Our second night in Casa del Mundo is in room #17. After room #10’s coziness, this room feels so open. The private terrace is also bigger.
Views from all levels of the property are breathtaking!
In the hotel’s drive to reach self-sustainability, a high tech solar-heater system harnesses Lago de Atitlan’s sunshine to provide all the hot water for the property.
We go hiking. I’m fussed at because I stop to capture so many moments! In the Ben Stiller movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a photographer pauses in shooting the rare sighting of a big feline. I’m sorry, if I can get the shot, I will. Sharing is a good thing. And … my memories will fade, so it’s always nice to have a reminder!
I just read a comment from one of my posts. The blogger mentioned that she is an “aspiring blog writer” and asked for suggestions. I thought about it and decided to share some basic steps for newbies.
1. Bloggers are learning all the time. Check out sites like Dear Blogger, firstname.lastname@example.org. I follow Greg as he’s generous with his advice. Anyone can ask him anything, whether they are a beginning blogger or well established. He started a YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/narayguy/videos, with tutorials on how to start a blog, different costs of hosted sites, how to make your site more attractive, etc. I started with WordPress.com before following him, but he uses WordPress.org to be able to do some beautiful enhancements to sites using plugins, etc.
If you’re hoping to profit from your blog, there are several big guys out there, but I like Nate Smith, email@example.com. He is encouraging with good tips and spiritual inspiration. You can search around and follow many others, but look for sites that fit your needs as a blogger.
2. This is very, very important! Please remember to pull from your passion. Post articles that you are truly interested in, not those that are just current topics that you hope people will link to. Cover subjects you know or that you researched and have a working knowledge of, that might be of value to others.
3. Mix it up! Some entries I will post describe just what happened and photos. Others, I will add some background about the area we visited, photos and a video or two. Sometimes an opportunity arises that I can’t let go by, like when I learned about The Internet of Things, https://soosoosees.com/2013/10/14/day-30-new-york/. It’s fascinating to me how everything is moving at warp speed!
And, here’s a photo I took of actors in a Tombstone, Arizona re-enactment of the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. (p.s.: The gunfight wasn’t really in the corral!) Thought it would look more striking with texture and a feel of the Old West. Edited it on my iPhone in Snapseed, blurring present day shoppers and vehicles in the background with TouchReTouch. Both are free apps. It could have been nice in black and white, but I do like tints!
There are plenty more tips I could give, but off the top of my head, these three simple steps will help you on your way!
Yesterday was our first day back in seven weeks! We only had time to change out clothes for others and spend the night with relatives. Today, we take care of some business before driving an hour to Galveston. A good friend’s daughter is getting married this evening and we just made it home in time for the event. It’s the weekend before Halloween and hotels are packed. There are ghost tours and all sorts of activities during this time. When my husband made the Priceline online reservation, he wasn’t using the mouse. Somehow, scrolling down, a one star hotel in an adjoining city was confirmed. It’s the first time we have ever hit a one star. Eeek! What are we in for?!? After talking to a friend who also couldn’t get the room they wanted, we don’t feel so bad. They wound up with a one star in Galveston because everything else was booked.
The wedding is a beautiful affair! It’s held in the circular garden next to the 1859 Ashton Villa, an elegantly restored Victorian home.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, nowadays the villa’s only available for private events.
We head for Old Quebec City, a designated United Nations World Heritage Site. By foot is the best way to see what is purported to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We park at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac and take a short walk through the lovely historic hotel. My early-to-rise husband is right. We always get out of the hotel too late to make the tours. Our son and I say it’s vacation and we shouldn’t have to get up at 7am. So, we wander the streets with maps in hand, drinking in the atmosphere of days gone by.
Lunch at Le Petit Coin Latin is a simple, yet quite enjoyable experience. My spinach lasagna is good, but Baby Boy’s deliciously Crusty Cheese (with thinly sliced mushrooms) sandwich is better!
French is a beautiful, melodic language. Everywhere, we are greeted with a delightful “Bonjour.”
The narrow cobbled streets with their colorful shops are so inviting. The city draws me in to discover a quaint gift shop or the perfect chocolate bite!
There are wonderful art galleries to explore. Along Dufferin Terrace you can see so many parts of the city.
On a drizzly afternoon, staring out across the St. Lawrence River is calming. It’s like an old French village painting. Striding along, we check off the Fortification of Quebec, Dufferin Terrace, Place Royal and a little urban park, presumably the Plains of Abraham. There are more on the list we don’t get to, but I don’t mind.
No need to rush around like crazy people so we can say we saw all those things. We can see more on the next trip here. More important is the time we have with our son, enjoying the moment.
We’re off to Montreal! There seems to be more fall foliage here than in Maine.
We have diinner at a Portuguese restaurant with nice white tablecloths and a quiet atmosphere. Should have Yelp’d and Tripadvisor’d it. The complimentary olives were a nice appetizer, but the paella was mediocre and the pork dish was a little tough. Just shows that a presentable full service restaurant does not always equate good food. Should have gone to the casual poutine place that had high marks and roasted chicken. Still, we’re here in Montreal and lovin’ it!
We visit our son’s office. His very sweet co-workers present me with flowers that remind me of Texas!
We also meet our son’s boss, a mobile marketing guru. I can’t let the opportunity pass without asking for an interview! Twelve years ago, he brought music libraries (ringtones) to America. In last month’s Mobile Media Summit in New York, he sat on several panels. He shares his views on the omnichannel, his top three apps, The Internet of Things, tips for marketing students and more:
Afterward, we have lunch with a cousin at BonChon, a restaurant specializing in Korean fried chicken. BonChon is Korean for “My hometown” and has become a very successful international franchise. The chicken is deliciously crispy and flavorful!
We walk off the lunch by visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Massive displays and fabulous collections make for an enriching experience.
Walking back, I see the wide entrance to a period building. It’s the Ukrainian Institute. It seems familiar. I believe I’ve seen a write-up about the building. There’s a 20th Century Art Collection on display until October 18. By now, I’m dying to see the inside and tell my husband we can squeeze in another exhibit. It is eye-catching and has a beautiully preserve quiet beauty. Oh, the stories I can imagine it could tell!
We go back to the square in Ocala to wander the shops before leaving. Just off the main street, we see a little diner called the Lunchbox. Kids’ metal lunchboxes are displayed and locals fill the tables. The wait staff is friendly and give good recommendations. My fish sandwich is delicious. The broccoli is buttery and gently seasoned. Haleigh, our server, says that customers tell her if they had had Lunchbox’s broccoli when they were growing up, they’d have eaten it. Haleigh says, “Eat your broccoli!”
After lunch, we drive down the street to the Ocala Stud Farm. We had wanted to visit a horse farm or ranch that gave carriage rides or guided horse rides. When I ran across this listing, it sounded interesting.
So down the road we go! We find a groom, Leon, who makes time to take us around. Petting the velvety soft muzzle of young thoroughbreds is a memorable experience. To me, horses are the most beautiful of animals.
We get into Tampa in time for dinner. The Sheraton East Tampa is nice and spacious. It’s a conference center and the staff is efficient and friendly. Two complimentary bottles of water greet us as we step into the room. When asked for the name of a good local restaurant, the hotel front desk says that Jesse’s Steak & Seafood in Brandon has been around for years and that’s where locals go for good steaks and seafood. The décor is somewhat dated, but it’s been there a long time and seems to do well. Our waitress is friendly and helpful. When we say we’d like to share the 16 oz. prime rib, she suggests that for $5 more, a second baked potato and salad could be served. The prime rib comes au jus and with mushrooms. The chef was kind enough to cut the steak in half. It’s tender and flavorful. We agree and later realize that we should have split the 12 oz. portion as there would have been plenty to eat!
We enjoy a complimentary breakfast at LaQuinta before leaving Panama City Beach at 11am.(I try to balance 2 biscuits & sausage gravy with rice krispies, low fat milk and apple juice.)
We arrive in Tallahassee and head to the Tallahassee Museum of History & Natural Science. What a nice outdoor venue! The museum covers 52 acres and has many outdoor exhibits, lots of water (or is it considered a swamp?), zip lines and an obstacle course. Shady trees keep it from being unbearable and areas such as the science lab and art gallery are in air-conditioned buildings.
Is the sea otter hiccuping?
Today, the John Spohrer wildlife exhibition opens in the museum’s art gallery. Mr. Spohrer has his photography book available and takes time to give us a tour of the photographs.
Dinner found us at the Ocala town square. We were told that Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grill has good food with a New Orleans flair. The dishes we had were quite good! And the gumbo is how I like it – with celery and bits of other vegetables in the thick broth.
We went by the Edison Museum on the way out of Beaumont. It’s behind the Edison Plaza building. We were told that it was the brainchild of a group of employees from the local electricity company. They had a passion to promote the wonderful inventions that Thomas Alva Edison created to make the world a better place.
There are many interactive displays and equipment, along with Edison’s thoughts and quotes. (Would you name your child “Dot” or “Dash”?) It’s a pocket museum that is well worth driving back into town to visit – and it’s free!
We drove to Port Arthur to see the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Brittney,the manager at Floyd’s restaurant, is from the area and said we really should “see Janis Joplin.” Well, there are absolutely no restaurants near the museum, so we drove back into the middle of downtown to get lunch. Wound up at Tony’s BBQ. It looked familiar to my husband, then he realized he’s eaten at the Tony’s in Houston. That’s another franchise we’ve mistaken for a local eatery.
We did enjoy going through the museum.
Janis has her own little corner of memorabilia. There are several areas to explore. I liked the story about the canon that was used in the early years to put a hole in a burning oil tank to relieve the pressure so it wouldn’t explode. It was an interesting idea. When it was finally used, the canonball went through the first tank and through a second tank that was fine, before lodging in a neighboring field!
As we headed toward Baton Rouge, the last of the sun’s rays bathed the sky in warmth. The lovely combination of a beautiful sky and sparkling water is one of my favorite views.
Zea Rotisserie & Grill was wonderful! It IS a chain, but it’s a small chain. Reviewers gave it high marks. My Shrimp and Corn Maque Choux was flavorful. It was late and we didn’t want to go to bed on a heavy meal, so we split the Twice Cooked Crispy Duck with Snap Peas and Roasted Corn Grits.
Looking forward to a good night’s sleep. Hubby bid on another good deal. Holiday Inn Airport is a 2 ½ star for $50. He told the front desk that we both hit a milestone birthday this year (which is true) and we were taking a long road trip. She congratulated him and upgraded us to a room in the main building – much nicer!
We didn’t venture very far the first day. There are things to see in Texas too!
We stopped by Stuckey’s for old times’ sake. It’s a gas stop/convenience store that was very popular decades ago that was the precursor to Buccee’s. Nowadays, when driving through Texas, many residents know to stop at Buccee’s for gas, food supplies, baked goods, deli food, gift items and CLEAN, CLEAN restrooms!
We had lunch in Winnie at Al T’s Seafood & Steakhouse, a tripadvisor.com pick.
Overheard from one customer to another: “I’m sure they have healthy choices, but I’m not here for my health!” My husband enjoyed his chicken fried steak. My gumbo was different from what I’m used to. There was no okra. 😦 I will say that 30 shrimp are a LOT to put in one bowl!
Beaumont is a nice town. We went to several museums. My favorite is the Fire Museum of Texas. There are descriptions with the displays but I was able to persuade the museum’s manager, Ami Kamara, to give us a tour and let me videotape some of it. She took a little heat (pun intended) from the firefighters about being on YouTube, but she handled it well. As we walked past a rack of pint-sized yellow firefighter jackets and boots, I wished I had a little one along to enjoy activities geared for the younger set. Ami was a good tour guide. Watch her spiel about the origin of “tapped out” and how they received a 25′ fire hydrant from Walt Disney Studios! The tale of superbly trained fire station horses is my favorite:
A note of encouragement to young women aspiring to excel in their chosen field – Ann Huff was a rookie firefighter in the 1980’s when she helped design and build the Beaumont Fire Department’s Fire Safety House. As their current Fire Chief, Ms. Huff is setting a wonderful example of perseverance and following your dream!
The Texas Energy Museum had some nice interactive programs. One, at the end of the exhibit, gives you a quiz on what you remembered about the historic discovery of oil at Spindletop. My husband missed just 2 out of 20 – an “Excellent” score!
We went by Ana’s Mexican Bakery to get a couple of pastries to hold us ’til dinner. The Texas Energy Museum’s Executive Director recommended it for a quick snack with an interesting twist.
