I can’t tell you how many credit cards I have applied for to gain miles recently. I always try and take advantage of every card with 50,000 or more flight miles offered in exchange for flight miles. I wouldn’t be able to secure these cards if my credit wasn’t superb and above average. If you need better credit, I would recommend you contact a credit repair company as soon as possible. Credit card companies do not like to award these type of promotions unless they are fairly certain you will follow through and uphold your obligations.
John Lennon Wall Prague
In the past four years I have secured enough miles, by applying and being approved for over eight personal and business cards to travel substantially. This has enabled me to have made round trips to Japan for myself and my son, round trips to Belgium for my wife and myself, an upcoming round trip for my wife and myself to Paris and then Brussels, a round trip for myself to Barcelona and originally a round trip to Cuenca Ecuador for my wife and myself and still have over 325,000 miles available. As a write this blog post, I just had a business card approved for another 70,000 miles which will bring my totals to over 400,000 miles total, if I don’t feel the urge to use some for a spur of the moment week to Europe, Asia or even South America.
One of the ways I manage to use the minimum amount of miles each time is to look carefully at the award chart from my flight company and see if I am flexible if the miles used will be reduced by changing the date of departure from Texas or the departure date from my intended destination. This insures I don’t waste my miles. A great example is this upcoming trip that will use 70,000 to 80,000 miles less because I moved my departure date back from Texas five days and my return date I pushed three days. This is for both my wife and myself, so we in essence saved enough miles to make another round trip to Europe by optimizing our mileage usage. We originally were looking at 140,000 to 160,000 miles round trip to Brussels.
Pastries at Vienna Christmas Market
Additionally, I always gravitate to Credit cards with no International fees, as we tend to travel almost exclusively abroad. My first trip a travel blogger in 2012 was unbelievable and the fees associated with my credit card that was originally obtained for travel in the US were astronomical. I will caution you and ask you to be observant. If you use your cards at restaurants, ATMs or for transportation please be vigilant and make sure you validate you charges fairly often. My wife and I were in Bratislava Slovakia and we used her Debit card for cash. Immediately Chase Bank notified us that there was suspicious activity on her card and a $600.00 charge was canceled thank goodness.
When traveling I would rather use my credit cards for purchases than to carry a giant wad of cash. That’s just asking for trouble in my honest opinion. I would also tell you that it is imperative you make contact with your credit card companies and inform them of your planned schedule, countries and major cities to be visited.
Flavors of Gouda Cumin, Truffle, Walnut, Cayenne, LoFat Plain, all from Kinderdijk, Netherlands
When I first started collecting miles I was employed and only captured the personal expenditures during a fiscal year. Probably not that much to write home about, but certainly helped me establish my account. Slowly but surely I have been amassing miles in order to hopefully one day hit the million mile mark with my flight account. Certain benefits will become available at that point and flying can become extremely fun again, not the arduous process it is currently. I am excited to hit that plateau one day and begin again. Every time they alter or change the rules I jump on the advantageous items and hold off on those that would impede my progress.
I will never forget losing 68,000 miles because I was inactive. I would have already been very close to achieving this goal of a million mile flyer. In those days one could not achieve miles unless you were actually flying. Now just having the credit card, making purchases with it will land you a massive amount of miles over time, especially if you have extraordinary expenses like teeth or medical surgeries. These have helped my get my miles collection nearer my goal. Alas it’s been at a substantial cost from the events of my life, both medically and dental wise. Recently I have expanded to other airlines and started attaining miles from them. Truthfully though the best way to accumulate miles is to have a card that can be used for any and all flight miles programs. My favorite method though is and has been lately, to sign up for the personal and business cards offering large amounts of miles dedicated to my account.
For years I’ve admired the young men in the world that carried a manbag. I watched as they threw everything inside and tossed the strap over their shoulders. Being from Texas I was, to say the least, tentative about the possibility of carrying one myself. I generally thought I would receive snark remarks in regard to my manhood, testimony about my missing boots and general degradation in regard to my lack of masculinity. Fifteen to twenty years ago I wouldn’t even have considered carrying a manbag, for fear of being ostracized by my male friends and shunned by society.
Having said all this, along with my travels through Asia, South America and Europe more recently, brought me to the conclusion, that given my age, it didn’t really matter what others think. As one gets on in years, fitting in gets less and less important. I decided I would start the process of looking for a manbag that came across rugged, constructed from hearty materials and a lack of flash. Even though I wore Hawaiian shirts for ages, I am not really inclined to tote gaudy items or accessories.
The Satchel Pro by NutSac
I came across a company founded in 2009, in Corvallis Oregon. The name of the company is NutSac and it manufactures cool, well-designed, American-made bags. The company name is explained in this direct quote from their Home page. “NutSac was named because the founders realized that you’d have to be a little bit nuts to manufacture in America and compete against cheap products. You’d also have to be a bit nuts to try to source American-made materials. And you’d have to be really nuts to trust that your customers will value your commitment to fair business practices and quality design.”
There are round magnets on the bottom corners of flap that folds over the top and secures the bag. This component is appreciated more than you can realize! This additional perk is the icing on the cake and helps make this satchel a superb product! You just toss the flap over and it stays in place without zipping it closed.
The bag is constructed from full grain leather plus has a waxed canvas covering. It comes in this natural color or a black. The bags are hand sewn in the US and guaranteed for life! The Satchel Pro has ample room inside of it as shown in the photo below. I can carry my tablet and all my items that normally go in my shirt and pants pockets.
Going through security at airports isn’t a nightmare any longer. I just pull my tablet out, zip the main compartment and walk through the x-ray machine. In the past I fumbled with my glasses, wallet, business card holder, keys, Swiss Army Knife, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, pen, handkerchief, passport and money clip. Now I just send this wonderful bag through on its own. There is a zippered compartment on one side of the interior, two slip in pockets on the other side and an expandable middle section that opens to around two and a half inches wide, more than enough room for my 12 inch Samsung tablet.
Satchel Pro Interior Pockets
My first venture outdoors was in Brussels recently, when we all went to a neighborhood outdoor organic market filled with all sorts of fresh produce, bread, pasta, sweets and of course waffles. I loved seeing what fruits and vegetables were available and how pricing varied with US prices. One item I came across was golden kiwis. I’ve never had them before. They were delicious. The market also had organic breads, cheese, sweets and of course Belgian Waffles. You know I had to try one and it was so good!
