Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What Child is This? -- Jesus, of course

Artwork depicting Mary, Jesus and angels watching 

Riding home from breakfast at our local favorite spot this past weekend, my wife asked me what my favorite Christmas song was.

I had to think about that for a few minutes.

It wasn’t "Joy to the World, Silent Night, We Three Kings, Old Little Town of Bethlehem or The First Noel."

I kept running tunes through my brain and finally realized that my favorite was “What Child Is This?”

As much as I like the song, I have difficulty remembering the words.

As luck would have it, upon entering church this past weekend, our music group included the song in their presentation.

Taking a little bit of artists’ license this week, I’m writing that we’re traveling into the Christmas season and therefore am including a picture taken from the Medjugore website that shows Mary and the Baby Jesus with a couple of angels.

According to the Wikipedia website, the lyrics were written by Englishman William Chatterton Dix in 1865. He was an insurance company manager and “had been struck by a severe illness. While recovering, he underwent a spiritual renewal that led him to write several hymns, including the lyrics to this carol that was subsequently set to the tune of ‘Greensleeves,’ a traditional English folksong.”

The words (to the abbreviated version) are as follows (check out the video on You Tube)::

What Child is This?

What child is this, who laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud -
The Babe, the Son of Mary

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh -
Come, peasant king, to own him:
The King of Kings salvation brings -
Let loving hearts enthrone him

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud -
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud -
The babe, the Son of Mary!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Next post: January 5, 2016

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tis the season

New Orleans Christmas festivity

Today's post is one of Christmas Past.

I can remember the joy of getting a bicycle, on Christmas morn, more than a half century ago.

Snowlike flakes at Miracle on Fulton Street
I can remember setting out to go snow skiing with my wife on our first Christmas together, only to see the highways, on Christmas morning, blocked by a huge snowfall outside of Chattanooga, TN. We headed back to Mississippi.
Huge Christmas tree in Gatlinburg, TN
I can remember the Christmas eve of almost a half century ago when our first son was born.

Decorations on family Christmas tree
And although it was July, I can remember enjoying the entertainment at the Cannery in San Francisco when a group of individuals, dressed in a varied array of Santa costumes, moseyed into the area. Because of my beard, they even called out to me as being Santa Claus.

Hattiesburg, MS yard display for Christmas
The Christmases tend to run together nowadays. 

We try to visit Bellingrath Gardens outside of Mobile, AL each year. 

And now and then we visit New Orleans to enjoy Miracle on Fulton Street, an entertaining array of decorations, trees and live shows.

The Fantasy of Lights Christmas parades in Gatlinburg, TN have been enjoyable, as well as the Christmas on the Water parades of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

But for the most part, except for maybe two times over the past 48 years, Christmas morning has been spent at home. 

Nowadays, our Christmas is celebrated with sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids, mostly on Dec. 26, giving each a time at home for their own celebrations and family gift-giving.

I only hope and pray that we all will have a lot more Christmases Past to enjoy.

Enjoy the pictures below of our Christmases Past.

Next post: December 8, 2015

Decorations at Mercier Apple Orchard outside Blue Ridge, GA

Timed-photo exposure at Bellingrath Gardens, AL 

Bellingrath Gardens, AL

Bellingrath Gardens, AL

Cute sidewalk snowman

Christmas time in Gatlinburg, TN

Christmas couple on sidewalk in Canton, MS

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll

Plymouth Rock (Courtesy Destination Plymouth County)

When one thinks of the US celebration of Thanksgiving, besides turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce, Plymouth, MA should also be on one’s mind.

My wife and I, and our first son, visited the area back in the fall of 1977. We were on a one-year odyssey of seeing the United States, traveling in and living out of a van.

Memory fails to serve me correctly as to what we did there, but I do remember seeing Plymouth Rock.

The city of Plymouth was founded in 1620, and of course, was the site of the first Thanksgiving celebration which will once again be observed on Thursday.

The town continues  to be a popular tourist attraction because of its historical significance and is said to host a lot of visitors during the last week of November each year.

To everyone preparing for the annual feast and anticipated gluttony, all I can say is Happy Thanksgiving and be especially thankful for the joys of today.

Next post: December 1, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stay aware and keep on traveling

Christmas tree ornament from earlier trip to the City of Light
My wife and I visited Paris about 15 years ago as tourists.

The late October weather was mild to cool. Halloween, a really strong celebration in the US, was picking up steam there. The Latin Quarter was abuzz with people with all types of ghoulish costumes.

There was hardly any rain during our week-long stay until the day we had to leave.

The "City of Light" was truly amazing. The Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, Notre Dame, the Musee du Louvre, Sacre-Coeur, the outlying palace of Versaille, even the Metro was interesting.

Of the European cities I have visited, Paris would probably be on the top of the list if we were to make another trip over what is called “the pond.”

It is sad, what happened last Friday as terrorists killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds more in Paris.

But Paris will be Paris. The beauty of the city remains, although residents’ nerves are on edge.

