Taking your breath away

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away.”

It’s my daughter’s favorite quote on her Facebook page. Katie and her husband are currently on a European trip to London and Paris with a stop in Bruges, Belgium. Katie is the one that vaccinated our family with the travel bug some years ago when she studied abroad in Italy.

After her summer semester in 2000, I met Katie in Milan. Just the two of us then traveled to Venice, Florence and finished in Rome. The moment that most took my breath away on that trip was in Rome. I remember stepping through the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s and looking up. It was also the moment I spontaneously burst into tears. Yep, I melted into a little puddle right there on the floor of St. Peter’s. It took a Vatican custodian with a large mop and bucket a few minutes to clean up the mess my tears left behind.

You can see photographs of a place all your life but nothing prepares a person to step into that scene yourself. I highly recommend taking a large box of tissues if you are planning a visit to St. Peter’s.

Katie’s recent picture of the Eiffel Tower reminded me of my own recent breathtaking moments last year. There were many … the Eiffel Tower all lit up, Mass in Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle’s stained-glass windows, Mona Lisa in the Louve (who knew she was so small), Sacre Coeur Basilica and I’m just getting started! Rick and I were there to celebrate forty years of marriage. It was amazing Paris … as in France … not Las Vegas.

Talk about a city that leaves a person breathless! Seriously, there should have been an oxygen tank on every downtown corner.

I can’t wait till Katie and Chad get back home on Easter. I want to hear about all the places that took THEIR breath away!

Buc-ee’s … a Texas treasure

On our way home from San Antonio to Houston we stopped at Buc-ee’s in Luling. It’s one of their flagship stores. They call Buc-ee’s a convenience store. Heck, they call it lots of things, but a convenience store doesn’t immediately come to my mind. It’s more like one of those special hometown places that has a lot of everything … gas, ice, snacks, Buc-ee’s t-shirts and other memorabilia, fishing and camping gear … probably even school supplies … but I could be wrong about that last one.

They are famous for their Beaver Nuggets which are caramel and butter-glazed corn puffs. I grabbed a large bag along with some BBQ glazed jerky.

“Ricky and I munched out on a bag when we drove out to California about a year back. The stuff is awesome,” my husband stated.

Honestly, I felt like a bee in the middle of a very busy hive walking through the place. The place was buzzing with people and goodies. There is a bakery counter with tasty-looking treats like pecan pie Kolaches, blueberry scones and an assortment of cookies. I loved the sign that read “Glad to heat your Kolache or pastry upon request.” Heck, they had me at Kolache.

There was a counter with a couple young ladies making all kinds of BBQ sandwiches. Hubby got the pulled pork and I ordered a turkey for the road. Wish we had the time to drive into Luling proper for some of their righteous BBQ but it was not to be.

Did you know Buc-ee’s is famous for the “Cleanest Restrooms in America?” I can attest to that one. First time I entered the restroom “Ode to Joy” starting playing in my head. There were tons of stalls with red and green lights signifying an “opening.” No more quick peeks under the door for a vacancy. And my stall had a pile of toilet paper rolls and hand sanitizer. Their billboard is really true … the “#1 reason to visit Buc-ee’s is #1 and #2.” A little cornball Texas humor … but it totally works.

Of course with billboard signs from Houston to Luling like “Ice, beer, jerky: The 3 Food Groups” and “If It Harms Beavers, We’re Against It,” we were destined for a pit stop. Besides, we have a son still stationed in the Middle East and Buc-ee’s was the perfect place to fill up his next care package with goodies. I even threw in some official Buc-ee’s napkins. A mom can’t be too sure with those sequestration cutbacks if the government is going to cut back on our airmen’s napkins. Just saying.

Rollin’ … rollin’ … on San Antonio’s River Walk

It’s been several years since, like Credence Clearwater Revival used to sing, we went “rollin’ down the river.” Or should I say River Walk. Last weekend I noticed several pleasant surprises. Oh, the infamous Casa Rio restaurant is still there with their reasonable priced plates of all things Tex-Mex and margaritas. I like mine on the rocks … no salt if you please.

