Tico Street Scenes

Costa Ricans are known as Ticos and these are some more street scenes in San Jose, the capital. I loved this stained glass and extended window in the Alhambra Building.

Teddy is a Taurus so I had to get a shot of him with the brightly colored steer.

Art should be enjoyed by all of us and not closeted in a rich person’s safe. Immortalizing a street sweeper in bronze exemplifies that notion.

I felt an overwhelming urge to hold this bronze lady’s hand – how many others have done just the same? For a moment I was transported back in time, holding my Nana’s hand. She was pleasantly plump like this lady and always smelled of baking or lavender soap.

I loved this clock in a fountain which is surrounded by the ever present pigeons in San Jose. When we walked around the cemetery, the groundskeepers where sharing their lunch with the birds. Does anyone else inspect the manhole covers in foreign parts? We call them ‘stanks’ in Glasgow.

‘The Wind’ is full of remarkable movement for a statuesque bronze.

The colonnaded building is a municipal building. It’s striking compared to the mishmash of modern architecture around it. The temperature in San Jose was perfect – 24 C in January with bright sunshine. San Jose is elevated so it can be chilly in the winter.

The lovely arches with intricate metalwork caught my eye on this eau-de-nil building. It is the Center for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage.

There is nothing nicer than some street music on a pretty day.

A colorful street mural on a busy road. The pedestrians and cyclist melt into the background.

I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to know that there is a stable democracy, a short distance from the state of Texas. There is public health care, too.

This statue of a cantering horse was in the lobby of our hotel.


The Construction of Fulton Mansion

Texians are white immigrants to the state of Texas and Tejanos is the terminology used for Hispanic immigrants. Both were in the state in the early days and fought together in the Texas Revolution against Spain/Mexico. Many nations of indigenous people predated them. George Fulton the builder and owner of Fulton Mansion became a Texian when he arrived to fight in the Revolutionary War. He didn’t see much action but for his service he was given 1,280 acres of land in Texas and worked as a draughtsman for the General Land Office in Houston.

His next position was as a tutor to the children of Henry Smith and thus began their alliance. He married Smith’s daughter Harriett at age 17. They had 3 native born children and moved to Washington DC for a time. When he returned to Texas he started a Meat Packing company with the livestock from the land in Aransas that Harriet inherited. He invented a form of refrigeration when preparing the meat and then shipped it up and down the coast, all over the American mainland and even to England. This astonishes me because I live in the south east of Texas, it’s sub-tropical, about 100 degrees for three months solid. I can’t even get my popsicles home from the supermarket (literally 5 minutes away) in the summer without them starting to melt.

Fulton’s innovation in his meat packing business and in animal husbandry (he grew corn and sorghum to feed the animals better), allow his business to flourish. His wealth and ingenuity allowed him to build a house that was almost futuristic in design. Firstly, he had his own gas plant to fuel the house and lights. Then he used a 16,000 gallon double cistern water tank to supply the Mansion with endless hot and cold water, using rainwater that was trapped from the roof. Finally he created a central heating system.

I grew up in a metal house with no central heating (in the Scottish Arctic) so I was truly in awe when I read about the house. They didn’t even need central heating because they live in the south and every room had a magnificent fireplace! In Egypt our water tank was so small that I could only the fill the bath with 3 inches of water. There was no air-conditioning in Fulton Mansion but each room had plantation blinds to let the sea air cool down the house in summer.

The building construction of the Mansion was even more fascinating. It was insulated with discarded oyster shells (big business down here) between planks of pine. Sustainable and green, all back in the day. This was and still is a relatively remote place. When I was working, I did a Fisheries tour of Texas and was amazed by the giant mountain of oyster shells outside one the companies. I did wonder what they did with them – I know they use them in landscaping. Fulton Mansion has survived numerous hurricanes so it was built to last.

