Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vanilla -- International Bear

Hola Kids,

I'm sure you know that's Spanish. I've been to Spain! Miss Elaine and I went to the region of Galicia which is in northwest Spain. We spent several days in the capital -- Santiago de Compostela. This is a very old city! The cathedral here is almost a thousand years old!

I'm sitting in the middle of the Plaza de Obradoiro. Lots of things go on here -- people meet and visit here and musicians often play music, hoping that people will donate money.

Lots of things here are old and historic but the city also has very modern areas. The picture at the top of this post is an aerial photo -- Miss Elaine took it out of the plane window. Can you see all the wind turbines on the mountain tops?

Our hotel is very old. In 1499 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered it to be built as an inn and a hospital for pilgrims coming to visit the cathedral. In 913, a peasant found some bones and it was determined that they were the bones of Saint James, one of Jesus' disciples. People came from far away to see the tomb. Even today, people come to this church -- often walking many miles. Today the inn is an elegant hotel.

This is the living room area of the hotel.

And this is me sitting on the mantel above the fireplace!

Miss Elaine and I started exploring as soon as we got here. When we got hungry, we stopped at an outdoor cafe by the hotel. We had a great view of the cathedral.

I made a new friend. This girl was from Germany. She loved me and would like to have taken me home but Miss Elaine explained that I was a working bear and you needed me to help you learn geography. She was sad but she understood.

Love, Vanilla

Friday, October 16, 2009

Vanilla Goes Gator

Hi Kids,

As you may already know, I've been to Beaumont, Texas, which advertises itself as "Texas with a little something extra!" Well, there's lots extra.

When I found out that our first stop involved alligators, I absolutely refused to get out of the car! I'm just a little bear and I was afraid I would look like an hors d'oeuvre! In case you don't know -- that's French for a little snack. It's pronounced or-durve and it literally translates "outside of the work" meaning outside a regular meal.

Miss Elaine wasn't afraid so she went with our hostess Miss Stephanie to meet Gary Saurage who owns Gator Country Adventure Park. A lot of the alligators here are ones he captured after they went somewhere they shouldn't -- like somebody's back yard. Big Al is the king of the gators at Gator Country. He weighs 1000 pounds and is over 13 feet long!

This is Chubs. Miss Elaine said he wasn't exactly cuddly, but he was born with a bad jaw and he can't close his mouth so she wasn't really in any danger of getting bitten.

As you can see, there are also other reptiles here. Gary has 236 alligators, 7 crocodiles, 9 caimans, 4 snakes and lots and lots of turtles.

I didn't want to get near any of them. I did let Miss Elaine pose me for this picture. That's a real alligator head -- but the rest of him was long gone! This wasn't scary but it is about as close as I wanted to get to the real thing!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vanilla Goes to Beavers Bend

Hi Kids,

It's been a long time since I've written to you! We've had company. Miss Elaine's daughter, Miss Zoe, arrived from England and we've been having a great time. She's gone home now so I have a LITTLE bit of time to write before Miss Elaine and I head for the Big Thicket!

Beavers Bend is about as far southeast in Oklahoma as you can get. It's really pretty with low mountains and lots of pines. We stayed at Lago Vista Bed and Breakfast and I got to go to the hot tub with Miss Zoe and the Lago Vista cat, Sam.

This wasn't my whole breakfast -- just the starter! Miss Chandra fixed French toast and bacon, too. I may have to go on a diet.

Then we met Ranger Robert Bastarach who led us down to the Red Slough (just say "slew") Wetlands where we met Biologist David Arbour. They know everything about birds and animals that live in the area. We even saw two roseate spoonbills -- really cool birds that look like flamingos except they don't have a curved beak. Their beaks are long and at the end, they flatten out like a spoon.

Then they showed us an old alligator nest. I was really glad the mama and her babies weren't at home! Did you know we had alligators in Oklahoma? I didn't, but I do now!