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, Cologne Germany

On our second full day with our Rhine Getaway cruise on Viking River Cruises, we visited Cologne Germany and had a walking tour which included the Cologne Cathedral, Old Town and the St. Martin’s Church. As in most European cities the architecture was gorgeous and primarily filled with vintage buildings.


Anniversary Cake from The Viking Eir Staff


The primary reason we decided on the Rhine Getaway cruise was that our 39th wedding anniversary fell during the length of this cruise and it explored several countries we haven’t visited. I surprised Kim the second day, which was our actual anniversary with flowers, candy, fruit and a bottle of sparkling bubbly. What I didn’t know was the staff of the Viking Eir had a surprise for the both of us. That night at dinner they brought out this cake made from passion fruit. OMG was it delicious. They also serenaded us with a love song. It was quite a night and we split the cake with those passengers that dined with us. I think they were happy they chose to sit with us that night.


Front View of the Cologne Cathedral Church


The bus picked us up at the ship and took us into Cologne, passing all sorts of architecture, housing and retail structures along with transportation venues such as their train system and buses. Europe has a large step up on the US when it comes to mass transportation, just like Asia. We disembarked and followed our guide Peter from the bus to the Cologne Cathedral, which is located adjacent to the train station and Old Town. It is a magnificent structure, as are most of the churches in Europe. Cologne Cathedral is the fourth-tallest church building in the world at 157.4 m (516 ft). It’s construction started in August of 1248. As most buildings built centuries ago it is always being updated and repaired.



Cologne Sculptures to the Side of a Cathedral Door


It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day and currently the tallest twin-spired church at 157 m (515 ft) tall.


Cologne Cathedral Door


The cathedral suffered fourteen strikes by aerial bombs during World War II. Badly damaged, it nevertheless remained standing in an otherwise completely flattened city. The twin spires were an easily recognizable navigational landmark for Allied aircraft bombing.



Example of a Cologne Cathedral Door with Sculptured Trim


The cathedral and the immediate area surrounding it was the site of intense tank skirmish between American tanks of the 3rd Armored Division and a Panther of Panzerbrigade 106 on March 6, 1945. The Panther successfully knocked out two Sherman tanks killing three men before it was demolished by a T26E3 Pershing hours later. The destroyed Panther was later put on exhibit at the base of the cathedral for the rest of the war in Europe.



Cologne Cathedral with Kim


Repairs were completed in 1956. An emergency repair on the northwest tower’s foundation carried out in 1944 using poor-quality brick, taken from a nearby demolished structure remained evident until 2005 as a reminder of the war, when it was decided to bring back the segment to its initial appearance.


Cologne Cathedral Photos from World War II with General Dwight D Eisenhower


Preservation work is continually being administered in one or another section of the building, which is rarely completely free of scaffolding, as wind, rain, and pollution slowly attack the stones. The Dombauhütte, established to build the cathedral and keep it in repair, is said to use the best stonemasons of the Rhineland.


Behind the cathedral is an area that memorializes the Archbishops and Cardinals from the history of the Church. As we walked past I saw several parishioners offering prayers for the church officials that had passed on, or at least I assumed that was their intent. Obviously they could have been praying for relatives or themselves, but given the location I think my thought was legitimate.


Cologne Cathedral Burial Ground Tributes to Archbishops, Cardinals and Church Dignitaries


After touring the Cathedral and visiting the exterior, we continued our walking tour. In the back of the Cathedral was a young gentleman blowing huge bubbles to the delight of all children both young and old. I was enthralled by the beauty of such a simple task. Younger children kept running around trying to burst the bubbles and it was a genuine treat.


Gentleman Blowing Bubbles at the Rear of the Cologne Cathedral


Once we left the Cathedral and began walking through Old Town, we encountered several Brauhauses, The German version of a brewery and or bar. They served any one of age and several members of our tour sampled the adult beverages once we finished. I was afraid I would get lost so during the tour rather than run into the chocolate shop and sample their goods, hence we waited and of course I forgot to visit the chocolate shop later on.


