A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: zihuatcat

Turkey Day 1: Long Haul Travel

About a year prior, I told Brenda I wanted to do another one of our big trips in 2023 and presented her with three options to choose from: Galapagos Islands/Ecuador, another African safari, or Bali/Wakatobi Dive Resort. She had been to Bali about 20 years ago and loved it so she chose that option. I was thrilled because Wakatobi has been on my snorkel bucket list for years. I started looking at flights and determined we had three options to get to Bali - Singapore, Seoul, or Istanbul. I did more research on each of these and we determined that Istanbul would make a great stopover to break up about 24 hours of flying time each way.

The night before leaving, Brenda flew to Dallas from College Station and stayed overnight. Our flight was leaving at 11a and no way would I trust her to get there on time that morning. Alex dropped us off at the airport and we were off on our first leg - a three hour flight to Toronto. We landed in Toronto and had about six hours to kill. I considered taking the train into Toronto and down to the waterfront for dinner but ultimately decided it was cutting it too close to do so with all of the security backups I read about. So we got very familiar with the Toronto airport, visiting the shops and walking around. We had dim sum at Lee's Kitchen for dinner.

I got in trouble for touching an expensive purse in a fancy store. Ha! Our flight was delayed about an hour but finally at almost 11p, we were seated on Turkish Airways and on our way to Istanbul.

After 11 more hours of flying, we arrived in Istanbul around 330p local time. We were staying overnight at Hidden Hills Airport Hotel nearby because we had an early morning flight to Cappadocia the next day. Our hotel picked us up in a pimped out ride.

We were exhausted from so many hours of traveling and at this point we basically wanted food, showers, and to try and keep ourselves awake until bedtime. We checked in to our room and surveyed the surrounding area.

From our hotel room window.

The mosque was very close. We didn't realize how much of an issue that would be until the middle of the night call to prayer.

We rested a bit and got settled then headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner. There were interesting shisha pipes on display.

We toasted our trip with what turned out to be terrible wine that we dubbed communion wine.

For dinner, we split a salad.

Brenda ordered chicken stroganoff.

I ordered a Turkish pita which was very good.

After dinner we went back to our room, cleaned up, and collapsed in bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 23:01 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey istanbul brenda Comments (0)

Louisiana: A Trip Down Ancestry Lane

We left Mrs. Hooker's house and were on our way to Charenton, Louisiana. This is where my grandfather was born in the house that his grandfather built in this tiny little town. On the way there, we happened to drive through Longville. Pat let us know that my grandfather's family moved to Longville after leaving Charenton and that her parents actually met there at the post office. My grandfather's father (Pop) worked for Long-Bell Lumber Company and moved there to work.

While looking for the post office, we stopped off at a little church that looked historic. Turns out, back in the time when my grandfather's family lived there, it was the town meeting hall.

When a fire destroyed the Long-Bell Lumber Co in 1921, my grandfather's family moved to Lufkin, TX where Long-Bell opened another location. This building was turned into a church.

This was what it looked like as it was being built and when my grandfather lived there.

Now it is used for weddings and Sunday school classes.

We finally found the post office and took Pat's picture there then hit the road again. We were getting hungry and stopped off in Iowa, Louisiana, at Rabideaux Sausage Kitchen for some amazing home-cooked food then it was on to the Forest Inn in Charenton. After a long drive and huge, late lunch we opted to have a couple of drinks at the hotel bar and call it a night.

The next morning we got some terrible news. Marsha's son passed away unexpectedly earlier that morning. This meant that our trip would be cut short and we needed to alter plans to get her back to Austin that day. She insisted that we had come this far and we should still go to the homesite and cemetery as planned but then leave town after instead of spending another night.

We drove the few miles to Charenton and came to the house where my grandfather was born.

Sometime around 1850, Frederick Wolford arrived from Bavaria, Germany, through the port of New Orleans and eventually into Charenton. He married Marie Felicianne Mora and they had eight children. One of those children was Anatole Jules Wolford who later married Louise Ada Bienvenu. These were my grandfather's grandparents and Anatole built this house for his family to live in. My grandfather's father, Anatole Joseph Wolford married Agnes Alacoque FItzpatrick and several of their children, including my grandfather, were born in this house.


