Travel With Bradley

TRAVEL WITH BRADLEY! Bradley has always put his clients first and his tours reflect just that. Making travel dreams a reality is his speciality. Follow this blog and he'll take you around the World!

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Jam Packed Day Visiting BOTH Dallas and Ft. Worth, Texas

 

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Our local host, Alice kept us moving today but we are not complaining.  We really enjoyed EVERYTHING we experienced.

Breakfast at our boutique hotel was terrific – such a big variety on their buffet.

We toured around the downtown core of Dallas.  Surprisingly there is little retail except for Neiman Marcus, but they have done an incredible job of re-purposing their beautiful historic buildings.   Its a very impressive downtown core.  We also drove through the posh neighborhood of Turtle Creek where mansions lined the streets.  We were surprised to see the garbage collectors return the the residence garbage pails back to their homes after they empty them.  Wish we had the service at home!

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The downtown Baptist Church has 15000 members – Dallas is located in the Bible Belt.

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We were glued to the displays at the “Sixth Floor Museum” – a major Dallas attraction.

 

Alice knows how I search out great restaurants for my passengers to dine in, so she went to work to try to get us into the Petroleum Club – the MOST prestigious private members club in the city.  It use to be men only.  I don’t know how she managed to get us a reservation but I’m SO glad that she did because our experience was phenomenal – elegant surroundings, stunning views, seafood galore, luscious desserts, one-of-a-kind washrooms and most impressive was the attentive service.  The friendly staff refused to let us carry our dinner plates to our table after we visited the exceptional quality buffet.  After we drank a “slip” out of our water or ice tea filled glass it was topped up.  We felt very regal dining in this prestigious place.  We commented that we were glad we were not wearing our summer shorts and t-shirts!  We could have been because todays temperatures soared around 80F.

I’m not a sports fan so I even surprised myself when I loved the VIP tour experience at the AT&T Stadium – the home of the Dallas Cowboys!  Alice, managed to get us a “Private” behind-the-scenes tour – it was exceptional!

We continued another 45 minutes to Ft. Worth were we attended the famous Cattle Drive at the Ft. Worth Stock Yards – so much fun!

Another memorable experience was when we visited, “Billy Bob’s” – the worlds largest Honky Tonk – accommodating 6000!  Country Singer, Blake Shelton’s cemented hand prints are covered in lipstick kisses!

Unlike downtown Dallas, Ft. Worth has a large retail area.

We made a stop at the impressive Water Gardens.

Dinner followed at one of the finest restaurants in Ft. Worth – it was another upscale choice – we were seated in a private room and the cuisine was delicious – I enjoyed a salmon filet topped with a mild pepper cream sauce (the sauce was so delicious I asked for more) – pecan pie was the favourite dessert choice.  Alice and my passengers surprised me when they celebrated my birthday – MONTHS early!

What a FANTASTIC day!  Tomorrow we sadly say farewell to Dallas – we are off to San Antonio.

Everything is BIGGER in TEXAS!

Texas greeted us with 78F temperatures and sunny skies.  Certainly a nice change from the major winter snow and ice storms at home.

Our AC flight arrived late so our local hostess with the mostess was busy on the phone altering our days itinerary.

I’ve known “Alice from Dallas” for a few decades.  I couldn’t ask for a better person to look after us – she is a pro.  At one time Alice represented the city of Dallas so let me tell you she knows “everyone” in the tourism industry plus she is so well respected.  It only took a couple minutes and everyone was at ease with her.  Her personality is infectious and is she so funny.  Alice is a busy lady so we are fortunate that she has cleared most her schedule in order to spend a great deal of time with us during our Texas stay.  I know she has done that especially for me – thank you Alice!

Priorities first – we were hungry.  Alice and her husband live in an exclusive area of Dallas and they know the best restaurants in that area so we had lunch in their  Italian restaurant hangout.  This is a family run operation and the owner kindly showed up to meet us.  She graciously extended their lunch time service in order to accommodate us.  We had the restaurant to ourselves – the building dates back to 1911.  Our waiter was very old school – what a terrific gentleman – he used a long pice of narrow paper to take down our orders in his own code.  I’m sure he would be the only one that could possibly figure out what he had written.  The chefs cuisine was truly homemade – just like going into Grandma’s kitchen – no wonder Alice and her husband love this place.  The salad dressing, soup, entrees and lucious dessert are all made from scratch.  If I was a local this would be my hangout too!  So happy that Alice’s husband joined us – a true southern gentleman.

