Category Archives: Travel

5 Interesting History Particulars I Learned on the Historic Homes Tour

First of all, if you aren’t interested in history or houses you might as well stop reading now.  Just Joking!  You must read this (I am placing you under my spell…can you hear my evil laugh?) Fun aside, you might find my condensed version easy to read if you want to check it out.

Sunday afternoon found my friend Annette and I attending the Historic Homes Tour of our town of Victoria, Texas.  A few years back we both discovered we enjoyed attending the tours and have made a point to attend it together ever since.  (But It’s been an annual event for the city since the 80’s.)  I always enjoy looking at the beautiful old homes with their exquisite architecture – back when carpenters took pride in their work and things were built to last.  I like learning the history as well.

Here is my Top 5 List of things I learned yesterday:

1.  Two of the homes on the tour were actually built in Indianola (the coastal Texas town that pretty much died after being hit by 2 devastating hurricanes in 1875 and 1886.  Interesting side fact:  after the 1st hurricane hit the town (and both houses survived it) people thought the town would be revived and another such storm would never happen.  But it did in 1886. After that the owners of the homes had them dismantled – board by board – numbering the pieces so that they could put the house back together in Victoria – farther from the coast.  My point of all this is – those houses were built so well that they survived 2 hurricanes, being dismantled and moved to another town – and they are still standing strong and beautiful.  Wow.  (also noted in the history of the ‘Huck-Welder House’ was that ‘Huck’ was a German immigrant and built the house in the 1850’s framing it with cypress 4×4’s and 4x6s with mortise and tenon joints which made it strong enough to withstand both hurricanes.  I wonder why they don’t require all coastal homes be made this way to save on the destruction and insurance costs to coastal cities commonly hit by hurricanes. ?)

2.  One of the homes was actually set up as a funeral home at one point in time.  We only were allowed to see part of the bottom story of it that is being used as offices while the rest of the house was rented out.  It’s supposedly haunted (no surprise there!) with random noises and as one of the tour guides mentioned that a lady that works in the home said she often hears the toilet lid opening and closing repeatedly on it’s own.  Guess the ghost was taught well, LOL.  It looked like there was still a lot of work to refurbish this home and it seemed quite large so hopefully when it is finished they will open the house up for the tour in its entirety.

3.  An Italian immigrant ‘Guiseppe Bianchi’ built the house at 409 S. William Street around 1905.  Everyone called him Joe and he operated his own blacksmithing business out of this house for 58 years.  The fence surrounding the house still today was hand forged by him.  He was famous for his hand-made spurs which were on the boots of almost all the ranchers of South Texas.  One of the tour guides actually had one of these famous spurs in her possession as it was passed down in her family and showed us – it even had a little piece on it that was used to open bottles!  The other unique thing about this house is that it is used as the local Chic-filet owners corporate offices.  (Two huge, very cute black and white chic-filet cows graced the back yard fence and chic-filet articles filled the rooms, lol)  But I thought it a very cool idea to make your offices in a historical home instead of a generic office building.

4.  The last place we saw had the most stories to tell as the former owner donated it to three organizations so the house could always remain a Texas Historic Landmark.  It was given to the Victoria Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of Confederacy and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  They hold their meetings on the first floor where they keep their historical items we learned the  stories of.  The 2nd floor we didn’t get to see because it was rented out – they use the rent money to do repairs and upkeep on the house and hope to continue it’s refurbishing.

5.  All of the homes we saw were in the part of old Victoria called ‘Diamond Hill’ and the home lots were chosen because it was a high ground with a good view overlooking the pecan and cypress trees bordering the Guadalupe River and summer breezes coming from there helped cool the homes. (I think they all were built with transoms over the doors for additional air flow, oh the dreadful days before Air Conditioning.  I noticed that some of the homes we looked at had the European style A/C’s up on the walls because the homes had no air ducts.  (another question – I wonder how economical these are in Texas?)

My favorite thing about the old homes is the details in the woodwork – from the trim, stair banisters to the outdoor Victorian designs.  Learning about how some people had to work so hard to remove the paint to reveal some of this beautiful work makes one question who in their right mind would do such a horror as to paint over lovely wood?  It should be a sin!

