Viking Ocean Cruise Into the Midnight Sun Post #1

Bob Dylan Concert outside our hotel window

Prior to this cruise our experience with Viking was only on a River Cruise. Since I have a tendency to become very ill at sea, I was considerably nervous about this sailing. We flew into Bergen and had a reservation at the Thon Orion Hotel. As we checked into our room, I noticed there seemed to be a concert stage outside our hotel window and it made me nervous about our sleep. When we went downstairs to dinner I asked what hours the concert would play. The nice desk attendant replied from 8:00 PM until 10:00 PM and I was happy. Kim asked who was playing and the desk attendant replied Bob Dylan. I nearby fell over. We hurried through dinner and went straight to our room. We had a ringside seat to one of my favorite musicians. As the concert unfolded we realized we wouldn’t be able to see him as the setup was back under the roof in case of rain. That didn’t stop us from listening to a really great concert with many of his oldies played, even at New York Broadway show. He played a couple of encores and stopped just in time for the crowd to leave as the rain began pouring down.




Traditional Viking Cruise Life Preserver


The next morning after breakfast, we took a taxi a couple of kilometers away to the boarding area for Viking. It was starting to rain pretty well by the time we were ushered inside the welcome tent. As we had not been on an Ocean cruise with Viking we weren’t familiar with the procedures and more than once sought help from the staff. We showed our passports and they were taken in exchange for a room key that enabled us to enter our room, board and disembark the ship for tours and use as a general access method for all areas of the ship. After going through security just like at airports, we decided to tour the ship and found several items of interest aboard the Viking Sun. First was a globe on the Explorer’s deck that was gorgeous and accurate in design. Along side of it was a telescope to view the incoming ships and ports, also beautiful in overall look. In addition there were several libraries on multiple decks for your reading pleasure. This was a nice benefit since the ship was literally outfitted with a plethora of reading areas.


Gorgeous Globe on the Explorer Deck
Telescope to View the Oncoming Ships and Ports

After the Explorer deck we ventured outside to the sports area where we found a multitude of games to capture our fancy. A very nice Bocce Ball court, Table Tennis, Miniature golf, Shuffleboard, along with a fantastic watering station in case you become dehydrated. If by chance you just wanted to get a little sun, there were many areas to sit and sun yourself. I thought Viking had done an outstanding job with this deck.

Miniature Golf

The inside section of this deck in addition to the libraries included board games such as chess, backgammon and many other challenging pastimes. Also shown were relic replicas from the Vikings including a stone axe and a model ship. Many items were represented for your viewing pleasure. Also noteworthy is the second deck which was equipped with all sorts of electronic games and a Scrabble board or two. We thoroughly enjoyed this deck many times, especially on sea days.

Viking Axe
Replica of a Viking Sailing Ship

After reviewing the various decks and grabbing a bite of lunch we were let into our room. It was significantly larger than I had imagined. Our luggage had already arrived and was laid out for our unpacking. The room accessories included an umbrella large enough for us both, a pair of binoculars for shoreline viewing, slippers for venturing to the Spa, wonderful Freyja toiletries and a set of Wireless Tour Guide radios with one ear piece rather than the normal two that we were used to. We prefer the single now.

Twin Beds

Next to the beds was a working and seating area. Included were two large lounge chairs, a coffee table, a working desk area and a 42″ TV for catching up on Viking news, information about our specific tours and weather forecasts. The weather during our cruise was extraordinary. This region usually receives rain 181 days a year in Oslo and 270 days a year in Bergen with it being the tenth highest rainfall city in the world. We were definitely lucky to have sunshine most days.


Lounge Chairs

The desk area included free soft drinks, tonic water or club soda, nuts and several Toblerone bars which just happen to be one of my favorites, so they were constantly stocking the candy. Although there were two luxury restaurants on board, a wonderful buffet restaurant, a great burger bar for lunch next to the pool and we opted for room service on several days, generally at breakfast. It was wonderful and one can order 24 hours a day at no charge. Great omelets I must say!

Desk Area with Refrigerator

Notice the balcony off the desk area. Every room on-board is equipped with a fairly private veranda. We love having a morning coffee outside when weather permits. In addition we both had wonderful, size appropriate bathroom robes that we used many times, visiting the fantastic spa on board. Whether for a massage as I had, a facial as Kim had, the wonderful steam baths, saunas or the unique Snow Room. I thoroughly enjoyed the sauna and steam room, but jumping into the freezing water afterwards wasn’t my cup of tea. I thought after being in the steam room for several minutes I could handle the cold room, but I only lasted about 20 seconds I believe. Don’t laugh until; you experience this Scandinavian tradition!


Closet with Robe and Dresser.

If you notice the dresser has several drawers. My dresser as shown was equipped with four drawers. Kim’s dresser was right around the corner and also had four drawers. This was more than adequate for our needs. The hanging closet to the left was supported by two more closets adjacent to the entrance door. Needless to say a couple has adequate room to store a cruise worth of clothes. We were settled in and ready to tour Bergen the next day and learn about this charming city. Let the cruise begin!


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

Tahiti After 43 Years Maybe?

WIN THIS TRIP #EpiXtrip - Tell Us Your Story and Win a Trip to Tahiti

#epiXtrip Since my wife and I will be married 40 years this year and have dreamed of visiting Tahiti since we started dating 43 years ago, it certainly would be majestic if we were able to secure and win this glorious trip to Tahiti. If not here’s hoping one of our many traveling friends are able to secure it and enjoy themselves among the islands.
We have traveled individually and mostly together over this time and would certainly appreciate an opportunity to explore and experience Tahiti and all the wonderful accouterments of this paradise! We have always enjoyed the island life and the sea has been our natural vacation. Having the chance to see Tahiti and examine the traits of its culture, food and people would be the icing on our 43 years of traveling! Wish us luck and cross your fingers for us!
Kick your trip off at
The Brando (4 -nights) on the
private island of Tetiaroa———“It’s as if you created your own
private world and stepped
barefoot into your imagination.”


Ranked top resort in the South
Pacific by Travel + Leisure

We believe the power of travel
and storytelling can have a
positive impact on global
Marlon Brando hoped that
Tetiaroa Island could serve as
an ecological model, a place for
scientific research and
You will also participate with
the Tetiaroa Society as part of
your stay
After your stay at The Brando,
you’ll spend:
1 night at the Intercontinental
Tahiti Resort & Spa
2 nights at the Intercontinental
Bora Bora resort & Thalasso Spa
We hope your wanderlust is
stoked. Build and submit your
own travel story for a chance to
For contest rules and details
about how you can create a
winning STELLER story please
see the “EpiXtrip Contest Rules”
story under our users profile

Free Accommodation for Housesitters Who Travel the World!

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Marbella Beach at Sunset

Join a housesitting network, get verified and police checked, and then apply, it’s as easy as that. Tell the home and pet owner how and why you would make a good housesitter, tell them about your pet care experience, any particular breed of cat, dog or horse that you have known well. If you love gardening or don’t mind turning your hand to a few household chores, all that information is great to help you build your housesitter profile online. If you are chosen you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to explore a new location, with your host as a guide before they leave for their holiday. With multiple pages and web articles such as befreela exame article and guides on youtube, there is little excuse to not go out and start exploring!

Eiffel Tower at sunset, Paris

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St Paul’s Cathedral, London from the South Bank

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Dianne and Mike Housesitting near Oxford, England

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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.

Viking Cruises, Kinderdijk Windmills


I am fairly certain most of my followers understand my more than modest passion for history and my sincere love for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the aspects that first drew my attention to Viking River Cruises was their ability to share these sites with their passengers on their river cruises. I am totally enthralled by all the historical locations available for one to visit, when taking a cruise with Viking.


The Rhine Getaway on the Viking Longship Eir was no different and on our first day we were able to visit the Kinderdijk Windmills and explore history dating back to 1738. The windmills were originally constructed and used as vehicles for draining the polders, which are a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes and in this case intended to keep the water from the junction of the Lek and Noord rivers from overrunning the dikes.  The windmills are located 9 miles/15 Kilometers east of Rotterdam.


UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmill


After our Cheese making tour to the Holland dairy farm, we rode the bus through Kinderdijk and alongside the dikes. The story of the dikes is fascinating, as the dikes had been originally built nearly 300 years ago to keep water out of the farming land. To do this they had to configure a method to pump water out of the surrounding farmland, as it continued to flood after the advent of dikes. They discovered that an additional way to keep the polders dry was required.


Large canals, called “weteringen”, were dug to get rid of the excess water in the polders. However, the drained soil started setting, while the level of the river rose due to the river’s sand deposits. The land was basically peat (an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors or muskegs.) Essentially they weren’t able to maintain it as farm land. They were then required to make the decision to switch all farms to dairy operations.


Three UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills Alongside the Canals


In addition, it was decided to build a series of windmills, with a limited capacity to bridge water level differences (similar to current day locks on major rivers), but just able to pump water into a reservoir at an intermediate level between the soil in the polder and the river; the reservoir could be pumped out into the river by other windmills whenever the river level was low enough; the river level has both seasonal and tidal variations. Although some of the windmills are still used, the main water works are provided by two diesel pumping stations near one of the entrances of the windmills site.


The Diesel Fueled Archimedes Screw Used to Drain the Polders Currently


There are over 1000 windmills in Holland. Some are still being used for drainage, such as one or two of the nineteen in Kinderdijk. The Molen de Otter, still in operation in Amsterdam, is also used for drainage. The Molen de Valk in Leiden has been restored and now grinds grain once again. It is also a museum, a witness to the history of windmills in the area. The few mills that still turn are on the verge of losing power: with buildings around them getting higher (an interesting conundrum if I do say so), they can no longer catch the wind as they used to.


Diagram of Windmill Internal Gears Reflecting the Mechanical Operation


Our guide led us to a Kinderdijk windmill that was inhabited and we were allowed to climb through the windmill. I have to say it’s a very crowded place to live with basically no privacy, not to mention the extreme the angle of the stairs inside. I basically had to turn around and walk backwards down the stairs. The angle sufficiently frightened me so, that I couldn’t walk forward down the stairs, for fear of tumbling face first. I can only guess the inhabitants managed to overcome any fears similar to mine.


The different levels were separated by gender with the males sleeping on the second floor and the females on the third floor. Families had large amounts of children to help with the windmill operation. As explained by our guide, it was back breaking work and families never knew when they would be needed to help harness the wind and save the dikes from flooding. The families had to be on the ready 24 hours a day. Missing gusts of winds might allow flooding in the farmlands.


Kim in Windmill Women’s Level with Bed and a Closet for Basic Necessities


We came across a rail with the infamous wooden shoes of Holland. I thought it wasn’t a serious display until Robert explained they were mandatory in the peat and wet ground surrounding the windmills. If the population attempted to wear their normal cloth or leather footwear, it would be a serious mistake. Water penetrated both types of normal shoe gear and could lead to health problems or at minimum wet, cold feet in the winter. I was really surprised people actually had a need for these shoes. Can you imagine trying to maneuver around the thin blades of the fan with these clodhoppers on? I would surely not be able to master this task I’m guessing.


An Interior Rail Filled with Holland’s Infamous Wooden Shoes


After exploring the internal workings and living arrangements, Robert our astute and humorous Viking guide, explained how this huge gear wheel outside controlled the windmill blades similar to a ship’s wheel steers a sailboat. I can only gather it was fashioned after the same device. He told us how the young males would scamper up and down the fan blade frames to unfurl the material used to capture the wind and spin the Windmill. It was dangerous work, especially for the younger unskilled boys. One miss step and they could fall to their death. Can you imagine asking your children to scale a fan blade 35 feet in the air, knowing if they slipped it would certainly be extreme injury or even death? I’m not sure I could.



Robert Explaining the External Gear for Windmill Operation


Exploring windmills in Holland is an exciting thing to do. The Dutch have restored many of the historic sites. Once a year Holland holds “National Mill Day”.  Every second Saturday in May 600 windmills and watermills around the country open their doors to visitors. It’s an opportunity to see some of the historic mills that are no longer open day to day.  A great way to see these mills is by bicycle. Talk to anyone at a tourist information office and they’ll be able to give you a route by some of the most beautiful mills.


Two UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills Beside the Canal we Explored


Flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands, as about sixty five percent of its area is sensitive to flooding, while the country is among the most densely populated on Earth. Natural sand dunes and constructed dikes, dams, and floodgates provide fortification against storm surges from the sea. River dikes prevent flooding from water flowing into the country by the major rivers Rhine and Meuse, while a intricate system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations (historically: windmills) keep the low-lying parts dry for dwelling and farming.


After walking through the windmills and exploring the areas surrounding the canal Robert took us into a classroom that contained several spare parts for windmills and in the past had been used to help new tenants to understand the operation of the windmills so they could maintain them during their stay. It was a great session and Robert helped us understand the windmills’ function and how hard it was to keep them in operation.


Robert, Our Viking Guide, Reviewing History of Windmills


In modern times, flood disasters coupled with technological developments have led to large construction works to reduce the impact of the sea and prevent future floods. It is also a matter of survival. Twenty-six percent of the country is below sea level. This was overwhelming to me. This is a significant portion of the country to be at risk.

Historical accounts state that windmills in Holland served many purposes. The most important probably was pumping water out of the lowlands and back into the rivers beyond the dikes so that the land could be farmed. A immense North Sea storm in January 1953 flooded 500 square miles and killed more than 1,800 people. Therefore a large amount of study has gone into protecting the marsh lands and low lying farms that are really only good for dairy farming now.


Three UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills


The flood-threatened area of the Netherlands is fundamentally an earthly plain, built up from sediment left by thousands of years of flooding by rivers and the sea. About 2,000 years ago most of the Netherlands was covered by extensive peat swamps. The coast consisted of a row of coastal dunes and natural embankments which kept the swamps from draining but also from being washed away by the sea. The only areas suitable for habitation were on the higher grounds in the east and south and on the dunes and natural embankments along the coast and the rivers.


It never ceases to amaze me how man’s ingenuity is instrumental in resolving issues that arise throughout history. The Dutch people have sincerely faced adversity and calamity after calamity in regards to the low lands that have been used in various manners throughout the years. Flooding and extreme saturation of land is not a simple problem to mend, yet they have altered methods of existence to survive. There is no doubt the will to survive trumps all dilemmas that may arise.






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

Galveston Holiday Events

Galveston Holiday Events to Include New ‘Downtown Lanterns & Lights’ PLUS Cirque Joyeux Noel Show


It’s Island Time Galveston


GALVESTON, Texas (Oct. 10, 2017) –A new event will light up downtown Galveston this holiday season as part of the island’s eight weeks of “Winter Wonder Island” festivities.


‘Downtown Lanterns and Lights’ will feature a magical display of Christmas trees and other artisan made pieces as they illuminate Saengerfest Park from Nov. 24 through Jan. 2. The park will also feature an interactive photo frame and a giant snow globe that visitors can enter for family photos. The photo props will be available Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 9, 16 and 23.


In addition, performers from ‘America’s Got Talent’ will be featured in the new Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner & Show taking place Dec.15-25 at the Moody Gardens Hotel. The show tells an entertaining holiday story through acrobatics, illusions and comedy. The international cast includes The Pompeyo family and their amazing rescue dogs as seen on NBC’s hit show “America’s Got Talent.”


Tickets to the Cirque Joyeux Noel show include a buffet dinner and admission to Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens, the largest holiday lighting festival on the Gulf Coast. Festival of Lights – which includes a mile-long trail of more than 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays, ice skating, snow tubing and more – will take place Nov. 11- Jan. 7. Plus, one of the island’s most popular holiday attractions, ICE LAND, will return to Moody Gardens for its fourth year with a brand new “Rainforest Holiday” theme within a 28,000-square-foot ice sculpture attraction featuring 2 million pounds of ice.


While Moody Gardens has plenty of exciting attractions, the entire island will offer holiday cheer with eight weeks of “Winter Wonder Island” events and festivities. Here’s a look at what is happening in Galveston this holiday season:


“ICE LAND” at Moody Gardens
Date: Nov. 11 – Jan. 7
Time: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Where: Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: $26.95 adults; $21.95 seniors; $21.95 children

Description: This holiday season, Moody Gardens will be home to the coolest experience on the Gulf Coast, where visitors can explore a 28,000-square-foot “ice land” with a new Rainforest Holiday theme for 2017. Professional ice carvers will use 2 million pounds of ice to create this amazing exhibit featuring majestic rainforest themed ice sculptures, slides and even a Shivers Ice Bar serving cool libations for adults.


Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens 
Date: Nov. 11 – Jan. 7
Time: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. nightly
Where: Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: $10.95

Description: Brighten up the wintry season at the 16th annual Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens taking place Nov. 11 through Jan. 7. Here, guests can enjoy the largest holiday lighting event on the Gulf Coast, featuring a mile-long trail of more than 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays. Visitors to the festival can also go ice-skating at the Moody Gardens outdoor ice rink or snow tubing on the Arctic Ice Slide.


Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens


Holiday Performances at The Grand 1894 Opera House
Date: Nov. 12 – Jan. 13
Time: Varies
Where: The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice St., Galveston, TX
Admission: Varies

Description: The Grand 1894 Opera House will kick off the holiday season with a variety of exciting performances, including An Evening with Sophia Loren at 4 p.m. Nov. 12,Willie Nelson & Family at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13, STOMP at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 18, Christmas Wonderland Holiday Spectacular at 8 p.m. Nov. 24 and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 25, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 2, The City Ballet of Houston Presents The Nutcracker Dec. 9 and 10, The Texas Tenors: Deep in the Heart of Christmas at 8p.m. Dec. 15, Jerry Jeff Walker at 8 p.m. Dec. 16, and The Official Blues Brother’s Revue at 8 p.m. Jan. 13


Downtown Lanterns & Lights 
Date:  Nov. 24- Jan. 2
Time: Varies
Where: Saengerfest Park, 23rd and Strand Street, Galveston TX
Admission: Free

Description: ‘Downtown Lanterns and Lights’ will feature a magical display of Christmas trees and other artisan made pieces as they illuminate Saengerfest Park from Nov. 24 through Jan. 2. The park will also feature an interactive photo frame and a giant snow globe that visitors can enter for family photos. The snow globe will be available Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 9, 16 and 23.


Hotel Galvez Holiday Lighting Celebration
Date:  Nov. 24
Time: 6 p.m.
Where: Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: Free

Description: The historic Hotel Galvez & Spa invites guests to celebrate the start of the holidays Nov. 24 with the official City of Galveston Holiday Lighting Celebration.This free event includes a special appearance by Santa Claus, live holiday entertainment by local performers, including the Galveston Ballet, and the lighting of the hotel’s 35-foot Christmas tree. The hotel will offer a special weekend package as part of the event.


Holiday Shopping Amid the Victorian Charm of Galveston’s Historic Downtown 
Date: Nov. 24 – Dec.24
Time: Varies
Where: Downtown Historic Strand District
Admission: Free

Description: Nothing says holiday like the Victorian charm of Galveston’s 36-block Downtown Historic Strand District. Kick off your holiday shopping amid the district’s charming Victorian architecture for unique gift options at the many boutiques, art galleries, antique shops and other novelty stores. Some festive favorites include Christmas on the Strand, Hendley Market, Eighteen Seventy One, Visker and Scriveners and more.


Hendley Green Holiday Kickoff and Tree Lighting
Date: Nov. 26
Time: 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Hendley Green Park & Eighteen Seventy One gift shop
Admission: Free

Description: Hendley Green Park and specialty gift shop Eighteen Seventy One are coming together to offer a day of family-friendly fun. Children of all ages are encouraged to bring their letters to Santa for mailing off before the holidays in a specially crafted mailbox. Eighteen Seventy One, located adjacent to Hendley Green Park, will welcome guests with special discounts, refreshments, popcorn and more from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.A special prize wheel will be available for a chance to win tickets to Dickens on The Strand, the Galveston Historic Homes Tour and more. Hendley Green Park will offer craft beer from 2 to 7 p.m., a visit with Santa from 3 to 5 p.m., family-friendly games throughout the afternoon and a special Christmas tree lighting at 6:30 p.m.


Victorian Holiday Homes Tour
Date: Dec. 1
Time: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Where: East End Historical District
Admission: $20

Description: The island’s East End Historical District will hosts its annual Victorian Holiday Homes Tour featuring a variety of private historic homes. The public will be able to explore several private historic homes all decked out for the holidays.


44thAnnual Dickens on the Strand
Date: Dec. 1 – 3
Time: Varies
Where: Strand St., Historic Downtown Galveston, Galveston, TX
Admission: Friday admission is free. For Saturday/Sunday early bird tickets (purchased before Dec. 1): adults $13; children $7. At the gate: adults $15, children $9

Description: The first weekend in December, don’t miss Dickens on The Strand. The festival transforms Galveston’s historic Strand Street into the Victorian London of Charles Dickens Dec. 1-3. Enjoy libations at Fezziwig’s Beer Hall on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday admission is free. On Saturday, festival goers will see characters from Dickens novels walk the streets and costumed vendors peddle their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and gifts. Strolling carolers and roving musicians will fill the area with enchanting sounds from another era as “steam punks” entertain the crowds. Attendees in Victorian costume are admitted for half price.


Dickens on The Strand Christmas Town Crier


Cheer on the Pier!
Date: Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 23
Time: Varies
Where: Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (25th Street and Seawall Boulevard)
Admission: Varies

Description: Spend Saturdays in December at the Pleasure Pier with Santa! Families can watch holiday movies; enjoy fun festivities and rides! Activities at Santa’s Workshop are from 12. to 4 p.m. and include photos with Santa, letters to Santa and cookie decorating. Holiday movies will take place from 7 to 9 p.m.


Sunday Brunch with Santa at Hotel Galvez
Date: Dec.3, 10, 17, 24
Time: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: Adults $42.99; children $26.99; seniors $37.99

Description: Hotel Galvez’ famous Sunday brunch will be full of cheer this holiday season with visits from Santa Dec. 3, 10, 17 and 24. Brunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and children are invited to visit with Santa to share their Christmas wish list. Advance reservations are recommended. For more information and to make a reservation, call 409-765-7721.


Holiday in the Park
Date: December 9, 2017
Time: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Saengerfest Park, 2302 Strand St., Galveston, TX
Admission: Free

Description: Bring the family to downtown Galveston’s Saengerfest Park for a day of holiday tunes from area school choirs, bands and church choirs at the annual Holiday in the Park. Children will also be able to visit and take pictures with Santa.


Santa on The Strand and other Santa Sightings
Date: Dec. 9, 16 and 23
Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Saengerfest Park, 2302 Strand St., Galveston, TX
Admission: Free

Description: Visitors to downtown Galveston can take part in free festivities held at Saengerfest Park this December. Santa will make a special appearance from 1 to 4 p.m. and will take photos with children in front of the downtown Christmas tree. Be sure to also catch island-wide Santa Sightings throughout the season including photos with Santa at Moody Gardens daily Dec. 15-23, Santa at The Grand 1894 Opera House Nov. 25, Breakfast with Santa at Rainforest Café Dec. 16 and 23, and Breakfast with Santa at The San Luis Resort Blake’s Bistro Dec. 17.


Surfing Santa at Schlitterbahn


Holiday with the Cranes
Date: Dec. 9-10
Time: Varies
Where: Locations vary
Admission: From $25 to $60

Description: For a unique holiday experience, join the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council for “Holiday with the Cranes.” This annual birding event will be held Dec. 9-10 as outdoor enthusiasts celebrate the arrival of these large, majestic birds of ancient origin. Events include indoor and outdoor nature activities and presentations combined with the ambiance of historical Galveston Island.


Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner & Show at Moody Gardens Hotel
Date: Dec. 15-25
Time: 7:45 p.m.
Where: Moody Gardens Convention Center, 7 Hope Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: Prices start at $39 for children and $59 for adults

Description: Experience the magnificent and the impossible at Moody Gardens this holiday season as it hostsCirque Joyeux Noel Dinner and Show. The show features a stellar cast of international performers from all over the world and includes amazing acrobatics, mesmerizing illusions, hilarious comedy and more.This year’s holiday show features all-new acts including The Pompeyo Family and their amazing rescue dogs featured on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Tickets to the show include a holiday buffet dinner and admission to Festival of Lights.


Santa Train at the Galveston Railroad Museum
Date: Dec. 16
Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Galveston Railroad Museum, 2602 Santa Fe Place, Galveston, TX
Admission: $12 adults (ages 13+); $5 train rides (ages 2+)

Description: Santa is coming to town aboard the Galveston Railroad Museum’s Harborside Express train! The museum’s annual Santa Train event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 16. Bring your wish list to visit with Santa, stroll through the museum’s Garden of Steam and enjoy festive holiday lights, decorations and crafts.


Santa Hustle Half Marathon & 5K
Date: Dec. 17
Time: 8 a.m.
Where: Downtown Historic Galveston
Admission: Varies

Description: Runners will have a “jolly good time” Dec. 17 in Galveston at the annual Santa Hustle! This wacky event will feature thousands of “Santas” along the gorgeous Gulf waters for half marathon and 5K races. All event participants will receive a Santa suit long sleeve t-shirt, a free Santa hat and beard to wear while running, and will be able to stop at cookie and candy stations along their routes.


Christmas Day Brunch at Hotel Galvez
Date: Dec. 25
Time: 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, TX
Admission: Adults $42.99; children $26.99; seniors $37.99

Description: Hotel Galvez is widely known for its Sunday Brunch, but the hotel brunch on Christmas Day is an even grander affair. The hotel features all the traditional entrees along with special features created by the executive chef. Seating times are from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Advance reservations are required and must be made directly with the hotel by calling 409.765.7721. Reservations will be accepted beginning Tuesday, Nov. 28.


About Galveston Island

Galveston Island is the “Winter Wonder Island” of Texas, featuring more than 50 days of holiday festivities and more than 1,000 holiday events during the winter season. The island is home to the largest holiday lighting event on the Gulf Coast, Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens, as well as the nationally known Victorian Christmas festival Dickens on The Strand among many other attractions. For more information on holiday activities in Galveston,




Galveston Tourism Makes Full Return to Business Post-Harvey with Reopening of Railroad Museum Yesterday


It’s Island Time


GALVESTON, Texas (September 6, 2017) – Galveston tourism has made a full return to business with the reopening of the Galveston Railroad Museum today. All Galveston beaches and major attractions are now open.


The museum, which is located downtown, was the only major attraction on the island that had remained closed this week due to flood damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Galveston’s beaches and most major tourist attractions received minimal damages from the storm and reopened last week in time for the Labor Day weekend.


Galveston Railroad Museum Exterior


In addition, 98% of businesses in historic downtown Galveston have reopened since the storm, according to a survey conducted by Galveston’s Downtown Partnership.


“We are fortunate to have fared well through the storm and made a quick bounce back,” said Kelly de Schaun, executive director of the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Galveston Park Board. “I think it really speaks to the resiliency of our community and our commitment to southern hospitality. We will roll out the welcome mat for whoever is ready. We know so many people value the island as a place to get away, relax and make priceless memories.”


All of Galveston’s beach parks have reopened and are following their normal post-Labor Day schedules. Parking fees have been waived along the seawall and downtown through Sept. 14.


This weekend, the island will continue with popular events like Artwalk and Music Nite on The Strand.  Both events are free and will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday in the island’s historic downtown district. For more information, visit


Watch this video to see how Galveston is doing after the storm! Click here.



Galveston Beach Parks, Tourist Attractions Reopen After Hurricane Harvey


It’s Island Time


Galveston Beach Parks, Tourist Attractions Reopen After Hurricane Harvey

Galveston Tourism Attractions Sustain Minimal Damage from Hurricane Harvey 



GALVESTON, Texas (Sept. 1, 2017) –  Several of Galveston’s beach parks and tourist attractions have reopened to the public following Hurricane Harvey’s arrival last weekend.  The beaches and the island’s major tourist attractions received minimal damages from the storm.

The parks – including Stewart Beach, Seawolf Park and Dellanera RV Park, reopened today. Seawall beaches have been open since Monday.

Kelly de Schaun, executive director of the Galveston Park Board and Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the storm caused temporary flooding at the parks with limited damage. Flood waters in Galveston’s historic downtown district are gone and 80% of businesses in the district are open, according to Galveston’s Downtown Partnership.

“Galveston’s tourism industry was blessed to have fared relatively well through the storm,” de Schaun said. “Our goal at this point is to simply update our partners on the status of our beaches and tourism assets. We understand that so many communities in this region are suffering greatly and, as an industry and organization, our focus is on providing support to those that were heavily impacted.”

Galveston’s hotels are open and operating as normal. No major issues have been reported at the island’s hotel and lodging venues.  The following major attractions are open:

  • 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA*Offering free
    admission through Sept. 4
  • American Undersea Warfare Center
  • Artist Boat
  • Bishop’s Palace *Offering free admission through Sept. 4
  • Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
  • Moody Gardens
  • Moody Mansion
  • Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum*Offering free admission through Sept. 4
  • Pier 21 Theater *Offering free admission through Sept. 4
  • Texas Seaport Museum *Offering free admission through Sept. 4
  • The Bryan Museum*Offering free admission through Sept. 4
  • The Grand 1894 Opera House
  • Galveston Cruise Terminal/Port of Galveston

Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark will open Saturday. East Beach and the West End Pocket Parks remain closed due to limited staff and a power outage at the East Beach Pavilion. The Galveston Railroad Museum experienced flood damage and is closed until further notice.

For more information, visit

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #11

We had an early start from the ship and after a fairly long bus ride, we arrived in Salzburg and started our walking tour through this fabulous historic city. Along the way we encountered the Bristol Hotel. There are approximately 200 hotels around the world with the name Bristol. Some are extravagantly decorated and some are average. The hotel first associated with Bristol name was the Place Vendome in Paris. It closed and a Hotel Le Bristol Paris opened in close proximity to the original. It’s currently located near Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore’ and is one of Paris’ 5-star hotels.


The Hotel Bristol in Salzburg was constructed originally in 1619 with Archbishop Paris Lodron planting the first block of it’s foundation. After it was completed it served as the residence of many noble families. Over the centuries it was redone by several individuals until it attained it’s present design in the 19th century. In the 1890’s the hotel was taken over by the city of Salzburg and was supplied with electricity. The hotel became known as the “Electric Hotel” and helped supply electricity to a portion of Old Quarter.



Bristol Hotel, Salzburg Austria


Over the years many movie stars, government officials and illustrious men and women have stayed at this hotel. Approximately 74 years ago the Hubner family assumed custody of the hotel and it is run by their third generation today. One of a very few privately held hotels in Salzburg under their exclusive management.


Most people are reminded of the movie “The Sound of Music”, a story about the Von Trapp Austrian family when they hear Salzburg. It was filmed in distinct locations around the city including the Mirabell Palace and Gardens and St. Peters Monastery, Cementary and Catacombs, along with the Leopoldskron Palace. The cast and ensemble all stayed at the Bristol Hotel during the filming in 1965, in Mozart’s home town!




***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.


Looking For A Great Wedding Venue in South Africa

The Importance of a Good Wedding Venue
There is so much to think about when it comes to your wedding day. It takes an enormous amount of planning. It is worth the effort because it should be the happiest day of your life. You can plan of course but then you still have to rely on others to play their part in ensuring the day goes exactly as you would like. That means the transport turns up on time, the guests get their invitations in plenty of time and the flowers meet your expectations. The dress, the church, the photographer and the reception venue, all have to be right. It can seem an overwhelming challenge when you first sit down to think about all the things involved.


Wedding Bouquet

Wedding Bouquet



You do not want to leave anything to chance. That is why you need to go for professionalism. If your photographer does not produce the album that you want there is no second chance. Likewise your reception needs to be in a place that is used to hosting and catering for numbers. The best solution for that is surely a hotel that regularly hosts conferences, providing both accommodation and a suitable room that can hold the number of guests you intend to invite.



If you are looking for hotels with wedding venues in mind in Johannesburg you may decide that a quiet suburb is the best option, somewhere like 54 On Bath that has excellent transport links without being too busy and central. The only noise you will want is your friends enjoying themselves at your reception after the ceremony.



Research and Response
You may want to do some research because the reception venue is important. Good hotels will have plenty of information on their websites about what they have to offer. They should also be responsive to any questions and inquiries almost immediately. Every good accommodation website has an interactive facility so hotels will see your approach immediately if you decide to make it online rather than telephone.



You may have ideas about the menu you want to have and the catering manager will be the person to talk to for that. You might possibly still be open to suggestions and experienced professionals are likely to know from their experience the popular dishes that are always received well.
A good facility should be able to adapt to a seating plan if you want a particular layout. Equally it may have a suggestion to fit the bill. You will certainly want the venue dressed for the occasion and florists will need to work closely with the conference manager to make sure you get what you want. As the day approaches you will certainly become more nervous. One thing that you should not be nervous about is your reception venue if you make the right choice.