When we visited the home, we went in the basement first – knowing our place as Celtic peasants. When there, we chatted to another couple that looked our age. There was a hand whisk on the table, with a handle to turn it. I remarked to the lady that I got one as a wedding present. She looked at me in astonishment. Maybe America was much more advanced that the UK, back in the day, or she was younger than I thought. I daren’t mention Nana’s mangle…

The house really wasn’t that big despite all the innovations and that makes it more sustainable, too. They had a limited staff and couldn’t keep them for some unknown reason. I wonder if it was just too remote for the servants? But look at the view they had –

Interior of Fulton Mansion – part II

This is the interior of Fulton Mansion, Rockport, Texas. The house was built between 1874 and 1877 by George W Fulton for his family in the French Second Empire style. The family history is reminiscent of the HBO series, The Gilded Age. George Fulton was an engineer and entrepreneur, from the North East USA, who married Harriet Smith. She inherited ranching land in the Aransas Bay area of southern Texas. I will write more about their history and the unique building style of the manor in Part III.

Above is a delightful child’s bedroom – the bed is ornate without being overwhelming. The bed is positioned to take best advantage of the light across the bay and countryside. How wonderful to jump out of bed and see the dolphins in the bay.

The house was built with central heating and indoor plumbing. Imagine that in 1877! People were still using outside toilets in Scotland when I was young. This looked like it might be father’s sink, above, complete with shaving accoutrement.

The wood paneling surrounding a large copper bath, was quite charming. It must have been so cozy on a cold day. I imagine guests would be surprised at such luxury.

The mother’s sink, above, could be displayed in a modern lifestyle magazine with the marble countertop and matching sink. I hope they hid that antique toilet tissue during the Pandemic… When I was young I had a real sponge. When I realized they were dead sea animals, I switched back to a wash cloth. I call them flannels just like my Nana did. I guess they were made out of old flannels back in the day (but not in this luxurious abode).

George Fulton was a cattle baron so a steer’s head seems fitting for the hallway. The geometric detailing around the door caught my eye. All the wood was in warm tones without being too dark for a seaside house.

This is George’s study – it looks so comfortable and love those drapes! A sea breeze wafting in the window would be quite restful at work.

Each room had a different style of fireplace which seems like the height of luxury to me – I loved the aqua detail on this one. The glasses on the dining table were full of ‘beer’. The early settlers in Texas were master brewers from Czechoslovakia and Germany. It is only in relatively recent times that Texas vineyards have produced world class wines. On a really hot day, there is nothing nicer than a cold draught of beer.

There is even a precious little high chair for the baby that reinforced the feel of a family home. The tiled floor looked as though it was in perfect condition, with those colorful insets. Did you notice the rusks in the baby’s bowl?

This was my favorite fireplace in the living room – I love the shiny black with delicate gold filigree decoration. There is a piano to the right. The whole house was staged beautifully and enhanced the charm of the time period.

I love, love, love this light feature. It is detailed but modern and would look just great in my house in 2023. The house just entranced me – the decoration, the furniture and detail.

Fredericksburg ist Wunderbar!

It took us many hours to drive to Fredericksburg, mostly because it is 235 miles from our home but also it was Christmas time and we had to pass south of Austin. Austin has the unfortunate title of most congested city in Texas (and you thought Houston traffic was bad…) Would y’alls please stop moving to Texas??? We tried to stop in Bastrop but they were queuing out the door for the only open restaurant downtown on Sunday and it was bloody freezing. There is a distinct difference in weather between our house in the swampy south and the drier climate of the middle of Texas in hill country. We ended up at a Dunkin Donuts but it was fine.

When we finally reached Fredericksburg, we quickly unpacked and left our hotel which was disappointing. Ah well, the weather was beautiful – vividly blue skies with cool, clear weather and sunshine. It seemed that most of Austin and San Antonio was visiting Fredericksburg but there was a fun atmosphere. There seemed to be more wineries since we last visited and now you can drink wine in a disposable cup along the main street, meandering between wineries, on a SUNDAY! I bet some of the original inhabitants were turning in their graves… When we moved to Texas, almost 16 years, I was delighted and fascinated that many counties were still dry (no alcohol). Modern life has reached us but you still can’t buy hard liquor on a Sunday.

If you are wondering about my hypocrisy – ‘unwanted people moving to Texas” – of course I have German ancestors in the Heinz 57 variety of my DNA! My great grandparents were Dellingers who settled in North Texas in the 1880s. The original Dellinger was from Baden in Germany. I think that gives me a legitimate claim to thoroughly enjoy all aspects of German Texas… 😊 Just recently an Irish cousin discovered that our Leonard ancestors in Ireland were originally Leinnarts from Germany – that was a real surprise. It shouldn’t have though been because several people spoke to me in German on both visits to Fredericksburg. I just pretend that I am REALLY German because it makes visitors happy. When I was 7, I went on a trip to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I was wearing a kilt and Aran sweater with long dark ringlets. A group of American tourists wanted to take photographs of the cute little Irish colleen and my mum whispered, “Don’t tell them you are American.”

By the time Teddy and I reached the end of the Main Street we were desperate for a drink and enjoyed a gorgeous local rose wine from a winery which quenched our thirst. We started talking to another couple, about our age, with that excitement you get when meeting another couple on vacation. They were just visiting for the day but we enjoyed chatting together, losing our inhibitions. On our solo return we realized that our tummies were empty. I could smell an amazing smell right behind this winery – Fischer and Weiser. They were only serving snacks when we went in but told us that the smell emanated from a tiny shack behind the street. I would have missed it, if the staff hadn’t pointed it out.

I haven’t eaten a burger since the ‘80s but this was the best that I have ever had! The delightful owner, Jennie, makes the burgers from smoked brisket and they were soooo good. When she told me she was from Peru then it all made sense – Peru is the gastronomic capital of Latin America. Everything tastes amazing, even the bread. So we go all the way to Fredericksburg and eat a burger made by a lovely Peruvian lady – but I bet it was local beef! It was the Sunday before Christmas but warm enough to eat outside in twilight. Welcome to Texas.

Fredericksburg Fox Squirrel

As we meandered along the beautiful High Street, we noticed that the visitors had changed. At one time it was mostly white local visitors but now the Far East and Latin America were represented. Many of them seemed like family groups – I guess this might be one of the destinations for visitors arriving at Houston. So many hundreds of thousands of snowbirds fly in during the winter holidays. On that note, I read a hilarious piece in my news feed about flocks of Grackles terrifying the North! They are migratory sub tropical birds that settle in vast roosts – so successful in the Houston area that they are spreading North.

Grackle, courtesy of Pixabay

There was too much sunshine to make this a good shot but I just love Teddy surrounded by giant Cacti!

Merchant City, Glasgow

This is the Tron Tower in Glasgow’s Merchant City.  Tron is a Scottish word for a weigh beam, essential for all trading cities. It is derived from the old French, ‘troneau’ meaning balance.  This general area is still called Trongate.  The original building was a Catholic Church ‘Our Lady and St Anne’ constructed in 1525 which later was ‘Reformed’ as a Protestant church. The tower was added in 1628 and is all that remains after fire in 1793.  A previous devastating fire in 1652 destroyed much of the Merchant City buildings – most of them had wooden frames. Glasgow had various peaks in its history but much of the wealth came from trading tobacco, cotton and shipbuilding.  Daniel Defoe, in his book ‘A Vision of Britain Through Time’, wrote –

Glasgow is, indeed, a very fine city; the four principal streets are the fairest for breadth, and the finest built that I have ever seen in one city together. The houses are all of stone, and generally equal and uniform in height, as well as in front; the lower story generally stands on vast square dorick columns, not round pillars, and arches between give passage into the shops, adding to the strength as well as beauty of the building; in a word, ’tis the cleanest and beautifullest, and best built city in Britain, London excepted’.

Let’s not forget, however, that this wealth was built on the back of African slaves.  I doubt there is a country in the world that does not have a dark history.

This rather sinister building is the Tollbooth Steeple built in 1626. It was attached to a later demolished town hall, court and jail.  Public hangings and other ghastly punishments were a spectacle for the medieval locals.

