TBT Roanoke, Virginia
Roanoke is a city nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains. I think of it as the blue bowl, this is because when you look around in each direction you are surrounded by mountains in the distance with a bluish hue. There is a large star on one of those mountains and that is why myself and many others refer to it as the Star City of the South.
Before visiting Roanoke Virginia, I had been to the Virginia coast, I had been to southeast Virginia, central Virginia, and northwest and northeast Virginia. I had never been to southwest Virginia. I didn’t think there was anything there but farm land and a few big universities. The first time I visited Roanoke I was in for a pleasant surprise.
It was a city, albeit a small, historical railroad city but a city none the less. I felt like it was hidden by the mountains and the plains out of site. But no, due to the railroad Roanoke is not out of sight and has been around for quite some time.
It has a great farmers market on the weekends and has boutique shops and many restaurants downtown. It’s impressive that this small southern city has many different types of ethnic food you must keep your eyes open for them in order to try them all.
I love staring up at the big star on Mill Mountain and looking over at the classic Dr. Pepper and H&C coffee lights from the heart of downtown. If you go for a visit you must go up to the star, do a little hike and maybe even visit the zoo there. There is also a modern art museum, railroad museum and a bunch of new breweries opening! Enough to keep you entertained for the weekend. This is the town my husband is from and it is turning into one of my favorite places to visit.
If you have never heard of Brownsville Texas the next chance you get google it. It is in the southernmost tip of Texas on the border of Mexico, an area referred to as the Rio Grande Valley. When visiting, it may feel you are in Mexico due to the majority population of Mexican Americans and limited English speaking restaurants, stores and hospitals. You must visit with an open mind and taste for great food!
I was there on a travel nurse assignment. During the interview process for this job the manager informed me that 90% of the patient population did not speak English. That’s great! That will give me a chance to practice my Spanish I remember thinking. However, I was not prepared to use my Spanish while ordering food, while finding things at Walmart nor trying to get my car washed. It was a bit of a culture shock to be there for 3 months. I think by the time I adjusted it was time to move on to the next exciting place. I often think about going back.
People always ask me about the Tex-Mex and I tell them I tried Tex-Mex in Austin. Brownsville has authentic Mexican food. My husband (then fiancé) and I fell head over heels for real tacos pastor, barbacoa & pollo. We will be honest and tell you Menudo is not our thing no matter what everyone swears up and down about in Brownsville. I encourage you to try for yourself. You can find Menudo everywhere even at gas stations.
In Brownsville I tried Ceviche for the first time ever. Ceviche is white fish that is “cooked” by lime juice. When it is done properly it is delicious. The margaritas could be ordered rimmed with candied chili powder and were great for washing down Ceviche.
At first glance Brownsville looks like nothing more than your average suburbia. It has every chain store and restaurant that you can think of but mixed in are hidden gems. For a little more culture, you must head downtown (like in most cities). If you don’t have your passport stay clear of customs and the border. Downtown you will find old buildings, plaques full of Mexican & American history, museums and the zoo. Then surprise, there are more restaurants, cafes, and bars. Don’t be surprised if you gain weight during your visit.
In Brownsville Texas is Palo Alto Battlefield. It is a National Historical Park that is worth a visit. It is the site where the first battle of the Mexican-American war took place. At the time, Texas, or Tejas was part of Mexico. This war changed the borders of the United States and Mexico. Palo Alto Park is a lush combination of desert and prairie and is home to many different species of animals in the Rio Grande Valley. I’d like to revisit the park again one day.
One last thing I will leave you with, be sure to bring your tote bags. This was the first experience I had living near coastal waters where stores charge for plastic bags. Some stores charged as much as $1 a bag. Brownsville is close to the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Every effort to keep plastic away from our waters is necessary.
There you have it! Brownsville was quite the experience and I hope one day I will have the opportunity to go back![Top]
It’s Thursday, so I’d like to share a throwback memory with you. I love Alexandria, Virginia. More specifically I find I love Old Towne Alexandria. Alexandria has a specific charm to it, with the quaint roadways and alleys made of cobblestone and all the lovely brick homes. It is full of colonial history and haunting stories and I enjoy all of this. Alexandria was once a large port of call, being right on the Potomac. The boats that visit and reside there now are beautiful sailboats and yachts and of course water taxis.
During my short time spent living in Alexandria, (six weeks to be exact), I enjoyed riding the metro into Washington D.C. and seeing the museums. I even hopped on a boat to Georgetown a couple times. I also enjoyed the quiet places Alexandria had to offer, to think, or to be seen and to people watch. During those short six weeks I did more writing than I’ve done in the last three years. One story turned into a published children’s book. I do say, it’s an inspiring place to be![Top]
One year ago I was on a Nursing Travel assignment in Brownsville
Texas. What is a nursing travel assignment you may ask? It is a
contract that nursing agencies make with hospitals in different
locations throughout the country to fill a desperate need of staff
nurses. I am a Registered nurse out of Virginia and I travel with a
couple different nursing travel agencies to places that need nursing
support. It is a great way to work as a nurse and see the country! So
one year ago I was in Brownsville Texas. Brownsville was muy
interesante in it’s own right being minutes from Matamoros Mexico,
but 30 minutes away is the gulf coast and the island of South Padre
and you can’t beat that!
