Viking Cruises, Koblenz Germany and the Middle Rhine

We docked in Koblenz on our third full day with Viking River Cruises and had several choices of tours. One of the features I love with Viking is the ability to scope out all tours ahead of time and sign up for the “included tours” as you complete your personal form of registration. Kim was interested in the tour of the Marksburg Castle, but given my back issues I opted to remain on board and hopefully capture the magnificent homes, castles and other architectural interesting buildings on the Middle Rhine. She went ahead with the tour. I was glad I remained on board. As we sailed to Braubach, where Kim and the others would rejoin us. I noticed that there was a cable car running high above the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers where we docked. The cable car takes passengers to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress and returns them after the visit. This was our view as the early morning tours disembarked.

 

Cable Car In Koblenz to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

 

As we pulled out of port I noticed this gorgeous statue off to the left of us and discovered it was erected in honor of William the Great of Germany. William was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Germany. He was a heir of the royal house of Hohenzollern and was exposed to the military society of the Prussian aristocracy. This had a major impact on him and he was rarely seen out of uniform. He was a major force in the creation of the German Navy that would eventually rival Britain as a world power. He enthusiastically promoted technology, industry, the arts and sciences as well as public education and social welfare. Kim and the group weren’t able to see this very large and detailed tribute to William.

 

Monument to William the Great of Germany

 

The Marksburg Castle was erected around 1100 is located above the German town of Braubach. The fortress was used for protection rather than as a residence by the royal families. It is part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the only castle out of 40 castles between Bingen am Rhein and Koblenz that was never destroyed although badly damaged by American artillery fire in March of 1945

 

 

Entrance Steps to the Marksburg Castle

 

Obviously the stone steps are rough and you need to wear the appropriate type of shoes when walking through the castle. Kim also told me that certain passage ways were very short and people had to virtually lean to pass through a few halls. The tour was listed by Viking as “Demanding”, which persuaded me to pass. Kim told me she was glad I did.

 

View of Rhine from Marksburg Castle

 

Obviously the view from the castle across the Rhine was gorgeous and one I am sure I would have enjoyed. I am glad Kim took photos for the Nomadic Texan! This gigantic wine press was a novel item for me and I thought it worthy of inclusion. It would give me more confidence than people’s feet! LOL!

 

Wine Press in Marksburg Castle

 

The suits of armor were very cool and I think a knight would have to be really strong in order to parade around in these metal suits, much less go to battle and try to protect yourself. A typical suit can weigh anywhere from about 22 pounds to 110 pounds depending on its materials.

 

 

Suits of Armor in the Marksburg Castle

 

I had to show this photo, as we both thought it was a novel approach. The castle’s toilet actually protruded out over the garden and human waste was displaced onto the plants below as fertilizer. The door locked from the castle side as intruders sometimes tried to climb the exterior, enter the toilet (disgusting if they meant they came in through the seat) and try to vandalize the castle, steal it’s contents or maim it’s inhabitants. So locking it from the castle side prevented egress.

 

 

Toilet for Exterior Displacement in the Marksburg Castle

 

As we headed down the Middle Rhine I went up top to the upper deck. The weather was great. Every cruise I take with Viking I capture the Lifebuoy or if you prefer Lifering, so that down the road I will have no issues with the name of the Longship we sailed on. Love that it shows the home port of Basel Switzerland and how excellent the knot is tied. Makes me feel more comfortable about the overall maintenance of the ship.

 

Viking Eir Lifebuoy or Lifering

 

It wasn’t  long before we encountered structures on both sides of the ship along the Middle Rhine. It didn’t take much for me to be comfortable in the fact that I stayed behind. If I had gone I would have missed all this beautiful architecture, castles, hotels and houses. This section of the Rhine river is known as the Rhine Gorge and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It runs from Koblenz to Bingen and Rudesheim. The entire valley is known as the Romantic Rhine. There are forty plus Castles and Fortresses along this section of the Rhine River. I highly advise you see this section of the river from the ships during daylight hours!

