Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 30th - Travel Blog

Hi, it’s Christina –

It's a nice spread for breakfast -
meats, cheeses, breads, yogurt & granola
Greetings from Prague, Czech Republic – Day 2! It is now 5 am on Saturday, and I’m surprised I’m actually up. Yesterday kicked my butt, and oh my poor tootsies – they be barkin’!

Just some of the stuff we saw on our
way to the castle.

So yesterday after breakfast, a trip to the train station to get our tickets for Sunday, and a few miss-starts, we finally found our way over to Prague Castle, where we pretty much spent all day. Prague Castle is on a hill overlooking the Vltava River. It was the Royal home since the 9th century, and then in the early 1900s, it became the home of the President of the Czech Republic, and is still so today.
You say I'm never in any of the pictures,
well that shadow on the cobblestone is

Prague Castle is at the highest point in Prague, and yup, you guessed it, there is no transportation to get up there. At some points the incline was so steep, I didn’t think we’d actually make it up. Oh, and did I forget to mention, the streets and walkways are uneven cobblestone. Thank God it was a beautiful, sunny day, because there would have been no way if it was raining or even misting, because it would have been too slick and treacherous.
The skinny one with the brick,
that's taken through an
arrow slit.
But after a break at the entrance to the castle, and a little time to take pictures of the incredible view, we sucked it up and climbed the last four flights of stairs, and WOW. The mosaic wall on the bottom right corner in the Pražský Hrad-Prague Castle picture is what greeted us. It was incredible. Unfortunately, I guess because it was so bright outside, the colors of the tiles did not come out as vividly as they actually were, but you get the idea.

The bottom right is a window of sorts.
It's a solid cylinder of wood which
rotates, one side has the opening, then
you turn it and the window is closed.
On Thursday we purchased our Prague Card which allowed us access to all the public transportation and to various sites. Four of the sites were within Prague Castle. Perhaps I should back up a little, Prague “Castle” isn’t what you picture a typical castle looking like, it’s more of a fortress comprised of multiple buildings within castle walls. There’s the Old Royal Palace*, The Story of Prague Castle, the Basilica of St. George*, the Treasury of St. Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane*, Prague Castle Picture Gallery, Power Tower, St. Vitus’ Cathedral*, Rosenburg Palace & the South Tower of St. Vitus’s Cathedral. The ones with the * are the ones we visited.

The couple left center were from Japan,
The bride in red I believe was from
Spain, and the top left is the groom who
wore jeans to his wedding.
Starý královský palác – The Old Royal Palace was being refurbished while we were there. There are a few parts of the palace which date back to the 9th century, but the palace sustained a huge fire in the early 1300s and was rebuilt then. Still, being able to walk around in a place that’s over 700 years old is pretty cool.

Everything smelled heavenly!
I guess I’m not the only one who thinks it’s cool, because it is apparently the place to get married when visiting Prague. Everywhere we turned another bride and groom were popping up. The only thing they all had in common was they were just the bride and groom and a photographer, no wedding party. One of the grooms was in a sports coat and jeans – can you believe it? The would not have made me a happy bride!

The domed ceiling with the copula has
been fully restored (bottom 2nd picture).
Everything is blooming at the castle. The little butter colored flowers on the bright green leaves (sorry, I have no clue what they are) were so fragrant. They smelled a lot like gardenias. On the lawn, where we’d have dandelions, they had those tiny daisies. Believe it or not, those big burgundy flowers were peonies. The lilacs were also in full bloom, but I guess I was too busy with my nose in the bush to snap a picture, but I sure didn’t miss the Japanese Cherry! It was breathtaking.

This is a picture off line, but
ours looked just like this with
a mass of whipped cream
drizzled with honey and
sprinkled with nuts on the side
Again - OH MY!
St. George’s Basilica was our next stop. It is the oldest surviving church building on the property, built in 920ad. It’s a little hard to see, but the 3rd picture on the top is one of the murals on ceiling which has faded to just blobs of color, and the next picture is the ceiling right next to it which looks like it has been restored. The two picture on the left which look like a fireplace, look closer. There was no sign, so I do not know who that is in there.

Each of the gargoyles were different,
and since they weren't moving or
screaming, we knew it was safe to
go inside. 
I think it was at this point we decided we were starving and found a café on premises. Mom and I both had sandwiches which were good, but then we splurged and split a piece of honey cake – Medovic - for dessert. OH MY! You know what a chocoholic I am, and when given a choice, I’d always go for the chocolate cake, and there was one on the menu, but I knew I couldn’t eat a whole piece, and mom wanted the medovic. Let me tell you, if given the choice again, I’m going to have a hard time choosing – yeah, it was that good.

The massive pipe organ is the photos
all down the left side. Wish I could
have heard it play!
Next on this tour is Katedrála sv. Vita - St. Vitus’ Cathedral, which contains the tombs of Holy Roman Emperors and Bohemian Kings. I know I took a ton of pictures both outside and inside, but outside the gargoyles were awesome, and who doesn’t love stained glass? Again photos didn’t quite capture the vibrancy of the glass, but it did get close. What amazed me the most was the variety of colors used, how small the individual pieces of glass were, and how massive the windows were. It’s mind boggling to think about how much work went into each window.

If you look closely at the 2nd picture
to the right of the word Lane, you will
see the handmade puppets in the
Our final stop was Zlatá ulička - Golden Lane. Golden Lane are a bunch of micro homes and shoppes built into the surrounding wall of the castle. The apothecary’s shop is slightly larger than the others because it had a basement level. The seamstress’ home was also a little larger because it had a cooking area. The cobblers home was the average size – roughly the bedroom was 6x4, the lu was 3x3, and the living area was 12x8. (The pictures are grouped together so you can get an idea.)

This restaurant was recommended to
us by the desk clerk at our hotel. We
weren't impressed. 
Last night we went for authentic Czech food at Hlučná Samota. I had a beef and dumpling dish, which was good. Mom ordered the duck, which was nasty and got sent back. I’m looking forward to the Slovak food in Bratislava, food I grew up on – YUM!

Today we are headed off to Charles Bridge, Old Towne and to see the clock and the Jewish Cemetery. Hopefully the camera battery will hold out a little longer today.

Until then, have a WONDERFUL day & happy writing.

Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29th - Travel Blog

Hi, it’s Christina –

Greetings from Prague, Czech Republic! It is now 6 am on Friday morning, at least I think it’s Friday, the brain is a little foggy at this point. 

Still awake and ready to leave
on our adventure.
Wednesday, Paulie’s birthday, mom and I got dropped off at Newark Airport around 3:45, breezed through security, and were at our terminal gate, waiting for the 6:25 plane, by 4:10. Not exactly sure why we needed to be at the airport by 4:00 for a 6:30 flight, I think it may be a ploy by the airports to get you there early so you have nothing to do while you’re waiting, so you spend money. Well, all they got out of me was $4.50 for a water – which, of course, while juggling my bags to get on the plane, I forgot. UGH.

Since all of the other passengers heeded the two hour early warning, our British Airways flight took off twenty-five minutes early. How cool was that! They passed out the best pretzels – these tiny sour cream and onion ones – I wish I had snapped a picture of them so I could get them again. Hopefully they’ll have the same ones on the return flight.
Yeah, I'm the world's worst selfie taker

The flight wasn’t full, so I moved over two seats, and my mom, who was sitting with two other people moved over by me. If I was a little smarter, and a little more selfish, I would have snagged a whole row like some of the other folks did, this way I would have been able to lay down and maybe get more than the 17 minutes of sleep I got.

Yummy & he knows how to plate a dish!
I did get to watch Burnt – the Bradley Cooper movie where he’s a chef. It was rather enjoyable, and had several parts where I caught myself laughing out loud and quickly covered my mouth to muffle the sound so I wouldn’t wake the folks who were actually sleeping.

We had a nice tail wind, and got to London early, a little too early, because Heathrow won’t allow planes to land before 6:00 am, so we had to circle a while before we could land. Now, not for nothing, but Heathrow is a fairly major international hub. Wouldn’t you think A) the place would be a little nicer, and B) their baggage inspection area would run a lot more efficiently? The airport, or at least terminal 3 – which was nowhere near where we landed - is a maze of drab corridors – picture a 1950s insane asylum, yeah, that bad. The inspection area had maybe six people manning it, and when each and every container containing liquid, paste or gel – even containers at or under the allowable size – are inspected, and you have multiple planes dumping out at the same time, sixty inspectors would have a hard time keeping up, let alone six. 

It was a bit of a cluster, and there were countless people complaining because they missed their connecting flights because of the inspection delays. I felt bad because mom and I were the 5th and 6th bags to be inspected, and we had a 4 hour layover. If I had known when we got in line, I would have let the people with an earlier flight to go ahead of me. Wouldn’t you think there would be an express lane or something specifically for travelers who have a small window between flights?

Waiting for the bus at the
Vienna Airport
The new flights don’t post which gates you are at until an hour before (of course our was the only one which posted only twenty minutes before), so mom and I went to the most central area we could find to sit and wait. I grabbed a much needed cappuccino, and a tea for my mom - $8! Sheesh! When our flight finally posted, I came into my first incompetent British Airways employees – the ones at the desk checking in the passengers. Mom and I are the second ones to the desk – there is NO ONE else there, and the witchy blonde chick makes us drag our bags through the cue. At this point, I had been awake for over 24 hours, and let’s just say I wasn’t in the mood for inanity, though I did manage to restrain myself from making a scene, she knew she was not my favorite person at the moment.

We get on our flight for Vienne (Wein), and mom promptly falls asleep – good for her, but I’m a bit envious. At this point, my back had just about enough of sitting, and bless the flight attendants hearts, they fully understood, and allowed me to stand in the back of the plane with them. Sarah & Rebecca were positively delightful, and made the two hour flight go by in a flash.

So far, from what I’ve seen of Wein, I’m not all that impressed. I’m hoping the area we see from the ship will be much improved over the dirty, grimy, industrial area around the airport.

The bathroom on the bus - Let's
just say that was an adventure
and leave it at that.
We did not have passage booked from Wein to Prague because our travel agent said it was much cheaper to do it on site, so after a bit of confusion, we were able to, for 22 Euro, get on a bus, but the bus only took us part of the way. We had to get off in some town and wait for the actual bus that was going all the way to Prague.

Hoping the rain doesn't really
come. It's chilly enough with-
out it!
Here’s where my first encounter with some drama occurred – the bus was about to leave, and mom is nowhere to be found. She was cold, so she said she was going to wait inside the door. Fine, no big deal. I should have known better, because the door she was “waiting” in led to a mall. The bus was closing its doors, I screamed for it to stop, screamed for my mom to hurry up when I finally saw her coming – and we were able to catch the bus. Thank God, because if we had missed it, the next bus wasn’t coming for a few hours and we would have had to purchase new tickets.

I know it's hard to see, but I'm
pretty sure this is a nuclear
power plant. YIKES!
This was around 4:00 pm – the 36 hour mark of being awake. Yeah, I’m twitching at this point. On the bus, we have wifi, but not until we hit the Czech Republic. The moment wifi kicks on, I go in search of an address for our hotel, because nowhere in the paperwork sent by our travel agent is there an actual physical address for our hotel – and, of course, everyone we ask has never heard of Hotel Orien – probably because I was saying Oh-rye-on and over here they pronounce it Or-ree-on.

The “cruise director” on the bus (I don’t know what else to call her – flight attendant, maybe – she helped the travelers, made them drinks, handed out headphones), Lucy, plopped down in the seat next to me, and helped me search for the hotel. Then when she finally found an address (we had to check several sites, and finally the address was listed on a review site), she screen printed everything from her phone and emailed it to me.
The view from one of the many windows
in our hotel room.

Initially, upon arrival in Prague, we were going to make our way via the metro, to the train station to purchase our tickets for our Sunday transfer to Budapest, then take the metro two more stations, get off and walk the few blocks to our hotel, but by the time we arrived, WE WERE DONE. There was no way either of us were walking more than a few feet dragging our luggage.

Our kitchen
So, we opted for a cab. I had heard horror stories about the cabs in Prague – thankfully I do not have one to add to them. The price was 300 Korun (pronounced Crown) – roughly $12.50. The driver, Alexi, was great. He pointed out good restaurants – ones the locals like, told us about several tourist traps to avoid (hopefully some of his tips penetrated my sleep deprived brain), and didn’t drive like the maniac all the trip advisor sites claimed all Czech taxi drivers did. God must have known I wouldn’t have been able to handle any more stress, so he put Alexi in our path. THANK YOU!

That little hobbit bed in the corner
is mine.
We arrive at our fully booked hotel. Our room only has one bed, but the staff scrambled and found another bed to put in the room – it’s about as comfortable as you’d expect a rollaway to be, but at that point I really didn’t care. Mom and I dropped off our bags, then went to Vini Vidi Vici, one of the restaurants Alexi recommended, had some pumpkin soup and bread for dinner, then came back and went to sleep.

Not sure what’s on the agenda for today, but I’ll be sure to let you know all about it tomorrow morning.

Until then, have a WONDERFUL day & happy writing.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Monday, April 4th 2016 - Monday Meet the Author

Hi, it’s Christina –

Happy Monday! Sorry there was no post last Monday – no excuse, just spaced, and completely forgot it was Monday. Actually, the post I’m doing today should have been done last Monday, because I should have done it BEFORE the new release, not after. Oh well, whatchya gunna do?

Not her "official" photo, but this one
shows her personality so well, I had to
use it. (It's my favorite photo of her.)
The author I want to introduce you to this week hails from the lone star state, and I will confess, she a friend of mine. Christy King and I met over a year ago, and hit it off like a house on fire. She is a gifted young adult author, and an incredibly sweet person.

Christy & Rodney
Aren't they adorable?
Her and her hubby Rodney (no, not THAT Rodney King) take all these little exploring trips, and she takes her friends along with a mixture of photos, a little bit of history, and usually some funny stories. 

One of the many road trips Christy
let me "tag along" on.

For as much time as I have spent in Texas, she still has managed to show me places I’ve never been. I love it, and we (her friends) are always asking her, “so where are you going next?”. Last week was a bit of a blur, so I can’t remember if she was in Louisiana or Mississippi – I’m going to have to go back through her posts and catch up on what I missed.

One of Christy's writing partners.
When she isn’t having us giggling over her road trips, she has us rolling with the kitty antics in her home. Christy is a tiny little bit, but fair warning, don’t mess with her – she’s a marksman and a championship knife thrower, who also has a penchant for handmade bags. So now you know a little more about Christy than her average reader (hope she doesn’t shoot me for that).
One of her "finds" on one
of her road trips.

Anyway, Friday (my birthday) was her latest release, Dirty Deeds, and it looks AWESOME. So, without further ado, here’s Christy’s books – hope you find something that tickles your fancy:

Dirty Deeds - Cameron James is a justice dealer whose targets know her as Avenging Angel.

Unhappy with the decision of the court system? Dirty Deeds will balance the scales of justice, for the right price.

However, Cameron soon learns that her illegal business dealings are the least of her concerns. With a best friend hiding secrets and her mentor declaring war on her, Cameron must navigate the worlds of Witness Protection and the human slave market.

A single misstep plunges her into a supernatural miasma with eternal implications.    

The cell phone rang, scaring the bejeezus out of me and Ghost. Ghost was my cat. For months, I thought he was a real phantom clomping around in my condo walls. Turned out, it was just a kitten stuck in there. Go figure.
"I'm listening," I said, already knowing the person on the other end was my friend Devin.
"Cam Jam, no work tonight?" Devin asked.
Even in the privacy of my own home, I blushed at the pet name and thought of some choice things to call him in return. Instead, I took a deep breath and held down my rage. With a name like Cameron James, it was easy to see where he got the nickname. I hated it and he knew it. Seeing as what business I was in, he should've watched what he said.
"Obviously, you can see I'm home," I said, walking over to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows facing the high-rise across the street from mine.
"This is what I love about living here." He smiled and I could see him standing at his own windows across the way. "I can keep tabs on you."
"It does freak me out, another bonus for you," I said, putting my free hand on my hip.
"It should make you feel comforted and safe."
"Highly unlikely," I muttered. "Compare our jobs again. I'm the badass who takes care of everyone's dirty laundry. You do what, again? What did you say? Oh, yeah, you sell flowers. I feel so much better having you close by. I sleep better at night."
"You should," he said, his stance going stiff and affronted, even long distance. "If someone were to come after you, I'd see and be able to help."
"Yes, because it's so helpful to have you across the street, in another building, seventeen flights up. How fast can you get to me again? Didn't you time it once?"
"If I hadn't had to wait for my elevator and then yours, it would've been fast," Devin muttered.
"Yeah, if only," I murmured.
"Well, flash me if you need me."
It was his favorite thing to say. If I was in trouble, I was supposed to flash my flashlight out the window and he'd see it. The thing was, it would only work if he wasn't asleep, in the restroom, or otherwise occupied. So if he happened to notice there was trouble, then I'd have a good five minutes for him to get to me. I'd be better off calling the police. I never call the police.

Talia (Book One of the Talia Series) – Teenage queen, Talia, struggles with her own self-destructive ways, while trying to be a compassionate and fair ruler in a land of magic, werewolves, and vampires. Within her lies a darkness – one that will endanger the very people of her kingdom. In an attempt to protect them, she makes a pact with the vampires in a bid for peace. In the end, the trust she offers may be the very thing that leads to her own demise.

Ancestral Blood
Ancestral Blood (Book Two of the Talia Series) - Teenage queen Talia has secured her realm and married the love of her life. Just when everything seems idyllic, Camon decides that he needs to hunt down the vampire Arden for performing experiments on Talia to learn the limits of her powers. The quest sets into motion devastating events, causing the rulers to enlist the aid of the realm of Sollon. Family secrets are revealed and Talia discovers that she is far more than what she believed. Can she resist the lure of a power greater than any known in their world? Will the ones she loves be able to cope with the knowledge that she is far less human than they knew?

Here’s how you can follow Christy:

I hope you enjoyed meeting my friend Christy! Until next time, I hope you have a WONDERFUL day & Happy Writing!