Meandering through Northeast Tennessee

Even though it was overcast and raining, nothing could dampen our spirit of adventures as we meandered along the Sunny Side Trail in Northeast Tennessee. From the Bristol Speedway to the Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol is a rare find. Add the surrounding many quaint little towns with charm oozing from each like butter from a big piece of cornbread, the Sunnyside Trail will brighten your outlook on life – it did for me!
Please follow this link to my article on this topic in The Tribune Newspaper:
http://www.ourtribune.com/article.php?id=16500. Thanks for visiting Trilla’s Travels!

Race fans' paradise!

Race fans’ paradise!

In the category of quaint little towns, Jonesboro is hard to beat!

In the category of quaint little towns, Jonesboro is hard to beat!

The Tennessee/Virginia state line runs along State Street in Bristol.

The Tennessee/Virginia state line runs along State Street in Bristol.

Must be Heaven – Brenham, TX!

Must Be Heaven is good for the appetite and good for the soul.

Must Be Heaven is good for the appetite and good for the soul.


The best things about driving US 290 between Houston and Austin, are the quaint little towns along the away.
We almost always make a stop at the Chappell Hill Bakery & Deli, in Chappell Hill, where we have found some of the best BBQ lunch options in the state. And we never leave without our sausage kolaches, fruit kolaches and/or sticky buns!!! Sometimes we even get a pie!
On a recent road trip traveling US 290, we discovered Must Be Heaven, a charming, down-home Texas sandwich and ice cream shoppe in Brenham. Here we experienced the good ol’ days of handcrafted sandwiches, homemade soups and pies and, of course, Bluebell Ice Cream.
The café is full of memorabilia from the past. I found a pleasant surprise in the lady’s room — a small collection of vintage hats. It just made me smile!
The Must Be Heaven café is located at 107 W. Alamo Street in downtown Brenham in a charming area of gift shops and antique stores. Its charm and warmth are calling me back!
As a native of West Virginia (which everyone knows is “Almost Heaven”) and as a Texas transplant, I truly appreciate the rustic and vintage setting at Must Be Heaven.
It seems I have discovered a hidden gem, and I’m collecting as many as I can find!
So if you find yourself driving along on US 290 between Houston and Austin, remember to look for “hidden gems” along the way.
Until next time…
Vintage hats - hidden away in the lady's room

Vintage hats – hidden away in the ladies room


W. Alamo Street in Brenham, TX

W. Alamo Street in Brenham, TX

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

Angel Tree

Angel Tree

Today is the 8th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. More than 1800 people died as the storm ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.
One year ago, my husband and I took a road trip along the Gulf Coast, heading from Houston to New Orleans to Biloxi, and on to Mobile.
As we drove along the coast, we couldn’t help but notice all the damaged property still evident in the New Orleans area, and all the empty lots where houses once stood overlooking the Mississippi shore.
It was in Bay St. Louis where we spotted many extraordinary wood carvings in the medians and along the coast.
When we stopped to eat lunch at 200 North Beach Restaurant at Bay St. Louis, we asked owner Ann Tidwell about the tree that stood just a few feet from the restaurant. The tree’s branches had been carved to look like angels.
She explained that the tree once stood in the yard next door, and that it had saved the lives of two people and a dog. They had held onto the tree for many hours as the storm and high waters raged.
It is certain that a story such as this one about the horror of the hurricane accompanies all the wood carvings that we saw along our drive.
We were told by Tidwell that chainsaw carvers “from the north” came to the area after the storm to make beautiful memories from the storm, by creating carvings of the old trees.
By the way, this restaurant has an excellent menu, and we enjoyed our lunch sitting outside overlooking Bay St. Louis. Hope to return someday!
Built in 1905, the 200 North Beach Restaurant in Bay St. Louis, MS.

Built in 1905, the 200 North Beach Restaurant in Bay St. Louis, MS.

Remnants of Hurricane Katrina have been captured by art along the Gulf Coast in the form of wood carvings. This Angel Tree stands across from the 200 North Beach Restaurant as a haunting reminder of the 2005 storm.

Remnants of Hurricane Katrina have been captured by art along the Gulf Coast in the form of wood carvings. This Angel Tree stands across from the 200 North Beach Restaurant as a haunting reminder of the 2005 storm.

