Thursday, December 13, 2012

St Augustine, FL end of the road?

We owe all of you a big “Thank You” for your interest and support while following us as we journeyed around this remarkable country. And also for your concern…when the time between blogs became a little extended many of you reminded us that it was time for a posting or wondered if perhaps we had lost our way in the wilderness.

A little over a week ago we arrived back to our favorite place in Florida - St Augustine; we just love this town, the buzz of tourists, the beautiful beaches and surf, its numerous wonderful eating places and Flagler College. On Saturday RamblingRover goes into storage for the next six months and we will fly to the UK to have a “Dickens Christmas” complete with Plum Pudding, Brandy Butter, Mince Pies and Christmas cake with Jennifer, Karl, Hannah, Molly & Ciaran; there’s even the possibility of a Christmas snow scene.
So we have come to the end of our “yellow brick road” odyssey, over 22,000 miles in RamblingRover and at least that again in BlueBug; it has been a wonderful, interesting, informative and educational two years of - seeing sights, meeting wonderful, friendly people, learning much about the culture and history of each state we travelled through; unsung heroes and some very strong brave men and women in history. Our travels took us to places far off the highways on the byways and we found enchanting places; we visited cities that surprised us as they had great tourist attractions. In our dotage this is the journey we will talk about while passing the extra ten years doctors promise to all of us as we sit in our armchairs in an old people's home.

Fortunately, we live in an age of amazing technologies as we could not have achieved so much without; our Garmin GPS - directing us from place to place with no arguments and very few wrong turns; cell phones to stay in touch with family and friends; the Internet to research, plan and reserve our RV Park stops and places of interest to visit, many books gifts from friends which helped guide us to interesting off-the-beaten-path places, but most of all to friends whom we called on all around the USA who made us welcome in their homes and then gave us guided tours of their area - what a luxury. Both FaceTime and Skype are much used with Jennifer, Kilian and Cearull who gather our grandchildren around the computer so we can laugh, talk and stay in touch - Sunday being the busy day which we look forward to each week. We also stay in touch with siblings in Canada and Ireland and periodically connect with friends online. Most RV Parks have free Wi-Fi, coffee shops are another source and we have our own “tethering” through Tom’s phone if all else fails, so we never feel lonely or out of touch.

Probably the most frequent question we’re asked is what our favorite place visited is. Top of the list for us is, of course, Yellowstone National Park an amazing place - a wonder of the world really! Others, in no particular order are; the Rockies just magnificent, the mountains so high, the valleys so deep and mostly green and unspoiled. California’s Giant Redwoods, Kartchner Caverns, Grand, Zion and Bryce Canyons; Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, the Great Lakes (really inland seas and are so large that they have an effect on the climate), Finger Lakes, the coast of Maine – rugged and pretty, so very like parts of Ireland and England, the Outer Banks and Carlsbad Caves…we could go on and on! Most of our journeys were in the 150 mile range which meant that we didn't miss much on the journey. We visited towns that were once full of bustle and trade that are now empty and poor; we saw towns which struggle yearly to survive but survive they do through an Annual Festival the revenue from which keeps the townspeople going from year to year. Plymouth Rock is, for us, the most over-rated tourist attraction; not much larger than a pebble, well we exaggerate but so does history. The rock is about the size of a decorative flowerbed rock so it’s not to be confused with the Rock of Gibraltar - now that’s a Rock. The many Battlefields and their adjacent graveyards with multiple graves of hundreds of unidentified fallen soldiers made us sad. We’ve seen “the biggest, the best, the tallest, the smallest, the longest, the shortest, the oldest, the highest, the fastest, the slowest, the famous and the infamous."

For each state we visited – in total - 44 of them we tried to read an informative book about a hero, a politician, the early history of the state, especially most of the southern states particularly those with Spanish or French history – surprisingly, this history is ignored in the US/Anglo history books.

