A Photo A Week Challenge: Crowd

I found a new photography challenge tonight (thanks to Cee for leading me to it). Nancy Merrill’s Photography blog is running the Photo a Week challenge. This week the challenge is to come up with a post using ‘crowd‘.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each week, I’ll come up with a theme and post a photo that I think fits. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Thursday, when the next photo theme will be announced.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “A Photo a Week Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.
  3. Come back here and post a link to your image in the comments for this challenge.
  4. Follow nancy merrill photography so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements.

OK. So here goes…

A ‘dazzle’ of zebras. I was very lucky to travel to Tanzania on a photography safari last year. The scenery, the amazing animals and the beautiful people we met made the trip unforgettable.

I wish I could go back. I’m doing what I can to save up for another trip to Africa. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go, but hoping by the end of the year.

Have you ever been to Africa? On a safari?

Advertisements

Five Days in New Orleans

I decided to make one last big effort to find a decent job. I flew up to New Orleans to attend the Workboat Show and search for work. I picked up my rental car and made my way down the bayou. First stop was at GOL in Raceland.

I was able to talk to the hiring manager there (he was an old friend), but they had no work since most of their boats were still laid up, so I said my goodbyes and continued on down Bayou Lafourche.

I stopped in at every boat company I could find: Alliance, Cheramie, C&G, GIS, L&M Botruc, Odyssea, Jambon, Chouest, Candies, and more. They all told me pretty much the same thing (except for one old boy who still insisted they ‘don’t have facilities for women’). They had so many of their boats stacked up and good people laid off. They had long lists of people they were hoping to get back when things picked up.

I picked up more applications and moved on.

By the time I got back to New Orleans and turned in my car, it was already dark and I was ready to check into my apartment. Yes, I rented an apartment (through hotels.com). It was really nice. It had a separate bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen/living room. It even had a washer/dryer in a closet!

I had a full kitchen with a full sized stove, oven and refrigerator, all the glasses, dishes, etc. Coffee maker and coffee, a blender, spices, etc. All I needed to cook a nice meal. Too bad I couldn’t find a decent grocery near by.

I spent the rest of the evening working on applications, emails and enjoying the view from the rooftop over the skyline. It was cool to watch the fog roll over the lights from the skyscrapers.

In the morning, I headed over to the Convention Center for the Workboat Show. I picked up my badge and a list of the vendors and sorted out my priorities. I tend to concentrate on electronics (DP systems, radios, ECDIS, charts, etc), crewing/employment agencies, and training/education providers.

I always make a point to go by and visit people I know who are there with booths too. This year, a lot of them were missing. The show seemed smaller to me this year. I suppose because of the long lasting downturn in the industry. It’s already been more than 3 years now. 😦

I did get to meet Captain Edgar Hansen from the TV show the Deadliest Catch, and I attended an interesting “Dock Talk” about women in the maritime industry: why aren’t there more women out here, what can we do about it, and why should we? Wish it was better attended, but at least someone is thinking about it.

I met up with an old friend for a couple of hours and we caught up on things as we wandered around the isles. We had a quick lunch at the food court (I do not recommend the BBQ! $3.50 for a bottle of water was a huge rip-off IMHO). I continued on visiting the vendors after my friend had to get on the road and head back home.

During the day, I was invited to a couple of parties. That’s where the best networking goes on. I’m not into partying nearly as much as I used to be, but I still hate to pass one up. I went to the LOC party at the World of Beer. It was pretty nice. Not too crowded. They had drinks and snacks we could order. Their tacos were pretty good. Plenty of beer. 🙂

I ran into a few friends there and met some new ones. It was nice to hear what everyone has been up to. The party ended fairly early, so I wound up going with a friend to the Texas A&M party at the Fulton Alley. That’s a cool place. It’s a bowling alley, with a bar. Drinks, snacks, music, etc.

Funny, but I ran into another old friend. Another captain I used to work with was there with his wife. They were in New Orleans for business and happened to be at the party. They live in the next town from me here in Texas. 🙂

I didn’t stay late, but I did meet a couple of guys who were telling me about a ‘sure thing’ job. I had already applied there, but considering what everyone was telling me; ‘go in person and you’ll get hired’, I started re-thinking my plans for the next couple of days.

