Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ravenna by Margot Justes

Ravenna, is the capital of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy.

Once upon a time, it was also the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until the collapse in 476. Ravenna was conquered by the  Byzantine Empire in 540. Ravenna’s history is rich in conquests, architecture, literature and music. The history is immense, and many books are available on the subject.

The town survived many wars, conquests and occupations. Ravenna was ruled by Venice from about 1440 until 1509. Sacked by the French in 1512, followed by another short conquest by Venice from 1527 to 1529. That is just a smattering of the incredible history.

The history is rich and convoluted, and even World War II did little damage. The preservation of the town is astounding, and it truly is an amazing place to see.

The buildings are steeped in age, and you get an incredible sense of history when you walk the narrow, cobbled streets, or even stop in a modern cafe that is housed in an ancient building.

For me, a coffee stop is the rigueur to get a sense of the city. In Italy an espresso is gulped down quickly while standing. I prefer to savor mine while I sit and observe the locals. There is a higher fee for the coffee if you sit down. I’m a tourist, I sit and sip. But I digress...

Ravenna is a photographer’s paradise. It is a walking city, and every street, building, cobblestone is a treasure. Eight of UNESCO’s Heritage Sites are found in Ravenna, from churches, to a mausoleum, to basilicas and a baptistry. The sites dated from 430 to 549.

Notable writers like Byron, Hesse, Wilde, T.S. Elliot  and Dante wrote about Ravenna in one way or another.

There is an annual Ravenna Music Festival, Operas held at the Teatro Alighieri, something for everyone. Ravenna is rich in cultural history, and even Chicago has a classical link to Ravenna. Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s director Ricardo Muti, is a longtime resident of Ravenna.

Cruising allows you to see a bit of a place, and most likely I would never have seen Ravenna otherwise. I’m grateful to have seen even a little.  

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A bit of the Caribbean Warmth by Margot Justes Redux

It’s bitter cold in Chicago, and time for a bit of the Caribbean warmth. The shimmering waters, the sparkly sand warm under your feet, and the sheer delight of relaxation. The ‘ah’ moment to take a breath and savor every second.

It’s no secret I love to cruise, and soon I’ll find myself in the Southern Caribbean. The sightseeing is vastly different from the European visits.  

I prefer cruising, because you stop in distinctive places; the islands are close, but each one is unique, and fun to visit. The locals are friendly, and always ready with a smile.

The Caribbean is more accessible from the US, and second, the pace is far more relaxed.  A perfect vacation, to get away from the stress of our daily routine, and get into the palm trees, beach and sand frame of mind. It is not rushed, does not possess the ‘I have to see everything because I don’t know if I’ll ever be back’ feeling. You can visit at your leisure because you just might be back.

Okay I’m not a beach baby, and I must have something else to see and do, have no fear it’s there as well.

If you find yourself in St. Thomas, there is Blackbeard’s Castle, with a tower thrown in for good measure. For those that climb all the way up, they can, on the way down stop in the Rum Blending & Bottling facility. Not only can you watch as the rum is blended and bottled, you can sample the brew and buy a few bottles, and they’ll deliver directly to the ship. How is that for convenience?

Once you’ve satisfied your thirst-after all the climb up the tower is arduous-you can visit the amber museum. Along the way you’ll find a magnificent amber waterfall, it is not to be missed. The water shimmers along the various golden hues of the amber, and the effect is a feast for the eyes. There is a gift shop where you can find some unique and original amber pieces.

The history of the castle is fascinating, thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended. Every island has something unique to offer.

That is just one stop on the itinerary. Cruising is not that expensive, when you consider that it is a floating all inclusive hotel. The cabin, food, gym, and the entertainment is included; alcohol is not. There are advertised specials, and inside cabins are usually well priced. You spend little time in those cubby holes, but if you can afford it, a veranda is a delightful upgrade. Sometimes, the cruise ship might upgrade your cabin level. So far I have found that upgrade to be rather elusive.

Blood Art Goodreads giveaway is still going on.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dubrovnik by Margot Justes

Dubrovnik is one of those historical cities, where you could wonder about, and happily get lost in. A walled city in Croatia, on the Dalmatian Coast it is aptly called the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’.  Dubrovnik dates back to early 7th century. Formed by refugees who named it Laus: from the Latin lausa meaning rock.

From the time of Dubrovnik’s formal creation by the Slavs, who called it Dubrovnik, from the Croatian word dubrava (rock), the town was protected by Byzantine Empire, and after the Fourth Crusade, controlled by the all powerful sovereignty of Venice, and became part of the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom, and everything in between. The history is as rich as it is varied. 

Rock as a basis for a name is appropriate for the city. It is a perfect sample of a well preserved and designed late-medieval walled city. Just walking through the narrow, meandering streets surrounded by stone everywhere you turn, gives you a sense of history.

The city was almost destroyed by an earthquake in 1667, but many of the beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, fountains and palaces remained intact. More damaged occurred in the 1990s due to military conflicts, but there is an ongoing restoration program sponsored by UNESCO; it has been one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

The main square in old town is a gathering spot for locals and tourists, along with a church, bell tower, a palace, it is also filled with restaurants, souvenir shops, and coffee houses-they serve an excellent cup of the brew-it is indeed a tourist delight. Our tour guide spoke of the tremendous amount of pride the Croatian people hold for Dubrovnik, and reverence for their history, and survival.  

Dubrovnik is incredibly picturesque, and for a short blog best described through photography. Well worth a visit, and spending a day was certainly not enough, but it was enough to  let me know I need to go back.

Blood Art giveaway on Goodreads

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Hotel in Bath by Margot Justes Redux

I would like to share a snippet of A Hotel in Bath with you. A journey that began in Paris, continues in Bath.
“Welcome to London, Miss Grey,” he whispered.
“Thank you, Captain.” She leaned toward him and with her fingertips caressed his cheek.
The plane roared to a stop amidst layers of dense fog, the silvery hue obscuring the landing strip. Inside the plane, the woman sitting next to Peter Riley shivered, he gently stroked her hand, his gaze on her face as soft as the caress. He was so completely aware of her that he could taste her increasing panic. Their relationship was new, and Minola Grey was skittish about commitment. He knew the relationship terrified her, a fear of betrayal never far from the surface.
Minola looked up at him and their eyes locked. “A hotel in London, Captain?”
“Yes, Miss Grey. We were going to go to my apartment, but I received a message that the painters were delayed, and the apartment is not ready. A hotel in Bath. That concept should be familiar to you, except this time, I’m staying with you from the very beginning,” he replied smiling. His grip on her fingers tightened. She took his breath away. “I love you,” he whispered in her ear. “Nervous?”
“No. Yes. Hmmm. Now, that is an interesting response. Any regrets?”
“About what?”
“No. Never about you. Meeting your parents, well, let's just say that is an entirely different matter,” Minola replied.
He remembered the first time he met Minola Grey. Paris. And murder. As an Interpol agent, Peter Riley was part of an investigative team in Paris; somehow, she wound up becoming an indispensable part of his life. Because of him, she had matured as a woman and as an artistshe’d become a success in Paris, and now had a major show planned in London—but she still had doubts and insecurities about their association. Minola continued, “Peter, what are your parents going to think? I’m a stranger you are imposing on them during their vacation. Maybe I should stay in London. We can all meet later in Bath.”
His grip on her fingers did not relent, he understood her and her fears. She was a remarkable artist whose talent he’d seen grow darker and grittier with her exposure to his profession. He’d been terrified for her safety. It happened right in front of his eyes, she’d seen death and her life had been threatened, horrifying him in the process. She learned about greed, hate, how easy it is for someone to take a life. Peter would do anything to keep her safe and wrapped in a cocoon of his own choosing. Yet throughout their time together, she remained stoic, timid, and more importantly, mistrustful of their relationship.
“First and foremost, you are not a stranger. You are the one and only woman in my life. Have been since the day we met. We are going to Bath together. My parents are looking forward to meeting you. And I want to be with you, but if I’m not enough of a lure, there is an added incentive; a gallery in Bath you will enjoy visiting. I know the owner.”
“A gallery? Ah, you twist my arm, Captain. By the way, you are enough. You will always be enough.” She leaned over and once again touched his cheek. “Peter, how long are we going to stay in Bath? Maybe we should get two
“We are staying in one room. Together.” He brought her hand to his lips, before she had a chance to withdraw. “We can leave tomorrow morning. It’s not a long drive, and we can relax tonight. Well, maybe not relax, entirely. I have missed loving you,” he said with emphasis.
“Peter, I'm afraid; I feel as if you didn't get a chance to…”
“I have everything I want. You. I’m thinking of leaving Interpol. I’ve found I cannot risk your life again; your safety has become an obsession.”
“What?” She shook her head. “No, you can't. You told me a while back that you make a difference with your work. I know you make a differenceI've seen it. It’s what you want. I can’t let you alter your life so dramatically. Besides, how can I possibly be in danger just by being with you?”
“This is not like being a policeman. Some of the people I deal with reach a long way and retaliate. Violently. My family is further detached from me by living in a small village where everyone knows each other. You, my love, will be living with me and have a high profile. You can become a perfect target.”
“You would be giving up your career because of me, and it would be my fault.  I can’t live with that...Peter, I can’t.”
“I will not be giving anything up. It’s time I assumed responsibilities at home.”
“What do you mean? Responsibilities at home? You would throw away your career and resent me later. You didn’t even discuss it with me. We have to talk. Are we together or not?”
“We are. Absolutely. I’m not letting you go. Ever. And you are correct, we do have to talk. Once we get to Bath. Tonight, I want to make love with you.”
Leaving the plane, his grip firm on her waist, he ushered her to the baggage area. He wasn’t going to let her go. His need for her increased with every breath he took. How on earth is that possible? He recognized that she still felt tentative and apprehensive. The betrayal in Chicago had left her vulnerable, and he had his work cut out for him to allow her to grow in their relationship, allow her to trust him and believe in him. Believe he would never betray her.
Peter’s cell phone went off, and he answered instinctively. “Mother, how are you?” His arm around Minola’s waist tightened perceptibly. “Yes, we are on our way to the…yes, no, not my apartment…we should be in Bath tomorrow.” Peter listened to the voice at the other end of the line. “I’m sorry, son,” he heard his mother say, “Madeleine was killed sometime yesterday. Ashby is asking for you and Fitzhugh has been trying to get in touch.”
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Blood Art
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks