Saturday night December 5, 2015 is “Gaelic Storm” the chart-topping, multi-national Celtic band. Their new release “Matching Sweaters” mixes traditional Irish music with modern influences, creating a sound that is as wide-ranging as the band’s own audience. From bluegrass and country fans, to Deadheads, rock & rollers and Celtic fanatics, Gaelic Storm has built one of the most diverse fan bases in modern music.

 

"We're a Touring Band," says percussionist Ryan Lacey, who joined the lineup in 2003.

“We’re a Touring Band,” says percussionist Ryan Lacey, who joined the lineup in 2003.

 

Those live shows date all the way back to the mid-1990’s, when Gaelic Storm kicked off its career as a pub band in Santa Monica, California. By the end of the decade, the musicians had appeared in the blockbuster film “Titanic” (where they performed “Irish Party in Third Class”) and laid the groundwork for a career that would eventually find them topping the Billboard World Chart five times, making appearances at mainstream music festivals such as Summerfest, Telluride and The Rock Boat Cruise, and regularly headlining the largest Irish Festivals across the country, all the while gaining a reputation as a genre-bending Irish band whose songs mix Celtic traditions with something new and unexpected. Now, with the band’s 20th anniversary on the horizon, they’re putting even more emphasis on those newer directions.

 

"Playing for a new crowd is great," says Twigger. "It takes you back to those early days, where you've got something to prove. We could just do Irish festivals, but why not play a crossover show where 90% of the audience doesn't know you, and you have to make them know you? That's what makes your band good."

“Playing for a new crowd is great,” says Twigger. “It takes you back to those early days, where you’ve got something to prove. We could just do Irish festivals, but why not play a crossover show where 90% of the audience doesn’t know you, and you have to make them know you? That’s what makes your band good.”

 

When it came time to write Matching Sweaters’ 12 songs, Murphy and Twigger teamed up with longtime friend and co-writer Steve Wehmeyer. Together, the three found inspiration in everything from old Irish newspapers (“The Rustling Goat Gang,” whose details were gleaned from an article about a vanishing goat herd from Waterford) to bits of conversation overheard in local pubs (“Paddy’s Rubber Arm”).

 

"Playing for a new crowd is great," says Twigger. "It takes you back to those early days, where you've got something to prove.

“Playing for a new crowd is great,” says Twigger. “It takes you back to those early days, where you’ve got something to prove.

 

The following weekend, December 12th, Tyler and the Liberty Hall is thrilled to welcome back comedian Henry Cho to Liberty Hall. Cho was in Tyler in 2013 and sold out his comedy show. Cho is of Korean American descent, and was born and raised in Knoxville and went into stand-up comedy in 1986. He often uses his childhood experiences as an Asian American in the South, as a basis for his comedy. Cho’s TV and film credits include appearances on NBC ’s The Tonight Show, CBS’s The Late, Late, Show, and NBC ’s Young Comedians Special.

 

In 2012, Henry sold a special/pilot to GAC (Great American Country) in which he served as host, co-writer, and co-producer. “The Henry Cho Show” aired in Fall 2012 and Henry awaits the chance to do more shows for GAC for the network.

In 2012, Henry sold a special/pilot to GAC (Great American Country) in which he served as host, co-writer, and co-producer. “The Henry Cho Show” aired in Fall 2012 and Henry awaits the chance to do more shows for GAC for the network.

 

Henry was the keynote entertainer for The 59th Annual Radio & Television Correspondents’ Dinner attended by the Bush Administration and has worked extensively with Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood and many, others. Henry’s clean comedy is so versatile that he can headline Vegas and then tour with Michael W. Smith in the same month.

 

Henry Cho is an American stand-up comedian. His work can be heard nationwide several times weekly on XM Radio's Channel 151, Laugh USA and Sirius Radio's Blue Collar Radio channel 103, Pandora Radio's PG Comedy Radio channel

Henry Cho is an American stand-up comedian. His work can be heard nationwide several times weekly on XM Radio’s Channel 151, Laugh USA and Sirius Radio’s Blue Collar Radio channel 103, Pandora Radio’s PG Comedy Radio channel

 

Cho appeared on many television shows in the late-1980s and early-1990s, including ” The Arsenio Hall Show,” Bob Hope’s Young Comedians Special, MTV’s 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour and VH-1’s Stand-Up Spotlight. His other TV credits include guest roles on various sitcoms such as Designing Women, Lenny, The New WKRP in Cincinnati and a starring role in the TV movie Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation. In 1994, after he moved back to Tennessee, Cho got a call from NBC to host a revamped version of Friday Night Videos titled Friday Night. He commuted to L.A. weekly for two years. Most recently, he has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He was also the keynote speaker for the 59th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner. Henry Cho recently earned his nickname, “Mr. Clean” for his always-clean comedy.

