Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Return to Rome by Margot Justes









It was a packed one day in Rome and my first transatlantic cruise,  time just didn’t allow for more. On this cruise we would stop in  Livorno, Italy-Cartagena  and 3 of the 7 Canary Islands in Spain, and Agadir, Morocco in Africa,  the final destination was Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

For the longest time I wanted to see the Borghese Galleries in Rome. Usually you have to book months in advance, but I was lucky. I walked through the beautiful gardens up to the Villa Borghese, and was told they were sold out. I must have really looked dejected, and the woman took pity on me and sent me downstairs to the ticket counter.  She told me sometimes they have returned tickets.

I did as I was told, and they had a couple of extra tickets if I was willing to wait three hours. Waiting was not a problem, first and foremost, the gardens are positively stunning and vast, there is a museum shop on the lower floor, along with a cafeteria that offered excellent coffee, and delicious paninis, I chose ham and cheese and it was yummy. 

The Borghese family arrived in Rome in the late 16th century, and the villa dates back to the early 17th Century.  There are two floors and twenty rooms filled to capacity, the collections is vast, it is one of those places that is so packed you don’t know where to look first, and it is overwhelming. I prefer galleries that aren’t quite so crowded. You will find works of Bernini, Correggio, Raphael, Rubens, Titian and Caravaggio to name just a few masterpieces exhibited.

The amazing collection is not to be missed, the self guided tours lasts 2 hours, and there is an audio option. The tours are staggered, and they only allow 350 visitors per tour; time and number of people are strictly controlled.

I came away inspired by the works of Bernini-he of the fountains of Rome fame-along with the magical fountains, he was a magnificent sculptor. The collection is massive and in reality for me, the two hours were enough.  There is just so much crammed into the available space, and the collection is so massive that I was on overload. I walked back to the hotel in the rain, and that wet breath of fresh air felt good.

I did make the most with my time in Rome. I walked through the Borghese Gardens and Galleries, I saw the finished renovation of the Bernini Fountain below the Spanish Steps, and had a delicious dinner-homemade pasta cooked al dente with porcini mushrooms and Parmesan Reggiano. It was a packed day and by the end I was exhausted, and slept like the proverbial baby.

The next morning the hotel provided a scrumptious buffet breakfast filled with various breads, sweet rolls, cakes, cheeses, hams, eggs and all the espressos and cappuccinos I could drink. My kind of breakfast.

There was an adventure I hadn’t anticipated. The driver picked me up from the hotel and off I went to the Civitavecchia Terminal, the Port of Rome. The driver stopped at the security gate at the terminal and had a lengthy conversation. I should have known something was wrong; the discussion at the security gate and the fact that I couldn’t see the ship should have given me a clue that not all was well. I didn’t even think twice about the rough waters lapping against the wall as we neared the port. I thought maybe we’ll have to be tendered because the ship was docked elsewhere.

The ship was indeed docked elsewhere, in a different location, and in fact in a totally different port in another city altogether. As the driver informed me-the seas were too rough and Civitavecchia is very rocky; the ships already there couldn’t get out, and new arrivals couldn’t get in. My ship was stuck in Naples.

There were buses lined up along the terminal, the passengers and the luggage were loaded on said buses and off we went on a three hour ride to Naples to board our ship.  Celebrity Cruises handled it really well, they provided water and snacks-heaven forbid you should be on a cruise and not have food.

Once we arrived in Naples, the check-in was relatively painless, and we were on our way, the first stop the next day was Livorno, Italy-the port for Pisa and Florence. I had high hopes of finally seeing Michelangelo’s David.


Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Blood Art
A Fire Within
www.mjustes.com


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fresh Market by Margot Justes









A glorious Saturday morning, the temperature was mid 60’s, the sun was shining brightly, and I was finally able to visit the Fresh Market on King St. in Alexandria. An event that is held every Saturday, and is well worth a visit.

From the fall necessities like pumpkins and squashes, to vegetables and fruit. There were fresh breads, scones, jams and all the things you’d expect from the market, along with jewelry, local pottery, an author selling an illustrated children’s book, and artists.

One such artist, Len "Leonardo" Garon (www.LenGaron.com) even graciously consented to be photographed with his work. A versatile painter his work includes landscapes, monuments and dogs, among other scenes. The award winning artist displays his work right in the market, but his work is in the art collection of the White House, as well as other galleries. He is well established and I love the fact that he participates in the local weekly event.

It is a delight to walk through the market, and I hope to go every Saturday if possible. There is a coffee stand, and a few steps away, fresh scones and rolls are available for a quick al- fresco snack. Further down the way, a local bakery was selling artisan breads that would make your mouth water. The best part, it is walking distance from the apartment.

I continued on to the waterfront, and heard the Umbrellas of Cherbourg being played. I tipped the musician, we chatted briefly, I told him I haven’t heard that melody in years and it brought back many memories for me. I walked away, and heard Under Paris Skies, of course I stayed and listened. It was indeed a perfect morning. I came back to the apartment and started writing.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

LIVE THE EXCITEMENT OF LOVE, WAR, AND MADNESS

LIVE THE EXCITEMENT OF LOVE, WAR, AND MADNESS

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fall by Margot Justes









The summer disappeared, and now it’s practically the middle of October, and I wonder where the time went. Then I realize, I put a house on the market, sold the house, packed, moved to another state and  spent three weeks in Europe in July-that is where my summer went.

Now fall is upon us, the leaves are slowly changing color, it’s cooler, rainy,  a bit foggy in places, and actually it’s my favorite time of the year because for me it is also the beginning of the holiday season.

Friends are coming to visit for a few days next week, and then we’ll drive to Myrtle Beach. I’ll be back in time to get ready for a trip to Rome and my first transatlantic cruise; the cruise starts in Rome and ends in Fort Lauderdale. I’m still celebrating my retirement last year.

There are unique stops on this cruise, I’ll visit Livorno, Italy, the port for Florence, Italy and it will be my first visit to Florence-to say I’m looking forward to it would be an understatement. The stops also include Cartagena, Spain, Agadir, Morocco, and the Canary Islands. Then seven days at sea, where I hope to make a real dent in A Hotel in Venice. I would love to finish the manuscript by the end of this year.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to seeing the fall colors in Virginia, and how the holidays are celebrated here. I’ve been told that Williamsburg is beautifully decorated for Christmas, and it’s only a two hour drive. I’m amazed how much there is to see in this part of the country, and it is all relatively close.  

This morning I finally took a look at the pictures from the July trip, and will share some with you. I plan on writing a few blogs about the places I visited. The one that stood out by far is Malta-I want to go back and spend some time there, a week or two would be perfect.



Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Alexandria by Margot Justes











I have not been consistent with my blogs-nothing new there-having settled in Alexandria, I love playing tourist-the history here is simply amazing, and there is much to see everywhere you turn, and as a result I have not focused on my writing. Recently I have had readers actually ask when A Hotel in Venice will be out, and that was my impetus to get back to work and plan my days. I’m a writer I actually need to write.

Until I find a place to live, whether a condo or a boat, I have settled in a one bedroom apartment, talk about downsizing-I had to think twice about buying toilet paper at Costco because there is so little storage in the apartment. What I do have is a big walk-in closet, and guess where the toilet paper went. I call it my little ‘black hole’ everything goes in there.

I absolutely love it. Alexandria is at once urban and suburban. Filled with history, a quaint and charming old town packed with restaurants, boutiques, antique shops,  historical buildings and tourists, a gorgeous water front, easy access to DC, just hop on the Metro and you’re there in 15 minutes, or take a water taxi and 20 minutes later you’re at the National Harbor, MD. The Alexandria Harbor also boasts a converted torpedo factory that now houses about 24 artists, their studios/galleries are open to the public free of charge. It is heavenly.

I thought I’d miss the suburban life, I spent many years raising my daughters in the ‘burbs’- now I find the vitality of urban life, the sound of cars and sirens, the Metro going by, construction- all exhilarating and life affirming. There is soul pulsing in this city.

The National Science Foundation is building its headquarters here, along with NSF, new condos and apartment buildings are rising fast to accommodate the influx of new blood.

In the meantime this last week progress has been made in my writing, and I’m actively looking for a place to live on a more permanent basis. That being said, I have a trip planned to Annapolis on Tuesday. I have read that it is quite a beautiful place to visit, and only about 45 minutes from here.

I’ll post a few pictures from the area, and you can see for yourself what a wondrous place it is.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

Friday, September 5, 2014

Settling In Temporarily by Margot Justes








The trip to Virginia was uneventful, just the way I like it. There was no rush, and it actually felt good to be in the car and do absolutely nothing but sit and relax. I did not drive, and once we left Illinois and Indiana the scenery greatly improved.

I found I like Virginia, at least what I’ve seen so far-that is to say-not much. Norfolk is delightful and packs one of the most wonderful museum I’ve visited. The Chrysler Museum of Art houses an extensive collection of American art, pre and post paintings from the war of independence, as well as a large collection of civil war pieces. Most artists were new to me, and it was a wonderful journey of discovery.

The most amazing collection is the L. C. Tiffany-a full gallery dedicated to Tiffany, as well as an amazing glass collection on the first floor. It was heavenly. I didn’t take any pictures inside-too engrossed in the exhibits, I didn’t even bother to ask if pictures were allowed in the galleries.

I stayed until closing, they were setting up for a wedding and I took one picture of the prep work, one of the assistants said they were booked for weddings and other social events for the balance of the year. A perfect place to hold an event.

Across the street there is also a small glass blowing facility, with visiting artists creating their magic-that is what I call glass blowing; it seemingly looks easy but it is not. I’m a huge fan of blown glass. There is a reason I set my third hotel book in Venice, and the intrigue in Murano-both share a long history of blowing glass, and for the most part the results are exquisite.

I also took a boat ride to tour the Norfolk Naval Base, reputed to be the largest in the world. The site was awe inspiring and seemingly never ending. The Nauticus, a naval museum and the permanent home for the battleship SS Wisconsin is not to be missed.

The ship is huge and many places below deck I found rather uncomfortable, massive machines, pipes and other accoutrement that are fully exposed tend to scare me. I’m rather skittish when surrounded by such equipment. The living quarters for the officers were somewhat livable, for the enlisted man not so much, but then it was not a luxury cruise, but a life risking endeavor.

The waterfront in Norfolk is delightful, and packed with tourists and locals alike. The restaurants offer excellent food, and the bars attached to said restaurants are loud and lively.

The best lunch I had was at A. W. Shucks, an old fashioned diner off the beaten tourist path. They had the best crab cake sandwich I have ever tasted. There is a fast food place at the National Harbor in Maryland that matched it, but I’ll save that for another blog.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com