Brussels Satchel Pro in the Organic Market
On the fourth day in Brussels we went to a park located nearby and ran into people of all ages walking, riding bicycles and treating their pets to some fresh air, along with the fact that it was a rare day filled with bright sunshine rather than the usual gloom and foggy atmosphere. It was a gorgeous park and I couldn’t believe how green Belgium was, especially given the temperatures at night. I thought this rock bridge made for a good photo with the huge felled tree in front of it.
Satchel Pro in a Local Park in Brussels
On the exterior is another zippered pocket in which I show my new favorite flavor of gum, Trident pineapple. The pocket unzips to the length of the bag and approximately seven inches deep. The shoulder strap can be removed, adjusted in length and is made of heavy duty webbed cotton material that would take a lot of pressure to tear or cut through and with the metal hardware it’s very secure.
A quote from the Satchel Pro page describing the bag’s dimensions, “Technology just keeps getting bigger doesn’t it? Not to worry, the Satchel Pro will make your life easier. The Satchel Pro is designed for the iPad Pro or other pro-series tablets. Larger than our Satchel or Mag-Satch, the Satchel Pro has extra capacity for your larger devices. The Satchel fits larger tablets like the 12.9″ iPad Pro and Surface Pro.” The bag is 12.4 x 9 x 2.5 inches and weighs only 1.94 pounds or .88kg. I rarely make such a strong case for travel items and as much as I am for my NutSac manbag, you know it must be a quality product!
Satchel Pro Exterior Pocket
In the end I am more than pleased with my new manbag and it goes with me everywhere now. I love tossing it over my shoulder and taking off. I am passionate about the quality of this bag and I know it’s going to last longer than I will. Over time it will take on a character of its own with the waxed cover getting scratched and marked by things it comes in contact with. Regardless of my travels this manbag will accompany me where I go from now own. Did I tell you I really love it yet? At the end of the day I am more than pleased with this manbag. It is an extension of me and I can’t believe I waited so long to acquire one. NutSac has several sizes and I am sure you can find one that suits your needs. I highly recommend this product and am so happy I am working with this company now.
***NutSac sponsored the bag for my review. As always, all opinions, as always, are those of my own.
After over 6 hours of driving through the back roads of Texas, I finally arrived in Tyler. I was famished and very eager to take a deep look into this historical and gorgeous town located in East Texas just off of Interstate 20. I had a full itinerary and was already behind because of evil road construction. My contact Holli Conley, the Marketing and Communications Manager had gone overboard to be helpful and ensure a fantastic trip was had by yours truly. She suggested a taco at the local food truck, located at the Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum for the Azalea activies weekends. I jumped at the chance.
Curbside Taco Truck
I wasn’t disappointed and had a truly delicious quick bite. They make their tacos from corn tortillas, in the manner I like! Now to run through the Goodman Museum. The house was originally built in 1859 and was a one story four room building located on the highest knoll in Tyler. After several owners and expansions it became the property of Dr. Samuel Adams Goodman from South Carolina originally. The Doctor’s son, a Confederate Major and general surgeon purchased the home from his father, upon his marriage to Mary Priscilla Gaston. They had three children Sallie, Will and Etta Goodman. The second story was added in 1880. Sallie married James LeGrand in 1893. After her father’s death in 1921 Sallie inherited the house. Mr. LeGrand and Sallie remodeled the home in 1926. Two story columns and rounded porticos were added to the facade in the Greek Revival style, which is how the house looks today. Upon her death in 1939 Sallie bequeathed the nine acres and the house with all the furnishings to the city of Tyler.
Entry to Goodman Museum
I entered the Museum and was completely blown away. If you don’t know it, I love antique furnishings and handmade acutrements. I immediately was confronted by the sitting room to the left and was impressed with the fashion the house was maintained.
On the left was a wonderful piano, that I would have given my little toe to play on. Hint I can’t really play the piano, but love the way the keys sound. It was such an ornate musical intrument I wouldn’t have really touched it, regardless.
I went across the entry way and saw this fireplace. Had to take a photo, in fact I think I took over 100 photos of the museum. The fireplace attracted my attention as it reminded me of some of the gas heaters I had a child growing up in Texas.
Antique Gas Fireplace
I turned left and what a dining room table. It was set for what looks like six patrons. There were so many beautiful dining items, between the flatware, the plates, both salad and dinner, not to mention the serving pieces, I couldn’t soak it all in.
Goodman Dining Table
As most of my followers know I love to eat and I love to cook. I was in my area of the house! This old gas oven really brought home memories og my grandparents and what they used to go through, just to have a holiday meal. My paternal grandmother had a cellar filed with all her canned goods to last the winter. I would guess back in the day this house had a similar setup some where out of the way and in a cool damp area.
Antique Cooking Stove
What better way to relax than rocking back and forth in a handmade rocking chair. I know because I still have an antique rocking chair my grandfather made in the early twenties. Not too much longer and it wil be 100 years old. It’s heaven! This was obviously a piece of nice carpentry work, someone spent hours and hours on assembling.
Antique Rocking Chair
In another room, most likely an “Office” area, I found this wonderful roll top desk, very similar again to the one I have that my grandfather made. This one though has a pull out desktop for writing, etc. I love that additional feature. Next to it is a radio or Victrola.
On top of the firplace was a collection of statues resembling many periods in history. Everything from the Greco-Roman period, to a more recent Wild West young man dressed as if he was attending a roundup. I like the clock in the centerpiece and it was actually in operation, if my memory serves me correctly. That is about the time I would have been in the Museum.
Figurines on the Fireplace Mantel
Upstairs in the huge Master Bedroom was a crib with the baby’s nightgown off to the side. All apparent handmade clothing and a nice looking quilt that was more than likely handmade also! Don’t miss the woolen socks.
The husbamd’s clothing standing below, ready to take and put on, was very ornate and intricately handsewn. I am sure this was a method or maintaining ironed clothing and keeping the wrinkles away. The headless mannequins were a little eerie to me though.
The wife’s clothing was laid out on the bed, with accompanying hat and purse. The other garments a true gentleman does not discuss in public!
Lady of the House’s Clothes Laid Out
Beside the Master bed were two chairs and they caught my eye, because one was a child’s size, made from bentwood and straw, weaved for the seat and back. It took many hours of love and labor to complete the chair. Beside is an adult’s chair, that wasn’t as complicated to construct, but I am sure served its purpose.