Cologne Brauhaus Gaffel Kolsch and Chocolate Shop with Viking Guide Peter


Another brauhaus with a stellar reputation, specializing in kolsch (a clear, top-fermented beer with a bright, straw-yellow hue similar to other beers brewed from mainly Pilsener malt.) according to our guide. Reviews also state their Bratwurst is excellent.


Cologne Brauhaus Sion


Our guide Peter informed us that all servers at Oktoberfest were to carry a tray similar to this with eleven different beers. That seems to be a large sampling of flavors in my humble opinion. I am not sure even in my younger days, I could have managed to down that many beverages. Apparently though it is a normal tradition and many beer imbibers drink this amount.


Cologne Brauhaus Normal Tray with 11 Glasses


Cologne had several museums both historical and art fashioned. Of note is the Roman Germanic museum which has a piece dating back to 220 AD. It’s the Dionysus mosaic. It was discovered in 1941 by workers building an air raid shelter. In addition these large heavy stones pictured below are on display. I can’t imagine how heavy they are or how strong their supports have to be.


Stones from the Cologne Roman Germanic Museum


The Museum Ludwig is a collection of modern art and includes Pop, abstract and surrealist art from Dali to Warhol to Lichtenstein and has one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe. The Mu­se­um Ludwig houses the main positions and trends in modern and contemporary art from the dawn of the 20th century up to the present.


Museum Ludwig


The museum I didn’t get to was the Chocolate museum which chronicles the 3,000 year history of chocolate beginning with the ancient American cultures such as the Mayas and Aztecs, proceeding through the baroque and industrialization periods and ending in the fine chocolate products of the modern day. The diversity of 5,000-years of cocoa’s cultural history is shown as well as modern chocolate production from the cocoa bean through to praline chocolate confectionery.


In the glass-walled production facility and chocolate workshop, visitors can experience how chocolate products are crafted in both mechanized and manual processes. How chocolate is made today is demonstrated in the production facility in the bow of the boat-styled museum building, which also houses the chocolate fountain. The fountain was specially constructed for the museum, an artistic structure filled with 200 kg of warm, liquid chocolate. Smooth, warm Lindt chocolate flows from four stainless steel spouts into a fountain bowl.




Cologne Old Town Forest of the Dolls Side View


In the center of Old Town was this sculpture “Forest of the Dolls”. It was designed as a tribute to the young children, who bought water to the surface through small shafts in buckets from the surrounding Rhineland. The children were paid for this work until the 1500’s when pumps started bringing the water to the surface. This forced the children to live in the streets or underground tunnels and they became beggars. The other story is that elves used to do all the repair work after World War II at night, so the workers could be lazy and drink adult beverages all day. This may hold some truth as the city is filled with brauhauses. This sculpture is dedicated to both stories and contains a plethora of elves in various forms.


Eau de Cologne Retail Store #4711


It was fascinating to see this retail store pointed out on tour by our guide. When I was a young man this cologne was very popular and sold all over the country. I had no idea it originated in Cologne Germany in 1709. Eau de cologne contains a mixture of citrus oils including oils of lemon, orange, tangerine, clementine, bergamot, lime, grapefruit, blood orange and bitter orange. It can also contain oils of neroli, lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano, petitgrain (orange leaf), jasmine, olive, oleaster and tobacco. In contemporary American English usage, the term “cologne” has become a generic term for perfumes usually marketed towards men.



Open Air Retail Pastry Store with a Plethora of Bees


As we continued walking around Old Town we came upon an open-aired pastry shop that appeared to be very successful. Customers filled the sales floor and were interacting with sale people. I didn’t notice at first that all the pastry cases were full of sweet pastries covered in bees. I’m not entirely sure of the benefit or the attraction, but I have never seen so many bees in one place except in a hive. I was awestruck and took several photos and one short video. This was a first for me, but apparently the customers were used to this as they interacted with the sales force without showing any emotion or distaste at the bees. The bees literally covered all the various cakes, breads and other offer rings. It still puzzles me.


