Viking Cruises, Heidelberg

We disembarked from the Viking Eir with Viking River Cruises in Mannheim and all boarded a bus for Heidelberg. The journey was very short and after about only 25 minutes we arrived in the city of Heidelberg. The city of approximately 156,000 people is located in Southwest Germany on the Neckar river, which flows into the Rhine river and is basically a university town.


The University of Heidelberg was founded in 1386 and is Germany’s oldest and is one of Europe’s most renowned. Heidelberg the city itself, is home to several internationally esteemed research facilities located adjacent to its university, among them are the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and Molecular Biology Organization, the German Cancer Research Center and four four Max Planck Institutes including the Institute for Medical Research, Astronomy, Nuclear Physics and Comparative Public Law and International Law.


Viking Tour Bus


Heidelberg can be traced back to the fifth century, but its first written reference was in 1155. It is known as the romantic popular tourist destination due to its romantic cityscape, including Baroque style architecture, especially in “Old Town”. The city has so much to offer: charm and character in abundance between the Old Bridge and the mighty castle, an unparalleled choice of culture and entertainment, generous yet heavenly cuisine and a picturesque setting nestled between the Neckar river and the foothills of the Odenwald forest. The 1925 song “I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg” composed by Fred Raymond was a major hit and inspired a stage musical and two films. It remains the theme song of Heidelberg.


Heidelberg Castle Entry Arch


Our first stop was Heidelberg Castle, a ruin in Germany and one of the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. The main structure was erected in 1214 and expanded into two castles in around 1294. In 1537 a lightening-bolt ruined the upper castle. In 1764, another lightning-bolt caused a fire which destroyed some of the rebuilt sections. The castle was partially rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries after wars and fires damaged several portions of the castle. Once you pass through the entry arch you start to view the ruins and damage that the years have done to the castle. The area also presents magnificent photo opportunities, as this was of the dry moat with all the green flora and fauna growing.



Heidelberg Castle Moat


Of particular interest was this photo of the castle’s ruins with the round tower in the right section. Apparently it was customary in those days to have the toilet just off the dining area, the excrement dropping to be used for fertilizer on the gardens below. Kim toured the Marksburg Fortress the day before and her guide explained the door to the toilet could only be locked from the outside because in the event of an attack the enemy could enter into the “heart” of the castle through the toilet.



Heidelberg Castle Ruins


As you enter the castle and walk through the tunnel you view these iron spokes above. They were lowered if enemy forces were attacking and kept armies at bay, at least temporarily until the castle occupants could prepare. It was actually a little nerve wracking to walk under the spikes. I was glad we didn’t suffer an earthquake and have them dislodged accidentaly.


Heidelberg Castle Gate Guard


Once inside the castle you come upon walls and walls of intricate manifestations filled with Baroque style art and sculptures of the various period emperors, princes and kings. One cannot imagine the detail that went into these facades. Sculptures of the former German kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire that adorn the facade are one of the earliest examples of German Renaissance architecture and are gorgeous in appearance.



Statues on the Facade of Schloss Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany


The German Museum of Pharmacy Foundation was established in 1937 and the museum itself opened in 1938 in Munich and was closed down during World War II. In 1957, the German Museum of Pharmacy was officially reopened in Heidelberg Castle where it offers striking views of the most complete collection of items worldwide, highlighting the history of pharmacy on a maximum quality level to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The museum is home to over 20,000 objects displaying a trip through the history of medical science, especially focused on the progression of pharmacology as first nearly a magic art, then a science.



Heidelberg Castle Pharmacy Museum Entrance


Berthold, our Viking guide was humorous and very knowledgeable of the history of Heidelberg Castle. One of his points of interest was this “tree of love” where several young lovers over the years would meet and extend their arms through the gap in the base trunk and large limb to secretly hold hands. As any close contact was forbidden at this time, it was a way of showing your love to your special person and being able to hide your contact from the public.



Heidelberg Castle Viking Guide Tree of Love


These statues on the side of the castle tower portrayed the Dicker Turm, Thick Tower or Fat Tower adjoining the English wing and Featuring two Palatine Electors (Counts), Ludwig V (von der Pfalz) on the left and Friederich V (von der Pfalz) on the right, who built this section of the Schloss Heidelberger (Heidelberg Castle).



Heidelberg Castle  Ludwig V and Friederich V


This villa (Heinertowner) is located on the hill adjacent to the castle and clearly visible from the valley overlook of the castle. It is reportedly a student house for the University of Heidelberg. My apologies, but I was not able to conform this. It was a lovely structure and I decided to photograph it with my new 80-200 zoom lens.


Heidelberg University Student Housing


Heidelberg Castle is located on the Konigstuhl hillside and served by the Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway that runs from Heidelberg’s Kornmarkt (grain market) to the summit of the Königstuhl (1,863 ft high hill in the Odenwald Mountains). The castle is located approximately 250 feet up the mountain. The castle overlooks the beautiful Baroque “Old Town” and one can see for miles down the Neckar valley, all the way to Mannheim where we disembarked from our Viking Longship.



View from Heidelberg Castle


Another view from the castle overlook is the The Karl Theodor Bridge, commonly known as the Old Bridge, is a stone bridge in Heidelberg, crossing the Neckar River.  It connects the Old City with the eastern part of the Neuenheim district of the city on the opposite bank. The current bridge, made of Neckar Valley Sandstone and the ninth built on the site, was constructed in 1788 by Elector Charles Theodore and is one of the best-known and amazing landmarks and tourist destinations in the history of Heidelberg.


The Karl Theodor Bridge or Old Bridge,


After going out on the overlook, which is a magnificent place for photos, especially panoramas, we then strolled through the courtyard and came upon this Sundial that was in use hundreds of years ago and according to Berthold our Viking guide, the sundial is more accurate than most clocks.