 

Liberty Hall will start the New Year 2016 off right, with the legendary Texas swing Band, “Asleep at the Wheel and its illustrious leader Ray Benson. Asleep at the Wheel will be in concert at Liberty Hall Saturday, Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. at 8 p.m. Liberty Hall is pleased to once again host Asleep at the Wheel, live in concert. Ray Benson founded Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw, West Virginia over 40 years ago. Now based in Austin, the band holds nine Grammy awards, 20 studio albums and 20 singles on the Billboard country charts with over 1.5 million records sold. “Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys” marks the bands third full-length Bob Wills tribute album, following 1999’s Ride with Bob and 1993’s A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills, with four Grammy awards and over 500,000 copies sold collectively.

 

Singer/guitarist Benson was born Ray Benson Seifert and grew up listening to a variety of music in Philadelphia, especially jazz.

Singer/guitarist Benson was born Ray Benson Seifert and grew up listening to a variety of music in Philadelphia, especially jazz.

 

Asleep at the Wheel has been presented with numerous awards such as the 16th Annual Mid-south Regional Emmy Award for the making of “A Ride With Bob”, the Darrel K. Royal Music Patron Award by The Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association and an astounding nine Grammy Awards. In 2007, the Austin Chronicle recognized Asleep at the Wheel as Band of the Year, Best Country Band and inducted them into their Hall of Fame. Band member Ray Benson was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 2002, was given the Texas Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, and recognized as an Outstanding Producer by the National Academy of Recording Arts in 1988.

 

In reviving the freewheeling, eclectic sensibility of Western swing godfather Bob Wills, the Wheel have earned enthusiastic critical praise throughout their lengthy career; they have not only preserved classic sounds that had all but disappeared from country music, but have also been able to update the music, keeping it a living, breathing art form.

In reviving the freewheeling, eclectic sensibility of Western swing godfather Bob Wills, the Wheel have earned enthusiastic critical praise throughout their lengthy career; they have not only preserved classic sounds that had all but disappeared from country music, but have also been able to update the music, keeping it a living, breathing art form.

 

It’s not often you can see a band of this calendar in such an intimate setting. Tickets for the show are on sale now at www.LibertyTyler.com . For up to date info on all Liberty Hall events check Liberty Hall out on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Since the early '70s, Asleep at the Wheel have been the most important force in keeping the sound of Western swing alive.

Since the early ’70s, Asleep at the Wheel have been the most important force in keeping the sound of Western swing alive.

 

If you aren’t busy any of these weekends, I highly recommend you catch one of these shows, at the Liberty Hall in Tyler. I a!ssure you the show will be grand

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

5 Reasons to Walk the Camino Frances

A few years back I was fortunate enough to see a movie entitled “The Way”. It was a tremendous movie about walking the Camino de Santiago and “finding yourself”. Emilio Estevez wrote and produced the film. The lead actor was played by Martin Sheen and dealt with the death of his son, while walking the Camino Frances. I became overcome with emotion and was enthralled with the idea of walking the Camino. The movie honours the Camino de Santiago and promotes the traditional pilgrimage. I made the decision that one day I would walk the Camino. Having just initiated a divorce, after 36 years of marriage, I cannot think of a better time than next spring, to fulfill this walk and clear the spider webs out of my brain! “You don’t Choose A Life, You Live One”!

 

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France #1

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France #1

 

I met Leslie Gilmour who oversees blogs and Facebook pages on the Camino and he gladly submitted this blog post for publication. Please support his links and take the time to investigate his thoughts and writing! Just imagine managing to take a precious month off work.  Now imagine spending that time walking 500 miles across Spain carrying all you need in your rucksack, sleeping in hostels every night and hand washing your own clothes. This is the pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago, more specifically the Camino Frances which starts in St Jean Pied de Port in the south of France and ends in Santiago de Compostela, the northwest corner of Spain.  More than 150,000 people walk this route every year and the amount of Americans hiking it is exponentially growing year on year. So why do so many people decide to stay away from the beach and walk a pilgrimage instead?

 

 

The Challenge

 

Cirauqui-Villamajor-de-Monjardin, Puente la Reina y Estella Spain #5 & #6

Cirauqui-Villamajor-de-Monjardin, Puente la Reina y Estella Spain #5 & #6

 

From Ben Nevis, to Kilimanjaro, to Mount Everest we humans just seem to love a challenge. However most challenges appear to be only available for the well off or super fit. The Camino fills that gap.  Almost anyone can walk 500 miles over a month and privation attracts many who want some basic living in their life for a while. I have met many like me who were unfit and over-weight that set out on a journey of a lifetime. The biggest lesson, for me, after walking 500 miles was I can do so much more than I ever imagine – however it is done one small step at a time.