Cologne Cathedral from the Festival


As we walked back to the place to meet the shuttle bus across the river we encountered a festival of some type that seemed to specialize in children’s fantasy, toys, clothing and other merchandise. It began raining softly and most of the customers dispersed. That gave me an opportunity to take this photo with the wet bricks and Cathedral in the background. It’s one of my favorite photos of our cruise!


Hohenzollernbrucke Bridge Lovers Padlocks


As we walked across the Rhine on the Hohenzollernbrucke Bridge I was struck by the outlandish number of padlocks. Across Europe and other parts of the world it has become common place for lovers to state their affection for one another by writing a phrase on a padlock, attaching it to the bridge and tossing the keys away. At first I thought it was a unique form of passion and was truly a way to express one’s love for another. After traveling so much and seeing so many locks across the world it has become rather common and has horrible implications once the bridge becomes filled with locks. What happens to the padlocks when the locks fill the bridge and they have to be removed for safety reasons? Are they thrown away in refuse dumps? Are they melted down and reused? Who knows, but it is a concern for me. It has become an eyesore in some people’s mind. I would love to know the answer. If you have experience with this please comment and let me know. I would appreciate your feedback.


So it’s on to Koblenz and the Middle Rhine. If you haven’t experienced this section of the Rhine river you have a world of castles and architecture you are missing. #myvikingstory #vikingcruises







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

Viking Cruises, Photo of the Day #12

During our Viking River Cruise we stopped in Bratislava, Slovakia. In the center of the city, near the Christmas Markets was this amazing building with wonderful architecture and ornate trim. It was the Slovakia National Theater and is the oldest professional theater in Slovakia, built in 1885-1886 during the time of Austria-Hungary. It was a Neo-Renaissance building based on a design by Viennese architects Fellner & Helmer, who designed theater buildings in 10 European countries. Its first performance was the opera “Bank ban” by Ferenc Erkel and is one of the most important Hungarian operas.


It is one of the most influential institutions in Slovakia and handles Opera, Drama and Ballet all in various productions. The historic building is located on Hviezdoslavovo Square. At the beginning of the new century the Brno Opera presented a wide cross-section through the Czech classical opera and, for the first time in Bratislava, Tchaikovski’s ’Eugen Onegin’ and ’The Queen of Spades’. In 1919 Bratislava became a part of the Czechoslovak Republic. In 1920 the professional Slovak National Theatre starts to work in the building of the City Theater. It has theater and opera companies. It starts its activities with the premiere of Smetana’s ’The Kiss’ on March 1, 1920.


Slovak National Theater in Bratislava


In the late 1800’s Bruno Walter gained experience here as a teacher. Born in Berlin he left Berlin in 1933 settling in the United States in 1939 and he became one of the great conductors of the 20th century with experience and holding major positions in the New York Philharmonic, Salzburg Festival, Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera and the Deutsche Opera Berlin.


On 1 May 1979 a countrywide public anonymous competition was announced. On 25 February 1980 the 1st prize was given to the design by architects Peter Bauer, Martin Kusý and Pavol Paňák. Construction work started in 1986, although it ran into a multitude of delays owing to Government financial problems. An idea for the government to sell the building was overturned and the building was finally finished in 2008. The interior architects were Eduard Sutek and Alexandra Kusa. The structure holds 1700 seats on three different levels. Bratislava native sculptor Viktor Oskar Tilgner crafted the famous Ganymede’s Fountain in 1888, now located immediately in front of the theater, shown partially in my photo.








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

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.

Liberty Hall, Tyler Texas, Part Two

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


Liberty Hall Exterior

Liberty Hall Exterior


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


Liberty Hall Interior

Liberty Hall Interior


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


Austin's Own Bob Schneider

Austin’s Own Bob Schneider


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


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

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


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


Jr. Brown and his Guit-Steel

Jr. Brown and his Guit-Steel


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


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


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


Jr. Brown "An American Original"

Jr. Brown “An American Original”


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


John Fullbright "From the Ground Up"

John Fullbright “From the Ground Up”


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


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

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


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


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



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

Liberty Hall, Tyler Texas, Part One

After visiting and writing about several Texas Towns, I have adopted several. One of my favorites is Tyler, the “Rose Capitol of the United States”! The “Vision” of this fine city is “To be the standard for performance excellence in local government”. The “Vision” of Liberty Hall is “To support the City of Tyler’s efforts to revitalize downtown by creating an arts and entertainment culture, thereby attracting residents and visitors to the downtown district.