Will the tourists continue visiting the city? Of course. Will I return?

I sure hope so.

How will I feel upon a return visit?

I just have to remember two trips to San Francisco. One was within a few years after the 9/11 attacks in New York. The other was a few years later.

The first trip included being there on July 4.  My wife and I joined thousands of others on that holiday taking the trek across the Golden Gate Bridge and returning.

We also did the same on the subsequent trip.

It is a beautiful walk. But my mind was not only on the scenery.  I was always scanning my surroundings. I had also thought about what I would do if a vehicle stopped on the bridge and someone tossed out a backpack or something similar.

My first thought, since I would have believed it to be a terrorist attack, was to run, pick up the item and toss it over the side of the bridge so that if it were explosives, it would go off close to the water and not injure anyone.

Both of our walks were uneventful.

But whether one is in San Francisco, Paris or any other metropolitan area, it is wise to be aware of one’s surroundings. I don’t know if I would take immediate action against someone if I observed something unusual such as the beginning of a terrorist attack.

Most of us probably wouldn’t do what Harrison Ford did playing the character of Jack Ryan in the “Patriot Games.” As one can recall, he helped subvert a terrorist attack on a British official and was subsequently hunted by the terrorist survivors.

I don’t know, if at my age, I would have that kind of chutzpah, but hopefully I would do something beneficial rather than just running away.

The world has always been dangerous. And it seems to become moreso. But that shouldn’t stop us from experiencing new adventures.

As well-known traveler Rick Steves says, “Keep on traveling!”

We can’t stop traveling. We just have to be more aware of our surroundings and keep ourselves as safe as possible  and not give in to "what might happen."

Next post: Nov. 24, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Has it really been a half-year since our cruise?

Church on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia
My wife says that the older we get, the faster the time goes by.

I have to agree with her on that, sort of. 

Time travels at its own pace and never varies. Except when man steps  in and either starts or ends Daylight Savings Time.

It’s been a week since the end of Daylight Savings Time this year, and it has brought on a whole new attitude, and/or feeling, like it does each year.

Its now dark at 5 p.m.

And I find I’m tired of TV and the Internet earlier.

I use to stay up and watch the opening monologue on the Tonight Show (if only Johnny Carson and Jay Leno were still around), but I can’t bring myself to stay up and watch what is now available.

Walking along the Neva River waterfront, St. Petersburg, Russia
Thirty years ago I felt it was my duty to stay up and watch until the final second ticked off and ended the Monday Night Football game. And it didn’t matter who was playing and how lopsided the score many have been.

I didn’t last past the first half Monday night. Who was playing anyway?

Oh yea, it was the Chargers and the Bears. Wow!

Anyway, I digress.

Enjoying coffee, hot chocolate aboard the Norwegian Star
It has been six months to the day that my wife and I  embarked on our 9-day Baltics Cruise odyssey.

I don’t know the mental aspect behind the feeling, but sometimes it feels as if we didn’t even go on that trip.

Did we actually visit Russia, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Finland? We have the pictures to prove it, but sometimes it just seems so unreal that we accomplished that feat.

My wife said she had also gotten that same feeling once or twice since we’ve been back.

Maybe other people have that same type of feelings.

The trip was “too good to be true,” therefore do we let ourselves believe that it wasn’t?

Hey, we’re getting way up in age. We’ve earned the right to have those feelings.

Next post: Nov. 17, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tallin, a unique city and challenging

Visiting the old town of Tallin, Estonia is a challenge for the physically handicapped.

And moreso  a challenge for caregivers who want their loved ones to experience the “enjoyment” of visiting a totally new place.

Tallin is one of the stops for ships traveling the Baltic Sea.

Our ship, the Norwegian Star, put into that particular port on the second day of our journey back in May.

My wife, a stroke survivor, can manage to walk short distances.

But after we left the ship and walked about a half mile, we realized that the only way we could see a portion of the city was for me to go back and get the transporter and push my wife to the different places.

It was a decision that made all the difference.

The city was within walking distance of the berth where our ship was docked, but for the physically handicapped, it was a challenge, thus the need for the transporter.

There may be a “romantic” notion that “cobblestone streets” are unique and fun. Unique they are, but not fun for someone pushing a person in a transporter.

From the port to the first major intersection, life was good. The ground was flat, and being the early part of the day, I had more energy.

And then there was the hill. And then there were the cobblestone streets.

All the streets in the old town that we went on were cobblestone. 

Those types of streets aren’t very inviting for the challenged. 

Despite the problem, we were up to the challenge, although over the course of about two hours of cobblestone, my energy began to ebb.

We persevered on, visiting churches, viewing the various historical avenues, observing young children apparently on a field trip, a portion of the old walls of the city and a sign on a building with a word that just seemed to be toooooo long.

Crossing streets was rather bumpy with my wife experiencing almost the ride of her life with the transporter jerking back and forth as we traversed the ruts between the cobblestone.