Adult and Child’s Chairs
Interestingly enough I found this antique wheelchair sitting in the hallway upstairs. Makes me wonder if someone had to use it for several years. The depression in the seat area indicates it was well worn and used frequently. Compare this piece of equipment with the more modern chairs of today. Remarkable progression has been made!
This bedroom belonged obviously to one of the daughter’s, but I am not entirely sure which young lady resided in this bedroom.
Female Child’s Bedroom
When I was a child and came across a bannister like this I would scoot down the rail and keep doing it over and over until I got in trouble. It’s the small joys in life you remember and this would have been one heck of a ride!
Magnificent Goodman Staircase
I left the museum and wondered over to a sitting area filled with benches and plants of all kinds. I would guess that the Goodman’s and the Legrand’s spent many an evening sitting in this garden and watching the sun go down. They maybe even had a toddy or two. Who knows for sure. I do know the museum is one of the highlights of my trip and when you visit Tyler you need to stop by and see the museum, even if you have a limited visit. I assure you that you will come away glad you did!
As I was leaving, I stopped by the desk to say thank you for the tour and I was fortunate to run into Mary Foster, who is the Museum curator. I told her she was doing a fantastic job and the museum in my humble opinion was outstanding. She was a very bubbly and outgoing young lady and you could tell, that even though hundreds of people were visiting that day, she was able to maintain her composure and smile at everyone. I was impressed with her multi-tasking performance, as she carried on no less than four different conversations with staff and visitors at the same time, all the time smiling. She is the backbone of the museum I believe and does a great job as curator.
***Portions of my stay were in association with the City of Tyler. All opinions, as always, are those of my own.
Our medical situation in the US is growing more and more ridiculous day by day and costs have forced many individuals to search out medical procedures and medicine in foreign locations. It is called Medical Tourism and the countries involved are growing daily. The costs vary enormously, depending on the world status of the country involved. This chart in the link gives you an idea of what each procedure would cost in the US and in other countries. I know the first thought will be, “Are the facilities clean and up to par”? I will answer with a resounding yes, in most situations.
As a child I remember our family Doctor actually making house calls for my Mother, with her serious back issues. He would come early in the morning. during the middle of the day or even late at night after most people had gone home. It was expected back then. This past year I fell sick in Cuenca Ecuador and was traveling alone. I went to a Doctor I met next door to a Tour company I work with, when I am in Ecuador. He assessed my condition and charged me $20.00 for my visit, blood tests, etc. He then escorted me to the pharmacy to ensure I obtained the correct medicine, etc. The pharmacy was 5 blocks away I must add. It took me back to when I was a child and our Doctors really cared about their patients, not just spending time and money, avoiding malpractice lawsuits and raking in the cash trying to pay off their sizable student loans in most cases. I have heard some Doctors do not really begin to make any income until their mid forties or even later. Is it worth it you have to ask and are talented individuals avoiding the stress and financial issues associated with being a Doctor?
I am a Baby Boomer and a child of the sixties. So did I inhale? Of course I did. At least I will be honest and admit this, contrary to many of our politicians and public figures who have blatantly spoke falsehoods in this regard. We are not daft, oh illustrious people and you are not fooling us a bit. I have not partaken in at least thirty five or more years and from what I understand the strength of Marijuana is a great deal more than in my day. I have been deeply saddened over the years, seeing young individuals incarcerated basically for possession of a plant and in most cases a minor portion. One of the reasons I stopped its use, along with impact on my job, ability to function and the fact I got married and started a family.
Through the years I have seen it legalized in a couple of states now and a large portion of the country has made it accessible for Medical purposes, which I favor completely. I have suffered five back surgeries, a heart attack and a complete rebuild of my rear end and my nose (completely separate and unrelated operations), from a deviated septum. Through all of these operations I was supplied with heavy opiates. Over the years these pharmaceuticals tended to make me somewhat of an addict and it became harder and harder to jettison these horrible drugs each time I suffered through a surgery. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to kill a portion of my pain with Marijuana instead of Oxycodone or Oxycontin or Hydrocodone.
I live in Texas as most of you know and I thought I would never see the day that our great state would catch up with the more progressive states and countries around the world and actually consider a Medical Marijuana law, yet it is being strongly considered this year and has a fairly decent possibility of passing. Of course the recent law for Washington DC, secretly hid the fact that Federal police groups would no longer actively try to incarcerate legal state distributors will probably help Texas along. This topic wasn’t talked about, even in our Liberally slanted press. That surprised me greatly!
Hopefully the Texas law will allow cultivation of a few personal plants and I can order my cannabis seeds from The Netherlands or some other reputable source. I am visiting Amsterdam in December and shall give it a go! When I was single I had all kinds of plants and really have a green thumb. I would relish getting back into cultivating my own plants. Even though Texas has a substantial financial position with their economy, I would think they would love the additional tax revenue generated, as evidenced in the huge success of Colorado’s Hemp Law. Even overall crime has been effected in a positive manner in Colorado. Not quite what was projected by the naysayers.
Perhaps the most satisfying factor in the eventual legalization of Marijuana, would be the end of the insane territorial wars carried on along our border with Mexico and at the expense of the Mexican population. My heart has been profoundly traumatized by the magnitude and scope of deaths associated with the drug wars along our border with Mexico. I feel so ashamed of the total loss of life and the billions of dollars our government has spent with their futile efforts in this area. It is a joke, as anyone from Texas and I am sure the other states that share a boundary with Mexico can tell you.
Growing up as a young man and adult I always felt comfortable crossing the border for a night or even a weekend. I felt secure even when I first married taking my wife at that time across the border and sharing a fantastic meal, a shopping excursion or maybe a drink at a Cantina or two. But now I wouldn’t feel safe going alone, much less with a woman. it’s just too dangerous. I fully believe and am confident in stating when we legalize Marijuana and treat it just like alcohol, taxes will decrease, crime will decrease and our penal system will have its population cut in half. Not to mention the medical and research impact for those of us with severe pain issues as I experience on a regular basis, glaucoma, anxiety, issues associated with chemotherapy like vomiting and nausea, insomnia associated with spinal cord injuries, pain issues, stiffness and muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis and finally weight loss and loss of appetite from HIV. The article referenced in the link states both positive and negative reactions, but I would like the ability to see if it works for me. Only through the passage of these laws will I be able to explore additional pain remedies. I hope it is soon!