As we drove around the city I was really impressed – what a beautiful place.

In the downtown core Alice walked us around the area where President Kennedy was assasinated.  She has collected so much conspiracy information which she has compiled a binder type book.  Tomorrow we will go to a museum where we will learn even more about that tragic day.

Our drive to Parker, Texas was during the heart of rush hour.  Traffic was heavy but it moves well – certainly not a headache like Toronto’s rush hour.  Parker is an impressive bedroom community and as Alice explained $500,000 will buy you a mansion in this area – a beautiful home might set you back a couple hundred thousand – certainly a bargain in comparison to home.

Talking about mansions we felt like VIP’s when the Southfork Ranch staff, home of the television series, DALLAS welcomed us after hours for a “Travel With Bradley” EXCLUSIVE Valentines event.  They even staffed the massive gift shop after hours just for us.

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We walked through an excellent memorabilia museum before we boarded a very modern John Deer tractor pulled tram that took us to the well known mansion.

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Our Cowboy guide was a real character – very genuine – I think we are going to meet many very friendly and welcoming folk during our Texas stay.

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We could explore the mansion at our leisure and take all the pictures we wanted.  We then gathered in one of the mansion rooms for a Valentines Texas BBQ Dinner featuring brisket that has been slow cooked for 30 hours and very moist bbq chicken – variety of salads, homemade baked beans, pickles and peppers,  freshly baked southern cornbread and of course very hot apple cobbler for dessert.  Enjoyed by all!  Valentines treats were on our tables and my passengers wore Western bandanas – after all we are in Texas!

We were ready for bed when we arrived at the unique, downtown core hotel that is our home for a couple of nights.  Alice arranged for our luggage to be delivered while we enjoyed our lunch so it was already in our rooms.  She had our keys too so we just boarded the elevators when we arrived.  Felt like VIP’s again.

This hotel is housed in an old building that has been repurposed into two hotels and residential suites.  Our rooms are fantastic – massive – incredible high ceilings – original wood floors – oversize washrooms and the most unique feature in my room is one of the original building cement columns.  When I put my arms around it they reach just about 1/2 way.  Its a huge column – but everything is bigger in Texas!  These hotel rooms are larger than many of the condos in Toronto.  The bed is extra comfy too.   This hotel only been open a couple of months.  What a great find – I could move in!  Thanks Alice for suggesting we stay in this unique boutique property – so perfect for a “Travel With Bradley” Journey.

Day 1 was an awesome one – a wonderful city to spend Valentines Day!

Antigua – our final stop on this amazing 12 night cruise

Christopher Columbus “discovered” Antigua back

in 1493.  Sugar cane became the dominant force, with the first sugar plantation established in 1674.  

Antigua is our final port of call.  This 12 night cruise itinerary included a Caribbean Island port of call everyday.  Tomorrow will be our only “at sea” day as the Captain will be busy sailing back to San Juan.

The town of St. John’s is busy as we are sharing this port with both the Crown Princess (Princess Cruise Lines) and the Anthem of the Seas (Royal Caribbean).  There is also a tall ship docked across for us.

 

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Some of our passengers are enjoying a 6 hour Catamaran Excursion which will take them around the island.

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I walked into a jewelry store and I must have looked as though I had money to burn.  The salesperson proudly showed me and placed on my wrist a $140,000 USD bracelet (not my style…) with a matching $400,000 necklace that he thought I should purchase for “someone special” at home.  I’m still thinking about how many sets I’ll bring home… he offered to give me a “deal”!

There are many creative named shops around town.

We’ve certainly have enjoyed an amazing cruise.  Its the very professional and extra friendly personal on board that have elevated our experience on the Celebrity Summit.  The ships Captain started sailing this ship when it was introduced back in 2001 and its obvious that he is highly respected by the staff on board.  Everyone has gone out of their way to make sure our cruise experience was an excellent one.

