True NOLA

New Orleans. It’s a city that evokes a myriad of popular culture images: literary, visual and aural. For me, it’s Interview with the Vampire meets True Blood during Mardi Gras. Festive, crazy, sexy, and spooky, all set to a jazzy/bluesy Zydeco soundtrack.

Streetcar

About to board one of NOLA’s famous streetcars. Destination: French Quarter!

I finally went to this city of my dreams last week to visit my niece, Christine, who had moved there last year. It didn’t meet my expectations. Rather, it changed them. I’m glad I was able to stay in a home rather than a hotel and be escorted by resident instead of a tour guide. You learn different things that way, things that can add knowledge and authenticity if you’re a writer.

For example, I learned you don’t “get” groceries, you “make” groceries. My niece took me to a local grocery store, Dorignac’s, in the suburb of Metairie, where I got to see local products like Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning and Camellia red beans. I found out the residential roads are gouged with huge potholes. I saw that the Mardi Gras routes, like Saint Charles Avenue, have shiny strings of beads, AKA throws, hanging from the power lines and stuck in the branches of the oak trees amidst the Spanish moss.

I also learned to take life a little slower in the Big Easy. No one is in a big hurry to rush to the next thing, maybe because there’s a lot going on all the time. Delicious food and great music are everywhere. You can’t see it all at once, or in one trip, so you might as well slow down and soak it all in.

One of my favorite places to relax was Morning Call. It’s a rival to the more famous Cafe du Monde, open 24 hours and serving cafe au laits and beignets. Their location in City Park was restful compared to the tourist bustle of the French Quarter. The cafe au laits and beignets were to die for. I indulged almost every day during my visit.

Morning Call

Morning Call in City Park. You want to go here. Trust me.

After all, it’s NOLA and it’s all about the food.

gumbo

Tasty tasty gumbo!

Grilled oysters. So good.

Grilled oysters. Amazing!

This is what they call salad.

Crawfish remoulade salad. Oh so good.

Of course, it’s not a trip to NOLA without a night out on the town. On Saturday, we headed for the French Quarter, natch. Bourbon Street is as insane as you might have heard. We avoided it by walking along Royal Street, which was quiet and lovely, except for all the tour groups. At one point, there was one on every corner. Eventually, we made it to a dive bar on Decatur Street. Then we met up with friends in another place across the street. Somehow, at some point in the evening, going to a karaoke bar on Bourbon Street became a really good idea.

"Oh-oh, halfway there...!"

“Whoa, we’re halfway there…!”

I’m standing above the stage, shouting the lyrics to Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer with about a hundred people. Crazy good fun!

After a while, I went out to the balcony. This is Bourbon Street at 2:30 a.m. The party was still going strong.

NOLA Pro Tip: You can take your drinks with you in the French Quarter.

NOLA Pro Tip: You can take your drinks with you in the French Quarter.

After that night, we stuck to tamer activities, such as trip to the Mardi Gras Museum. The tour takes you among the actual floats and you can watch the artists hard at work creating next year’s fantasies on wheels.

Beginning of a project.

Lots of fantastical creatures being created.

Bright, Mardi Gras colors everywhere.

Bright, Mardi Gras colors everywhere.

We also toured St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, a famed City of the Dead. Because of flooding, most New Orleans cemeteries inter the remains above ground.

Above ground tombs.

Above ground tombs.

While there, we saw the possible resting place of famed Voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Fun fact for those who have seen American Horror Story: Coven: she actually was a hairdresser. People leave hair ties and clips as offerings at her tomb.

Historical plaque for the supposed tomb of Marie Laveau.

Historical plaque for the supposed tomb of Marie Laveau.

Although it was getting steamy hot and will get steamier as the summer progresses, I was sad to leave this lovely, unique and inspiring city. I’m already looking forward to my next trip. Perhaps for Mardi Gras. Until then, laissez le bon temp rouler! Let the good time roll!

Travel Genre

I’m sorry to have neglected my blog for so long. I took a short trip that wound up being longer and involved business, pleasure and helping out a friend. With that in mind, I thought I’d write a bit about the travel genre.

Travel writing can be divided into two equal parts, travelogues and guidebooks.

A travelogue describes a person or persons’ adventures away from home. The best travelogues are written as creative nonfiction and read like a novel. This means the narrative should involve conflict and resolution as well as character development. The narrator who begins the journey should be changed by their experiences, just as one would expect from a character in a novel.

Examples of travelogues include “A Year in Provence,” “Into Thin Air,” “Eat, Pray, Love,” “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” and “A Walk Across America.”

Guidebooks are pretty self-explanatory.  They are the what-when-where-why-how of travel. A good guidebook can spare you a lot of confusion and loss of time, whether you’re traveling to a nearby city or a distant continent. Guidebooks point out the major and minor attractions, as well as clue the reader in on culture, currency, nightlife, restaurants and hotels. Note: no book will be completely accurate on a currency’s rate of exchange. The XE Currency Converter is a good web resource for getting the latest rate of exchange.

Popular guidebooks include “Lonely Planet,” “Rough Guides,” “Fodor’s” and “Frommer’s.”

I highly recommend watching the TV show, “Globe Trekker.” It’s half-travelogue and half-guidebook as different narrators takes you on personal journeys to lesser-known worldwide destinations. It’s the one show that really gives me the travel bug.

Below I’ve listed some travelogues and guidebooks that are free-for-now on Amazon. Happy trails!

  Europe Essentials by Lonely Planet
Planning a trip to Europe? Know before you go! Download a free copy of Lonely Planet’s Europe Essentials and receive helpful tips on packing and planning, etiquette advice, transportation information, themed itineraries, and much more. It’s the perfect complement to Lonely Planet’s guidebooks and a great starting point to a dream vacation.

  5 of USA’s Best Trips by Lonely Planet
Whether you’re a local looking for a long weekend escape, or a visitor looking to explore, Lonely Planet’s TRIPS series offers the best itineraries – and makes it easy to plan the perfect trip time and again.

  Ye Olde Britain: Best Historical Experiences by Lonely Planet
Explore Britain’s rich and varied history with this ultimate guide to the best historical things to do throughout England, Scotland and Wales; includes author- recommended reviews and practical information on a wide-range of interesting options from fascinating pre-historic sites such as Avebury to excellent modern museums such as the Museum of London. This guide has been created by Lonely Planet’s dedicated authors and local experts who immersed themselves in England, Scotland and Wales, finding the best historical experiences and sharing practical and honest advice.

  Down Under All Over by Barbara Brewster
Down Under All Over is more than a travelogue. It is an account of Barbara Brewster’s very personal journey—one which entices us to follow along in her footsteps through that fascinating land of Australia. Her account of the adventures she and her husband, Sid, shared invites one to crawl under the skin of the land and to know its colloquialisms and people. Brewster’s enthusiasm for the place is contagious.

  Too Fat for Europe by Joe Leibovich
A hilarious travelogue through Europe featuring the adventures of two comedians, who happen to be married. Follow their whirlwind tour of London, Paris and Rome…all in about a week.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

San Francisco Dreaming Part 2

Free Today on Amazon

When I visit San Francisco, I usually stay with friends. However, on my last visit, I wanted to try something different.

As a travel writer, I’d been interested in the website airbnb.com. It facilitates private homeowners to offer anything from crash space on the couch to the entire house. I liked the idea and had wanted to give it a try. I looked at the listings for San Francisco and found a condo in a good location at the right price, $85 a night. It had good reviews for all categories, including cleanliness.

To make a long story short, it was not a good experience. The location was great. The condo was not. Cleanliness was an issue, but the worst part was the smell. The owner was obviously a smoker who smoked indoors. He appeared to have tried to cover the smell with candles and air freshener, which only made things worse.

Here’s the review I posted on airbnb:

I had a very mixed experience staying in this condo. First, the pros. The location is great. I loved the view. Public transportation is right outside the door. There is a well-known pharmacy across the street and a nice, natural food grocery store down the block. Cole Valley is close walking distance with lots of good restaurants. For the most part, the place is quiet, though you’ll hear sirens from the nearby medical center. Since the apartment is on the third floor, it was nice having access to an elevator. Now, the cons. The apartment was not very clean, especially the kitchen and bathroom. There were grease spots on the stove and the fridge had spill stains. The microwave oven was crusty and stained, and I had to clean it so I could use it. The bathtub had dark stains and soap scum.  Also, there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke. On a lesser note, cable and HBO are listed among the amenities, however the host told me that the cable was out, and he offered as an alternative an antenna on the TV that received a few local channels. In the bedroom, there was a second TV that didn’t work and blocked access to the window and the other side of the bed. Despite enjoying the convenient location, I would not stay here again.

I tried not to be too nitpicky. I don’t want the owner to lose business, but the place has lots of room for improvement. It was not worth $85 a night. I probably won’t be using airbnb again. I can’t trust the reviews. And I can get a decent hotel room for slightly more.

I’ll be returning to San Francisco shortly. I’ve signed up to attend the San Francisco Writers Conference in February. It’s at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, a very pricey hotel at the top of Nob Hill. I’ll be staying a couple of blocks below at a hotel I can whole-heartedly recommend. The Golden Gate Hotel is a charming bed and breakfast. Clean, reasonably priced, and best of all, serves up a really yummy continental breakfast. Plus, there’s a big orange tabby, Pip, who will probably wander into your room.

Pip

Pip hung out in my room last year. He’s a friendly kitty.

In the meantime, I’ve found some San Francisco themed Kindle freebies to enjoy. Plus, a book titled, “How to Pack Like a Rock Star,” which is actually about rock stars packing their luggage. Can’t resist that and since they travel so much, they probably have some good tips.

  How To Pack Like A Rock Star by Shaun Huberts
A photo-driven adventure book combining a nerdy-cool ‘how-to’ book with humor, comments and advice from all your favorite Rock Stars on how to pack your suitcase. Town to town, tour after tour; who better to listen to about packing a suitcase than someone who spends their days living out of one? Sooner or later the world will learn that Rock Stars are the real packing professionals and this is your inside source! So if you too are planning on living a life out of your suitcase then this could be the simplest, most effective, and by far most pleasurable way to learn how!

  San Francisco Values by James K Turner
Today’s plunging real estate market may seem brutal, but it’s nothing compared to the heady bubble days. Just ask real estate queen Ella Barker. She’s at the top of her career, a master of San Francisco’s hysterical housing market, and now some maniac comes along and starts slaughtering real estate agents? Why, this is outrageous under any circumstance, but it’s more than just a little distraction in a market where a child’s future earnings are mortgaged, Open House lines stretch for blocks and prices go up by the hour. Then Ella gets word the most expensive home ever in San Francisco is coming on the market, so she sets out to do whatever it takes to rake in the mega-commission.

  Wait For Me by Elisabeth Naughton
After a tragic accident left her with no memory, Kate Alexander struggled to fit in with a husband and world that didn’t feel right. She’s had no reason to question what friends and family have told her, not until her husband is suddenly killed and she finds a photo of a young girl in his office. A girl who can’t be anyone but a daughter Kate didn’t know she had. Ryan Harrison lost his wife in a plane crash five years ago. To cope with the pain of her loss, he dedicated himself to his job and to raising their daughter. Now a successful pharmaceutical executive, Ryan has everything a man could want—money, fame and power—but he’d give it all up in a heartbeat for just one more day with the woman he still loves. As Kate begins to dig into a past she doesn’t remember, evidence leads her to San Francisco and puts her on the path toward Ryan, a man who sees in her the woman he loved and lost.

  Complete Story of the San Francisco Horror by Samuel Fallows
This book has first hand interviews, photos and descriptions of the tragic event that shook the world in April 1906. Anyone who has any ties to San Francisco and California should read this wonderful non-fiction story! (Amazon review Dean Phelan)

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

The Twisted Life of a Frequent Flyer

Free Today on Amazon

I love to travel. I particularly love to travel to San Francisco and do so often.

I hate what travel does to my body.

To get to Denver International Airport from Boulder, I have to take a public shuttle bus, which is an hour ride. During this particular trip, I had delayed flights coming and going due to fog, and got to enjoy the airport accommodations in both cities. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour flight, which isn’t so bad, but still isn’t so great on the body. The condo I rented had a hard-as-a-board bed and a couch I didn’t want to sit on, so I spent a lot of time perched on the single stool. When I finally arrived in Denver yesterday, I had to make a mad dash from the luggage carousel to the bus stop, hauling my luggage behind me. Got there just in time. Otherwise, I would have had to wait an hour for the next bus.

There really is no place like home, with the husband and the kitty, and the comfy bed. I slept all right, but my back is still tweaked. I’m waiting for Thursday when my favorite chiropractor has his shift at The Joint. In the meantime, I’m doing some stretches to straighten out the various kinks.

I’m also planning my future trips. 🙂 It’s a twisted dichotomy that I am a homebody who loves to travel. No wonder I like to write about gypsies.

In the meantime, to help the twists in my body, I downloaded a couple of Kindle freebies that look very helpful. One is a book of stretches. It has photos, so I downloaded it to my tablet. The other is a book on fitness tips. It’s so easy when I get home to settle in front of the computer. I need some tips to help keep my home body moving.

Until my next trip.

Back Stretching - Back Strengthening And Stretching Exercises For Everyone  Back Stretching – Back Strengthening And Stretching Exercises For Everyone by David Nordmark
If you suffer from back pain or discomfort, you’re not alone. From the young to the old, from the average person to the hyper fit athlete, all are likely to suffer from some kind of back pain at least once in their lives. In Back Stretching – Back Strengthening And Stretching Exercises For Everyone, I explain why back pain is so common in modern society. More importantly though, I will show you a series of back stretching and strengthening exercises which can bring you relief.

50 Fitness Tips You Wish You Knew: The Best Quick And Easy Ways To Increase Motivation, Lose Weight, Get In Shape, And Sta...  50 Fitness Tips You Wish You Knew by Derek Doepker
Do you wish you knew how to have more motivation, less stress, faster fat loss, less aches and pain, complete emotional freedom, more money saved, and more time to enjoy your life all while enjoying the body of your dreams? You’re about to discover how to have all of these things and more with these 50 valuable tips you’re not going to find in all the other “me too” generic and boring health and fitness books that rehash the same old tips you’ve heard a million times before. This guide is pure cutting-edge content from someone who has spent the past nine years and thousands of hours of research testing and refining what really works to bring you only the best of the best health, fitness, muscle building, and weight loss tips you’ll ever find!

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Autumn Colors and Cookbooks

Free Today on Amazon

My husband and I took a brief staycation to view the autumn colors here in Colorado. The aspen leaves turn the most amazing shades of gold.

Fall Colors in Rocky Mountain National Park

Gorgeous fall colors in Rocky Mountain National Park

We spent Sunday in Nederland, a small community above Boulder. I didn’t take any pictures there. We just strolled around and enjoyed the chill atmosphere. Being there is like stepping into the TARDIS and coming out in 1978. Even the music in the restaurant where we had lunch was all from the seventies.

On Monday, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a cloudy day, occasionally rainy, but overall fresh and lovely. One of the first sights we saw were these elk in a meadow close to the park entrance.

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

There were actually several herds spread throughout the meadow. They were loud, too, making this sort of bellowing, trumpeting sound.

From there, we stopped at Horseshoe Falls, drove to the highest peak in the park (over 12K feet) and headed for our ultimate destination, the Continental Divide.

Continental Divide

Where east meets west.

There are two bodies of water on either side, a small lake to east and a creek to the west. You can actually see the water flowing east on one side and west on the other. Very cool!

Speaking of cool, it’s finally cooling off here, which makes me very happy. I love fall weather. This got me thinking that I’d love to make something like soup or stew for dinner. Which got me headed over to Amazon, natch! I found a batch of soup and slow cooker recipe books, all by the same author and perfect for this weather. I’ve also included a book of Halloween recipes. All free for now. As always, check the price before hitting the 1-Click button.

  39 Best Slow Cooker Chicken Recipes by Suzanne Summer
Crock pot cooking is one of the best methods to prepare healthy and delicious meals. The low temperature of slow-cooking makes it almost impossible to burn food even when cooked too long. If you’re busy like me with two kids, it is just not possible to stay in the kitchen all day long. Just set the food to slow-cook before leaving for the day, and your delicious and nutritious chicken meal will be ready when you return.

  Healthy Crock Pot Recipes: 33 Nutritious & Delicious Crock Pot Meals by Suzanne Summer
It doesn’t matter whether you’re new or experienced in creating crockpot meals. We’ve included detailed step-by-step cooking instructions to leave no guesswork for you. You will be amazed at how easy it is to make crockpot meals that are both healthy and delicious. Each recipe contains detailed nutritional information for your reference. Be prepared to be amazed by these new recipes that will keep you and your family healthy.

