Good food in New Braunfels

Being without power for 13 days is harder than you think - even the most basic things are thrown off kilter and you suddenly find that you have to do everything you can before it gets remotely dark outside. Otherwise, it's lantern-time.

That being the case, we opted to flee our powerless situation this past weekend and head up to New Braunfels. Of course, the power came back on on Friday night and, like Thomas, I didn't believe it until I put my fingers in the holes of His hands... we saw the light on Sunday. All is good again.

But... while we were in New Braunfels, we had a chance to eat at some great little places. Most are well-known but, if you haven't been to NB before, you may not immediately know where to go. The area offers the oldest dancehall in Texas, the oldest bakery in Texas, BBQ, home cooking, Mexican and much more. So, here are four places that benefited from our power outage:

Huisache Grill - 303 W. San Antonio - You wouldn't find it unless you knew to take a little dirt backroad next to the railroad tracks. Once there, you'll find a great wine bar and restaurant with a peaceful garden, a nice selection of wine and some very good food. We make it a point to eat here any time we're in New Braunfels. Excellent food.

Crosswalk Cafe - 489 Main Plaza - Right on the main square, this is a great place to get your coffee fix or to grab a light breakfast or lunch. Never overflowing but usually abuzz with regular clientèle. Great place to grab a spot outside and enjoy a nice espresso.

Grist Mill - 1287 Gruene Road - Telling someone about going to the Grist Mill is far from sharing an "inside tip" but, again, if you haven't been to New Braunfels or Gruene, it may not be as obvious. So, make it a point to go to Gruene, put your name on the potentially long waiting list and look forward to eating at a local landmark. When you're done, see who happens to be playing at Texas' oldest dancehall, Gruene Hall.

Union Street Station - 512 E. San Antonio Street - This tiny place is a great place to catch up with locals. Not far from Schiltterbahn, Union Street Station offers breakfast all day as well as sandwiches and other casual and country cooking. 50+ omelets are on the money and, if you get there at the wrong time on a weekend, expect a long wait. Prices are nice and cheap and you get plenty of food.


Motoring Around on Milos

I've been wanting to post so much about Milos but, simply put, being without power for 11 days makes it kind of tough. I suppose I could sit and write one blog entry after another from work but that might not be too wise. So, when I can, I'll post a tidbit or two until I can actually get online and post more.

Let's talk about something very worthwhile in Milos - renting a car. While there, we rented a car and used it to go all over the island. Since we stayed in Pollonia, access to good transportation was a must. From Pollonia, we would regularly drive to Plaka (the island's hilltop capital), Adamas (the island's main port) and beaches like Yerontas, Tsigrado, Firiplaka and more. Without a car, I would imagine it would be just about impossible to go to places like Klima, a picturesque fishing village on Milos Bay and an absolute must-see.

Now, we rented from Sea Sun Sophia - why Sea Sun Sophia? Simply put, they are the only agency on the island with automatic transmission cars. They are few and far between so, if you want one, that's who you need to contact. We paid 60 EUR/day for a Hyundai Matrix (included insurance).

You'll occasionally see people riding around in dune buggies or four-wheelers but they were slow and tended to clog up the roads. Mopeds? I wouldn't... no way you can drive to Yerontas on a moped - it's a rocky dirt road. Not ideal moped territory.

So, what can you access with a car that you can't access with public transportation?

Remote beaches like Yerontas

The stunning white rocks of Sarakiniko

Wrong turns that lead to this remote overlook near Vatos

The charming fishing village of Klima


Pining for Milos

One week ago, this was our view... Firiplaka Beach on the island of Milos. After our numerous flight cancellations, delays and the current aftermath from Ike, last week seems like last year.

In case you happen to be going to Milos, Firiplaka is definitely a beach worth visiting - gorgeous shallow waters, a long and varied beach with fascinating colors and easy access with a beach bar. You can access Firiplaka by taking the same road to Tsigrado. At the fork, just turn right to Firiplaka. The closest part of the beach includes the beach bar and rentable chairs/umbrellas. Walk further down the beach and past the jutting rock and you'll find a rockier beach with fascinating formations and a few scary nudists.


