Forty Years of Sheer Galveston Fascination

download-7I have always been fascinated with Galveston, Texas ever since I was a young girl. We spent endless summers roaming the beach along the seawall that is still there today. We never stayed anywhere in particular – just mainly slept on the beach at the west end of town along the seawall. Back in the 70’s that was permissible. Not so today!

My mother and dad loved to fish – they spent endless hours among the jetty rocks using cane poles to catch a mess of fish that fed us for days. I roamed the beaches with my little brother and two sisters day after day – oh the glory of being a child! We rarely ever got into trouble because we were too busy crab fishing with our neck bones and string, or just playing endlessly in the water or the sand. Mama always had a keen eye on us and if we ventured too far, you could hear her hollering for us over the wind and the waves that should have stifled out her calls, but didn’t.

I remember listening to the radio on the way home – the number one songs back those days (early 70’s) was Galveston by Glen Campbell, and Ramblin’ Man by the Allman Brothers Band. How wonderful life was those days.

Galveston Island changed me in some ways more than any other place. When I was fifteen, my older sister and I would sit on the beach and watch the sun come up or go down. She lived a block from the seawall on 31st Street and when she let me come to visit, I’d often walk along the beach by myself. Somehow the cry of the seagulls and the waves coming to and from the sandy beach seemed to soothe away my teen-aged problems. My sister is dead now but the memories we created are still etched in my heart and soul.

The fascination for Galveston still remains true in my heart today, nearly fifty years later. Many winds have blown through and a lot of water passed under the bridges since that time in my life. Hurricanes came and hurricanes went.

On September 13, 2008 when Hurricane Ike made landfall on the island, it left an impression on the island in such a way that affected a lot of families especially since the historic Flagship Hotel that use to be located on Seawall Blvd., was damaged so heavily that it eventually was torn down. It was built out over the water – the only one of its kind in the area and it had withstood many storms before Ike. Generations of our family had stayed there year after year and many precious memories were made.

One of my fondest memories was when my grandson Nicolas – not quite two at the time (now he’s nine) use to sit out on the balcony on the eighth floor of The Flagship with me while his mommy and older cousins slipped off down to the beach for a stroll or swim. We’d sit there and just enjoy the breeze for hours… One day, Nicolas dropped his bottle full of milk and it rolled off the balcony and fell into the water below. He was horrified. It was that day that he quit taking a bottle and graduated to a sipping cup. He still remembers this incident and tells everyone the fishies got his bottle.

At night, we’d leave the patio doors open to our room and listen to the calming waves down below. Occasionally sea gulls would fly by the balcony alcove calling to others as they dove into the salty water for food. It was the most relaxing time I ever experienced.

Today, The Flagship Hotel is just a fond memory for most of us, and even though something else is taking its place on the Seawall, it will never be the same.

After Hurricane Ike had passed over and the drama of it all had died down to some extent, I visited the Island shortly after visitors were allowed back in – talk about decay and ruin. Tears fell as I drove the streets and saw islanders piling up ruined household items and personal belongings that couldn’t be salvaged. I watched in awe as the islanders picked up and started rebuilding all that had been lost. They never complained but worked together so hard to bring the island back to life.

Our family still loves visiting Galveston even today – a new generation of island-lovers, you might say! There is 32 miles of beaches just waiting for our return.

The original Murdoch’s Pier and Gift Shop on Seawall Blvd once was a favorite

attraction and shopping spot for the grandchildren until Hurricane Ike took it out to sea in

back in 2008. Hermit crabs, cages, shells and many other collectible items were bought and brought home to family and friends. It has now been fully restored and is our favorite stop and shop spot. Murdoch’s Pier and Gift Shop is located near 23rd Street and Seawall Blvd in Galveston, Texas.

Another favorite is the Seawolf Park, Pelican Island via Seawolf Parkway (51st Street). Seawolf Park was built on an immigration station site and offers a three-story pavilion with a view of Galveston harbor, picnic sites, a playground area and a lighted fishing pier. A World War II submarine (the USS Cavalla), a destroyer escort (the USS Stewart), and other military hardware are open for tours.