The Courtyard Sundial in Heidelberg Castle


I am sad that my photos of the world’s largest wine-cask, didn’t turn out. It is named the “Heidelberg Tun” and holds approximately 219,000 liters of wine or 58,574 US gallons. One hundred and thirty oak trees were sacrificed for this barrel. The vat is credited in several novels including “Five Weeks in a Balloon” by Jules Verne, “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville and “A Tramp Abroad” by Mark Twain. It is located underneath the castle.


Perkeo of Heidelberg (born Clemens Pankert) was a jester and court dwarf for Palatine Charles III Philip in Heidelberg. He was originally a button maker in Salorno Italy, South Tyrol. In about 1718 Perkeo met Prince Charles III Philip who ruled Tyrol and a portion of Austria. When Philip was made the Electorate Palatinate, Perkeo moved to the Heidelberg Castle with Charles III. His name represents his famous response “perche no?” (“why not” in Italian) when asked if he desired another cup of wine at royal events.


Current narratives allege he drank from five to eight US gallons of wine a day. In addition he oversaw the previous mentioned wine-cask, which many found comical, given his propensity for drinking. Per local legend he lived into his eighties never ingesting anything but wine. One day he took sick and the Doctor ordered him to drink water. He died the next day according to folklore.


Perkeo Court Jester at the Heidelberg Castle


After we left the castle we toured Old Town and were released to walk on our own for a brief period. In the middle of Old Town is their beautiful Church of the Holy Spirit. A gorgeous sanctuary completed in 1426 while the Spire was finished in 1439. The famous Palatine Library, “Bibloteca Palatina” originated and was retained in the gallery of the church, where light was appropriate for extensive reading. Maximillian I, Elector of Bavaria took the entire collection of manuscripts and books and gave them to the Pope during the 30 years war between 1618-1648. Only 885 were returned of the original 5,000 books and 3,524 manuscripts.



The remainder of the books stayed at the Vatican Library in the Bibliotheca Palatina section. During the University of Heidelberg Jubilee several of these books were temporarily returned and placed on display. In the beginning the Church was was used by Catholics and Protestants and even at the same time. A wall was erected in 1706 to separate the two congregations until 1936 when the wall was removed and the church became exclusively Protestant.



Church of the Holy Spirit


A block or two away from the church was Sofiestrabe street which leads to the Old Bridge. The overpass has been destroyed and rebuilt at least eight times since it was constructed as Roman wood pile bridge in the first century. In the second century a stone bridge was erected by the Romans and eventually collapsed. It was over a thousand years before in 1284 a written mention of another bridge was stated. The first five bridges all collapsed when hit by ice flows in 1288, 1308, 1340, 1400 and 1470.



Heidelberg Street Going to the Old Bridge Gate


There are no renderings of these initial five bridges, but there are of the 6th bridge which had a wooden covered wooden roadway that was open at the sides. There is a much more detailed illustration in Sebastian Munster’s Cosmographia of 1550. In the Heidelberg Panorama a bridge on eight stone pillars is evident. The two towers of the bridge gate can be made out at the southern end of the bridge and the monkey tower is on the seventh pillar, towards the north end of the bridge. Had to capture this moment with a photo of Kim in front of the Old Bridge Gate.


Kim at the Old Bridge Gate in Heidelberg


The “Cosmographia” was one of the most successful and popular books of the 16th century. It encompassed 24 editions in 100 years. This accomplishment was a result of extraordinary woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf, Hans Rudoplh Manuel Deutsch and David Kandel. It was most important in establishing cartography in 16th-century Europe. Among the notable maps within “Cosmographia” is the map “Tabula novarum insularum”, which is credited as the first map to show the American continents as geographically discrete and interprets from Latin as “New board islands”


Old Bridge Gate in Heidelberg


Directly behind the double towered gate on the south end is a statue honoring Karl Theodore who reigned as Prince-Elector and Count Palatine from 1742, as Duke of Julich and Berg from 1742 and also as prince-elector and Duke of Bavaria from 1777 to his death in 1799. He was a member of the House of Palatine-Sulzbach, a branch of the House of Wittelsbach. During his reign he oversaw construction the “Old Bridge” which was completed in 1788. The statute was built by Franz Conrad Linck and the three female figures at the foot of this statue symbolize piety, justice, agriculture and trade.


Statue of Karl Theodore on Old Bridge in Heidelberg


Heidelberg City Hall (‘Rathaus’) is located right on Market Square in the backdrop of the historic Old Town, the world-famous Castle ruins and the banks of the river Neckar. It is the focal point for local politics and the nerve center of the city’s governmental services. For citizens of the Old Town, it is also their local municipal main office, the “little city hall”, as it is known. Each neighborhood has one, so locals do not have to travel too far for help and advice.


Heideleberg Rathaus City Hall


Cafe Gundel is one of the oldest artisan bakeries in Heidelberg and serves a myriad of cakes, pastries and sweet goods along with seasonal goodies. The perennial goods include rhubarb cake in March, cherry jock (lattice pie) in June, onion cake in September, Easter bunnies and various handmade chocolates at Easter. Sandwiches and breakfast items are also offered in an original house constructed in 1720 and run by Christian Gundel a fourth generation owner.


Heidelberg Castle Cafe Gundel


The Cafe Knosel is located across from the Church of the Holy Spirit and is the oldest coffeehouse in Heidleberg. They use a small number of handpicked, regional specialist suppliers on their provider list. This is to ensure that only fresh goods are processed and served on the table. They offer breakfast from 8:00 AM until 11:00 AM and lunch from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM, serving a wide variety of items priced reasonably for your budget’s sake. Dinner is served until 10:00 PM nightly. The menu includes a myriad of desserts along with an extensive presentation of beer and wines.


Heidelberg Cafe Knosel Oldest Cafe in the City


I cannot go to Europe without treating Kim and myself to Gelato. It’s a little bit of heaven in my opinion. Even though our traditional US ice cream is laden with butter fat, it’s not the same. In Heidelberg I managed to snap a photo before diving in to my bowl. I have to recommend “That’s Gelato” which has several outlets in Heidelberg area. It was delicious and definitely up to our expectations!


