New Orleans Was A Trip!

I just got home from New Orleans. What a trip! I got in around midnight last Thursday (after  attending the Nautical Institute seminar). Friday morning the workshop started bright and early 8 AM. I’m not a morning person.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday was spent 8-5 in the travel writing workshop I was there for. Monday addition on ‘Social Media’. My brain was spinning by then and ready for some down time.

Tuesday, I slept in and was able to spend the day around New Orleans gathering information for my planned writing projects. I had researched beforehand and thanks to Mike at Hospitality21 and Christine at the New Orleans CVB, I was comped tickets to a couple of wonderful New Orleans attractions.

Everyone I talked to about the World War II Museum raved about how good it was. I had been wanting to go for a couple of years. I spent all afternoon there and still didn’t get the complete experience (I missed the movie and show- I’ll have to go back for that).

I made it to the Steamboat Natchez just in time for departure. A really nice way to spend the evening. A jazz dinner cruise on the Mississippi River. You could imagine yourself back in the day of Tom Sawyer if you ignored all the people taking ‘selfies’.

I had a late flight out on Wednesday, so spent the morning wandering around the French Quarter: walking down Royal Street, checking out the antique shops, looking at the artists working along Pirates Alley and Jackson Square, breakfast (brunch) at Monty’s, listening to jazz at Latrobe Park, timidly tasting a couple selections at the Pepper Palace, wandering through the French Market, and then taking the Riverfront streetcar back up to Canal Street.

I spent the last couple hours wasting my time (and my money) at Harrah’s Casino and before I knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel to catch my ride to the airport. I guess it’s a good thing they don’t allow smoking anymore, I might have missed my plane if I hadn’t needed a smoke!

More later, as I get my photos uploaded. 🙂

A to Z: Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a beautiful and interesting country. There is so much to see and do there. Volcanos to hike or surf, jungles to explore, rivers to raft, oceans (2) to swim or surf, historic cites, small farming or crafting towns to visit, local markets to shop, you’ll never get bored.

I spent a few weeks vacation in Nicaragua last summer (they laid me off while I was there). I was actually going to attend another blogging workshop in Costa Rica. It was much cheaper to fly into Managua (and cheaper for everything else too), so I decided to spend more time exploring Nicaragua instead of Costa Rica.

I started off by taking a Spanish immersion class for a week in Granada at Nicaragua Mia. They picked me up at the airport in Managua and delivered me to my home for the week with Sra Maria Elena. She took very good care of me while I was there and even gave me a nice birthday cake. 🙂

I spent the week exploring the beautiful historic city of Granada after my classes at Nicaragua Mia. It’s a small city and very easy to walk everywhere, or if you’re tired you can hop on one of the cute little horse drawn carriages. They’re all over the place and very affordable. I took a tour on one with a local guy and got to see a lot of the city and learn more about it’s history.

I liked to walk the few blocks down to Lake Nicaragua to check out the Malecon. They always had people selling snacks and drinks, sometimes playing music for tips. There were kids playing and couples strolling by holding hands.

From there, I could walk back up a few blocks towards town and pass through the lively pedestrian street La Calzada, full of bars and restaurants with outdoor tables and wandering mariachi bands. I usually stopped for a 2 for 1 drink special or ice cream, maybe even stick around for dinner.

From there Central Park, surrounded by churches, hotels and government buildings was the next stop. I liked to go up the church tower to look out over the city skyline and the lake. Then come down to sit in the park (free wi-fi) to watch the ‘action’ for a while- the line of horse carts drumming up business, the food and drink vendors, the families watching their children play, the school kids heading home. It was all nice to see and calming in a way.

I was a little sad to leave Granada and my hostess Maria Elena, but excited to get to Costa Rica for my blogging workshop. I was really hoping to learn how to improve my blog and finally figure out how to monetize it.

After a long day on the bus, crossing the border into Costa Rica, I arrived at the hotel where we would be staying the next week. It was beautiful! Way out of my usual style of travel. Very nice, but unaffordable for the kind of long term stays I like.

I spent the week there with a dozen other bloggers, all of us excited to be learning how to better our blogs. It wasn’t all work and no play. We took day trips to hike a volcano, horseback ride, and to Tamarindo for a day out sailing, snorkeling and fishing.

When the class was over, I headed back to Nicaragua. San Juan del Sur was my destination for the next few days. I found a nice apartment right on the beach. Nothing special, but it was on the beach, close to everything and all I needed (full kitchen, AC, wi-fi). I spent my days walking the beach, wandering around town enjoying the laid back atmosphere, taking lots of photos and an excursion to see the sea turtles come in to lay their eggs.

I could have stayed longer, but I wanted to get back to Granada for the Tope de Toros and Hipica. I was really looking forward to the celebrations. I wanted to watch the ‘running of the bulls’, see all the decorated horse carts and the competitions. I heard it would be a week long, city wide party. I was ready for some of that!

When I arrived, I was disappointed to learn that they had changed the dates at the last minute. Nobody really knew when they would have the parades, etc. But turns out not during my stay. So, I cut it short and headed to Matagalpa. I was ready for some cooler temperatures.