Books which helped us enjoy our travels:
The 19th wife
Grace, an American women in China
A Team of Rivals (Lincoln)
Midnight in the garden of Good and Evil
The wind in the morning (about Magellan circumnavigating the world )
The Johnstown Flood
The Vicksburg Siege
Running with the Bulls by Valerie Hemmingway
1434 by Gavin Menzies
The Bears and I by Robert Franklin Leslie
Freedom by Ken Follett
The Color of Hope by Susan Madison
The Good Earth by Pearl S Bucks
Night Fall by Nelson De Mille
Cannibals of the Heart by Jack Shepard
Texas Dawn by Philip Lynch
A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz
47 by Walter Mosley
A Family of Spies by Pete Earley
Babylon by Bus by Ray LeMoine & Jeff Neumar
Chief Joseph by Candy Moulton
Adele has a book about Fredrick Douglas on her Kindle to read next. In addition, Libraries’, Museums, the Internet and Visitor Centers leaflets helped us make places visited more interesting.
We will be back on the road again in six months’ time when we will let you know as we travel to Eastern Canada on another Adventure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Photo's of Baton Rouge

The stained glass dome of the Old Capital

The Old Capital's beautifully decorated balcony

Adele on the central spiral staircase

Nottoway Plantation  

Tom and two Southern Belles 

Wedding photo shot on the front lawn 

The Old Capital Building 
Posted by Picasa

Baton Rouge

A city with an interesting name as Baton Rouge translates to Red Stick in English!

To begin our explorations we took a free tram ride around the center of town, mostly government buildings. We had a difficult time understanding the deep Southern accent of the driver, thankfully the trams security person translated for us which led to lot of laughs. When we got on at the Old Capital the driver wanted to know where we wanted to get off and we said right back here! That took a few minutes to explain.
Baton Rouge is the Capital of Louisiana and there are plenty of tourist attractions including the old Capital building - originally built in 1847 which is like an ancient Celtic Castle. We loved it with its towers and castellation, however Mark Twain considered it to be the ugliest building on the Mississippi; clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The entrance hall is imposing and leads to an impressive spiral staircase at its center; a stained glass dome filters soft and gentle light on the circular balconies where portraits of all past Governors and the current Governor adorn the surrounding walls. It houses a museum of Louisiana history, a movie one can watch in the Congress Chamber; the Senate Chamber has some beautiful antique furniture.

Adele was fascinated by former Governor Huey P Long Jr. (August 30, 1893 – September 10, 1935); whose motto was "Share the Wealth" he instituted free education, including textbooks and wanted the rich (who Long maintained made their money off the sweat of the poor) to pay more tax and share a portion of their wealth, so…it’s not a new idea by the current administration. He was shot in confusing circumstances at the early age of 42. Who shot him? Was it Dr. Weiss or a ricochet from one of his bodyguards’ shots?   

In the early afternoon we drove to one of the best preserved Plantations in the South called “Nottoway" a 53,000 sq. ft. Mansion which was built in 1859 for John Hampden Randolph, his wife and 11 children. We took a tour of the house led by a lady attired in period costume who was very informative. The mansion has a stunning, big white ballroom with a large semicircle recess overlooking the gardens; this is where Randolph’s daughters had their coming-out Balls and where some were married. Our guide told us that it took many years of soaking the wood in the Mississippi in order to bend it into a semicircle. The White Castle as it is known locally is well worth a visit.
Randolph was a sugar cane magnate who owned 150 slaves on “Nottoway"- he had another plantation nearby with a further 150 slaves. All the slaves were given their freedom after the Civil War; it speaks volumes for Randolph as both a man and “Master” that the vast majority remained working with him. The house now sits on the banks of the Mississippi, however when originally built it was a half mile from the river; the river changed course after an earthquake. Randolph spared no expense building the house as he wanted it to reflect his position and wealth. The inventor of many farm machines Randolph was a very clever man and astute businessman.

