Welcome home, Meghan, and we love you, Harry…

After listening to the British press speak of these two I realize they are off mark. There is a reason they are stepping back and not because they are bored. I believe more is going on than reported and perhaps Meghan’s security is at risk?. In interviews and letters to the press Harry has penned he repeatedly has expressed this concern.

One day quite by accident I fell into one of these crazy UK sites where Meghan was being demeaned. It was a woman who was dressed in feathers stating many untruths about our American. As I read I became angered, however, laughed to myself thinking she looks like a bird and must have a brain about that size. The only unfortunate thing is people listen to this “stuff,” and believe it.

So, once again welcome home Meghan, and we love you Harry.

Flagler Hotel now Flagler College

Henry Flagler put St. Augustine on the map. With his Flagler Hotel in 1888 he attracted the rich and famous to spend their winters in his opulent hotel which held a ball room, an elaborate dining room with orchestras playing as you ate, a swimming pool, bowling alley, and movie studio. All this for $100,000. for a 3 1/2 month stay. (This equates to $4 million in today’s currency).

As couples entered the Hotel they past the opulent gates and through a courtyard with a fountain spewing filtered water. It is a sundial with 12 frogs to designate the hours, and 4 turtles for seasons.

A gentleman would then open the door for the couple with the lady escorted to the ballroom to rest and have tea while her husband tended the cash payment for the stay.

Upon completion of arrangements patrons would be accompanied to their rooms with bags unpacked by one of the many servants who catered to their every whim.

As Mr. Flagler was a personal friend of Thomas Edison his Hotel was one of the first buildings electrified in the country. This was done with DC current and exploding light bulbs were a concern. Guests became fearful so staff were always in attendance to shut lights on and off until the Hotel was later rewired to AC current.

Chandelier with a clock designed by Thomas Edison in the background.

The Hotel is has one of the largest collection of Tiffany windows, glass, sculptures, and chandeliers, much of which is priceless.

It is a unique work of art and while it is now a dorm for freshman female Flagler students it remains flawlessly maintained.

In 1967 after Hotel closure the City of St. Augustine had decided to tear down the structure and make a parking lot. A distant nephew of Henry purchased the structure and made it into a female college. In 1971 men were allowed and as of today there are 2600 students taking coursework in 50 majors. Tuition is approximately $30,000. annually.

So, on your visit to St. Augustine be sure to stop by and take the tour. It’s one you will never forget.

Thanks, Henry for putting St. Augustine on the map.

I love Other People’s Dogs

Leaving this morning on a short trip I caught a glimpse of my neighbor’s dog.  I waved, looked at the dog, smiled and he smiled back.  His name is Venice and a golden retriever, I never understood why an orange dog is called golden but he is.

I love other people’s dogs.  I can pet them, rub them behind their ears, sometimes give them treats but always give them love.  Dog is God spelled backward and their unconditional love is beyond compare.

I had a dog once and her name was Precious.  She was a twelve-pound Bichon Frise and the love of my life.  She lived fourteen years and my daughter often said I loved the dog more than her and during the teen years that surely was possible.

Precious was the cutest thing you ever wanted to see.  This little white ball of fur and I were inseparable. I always felt bad when I had to leave her. She would hide under the bed whenever the suitcases came out.  I knew life without me was difficult for her.

Which brings me to why I haven’t gotten another dog.  I simply love to travel and know I would never travel if I had a dog.  I am destined to continue loving other people’s dogs and traveling.

Caveat:  Found out Venice is an Irish Setter.  Need a fact checker here.  🙂

Celine at the Vy in Jax, Fl.

Celine Dion appeared this week at the VyStar Auditorium in Jacksonville, Florida, to an adoring crowd of 15,000. There were no empty seats. This is the first concert of her Courage Tour which is the name of her new album. She has been touring for over 30 years joking, “Since I was 2,” and calls the stage her home. Her concert was a 10 with the lighting, images, instrumentals, and of course her amazing voice.

The show began with photos of her preparing for the show. Interesting to see shots of her doing hair and make-up.

Then she arrived singing favorites..

Celine gave the audience 2 hours of pure bliss, was funny, poignant, grateful, and mesmerizing..

The sets provided good stage views for all.

