Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: travel Page 2 of 15

Fourth-graders Ava & Elise Wilson Report on the Eiffel Tower from Paris

My twin granddaughters, Ava (the brunette) and Elise (the blonde) were with Mom and Dad in England and France this past week. True, they missed one week of fourth grade in Austin, Texas, but who among you would say they would have learned more during the last week of school at Baranoff Elementary than they did visiting Europe? (I actually said that the last week of any school should be avoided at all costs by everyone, if possible.)

My son’s job headquarters (steel company PSI) are in Berlin, Germany, so their engineer father (Scott) decided that his chemical engineer wife (Jessica) and the girls, age 10, should fly across the pond and visit the sights. Because Scott previously worked for a British steel firm, he has colleagues who are British and one generously offered them lodging for a week in England.

I asked the girls on the phone what their biggest impression of England was and the answer was, “They talk funny.”

I’d like to be able to tell you of ALL the places they’ve visited, but I can’t remember them all. Not to worry: Nanna Connie has requested comparison/contrast essays on England versus France and the girls are keeping journals.

It is worth mentioning that, during their time in England and France, Teresa May resigned and, last I heard, Macron of France was losing to LePen. (Do you think they know this? No? Oh, OK.)

LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin (TX) Alive in Spring

Decided to take Ava & Elise to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. They’ve been before. As you can see, Elise is excited!

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to inspiring the conservation of native plants.  All of the gardens feature plants native to Texas, from the mountains in the West to the Gulf Coast.  The practices focus on conserving resources, providing wildlife habitat, protecting native plants and creating a sense of place. This is the Botanic Garden of Texas and an organized research unit of the University of Texas at Austin.

We took the twin granddaughters (Ava, the brunette, and Elise, the blonde) for lunch and on a stroll through the  various fields of flowers, telling everyone to stick to the path and watch out for snakes—especially rattlesnakes. In addition to rattlesnakes (western ribbonsnakes, thamnophis proximus) there are also redstripe ribbon snakes (T.p. rubrilineatus), squirrels and lizards.
In season now were Texas bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, pink evening primrose, Engelmann’s daisies, horsemint, Indian blanket (the orange ones by the tree), Rock rose, Antelope horns, Mexican hat (yellow, like small sunflowers) and standing cypress.

Wildflower Cafe & flowers.

Yellow water-lilies.

Yellow waterlily.

Waterliles.

Nature in action.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference (apologies to Robert Frost).

Pool in Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella).

Chinese girl at Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center.

Two Chinese girls at the Lady Bird Jonson Wildflower Center

Fallen tree.

Fallen tree—but the root does not seem to have been anywhere around the rest of the tree. How?

Red yucca.

Squiggy the squirrel, enjoying a snack.

Girls behind the waterfall.

Ava and the deer.

Path.

Waterfall (no girls).

Brilliant wildflowers.

Field of wildflowers.

View from up top.

View from atop the tower.

Wildflower fields from atop the tower.

Cancun, Mexico on April 19th: Vacation Pictures

Pam and I in Cancun (4/17/19).

Royal Islander, from the Penthouse, Cancun, Mexico.

The view from the Royal Islander lagoon side.

9th floor, Royal Islander, lagoon side

Moon over Mexico.

Cancun, Mexico

Harry’s, Cancun.

We’ve been here in Cancun, Mexico, since April 6th.

In that time, we have watched Notre Dame burn down, eaten at fine restaurants, and had great times with good friends and family.

One of the nicest places we dined was Harry’s, although Captain’s Cove is a long-time favorite. We have been coming to Cancun at Easter since 1991, which is 28 years. Our unit at the Royal Islander on the 9th floor was purchased in 1994 and our unit at the Royal Sands in 1997.

Our Royal Islander penthouse unit only has 3 years remaining after this year and, therefore, the pictures here focus on that “home away from home.” Last week there were 7 of us in our unit; this week only 4.

In addition to Harry’s, we tried Fred’s this year. I had the crab and it was delicious. We were supposed to dine within the J.W. Mariott tonight, but our plans changed and we decided to have one last meal at the Royal Caribbean, which is scheduled to close in July and then re-open later, but not as a time share.

The weather today was extremely windy, but the temperatures have been wonderful: balmy and warm. Another Easter vacation for the books.

View From Atop Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Pre-Fire

Paris: the view from atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

Gargoyles and pillars atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

The view from above: Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

The world has reacted as you would have expected to the news that Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire. There was shock, sadness and, ultimately, a desire to help rebuild.