So many of the staff recognize my passengers and they call me “Mr. Bradley” as I stroll around the ship.

I’m finding my passengers are preferring these longer length cruises because they are much more relaxing – you certainly feel as though you have been away for a substantial length of time.  

We will never again see the Celebrity Summit like it is now.  After this cruise it sails a short 5 day itinerary and then the Celebrity Summit will be dry-docked in the Bahamas and will undergo a $55 Million dollar refurb – during the 45 refurbishment days approx 2000 workers will transform this cruise ship.  I’ll be anxious to see the results!  I wish them all the best with this challenging endeavor.  

During tomorrows Sea Day I probably won’t have access to WIFI so you won’t hear from me.  

I remember my Dad today.  This would have been his birthday – he loved sailing on cruise ships and had been to this port of Antigua a number of  times with the entire family.  Its dress up night on the Summit tonight so they are serving lobster in the dining room – that was always Dad’s favourite and he’d finish off his meal with a caramel or chocolate sundae – the bigger the better!  Miss you Dad!

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I’d like to thank my amazing passengers for joining me on this winter getaway.  We all agree that we escaped the worst of this Canadian winter – snow, record cold temps and freezing rain.  We’ll do our very best to bring some Caribbean weather home with us.

Exclusive Invite On The Celebrity Summit Helipad!

I arranged for my passengers to receive an Exclusive Invite “Helipad Sailaway” on the Celebrity Summit as we departed from the Island of St. Kitts.  A fun time was had by all.  The sunset was spectacular and the beverages were refreshing…. Warm Caribbean Greetings to all of you!

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St. Kitts and Nevis – just beautiful!

St. Kitts and Nevis – just beautiful!  A picture perfect morning for our sail in.

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Once again the seas were smooth as the Celebrity Summit Captain sailed towards St. Kitts.  There hasn’t been any sea motion during this 12 night cruise.   At times you need to remind yourself you are at sea and not on land.

St. Kitts is a beautiful backdrop to any Caribbean adventure.   This favourite island features dormant volcanoes, golden sand beaches and gorgeous green hills.   

We are sharing this port with 2 other cruise ships passengers – a Windstar Sailing Vessel and Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas.    St. Kitts will soon be welcoming more cruise ships as a new dock is currently being constructed.

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Our friend from Brazil was ready to give us a bottle of water before we departed the ship.

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Basseterre is the capital of the Federation of Saint Kitts in the West Indies.  Its regarded as one of the best of the Caribbean’s small capitals.

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There was a welcoming committee waiting for us.

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If you a shopper the port area features enough shops to keep you busy.

Another beautiful sunny 80F day!  

My passengers and I are excited about our nice BONUS prior to dinner.  I arranged for us to enjoy front row seats for the best view at sea as we watch our sail away from the ships helipad.  This exclusive invitation is typically just for suite guests AND “Travel With Bradley Passengers”!

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French Martinique and Independent Dominica

Martinique and Dominica – 

Yesterday we visited French Martinique, which is renowned for the beauty of its beaches and vegetation.  At 425 square miles it is roughly the size of Maui and is similar due to its mountainous terrain, banana plantations, pineapple fields and sugar cane.  The French have retained this island so you can readily find products from France in many of the shops.  The town of Fort De France is very attractive.  We couldn’t help but to notice the prime located McDonalds but Kentucky Fried Chicken remains the fast food giant on these islands.

 

This morning before venturing into Dominica many of my group enjoyed a private 1 hour tour of the galley.  Konstantinos Vogiatzoglou, the 31 year old Executive Chef onboard the Celebrity Summit truly entertained us.  He is by far the youngest executive chef in the fleet and he has a 97% approval rate from his staff – VERY impressive!  We were served champagne as we entered the dining room.  He assembled the head chefs from every department to meet us before taking us through the galley.  There are 236 staff in the galley and they prepare 14,000 meals a day!

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Dominica is situated between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.  Its bordered on the east by the vast and beautiful Atlantic Ocean and on the West by the calm and romantic Caribbean.  Dominica gained its independence in November 1978.  Its rugged terrain, volcanic activity, pristine coral reef and untouched rainforests make it an attractive island to tour.  Vendors set up their wares along the pier.  One of them was singing country music with a drawl!  

