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Quick Winter Getaway, Part II (Houston)

rice running trail

 

Hey guys, as promised, this is part two of my recent Winter getaway. The first part of this travel diary recap is HERE.

 

HOUSTON

So, after having a great time in St. Louis Missouri, I hopped on a plane for a quick trip to Houston. The weather was amazing when I arrived there. It wasn’t sunny, but it was definitely warm. As usual, Houston is vibrant and everyone’s on their T-shirt and walking their dogs. Like with most big cities, there’s a lot of stuff to see in Houston, but I didn’t have the time to explore, so I just spent my few days there strolling around.

 

Hotel Zaza Houston

 

Hotel Zaza French Macarons
free French Macarons near Hotel Zaza’s lobby

 

Hotel Zaza – Known to be a boutique hotel, I had high hopes for the place when I checked in. However, I was utterly surprised by the darkness of the interior and it’s not just slightly dark, it’s REALLY dark to the point that you’d have a hard time finding the elevator button. My room was dingy, musty, and scary. The hallways were eerily silent, dark, and the type that will give you goosebumps. The hotel is full of bizarre paintings and photos that don’t seem to make any sense with regards to the hotel’s overall design. The staff is distant and don’t seem to care much for their clients. I remember sitting at their Monarch Restaurant located just adjacent to the hotel and no one came to ask for my order, so I just left. I did change room because I was so grossed out with its carpet and its musty smell, not to mention the not-so-safe-looking door and windows. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the free French Macarons at the lobby which I managed to spot amidst all that darkness and the hotel’s proximity to Rice Village, I would not have stayed here at all. In fact, I don’t think I will ever stay in this hotel again because it’s just hazardous.

 

rice university houston tx

 

rice university loop
Rice University Loop

 

Rice Boulevard & Rice Village – As what I’ve said above, the other nice thing of staying at my scary hotel is the fact that it’s walking distance to Rice University, Rice University Trail/Loop, and Rice Village. Yes, there’s a lot of rice there, I know, LOL. But yeah, I took a nice long stroll along Rice Boulevard and its running trail/loop which gave me a beautiful view of the Rice University campus. The university itself has a very classic design but the stars of the show are the impressive old oak trees that surrounded the entire school. They reminded me of the Oak Alley Plantation in New Orleans (read about that trip HERE). Also, they are everywhere and they seem to take a life of their own. I truly recommend that you take a stroll along the Rice Boulevard trail because it’s kind of a reflecting experience. Since it wasn’t cold at all, I saw some squirrels having fun climbing the trees and enjoying the weather. Towards the end of Rice Boulevard is the famous Rice Village and I had a great time browsing some shops there. I picked up some beauty stuff at Bluemercury, had a coffee and spicy Chorizo at Starbucks, then swatched some makeup at Sephora. I totally love Rice Village for casual shopping and dining. Oh, and you gotta try the Rice Krispies from The Chocolate Bar if you happen to be there.

 

bluemercury rice village tx
Rice Village

 

On my way to Rice Village, I passed by several museums, like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Cockrell Butterfly Center, and I also stopped at Hermann Park to see the roses near the Sam Houston monument. Check out the photos below.

Sam Houston Monument Hermann Park
Sam Houston Monument at Hermann Park

 

Houston Museum of Natural Science Photo

 

Cockrell Butterfly Center Museum Houston
Cockrell Butterfly Center

 

hermann park houston tx
Reflection Pool at Hermann Park

 

I find these short trips to be very beneficial on my part. I got a chance to unwind and disconnect for a while, and even though I got disappointed with my stay at Hotel Zaza in Houston, still, I could see myself living in all of the three cities I recently visited. I absolutely miss the sun in California, I love the newness and the energy of St. Louis, and there are so many things in Houston I want to explore. Anyway, that my friends is the conclusion of my short Winter getaway. Stay tuned for more trips coming very very soon.

 

Have you been to these spots before? What do you like about them?

 

To book a flight to Houston TX, click HERE

 

Travel Back In Time. New Wilmington, PA. Amish Country.

