Tuesday Travel – Old San Juan

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Here’s one of my favorite places – Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The walled city dates back to the 16th century, so it’s loaded with historic treasures to explore.

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fort2Castillo San Felipe del Morro, built in 1539, sits guard over San Juan Bay, and on the other side, Castillo San Cristobal guards the land.

Castillo San Cristobal

sorullitosThe old city with its cobblestone streets seems to have a lot of Spanish influences, but I also felt a bit of Italy in the architecture (Naples, in particular.) This was all until I got to the food. Sorullitos won my heart and made me want to stay. Sorullitos are a cheese-filled deep-fried sweet corn bread, and I could have eaten a dozen of them. They reminded me of a South American treat.

I didn’t make it to the Cathedral of San Juan, where Ponce de Leon is buried, so I’ll have to go back again someday. Cheers to Old San Juan!!

pina colada

 

Travel Tuesday – Bermuda

If you don’t know, I have two jobs. I’m an author and I’m a musician. The musician part takes place mostly on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Here’s my office…

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Here’s my desk…
working

This month, I’ve been sailing back and forth between NY and Bermuda. This is one of my favorite runs because we get to stay in one place for three whole days. Over the years, I’ve made quite a few friends on the island. It’s a quaint place. It’s clean, the people are friendly, and the cops don’t even carry guns because there’s no crime.

There are two things I love about Bermuda. First – the beaches.

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Second – the history. I always spend a day touring some old place. The first picture is St. Peter’s Church built in 1602. There’s a cemetery behind it filled with ancient headstones. The second picture is the National Museum at the Royal Navy Dockyard.

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Travel Tuesday – Naples

10552354_10152667745743326_4737772866081198452_nEveryone told me Italy was beautiful…well, except for Naples. They said Naples was dirty and there were lots of homeless people and pickpockets. They said enjoy every other city, but don’t expect too much from Naples. Upon my arrival at the Port of Napoli, I thought it beautiful, but perhaps close up, they were right. Let’s go see.

 

 

10698655_10152737696888326_2086937737908643215_n10411427_10152737697253326_5413339629926071516_nI crossed the street from the port into the city, which is an adventure in itself with tiny cars and motor scooters whizzing by you. Don’t stop walking or you’ll get run over. Just walk. Keep walking. Don’t hesitate. The first site we saw upon surviving crossing the street was an old castle. It was cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10687093_10152737698703326_2207944858881540299_nWe entered a mall. Yes, this picture is the inside of the local mall. It’s what you get when you mix ancient architecture with capitalism. Upon exiting the mall, we took the funicular up to the top of a hill. We followed some signs through cobblestone streets toward a castle. We met a nice man named Giuseppe who was walking back to work following his lunch. He is a fourth generation cameo maker, so we stopped by his shop and met his brother and admired the work they do. We then walked up to the next block and came upon this sight of the city with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. Wow.

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You’ve got to be kidding me. It was magnificent. How could anyone ever scoff at the beauty that is Napoli? Down in the city, every building is ornate and there are statues everywhere. It was like walking around the set of a Roman movie. Up in the hills, the people were awesome and the views were stunning.

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There’s nothing better to break up a long day of sightseeing than FOOD! That was the best part. Apparently, this is the city where pizza was invented. I could live here. Calamari, bruschetta, prosciutto, oh, Napoli has stolen my heart.

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Travel Tuesday – Pisa

Pisa is a 90,000-person town in Tuscany. It’s the capital of the Province of Pisa in central Italy. It’s been around since at least the 5th century BC, so it hosts twenty historic churches, several palaces, and some beautiful bridges, but the thing Pisa is most known for is the Leaning Tower, which is the bell tower of the cathedral. Everyone ventures to the Piazza dei Miracoli (square of miracles) to take the obligatory photos of each other holding up the tower.

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If you venture to Pisa, don’t focus on the tower, focus on the tourists. They are a lot more fun!

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Travel Tuesday – oui, oui , en France

1381994_10152704496413326_6123842265430200293_nYes, yes, in France!

Cannes, pronounced Can, is on the French Riviera surrounded by glamorous names like Monte Carlo, Nice, Monaco, and St. Tropez. It’s a resort town with a curved coast line filled with sandy beaches and palatial hotels. If you choose to do anything except walk along the beach, be prepared to pay the big bucks. It’s not filled with exclusive boutiques for nothing. And if you venture to Monte Carlo to gamble, wear a tux. They won’t let you anywhere near the place unless you pull up in a Rolls.1480664_10152673634993326_5908748731591260899_n

The only things one needs to know about the South of France is they dress better than anyone else on the planet and they have amazing quiche! I have more pictures of quiche, but I’m sure you get the idea. The outdoor cafe, Maison Lafayette, was pretty much my Friday quiche ritual for eight weeks straight.