 

The first castle pictured is the Katz Castle which was built in the second half of the fourteenth century as a stronghold and military base to protect the Rheinfels Castle. Both castles were built to protect the Salmon fishing in the Rhine. Salmon disappeared from the Swiss Rhine about 50 years ago, due to poor water quality and the construction of hydro-electric power plants. From the Katz Castle vantage point it was next to impossible to be conquered from the valley below.

 

Katz Castle in Altstadt & Burg Katz

 

Maus (Mouse) Castle was erected by Archbisop Balduin between 1353-1388. It is actually called Thurnburg. At the time it was one of the most modern and technically constructed castles of its time. The people invented the story that both castles spied upon themselves like a cat and mouse, as they were occupied by opposing forces in the 13oo’s. Today Mouse Castle is open for visitors to admire period furniture and interesting collections.

 

Burg Maus (Mouse) Castle Along the Middle Rhine, Named Because the Owner had another Large Castle Called Katz

 

Rheinfels Fortress was built around 1245 and was the Count of Katzeninbogen’s residence initially. When the Katzeninbogen dynasty passed the ownership of the castle transferred to the House of Hesse. With this conversion, it became one of the strongest fortresses in Germany. As the only military complex on the left bank of the Rhine river it withstood the troops of Louis XIV in 1692. In 1796/97 the French Revolutionary Army overtook the structure without a struggle and blew up the exterior walls and the castle. Today visitors are surprised by the size of the ruins, as well as the web of trenches and tunnels which in most cases still are functional.

 

 

Burg Rheinfels Castle at St. Goar

 

Schönburg Castle was first mentioned in history between the years 900 and 1100. The Dukes of Schonburg ruled the town of Obelweser and were able to levy taxes on the Rhine. The most famous was Friedrich von Schonburg, a feared man who served as a colonel and general under the King of France in the 17th century. The castle was burned down in 1689 by French soldiers during the Palatinate wars. It remained in ruins until it was acquired by the German-American Rhinelander family in the late 19th century and restored it. In 1950 the town of Oberwesel obtained the castle back and signed a long-term lease with the Hutti family who operate it as a prosperous Hotel and restaurant.

 

 

 

Viking River Cruises Docking Port on the Rhine in Obelweser with Schonburg Castle on the Hill, which is now a Luxury Hotel

 

Along with the various castles and fortresses roughly 450,000 people call the Middle Rhine home. The river is abundant with gorgeous hotels, houses and structures from 900 AD through present day. Most are very detailed and beautiful in appearance from the exterior. I couldn’t take photos fast enough and tried to view both sides of the river equally. It was difficult at times. The Rhine Gorge as mentioned above, refers to the narrow gorge of the Rhine running through the Rhenish Slate Mountains between Bingen am Rhein and Rudesheim am Rhein in the south and Bonn-Oberkassel in the north. The basin at Neuwied separates the lower and upper halves of the Middle Rhine. The following are samples of houses, hotels and other acrchitecture we saw.

 

House Along the Middle Rhine

 

Hotel Loreleyblick Cafe and Restaurant, Loreley Germany

 

Hotel Keutmann Restaurant and Cafe Along the Middle Rhine

 

Half Timber Houses in Loreley & Goarshausen

 

Zur Klosterschenfe Hotel

 

On our Viking tour of the Middle Rhine River we learned the reason for the German train tunnels looking like castles along the Middle Rhine. The Germans learned quickly that allied air force groups would try valiantly to not cause any damage to the extraordinary castles throughout Germany, as well as the beautiful cathedrals when possible.
The allied forces were instructed to avoid bombing well known structures when at all possible. This caused the German engineers to build most of the train tunnels along this area of the Middle Rhine, to resemble towers and walls of the local castles.

 

The allied planes focused on military and industrial targets such as factories. Additionally castles were usually located away from heavily populated areas. This doesn’t mean there was no damage to castles, but most were spared. This was actually a brilliant method of avoiding destruction of the tunnels. They played on our sentimental values and kept trains running, transporting tanks, German militia and supplies to the front lines. The castle disguises were successful.