It’s really a nice place for a little fishing or maybe a family picnic but avoid going on the submarine tour in the heat of the day – even though it may only be 80 degrees outside, it gets extremely hot inside the submarine.

You can see Seawolf Park as you cross the Galveston Island Ferry from Port Bolivar to Galveston – the ferry loading area is located on Hwy 87 (Ferry Road) – it’s about an 8 mile stretch across open waters. The ferry ride is a favorite of the kids and the best past is that it’s free any time, any day. You can park and ride across or you can drive on. Ferries run approximately every fifteen to twenty minutes. Sometimes you have to wait in long lines due to the high volume of people coming to and from Galveston but it’s not so bad once you get in line. But don’t get caught cutting in the traffic line because you’ll be sure to get a fine – no questions asked.

This past year, my daughter and I and her two small children saw a miraculous site indeed. Halfway across between Galveston and Port Bolivar the ferry slowed down almost to a complete stop. A school of dolphins were swimming right in front of the boat and for at least twenty good minutes every one on the ferry got to see the dolphins as they played. They played around the front of the boat long enough to give us a good show and they were off and on their way. All the years we’ve traveled crossing the ferry we have never seen such a delightful sight. It was as if they knew they had an audience! This was certainly one of those Kodak moments that only happen once in a lifetime!

Another gem you won’t want to miss is The Great Storm, a multimedia presentation at the Pier 21 Theater. Visitors get a glimpse of the devastating 1900 Storm through a multi-image documentary experience. The 27-minute story gives actual accounts from diaries and letters of survivors during and after the storm.

You’ve also got to visit one of Galveston’s most popular attractions – Moody Gardens, located at One Hope Boulevard. A tropical destination for ideal families and groups is another must see, must visit destination on the island. Water your imagination and travel the oceans of the world at the Aquarium Pyramid. Step into the Rainforest Pyramid with thousands of tropical plants, exotic fish and birds. Explore the mysteries of science at the Discovery Pyramid, and take a rocking and rolling ride through the universe at the Ridefilm Theater. Get in the middle of the action at the 4D Special FX Theater.

All of our grand kids love Moody Gardens – it’s one of those must see, must go places that is not only popular but an all time favorite – and it’s not just for kids either. All of us older ‘kids’ enjoy it as much, if not more. It’s that place where we don’t mind being ‘kids’!

Then there are the museums and historical homes to see while you’re there – you can find them online at – the official tourist site for Galveston. I liked the old homes that are located in the downtown area, but most of our family are adventure seekers and find touring old homes and museums a little boring for our taste.

You can’t visit Galveston without visiting the Strand Historic District. The islanders go all out for Mardi Gras – word to the wise – if you want to attend the Mardi Gras celebration, you’d better book your rooms early because they go quick, especially those along the seawall.

There are several motels and resorts along the seawall to select from but our favorite are the ones closest to the water. An evening stroll along the beach after a long day of touring and activities add the finishing touches for a wonderful vacation, whether it’s for a day, a weekend, all week or even longer.

Many years have passed by since I first started coming to Galveston Island as a young child and many more will pass by and you’ll continue seeing me there. Watching the skaters coming down the seawall is always fun, but what’s more fun is watching my husband as he stumbles down the stairs of the seawall as the beautiful young women in tiny little bikinis not much larger than an eye patch comes jogging by.

“No sand in those panties because they’re nothing more than a string,” he says as he tries to get his composure in front of the kids!

“They’re called thongs, Papaw!” laughs our fifteen year old granddaughter!

“I knew that!” he stammered, by now turning all red. “Come on, Kids – race you to the beach!”

Fond memories of trios to Galveston keeps it fresh in our minds and hearts over forty years later. If you have family or grand children, take a tip and create fond memories with them.

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Friendly Places to Travel With Grand Children

download-8My yearning to travel goes way back as far as I can remember. School field trips was one of my favorite things to do because our class visited places that were sometimes taken for granted especially if they were in our town or city. We’d visit museums and interesting places like the Houston Planetarium, the Intercontinental Airport and Hermann Park Zoo field trips stick out in mind more than anything. Someday, I will venture back to Houston, Texas to revisit the places of my school days! My grandchildren would appreciate visiting some of these places as well.

Now, many years later, as an adult and an avid traveler, before leaving for a trip, I search out every museum in the town or city of our upcoming trip destination before hand. We fill every day with tons of activities, some of which is free or inexpensive, educational and all the while, we’re making memories as a family.

The Internet is a luxury I never had back in the seventies. Had it been around back those days, there’s no telling where I’d be today! Maps are easily at our disposal and GPS’s makes traveling so much easier. Nowadays, before arriving at a destination, I know exactly what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it. Nothing bothers me more than to hear a bunch of teenagers whining about being bored and not having anything to do! Especially on my trip! So I plan every day ahead of time, and make sure that slack times are in the evenings where we gather around the pool and enjoy a good swim or if we’re camping out, we all gather around the fire where we can roast wieners or marshmallows, make s’mores and have family time and share our thoughts and pictures of the day.

We’re not the perfect family and no, we don’t always have a perfect vacation… but we make memories and have fun trying and that’s what makes it so good! Because we are not rich and have to vacation on a shoe string budget every year makes us appreciate the things we do and see, and the places we go! It’s not all about theme parks, glitz and famous places – there’s something good even in the smallest museums. You just have to know ‘what’ and ‘where’ it is! It’s called research! If you travel with teens, nine times out of ten they carry cell phones. Keep them busy on Google looking for fun activities in the town you’re visiting. You’ll never know what you may find!

Let me tell you about our trip last year.

Day one, we started off here in the South, drove to Amarillo, where we spent the night in an affordable room that served breakfast. In the evening before retiring for the night, we ate sandwiches and chips, and swam for a while and ended the evening with a movie or two. The next day we spent the biggest part of our day driving on to Colorado Springs, Colorado where we spent the next few days having a blast before going on to the next destination on our itinerary.

Day three, while we were in Colorado Springs, our first visit was to the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, Colorado.

They have a wonderful display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous period. In addition to vibrant graphics and life-restoration sculptures, visitors could venture around the museum reading the stories of each specimen. They also have a working fossil laboratory where important recently discovered paleontological specimens are being freed from their rock matrix and undergoing restoration, as well as a children’s area where they can brush off fossils in our dig box, there are books to read, a magnetic board for them to make their own imaginative dinosaur, and a rubbing station where they can take home their colorful drawings of dinosaurs. Everyone in the family will enjoy the Dinosaur Resource Center. If you have a few extra dollars to spend, there is a gift shop for souvenirs.

Later that evening we had dinner, swam at the pool at our motel and spent the remainder getting baths, and ready for bed so we could get a decent start the next day. Since we had such a large group with us, we got multiple rooms where everyone wouldn’t be too cramped and could enjoy a good nights sleep after the long drive the day before and the outing this day. Our motel wasn’t the best but it provided the essentials we needed at an affordable price, and it was clean and quiet. We were on a budget!

The next day, we packed a picnic lunch and headed off to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, five miles west of Colorado Springs.

We toured the Anasazi Museum. Impressive dioramas depicted the daily life of the Pueblo Anasazi. At the museum, we saw exhibits of tools, pottery, weapons, and informative videos that offered a glimpse of the mysterious people who left a remarkable architectural legacy on mesa tops and in cliff walls like the one at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Scientists still are unsure why the Anasazi left their cliff dwelling homes hundreds of years ago, but when you tour the dwellings and museum you’ll also become intrigued with finding out more about their lives as my family has.