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts, Travel

Haunted Hotel Part II

The 2nd afternoon of our stay at Hotel Del my husband had to go downstairs for some business activities so I stayed in the suite and unpacked properly.  I noticed the lights flickering as I did this but didn’t really think anything of it.  I read some of a book on the veranda and the jet lag began to catch up with me.  I decided a short nap was next on my list so I went inside to the bedroom, pulled down the covers, closed the shutters and began turning off the lamps.  After turning off the bedside lamp I realized the desk lamp on the opposite side of the room was still on so I walked over to it to figure out which way it worked (it seemed as if every lamp had a different on/off switch.)  The desk lamp had the switch button that sits like a rocker, you push one side for off and one for on but you have to use some finger muscle to complete the task.  I turned it off and took about two steps back to the bed when I heard a distinct ‘click’ sound so I turned back to look at the lamp and it had turned back on by itself!  Impossible!  I could think of no rational idea to explain how that can happen.  “Hmmm” I thought to myself.  I then turned to look at the lamp by the bedside and it was now on!!!  Suddenly, I felt a distinct drop in temperature and shivered from the cold.  I laughed and said out loud, “I guess we have a ghost!”  As soon as I finished my sentence the lights began to flicker again.

The bedroom where the ghost played around

When my husband came back I told him about it and he said that some of the top executives staying on another floor had reported seeing the ghostly image of Kate Morgan already.  Vindicated, we went on about our business.  Later that evening we went down to the ‘Crown Room’ for drinks & dinner sponsored by the financial group.  This dining room was unique in that the ceiling was built to be shaped like the hull of a ship.  It was made of dark woods hand placed together without the use of any nails or screws.  Every so often you could see someone look up and hear the “Wow”s, “Oooh”s” and “Aaahh”s.  The multiple chandeliers were all in the shape of a King’s Crown.  It was impossible to sit for long without glancing back up to the awe inspiring ceiling.  While visiting with my dinner neighbors I inquired if they had experienced any ghostly activities and then shared my story with them.  Directly after I finished my story I heard a clang, crash and clattering.  I turned to see a table full of coffee cups crash onto the floor.  There was nobody around at the time and the look on the nearest waitstaff’s face was that of nonchalance as if they were thinking, “Oh, there it goes again.”  Ghost?  Nearly the same thing happened at the final formal dinner to a table of glasses behind where I was sitting, but it looked as if the whole table slanted on its own to make the glasses slide off.

After sunset view from the veranda

The lamps in the room continued to turn off occasionally without any help of mine.  At one point when Robert had to go to another meeting I decided to retreat to the veranda to get back into the book I was reading.  It had rained fairly hard earlier and the rocking chair cushions were damp so I thought I’d flip them over to see if the other side was dry.  I had done this previously and it worked but this particular rain was a bit more so the rocking chair cushion was too damp to sit on.  I moved to the next chair and as I started to check the underside of the cushion I was surprised to see a child’s orange plastic beach shovel underneath it.  I laughed it off and went to the next cushion to look under it for kicks and there was a butter knife like the ones from the dining room.  Was this a child’s ghost playing games or did I somehow miss these objects the first time I flipped the cushions?  Well, both sides of the cushions were wet so I went back inside to my previous position on the chair & ottoman in the bedroom.  As I went to put my feet up on the ottoman there was a small brown leaf on it and I know for a fact it was not there when I left a few minutes earlier.  Could that have been a ghostly gift?

The next occurrence made me wonder if the ghost was following me.  Robert and I had taken a leisurely stroll down the block to check out the shops and have lunch at an Irish style Tavern.  After lunch we walked down by the bay to look at the sailboats and yachts docked there.  There was a public bathroom there so I decided to use it instead of waiting until we got back to the room.  (I had a draft Guinness at the Tavern).  As I walked in the door to the single stall restroom the sink nozzle immediately turned on by itself and sprayed ferociously enough to shock me into a jump & surprised squeal.  It turned off just as quickly as it turned on then the lights began flickering as if to say “Gotcha!”  I laughed about it and we continued on with our walk.  Shortly thereafter when we returned to our room I went straight to the toilet again.  (Ok, so I had 2 beers.)  When I flushed the toilet the pipes made a loud banging noise like someone had grabbed it and was shaking it.  I looked around behind the toilet expecting to see a broken pipe but what I saw was a fairly new tube attaching the piping – it was new enough that it still had a tag around it that was legible.  I shrugged and went to the sink to wash my hands.  When I turned on the water it shot out and sprayed, stopped and shot out again (as if there was air in the pipes) making me jump and squeal in surprise.  Coincidence?

