Flirting in El Paso

Looking out my hotel window at dawn towards Mexico

Looking out my hotel window at dawn towards Mexico

This title is more innocuous than it sounds. I flirt with everything – cats that I meet, old ladies, young men. It must be part of my personality or I have inherited my Dad’s charisma. When I worked in community mental health, I developed a knack of getting people to trust me quickly by gently focusing on them and asking pertinent questions. You can probably imagine that if you are a guy and met me at a bar then you would think your luck was in…and it certainly would be, having the pleasure of my company (so humble, too).

Amazing bank with a bell tower, right under my window

Amazing bank with a bell tower, right under my window

I met a fellow blogger, Lisa on one evening and that was a delightful experience – see this post Kerry in the City. On two consecutive nights, I chatted to a charming Silver Fox at the bar who was in El Paso on business (the other Hispanic Silver Fox (Senor Fox de Plata) was just interested in sex….) Gringo Silver Fox told me all about his wife but clearly enjoyed the ‘flirting’ enhanced with a Scottish accent. We left at the same time and took the elevator upstairs. As we got to his floor, I bid him goodnight and he awkwardly hugged me and then ran away! Is my sexuality so potent that he was afraid I would drag him back to my lair?? He took me by surprise and I had a small concern about meeting him on the third night in case I had to gently turn him down. Actually, I am really tactless so it wouldn’t be gentle 😆

Roof top bar Hotel Indigo

Roof top bar
Hotel Indigo

On the third night, I was chatting to a fascinating guy. He was the lighting guy for Penn and Teller (Non-Americans might like to click on the red link), who were starring in the local theater. I learned a secret…Teller does actually talk, all the time! As we were laughing and talking, Silver Fox came up and said hello to me. I greeted him with a warm smile but as soon as he realized I was chatting to a much younger guy, he made an excuse to make a call and disappeared completely. Awwww – it was like being at high school💋. Lighting guy then had to leave so I just chatted to the bar staff until a very attractive woman came up and sat next to me.

She made a comment about the awkwardness of sitting at a bar – I am never awkward since my blessed tongue won’t stop even when I want it to! By the next drink we were sharing cosmetic secrets, love lives – it was a ‘bromance’ for girls!!! (Some how ‘sismance’ doesn’t do it) She was very well preserved, a couple of years older than me and dressed beautifully. Then we started telling each other how amazing we looked (for our ages). Somehow it was even more fun flirting with a heterosexual woman because you knew she wasn’t just saying it just to get your knickers off! We have since emailed.

I teetered off to bed, relieved but a little sad that I didn’t have to turn down the nice Silver Fox. I wonder if any of the bar staff said, “She could talk the hind legs off a donkey” or whatever the Spanish equivalent is.

PS. I found two Spanish phrases that might apply to me –

• En boca cerrada no entran moscas
Flies don’t enter a closed mouth
Meaning – Sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut

• Mucho hablar y poco decir juntos suelen ir
Talking lots and saying little usually go together
Meaning -Someone who talks too much, but actually doesn’t really say anything

Concordia Cemetery and Fort Bliss, El Paso

JW Hardin's grave

JW Hardin’s grave

Don’t you just love this photo of the cemetery of John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895), gunslinger extraordinaire, in the magnificent Concordia Cemetery, El Paso? He is still in a jail cell after death and his defense for his various killings was “I never killed anyone who didn’t need killing.” There is no response to that really; he was just a bad ‘un. The best part about the shot is that you can see a man in an orange t-shirt through the bars. He was part of a group of prisoners cleaning this famous cemetery. Some of them looked very intimidating and they were really staring at me but perhaps they ain’t seen a cougar for a while? This is a link to Concordia’s Cemetery website in red. Listen to the song that plays along with the post about JW Hardin. Somehow it summons up the old wild west of Texas as did this cemetery. It was bought and divided into various sections by city groups, Chinese here, Masons there, Catholics in a separate place from Jesuits. Any Catholics out there will know that’s a good thing – Jesuits are scarier than gunslingers…

Haphazard section of Concordia Cemetery

Haphazard section of Concordia Cemetery

I love that this shot summons up every thing good about Texas. Skies that go on forever and eclectic people in life and death.

