Sunday, January 4, 2015

Rio Grande Valley --- New Adventures with Family

Christmas time in deep south Texas....  Kaia (granddaughter - far right) and Amanda (daughter - next to Kaia) flew in from Chicago on Christmas Eve.  Robyn (daughter - second from left) and her boyfriend Atul (next to her) flew in from Los Angeles on Christmas day.   This was our first Christmas together with the entire family since Kaia was an infant.  Dianne prepared a Christmas feast that we enjoyed outside our casita in the warm weather of Mission, Texas.  They all stayed for a week!  The kids took over the casita and motor home each evening, while Dianne and I slept in our friends' motor home just up the block.   (Dianne here:  That's one advantage of living in a village where we know all our neighbors, and have developed great, close friendships with them.   We haven't lived in a neighborhood where we could call up and borrow a cup of sugar (or cornstarch or whatever) since our kids were tiny.   Our good friends Jim and Sue gave us the keys to their RV.  That enabled us to all have the space we needed for the week.   Thanks, Jim and Sue!  Our friends Sharon and Larry loaned us their golf cart for the week and their bicycles in case we needed them.   Thanks, Sharon and Larry!   Our Texas friends really came through for us to help make the week extra special.

After dinner it was gift-time.  All the kids got slippers, scarves and gift cards.  

Robyn's slippers fit her personality.
(At least her mother thought so.... she was a good sport about it -- D.)

Kaia was really happy with the lotion that Dianne found for her.

I got a new coffee mug from the Disney Diner, along with a container-full of Disney coffees.  I love coffee.  (What I really needed was a comb).


After cutting through multiple layers of packing tape, Bandido and I received two bottles of the Italian wine that Amanda sells.
(Dianne again:  What was really special is that one bottle was from the small Tuscan winery we stayed at during our trip to Italy several years ago,     Fattoria Cinciano.)  
Thanks Mandy!  

Not quite sure what Atul is opening; I am sure it was special.

Christmas evening we hopped in the van (rented for the week so that we could all travel in the same vehicle) and visited the Hidalgo Festival of Lights.  This was truly an amazing display (largest in the State of Texas).  Miles and miles of light displays adorned the public spaces throughout the small river (Rio Grande) town of Hidalgo.  I have no idea why we had not done this before.  Magical.

Later in the week we spent a day at the gigantic outlet mall in nearby Mercedes, Texas. 

Kaia told us that it was better than an amusement park, as she and Amanda began skipping through the mall.

It was the first time Dianne and I had stopped at the outlet mall.  We don't shop all that often, but even Dianne had to admit that the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlet Mall was pretty nice.  

 We also stopped at our favorite Mexican store (on the U.S. side) --- El Disco.  

By the end of that day, all the gift card money was gone.  

(Robyn found the "Disney" princess pinatas amusing as she pictured the children beating them with sticks....not quite what Walt Disney had in mind)

We topped off that day with dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, Costa Messa.

We spent a lot of quiet time at our Retama Village casita.  The kids enjoyed the hot tub in the  evenings after a series of Chef Dianne's home-cooked meals.  We watched old family movies that Dianne had transferred to DVDs.  We took golf cart rides, went to the movies, and enjoyed each other's company.

We spent one day in Brownsville, where we discovered what must be the best small-town zoo in the country.  The Gladys Porter Zoo is extremely well-done.  The smiles were infectious as we walked from one exhibit to the next.  Look at the joy evident on Kaia's face as she feeds the giraffe.

The mountain gorilla exhibit rivaled (maybe better) than those of any I have seen at the big-city zoos.

Thanks go to Atul,  Robyn and their technological skills for enabling us to include several moving shots in this post.

Get a load of this magnificent white tiger.

This momma orangutan touched hands with us through the window of the enclosure.  We spent a great deal of time talking with her and her baby.

We lingered for a long, long time at the petting zoo.  This friendly camel (with Kaia) was definitely the star of the show.

The Camel was very interested in Amanda's purse.

It was so fun seeing our grown up granddaughter having such a great time.

Looks like Atul is having a good time, too.

Here is another shot of Atul near the end of our zoo visit.

We stopped at Rudy's BBQ in Brownsville on the way back to Retama Village...

... for an authentic Texas Barbecue dinner.  Do you want Regular sauce or Sissy sauce?

No trip to the Rio Grande Valley is complete without a stop at Bobz World.  We intentionally did not tell the kids what Bobz was before we got there, and it drove them nuts.

Welcome to Bobz --- one of the most interesting tourist traps in the country.  It is actually a gigantic beach store on the way to South Padre Island.

More fun for Atul.

More fun for Robyn.

Goodby kids.  We love you.  The week went by too quickly!