  33 Healthy Soup Recipes by Suzanne Summer
Are you looking for soup recipes that are both healthy and tasty? If so then this is for you. 33 Healthy Soup Recipes is specially made for you soup lovers who are health conscious.

  Halloween Recipes: 24 Cute, Creepy, and Easy Halloween Recipes for Kids and Adults by J.J. Pierce
With Halloween just around the corner, Halloween Recipes: 24 Cute, Creepy, and Easy Halloween Recipes for Kids and Adults gives you some great recipes for you to try! From snacks, to drinks, to entrees and even desserts, you will find some awesome recipes for you and your family to enjoy this Halloween season.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

An Irish Novel and Guides to London and Britishness

Free Today on Amazon

Honest, I didn’t plan on collecting Irish novels or London guides. It just happened that way, though some of it certainly has to do with the upcoming Olympic games.

Anyway.

“After the Rising” is about the Irish Civil War of the 1920s and was previously published by Penguin Ireland. I’m going to take this opportunity to shout out a favorite movie about the conflict, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.” It stars one of my favorite actors, Cillian Murphy, so I may be a bit biased, but I think it’s a fabulous movie.

The latest of the London guides I’m listing claims to be designed especially for the Kindle. This certainly adds to its appeal. We’ll see how it stands up to that claim.

Finally, I found a book by a US expat containing explanations of British phrases and colloquialisms. I think this could be useful for writers as well as travelers and potential expats.

  After The Rising by Orna Ross
There are so many reasons to recommend this book. It’s an engrossing page-turner of a family saga, covering three generations. It’s a poignant and unusual love story. The characters are complex, believable, sometimes heartbreaking. If like me you’re woefully ignorant of Irish history, AFTER THE RISING will fill some gaps in your knowledge (though the novel pulls no punches showing the horrors of civil war and the destruction of families and communities. (from an Amazon review by Alba52)

  ONE – TWO- GO London: The Ultimate Guide to London 2012 by Michael Wynn
This book is exclusively written and designed for Kindle. This opened up the opportunity to not only use established techniques like printed maps but also to add some multimedia content and helpful functionality like online maps for easier navigation and videos for each Point of Interest. We give you practical tips on how to go to London, from purchasing a flight ticket, considering the right Hotel and a lot of useful tips on how to get around. We did include all the important malls, landmarks, hotels, bars and clubs.

  An American Guide to Britishness by Alana Muir
An educational and humorous look at life, language and culture in Britain through the eyes of an American who lives in Scotland, sometimes against her will.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Books that I have previously listed will occasionally come up free again. I add those to my current posts for people who didn’t see them the first time.

London Map and National Parks Guide

Free Today on Amazon

If you’re heading to London for the the Olympic Games or any other reason, you may find “Map of London” useful, or you may not. I downloaded it to my Kindle Touch and found this wasn’t a good way to view the book. I couldn’t re-size the map and the screen made it difficult to read without direct light. I then loaded the book onto my iPhone. Much better, but not ideal. It needs a bigger screen. I would say this is a good resource for people who plan to travel with the Kindle Fire or a tablet that has the Kindle app.

I also picked up a Moon guide sampler to U.S. national parks. I was a bit disappointed that Rocky Mountain National Park wasn’t included, but there are other great parks within the pages, including Yosemite and Four Corners.

Wherever you go this weekend, have a great time!

  Map of London by Andreu Lukkiin
Digital map of London, The United Kingdom. Advantages: It’s very simple; It’s easy to navigate; It’s cheap; It’s indispensable.

  Moon National Parks Sampler
Moon National Parks Sampler provides an overview of some of North America’s most iconic destinations. This fun-to-browse eBook offers plenty of inspiration for planning a trip to these beautiful national parks and monuments, including suggested itineraries, maps, and photos. The information in this sampler is excerpted from individual Moon national parks guides; once you’ve chosen your travel destination, check out the full-length Moon guide to the park of your choice for 250 pages (or more) of detailed coverage and advice. Moon’s national parks guidebooks are available in print and as eBooks.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Books that I have previously listed will occasionally come up free again. I add those to my current posts for people who didn’t see them the first time.