After the Civil War in order to hold on to their property all big Southern landowners had to go to Washington, personally apologize to the President, pay a fine of $20,000 and swear allegiance to the US. The alternative was that their land would be confiscated, they would be tried for Treason and if found guilty executed. Now we understand why so many plantation owners were forced to abandon their plantations. Randolph went to Washington paid his fine and held onto his plantation.
The Plantation is now a luxury hotel owned by an Australian magnate who has invested heavily in restoring the house to its original grandeur. Guests are now accommodated in either one of the historic bedroom or a luxury cottage. On our arrival we had our lunch in the restaurant overlooking the garden and its 200 year old oak trees, the food was delicious and the service excellent.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Houston-San Jacinto

Adele beside reflecting pool 

Tom on steps of monument 

View from the top towards Houston 

Fossils in the Cordova rock 

Car ferry crossing Houson's busy port

View over reflecting pool 

Posted by Picasa


We saw so many birds as we meandered along the Gulf Coast that we wonder just where did birds “hang out” before there were electric wires. Birds gather in their thousand on the wires at sunset from which they have a wonderful view (bird’s eye view) of the surrounding area - not the same from a tree. There sure are a lot of birds and protected birding areas on the Gulf.

Our visit to Houston after Galveston was a short one. On inquiring about what to do and where to go in the Houston area we were provided a list of things to do and places to go in…Galveston! Researching the area ourselves we discovered that the San Jacinto Battle Monument was close by and we felt compelled to visit. This is where Sam Houston and his Texas army won freedom and independence as a Republic for Texas by defeating President/General Santa Anna who surrendered to Sam Houston after he was recaptured while trying to escape dressed as a foot soldier – his gait due to his wooden leg was what caused him to be recognized; so much for being a foot soldier.
The Monument which is on the battle ground is reputed to be the tallest monumental column in the world; it has a reflection pool out front and a 34ft (10m) star on the top. We took the elevator to the viewing platform on the top and Texas being so flat we could see in all directions for miles and miles. The entire monument structure is constructed with a stone called Cordova - a rock that has so many visible fossils it’s hard to believe it’s not man made (photo to follow). The monument's interior houses a good museum with mementos and histories of the leading Generals, of both sides in the battle, we also saw an excellent a movie of the battle. The Mexican army suffered 630 fatalities, 208 wounded and 730 captured; while the Texans had only 9 killed and 20 wounded.  
After the Alamo we were very surprised that there were so few people visiting, after all this is where Texans won. We met an interesting, friendly couple from Costa Rica with whom we had a lovely chat. The luck of the Irish rubbed once more when we met the curator of the museum we spent about 30 minutes talking with him, and of course, he was a mine of information. Their annual fund raiser was being held the night we were visiting – cost was $1,000 a plate.

The weather remained cold both day and night, it was about 61f (16c) by day and 42f (7c) at night - this is Texas winter. On the next day we finally drove to another State, Louisiana. RamblingRover had been in Texas a long time, since the beginning of September.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Galveston, TX

Rough seas along the seawall

The Star Drug Store where teenagers met in the 60's 

One of the many lovely downtown buildings  

Shops along Strand Street

We wonder will it float in a Tsunami

Our flag is torn and faded after 2 years on the road 
Posted by Picasa

Corpus Christi and Galveston

Well to be honest...we parked RamblingRover in Port Aransas on the Padre Islands in a lovely RV Park with just dunes between us and the beach. The weather was perfect and the beach seemingly endless in both directions; we were advised to walk to the beach only on the footbridges as there are snakes and other vermin in the tall grass of the dunes, signs of rabbits in the area was all we saw. We walked the beach each day, we were a little too late one day and ended up searching for the footbridge off the beach in the dark, eventually we found it – phew! We did not swim in the sea as there was ample evidence of Man of War jelly fish on the beach. The beach is wide and is used as a road by locals and fishermen; parking is allowed by permit (costs $12 for a year) on the beach; all the fishermen use big trucks. The RV Park had a nice pool allowing Adele to have her daily swim. We were so happy to be at the beach we didn't leave it for the 3 days we were there. Still wonder why we’ve rented a townhouse on the beach in Saint Augustine?