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.
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
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.
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) 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
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 reeally 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
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 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 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, @VacaRentalzof 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
That is the $64 million dollar question. Why on earth should this little old man “Deserve to Win” this leg of the Marketing Globetrotters trips to South America? First of all it is the only leg I can actually take, as I have a prior obligation with a trip to Japan beginning November 28, 2014 to see my oldest son. Why should a travel and food blogger who basically been at it for around 18 months deserve this trip before what I am guessing will be tons of experienced bloggers, who have been doing this for many years longer than me? The good news is I have made “The Shortlist” and will hopefully continue to make the various cuts in the next two weeks. The decision for the November 3, 2014 through November 16, 2014 leg will be decided on October 25, 2014. #Video is coming!!!
Ladies Looking at Goods at The New Cathedral
Well for 1) I actually started writing at the age of eight, when I helped my father, Carter Hinshaw put out a weekly small town newspaper in Texas and ran a Linotype for him. I edited and proofread columns and was allowed to write a few stories. We usually worked all night long and I would always fall asleep in class the next day. The school finally called and told my Mother, Juanda Hinshaw that I should either get a little sleep or stay home from now on. Obviously I started going to bed at midnight from then on and our paper was distributed a little later the next day, but it was tremendous experience. So in effect, I have been writing for 56 years! And I actually have met and talked with Walter Cronkite, who was a true authentic journalist with the highest integrity! #Video is coming!!!
2) One of the qualifications has to do with Marketing and for many years in my former life as a retail executive in convenience stores, I oversaw and directed the entire processes associated with the department. This included contact negotiations with all vendors and suppliers, sales by SKU reviews, annual marketing plans broken down by category, with projected GP%’s, GP$’s and share of overall sales. Not to mention attaining total budgeted sales year after year which at the end, ran into over a billion dollars worth . #Video is coming!!!
Bicycle Mode of Transportation
3) I was identified by “Holidaze“ in the first ever, “The Best New Travel Blogs You Haven’t Heard of Yet” awards, one of eight blogs awarded this award in the first ever nominations. I was literally dumbfounded that after only about nine months I was identified as a blogger on the rise and to watch. This was done on January 31, 2014. #Video is coming!!!
Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan
This was the verbiage written on my behalf: “Mike Hinshaw is one of the most kindhearted travel bloggers I’ve ever met in the course of my travels and it shows in his writing — although if you do something stupid then he’ll be the first one to let you know Whether inspiring others to visit Texas (we’re both from Austin) or sharing the excitement from his most recent trek through southeast Asia, Mike’s posts are always a joy to read. This guy has more energy and life inside of him than other travelers half his age!” #Video is coming!!!
Perfect Pitch from the Harp
Additionally Bully Travel named me as their first ever Travel Blogger of the week. I was blown away again and this happened right at a year of actual blogging, on April 14, 2014.
Finally in August 16, 2014 I was identified as #76 on the list of Top Travel Tweeters of 2014, as identified by TrueNomads Here was the tweet that caught me again completely off guard “Top 90 Travel Tweeters of 2014: Wanderlust in 140 Characters or Less http://truenomads.com/2014/08/top-travel-tweeters-2014/… via @truenomads“. I was very honored and have significantly grown my followers on Twitter since this award and am nearing that magic 10,000 number. Fairly decent, given I have only been doing this for around 18 months and have never “Bought” any followers. I detest this avenue of growing your numbers. #Video is coming!!!
Nomadic Texan Grinding the Cacao Beans
4) I have good numbers on other social media platforms and am amazed at how quickly some of these numbers have climbed and the fact that a few are responsible for additional followers and helping grow my audience. As an example I just looked at my Pinterest platform recently and found that I have 2,464 followers and represents about 1.5% of my referrals. On Google+ I have 3,141 followers and it accounts for 8% of my referrals. On Linkedin I have 6,146 followers and it represents about 2% of my referrals. I think we sometimes concentrate strictly on Twitter and Facebook and do not comprehend the value the additional social media platforms. These three additional platforms represent approximately 11.5 % of my referrals for my blog! Please feel free to connect on any platforms identified! Thanks. #Video is coming!!!
Interior Cacao Beans with Fruit
5) I have absolutely no knowledge of SEO and how to use it. I really could use a couple of weeks with Mike King and maybe even some one on one time to really get my numbers growing! How much more fortunate could a blogger get? #Video is coming!!!
A Meal Made for an Incan King, Cuy! With Chef Patricio from Restaurante Corvel, in Paute Ecuador
Mike King is a Digital Marketing genius and a very good rapper!
Yngrid Arnold is the CMO of Viventura of Berlin and co-founder of Trip.me
I absolutely love cheese of all kinds. One of my favorite cheeses is Gouda, a mild solid cheese full of flavor. Being from Texas I always use whole peppers of all kinds including dried Chipolte peppers when I cook. I add them and dried adobe peppers to enchiladas and other Mexican foods I cook at home.
Recently I have started purchasing several items from the fresh deli at our local HEB grocery store, a chain based in San Antonio with excellent prices and products. HEB carries store brand and Boar’s Head products both. The Boar’s Head items stand out far and above the HEB items in flavor and taste. The HEB items have the best prices.
Boar’s Head Chipolte Gouda Cheese
About four months ago I noticed that the deli was carrying a new cheese and they always allow you to sample the products, before you buy them. It was Chipolte Gouda Cheese and you could see the chopped up Chipolte peppers throughout the cheese. I knew I had to try it. OMG it was good and now I am addicted to it.
I always buy a pound or two when I go shopping. It is good with the Buffalo Spicy Chicken, Ham, Roast Beef or just about any kind of meat available. If this is an option at your local deli, I highly recommend you buy a little and try it! I promise you will like it, if you favor spicy foods!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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 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 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).
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 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 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
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.
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.
One of the things that struck me as unusual in my recent trip to Thailand and Malaysia, was the amount of monkeys everywhere we went near forests or jungles. I am not used to that in Texas. We experienced more monkeys though, at locations where Buddhas were present and I am guessing it is a natural instinct to adapt to people feeding you and having excessive trash near. Its kind of a guaranteed system of meals for these primates.