I read that Salma Hayek’s billionaire husband has pledged $139 million dollars to the reconstruction efforts. Observers on the ground commented on the steeples that fell, which were wooden, carved from a now-long-gone forest. One can anticipate that the steeple of the future may be made of some form of metal.

It is heart-warming to learn how beloved this symbol of Catholicism is not just to Paris but to the world. Almost universally, mourners around the world expressed their grief at the loss of such a beloved iconic structure. Democratic candidate Pete Buttegieg expressed his sorrow in flawless French (he speaks 7 languages and was a Rhodes Scholar). And then there were Presidents Obama and Trump. You can imagine which expressed his sentiments the most eloquently.

One firefighter was injured and we learn that the 400 valiant firefighters were fortunate enough to salvage some important things that were inside the beloved church. The famous Rose Window has supposedly been saved, and I heard that the world famous organ had, as well. I had heard, prior to these more recent updates, that, because the structure was undergoing some reconstruction, various copper statues had been removed before the flames broke out. That would be good news for the world and for France. Supposedly the crown of thorns perhaps worn by Jesus was also saved.

The world will watch as the resourceful French pick up the pieces and soldier on.

Cathedral of Notre Dame Pictures Depicting The View from the Top

View from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

One of the bells of Notre Dame that the 400 firefighters were trying to save. (I believe they were successful and also saved the remnant of the crown of thorns supposedly worn by Jesus.)

Gargoyle at the top; of Notre Dame, as it was.

The narrow walkway at the top of Notre Dame.

I promised to post pictures that my good friend (and former college roommate) Pam Rhodes took within Notre Dame Cathedral and from the uppermost levels of Notre Dame Cathedral when she was there studying in 2007.

Notre Dame gargoyles.

I can’t imagine that the gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral depicted and the view from the top-most parapets will remain the same after reconstruction of the ravaged structure takes place. As the news sources have repeated, Notre Dame was the most visited tourist site in Europe.

My daughter, who posted a bit of video from her visit there this past October, said it was her favorite tourist attraction during her trip. I remember attending mass there during my first trip and I stayed in a hotel quite near the church on the Isle de la Cite in 2007.

The pictures of the fire burning against the Paris sky were riveting and also heartbreaking. News that France’s President Macron had canceled a previous meeting in order to go to the Cathedral makes one realize how deficient our own President is during U.S. tragedies. The question on the lips of many is whether the Pope will make a trip from Italy to Paris.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral: View from the Top As You’ll Never Be Able to See It Again

Notre Dame Cathedral

From the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

From the top of Notre Dame.

View of Paris from the top of Notre Dame.

Gargoyles atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

View from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Thedestruction of Notre Dame Cathedral by fire has gripped the nation and the world in its grasp.

It is an iconic symbol of so many things to so many people. And now, with the destruction of much of it, you’ll never be able to climb to the top and take the pictures I am going to share with you today, and in the next few days: 16 in all.

Mydaughter just visited Paris in the past few months and she said that Notre Dame was her favorite tourist visit. I actually attended church there, many moons ago, and the Rose Window—which may or may not have been saved—-captivated me during the service.

In order to get these pictures, you had to travel up to the top in a very small elevator that only accommodated about 7 people at a time. My college roommate. Pam Rhodes (a Des Moines area French teacher did that), and took these photos.

I’m sharing them with you, because this is a view from the top that will never be the same again.

Week Two in Cancun, Mexico at the Royal Islander Commences

Cancun, Mexico.

Week Two in Cancun commences.

“Game of Thrones” premieres tonight, so the entire idea of dining out and about in Cancun will give way to a chicken dinner delivered to and eaten in the room. One of the nice features of the Royal Resorts is that we have two U.S.  television channels, one from Detroit and one from Jacksonville, Florida. Therefore, we aren’t missing out on favorite programs.

Ava & Elise in Cancun. Elise (r) won at euchre.

Week One ended with a family euchre tournament in which a 10-year-old (Elise) bested the field.

Week Two commenced with sending the son and his family back home to Austin, despite reports of tornado winds and bad rain. The daughter made it out and returned to Nashville. The niece and husband presumably are back in Boston. The Illinois contingent, as well.

Evening out in Cancun.

So, this year, during week two, we will try out two new restaurants: Fred’s (seafood) and L’Angostino’s (Italian, within the J.W. Mariott). The other restaurants will be staples: Captain’s Cove, The Conquistador (formely of the Royal Mayan, now located at the Royal Islander).

We learned some news about our penthouse unit at the Royal Islander while here, at a meeting. We bought it in 1994, although we had been coming to Cancun since 1991 and staying at the Fiesta Americana Condessa and rented one year at the Royal Mayan. In 1997 we bought a week at the Royal Sands (just over).

Our time share at the Royal Islander will return to the state in 5 years, when the 30 years is up. We are now at 25 years and counting. After this year, we will only have 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 and then we will have to rent at the Sands or make other arrangements.

Over the years, the upkeep on our time share(s) has been quite good, although the replacement of art work at the Royal Islander in recent years took out tasteful pictures and replaced them with questionable paintings that resemble nothing so much as paintings on velvet.

Good times with the wacky daughter and her dad (Harry’s in Cancun).

Still, the unique view of the ocean from 9 floors up (the highest any Royal property goes) and the central location in the property makes 4492 like “home away from home.” We will miss it and it will mark a passage from young to middle-aged to old, in many ways, since the turning over will mark a span of 30 years of vacationing in the same spot at Easter, which moved from one week to two in 1997.

Cancun, Mexico on April 7, 2019

Cancun, Mexico on Day One:

Ava and Elise enjoy the beach at the Royal Sands in Cancun, Mexico. They left at 5 a.m. and were on the beach by 9 a.m.

We left at 9 a.m., changed planes in Houston, and arrived in Cancun around 3 p.m.

There are 12 of us, which is down from last year’s 15. We dined tonight at Captain’s Cove and there were very few customers on this Sunday night in Cancun.

Tomorrow night is the NCAA Championship, so that will be our viewing, courtesy of Detroit and Jacksonville (Florida) television stations.

Cancun, Mexico.

Cancun, Mexico.

Bits & Pieces of Random News for April 3, 2019

Some random thoughts of the day:

  1. One of the Decorah eaglets has died. Poor little thing had a name/number, like DN10, but he (or she) was one of 2 born in the Raptor Research nest and it appears—judging from the way Mr. North pushed the little bird body off to the side of the nest—

    The Day Shall Come at SXSW. (SXSW Press Photo)

    the chick died only a day or two after being born.

  2. The mysterious polio-like illness that doctors are calling AFM (acute flaccid myelitis) has struck at least 228 known victims in the U.S. in 2018. In an every-other-year cycle, has afflicted more than 550 Americans, including a 32-year-old. More than 90% are children around 4, 5, or 6 years old who come down with a cold that paralyzes them. Those of us who lived through polio epidemics are praying for another Dr. Jonas Salk.
  3. Biden on the caucus campaign trail in Iowa prior to the 2008 presidential race. Don’t worry: I’ll be back to politics by the end of the week.

    Conflicting reports on whether the GOP is going to address health care before or after the 2020 election. DJT has been quoted as saying they should come out with a plan before the election, but having a plan has not been the GOP’s strong suit under this president, no matter what the issue. There seems to be no desire to “fix” the things that would be fixable under Obama-care, because the current occupant of the White House is too obsessed with denouncing, denigrating and destroying the record of his predecessor to really do much beyond “framing” issues and using media to “pose” as having plans on issues, when it seems that little is being done.

  4. Read a horrifying in-depth article (“New York Times”) about Michigan’s schools, which have largely been turned over to a topsy-turvy crazy quilt of Charter schools, which are not doing any better a job with the students than the public schools they replaced. Truly sounds like a nightmare scenario, but this is the scenario that Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, has always tried to foster. She is a native of Michigan and a huge proponent of charter schools, despite her own home state’s dismal record. She also has absolutely not one credential for occupying the position of Secretary of Education.
  5. With Vice President Joseph Biden (then Senator Biden) at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Davenport, Iowa, caucus season, 2008.

    The Democrats continue to attack one another. I would say “eat their young,” but Joe Biden is not young. The latest attacks on the former Vice President come from a woman actively supporting Bernie Saunders and are largely undercut by photos of her with her hands on his shoulders at the same event that she claims so traumatized her. It is sad that campaigning in the year 2020 has come to this.

  6. The weather remains pleasant here in the Austin area, but it sounds like the Midwest is pretty well flooded. With Trump’s typical lack of concern for those in dire straits, whether Puerto Ricans on that hurricane-ravaged island or Midwestern farmers who seem to have pretty well taken it in the shorts with the Chinese tariffs and flooding, it is going to be no fun at all trying to navigate the construction zone for the proposed new I-74 bridge over the Mississippi River, joining Iowa with Illinois. (Construction was delayed by the brutal winter). Not looking forward to dealing with it.
  7. Image from Suzanne Weinert’s “A Good Son.” (SXSW Press)

    The Lagoon in Cancun, Mexico, at sunset.

    Posting a picture of one film I had to leave early in order to make it to “Shrill” and perhaps a photo from “A Good Son” (see interview with Director Suzanne Weinert, above). “The Day Shall Come” had not, to that point, “gelled.” It did have Anna Kendrick and I had an interesting encounter with Ms. Kendrick when I attempted to stop in the women’s rest room at the Paramount Theater on my way to the opening of “Shrill” right next door. A policeman told me I couldn’t enter the rest room. Cop: “I have someone in there.” Me: “A prisoner?” Cop: (Smiling) “No.” Me: “A female someone or a male someone.” Cop: “Female.” At that point, another woman, holding a Big Gulp cup and having just entered the theater from a side alley entrance tried to cut around the two of us out in the hall to gain access to the rest room. She was quickly dispossessed of the notion that either of us could enter. We continued standing awkwardly in the hall, while I tried guessing who or what was going on. Just then, the film’s star, Anna Kendrick, emerged, having been primping in the bathroom for at least 20 minutes.

  8. The Royal Islander, penthouse view (9th floor).

    I’ll be in Cancun in 3 days. I’ll try to post some photos.

Camp Sandy Shenanigans & Other Promotional Things at SXSW

I thought readers might enjoy seeing some photos from one of the promotional things that went on during SXSW in Austin, Texas.

This particular promotion was sent to me as Press and involved the sponsors (a local whiskey and Turtle Wax) being willing to send an Uber to pick me up in Austin and ferry me out to Camp Sandy, which, I can personally attest, is way-the-hell-and-gone out in the middle of Hill Country, but has a spectacular view.

Downtown Austin  (TX) mural.

A couple of the other shots were simply things that caught my eye as I was walking (for miles) around downtown Austin (it is, by actual mileage count, nearly 2 miles from the Conference Center to the Paramount theater).

But back to Camp Sandy. I RSVP-ed that I would come to hear “the band in the van.” The concept here is that the band is INSIDE a van and the listeners watch the band on screens mounted on the outside of the van. (Weird). Low Cut Connie was supposed to play, complete with a piano (“the first time a full-sized piano has been inside the van!” said the e-mail).

Note the small tan Prius on the right of this picture (mine) at Camp Sandy.

If you had a car, they would Turtle Wax your car for free, although this turned out to be incorrect.

I RSVP-ed and asked for specific parking and navigational directions and got nothing, but I had the address, so I set off in my trusty Prius (one of 5 in the family since 2002) and found this out-of-the-way place, high up in hill country with a spectacular view. I parked alongside the driveway in, which turned out to not be that smart a move, as someone driving a humongous tank-like vehicle pulled in and left their vehicle smack dab in the middle of the ONLY way in or out. (It took about 15 minutes to find out who had left the painted van blocking the only exit or entrance.) I only had one hour before I had to be standing on a Red Carpet somewhere, but Camp Sandy sounded interesting, if weird. And, of course, there was the matter of that promised free Turtle Wax.

Except that, when I showed up, it sounded like several cars were ahead of me in a “scheduled” fashion and, therefore, there would be no Turtle Wax for the Silver Fish (as I call my Texas Prius). That was okay, but when I learned that Low Cut Connie had also bailed, I did a quick tour of the premises and left.  That turned out to be quite difficult with the blocking van and, after the van moved, I could get no signal on my GPS and would have been totally lost. The organizer who greeted me said, “If you drive to the top of the hill, you’ll probably be able to get a signal.” (Yikes! Let’s hope so!)

Still, here are some “local color” shots of the venue and of downtown Austin, Texas, during SXSW.

Camp Sandy.

Interior, Camp Sandy.

View from Camp Sandy.

Sponsor of Camp Sandy.

Patrons viewing “the van” at Camp Sandy.

Typical crowd around the block waiting for admission.

The van at Camp Sandy.

View from Camp Sandy, Austin, TX, SXSW.

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