Monthly Archives: April 2009

*Event* – Fiesta San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas

Party in San Antonio

san-antonio-vendorWith tax season at a close San Antonio prepares for the biggest party of the year. Truly a citywide celebration, Fiesta San Antonio begins today. More than a hundred scheduled events continue through April 26, 2009. The tradition reaches back 118 years when citizens decided to honor the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto.

Horse-drawn carriages, bicycles decorated with fresh flowers and floats carrying children dressed as flowers comprised the first parade. At the 1891 parade half the participants went one direction, the other half headed the opposite way pelting each other with blossoms as they passed – thus the name, the Battle of Flowers Parade. The 2009 version steps off down Broadway on Friday, April 24.

san-antonio-river-parade1Additional parades have been added over the years including the popular Texas Cavaliers River Parade and Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade. The Fiesta Military Parade takes place on the parade grounds at Lackland Air Force Base. The King William Historic District sponsors a fair and parade; even canines get in the act with an official Fiesta Pooch Parade.

san-antonio-alamo-parade-menEvery single official 2009 Fiesta event is sponsored by a local nonprofit group or military organization. Arts, performances, feasts, sports, music and balls attract more than 3 million attendees during the eleven days.

Many Fiesta events honor Texas’ rich history and heritage. One of the most solemn is the Pilgrimage to the Alamo (April 20, 2209). In tribute to the Alamo heroes a procession of historic, civic, patriotic, military and scsan-antonio-alamo-with-flowershool groups walk in silence from the Municipal Auditorium to the Alamo. As each group places a floral wreath on the greensward the names of the Alamo defenders resound from inside the famed walls. These Sacred Walls (April 22, 2009),  presented by a living historian dressed in period attire, tells the story of historical events leading up to the Alamo siege, the siege itself and its aftermath.

Much more festive is A Day in Old Mexico & Charreada (April 19 and 26, 2009). This event carries on the tradition of Charreria which originated in 19th century Mexico as a way for the gentry to prepare horses and riders for war. Over time Charreria evolved into an equestrian competition featuring horse reining, bull riding and roping skills.

san-antonio-male-riders   san-antonio-young-dancers san-antonio-riders-ready-for-parade san-antono-rodeo-queen

Today’s charros (traditional horsemen or cowboys) wear the traditional clothes and use horse equipment as required by the Federation of Charros in Mexico.  Young women demonstrate their riding skills in the colorful Escaramuza; six or twelve member teams execute precision movements while riding sidesaddle and wearing ranchera dresses. In addition to the Charreada there’s plenty of mariachi music, Mexican ballet folklorico, food and drink.

san-antonio-niosa-happy-ladiesA Night In Old San Antonio – NIOSA – attracts a huge gathering  to La Villita Historic District four nights during Fiesta (April 21-24, 2009). Friends and strangers meet and feast in the 18th-century Spanish neighborhood in the heart of downtown San Antonio. More than 250 food booths arranged in 15 ethnic areas serve  up everything from Armadillo eggs (jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheddar cheese and baked in a biscuit-batter) to  ZiegenBock beer.

Entertainers on a dozen stages provide music for noshing and partying – polka at Sauerkraut Bend, country & western at Frontier Town, The Sabas Trio at Villa Espana.

san-antonio-mariachi-bandNancy’s Notes: We loved our Fiesta San Antonio visit, for four days we took in all we could, morning to late night. I can’t quite imagine keeping up the pace for all 11 days – but, it might be fun to try. One of my favorite experiences was the Sunday Mariachi Mass at Mission San Jose. If you’ve every enjoyed time in San Antonio or have not yet visited this unique city, I suggest putting a late April visit on your destination list. Whether it’s the Sticky Wicket Croquet Tournament, Pinatas in the Barrio or Miss Margaret’s Victorian House Tour I believe you’ll enjoy the party in San Antonio.


san-antonio-niosa1 san-antonio-dancer3 san-antonio-restaurant1 san-antonio-young-rider1

*Deal* – New Mexico CulturePass

Ticket to Treasures

sculpture-at-museum-of-indian-arts-and-culturePlanning a trip to the Land of Enchantment this year? Interested in art, Indian culture, history, ranching, space or science? Check into the New Mexico CulturePass – one ticket to 14 state museums, cultural centers and state monuments.