Gelato in Heidelberg Old Town


Our Viking bus dropped us off at this inn to the iron cross on Karlsplatz and then we walked in the direction of Kornmarkt in Heidelberg. Here at the Galthaus zum Eisernen Kruez inn in Heidelberg’s old town on Karlsplatz, we started our city tour of Heidelberg with our guide. We visited several points of interest mentioned above and returned to this spot to catch our bus back to the Viking Longship Eir.


We ended our visit to Heidelberg and began thinking about Strasbourg and Kim and my first visit to France! Little did we know how much we would love their pastries, candy and other sweets. We went crazy! Can’t wait to  show you what we bought and ate. I think I gained seven pounds on this cruise and most of it can be attributed to the pastries, cakes and sweets we bought in Strasbourg!



Heidelberg Beer Haus on the Square







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

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, 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.

Viking Cruises, Kinderdijk Cheese Making Experience

Surprisingly after sleeping all night our first night on board the Longship Eir of the Viking River Cruises European fleet, I felt fairly refreshed and eager to begin my first day of our Rhine Getaway cruise on the historical Rhine river. I say this because the first night on the ship I somehow convinced my wife Kim to take the optional tour involving cheese making. My wife strangely enough, doesn’t eat cheese unless it’s melted or included in a prepared dish. We ate breakfast early and assembled at the meeting place, eager to taste authentic Netherlands cheese, or at least I was very enthusiastic. I have to thank Kim for being a good trooper and accompanying me on this tour.


On the way to the farm we learned that several farms in the area had dairy operations, but only a few had cheese making capabilities. The farm we were headed to had started several years ago making cheese when the farmer’s wife decided to expand her cheese making capabilities and offer it to the public, never knowing how successful it would become. The farmer announced at the cattle barn his portion of the overall operation was limited in profitability and the majority of the family’s income came from his wife’s cheese making enterprise.


Giessenlander Gouda Original Cheese, My Option


The farms are equal in layout and are approximately 40 acres in total, some with multiples of the 40 acre plots. The Netherlands, also called Holland in this and nearby areas of the Netherlands have specific laws applicable to the fair and humane treatment of farm animals. Each cow is mandated an acre for free range grass feeding when the weather allows and all dairy farmers are required to give their cows  120 days a year of at least six hours grazing in the meadows per day. This insures appropriate feeding to satisfy Dutch requirements.


Empty Cheese Whip Vat


We were taken on a tour of the cheese making operation that is entirely dedicated to the production of fresh Gouda cheese. The farmer’s oldest daughter led the excursion and was quite knowledgeable. She explained that her Mother actually began making Gouda cheese in her kitchen and it became popular with the neighbors and soon grew into a fairly good sized business.


Gouda Cheese Whip Vat Filled with Cultures


The above photo represents the first step in the cheese making process. The large mixer stirs the combination warm milk and rennet which is the lining from the cow’s fourth stomach. This merger forms cultures that begin the cheese. This vat held 300 gallons I believe or the metric equivalent. Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. About a third of this liquid is poured off, although some people retain it for use as a nutritional supplement in bodybuilding and it is the primary ingredient in most protein powders.


A little trivia for those interested, Gouda is the name of a Dutch town where Gouda cheese was developed in the thirteenth century.


Kim Holds a Bottle of Cultures for Gouda Cheese


After the cheese is formed by pressing it together in a mold lined with cheesecloth, it’s  pressed into its final wheel shape and the first stages of the cheese are finished. It is then soaked in a brine solution of salt and water. After this process it is dipped over and over into this vat of wax that seals the completed product and forms the covering you are familiar with when purchasing your Gouda cheese at the local grocery store. This is the farmer’s daughter who will take over the cheese making operation at this farm when her Mother retires. Very astute young lady and undeniably works very long hours every day!


Gouda Cheese Dipping Station


We learned that all Low Fat Gouda cheese blocks have a square edge. This identifies it as a product with less calories. I was surprised that a market existed for this product as I am a full flavored cheese lover and I thought most people were of that tradition. The young lady below puts the finishing touches on her Low Fat wheels in preparation for sales.


Low Fat Cheese with Straight Edge


I was also very amazed at how many flavors of Gouda cheese existed and how they were significantly different in taste. The photo below reflects many of the various flavors. The black wheels are truffle flavored and obviously more expensive. I have to say my black truffle sample was delicious. The red wheels are paprika flavored Gouda and I loved its taste also. The green wheel represented pesto. The speckled wheel were flavored with chopped walnuts. Don’t tell anyone, but I had seconds on several of the samples. I wound up purchasing the original flavored Gouda, but came very close to buying the Cayenne flavor, as I like spicy foods.


Flavors of Gouda including, Pesto, Paprika, Truffle, Walnut, Cayenne, Low Fat, and Original


After tasting multiple samples and buying my original flavored wheel (small, maybe a pound) we were led into the dairy barn where the dairy farmer explained the operation of managing the dairy cattle. This was dear to my heart, as my grandfather was a dairy farmer in Kansas for over 40 years. As a young man we visited his dairy farm every year, usually at Thanksgiving and I cherished those times after I grew up. Being back in that operation, even though it was in Holland, made the memories flood through my brain. My brothers and I loved exploring his barns and learning about dairy cattle. My only issue was my grandparents didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was fifteen years old. I won’t go into all the associated issues with this.



Fifth Generation Farmer Giving His Talk on the Operation of the Dairy Farm


The barn was divided into two sections with milk producing cows on one side and cows who were pregnant or ready for insemination on the other side with the one bull he owned. As illustrated below the cows are very friendly and very curious. They want to reach out and let you know they are there. You have to be careful though as the cow’s tongues are rough and almost like sandpaper. They can really do damage if you aren’t careful and one can wind up with very bad scratches and abrasions.