How many miles from Texas to Singapore?

We set sail on The Mariner of the Seas on April 21 on a 41-day journey to the other side of the world — From Galveston, Texas, to Singapore!
In my blog, I’ve tried to give an up-close and personal experience for my readers — taking them along for the ride to 10 countries and 13 ports of call.
I hope that each description of our excursions helped to make the journey real for my readers.
This cruise consisted of three, two-week cruises…each one spectacular in its own way.
It was amazing how the miles seemed to go by so quickly, even though the average speed of the ship was about 18-20 knots.
We were amazed as we checked on the ship’s TV channel daily to see the speed, sea depth, and total distance from the last port.
The first leg of the cruise was from Galveston to Barcelona, which totaled 5,456 nautical miles. From Barcelona to Dubai, we covered another 5,048 miles. On the third and final two-week cruise from Dubai to Singapore, which ended on June 1, a total of 3,693 nautical miles were logged.
Drum roll please! Our 41-day cruise from Galveston to Singapore equaled a combined total mileage for the entire journey of: 14,197 nautical miles!!!
At around 1:00 a.m. on June 2, we boarded Emirates Air for our flight back. It took seven hours to fly from Singapore to Dubai, with about 4-4.5 hour layover in Dubai. We left Dubai on an 18-hour flight straight to Houston, for a total return trip time of 29 hours!
This would explain why my internal clock is still mixed up, and why I’m dreaming about far away, exotic lands.
Until next time…
(Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com)

Docked in Singapore, here is my last glimpse of the Mariner -- I'm going to miss her!

Docked in Singapore, here is my last glimpse of the Mariner — I’m going to miss her!


We were surprised to see our flight path back to Houston!

We were surprised to see our flight path back to Houston from Singapore, via Dubai!

Final destination – Singapore

Singapore -- Look up Feng Shui and you'll find Singapore!

Singapore — Look up Feng Shui and you’ll find Singapore!

Saturday, June 1, 2013 – Day 12 of 3rd cruise
We had anticipated this moment for the past 41 days, yet it arrived like in a dream. Could our transatlantic cruise actually be coming to an end? How can we ever possibly repack all our belongings into our meager luggage? How long will it take to get back to the U.S.A.? Does anyone really know what time it is? We have only known “ship time” since our departure in Galveston on April 21. And that seems like eons ago!
But let’s take first things first! We are disembarking The Mariner of Seas for the last time this morning, and we are booked on a four-hour excursion in Singapore, before heading to the airport. A bitter-sweet occasion!
Let me first say that I thought I knew what a hot, humid climate was like. We have lived in the Houston suburbs since 1985 and the summers there are brutal. But nothing prepared us for the climate in Singapore.
With that said, let me now concentrate on the City/Island of Singapore! Please don’t let a little heat and humidity deter you from visiting this great island city! After all, if you look on a map, you’ll see that the equator is not that far from Singapore, so what else can one expect?
The city is jaw-droppingly beautiful, with the Singapore River running through it. My first impression was the feeling of serenity that is emitted here. I later learned from our tour guide that the city prides itself on harmony and balance using the art of Feng Shui. I wasn’t aware that I was sensitive to Feng Shui, but now I know – it really, really works! Here in Singapore it works on a grand scale, with buildings, skyscrapers, parks and gardens all existing in harmony along the river – I was amazed! The city is striving to add more green spaces and has pledged to be a “City within a Park” rather than having a park within the city. I do like their thinking!
Our air-conditioned motor coach drove us over the Singapore River and down Shenton Way, which is commonly known as Asia’s Wall Street, through the exotic quarter of “Little India,” where visitors can find aromatic spices and everything from saris to intricate ornaments. We also observed the grandiose grounds of the Raffles Hotel.
As we toured the city, we took in the beautiful skyline of modern architecture, and enjoyed Dutch, Colonial and Chinese influences. In historic Chinatown, we observed architecture from a by-gone era.
The Botanical Gardens in Singapore, which encompasses the world’s largest orchid collection, features 60,000 plants displayed in a natural setting. My clothes were soon drenched and perspiration ran off my face in rivers! We heard that it’s best to do the night visit at the zoo – I would advise it.
When our city tour had ended, it was time to be dropped off at the Singapore Airport – by far the nicest airport terminal I’ve ever visited.
With a few hours to wait for our departure, we dined and shopped and recharged our mobile devices. From the time our plane left Singapore, until we arrived in Houston, 29 hours will have passed. Can you say “jet lag?”
Thanks for coming along on our transatlantic journey of a lifetime from Galveston to Singapore in 42 days. The Mariner of the Seas became our retreat and our playground, but there’s no place like home! We traveled to 10 countries and stopped at 13 ports along the way, and it truly was amazing! After Penang, our second stop in Malaysia was Port Klang; however, we opted not to tour Kuala Lumpur in order to get ready to leave the ship the next morning. This was the only port we did not participate in an excursion, although we had booked one, but later cancelled it.
Please come back to Trilla’s Travels soon, as I plan to blog about the long flight home and other travel observations.
I also hope to travel and blog again in the near future – destinations to be announced!
Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.
Chinatown is a must-see in Singapore

Chinatown is a must-see in Singapore


National Orchid Gardens in Singapore

National Orchid Gardens in Singapore

Sights in Singapore

048

076

077

Malaysia – A Taste of Penang

View of Penang from port

View of Penang from port


As our 41-day transatlantic cruise on The Mariner of the Seas from Galveston to Singapore comes to and end tomorrow, we find ourselves in Malaysia! It’s beautiful and tropical – a virtual paradise of 13 states and three territories, where 29 million people live! And we’re told there are twice as many vehicles!
Yesterday, we took a brief excursion from the ship into the City of Penang, where we observed modern architecture mixed with many cultural designs from the past.
Penang once named Prince of Wales Island by the British, who turned the island into a Crown Colony. With thousands of immigrants with ethnic diversity, it became the “Pearl of the Orient,” and today it is known as a Gourmet Paradise! The people here love to eat and they are famous for their recipes – from Chinese to Thai and Indian.
We stopped at Wah Thai Native Products market, where locals buy their white coffee, Bakuteh (herbal pork soup), Chikuteh (herbal chicken soup), nutmeg and clove oils and Tar Sar Phea (green bean biscuit). We bought white coffee, dark chocolate, herbal tea and nutmeg candy!
We drove through the capitol and charming, historic district of George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visited a local mall, which included a McDonald’s!
Our tour took us down Harmony Street, which is appropriately named. Along this street there are many Christian churches, Hindu Temples and Chinese Buddhist Temples, to name a few. Among the Christian churches were Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventists, and a few others that I missed. It is pleasing to know that freedom of religion of all kinds is alive and well here on Harmony Street. And wouldn’t it be nice if that could be said of the rest of the world?
By the way, the largest Chinese Buddhist Temple in Malaysia can be found in Penang, better known as the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas. And the Thai Buddhist Temple houses the 4th largest reclining Buddha in the world. Although these temples were not on our excursion, I talked to some passengers who visited them and were very impressed!
The Mariner of the Seas is docked at Port Klang today, which is not even close to Kuala Lumpur. We had scheduled a 7-hour excursion to KL (KL is what the local call Kuala Lumpur) but we cancelled it in order to get ourselves ready to disembark early tomorrow (Saturday) in Singapore, where we will have the whole day to tour. If possible, I’ll post a blog from the airport about our visit to Singapore.
When this trip is over and Wi-Fi is no longer a problem, I plan to post more photos and bits of information from the cruise highlights and ports of call.
Thank you for coming along on this journey of a lifetime with me, which is sadly coming to an end. And thank you to my husband who has been a wonderful travel companion and photographer!
See you on our final stop in Singapore tomorrow, Saturday, June 1.
Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.
(Photos by T.Cook and E.D.Cook)
Old meets new in Penang

Old meets new in Penang

The people are friendly in Cochin, India!

caption id=”attachment_2398″ align=”alignright” width=”300″]St. Francis Catholic Church in Cochin, India St. Francis Catholic Church in Cochin, India[/caption]

