Thursday, July 30, 2015


It is Thursday and time to head home. Woke up to a sunny day and not too hot at 8:00 am. I decided to take a walk and headed down Main Street to the falls. Tried a few side streets and admired the beautiful gardens and floral arrangements. I recently got a FitBit and tracking my steps. I also use Map My Walk on my iPhone. Anyway I am walking more and did over two miles this morning. Came back, showered, had some tea and packed. We left and vowed to return as there is so much more to see and enjoy in this interesting town.

Driving home we passed through Columbia, the state capital. I have been anxious to visit the art museum which has an Andy Warhol exhibition. Jeff was not interested so I parked him in a shady spot and walked a few blocks to the museum. Really enjoyed the artwork and commentary. The exhibit was small, but definitely worth the stop.

We continued on towards home and arrived safely. I had time to unpack my bag and water the parched plants before heading out to a rehearsal for the 2015 Follies.

Song title today from the Beatles in honor of Andy Warhol's paintings of Chairman Mao.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tupelo Honey

Yea, it is Wednesday and our day to tour the BMW plant. We slept late and drove over towards Greer. This is another cute little town nestled in lush, upstate South Carolina. We had a plan to drive some country roads, but ended up only going as far as Campbell's Covered Bridge. Built in 1909, it is the last covered bridge in the state. Only 35 feet long and 12 feet wide it is "an excellent example of a four span Howe truss."

Being careful not to miss our appointed tour time we headed back to Greer and had lunch at a pizza joint. On to the BMW plant where we were immediately impressed by the grounds and enormity of the plant, about 1,050 acres. We spent some time checking in and exploring the Zentrum, which is their museum and cafe building. They have some cool motorcycles and cars on display here, including an Isetta. This teeny car had a one cylinder engine with 13 horsepower and could go up to 50 miles per hour. It came in a coupe, sedan and convertible. It could also pull a tiny trailer. A great way to travel in the early 1950's. My parents had a friend who came to visit with her son in his Isetta. He took my mom for a ride and she returned saying she felt like a milkshake. I always remember how the entire front opened to be the door.

At 2:00 our group of 10 were given clear goggles and headphones. Our guide, Shanna, walked us over to the body shop where robots amazed us. Most of the initial welding and work on the car bodies  is done here with no human interaction. Later workers get involved with loading parts for the robots. Each vehicle is made to order and the parts are all ready for that particular car of SUV. BMW keeps no inventory and suppliers keep a constant stream of parts coming to the plant.

The entire procedure was mind boggling and true perfection. The facility ran flawlessly and they produce 1300 vehicles each day. After our walk we went to another building where we were whisked through on a tram. The seats and console are from the SUV and very comfy. We saw the drive trains after their painting being assembled. All the electronics, seats and tires are done in this building. The finished cars are then loaded right onto a rail line and transported to their owners. What an amazing tour and I highly recommend it.

Now it was extremely hot today and at 4:00 we headed back to Greenville to rest. A nap was just perfect. Later we walked down Main Street and had dinner at Tupelo Honey. This restaurant is cutesy, mountain decor and part of a small chain that started in Asheville. Fresh biscuits with Tupelo honey and blueberry preserves started off the meal which only got better. I had a nutty, fried chicken breast and still smacking my lips. Came with a tempting choice of sides. I had baked mac and cheese and quinoa with blueberries, mint and feta cheese. Incredibly delicious and I could not finish, although I tried. Jeff had traditional fried chicken and declared it really good. Did some strolling to get rid of a pound or two and back to the hotel to sleep.

More statues and a view of the upper falls.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Long and Winding Road

Woke up to sunny skies and decided to forgo the museums this morning and take a ride in the upcountry. Our route took us west and north towards the highest altitudes of South Carolina. We passed through the the town of Pickens and drove to the grist mill which was closed. On to a waterfall which we never found on two tries. I got spooked when a ratty pickup pulled out and took off at a high speed. A large confederate flag was attached to the bed and rippling in the breeze.

We saw a sign for Sassafras Mountain and turned to ascend the highest peak in our state. A treacherous, curvy road which took us to a hiking trail head with a lookout. This was not the correct road with the visitor center. We looked out and it was getting a little overcast, but a beautiful vista.