From there we took a ferry ride of maybe 300 yards on our way to Galveston, what a difference we encountered in the weather - it was cold, windy and stormy. The nighttime temperature was a low 40F (11C); as you can imagine we had to get up and find blankets to cover us on the first night so next day we decided to put on our winter duvet and electric blanket and this is Texas! It does heat up during the day but we still need to wear warm cloths during the day. First thing we did was head for the Visitors Center which is housed in an old historic home, from there we crossed the road to the Rosenberg Library where there’s an eclectic collection of items from peoples attics plus a history of Galveston. Rosenberg donated the library and other places (at least one church) to the town; he was a big benefactor to Galveston.
Galveston turned out to be a delightful surprise there’s so much to do and see; the sea wall which is miles long is exhilarating to walk with lots to see – the sea wall was erected and the Gulf side of the island was heightened by 15 feet after the disastrous storm of September 8th 1900, one of the "must do" things is to see the film of the disaster – a collage of old photos with an informative narration. There were 6,000 people killed in Galveston alone and over 8,000 in all. Having watched the movie it is amazing to us that so few where killed in the recent storm that hit the Eastern seaboard, most notably New Jersey and New York.

We had lunch in an old Diner called The Star Drug Store which brought back fond childhood memories for Adele – when her parents toured the US by Greyhound Bus in 1950 her mother was enthralled by the Diner/Drug Stores and on her return converted part of their Galway family Hotel into a Diner which was a huge success for many years and a very popular place for school kids to meet in the afternoon and with late night revelers.
North of Broadway which is the dividing line between the rich and poor areas there are many old elegant mansions. One we visited was the Bishops Palace originally built by the Gresham family as their home. Needless to say it was opulent and ornate with chandeliers, a stunning staircase, hardwood floors, a Chapel and servants quarters; the design of the stone work on the outside was striking and it had the prettiest chimneys we have ever seen. The Cathedral just across the road was locked, however we were not perturbed as we knew we could go to Mass on Sunday to view its splendor. After Mass went to an old hotel on the seafront called Hotel Galvez to Facetime our English Grandchildren and check the brunch. A lady was playing the grand piano in the large foyer; brunch was $35 per person so we decided that as we were not that hungry we would take another walk on the seawall. We had an excellent lunch in a restaurant called Fish Tails that cost $35 dollars for the two of us. On our way back to the RV Park we visited Moody Gardens which has three large glass pyramids of different colors and discovered that it is an amusement theme park, very Disneyworld and decided to give it a miss. There were plenty of tourists around the town and on the beach even though the weather was quite cold and the sea angry and rough. Many surfers were in the water but the waves are nothing as compared to those we’re used to in Santa Cruz. Along the roadway between Galveston and the RV Park there are many big holiday homes built up on 12ft stilts - we think it’s a case of which would one prefer to have your house swept by a hurricane or washed away by a tidal wave!

Now for a little bit of a history lesson Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (c.1490-c.1560) was born in Jeréz de la Frontera, Spain to a noble family. In 1527 he joined an expedition to explore the Gulf of Mexico during which three boats were lost with significant loss of life including the expedition leader Narváez. Others who landed died of starvation or Indian attack however, Cabeza de Vaca and a few companions survived. They landed finally at a place thought to be Galveston Island, Texas which they named the Island of Misfortune. From 1529 to 1534 Cabeza de Vaca and these others lived a meager life with the Karankawa Indians in a state of semi-slavery and often separated from each other. During this time Cabeza de Vaca took advantage of his slight medical skills and remade himself as a healer. He explored this small section of the East Texas coast in hopes of finding a way to Mexico and its Spanish colonies. In 1534 he and the other Spanish survivors started west across Texas for Mexico. With the help of many Native Americans along the way, they crossed the Pecos and Colorado rivers and made their way towards Spanish outposts. Despite the arduous trip, Cabeza de Vaca continued to note the wonders of the American west and the inhabitants’ impressive survival skills. Finally they turned south, moving inland. In April 1536 a Spanish slaving party found the four Spaniards. In all, it took nine years from the start of the expedition for Cabeza de Vaca to arrive in Mexico City.
A couple of hundred years later it was Jean Lafayette (Lafitte) the prince of pirates who swashbuckled his way around Galveston island where he set up his headquarters camp which he called Campeche. Merchant ships wisely avoided this area.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

San Antonio,TX

The Alamo

The Church at the Alamo 

River Walk

Checking out a menu

A beautiful home in the King William area

The altar in San Fernando Cathedral on the plaza  

The still active church at Mission San Jose;
remains of the Abbey are behind the church 

Indian quarters...part of the mission/village wall facing inwards
Posted by Picasa

California visit

Tennis party at Loreta's

Cearull, Adele and Sairsha

Tom and Sairsha

Cian, Granny and Caleb..quack, quack!

Caleb enjoying "horsey" with Granny

Kilian and Tom

A seasonal latte
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 12, 2012

San Antonio

Boerne (pronounced Burney) a little town about 25 miles outside San Antonio was our location for this stop as this was where we could store the RV while visiting California and Vancouver. Our first visit was, of course, to the Alamo which is in the center of San Antonio and reputed to be the biggest tourist attraction in Texas. Some of the main historical Mission San Antonio de Valero (now known as the Alamo) buildings remain standing with about half of the original defensive walls also evident. This is history! So much so that one can almost sense the presence of the heroes. We spent several hours browsing the various artifacts and information boards; we also listened to a guide relate the history of the battle of the Alamo; he was excellent, made it easy to picture where and why it happened and piqued our interest to learn more.

The short version: Mexico fought a war with Spain to gain its independence and become a democracy, when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was elected President of Mexico he declared himself a Dictator and ruled as such. At that time Texas (a province of Mexico known as Tejas) was populated by democracy loving Mexicans and numerous immigrants from Germany, France, Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland and American who had moved to Tejas to live their “dream” clearly, they did not want to live under a Dictator. To understand the battle at Alamo one must appreciate its strategic context in the Texas Revolution. In December 1835 a Federalist army of Texan (or Texian as they were called) immigrants, American volunteers and their Tejano allies had captured the town from the Mexican Centralist force during the siege of Bexar. In response Santa Anna raised an army of over 7,000 men with the objective of retaking Bexar and crushing the “rebels” in San Antonio. There were about 250 brave men in Mission San Antonio de Valero who were vastly outnumbered. After days of pounding the Mission with cannon fire, on Sunday March 6 at around 5:00 A.M. Santa Anna hurled his columns at the battered walls from four directions. Texan gunners stood by their artillery. As about 1,800 assault troops advanced into range, canister ripped through their ranks. Staggered by the concentrated cannon and rifle fire, the Mexican soldiers halted, reformed, and drove forward. Soon they were past the defensive perimeter. Abandoning the walls, defenders withdrew to the dim rooms of the Long Barracks; there some of the bloodiest hand-to-hand fighting occurred. The chapel fell last. By dawn the Centralists had overcome the mission defenders. The assault had lasted no more than ninety minutes. As many as seven defenders survived the battle, but Santa Anna showing no mercy ordered their summary execution. The rest of the story is that a now emboldened Santa Anna decided to chase all rebels, led by Colonel Sam Huston, out of Tejas however at the battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna was soundly defeated by Huston’s forces and Texas declared itself an independent country. Texas remained an independent country for 10 years and remains very proud of this time in its history.

After our visit to the Alamo we took a walk along The Riverwalk which lives up its reputation of a great tourist attraction, it is a lovely place to while away several hours along its picturesque banks. We think that Oklahoma City copied the idea for its redevelopment of their Bricktown district in their city center. Strolling along the walk we came across an Irish Pub and had lunch of smoked salmon and brown bread, then after lunch we took a boat tour and did some shopping. We interrupted our visit to San Antonio to head for California and Vancouver BC. 0n our return we spent another day in San Antonio and walked along the river to the historic King William Area and had lunch at Guenther House Museum the former home of the Guenther Family whose mill is still in operation next door. Afterwards we drove south to Mission San Jose which was a big surprise; the church remains in daily use, the surrounding village compound is intact and provides a view of just how large these missions were with large gates on two sides, almost like an ancient city with a few industries and farming outside the walls. Native Americans were housed along the inside wall in two roomed homes, with beehive ovens outside their doors. Dotted throughout the compound were wells for water, farrier and carpenter shops; we were enthralled by it all.

One night Adele decided to upgrade her iPad and it crashed; so we had to search for an Apple Store and found one in the fantastic La Cantera Shopping Center; we ended up spending a wonderful evening there - it is an outdoor shopping center with very elaborate, tall shelters providing daytime shade, there were fountains and water features all beautifully done. And, yes the iPad problem was resolved.
The town of Boerne was very busy at weekends, once again we saw antique cars, the shops sold antiques and there were many restaurants and a lovely old hotels which Adele managed to get a tour upstairs and downstairs.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Our visit to California and Vancouver, BC

Two weeks after we returned from England we were back in the air, this time flying to California principally to meet Sairsha Alice the latest addition to our family as well as to see as many of our Los Gatos and Saratoga friends as possible. In Los Gatos we stayed with Anjali and Amit who recently joined the club of empty nesters - one close by and one very far away. The tennis group had a party for Adele and it was nice for her to see all the familiar faces and catch up on news and events. That same afternoon Adele had a Doctor’s visit, of course her cholesterol was high and so was her blood pressure!

We spent a long weekend with Cearull, Leslie and Sairsha Alice. Sairsha was born 10 weeks early in July her due date was September 30th we were all worried when she was born so early weighing only two lbs but since then she has never looked back; from the minute she was born she was feeding and fighting (Fighting Irish!) she is a lovely little girl who cries little and feeds well. We baby sat while Leslie and Cearull had a meal out; Tom who is very good with babies held Sairsha every opportunity he got and loved it. It was lovely to stay and dote on Sairsha day after day.

From there we returned to Los Gatos for a few more days and once again it was a whirlwind of activities with friends. Adele managed to fit in a bridge day and see all her bridge friends. We took a stroll down Santa Cruz Avenue to where the Butter Paddle Shop had moved from Saratoga and while passing by Adele met one of her former co-volunteers – in she went - it was party day so quite a few volunteers were there so Adele saw many of her friends. We had dinner engagements most nights in friend’s homes – the Romans, Variots and Johnsons - where we were wined and dined in style. On our last night Anjali made a delicious authentic Indian meal for us.

Vancouver, Canada was our next destination to visit Adele's three brothers. We have certainly experienced several different climates in the last few two months with Vancouver adding its rainy season. We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves, had one beautiful day when four of us, Adele, Tom, John and Tom took a walk along the estuary from Kitsilano to the Olympic Village via Granville Island and then returned on a little ferry boat. Most days we ignored the weather and exercised at the Arbutus Club where Adele’s brother Larry had signed us in as his guests. While there we celebrated the fact that all the Cheevers siblings are now in their 60s - the question is will they all make it into their 70s?

On November 1st we flew back to Dallas, our flight arrived in the late evening and as our RV was in San Antonio we stayed the night in a hotel. The RV has been in Texas since August 30th; this is a big state and we need to get moving.

Austin, Texas

Dome of State Capitol

State emblem depicting heritage of Texas

Painting in State Senate Chamber by Irishman Henry Arthur McArdle

Austin mansion

On a Duck Tour
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Austin TX

When we arrived back in Dallas we both had a bad cough; Adele had it for most of the time we were away then coughed and spluttered all over Tom on the journey back…and Tom caught it. So, we decided to take life easy for a few days and recover. When we got back to the hotel where the car was parked we were faced with a soft rear tire, but lucky for us there was a Gas station across the road so we limped over there and got air. Today, we had to purchase two new tires for Bluebug.

Our RV Park in Austin was buzzing with when we arrived – University of Texas and West Virginia were playing and there were flags and banners fluttering for both teams. We watched the first quarter as we were in a sports bar having dinner, both teams looked good, West Virginia won.
We are now in what’s known as the hill country of Texas and yes there are a few hills but these people have never been to San Francisco where the hills are serious. Austin is the political Capitol of Texas and they boast that the Capitol building is the biggest Capitol building outside of Washington. They sure like to boast that everything is bigger in Texas but we haven't noticed, except for the men's hats. We took an official tour of the Capitol; the rotunda has a lone star on the floor mirrored by another lone star on the dome ceiling 683ft above. We were heartened to learn that Texans acknowledge that the Spanish and the French also have a history in Texas. In the Senate Chamber there are two very large paintings “the battle of San Jacinto” and “Santa Anna’s surrender to Houston” by an Irish immigrant Henry Arthur McArdle. McArdle made it his life’s work to research the history and work on the paintings which took him over 25 years to complete. Afterwards, we walked the park in a lovely setting at the top of Congress Road which surrounds the building; bronze statues tell the history of Texas and right in front of the building there are statues acknowledging the Confederate troops; Adele walked around it twice to make sure. Then we walked down 6th Street which is full of Bars; as this was in broad daylight somehow it did not make for a good pub atmosphere. We had a nice Mexican meal on 6th in a restaurant which met our criteria - if it’s busy then the food must be good.

The next day we drove west through the Hill Country to Fredericksburg for lunch. Settled by German immigrants in 1846 it is a cute little town with, as expected, many German names on businesses; we had a delicious German lunch in Bierhaus on the main street. Fredericksburg’s most famous son is WW 11 hero Admiral Nimitz who is memorialized in a museum; the town also has a museum to the war in the Pacific. There are a number of wineries in the area yet it is celebrated as the biggest peach growing area in Texas. The original Germans, mostly professionals and city dwellers, sailed to the Gulf and then had to walk through swamp and forest to get to Fredericksburg as all transport was taken for the Mexican American war. Comanche Indians attacked the immigrants and stole their children. The immigrants persisted and ultimately agreed a peace treaty with the Indians which is confirmed in history as the only peace treaty (with the Indians) that has never broken. Other Texans invited all the Indian Chiefs to peace talks, not allowing them any weapons, then when they could not agree to the their terms the Texans pulled out their guns and shot every one of the Indians.

A Duck tour of Austin occupied our time the following day; a great idea! We had a wonderful guide who had a great sense of humor, starting off by giving each passenger a duck quacking beak, we had fun blowing at everyone and anything. We had the usual tour full of local history, color and information on celebrities. Particular mention was made of O Henry whom we had heard of but had never read any of his work, now we must. A local code is that no building may be taller than the top of the Capitol which is cleverly observed by developers of some very nice modern downtown skyscrapers – the building height is mere inches lower than the very top of the statue on the dome of the Capitol. Another nice feature are the old lighting towers that are in continuous use since the 19th century. Afterwards we had our dinner in the beautiful Driskill Hotel built in 1886 by Colonel Jesse Driskill a cattle baron. The hotel has kept all its character including cut glass doors, stained glass domed ceilings, beaten tin ceiling tiles, and a spectacular staircase. The exterior is Romanesque with a bust of Colonel Driskill above the roof, the story is that he lost the hotel in a game of poker and now his ghost haunts the hotel looking for the fellow who won the hotel. Another ghost story is of a little girl who was bouncing a ball and fell down the stairs and died she now haunts the 2nd floor Ladies powder room and the stairs.
LBJ kept a suite in the Driskill when he was in Congress. Texans are real proud of LBJ as he is the only home grown Texan President of the US; they consider the Bush family as “blow ins“ - we were quite tickled by that. We had hoped to tour the University of Texas but as parking was by permit only we had to settle for a car tour; what can we say is its big, vibrant with lots of students and is a very nice campus. One other thing we’ve noticed in this part of Texas is that almost all buildings are either built of or faced with a local stone, private houses included, the stone is a pink sandstone and makes for very pretty buildings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wedding in Ireland & Birthdays in England

Magnificent Seven...the Horgan siblings

Adding a splash of color

Fiona the newest Mrs Horgan and her flower girl

Hannah's birthday party

Hannah - hooray I'm a teenager!

With our great friends Muriel and Gerry

Molly's celebrating her birthday with her friends 
Posted by Picasa