 

 

Time Out From Life

 

Viana-Sote, Los Arcos y Logrono, Spain, #7

Viana-Sote, Los Arcos y Logrono, Spain, #7

 

I met and talked to many along the way who just wanted a rest from very a busy life. Many, it appears, wanted time out to evaluate their life, where they are and where they are going.  I was amazed to meet and talk to so many outwardly successful people that were discontent. Walking 25 to 30km every day, not staring at a computer screen all day, not having to juggle competing priorities, is incredibly restful.  There are numerous accounts of walkers going home after the Camino and making huge changes to their life. The rhythm of walking everyday, the simplicity of needing very few belongings has had an impact on how I life my life – today I ask myself often, how much is enough?

 

Religious

 

Azofra-Belorado-04-Sto-Domingo-de-la-Calzada, La Rioja Spain, #10

Azofra-Belorado-04-Sto-Domingo-de-la-Calzada, La Rioja Spain, #10

 

Yes, in this secular world some pilgrims do still walk for religious reason.  During holy years the amount of pilgrims walking any of the Camino route increases by at least 50%.  A holy year is when the feast day of St James, 25th July, falls on a Sunday – the next holy year is 2021.  By walking during a holy year a believer is entitled to a plenary indulgence – the forgiveness of all sins to date and remission of all punishments for these. Interestingly there have been some appeals to have an additional holy year before 2021 as the last one was 2010 – this was to help the economy of northern Spain, which has suffered due to the on-going recession since 2008. After completing your hike on the Camino you can receive a certificate from the pilgrims office in Santiago.  There are two main types of certificate, (compostela), one is secular and is a certificate of accomplishment, and the other is issued for walking for either religious or spiritual reasons. However a pilgrim must walk at least 100km, or cycle 200km, to be entitled to their certificate.  This is one of the reasons why so many start walking at Sarria, which is 112km from Santiago.

 

Make Friends

 

Belorado-San-Juan-de-Orega-road-in-mountains, Belorado Spain, #11

Belorado-San-Juan-de-Orega-road-in-mountains, Belorado Spain, #11

 

When I set off on my first Camino in 2004 I thought I would be spending a lot of time on my own.  I saw myself walking in the wilderness of northern Spain barely meeting or talking to people. However the Camino is busy and popular.  Most days I split my time walking on my own and sometimes walking with one or two others.  The nature of the stages means that you travel along meeting a lot of the same people each night in the hostels.  Due to the time spent with people or the walk itself, I like many others opened up much faster than I would in my daily life. I finished walking in Santiago with my wife to be, who I met during the walk – that was 9 years ago and we are still living happy ever after – with the usual bumps…

 

Get Fit and Lose Weight

 

Botafumeiro

Botafumeiro, #29

 

 

I suggest this one slightly tongue in cheek. Leaving St Jean I was 15stone, 210lbs. After walking for a month and eating whatever I wanted I had lost 14lbs and I was fitter than I had been in years. This is just a side benefit, I would never suggest losing weight to be the main motivation for the Camino. There are not many opportunities for a holiday that you will never forget.  The Camino is one of these.  I have heard the Camino described as a once in a lifetime opportunity, however many like me return again and again to walk the same route or one of the many other Camino routes. Leslie has walked the Camino three times and writes on his Camino blog, has free maps you can download, and runs a helpful forum on all the Camino routes.

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #77, You Think You Have Obstacles in Your Life???

When I was in Thailand this last November one of the tours we ventured out on, as guests of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways, was the James Bond Island tour. We wound up back at the Koy Panyee Sea Gypsy Village in Phang Nga Bay for lunch. After a wonderful meal of lobster, fish, shrimp and a dessert of fresh pineapple, we were allowed to walk through the complex of various gift shops, food outlets and an elementary school for the village children.

 

Panyee Village Elementary School

Panyee Village Elementary School

 

Near the school was a structure floating in the ocean and at first I couldn’t figure out what it was. As I walked nearer I recognized nets and soon discovered it was actually a soccer field for the kids to use, as the amount of raw land wasn’t sufficient to have a normal soccer field. I thought this was a wonderful and amazing idea. Little did I know the real story behind this pitch!

 

Panyee Floating Soccer Field

Koh Panyee Floating Soccer Field

 

Yesterday I shared a photo of this field on Instagram and Facebook. A fellow travel blogger and friend Vanessa Workman attached the video below, from TMBbrand’s channel. They have launched a new brand vision “Make THE Difference”, by making films that would inspire people to start thinking differently. I sincerely hope you take away as much as I did from this video.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 #12

A Typical Restored Door in Cuenca

A Typical Restored Door in Cuenca

 

 

I am not totally sure why I am so drawn to old doors, but I may be obsessed  when it comes to capturing the multitude of door images that abound in the world. Primarily my “Collection” is from Cuenca Ecuador and the El Centro or Old Town part of the city.

 

There are examples all over the world of fantastic carpentry and artwork. At least that is my interpretation. You can go to my Facebook page and see a multitude of examples from past trips. I hope that you enjoy the various photos and think they represent a segment of art as I do. Saludos!

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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