 

Tunnel Entrance Constructed to Look Like a Castle for Disguise During World War II

 

 

Our middle Rhine sail with Viking went past the Lorelei Mermaid statue and rock. Legend has it that this siren, originally betrayed by her sweetheart, was accused of bewitching men and causing their death. Rather than sentence her to die, the bishop sent her to a nunnery.

 

On the way there, accompanied by three knights, she came to the Lorelei rock. She requested a climb on the rock to view the Rhine one last time. She scaled the rock, thinking she saw her sweetheart in the river and fell to her death. Afterwards echos of her name emanated from the rock when sailors traveled past.

 

Legend states as she was combing her golden hair the sailors became distracted. Her beauty and singing, then caused the sailors to crash into the rocks and perish immediately. Songs, amusing tales and local legends reaffirm this story and have helped it cultivate over the ages. Many poems and Operas were written to commemorate Lorelei!

 

Mystical Mermaid Lorelei 16 Foot Tall

 

That evening we docked in Rudesheim, a town in the Rhine Valley known for wine making, especially Riesling wines. In the center, Drosselgasse is a lane lined with shops, taverns and restaurants. We ate at the Drosselgasse restaurant and had a great time. Although people who imbibed had a significantly better time I’m guessing. It was a party with dancing, adult drinking games singing and lots of beer!

 

Rüdesheim lies at the foot of the Niederwald on the Rhine’s right (east) bank on the southern approach to the Loreley. The town belongs to the Frankfurt Rhine Main Region and is one of Germany’s biggest tourist attractions. Only the Cologne Cathedral draws more tourists from other countries. Making the town worth visiting is, not only the wine or even the Old Town itself, but also the picturesque Rheingau landscape together with the romantic Rhine.

 

 

Hotel Post in Rudesheim

 

Parkplatz Street in Rudesheim

 

 

Drosselgasse Lane in Rudesheim

 

 

Drosselhoff Restaurant Entrance in Rudesheim

 

 

Drosselhoff Restaurant Stained Glass Ar in Rudesheim

 

Drosselhoff Restaurant Salad in Rudesheim

 

Drosselhoff Restaurant Pork Entree in Rudesheim

 

This day was a stellar one, especially given I had purchased a zoom lens for my camera right before we left and I had a substantial opportunity to use it on this leg of the cruise. Between the architecture and the more than forty historic castles, I gained great experience. I have been a photographer for many years and even have used a zoom in the past with my old Nikormat from Japan. I was thrilled that Viking gave me this chance by sailing this portion of the Middle Rhine in the daytime. Now on to Heidelberg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

My Amazing Life-Chapter 8, Jadi Batek

All trip long I had been waiting to visit the Jadi Batek factory in Kuala Lampur Malaysia and buy Kim Batek material. I have know our entire 35 year marriage that she loves Batek and she has many blouses and dresses from Batek. She told me four different colors to look for and to buy 2.5 yards of each color. As we traveled through Thailand and Malaysia I encountered many other souvenirs that were of interest, but this was my main objective and as we went there our last day I was getting nervous I would not attain my goal.

 

Various Batek Material

Various Batek Material

 

As we entered I saw that front of the store’s width did not do it justice. It went on and on and had many areas that displayed the art and a retail side. I could have spent thousands of dollars on their goods and was almost overwhelmed with the myriad of choices available. I wanted one of everything and had to keep slapping my face to wake up and realize I couldn’t buy that much!

 

 

Rolls of Batek Material. I bought 13.7 meters worth!

Rolls of Batek Material. I bought 13.7 meters worth!

 

There it was. The stacks and stacks of material that I could choose from. I was astonished at the choices and how many shades of the colors that I was to find existed. If you look close the red and white roll above, third one in on the top of the bin on the floor, was my choice. Kim loves red and that was the first color I was to look for. Not a surprise. The clerk was very helpful and unrolled each and every choice to see if I like the overall pattern. Great customer service I must say!

 

 

Batek Shirts

Batek Shirts

 

I walked by the men’s shirts already sized and sewn. Man I loved a certain green one, but knew that Kim could probably make one or two for me, as I purchased twice as much material as instructed with two of the colors. Maybe next time. It had the Nomadic Texan written all over it and would have gone great with the green pineapples and palm trees in the hat band on my Panama hat!