Farmer and Kim Listening Attentively


Contrary to the feedlots in the US, this Holland operation had very widely spaced holding areas for the cows and the cows weren’t in any discomfort as in some of the American feedlots. They are all 100% Holstein cattle and the milking cows were milked twice daily via a robotic machine. I was used to actual hand milking as a young man and couldn’t believe how advanced the milking operation is today. We weren’t able to see the milking operation, as it begins at 5:00 AM daily and the second milking is at approximately 7:00 PM nightly.


Holstein Cows Located on the Milking Side of the Barn


They are fed hay daily and none of them looked malnourished by any means. In fact they might have been heavy by what I am used to at my Grandfather’s farm. The farmer had fed them earlier in the day and a few small stacks of hay remained.


The cows are very curious as I said above and I have to tell you about what happened to Kim. She was wearing a wrap that day as there was a chill in the air and she got too close to one of the cows. I didn’t get a good photo of what transpired, but you can guess from the ripples in her wrap. Yes the cow started eating her wrap and was pulling Kim towards the holding pen. It was hilarious and everyone got a great laugh from the cow’s action. I really wished I had a video of the event, as everyone laughed very heartily and I laughed so hard it almost brought tears to my eyes. It was hysterical.



Cows Literally Trying to Eat Kim’s Wrap


Overall I would definitely recommend the “Cheese Making Tour” which is an optional tour and not included in the original package. It was a very nice experience to see how Gouda cheese is made and best of all, the ability to sample all those flavors was fantastic. We then headed over to the Kinderdijk windmills and joined the rest of the ship’s passengers that opted for the UNESCO windmill tour.






***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 #14

On our first day in Budapest with Viking River Cruises, we were able to break free and shop on our own for a few hours. We found several items of note. The first and foremost retail philosophy was that all shopkeepers in Hungary have to deal in authentic merchandise, actually made in Hungary, contrary to other countries. In a great deal of places just when you think it was made in the city or country you are in, you turn it over and there is that huge sticker indicating it was made in China, Pakistan or who knows where. I have to admit it was refreshing.


There is a strict motivation to only display and sell authentic merchandise. If the authorities discover you are trying to pass items as “Made in Hungary” and they are actually from somewhere else the shopkeeper could lose their license and have to close their shop. That’s quite an incentative to not misrepresent products. I questioned an embroidery blouse and Kim assured me it was handmade by the seams and stitching. She sews and has for a long time so I am sure she was correct. One of the shops had several snack items and this 4 foot display of Paprika.


Hungarian Paprika Budapest


Paprika is a ground spice made from red air-dried fruits of the larger and sweeter varieties of the plant Capsicum annuum, called bell pepper or sweet pepper, sometimes with the addition of more aromatic or fiery types, namely Chili and Cayenne peppers. Although paprika is often linked to Hungarian foods, it originated in central Mexico and was brought to Spain in the 16th century. It came to Hungary under the Ottoman rule, but didn’t become popular in Hungary until the 19th century. Paprika can range in flavor from extremely hot to almost bland in taste.


Sweet paprika, the more common spice has more than half the seeds removed and hot paprika has seeds, stalks, sheath and husks all ground together. The Hungarian plant was brought by the Turks to Buda, now half Budapest the Capitol of Hungary, in 1529. The Central European paprika was hot until the 1920’s when a German breeder discovered a sweet fruit which he grafted to the other plants and developed the current paprika.

Hungary is a primary source for of common paprika these days but comes in various grades:


  • Noble sweet paprika – slightly pungent, bright red color, most commonly exported paprika
  • Special quality paprika – the mildest, a very deep bright red color
  • Delicate paprika  – a mild paprika with a rich flavor, light red to dark red
  • Exquisite delicate paprika  – similar to “Delicate”, but more pungent
  • Pungent exquisite delicate paprika  – an even more pungent version of delicate
  • Rose paprika – with a strong aroma and mild pungency, pale red color
  • Half-sweet paprika – a blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency
  • Strong paprika – the hottest paprika, light brown color


Who knew their were so many types of paprika or that there was such a history and assortment of colors and flavors!



***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 #8

Our three day extension in Prague after our Viking River Cruise on the Danube River was terrific and we saw a beautiful municipality, which is now one of my favorite cities in the world. On our way to the John Lennon wall one day we came upon this magnificent architectural phenomenon. It really captured my sense of bygone days. There were all sorts of crafts, jewelry and art being sold along the bridge. The statues and sculptures were fantastic located all along the bridge. On our way back we ran into a music group playing some kind of music that made me grab Kim and start dancing to the glee of everyone on the bridge and the group of musicians. It seemed like the thing to do. I seriously think the crowd loved it and we received great applause. Well maybe it was only one or two that clapped.


The Charles Bridge is a historic structure that crosses the Vitava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Actual work began in 1357 during the reign of King Charles IV and was completed in the early 1600’s. Initially it was called the Stone Bridge or just the Prague Bridge. In the late 1800’s it became known as the Charles Bridge, I’m guessing after King Charles who was in power when the construction began. Until 1841 it was the only passage across the Vitava river and was the exclusive connection between Prague Castle and Old Town Prague. It significantly increased land transit between eastern and western Europe.



Old Town Bridge Tower


The bridge is 2037 feet long and 33 feet wide. It was defined as a Bow Bridge, as the architecture resembled a bow. In addition it was a mirror of the Stone Bridge in Regensburg Germany. There are three towers, one on the Old Town side entrance and two on the Prague Castle side. There are 30 statues which were built close to 1700 in a Baroque style. They are all replicas now and have all been replaced with fabrications of the originals. This tower is considered by many to be one of the most astounding samples of Gothic style construction in the world.



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

Lewis N. Clark Travel Gear #3

I’m guessing that readers are probably growing weary of me commenting on items sent for trial by Lewis N. Clark. So this time I asked my family to choose items they thought they would use and send me their thoughts after trying out the products. I wanted to see if they arrived at the same conclusions I did with these travel items.


The first item tried out was this Secura RFID-Blocking Anti-Theft Convertipak (Burgandy) for my wife Kim. We recently traveled to Japan and all I can say is she wore this Convertipak every day and in various ways. I thought it was magnetized to her, literally! I have shown two different methods of wearing the Convertipak and will share her words in between photos.