Sunday, May 26 – Day 6 of the 3rd cruise

There are a lot of people in India! That’s no secret, but the friendliness of the locals here might be.
Today is Sunday, so when we stopped at St. Francis Catholic Church (circa 1500’s) on our tour, mass was in progress. Just as in Goa, they said it was OK to have a look inside the door.
India is still a third-world country but they are making progress in many ways. A usual sight that was surprising to me was their use of motor scooters as a “family” vehicle. More than once, I saw a dad, mom and child all riding on the same scooter, weaving in and out of traffic. I know this can’t be safe, but it means they are a mobile society and are determined to get around in an extremely crowded world – one way or another! At least, this is how I try to think of it, and pray that they are safe.
The utility poles might not be up to our standards, but it does the job and brings this society into modern times. I cringed just to look at all those exposed wires!
This was our second port stop in India – Cochin – said to be the “Queen of the Arabian Sea,” as it was the first European colonial settlement in India. Being located on the spice route, it became an important trading center and joined the Indian Union in 1947, bringing dynamic change.
Here is a hub for spices, textiles, rugs and semiprecious-stone jewelry. Also, teakwood is imported from Malaysia for manufacturing, such as furniture.
The Portuguese left their mark here in architecture among other things, as well as the Dutch and British, giving a European feel. We were amazed as we saw that the seashore was lined with fishermen using the centuries-old fishing method – Chinese boats and nets. The fish market is located near the historic remains of Fort Cochin, with only a stone wall remaining. DO NOT go near the fish markets if you’re sensitive to foul odors! Oh, my!
Our group also took a tour of Jew Town, which was once occupied by local Jewish people, and now consists of souks – anything and everything Indian is for sale! We also visited the Mattancherry Palace and Pazhayannoor Baghavathy Temple.
Goodbye, India! You have gifted me with many intriguing, visual memories, both in Cochin and in Old Goa. Good luck to you in your future!
The Mariner of the Seas will now head east into the southern Bay of Bengal and Adaman Sea, said to be historic and strategic waters. Trade along the seas on this cruise through Malaysia included spices, opium, tea, gold and more.
Penang is our next port in three days…sees you there!
Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.

Chinese fishing boats on seashore in Cochin, India

Chinese fishing boats on seashore in Cochin, India

Utility pole in Cochin

Utility pole in Cochin

[

On the road to Old Goa

Se Cathedral Se Cathedral

Friday, May 24 – Day 4 of 3rd cruise
Coconut palms swaying on the beaches, topical climate and historical landmarks – would you believe we’re in Goa, India? Our short tour of this third-world city was one we’re glad we got to see.
We were told to obtain visas to visit India when we first booked our transatlantic cruise from Galveston to Singapore. No visas were needed for Nassau, Portugal, Spain, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia or Singapore…only India.
Next we were told that in order to go ashore in India, we would need to interview with an Indian representative and obtain a land pass before leaving the ship. On the day before our arrival, this process took guests, on average, more than 1.5 hours to complete, which took a little bit of wind from our sails for the idea of visiting India in sweltering heat and humidity .
But we did! Our first excursion took us to Old Goa, which served as the Portuguese colonial capital at one time, and a drive-thru of the new capital, Panjim City.
The bus took us through villages and towns along a very narrow and winding road on the way to Old Goa! Here we saw many farm animals roaming free and the traffic was really scary…either our bus driver was lousy or it’s just the way of the road here. Horns were blaring at all times as cars and motorcycles passed our bus, while oncoming traffic was eminent! This was also my first experience in traffic that drives on the left side of the road! Yikes!
Now for the tour — The Portuguese ruled Goa for 450 years, and built many churches in the 1500-1600’s. The churches in Old Goa were modeled after some of the big European churches of the time, and rivaled them in size.
Of these renowned churches, the most impressive was Basilica de Bom Jesus. Visitors to this church are mainly interested in a precious relic – the body of Saint Frances Xavier (1562) – which lies in a silver casket, partially exposed. Our tour guide told us that “Bom” means “Good” in Portuguese, which explains the name of the church.
On the day and time of our visit to Bom Jesus, mass was being held; however, we were allowed to look around inside the church during mass, and those who wanted could view the relic.
We also toured the grounds of Se Cathedral and St. Cajetan Convent, where we observed their historical value and reverence. A total of nine grandiose churches were built in Old Goa.
Our drive through Panjim City was after dark, and we could see that this is where everyone goes for nightlife. People and vehicles bustled in every part of the city!
Our second stop in India will take us to Cochin on Sunday, so I’ll be back with that report soon.
Look for a link for Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.