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Another picture perfect day.

St. Vincent – is newly opening to tourism

St Vincent and the Grenadines

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The Atlantic Ocean that surrounds St. Vincent is crystal clear.  The water sparkles with vibrant shades of greens and blue.  Its obvious why the movie producers picked this island for the filming of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

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St Vincent offers mountain peaks, waterfalls and rainforests.  The tourist roadmap that the locals handed us when we arrived on the island shows that the islands main road only goes around 80% of the island – its therefore impossible to drive all the way around.  

The population on this island is approx 110,000.  Kingston, where the Summit docked is the Capital.

Kingston has a population of 20,000.  Its a busy, lively town.  As we strolled down the Main Street we noticed arches, cobbled streets, historic churches and historic stone buildings.  There were many “Back in Time” retail shops that cater to the locals.  The largest retail shops are grocery stores.  With so many cruise passengers on the street there is a feeling of security but I don’t think anyone ventured too far.

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The first Monday of the month brings islanders to Kingston as its pay your bills day.  The vegetable and fish markets were in full swing as the vendors knew this would be a busy day.

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This is not a prosperous island.  Unemployment is 18% so there are many locals “hanging around” but the cruise ships are starting to arrive more often (4 this week) so this influx of money will hopefully help the community.

Retail wise there is little that tourists are going to want to buy on this island but eventually the vendors will catch on with what products will make tourists open their wallets.  Hopefully their government is savvy enough to start training the locals vendors that are after the tourist dollars.

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Celebrity cruises welcomes families of their workers onboard their ships.  Today a family from St Vincent boarded so they could see where their daughter works.  I could see the excitement in their eyes as they boarded the ship.  How wonderful. 

Its dress up night again.  On Celebrity this isn’t a required dress code – more of a “suggestion” so you will see passengers wearing everything from tux’s to t-shirts and ball caps….. but the majority of the passengers do dress up.  I hear from many passengers that they wish Celebrity would go back to when they had a dress code on dress up nights, with an option for those that don’t wish to dress up to dine at the lido buffet.  Most agree that seeing passengers wearing ball caps in the dining room shouldn’t be allowed at any time.  

Weather remains perfect – we couldn’t ask for anything better – temps in the low 80’s with sunny skies.  Glad to hear that those at home are enjoying a bit of relief from the recent cold winter blast.  

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Barbados of the West Indies

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Barbados is the easternmost island of the West Indies.  It combines beautiful beaches with a British charm.  The west coast of the island is lined with over 10 miles of perfect white-sand beaches and crystal clear water.  This pear shaped island is relatively small – only 166 square miles.

Bridgetown is the capital city.  Its architecture is a combination of Modern and Victorian.  I knew that the shops on Broad Street would be closed because its Sunday so made sure my passenger were aware of that.  Later in the day I ran into a number of ship passengers that went into Bridgetown in order to shop so they were disappointed that this information had not been relayed to them.  The downtown core of Bridgetown resembles a ghost town on Sundays.  Passengers were surprised that shops are closed especially when there are a couple ships in port but I expect its a law that prohibits them from opening.

Many of my gang visited Barbados beautiful local beaches today.  A couple of my passengers took scuba diving lessons and loved the experience.   The rest explored the islands on tours.

In Barbados shuttles are provided from the ship to the terminal building.  In the terminal there is a tourist kiosk, some shops and complimentary WI-FI if you are lucky enough to get connected.

With us in port was the former, Celebrity Infinity which I sailed on with groups a number of times a “few” decades ago.  Back then it was considered a state-of-the-art “large” cruise ship.  An European company renamed her the Marbella Explorer.  I  easily recognize this ship and her sister the Horizon (still has that name but not under the Celebrity flag).

I thought the ship staff did a bumper job, co-ordinated a number of excellent “Super Bowl” Parties throughout the ship.  The biggest event was held in the main theatre which was elaborately decorated for the big event.  A variety of game day appetizers were served – sliders, chicken wings, hot dogs etc..  The smaller lounges became the entertainment venues for the evening so there was plenty to do for those that were not interested in watching the game.  The international broadcast feed unfortunately did not show the game commercials.  