This photo is from the Batu Caves and we were sternly warned that feeding the monkeys at this temple could cause a lose of a finger or an attack. Neither was something I desired. The monkeys were sitting above the entrance to the restrooms at the shrine and I for one was just a little nervous that they might not like another bearded primate invading their space. Take a close look at the one on the right and tell me you don’t agree!
Monkeys Watching Over the Toilet at The Batu Caves
*** 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.
I recently participated in a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I have been to Thailand many years ago, but never to Malaysia and I always get excited when my destination is SE Asia or that part of the world. I love the people, the food and the culture in this part of the world and was profoundly enthusiastic over the impending trip. I received my itinerary and saw that we would be visiting many 5-star hotels, one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. The basic theme was culinary and spa events. My cup of tea for sure! Our Airline of choice would be Thai Airways. Its slogan is “Smooth as Silk”. Little did I know that this airline would soon capture my heart!
Thai Airways Logo
I flew my old stand-by American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles and the service was typical and fairly unremarkable. One does not fly this airline to be impressed. If you live in Texas as I do, then you more than likely fly American, as many cities are hubs for American and American Eagle in smaller towns. Such is the case in Austin. The majority of the flights out of Austin are on American Airlines.
I landed at LAX, gathered my bags and started to walk out the door towards Tom Bradley Terminal, which houses the International flights and bumped into Mary Jo Manzanares, one of the other Travel Bloggers going on the trip. She is an elite blogger, director of #TBEX and a stewardess in her spare time. We walked together and made contact inside the terminal with our group.
The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge
I learned the group would be three travel bloggers, three print media writers and a representative from Thai Airways, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourism Malaysia USA and Saeshe the advertising company that put the trip together and organized the itinerary. We were quickly whisked upstairs to the Star Alliance Lounge. Having visited many Admirals Club locations I was knocked over by the offerings and easy access to WiFi at the Star Alliance Lounge. This was my wonderful Thai lunch with my choice of noodles, veggies and chicken.
Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX
I boarded in Economy for the first leg of our flight to Seoul from LAX. I was surprised, as the width of the seat was comfortable and had to be at least three to four inches wider that my usual seat in economy in American. All seats had video screens for viewing movies, playing games, etc. The seats leaned back with hardly any intrusion into the seat behind. I love that aspect of the plane.
I absolutely hate it when the passenger in front leans so far back that you cannot get out of your seat to move around. Given the 12.5 hour flight to Seoul South Korea; we had the opportunity to eat three different meals, but I could only handle two. Prior to the meal the stewardesses and stewards hand you a very warm washcloth to clean your hands and face with. It is very stimulating I must say. This was my first meal in economy, a curry pork dish with a shrimp appetizer.
My Economy meal on Thai Airways
Remember this is in Economy. It was fantastic and I ate every bite, as if I hadn’t eaten just before boarding at the Star Alliance Lounge. One of the first things I noticed on Thai Airways is the smiles of their people. I am not used to this on my domestic flights with airlines in the US. The majority of the stewardesses and stewards are just going through the motion and appear to be waiting for retirement in most cases. Not only do you visualize the smiles on Thai Airways, but you get the idea they are genuine and the employees really want to help you.
An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways
They continually walk the aisles and ask for your needs, unless you are sleeping and they respectfully leave you alone if that is the case. Another factor to consider is that all alcohol is no charge if you are 18 or older, regardless of seating class. I couldn’t believe this given what my old stand by airlines charges for one beer. Many passengers took advantage of this, but I did not see any that became inebriated, so I am guessing they “control” the flow to a certain degree.
One’s drink service (mine was water and Coca-Cola) is continuous and non stop as long as you desire. Its not like my normal American service where you get your one drink and the airlines personnel sit for the remainder of the trip, consuming first class meals and all the beverages they can ingest. The Thai Airways people work their rear ends off the entire flight. We landed in Seoul. South Korea has a strange policy and all passengers have to deplane and go through customs and security. I don’t get it but it is what it is!
Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea
On the first leg of our flight from LAX to Seoul I got the short straw. I rode as stated previously, in the Economy section. On the second leg from Seoul to Bangkok we all traded out, as there were several spots in Business class, that we used on both legs. This leg I flew in Business Class. Thank you Thai Airways for this experience. Business class is a drastic difference and the seats are wonderful. You can get a massage with one of the seat settings or adjust the seat to your liking and lean back as far as you like, without intruding on the people behind you. This is a photo of the controls. Notice the very front icon states bed. They really mean it, as your seat folds down completely and turns into a flat bed. Oh so good on long flights with major time zone variances.
The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon
So what were the meals like in business class you ask? Each passenger had an appetizer, an entree, a cheese and fruit tray and a desert. Not just once but twice on the longer legs. I was fortunate and received the Business class allocation for the return trip from Seoul to LAX. It was heaven. This is just an example of my dishes and courses served.
My appetizer in Business Class
My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class
A Cheese and Fruit Plate
Desert in Business Class
As the flights transpired I noticed that the Thai Airways personnel remained very active and were always there to pick up your empty glass or food tray. You didn’t have to wait for 45 minutes like on domestic airlines, to have someone retrieve your finished product. They never stopped working and passengers were all treated like royalty, regardless of the seating class I was in. This wasn’t my expectation, given normal transgressions on domestic flights in the US.
I have saved my finest point until last intentionally and one that may or may not effect you personally. Traveling frequently and consuming as much as I do with drinks and food, its only natural that I have to use the facilities. The good news is there are ample amounts of facilities, regardless of seating class on Thai Airways. As you know on domestic flights one has to literally wade through the swamp, referred to as a bathroom on flights. You know what I am talking about and how bad they get on flights over let’s say 3 hours long. What did the Thai Airways personnel do you ask?
I will gladly tell you as I saw this with my own eyes. They literally clean the restrooms from top to bottom on a regular basis. I am not talking every four hours or so. I am talking like almost between every passenger or as quickly as possible. They take a sanitizer and clean the walls, the toilet seat, the sink and yes even the floor. I was blown away when I turned the corner and saw a stewardess with plastic disposable gloves wiping down the floor of a restroom. They even fold the toilet paper just like in hotels.
