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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cruising from Galveston

Being the winter season, now is a great time to find an affordable cruise. The port of Galveston has the Carnival and Royal Caribbean, which depart for many popular destinations on the Mexican coast, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. Check out some of the current specials in our cruise section.
Galveston beaches
Many choose to stay in a Galveston b&b before going on a cruise, as Galveston has a rich history, with plenty of shopping, and beautiful beaches. We will be revisiting in December to feature some more unique b&bs in the area.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 1:28 AM
Edited on: Sunday, November 18, 2007 3:22 PM
Categories: Cruises

Sunken Ship to Be Boon for Padre Island Scuba Diving

USS Queens, circa 1945
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — In former lives, the Texas Clipper was a WWII attack ship, a soldier transport, a cruise ship across the Atlantic Ocean, and most recently as a training vessel for Texas A&M at Galveston. Known as the USS Queens when launched as an attack ship in 1944, it carried troops to Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, to Japan at the end of the war, and troops home. With it's sinking as an artificial reef on Friday, November 17th, there are only 4 other attack ships that still remain. The Texas Clipper was sunk at a depth of 134 feet, 17 miles from shore. As an artificial reef, it will attract lots of sea life and be a boon for scuba divers to explore, with estimates of $30 million in new tourism to the South Padre Island area.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 1:02 AM
Edited on: Sunday, November 18, 2007 10:04 AM
Categories: Destinations, Travel News

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hotel survey results point to need for better service

According to the results of a recent North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study by J.D. Power, hotel chains may find it more profiitable to focus on guest relations instead of implementing elaborate hotel renovations and improving their properties as guests staying at hotels noted that their key complaints centered around attitudes of hotel staff and the lack of service experienced. What is surprising is that these two controllable factors were noted as being problems by guests for all types of hotel properties (economy, extended stay, mid-range, upscale, and luxury), not just luxury hotels where there is a heightened expection by the guest of getting top quality service. As noted Linda Hirneise, executive director of travel for J.D. Power, “Hotels have dedicated tremendous resources for renovations and improvements of their properties in efforts to improve satisfaction, but all of this may be for naught if service excellence is remiss.”

The survey questions included questions on costs/fees, hotel facilities, hotel services, food & beverage, guest room, check-in/check-out, reservation, and overall satisfaction. During the one year period of the survey, there were over 47,000 people who responded.

Now in its 11th year, the top rated hotels awarded in the J.D. Power survey in each segment as having the highest overall satisfaction in each category:
Microtel Inns & Suites - Economy/Budget
Homewood Suites* - Extended Stay
Drury Inn & Suites - Mid-Range Limited Service
Hilton Garden Inn* - Mid-Range Full Service
Embassy Suites Hotels* - Upscale
The Ritz-Carlton - Luxury
*Owned by Hilton Hotels Corp.

Other factors that were identified as important included a non-smoking environment (by 82% of respondents). No matter what age group responded, a complimentary breakfast was noted as the most important amenity a hotel can offer, followed by high-speed and wireless Internet access and a television set with a screen measuring larger than 27 inches. Of key importance for me is the wireless Internet access in the room with a fast speed. I have been to some hotels that promised it, but in reality the signal was either nonexistent or slower than dial up. As hotels continue to pour money into remodels and renovations, it all comes down to how they treat their guests.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 1:17 PM
Categories: Accommodations, Travel News

True Hollywood Heroes

Someone sent this to me recently from an anonymous email to highlight how the movie stars of yesteryear were true heroes who loved their country and served in WWII with valor and integrity. Can the same be said today for Hollywood stars?

A few of these true heroes are still with us -

Charles Durning - http://www.pbs.org/memorialdayconcert/wwii/durning.html

Charlton Heston - http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/11/29/164907.shtml?s=ic

Ernest Borgnine - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Borgnine

At 90, he's still making films.

With the advent of World War II many of our actors went to fight rather than stand and rant against this country we all love. They gave up their wealth, position and fame to become service men & women, many as simple "enlisted men". This lists but a few, but from this group of only 18 men came over 70 medals in honor of their valor, spanning from Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, Distinguish Service Cross', Purple Hearts, and one Congressional Medal of Honor.