Lots of hardwood and pine trees  and on a clear day you can see Georgia and North Carolina. Headed back down the mountain in a low gear.

Next stop was Table Rock state park with a lovely visitor center and clean bathrooms. It was sad to see the map of their camping loops since we are no longer campers. Luckily we decided not to go into the park and take the 4 mile hike to the famous mountain. Instead we opted for a recommended place for lunch which was pretty lame, but rustic. We left just as it started to rain. Then it started to pour and never let up. We drove slowly and passed through Travelers Rest and the Furman University campus. Could not see much through the driving rain and somehow got back to the hotel. I had to stay in the car for a long time till I could run for the door without getting completely soaked.

A nice nap under warm sheets was just what we needed to fix our wet bodies. Now it is after 5:00 and the sun is shining. Time to go for a walk and some food. We decided on the Blue Ridge Brewing Company and enjoyed a comfortable place with good food. Afterwards we walked down to the falls to see them with the lights on. Not too exciting, however we did find another mouse with a little help from some young tourists. This one was peeking down from a metal frame.

Along Main Street are many statues and informative plaques. We enjoyed learning about a former Mayor, Max Heller. As a young man he escaped Europe and the Holocaust and ended up in Greenville. He became successful in business, politics and as a visionary in creating this beautiful downtown.

This statue and plaza is dedicated to the desegregation of the county high school.

One area has metal  plates set in the sidewalk with famous quotations and interesting sayings. Lots to see and do here. A bit of TV finished off the evening.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Smoke on the Water

Easy to pick a song title today as that is also the name of the restaurant where we ate dinner. Well here we are in Greenville, SC. This is a short and much needed getaway to an area that is loved by all our friends who have visited. Greenville is located in the northwest corner of the state near the foothills of the Appalachians and near the Blue Ridge Mountains and Parkway. We are about an hour or so from Asheville, NC.

We spent about five hours driving here on country roads that passed through tiny towns and a few small towns. Notably was Aiken, which is known as an equestrian community with many horse events during the year. It was lovely with a wide, grassy median dividing the Main Street in town, beautiful houses and gardens were everywhere as well as horse statues.

Arrived mid afternoon and checked into our hotel on the Main Street. We are already impressed with the wide, shady street full of restaurants and shops.

After resting for a while we walked a few blocks down hill toward the Reedy River and waterfalls which are the main tourist attraction. Along the way we search for mice! There are nine tiny brass mice hidden along the street and the object is to find them all. We found six and will look for the rest tomorrow.  My favorite is one resting under a state of General Green for whom the town is named. This little guy is wearing a tri-cornered hat and playing a drum, just like Yankee Doodle and his pals.

We passed the river and went uphill into the West historic district to have dinner at Smoke on the Water. Great choice as it is a comfortable place with a great menu and delicious food. I had crab cakes with a loaded potato cake, squash casserole and cole slaw. Jeff had prime rib and all this came with corn bread and a talkative and interesting waiter. I also had a drink- a pointsettia. Named for the flower which is named for James Poinsett who brought the flowers here from Mexico. Here I am sitting with his statue.

Outside the restaurant in the Historic District is a statue of "Shoeless Joe Jackson." He was a native of Greenville and they have this statue and a museum dedicated to this hometown hero.

After dinner we walked to the falls and over the interesting suspension bridge. Sat for a while admiring the beauty and gardens.

On the walk home we stopped at Marble Slab Creamery to cap the day off with some ice cream. Met some nice people today and saw some new and beautiful places.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mission Impossible (Theme Song)

Another beautiful, sunny day in San Antonio. We are on a mission today to visit several missions on the Mission Trail. The Alamo is the northernmost of the six missions and the smallest. We drove south of the city to see Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo. It is a beautiful place considered the queen of the missions.

Founded in 1720 by Franciscans from Spain. The Friars were sent to convert the native peoples and convert them to Roman Catholicism, teach them Spanish and train them in skills useful to the mission so they could pay taxes to Spain. We saw an informative movie and went on a guided tour with a National Park Ranger.