Thai Airways may charge a little more than other airlines, but if you consider their service, their warm friendly personnel, the amazing food in all seating classes and the free alcohol, I think that their premium is not that much to ask. It is offset with your comfort and well being. I know this, I have found a new airline that I will go out of my way to fly from now on. They are far superior to any other airline I have ever flown in my forty plus years of flying. Thank you Abha Wangpaichitr for allowing me to experience your wonderful airline and for showing me that good old fashioned customer service, is still alive in the airline Industry! I will fly you again and again, when the opportunity arises.
Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative
*** 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.
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
As I mentioned in my first article in the series about Palestine Texas, our first event was a ride on the “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. Breezy Lake-Wolfe, Marketing Manager for the city of Palestine Texas, picked us at the Hampton Inn and we arrived at the station at around 6:00 PM, as the train was scheduled to depart at 6:30 PM. I immediately recognized that this was a larger operation than I anticipated and asked Breezy to take Kim and my photo for posterity!
Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance
We headed into this wonderful piece of history for the state of Texas and started looking around. As a foodie I first noticed that they had a very decent spread of cheeses, crackers, fruit and champagne. It was a nice transition, as some passengers were not dining on the ride, like we were. We refrained and it was a good thing, as the line was at least 50 people deep! Must have been great snacks! Kim did manage to obtain a glass of champagne!
Reception with Appetizers
Music was played by a gentleman named Paul, on what I thought was a banjo. After he finished a tune I approached him and asked him how long he had been playing the banjo. He quickly corrected me and stated it was a Banjolin (It had 4 strings and a shorter neck than a banjo). It still was a great way to sit and wait for the train to leave and his music was excellent.
Paul the Banjolin Player
There are magnificent areas inside of the station, that reflect the train history and depict several annual trips. I was in love with several of the photos, awards and plaques from over the years. I even found a copy of an old ticket for my hometown of Austin, St. Louis and a ticket for a Mr J.W. Boyce and wife from Texarkana Texas to Longview Texas, purchased in 1950 about the time I was born! They had photos of Palestine from circa 1920, past employees and one for the “Polar Express” which runs from November 22 to December 28 this year. It is a magnificent trip for families with children.
We decided to leave the waiting area and venture out to where the locomotive was located and I wanted photos of this wonderful steam engine, originally built in 1901. You can obtain the history and all pertinent facts at the Texas State Railroad web site. In 1972, the railroad constructed in 1881, was turned over to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and the first public rides began in 1976. The railroad was privatized in 2007 and American Heritage Railways operated the line until 2012 when Iowa Pacific Holdings assumed operations. I am not sure if I can accurately describe the feeling one gets appropriately, when you see the steam engine emitting its strong waves of steam. Its almost an emotional experience or at least it was for me.
The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board
I was allowed in the engine compartment and started asking questions immediately about the train. Both gentlemen were more than open and eager to share their stories and answer my questions about the age of the engine, where it as made, by what company, etc. I discovered it was originally assembled in Patterson New Jersey, by Cooke Works and was Identified as Engine #316. I inquired if it was the oldest and they told me it was second oldest behind a steam engine in Grapevine Texas, built in 1886 that used to run on this line. The Fireman was Kenneth McCarty and this is the Engineer Scott Rohal. If you get the opportunity to ride this wonderful train make sure you stop and talk to these two employees. They are very friendly, courteous, and highly informed on the history of the train!
As the departure time neared Kim and I gravitated to what appeared to be the loading dock and as other passengers were lining up, we assumed we were following procedure. All of a sudden, just like in the movies, a loud speaker bellowed out “All Aboard”, “All Aboard for the Maiden Voyage of the Moonlight Special Train Ride”, “All Aboard”! I was taken back, as I wasn’t prepared for this melodramatic sounding and I wasn’t aware this was a “maiden voyage”. Kim and I entered the train and immediately fell in love with all its grandeur and enhanced decorations. Each and every passenger was greeted and treated like royalty. Perhaps I had slipped back in time.
Texas and Pacific Locomotive
As the steam bellowed from the locomotive and the whistle blasted through the pines, I felt shimmers run down my spine and reminisced how it must have been at the turn of the last century. The train continued to announce our exodus from the terminal, with loud blasts of the whistle and Kim and I settled in. There are three types of seating available on the excursion “Premium Lone Star Seating” (which we opted for, as it had a complete dinner–note it is a BYOB, if you are so inclined), “Standard Coach” with upholstered seating and enclosed car and the “Open Air” with bench style seating in an open car (Probably more authentic, but we are spoiled)!
Premium Lone Star Seating
The staff were great at attending to our needs and immediately started dinner service with beverages and a salad. Rolls were set on the table but to my displeasure, not refilled after the first consumption. Not that I really need the calories, but I wanted one with my meal. I never needed water, as my glass was continually topped off and the salad was a good healthy course with a spinach base.
Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Feta Cheese, Almonds, Red Onion and Vinaigrette
The main course consisted of be pork medallions with brown gravy. Side dishes included a special recipe mashed potatoes and veggie bundles of asparagus, zucchini and carrots. I must confess I started the main course and had to take a photo after a couple of bites. I have to improve on this function, but sometimes it looks so good that I can’t help but dive in! Dessert was individual mini-cheesecakes with strawberry and raspberry toppings. My apologies again. The desserts looked so good I forgot to take photos at all. The mini cheesecakes were fabulous and very tasty!
Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies
After dinner I left the dining car we were in and traveled up to the “Open Air” car with the wooden bench seating. It was a cloudy night and I hoped I would be able to capture the full moon. I took many photos and used my zoom, but the clouds wouldn’t lift. Alas, it was not to be and this photo displays the best moon picture I was able to get.
The Full Moon in All Its Glory
As we entered Maydelle the train came to a complete stop. I noticed we passed a fire engine with lights aglow and I feared there had been an accident at the crossing. Lo and behold the engine disconnected and traveled to a turntable right outside our window. It took the locomotive approximately 25 minutes to turn 180 degrees and prepare to hook up and take us back to Palestine. The engine started and then stopped right beside the fire engine. I realized at that moment that the fire engine was reloading the locomotive’s water supply, to provide for the steam. It was a “Duh” moment for sure.
A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air
We flew back home to Palestine, at around 25 MPH I am guessing and returned a few minutes after schedule. Kim and I enjoyed the ride and learning all about the steam engine and the Texas State Railroad’s history. It was a delightful evening and we were were ready to hit the hay. We needed our rest for Saturday, the big day with several events including tours of historical sites and homes, a couple of culinary events and a few vineyards. Not too full of a schedule! Stay tuned for Article #3 in regard to the homes and historical district! #palestinetx!