Thursday I slept in a little bit later and then had breakfast across the street at the Ruby Slipper. It was really good and I was stuffed by the time I finished. I walked down to the Convention Center and then spent the rest of the day wandering around and talking to all kinds of people there. I ran into some more old friends, met some guys from Oceaneering (where I used to work) who hollered at me about my shirt, spent some time talking to the crew at Oceanwide (where I still work when they have any).

By 1700 my feet were getting sore and I was getting tired. There were more parties to go to, but I really wasn’t feeling up to it. I took a detour through the Riverwalk next door and wound up eating Chinese food from the food court while watching all the traffic on the river pass by.

I walked down the river to the Hilton and then cut across to Harrah’s casino. I figured I’d play a few games of video poker and head home. I didn’t win, but I didn’t lose much and was home by 2200 and to bed not long after.

Friday morning, I picked up another rental car and headed over to Covington to see if they were right about going in person. I was lucky to get to talk to someone in person and we had a nice talk. Of course, they had a lot of their boats tied up too, but they do have at least some work and I’m still hoping they’ll be able to find something for me there.

It was a gorgeous day and I decided to stop for a picnic before heading back over the bridge into New Orleans. I picked up supplies and headed over to Fontainebleau State Park. It was such a nice day, sunny and cool, light breeze. I had the whole place practically to myself. The lake was calm and sparkling in the sun. The beach was inviting, but I wasn’t dressed for playing in the water. 😦

I walked around the pond, looking for alligators (didn’t see any), and then drove over to check out the old sugar mill. Interesting history to read about. It got me interested to visit the nearby town of Mandeville, but it was getting late and I decided that would have to wait for another time.

I made it back to New Orleans in time to meet another friend for dinner. We had a nice time catching up over dinner by the river and then hit the casino for a couple of games. He had to get back home and I was ready to quit, so I headed home for the night.

I wanted to hit the Ruby Slipper again for breakfast Saturday, but the lines were halfway down the block on both sides! Instead, I went for beignets at the Cafe du Monde at the Riverwalk (much closer and much less crowded than the main one at Jackson Square). After my beignets and cafe au lait, I walked over to the Roosevelt Hotel to check out their famous Christmas decorations.

I had thought about having a drink at the bar, but the place was packed so I didn’t stick around. I took a walk over to Bourbon Street since I hadn’t even seen it yet this whole trip.

Glad I hadn’t tried! They’re doing construction all the way down Bourbon Street. The entire street is blocked off and you have to stay on the fenced in sidewalks. I can only imagine how that would be, packed full of rowdy loud drunks with nowhere to puke! Yuk! I’ll skip Bourbon Street til they finish up the construction!

I did finally get to try out my membership in the Bourbon of the Month Club. I sat at the bar at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House and watched the oyster shuckers at work. I don’t like oysters, but it was pretty entertaining to watch anyway.

 

After I finished my taste, I got to see the fresh shrimp being delivered, straight from the boats to the cooks. Nice, big, fresh shrimp. I really ought to try getting into seafood again. Seeing all that in New Orleans makes me think I’m really missing out.

By now, it was just about time for the Christmas Parade. I always try to see that when I’m in town. The Krewe of Jingle really puts on a great parade. They have some really cute costumes and dance troupes. The marching bands and miscellaneous characters all add up to make a fantastic show.

I always enjoy my time in New Orleans. There’s always something going on that’s fun and interesting. But I always wind up coming home to chill out for a while too. That’s what I’ve been doing since I got home Saturday night. 🙂

 

CB&W: Fences

I have a few good shots for Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week. I’m a little late cause I’ve been traveling (to New Orleans) and haven’t gotten around to working on my photos (or blogging) yet.

The challenge this week is to come up with a post about ‘fences and gates’ (in black and white). I just did one on gates, so this one’s on fences. 🙂

I was in New Orleans for the Workboat Show. I skipped out on Friday due to a ‘hot tip’ on a possible job at HOS. I took a chance, rented a car and drove over to Covington. I got lucky and was able to talk to someone. After the interview was over, I decided to have a picnic lunch on the lake. Fontainebleau State Park has a nice beach and this pier right on Lake Pontchartrain. It was a gorgeous day and perfect for a picnic!