Basilica of Bom Jesus Basilica of Bom Jesus
St. Cajetan Convent St. Cajetan Convent

Dubai – World’s biggest, tallest and fastest!

Dubai -- viewed from The Mariner of the Seas. Look for the world's tallest tower, Burj Kalifa.

Dubai — viewed from The Mariner of the Seas. Look for the world’s tallest tower, Burj Kalifa.

The view from The Top of the Khalifa Tower -- world's tallest building!

The view from The Top of the Khalifa Tower — world’s tallest building!


If the city of Dubai set out to break all records for expectations of a modern city, it has surely succeeded! Here we found the world’s tallest building, Burj Kalifa. We entered the world’s fastest elevator to take us to the top – The Top! My ears popped three times going up and five times going back down! Yes, it truly is fast! The view from The Top was incredible, even with the haze that lingered over the vista; you could see the surrounding desert, water and spectacular cityscape. Looking straight down, the streets and cars resembled a diorama or mere toys. It was spectacular!
We toured this city full of skyscrapers, which are perfect examples of modern-day architecture, on May 21! Also, the Dubai Mall, which – by the way – has one of the world’s largest aquariums and the largest viewing panel on earth! Are you getting the picture now – everything here is bigger, taller or faster!
But, Dubai is full of contrast – the old and the new. Having only gained independence in 1971, it is part of the United Arab Emirates and is considered by many to be the financial and trade center of the Arab world. The old and new exist side by side in this extremely clean, modern city. Local people go about their day-to-day lives observing their centuries-old, Islamic traditions. While the city is also filled with westerners, tourists, and businessmen converging to give the appearance of any other European or American city, life outside the city, in stark contrast, consists of desert dwellers or Bedouins.
We knew on April 21, as we left the shores of Galveston, that we setting sail on a journey of a lifetime aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas – 41 days. By the time we docked in Barcelona, we had cruised 5,456 nautical miles. That was the first two-week cruise, which included Nassau, The Bahamas; the Island of Madeira, Portugal; Gibraltar; Alicante and Barcelona, Spain. All glorious and wondrous sights!
By the time we reached Dubai, the destination for the second, two-week cruise, we had covered another 5,050 nautical miles, making a total of 10, 506 miles for the first two legs of our journey. This time our ports of call included Alexandria, Egypt; The Suez Canal; Safaga, Egypt; Aqaba, Jordan, and ending in Dubai.
When we left Aqaba on May 14, one of many stops on this transatlantic journey from Galveston to Singapore, the guests were made aware of the precautions the captain would take, as we sailed from the Red Sea into the Sea of Aden to get to Dubai. On this day, Captain Flemming sent letters to guests and made PA announcements explaining his plan. He wanted to prepare us in the event of a pirate attack. That day we even had a pirate drill, where we were instructed to go to the inside hallways if we heard the “secret code” on the PA. We were also told to keep the curtains closed from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. during those days in the Aden Sea.
For four nights the upper, outside decks were closed and all lights extinguished. Last night was the first night the outside decks were once again open after dark, and we could open the drapes, as well. While this little bit of information was not in the cruise guide, we were very appreciative of all the efforts our captain took to make sure the guests would be safe.
Among those precautions was extra security. At one point in the middle of the sea an announcement was made to alert passengers that a small boat would be approaching our ship; however, this rendezvous was for the purpose of collecting our “security kit.” Indeed, it was a drop shipment of arms. We watched as the boat pulled along the ship to unload. On the last day, once again the boat came to collect the “security kit,” when it was no longer needed. Our thanks go to Captain Flemming for making a plan for our protection and for being cautious.
After leaving the Persian Gulf, we are now cruising the Indian Ocean. Next stop – Goa, India!
Bye for now…see you next time!
Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels on http://www.ourtribune.com.
Burj Al Arab - This building is amazing!

Burj Al Arab – This building is amazing!