*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.
One of Austin’s iconic structures is the Driskill Hotel downtown on sixth street and about a block off Congress Avenue. The hotel was completed in 1866 and was named after a cattle baron named Jesse Driskill. It is filled with western motif and furniture that takes one back to the old days in Texas. One of my favorite items is this lighting arrangement in the lobby. It is so vibrant and one cannot keep from staring, when it is seen in real life. If you visit Austin Texas this hotel has to be on your “To Do” bucket list.
Okay I am going to jump out into the sandbox and enter the “Capture the Colour” contest this year. I have never done anything like this, as I am petrified to even submit my photos. When you consider the excellent professionals that are involved I really don’t stand a chance, but what the hell, I have to start sometime. Travel Supermarket is sponsoring the contest and each contestant is required to submit five photos displaying their ability to reflect on the colors red, blue, yellow, white and green. Simple enough? Right? No it isn’t! I am here to tell you it took me two hours of pilfering through my collection, to narrow each color down to three or so possibilities. Absolutely nerve-racking! So here goes.
Red-Ripe Cacao Seed Pod
I took this photo on my most recent trip to Ecuador when I had the extreme pleasure of visiting and touring a Cacao Plantation in El Oro province. It was an awesome trip and as most people do, I love chocolate to death! I can eat it every day. Just ask my wife Kim!
Yellow-Dessert at The Eucalyptus Cafe in Cuenca From My March Trip with Kim
Kim and I were shopping at a local Home Depot one day this past fall I believe and stumbled upon a collection of potted orchids for sale. I though that they were outstanding and had not seen a blue orchid previously. Loved it and now I am using it in this contest. Wonders never cease!
Blue-Home Depot Orchids
We have three sons and lived in a house on the Mountain, in Austin Texas for approximately 18 years, while raising our sons. I will never forget this snowfall, as it rarely snows in Texas and I was out before sunup trying to get the right photo. This one showed the snow on the backyard umbrella and the trees in contrast to the other colors.
White-A Snow Fall in Austin Texas-Very Rare
On Memorial Day of this year I was invited to partake in a project that our middle son’s company sponsors. Homes of Hope is a fantastic organization that builds homes for individuals that truly need help. This calla lily was outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Mexico where we stayed while working on the project. I will never forget the experience of turning the home over to the needy family! It was truly humbling!
Thanks to my friend Joe Newman at Cosmic Smudge for nominating me for the contest and forcing me to come out of my shell! I wish I could quote technical photographic data about my equipment like Joe did, but the simple truth is that I used my Nikon digital pocket camera on all the photos including this one that kind of displays all the colors together. (Uh oh I am jumping outside the spectrum). I may have used a little editing prerogative, but that is all.
Bridge View on Spadina In Toronto
Part of the contest and a way to increase the participants, which directly decreases my chances (Ha-I am joking. I know I have absolutely no chance against the pros!) is to nominate an additional five bloggers to enter. So here goes. Y’all don’t hate me and please enter this #CTC13 contest and blow the competition away!
I am cutting my own throat as both Karla Aguilar Perez and Dan Bibb are wonderful photographers and do it professionally. Who know maybe this will help the out! A big “THANK YOU” to Travel Supermarket for allowing us to participate (definitely brown-nosing) and best of luck to all the competitors! Saludos mi amigos!
I have always loved flora and fauna and have several plants I am most partial to. One such species is the Australian Tree Fern. I travel extensively, but have never been exposed to so many ferns. I am most partial to this particular plant as a result of its lovely umbrella of fern leaves, branching out from its trunk. It strikes me as an anomaly of the fern species and has a grandeur more regal than any other fern in my book.
Baby Australian Tree Ferns
As you drive between Guayaquil Ecuador and Cuenca, a little above sea level, at the base of the Andes, you run into about a 15 mile stretch, where the ferns grow wild in forests and the sight is absolutely beautiful. I have only seen them as potted plants in Texas. I have never been able to photograph this brilliant parcel of the highway. Fortunately this time I was able to capture a few photos from the car. Enjoy nature’s bounty!
Australian Tree Ferns on Side of Mountain
“Here and there a tawny brook prattled out from among the underwood and lost itself again in the ferns and brambles upon the farther side. Save the dull piping of insects and the sough of the leaves, there was silence everywhere–the sweet restful silence of nature.”
I have been debating purchasing one of these hats with the tassels, while I am staying in Cuenca. They are quite popular across all age groups here in Ecuador. They appear to really be a heavy wool and have great flaps to keep your ears warm.
I am just afraid that if I wore these back in Texas I would get a plethora of adjectives hurled at me. You know I love #Hats, but this might just be a little too much. Guess I will hold off until my next trip! Saludos!
One of the true pleasures of Cuenca, is walking the streets of Old Town. I never get tired of performing this activity and it is a great form of exercise for individuals. Each time I go out I have no plans and just start walking in one direction or another with no agenda. Its amazing that over time I still keep finding architectural treasures that I have never seen. In addition, I run into people of all walks of life and tourists. The tourists are not hard to spot as shown in these photos.
Male Gringo Tourists
Female Gringa Tourists
There must be several Catholic Nun orders, as I have seen a plethora of various dress. As Catholicism is such a large portion of the population, I find that I see Nuns all over, shopping and taking care of their needs. It is quite different than where I live in Texas.
Although a great deal of the population uses cars it is never odd to see bicycles being used to transport items needed for everyday use. A large portion of the condos and apartments are fueled by propane tanks and this gentleman is pedaling his wares! Sorry I couldn’t help myself!
Bicycle Mode of Transportation
A favorite sweet item is this kind of marshmallow substance that the vendors place in ice cream cones and since it is very economical the vast majority of the population eats these cones. You will always see them eaten in any type of weather cold or hot. The Ecuadorians love this treat!
Soft Serve Cones
Another common sight is the scooter parking areas where as many as ten or more can be seen together. Scooters are a great way of navigating through the increasing traffic and getting to places cars cannot. This time the amount of scooters has tripled since the last time I was here. I think maybe the gas prospective cost increase may have something to do with it also.