Much of the exterior walls and housing units had been destroyed and were rebuilt by the WPA during the 1930's. Unfortunately the church was locked because of it being a national holiday, Martin Luther King Day. So we decided to visit another mission where we could view the church interior.

On the way we stopped at a local cafe for some Mexican food for lunch. Then on to the Mission Nuestra SeƱora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna. That is quite a mouthful. The grounds here were smaller as the perimeter buildings had been destroyed and not rebuilt.

We were able to go into the church and they have beautiful frescoes adorning some of the walls. These are original art and so wonderful to see. It is considered one of the country's oldest original stone churches. Both churches we visited are still functioning with services held each week for the local community.

Back to the hotel for a little rest and then a short walk to the Riverwalk. We bought tickets for a boat tour which took 45 minutes. So much fun to ride along the narrow San Antonio River and see all the restaurants, bars and craft booths on the river.

Under bridges and alongside hotels which sit right on the river. We took a loop coming back to the same place and headed off to explore and finally a margarita and chips on the river's edge. We sat under one of these brightly colored umbrellas.

At 6:00 we had a dinner reservation at Boudrous which was recommended by our concierge. We sat outside with large heaters and blankets on every chair in case you were chilly.

The food and ambiance were great! I had a soup that was cheddar on one side and black bean on the other. Really good. Then I had wood fired grilled sea bass with (drum roll) mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini. A delicious dinner. We waddled back the hotel where we packed and now watching TV and soon to sleep. Left a wake up call for 7:00 am so we can get to the airport in plenty of time.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier

Texas is all about Davy Crockett who preferred to be called David. He was killed at the Alamo along with James Bowie and everyone else. His portrait is in the main hall of the state house and he is revered here as a founding father. So today we drove to San Antonio to actually see the Alamo.

First stop was a lovely brunch hosted by Marlene and Bob. It was fun to spend time with the bride and groom and the family. We were in a private room at a great Tex-Mex restaurant with delicious food. I loved having good guacamole for breakfast. Lots of photos and family hugs.

 Mother of the bride, Marlene, with grandson Lincoln.

Cousin Faith and Tony.

Me with cousin Arnie. We share a birthday.

 Arnie and Celeste.

Erica and Derek, the bride and groom.

Now it is time for us to move on and wonder when we will see each other again.

Checked out of the W and headed south on I-35. It is mostly a strip of stores and restaurants for much of the trip. We made a stop at the town of Gruene, pronounced Green. This area was settled by Germans and many of the towns have German names. Gruene is an arty little town with antiques and restaurants. It also has the oldest dance hall in Texas. We went in to see the old wood floors and the place is still in use with a large bar and crowds listening to a band.

On to San Antonio which is an old city with a vibrant downtown. We found our hotel, the Sheraton Gunter, and checked in. After unpacking we walked about four blocks to see the Alamo.

It is a lovely site with lots of Live Oak trees. The original mission building was a church that was not completed. It had no roof and that was added later when the Texans used the property. During the war with Santa Anna the rebels used the mission and grounds and were all killed there. Soon after Santa Anna was defeated and Texas became an independent empire. Interestingly the four commanders at the Alamo were Crockett, Bowie and two others from South Carolina.

We toured inside the mission and around the grounds. In the long barracks building we watched a documentary and visited the gift shop. Then it was time to eat so we walked to the other end of town and the Market Square. This is a colorful place with restaurants, shops and kiosks. Mi Tierra was recommended and was a fun place to eat. It is a Mexican diner, huge, serving 700 at one time. They had mariachis serenading and tinsel decorations hanging from the ceiling.

The food was fast and good and lots of fun. We enjoyed cool margaritas and all the ambiance. They also have a large bakery with very tempting pastries.

Time to go to the hotel and rest. Sunday night means Downton Abbey and we climbed into bed to watch.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Yellow Rose of Texas

Texas, they are so proud of this state. We woke up to another beautiful day and met up with the bride Erica and her sister Jessica and family for breakfast.

Then we drove off with cousins Meryl and Rich to explore. First stop was a farmer's market near our hotel.