Ever Evolving Travel Plans

I'm a big fan of keeping work and vacations completely separate. In my opinion, there should be a massive gulf (or ocean, really) separating one from work while on vacation. Typically, I leave my laptop at home and turn off my phone's e-mail capabilities. I don't want anything to do with work.

This time, we actually brought my laptop to Greece - the agreement was to not open Outlook so I couldn't read any work e-mail. I kept my end of the agreement. However, when Ike was about to hit and all travel plans went out the window, my laptop turned out to be a lifesaver. Combine that with Skype and the ability to make plenty of calls to Continental for $.02 a minute, we were able to constantly work on travel plans when everything was going to pot. Simply put, I would strongly recommend bringing a laptop when traveling on vacation - just be sure that you have the willpower to stay away from work or just leave it off unless you really need it. If you make the commitment to not work, as I did, you can do it.

Our travel plans have constantly evolved... essentially, we'll end up home 3 days after originally planned. Our flight from Athens to Paris took off without a hitch. After that, things got confusing. Our Paris to Houston flight was cancelled for two days. That left us in Paris for two nights. OK - not a bad place to be. On the day we were supposed to fly back to Houston, we found out our flight to Houston was cancelled again. We shifted to a flight to Newark (that included an overnight stay) with plans to then fly to San Antonio. Newark was fine (that's 3 unplanned nights in a hotel) but we later found out that getting a car in San Antonio to drive to Houston was impossible.

San Antonio was out so we worked with three ticket agents at the Continental ticket sales counter to then switch our flights from eTickets to paper tickets (I guess that's what they had to do to make the change) so that we could fly from Newark, via Nashville, back to Houston. The next day, when we went to check in, we were told that we essentially didn't have tickets on anything... Nashville, San Antonio, zilch. Hmmm... OK, not great. So, the agent started fixing the mess the last 3 agents had made. She worked over the phone with someone from Continental and actually found us seats on a direct flight from Newark to Houston - something we thought was virtually impossible. From what we know, flights should be taking off and landing in IAH so we should arrive back shortly after midnight on the 16th. Our original plan was to be back in Houston on the 12th. Juuuust a slight delay.

Wow... fun stuff. It's hard to keep sane but we made the best of it, enjoyed a bit of time in Paris and Roissy (more on that later) and tried to keep a sense of humor without strangling each other. Soon, I'll be able to post some pictures from the wonderful island of Milos and our stops in-between.


Hotel Gift Shops and Absurd Prices

What is it about hotel gift shops that they feel the need to gouge customers staying at hotels? Some items are simply overpriced - little travel size deodorants for a few dollars rather than the usual 99 cents. Today, however, I spotted a new one... while staying at the Newark Airport Marriott Hotel, I came across a package of two generic diapers (some no-name brand) for $5.00. Now, let's think about the math. That's $2.50 a diaper. We usually buy a pack of 110 Pamepers diapers (I believe that's what size they are) for $30.00... that's $.27 a diaper... so, the hotel gift shop charges 9x more for a no-name diaper than Target. Wow... nice! Besides, as if two diapers can help... you usually need more, just in case.

Moral of the story - be sure you have extra supplies. We learned that on this trip as our 8 night vacation ended up being extended by 3 nights.


When Life Hands You Lemons

Greek adventures, stunning beaches on the island of Milos, crooked Athenian cab drivers, precarious mountain roads, layovers in a surprising Roissy and hurricanes... so much to post, so much to catch up on. I'll have some great tips coming up in the next few weeks with plenty of pictures of fascinating places like Tsigrado, Yerontas and Klima.

Our trip to Milos was an absolute dream and our journey began to draw to a close with some unexpected twists and turns. This is what is so great about traveling... you never know what to expect. More to come soon... in the meantime, the next time you get stuck at Roissy by CDG in Paris, don't fret - the tiny little town actually has a bit to offer the weary traveler.