One of my favourite places on board to spend time on the Summit is “Cafe al Bacio”.  I visit so often the staff automatically prepares my “chai tea latte with unsweetened almond milk” as soon as they see me coming.  Its a relaxing venue and our groups included beverage package includes the speciality coffee and teas that are prepared here.

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Grenada – The Spice Isle

Grenada is known as the Spice Isle.

A couple of my passengers were anxious to visit the “Nutmeg Bar” in the port town of St. George  – it was their hangout when they were last on the island 40 years ago.  To get there they needed to walk through the Sendall Tunnel – opened in the year 1894 by the British – the tunnel is approx 350 feet long and 9 feet high – it connects the east and west side of town – both vehicles and pedestrians pass through at the same time….. A number of us walked through but a couple of my passengers said “No Way”.  My passengers reported that the “Nutmeg Bar” was pretty much the same as years ago – good things don’t need to change.

In the little town of St. George, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is the major fast food chain with 2 locations.  Pizza Hut can also be found here.

The local market vendors sold fresh produce/fruit, no-name fragrances and 2nd hand clothing.  A loud evangelist was saving everyone as he passed through the market and his 2 helpers carried a bucket for donations.  It was interesting watching them make their rounds.  The town of St. George’s, Grenada is a colourful place.

A young gentleman on board from Brazil who provides me and my group with a bottle of water before we head to shore everyday was excited because the local smoothie cafe in the mall adjacent to the cruise dock makes “avocado” smoothies.  At home in Brazil he drinks an avocado smoothie every morning so he was very anxious to purchase one today.  

I stopped at the smoothie stand so I could buy him one but they had no avocados today….  I came back to the ship and reported the news – he was so disappointed but I gave him some cash so he could buy another flavour as a treat from me and my appreciative passengers.  This stand is the busiest shop in the mall – locals and especially staff from the Summit were in line to purchase.

Many of my passengers had orders from their friends and family to bring home the local island spices.  There were many opportunities to purchase spices

without going far.  The souvenir shops in the mall charge very inflated prices for low quality products but you can buy the local spices quite reasonably.

The farther you walk down Main Street the more reasonable the local 3 hour island tours become – they start out at 25.00 per person at the cruise terminal and 15.00 was the bargain rate down the street.

The weather was one again perfect today – low 80’s, blue skies.

This evening the friendly staff at the speciality restaurant, Qsine hosted our group.  I provided our passengers with $100.00 cruise credit so they could take advantage of the speciality restaurants on board.  This restaurant has a $45. Cover Charge but since my group is so large I was able to negotiate a $30. Cover Charge for everyone.  The speciality restaurants on board are worth a $30. Cover Charge but I’d have a hard time recommending them if my passengers had to pay $45. when the food in the main dining room is excellent.

I invited Canada’s Illusionist Ryan Joyce to join us for dinner as my special guest.  My passengers appreciated having this extra time to visit with him.  Some called his arrival a “Bradley Walters Surprise”.  They teased that I needed to keep track of my watch or Ryan was bound to steal it (like he does during his shows).

Ryan and I are kindred spirits.  Our life experiences mirror one another.  We are entertainers that spend extended periods away from home, family and friends so we easily relate to one another.

Having Ryan on board was a thrill for not only me but my passengers.  We were all proud to watch an terrific Canadian entertainer on stage.  Have a safe journey home, Ryan.  Look forward to visiting with you again sometime soon.  Break a leg!

The Qsine dinner was exceptional.  The chef and staff really went out of their way to make it a very memorable evening.  Qsine offers an around the world, culinary experience – there was way too much food but nobody was complaining except to say they were VERY full.  I sat down with the Qsine maitre d’ ahead of time to select a menu for my passengers which they served family style.  

Surprisingly the maitre d at Tuscan Grill (the other onboard speciality restaurant) wasn’t too excited about welcoming our group when I approached him at the start of this cruise but the staff from Qsine certainly well exceeded my and my passengers expectations.  The Qsine restaurant experience is unlike anything you will find at home so that makes it extra special.

An entertaining juggler took to the stage this evening.

Seas remained smooth throughout the evening sail to Barbados.