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings was an all-time favorite. My grandchildren spent hours roaming through the cliff dwellings and climbing in and out the dwelling windows and outlets as the Anasazi children probably did hundreds of years ago. It was something we all found in common and most of the older grand kids are still in search of unanswered questions about the Anasazi of the Colorado Springs area that dwelt here many years ago.

Day five, we were on our way to Cripple Creek, Colorado for a one-night stay. We had a train ride the next day aboard the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Rail Road.

Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge train was small in comparison to the ones that we’ve rode in the past, but it was a huge blast with the kids as we took a scenic tour up the mountain. They took turns helping the conductor steer the train up the mountain. The younger children were excited beyond degree and talked about their experience driving the train for days to come. Though we had to drive quite awhile to get there it was worth it in the end.

Day six, we headed over to Sugar Bush Camp Ground located in Howard, Colorado just a few minutes from Salida where we’d spend the next three days camping out and touring the countryside. We drove over to Canon City to the Royal Gorge Bridge, the world’s highest suspension bridge that was built back in 1929.

You’ll find some surprising adventure awaiting you at the bridge – a miniature train, a theatre and historical expo, a skycoaster, zip line, gondola and the bridge’s newest addition, children’s playland. Your admission ticket allows you peruse the entire park. It may seem a little scary but it is truly worth the visit. Personally I am afraid of heights and walking the 2,200 feet across the Royal Gorge over 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River really wasn’t my cup of tea. I walked across in the middle with my eyes shut with grand kids on both sides leading me on! I frantically made my way across without looking through the cracks! The quiet and scenic views made the walk memorable but being the scardie-cat that I am, I wasn’t ready for the return trip back across.

Day nine, we left the Salida area and ventured over to Leadville. We rode the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad later in the afternoon. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this scenic train trip lasted about two and a half hours. We traveled about 1,000 feet above the headwaters of the Arkansas River Valley. We chose the open car because the afternoon was cool and the kids enjoyed not being cooped up for the journey.

Day ten, we drove up to Lake City where we spent the next five days at TEXAN RESORT. We had a two-story three bedroom cabin large enough we could all spread out and stretch without bumping into each other at every turn. With all the comforts of home at our fingertips, we rested and enjoyed ourselves. While we were in Lake City, we had a picnic downtown at the park while the little ones played with the other kids. We grilled hamburgers in the evenings back at the cabin while the kids played horseshoes with some of the other guests at the resort. We were fortunate enough to meet up with some children who lived there year round who showed our clan some fun and adventure while we were there. The mornings were rather cool but sitting on the front porch wrapped in a cozy blanket and sipping hot coffee while the family slept on soothed my nerves. I wasn’t ready to go home. I’m not sure I’d really want to be in Lake City in the dead of winter but at this moment when all was well with me, it was a wonderful thought!

This is our fourth year staying at the TEXAN RESORT – they have cabins to fit your group size. Be sure and tell I recommended them when you call. If you like to fish, hunt, hike or just wan to get away for a few days, then The Texan Resort is the place to be.

While we were in Lake City, we took the kids to the park downtown, and we eased up the mountain to the Hard Tack Mine Tours & Museum. The tour into the mine shaft was cool and educational to say the least, but the gift shop caught their eye immediately. I handed out rolls of quarters and let them spend a few dollars on rocks and magnets, etc.

Later in the week on Friday, we went to the Mountaineer Theatre downtown and saw Finding Dora.

Lake City is a relaxed, laid back little town. There are a few horseback outfitters in the area and backpacking, and rafting if you’re into that kind of thing.

Our trip didn’t end there though.

On day sixteen, we left Lake City and decided to take a little longer getting home so we drove over South Fork, Colorado – camped out five days at River Bend Resort – the kids were utterly miserable because our cranky older neighbors kept yelling at them for playing in the water. Chevy Chase made a hit movie here back in the eighties and one would think it would be a family place. If you’ve got kids, this is not the place to be. It is filled with camper trailers and with that comes the older generation who don’t tolerate kids while they’re relaxing and fishing. We were comfortable and all that in our tents and with our air mattresses but the manager came down and threatened to make us leave if the kids kept throwing rocks in the water. So – next year, we won’t do that again.