This Mom and daughter are sharing a great moment talking with a vendor. School just recently started back up and as you can see each school has its own uniform. I see all kinds of school dress as I walk and the various color schemes are very snazzy.
Mother Loving Her Daughter
The lady in the black outfit gave me a fairly intense stare down, as I prepared to take this photo. She finally went in the building. Perhaps it was her store. Anyway I thought the sign was comical as it states the hair used is 100% human hair from the head of a human. Where else would it be from?
Authentic Hair Extensions
My last photo is also comical to me. I find the uses of words and how they translate hilarious at times. This states one would think The Palace of Joys. In actuality the translation is The Palace of Jewels. Had to think about the name, especially given the pictures.
Palace of Joys
I love Cuenca. One of these days I hope to come back again. Until then, if you visit, please do a little Street-walking and see the sight! Saludos!
One of my passions in life is very unhealthy, completely degenerate in nature, filled to the brim with sugar, butter fat and other high caloric ingredients, but I can’t help myself. I am addicted to it. I love sampling the many flavors and I love the various methods of serving it. At home in the US, I cannot purchase it without gobbling down approximately what is considered three or four servings (at least).
I usually make do and hold my urge to feast on the entire package and devour it in one sitting. I am so unlucky, because in Texas we have what is arguably the best in the world for sale in every grocery, convenience, drug store, mass merchandisers and warehouse stand alone membership venues like Costco and Sam’s Club. It is frankly a losing battle and if one does not have a strong disposition you will suffer the consequences. That is simply the enormous expansion of your waistline or what becomes a middle tire effect.
Mixx Heladeria with 80 Flavors with Jim and Connie Joliff
Obviously by now you have deduced I am speaking of ice cream. It is so hard to shop at my local HEB and pick and choose from all the wonderful fruits and vegetables offered and try to stroll by the Blue Bell ice cream section, without grabbing two or three half gallons. Yes I said half gallons. In the old days when all three sons were living at home and playing athletics, it was nothing to go through five or six half gallons a week.
Growing young men need their calories which burn off in the Texas heat, of one hundred degrees plus at their particular sport’s practices. Of course Mom and Dad needed excessive butter fat to enable us to do all that screaming for our sons prowess or at the officials, which usually dominated the yelling. Somehow our referees, umpires, etc were always below standard, or at least that was the case when we were losing!
Mixx Flavor Creations
My weight would fluctuate enormously with the advent of late spring and the high temperatures. How else would one cool down? Thank God I realized by the end of summer that I had to cease my ingestion of massive quantities of ice cream and behave normally again as the cold seasons arrived, or else I would have looked like a Goodyear blimp.
As I aged each year it became harder and harder to shed the excess weight, punctuated with a little syrup and more than likely whipped cream. Kim gravitated toward flavors like Butter Pecan, Vanilla and and anything with Carmel flavor. I was infatuated with Banana Pudding, all things Chocolate and many of the seasonal short term offerings.
Mixx Flavor Options
Over the years we cut back and started only eating ice cream on holidays and other celebrations. I pined away my fifties knowing I could not continue this charade. Then it happened. I visited Ecuador. A country full of organic fruits, vegetables and untainted food supplies like we have in the US, with all the GMO’s and preservatives.
I quickly noticed that there was a Heladeria on almost every block. Most were the run of the mill shops and served a gelato style ice cream with basic flavors and all serve a soft style, as rule. We talked with a few local Ex-Pats and they recommended Mixx Heladeria run by a Canadian genius.
Mixx Choice of Serving Methods
This place has all types of flavors, including Mojito, Red Bull, Amaretto, and tons of fruit and tasty creations. The sign on the front says 80 Sabores. I am guessing that is correct. Once you walk in, it takes a while to decide which flavors you want to try. There are so many that are appealing. You also then get to decide what vessel you want the ice cream served in, a waffle cone, a waffle dish, or a normal cone.
Then, you get to decide if you want it dipped in chocolate! My word it is tasty. I have attached several photos for your pleasure and I am sure in a few days when I am back to Cuenca, I will head to Mixx and start testing the various new flavors. Somehow with all the walking in Cuenca I manage to eat ice cream and lose weight at the same time. Now that is my kind of experience!
I promised myself I would take the day off and not drop a post on everyone today. I am sure all of you are getting ready to celebrate with family and friends and planning to go watch an “Epic” fireworks show at a local park. When our sons, now all young men, were younger we would make a big deal and BBQ all day, pig out over my Mother’s potato and pea salad recipes. It really didn’t matter what type of meat I was cooking as long as Kim made deviled eggs and I made the salads. It was a Texas tradition.
Guess Who Can’t Touch Bottom
The boys would always find an easy way to amuse themselves and play games in the yard, which they created and developed entirely from some TV show like Ninja Turtles or something of that nature. I was still fairly active and would join in sometimes between cooking and making the salads. Of course the occasional beer would be ingested and Kim would have her glass of wine so the eggs and other items she made would come out just right.
When all was done we would sit around a table, eat until we couldn’t walk and finish with ice cream and watermelon. Kim loves watermelon. I hated the next portion and that was cleaning up the mess we made preparing all this very unhealthy food. It seemed to always take longer to clean than to cook. By this time it was getting near dark and we would pile into the van, yes we had a van for many years just to haul the boys and their stuff to sporting events, to school and to activities. It was nice to have that many seats as the boys didn’t have to touch each other. Touching each other always led to arguments for some reason.
Most of the fireworks programs that we would view lasted a fairly long time and we would bring folding lawn chairs, another great reason to have a van. Through baseball we became friends with Mary and Larry Heffernan and started a tradition of attending the parties they threw on the 4th. After all the eating and cleaning it was the best scenario for watching the fireworks. All we had to do was walk right out into their Cul de Sac and plop our folding chairs down. The fireworks went off behind their house at a local park and these seats were the best in town!
Now we have a son in Japan, one in the Dallas area and one still here in Austin. We are going to his apartment and having a mini 4th BBQ. I hope we don’t embarrass him! I miss the old days and having all our family so close! Life has a way of hitting you right between the eyes at times and for some reason it did that today. I sincerely hope all you young parents “relish” (sorry I couldn’t help myself) the time you have now with your children and spend it wisely. Before you know it your children will be grown and out the door. Be careful with the fireworks and try to eat healthy! Happy 4th of July for all those friends “Living in the Land of the Free”!
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