Friday, March 2, 2012

Western Caribbean Cruise - Houston & Galveston

Time for another retrospective adventure! Our friends Cathy and Fred invited us to join them for a Western Caribbean Cruise aboard the Norwegian Dream (Norwegian Cruise Lines). We also spent a few days exploring their "neck of the woods." It was December, 2005, and here we go!

Houston and Galveston

Come and sit by the fire...
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Here we are in Houston, at Cathy and Fred's, and it feels cozy and comfortable. Their home is lovely and reflects their personal charm and style, with gas fireplaces (always on for ambiance) in the living room and master bedroom, which is a loft room overlooking the living room. The house was designed to be open flooring, which it certainly is – vastly spacious, with beautiful hardwood floors. It says, “Come on in and make yourself at home. How about right over here, on the cushy sofa by the fire?”

The guest room is on the main level down a little hallway from the living room, very private, with its own bathroom that connects through to the laundry room off the kitchen. Cathy has thoughtfully supplied it with everything we could possibly need. She sets the hospitality bar pretty high and couldn't be more gracious.

Grab ya some sweet tea and sit awhile.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Situated right by the water on a peninsula between the San Jacinto River and the bayou, it is in a flood zone. So, it's up on pilings and is about 20' in the air. That way, when the water starts to rise and reaches a particular tree, Cathy and Fred can get in their car with their pooch and a few belongings and safely leave the vicinity for higher ground farther inland, knowing that their house will probably be just fine while they are gone. Or not. But judging from what we saw in Galveston yesterday, it's normal for homes near the water to be up on pilings. It's also harder for swamp creatures to make it all the way up to the deck, I imagine. But there I go with my imagination!

Galveston is flat. And, on this day,
it was grey, too.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Yesterday, when we arrived after an uneventful flight from Oakland on Southwest Airlines, we all drove down to Galveston to the sea wall that was built to protect the city after the hurricane in 1900 that killed 6,000 to 8,000 people. With all that water around, and with everything at sea level, it was easy to see why folks were freaking out at the possibility of a direct hit by Hurricane Rita. Galveston is built on an island, and there's basically one bridge and the ferry for getting out of Dodge. I imagine the traffic could back up in a huge hurry if everybody was in a panicked hurry to leave. And once the bridge and ferry shut down, there would be no easy way to get out. I guess you'd have to hunker down in your palatial beachfront home.

The beach at Galveston goes on for miles, and the water is very shallow quite a distance offshore. Glen Campbell, get out of my head with that song, already! Sheesh!

Watching the ships (large cargo ships and oil tankers) sailing in and out of the harbor, we were treated to some pretty entertaining antics by the dolphins. They love to frolic in the wake and jump ahead of the bow. It makes my heart glad to see these creatures having a blast, too.

We took the ferry to the Bolivar Peninsula (east), where we stuffed ourselves with soft-shell crab – BBQ'd, fried, boiled, fired – at the Stingaree Restaurant at Crystal Beach. Very delicious! And the frozen margaritas were pretty spectacular, too, as we sat our table, watching barges navigating the intercoastal waterway just outside the window. There's a bait farm at Stingaree, too, for the fishermen. There are cement block tanks with fresh live, live dead, and dead baits (Interesting classifications, eh? Not being a fisherperson, these may be standard designations, but I wouldn't know!).

View from the deck. Very private.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Upon our return to Houston, we went to the post office and to Target. Yep, just like home. I noticed that flags are at half-mast everywhere, as it is Pearl Harbor Day. Texans are seriously patriotic, and such observances are not overlooked lightly.

The weather is unseasonably cold. In fact, it's freezing. Fred had hoped to BBQ for us on his patio boat, but that may not happen. Maybe we can have a BBQ on the deck if it warms up a bit.

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