kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dallas, Texas

We visited our son Eric at the University of Texas At Dallas (UTD) last weekend. Dallas is a cool city. From what we saw, it's clean. The buildings are newer, glistening, and architecturally interesting.

Even the concrete of the highways is aesthetically pleasing.

But they drive like maniacs.

Thank goodness, Dallas has a fantastic public transportation system called DART. Eric has it all figured out and can go pretty much anywhere in the city. Fare is free for students. We took the light rail (he calls it the Tram) from Richardson into town. First we visited the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. This a a fabulous place. We spent hours there. Highly recommended.

We ate lunch at a Tex-Mex place across the street called El Fenix. Also highly recommended.

Then we went to the Nasher Sculpture Center. We lucked out -- free admission that day. The following photos were taken in their outdoor gallery.

Other random thoughts:

  • If you neglect to make hotel room reservations and just wing it, you might save yourself a lot of money. The first place we went to, a Courtyard Marriott, gave us a room on the spot for $60.00 a night.
  • I love Waffle House.
  • East Texas Arboretum in Athens is a treasure. And a great place to stretch your legs on the drive to Dallas.
  • If I had to describe Dallas women's fashion sense in one word, it would be BOOTS.
If you've been to Dallas, what is your favorite thing there?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

Okay, just one last post from our Gulf Coast vacation last month. Bob and I both love "nature" things. So when I read about this wildlife refuge, a visit was in order. Located just off I-10 near Ocean Springs, Mississippi, it's an easy stop.

This 19,000 acre refuge was established in 1975 to protect the endangered Mississippi Sandhill Crane and it's unique and disappearing pine savannah habitat.

The refuge boasts a fabulous visitor center -- clean and tidy, very interactive for the younger set, a wonderful short film depicting the plight of these elusive birds. There's a library and a gift shop, free posters, and a patio that overlooks the savanna.

Near the visitor center there's a well-tended walking trail. We saw trees, tall grasses, palmettos . . .

lots of wildflowers and carnivorous plants like this Pitcher Plant . . .

and butterflies . . .

 . . . but did we see cranes? No! This was disappointing, but I didn't feel so bad after learning that the gentleman who manned the visitor center (and had for several years) had never seen a crane at the refuge either. Apparently, they are very private birds. Here's a photo I found on the Audubon website.

The Refuge has this website, but it is currently unavailable due to the government shutdown.

Here are some interesting facts about the sandhills:

  • Sandhills are large birds. They stand around 3-4 feet tall and have a wingspan of 6-8 feet.
  • They mate for life and rarely lay more than 2 eggs a year. This contributes to their endangered status. That, and their disappearing natural habitat.
  • They eat just about anything and search for food in shallow water.
  • They currently live only in Jackson County, Mississippi, but their original habitat stretched across the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle.
  • In the 1970s, only around 30 of these birds existed. Through the concerted efforts of the wildlife protection folks, they now number around 200.
  • Sandhills live up to 20 years in the wild.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bellingrath Gardens, Theodore, Alabama

One of the most beautiful places Bob and I visited on our vacation early last month was delightful Bellingrath Gardens.

In the late 1930's, Walter and Bessie Bellingrath owned a humble fishing camp along the Fowl River near Theodore, Alabama. They loved nature and the beauty of the outdoors. Walter made his fortune in the Coca-Cola company, and over the course of several years, the couple built a lovely home on the property and developed 65 acres of exquisite gardens around the home.

Eventually, they opened their home and gardens to the public for tours. I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

They boast a bloom every day of the year, but spring would be the ideal time to go, when the thousands of azalea and camellia bushes are at their peak. Bellingrath Gardens is also well known for their ambitious Christmas light display. It's definitely worth a stop if you are traveling through southern Alabama on Interstate 10 or Highway 90. For more information, here's a link to their website.

Do you have a favorite garden somewhere? Shangra La, over in Orange, Texas is very nice. Here's their website. But I have to say my favorite garden is Phipp's Conservatory in Pittsburgh. Not only is it positively lovely, but Bob and I were married there.