Yes, a skeptic could rationalize out each separate event.  Except for the lamp clicking on by itself.  Lamps like that cannot click themselves.  Therefore, it is my conclusion that the Hotel Del is haunted and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 🙂

Stay tuned for Part III because there is more to our travel experience besides haunted happenings.

4 Comments

Filed under Travel

Haunted Hotel Hits Homerun

Last week I ventured off with my husband to a location I had never been before, but I did watch a Travel Channel show that featured it and alerted me of the haunted happenings that occur at the Hotel Del.  My husband needed to be there for business and I just went along as his entertaining sidekick.  (It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it! 🙂  I had heard many good things about the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island near San Diego, California but I had never set foot in California before and love to experience new locales.  Especially when it involves beautiful, classy resorts near mother nature’s picturesque glory.

The entrance to the Hotel Del Coronado

Flying first class also helps enhance the experience.  My hubby is a professional financial planner (or as I affectionately call him, a ‘numbers nerd’).  Some people tease him by calling him ‘cheap‘ but he prefers the term ‘spendthrift‘.  He looks at financial matters with common sense and business acumen in a measured analytical process.  This business event had sponsors and because of the amount of money he had invested for his clients he was able to get the hotel and airline tickets for no charge to us.  That was for the basics only though and since when my darling husband decides not to be cheap he goes for ‘extravagant’ – he paid to upgrade not only the flights but also the room.  It justified it in our minds to spend some money to enhance the experience since technically, it was our vacation for the year.

We flew out of Austin, Texas heading to San Diego, CA via Dallas, TX.  I enjoyed the 1st class comfort of flying (i.e. full course meal and unlimited wine refills) and dozed off for a short time before reaching our destination.  I know this because my husband proudly revealed the picture he took of me with his phone later – of me slumping in the seat like a tire losing air, mouth open and face slack.  (Not a flattering photo.)  After arriving at the San Diego airport we were treated to a limo ride to the Hotel Del.  The Hotel Del was built in the Victorian style and finished in 1888.  It has a long history of hosting Presidents, Royals and Hollywood stars.  During it’s history it has also hosted at least one ghost, some say more.  The show I watched on the Travel Channel said that some of the haunted events documented include:  flickering lights, TV’s turning off and on by themselves, sudden cold spots, unexplained noises, items being moved by themselves and sightings of a lady in black Victorian style clothing.  Most is attributed to the ghost of Kate Morgan, AKA Lottie A. Bernard but there were other stories in internet pieces about there possibly being a child ghost  peforming childish pranks such as hiding things and whatnot.  Nevertheless, the hotel is well-preserved and the historic ambiance is comforting and omnipresent without being scary or macabre.  Lush, dark woods abound in the Lobby and stairwells.  The old, wooden floors creak underneath the carpeted hallways as you walk them.  Indoor and outdoor stairways abound throughout and it takes a bit to learn your whereabouts as there are multiple paths to all destinations.  There are nooks and crannies with Victorian style furniture placed randomly around inviting guests to just sit and enjoy their surroundings.  I almost expected to see Sherlock Holmes smoking a pipe while Watson sat by his side taking notes.

Upon entry into our suite we were greeted with a sitting area that included a large walk in closet as well as a small fridge hidden underneath the large flat screen TV cabinet.  French doors took us into the bedroom that had the usual nightstands, writing desk, another large screen TV and a cozy chair with an ottoman.  The windows were extra large with white wooden shutters.  My favorite part of the suite was the large veranda with it’s comfy wicker chairs and tables.  The slight breeze and shade intermingled with our view of the gardens of the courtyard and the sound of the Palms trees  rustling in the breeze epitomized a state of relaxation.  The whole mood of the suite seemed to invoke a feeling of southern plantation comfort and elegant Victorian luxury.