Hello, travel bugs! You may have read my travel diary when I went to the quaint little town of Lawrence Country, called Volant, PA. Link HERE. In that trip, I detailed my desire to see the rural life, especially to see the Amish and check out their businesses and some other shops. Volant, PA is a very scenic sleepy little town that will truly put you in the mood for some fresh air and peaceful disposition. I found several Amish stores there and did see some Amish people but never really interacted with them. I would say that Volant was a place that showcases Amish shops and businesses but it wasn’t really where you could actually see their way of life. To truly get a glimpse of the real Amish culture, I knew I would have to go elsewhere. I had two places in mind – either visit Lancaster, PA or check out New Wilmington, PA. Last Spring, I decided to visit the latter.

 

new wilmington pa amish road

 

Why did I decide to visit Wilmington, PA? And why was I so interested with the Amish people? Well, New Wilmington seemed like the most feasible place for me to visit, and also, I saw a really interesting Amish Tour from there. For the second question, I have always been fascinated with Amish people. I’m curious about their way of life and how they really live in this fast-changing modern world. Also, I wondered what it’s like to be an Amish? Would I be able to survive in a simple fuss-free lifestyle, devoid of my beloved cellphone and makeup? LOL. Oh my, probably not.

 

New Wilmington, PA is about an hour drive from its closest populous city, Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve seen an Amish tour there that I’ve been so curious about and have always wanted to book it. It’s called “Simple Life Tours”, and it’s rated highly in Tripadvisor.com. The Simple Life Tour is a personal private tour with a vehicle that will take you up close and personal with the Amish. The tour guide is Susan, a sweet, lively, and friendly lady who grew up in New Wilmington, PA and have been doing business with the Amish for years. She also happens to be the former owner of The Tavern on the Square Restaurant that features Amish-style country cooking. This restaurant also serves as the meeting place for the Amish tour. When I met Susan, she told me how she came into the tour business while running the most iconic restaurant in town. She said that her restaurant guests would ask her where they could see the Amish. At first, she would just tell them to drive around some roads. But Amish people can be hard to locate, and you definitely need a local as a guide. So she decided to ask permission to some Amish business owners to let people visit their shops. She also said that most Amish don’t market or advertise their businesses well and that some people may feel uncomfortable visiting Amish shops, apart from not knowing them. So her tour is meant to give the Amish the exposure needed for their businesses and to let people avail them.

 

Susan’s Simple Life Tour is very friendly and respectful to the Amish. She told me that Amish people are very shy and that they don’t like their photos being taken. She answered several questions of mine regarding the Amish way of life, their culture, and she took me to several Amish businesses. She said these people became her friends with time and that she almost feels like they’re part of her family. According to her, the Amish people at New Wilmington are part of the Old Order Amish, that means they’re more traditional.

 

amish house new wilmington pa

 

amish house with clothesline

 

The tour started with a car stop outside an Amish house. It looked very minimalist, clean, and with several clothes hanging on a clothesline. Susan said it’s a typical Amish house and that most Amish houses are like that – white-painted with a blue door. She mentioned that Amish women use wringer washer to wash their clothes, which adheres to their technologically restricted lifestyle.

 

amish covered bridge new wilmington pa

 

Next up, we stopped at a covered bridge where some Amish Buggies would pass by. I took my selfie there, LOL. We then continued and passed by an Amish School House where Susan mentioned that Amish kids typically go to school only up to the eighth grade. Further, she pointed to a lone phone box that pretty much resembles a wooden phone booth and it was situated several yards away from most Amish houses. She said Amish people can use the phone box in times of emergency or even to call a cab, but it should always be farther away from their homes. Susan explained to me how the entire Amish community helps each other in times of need, they are very united in that sense.

 

amish school house

 

amish furniture store

 

I saw several Amish men at work, either plowing their fields with their horses, working in a dairy factory, or making different types of furniture. FYI, Amish people make the best quality furniture ever at a much lower price than most furniture stores, provided that you buy directly from them. Now if you’re wondering how they could build such solid high-quality chairs and tables without electricity, well, the Amish men use a diesel generator to help with their work.