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

Azalea Trail #2, Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum

After over 6 hours of driving through the back roads of Texas, I finally arrived in Tyler. I was famished and very eager to take a deep look into this historical and gorgeous town located in East Texas just off of Interstate 20. I had a full itinerary and was already behind because of evil road construction. My contact Holli Conley, the Marketing and Communications Manager had gone overboard to be helpful and ensure a fantastic trip was had by yours truly. She suggested a taco at the local food truck, located at the Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum for the Azalea activies weekends. I jumped at the chance.


Curbside Taco Truck

Curbside Taco Truck


I wasn’t disappointed and had a truly delicious quick bite. They make their tacos from corn tortillas, in the manner I like! Now to run through the Goodman Museum. The house was originally built in 1859 and was a one story four room building located on the highest knoll in Tyler. After several owners and expansions, it became the property of Dr. Samuel Adams Goodman from South Carolina originally. The Doctor’s son, a Confederate Major and general surgeon purchased the home from his father, upon his marriage to Mary Priscilla Gaston. They had three children Sallie, Will and Etta Goodman. The second story was added in 1880. Sallie married James LeGrand in 1893. After her father’s death in 1921 Sallie inherited the house. Mr. LeGrand and Sallie remodeled the home in 1926. Two story columns and rounded porticos were added to the facade in the Greek Revival style, which is how the house looks today. Upon her death in 1939 Sallie bequeathed the nine acres and the house with all the furnishings to the city of Tyler.


Entry to Goodman Museum

Entry to Goodman Museum


I entered the Museum and was completely blown away. If you don’t know it, I love antique furnishings and handmade acutrements. I immediately was confronted by the sitting room to the left and was impressed with the fashion the house was maintained.


Sitting Room

Sitting Room


On the left was a wonderful piano, that I would have given my little toe to play on. Hint I can’t really play the piano, but love the way the keys sound. It was such an ornate musical intrument I wouldn’t have really touched it, regardless.


Antique Piano

Antique Piano


I went across the entry way and saw this fireplace. Had to take a photo, in fact I think I took over 100 photos of the museum. The fireplace attracted my attention as it reminded me of some of the gas heaters I had a child growing up in Texas.


Antique Gas Fireplace

Antique Gas Fireplace


I turned left and what a dining room table. It was set for what looks like six patrons. There were so many beautiful dining items, between the flatware, the plates, both salad and dinner, not to mention the serving pieces, I couldn’t soak it all in.


Goodman Dining Table

Goodman Dining Table


As most of my followers know I love to eat and I love to cook. I was in my area of the house! This old gas oven really brought home memories og my grandparents and what they used to go through, just to have a holiday meal. My paternal grandmother had a cellar filed with all her canned goods to last the winter. I would guess back in the day this house had a similar setup some where out of the way and in a cool damp area.


Antique Cooking Stove

Antique Cooking Stove


What better way to relax than rocking back and forth in a handmade rocking chair. I know because I still have an antique rocking chair my grandfather made in the early twenties. Not too much longer and it wil be 100 years old. It’s heaven! This was obviously a piece of nice carpentry work, someone spent hours and hours on assembling.


Antique Rocking Chair

Antique Rocking Chair


In another room, most likely an “Office” area, I found this wonderful roll top desk, very similar again to the one I have that my grandfather made. This one though has a pull out desktop for writing, etc. I love that additional feature. Next to it is a radio or Victrola.


Goodman Desk

Goodman Desk


On top of the firplace was a collection of statues resembling many periods in history. Everything from the Greco-Roman period, to a more recent Wild West young man dressed as if he was attending a roundup. I like the clock in the centerpiece and it was actually in operation, if my memory serves me correctly. That is about the time I would have been in the Museum.