My guide Rudy, see my previous post,‘A tour of El Paso’ certainly had my number. What better place to visit than the cemetery and then Fort Bliss, the biggest military base in Texas – cool. Look at that warhead and the old tanks!

tour-of-fort-bliss

tanks-and-warheads

I have never been on a military base and this was astonishing – a complete small city. There was a town center, shopping mall, restaurants, cinema, schools and various suburbs for want of a better word. Rudy took us past the very large house that General Patton lived in and I was just awestruck. It could have been an upmarket suburb like any in my area, except the view was better. Rudy was a veteran and it was nice to see that the guard on duty saluted him with great respect (we had to show our driving licenses for security). This a link to the Wiki page about Fort Bliss. I could see that the terrain and temperatures would really help training fighters going to places like Afghanistan.

Rudy took us to see original adobe houses from the 60s up and down mountain tracks to get good views, right up to the border so that we could see what Juarez looks like – poor. I didn’t manage to capture photos of the amazing University of Texas at El Paso The architecture of the college is based on Bhutanese Monasteries and the red link tells you a little more about it.

library-el-paso
Courtesy of City Data

It was a perfect tour of a perfect city. This is a view towards Cuidad Juarez and the writing on the mountain side reads “La Biblia es la Verdad. Leela.” or “The Bible is the Truth, Read It.”

Mexican Mountains

Mexican Mountains

A tour of El Paso

tiffany-dome

Tiffany Dome

El Camino Real Hotel Downtown El Paso

El Camino Real Hotel
Downtown El Paso

Who would have thunk it? An exquisite original Tiffany dome over the bar of El Camino Real Hotel. I was awestruck. Since I was not driving, I booked a well recommended tour Border Sights Tours with tour guide, Rudy, at the wheel. He picked me up first and then a young guy who had just driven his unwilling (to return to base) military friend back to Fort Bliss from the Pacific North West. That is a hell of a drive. Rudy took us all over El Paso, more in future blogs, but this bit of gossip (below) tickled me.

Original Hilton Skyscraper El Paso

Original Hilton Skyscraper
El Paso

If you look at the top of the building you can see an additional smaller section on the roof. This is the penthouse suite where Elizabeth Taylor and her first husband Nicky Hilton spent their honeymoon. How cool is that?? The view from the top must be astonishing.

balcony-kennedy
hotel-cortez

Rudy told us that President John F Kennedy gave a speech from that balcony of the Hotel Cortez. I guess El Paso was the ‘happening’ place back in the day, eh? Wouldn’t it have been fun to see JFK or Elizabeth Taylor – wow? One of my favorite parts of the tour was when we visited a genuine Mexican bakery and could choose a cake or pastry. Rudy told us that they were less sweet than traditional Texan desserts because they used unrefined sugar. My churro was yummy!

Gussie's Bakery

Gussie’s Bakery

I loved this mural outside the bakery. More tales of our tour next week, including Fort Bliss.

El Paso, Texas

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

After being so sick this year, I was desperate to take a little late summer trip to a quiet town. Houston and surrounds has been blisteringly hot this year, so I wanted to go somewhere cooler but not cold. I swear I have lizard DNA; bask in the heat, hibernate into a death like state in the cold. There were still enough United Airlines points to go somewhere domestically so I decided to head to El Paso.

Y’alls know how big Texas is but El Paso is so far away from Houston (675 miles) that it is in another time zone. As I approached the city, I looked out in fascination at the mountains and river valley wondering whether I was looking at Mexico, New Mexico or El Paso, Texas. It was so beautiful – bright sunshine, arid landscape and mountains. My fellow passenger and I were astonished at how quiet the roads were, even in the middle of the city. Bliss…

My friend Lisa lives in El Paso. This is her blog title with a red link ‘Life of an El Paso Woman’ . I can’t remember when we connected but she kindly asked me if I would participate in her Saturday interview after my book, ‘Letters from Cairo’ was published on Kindle. It is so strange how connected we can become with fellow bloggers, invested not just in their opinions but the lives that they choose to share with us. I am happy to share far too much and then am embarrassed when a local friend reads my personal thoughts – go figure!

I got an UBER at the airport and lickety-split, I was at my new hotel. The Hotel Indigo is in a refurbished building – link to the El Paso Times article on the hotel.  It was built in 1963 and refurbished at various times. Teddy has Intercontinental points so I was given a top floor room on the 12th floor (squeaking in delight). I was awestruck as I gazed out the floor to ceiling windows with a view of Texas and Mexico. It was a hip and groovy room; the architects did a great job. All the little touches added up to a fantastic whole.