 

amish dairy factory

 

new wilmington pa amish dry goods store

 

My favorite part of the tour was visiting the local Amish Dry Goods Store that is exclusive to the Amish community. I had the chance to get a good glimpse of what’s inside and was able to purchase some homemade stuff, as well as some handmade items from that store. I also talked to some Amish kids who were working there, they were shy but they were very courteous as well. There were two little boys which have cute hairstyles and they were holding a map. The asked me to point on the map where I came from, and they put a mark on it. LOL! I must have been an alien to them. I did sense that they seem to have a slight accent. As you all know, Amish people speak Pennsylvania Dutch, especially among each other. They learn English in school. If you ask me how a Pennsylvania Dutch sounds like, is it more German or is it more Dutch? I’d say, it’s all German to me, LOL!

 

amish quilt shop new wilmington pa

 

Halfway through our tour, we took a look at an Amish Souvenir Store that sells a mix of quilts, pastries, pieces of furniture, as well as some other handmade items. Here we were greeted wholeheartedly by several little Amish kids with a cute Pug running toward us. They’re so cute and so friendly, and they were waiting for Susan’s gifts. They wanted to play some games with Susan’s phone and they seem to be really fascinated by it. Oh, I bet they would love to play my favorite game- Gardenscapes. LOL.

 

amish greenhouse

 

amish greenhouse

 

Our final stop was at an Amish Greenhouse that was full of gardening accessories as well as several different kinds of flowers and some other plants. I talked to two Amish kids whose parents are the owners of the Greenhouse and they also have two cute and chubby dogs that greeted us as we entered. Susan told me that the dogs are fat because they like to raid and eat the eggs of the chickens, LOL, and on top of that, they also beg for some treats from Susan. Ha! What a nice life, right? I definitely won’t mind being an Amish dog. LOL.

 

susan hougelman from simple life tours

 

amish buggy

 

All throughout my stroll and drive around the area, I saw a lot of Buggies on the road and they are pretty much everywhere there. It was nice to see something so different from my normal environment, and I had learned a lot and admired the Amish’s simple way of life. My trip to New Wilmington, PA was definitely one of my most unique and unforgettable tours.

 

the tavern on the square new wilmington pa restaurant review

 

the tavern on the square sticky buns

 

Before I left New Wilmington, I made a stop at The Tavern On The Square and chatted with the new owners which are both very kind and very friendly. I had a nice meal where I ordered their Hand-Battered Cod with Fresh Brewed Iced Tea. My meal came with a crisp garden salad, a cup of soup, and of course, their very famous Tavern Sticky Buns. The food was amazing!

 

the tavern on the square restaurant new wilmington pa

 

To visit New Wilmington, PA and get a glimpse of the Amish way of life, you can book a tour at Simple Life Tours by Susan Hougelman. Click HERE

 

 

Volant, PA

Hello guys! My apologies for not being constant with my postings lately. I’m currently truly, madly, deeply, busy but I hope things will start to simmer down in a few days soon. Thank you very much for your understanding and please check out my Instagram regularly as I’ll be posting more stuff there in the days to come.

As what I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been in a couple of trips lately and will still have to do more. For this particular travel log, I divided this down into two parts as I pretty much went to two sights in one day. Both are very nice and wonderful places to see.

 

volant pennsylvania

 

A few weeks ago, I went on a trip to a little borough in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania called Volant. Actually, I planned to go and see Lake Erie and wanted to drop by somewhere to see an Amish village. I thought of going to Lancaster PA at first, but it’s really not on the way to Lake Erie and I only have a day to do both. Someone told me that there are few little Amish villages on the way to Erie, and one of them is Volant. In case you’re wondering why do I wanna visit an Amish town, oh well, I’ve always been curious and I wanted to take a break from the usual city life. It seems like a trip to a nice and quiet Amish town will be exciting. And of course, yeah, I’ve seen TLC’s Breaking Amish show, lol.