Since there wasn’t a lot to do in South Fork, I drove the grand kids over to a little town called Mosca – we went to the Colorado Gators Reptile Park.

On Friday evening, we took the kids to the Star Drive-In theater a in Monte Vista about fifteen miles from South Fork. If you’re in the area, and want a real old-fashioned drive in experience, this is the place to be. There are two large screens and two different movies playing on the weekends.

We left South Fork and decided to stay several days in Blanding, Utah. We liked our motel, the Four Corners Inn – there was no pool but Lawrence, the general manager, made our stay comfortable and the breakfast every day were really good. Even though it didn’t have a pool, we were able to find a mini water park in town that was fairly reasonable and the kids loved it there. It stayed open from 1:00 in the afternoon until 7 p.m. We took a picnic lunch each day so that was really nice.

The kids enjoyed an outing at the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding.

We left Blanding and drove the few hundred miles to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The first three nights we were supposed to stay at Hotel Cascada but because of a transformer explosion that not only affected the electricity – it also blew out a water main – we were sent over to Home2 Suites. Every one at the motel was evacuated and sent over to the other motel. Some new arrivals were upset because they had driven for hours with their families but things happen. It was not their fault that the transformer blew. Michelle, the manager of Hotel Cascada, was as nice and polite as any one person could be and she went out of her way to assist her customers.

We spent three nights there at Home2 Suites and let me tell you, they had the best beds I believe I have ever slept on. The breakfast was super good as well. The staff made sure we were comfortable. There was even a dishwasher and fully stocked kitchenette in each room. We had to buy our own food though!

The last four nights we stayed at Hyatt Place Albuquerque/Uptown – the pool was awesome. The staff went out of their way to see to it we had a wonderful stay. Breakfast was not only good but everything was served fresh.

The kids had a blast out at Hinkle Family Fun Center located at the northwest corner of Tramway and Indian School in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We rode the bumper boats, the go-karts, and spent endless hours inside playing the arcade games. This place is awesome and it’s not just for kids. They have this wheel similar to the one on the game show The Price is Right that is my favorite! I played it so much that I hit the 1000 jackpot every time! When it was time to go, it was a lot of fun redeeming the tickets for our gifts. Having over 7000 tickets, I split them with the grand kids and they picked out a lot of stuff to take home.

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The Island of Pemba in Tanzania

Nicknamed as the green island, Pemba has many fertile lands and a large number of mountains and hills. During the period of the Arab ruling, Pemba was the center of agriculture of many plants that used to be exported to many regions. Until today, tourists who tour Tanzania enjoy the best and most delicious fruits and vegetables during their visit to the island.

The island of Pemba has always been renowned as well for its voodoo and healers who use traditional and natural approaches of medicine to heal from various diseases. This is another reason that encourages a number of travelers who spend their holidays in Tanzania to explore the island of Pemba.

Although the Island of Pemba is not really a destination for swimming, there are some sandy beaches where diving is really rewarding. Many of the travelers who spend their vacations in Tanzania are usually interested in diving and snorkeling in the amazing beaches of the country.

On the other hand, unfortunately, the tourism industry in Pemba, mainly because the main streams of tourists who travel to Tanzania are guided towards Zanzibar, is still basic. However, the infrastructure of the island is slowly developing with many facilities being built or at least planned.

It is actually part of the charm of Pemba is that the island is still mainly undiscovered and would be a perfect destination for adventurous travelers who spend their holidays in Tanzania and who are fond of exploring new places that are off the touristic tracks.

One of the top attractions of Pemba is Chake-Chake bay and the main town of the island. The bay is a wonderful location for diving and snorkeling trips that attract quite a large number of tourists who visit Tanzania and spend some time in the island of Pemba.