Secura RFID-Blocking Anti-Theft Convertipak (Burgandy)


My wife’s thoughts: “The trendy burgundy color of my convertipack makes it perfect for daily use as well as traveling. For everyday use I am able to fit the entire contents of my purse, wallet, glass case and all into the anti theft bag. With everything secure inside zippered compartments I don’t worry about items falling out of my bag if it gets knocked over. When traveling I don’t carry a wallet and find the 4 card pockets perfect for my needs. My IPad fits great in large pocket. I love how quickly it can change from a backpack to a shoulder bag. I usually carry crossbody bags when traveling but with locking zippers and slash resistant straps/fabric I don’t not worry about using this bag as a backpack.”



My middle son Sean put his  “Cooling Gel Memory Foam Neck Pillow, Black” on his roommate and hoodwinked into a photograph. Sean has used it on several flights, including going to Vieques, an island off of Puerto Rico and his trip to Vegas this past weekend. He absolutely loves it. His thoughts: “Great product for flights or travel in general.  The first 30 minutes it was around my neck it did exactly what the name suggests, it felt cool to the skin.  After a good bit of time the cooling feature seemed to diminish but the pillow is one of the most comfortable neck pillows I’ve had the pleasure of using.” Thanks Josh Borchardt for posing!


Cooling Gel Memory Foam Neck Pillow, Black


Our youngest son Chris has a boat and chose waterproof items or something that works well around water. His first item is a Waterseals Waterproof Hard Case, Large in the color Blue. His thoughts after taking the hard case out is between the two photos:


Waterseals Waterproof Hard Case, Large, Blue


“This product does everything that it is supposed to. I was able to keep my phone and my wallet inside the case without any water getting into it and the closing latch is very easy to work. I used this product on a jet ski where there was quite a bit of water getting everywhere. The case also proved to be durable enough to withstand the beating it took while jumping waves and turning sharply. One of my favorite features of this case is the removable rubber padding that comes with it that allows for the internal valuables to be a bit more protected from the hard plastic.”


Waterseals Waterproof Hard Case, Large, Blue


WaterSeals Magnetic Waterproof Tablet Pouch- I was a little hesitant to place my belongings under water in this case when I first received it because there is not a “clasp” of any type on the product. As soon as got a chance to have the product in my hands my mind was immediately changed. The magnets work great! I spent more time than I would like to admit trying to figure out how something like this was so functional. The magnets work so well that you basically don’t have to do anything to seal the case. Just drop your valuables in the bag, let go of the magnets and this pouch will immediately seal itself. Another positive attribute of this pouch is that you can actually use your phone/tablet through the case so you do not need to open it with wet/dirty hands. I use this product on a jet ski so it is always risky business to be taking anything out of a bag while in the middle of a body of water. This has become a permanent addition to my trips the the lake!


Waterseals Magnetic Waterproof Mini Tablet Pouch, Yellow


So as you can tell my family’s opinion fairly well coincides with mine. Lewis N. Clark makes dependable, well thought out travel accessories and I recommend you take a look at their products. They are useful and provide security with their RFID function and secure agendas.



***All products were sponsored by Lewis N. Clark for testing and review. All opinions are as always, those of my family and my own.

Viking River Cruises, Budapest

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


Viking Longship Modi

Viking Longship Modi


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


Reception Area and upstairs Library

Reception Area and upstairs Library


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


Wooden Spoons from the Christmas Market, Budapest

Wooden Spoons from the Christmas Market, Budapest


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


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


Marzipan of Many Flavors (Yes we bought some)

Marzipan of Many Flavors (Yes we bought some)


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


One of the More Creative Packaging for Soap on a Rope


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


Buda Castle, as Seen From Our Side of the Danube

Buda Castle, as Seen From Our Side of the Danube


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


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


Paprika is One of the Largest Exports of Budapest

Paprika is One of the Largest Exports of Budapest


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


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

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


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


Matthias Church with Magnificent Architecture, Especially the Roof Tiles

Matthias Church with Magnificent Architecture, Especially the Roof Tiles


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


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





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







Hard Road to Travel

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


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


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


Lauren DiMarco of

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



Leah Walker Puckett of

Leah Walker Puckett of “Leah Travels“!



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



Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad


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


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


Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.


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


Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago)

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago) Friend and Mentor


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


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


Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine My Hostess

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine, My Hostess


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


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


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


James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand


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


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


Help me somebody, somebody please


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


Talon Windwalker of 1 Dada 1 Kid

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid


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



*** Lyrics By Jimmy Cliff from


Jimmy Cliff – Hard Road To Travel Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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.










My Amazing Life-Chapter 8, Jadi Batek

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


Various Batek Material

Various Batek Material


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



Rolls of Batek Material. I bought 13.7 meters worth!

Rolls of Batek Material. I bought 13.7 meters worth!


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



Batek Shirts

Batek Shirts


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



Various Batek Materials

Various Batek Materials


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



My Batek Artwork

My Batek Artwork, Even Autographed!


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


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



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



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

My Amazing Life-Chapter 6, What Do You Get When You Mix….Copper, Antimony and Tin???

We pulled into the parking lot of the Royal Selangor Factory in the mid morning and the Malaysian heat and humidity were intense. As we left the tour bus I spied this huge tankard at the entrance to the factory. It made me think immediately of how good a cold beer would taste just now, while the perspiration dribbled down my brow. The only issue is, since my heart attack ten years ago, I can’t really partake of any alcohol without waking up with the world’s biggest hangover the next morning. Oh well a man can dream can’t he?


World's Largest Pewter Tankard

World’s Largest Pewter Tankard


We entered the factory and thank God the place was air conditioned. We registered and received our passes and listened to an introductory speech in regard to the history of the factory. We learned exactly how a young “Pewtersmith” named Yong Koon left his home in China and settled in Colonial Malayia in 1885. He made the decision to abide in Kuala Lampur, which at the time was a small but expanding mining town. Pewter is an alloy made primarily from tin with small portions of antimony and copper blended in. It is the most precious metal in the world after gold and silver.


