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.  

URUGUAY!!!!

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!

Hugs,

CJ England









Follow Your Dreams
http://cjengland.com/luckbealady/luckbealady.htm

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!
Hugs,

CJ England









Follow Your Dreams
http://cjengland.com/luckbealady/luckbealady.htm

Friday, June 27, 2014

Football-- A Matter of Life and Death, Except More Important.

Hey all,

I hope everyone is having a great day.  As I sit here in Buenos Aires, I'm watching Argentina win over Nigeria in the World Cup!  It's so much fun because everywhere around me I can hear people cheering and shouting, cursing and laughing.

And I'm alone in my apartment!  LOL

Seriously, these people take their football (this is what everyone other than the USA calls it) seriously. Really seriously.  On the days when a team is playing, there will be flags in windows and hanging over balconies.  People standing on the corners shouting out their teams name, and if you happen to be in a restaurant, be careful not to root for the wrong team.  

It could be very bad.  

Very, very bad.

Because I mean it when I say these people are totally serious about their football.  Sometimes a little too serious if you know what I mean.  Punch in the face, kiss your ass if necessary serious.  LOL

The other day when Chili and The Netherlands were playing I happened to be in a small pub near one of the plazas downtown.  The Netherlands was winning--handily--and the natives were NOT happy.  Every time the ball went down towards the wrong goal, they screamed and shouted and threatened.  And when Chili got a goal, they almost were dancing in the street.

As an innocent bystander, it was almost like watching a show.  Or a very dramatic soap opera.  And if you're walking down the street you can always tell how a game is going just by hearing the moans, groans, shout and cheers coming out of the different pubs.

That doesn't sound so bad, you may be thinking.  People watch games in pubs all the time, which is why we have sports bars.  And it wouldn't be IF that was the only place they show them.  But it isn't.

Think of the fanciest french restaurant you've ever seen.  Complete with snooty waiters, white tablecloths and crystal wine glasses.  You dress up nice, buy flowers, order expensive wine and plan on spending time with your sweetheart.

Things are going great, you lean closer to steal a kiss and then suddenly...

GGGGOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The place goes nutso around you, your neighbor joggles your table and spills your wine and your ears start ringing.

And there goes your nice pleasant evening.

Yep.  Even fancy expensive restaurants play the games.  They decorate with their team colors, have the games going on every wall and it's organized (and sometimes not so organized) chaos!!!

But...it's fun.  And we've gotten used to it since we first started watching it in Singapore.  I'll never give up my American football, but I have to admit, this sort of football has found a special place in my heart and I don't think I'll ever give it up.

So what's your favorite sport game?  To play?  To watch?  Let us know in the comments below!

Hugs,

CJ England









Follow Your Dreams
http://cjengland.com/luckbealady/luckbealady.htm

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Hoot To Make You Smile

Hey all,

A short and sweet blog today.  It's been a crazy week with internet going in and out and some illness in the house, but I didn't want to miss the blog.  I thought about it and realized it's been a while since I found some funnies for you, so why not do that today?  

Sound good?  Then enjoy these great pics.  Have a chuckle...or two or three....








And on that note...  Have a great weekend and I'll see you all next week with a blog about how it feels to be surrounded by people who live, eat and breathe the World Cup 2014!!!!!


Hugs,

CJ England









Follow Your Dreams
http://cjengland.com/luckbealady/luckbealady.htm

Friday, June 13, 2014

My Best Friend is a Book

Hey all,

I'm a reader.  *snort*  As if you all didn't know.  I became a writer because I loved reading so much.  I love all kinds of books.  Mysteries, chic lit, sci fi, fantasy, thrillers, and of course, romance.  

Being an author I often get books sent to me from other writers, and sometimes I get freebies from my publishers.  And I've found quite a few outstanding authors that way.

Yet the best thing in the world is finding a series that makes me not want to put the books down no matter what else is going on in my life.  I call those "friend books" and when I discover those new friends, I will look for every single book from that author and read until I drop from exhaustion.

I came across a new author recently that falls into this group.  I'd actually had her books for some  time, but had stashed them away and sorta forgotten about them.  But I saw an ad for one online and it reminded me.  So I found the authors file and gave her a try.

Her name... Nalini Singh and she writes some of the best paranormal romances I've ever read.  She's got two main series to try and I really recommend you try them both.  In fact they are so good, I had to introduce you to her.

The first is the Guild Hunter Series, which is the first one I tried.  Here's a bit about it...

In this series, we meet the true rulers of the world: angels. But these are not the benevolent kindly angels we are used to; religion does not play a part in their evolution. These are beautiful, ruthless gods and goddess who rule with an absolute power not tempered by humanity or even goodwill.

The vampires in here are unusual as they are made, not born, from a special venom that angels must secrete to avoid going insane. Humans are tested; if found compatible, they are made into vampires. There is a price to pay for this immortality, though. The human must sign a contract of servitude to the angel making him, agreeing to serve for a specified amount of time.

Should that vampire decide to try and escape his contract, then a guild hunter is called in to hunt the vamp down. A guild hunter is a gifted human individual who can “scent” vampires. These humans are above normal in strength and stamina.

And when the angel in charge of North America falls for the best and meanest guild hunter on the planet, nothing will ever be the same again.  

I LOVED this series.  The first book is wonderful, filled with danger and excitement and passion.  If you like your men alpha, then you'll adore the angel Raphael.  And if you like kick-ass heroines, then Elena will fit the bill.  But it's the passion between the two that is so damn good.  Add beyond awesome world building, fantastic character development and dialog that will make you both chuckle and cry, then you have a book that is a total winner.  And each book in the series is just as good.  While many are about Raphael and Elena, they also have several other couples in their own books and each of them is just as awesome.


When I started the other series, the Psy-Changelings series, I couldn't believe they would be as good as the first one, but I was so happy to be wrong.  These books are just as good, and if you like shapeshifters, you'll flat out adore them.  A little about this series...

The series is set in a futuristic alternative Earth and populated by three groups: the Changelings, the Psy and humans. The changelings are shapeshifters. The Psy are humans with psychic powers who have been taught from birth to suppress their emotions.  And the humans are...normal humans.

The Psy is the largest and most powerful ruling body on Earth. The series tells of the struggles between the three groups and the struggles within each group. Each story features a different hero and heroine who meet and fall for each other.  The stories are filled with non-stop action, suspense and mystery, but nicely balanced with hot steamy romance and bouts of hilarious comedy. 

Since I love shifters and I write books about them as well as those with psychic gifts, these books are right up my alley.  I devoured them, one after the other and I wanted to have a tantrum when I ran out of books to read.  

Luckily, she's still writing both these series, so I can look forward to several more books in the future.

Curious now?  You can check out Nalini and her books at her website at http://www.nalinisingh.com/index.php .

Do you have a favorite author to share?  Or have you just discovered an author that you're going to add to your "Friend Books"?  Let us know in the comments below.

And happy reading!!!!

Hugs,

CJ England









Follow Your Dreams
http://cjengland.com/luckbealady/luckbealady.htm

 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Do You Believe in Love at First Sight,or Should I Walk by Again?

Hey all,

I've been reading a lot these last few days.  I caught a stress cold and had to take it easy when we first got here to Buenos Aires.  For some reason, all the books I've read in the last week had something to do with love at first sight.  And I found that some of the books really bothered me with how they handled it.
 
Now, don't get me wrong, Love at First Sight is something I believe in with all that's in me.  I've written stories about it and love reading books about it.

But at the same time, walking into a club and (naughty word alert) constantly getting hit by lust, wet vaginas and erect penises and then falling in love with that person--while possible--is a bit lazy.

I guess what I'm saying, is using lust instead of character development irritates the hell out of me.  That's what I think is lazy.  That, to me, is cheating!!!!

Again, don't think I won't use a little lust when it's warranted.  Lust can and does bring people together.  But when that's all you get.  When that's where it stops, I don't think it's romantic love.  It's Erotica.  And while that's not a bad thing, for me, it's not romance...it's not love.

So what is?  Romance for me to the building of love between two people. Getting to know each other.  And while it can start by getting into each other's pants, you've got to do more than that to make it a real and lasting love.

I think that's what bothered me about the books I mentioned at the beginning of the blog.  They were hot and spicy, well written and interesting, but still they left me flat.  Because while the sex scenes were great, that's all that was there.  They met, fell in love, had sex, the end.  Nothing else.  No growth, no building, just the act and readers were expected to be fulfilled by that.

And maybe some are.  Different strokes and all.   But for me, love at first sight is VERY different than lust at first sight.  I want lust AND love AND romance.  Is that too much to ask?

So, what gets you happy when you read a Love at First Sight book?  Do you have certain things that need to happen before it's the BEST BOOK EVER????  Let me know in the comments below!!!!

I'll see you next week...

Hugs,

CJ England










Follow Your Dreams
http://cjengland.com/luckbealady/luckbealady.htm

Friday, May 30, 2014

Things That Go Bump in the Day

Hey all,

Sorry I missed the blog last week.  I was just so darn busy with getting packed and doing the last minute stuff before moving, I just didn't have a chance to even think about writing one.  Hopefully this week's will make up for it.

I probably should wait til Halloween to do this topic, but I can't.  It's too weird and creepy to put in mothballs for five months.  And when I find something I think is cool, I want to share it with all of you.  And so I shall.

The last week I was in Cordoba, I went to their biggest cemetery.  I wasn't expecting much--the ones we'd seen on the road were basic condos or crosses.  But I was curious, and since I'd finished a chore a little early, I decided to walk over to the Cementerio San Jerónimo.  And I was so glad I did.

The cemetery itself was very different from others I'd seen.  It did have the usual mausoleums like I've seen in other graveyards, some quite beautiful and ornate.  Here are a few pics of some streets of the dead of Cordoba.





But they had two things I'd never seen anywhere else.

First off, they had buildings scattered through the cemetery that were ENORMOUS.  I mean as big as apartment buildings.  I thought at first they were crematoriums, but I couldn't imagine them needing six different crematoriums.  But once I translated the different plaques I realized each building belonged to a certain group.  So, for example, if you were a person that belonged to a specific club or organization, and they had a building, you could be buried there.  Or, if you were a particular ethnic or social class, they had buildings for them too.  Most were just buildings--nothing special, but this one picture is quite lovely.


Yet that wasn't the thing that made this cemetery unique.  Since it's the only Argentine one I've seen, I don't know if it's specific to this country or just Cordoba.  But, let's just say there were parts of this graveyard that hit an infinity and beyond on the creepy scale.

I'll need to set the stage before I go on.  I'd just walked into the cemetery.  It was the first row of mausoleums I'd walked down, and so far, it wasn't anything different.  But then I noticed that the windows on one of the sepulcher's doors was broken.  So, curious, I peeked in.

I think they heard my scream in Bogota!

Just joking, but I've certainly seen this scene in horror movies.  OH MY GOD.  Talk about creepy.  Check what this crypt looked like!!!!!





I was a bit freaked out.  I've seen decrepit and broken mausoleums before, but never like this.  I felt so bad for the occupants.  Was their family gone?  No one left to care for the graves?  Or was it even worse and there was family, but they just didn't care about the graves?  That's even sadder.

And for the coffins to be in plain sight was NOT something I've ever seen before.  In no other country I've visited do they just lay them out that way.  Everywhere else they hide the coffins in stone, marble or dirt.  The only time you see a coffin is at the funeral, right?

But I realized as I walked around more, that this was the way Argentines bury their dead. They don't bury them.  They stack the coffins neatly in the sepulchers.  Some are covered by beautiful lace as you see here.  





Others, as you see above, have absolutely lovely coffins--works of art themselves.  So, after a couple of hours of wandering, I was getting used to seeing all the coffins set so neatly in their places.  And then I turned down a row and came across this sight.  





And THAT scream I know they heard in China!  LOL

No, but seriously.  This one was even worse.  I could hear my inner child screaming, "Escapee, Escapee!!!" And you could tell they'd been like that for a while.  So not only the family didn't do anything about it, neither did the workers.  So the coffins just spilled out into the row.  Horribly creepy.

And just so you know...the coffins were NOT empty.  Yes.  You could see bits and pieces of dead people.  And so that whole creep factor just skyrocketed into outer space.  *shudder*   At least it was bones and not flesh.  Thank God for small mercies...

So, you can see why this post is worthy of Halloween.  Cemeteries, broken coffins, and the smell of death?  Oh yeah.  Those are the things nightmares are made of.  Or horror movies.  Or nightmares in a horror movie.  

Yeah.  That'll work!!!

Until next week!

Hugs,

CJ England










Follow Your Dreams
http://cjengland.com/luckbealady/luckbealady.htm
 
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