So remember; while the "Entertainers of 2007" have been in all of the news media lately, read what the Entertainers of 1943 were doing, (64 years ago).

Most of these brave men have since passed on.

"Real Hollywood Heroes"

Alec Guinness (Star Wars) operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D-Day.

James Doohan ("Scotty" on Star Trek) landed in Normandy with the U. S. Army on D-Day.

Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape) really was an R. A. F. pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans.

David Niven was a Sandhurst graduate and Lt. Colonel of the British Commandos in Normandy.

James Stewart entered the Army Air Force as a private and worked his way to the rank of Colonel. During World War II, Stewart served as a bomber pilot, his service record crediting him with leading more than 20 missions over Germany, and taking part in hundreds of air strikes during his tour of duty. Stewart earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, France's Croix de Guerre,and 7 Battle Stars during World War II. In peace time, Stewart continued to be an active member of the Air Force as a reservist, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in the late 1950s.

Clark Gable (Mega-Movie Star when war broke out), although he was beyond the draft age at the time the U.S. Entered WW II, Clark Gable enlisted as a private in the AAF on Aug. 12, 1942 at Los Angeles. He attended the Officers' Candidate School at Miami Beach, Fla. and graduated as a second lieutenant on Oct. 28, 1942. He then attended aerial gunnery school and in Feb. 1943. He was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook where flew operational missions over Europe in B-17s. Capt. Gable returned to the U.S. In Oct. 1943 and was relieved from active duty as a major on Jun. 12, 1944 at his own request, since he was over-age for combat.

Charlton Heston was an Army Air Corps Sergeant in Kodiak.

Ernest Borgnine was a U. S. Navy Gunners Mate 1935-1945.

Charles Durning was a U. S. Army Ranger at Normandy, earning a Silver Star and awarded the Purple Heart.

Charles Bronson was a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps, more specifically on B-29's in the 20th Air Force out of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan

George C. Scott was a decorated U. S. Marine.

Eddie Albert (Green Acres TV) was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroic action as a U. S. Naval officer aiding Marines at the horrific battle on the Island of Tarawa in the Pacific Nov. 1943.

Brian Keith served as a U.S. Marine rear gunner in several actions against the Japanese on Rabal in the Pacific.

Lee Marvin was a U.S. Marine on Saipan during the Marianas campaign when he was wounded earning the Purple Heart.

John Russell enlisted in the Marine Corps where he received a battlefield commission and was wounded and highly decorated for valor at Guadalcanal.

Robert Ryan was a U. S. Marine who served with the O. S. S. In Yugoslavia.

Tyrone Power (an established movie star when Pearl Harbor was bombed) joined the U.S. Marines, was a pilot flying supplies into, and wounded Marines out of, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Glenn Ford was a US Marine during WW II performing missions behind enemy lines for the OSS, and he helped build safe houses in France for those hiding from the Nazis. Mr. Ford also served two tours of duty in Vietnam and is the only actor to have served with both the Green Berets and the French Foreign Legion. Among his numerous medals and commendations are the Medal of Honor, presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the French Legion of Honor Medal for his service in World War II, two commendation medals from the US Navy and the Vietnamese Legion of Merit.

Audie Murphy, little 5'5" tall 110 pound guy from Texas who played cowboy parts. He was the Most Decorated serviceman of WWII and earned: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, 2 Silver Star Medals, Legion of Merit, 2 Bronze Star Medals with "V", 2 Purple Hearts, U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, 2 Distinguished Unit Emblems, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France) World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar, Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar, French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre, French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier, French Croix de Guerre With Silver Star, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Medal of Liberated France, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm.

So how do you feel the real heroes of the silver screen acted when compared to the hollywonks today who spray out anti-American drivel as they bite the hand that feeds them? Can you imagine these stars of yester-year saying these things in a time of war? I thought not......