Volant is about an hour away from Pittsburgh and is very close to Grove City where there’s outlet shopping. It’s also an hour and 28 minutes away from Lake Erie. I drove there and most of the road throughout the trip was pretty flat and smooth. It was nice to see the leaves slowly changing their colors to prepare for Fall. I went there early morning and the temperature is a bit cool and fresh. The sceneries during the trip were nice although I started noticing that my phone was losing coverage as I was approaching Volant. Suddenly the road started to get narrower and narrower and was getting windier and windier. There were lots of cornfields around and my phone’s signal was pretty much fluctuating until there was a point that I didn’t have any coverage for a couple of minutes. I started breaking out in a sweat as I looked around, and all I see were vast and never-ending cornfields. I was like “oh no! I could die in here and nobody’s gonna know”, but anyhow, as soon as I got passed that silly imagination, I reached an intersection and saw the quaint little town of Volant.

 

volant mills pa

 

The air was fresh and cool when I parked near Volant Mills, which I understood as the main attraction/store of the town. At the entrance of Volant Mills, I saw an Amish lady greeting people and the store had a very vintage feel. I really like it and I saw a lot of unique products that are composed mostly of Halloween/Fall stuff plus some handmade rugs, decors, curtains, candles, soaps, etc. I noticed that not all of the products were Amish-made, so I decided to pick up a few preserves that were locally made in Volant (which I assume were made by the Amish) and some wooden Amish figurines as souvenirs. Volant Mills has three floors, with the third one being more of an exposition/mini museum for a few traditional Amish clothing and memorabilias mix with a few gardening/decor products. If you don’t have cash, don’t worry, because the store accepts all major credit cards.

 

volant mills volant pa

 

volant mills, volant pa

 

After Volant Mills, I got hungry and realized that it was almost time for lunch, I saw that there were a few Amish ladies selling some preserves and baked goodies, and another group selling some delicious-looking Amish donuts. I wanted one, but I decided to venture into the full-service restaurant just across Volant Mills, called Neshannock Creek Inn. They also accept credit cards and since I don’t have enough cash to purchase those donuts yet, I decided to have lunch at Neshannock Creek Inn. I’ve read that they’re known for their Giant Cod Sandwich, so I ordered one and the sandwich arrived well-cooked and looking really delish with some fries and condiments. While the sandwich could have tasted better with more seasoning, I really enjoyed their fries and mayo. They’re so good, one of the best I’ve ever tried.

 

volant pa amish doughnuts

 

neshannock creek inn volant pa

 

I was already full by the time I got out of the restaurant and I sorta stopped longing for the donuts. Although, now that I think about it, I realized that I really should have tried one. Oh my, nothing haunts us like the things we didn’t buy. LOL. True, right? Anyways, at the back of the restaurant was an ATM which I used to get cash in order to pay for things I wanted to buy around. The area is full of little quaint houses that serve as shops for coffee, clothes, art, foods, etc. I went into a nice little store/house that sells antiques and it was really interesting and exciting while a bit creepy at the same time. There were lots of things to see and to explore, and they’re pretty cheap.

 

volant antique shops

 

volant pennsylvania

 

From the Antique store, I visited some other stores and had fun just browsing. There are also male and female public bathrooms in the area that you can spot immediately, as well as stores that sell Amish furnitures. As you all know, Amish people are known for their finely-crafted furnitures and I pretty much ended my Volant trip scouting for some stores that specialize in selling true Amish chairs, tables, and cabinets.

 

volant pa kester's alpaca

 

Oh, and did I forget to mention that I saw this cutie on my way out of Volant Mills? Meet Al, the Alpaca, LOL. His owner was selling some Alpaca-made scarves and I purchased some while taking a few pics of Al’s cutie face. He was looking at me seriously, I bet he was getting ready to spit on my face. Oh my, he would have ruined my contouring.

I really enjoyed Volant, it was like stepping back in time and it was very peaceful. Even though I didn’t see a lot of Amish people, I still enjoyed the simplicity and beauty of the place. The people are friendly too. It’s so nice to get away from the city life and experience simple living from time to time.

I really like it there and I’m thinking of going back sometime soon. Perhaps even make a trip to the nearby village of New Wilmington and take a tour to see the Amish way of life.

 

That concludes part 1 of my travel log guys. Stay tuned for part 2, which is Lake Erie.

 

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