On South Padre, when the weather cooperated with me. I had the best
time! The beaches weren’t too crowded at least this time of year. The
restaurants had delicious fish tacos and margaritas that were on point.
There weren’t too many shops or a boardwalk but the nature was
spectacular. I could watch the pelicans all day, and spot dolphins in
the gulf as well as the bay side. My fiancé (who travels with me), and I had the privilege of doing
many things while we were there.
One of my best memories was horse back riding on the beach. There is
something magical about doing that especially with someone you love,
even if you are with twenty other people. We got to put our new Texas
cowboy boots to the test on this ride and it was totally worth getting
all sandy. During our ride we witnessed fishermen pull in a shark from
the sparkling waters. It was pretty gnarly! I will tell you my favorite part of South Padre though, it was the
island’s very own Sea Turtle Rescue.
The shores of the gulf, that Texas and Mexico share, is a rare home to
the Kemp Ridley Sea turtles. These turtles are endangered. The Sea Turtle
Rescue is dedicated to caring for and restoring this population as
well as helping other sea turtles in the area. I have never been to a
wild animal rescue before and I fell for the beautiful sea turtles at
this facility. The turtles are sick and injured from the waters and
shores of South Padre and are rehabilitated at the Sea Turtle Rescue.
Most return back to the gulf and sea while few become residents at the
facility and go on to be used for educational purposes for the
community. The Sea Turtle Rescue also monitors and protects sea turtle
nests and hatchlings. This increases the survival rates of the Kemp
Ridley turtles in the area and the prevention of their extinction. If
you are on the island the trip is not complete without a visit to Sea
South Padre Island is definitely worth revisiting for many reasons,
some mentioned above, but someday I would like to go back and
volunteer at the Sea Turtle Rescue. For now I am a member and proud
sponsor of one of the residents at Sea Turtle INC. Now remind me to
tell you about Brownsville and Matamoros sometime ; )
I have decided to embrace this whole “Throwback Thursday,” or “TBT” ordeal, and make it a day for me to write about my travel experiences. I love to travel. I get my best ideas when I am in a completely new place, out of my day to day habits, sights and people.
What better way to kick start this Thursday blog post than to reach back and recognize traveling I was blessed enough to do as a child. I am referring to the fishing trips my dad use to take my sisters and I on during the weekends.
It was always a thrill to make the sandwiches and pack the snacks for my sisters and I. Mom would be there reminding me not to forget things. She was my walking, talking checklist. (This is probably why I must make so many lists in my life now.) The most important one was always, do not forget the sunscreen. Also, when you get to where you’re going, PUT ON the SUNSCREEN.
Most of the time, we did not know where we were going. I suppose my dad always knew, but when we would ask, he would tell us we were going to the Moon. Our silver fishing boat, just big enough for the four of us comfortably, was hooked up to our Chevy Astro van. This was a good indication we were going fishing. The poles were packed, the life jackets were in their place, and I was ecstatic we were going to spend the day on the water!
We would cross the New Jersey/ New York line and head up state a little ways to a reservoir called Monskville. It was a fun spot to be, and there were rumors of big fish there but we always got skunked at Monksville. (“Skunked” is when you fish all day and don’t catch a thing.) My favorite were our trips to Greenwood Lake. It was always easy to fish off the dock for Sunnys, and Blue Gills and hence avoid getting skunked. My sisters and I would remove our clothing we wore over our bathing suits (or “baby suits,” as Diana used to say) put on our life jackets and grab our poles. We would fish off the dock, while dad got the boat settled in the water. Most times, but not always we would put on the sunscreen. We often got in trouble when we didn’t
reapply after being out on the water all day.
One day in the 4th grade, I walked out of the school building with my friends and saw dad waiting there. He was right in front with our rubber fishing boat strapped down to the hood of our van. My first emotions were embarassment and panic. It looked really tacky to say the least. These emotions were soon overcome with joy and excitement as I realized we must be going on another fishing adventure. This time we were heading to the Delaware River, which runs between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The river is rocky and shallow in parts and there are restrictions for boats and motor sizes, hence the use of our rubber boat. It didn’t matter though, we went to the Delaware Water Gap park where we were surrounded by woods and wildlife. We were busy taking in the scenery, there was no need to tempt dad to race other boats on the water way.
The Delaware River and surrounding wood, was home to many different species. It was always exciting to spot a hawk, a bald eagle or even a Black BEAR. I tried to get a snap shot of it on the disposable camera and share it with my friends at school. This is when and where my love for taking pictures came from. I would take photos of dad steering the boat, baiting our hooks, untangling our lines. I would take photos of the greenery and of course any wildlife I spotted. Last I would take pictures of my sisters and I being silly, posing with our poles, meanwhile missing good bites. Even on days where we didn’t have any luck, or even when dad didn’t have time to fish for himself, in the van on the way home dad would ask us if we had fun. The answer was always YES![Top]