The $25 pass allows one visit to each of 14 sites during a 12-month period. The ticket can be purchased online or at any of the museums or monuments and is activated the day of your first visit. CulturePass includes admission to:

Explore and discover treasures in New Mexico.

Seahorse Exhibit – Monterey Bay Aquarium – California

The Secret Lives of Seahorses

The award-winning Monterey Bay Aquarium opened a new exhibit this week. The Secret Lives of Seahorses reveals fascinating tales of these unusual creatures.  The aquarium describes them, “With a head like a horse, a snout like an aardvark, a belly pouch like a kangaroo, a prehensile tail like a monkey and the ability to change colors like a chameleon, seahorses are anything but ordinary.”seahorse-from-pd-photoorg Watching these unique beings in environments similar to their habitats in the wild can be mesmerizing.

Fifteen species of seahorses, sea dragons, pipehorses and pipefish entice visitors to learn about the varied habitats in which they live and to understand the threats they face. Of the 34 known seahorse species, eight are listed as threatened.

When You Go: Monterey Bay Aquarium is located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey, California. Hours vary by season and day of the week, check the website for details and information on purchasing tickets. The seahorse exhibit is included in general aquarium admission and remains at the aquarium until 2012.

Photo courtesy of PD, a public domain photo website.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center – Juno Beach, Florida

TurtleFest 2009

Mark you calenders for the 7th Annual TurtleFest on April 25th, 10am-7pm. More than 20,000 visitors are expected in Juno Beach’s Loggerhead Park to celebrate sea turtles and learn about fragile marine live ecosystems. Admission to TurtleFest is free, donations gratefully accepted to further the work of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Planned activities include two stages of live music, sea turtle observation and marine life exhibits, presentations and educational activities and marine themed art. A food pavilion and tropical libations will be available.loggerhead-marinelife-center-jonah-and-jasmine

A special children’s activity fee of $5 includes children’s games, arts and crafts, marine themed playground, bounce houses, face painting and interactive games.

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center is an ocean conservation orgainization and sea turtle hospital. Located in Juno Beach, Florida the center adjoins one of the most heavily nested sea turtle beaches in the world.

Perfect Landing Restaurant – Centennial, Colorado


Perfect Landing – 10th Anniversary Specials

Looking for excellent food, a relaxed, comfortable dining atmosphere and super views of Colorado’s front range -plus a great deal? The Perfect Landing restaurant celebrates ten years at Centennial Airport with $10 specials worth the drive from anywhere in the Metro area. Or, fly in.


 During the month of April on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings Perfect Landing offers a half-dozen items for $10. We took advantage of the special on Tuesday night. Bob ordered the teriyaki glazed salmon filet served with rice pilaf and broccolini. He pronounced the salmon the best he’s had in a long time; he’s ordered a lot of salmon lately.

I selected the beef filet served with whipped potatoes and broccolini. Eavesdropping on the waitress at the table behind me, I heard her say that their chef cuts the filets himself. She added that the $10 special filet was just slightly smaller than the one on their regular menu. Mine was perfectly trimmed and wrapped in bacon. I’m not a rare beef eater so asked for medium; it was a notch under my idea of medium but not enough to send back. The meat was flavorful, tender and a very sufficient size. The potatoes were creamy and wonderful.


We devoured the warm,  in-house baked bread, crust ideally crunchy without being tear-up-the-roof-of-your-mouth tough. The bread center perfectly textured. There wasn’t a crumb left in our basket.

From past visits we remembered the key lime pie and added a dessert to our  order. The pecan pie, chocolate souffle cake and key lime pie are all made in-house. On every trip to Florida my sister and I search for the best key lime pie. Forget Florida, all we need do is go to Perfect Landing in Centennial – better than any other I’ve ever had.

Additional $10 anniversary specials include a bottle of cabernet or chardonnay wine and a la carte servings of shrimp scampi, 4-0z Maine lobster tail or 1/2 pound of Alaskan king crab legs.


A long time Denver favorite, “Boogie” Bob Olsen entertains at the piano bar Tuesdays – Saturdays, 5:30-9pm. Our hostess gave us the option of being near the piano or further away. We enjoyed watching him play and his happy following.  At the cocktail bar and in the piano lounge area $5 appetizers are available from 5-7pm .

perfect-landing-sunset1 The dining room overlooks Centennial airport’s runways  and the western horizon – a panoramic mountain view from Pikes Peak to Rocky Mountain National Park. We watch helicopters come in for a quick refueiling and planes, from small two-seaters to corporate jets, land and take-off. As we finish the last bite of key lime pie the sun sinks below the mountains, capping our evening with a technicolor light show.

Bob says he’s going back every week in April. We’ll see if that happens; however, I’d encourage everyone to put Perfect Landing on their radar.

When You Go: The Perfect Landing opens for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. Nancy’s Note – The breakfasts are tremendous. Dinner reservations strongly advised, especially on weekends and during the April anniversay special.

Centennial – Salinas Pueblo Missions Nt. Monument – NM

National Monument Celebrates 100 Years

spmnm-gran-quivira-church2Gran Quivira received designation as a National Monument by President William Howard Taft in 1909. Abo and Quarai, previously under the stewardship of the Museum of New Mexico, were added in 1980 and the entirety renamed Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

Special events are scheduled every month of the 100th anniversary year, check the website events calender or call 505-847-2585, ext. 0. Events in May include a flint-knapping workshop at Gran Quivira and the 2nd annual International Migratory Bird Day at Quarai, May 9th.

Every Saturday and Sunday, May 2 – September 5, 2009, park ranger Craig Morgan will lead guided 1pm tours titled Voices in the Wind at Gran Quivira.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument – New Mexico

Windows to an Ancient World


We stand in the afternoon light peering through window after window into the remains of an ancient world at Abo Ruins. The walls stand silent today but we can imagine the sounds reverberating through the village as women ground corn, masons shaped stones and children chased wild turkeys through the courtyard.

In today’s sparsely populated Estancia Basin of central New Mexico evidence of great pueblos recall a time when thousands lived in the valley. Clovis people hunted here 10,000 years ago. As prehistoric populations learned to grow corn they began to stay in one location longer, living in pithouses.


Mission walls and kiva at Abo Ruins reflect the blending of Indian and Spanish missionary cultures.

Mesa Verde in southern Colorado was once the center of Anasazi culture. After abandonment of Mesa Verde circa 1300 some groups from that culture moved south along the Rio Grande and into the Estancia Basin. Stone villages and towns were built, fields farmed, trade flourished. Salt was collected from nearby lake beds, the commodity used for trade with plains Indians and other pueblos, such as Zuni 200-miles to the west.

In 1598 Spanish explorers entered the area, within the next 20 years missions were established in most of the Rio Grande pueblos. Fransican priests directed the building of churches and conventos, each larger and grander than the previous one. Cultural conflict, Apache raids, disease, drought and famine ensued. The entire Salinas district was deserted by both Indian and Spanish populations by 1677.


View from Abo Ruins

Three missions and portions of their villages comprise the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. We’d passed through Mountainair, New Mexico on several previous trips only slightly aware of the missions. This time we stopped at the small in-town visitors center. A video and museum displays gave background information, piquing our interest in visiting the three sites: Quarai, Abo and Gran Quivira (Las Humanas).


Interior of Quarai Mission


Stepping through the entryway to the old stone mission church at Quarai I’m struck by the walls towering nearly 40-feet  high centuries after the last villager departed. Imagine the effort and engineering required to construct this grand church, the largest church of the Salinas Province as the Spanish called the region. The stones beneath our feet are believed to be from the original flagstone floor, an unusual feature since most mission church floors were packed earth at that time.


Quarai Mission


The mission at Quarai was built in the shape of a cross with side altars and a choir loft. Rows of empty sockets once held vigas, or roof beams; today we look up to open blue sky. We can imagine how imposing this structure seemed to the pueblo people use to living in small, low rooms.

Along a half-mile trail we see mounds signifying unexcavated house blocks, evidence of the 400-600 people living here before the Spaniards. After winding through the mission ruins the trail leads to the spring and stream that provided water essential for the community and fields. Giant cottonwoods shade the stream banks.


Abo Ruins


We arrive at Abo in the late afternoon, the low angle of the sun warming the red sandstone walls. The stone found at Abo broke easily into horizontal pieces. There’s more symmetry here than we see at the other two sites; row upon row, mortar of clay and water holds the tabular blocks together.

What strikes me at Abo is the sense of the convento – dining room, kitchen, storerooms, residence cells where the friars lived, porteria, stables and corral. This is where much of the business of the mission occurred. We don’t view these rooms from afar – the interpretive trail leads us along convento passageways and through waist-high doorways.


