Oh, The Places I've Gone! - My Family Travels
If I had the privilege to live life as a cartoon character, I would be Carmen Sandiego. I enjoy to travel and one day hope to see the world on leisure, not just to conceal my VILE actions from detecting ACME gumshoes. Most of my traveling has taken place in the south and thanks to two organizations that I am presently in, I have been able to travel further southwest than Texas (Phoenix, Arizona) and further north than St. Louis (Chicago, Illinois). Out of the many cities I have been to and all the hotels I have stayed in, none compare to the Woodlands Resort and Conference Center in Houston and the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio.
This past summer, I was chosen to attend the national Top Teens of America (TTA) and Top Ladies of Distinction (TLOD) conference, Syn-Lod, in Cleveland, Ohio. It was my first time going up that far north and flying outside of Texas. I did not know what to expect from the conference or the hotel, but, to my amazement, I was greeted with a sense of home and relaxation from the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. No visions of grandeur came from this place; its exquisite beauty was live and in living color. Being the ultimate fanatic of old buildings and structures that I am, I relished each and every pathway, chandelier and fountain on site. To my astonishment, there was even a mall inside of the hotel, as well as a connection room to another nearby hotel, the Ritz-Carlton. The grand ballroom was just that: grand, mighty, and ultra beautiful when decked out in TTA and TLOD colors royal blue, silver, pink and gray. Amongst the other great facilities in the compound, I enjoyed the weight room, giant sun light, pool and terrace with all the windows facing inward towards each other. Other than my beautiful sleeping quarter, room 848, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ambassador room and the Gold room. The Ambassador room was vivid, yet naturally pure, while the Gold room was the “castle of champions,” a place specifically ordained for my success. I received my first ever standing ovation and national recognition for my knowledge and effort in participating in the finals of the Black History Bowl. The organization even had a designated meeting place in one of the restaurants known as Café Top Teens. My heart is still in room 848, and I plan to visit the historic hotel again in my lifetime.

As a part of my contract with the Texas Teen Ambassadors, I am required to travel to certain planned events around the state. Because of that legally binding document, I have been able to venture into several parts of this great state. I have seen hills, valleys, mountains and canyons but none compare to the simple glamour that the Woodlands Resort and Conference Center brings. One of the first places I went to at the Woodlands was the Forest Oasis. The Forest Oasis consists of four pools and a hot tub, a 50 foot high double waterslide, fountains galore, and a waterfall rock wall, amongst other great things. The first pool is set up with simulated concrete sand, like on a beach, and there is an island on the left side of the massive double waterslide. Under the water right next to the island, there is a treasure chest that plays music from its underground speakers. My most peaceful time of swimming there is at night, and I enjoy floating in front of the waterfall rock wall, serene and without a care. As the oldest active Teen Ambassador both in age and years of service, I was able to explore the facility more, walking and wandering into places not assigned to the conference. For the first time in my life, I entered into a spa. Seeing that the prices were way over my budget, I opted out for the priceless amenities. The first and best amenity that I laid eyes on was the cucumber and lemon infused water. Knowing that the resort’s water is definitely not the best, I was hesitant to try the ice cold drink. Surprisingly and thankfully, I was soon corrected of my prejudice by the best tasting water I’ve had so far in life. I even mustered up enough courage to enter into the always terrifying wet and dry saunas while keeping the door intact.  I became inundated with the smell of eucalyptus and the feelings of dry heat; indeed, I am not a cold-blooded person like most who love the rein of the sauna.  Lastly and most importantly, there was a living room and fireplace deep in the catacombs of the spa. Being revitalized from the Jacuzzi, filled with the week’s celebrity news and sated with cucumber-infused water, I sat down on the plush couch directly across from the toasty fire and rested to the smooth sound of Beethoven’s Pathetique coming from the hidden speakers.
Before 2006, my traveling experience only included East Texas, St. Louis and Shreveport. Like most indigent children and adolescents, I could not resort to a single sense of solitude that was just my “happy place.” Until eternal respite, my posts of peace will be filled with the sound of Pathetique and the optimism to always keep my head to the sky. In the meantime, I plan to never forget the memories of two of my favorite places: The Renaissance Cleveland hotel and the Woodlands Resort in Houston.

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