Friday, August 29, 2014

A Little South American Signage

Hey all,

It's been awhile since I shared some of the funny signs and art I've seen on my travels, and since I'm a bit rushed today, I think it's time I do so.  It seems both Argentina and Chili have one that make me smile.  So enjoy!


These top three store signs are all funny on their own, but put them together and they're a real hoot!
The first belongs to a convenience store, the second a market and the third a clothing store.

Really?  Whoopies?  What do you think this store is all about?  It's not what you think.  *grin*  It's a juice bar.  LOL

 I've heard of happy meals, but having this as the name of your restaurant is probably not the best marketing tool on the planet.

And it just me or is this a bit more than wierd?  Meerkats dressed in hotwater bottles? I know it's a winter (invierno) sale but just hmmmm.  Although I have to admit the stocking caps are kinda cute.

Just a few more examples of the fun signage around the world.  Every time I turn around I find more, so it won't be long until you get another blog of giggles!  I hope you enjoy each and every one!!! Until next Friday!!!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, August 22, 2014

Head South and Straight On Until Morning!!!

Hey all,

We're here in Santiago, Chili and I finally have working internet.  The hotel upgraded things a bit and Jonathon worked his magic with the rest and now I can at least get on and work without it being so slow I want to scream!!!!

Chili may not be known for it's good internet, but I have to say, so far I'm loving the other things here.  The Andes are all around us and they're gorgeous.  I look outside my window here at the Sheraton Hotel and I see all these beautiful snow-capped mountains.  One of the best views we've had on tour!!!!

I thought I'd take this week's blog to share a little of what we've discovered here in Chili so far.  We've been here about three weeks now and have already had so many adventures.

The first week Jonathon worked setting up the show while I put our house together.  Then we had three days off and we took advantage of them by taking a road trip.  We didn't know exactly where we were going...we just pointed the car south and drove.

And wow...we had a great time.  While the first part of the trip wasn't all that--the road south went through an area that was pretty boring--by the end of the night we had arrived in a part of Chili that was absolutely breathtaking.

We wound up in the Araucanía region of Chili in the town of Temuco.  It is the very most northern tip of the Patagonia region, but it's more known for it's gorgeous mountains, lakes and volcanoes.  And it quickly became one of our favorite places on the planet.

We wanted to get as far into the mountains as possible, and since we'd gotten a recommendation about the same place from two different people in Temuco, we jumped into the car and headed to the small village of Pucón on Lake Villarrica.  (see sunset pic above)

This area is well known for some of the best outdoor sports around and sits at the base of an active volcano, Villarrica.  People actually climb it so they can get a peek inside, and while we'd have liked to do that as well, the winter snow made it impossible for us.

So, instead we drove through some truly beautiful countryside, enjoying the beauty of the area.  We grabbed a picnic lunch and hiked up to Tres Saltos -- a set of three waterfalls set in farm country beneath the smoking crown of the volcano.

Later, we wandered around Parque Nacional Huerquehue.  This area is one of the places where the native Araucaria Araucana flourish.  These unique trees are amazing and I hadn't realized until now they were native to Chili.

We ended our time out with a wonderful meal back in the village--a very interesting Chilean treat called Sopa de Conger.  It's soup made from conger eel and a local delicacy.  Apparently, it's NOT something tourist's usually order, because the waiter tried to talk me out of it.  He did everything but come out and refuse to bring it to me.  LOL  But hey...I loved eating haggis when we visited Scotland, so I enjoy "different" foods.

And I'm so glad I did try it.  While not as good as haggis, it was quite tasty.  A little fishy--more like eating fresh clams or mussels, but I enjoyed it.  Jonathon tried it and gave me the face.  He HATES anything that tastes fishy!

Curious as to what the eel the soup is made from looks like? See below...  Both are Conger Eels.  The paler one is called a Golden Conger and the darker one is called a Red Conger. (I know it looks black, but it's actually a red one.)