Does this count as a fence? Or is it a railing? I’m gonna say it’ll count as both. 😉

After lunch, I wandered around a little and checked out some of the other sites of interest. They had some nature trails, a boardwalk, a playground for the kids, camp sites, and a pond with alligators (I didn’t see any). Here are a couple of shots of the old sugar mill. The whole place used to be a sugar plantation- 2800 acres!

It was getting late, so I headed back to New Orleans in order to miss the traffic. I’m sorry not to have made the short detour into Mandeville (founded by the same guy who built the sugar mill). I really would’ve liked to see their Maritime Museum. Next time!

CB&W: Gates

I have a few good shots for Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week. I’m a little late cause I’ve been traveling (to New Orleans) and haven’t gotten around to working on my photos (or blogging) yet.

The challenge this week is to come up with a post about ‘fences and gates’ (in black and white). I’m going to do this post on gates and another on fences. 🙂

Here goes…

Gate of Salutation, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Gate of Felicity, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

I took these photos last November. My last major trip, when I traveled around Turkey and then went on safari in Tanzania. I really loved both countries. So much to see and do in both places, but totally different. 🙂

Topkapi Palace was beautiful. It was a large compound and the interesting exhibits were spread out. The black and white photos don’t really do it justice. The amazing tile work was so colorful and full of intricate designs. The view over the Bosphorus was incredible. I could’ve sat there all day watching the ships pass by below. 🙂

Gate at the entrance to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar was another incredibly colorful and unforgettable place to experience. A person could easily get lost in the acres of passageways full of shops. You’re assaulted with all kinds of exotic sights, smells and sounds. The shopkeepers are friendly and helpful and will happily tell you all about their wares. It’s too easy to spend all your time (and money) wandering around in there!

 

Ruby Slipper

I had a delicious filling breakfast at the Ruby Slipper yesterday. Not because it was voted “Best Breakfast/Brunch Spot” 3 years in a row, but because it’s located right across the street from where I’m staying. 😉

I had the ‘Eggs Blackstone’, consisting of “applewood-smoked bacon, grilled tomato served over a buttermilk biscuit, topped with 2 poached eggs, finished with hollandaise”. I asked them to skip the tomato (which they did- lots of places still leave it and the juices ruin my meal- I love catsup but can’t stand tomatoes!).

It was hard to make up my mind. Their menu offered lots of choices that all sounded delicious. I was headed to the Workboat Show so skipped the ‘award winning bloody mary’s’ too (tho I don’t like tomato juice either, the mimosas looked just as good).

 I sat at the bar, since even tho it was pouring rain, the outside tables were all taken. The place was packed. I still got served quickly tho. My breakfast was nice and hot, coffee too. They skimped a little on the hollandaise sauce, but the biscuits were very large (and fresh home made).

I’m running late this morning, I’ve got to pick up a car and head over to HOS. I’m hoping to get a job interview. So will probably skip breakfast today, but I think I will stop in again tomorrow for another specialty and try a mimosa. 🙂

PS- these photos are all from my iPod, it’s so bad compared to my regular cameras. 😦

CB&W- Things Found in a Kitchen

Thanksgiving is a good day to post about ‘things found in a kitchen’. Good thing Cee came up with this perfect challenge for today. Here are some photos I took in New Orleans at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

I love New Orleans! It’s full of interesting things to do and see. This museum is just one example (here’s a post about another).

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. SoFAB also hosts special exhibits, demonstrations, lectures and tastings that showcase the food and drink of the South.

You can learn about all the different foods each state is famous for. You can learn about the history of the cocktail and how to make them. You can take a cooking class. You can try the specialty cocktails at the bar, or enjoy a hearty meal. It’s easy to get to on the streetcar, and the nearby bars and restaurants look worth a try too. 🙂

Natchez

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 (www.steamboatnatchez.com) 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. 🙂

Dancing

Yesterday’s prompt from the Daily Post was “dancing“.