 

 

Various Batek Materials

Various Batek Materials

 

Another section had wall hangings from the material and I was very tempted to buy one or two as the fascinating designs and colors drew me in. I wanted them badly, but my credit card was screaming “No More” you old man!!! Besides which wall was available at our house and where would we put it. Wasn’t to be this time.

 

 

My Batek Artwork

My Batek Artwork, Even Autographed!

 

As we entered one of the shop managers gave us a tour and led us through the assembly area where I learned this is all still done by hand and not made by machines. I was totally flabbergasted and couldn’t believe this. It really hit me how much time and effort go into this process. Then I learned we were going to do our own Batek print. We were given a choice of various designs to paint ourselves. You must know I am not talented or patient and I looked at this process as more than a challenge. I really didn’t think I would complete it. You use various sized brushes to apply the paint depending on where the paint is applied and what size the area is.

 

If you apply too much it bleeds over into the next section and thankfully a process can remove most of the mistake. Obviously yours truly did this many times, so I kind of learned how to correct my mistakes. I was given a one on one instructor to “help” me. Thank God she had patience! A Japanese film crew was there and filming interviews with various shoppers. They interviewed me and the held a camera of mine to record my video. As usual the Japanese people were awesome and so nice. This is my first attempt at placing a video in my blog. Please do not laugh too much. It is rough!

 

 

I would rate this experience as one of the top 5 things I did in Kuala Lampur, even though the tour only takes about an hour. The factory is a great place with an assortment of goods that will take a good day to look at, if you really are a “shopper”. I highly recommend you attend but watch out, you might blow out your credit card. It would be easy to do!

 

 

*** 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.

My Amazing Life-Chapter 4, The Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok Review

We hit the ground at around 11:45 PM local time in Bangkok on November 13, 2013. This was after being in the air or airports for a whopping 27 hours and I was exhausted. There are times I can fall asleep quickly and there are times my body fights every effort to dose off on airplanes. I couldn’t manage more than about an hour or two’s sleep on the way to Asia. So I was eager to get to our hotel.

 

As I have written in a prior post our destination was the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Given the late hour I thought it might have been a little disorganized. I was very wrong. We arrived at the hotel and were given our keys. Our bags were taken separately and arrived approximately 5 minutes after I did. Score a 10 right off the bat! My room was awesome and was more than I anticipated.

 

King Size Bed (I loved It)

King Size Bed (I loved It) Comfy Slippers Also

 

Given it was 3:00 PM at home there was no way I could sleep, even though I gave it a valiant effort. I decided I would skip breakfast, as I knew if I slept it would only be minimal. The first morning was uneventful and I arrived slightly early and checked out the lobby. Much to my surprise there was a lobby full of beauty contestants for the Miss Grand International contest and I found out they would be there our entire stay.

 

It was kind of by coincidence, but I met Ms. Ecuador and had to have a selfie! Beautiful young lady from Quito and originally from Esmeralda on the coast. We headed out for the day and I learned our hotel inspection would be the following afternoon by Sommai Yocapajorn, the hotel’s PR Manager.

 

Ms. Ecuador with The Nomadic Texan

Ms. Ecuador with The Nomadic Texan

 

Ms Grand International Bus

Ms Grand International Bus

 

Malaysia Tourism Board Member Irni Nor with Ms. Malaysia

Malaysia Tourism Board Member Irni Nor with Ms. Malaysia

 

The hotel is a exquisite place to stay in a quiet neighborhood and far enough away from any freeways that one does not hear any traffic. I loved the fact I had my own balcony and it was very good size. The night time views were extraordinary.

 

View of the Chao Phraya River at Night from a Chatrium Balcony

View of the Chao Phraya River at Night from a Chatrium Balcony

 

The room we occupied was a Grand Suite One-Bedroom and comes equipped with a very nice bathroom with separate shower and bath, a small kitchenette with dining area and a large living and entertaining area. The room is 70 square meters. These rooms are above the 17th floor and cost around $100 a night US. That is a fantastic deal, given it is a 5 star hotel. This price requires a three night stay. Its slightly higher for a single night stay.