The Three Ingredients of Pewter

The Three Ingredients of Pewter


As we began the tour we came across many glassed in display examples of antique items. We saw original ingots and tools used in the processing of pewter. Silver antiques have always piqued my interest because I am a history buff who enjoys items that delineate the past and can only imagine how difficult it must have been to start the foundry from scratch. To be honest, I’d like to have them over at my house and possibly take them out when I host a theme party. When I see advertisements for new building flats with slogans like “cool contemporary living,” the cynic in me conjures up images of soulless overpriced boxes! As a result, I might look for an antique silver store myself to purchase a few fancy pieces for my home decor.


Old Pewter Ingots

Old Pewter Ingots


To see kettles and urns from long ago, along with items that were made more than likely before I was born, is stimulating and rewarding to a history buff. I was in heaven as we sauntered through the cases filled with items from the early days of pewtersmithing.


Original Kettle Examples

Original Kettle Examples


I then learned how much of the work is still done by hand. I was blown away that these individuals have such a high concentration level and can block out all distractions, to enhance the items with their natural talents. If I were a betting man I would have gone “all in” on a machine making the engraving on the pewter cups, etc.


A Great Deal of the Work is Still Done By Hand

A Great Deal of the Work is Still Done By Hand


We were led through a walkway that overlooked the foundry and all the various stations that assembled the different components and items. One could see out over the majority of the factory and to my dismay they were all at lunch apparently. I would have loved to see them laboring at their craft.


A Workstation at The Royal Selangor Factory

A Workstation at The Royal Selangor Factory


We found out at the end of the factory tour that this was an interactive tour and we each would be making our own individual pewter pendant and had to pick from a myriad of designs. Being a type A personality, I immediately chose a heart and decided I would surprise my wife with it upon my return.


We had to pour the hot pewter into a mold and let it cool. We then had to clip the extra pieces with snips, that had spilled over from the mold. Then we smoothed and sanded the item with a file and electric buffer. This all from a guy that can’t even hit a nail correctly with a lightweight hammer. It came out good enough to please Kim and that is all that counts!


One of the Benifits of the Tour is Making Your Own Pendant

One of the Benefits of the Tour is Making Your Own Pendant


From the interactive station we were led into a retail shop that had rows and rows of items for sale. You could spend a dollar or many thousands of dollars. I took photo after photo of the items they had for sale and we roamed the shop for around 45 minutes or so. I was completely in awe of the items on sale and the plethora of pewter items exhibited to whet our appetite for a souvenir.


A Champagne Set

A Champagne Set







And Still Even More Tankards

More Tankards



Ornate Vases

Ornate Vases



Teapots Contribute to a Large Portion of The Sales

Teapots Contribute to a Large Portion of The Sales



Inlaid Plates

Decorative Plates



Assorted Items

Assorted Items



A Wonderful Eagle

A Wonderful Eagle



A Lion or Big Cat of Some Kind

A Lion or Big Cat of Some Kind


Royal Selangor acquired Comyns, an English silversmith and many examples were on sale in a different section of the store. All the items in this area were made from silver and I might add were unique and ornate. They were lovely to look at but I certainly could not touch them.


They Also Work With Silver

They Also Work With Silver



More Silver Work

More Silver Work


If you visit Kuala Lampur Malaysia I highly recommend you take this factory tour of Royal Selangor. I am positive you will enjoy all the assorted items from the past and current popular pieces handcrafted daily. It only takes a couple of hours and is well worth the tour in my humble opinion.


In Case you Forget Where You Were!

In Case you Forget Where You Were!






*** 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 #57

If you know me, you understand that I love Colonial architecture, doors, windows and balconies. I am not sure exactly why I am drawn to that period. The magnificent arches, large doors mainly made from wood and over-sized windows are more than attractive to me. They are magnetic and pull me in. When you add the ornate and intricate balconies I get mesmerized and can never take enough photos.



I have hundreds and hundreds of photos of old wooden doors from my visits over time to Cuenca Ecuador, along with hundreds of balcony photos. It got to the point on my trip last March with Kim, that she was pointing out doors before I could see them. She began questioning whether I had a photo or not of each specific door.




Old Town Phuket Thailand

Old Town Phuket Thailand



On my recent FAM trip to Phuket Thailand we stopped in old town and had about an hour to scurry down several streets and capture what we could. I loved this photo and even though it is kind of garish it drew me in. Thank you Thailand for giving me another source of joy!

Photo of The Day #54

As we headed out of Phuket Thailand, to take the Long Boat to James Bond Island or Khao Phing Kan in the Phang Nga Bay,  I knew I couldn’t make the entire trip without a potty break. I have a bad bladder and holding is not an option ordinarily, as my wife Kim will tell you. Her on the other hand, she can hold it for days.


It pisses me off. Pun intended! Luckily our guide had a stop planned for beverages and the sampling of some of the best Dim Sum I had ever tasted! I was so glad when they offered us a taste. I wanted to eat the whole pot!


Very Tasty Dim Sum

Very Tasty Dim Sum


I caught the name of the restaurant. It was Phing Nga Restaurant right before the Sarasin Bridge. I captured a few photos of the magnificent orchid presentation on the wall separating the dining rooms, along the path to the restrooms. I was very surprised at how clean and well stocked the restrooms were. Very nice! I was much more taken back though by this array of orchids.


Wall of Orchids

Wall of Orchids


Obviously I had to choose one as my favorite and it literally jumped out and caught my attention. What do you think did I get it right?


An Amazing Purple Orchid

An Amazing Purple Orchid


Photo of The Day #53

As I sit here tonight scanning my shares and connections on social media, I came across a musician friend that loves Japan more than I do if that is possible. It s been many years since Kim and I have been to Japan and I am ready to go back. If I could afford it, I would eventually retire in Japan. I love its people. its food and its culture. It is one of the countries in the world that still understands how to act with class. This photo is from my visit with my son to the Big Buddha and I love looking at this photo, as it reminds me how much I really miss Japan. Kyoto I hope you are ready because next time we are coming your way!


The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

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

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


Sabor a Pasion

Sabor a Pasion


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


Exterior of Event Room

Exterior of Event Room


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


Interior of Event Room

Interior of Event Room


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


Wood Burning Pizza Oven

Wood Burning Pizza Oven with the Vineyard in the Background


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


Tuscany Table

Tuscany Table


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


Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan

Chef Simon Webster with the Nomadic Texan


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


Breakfast to Die For

Breakfast to Die For


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


Vineyard Arbor

Vineyard Arbor


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


Chef Simon Webster

Chef Simon Webster


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





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







Article #7, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Red Fire Grille”

The original pretense of Kim and my visit to Palestine Texas for the weekend, was to share in the culinary attributes, of this pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods. Of course my first thought was chicken fried steak or maybe a huge helping of fried catfish. I was, to be totally honest, a little suspicious that there would be anything of a positive nature offered on our visit. So Saturday night was the first experience, in a higher quality and more palatable cuisine at the Red Fire Grille.

Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification

Plaque of Redlands Hotel Historical Identification


We entered the Redlands Hotel and the restaurant is off to the side on the ground floor. Thank goodness I wore a nice dress shirt and slacks, as any type of casual apparel would have been totally out of place. It turns out this really is a nice place and I couldn’t wait to get started. After the long day I was famished. We were joined at dinner by a marvelous local personality, Martelle Moronko. Marty kept me in stitches all night long and I loved her outgoing personality and sense of humor.


Red Fire Grille

Red Fire Grille


The Red Fire Grille is owned and run by Dawn and Executive Chef Christian Mailloux. Chef Christian has been honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America, a 386-page coffee table book.  I have included a link illustrating his experience and how he came to be categorized as such a prestigious chef. Dawn was a very gracious hostess and ensured our service was impeccable all night long.


Dawn and Chef Christian

Dawn and Chef Christian


It appeared that this was the real deal and I couldn’t wait to sample his cooking. I looked over the menu and was delighted to find several favorites that I knew I had to order. We ordered both pan fried Calamari and Flatbread for appetizers and I have admit that both were of a superior quality and taste. The Calamari was very flavorful and had a wonderful breading. The Flatbread was even better than anticipated and I ate more than my share of this appetizer! I particularly loved the thin crisp crust. I highly recommend either when you dine at the Red Fire Grille.


Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread

Pan Fried Calamari and Flatbread



I love Bleu Cheese Dressing when it is made correctly and has an ample supply of actual cheese in it. If it is served with a wedge of lettuce, there is no finer salad option in my book. I am not a Caesar’s salad man. So obviously you know what I started with. There was a huge supply of genuine Bleu cheese in the dressing and its flavor was supreme.  My apologies to Chef Christian, but I do love my pepper. Kim had the Caesar’s salad.



Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing

Wedge with Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing


I ordered the Colorado Rack of Lamb and I must confess it was superb. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaser courses, but they could not compare with this dish. I almost could cut the lamb with my fork. The rack was served with caramelized onion mashed potatoes and spinach. The potatoes had an extravagant flavor, which really made my mouth water. I have had many a dish of lamb, over the course of my life and some have been significantly more succulent than others. This was by far, the best Rack of Lamb I have ever had! Imagine it is being served in Palestine Texas. I would have never guessed the quality this restaurant serves.


Colorado Rack of Lamb

Colorado Rack of Lamb


Kim chose and I knew when I looked at the menu, this would be her choice, the Mahi Mahi. We constantly debate which fish is more tasty and I assume it depends on one’s palate. She always loves Mahi Mahi and this was no exception. It was cooked to her liking, which is tough to do. I like my fish a little under cooked and flaky. Kim likes her a little more robust and solid. The portion was extremely sufficient and I believe for the first time I can remember, Kim could not finish her entree of Mahi Mahi. Marty also opted for the Mahi Mahi.


Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi

Caribbean Roasted Mahi Mahi


Breezy ordered the Butternut Lasagna and couldn’t finish it either. Portions are more than ample at the Red Fire Grille and one does not walk away hungry. This is what her dish looked like. Doesn’t it make your mouth water?


Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna


So anyone have room for dessert? I wavered for at least a second or two and decided on the Creme Brulee. I am sure anyone that knows me, will tell you that would be my option. Marty had the same. I have to say that it was my least favorite course. Maybe I was full, or the other courses jaded my taste buds, but it lacked something. Kim had a taste and really liked the subtle hint of Lavender, in the bite of Creme Brulee she had.


Lavender Creme Brulee

Lavender Creme Brulee


Kim had the Mini Coconut Creme dessert and had issues with the pineapple ring. She could not cut it. The other products in the concoction were very good and had wonderful blend of flavors. Kim especially loved the Margarita ice cream in her dessert.


Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp

Mini Coconut Creme, Margarita Ice Cream, Pineapple Crisp


Breezy had the Chocolate dessert and if memory serves me correctly finished it off. I was going to try it, but the opted instead for the Creme Brulee.


Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup

Flourless Chocolate Chili Pate with Hibiscus Syrup


After dinner Chef Christian came out of the kitchen and we shook hands. It was nice to put a face with the food. It is very easy to see why he has been identified as such a reputable chef and I can understand his accolades and high honor. His food is worthy of a side or day trip and the restaurant had immaculate service. I highly recommend if you are within 100 miles of Palestine, that you venture to the Redlands Hotel and undertake an award winning dinner at the Red Fire Grille. You will not be sorry!


Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan

Executive Chef Christian Mailloux with the Nomadic Texan






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















Article #6, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Granny Muffin Wines”

As we entered The Texas Art Depot, I asked if we were really in a “Winery”, as it appeared to me that we were in an art and antique shop. Our host Breezy Lake-Wolfe directed us upstairs. As we neared the staircase I saw these boxes of wine sitting and waiting to be shipped and I knew there must be wine nearby. I love their logo!