During the next break … abstract pictures with an Andy Warhol feel. Having 4 costume changes these segments provided distraction during her absence.

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More favorites continued with a duet from Beauty and the Beast. It was exquisite.

This break showed Celine doing ballet. Who knew?

Another set with songs from the new album.

The songs had obvious themes regarding Renee, her late husband.

Back up singers and the orchestra were showcased at the last break.

Then Celine arrived in a silver sequined jumpsuit Celine belting out many rock favorites. Proving..

Thanks, Celine for giving Jacksonville such a great night.

Being Hacked

Several months ago, I returned from a grueling 13-day excursion to China.  The people were delightful and the food tasty except when the entire bus got sick from something toxic. Then there was the fact we didn’t see the sun for the entire time due to air pollution.  While one worries about respiratory ailments  I also wonder about Vitamin D deficiency causing rickets from lack of sun.  I feel for the health of the Chinese.

Once home as I sat exhausted in my gray recliner pondering my visit I received a call. It was from my bank and they wondered if I had purchased $1800 worth of Ruth Chris Steakhouse gift certificates, $100 of Chewy dog food and registered my car at the DMV in New York State.  Hello, I have no dog and now live in Florida!

While I was unsure if this was an actual true call the representative did seem to know I had registered my excursion to China on my card. I had told no one of this trip.  I quickly told her if she looked at my statements my spending habits revolve around the Dollar Tree, Aldi’s, Walmart’s, Belk’s on sale days, and Ross and Bealls on senior citizen discount day. She requested I cancel the card and I agreed to this immediately.

For the next 2 months, I was without a card but thankful that I had a backup.  I completed various required forms and kept a copy of all I sent.  It annoyed me that this occurred and caused so much havoc.

As I spoke with others I understand this is commonplace and even my gal pal at TD got hacked in St. Augustine with outside gas pump purchases.  To the dismay of my fellow customers I now only run my card inside for gas purchases.

This stuff is scary and one wonders where it will end and the type of scurvy person who would dabble in such riff raff.  It is an ugly and disgusting breach of trust and as I ponder what good can come from this I sign on to my computer.

Since I was breeched on my yahoo account every time I sign on I must have a text sent to my phone.  I know it annoys my fellow library patrons who wish to have silence but it comes with the territory.  Each time I chuckle as I receive my new sign on word.

This morning I received KLZU as the sign on word. As I contemplated the word I wondered if this was actually short for Klzumenito the Russian hacker who bought the Ruth Chris Steakhouse gift certificates on me? Then  I visualize salmonella sprinkled on his steak.  There is justice in the world.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

Charles Umlauf was the son of German farmers who migrated to Chicago in 1911 to escape anti-German sentiments. At 14 he was orphaned in his tough Chicago neighborhood however managed to survive winning a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago. Post graduation the Depression struck and problems obtaining work occurred, however fate changed as he met and married, Angeline, with their partnership producing 6 children. It was also during this time his provocative and haunting work was noticed.

Example of his haunting work

Two very different sculptures depicting the family.

A realistic sculpture of Mother and Child

In 1941 he was offered and accepted a position at University of Texas at Austin where he worked for the next 40 years as an art professor and sculptor. He and his wife built a home on the grounds where the garden now stands and his donation to the City of Austin is a lasting legacy.

Then a passionate work, The Lovers
And some whimsy, The Skater

Umlauf’s works are found in the Met in NYC, the Smithsonian, and Houston’s Love Field. They run the gambit from impressionism to abstract, to life like sculptures. He worked in marble, wood, rose quartz, and onyx. Creating his sculptures using an ancient Lost Wax Method, from the classic Greeks, here are the steps:

  • A charcoal sketch was created.
  • Followed by a 3 dimensional clay model
  • Plaster was then molded over the clay
  • This was then sent to Italy where the wax was specially treated and fired creating a mold.
  • Copper and tin were then poured into the mold.
  • The final work was then chiseled away.

All this is explained in a fascinating movie narrated by Umlauf. What a unique and treasured gift Austin received in his donation of the Sculpture Garden.

Go and enjoy this must see..

This concludes my Austin visit. Great way to end the trip.

Top Picks: Austin and a bit beyond

Here they are :

  • University of Texas at Austin – this campus is ENORMOUS and fascinating. UT gives you a feel for how large the Lone Star State really is. The Blanton Art Museum is on campus, however, each time I’ve visited it was closed. Go for me and let me know your thoughts.
  • The LBJ Library is on the grounds of UT, an amazing place.
  • And while we are on LBJ, stop by his ranch 50 miles west of Austin in Hill Country. They continue to breed his world famous cattle at this National Park. Only in America, but hey, it’s Texas.
  • The Driskoll Hotel, where LBJ and Lady Bird had their first date. An iconic hotel in downtown Austin with Romanesque architecture.
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Botanical Gardens.
  • The State Capitol and State Museum. Check with Auntie Google for specific times but make an effort to see both. Great tour.
  • HEB Supermarket – phenomenal place to visit and get groceries. Bring your own bags.
  • F1 Track not a fan but it is there.
  • Take a drive south of Austin for ribs in Lockhart. Worth the drive. Cute town.
  • Bucee’s – watch for the signs on the highway and stop.
  • Barton Springs Municipal Pool – natural spring, phenomenal.
  • Mount Bonnell – great views.
  • Wineries – there are several in the area, tours and wine remarkable.
  • Walkways are many, Auntie Google to decide on your favorite or do them all.
  • Mayfield Park – see peacocks in the trees and visit the historic home.
  • Walk downtown and see the sites. What architecture!
  • And my new favorite which I will review tomorrow Umlauf Sculpture Garden. What a peaceful spot near Barton Springs.
See you in Austin

Austin Christmas Visit: Airport Review

Shortly after returning from Paris a Christmas visit to Austin was on the agenda. Having bought this ticket 4 months ago as a surprise to my daughter I was unaware she was already booked for her third season at Sundance in Utah. Oops! To my surprise a gig in San Antonio came through and she worked the Texas event and Sundance remotely. Isn’t technology grand?

Here we are, I am the one with the hat.

Upon landing in Austin I was anxious to see any changes to the airport. It had been 3 years since my last airport visit and they had recently opened a new wing.

There was the usual..

Statutes to important people who served the people. Nice statute of Barbara Jordan.

Busy luggage areas decorated for the holidays.

Then there was the unusual and funky..

Weird Austin walls on entry to the bathrooms.

A composting container next to the trash and recycling receptacles.

And what a phenomenal idea. Never saw one of these in an airport.

Quite a tribute to someone who did so much. Let’s hope it is to the man who caught those crooks.

And many ways to purchase coffee.

But my favorite were the dogs. Never saw so many in an airport. Guess it was home for the holidays. Here’s my favorite. Isn’t she a beauty?

Now that the Airport has met my approval, on to San Antonio where my daughter was one of the event helpers at a national Christmas party for 20,000 USAA employees. That must be quite a party. Catch you tomorrow.

San Antonio: The Alamo and Beyond

Alamo Monument

San Antonio is a beautiful city with much culture. In my review of June 15, 2019, the visit to the Alamo was omitted due to time constraints so here it is..

The Alamo

Interesting history with origins as a Spanish Mission then a period of dormancy with eventually the area becoming, “The Alamo.” Here US migrants and Mexicans lived growing a community of 3,000 to 30,000 in 5 years. A fight ensued over whether this was a Mexican or US territory. There was a Texas Revolution, with Mexican surrender, however the Mexican general returned with 6000 soldiers and 150 rebels fought to the end, with one of them David Crockett, former Tennessee senator.

David Crockett

All were executed except women and children by the Spanish with bodies being burned. From this battle comes the slogan, “Remember the Alamo,” and with more fighting Texas is born eventually joining the US. Quite a story. Hope I got it right out of respect for those who fought.

Tribute to the women and children of the Alamo.

On a lighter note across the way from the Alamo is the Menger Hotel. This historic hotel is a must see and visit on your San Antonio tour. They even have an interesting ghost tour.

Then outside the Menger are horse drawn carriages.

Last but not least, the River Walk, which is a short walk from the Alamo area. There are signs which makes the River Walk easy to find and entrances are at several locations. What a fun place, make sure you take the boat ride, and stop at one of the many restaurants for a drink and some music.

And let’s end with a Cinderella carriage ride…

See you tomorrow in Austin!