Anyway, we had a wonderful time.  The drive, the scenery, walking in the cold fresh air beneath a steaming volcano...all of it.  Not what we expected to do on our road trip, but sometimes when you play it by ear and just wing it, you discover something special that you would never have found otherwise.

And this time, we really did!!!

Until next week...

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Quick Note To Say Hey From Santiago!!!!

Hey all,

I'm writing this note to let you know I should have acceptable internet up and going the beginning of the week.  I can't stay online long right now without everything freaking out, but hopefully, once things get fixed I should be able to be online like I need to.

I just wanted to let you all know the status and to let you know to look for the blog and free read starting up again next week.



Friday, August 8, 2014

Backup Blog - What Is True Romance?

Hey all,

WooHoo!!!! We've arrived in Santiago.  I know I had promised you a blog about the Andes here, but unfortunately if you're seeing this, it means I wasn't able to get online to post my latest blog.  I'm writing this one here in Buenos Aires, just in case that happens.  We've been told that the internet isn't provided at the hotel we're staying in there in Santiago.  WTF???  In this day and age.  Ridiculous!!!!  

Anyway, this backup blog will have to make do until I figure out how to get online.  Maybe I'll do a bunch at one time, then head to Starbucks and upload them all at once.  *sigh*  What a pain.  But if you don't see me for awhile, you're forewarned as to why.  :-)

But until I do figure it all out, please enjoy this backup blog...


One of my favorite books that I’ve written is Eyes of Fire.  It has done quite well over the years and I still get fan mail about it.  It was the very first book I submitted, and as I've said, the reviews were fantastic.  Both from fans and reviewers.  I hope that everyone who has read it enjoyed it as much as I did writing it, because I think it's one of the most romantic books I've ever done.

Which leads me to our discussion for the day. What is romance and how has it changed over the years?

Now this can be a hot topic for some people, and those who read romance have strong opinions on the subject. At the risk of alienating some people, I too have a strong opinion, but I'm pretty sure if you've read one of my books, you'll already know the answer.

For me, Romance is a story between two committed people and will always , always, always end with a Happily Ever After, or at the very least, a Happily Ever Now.

Now I know that others feel differently, but for me, I feel cheated if a book that is touted as a romance, doesn't have these elements. I remember Nora Roberts said during an interview that no matter how the genre may change, an HEA will always be a must. And I have to agree with her.

I will fight to the death the right for authors to write any type of book they want, but for me as a reader, I want a happy ending and I always write what I would want to read.

So that being out of the way, what is it exactly that makes a book romantic? Sex? Emotion? Commitment? Love? Or is it all of the above.

In my humble opinion, a true romance book needs to have a couple who fall or are deeply in love with each other. While sex can be a wonderful addition to the story, I've read some truly wonderful books that weren't erotic in the slightest.
It's the emotion that drives a true romance book. Love, pain, angst, however you want to say it, we read these types of books to feel along with the characters. When the heroine weeps, we want to weep with her, and when the hero takes out the bad guy, we want to feel his passion and his anger. And when they finally celebrate their love, whether it's with a kiss or hot sex, we want to feel that triumph and satisfaction.

Has romance changed over the years? I don't think so. Not really. The stories are still about couples finding each other and falling in love. There are still problems and angst with them being together, and there will always be some type of resolution, that Happy Ever After I mentioned earlier.

The only difference I see is the way it's being told. Books are more explicit and sex is a big part of the equation. The types of couples have changed. True love can be found with those who are of the same sex. And now you can find true love with a vampire, a witch or a shapeshifter just as easily as you may find it with the boy next door.

Romance is the one genre that accepts everything and ignores nothing. Look around at the books available and you'll see a crossing of genre lines in our stories that is rarely seen in any other. I love being a romance writer because I can explore parts of myself and my imagination I might not be able to anywhere else.

So what do you think? What does romance mean to you? Has it changed in your opinion? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Hugs and have a wonderful weekend!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, August 1, 2014

Adios, Argentina!!!!