And then we managed to get back to the ship for a well-deserved rest.

Next post: November 10, 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Enjoy the weekend, but play it safe

Happy Halloween!

Be careful out there

Next post: Nov. 3, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Some people know how to rub it in

Mysterious, not really. It was about one of our favorite mountain locations
(Photo taken a few winters ago)
A few days ago my wife received a rare text message on her phone.

She doesn’t usually text anyone and was wondering exactly what it was and from whom it was.

The message: “Guess where we are?”

We should have known, but our brains were off kilter. After giving the message a brief thought for a minute or two, we filed it into the back of our minds and went about our business.

And the days marched on.

We should have known. There is someone who calls periodically and always seems to bragging about the fact that they are in one of our favorite places.

The person was my aunt, who’s just about nine months older than me.

She called to remind us of the message and immediately I knew where she was — Gatlinburg, TN

Her family lives in Kentucky and they make it to the mountains more than we since they’re only about a four-hour drive.

Sometimes I think I envy them, living so close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

But, if we lived closer to the mountains than we do, would be visit as often, or less. I don't know.

Last year we visited the area five times. This year, only two, with maybe another visit before the end of the year, but that’s going to be a stretch.

They were in Gatlinburg last weekend and said the weather was OK, but there were too many PEOPLE. She said it was the most they had seen during any of the October trips that they had taken.

I like the area, but I don’t like mob crowds.

She said it took them about four hours to drive from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, which included a side trip to Clingman’s Dome.

Still, that’s a long time, since the trip can normally be made in about an hour.

So the next time we get a “Guess where we are? text message,  it won’t be a mystery.

Next post: October 27, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

At least somebody was enjoying Paris

Grandaughter's Halloween treat for guardian of candy bowl

We have been living outside of Paris for a long time. (Well, isn't living in south Mississippi outside of Paris?)

It’s been about 15 years, but the memories linger of the food, Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysse, the Seine River, Arc de Triumph, the Louvre museum and Notre Dame among others.

And this week it was more disheartening because while we were outside of Paris and taking care of four of our grandchildren in Georgia, their parents were off on their 20th anniversary observance.

And where did they go? — Paris, of course.

Our Georgia daughter-in-law had been taking French lessons and they visited a family for a meal and conversation in the native language.

She said, although it was quite interesting, it would take a bit more time to really pick up on the language.  The words just seemed to fly by her, although she said as their 10-day oddesy came to a close, she was picking up more of the language as they traversed the city.

And back home, the grandchildren were involved in school, football, dance and getting ready for Halloween. And it was our responsibility to see that they got to the appropriate place at the appropriate time each day.

One of our offspring is driven to create, and she can’t seem to slow down, whether its making artistic items for her room, performing ballet or preparing for one of the more scary times of the year.

She managed to make a small play dough critter and fed it to the guardian of the candy bowl (picture above).

Another character came about because she was encouraged to make a play dough face.

All in all, their parents' trip was great, and our stay with the four “grands” was interesting and quite enjoyable.

Next post: October 20, 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cherohala offers touch of early fall color

On a recent quick trip to the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountains, wife and I found ourselves needing to take up a day with some kind of activity.

From our base camp at the Microtel Inn in Robbinsville, NC, we decided that we’d make a day of it traversing the Cherohala Skyway beginning just northwest of town and covering a small portion of eastern Tennessee.

We didn’t know what to expect but hoped that there would be a little fall color along the roadway since  it was late September.

We weren’t totally disappointed.

The Skyway, completed in 1996 after 34 years of work, is considered North Carolina’s most expensive highway carrying a price tag of $100 million.

The 23-mile drive offers expansive views, when its not cloudy (as it was for part of our trip).

The name is derived from the words Cherokee and Nantahala since the drive crosses through national forests with those two names.

Recommendations are that those traveling the skyway should take two to three hours, or more, to enjoy it properly, which includes the views and a number of stops along the way.

We also had a side trip visiting a campground.

After a good half-day of touristing, we found that to get back to our home base, there were three options. The shortest way was to return by the skyway. We nixed that. The other two options were taking highway routes, to the north, or to the south, that got us back.

Both of those options were another few hours over roads we were not familiar with.

Nonetheless, we took the northern round-a-bout way and after a few more hours, we were back in Robbinsville.

Next post: Oct. 13, 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Giant cycle, one of a kind

For a number of years now, on our trips to the Great Smoky Mountains, I’ve threatened to stop and shoot a picture at a motorcycle shop.

It is a business called Cherokee County Cycles located in Andrews, NC. We’ve passed the location numerous times but for some reason didn’t stop and snap that picture — a picture of a giant motorcycle.

Well, this past week, on an abbreviated trip to the south side of the mountains with a stay in Robbinsville, I took that photo.

There were also a number of additional vehicles on location which others have also found interesting.

Andrews is located on Highway 19 and 129 just east of Murphy before one enters the Nantahala Gorge.

Next post: Oct. 6, 2015