One of the neighbors, Connie, who is a descendant of Marie Felicianne Mora, came by for a quick chat.

Across the street is a house they call Seven Oaks. Only six of the seven oaks are still left standing.

Next door to it was the old post office.

Next door to my grandfather's house was the old store they used to run.

I peaked my head inside and I wonder if he built in those shelves just like my grandfather built in everything in the house he would build many years later.

From there we drove the block down to the cemetery behind the Catholic church. There we found the headstone for Frederick Wolford, the first of our family to arrive from Germany.

We also found the graves of both sets of Grandad's grandparents and we spread some of his ashes at each one.

Pop's parents


Mimi's parents


I wish we could have taken our time and stayed longer as we might have been able to go inside the house but we had to get Marsha back home as soon as we could. We previously planned to stop in Beaumont and see our cousin, Shirley (her father was my grandfather's brother, Chester). She planned to cater lunch the next day but with our time crunch, we were still able to stop by for an hour or so on our way through town.




After leaving Shirley's we dropped Pat off at her house in Houston and the three of us continued on to Austin so that Marsha could start the process of arrangements for her son. Mom and I stayed in a hotel near her condo and then made our way home a day early the next day.

Posted by zihuatcat 17:58 Archived in USA Tagged mom louisiana charenton Comments (0)

Lufkin: A Trip Down Memory Lane

This trip started as a trip to Louisiana to see where my grandfather grew up. My mom had been a couple of times previously with her cousins and they all wanted to go back again. Since I'd never been and they needed someone to take them, I offered to drive. And since we were headed east anyway, I thought we should add on a few days in Lufkin. I hadn't been there in 15 years or so. I was born there and lived there until my mom got married when I was 10 and we moved to Bandera. My roots are there along with lots of memories. It was time to go back.

I left Dallas on a Friday morning and drove to Austin to my cousin Marsha's house. My mom was meeting us there along with another cousin, Pat, who flew in from Houston the day before. Marsha is my mother's first cousin on the German Wolford side, her dad (Shelby) and Mom's dad (my grandfather) were brothers. Pat was my grandfather's first cousin on the Irish Fitzpatrick side, her mother and my grandfather's mother (Mimi) were sisters. Both Pat and Marsha have traced our genealogy back several generations and were there to share all their knowledge with us. Marsha had some roots in Lufkin as well so they were happy to tag along for that portion of the trip.

We had some sandwiches at Marsha's for lunch then headed on to Lufkin for the evening. We were just ahead of storms the last half of the trip and made it there before they hit. We checked in to the Hampton Inn and decided to go to an old favorite for dinner, Catfish King. I've eaten Catfish King many, many times in my life but I've never actually eaten there. My grandparents would always call the order in and then Grandad and I would go pick it up while Granny stayed home to make the tea and set the table. I didn't even know they had a salad bar! The fish tasted just like I remembered.

Just as we finished up, it looked like a hurricane coming thru - high winds, heavy rain, etc. We got to the car as best we could and back to the hotel. Marsha brought some wine so we had a glass in their room before turning in for the night. Nothing like paper cup wine!

Our first visit on the schedule for the next day was Mom's longtime friend, Linda. My mom and Linda met before I was born when they worked together for Dr. Burch in Lufkin. Linda was a nurse. When Dr. Burch retired, Linda went on to work for Dr. Thannisch who would later become my pediatrician. Linda and her family lived in Apple Springs about 20 minutes from Lufkin. When I was young, they had a little house on the same land as Linda's mother and we would go visit, sometimes I would spend the night with Linda's daughter, Kristi. Linda had another younger daughter, Shandi and a younger son but I just remember her as a toddler and him as a baby.