Figurines on the Fireplace Mantel

Figurines on the Fireplace Mantel


Upstairs in the huge Master Bedroom was a crib with the baby’s nightgown off to the side. All apparent handmade clothing and a nice looking quilt that was more than likely handmade also! Don’t miss the woolen socks.


Baby's Nightgown

Baby’s Nightgown


The husbamd’s clothing standing below, ready to take and put on, was very ornate and intricately handsewn. I am sure this was a method or maintaining ironed clothing and keeping the wrinkles away. The headless mannequins were a little eerie to me though.


Men's Attire

Men’s Attire


The wife’s clothing was laid out on the bed, with accompanying hat and purse. The other garments a true gentleman does not discuss in public!


Lady of the House's Clothes Laid Out

Lady of the House’s Clothes Laid Out


Beside the Master bed were two chairs and they caught my eye, because one was a child’s size, made from bentwood and straw, weaved for the seat and back. It took many hours of love and labor to complete the chair. Beside is an adult’s chair, that wasn’t as complicated to construct, but I am sure served its purpose.


Adult and Child's Chairs

Adult and Child’s Chairs


Interestingly enough I found this antique wheelchair sitting in the hallway upstairs. Makes me wonder if someone had to use it for several years. The depression in the seating area indicates it was well worn and used frequently. Compare this piece of equipment with the more modern power wheelchairs of today. Although the entry-level power wheelchairs start around $1,000, remarkable progress has been made!


Antique Wheelchair

Antique Wheelchair


This bedroom belonged obviously to one of the daughter’s, but I am not entirely sure which young lady resided in this bedroom.


Female Child's Bedroom

Female Child’s Bedroom


When I was a child and came across a bannister like this I would scoot down the rail and keep doing it over and over until I got in trouble. It’s the small joys in life you remember and this would have been one heck of a ride!


Magnificent Goodman Staircase

Magnificent Goodman Staircase


I left the museum and wondered over to a sitting area filled with benches and plants of all kinds. I would guess that the Goodman’s and the Legrand’s spent many an evening sitting in this garden and watching the sun go down. They maybe even had a toddy or two. Who knows for sure. I do know the museum is one of the highlights of my trip and when you visit Tyler you need to stop by and see the museum, even if you have a limited visit. I assure you that you will come away glad you did!


Goodman Garden

Goodman Garden


As I was leaving, I stopped by the desk to say thank you for the tour and I was fortunate to run into Mary Foster, who is the Museum curator. I told her she was doing a fantastic job and the museum in my humble opinion was outstanding. She was a very bubbly and outgoing young lady and you could tell, that even though hundreds of people were visiting that day, she was able to maintain her composure and smile at everyone. I was impressed with her multi-tasking performance, as she carried on no less than four different conversations with staff and visitors at the same time, all the time smiling. She is the backbone of the museum I believe and does a great job as curator.



***Portions of my stay were in association with the City of Tyler. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.


Galveston Revs Up for Lone Star Rally

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


Galveston Logo




    GALVESTON, Texas (September 24, 2014)







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

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

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


Biker Rally 2

Lone Star Biker Rally on The Strand 


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

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


Lone Star Biker Rally Gets Busy

Lone Star Biker Rally Gets Busy 


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


Lone Star Biker Rally at Sunset

Lone Star Biker Rally at Sunset


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

For media inquiries, please contact Sharon Damante at (386) 846-6901 or


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

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


About Galveston Island

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





Texas Olive Fest

About two weeks ago I entered an online contest from Edible Austin. The winner would receive two tickets to the second annual Texas Olive Fest. It was being held at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company located about half way between Bee Caves (SW Austin) and Dripping Springs off of Fitzhugh Road. As we drove up it looked like a large vineyard with Tuscan architecture. I had no idea the Hill Country Olive Company was this large. The parking lot must have held over 300 cars and I was blown away that so many people had come to the Festival. It was an overcast day and I thought people wouldn’t have traveled. Boy was I wrong!


Bluebonnets at the Gate

Bluebonnets at the Gate 


As we walked in the gate I noticed a field of Bluebonnets to our right and it was majestic to say the least. There is nothing finer in my humble opinion than a field of these beautiful flowers blooming in all their splendor. This is one of the finer aspects of living in Texas. From Mid March to late April they can be seen across the state thanks to Lady Bird Johnson. We obtained our wristbands from the media desk and proceeded to enter the Texas Olive Fest.