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Travel Tuesday – When in Rome…

7D_WMed_Rom_Flo_Can_Pal_Na_BcnIs there any place more awesome than Italy? The food is amazing, the people are gorgeous, and the sites are…well, straight out of a history book. I spent the fall of 2014 working on a ship in the Mediterranean, bouncing back and forth between Barcelona, Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Cannes, and Majorca. I can’t wait to go back next fall!

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termini1A co-worker and I took the train from Civitavecchia to go to Rome and see the Colosseum. We were told to take the train to Termini, but another friend said if you get off a few stops before, you can go to the Vatican. Since we return to the port each Wednesday, we decided to go to the Vatican the following week. I looked at the train route but couldn’t make heads or tails out of which stop would be the Vatican. I asked an elderly Italian man by pointing at the train route map and asking “Vatican?”

He shook his head as he didn’t understand.

I continued. “The pope?”

No.

Not one to give up. “Jesus?”

No.

I even tried to make a cross with my fingers, but he didn’t understand. How about “Sistine Chapel? Michelangelo?”

He took the map and pointed to each stop, saying each name as he did so. He said “San Pietro.”

“San Pietro!  Yes, Saint Peter! Graci, Graci, Graci!” I took the map and showed the stop to my companion. “San Pietro!”

A few stops later, we were at San Pietro. I thought the man was going to give himself a heart attack trying to push us off the train. “No, no, we’re going to Termini. San Pietro will be next Wednesday.” I’m sure he didn’t understand me and probably told his wife about the stupid Americans who got lost trying to find the Vatican.

Anyway, we stopped at Termini, boarded the Metro to Colloseo, and behold! This is the site we saw upon climbing out of the subway.

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We turned left and saw this!

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The inside of the Colosseum was incredible!

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The Forum was amazing!

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After touring the Forum and the Colosseum, we went across the street for some gnocchi! Viva Italia!

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She’s Baaaaccckkk!

10481883_10203752346040808_3404858305990932508_nHi everyone! I’ve been gone

for. ev. ver!

I’ve been sailing since the middle of September, and I’m so glad to be home, even if it’s only for a week. I’m headed to NY on Sunday for the next six weeks. I’ve spent the last nine weeks in Europe and took a few pictures….

 

 

 

 

 

10610830_10152660947323326_1592678349874496485_nHere’s where it all started…

 

 

 

 

 

Some pictures from Barcelona. The guy on the top of the pole is Christopher Columbus, and thank goodness, he was pointing to my ship.

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10702163_10152675782863326_334878310078426967_nNext up was Corsica, but we didn’t stop. I only saw it from the Mediterranean.

 

 

 

10313707_10152737700838326_2673587486057984155_n10358568_10152667746103326_5181883343469354238_nI went to Naples six times. The mountain out there is Vesuvius. I kept my fingers crossed that she would remain sleeping every time I saw her.

 

 

 

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I ventured to Rome. Made it to the Colloseum and the Forum, but I couldn’t see the Vatican up close. I saw it from the train a few times, but I was only there on Wednesdays, and the Pope speaks on Wednesday mornings. I just couldn’t take the crowds.

 

10382741_10152752730223326_3289685350957169671_nMade it to Livorno/Pisa/Tuscany/Florence area, but I had to work those nights, so I didn’t see much.

 

 

 

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Next up was the French Riviera. Cannes is where we docked, but all the cool little towns are right there…Monaco, Monte Carlo, St Tropez, Nice…such a beautiful place…with amazing quiche!

 

 

 

 

 

 

10672263_10152675783028326_4929563275863032242_nI went to another place in Spain…the island of Mallorca! So pretty. This was a cool little outcropping of an island called Dragonera.

 

 

 

10712741_10152767698358326_862094451764650218_nAfter going round and round in the Mediterranean for six weeks, I sailed through the Straights of Gibraltar. Here’s a picture of the Rock of Gibralter…at night! LOL!

 

 

10518694_10152771157333326_6782067331973551001_nSpent the day in Madiera, Portugal…not to be confused with Mierda. LOLOLOL!

 

 

 

10421437_10152780034073326_5914253893115798567_n10407469_10203750495754552_4545765016370718929_nA week in the middle of the Atlantic was fairly psychologically weird for me. I just tried to keep my mind off it.

 

 

 

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I finally ended up in St. Maarten. The first land sighting in a week! Gives a whole new meaning to Land Ho!

Stopped off at St. Thomas, too…

 

 

10421211_10203912265398692_2936491076712944381_nAnd finally to Miami, where I caught the first plane home. Sigh! Glad to be home!!!

Farming, Winning, Unpacking, and Catching Up

Holy cow, the last month as been NUTZZZ!

IMG_20140507_075738760I moved from Michigan to Tennessee on May 1st. Whew, that was a lot of work! I felt kinda bad that I went to work on May 3rd for two weeks and left my trophy husband in Tennessee to deal with the movers, the dogs, and his new job, but I had to sit on a beach in St. Maarten and get paid. (I work for Norwegian Cruise Lines, if you don’t know.) So, trophy husband unpacked boxes as best he could and regularly emailed me pictures of the house. I was so happy to see all our stuff made it, but I must admit, my first thoughts were, “Hey, that doesn’t go there. Why would he put those things on that table? That other stuff should go there, and move those things to the other place.” LOL. Poor guy. Well, it was so cool to fly into Nashville on Saturday to come home. I’ve been home for two days and have most of our belongings sorted out. I’m still finding things we didn’t unpack when we moved three years ago, but it’s fun to go through it.

IMG_20140518_184641045In case you missed it, we now have a farm and poor trophy husband has a lot to do. While we were driving down from Michigan (eight hours in the car with two dogs panting and turning it into a smelly steam room), one of the six moo moos had a calf. I called her Peanut (standing on the left), which will be totally wrong when she weighs 900 pounds, but I don’t care. While I was away last week, we had the second calf. I named her Buttercup (laying down on the right). They are precious!!

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While I was gone, Twister (the neurotic donkey) apparently went into the chicken enclosure and wouldn’t come out. He’s out now and back with his buddies, but he was a poor little loner for over a week. My house sits by the barn and the chickens, and I haven’t seen Twister since I’ve returned home. He may be a little freaked out by the whole experience. He’s hiding on the back of the property.

AOH%20cover_webAlso while I was gone, my book “An Orphan’s Heart,” was named as a finalist in the 2014 Eric Hoffer Awards. I’m tickled pink!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

unnamedThe sequel to “Stuckey’s Bridge” is coming out in two weeks. “Stuckey’s Legacy” will hit the shelves on June 1st. While I was on the ship, I finished writing the third in the trilogy. “Stuckey’s Gold” is now in the pipeline and will be out in August. If you haven’t read “Stuckey’s Bridge” yet, get busy.

 

I think that’s all the news. I’m leaving Sunday for Bermuda for nine weeks, so I won’t be around until the end of July. Have a great summer and I’ll yack at y’all soon!

Happy New Year, I’m baaaack!

Hello 2014! It’s so nice to see you.

1469780_10152023739203326_873291096_nI have to admit the year has been more than screwy so far. I was working on a ship out of New York the whole month of December, and on January 5th, I tried to board my hour-long flight from New York to Detroit to get home…but…2 cancellations, 3 delays, 1 missed flight, 3 states, 42 hours, and a partridge in a pear tree later, I finally arrived. Yes, I’m complaining, but not as hard as the folks I spoke with on Monday night in Minneapolis (don’t ask me how I got there) who were trying to get home to Toronto since Thursday. I hope everyone finally made it to their destination and is recovering from the experience. P.S. I’m still searching for my luggage. 😛

1479265_10152062245918326_674580956_nThe most exciting part of the trip was a medical emergency on the ship in the middle of the Atlantic, which caused the Coast Guard to fly out and airlift someone. If you look under the helicopter in this photo, you’ll see the Coast Guard guy coming down onto the ship on a rope. Just another gig for these guys. They are amazing! I’ll tell you what though…they lifted the sick person into the helicopter, strapped on to a stretcher. If the person didn’t already have a heart attack, he probably did during that lift. Note: I spoke with a Coast Guard person while sitting in the airport (see above paragraph) and he said there is no cost for a person to be rescued at sea. Thank goodness. That would probably cause a heart attack also.

51QeOBe26zL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_So, in December, my book Okatibbee Creek came out on audio. It’s available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. It was narrated by the amazing actress Margaret Lepera. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s the life story of my third great grandmother, and hearing her voice come to life takes my breath away. You can listen to a sample clip at any of the above links. Check it out.

 

 

AOH%20cover_webAlso, my cover for An Orphan’s Heart, created by Elite Book Design, moved into the finals at AuthorsdB Book Cover Contest. It is in the Top 10 in the ‘Overall’ category. That’s like ‘Cover of the Year’ or something. The winners will be announce in February. Wish me luck!badge-finalist

bluebird_small webWhile I was away, I finished writing Savannah’s Bluebird, which is coming out in February, and I’m very excited about it. I had tea every Tuesday morning at Port Canaveral with the dolphins in the inlet. You can’t see them in the photo, but trust me, they’re there. I also partied for five weeks with the casts of Rock of Ages and Second City and am enamored by those awesomely talented people. It was a great trip. I’ll be sailing out of Miami to the Caribbean the month of March. I’m hoping for a better flight experience. 🙂940829_10152095248678326_1464106962_n

I may not post a lot this month as I’m opening a new dueling piano club in Grand Rapids, Michigan starting TONIGHT, then working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a couple weeks. I promise I’ll be back full time in February.

Stay warm! and I’ll talk to y’all soon. ♥