Posted by Carl Burnham at 12:33 AM

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Heroes Among Us, Our Veterans

Being Veteran's Day, it is a chance to reflect on our veterans. They gave and continue to give us their best. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country, in fighting to defend our freedoms we take so for granted today. We honor them by telling their stories, by reminding us how very proud we are of them. Think of our soldiers, our veterans. Give them a handshake. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Our freedoms are not free. They are there because our veterans and soldiers have been there to defend them. They are our countries (and the world's) true heroes.

My Uncle Ches and Dad
Some served along the front lines during WWII like my Uncle Ches in Italy. He was also one of the first soldiers to help liberate the concentration camp at Dachau and witnessed the horrors that had gone on there. At 90, he still finds it hard to talk about what all he saw that day. In recent years, he was given a plaque and a tree was planted in his honor in Israel. Others, like my Dad and Uncle Cooper (who recently passed away) served in vital supportive roles during the war. My Dad on Sardinia Island and portions of Italy, and my uncle in Anchorage, Alaska. Another uncle, Uncle Clarence, served in Korea.

Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly, a friend of the family, landed at Normandy and was later a German POW. Here is a portion of his story.

Joe was in England for about six weeks before his division was ordered to participate in D Day operations. His outfit went across the English Channel to Normandy on June 6, 1944. They were put on landing crafts late one afternoon and left about four o'clock the next morning. He was not in the first group to hit the beach. However, he met one soldier who was among the first. The man said he was the only one left out of 187 men.

Joe didn't get seasick going across the channel because he didn't have time. It was the least of his worries. His jeep was on the landing craft (Higgins boat) with him and the others. To get the Jeep off the landing craft, he had to pull the throttle out and stand up as he steered it. The exhaust pipe ran up above the top of the Jeep. After driving out upon the beach, he was able to find his company. The beach was sandy, and there were bodies around everywhere--also torn up equipment. There was a lot of blood. Even the water was bloody. The Germans were about a half mile away when Joe arrived on the beach. Joe's outfit landed the morning after the first landing. The army had to get bulldozers to clear the beach before Joe's group could be put on shore. Once Joe got on the beach, he brought up the ammunition.

Joe and his assistant driver were captured at night when they took a wrong road back to their company. He was taken to Stalag 7. The stalag was very large, perhaps one hundred thousand prisoners. He had cabbage and potatoes to eat. He would eat mostly potatoes. He had to cook them by himself, and he had to find whatever he could to make a fire for cooking. He was given one slice of bread a day. He went from 145 to 98 pounds in 23 days. He ate dandelions but did not like them very well. About the only way to keep from being bitten severely by fleas while in bed was to pull off all your clothes and get under the blankets. He escaped once by hiding under sacks of potatoes on a truck. When the truck was being unloaded, he jumped off. He stayed in Munich. The French underground put Joe into another truck which carried him for five or six hours at night to a place near the Swiss border. He was asked to get out and he walked all day long and part of the night to reach Switzerland. When he reached a pine thicket, he lay down in the snow and went to sleep. He was awakened by a German soldier who was laughing and pointing a rifle at him. Joe stood up and put his hands over his head. About an hour later, the German soldier put him on a truck which took him back to Moosburg where he was put in solitary confinement for a week. He was not given anything to eat or drink. A Frenchman in the stalag sneaked bread and water in to Joe. After a week, he was let out of solitary confinement in the day but had to go back to it each night. This continued for about a month. When he was finally released from solitary confinement, his feet were frostbitten and he was in bad shape physically. Joe's stalag was liberated on April 3, 1945, by units of the 14th Armored Division, part of General Patton's Third Army. During the first week of May, they were taken about 1.5 miles to Landshut and were flown out on C-47's, with 27 people on each plane. Joe got in the tail end of the plane. Three of the C~47's had crashed on takeoff before the plane Joe was on departed.

I am gathering the memoirs of veterans that I hope to publish in a book.

Our soldiers and veterans and families are all around us. Honor them by showing them that they are the true heroes that they are. S.T., a friend, is serving for the third time in Iraq, away from his wife and family. He understands the cause, what is at stake in the war, accepts the sacrifices, and knows it is the right thing to do.
Our soldiers and their families need our full support.
Think of soldiers like him today, and pause to thank God for him and others who serve and have served. Heroes all.

A special note of praise goes to Golden Corral and McCormick & Schmick's Seafood restaurants, who are honoring veterans by giving them a free meal on Veteran's Day.

As soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan, they need help in getting jobs and back into society. Some companies are not aware that they get a tax credit for hiring a veteran. A recent disturbing report noted that veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though only representing 11 percent of the general adult population. Here are ways you can help the families of those in service now through private donations:
Fallen Heroes Fund | Fisher House Foundation
| More Ways To Support Our Troops

Posted by Carl Burnham at 12:14 PM
Edited on: Monday, January 28, 2008 10:34 AM

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ride with the Blue Angels

A friend recently sent me this video link - What it's like to ride with the Blue Angels.
An Atlanta reporter, Steve Beatty, had a ride of his life in an F/A-18 prior to the Naval Air Show there this weekend.
The Blue Angels are known for their entertaining shows, with razor sharp precision maneuvers.

Blue Angels near San Francisco Bay
In honoring our soldiers and veterans especially this weekend, remember to thank them for all they do and have done.
Their sacrifices are the reason our country and most of the world are free.

Photos courtesy of Ken Crutchfield, Sr., former Admin. Chief for the Blue Angels

Posted by Carl Burnham at 5:07 PM
Categories: Videos

Monday, November 05, 2007

Largest aircraft makes inaugural flight

Singapore Airlines undertook an inaugural flight on October 25th of their A380, surpassing the 747 as the largest commercial aircraft ever built.
The first flight was from Singapore to Sydney, Australia, and seats were auctioned for charity. Seats were sold for as high as $100,000. Think about that for a moment..
For tickets in first class, perks include your own room with a full-sized bed, complete with designer sheets, turn-down service, crystal, and other amenities.Regular first class tickets will be $22,000 for those interested in the utmost in first class international flights.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 3:08 PM
Categories: Travel News

Friday, November 02, 2007

Red Carnation Hotels Awarded AA's Small Hotel Group of the Year

Red Carnation Hotels has received the AA's Small Hotel Group of the Year Award. This British hotel rating authority noted the hotel line's high standard of service.
Red Carnation Hotels
From our London travels, be sure to read our feature articles on our stays at the Rubens at the Palace and the Montague on the Gardens, part of the Red Carnation line of ten hotels worldwide.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 4:13 PM
Categories: Accommodations, Travel News

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Local Texas Accommodations Honor Returning Veterans with Free Stays

In honoring the veterans who are returning from service overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, an extraordinary program has been established by several participating b&b's, guest cottages, inns, and hotels in the Fayetteville and surrounding Texas communities who are offering returning veterans and their spouses a free 1 or 2 night stay at their accommodation. The establishments represented are only about an hour from Houston & Austin and 2 hours from San Antonio.
A list of participating accommodations are available at www.texasveteranproject.org.
We applaud this great Texas community in introducing this program, and hope that other communities follow their lead in showing how proud we are of our veterans.

With Veteran's Day approaching November 11th, please keep our veterans in mind as well and let them know how much we truly appreciate their great sacrifices for our country, and are the reason for the freedoms we can enjoy.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 8:10 PM
Edited on: Sunday, November 18, 2007 10:03 AM
Categories: Accommodations, Travel News

Halloween Austin style on 6th Street

All range of characters were out for the annual Halloween walk down Sixth Street.
Austin Texas Halloween Sixth Street
In the city that embraces being weird, Austin has turned Halloween into an annual event where adults parade around in outfits instead of just the kids.
Austin Texas Halloween Sixth Street
The event is centered around Sixth Street, which has a row of dance clubs and bars. Some of the costumes can be very risque (not shown here), and no one under 17 is supposed to be out after 10.
Austin Texas Halloween Sixth Street
We walked around for awhile. The crowd seemed to be especially large this year, with many just there like us to gawk at the creative costumes.
Austin Texas Halloween Sixth Street 

Posted by Carl Burnham at 7:30 PM
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