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. 🙂

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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. 🙂

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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?

T is for Travel- #AtoZChallenge

T” is for traveling. One of my all time favorite things! I love a good book, but I love it even more when I’m reading it in some new place, somewhere I’ve never been.

My last trip was a big one. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere for a while. I pretty much accept now that I won’t be able to go back to work for months, if not years. Until I start ‘earning a living’ again and have more than enough to just barely pay the bills by using up my savings, I won’t be going anywhere.

I did go to the big Travel Show in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. That was just to see what’s on the RADAR. Exploring what I can work on for my new travel writing and photography career.

I took a detour on the way home, stopped in Ennis and did the Bluebonnet Trail. The flowers were beautiful. Fields full of bluebonnets, indian paintbrush and other spring blooms.

I will be going to the TBEX in Huntsville AL next month. I’m really looking forward to that. I hope to make some contacts and improve my blogging. 🙂

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite travel quotes. I hope they inspire you, like they do me. Enjoy. 🙂

     

S is for Spike- #AtoZChallenge

S” is for Spike. Today, I’m posting about the letter S for both the A to Z Challenge and the Daily Post. I love it when I can do double duty here. 😉

It’s easy to come up with S words, not so easy to come up with things to say about “spike”. Then I remembered those beautiful doors from my last vacation. Stone Town, Zanzibar has the most ornately carved doors. Many of them have spikes, “to keep out the elephants.”

 

O is for Oceanics- #AtoZChallenge

O” is for the Oceanics. That was such a fantastic experience! I’m so thankful I had that opportunity at such a young age. It really did change my life.

The Oceanics was a really special school. It was run by Chick and Stephanie Gallagher out of their apartment in New York City. They somehow managed to round up small groups of students and a few teachers and send them off on round the world adventures aboard various chartered square-rigged sailing ships.

I see a few organizations today trying to do something similar. Not the same tho, not gone long enough, not the right kind of ships, not the same atmosphere. I’m sure they’re still great experiences for anyone who is able to attend. I don’t think there’s any better way to create a confident, competent, creative, cooperative human being than the way they did it at the Oceanics.

Spending months at sea working together to sail the ship from point A to point B. Learning every aspect of how to do the job properly, we earned a sense of a job well done and self esteem. It takes a lot of teamwork and trust in each other to sail a square-rigged ship. Running up the ratlines to furl the sails in a squall with the wind howling and the ship rolling needs to be an immediate response with all hands on deck. Ask the worlds navies why they still use sailing ships as training vessels, they understand.

The ship was just one aspect of the Oceanics. Captain Jespersen was our sail training master. We spent time with him every day learning the names and functions of all the rigging and sails aboard. We sailed the ship from Pireaus, Greece across the Atlantic to Martinique. We spent our time aboard in school, taking regular classes in math, science (oceanology), world history, cultural studies, local languages (Greek, Spanish, Russian), literature, etc. We also learned seamanship, navigation, and how to take care of the ship.

We all stood watch when we weren’t in class. The traditional 4 hours on, 8 hours off. Standing lookout and tending the helm. In between, we kept busy sanding, varnishing, washing the decks, painting, tending to the rigging, splicing line, even helping the cook peel potatoes.

My favorite time aboard was standing lookout on the bow. Watching the dolphins play in the bow waves on a bright sunny day. Seeing flying fish popping out of a wave, to spread their ‘wings’ to fly across the waves before dropping back into the water. Picking out the constellations in a starry, starry night sky. 🙂

I can’t express how truly awesome it was.

And then, when we got to port we could go ashore once we were off watch. Or we might all go ashore together for an adventure. We spent a few days on the Greek island of Agistri hunting octopus for dinner and playing soccer on the beach. I spent a few days with a family in La Gomera (Canary Islands) improving my Spanish and learning more about the locals.

We sailed the schooner Ariadne across the Atlantic to Martinique. On arrival we had a well deserved break on the beach. A few of us hitched our way up the island to hike up Mt Pele. I still remember the deliciously sweet pineapples we had to snack on.

Ariadne

Ariadne

We left the Ariadne in Martinique to fly into Caracas and our South American adventure began. We had been studying Spanish since we left Italy. Now was the time to put it to use. Our plan was to travel from Venezuela to Bolivia, we would figure out the details along the way. We got into some really cool, out of the way places. 🙂

Plenty of the places we wound up had never seen anyone like us before. My red hair stood out like a torch, the locals would surround me and ask to feel it. Young Joe with his bright blond hair was extremely popular with the ladies. People didn’t know what to make of us.

We might show up in a group of 6-10 students (ages 14-21) and 1-2 teachers trying to keep us focused on our studies but also allowing us to get out on our own. We had lots of independent projects. I did one on comparing fairy tales in different cultures and another one identifying plankton I caught in a net on the way over to the Caribbean while we were still on the ship.

We made our way from Caracas through Venezuela to Cucuta, Columbia. From Bogata we headed to Ecuador. Quito, Otavalos, and Guyaquil. We took a boat out to the Galapagos to check out the wildlife and swim with the sea lions and iguanas. We made our way to the jungle and the rivers feeding the Amazon. We traveled down the Rio Napo to visit the indigenous shamans and learn about the plants and animals, (I had to try the ayuhuasca).

In Peru we made our way from Lima to Cuzco (fantastic) and took the train to Macchu Picchu. That was back before it was overrun by tourists. We stayed at the Banos (hot springs) alongside the river and soaked in the hot springs at night after hiking back down the mountain. Another experience I’ll never forget. That place was magical, I could feel it.

We made our way across Lake Titicaca to La Paz, Bolivia to finish up the semester. We were all sad to leave. I didn’t want to go home.

I returned to meet the Ariadne in Martinique a month later. I had another semester to finish high school. We sailed the Ariadne from Martinique to her home port in Hamburg, Germany. Our crossing was fine sailing. We even stopped for a swim in the mid-Atlantic ocean. 🙂

I was sent ahead with a small group to prepare our next vessel in Denmark. The Irish brigantine “Phoenix” was our home for the rest of our voyage. We spent months sailing around the Baltic, around the top of Denmark, to Sweden, Finland, and even spent a couple of weeks exploring the USSR from Leningrad (St Petersburg).

Our graduation ceremony was on the pier side in Copenhagen.  After another semester of overseas adventures at sea and ashore. It got in my blood and I’m sure I’ll never get over it.

I sure wish I had a better camera back then. Take a look here for some photos collected by Brian who was along for the trip with me and Tom. (who met me in Nicaragua). You can see me in a couple of the photos (in the yellow foul weather jacket by the cannon). 😉

N is for New Orleans- #AtoZChallenge

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“N” is for New Orleans, a city like no other. It’s one of my all time favorite places to visit. I first started going to New Orleans back in 1978-79.

I was in the Ocean Marine Technology Program at Brazosport College. It was a 2 year program where I would be able to earn my AB and QMED certificates from the Coast Guard. One of the things we had to do was to take fire-fighting training. We also had to take a ‘Spring Cruise”. We combined them and took a couple of boats up to Delgado Community College in New Orleans to take their fire-fighting course.

That’s me, 2nd from left, back row

I was 17 at the time and the youngest in class. We had a nice and easy trip up, the weather was fine and we all got to practice our celestial navigation skills. We all looked forward to seeing New Orleans and we were not disappointed. We all had a blast and will always remember getting underway bright and early after a late night out on Bourbon Street. 😉

I used to go home to Florida to visit family a couple of times a year and always stopped in New Orleans if I could. I liked to hang around the French Quarter and recharge my batteries for a day. Maybe longer if I met up with some ‘cool’ people. 😉

Years later, when I got older and had to slow down on the partying, I started to enjoy more of the city than Bourbon Street. I’ve gone for conferencesworkshops and training, and layovers for traveling to and from work offshore. I always try to spend a little extra time just to relax and enjoy the city.

It’s so easy. New Orleans has it’s own special vibe. They say it’s got “soul”. Yeah, I agree. It feels sultry, hot and humid most of the time. It almost oozes history. You can see it in the architecture all over the French Quarter. It smells delicious. Chicory coffee, beignets, seafood gumbo, salty oysters, and boozy concoctions around Bourbon Street.

The food is amazing! Classic French, Creole, Cajun and all combinations thereof. Soul food, muffaletas, po-boys, fresh seafood, fine steaks, you can get all that and more. Some of the best cooks in the world call New Orleans home.

New Orleans is a city of music. Jazz, Cajun, Creole, Rock, Soul, Blues, it’s all there. All over the place. I love wandering around the French Quarter, finding musicians playing out in the streets. You can almost always find some around Jackson Square or Royal Street. Then there are the second line parades. It’s always fun to join in the party. Where else can you get that?

New Orleans has so many parades, parties and festivals. I love it! I wonder if I would ever get anything done if I actually lived there? 😉

L is for Lion- #AtoZChallenge

“L” is for Lion. I was lucky to be able to see some of these amazing animals in the wild. I went on a photography safari with Great Escape Publishing (GEP) in November. We spent a week exploring Northwest Tanzania. We saw lots of lions and their cubs. I could have spent hours watching them, but we had to move on. So much more to see.