Image courtesy of Rosen Georgiev/

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?




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, #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 #78, My Special Pedicure at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

I am very fond of pedicures and having my feet massaged. When given the Spa menu at the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat I opted for a pedicure, as opposed to a massage. Over the prior week I had received two wonderful Thai massages. One massage was in Bangkok and the other one in Phuket, so I decided I would go for a change of pace. I made my reservation and went to spa a few minutes prior to my pedicure. The waiting room was filled with deep cushioned chairs and lounges and I thought, given a few minutes I might just doze off.


Entrance to The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Entrance to The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat


The attendants let me know that I would have a session in their Antioxidant room prior to the pedicure. When I inquired what that meant, they led me in and had me lay prone on a mat and relax. Almost immediately the room was filled with a very warm blast of air and I felt like I was in a sauna. The attendant informed me that my session, which would basically eliminate toxins from my entire body, was to last fifteen minutes. After what seemed an eternity, and an inability to breathe I got up and decided I had to leave the room and grab a few whiffs of oxygen. Once I was outside I discovered I had only been in the room for right at five minutes. I cannot understand how anyone could last the full fifteen minutes.


Antioxidant Room at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Antioxidant Room at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat


I was then lead into the pedicure room by the attendant scheduled to perform my pedicure and she began the process. I interviewed the young lady, as she began the procedure and I discovered that she was from India, a graduate of business school and was at the Banjaran to learn how to run a spa. Her dream was to return to India and open her own spa, after absorbing everything she could at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat. I inquired how they interviewed her and she stated by a Google Hangout. I thought that was very cool, given we conduct a Google+ Hangout almost weekly with our son in Japan. I love the process. Obviously they thought she was what they needed, as she was hired and given two weeks to move to Ipoh Malaysia, where the spa is located.



The Pedicure Room for the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

The Pedicure Room for the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat


My pedicure was to last one hour, but it turned out I was in the room for 90 minutes, as we talked about her dream and my travel blogger business. I was amazed to learn that she was fluent in four languages. She was a very intelligent, extroverted young lady and I could tell she would achieve her dream and have that spa one day. I believe this with all my heart. She was well versed in customer service attributes and was learning the details of all the spa processes. I wish her the best of luck and need to thank her publicly, for what turned out to be the best pedicure I have ever had. If she continues down this path, learning all the other spa treatments, her spa in India will be very successful and profitable.



*** 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 #76, When You Are At The Driskill, You Know You Are In Texas

The Driskill Hotel in Austin was completed in 1886 and is named after a cattleman named Jesse Driskill. Each side of this Historic Hotel is impressive and has a similar stucco exterior with appropriate limestone trim. This view below faces 6th street and is a block off of Congress Avenue, in the middle of the after hours district filled with bars, restaurants and breweries. Sixth Street is also home to some of the best music in the country, with bands performing from all over the world, throughout the year.


The Driskill Hotel

The Driskill Hotel


When you enter the lobby from the main entrance on the east side of the hotel, this antique ceiling light extends almost the width of the walkway and pretty well hits you right between the eyes with its warm glow. It is a very detailed fixture and you can’t help but stare as you walk by a plethora of antique furniture collected through the years. The big five pointed star in the middle, makes one start to imagine they are in the wild wild west again.


The Chandelier In the Driskill Lobby

The Light Fixture In the Driskill Lobby


Throughout the hotel lobby and guest areas there are numerous western couches made from cowhides and made with comfort in mind. You can bet I tried one out and it took a lot of urging to get my rear end up. I wanted to stretch out, relax and take a nap. I wanted to dream about being a cowboy and meeting Lillie Langtry!


A Cowhide Couch in the Hallway

A Cowhide Couch in the Hallway


On the way to the bar one walks by several sets of revolvers and you know full well you are in Texas now. The guns, including a few rifles, are displayed throughout the second floor. The second floor is home to the hotel’s bar and restaurant. If you need to use the facilities I urge you to make use the restrooms on this level. You will be amazed at the accessories available for your amusement.


Revolvers in the Driskill

Revolvers in the Driskill


When you walk up to the second floor, from the lobby and head to the bar area, you encounter this massive replica of a Texas steer colorfully decorated with the Driskill’s exterior, superimposed against the state flag and the hotel’s logo. I urge you to deviate from any pre-planned tour and take an hour or so to see this magnificent architectural structure, a member of the Historic Hotels of America and the oldest operating hotel in Austin. If you bypass this hotel in favor of one of the suggested tourist traps then shame on you!


A Bull in The Driskill

A Bull in The Driskill





Photo of The Day #71, Panaderia Deluxe at The Oro Verde Hotel Guayaquil

As I stumbled down to the coffee shop in the lobby of The Oro Verde Hotel, I told myself the trip to Ecuador was just beginning and I needed to just have coffee and something healthy, in a manner of speaking. I had no idea I would encounter such a plethora of sweet items that challenged my desire to remain healthy. After all I was on a 5-week trial run to see what the real cost of living in Cuenca was for a month. I knew my fiend Efrain of Mio Tours would be there soon and I had to make a decision.


Assorted Sweets for Anytime of the Day

Assorted Sweets for Anytime of the Day


I decided I would eat healthy when I got to Cuenca and settled into my condo. To heck with being healthy, when all this was staring me in the face. Not only was I pondering the quantity and assortment of sweets to ingest, I actually had serious debates with myself about the assorted sandwiches and salads displayed in this case below. Decisions should never be made when you are hungry! I knew this and also was very familiar with the process of having Mio Tours (You Tube Link) drive me to Cuenca. I knew full well that we would stop at a restaurant my friend Efrain favored in Puerto Inca. The lunches with juice and soup run around $3.50 per person and are very tasty.


Sandwiches and Ready to Eat Items

Sandwiches and Ready to Eat Items


Then of course another challenge is the magnificent bread they prepare all over Ecuador and since it is so inexpensive you want to buy every type of loaf available and see what is in line with your tastes and what isn’t. Down deep I knew I couldn’t buy more than one type of bread at a time and would have to wait until I got to Cuenca and shop at Maria’s Alemania Bakery. This bakery has the absolute best breads in the world, bar none!