Mom had ordered some flowers for Linda so she and I went to pick those up while Marsha and Pat got ready then we all headed off to Apple Springs. Linda and her family no longer live in that small house but it was still there. They actually purchased the house/land next door and her kids moved in to her mom's house after she passed away. All of them but Kristi live on the family's land. We arrived and got caught up while waiting on Shandi to bring lunch.

Linda's granddaughter playing for Marsha

Linda and her husband, Roy Lynn

Linda and Mom


Shandi arrived with some really good Mexican food from Herraduras in Lufkin. We stuffed ourselves and reminisced about 40-50 years ago. As we were leaving, Linda showed us the baby chick she had in the garage bathroom. I can't remember how it got there but I think it was orphaned.
Adorable of course!


We spent the afternoon in Lufkin touring all the old houses and haunts. We started at Trout Elementary where I went to school thru the 4th grade.


Not far from there was the house where I lived as a baby until age 10 when we moved to Bandera.

There used to be a huge magnolia tree on the left side where the garden hose is. The yard to the right of the house was a rose garden which is gone now, too. That curved nook on the front was our little dining room with the window to the left being the kitchen and the window to the right the living room. From the front it looked pretty good. And then we turned the corner.

This is more the side than the back but we used to park the white and brown panel Chevy Chevette in that garage and enter/exit from the back door. My grandmother also knocked the passenger side mirror off their brand new Cutlass one time driving into that garage. Going into the house this way was my "playroom" where there was a piano (I took lessons as a kid) and my prized possessions, my books and a Barbie dream house and all the accompaniments. My bedroom with the red shag carpet and red checkered bedspread was the window to the right of the back door with my mom's room being the one in the far right corner. It had a window unit when I was growing up. Mine did not. How did I survive that?

Just up the road we drove by the daycare I went to after school until my grandfather retired and kept me. Back then it was called Candy Royal and I hated it. I'm not really sure why. It was a fine day care as far as I remember. I think I was just shy and didn't like to be around other kids. I also hated mandatory nap time. My how things change. Ha ha.

We drove from there to my grandparents' house passing by Chambers Park. There used to be a swimming pool here that I was never allowed to swim in and our Girl Scout House was here where we had meetings and sleepovers. Both are gone now but most of the playground equipment was the same as it was over 40 years ago.


We turned the corner to arrive at my grandparents' house and oh what a disappointment. I was expecting that it would not be in the shape Grandad kept it but I didn't expect it to look as it did. My grandfather built this house himself in the 1940s. All of the beds, dressers, and shelves were built in. There were also built-in shutters for all the windows. He thought that was really neat. He repainted it every few years - inside and out - and kept the yard immaculate.


The window to the right of the porch was my mother's room, later my room. It was done entirely in pink with twin beds. In the right corner of the yard (basically from where the 2nd picture was taken) was a bed of wooden boxes filled with various types of cacti and on the left side of the house was a rose garden, both long gone.


The window to the left of the garage was Grandad's storeroom. That's where the washer/dryer were as well as all of his tools, all organized and labeled. He kept the pecan cracking machine he built there and in his retirement cracked pecans for all the old ladies in Lufkin. They would in return bring him baked goods that he could never eat since he was diabetic. Between the house and the garage was the custom patio. The part nearest the driveway was pebble rock and the part on the other side of the back porch was pebble rock in the shape of Texas. There were wooden outlines of all the major interstates running across Texas and a Lufkin Industries metal plate for where Lufkin was located. There were also two built-in wooden patio tables where we would very occasionally (i.e., hardly ever) eat outside. All of the custom patio work appeared to be gone.


The house used to have only three trees, all pecan, and each one had a concrete border around it in the shape of a triangle. The one that used to be to the right of the driveway had my hand imprints in it from when I was little. This appears to be the last standing pecan tree although the borders are not there.

In the backyard, which you can't see in these photos, he had a pebble rock star in the ground. At each point of the star was something different as far as bird feeders and waterers. In the middle was a very tall birdhouse built especially for purple martins. He styled the birdhouse after his own house.

In the kitchen is where we used to sit on the floor and have milkshake "parties" using my grandmother's cut crystal. At the kitchen table we spent hours and hours playing board games. Or I would empty out the pantry and get the 10-key and play grocery store. In the office, I learned to type. I typed all my grandmother's and mother's recipes on recipe cards. I typed out Red Lobster menus to use when I played restaurant. I typed reviews of articles I read in National Geographic. I remember the office closet full of Michelob bottles and toiletries because they stocked up on everything. In the living room Grandad would set up the card table for picking pecans. Granny would give us both pedicures in the recliners. Growing up I watched thousands of hours of the Price is Right, Young & the Restless, Love Boat, and Scooby Doo on their console TV while lying on their brown couch. The garage is where Grandad and I made a model of a ranch house based on a Nancy Drew book (although he really wouldn't let me do anything). And in the pink bedroom, Granny would read me books to go to sleep while I played with the porcelain animals in the cubbyholes above the bed. It's where I had chicken pox during Spring Break. And it's where I had sleepovers with my elementary school friends.

In the later years as we all got older, the kitchen is where we would heat up individual baking pans of Thanksgiving leftovers in the oven because they never got a microwave. The kitchen table was where we gathered for our weekend visits, where they always had our favorite foods waiting. The office was where Grandad would ask me questions and show me whatever notes or charts he currently had going on. The living room was where we retired after dinner to a TV that got louder and louder every year. The garage was where I got to park when I came to visit. The pink bedroom was where Mom and I would sleep and sit across from each other on the beds talking until late into the night. It's where we both were to feel the sonic boom when the space shuttle Columbia exploded above us. Miranda Lambert has a song called, "The House that Built Me." That's THIS house for me and it was very emotional to see it again after so many years.

Just next door to their house and in worse condition was where my mom's best friend, Tommy Deal, lived growing up.

Across the street was where her friend Cruz Harrison lived.

A couple of houses down was her friend Janise, my namesake.

From there we drove around trying to find the house where my grandfather lived as a boy when his family moved to Lufkin from Louisiana. Marsha thinks it's this house on First Street.


Not far away was the building where my mom worked. Back then it was Lufkin Industries and she was a secretary there. It's also where she met her husband of almost 40 years. He was an electrician on the construction site when this building was built.

Around the corner from there was where my dad worked. It's still the same company.

We also drove by the Methodist church where we attended Sunday school and service every Sunday morning.

Just down the road from there was the house Marsha's mother, Hazel, lived in.

Our last stop of the day was a drive out to my grandmother's house on my father's side. The house was torn down years ago and it's now a building owned by the water department. We used to sit in this yard in lawn chairs and watch the traffic. Sometimes we'd be shelling peas or something similar. I would always try to find an excuse to go to the store across the street and I remember being so proud when I was finally old enough to go by myself.

We made it back to the hotel just in time for Mom and I to head over to her friend Jo's house for a quick tour before dinner.

We all then met up for dinner at the Hole in One. Mom's friend Marianne joined us there.


The food was shockingly really good and we had a great dinner before calling it a night.



The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and then drove just down the highway to Garden of Memories cemetery. We wanted to spread some of my grandparents' ashes together in Lufkin since that's where they made their home and raised their family. Marsha reminded us that my grandfather's brother, Cotton, was buried there with his wife and we thought that would be the perfect spot. Now to find it! Marsha had a vague memory where the gravestone was located and after just a few minutes of looking, Mom was able to spot it.

We said a little prayer and joined them together.


From there, we headed south about for a little over an hour to the town of Livingston. This is where my grandmother grew up with her family, where my grandparents met, and where my mom and her brother were born before moving to Lufkin. They lived on Young St which was named after my grandmother's mother's family.

My grandmother and her sister inherited this property when their parents died. Her sister sold her portion immediately but Granny kept her portion which contained the house. She allowed a relative named Lenore to live there for many years. My grandparents maintained the land and we would come periodically to visit Lenore and the lady across the street named Mae Mae. We finally convinced my grandmother to sell the property as it was getting too much for them to maintain. Of course the buyers tore down the old house but they built a beautiful house to replace it and have nicely maintained the property all these years.


Mae Mae's property was right across the street but we were very confused by the house that's there now. I remember a two-story, white house with a big, front porch. What is there now is a yellow (could have been painted) gingerbread house with a porch that looks much different than I remember.

The historical marker plaque says it is the GG Nettles home built in 1895 at this location. I guess that means it's the same house but it's not what I remember at all.

From there we drove a little ways out of town to Peebles Cemetery where my grandmother's parents are buried. Mom had called ahead and gotten directions to the gravesite from the lady who manages the cemetery. The ground here was pretty uneven and it was getting very hot so Marsha and Pat stayed in the car while Mom and I looked for the grave. Mom insisted it was an upright, pink granite headstone so that is what we were looking for. After traipsing all over this cemetery, we called the lady back who manages it and she gave us more specific directions. We finally found it and guess what? It was a FLAT, pink granite headstone.

We said a prayer for Granny and joined her with her parents.

Nearby were some very old headstones of our Young family ancestors, including the small one of a young child.

By now we were hot and hungry so we drove back into Livingston to grab some lunch at the Whistlestop downtown. I had a really good reuben sandwich and while perusing the gift shop afterwards, found a picture of a cardinal that seemed totally appropriate for the trip. Cardinals were a favorite of my grandparents so it was the perfect memento from the town where they met.

A few blocks down from the restaurant was the corner where they actually met. My grandfather and his brother worked at this store downtown (it was a little grocery store then).

My grandmother worked down the street for the water company, we think in this two-story building.

Grandad would see her walking across the street to work and eventually asked her on a date. Their first date was to a homecoming football game. He bought her a white mum with green and white ribbon (Livingston school colors). They were married almost 70 years when she passed away and every year at Thanksgiving he bought her white mums with green and white ribbon. Every year.

We headed back to our hotel in Lufkin in time for Mom and I to meet up with Kay, one of my mom's friends from many years ago when she worked at Lufkin Industries. Kay was about 20 years younger than my mom and grew up in Lufkin. She was majoring in accounting at Texas A&M and worked at Lufkin Industries. She became a role model for me of sorts. She was smart, pretty, and successful. She's part of the reason that I also went to Texas A&M and majored in accounting. She went on to work for Arthur Anderson in Houston (and others since then) but was living back in Lufkin taking care of her ailing mother. She only had a couple of hours to drop by but we had a great time catching up.


After Kay left, we all went to an Italian restaurant for dinner called Roma Italian Bistro. It was appropriately Lufkin terrible so it was good that we weren't all that hungry. It had been a long day so we all retired to our rooms shortly after. Not before taking the time to smell the magnolia in the hotel parking lot, a flower/smell that always reminds me of Lufkin and the magnolia tree we used to have in our yard.

The next morning Mom and I dropped by the flower shop to pick up flowers for Mrs. Hooker and our short visit with her. Mrs. Hooker is the 90+ year old mother of Mom's dear childhood friend who passed away a few years ago. Coincidentally, she was also the school secretary at Brandon Elementary when I attended 5th grade there. We had planned to visit with her for a couple of hours before heading to Louisiana but unfortunately, she came down with COVID a few days prior. We were only able to drop off her flowers and say hello from afar before leaving Lufkin.

Posted by zihuatcat 21:12 Archived in USA Tagged texas mom lufkin Comments (0)

New York Day 5: New York by Pedicab

Our last full day was the coldest day and of course it was the day we had a scheduled outside activity...a 10a pedicab tour of Central Park. We arrived at the pick up location early enough to grab some muffins at Le Pain Quotidien while we waited for our guide. He arrived a few minutes late but quickly whisked us off in the brutal cold to Central Park.



Balto statue erected in 1925. Balto was a SIberian husky that led a sled team of dogs 650 miles thru a blizzard to deliver diphtheria medication.

Bethesda Fountain and the Angel of the Waters.



Bow Bridge built in 1862.






After about an hour, the tour was over and our guide dropped us back off at the pick up point.

From there, we caught an Uber over to the Spot where we had reservations for a drag show brunch. We arrived super early and since it was so cold outside and Mom needed to sit down, they very kindly allowed us to come in and wait.

After they got set up, they escorted us to our table and we ordered drinks and brunch.


Eggs benedict and tater tots for me.

A little while later the show started.



Now I didn't know what to expect exactly at a drag show but I thought it would be more show tunes and singing. It turned out mostly to be bringing bachelorettes and guests from the audience on stage for embarrassing antics...

and walking around the crowd hassling people for money.

It wasn't my thing. I don't think it was Mom's either but I'm glad we did it. Drag show brunch seemed like a NY thing to do. Since it was our last day, we stopped off at the I Heart NY store from a few days ago, conveniently located around the corner from our hotel, to load up on souvenirs. We spent the afternoon packing up and getting organized for our early morning next day departure.

For our last meal of the trip, I had made reservations at Porter's Steakhouse, a restaurant overlooking Central Park. Unfortunately, it was Saturday night and getting a cab or an Uber was nigh impossible. Neither liked to drive down our one-way street because it took so long to get thru the traffic. We tried walking down the block to a main street. Still didn't work although I did get a picture of one of my favorite Christmas decorations in the process. The picture doesn't do it justice but there were several of these gorgeous, giant wreaths in the lobby of this building.

With limited options, we decided to go back to the hotel and order "room service" from the affiliated restaurant next door, Tony's. We were able to have it delivered to the hotel cafe where we watched the movie, The Intern, while we ate.


This was not exactly the last dinner I had planned but it turned out kind of homey and relaxing. No traffic, no cold, no delays.

The next morning we were picked up by private car and taken back to LaGuardia for our flight back to Dallas. Mom continued on a San Antonio flight that evening. I was sad to leave her at the airport. We had such a special week together and it was time together I will always cherish.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:03 Archived in USA Tagged new york nyc Comments (0)

New York Day 4: Sixteen Shopping Days Left Until Christmas

My mom loves shopping. It's one of the activities we've always enjoyed doing together and Macy's has always been one of her favorite stores. All this combined with the Thanksgiving Day parade made Macy's the top place she wanted to visit in NYC. So first thing this morning, we took a short Uber ride there to make that wish come true.



The Christmas windows at Macy's did NOT disappoint and the main theme appeared to be Tiptoe, the reindeer.






Of course we had to see what type of decorations were inside, too.









Not Christmas-related but I really loved this aquarium.


We had matching hats for the occasion.

We walked down the block to Paris Baguette for some breakfast pastries. I wanted to try one of everything.



Next stop...Bryant Park Christmas Market which was the place I really wanted to go. I'd heard so much about it in my trip planning and was excited to check it out. The park was full of these green pop up buildings, each one a separate shop.


There were several guys set up with chess games at tables. I guess anyone wanting to play could join in.

There was also a small ice skating rink, carousel, and several food shops. We opted for some fried pickles.



We browsed and shopped for a while and it began to get significantly colder. We decided to walk on back to the hotel to hang out until evening.

For tonight's pre-show dinner, we had a reservation at Trattoria Trecolori, the restaurant next door to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre where we had tickets to see Six. Trattoria Trecolori is a classic NYC Italian, red sauce type place. I was excited to see one of my favorite things on the menu...carpaccio.

For dinner, Mom got lasagna.

I ordered the chicken marsala.

The food was surprisingly good and we ate too much of it before walking next door for showtime.




The premise of Six was to tell the story of each of Henry VIII's wives. It was modernized into a competition of sorts as to which wife had it the worst from decapitation to death in childbirth to divorce. It was an all-female cast of only the six wives. I loved the premise of the show but it was, quite frankly, underwhelming. I feel they could have done more with it, added some pizzazz, while still keeping the storyline. But honestly, I probably would have felt this way about any show that had to follow Moulin Rouge the night before.

We were tired and cold after the show so we paid the extra $$$ for a pedicab to wind our way thru the Times Square crowds and get back to the hotel.

Posted by zihuatcat 18:24 Archived in USA Tagged new york nyc Comments (1)

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