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Curiously, on my first evening, I ate at the funky 5th floor roof-top bar where I met two architects. (I know that doesn’t make sense – the building was angled and some of the rooms had a view of the 5th floor bar). It was alongside the cute little pool which was lit up in different colors as darkness fell. The bar was underneath a roof but open on two sides, letting a cool north Texas breeze in. Temperatures were comfortable for me – a dry 95 degrees by midday.

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

The wonderful Electricity sign glowed with an array of colors at night, as did the pool.  Every little detail was perfect from the pink chairs, to the copper wall detail with wood and glass.

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Back to the architects; they had the privilege to be working on one of the many older buildings that are being refurbished. Downtown seemed to be reviving but you could see that El Paso was once a very rich city. It is directly across the Rio Grande River from Cuidad Juarez in Mexico. This was once an open, busy crossing until the cartels made Juarez one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico. There is a highly guarded fence between countries with a very high presence of border control. El Paso is home to the biggest military base in Texas, Fort Bliss, so there are many reasons to keep El Paso as safe as possible. For many years it was the safest city of its size and, in general, our Texan border towns are safer – see this article in the Texas Tribune

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

One look at El Paso and I was ready to move there. More posts to follow.

The architecture of Salt Lake City

The Latter Day Saints Temple complex is the icing on the cake, as far as architecture is concerned, with beautiful buildings and gardens but I was fascinated by other buildings I noticed. The Greek Cathedral, below, fascinated me. I had no idea that the second influx of immigrants (after the Mormons) was Greek.
holy-trinity-cathedral
holy-trinity-sign
Brewing companies seem relatively common all over the country these days and I liked the use of the older building.

Salt Lake Brewing Company

Salt Lake Brewing Company

The Karrick Building

The Karrick Building

I mentioned that the City Creek runs through the mall, a feat of architecture that amazed me. When I left the mall I noticed that they had constructed a waterfall – how beautiful.

Man-made Waterfall at City Creek Mall

Man-made Waterfall at City Creek Mall

Replica Pioneer Building

Replica Pioneer Building

This is a replica of a Pioneer house – quite an evolution in building.

Ybor City, Tampa

Ybor City State Museum

Ybor City State Museum

Before we visited Tampa, I had no idea that it had a historical area of such significance. From the periphery, Tampa looks like many other modern cities in Florida, with the exception of Miami and its wonderful Art Deco buildings. Ybor city was named for Vincente Martinez Ybor, an entrepreneur who had moved his cigar business from Cuba to Key West.

Mural with Vincente Martinez Ybor

Mural with Vincente Martinez Ybor

That hadn’t been entirely successful so he decided to settle in Tampa in the 1880s. The cigar workers were skilled so many of them came from Cuba and Spain, followed by an influx firstly of Italians, then Eastern European Jews, Germans and Chinese, many of the next stage immigrants serviced the city with restaurants and other industries.

Columbia Restaurant

Columbia Restaurant

cigarshop

Cigar Shop

It was an eclectic mix that was stable because each ethnicity had their own social club with welfare and benefits. Additionally, the work was plentiful and well paid. Each worker had their own little Casita, some of which are preserved, others have been renovated. The docent at the Ybor Museum told us that they used Ybor City’s welfare system as a template when they set up Medicare and Social Security in the 40s. That fascinated me more than anything else.

Streetcar in Ybor City

Streetcar in Ybor City

Ybor City reached its zenith at the beginning of the 1900s but cigar making started to decline after the Great Depression and World War II. Surprisingly, many of the original buildings remain with their exotic tile work. Artists started to flock to Ybor in recent times and it is being renovated block by block. It is a peaceful little oasis in a busy modern city with lovely tram cars. There are free range chickens on every porch because they outlawed harming chickens to stop cock fighting. You can read more of this in the The Chicken Murder. I noticed with a chuckle that you can have an event or a wedding in the garden of the Museum , but just look out for hungry hawks…
spanish street posters2

Small Town America

antique modern

Happy 4th July!!!

On Saturday we went to Montgomery, our favorite small town, close to our own home. This is a newly renovated antique shop, Modern Farmhouse Antiques, above, but they have kept the post office boxes, below, intact – isn’t it wonderful?

post office

On one side of Modern Farmhouse Antiques there had been a soda shop and the other side was the post office. One of the banks, below, has been a pet store for some years.

first state bank

This another of our favorite antique shops below – Garrett House Antiques.
garrett antiques
Montgomery is a thriving small town and when you eavesdrop on the locals you hear the warmth and care of a real community. Sam Houston visited Montgomery and is one of the founding fathers of the state of Texas. I enjoy the link to Montgomery because I come from a long line of people named for him and looking at the antebellum houses summons up a visual image of the times. My great grandfather was named Sam Houston Dellinger.