 

Living Area

Living Area

 

A Two-Bedroom Grand suite is 120 square meters and only runs about $185 Us Dollars. Both bedrooms have work desks and WiFi and all the benefits of the one bedroom are present. This includes the luxurious shower, tub and kitchenette, along with a dining and living area. Not to mention the large balcony. All rooms are equipped with safes, coffee, plates silverware, cups glasses, cooking ware and utensils if you are inclined to stay in and cook. Again the price requires a three night stay.

 

Kitchenette Area

Kitchenette Area

 

The top of the line rooms are the one, two and three bedroom suites located on the 31st through 34th floor with private dining quarters and business office. The One-Bedroom suite is 125 square meters and has access to all days snacks and evening cocktails. A full breakfast is also included. We toured all room examples and I was impressed with the pricing and size of the rooms. You would have to reserve specific dates for a quote on the Chatrium Club rooms as these are known.

 

#35th Floor Decoration

#35th Floor Decoration

 

Chatrium Club Dining Room with Abha Modeling

Chatrium Club Dining Room and Waiting Area

 

Business Office for Chatrium Club Members

Business Office for Chatrium Club Members

 

Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet style set up that includes every type of item one might want to eat early in the day. My friend from Thailand ate a bowl of noodles with vegetables almost every day and I ate plates of fruit, egg dishes, bread and tried various Asian dishes. The breads have an entire room dedicated to your choice or type of wheat, rice or corm flour based product. It was a challenge just to decide this, much less egg dishes or other healthy offerings as he main course.

 

External Photo of the Dining Area

External Photo of the Dining Area

 

The hotel has a wonderful pool area that is spacious and on the 6th floor away from all noise. It is a very nice facility and has a pool bar and changing rooms. If the weather had been nicer I probably would have jumped in.

 

Pool Was Huge

Pool Was Huge

 

Pool Bar

Pool Bar

 

Overall I have to rate the Chatrium Hotel Riverside as a top notch facility. I had no issues except learning how to turn the shower on. A funny story and as I must be thick between the ears I took a completely cold shower the first day before learning that the hot water was in the opposite direction of expectations. I can only say that I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only one and the names of the individuals involved shall remain nameless.

 

Shower for All Rooms (Push Back for Hot Water)

Shower for All Rooms (Push Back for Hot Water)

 

If you find yourself in Bangkok and are searching for a nice hotel with all the facilities of a 5 star complex I would recommend the Chatrium Hotel Riverside for its, service, cleanliness and its economic pricing. The fact that it has its own shuttle to make your way across the Cha0 Phraya River to Wat Arun, the Asiatique shopping center or numbers of other attractions also doesn’t hurt. Try it, you cannot go wrong in my opinion. A huge Thanks goes out to Adrian Brown the General Manager and our host at the hotel.

 

Chao Phraya Shuttle from Hotel

Chao Phraya Shuttle from Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** 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.

 

 

 

 

Article #8, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro”

As we drove down the country lane, through the Piney Woods of East Texas, I reflected on the weekend and all that had transpired. We had several experiences that surpassed my expectations and the culinary treats were superb. Little did I know that my taste buds would soon be exploding with delight again. We drove out of Palestine to a local bed and breakfast named Sabor a Pasion. It is located on Anderson County Road #406, about four miles outside of town. It is easily identified by this sign at the property’s edge.

 

Sabor a Pasion

Sabor a Pasion

 

As we entered the property and approached the main portion of the ‘Country House and Bistro” I pondered if we would have another meal, which exceeded my culinary assumptions of this small Texas town. I quickly glanced around the premises and immediately felt a warm and welcoming feeling. If my first glance was any indication, I would feel at home here.

 

Exterior of Event Room

Exterior of Event Room

 

The property is large enough to handle weddings, retreats and other personal or business obligations. It is 25 acres in total, including the vineyard. It is owned and run by Chef Simon Webster. As was the case, Simon had a wedding and catered the event on his grounds the night before we visited. As we drove in there were decorations pinned to the fence posts and I wasn’t entirely sure if they were permanent or not, until we chatted. I learned that he can handle up to 200 people for events.