Hey all,

As you're reading this I'll be frantically doing any last minute packing before the luggage van comes and carts all our bags away.  I hate the last week of a city.  I always find more things to grab and I ALWAYS discover something else I just have to do.

But overall, we've loved Argentina.  It's a beautiful country, and we've only seen a tiny portion of it.  We've decided to come back in the spring (USA fall) and visit Patagonia.  It wasn't worth going now, everything is under snow and closed!  It's no fun going to a glacier and then having to see it through binoculars!  We want to get up close and personal.  So between South and Central America, we'll do a couple of jaunts before heading home for the holidays.

We're so lucky.  We've seen condors soar overhead as we nibbled on our picnic lunch.  We've wandered the pampas and seen bird life galore.  We've seen majestic churches, UNESCO sites in both cities we visited, palaces, museums, outstanding architecture and parks by the dozens.  

We've enjoyed delicious food.  From the famous Argentine Parilla (delicious meats cooked over an open fire) to seafood to die for.  I've enjoyed some damn good beer and Jonathon has really gotten the taste for Argentine wines.  

Our day out at the gaucho ranch was amazing.  Not many old broads can say they we're swept off their feet by a gaucho as we galloped around the arena.  The food, the open spaces, the beautiful horses and their friendly riders all made for an unforgettable day.

Just this last weekend we went to another habitat all together.  We took the train up to the Tigre Delta and had a tour on a small pontoon boat with the wonderful guide, Fer.  He took us everywhere, showing us this interesting habitat.  I could have spent all day out there just watching the wind on the water and listening to the sounds of the birds in the tall grasses.  

And the food?  Fer even fed us.  Some Argentine wine and thick steaks that were the best we've had since we got here.  And Dulce de Leche crepes for dessert.  It was a wonder the boat didn't sink on the way home!!!!

Add to that a lovely trip over to Uruguay to see yet more UNESCO Heritage sites and you can see why we absolutely love this country.  Friendly people, good food and beautiful scenery.  I'm already looking forward to coming back again.

We'll be moving next to Santiago, Chili!  We've heard this is another amazing place and from what I've found online to do, I have to agree.  So stay tuned for a blog next week on one of the things I'm really looking forward to...

Trekking in the Andes!!!  WooHoo!!!!

Until next time,


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, July 18, 2014

Libertad o Muerte, But Let's Eat First!!!!!

Hey all,

How have you all been since I talked at you last?  It's been busy, crazy and fulfilling here in Buenos Aires.  This is one of my favorite cities so far.

Today's blog is about one of the places we just visited.  Not Buenos Aires but a fun daytrip just a ferry ride away.  


It was a great time and while we would have loved to see more of the country by going on a road trip we only had a weekend, so we had to stay close.  We chose two cities to visit with a road trip in between.

We started in Colonia del Sacramento, a small colonial town about an hour's ferry ride away from Buenos Aires.  We took the early morning ferry, which was so easy-peasy.  Even going through immigration was a piece of cake.  The Argentine official stamped our passport to leave the country then handed it to the person sitting next to him.  Who just happened to be the Uruguayan official.  She stamped the passport to go into Uruguay and we were done!  EASIEST IMMIGRATION EVER!!!!

Once we got to Colonia, we got off the boat, picked up our rental car and drove around the city.  The part we were interested in--the older part--was so small we saw it by car in about five minutes.  LOL  But wanting a closer look, we parked and wandered.  It was a lovely little town with a lighthouse, several museums, pubs and restaurants.  The old buildings were my favorites.  I could have spent hours taking pictures of all the beautiful sights.  Here are a few to enjoy.

The Old City Gate--Refurbished, but still absolutely beautiful. 

One of the streets in Colonia.  The cobblestones are ridiculously hard to walk on.  

The lighthouse and the ruins from the old Franciscan convent.

The view from the top of the old lighthouse.  And yes, the river is that pale brown.

One of the old houses in Colonia.  They do love their colors and trailing plants.

 The cathedral and another one of the streets in town.  More cobblestones.

This tiny street is called Calle de los Suspiros (the Street of Sighs)  No one knows why it's called that.

Once we were done in Colonia, we jumped in the car and headed out to Montevideo.  We drove through the pampas--their countryside-waving at vacas (cows) and actually saw a few gauchos (cowboys) as well.

Montevideo is the biggest city in Uruguay and was supposed to have a beautiful old city flavor to it and we were really looking forward to it.  We got into town about an hour before sunset, so we were able to wander around a bit, then take the drive along the coastal route following the VERY long boardwalk called Las Rambles.  It circled the city from the port all around the peninsula.  I was impressed  It was beautiful.

The next day we got up early and headed out after breakfast to visit the Old City area.  Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain, but we learned a long time ago not to worry about such trivial things.  Enjoy the day, rain or not.

So we did.  Some of the city was quite impressive, but there were places that were pretty run down and scary looking.  It wasn't the prettiest or most interesting city we've visited, but it did have it's moments.  Check my favorite places below.

 The Las Ramblas Boardwalk

Sunset over the Rio de la Plata and Montevideo

City Gate Into Old City Montevideo

 Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral from Constitution Square

 Inside the Cathedral

 José Gervasio (The Father of Uruguay) Artigas Tomb and Monument

Statue of the General over the monument.

 The Original Bank of Uruguay

The Teatro Solis - A beautiful original theater.
While it wasn't my favorite weekend trip we've done on our tour, it was definitely an interesting place to visit.  And since I love old architecture and colonial buildings, I was very happy in our choice.

Anyway, on my next blog I'll have a topic, near and dear to my heart.  So until next time...Have an awesome week!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mamas, Please Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Gauchos!!!

Hey all,

It was a crazy time last week.  Jon picked up the flu and we both got it, so we were down for several days.  Really down.  I didn't even pick up my computer for several days so you know I was sick.  LOL

But luckily we didn't get sick until AFTER our special day out, one we'd been looking forward to since we first got to Argentina.  We visited one of Argentina's famous, Gaucho Parks.  

Now for those of you who don't know what a Gaucho is, here is the description from Wikipedia...

Gaucho is an equivalent of the North American "cowboy" (vaquero, in Spanish). Like the North American word cowboy, the Chilean huaso, the Cuban guajiro, the Venezuelan or Colombian llanero, the Puerto Rican jibaro, and the Mexican charro, the term often connotes the 19th century more than the present day; then gauchos made up the majority of the rural population, herding cattle on the vast estancias, and practicing hunting as their main economic activities. 

To read more at Wikipedia, go HERE.

Now most of the Estancias or "Stays" are VERY touristy...over the top so, but since Jonathon and I went in off season, we didn't have to worry about the hundreds of other tourists that would usually be at the ranch.  We only shared our day with about fifteen others, so we got a lot of special treatment.  

And yes, while it was touristy, it was fun.  Especially since we knew ahead of time that it was going to be so.  We wanted the experience and we weren't expecting an actual working ranch.  Which was good, because the ranch we went to, Estancia Santa Susana focused on horsemanship.  There wasn't a cow in sight on the huge 1200 hectare farm!!!!

But that was okay, because it was truly an awesome experience.  We got there early and were treated to some delicious freshly made empanadas that were the best I've had in Argentina.  There was beer, wine and juice available and we munched and sipped as we wandered around the compound.

Unfortunately, it was a very gloomy day -- the coldest we've had down here so far.  There was a low fog and while I'd have preferred a beautiful sunny day, the views of the ranch through the mist were beautiful.

There was a small museum, a historic house and chapel set up as it would have been in the olden days, and it was quite well done.  It showed how a wealthy ranch owners family would have lived.

The rest of the guests arrived while Jonathon and I were having fun on a quick trail ride.  The horses were healthy and beautiful, but VERY sour.  Which means they were used to greenhorns who didn't know how to ride.  Since I grew up on the back of a horse, it was a battle at first until the horse (and our guide) understood I knew what I was doing and I was the one in charge.  LOL  After that, I had a wonderful ride.

We also took a quick wagon ride with our host, Alejandro (I think), who greeted me with a kiss.  Considering the fact he has to be in his 60's or 70's, he was a hell of a rider.  He wore, as was traditional, his money on his belt to show his status.  We couldn't communicate much, but I did enjoy what I was able to get out of him.

After the fun riding, we went inside to warm up.  Since it also happened to be the day where Argentina was playing in the World Cup, we all gathered around the small TV watching, until they called our meal.

And what a meal it was.  Four types of salads, sausage, blood sausage, chicken, three types of beef and all the wine or beer you could drink.  Delicious, and a great place to try a lot of different types of Argentine food.  The desert, a delicious egg creme flan made with one of their traditional sweets, dulce leche, was a perfect way to end the meal.

While we ate, we were entertained.  A very talented couple did a tango for us, then after a singer sang some traditional songs, they returned with Argentine folk dancing.  Also done was a dance I was very much looking forward to.  The "Bolleadores"--a set of braided leather cords with wooden (or hard hide) used by the gauchos to catch livestock somewhat like an American cowboy would use a lasso. 

But the dance is something much more.  The Gaucho dancer wields the bolleadores in a circle, allowing the wooden balls to strike the floor in a manner to create a hard and fast rhythm.  He also used his boots, bottoms, heels and sides to create a rhythmic beat as well.  It was AMAZING.  I could have watched that one dancer all day.  I kept thinking that Cirque should use that act in one of it's shows.  Seriously, it was that good.  I got a little bit of a movie.  Hopefully, it will come out.

If for some reason the movie didn't embed here as it was supposed to, go HERE to see it!

Yet the best part of the day was when we went outside (after Argentina won their game) and watched the horsemanship displays.  For me, it was like going back in time to my rodeo days where I was doing my gymkhana stunts and trick riding.

They did two types of horsemanship.  One is called the Entrevero de Tropillas where a group of 8 or 9 male horses follow a mare (termed "godmother") that has a bell around her neck. The mare is led by a gaucho. The objective is for no male horse to leave the group. Several groups of horses come together and mix, but every horse has to stay within its group.

It was pretty cool how the different groups would mix together then split apart, seamlessly following the same mare as they had before mixing together.  I didn't understand at first what was going on, but after they'd mixed things up several times, I realized just how well trained the horses were.

All except this one that just stood there in disgust as the rest did what they'd been trained to do.  Even the cowdog snapping at his heels didn't move him.  It was obvious he had no intention of giving us a show.  LOL  But he did, just by his disobedience.  We watched his utter disregard of the rules as much as we watched the rest of the impressive performance.

We ended the performance with what is called the Carrera de Sortijas.  The carrera de sortijas (ring race) comes from the time the Spanish came to South America.   There is a “goal” and from its crossbeam hang some rings. The objective of the game is for player to come galloping and remove the rings from the goal with a pointer. Players come galloping one by one or two or three at a time.  

I have to say this was something really astonishing to watch.  The rings are tiny--about the size of a man's wedding ring.  And to see a gaucho snatch it out of the air using a thin piece of metal no bigger then a pencil, well, you have an idea of the skill needed to do this game.

And each time they do catch a ring, traditionally they give their prize to a lovely lady in the audience.  And yes!  I was given one by the owner, Alejandro, himself!  WooHoo!!!

Anyway, it was a great day and a wonderful way to learn a bit about Argentina and it's gaucho culture.  While I'm more of a mountain and forest type of girl, there was something about the wide open pampas that made my spirit yearn. 

Who knows?  I'm already a cowgirl.  Maybe I've got a bit of gaucho in my soul as well!!!!

Until next time...Have an awesome week!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams