I was in New Orleans last September for a travel writing workshop with GEP. I’ve been to a few workshops with them, both for writing and for photography. Boston, Chicago, Miami, Korea, Costa Rico, the photography safari last November (wow, a year’s gone by already), and the one in New Orleans. I always have a great time, learn a lot and look forward to the next one. 🙂

During this workshop we were assigned to come up with story ideas, then actually write a story. We had help on making them more interesting and salable. One of the great things about travel writing and photography is that doing it gives you a focus and incentive to get out there and do all kinds of things.

You may not know it, but I’m actually pretty shy. Focusing on a story gives me the courage to talk to people. Without the story, I’d be way too nervous to do more than say ‘hi, how’re you doing’. With a story in mind, I’ll ask them all kinds of questions since now I have an ‘excuse’. 😉

Before I left for the trip to New Orleans, I asked around for some help and the nice people at the CVB sent me on a riverboat cruise. Specifically- a jazz dinner cruise on the historic Steamboat Natchez. I wrote a story about it, and was supposed to have it published on the website of the company that set up the whole deal with the CVB. Sadly, they shut down before my story ever got published and I haven’t been able to find another spot for it yet (tho I am still trying, in between job hunting and all the other things on my plate).

Here’s the first draft, please give it a read and let me know what you think. I could use the critiques. 😉

Steamboat Natchez ( docks where Toulouse Street dead ends at the Mississippi River, in the French Quarter. You walk up the gangway to take a trip back in time as you slowly steam your way down the Great Mississippi River. You’ll be transported back to the 1800’s, when these boats ruled the river. From only 20 in the 1810s, to over 1200 in 1833. They carried passengers and freight from as far away as Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, Little Rock, and further out the Missouri, Arkansas and Red Rivers down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

Steamboats were built of wood, shallow draft (1-5’ loaded), with the main deck close to the water and used for cargo. Wood burning boilers were placed midships, with the engines aft, shafts turning the paddle wheels. Some added 2-3 decks above that for passengers. Most were simple workboats, but some became quite ornate. For those carrying upper class passengers, they were richly decorated: delicate filagreed railings, large mirrors reflecting gilded highlights, coffered ceilings, velvet upholstery, plush carpets. Fine food, liquor and gambling helped pass the time during the voyage of up to 2 weeks.

Though she was built in 1975- the ninth iteration of the series to carry the name, Steamboat Natchez follows in this tradition and offers daily Mississippi River cruises. She’s a 265’ long 46’ wide stern paddle wheeler, with 3 decks. She’s furnished in the manner of a high class passenger vessel of the mid-1800’s. In only a couple of hours, you can soak in the atmosphere and get a taste of what it was like in the heyday of the Mississippi River steamships. You can go for dinner, Sunday brunch, or just a harbor cruise with no meal served.

I went for a dinner jazz cruise with the Dukes of Dixieland aboard. As I stepped aboard from the gangway, the hostess informed me of the procedure for dinner. Since I had chosen the 1st seating, I was led to my reserved table in the dining room. The setting was impressive, a large room running almost the full length of the vessel. It had large picture windows all the way around, decorative moulded ceiling tiles filling the white coffered overheads, wall to wall carpet, and nicely set tables filling the space.

My table was set for 4 (tho I was by myself). There was a salad already dressed (iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, vinaigrette), along with silverware and plates, but no water. The waiter soon came by to take drink orders. It took him a while since he had at least a dozen full tables. As the room filled up, another couple was seated at my table, but we still had one seat open. Good, since the tables were tightly packed and it was crowded. My neighbor had to get up every time I needed to get out of my seat. The dinner was buffet style, so I did have to get up a few times.

There were two long buffet tables, one on either side of the room. The servers dressed in chef’s whites  stood behind the chafing dishes to answer any questions and help if you needed it. They had classic Southern recipes like red beans & rice, blackened fish, gumbo, greens, and more ‘mainstream’ dinner classics like pork loin and roast beef. It was all made onboard, hot and fresh. It was OK, but nothing spectacular. For a city as famous for its food as New Orleans, I really expected better of them.

The lights were too low to read by but bright enough to see your food. We were able to have a conversation even with the music in the background since we were at the very back of the room.  The band was set up in front. There was another playing jazz and dixieland outside on the upper deck, I spent most of my time up there. I enjoyed watching the scenery go by, being able to smoke, drink, and still listen to the music.

The live jazz band adds to the atmosphere onboard. It was casual and relaxing. I enjoyed having drinks on the deck, watching the river rolling by, snapping photos of the New Orleans skyline and passing ships. It was easy to imagine myself drifting back to an earlier time. There’s a real sense of history aboard.

Steamers have all but disappeared from the worlds waterways, due to many factors. They usually had a short lifetime (there were many boiler explosions), competition with railroads back in action after the Civil War, displaced by competition with diesel tugs and barges.  The Natchez is one of only 2 true steam paddle wheelers left on the Mississippi River today.

Her engines were originally built for the sternwheeler “Clairton” in 1925. They were recovered when the Clairton was retired and placed in the Natchez, where they are still going strong. Anyone interested in how things work will enjoy wandering around the Natchez. You’re free to take a look in the engine room. Check out the engines (with posted explanations) and the boilers “Thelma” and “Louise” next door. The engineers are rightly proud of their gleaming domain.

The entire crew seemed to love their job, their ship and it showed. They did their job well and took pride in that fact. From the Mate who welcomed me aboard, the engineers, the hostess who showed me to my table, the servers at dinner, to the deckhands who secured the ship back to the dock. Everyone was friendly, polite and answered my questions with a smile.

A cruise on the Steamboat Natchez is a New Orleans experience you just can’t get anywhere else. From the magnificently maintained historical vessel, to the lively jazz bands, to the delicious Southern style cooking (don’t miss the white chocolate bread pudding), to the mighty Mississippi itself. It all adds up to a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours next time you visit New Orleans.

PS- This post is for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter N. Join in, all it takes is to come up with a post starting with the letter N. 🙂


Flower of the Day- Tulip

For Cee’s Flower of the Day post, here’s my contribution…

I do love to see the stunning displays of flowers in the Spring. These tulips were planted in a park in Korea (Incheon). Another place I would love to be able to spend more time in. 🙂

A to Z: Korea

Korea is a very interesting place. I spent about a month there right around this time last year. My excuse for going was to attend the travel writing and photography workshop in Seoul put on by GEP.

I wanted to do some exploration before and after the workshop, so I flew in early and spent some time in Incheon. I went to Jayu Park, Wolmi Island, the fish markets.

I always got a kick out of the locals wanting to take their picture with me. Turn around is fair play, I’m usually taking plenty of pictures of the locals. They loved it. 😉

I took the train down to Okpo, on Geoje Island. I was hoping to visit an old friend I used to work with. He still worked for the same company but they had been keeping him in Korea for 2-3 years. I wanted to try to find something similar myself. Turns out he was out of town, but I had a good time exploring around town and talking to some of the other expats there.

I made my way back up to Busan. I met an online friend through a meetup group and we met for dinner. She showed me around town and even to tour her ship at the Maritime Academy. I got to meet some of the students and was very impressed with their organization there.

I used to work as a captain of a tuna boat and it turns out the company we worked for had their home office right around the corner from where I was staying. I tried to meetup with some of the guys I used to work for, but they were pretty busy and we never did make it happen. I spent my time in Busan wandering around taking pictures of the harbor, the markets, the parks.

The train back to Seoul was clean, efficient and cheap. I was ready to meet my fellow travel writers the next day.

I had a blast wandering around the city with the group. We were there for the Lotus Lantern Festival and the photos we got were great! We went to the old castle, to a talk about tea, on a food tour, we even got to go visit the tunnels to North Korea!

Seoul Korea for the travel writing workshop

Seoul Korea for the travel writing workshop

I really didn’t want to leave, there was still so much to see and do. The people were so friendly and helpful, most spoke at least some English so I had no real problems with communication or finding my way around. The scenery was gorgeous! Very green, with a rocky mountainous coastline. Everything was very clean and well maintained. The food was fresh, healthy and cheap (and plenty of it). It was easy to get around and really pretty affordable (I stayed in local hotels not the fancy ones for foreigners). I would love a chance to go back again. 🙂

*Another post for the A to Z Challenge. 🙂


Pacific Blue- Hanbada

Here’s a post for Jennifer’s Color Your World challenge. Today’s color is: pacific blue. 

This was a really hard color for me to find. I was surprised I didn’t have more pacific blue pictures. It’s actually just about a perfect match for some of the old Detroit Diesel engines. Here’s a picture of one (from google).

I ought to have more photos of engines, but since I quit working in the engine room and decided to stay on deck, I just don’t get down there too much any more.

Here’s a photo I took onboard the Korea Maritime Academy training ship “Hanbada” in Busan. It shows part of the engine room and looks like a pretty good match for Pacific Blue. 🙂

I met a nice lady online in a Facebook group when I was headed to Korea for a travel writing workshop. She is a ships officer like me. She was nice enough to show me around her ship and introduce me to some of the cadets that were studying there.

I had a great time there and was really grateful that she was willing to spend so much time with me. It made my trip to Korea just that much better. 🙂


Norms Thursday Doors

Norm does a photo challenge on ‘doors‘ every Thursday. I like to get into these things when I can. Here’s a photo I took while wandering around Seoul Korea with the Travel Writing group last spring. I walked all around town for hours. It’s a very safe and interesting place, the people are friendly and easy to talk to. They’re very  happy to practice their English with you! 🙂



Sunday Stills: Multiple Flowers

I found a new challenge in my reader today. It’s Ed’s Sunday Stills. There are some really nice photos by people participating. Here’s my entry. 🙂

I took it in Korea when I was there for a weeklong class in travel writing and photography. I stayed over on my own for a couple of extra weeks and spent the time exploring from Incheon down to Geoji. It was a very interesting and friendly place. Sorry it was also a very sad time (ferry sank the day before I left home). I’d like to go back again when people are back to normal and not in mourning.


Photography 101 Challenge: Mystery

I’m FINALLY catching up with the tasks for the Photography 101 challenge. This is my choice for the Day 10: Mystery assignment.

The assignment talks about playing around with lighting to create a mysterious atmosphere. For this challenge, I felt like going a different direction and just showing an object that is mysterious in itself (at least to me- I’m sure the Korean people will know exactly what these things are and will probably think I’m pretty ignorant not to know).

This was taken in Korea back in April. I was at the famous seafood market in Busan and took tons of pictures. I love going to the market in foreign countries. The things they have on sale are so different than the things I see in my local supermarket. I never could figure out what these things are. My best guess is some kind of sea squirt. I do know the Koreans like to eat them. 😉

Anybody have any ideas?

I’m curious (but no, not enough to try eating one). 😉


Photography 101 Challenge: Warmth

As usual, I’m late and having a hard time keeping up with the tasks for the Photography 101 challenge. This is my choice for the Day 9: Warmth assignment.

This was taken in Korea back in April. I was at the market and took tons of pictures. I chose these to represent warmth for a few reasons: the soup/stew was physically hot, it tasted hot, it was full of hot spices, it also included the hot stove and hot coals, and the warmth of the Korean lady. 🙂


Photography 101 Challenge: Landmark

As usual, I’m late and having a hard time keeping up with the tasks for the Photography 101 challenge. This is my choice for the Day 8: Landmark assignment.

This was taken in Korea back in April. I was at the Busan Tower and took tons of pictures. I was lucky enough to be in Korea during the celebrations for Buddha’s birthday. There were dozens of these traditional paper lanterns set up here around the tower and other places around town.

Sorry to say, it was also a very sad time while I was there and lots of the usual festivities were cancelled due to the Sewol ferry disaster.


Photography 101 Challenge: Connect

As usual, I’m late and having a hard time keeping up with the tasks for the Photography 101 challenge. This is my choice for the Day 7: Connect assignment.

lovers locks

This was taken in Korea back in April. I was at the Busan Tower and took tons of pictures of these locks. I was told it’s kind-of a tradition that when couples decide they want to ‘go steady’ or get engaged, they come up here and put these locks up to show the world that they’re ‘locked together forever’. 🙂

I couldn’t decide on just one here. Which one do you like best? Why?


Photography 101 Challenge: Solitude

As usual, I’m late and having a hard time keeping up with the tasks for the Photography 101 challenge. This is my photo for the Day 5: Solitude assignment.

This was a little easier for me than the last one (bliss).  I don’t normally take a lot of pictures of people, but I do sometimes catch them in a photo if I see something that just happens to catch my eye.

I took a lot more than usual people pictures on my recent trip to Korea. This was taken in Busan back in April. I’m not sure why, but this is one of my favorite pictures from that trip. 🙂


Photography 101 Challenge: Bliss

As usual, I’m late and having a hard time keeping up with the tasks for the Photography 101 challenge. This is my photo for the Day 4: Bliss assignment.

This was a hard one for me. I had a hard time coming up with an idea of how to represent the idea of “bliss” in a photo. I had an especially hard time since I don’t normally take a lot of pictures of people.

Then I remembered my recent trip to Korea and these photos of Buddha. I was in Korea for Buddhas Birthday celebrations (this picture was taken in Seoul). I’m not religious, but I thought I remembered something about Buddha and it related to the idea of bliss. Buddha and nirvana, right?

Some of his statues make him seem like he has discovered bliss (maybe not this one tho).


I’m Beer!

This is an entry for the Word A Week Photograph Challenge: Window from Sue at A Word In Your Ear blog.

I took this one while I was on a trip to Korea a couple of months ago. I like the colors and neat graphics of this shot.

AND, I like beer! 🙂


Window on the Sea

This is an entry for the Word A Week Photograph Challenge: Window from Sue at A Word In Your Ear blog.

I took this one while I was on a trip to Korea a couple of months ago. I really like how it turned out. I’d like to edit it to make it a little better, but I’m at work now and really haven’t had the time to do any of that kind of thing. All my photos lately have been straight from the camera and most have been from my little point and shoot I always keep with me.


Photo Challenge: Red (shoes on pink tailed puppy)

Here’s another entry for the challenge (red). I just couldn’t stop watching this guy in his bright red coat with his cute little dog and it’s matching red shoes. 🙂I

I took this photo while I was in Korea for the travel writing/photography workshop a couple of months ago. I started out in Incheon and this was my first day out exploring. I wound up at Jayu Park where I could look out over the city.

There were beautiful views over the harbor and the city surrounding the hill. There were lots of local people out enjoying the gorgeous sunny weather. A couple of school girls even asked me for a photo and interview. 😉

It was a nice place to start my explorations of Incheon.


Capt Jill Journeys to Korea!

I’ve hardly been home a week. SO much to do and not nearly enough time to do it all. I had to leave a lot undone. I’m leaving this morning for my vacation/travel writing workshop in Korea. I’m at the airport now so I don’t have much time.

I saw on the news this morning about the capsized ferry. Hoping to learn more about what happened. What a disaster! I feel so sorry for those people and their families. So many kids are missing.

I really want to know what happened. What would make it sink like that? Here we go again with a similar situation to the Costa Concordia where it sounds like the crew did not alert the passengers to abandon ship til it was too late.

From what I gather from the news reports, it sounds like they’re doing a pretty good job of rescuing the people who did escape the ship itself. The water is pretty cold and I think most people would develop hypothermia a lot sooner in 50 F water then the 1.5 hours they’re saying. Jeeze!

Anyway, I’ve got to go catch a plane. More later! 🙂