Wine Boxed and Ready to Go "Downstairs" in the Texas Art Depot

Wine Boxed and Ready to Go, “Downstairs” in the Texas Art Depot


As we turned the corner upstairs into the “Winery”, the atmosphere changed a great deal. People were sitting at tables sampling the wine and I noticed that there were cheese and sausage selections available to all customers. The winery is owned and operated by Mike and April Johnston. They were busy with customers, so Kim and I decided to look at the rooms of art and antiques around the floor.



A Collection of Clocks


I found an eclectic assortment and I personally love old clocks, like these shown in the photo above! We sauntered into the next room and found all the walls adorned with various artwork and most depicted Civil War activity and turn of the last century or Victorian Era scenes.




Walls of Art


As we returned to the tasting room, I saw that Granny Muffin had won several medals and were proudly displaying the specifics. Mike and April offer 25 different varietal wines, with outstanding Merlot’s, Cabernet’s, Chiantis, Malbec’s, White Zinfandel’s, Chardonnay’s, Sauvignon’s, Gewurtzraminer, Pinot’s, Piesporter’s and many blends. I trust you will find your favorite at this winery.



Medals, Medals, Medals


I learned that Mike and April had just returned from Safari in Africa and absolutely loved their trip. I respectfully declined another tasting, as I do not imbibe on a regular basis and was at my limit. Kim of course loves White Zinfandel’s. She sampled and bought a bottle shown below on the rack.



A Closer Look


Finally I had a chance to meet April and I found her a very outgoing and hilarious young lady. She had me in stitches I was laughing so hard. So if you venture to Palestine Texas and find you have an hour or so to spend, I recommend you go to Granny Muffin’s Winery and sample their great wines. If you run into April please be prepared to be treated like you have known each other for years. She is a delight and will keep your spirits up (pun intended)!


April Johnston with the Nomadic Texan

April Johnston with the Nomadic Texan






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




Article #3, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101 “A Lesson in History”

When Kim and I first got married 35 years ago, we lived in Galveston Texas. Galveston was and may still be the home of the most historic sites in Texas. We participated in the old homes tour each year and became “Docents” for a house each year. We love historic sites and homes built around the turn of the last century.


We recently discovered that Palestine had a myriad of historical sites, over 1800 in total and were amazed at the places we saw on Saturday morning. The first being the old library built with aid from the Carnegie Foundation and was built in 1914. It was designated as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1970 and entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, by the Department of the Interior.


Carnegie Library

Palestine Carnegie Library



Next we stopped at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a successor to the original wooden St. Joseph Church built in 1874, on land donated by the Great Northern Railway. The St. Joseph church burned down in 1890 and this building of handmade brick was begun later that year. The design was done by Nicholas J. Clayton, a prominent Victorian Era architect of Galveston, who was also responsible for the Bishop’s Palace and the Old Red Building at UTMB, both infamous Galveston structures.


Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Sacred Heart Catholic Church



Next up was the Redlands Hotel which is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings and was originally headquarters for the International & Great Northern Railroad. It is located in Main Street District and has extended stay apartments available. Located on the bottom floor is the Red Fire Grille, featuring Executive Chef Christian Mailloux. I will devote an entire blog to this restaurant later in the series.


Redlands Hotel

Redlands Hotel



Nearby is the Texas Theater, home of  Palestine Community Theatre,  a live production company. It is an example of Spanish Colonial architecture and was originally a movie theater, but closed after several horrific fires and other issues. It reopened 25 years ago and has become the finest venue for live entertainment in East Texas.


Texas Theater

Texas Theater



The last “building” I am picturing is the Palestine Post Office and Federal Building constructed between 1911 and 1913. At the time it was built it housed the Selective Service, The National Weather Bureau’s Reading Station and other federal offices. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Anderson County has owned the building since 1990.


The Palestine Post Office and Federal Building

The Palestine Post Office and Federal Building


There are a myriad of other historical buildings, shops and stores, but I can’t possibly cover them all. The downtown is in the middle of a restoration process, that will continue to be bolstered by additional tourism and philanthropy.  I am confident that this pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods will continue to prosper and become a destination for all Texans and visitors looking for a historical treasures.


Okay so you thought the post was over. Not on your life. We transitioned to the neighborhoods and started viewing some of the most spectacular old homes I have ever seen. This is one of my passions, as you will see. I couldn’t stop taking photos and kept asking Breezy Lake-Wolfe to stop and let me capture each house I liked. This of course threw us way off schedule and made us late for our lunch date, the subject of my next article. Shown below are a few of my favorites.


Love This House

Love This Huge Tree and the Fabulous Porch of This House



Very Well Done

Love the Size, Double Stacked Porches and All the Windows in This House



Love the Upstairs Balcony and the Wonderful Painting Contrasts of this House




Love Green Old Houses With Gingerbread Trim




Loved The Circular Driveway, Swings and The Magnificent Front Porch




Kim and I Could Retire in This House



A Colorful Victorian House

A Colorful Victorian House, With So Much Going On




Love This Street Sign and Iron Fencing



How Would You Like This Entryway


Paranormal alert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



This Building is an Old Vacated Structure, Inhabited by Ghosts and It Looks Like One is Escaping In Its Wheelchair



The restoration of old homes and their downtown area in Palestine, reminds me of my time in Galveston. I know a great deal of you will be surprised, but I actually practiced carpentry at that time and helped rebuild many old homes in Galveston, along with a  few of the Historical buildings on the Strand.


I feel these two towns are related in their efforts to bring back the luster of their respective cities. I am excited at how enthusiastic Palestine is about revitalizing these gorgeous old structures downtown and the fantastic homes  on the perimeter. I love it when towns decide to take positive steps and own their future. Congratulations #palestinetx for initiating this rehabilitation of your city.





*** 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.
















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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas