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Ernest Hemingway House, Key West, Florida #travel #writing

When we visited Key West, I noticed the Ernest Hemingway House Museum and suggested to my long-suffering husband that this could be our bit of “culture” for the day. Although I know of Hemingway, I’ve never read his books (I know. Big gasp.) but, other writers interest me and seeing their offices is always fascinating.

Ernest lived and wrote at his Key West house for around ten years. He purchased the property in 1931 after he and his wife fell in love with the area.

The house, as it stands now, is full of furniture collected by the Hemingway’s during their time in Europe plus paintings and copies of his book. Descendants of Hemingway’s cats also have free run of the property. It’s said he acquired his original six-toed tom cat from a sea captain after he took a liking to the cat.

He built a swimming pool at a cost of around $20000. Very expensive at the time and the only one in the area.

There is a writing studio out the back of the house, which I adored. I wanted to move in and start writing straightaway.

Hemingway divorced his wife Pauline in 1940 and moved to Cuba with his third wife, returning now and then to Key West until his death by suicide in 1961. He was very productive during his time in Key West writing books such as A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Death in the Afternoon, The Green Hills of Africa, To Have and Have Not and Islands in the Stream.

Source: https://www.hemingwayhome.com/

Hemingway House

Me outside the Hemingway Museum.

Hemingway House

The front view of the house.

And me again!

A painting of Hemingway

A painting of Hemingway.

Hemingway Books

Some of Hemingway’s books.

Interior

Bedroom

This is the main bedroom with one of the descendants of Hemingway’s cat.

Writing Studio

These are the stairs that lead up to Hemingway’s writing studio.

Writing office

Hemingway wrote in this office. It was bright and light and airy, and I coveted his office. I’m certain I could write great masterpieces in this office. :-)

Dogsledding, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada #travel

During our visit to Churchill, we spent a morning at Wapusk Adventures, the largest dog sled kennels in Canada.

The owners are passionate about their dogs and sledding, and I found the owner’s talk both interesting and inspiring. After learning about the dogs and the sport of sledding, we got to meet the dogs and do a mile circuit with a team of sled dogs. Fun times. After our sled ride, I had to purchase a T-shirt to add to my collection. I am now the proud owner of an Ididamile T-shirt.

If you’re ever up in Churchill I recommend a visit to Wapusk Adventures.

Watch for Mushers

Some of the local signage…

Dogs

The dogs knew that some of them were about to go for a run. They barked and jumped around trying to grab attention. It was the doggie version of pick me! Pick me!

Shelley and one of the locals

Me with one of the locals.

Time for a sleep

I didn’t get picked. I think I’ll have a snooze.

Hubby and I with our dog team

This is hubby and I during our sled ride. So much fun!

Polar Bear Jail, Churchill, Canada #travel #animals

The locals in Churchill do their best to deter polar bears from wandering into town. Conservation officers patrol during the season and attempt to scare bears away from the Churchill township if they get too close. They use noise to scare them such as fire crackers and air horns and as a last resort set traps.

Once a bear is trapped, the conservation officers take them back to the polar bear holding facility, also known as polar bear jail. Here they stay until the end of the season when they are relocated. During their incarceration, the bears are not fed. Originally, the bears were fed, but this seemed to draw more bears to town, so the decision was made to follow nature and only give the bears water.

Guard

This was our guard at the the parking lot where we transferred from the tundra buggy to the bus.

Bear Trap

Bear Trap

These are the traps used to catch bears that come too close to town. Once the bear walks inside the trap, the door comes down behind it.

The polar bear jail

Hubby and I posing outside the polar bear jail. The public are not allowed inside to ensure as little contact with the bears as possible. They want the bears to remain wary of humans and stay away.

Polar Bear Jail

This is the mural painted on the side of the polar bear jail. Cool, isn’t it?

Polar Bear

A final photo of a polar bear. This one stayed far away from the traps!

Fiona’s Mates: The idea behind the story and Cover Reveal #paranormal #romance #reverseharem

In October 2017, hubby and I visited the small town of Churchill in Canada to see polar bears. The remote town and its relationship with the polar bears fascinated me. When I learned that the town was only accessible by plane, due to the storm damage of the railway, ideas for stories flew through my mind.

Our trip ended in Fort Lauderdale in Florida and we went sightseeing via water taxis when we were there. That destination also made an impression on me, and got tossed into my story idea pot.

My paranormal romance Fiona’s Mates is the result of my visit to Churchill, the polar bears and hearing about the ice road. I also added in Fort Lauderdale, since the journey on the water taxis was so much fun.

Fiona's Mates

Here is the blurb for Fiona’s Mates:

A woman seeking change meets five sexy brothers…

When Fiona catches her callous, chauvinistic husband with another woman, she puts a full stop on their marriage. No longer prepared to put up with his abusive behavior, she kicks him out the door, determined to start afresh. A vacation is the perfect way to attack her adventurous new life.

Stig is the youngest of five polar bear shifters, and his scheme to start an ice trucking business puts him and his brothers on an untraditional path. With everyone in Churchill against them—humans and shifters plus their matriarch—it’s a challenge to get their ice trucks on the road.

Fiona meets the sexy Stig and his gorgeous brother in Gillam. With their bulging muscles and stunning Nordic looks, something about the smiling duo imbues trust. Then, she meets their three older brothers, each charming and handsome, and her libido is in overdrive. She has a dilemma since they’re openly interested in her, and it is impossible to choose one.

Now that Fiona’s vacation is ending, she’s talking about returning to Florida, but that might not be the worse of the trouble when danger stalks into Churchill and threatens to end their reverse harem forever…

Coming 22 March at Amazon.

Other Animals on the Tundra #travel #Churchill #animals

The tundra has plenty of wildlife. It’s finding and seeing the birds and animals that is the tricky thing.
Along with polar bears, we saw Arctic hare, ptarmigan, Arctic fox and an owl.

Here are some pics of the animals we saw during our visit.Ptarmigan

This is a Ptarmigan. We saw quite a few, some whiter than others. The ones that weren’t white yet still had some of their summer plummage.

Owl

An owl. So majestic.

Arctic hare

The Arctic hares were very cool. They just sat there in the snow and stared back at us. They were hard to spot in the snow.

Arctic Fox

This little Arctic fox just wanted to snooze but he had a buggy full of tourists wanting his picture.

Polar Bear

And finally, a polar bear, the animal we traveled all the way to Churchill to see.

Exploring the Tundra #travel #Churchill

Most people who visit Churchill to view the polar bears go on an organized tour. The tour companies have special vehicles known as tundra buggies. They have huge wheels and are high enough off the ground for tourists to view curious bears without putting themselves in danger.

The roads through the tundra are not maintained and can be quite rough but the tundra buggies slog through the mud and deep ruts, mostly without problem.

The cabins of the buggies are heated and set out like the interior of a bus. There are toilet facilities. At the rear of the vehicle there is a deck area, which is perfect for taking photos.

I found the buggies comfortable and because of their height, they’re perfect for photographers. We had morning and afternoon tea plus lunch during our day-long trips.

Here are some photos…

Tundra Buggy

See the big tires of the tundra buggies? They’re perfect for dealing with the conditions and for keeping passengers safe from bears.

The interior is like a bus. It’s warm and comfortable with big windows for keen photographers. Each buggy comes with an experienced guide and a driver. As well as seeing polar bears, we learned a lot about the bears and their behavior.

Me on the rear platform. When the wind was blowing, it was pretty cold out there!

In Fiona’s Mates, Fiona doesn’t sightsee from a tundra buggy, although she does see the buggies when the Swenson brothers take her on a tour of the area.

Polar Bears – Things I Learned During My Churchill Visit #travel #bookresearch

One of the things I love about travel is learning new things. Travel is an excellent educator. Before our visit to Churchill I knew nothing about polar bears, apart from the fact they are white. I even got that wrong because while the cubs can be quite white the adults are a vanilla color.

Things I learned about Polar Bears:

1. Polar bears inhabit the Arctic in areas where they have easy access to sea ice such as Canada, Alaska, Russia, Norway and Greenland.

2. Around 60% of polar bears live in Canada.

3. Polar bears are perfectly adapted for the cold weather of the Arctic from their fur, their black skin to their claws.

4. Polar bears rely on the sea ice since they feed on seals and they are strong swimmers.

5. Polar bears communicate with body language, the way they vocalize and with scent

6. Polar bears keep themselves clean, which helps keep them insulated and warm.

7. The bears sleep for seven to eight hours at a time, much like humans.

8. They sleep in shallow pits or sheltered areas. During the summer, they’ll seek out ice to keep cool.

9. Mating takes place between April and June while the bears are on the sea ice.

10. The eggs do not implant until the following fall. If the mother does not have enough body fat to sustain her cubs and herself, then the eggs do not implant at all.

11. Most cubs are born in December. A mother can have 1 – 4 cubs. Twins are common.

12. Newborns are blind, toothless and covered with short fur. They are completely dependent on their mother and nurse for around 20 months.

13. Cubs stay with their mother for 2 – 3 years and she teaches them to hunt, feed and swim.

14. The ringed seal is their main prey, although they will eat whales, eggs, and other small mammals.

15. Polar bears don’t hibernate, apart from pregnant females who den up to have their cubs and stay in the den until the cubs are strong enough to leave.

16. Polar bears can go up to eight months without eating.

Source: Polar Bear International

Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Where is the Town of Churchill? #travel #bookresearch

Ask most people living in Canada or the United States and they have problems stating the exact location of the town of Churchill. As a New Zealander, I didn’t know anything about Churchill until I picked up a National Geographic Travel magazine. I flicked through and stopped at the pictures of polar bears.

“We should do this,” I said to my husband when he came home from work.

I half expected him to say, “No, that doesn’t sound very appealing.”

I was wrong. We investigated further and booked. This was my introduction to the remote Churchill, the town billed as the polar bear capital of the world.

Churchill is a small town, situated on the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. The town can only be reached by plane. (They used to have a railroad but storms damaged the line and the owners have decided not to fix the track)

Each year, the polar bears congregate in the area to wait for the sea ice to form on the bay. The bears sometimes wander into town, searching for food, which makes life in Churchill dangerous for the unwary.

The town started life as an outpost. It grew in the 1920s once the railroad brought people into town and the addition of a shipping port. The military came to town in the 1950s and 1960s, further bolstering the population.
These days the permanent residents number around 1000. This number is boosted by tourists who come to visit the polar bears (Oct – Nov) or the beluga whales that mass in the warmer waters of the Hudson river during the June – September period.

Although remote, the town has cell phone coverage and internet. They even have great coffee!
We enjoyed our visit very much, although I suspect it isn’t as pleasant during the dead of winter. We had snow during our visit but found the temperatures comfortable. The locals are friendly and hospitable, and hubby and I are eager to visit again during the summer to see the beluga whales.

Source: Everything Churchill

Churchill Town from Air

This is a view of the town and the bay from a helicopter.

Churchill

Churchill and my fave cafe

These are both views of the main street of Churchill – Kelsey Boulevard.

View of the Tundra outside the town

A view of the tundra outside the town of Churchill.

Murder at The Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell #mystery #review

Murder at The BreakersMURDER AT THE BREAKERS by Alyssa Maxwell
Guilded Newport Mysteries 1

Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost…
 
 

The Breakers

View of The Breakers from the cliff path

 
Why?

I picked Murder at the Breakers to read after visiting The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. They were selling the book in the gift shop, and I decided I had to read it since I enjoyed my visit so much.

Quick highlights: This is a historical mystery set in Newport during the heyday of the Vanderbilts and it contains a slight romantic element. There are lots of suspects and the main character does a wonderful job of ferreting out clues. I enjoyed it, especially since I’d visited the property.

The Story: Cornelius Vanderbilt’s secretary is murdered during a ball at The Breakers, and Emma’s brother Brady is blamed for the death. Everyone believes the murderer is now in jail, but Emma is determined to clear her brother’s name.

The Characters: Emma is the main sleuth. She is a poor cousin of the Vanderbilts and must scrimp and save to survive. Her parents are overseas, and Brady is her only other family. She’s determined, resourceful and clever. To some readers, her actions might tip into the TSTL category, but I enjoyed this facet of her character.

The Vanderbilts feature too—her uncle, aunt and cousins. The police and several family friends, members of the 400 (the top echelon of society) and servants also form part of the mystery.

The Writing: I enjoyed this story, although I found the start a little slow. The setting is strong and places the reader right in the period. The romantic element totally worked for me. Obviously, we’ll see more development of this in the later stories in the series. I wasn’t certain who the murderer was until the end.

Conclusion: This mystery is the perfect souvenir of a visit to The Breakers. It’s a trip back to the time of the Vanderbilts and the wealth of the period. I recommend this first book in the Gilded Newport series.

Rating: 4 stars

Amazon | Goodreads

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island #travel

The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island was the “summer cottage” of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Fire destroyed the original cottage, and Cornelius ordered the existing mansion built on the same site in 1893. It took several years, and Cornelius didn’t spend much time in his new mansion before he died in 1899.

The mansion overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and it takes it name from the waves pounding the cliff below—The Breakers.
In a word—it’s impressive. It’s full of marble, beautiful wallpapers and furnishings. The marble bath tubs are something to be seen (evidently, the servants had to fill the tub to warm the marble, then refill it for their master’s use). The butler’s pantry and the kitchens were the best I’ve ever seen. My photos don’t do them justice.

My husband wasn’t keen when I dragged him off for his daily dose of culture, but he enjoyed The Breakers and later thanked me. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we visited the White Horse Inn for drinks and a snack—reputably America’s oldest inn since it opened in 1673.

I highly recommend a visit to The Breakers and the White Horse Inn, should you ever find yourself in Newport.

Me at The Breakers

This is me at the front of The Breakers.

The Grand Staircase

This photo is taken in the ballroom, looking toward the grand staircase. It’s said that it was a tradition for the Vanderbilts and their guests to slide down the bannisters on trays.

Interior

One of the many decadently decorated rooms.

Interior

Another room interior.

Mr Vanderbilt's Room

Mr. Vanderbilt’s room.

Mr Vanderbilt's Bathroom

The amazing marble bath that required filling twice so that the marble heated and didn’t freeze a backside!

The kitchen

The kitchen was amazing and full of all sorts of mod-cons for the time.

View from Side

A view of The Breakers from the side.

The White Horse Inn

Hubby at the White Horse Inn. Our last bit of “culture” for the day and a welcome break with local beer and a bowl of clam chowder.