 

Interior of Event Room

Interior of Event Room

 

Simon is a very easy going fellow and I immediately gravitated to his personality. He told us about himself and that he was born in England and at the age of four his father moved his family to New Zealand, where he became interested in cooking. He has trained with some of the best chefs in the world and at the New Zealand Culinary Institute. More of his background is available on this link for Chef Simon Webster. I asked him how he relaxes, as he is a very busy man. I learned he maintains and pilots an older airplane, which he takes up every chance he gets,  just to get away.

 

Wood Burning Pizza Oven

Wood Burning Pizza Oven with the Vineyard in the Background

 

In our conversation I inquired about this magnificent wood burning pizza oven and he stated it was built so as to replicate the Italian tradition. He stated it gives a little personality to his grounds. He often holds pizza events and continually uses it along with this outside seating arrangement, that made me think of Tuscany Italy right away.

 

Tuscany Table

Tuscany Table

 

Obviously no visit would be complete with out my selfie photo and Chef Simon was gracious enough to accommodate. He inquired if we were hungry for breakfast yet and I stated I was very ready, especially given his background, to sample his cooking and see if my expectations would be met.

 

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

 

We went inside and I contemplated what he would serve. Little did I know that the menu would include a crab offering. I am a confessed “crabaholic” and I am sure Chef Simon wasn’t aware of this, but the dish was more than tasty and I really wanted to ask him for more crab! Along with the delectable shellfish, was a potato cake with a very savory flavor and eggs that were cooked just perfectly. The fresh mozzarella cheese was excellent. Bacon was included and I gave it to an unnamed breakfast partner! A good sampling of fruit bordered the entrees and I was in heaven. I literally inhaled the crab and could not manage to finish my meal. I will tell you, I will be back for a lunch or dinner and expand my experience at the Sabor a Pasion.

 

Breakfast to Die For

Breakfast to Die For

 

After breakfast we strolled into his vineyard and he showed us his arbor. It is a central wedding photo site. I asked about the vineyard and he told me he produces 900 bottle each year and is happy with this quantity. He works the vines daily and ensures that his product is as high a caliber, as he can influence.

 

Vineyard Arbor

Vineyard Arbor

 

I was enamored with Chef Simon and he talked about Kim and I staying there on our next visit. It has a delightful and a very relaxed atmosphere and you can bet we will be back. We will spend the entire weekend with him on our next visit. I can’t imagine eating three meals a day, over an entire weekend with him. I might not leave! We talked about his harvest and how the locals and friends turn out to help pick the grapes. I volunteered, in exchange for his great cooking! I think I got the better half of that deal!

 

Chef Simon Webster

Chef Simon Webster

 

If you need to get away and have a relaxing weekend, with a very high quality of food and wine, I recommend you stay at the Sabor a Pasion. Enjoy Chef Simon’s excellent cooking and his warm and gracious attitude. In addition, you will discover he has a wonderful sense of humor. That is, if you can tear your mind away from thoughts of the fantastic food he serves. It is truly worth a long trip, just to experience his country house and bistro. Kim and I will be back!

 

 

 

 

*** 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #38

Lola DiMarco

Lola DiMarco

 

Had to post a photo of my mentor and fiend. She was so instrumental in getting me started and helping me grow my Nomadic Texan travel sites. I saw another post today on Facebook, where she had helped somebody out. This lady possesses an innate ability to help everyone and everybody around her, regardless of their needs. Some where along the way she also does volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia. She is truly a great person. If you get the chance stop by Where in the World is Lola? and check her out. Saludos mi amigos!

Photo of The Day #37

Colon Campos at Work

Colon Campos at Work, Engaging Customers

 

I have traveled extensively around the world and had the pleasure of meeting many interesting individuals. I met Colon Campos recently when I ate at his restaurant, the Don Colon  in Cuenca Ecuador. I even wrote a blog describing one of my experiences, entitled Don Colon Rules. Today I received a thank you and an email urging me to come back and he then advertised my post on his restaurant blog. I was blown away.