The Art Museum of Southeast Texas has works from local and national artists. It may be a small museum but it is nationally accredited. We were the only visitors and the security guard actually followed us around. Finally, I turned to him and said, “If you’re going to be following us, you might as well tell us something about the art.” Surprisingly, he did! He also brought over the Curator of Education/Outreach, Andy Gardner, to speak to us:
“We had a delicious dinner at Floyd’s Restaurant. Brittney, the manager, talked with us about the owners of the multi-store company. They are two Floyds, plus one: Floyd Landry, Bret Floyd and Gary Pearce. Floyd Landry is a member of the family that formed the very successful Landry’s, Inc., which is among the nation’s largest and fastest-growing restaurant corporations. Floyd probably wanted to do things his way and broke off to go on his own. He oversees his Sugar Land restaurant and can occasionally be seen hitting golf balls in the parking lot.
We stayed the night at the Holiday Inn for $50, booked through Priceline.com. It has a 3 star rating. They turn thegushing, tiered fountain off at 11pm nightly so visitors can get a good night’s sleep. The beds were well-padded and everything was in order.
The only real complaint I have is with the huge Texas flag hanging in the multi-story atrium. As you walk in, it grabs your attention, being six stories tall. It’s a lovely effort to honor our proud state, but it obviously wasn’t installed by a Texan. It’s backwards. Oh, well, it’s time to think about other, more pressing matters, like getting some shut eye. Nite-nite!
What happens when you’re pushed to your limits and beyond? You break! You can break, as in crash and burn, or you can step back and take a break.
In our case, my husband and I took a breather for a little cosseting before starting our trip. After the mad rush to pack up the house so we can “Get out of Dodge”, staying at the lovely Houston Marriott Westchase was a welcome break. Several friends and relatives offered to put us up before we left, but we didn’t want to inconvenience anyone and chose to find a hotel through @priceline. My savvy husband usually starts off at $40, changing prices and locations to get the best deal. We have found out that booking a room the day of our stay brings the best price. (Maybe that’s when hotels release rooms that were previously reserved.) He went for a 3 star hotel and nothing popped up. Then, a message said they could offer an upgraded room at $46 (plus taxes) in the same area. Hubby agreed and found out that it was a suite at a 3 1/2 star property. “Yippee!”
We are so enjoying the stay. It’s an older hotel that brought back fond memories. I remember when this hotel was named “Adam’s Mark.” Many years ago, it was special to come to wedding receptions here. There was a gracious air about it then that I can still feel as we walk down the corridor. The bellhop said they still have nice events here. For instance, a Nigerian couple recently renewed their vows and a Vietnamese wedding reception had 500 guests.
Wish we weren’t so tired that we couldn’t invite people over for a little get together. 😦 We could all reminisce. Those were the days of younger ideals and attitudes.
Normally we would leave the hotel to eat. We were beat, so decided to try out their restaurant. It was good to wind down with a nice meal. We skimmed complimentary issues of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today while waiting for dinner. My Waldorf salad was a bit overdressed, but my husband’s schnitzel was tender and crispy.
The raspberry/peach/blueberry cobbler was fine. Now, it’s time for bed. Let’s see what awaits us just ahead!
When Vine came out, I read reviews and watched a musical rant by the talented Toby Turner and decided I was too long-winded to use it effectively. Takes came out in March and I fell in love! Qwiki jumped in and I’m s-o-o-o happy!
I just downloaded Vine so I could try it out for this story. It’s quite limiting and I haven’t been pleased with my efforts. There are about a dozen song clips already loaded, plus you can use the original audio or music from your library. Some of the Vines are nice, like when @erskin and his daughter, Emma, Buy a Rainbow. I’m a sucker for cute kids and puppy dogs. One Vine, Nordstrom’s tie tying, is so abrupt that after a few loops, it gave me motion sickness. Too, I was warned that Vine allows offensive and possibly inappropriate postings. Takes and Qwiki, so far, have been wonderful family friendly experiences with no unpleasant surprises.
Takes is a string of 3 second clips that you can link (up to 15) into a video. After picking clips to use, you can easily change the order by dragging and dropping them in the bottom sequence strip. It starts taking video before you even take the shot. You can get about 3 seconds of action before pressing the shutter for the still shot. The still shot is automatically saved to your camera roll. Those photos are usually snapped at the end of a movement and are often not as clear as a true still shot. When possible, I’ve quickly switched to the regular camera to take a still shot. There are 18 different song snippets already loaded, in addition to using original audio or music from your library. It uses facebook and I don’t, but my private Takes can be tweeted or emailed. The Takes below is from my YouTube channel, SooSooSees.
Qwiki pulls photos and videos from your phone’s camera roll to create a fun collage with lots of personality! It can create a random collage or you can take over creative control. It will only pull a snippet from videos longer than a few seconds, but you can actually edit it down to the part you want to show! It has 9 free music choices, plus library options. Click the little timer icon on the right of the video and you can set it to play in one of three speeds – slow, normal or fast. Another cool feature: six different exposures you can play your Qwiki in, such as Sepia and X-Process! It’s not as easy (as Takes) to move photos and videos around. I found that loading each photo/video in its own slot and loading from the last to first shot you want to see, makes it easier to move things around. I can combine some to create group collages within the Qwiki and add titles to different sections of footage. It allows a nice amount of photos and videos to construct a wider, fuller view of the event.
What I LOVE about Qwiki is the option of pulling photos and video from my camera roll. I shot lots of Takes of a colorful Asian celebration and didn’t immediately create videos to save to my camera roll. BIG mistake! Takes caught a bug and locked me out. I contacted them and got a quick reply. They sent out an update with a bug fix the next day, but I had to uninstall, then reinstall. Everything was GONE, save for the photos that are auto-saved in the camera roll. That’s when Qwiki came to the rescue! I was able to create a nice collage. If not for that, I would have been really sad. The only negative is that I can’t get original audio. Come on, Qwiki, you can do it!
Below, I shot the same scene with Vine, Takes and Qwiki. It gives you an idea of which works best for you in any given situation:
Recently, a professional photographer was scolded for mis-titling his article. Maybe “CONNECT”, the photography site he guest blogged on punched it up a bit, not taking into consideration that it might seem misleading. After that, commenters found fault with his using an iPhone instead of his wonderful DSLR to capture wedding shots at a secluded island’s mass wedding. As the islanders had possibly never seen a professional photographer with big-lensed cameras and blinding light accessories, Kevin Kusterused his iPhone so as to not intimidate them. (His DSLR was used in a smaller capacity.) He also showed two images he had taken at another time of a reenactment soldier. I personally preferred the one taken close up. The other, taken with an iPhone, didn’t have the sharp, polished look of the first, but it seemed to me that he captured more personality. Judging by the blistering comments, you would have thought Mr. Kuster had committed a sacrilege by not using his big camera for the wedding couples! Now, before the DSLR League starts getting riled up, I L-O-V-E the wonderfully crisp, detailed shots from DSLRs. I REALLY do!!! I greatly admire those who take the time and effort to share just gorgeous, phenomenal images with the world. I defer to their dedication to the craft and step aside to go another direction. I can’t afford hundreds of dollars in lenses and I’m too lazy to do more than compose the image, check the lighting, hold steady and click. Anything more is done through my blessed apps, Camera+, Snapseed, etc. ( App designers, has anyone told you lately how wonderful you are?!!? )
Many of the scathing comments to Mr. Kuster were quite mean spirited. Never mind that he was not charging the non-profit group that organized the event and went at his own expense. Or that the couples were quite happy with owning their first ever photographs, holding precious images that would last longer than their lifetimes. An old adage came to mind: “No good deed goes unpunished.” I will say that Mr. Kuster replied with good humor and took the high road. There’s another saying: “Virtue is its own reward.”
I can understand Kuster’s reasoning. I have also photographed people for interviews, albeit for a much, much smaller circulation. They would face my modest Canon PowerShot SX and start fidgeting, becoming a portrait of restless discomfort. Maybe they were just plain shy. Maybe they realized that friends and neighbors numbering into the thousands would see them in a publication that also has an online presence. Having a decent sized camera aimed at you, and only you, can be unsettling.
VII Photo Agency Mentor,Peter DiCampo,has stated that his smartphone allows him “to return to photography’s original and vital purposes: self-exploration and remembrance.”
Photojournalist Ben Lowy covered the Libyan riots last summer, using his iPhone. An iPhone was used instead of a DSLR to allow easier access to the real people. Regarding the Libya assignment, this is what Ben Lowy put on his site: “I was also tasked with using social media platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook to immediately post images of Libya, bypassing traditional print venues and perhaps paving the way for a new type of interactive and immediate visual storytelling.”