Among the most important interesting places to explore in the Chake-Chake Bay is surly Misali, a small island located near the bay that locals prefer to call it a part of heaven. With astonishing coral reefs and a number of rare types of animals and birds, a visit to Misali is highly recommended for travelers who tour Tanzania.

Tourists spending their vacations in Tanzania who are into natural scenes and adventures, there is the Bendera Cave that is believed to be inhabited by the spirits of the ancient people of Pemba. This cave is always worth a visit for tourists who travel to Tanzania.

One of the few historical sites of the Island of Pemba is called Ras Mkumbuu, the ruins of an ancient town that dates back to the 10th century AD. The main ruins consist of a mosque, some tombs, and some houses. These establishment, however, were constructed in the 14th century AD. Travelers who enjoy their vacations in Tanzania would like sometimes to explore the historical monuments of the country.

Located near Pemba, there is the small island of Kiweni, which is often neglected by the government and tourists. However, there is a major advantage of Kiweni, nothing major has really changed there for ages.

This fact preserved the natural beauty often distorted by modern civilization. The island of Kiweni is also famous for its startling scenes of the sea. Sometimes guides note that it is even more picturesque than Pemba and Zanzibar that are often explored by a huge number of tourists who travel to Tanzania.

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4 Things You Need to Plan For Before Setting on an International Tour

Going abroad, whether it’s your first or hundredth time, will always be an exhilarating experience. You will be excited about meeting new people, getting to spend some time away in a new city, and also taste exotic food. But your sweet anticipation could quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t do some groundwork before setting off to a faraway place.

So, here are a list of things you need to plan for if you want your international trip to sail smoothly, without disrupting your budget or your peace of mind.

1. Book Your Tickets Early

This is always the best way to save a large chunk of your travel budget. You should start booking your tickets as soon as the dates of travel have been finalized so that you can land yourself a good deal. For instance, if you are looking for cheap flights, you have to start searching for them at the earliest possible so that you don’t miss out on any good deals.

Another way to find cheap flights would be to look for sites that help you get the best travel deals. However, it’s always safe to start early so that you can use the money for a lot of other things.

2. Keep All Your Paperwork Ready

When you are going on an international trip, you will need to keep your travel documents handy. If the country you are travelling to require you to get a visa, ensure that you do so well in advance. Some countries may take anywhere between 2 weeks to months to grant a visa, and unless you want to be delayed, you should apply for the visa well before your date of travel.

Once your visa has been processed, make sure that you keep a copy or two of it with you should you happen to lose your passport any time during the stay abroad. Also, get a passport holder or a secure wallet where you can keep your travel documents and some sort of identity proof at all times. This will save you a lot of trouble should you need to produce these documents at any point of your travel.

3. Book Your Hotel/Place of Stay in Advance

Unless you have been invited by someone to stay at their place or you hold a residence in the country of visit, you will need to show your hotel reservation when you are applying for a visa. Even if the visa requirements don’t need you to show your bookings, it’s always good to get done with them as soon as possible. This is especially applicable if you are travelling to popular tourist places around the world or are going during a peak season. So, unless you want to roam around looking for a place to stay in a foreign country, it’s always best that you do the arrangements at the same time that you book your tickets.

4. Pack the Correct Clothes

You need to give a lot of attention to the clothes you will be carrying with you because climatic conditions can change drastically when you cross international borders. At some places, it may get incredibly cold while at some others, you it might be very hot and humid. So, don’t pack your clothes without doing a bit of a research first. Get online and check out what the weather forecast is like during your proposed trip. Most of the time, the weather forecasts will be accurate unless a sudden natural calamity happens. So, once you have known that information, you can start packing accordingly for your trip.

Also, while you are packing your clothes, don’t forget to pack your medicines and other necessities because you might not be able to get them abroad. And lastly, get all your vaccinations in place before you set your foot on the plane.

These are some of the things you need to keep in mind when you are travelling abroad. Just start planning a little in advance and it won’t seem like a lot of work as you near the day of departure.

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