Glasgow Cross, between High Street leading to St Mungo’s Cathedral, Gallowgate and Saltmarket.

Interior and Exterior of the old Glasgow Fruit Market

When I was a child this was still the bustling Glasgow Fruit Market.  The father of one of my first school friend’s worked here.  Every day I looked with interest in her lunch box to see what exotic fruit she had.  Now it has been transformed into a bustling, glamorous event space with bars and restaurants.  On the day I visited, there was a craft fair in the middle.  One of the artists, a man of my age, noted that I had a silky voice with my mutated transatlantic vowels.  A silver tongued merchant methinks…

Alleyway or Wynd. Good for ‘winching’ on a dark night. Google it in Glasgow dialect…

I graduated from college in this very building in 1980 – Glasgow City Halls.  I always feel a tinge of regret when I think about my graduation. Family issues made me choose not to continue with a post graduate qualification. In time I could have lectured at my alma mater. One of my fellow students did exactly that with lower grades.

He spent two years wallowing in unrequited love for me because I thought he was gay and he didn’t make his intentions plain. Maybe this is the ‘troneau‘ in life. He got the dream job but not the girl.  Speaking of dream girls, I have a new admirer at work.  He thinks I am too beautiful to work with the masses.  It is hard to know how to respond but perhaps I should retire to my brown recliner throne and have Teddy bring me sugared plums?


Train Spotting

Santa Fe Depot, San Diego

Underneath my superficially normal appearance lurks a train geek. I thought I loved trains in the UK but trains in America are way cooler! I just need to hear a train whistle to get excited; I must be one of very few of the millions of people who live in the Houston area that gets stuck waiting for a concrete train to pass for 20 minutes and doesn’t mind.

Bright Red Trolley

As I walked towards the water from the Gaslamp area in San Diego my heart skipped a beat when I saw this fabulous old Santa Fe depot.  It was built in Spanish colonial revival style in 1915. The hub combines access to Amtrak trains and the San Diego trolley system, buses and the San Diego Coaster, a commuter service. Although we are surrounded by trains in Houston and all over Texas, very few are accessible to people. Most ship goods from our frenetically busy port of Houston to all over North America.

Only 2000 plus miles to New York

There is a silly Subaru advert on TV about living an alternative lifestyle that is clearly better than everyone else’s but I do like the one where the girl with the turned-up nose looks longingly at an open train that drifters might ride on. Here is a link to what we call a SMUGAROO
advert – just casting a little shade…😈 Teddy and I argued endlessly about it the girl. I thought her nose looked like mine but Teddy was adamant that my nose was much nicer. We still keep arguing about it!

The coolest ticket station!

It is my dream to travel on the Amtrak train from Houston to California but the price is not right. Train travel is a luxury these days. Still I can dream.

I really admired the way San Diego had managed to blend the old with the new in a vibrant city.

Old and new architecture

Gaslamp Architecture, San Diego

The pink hotel viewed from the Hotel Andaz

This area of San Diego was once known as the new town and most of the buildings are Victorian with some Art Deco.  In the 1980s and 1990s many of the buildings were listed as historic buildings.  It is now a lively center for business and nightlife.  This is a link to the Wikipedia page about the Gaslamp Quarter

I wasn’t able to identify all the buildings in this post but they all caught my eye.

Florent restaurant

Four buildings

SDSU Gallery

Sunset from Gaslamp

I loved the detail on the side of the this building.  The new architecture looked really good against the older buildings.

Water feature in front of buildings

Totem pole at the mall

The Tipsy Crow

Where’s Kerry?

On the water somewhere?

Can you guess? Apologies for my absence from writing and reading blogs. My life has been a little hectic recently and I took advantage of a short hiatus in my schedule to fly to San Diego. What a photogenic city! I chose this destination because some of my American ancestors were early settlers in San Diego…and it had a great weather forecast. I am so shallow.

Over the next few weeks I will share my travels but for a change, I had very little funny human encounters. I think I was disadvantaged by staying the Gaslamp area which was full of convention visitors and tourists. The Uber drivers were eagerly engaging but other people didn’t seem to want to talk to me. 😢 I’m Chatty Kerry, for goodness sakes! Nobody was unfriendly but just focused on themselves. When I walk around the trails near my house most people wave or say hello whether I know them or not.

The Gaslamp is an interesting part of downtown San Diego which is on the way up but some parts are still a little run down. My hotel had a guide for safety at night and there was a safe in my crappy room. Istanbul seemed safer… I dutifully took sensible precautions and went to dinner at Happy Hour, taking advantage of sunset and safer streets. When I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Andaz, I thought I had interrupted a photo shoot for a glamorous magazine. There were a plethora of handsome young men in snappy suits. When they ascended to the rooftop bar, I asked why they were being photographed. It was a groomsman party from England would you believe? They must have had megabucks to party across the pond! More lovely shots of them in blogs to come.

Groomsmen PARTY!

I love rooftop bars because of the photo opportunities and this one was lovely but full of lonely people sitting by themselves (and me…) It crossed my mind that this would have been a good Bunny and Teddy destination but we are travelling alone until our last cat makes it to the rainbow bridge. On the the second night I ventured further afield and for the the first time ever, rejected a meal at a swanky bar. It was terrible so I found yet another rooftop bar (not the hip Hotel Andaz in the shots) which was much better but the food was still meh…

Kerry with the San Diego skyscrapers at sunset in the delightful Hotel Andaz

The barmaid in the second unnamed rooftop hotel, however, was wearing an outfit that shocked even me. She was an attractive slim blonde who was wearing a non supportive bralette with see- through linen pants that revealed that she had forgotten to put on her underwear that day. Perhaps it was a way to increase her tips? Ladies at bars were wearing very revealing costumes so maybe it is a really fun city after dark. Guys were giving me lascivious looks or none at all and I was wearing very supportive underwear. I don’t mind a nice compliment or admiring eye but I felt uncomfortable on my own.  Many beautiful shots to come and some funny stories.

Colorful Merida

San Juan de Dios

Despite my shortened trip to Mérida, I was quite enchanted by the city. They enjoy using color as you can see in the old building above. I tried to research it and I think it may have been a hospital.
The more recently renovated buildings included this lovely candy colored street (below) leading up to Mérida Cathedral.

I particularly like the dappled sunshine on this pink bar and restaurant (below). You can see some of the cyclists meandering around the hot streets.

This busy little colored row of streets was part of the Barrio of Santa Lucia. I love the ‘Muerte’ lady.


The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta

There is something about this photograph that summons up the feeling I get when I am inside a church. Sometimes I enjoy going to a service but mostly I like the silence of an almost empty sanctuary. On this hot day in Puerto Vallarta, it truly was refuge from the busy resort. The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not a cathedral although it is often called such. Perhaps it is because of the beautiful baroque crown that is said to be a replica of Empress Carlota of Mexico’s crown.

Baroque Crown

I was utterly fascinated by Empress Carlota whose existence was unknown to me. Napoleon wanted a figurehead for Mexico – Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Emperor Maximilian married Empress Carlota (Charlotte of Belgium) in Mexico City 1864. This is a link to the Wikipedia page about the Empress which is an almost fantastical tale of the brief influence of France on Mexico.

church side door

Mexico has held me fascinated since I discovered that many generations of my Ortega family lived in various states of Mexico. Until recently I didn’t think I had any connection to the state of Jalisco (in which Puerto Vallarta is) until I found an ancestor on Familysearch, Felipe de Jesús Quintero Rosas who was born in Poncitlàn in the late 1600s. Don’t Spanish names sound so romantic? I now regret my haste to get rid of mine when I married. I so longed for an ordinary Scottish name so I could blend in. Only as you mature, do you realize how important your uniqueness is.

When I moved back to the USA over a decade ago, I was slightly surprised that there were so many Spanish speaking Protestant/Evangelical churches in Texas. Somehow I thought they would all be Roman Catholic. This car in Puerto Vallarta amused me…😇