I met an old friend T., from high school there (he was looking to escape his kids), and we had a good time exploring the area. We found a small town of weavers, we checked out a waterfall on the way, we looked through the local markets. It was cooler than Granada and definitely worth the trip.

From there, since T. had a rental car, we headed to Leon, another colonial city. We spent the day hanging out in the city center, looking at old churches, listening to music, checking out a special food and drink show for the trainee bartenders and having lunch.

It was about time to go home, so we headed back to Managua for the last couple of days. I wasn’t really ready to go back home, but I still have too much to do here to just say ‘the hell with it all’ and stay down there. I really need to find a way to get rid of this stuff here!

*A post for the A to Z Challenge (N)

What’s Happened Here?

I have no idea what happened here! I went to a blogging workshop back in August and moved my blog to a paid site http://www.captainjillsjourneys.com in order to increase traffic.

Everything was supposed to have moved from here to the new site, including my readers. It’s looking more and more like that did not happen at all. The only thing that did get moved was most of my old posts. I still had to try to figure out how to put back everything else (widgets, etc). I still have not been able to get that all straightened out, my blog looking back the way I want it.

People who clicked on this site were supposed to be automatically redirected to the new site.

Since then, I have had almost NO traffic there. It’s been like I had to completely start over (and now I think that’s exactly what happened there).

I’ve been posting fairly often there, but no likes, not many comments, hardly any views.

I checked back here once or twice since moving and saw NOTHING.

Today, thanks to a follower, I checked back here and see that once again there are views and likes.

I somehow created a HUGE problem for my blog by moving and now I have no idea how to fix it.

Until I can get some help and figure it out, I guess I’ll try and post on BOTH sites.

Please bear with me.

Thanks!

 

 

Changes

I’m making some changes to my blog. I’m finishing up the blogging workshop and decided now was a good time to do this.

I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do or how it will work out. I do have some help here at the moment.

I hope I don’t screw things up too badly! It will probably take another couple of days (at least) before I’m comfortable again.

Just In Time

I left Granada this morning on the Ticabus (there is alsoTransnica) and arrived in Costa Rica just in time to start my blogging workshop this afternoon. 🙂

I really didn’t think it would take SO long to drive such a short distance! The bus left Granada right on time at 0700 sharp! We got to the border around 0830 and didn’t get through there til almost 1100!

We all piled off the bus and hung around waiting for ????? (they did make announcements in Spanish but I am not at that level yet). No one was allowed back on the bus. It was hot, but thank goodness we had a nice breeze and the clouds helped a lot. There were all kinds of locals hanging around.

They had food and drinks: regular little roadside restaurants with tables in the shade set up selling bar-b-que chicken and plaintain chips. Cold water, fruit juices and sodas. Lots of people wandering around to change money, sell you sim cards for your phones, guys selling leather shoes and trinkets, gum and cigarettes (individually), hammocks, women selling sweets and cashew nuts.

After about an hour and a half, a little Nicaraguan lady came out of the station with our passports. She called our names one by one and we were allowed to collect our passports and re-enter the bus. We drove about 300 meters and had to go through the whole rigamarole again on the Costa Rican side of the border (tho it went much faster there). I’m sure glad we didn’t have to wait for the dozens of trucks!

They dropped me off around noon at the Ticabus station in Liberia where I tried to find another bus to my final destination. The bus from Granada just goes direct to San Jose. The ticket costs the same $29 whether you want to get off in Liberia or go all the way to San Jose.

I probably could have found something to get me a little closer to the beach, but since I was cutting it so close to the time the class started, I just took a cab.

There are shuttle buses that run from the airport to the resorts, but it would have cost me $10-15 to get to the airport and then another $20-25 from there. Considering the extra time, I figured it was worth it to just take the cab straight from the bus station for $40 direct to the hotel. My driver Angel was fast and spoke enough English to make the trip even more interesting. 😉

More manana!

Nicaragua Here I Come!

I finally got my vacation! I’ve been asking about it since April. I had to work 2 months straight to ensure I had the dates I needed off so I could attend a blogging workshop in Costa Rico. It was really just pure luck that it worked out that I could do that.  My boss told me a while ago that I could have that week off, but who wants to travel so far just to spend a week in class? Not me!

So, I got home from the ship late Friday night after 2+ days of traveling from Luanda, Angola. I spent all weekend trying to catch up on rest and mail. Monday was spent running errands and returning phone calls. Tuesday morning, I set the alarm for 0300 so I could make the 0845 flight to Managua. Even then, I almost didn’t make it!

Arrival in Managua was a nice change. Quiet and simple. No long lines or huge hassles. Ricardo, my driver, was waiting for me right outside. I had arranged this through my chosen school, Nicaragua Mia.

Nicaragua has dozens of Spanish language schools. They’re all very affordable and they all seemed to offer pretty much the same deal. I wanted to get out of Managua right away and thought Granada sounded good, so I picked a school there. Nicaragua Mia got the nod since they answered my email immediately and I was setting all this up last minute.

Ricardo took me directly to the school where I could finalize my choices for the week (how many hours of classes, any afternoon activities, etc). Then he took me to the home of my local host, Maria Elena. She was very nice and welcoming. She showed me my room and asked me what I wanted for dinner (in Spanish).

view from my balcony

view from my balcony

I decided to take a walk after getting settled in. Lake Nicaragua is just a few blocks down the street, so I walked over there. There’s a nice park and malecon along the lakeshore. People were hanging out over refrescos and helados (ice creams). I wandered around til it started getting dark and then headed back to my room.

Lake Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua

When I managed to find my way back to the house, it was already dark and Maria Elena had dinner waiting for me. We had dinner together of pollo, pinto gallo, and verdes (chicken, rice & beans, and vegetables).

I was still dead tired from the last few hectic days, so I hit the sack by 10:00. School starts at 08:00 and breakfast here is at 07:30. I hope I can catch up on some sleep soon! I really hate to be falling asleep when there are so many interesting adventures awaiting. 🙂

my room en la casa de Maria Elena

my room en la casa de Maria Elena

 

Time Off?

I’m still on the rig. Everyone I came out with has already gone home. The hitch here is 4 weeks on, 4 weeks off. I’m still in the pool so I don’t really have a relief, but the guy who was supposed to be coming back to relieve me just ‘resigned’. He just had enough of all the BS we have to deal with out here. I can’t blame him at all. I’m just about in the same frame of mind at this point.

People are a little surprised I’m not upset about staying out here longer. I am upset about a lot of other things going on around here, but staying over isn’t too high on the list right now. Actually, this works out well for me. I’ve been trying to get time off to take a trip down to Costa Rica for another writing/blogging/photography course. I’ve been asking for months and never getting any reply. This is the same course I signed up for last year and had to cancel when they messed up my schedule last year.

When I signed up for it this year, it was in the middle of my scheduled time off. They changed around my schedule a couple of times and all the sudden it was in the middle of my time on! So, now if I work over a couple of weeks, it will be back in the middle of my time off again.

It sucks to have to struggle so hard to get the time off I need to do anything. I can’t plan for anything. I ‘d really like to start booking flights, hotel rooms, etc but I can’t since I still don’t know when I’m getting off here.

I’m hoping to spend at least 3 weeks down there. Costa Rica, maybe rent a car and check out some of the other countries nearby? Anybody have any suggestions?

Preview: Back to Boston

Just a quickie here, that’s all I can manage til I get off this trip. It’ll only be a couple more days and I’ll be home again. 🙂

I was looking at the pictures I already had uploaded here (since the internet is too slow for me to get any more on and I can’t spend much time on it here).

I thought I might go back to Boston where this blog really got started. 🙂

I had been thinking about it for a while. I really had no idea of how to do it. How to get started. How to make everything work.

I had been interested in the idea of travel writing and photography for a while already. I figured since I LOVE to travel and take pictures of everything, it would be a perfect fit!

Yeah, I guess it would be if I could manage to find the time to actually WRITE.

I DO manage to take pictures, tons and tons of pictures. But I learned while taking a workshop on how to be a travel writer/photographer that I was not taking good enough pictures. They had to be PERFECT. 😦

At least I learned what I was doing wrong and why my photos were rejected (mostly to do with the quality of my camera lens).

I also learned that you could do a lot with a computer to improve your pictures. I still haven’t learned how to do that very well. I’m better than I was, but I still have a lot to learn. I also still don’t have the time to spend editing all my pictures. Even getting them uploaded onto my computer is hard sometimes.

I am still working on my photography and I still toss around story ideas and put together a little thing every once in a while, but I’ve only actually tried to get my pictures accepted twice (so far) at stock agencies.

I’ve never tried to send in an article (yet).

It seems I’d just rather spend any spare time off on another adventure. When I’m forced to stick around the house, I spend it taking care of business I can’t put off any longer. Like working on my taxes (ugh) and other fun stuff like that.

I had heard that blogging was a way to make money online while doing something you enjoy. I was all into that!

When I found out there was going to be an additional blogging session as part of the travel writing/photography workshop I was interested in , I was sold on taking time off for another learning vacation!

I just barely managed to get this blog started before I left for Boston. I had such a hard time figuring out how to do things like upload a photo, make a ‘gallery’, add a link, etc. Things that I do all the time now and seem so simple. 🙂

The workshop was great. Paula Pant, who has a blog called Afford Anything, was our instructor for the blogging session. She was really inspirational and a lot of help.

I met incredibly interesting people every day there and the instructors sent us out and around town on some helpful assignments. Then we had our work critiqued. I learned a lot there but was still hungry for more. I still feel like I could use more help.

Especially with the part about how to make some kind of an income from this internet stuff! I’m really enjoying the whole process of blogging and meeting people from all over and interacting, but I’m spending a lot more time on it all then I ever thought I would.

Remember I started out this post saying “just a quickie here”? That’s what I mean…

Here’s a ‘taste’ of Boston, I’ll be back with more later. 😉

PS-I’m going to another workshop in Korea in a couple of weeks, can;t wait to get over there and see/do/try everything!! Maybe I’ll even run into some of my old tuna boat crew. 😉