 

Most restaurants acknowledge they like your posts, but rarely does one go out of their way to this extent. This gentle man understands that service is key to success in any business and he is genuine about your relationship. He really does want to engage with you and learn your story. If you find yourself in Cuenca Ecuador, at the Parque Calderon or the New Cathedral, you are across the street from his restaurant.

 

Stop in say hi and tell him the Nomadic Texan sent you. He will talk with you and then serve you an excellent meal, at a very economic price. Well worth the $4.00. Colon I can’t wait to get back and stop in and surprise you! You are a friend for life! Saludos mi amigo!

The La Joya Thai Restaurant Really Does Exist!!!

In March when Kim and I were in Cuenca last, we attempted several times to eat at this restaurant. The first time we couldn’t locate it, as the address was only represented by the cross streets. This is common in Cuenca. This can be very confusing at times, as the actual location can be over a half block away and you have to try all four streets and each side of each street. It becomes an exercise in futility at times. On our second attempt we learned that the La Joya Thai restaurant closes on certain days, as is customary in Cuenca and it was just our luck that it was closed that day. We ran out of options after the second try. It wasn’t meant to be.

 

La Joya Thai Drink Specials

La Joya Thai Drink Specials

 

This time I promised myself I would try early in my stay and lo and behold I made an attempt yesterday during a torrential downfall. The rain felt like small pebbles hitting my shoulders and legs as I walked the city. Thank goodness I had my Tilley hat on to protect me from the rain. I was wearing my LTM6 Airflo Nylamtium. It held up very nicely and one would have never known it was in a rainstorm. I am liking the hat more and more!

 

The Tilley Withstood the Torrential RainFall

The Tilley Withstood the Torrential RainFall

 

I was aghast when I actually arrived at the address indicated on an updated guide, as a sign indicated “We have moved”! Luckily it was across the street and down about a half a block. I know you are asking why am I still trying to eat at this establishment after being shut down so many times. It is simple. All the reviews give this restaurant an outstanding assessment of the quality of the food.

 

Agua Con Gas y Noodles Appetizer

Agua Con Gas y Noodles Appetizer

 

I entered, it was raining cats and dogs the restaurant was fairly empty. I was quickly greeted by Monica one of the owners. She told me to sit wherever I wanted and asked me what I wanted to drink, as she brought me the menu. I chose Agua con gas. She brought a bowl of noodles and a sauce that was sweet and peanut tasting for me to snack on while my food was being prepared. I had to choose between the Green Curry and The Chicken Pad Thai. Giving that my stomach has issues with heavily spiced foods at times, I chose the Chicken Pad Thai and was not disappointed.

 

Chickem Pad Thai

Chickem Pad Thai

 

I inhaled the meal and was more than satisfied at the quality, the taste and the amount of food served. It is hard to find restaurants that can actually serve good tasting Thai dishes. I have no reservation about sending you to this restaurant. It is a quality endeavor and serves not good, but great Thai food. I will return and have the Green Curry prior to leaving Cuenca. I learned that Monica and George have been in Cuenca for about three and a half years and started in the design field. They are from New York originally by way of Thousand Okas California. Thank you George and Monica for such a great meal and Thank you Harper (their daughter) for taking such a wonderful photo of your Mom and Dad with the Nomadic Texan.

 

George and Monica with The Nomadic Texan

George and Monica with The Nomadic Texan

 

 

 

Homes of Hope… Day One

I have anticipated this morning for some time, with both fear and consternation. Will I be able to keep up with these young men, I am attending this event with or will I collapse from exhaustion and have a heat stroke? The alarm goes off  at 3:00 AM sharp, stirring my wife and I arise, to discover if I have still have it in me to pull my part in this escapade of generosity. I packed the night before. The boys and I shower quickly and place our bags in the car. My son Chris, his roommate and life long friend Brad, spent the night and we leave to pick up my other son Sean. Of course the “Old Man” has issues with the gate code at Sean’s apartment and the two boys give me a hard time! We see Sean walking to the car once we are in the gate and turn around to leave. As we are about to go back through the gate Sean remembers his passport is still in his apartment. Thank goodness Sean remembered it before we were at the airport or worse yet going into Mexico. I am hounded, as they all say I am too anxious and we are getting to the airport too early.