We always eat at the Cozy Grape where I greet my favorite server, Caroline, in her native language, “Bonjour, Caroline! Ça va?” This is followed by European hugs and kisses. On one memorable occasion, a table of older ladies commented, “Oh my, it’s just like being in Paris!” It’s not really but it was delightful to see the wonder on their faces – so exotique!

Finally a marker to the history of Montgomery. Happy Independence Day!
montgomery sign

Charming Charleston, SC

Honeymoon?

Honeymoon?

I had no idea that Charleston was a honeymoon destination but when I saw this couple at Charleston Market, I thought, “Awwww, how sweet they look”. The local style was reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon’s preppy clothing line and very different from Texas. I felt a bit under-dressed… The Charleston Market was wonderful with endless vendors selling everything from local artwork and food, featuring the famous Sweetgrass baskets. I admired them and the work put into them but was on a budget.

Horse and Carriage in the French Quarter

Horse and Carriage in the French Quarter

Seeing the horses and carriages helped me envision what Charleston might have been like in times past. The traffic was relatively light in the historic area and it seemed as though the carriages were given priority. It is fun to hear the clip-clop on cobblestones.

Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic

This building intrigued me. At first I thought it was derelict and when I looked closely realized that it had been renovated in this way. It was admirable but I am not sure if I liked it. Shabby chic is a fashion that has passed me by. I am perfectly fine with architecture or furniture that is naturally old but not made to look that way. At the very least, the building made me think about it so perhaps it achieved it’s aim.

Theater

Theater

By contrast, I loved this renovated brick building. I guess you can’t please everyone! Below is yet another church the Circular Congregational Church which dates back to the 1600s. I loved the simplicity of it – it welcomed Scots Presbyterians and French Huguenots amongst others. Below is a sad little French grave of an infant son.

Circular Congregational Church

Circular Congregational Church

Bebe Peronneau

Southern Drawl

southern drawl

Do you think he had one? A southern gentleman makes me go weak at the knees, especially rich ones with boats… I am still in Charleston on the Cooper River and I love this shot with the astonishing Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in the background.

The Custom House reveals how much money was and still is made currently on the waterways of Charleston. Such an impressive building.
custom house

I watched with fascination at this sailing club out on the river – who the heck would take out boat #13. I thought sailors were superstitious?

Look at the sailboat on the right...

Look at the sailboat on the right…

It isn’t the southern waters unless there is a pelican. I love these friends just chilling together on a hot day.

FRIENDS

FRIENDS

Church Street, Charleston

The French Huguenot Church

The French Huguenot Church

Never has a street been more aptly named. There was one wonderful church after another. The title photograph is of the French Huguenot Church – it is simply known as that. I noticed it particularly because it is painted a delicate pale pink with black cornichons. The Huguenot’s were French Protestants who escaped persecution from the Catholic Church. I loved the way they embraced the Protestant ethic and yet created a house of worship with a certain French soupçon of elegance. Below is the exquisitely simple interior with a startling blue chandelier, accentuated with the blue prayer books.

Nave of French Huguenot Church

Nave of French Huguenot Church

St. Philip's Church

St. Philip’s Church

Above is St Philip’s Episcopal Church which is the grandest on the street. Another tourist later told me that the church keepers weren’t very friendly (well, they are Protestants – I am sorry but there is always a lapsed Catholic devil sitting on my shoulder). There is always a fine line between visiting a historic site and respecting that it is a current house of worship. No talking, flip-flops or chewing gum, please! There were some very distinguished guests in the graveyard and it was so serene on a hot, steamy Charleston afternoon.

Well, Charles certainly has a lot to answer for...

Well, Charles certainly has a lot to answer for…

church street

Both churches were in the French Quarter. The streets were a charming mix of old and new.

St Philip's Graveyard

St Philip’s Graveyard

It was only after I left Charleston that I remembered about the Charleston Church massacre more than a year before, at the Emanuel African Methodist Church. The victims of this hate crime, their relatives and the people of Charleston give us something to aspire to in this horrific week. Dignity, sorrow and forgiveness.