View of the sunrise from our veranda

I could rationalize out each haunted event separately to discredit them, all except for one.  And that one particular event led me to reconsider the others in concluding that the hotel is indeed haunted.  Either that, or I am haunted – lol.  (Which is a different story entirely.)

If you want to hear my haunted tales you will have to wait for Part II of this post.  (I’ve realized nobody wants to read long blog posts so I am obliging by cutting this one off midway or so.)  In the meantime, think of your own ghostly or scary stories that may be worth sharing – after all Halloween is nearing and is the perfect time for sharing those frights of life that give us goose pimples and chicken skin! 🙂

5 Comments

Filed under Travel

A Trip to the Beach Brings a Life Lesson to Learn

All summer long my daughter has been begging me to take her to the beach.  For one reason or another it was put off for another day.  Wednesday she asks me, ever so sweetly, “Mama, since we’re not doing anything tomorrow, do you think we could go to the beach?  I could drive my car so you don’t have to get your new one all dirty.”  I have no excuses not to go this time and quite frankly, I’ve been wanting to go to the beach myself.  Thursday morning we’re loading up her little RAV4 with a cooler, beach towels and snacks and ready to make the 100 mile drive to Port Aransas (which isn’t the closest beach to us but is definitely the best – All of Padre Island has the best beaches in Texas).

The drive proves longer than normal because Tara is still learning to drive on her permit and she is a very cautious driver.  Not a speed demon weaving in and out of traffic like myself.  I had her pull over before we got to the Ferry landing so we could switch places.  I knew she wouldn’t feel comfortable driving onto the ferry and I didn’t want her driving on the beach in the sand.  I enjoy the ferry ride across the Corpus Christi Channel as long as there isn’t a long wait time (I have found that my middle aged self abhors waiting in long lines.)  We were lucky with no waiting, especially on the way back across because we were able to drive straight up and onto the Ferry, all the way to the very front end.  Tara said “I’m so glad you’re driving!  I could never drive up that close to the edge!”  I laughed and said “Well, what would you have done then?”  She said “I’d be shaking my head ‘No’ and not do it!”  And the funny thing about that is, I can picture her doing just that!  And because she’s so blasted cute the guy working the Ferry would feel sorry for her and let her get away with it!

Once at the beach we enjoyed sunning (even though the sand kept blowing into our faces) and sitting at the edge of the water building sand castles.  We played in the waves although the salty water burned my eyes so bad I felt nearly blind.  Takes some of the fun  out of riding the waves when your eyes feel like battery acid was poured into them!  I love the sound of the waves crashing onto shore but after 3 hours I knew the sizzling Texas sun would start wrecking havoc on our pale skin so we set off for home.

When we arrived to our hometown I explained to Tara how we would have to go straight to the car-wash so she would wash all the sand off of her vehicle.  Then when we got home and unloaded, she had to vacuum all of the sand out of her car.  I also had to help me to do the laundry (sandy beach towels and blanket).   After it was all said and done she said “I like going to the beach but, gee, it sure is a lot of work!”

Bam!  Life lesson learned:  Nothing good in life comes without work.

And I learned my lesson too, as when I got home I immediately went to use the toilet and as I pulled my bathing suit down a ton of sand fell all over the seat rim!

Life lesson #2:  After beach fun always take off swim suit inside the shower so you don’t make a sandy mess somewhere else!

3 Comments

Filed under Kids, Random Thoughts, Travel

Ren Fest

Just got back from a trip to the Texas Renaissance Festival.  We had a good time, which is pretty much standard at the Ren Fest.  Everyone there is happy and having fun.  I got a henna tattoo behind my neck of a dragonfly.  It looked really cool for the first couple of hours but then it started fading away.  You couldn’t even see it before I went to bed last night!  This morning I checked it in the mirror and there was the hint of the tatt there.  It was supposed to last 2-3 weeks but I don’t see that happening!  It was only $10 though, so at least I didn’t waste too much money on it!  And I did get to enjoy what it would be like to have a tattoo on myself 🙂

3 Comments

Filed under Travel