Escaping the Heat

squirrelLast week, we visited the Dallas Arboretum. Since the forecast predicted temperatures soaring into the upper 90’s with almost 60% humidity, we scheduled our visit for early morning. If you’re a member, access to the park begins at 7am., the earliest part of the day. My family and I are not that ambitious, so we straggled into the park at 10am.

Yes, it was hot and humid, as the squirrel trying to cool itself above will attest. A special treat on the day of our visit was beautiful ladies attired in sparkling quinceneara dresses. They appeared to be there for some type of shoot for a catalog/store? The secret is how they managed to appear perfectly cool and poised as they modeled in the unrelenting rays of the sun. We attempted to seek refuge from the heat by scrambling from tree to tree.

By 11am we decided luncheon at the Restaurant DeGolyer was an excellent idea. The restaurant is open from 11-3. Upon entering the refreshingly cool restaurant, we gave it a 10 just for the air conditioning, we were promptly seated and offered refreshments. The menu primarily consists of sandwiches, salads, and three to four main dish entrees and is inspired by the recipes of James Sparks, the executive chef at Gil’s.

My daughter and I ordered the Salad Trio while my son had the Monterey Chicken Sandwich (he said it was the best he ever had and wouldn’t share). We enjoyed the lunch and will gladly return, maybe next time for tea.

The interior is quaint, small and relaxing. If a member of your party is under the age of 12, your party will be seated on the outdoor patio. The waiter highly recommended that we return on a Sunday and enjoy their brunch offerings.

After we refreshed and hydrated ourselves, we enjoyed the Wind Sculptures in Motion: The Kinetic Art of Lyman Whitaker which will be on display until July 31. The Dallas Arboretum is lovely to visit any time of the year. There are special events offered from music to tastings to summer camps, etc. If you have a chance to visit the garden during the summer, arrive early and stay hydrated.

I’m sorry to say that the last time we visited the Dallas Arboretum was in December. At that time, the life-size depictions of the 12 Days of Christmas was featured in lovely gazebos sprinkled throughout the park. Festive drinks were available for purchase.

We are looking forward to the fall when we can visit the Pumpkin Village which is ┬árecognized by Fodor’s as one of the best Pumpkin Festivals. Regardless of when you visit, there is plenty to see and do. I highly recommend purchasing a membership if you are in the area. Membership allows you access to special events and also reciprocal admission to over 300 botanical gardens and arboretums worldwide. Check out dallasarboretum.org for more info.

 

 

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Egyptian Wonders

These pictures were taken a number of years ago. I fell in love with Egypt when I was in seventh grade and visited the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California. As the years passed, I became more and more determined to be an Egyptologist. When I graduated from college with a degree in Anthropology, my treat to myself was a trip to Egypt.

Initially, I wanted to make the trip, alone. It was pointed out to me, by a number of individuals, that this might not be in my best interest. A young, blond, relatively attractive young woman might run into difficulties traveling in the Middle East. I used my powers of persuasion to convince two of my male friends to accompany me.

My usual method of “winging it” on a trip was also strongly discouraged. As a result, we booked a tour with a well known travel agency. If you travel to this exotic location, I definitely recommend booking with a reputable travel tour group.

We scheduled the trip in July. Not the preferred time of year to visit this area, due to the extreme heat. If you have the option, visit this country in the fall/winter.

The trip was 2 1/2 weeks in duration and exceeded all my expectations. The pyramids, the ruins, the Nile (we were told not to touch the water) and the history that surrounded us made Europe seem infantile.

A cruise on the Nile is a must to fully experience this enigmatic country. Without the Nile, the civilization that produced the pyramids would not have existed.

Due to the political situation in the world, notably the Middle East, visiting this country has always been challenging. If you decide to visit Egypt, check with a travel agency that has experience booking tours in this area of the world. I would recommend meeting with the agent face-to-face instead of trying to book a tour online.

In the meantime, enjoy a few pictures of a memorable trip.

Captivating Capri

 

Capri is an island in Italy’s Bay of Naples. It is known for its rugged landscape, high end fashion boutiques and upscale hotels. I first visited this island when I was 19 and I was also fortunate enough to visit the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto is a dark cavern where the sea glows electric blue.

My last visit to this enchanting island included my husband and son. When we arrived, via ferry, with a group of locals and the usual group of tourists, instead of opting for the funicular (tram) to ferry us up the mountain, we decided to walk. Not one of my stellar ideas since the day was quite warm and we neglected to bring enough water. That being said, we determined to reach the La Piazzetta. La Piazzetta is a great place to people watch. Everyone from North European royalty, to Italian actors, to the fellow tourist who fell asleep next to you on the ferry, might be spied at a neighboring table. It took us approximately one hour to make the climb. If you’re not that ambitious, you can take the funicular or bus

Once we reached the top, we admired the view from the top. Even my husband, who is not easily impressed, fell in love with the charm of this quaint island. As we walked along the streets, noting the exclusive boutiques and quaint outdoor restaurants, we found a little cafe off the beaten path. We enjoyed some delicious pasta, pizza and unobstructed views of the marina below. We even ate our pizza like the locals with fork and knife.

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After a relaxing lunch, we explored the Chiesa San Michele. The church was built during the 17th century and is known for its statue of San Michele and splendid antique ceramic floor.

After an aperitif to fortify ourselves for the trek back to the marina, I was determined to find a boat that would take us into the Blue Grotto, Grotta Azurra. Imagine my distress when I discovered that no boat would be entering the Blue Grotto that day due to high winds. I attempted to convey the beauty of this sight to my husband and son. The cavern is considered the most famous site on the island. Pictures alone, do not do it justice.

Weather permitting, to enter the Blue Grotto, first you climb into a wooden rowboat. The rowboat typically holds four individuals. To pass through the opening, the skipper has everyone lay back in the boat because the stone portal opening is typically only a meter high. As he pulls the boat through the opening by a metal chain attached to the cave walls, you feel as if you are entering another world.

Sunlight passing through an underwater cavity and shining through the sea water creates a blue reflection that illuminates the entire cavern. As I mentioned, the water appears to be electric blue in color. Objects placed in the water appear silver. The time I visited the cavern, the skippers of the boats started singing. I longed to jump into the magical warm water and never leave.

Since we weren’t able to explore the cavern, I decided we would take a boat tour around the island. Traveling around the island gives you a better appreciation of the beauty of this location that the locals love to visit on the weekend. As we passed yacht after yacht, I mentioned to my husband the proximity of a small cruise ship. He informed me that it wasn’t a cruise ship, but a yacht. The night before, the pilot of the boat gleefully informed us that Dolce & Gabbana rented out the two most expensive hotels on the island for an exclusive party. After that, I kept a sharp lookout for celebrities on the water.

 

I wish we had more than a few hours to spend on the island. Better yet, I would love to have one of the floating palaces I saw, I would even settle for one of the small yachts. I would love to return and explore more of the island, I especially wanted to visit the Villa San Michele which is considered the pearl of Capri. It was built around the turn of the 19th century. Some people have described it as paradise on earth with its beautiful garden.

If you have the opportunity, explore this beautiful island. Ciao.

Travel Essentials

When I was in college, I wrote a paper about the most streamlined way to pack for a trip. Needless to say, I never followed any of the recommendations in my paper. My husband will be the first to tell you that when I travel, if I could bring the house with us, I would. My oldest daughter consistently garners the award for the heaviest suitcase. You’d be amazed how much shoes can weigh.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to see a great deal of the world. In all my travels, whether by plane, train, boat or car, there are some essential rules I follow for traveling.

Shoes! In the past, I packed a pair of shoes for every conceivable situation, except for comfort. Doesn’t everyone pack 8 pairs of shoes for a 3 day trip? I was notorious for purchasing the “perfect pair” of shoes, only to discover that my feet were in agonizing pain after a day spent traipsing over cobblestone streets.

Travel Shoes

Nowadays, I read numerous reviews before selecting a potential pair of “travel” shoes. I go to the store and try them on. Once I get home, I wear the shoes, and I’m not talking about a few steps. If possible, I try to wear them on surfaces that will mimic the area/area will I be traveling. I wear them over a period of days. The last trip we went on, everything might have been tired, but my feet were happy.

Medicine! If you have prescription meds you need to take, don’t wait until the last minute to get them filled. When you’re preparing for a trip, there are other things that should occupy your time and efforts. Do not cause additional stress by trying to fill last minute prescriptions.

Regardless where I’m traveling, whether it be a big city, the mountains, beaches, etc., I make sure that I have basic medications. It seemed, especially when my kids were little, that I needed Children’s Tylenol at 1:00 in the morning. To avoid late night medication runs, take basic medications with you.

A trip, a couple of years ago to Europe wiped me of Immodium AD. I know many doctors are not a fan of anti-diarrhea type medicines, however, I was trying to travel from Italy to Greece. The last thing I wanted to do was camp out in the bathroom at the train station.

Last, unless you have to have a new outfit everyday which I’m definitely guilty of doing, some basic essentials can cut down on packing. Black is always a good basic color to have. I also like tan hues, which don’t show wear and tear like their white counterparts.

Last, I refuse to take clothes that wrinkle easily, unless there is a function where a certain outfit is required. I hate ironing. Plus, the last thing I want to do on a lack-of-time trip is ironing. Following these few essentials tips have made traveling more enjoyable for me.

The VOID

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I visited Disney World. We arrived on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. Instead of heading directly to one of the parks, we decide to explore Disney Springs. The last time we visited Disney Springs, it was known as Downtown Disney. Disney Springs contains a plethora of shops and restaurants. After some window shopping, my daughter asks if anyone wants to check out a Star Wars reality experience.

? My son-in-law attempts to explain what this means. The name of the place is the VOID.

Initially, I think this place is a video arcade. As we approach the entrance, I ask what the VOID is. One of the helpful employees tells us that the VOID is a full sensory, immersive experience. I give the college age looking kid a blank look at this statement. My daughter chimes in, “It’s a virtual reality experience.”

Okay, so I’m still not sure what this means, but being the group leader that I am, I decide that all 5 of us are going to try it.

After I pay and sign my life away, I am informed that we will have to split our group of five into two groups. No more than four people can go on a mission. Okay, that does not make me immediately happy. Isn’t there safety in numbers?

The more I hear about this mission, the more anxious I become.

“Does anything touch you?” I nervously ask another college aged kid.

“No. Nothing touches you at any time,” he reassures me.

Someone must have flagged me as a problem participant, because an older guy, maybe in his late 30’s, attempts to answer my questions.

At this point, I have several questions. Namely, will I survive?

Initially, my 20 year old son is going to accompany my daughter and her husband.

“You’re abandoning your mother?” I squeak.

“You’re coming with us,” my husband notifies my son.

My son gives a resigned sigh and agrees to accompany my husband and myself.

You may have figured out by now that I’m the biggest baby in the group. I hate when people or objects jump out at me. I have strong lungs, which my family and others have been privileged to hear on numerous occasions. I also have a very vivid imagination.

Another employee? At this point, they all look the same, tells me that if at anytime the experience is too much, I can raise my hand and/or raise my visor.

What visor? You’re putting something over my face?

“It’s just like going skiing,” my husband tells me.

Visor employee places the helmet on my head and lowers the visor. I try to raise it, but it won’t budge. I start hyperventilating. There is no air in space or under this helmet.

“It won’t raise,” I say. My voice is steadily increasing in volume.

Another helpful employee raises the visor for me. I take a deep breath of air.

“I don’t want to be in the back,” I inform everyone.

“Alexander will be in the front and I will be behind you. You can hang on to us, if you’re scared,” my husband says.

We’re briefed on some type of mission. We need to get something, I’m not sure what it is. Mentally, I keep telling myself that Disney won’t let anything bad happen to me. It becomes my mantra.

In addition to having the no-air helmet, we are carrying a 20 pound backpack on our back. As backpack employee assists me into a vest with an attached backpack, I wobble unsteadily. My husband reaches over before I can topple over. Okay, I’m ready. Bring it on, I guess.

As we lower our visors, we are no longer at Disney Springs but somewhere in space. A storm trooper tells us to sit down in preparation for our flight into space. A few seconds later, we arrive at our destination. A door opens and my son, who is now a storm trooper, moves forward. I reach for him in a panic and break my newly manicured nail.

“I broke my nail,” I wail.

No one hears me. Evidentially you can’t breathe or hear in space or under this helmet. Someone informs me that we are not in space, but on the planet, Mustafar. Could have fooled me.

The air is noticeably warmer, there’s lava everywhere. We’re on a bridge with empty lava filled space below us. Okay, I like heights. This is cool. I look over the edge. We need to cross a sky bridge over the lava.┬áMy husband isn’t wild about this part, but I love it.

So far, so good. Next, we descend an elevator. I almost take my storm trooper son out by tripping and crashing into him. Thankfully, he knows me too well.

We walk aimlessly around and finally find the armory. Alexander grabs a blaster. I take the blaster from him, thinking that he meant to hand it to me. After we have our blasters, couldn’t they provide us with bigger weapons, we encounter storm troopers. The storm troopers are shooting at us. I scream as my vest starts vibrating. I’ve been hit by one of the storm troopers. I start shooting back. I hit the wall. I get hit again. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, is the thought that I might want to seek cover. Instead, I stand in the middle and am hit repeatedly. People are screaming around me. I’m later informed that I was the only one screaming. I strongly disagree with these eyewitness statements.

Next, what the hell? It’s a lava monster. We start shooting at the lava monster. Oh no, it’s coming toward me. I back up against a wall and raise my visor. Yea, no lava monster. Just some gray walls. I lower my visor and sigh in relief, the lava monster has been defeated.

We walk through a door that has been blasted open and we enter a room where a rebel droid informs us that we have to enter a code to open another door. While my husband and I are attempting to do this, Alexander engages the storm troopers that keep trying to blast us. The droid finally gives up on us and opens the door for us.

As we walk through the door, we see a storm trooper on a cat walk. My husband blasts him. My son tells us not to shoot him because he’s on our side. The storm trooper grabs a weapon, which is a light saber, then my worst nightmare appears.

Ever since I was kid, I’ve been terrified of Darth Vader. The moment I hear his breathing, my anxiety level reaches an all time high. Initially, I try blasting him, but he quickly deflects my shots. He slowly approaches. He is right in front of us. This is it. I lift my visor and turn to flee. Two employees are standing there. One is smiling while the other is laughing. I motion that I want out of there. Smiling employee tells me everything is fine. He tells me to put my visor back on. I shake my head, no.

“It’s okay,” he reassures me. “Put your visor back on.”

I resign myself to the fact that I’m not going to get out of there, unless I put my visor back on. As I lower the visor, I’m relieved to discover that Darth Vader is gone and we accomplished the mission. I’m not sure how we accomplished this mission, but I think if you’re alive to tell the story, then you’re doing good.

As we exit the experience, I inquire about my daughter. “Is she okay?”

“Yea,” a confused looking employee admits.

We are concerned that she might have fainted due to her aversion to heights. In actuality, I almost fainted from fright.

As we reach the photo taking area, my daughter and son-in-law are waiting to pose for a family picture.

“Mom, you screamed the entire time,” my daughter informs me.

“I don’t think so. There were other people screaming as well, weren’t there?”

“No,” my son-in-law says.

As we replace our equipment and exit to pay for the pictures, I ask the employees working the desk, “Did you hear me scream.”

It’s obvious they had been laughing. “No,” they simultaneously reply while shaking their heads, yes.

People may not be able to hear you screaming in space, but they can certainly hear you scream in the VOID.

My entire family LOVED the experience.

The VOID

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colmar, France

Colmar is located in the Alsace region of France. It is known for being the best preserved city centre in Alsace. The first time I visited this picturesque town, I was 16 years old. The canal running through the town, the colorful houses adorned with equally colorful flowers merited the fairytale label I gave to this destination. I’ve been fortunate to visit this town since that initial visit.

The town is situated on the Alsatian wine route and considers itself the capital of Alsatian wine. The small canals running through the town have lent credence to the name “Little Venice.” The colors of the the town are so picturesque that is reminiscent of the opening scene from Beauty and the Beast.

Colmar scenic 005

I love walking through the narrow streets and taking a boat ride. The boat ride is almost hidden behind some restaurants by an underpass. I’ve heard the narration many times, but always enjoy the story, especially about the color of the buildings. Years ago, the color of the buildings indicated the profession of the people living inside. For instance, green indicated farmers, tan was for tanners and blue was for fishermen.

If you are fortunate to visit this area, pay a visit to this charming town.