 

We enter the parking site, board the shuttle and walk into the biggest mess I have ever seen at Southwest, an airline I rarely fly. The ticketing line is probably 300 people long and the “system is down”, not to mention we all realize its Memorial Day weekend. The young brains immediately go into high gear and Chris checks in over the Internet. Brad goes out to the short baggage line check-in. Sean and I scratch our heads, roll our eyes and worry what will we do if we miss this flight!. Luckily the system pops up, Brad texts Chris and we all get in line at the exterior baggage check-in. We then all receive our boarding passes in no more than five minutes. We go through security, which is always fun with me (Bi-Pap, shoes, back pack, camera, etc). It takes four or so totes and the boys are being nice, but I know they are frustrated with the “Old Man”!

The Three Amigos

The Three Amigos

 

We board the flight with a “C” pass and luckily don’t all have to sit in middle seats, as we have early “C’s”. Flight to Phoenix is shaky and up to 15,000 feet the plane shakes like a baby rattle. We finally climb out of the disturbance and land in Phoenix. We make our flight to San Diego with no issues and are okay until the landing when the plane tilts to the left and skids on the runway. Needless to say, I almost had to change my underwear. Finally we are out of the air and realize its a 3 hour wait for the bus to the Rosarito Beach Hotel. We keep looking outside and no one is at the designated pick up spot, so we wait. Finally about 20 minutes prior to the bus’s arrival people start gathering and its a gang of rather various proportion of ages, builds and personalities.

 

The Gang's All Here!!!

The Gang’s All Here!!!

 

Our bus arrives and we all board for the ride to Tijuana. The border gate is brand new and we all disembark, grab our bags and go through Mexican security. You push a button and “random” red alerts are done (you have to step aside and have your bags searched) and most are green. We get three reds and the “Old Man” is the only green! We then load our bags back under the bus and I am impressed with Sean’s energy and enthusiasm. He gets into the baggage hold and loads all bags for the entire group (proud papa — maybe the Monster Energy drink helped). We drive to Rosarito Beach Hotel, not knowing what to expect.  Sean’s company Defender Direct is leading this mission of compassion and has an unusual philosophy in this day and time. They actually believe they have a responsibility to their fellow human beings and share the bottom line profits with needy families. What a remarkable company! I learn later they will not take it public, as they know they cannot control the distrubtion of funds once that happens. Very admirable!

 

The Rosarita Beach Hotel

The Rosarita Beach Hotel

 

We get off the bus and enter a wonderful, historic old hotel that has served movie stars, celebrities and royalty over the years. We are given our keys and people are divided into three teams Blue, red and green. We are told to meet in the lobby in two hours for a trip to YWAM where we will learn the itinerary and eat dinner. Sean draws the short straw and has to room with (the Old Man-Nomadic Texan) me. We unload baggage in room and discover we have no electricity. We turn on all breakers, plug in the refrigerator and test stuff out. We then walk around the hotel until time to be picked up in a old school bus, that has seen better years.

 

Let's Get This Show on The Road and Get Started!!!

Let’s Get This Show on The Road and Get Started!!!

 

We arrive at the YWAM/Homes of Hope camp and take a traditional group picture and enter the campus’ main hall. We eat dinner and instructions are given out along with designated group leads, assistant leads and translators for each family team. Quick procedures and schedules are divulged to the group along with a prayer that we succeed. The food is actually good. We receive our bandannas and T-Shirts. Back to the hotel and the “Nomadic Texan” hits the hay while the young men go out for the evening and get involved in who knows what.

 

Where's My Room Key???

Where’s My Room Key???

 

I leave a wake up call for 6:00 AM, as we are to meet in front at 7:00 AM! I am worried that I am too old to hang with these young men ALL day and work without embarrassing them. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough! And the “test” will begin!

 

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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