I’ve always loved to watch people dance and wished I could dance as well myself. I’m just not what you’d call ‘light on my feet’. I never got the hang of it and almost never even try any more. I’d rather just enjoy watching.

line dancing ladies from Lebanon

Those first 3 were taken during my last vacation (I can’t believe it’s already been a year- but I’ve really been jonesing lately). I took a dinner cruise down the Bosphorus. That’s the waterway that divides the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

It was a really nice cruise. We had an interesting dinner of local appetizers- olives, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, carrot salad, sliced meat, cheese and then a choice of chicken or fish. The crew put flags around the tables of each person’s nationality. It helped make for many good conversations.

After dinner, we had entertainment. We started with a performance by a whirling dervish. Then the crew dressed in costumes and danced the different traditional styles from all over Turkey. Later the belly dancers came out and got everyone going. By the time they finished, everyone was ready to get out on the floor themselves.

Besides the dinner and dancing, the sights outside the windows were beckoning too. I sat out on the deck watching the shipping traffic pass by and enjoying the fresh cool breeze along the water. I was so excited to see all the minarets poking up from the mosques lit up in the night. Over the low hum of the engines I could hear the faint calls to prayer. It all drove home exotic Istanbul for me.

These next 3 were from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I went down there last February to get certified to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). I stayed for about a month. I would’ve stayed longer but I had a promising call about a real job (offshore- I had already been out of work for over 6 months), so I flew back home. Sadly, the job fell through.

I loved PV! I lived right next door to the language school and just a couple of blocks from the ocean. There were only 4 other students in my class, so we all got to know each other. Every weekend, our teacher would take us all on a field trip. I had a blast!

I loved to take the bus to the old town. I would walk up and down the Malecon, take pictures and talk to people. There was always something going on. Every weekend there was a farmers market at the square down there. Friday nights were for dancing!

The local dance schools put on a show for everyone that was free for all. They danced the different dances from all over Mexico. Their dancing was fantastic, especially considering how young some of them were. You could tell they were having a good time together. Their costumes were so colorful. I really loved watching them. 🙂

I haven’t been back to start teaching yet, but I’m missing Mexico more and more.

Share Your World October 16 2017

Cee always has interesting challenges on her blog. She does photography challenges a lot and she also does this “Share Your World” post every week. Here are her questions (in bold) and my answers for this week.

If you had to move to a country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? This is such a hard question for me. I’ve been thinking of moving overseas for years now. I can’t make up my mind. I’ve considered Mexico (of course), Nicaragua, Panama, Thailand, Chile, Italy, France, Ecuador, Viet Nam, Korea, Ireland, even Russia!

The main reason I haven’t left yet, for anywhere, is that no place will give me a work visa. At least not for anything like what I’ve spent my entire life doing. The only thing I can do (legally) is to teach English. I have now gone and got certified to do that now, but now can’t figure out how to pay all my bills here at home while only earning teachers pay in some foreign country.

IF finances were taken out of the equation, I think I would move to Ireland. I’ve only been there once, but I didn’t want to leave. The people were really friendly and I had such a wonderful time there. I loved the landscape, the weather was gorgeous, and the fact that it’s an island just adds to the perfection for me. I love the music, the sound of the language, the peoples love of literature, horses and whisky. I would move there in a NY second if they would let me!

What color would you like your bedroom to be? Light blue. I would paint a mural on the walls to remind me of the ocean and the ceiling like a starry night. Maybe put some twinkling lights up there. 🙂

What makes you Happy? Make a list of things in your life that bring you joy. A good book. Music, especially cajun, bluegrass or reggae music. Delicious food shared with good friends. Deep conversations, solving the problems of the world. Exploring. Learning new things. Travel. Meeting up with old friends in unexpected places. Creating something beautiful like when my paintings turn out better than I thought they would, or one of my photos comes out perfect, right out of the camera. Sailing. Night watch out at sea where I can really see the stars.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. I read an email from a man, Jon Morrow, who has some major serious medical issues. He somehow managed to overcome all his physical limitations, sold everything he owned, moved to a foreign country (broke), and made a successful blogging career. He talked about how he was able to buy his father a car and how proud he was. I admire him for what he’s been able to do and how he (says) he is helping other people now (I did not buy his program, I’m broke, but it did sound helpful). He’s definitely an inspiration.

More C’s for Cee

I posted yesterday on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge (where the post should be about a word starting with C of at least 4 letters). After I finally got it to post (very frustrating internet situation here), I was flipping through some photos and realized just how many I have that fit this particular challenge. So…

Here’s another one, I took these on a recent trip to Africa. I went on a photography safari in Tanzania with GEP. I had a great time tracking down the wildlife with a great group of fellow photographers and our local guides. Some of these photos were with on the safari. Some were afterwards, when I went solo over to Zanzibar.

 

Cooks!

Cats! BIG Cats!

A Cowrie (shell)

A Canoe! Catching Catfish? Or maybe Cobia? On the Coral

#fire at #beach resort on #Zanzibar

A #Catastrophe

Cute Canines

Cattle

I had a good time picking out a few of my photos for this challenge. So much, I might even come back again for more. If you want to join in the fun, just click the link at the top. Be sure to share. 🙂

New Challenge: Topic Generator

I just found Jennifer Nichole Well’s latest challenge. It’s a ‘topic generator’ that takes a random phrase and then adds a noun. She has a list of 6 topics (so far). I chose photography. This is what I got when I clicked the button…

experiment with the photo/editing topic Self-Portrait by using or taking a photo of Foot

This is what I came up with. I’m not one for selfies, I don’t really get that whole fad. Actually, I really don’t like having pictures taken of me at all. I did manage to find this shot I took a while back as I was chilling out by the pool on Singapore’s Sentosa Island.

One Word Photo Challenge: Giraffe

Here’s my entry for Jennifer’s One Word Photo Challenge: Giraffe.

Last November I went on a photography safari in Tanzania where I took these photos. It was fantastic! I went on safari with Great Escape Publishing, they’re great at running their trips. I always have fun and learn a lot while I’m at it. I can’t wait to go again!

Songs of the Sea: Some Beach

I’m still here in Huntsville (Alabama- NOT the prison in Texas!). The TBEX is over now, but I’m not flying home til tonight. Checkout time is noon and the art museum across the street doesn’t open til then, so I figured I’d try to catch up a little and post. 🙂

This song by Blake fits my mood pretty good this morning. There were lots of representatives from the Gulf Coast states (and their beautiful beaches) at the TBEX, Blake is from Oklahoma and they were there too.

The TBEX has been great. I met tons of really interesting people. Everyone has a story and so many are bloggers.

The breakout sessions were full of great information. I hated to miss any of them, I appreciate that some of the presenters gave out links to their slide shows so I’m hoping I can go back later to see the ones I missed and review some things I didn’t really catch.

I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now, but I still don’t really know what I’m doing here. 😉

Our destination hosts here were fantastic. The Von Braun Center, HuntsvilleNorth AlabamaAlabama, and the US Space & Rocket Center really went all out to show us a great time here in their city. We spent the days learning how to blog better and networking with destinations. Nights were spent at special events held for us around town.

I arrived on Thursday (10 mins late for my scheduled tour to the Redstone Arsenal to taste the craft beers). I spent the afternoon at the hotel catching up on emails while chatting with other bloggers waiting for our rooms to be ready. The hotel made the waiting much easier to bear by offering free massages and blackberry mojitos. 🙂

Check out my instagram pic, I’ve got to run and check out, will have to finish this later…

Having a Great Time in Huntsville

It’s been a whirlwind of activity since arriving in Huntsville Thursday afternoon. Keynote speakers, breakout sessions and amazing parties every night.

I’ll write more later, getting ready now for another party at a place called Campus 805. It looks like an amazing venue, but I doubt it can beat the US Space & Rocket Center last night. 🙂

Huntsville CVB has really done a fantastic job of hosting the TBEX and all of us travel bloggers. 🙂

Stronger

I’ve spent the last week, plus so far this week, getting by on less than 4 hours of sleep per night. I was in the “Train the Trainer” course last week and then taught Basic Fire Fighting this week. It’s been killing me! I spent most of the weekend catching up on sleep. Not much time to spend on blogging or anything else.

Tomorrow I have the day off and will try to catch up on sleeping again since I am leaving early Thursday morning for the TBEX in Huntsville, AL. I doubt I will get much sleep while I’m there either.

I’m looking forward to finding ways to improve my blog, meeting interesting people, and exploring the area around Huntsville. Are any of you going to be there? Anybody know of ‘don’t miss’ things to do/see in Huntsville?

Z is for Zanzibar- #AtoZChallenge

Z” is for Zanzibar. And the last post in this year’s A to Z Challenge! I can’t believe I managed to finish and post for every letter. Usually, in these long challenges, I get so far behind I just give up. I’m glad it’s over tho. It’s hard to find time to post every day.

I have to say I loved Zanzibar! I was there on vacation last November. I took a long trip for a photography safari with Great Escape Publishing. I really enjoyed the safari. We went all over the Northwest area of Tanzania. From Arusha to Lake Eyasi, the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti…

It was fantastic! We got to see all kinds of animals from our jeeps. The drivers were great at finding the game. We would sit quietly and watch them do their thing while we furiously took thousands of photos. 🙂

It was a week of amazing experiences, but a week of early mornings and late nights. I was exhausted at the end of it. I was glad to have scheduled some extra time before flying all the way home to Texas.

I had thought about climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. It is on my bucket list. I just didn’t think I was up to it at that point. I wanted some rest and relaxation. I decided to head over to the nearby island of Zanzibar for a few days.

Wow! Such a gorgeous island. Stone Town is intriguing. It has an interesting history, it’s easy to imagine yourself back in the days of the Sultans as you wander the winding lanes of the old town. The people were friendly and eager to show you around town, or entice you to buy their specialty spices or colorful paintings.

   

The food was cooked with exotic local spices and served with a smile. The night market near the docks and the fort was a great place to hang out. I liked to grab a fruity drink and watch the sun go down before wandering around and choosing a cook for my dinner.

 

After a couple of days in the city, I headed up North to relax on the beautiful white sand beaches. I spent a few blissful days relaxing under the casuarina trees, wading in the ocean, sailing on sunset cruises and SCUBA diving around the area.

 

The diving was excellent! Best I’ve seen in quite a while. I saw lots of colorful coral and all kinds of sea life. I brought my camera, but only one dive was shallow enough for me to use it. 😦

  #sea cucumber #Zanzibar

It’s a long, long way from Texas, but if I ever get the chance to visit Zanzibar again, I will definitely take it!

X is for Xcaret

X” is for Xcaret. Xcaret is a pretty cool attraction on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Not too far from Cancun. They call it an “eco-archaeological park”. It’s one of those tourist attractions your hotel will try to set you up with, which was how I found out about it.

I was on vacation with a friend in Cancun a few years ago. I’m past the point of spending my vacations just drinking and partying. I like to explore the place I’m in. My friend is older than I am. She likes to learn about new places too, but at a much more relaxed pace.

We decided to check out Xcaret since it looked like it had enough things to do so that we could both do different things and neither would get bored.

I was really into the whole idea of drifting down the underground rivers, snorkeling with dolphins (extra $$$), and checking out the Mayan ruins. She was more into watching the local dancers and talking to the other tourists while drinking a few cold ones. 🙂

We met up when I took a break at the end of a river run. I went quite a few times before I was ready to try snorkeling. I was disappointed with the snorkeling tho, it was really nothing special. At least not where I was. I saw lots of rocky limestone lagoons, I don’t remember seeing coral. Plenty of fish, but not a lot of variety or color. Maybe I just missed the good stuff?

Neither of us did much exploring of the terrain. I did take a walk around the lagoon, but it was very hot and I couldn’t wait to get back in the water. The landscape was just not that interesting to me. I saw a lot of iguanas and a few brightly colored birds (but I couldn’t ID them). We both really enjoyed watching the shows. The dancers were fantastic.

W is for Wandering- #AtoZChallenge

W” is for wandering. Something I do love to do. When I was younger, I used to ride my bike all over the place. I would ride up and down every street, just to see where they went. I would ride around the neighborhoods and stop and talk to the people I saw (usually started by asking where I was). I got to meet a lot of cool people. I knew everybody. 🙂

When I moved to Texas, I kept it up. I got a car after a couple of years so I could expand my familiar ‘territory’. I used to cruise down every old backroad I could find. I would stop in country stores and old hole in the wall beer joints and play a game of pool. I wandered all over the county and then some. Then the gas prices got so expensive, and I got so busy doing other things, that I just pretty much stopped going out anywhere around here.

Now I mostly save my wandering for when I’m traveling on vacation. I really love to wander through the woods, or a park, or the beach. I love to go up to Washington or Oregon in the summer. The weather is gorgeous, nice and crisp and cool. I can enjoy being outside, unlike here in Texas in summer when it’s hot, humid and buzzing with mosquitos.

I’ll pick up a map and just start walking. I usually have a camera with me and I’ll take photos of all kinds of stuff. Trees, weeds, flowers, buildings, details, patterns, rocks, water, squirrels, sky, (occasionally) people, etc.  I never know where I’ll wind up. It’s always somewhere interesting. 🙂

People always ask me if I worry about winding up in ‘the bad part of town’. Or if I fall down a mountain or get eaten by a bear?

Nope. I don’t. I just go. I’ve never had anything bad happen to me while wandering around like that. Not in all the years I’ve been wandering around the world.

I seem to be pretty good at it. I never get lost (even without a map). I always manage to find my way back home (eventually). 😉

V is for Vegas- #AtoZChallenge

V” is for Vegas! “Las Vegas” technically, but what the heck. I figure I can play a little fast and loose with the technicalities, right?

So, I actually made (most of) this post a couple of years ago. The last time I went to Vegas.  It was for a challenge using the word “dreamy”. But I figured, it never really changes much there. So, why not do it again. 🙂

Here goes…

I already posted one photo from my trip to Las Vegas, but it’s such a dreamy kind of place. I thought about it and came up with some more ideas.

I posted another one about an Elvis impersonator who was performing right outside my hotel. Lots of women thought Elvis was pretty ‘dreamy’. Then I posted some dreamy girls for the guys. 🙂

Las Vegas really is a dreamy kind of place. I think it’s one of those places that’s built on dreams. All kinds of dreams going on there. People go there dreaming to hit the jackpot and get rich. They go there hoping to hit it big and make a name for themselves as a singer or a dancer or chef or…

I love to hang out in old downtown. It’s not like the Strip (which is interesting in a different way), where things are spread out and isolated. Every casino has it’s own attractions and you pretty much stick to one since it’s a pain to move on to the next.

Downtown is different. Everything is close together. There’s lots to do (Mob Museum, Container Park, Neon Museum), and all kinds of things going on. Fremont Street is the hub of all the action. There are at least a dozen different casinos all within easy walking distance. It’s easy to hit one for drinks, another to eat, try the poker at one, blackjack at another…

Fremont Street is really pretty cool. They have a light show projected on a huge blocks-long overhead screen. You can go zip-lining right over the top of all the crowds. There are artists at work, lots of little shops along the street. They have all kinds of bands and performers scheduled to play on the various stages. And then there are all the unscheduled ‘performers’. People who just like to come out and play. 🙂

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA               

U is for Underground City- #AtoZChallenge

U” Is for the underground city of Derinkuyu in Turkey. It’s only one of the most famous of them, there are quite a few others in the area (200+). They are very old. Derinkuyu is supposed to be at least 2000 years old. I was impressed with the amount of work it took to carve out the huge labyrinths of rooms, tunnels, wells, and even defensive falling stones. All underground. All done without electric lights, or power tools.

 

The people lived their lives down there. Their whole families, even their animals (sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens, etc). I kept wondering how much smaller than us they must have been. I barely made it through some of those tunnels, and was really glad to get to one of the larger spaces.

It’s hard to imagine how someone could spend so much of their lives below ground like that. No wind, no sun, no rain. I don’t think they lived like that all the time. Just for especially dangerous times. But it must have been pretty dangerous a lot of the time to make it worth all that effort, right?