Loaves and Loaves of Fantastic Bread / Pan

Loaves and Loaves of Fantastic Bread / Pan


Oh how I wanted to box up one of these whole cakes and take it with me to the Condo. I could then bury my face in all that sweet goodness and eat like a pig! No one would see me and no one would know. So why not you ask? Because rather simply put, I have to live with myself and couldn’t do this without totally stressing out! Oh well maybe next time. I absolutely love all the Panaderias in Ecuador and they make very delicious goods. Most are so inexpensive it is almost embarrassing. This shop was nothing really out of the normal and is fairly representative of the bakeries in Ecuador. One of life’s small pleasures and I can’t wait to get back to Ecuador and eat my fill of sweets! Waistline? What waistline? I can always walk it off in Cuenca! After all it is situated at around 8500 feet above seal level and that takes more than a little effort when you are my age.


Take Home Cakes and Other Sweet Delicacies

Take Home Cakes and Other Sweet Delicacies






My Amazing Life-Chapter 11, Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket Review

My recent  excursion to Thailand and Malaysia was a trip of a lifetime and I owe a great deal of gratitude to the Tourism Authority of ThailandThai Airways  and Tourism Malaysia USA. The trip was full of 5-Star hotels, restaurants and some of the most fabulous tours I have ever been on, but staying at this hotel was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. The Centara Grand Beach Resort was one of the top five hotels I have stayed at in my entire life, including my many trips to Asia, as a buyer for Six Flags amusement parks in the seventies.


Centara Grand Beach Resort in Phuket

Centara Grand Beach Resort in Phuket


Flying in from Bangkok we saw a view of Phang Nga Bay and all the wonderful islands. We had a bus waiting and drove through old town Phuket for a quick shopping spree and drove up to this entrance. It made a statement and everything had been prepared for us and we immediately were prepared to be taken to our rooms. Before I go any farther I will tell you this post will have more photos, than any post I have published. I think I took around 200 total of just the hotel, spa, beach and grounds.


Centara Entrance

Centara Entrance


If you know me, you know I have a very weak bladder, so before the tram took us to our rooms, I used the facilities. My word it was like I was outdoors and we even had a waterfall, just in case we needed any coaxing. Not an issue with me!


Mens Restroom Waterfall

Mens Restroom Waterfall


I walked out and one of the ladies was coming out of their restroom and asked if I would like to see it. She assured me it was vacant. Well of course I said yes. Their view was similar except their sinks looked out over the waterfalls. I was so blown away that it is included in my video later on in the post.


Ladies Restroom Sinks

Ladies Restroom Sinks 


We had our luggage loaded on trams and were taken to our “rooms”, passing several buildings on the way. This section appeared to be similar to the area we were staying in, but not as secluded. You can see the rooms on the bottom floor had pools or Jacuzzi’s by the tile.


Rooms with Pools (Bottom Rooms)

Typical Centara Rooms


Every morning when we came down to eat breakfast at The Cove Restaurant, we roamed along this lovely courtyard and glimpsed the beach. The view was magnificent and literally took your breath away! It was a short hike from the room, so each of us really worked up an appetite, as we strolled daily.


Courtyard to Dining at The Cove

Courtyard to Dining at The Cove


This photo is of the Omelet station and of course I ate my share while we were there. This gentleman had the preparation down to an art and never made any mistakes. He had a lot of satisfied customers.


Omelet Station

Omelet Station at The Cove


They make a crepe like item that is sparsely spread on the large griddle in the middle and cooks very quickly. It can be topped off with jams or have products inserted while cooking. It was a daily ritual for me and tasted so good. I hope I am not getting the name wrong, but it reminded of me and was similar to a product we ate, named Roti Canai, later in our trip. If I am incorrect I apologize to my readers. If you know the true name please leave a comment below the post and share with my readers.


Fresh Roti (Bread) Station

Fresh Roti Canai or Crepes (Bread Stuffed with Sweets) Station at The Cove


Inside there were so many stations with fruits, breads, various traditional Thai breakfast soups served over or with rice and just about anything you can imagine that one would eat at breakfast whether normal or not to you.


Carious Local Broths and Rice

Various Local Broths and Rice at The Cove


My room was very spacious and had a coffee area with refrigerator stocked to the limit. The work area or desk was phenomenal and had enough electric outlets to charge every piece of equipment I had at one time. The view out the sliding glass doors was tremendous and inspiring. It may not look like it but this King size bed was huge and very comfy.


Desk Area in Room Behind King Size Bed

Desk Area in Room Behind King Size Bed


How many photos can one take of their room? I knew it would be hard, but I had to include the glorious shower with a high pressure rain head. It was spectacular and really had an aggressive spray. My tired and aching body loved it for sure, every day I jumped in.


In Room Shower with a Great Rain Head

In Room Shower with a Great Rain Head


What’s this? I walked out my sliding glass doors and found a unimaginable patio setup complete with a huge swimming pool and Jacuzzi. I was blown away that they would have this type of arrangement and I found out we all had a similar room. The privacy curtain could be raised at your discretion to keep nosy passers by from observing your activity. My only regret is I didn’t take a photo at night with the pool lit up. It was stunning.


In Room Swimming Pool

In Room Swimming Pool


The Centara’s spa was named Cenvaree. It is out of this world, with first class amenities and options that one could use the entire day. Again, my issue was how many photos do I share? I decided I would let you see what the waiting area looked like. We were served water prior to our wonderful massages and a warm tea afterwards. I truly love having my body beat up and my muscles dug into. It is so relaxing. I had a traditional Thai massage, in which they use their elbows and get deep into the tissue. It hurt substantially at first, but as it progressed I grew used to it and had all my stress and sore muscles relaxed afterwards.



Spa Waiting area

Spa Cenvaree Waiting area


This is what the pedicure room looked like, but I only had so much time and couldn’t take advantage of the therapy. I did later at another hotel. There is nothing like having your feet massaged to relieve your body’s stress. Okay go ahead call me a Metro-Sexual. I really don’t care. I love spas.


Pedicure Station

Spa Cenvaree Pedicure Station


The Centara is located right on the water and you just have to walk just across the entry road to reach their fantastic beach. On my first visit I was totally surprised at the size, the beauty and all the normal chairs, umbrellas and beach lounges. I had no idea it was so large. Of course I took around 30 to 40 photos and had a dickens of a time trying to decide which to keep. So I decided on these three with the first one showing just the beach and a great wave.


Centara Beach

Karon Beach


This one show you what the chair and umbrella arrangement looked like looking to the south and kind of back towards the hotel entrance. I could have stayed on this beach all day for our entire visit, but we had tours and restaurants and shopping to participate with.


Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

Karon Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas


The last photo, yes I said last, was of the beach facing north and giving you a taste of the cove we were located in. In addition you can see the view that a few locals had from their wonderful villas up the side of the hill.


Beach Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas

Karon Beach Chaise Lounge Chairs with Umbrellas


All good things must come to an end, but I cannot rave enough about this hotel. A friend ask recently about what accommodations were available in Phuket, as she had a friend getting married and they wanted it to be on the beach. They had broken it down to Phuket and an island area in Thailand. I couldn’t type fast enough. I recommend the Centara Grand Beach Resort and told her that her friend would remember her wedding forever, just like I will remember my stay at this luxurious establishment forever.





*** 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 #64, #NomadicTexan

Last march Kim and I had the pleasure of visiting Cuenca Ecuador. Kim had never been and wanted to see why I was so excited and in love with Cuenca. We stayed at the Casa Ordonez, run and managed by Alberto Ordonez. Alberto is a master of great customer service and he is like family to me now. He always has time to help, regardless of his schedule and he knows everybody in the entire town I think.


Earl and Max who Made Our Tours Great!

Earl and Max, Who Made Our Tours Great!


Kim and I wanted to see Ingapirca, the Incan Ruins site. Alberto mentioned that a couple of gentlemen staying at the Casa were going and might just allow us to tag along. We met them in the lobby the next morning and they agreed to let us go with them. It helped us both reduce the cost of the tour. What we did not know was how entertaining and friendly these two would be. We thoroughly enjoyed their company and communicate back and forth now.



We visited El Chorro waterfall one day and a debate, lesson or discussion broke out about bamboo between Max and Kim. It was hilarious to me and I caught a portion of it on video. Hope you enjoy and thanks Earl and Max for letting us tag along. We had a blast with you guys!

My Amazing Life-Chapter 7, The Royal Chulan Hotel Review

As one enters the Royal Chulan Hotel in Kuala Lampur Malaysia, you are reminded that it is a 5-Star accommodation, as the various views overload you with affluence. The winding staircase, the sitting area and this magnificent atrium of tropical plants all bombard you with opulence. You are temporarily memorized and seduced by its charm.


Entry Way

Entry Way Atrium


As I entered my room the first thing I noticed was that even though it was 90 plus degrees Fahrenheit outside, the air conditioner was not turned on. I gasped at the heat. I immediately turned it on and waited to no avail. I called downstairs and they stated they would be sending someone up to repair the A/C. The room accommodations, including this King Size bed were very nice and as expected high end.


King Size Bed

King Size Bed


Traveling through Thailand and Malaysia one thing that struck me was the amount of space and luxury they devoted to the bathrooms. This one was no different and had a glassed in large shower, glassed in toilet and this wonderful spacious sink.


Shower and Sink Area

Shower and Sink Area


This bathroom, as in one other hotel bathroom, had a view from the tub area to the bedroom. I would venture it made it easier to roll out of bed and climb directly into a warm bath. Sorry I am not going where you are surely thinking right now!


Bath With View from Bedroom

Bath With View from Bedroom


We had a hotel tour scheduled and I left the room to partake in the tour. We saw several rooms that were similar in nature to mine, but the other side of the hotel had a spectacular view of the pool and spa entrance area. Definitely request a fourth floor or higher room to secure this view and your private balcony.


Pool Area from Balcony of Fourth Floor

Pool Area from Balcony of Fourth Floor


The walkway beside the pool at ground level was filled with fountains, plants and various flowering bushes and trees. It was simply stated, gorgeous!


Walkway Beside Pool with Fountains

Walkway Beside Pool with Fountains


We walked around the pools, as there are three. The large swimming pool, a children’s pool and a massive Jacuzzi. As we turned the final corner we faced the Telaga Bunga Spa entrance and I found the spa very enchanting. and unique in some ways.


Telaga Bunga Spa

Telaga Bunga Spa


The spa has your normal massage areas and pedicure/manicure stations along with facial applications. The most unique experience we were shown was the couples massage area. It was equipped with dual tables, a tub sink and just about anything you could think of for using after a massage. It was huge and I was blown away. I want to do this!


Couples Massage Room

Couples Massage Room


The couples massage room included this huge shower. I am sure it could have held our entire group. Just to be clear we did not all walk into the shower to validate this. It was just an observation by yours truly.


Huge Shower in Private Spa Room for Couples

Huge Shower in Private Spa Room for Couples 


We then went to the restaurant for dinner. I was starving and did not take photos of all the elaborate stations. They had Italian, Japanese, American, French and many more types of food in their buffet. I had sushi that was out of this world and a few other various items. Of course as always, I had to try their desserts. Funny how I remembered to photograph this area.


Dessert Box

Dessert Box


Tired and full I retreated to my room and was very surprised. My air conditioner had not been repaired and the technician had left a mess in my room. I was still perspiring profusely. Luckily they have a hose system that is like a bidet and they have men come by to validate the toilet area is clean every night.


When he knocked on my door and saw my issue with the air conditioner he immediately had me transferred to another room and waited to see if the A/C worked in my new room, along with securing me another adapter for my laptop. The service this young man gave was outstanding and indicative of what I visualize the hotel’s desire to please is.


The hotel is superior and it is unfortunate that I had the air conditioning issue, but I would certainly go back and would recommend the Royal Chulan to all tourists and businessmen spending time in Kuala Lampur. Next time I will take my wife and we can let you know how the Couples Massage is!





*** 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 #59

I have stayed with many a hotel in my traveling history, ranging from low end budget types to 5-star luxury hotels. One of the ways I judge a hotel is the bathroom facilities and size. Obviously cleanliness is paramount to receive a favorable review from me.


As I entered the bathroom at the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, I was taken back by the size of the shower and the various heads available. The view below is as you enter. It reflects a shower head with hose and a bench behind the door with room for at minimum, two people on the bench.



Right Side of Shower as You Enter

Right Side of Shower as You Enter


The next photo is of the left side and shows that you have a choice of shower heads if you opt for this side. Overhead is a magnificent Rain head with sufficient power. I find that most of the Rain heads only allow a light spray. This one had a great blast and was extremely invigorating.


On the wall is a double headed spray that lifts up and allows you the benefit of two full Massage heads. They are fantastic after a long day of traveling. I assessed the area in the shower and thought to myself one could have a party and six or eight people would not be crowded, if that was the case. It was unbelievable in size and facility. I do not think I have ever encountered such a large and useful shower in my life.



Left Side of Shower as You Enter With Two More Heads

Left Side of Shower as You Enter, With a Rain Head and Fold Out Double Head Massage Shower


After the fabulous shower I sauntered outside to see what the beach held and found this view. I was overwhelmed and could have stayed there all evening watching the sun set, but alas we had dinner arrangements and I had to leave! If you are ever in Penang Malaysia you have to stay at this hotel.


It is one of my top five hotels of all time. A more detailed blog post is forthcoming. While I showered at home this morning, I yearned for this gigantic refuge, as I continually bumped into the sides of my small shower stall at home. #Bummer!!!



Wonderful Beach Setting in the Late Afternoon

Wonderful Beach Setting in the Late Afternoon





*** 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.





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