Mesa top ruins at Gran Quivira

Gran Quivira (Las Humanas)

We were so inspired by our stops at Quarai and Abo the next morning we decided to put Gran Quivira on the agenda. Called Las Humanas by Spanish explorers, Gran Quivira was the largest of the Salinas pueblos. Once home to as many as 2,000 people, today it is the most remote. From Mountainair we travel 25 miles southeast. Unlike the other two pueblos, Gran Quivira sits atop a mesa with no immediate water source. Runoff from sporadic rains was trapped in shallow pits to supplemented the limited water from wells and roof-fed cisterns.


Gran Quivira Mound 7 and Church

As we approach the ruins we realize they are much larger than those we’ve seen at Abo and Quarai. Yet, Mound 7 is only excavated one of 20 house blocks that once stood at Las Humanas. The square-room ruins we walk through were constructed between 1550-1670, stones held together with an ashy-colored mortar. Beneath these walls archaeologists uncovered 200 wedge-shaped rooms arranged in five to six concentric circles built around a grand kiva. Yellow caliche mortar was used to construct this pueblo in the 14th century. We can stand atop the later pueblo and peer down a shaft into the lower rooms.


Unfinished second church at Gran Quivira

Construction on the first Las Humanas mission church began in 1630. The pueblo did not always have a resident priest, instead it was a circuit parish served by clergy from Abo. A second church was begun around 1659, the ambitious cross-shaped sanctuary never saw completion.

The museum at Gran Quivira exhibits examples of the various pottery styles used in the pueblos through the centuries.

Reflecting on our Salinas Pueblo Missions tour we realize that these churches were built, used for worship and totally deserted nearly a century before the first of the famed California missions was established. We’ve had the opportunity to see into an ancient world.

spmnm-grinding-stoneWhen You Go: Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. The monument visitor center is in Mountainair, New Mexico. From Mountainair Abo is 9 miles southwest, Quarai is 8 miles northwest and Gran Quivira 25 miles southeast. Each of the three sites have a small visitor center and picnic areas. Camping is not allowed; campgrounds can be found in the nearby Cibola National Forest.

Golden Shanghai – Denver, Colorado

Golden Shanghai

Golden Shanghai on South Parker Road serves up a golden experience. For several weeks I’ve felt the need for a Golden Shanghai dinner, tonight we satisfied that need. From the initial greeting to the final thank you all was as it should be for a pleasant dining experience.

A pot of hot tea is brought to the table as soon as we’re seated. We selected the family dinner for two at $13.95/person. Each person receives soup, choice of egg drop, wonton or hot and sour, an egg roll, cheese wonton, rice and any entree on the  menu priced up to $9.95. Bob ordered wonton soup and hot and spicy chicken, Nancy went for the hot and sour soup and pork with garlic sauce. Soups were  flavorful and served piping hot, of the two we prefer the hot and sour. Vegetables used in the entrees were fresh and cooked to perfection – maintaining a bit of a snap. All dishes can be ordered with no vegetables, no sauce,  or sauce on the side and can be prepared hot, mild or not spicy at all. MSG is not used in any dishes at Golden Shanghai.

We resisted the temptation tonight but I highly recommend the plum wine ice cream, it’s a lovely ending for a Chinese dinner. Individually wrapped almond cookies are presented along with traditional fortune cookies. My fortune said to, “Trust your instincts.” I believe we did just that by heading to Golden Shanghai for dinner.

Service matches the quality of the food, attentive without intrusion. From the outside Golden Shanghai looks like just another Oriental restaurant in a strip mall. Inside the dining room is attractive with tall, padded booths along the walls, and well spaced tables in the center of the room. An alcove offers a degree of privacy for small groups (I would guess up to a dozen). A well-kept aquarium and small bar complete the room.

Beyond the Chinese dishes you expect are specialties like lobster in garlic sauce, Cantonese or Szechuan style. I’m not a scallop person but I hear the sesame scallops are to die for. In addition there are a number of Southeast Asian fusion dishes on the menu. Golden Shanghai always appears to have a devoted take-out clientele and delivers in the immediate area.

With the quality of food, preparation, service and ambiance it is no wonder Golden Shanghai has been named one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the country.

I went hungry and totally concentrated on our meal. When all was said and done I realized I should have taken pictures, my mistake. Check Golden Shanghai’s website to see their photos and menus. Then, stop in and have your own golden experience.

University of Arizona – Tucson, Arizona

Travel Destination – Campus Bound

I’ve long been an advocate of university and college campuses as rich resources for travelers. Some of the best art, historic and earth science collections are held by higher education institutes. The University of Arizona in Tucson perfectly illustrates my hypothesis.

University of Arizona Campus Highlights

  • arizona-t-shirt-logoUA Visitor Center– Campus information center, weekly guided tours, ticket sales for UApresents, parking. Open Monday – Friday 9am-5pm.
  • Arizona State Museum – Oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest, Smithsonian Institution affiliate, world’s largest collection of Southwest Indian pottery, permanent and temporary exhibits, gift shop. The Paths of Life permanent exhibition showcases the origins, history and culture of American Indians of the Southwest with artifacts, historic items, artwork, videos and dioramas. Open Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday noon-5pm. Closed state and national holidays. Suggested donation $3.
  • Center for Creative Photography – Museum, research center and photo archives, rotating exhibits. Established by Ansel Adams and UA, holds more archives and individual works by 20-th century North American photographers than in any other museum in the US. Gallery Store offers a large selection of photography related titles. Open Monday – Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 1-4pm, closed major holidays. Free admission, suggested donation.
  • Flandrau: The UA Science Center– Hands-on exhibits, planetarium and observatory for public viewing of night skies. Check website for hours and programs, admission fee, night telescope viewing free.
  • The Jim Click Hall of Champions – The heritage and traditions of athletics at the university showcasing student athletes and coaches. Hours vary, free admission.
  • The University of Arizona Museum of Art – Wide-ranging collections of European and American fine art from the Renaissance to contemporary. Changing exhibits and highlights from the permanent collections. Open Tuesday – Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 1-4pm, closed university holidays. Adult admission $5.

 UA Unique

  • SOML – Stewart Observatory Mirror Lab – Tours give a behind the scenes look at cutting-edge optical technology and spin-casting processes used in making giant telescope mirrors. Tours on Tuesday and Friday, reservations required, cost $15/person.

More on UA Campus

  • Campus Arboretum – Pick up a map and enjoy a campus walk among the unique collection of trees, shrubs and plants from arid and semi-arid climates. Free.
  • Performing Arts – Theatre, dance and music performances and film screenings staged throughout the year. Admission fees required.
  • Sonett Visitor Center– Self-guided tour at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory – HiRISE Mars camera, the Phoenix Mars Lander and the Cassini mission to Saturn. Free, 520-626-7432.
  • UA Bookstore– I once heard someone espouse if you want your child to go to a particular university, as a pre-teen take them to the campus and buy them a sweatshirt. All sorts of insignia apparel and gifts are available at the official bookstore in the Student Union Memorial Center. 
  • UA Library Special Collections – Collections of rare books and archival materials in many subject areas including Arizona and the Southwest, changing exhibits.
  • UA Mineral Museum– Fabulous collection of minerals, gemstones and meteorites from around the world – over 2,000 on display. Located on the lower level of Flandrau: The UA Science Center. Check website for fees and hours.
  • UApresents – Professional performing arts – classical, jazz, blues and world music events plus dance performances. Admission fees.

UA off Campus

  • Biosphere 2– Management of the living laboratory of global scientific issues is now under management of the University of Arizona. Tours at the complex 20 minutes north of Tucson. Fee.

  • Boyce Thompson Arboretum – Plants from the earth’s varied deserts alongside unspoiled examples of Sonoran Desert vegetation. The Southwest’s oldest arboretum and botanical garden is located near Superior, 90 minutes from Tucson. Fee.

  • UA SkyCenter– Observatories atop Mt. Lemmon, SkyNights, DiscoveryDays and SkyCamps open to the public by reservation. Located 90 minutes north of Tucson. Fee.

Adjacent to Campus

  •  Arizona History Museum– Focus on southern Arizona history – Spanish colonial through territorial eras. Mining and transportation featured exhibits. Not part of the University but worth visiting while in the campus neighborhood. Check website for current hours and fees.

This list doesn’t begin to include all the possibilities, pick up a University of Arizona Visitor Guide and follow your interest from cutting-edge science to sport competitions. Be campus bound in Tucson.