Then we went along Lady Bird Lake where there is a huge park crowded with joggers and sports enthusiasts enjoying the weather. We walked through the nature center seeing some caged hawks and owls and dodging tons of little kids. Then we drove to the sculpture garden, but decided not to go in. Looked around the UT campus and went home to nap and get ready for the wedding.

At 5:00 pm we went to the second floor venue in the hotel and visited. The ceremony started promptly at 5:30 and Erica walked down the aisle with her dad, Bob.

She was the most beautiful bride and just beaming. A rabbi did a short and meaningful service and Derek broke the glass starting their life together. Now it is time to party.

We started off with the mandatory family pictures and then went into the ballroom which was decorated beautifully. We sat with Meryl, Rich and Matthew and Joann and Harlan, all first cousins. The photos below are my first cousins and then "The Others." These are spouses and children of the cousins.

The dancing started with a hora and we had fun circling and laughing. The DJ did a great mix with lots of oldies and we danced the night away. Delicious food completed a great night.

We got back to our room and collapsed into deep sleep.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Peggy Sue

Buddy Holly is remembered as a favorite son of Texas and we heard this song played over and over in the state history museum.

Woke up to a sunny morning with the promise of warmer weather. Carol and I had coffee and tea at the Starbuck's next door and then set out to see the town. Austin is a pretty city and very walkable. Bob and Marlene gave us a ride to the University of Texas campus and a quick tour. It is huge with modern buildings and lots of construction. We passed the Longhorns stadium and they dropped us off at the LBJ library.

Jeff and I are trying to see all of the Presidential Libraries and the three in Texas are on our list. I feel guilty about seeing the LBJ without Jeff, but I am here. It was built in 1971 and very well done. Immaculately clean, great exhibits and many movie presentations. Much space was devoted to the Civil Rights bill and the Great Society. The Viet Nam war was another major topic. I enjoyed the displays on life in the 60's with the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Lawrence Welk. Definitely a must see if you are visiting Austin.

Outside it had gotten warmer and we walked around the campus to our next musem. Luckily it was mostly down hill and we stopped at a small cafe for lunch. We visited the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum and it is another winner.

Recently built this is a three story structure with an IMAX theatre attached. We saw the permanent exhibit about the founding and growth of Texas and a temporary exhibit on a shipwreck being restored. The history part is well done starting with the Spanish and then the Mexicans controlling the area. Learned all about the struggle for independence from Mexico and a good exhibit on the Alamo
with a replica of the building. Later Texas became a US state and then seceded with the Confederacy.
Other areas concentrated on agriculture with rice and cottons crops and, of course, oil. The top floor also had culture exhibits including famous folks.

We left there just before 4:00 and walked a few blocks to the State Capitol. This is the largest State House in the country and an impressive building. Built out of Texas limestone and granite and taller that the Capitol in DC.

At the top is an statue of Lady Liberty holding a gold, five pointed star.

You can never forget that star as it is everywhere in the building. Every door handle, door hinges, chandeliers and more!

We took a free tour and visited the Senate and Legislature halls. Stood in the  rotunda looking up at the dome which has a16' star at the top. Around the walls are photos of the past governor's including George W. Bush. Governor Perry's photos are in the Senate and House chambers and he has served as Governor for 14 years. A new governor will be inaugurated this Tuesday and they were setting up scaffolding for the event.

Outside we walked around the grounds for a while and visited some of the statues and monuments. The Heroes of the Alamo had the names of all lost there including David Crockett and James Bowie.

 The Confederacy monument had all the states names with South Carolina being first to secede. On top was a statue of Jefferson Davis who shared a birthday with Jeff on June 3. Now there is a piece of trivia for you to use.

Finally done with the sightseeing we walked towards the hip 6th Street which is full of restaurants and music venues. Mostly a young crowd, we got a recommendation for a Tex-Mex place which turned out to be wonderful. The Iron Cactus is large and we were seated by a front window where we were able to watch all the characters outside. We ordered margaritas and mine was made made with a a pear alcohol and very yummy. Lots of chips with warm salsa and queso. I had a shrimp dish and Carol had beef and we were stuffed. We took a cab back to the hotel and walked in to find more of our cousins arriving. Lots of kissing and hugging and finally up to our room. We watched TV and fell asleep.