The lush landscaping and fountains have expanded way beyond the downtown River Walk. And the Alamo is still located across the street from the Hyatt and historic Menger Hotels. No way anyone would be messing with my Alamo.

What I noticed this time was a new river taxi, with flowing checkered flags, that wasn’t there the last time we visited. The River Walk hasn’t gotten rid of their entertaining river barge tours. They cost between eight and two bucks per person depending on your age and last 35 minutes. Highly recommend this little tour if you are a newbie to the river. It’s a slow, lazy ride down and around the populated downtown part of the River Walk with lots of funny and historical commentary from the boat captain. Don’t miss the gargoyles on the insurance building.

The river taxi shuttle service (prices vary depending on your need and how far you want to go) will take you down the same parts of the river as the river barge tour, but also north to the museum district (lots of funky art hangin’ from the bridges in this area) and beyond, to the old Pearl Brewery area. And no, Pearl Beer is no longer brewed. But the historic area is being lovingly repurposed. There is a culinary institute (check out their bakery … we did), some shopping (linger at “The Twig Book Shop”), a few restaurants and venues for specials events like corporate meetings, weddings and receptions (the “Stable” was hosting a wedding reception while we were there). It is a few years away from being a real destination but certainly worth the trip up the river for a long peek.

And if that doesn’t convince you to check out the Pearl Brewery area, when you take the river taxi, your barge will have to pass through the only lock and dam in the whole state of Texas. It’s pretty cool if you don’t have the Panama Canal on your bucket list. Just saying.

I also noticed how much more accessible the River Walk was to strollers and wheelchairs. It hasn’t been that many years since we took a family vacation to San Antonio with our special needs daughter in tow. It was pretty much a disaster getting Mimi around on the River Walk. Not so today. Back then there was one elevator down to the River Walk but you couldn’t go far. This time I noticed two elevators and lots of ramping in areas that used to have steps.

But that’s the River Walk … it’s a great place to relax, eat a little Tex-Mex, drink a margarita, and watch the lazy river roll on by.

Life is like a symphony … and sometimes a bridge over troubled waters!

Favorite Album of all time! We went to see a performance of the Houston Symphony last weekend. First time ever and it was so fun. They performed songs of Simon and Garfunkel like “Sounds of Silence” and “I Am a Rock” and my absolute personal favorite … closed my eyes and swayed back and forth ever so slightly on this one … “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Don’t certain songs bring you back to a great moment in your life?

The symphony tickets were a Christmas present from our oldest child and her newbie husband. Did I mention that Katie and Chad made us work before we got to open the present? They are just a little mischievous in that way. Hope they never change. They had this page of blanks with a code for letters and we had to figure the whole thing out. Turned out to be titles to Simon and Garfunkel songs but I still didn’t get their point. News flash … to my knowledge S&G hadn’t gotten back together. That also meant they were not hangin’ on our front porch waiting to serenade the family or anything.

We hadn’t been to a concert in years and never to a symphony performance. Kids … all three of ours … and now a daughter-in-law and new son-in-law … have absolutely been one of the greatest things that have happened in our lives.

Did I mention hubby and I were married in 1972? It was classic Simon and Garfunkel music era. For the twenty or so minutes before I walked down the aisle we had a bunch of songs from that time period played. One was “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The title might sound kinda morbid for a wedding but it fit. Listen to the words and be sure to close your eyes. Can’t you just hear Paul sing “I’m on your side, when times get rough, and friends just can’t be found, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.”

I mean who doesn’t expect to need a bridge to cross those unexpected troubled waters experienced throughout your life. Forty-one years ago in May I’ve been privileged to have someone to cross with to the other side! Thanks Simon and Garfunkel … you guys are great!