Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

I spent a week in what is in my opinion the most livable city in Canada, Victoria. Two hours of ferry riding  through a raft of broken islands and a short drive or twenty minutes by float plane and you’re in a different world. City fathers over generations have done a fantastic job of preserving the nineteenth century character of the provincial capital. Victoria is primarily a university city and seat of government, at the same time young and affluent with students and richly paid civic servants. Brick architecture reflects a British influence. Victoria is no secret but handles the tourist industry well. Restaurants and cafe’s are numerous. Friendly individually owned shops line the streets as opposed to the faceless chain stores of many cities. A very pleasant place, indeed.

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– a dancer practices for a performance in an open square.

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find clubs packed with young students partying.

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-lots of period architecture

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– Chinatown has  a lot of good restaurants and stores.

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– lots of cool little cafe’s to hang out in when it drizzles.

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– sights and sounds of an unhurried place.

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– really different street art found unexpectedly.

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– West Olson, photographer and my local guide through Fan Tan Alley.

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– he took me to some cool cafes….where the owners encourage you to stay and hang.

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– intimate shoppes hidden down shady alley ways.

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– fantastic natural light for a new head shot.

I’m living in one of the most under appreciated and most vilified places by foreign ( non Texan) media  the United States and loving it. Most days  we feel as if we have the place to ourselves and couldn’t be happier. The number of tourists in some  global hotspots has depreciated the quality of  traveling there….. not so in Texas.  There is so much to do here , spread out over such a huge area that crowds ( except for sports venues) are rare. The cost of living is extremely low compared to most other places I have been in the developed world and that really takes the bite out of world class travel.

We chose Fort Worth for today’s day trip. It was back in the spring when we were there last. The streets, shops, venues and bars are much more lively now that the sun is shining every day. We added the Amon Carter Museum of American Art to our list of free public facilities to our list. And guess what…the parking is also free and we didn’t have to make any advance reservations or take transit to get there!!!  ! Ft. Worth has it’s roots in the cattle industry, being the end of the Chisholm Trail of Old West fame.

On the way, we stopped at a road side diner for a traditional Sunday lunch of Southern home style cooking…   fried cat fish filets, fried okra, pecan pie and sweet tea. The catfish was excellent, spicy hot, the way it should be. Did I forget the corn bread biscuits and sweet bread rolls with honey and butter…..shame on me. Once down 26th Street in downtown Ft Worth….also known as The Stockyards… we were treated to an antique car show…many groups of street performers…and we stopped into the very famous ( if you’re a cowboy) White Elephant Saloon for a drink and some quality time holding up the bar with the locals. WARNING… MEN WEAR HATS. People have been drinking beer and playing pool to the sound of some of country musics most famous performers for decades. Sure… it’s smoky and stinks like sour beer….but the people are super friendly and you know you’re in one of the most famous Cowboy Churches in the country.

I’ve lived in a lot of places around the world…. but my travelers eye has spied Texas as one of the best destinations for  the unexpected.

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Sometimes I get to act like a kid again and do something impractical. Getting out on the open road was a practice that formed the mindset I enjoy today more than any other influence. So…when I got the chance to put a cool car like a Camaro Convertible on the road and drive to San Antonio Texas I was thrilled at the prospect. Highway construction in Texas is like religion, zealous and never ending. Whatever your chosen destination or route there are plenty of alternatives, from super toll ways to busy highways , freeways laced together with turnpikes and farm roads that stitch the  hinterland together.

The amazing thing is that any road you choose will be in fantastic condition. The route I took was so smooth… it was like gliding on silk. We drove the always busy TX E 35S out of the massive Dallas Metroplex to the 130S that took us through Austin….and on the way back we drove the TX 281N to the HWY 67N and FM 1382 dotted with small town America and the history of the Old West. Many of the sparsely populated towns along the way …. like Hico…or Glen Rose…are like time capsules that stopped growing when cotton peaked and caused the entire area to fall into a long slumber. This separation cleaves two worlds neatly in two…. the old from the new.

Civilization along the sleepy HWY 281 N/S between Dallas and San Antonio is primarily centered around a bucolic ranch culture…tall signs pop out in the form of elaborate wrought iron gates above cattle barriers announcing a fanciful name …like Rancho del Blanco …or some such thing….but  indicate that nothing but more miles across  barren land through grazing herds of scattered cattle or goats might be at the end of the road.

San Antonio itself is a tourist machine for primarily American holiday makers from the South and South West…..and it is a fantastically well developed place for easy access… for example the River Walk is spectacular.  Although there are now thousands of restaurants, tours , an incredible range of accommodations, hotels and gee gaws designed for family fun…. San Antonio is primarily famous as  home of the Alamo…which sits like a queen amongst a palette of tourism jewels.

This was the location where tough minded Texans fought Mexican General Santa Anna and lost… but eventually declared  independence on March 2, 1836. Something that’s not as well advertised outside the region  is that this area had been occupied by  Spanish missionaries for hundreds of years prior to  American immigration. Before that  native Indians  occupied the land for thousands of years. Each left some fascinating reminders of what Texas looked like before the United States came to be.

A chain of religious missions and outposts …including aqueducts, built by the Franciscan order of Catholic missionaries now forms a series of National Parks called The Mission Trail. The trail is composed of four missions and other private settlements, set miles apart  connected by a narrow strip of asphalt that winds  through  broken desert and green arroyo’s . Although the fortified building complexes seem to be ruins at first glance, they are still being used as active churches for local people. The sense of 500 years of continuation, church bells, prayer ,  history and community is fascinating. Fortunately for us, none of these places are over run with tourists. The experience reminded me of visiting profound archeological sites somewhere in the third world…..not minutes from comfortable San Antonio.

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People in Texas love to socialize. There is a thriving arts community that  screams…’We’re here’ !! This weekend Trish and I were at the Design District Event where locals got together in a big old warehouse and showed us what they’ve been up to. When you get this many creative minds together you know the day is going to rock. We were treated to kick ass bands… and a swimming pool in the parking lot. Food trucks and a great promotion bar held up the corners. I think the floor was shaking because when I got home I noticed my pictures were all a bit blurred…. but that just underlines the general vibe. I love meeting the local artists and making all the contacts for the Dallas underground. As I’ve said people are super friendly and inviting here. The after party invites are very much appreciated…..I think it must be my cool LOCS shades or the Kid Rock hat….not sure.

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We met Carolyn Collins…..of CarolynCollinsPhotography.com …she’s a sweet heart……sorry for the blur Carolyn….it was just one of those shaky days.  It was 108 that day…..could have been the weather. Video should be up on the Bangkok Living and Travel site soon.

You can’t help but love the small town culture. This week my choice was Carrollton TX. A town square lined with antique shops,  restaurants and anchored by a flag draped gazebo… really charming. An old style boardwalk allowed us to promenade under a shady awning to gawk and window shop while in the plaza a local auto club had brought out their best projects for the public to vote on. Yes, summer is in full swing… the temperatures are triple digits…but small town Texas is keeping us cool.

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There are those times in your travels, whether you’re on an ex-pat rampage or a long walk about,  when you’ll experience a psychological ‘hypnic jerk’. You know….when you wake up in a strange place and not know where you are. Sometimes when you have been away for a long time you’ll experience a feeling of longing for the familiar…commonly called home sickness. It happens to everyone from what I have observed in regular increments……3 months…six months…one year…two years. Theres something about our minds that requires us to seek out our spawning ground. I had that feeling this week…. I have to remind myself that its OK to have a little fun….that the rat race is far behind….. that life in one place can be made just as comfortable as another.  So, when dreams of the past bleed over into your waking hours…and you think you should be somewhere else…think about why you left……enjoy yourself…..life is short.

It’s summertime in the southern US and typical pastimes are blossoming in parking lots and empty spaces. Along with the traveling Mexican circuses and farmers markets there are flea markets, garage sales , lemonade stands and community BBQ contests. All theses thing signal summer time is in full swing. Memorial day was an expression of how deeply ingrained the military history of this country has effected the small streets and cul de sacs of small towns and city’s alike. The streets and front yards have been lined with flags for weeks. Nothing says America like Old Glory.

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Another standard feature is the fix er up car culture. It seems that in Texas everyone has been building an old car in their garage over the winter and the summer season is the time to get it out and let it shine for socializing and bragging rights . In Texas there are maybe a dozen or more car shows on TV…like Velocity, Car Chasers, Fast and Loud, Live Auctions, Wheeler Dealer, Girls Garage etc. The automobile culture is alive and well here in the Lone Star State.

 

When you come to a destination as diverse as the USA, try to get off of the tired shopping treadmill and the gaudy tributes that are so popular with the tourist industry. It’s the people that make the country so special. Take some time to get off the beaten track and see what makes America tick.

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