Cooking Classes Setting

Cooking Classes Setting 


It so happened that the first cooking class was starting in about two minutes so Kim and I grabbed a seat and waited for the class. I was lucky enough to capture the first three or so minutes of the class  and it should give you a flavor for the presentation (pun intended)! Faraday’s Kitchen Store was hosting the cooking classes and Tony Curtis-Wellings, a direct descendant of the scientist Michael Faraday hosted the classes.



This is the complete recipe and cooking instructions for the Broiled Vine Ripe Tomatoes with Hill Country Goat Cheese and Texas Toast. Our sample was so darn good, I wanted to get back in line for seconds, but I am positive that would have embarrassed Kim to no end. So I settled for the lingering taste left from my sample.


Broiled Vine Ripe Tomatoes With Hill Country Goat Cheese and Texas toast

Serves four to six guests


2 cups ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbls shallots, minced
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 Tbls fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
kosher salt & salad grind black pepper
4 ounces Hill Country goat cheese, crumbled
1 loaf crusty peasant bread
2 clove garlic
salad oil (do not use olive oil)
1. Preheat oven broiler.
2. Mix the first eight ingredients together and adjust seasoning accordingly.
3. Spoon tomato mixture into ramekins and top evenly with goat cheese.
4. Place under broiler and heat until the tomato mixture becomes a little warm and the cheese starts to bubble and brown lightly.
5. Smash garlic cloves with the back of a spoon on a small saucer and top with a little salad oil.
6. Slice bread thickly and brush with garlic oil.
7. Grill or broil on one side until toasted and serve alongside tomato confit.

Cotton Gin Restaurant & Lodging, Fredericksburg, Texas
Executive Chef Ross Burtwell


Kim and I have gotten into local spice shops and oil and vinegar stores and usually shop about once every two weeks and add to our collection. Being at this Fest was like a home run in my eyes as the various oils and vinegar’s left me questioning which one to sample and purchase. The photo below is only one side and half of the options. What to do with so many options?


Texas Hill Country Olive Company

Texas Hill Country Olive Company


They conducted three educational seminars during the Texas Olive Fest. Jeff Transeau, the principal investor and manager of Charta Olive Farms, is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas and holds a degree in Biology.

Seminar 1 – Texas Olive Industry & More, Seminar 2 – Olive Oil 101, Seminar 3 – Processing Your Own Olives


Inside the Texas Hill Country Olive Company was additional booths like below, a restaurant with all kinds of great looking fare, very clean and up to date restrooms and the tasting counter with various olive oils and vinegar’s for sampling and for sale. I would recommend a visit any time of the year; not just at the Olive Fest event.


Texas Brew Salsa

Texas Brew Salsa


Austin Honey Company

Austin Honey Company


After the cooking class we decided to try our hand at walking the booths. We were given five tickets for wine samples and I don’t drink anymore. Hmmm! What a dilemma. I could still eat though. We looked down the booths and decided to do an organized linear approach and walk by every booth.


Texas Olive Fest Booths

Texas Olive Fest Booths


Right out of the box we hit a great looking food trailer that had Crab Cakes for sell. I was a little surprised to say the least. I have placed a few of the food booths below and am very dispappointed I did not take a photo of my favorite booth “Smoke’n Hops“. They are a BBQ and Brewpub that is located in Dripping Springs. They were handing out BBQ Pork sliders and oh my goodness were they ever good. I behaved and only ate one.


Primat Food Trailer with Crab Cakes

Primat Food Trailer with Crab Cakes


I had to pass on the crab cakes as most have bell peppers in them and I am allergic to bell peppers. Sigh!!!


Aurelia's Chorizo Paella

Aurelia’s Chorizo Paella


Aurelia’s Chorizo booth was by far the busiest food booth and a majority of the people eating at the tables in the center of the booths had this Paella. I wanted to taste it so bad, but the line was extensive and so long that I declined. It evidently was delicious as I asked several people eating it and they all answered affirmatively. They barely could nod their heads and wouldn’t stop eating long enough to answer. Must have been fantastic.


Crepe Crazy Menu

Crepe Crazy Menu


I passed on the crepes also, as again there was a significant line. Crepe Crazy can be followed on their facebook page to stay abreast of their events. Their cooking demonstration was enlightening, as I couldn’t believe how thin the crepes were spread as they cooked. It looked like paper and I was surprised the held together. It takes talent to cook crepes!


In addition to the food booths there were several booths with specialty vendors. This one caught my eye as they were using high heels and a cut out cowboy boot to hold the wine bottles. Very unique I would say.


L' Adventure Dolce

L’ Adventure Dolce 


Not only did this booth have a great name “Two Winey Women”, but it had various items that were oriented to wine and I laughed many times at the quotes on a few of their items.


Two Winey Women

Two Winey Women


So what do you do with old wine barrels you ask? Barrel Designs makes furniture in all sizes and shapes. Kim was attracted to the two booths they had and kept looking at theit wares. She thought it was a very different approach. The good news is I didn’t have to break out my credit card.


Barrel Designs

Barrel Designs


At the end of the booths was a sound stage with bands playing for about two hours each. I hope I got the name correct. Given the time this photo was taken the band on stage should have been “Gumbo ce Soir”. If I am incorrect then my apologies to go out to the “Jimmie Lee Band”.



Gumbo ce Soir Band

Gumbo ce Soir Band


Of course I saved the best for last. When we entered the gate we were given a bag with several things. A map of the booths, cooking class times and five tickets each for wine samples. Oh my that is a good amount of wine for Kim to taste. I don’t drink anymore. Don’t worry she only tasted about three.



Pillar Bluff Vineyards

Pillar Bluff Vineyards


Good to know that this vineyard is right up the road from us. They are located at 300 County Road 111, Lampasas, TX 76550 and their phone number is (512) 556-4078. Business Hours: Friday and Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday from 12:30 PM to 5:00 PM.



Stone House Vineyard

Stone House Vineyard


Stone House vineyard is located in at 24350 Haynie Flat Rd, Spicewood, TX 78669. Their phone number is (512) 264-3630. Their tasting room and winery is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 and by appointment.


Flat Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery

Flat Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery


Flat Creek Winery is located at 24912 Singleton Bend E, Marble Falls, TX 78654 and their phone number is (512) 267-6310. Tasting Room Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm.



Fall Creek Vineyard

Fall Creek Vineyard


Fall Creek is one of our favorite vineyards and is the oldest Hill Country Vineyard, established in 1975. Kim and I have frequented this wonderful vineyard and have bought their wine for decades. You can’t go wrong with a Fall Creek wine. They are located at 1820 CR 222, Tow, TX 78672 on scenic Lake Buchanan. Their phone number is (325) 379-5361. The tasting room is open Mon-Fri 11-4 Sat 11-5 Sun 12-4.


Fiesta Winery (behind the guy in red). Kim loved their wine!

Fiesta Winery (behind the guy in red).


Please don’t look at the man dressed in red. Focus on the couple behind him to the left and the Fiesta Winery sign. We stopped by this booth and Kim talked with the couple. They are really great people and answered every question thrown at them with ease. They told Kim she had to taste their Texas Well Water wine and she did.


She absolutely loved it and of course we bought a couple of bottles. Fiesta Winery is located at 18727 FM 580, Lometa, TX 76853 five miles east of Bend Texas and their phone number is (325) 628-3433. Their tasting room near Bend is open Mon-Thur: 10:00 to 5:00, Fri-Sat: 10:00 to 6:00 and Sunday: 12:00 to 5:00.


Messina Hof Vineyard

Messina Hof Vineyard


Messina Hof is located at 4545 Old Reliance Rd, Bryan, TX 77808 and their phone number is (979) 778-9463. The Bryan operating hours are Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 7:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 10:00am – 8:00pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm.


In addition they now have a new winery located in Fredericksburg and its operating hours are Monday – Wednesday: 11:00am – 6:00pm, Thursday – Friday: 11:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday: 10:00am – 7:00pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm.


Wedding Oak Winery

Wedding Oak Winery


Wedding Oak Winery is located at 316 East Wallace Street, San Saba, 76877. Its phone number is (325) 372-4050. Operating hours are Mon – Thurs 11:00am to 6:00pm, Fri – Sat 10:00am to 7:00pm and Sun 11:00am to 6:00pm.


It was time to attend another Cooking class put on by Pastry Chef Lyndi Modica of The Art Institute of Austin and she is known as the “Chocolatier”! I was able to capture a portion of her cooking class and learned a few things about butter browning and how to prepare reductions. It was very interesting.



Her recipes are as follows:


Brown Butter and Basil Cake

Yield: ½ sheet tray
8 oz Butter, browned
½ C Granulated Sugar
¼ C Brown Sugar
½ t. Vanilla
2.5 ea Eggs
1 C Al purpose Flour
2/3 C Almond Flour
1 t Baking Powder
½ t Salt
1 ½ T Sour Cream
½ C Micro Basil, cleaned
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare half sheet tray
3. Cream brown butter, sugars and vanilla. Add eggs in two additions making sure each are fully incorporated. Scrape sides and add dry ingredients, until just combined. Finish with sour cream and micro basil.
4. Bake in a convection oven with a low fan until light brown. Allow to cool and cut out desired serving size and shape.


Olive Oil Ice Cream

Yield: 5- 2 oz Portions
1 1/3 C Whole milk
6 ea Egg Yolks
½ C Sugar
Pinch Salt
1 C Heavy cream
½ C Terra Verde Estate Blend EVOO
1. Prepare an anglaise with the milk, yolks, sugar, and salt.
2. Strain over the heavy cream over an ice bath. Emulsify in olive oil and churn.


Balsamic Syrup

Yield: 4 servings
¼ C Granulated Sugar
¼ C Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar
1. Bring to a boil and reduce to syrup consistency


Trust me, this was a grand ending to our experience at the Texas Olive Fest. We both loved this dessert and wanted more, but it wasn’t in the cards. I will have to test the recipe and see if I can manage not to butcher her process. I am very grateful for the tickets and look for the “Third Annual Texas Olive Fest” next year, by following their Facebook page .


***Thanks to Edible Austin for our tickets. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.










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

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


Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance

Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance


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


Reception with Appetizers

Reception with Appetizers


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


Paul the Banjolin Player

Paul the Banjolin Player


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


Polar Express

Polar Express


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


The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board

The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board


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


Scott Rohal--Engineer

Scott Rohal–Engineer


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


Texas and Pacific Locomotive

Texas and Pacific Locomotive


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


Premium Lone Star Seating

Premium Lone Star Seating


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


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

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



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


Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies

Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies



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


The Full Moon in All Its Glory

The Full Moon in All Its Glory


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


A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air

A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air


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






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











Photo of The Day #42

Antones Home of the Blues in Austin

Antones “Home of the Blues” in Austin



Clifford Antone was a very ardent supporter of the Blues Genre and was raised in Port Arthur Texas. Over the years he grew to know and help many a musician down on their luck. Clifford would give a blues player a gig, whether he was popular or not and was the sounding board for many an artist over the years. Of course he wouldn’t turn down any legends that passed through town and loved to talk with them.



He was very instrumental in the career of Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmy. Them and the Fabulous Thunderbirds are the two best groups to hit his place, in my humble opinion. I know that will be debated! This is a photo of the plaque acknowledging his original club on sixth street in Austin. My home town! We lost Clifford on May 23, 2006, but the tradition he started, carries on!

Photo of The Day #26

Perfect Pitch from the Harp

Perfect Pitch from the Harp



As I strolled along the market place, on the side of the New Cathedral I was enthralled by a beautiful melody coming from a booth down the way. It was very sweet and melodic. As I drew nearer I saw that it was a harp.



This gentleman sets up all over Cuenca and plays for donations only. He is always immaculately dressed and plays with passion and experience, never missing a note! Catch him if you can!

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas