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Dubrovnik Show and Tell

Most of you know that Mr. Grace and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a great Christmas escape to Dubrovnik, Croatia. If I’ve not written about what a fantastic week it was, what an excellent way to spend Christmas, it’s probably because I’m still trying to get my head around the experience. This was a return visit for us because when we went last year, I tore a meniscus in my knee our second full day there and had to depend on tour buses and taxis, missing out on the best part of any place, which is the walking. Well, we most definitely made up for it this year with miles and miles of fabulous walks. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided to make today’s post a Show and Tell, and I’m going to share a bit of what we learned about Dubrovnik. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Dubrovnik this trip meant warmth and sunshine.

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Dubrovnik was a medieval walled city-state that rivaled Venice, and it was independent until Napoleon invaded. That glorious wall still surrounds the city, and you can actually walk on top of it around the whole of old town.

 

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Dubrovnik is build on some serious hills

 

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Dubrovnik has a cool fort.

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Cats like Dubrovnik, and apparently, Dubrovnik likes cats.

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Two words Adriatic Sea!

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The Adriatic Sea means fab fresh seafood. Cat’s like that.

 
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Great statuary!

 

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Some mythological

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Some churchy

 

IMG_4890 Some very naughty

 

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Some practical

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Some in Grave yards

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Some just fun

 

The local holiday cuisine can be enjoyed at kiosks in the sunshine. I did mention the sunshine, didn’t I?

 

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The party’s all in Old Town on Christmas Eve. Party till midnight, then go to mass.

 

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The sunny days mean clear, moonlit nights.

 

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Clear moonlit nights mean a view of Venus on the horizon in the morning and  … more sunshine!

 

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And coffee! On the balcony! In the sunshine!

 

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Dalmatian wine! Just saying … on the balcony in the evening!

 

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Lots ofCroatian Beer. Has to happen. (It was sunny and hot)

 

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More Great Coffee!

 

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Great walking!

 

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Fabulous architecture!

 

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Waking up to sunshine! Again!

 

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More great walking … in the sunshine! Ain’t no map for this!

 

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Great views!

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Lots of inspiration for future stories.

 

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Ha! That was the short version! We both came home rested, happy, inspired and down a couple of pounds from all the delicious walking. Now THAT’s a great anniversary and Christmas gift!

 

 

Myth Busting in the Big Apple

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I’m just back from another stonking trip to New York City, and I have to say without a doubt I am right up there with all of the masses who heart New York. I heart it more and more each time I visit, as I get to know it better. Raymond and I were joined again this year by his sister, my lovely sister-in-law, Cynthia, who accompanied me in terrorizing the town while Raymond was training in martial arts. The three of us enjoyed several discussions about how different the city was from our original expectations of the Big Apple. So here are a few of the myths busted by our first visit, but totally shattered by our second.

 

 

 

Myth: NYC stinks.

Truth: Only if you’re repulsed by the smell of every sort of freshly cooked food, including pizza by the slice and2015-07-19 13.25.45 bakeries that are a feast for the eyes as well as the nose and mouth! Seriously! Nose-gasms at every corner! Oh I was
told by a gentleman from New York State who’s been visiting the city on a regular basis for a number of years that it used to stink, but those days of olfactory nastiness are long gone, replaced with scents guaranteed to make your mouth water rather than your eyes.

One of the adventures we had on this visit was to take an open-bus tour of the city — well part of the city anyway — to get an overview for further exploration. We got caught 2015-07-16 14.14.40in a total downpour, and had the kinky (if you like that sort of thing) experience of doing half the tour wrapped in plastic, and I have to admit the drowned rat look was massively improved by our complimentary garbage-bag style Greyline Tours rain panchos. All that to say, even as the water rose around our feet on the floorboards of the upper deck, we sniffed and inhaled the mouthwatering scent of NYC. Which I also heart, BTW! And NYC-style pizza – I really heart that a lot!

 

Myth: NYC is dirty.

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Truth: Not from what I could see! As most of you know, I do a lot of my exploring on foot wherever I go, and the Big Apple was no exception. I believe you can never really know the soul of a place until you’ve walked it with the soles of your own feet. And though NYC is way to big for me to have completely taken in hoofing it, I did give it a gallant try and, up close and personal, I have to say New York is one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever visited. Mind you, I do feel I’ve not made a fair judgment until I can get more data. I’ll hopefully have an updated report on the city’s cleanliness next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Myth: People in NYC are rude.P1030715

Truth: In my own experience, nothing could be farther from the truth. In two visits to

NYC, I can’t count the number of times people have been kind, helpful and mostly just friendly. I’ve never asked
anyone for directions or advice or information of any kind who didn’t give it cheerfully. I’ve never engaged anyone in conversation who wasn’t friendly. I’ve had people make room for me in a crowded subway, I’ve had people simply engage me in light conversation. I’ve had people laugh with me and joke with me and, best of all, people always seem happy to share their feelings and experiences of their city. I learned a lot about the place in just that way.

 

2015-07-16 16.43.20Myth: NYC is easy to get lost in.

Truth: Two words: Grid layout. I’m an old fashion girl who still enjoys the feel of a map in my hot little hands, and armed with just a map and a landmark, I’ve managed to ‘stay found’ and end up where I intended to be with very little problem. NYC is laid out in a grid, so cross streets going north and south, east and west always give a clear picture of where you are. For me, the job of navigating the Big Apple was even easier because I always came in from Penn Station, and the first thing I looked for was the Empire
2015-07-17 14.38.47State Building. From there, the grid was my oyster – so to speak.

OK, I admit, that as a tourist, I’ve always found the open bus tours a helpful way of getting an overview of any city. I
quite often do that first, then get an idea of where to explore on foot. It works for me. However NYC is so big that there are five tour routes and several boat tours associated with the busses. That, of course, is not even
counting the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and gives some of the most amazing views of Manhattan imaginable. All that, plus the easy access to most parts of the city by the subway, and exploring is a piece of cake … from a very nice bakery … Having said all that, I have a lovely cousin who is convinced that getting lost isn’t a bad thing at all because you never know what you’d discover on the way to getting found again.

 

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Myth: NYC is a dangerous place.

Truth: Every place is a dangerous place, and that can easily be said of any city in the world. I remember being a little bit timid the first time I went into the city, and I discovered, to my surprise, that I felt right at home. I’ve been in big cities all over the world, and I often explore them alone on foot armed
with nothing but a map and a camera. That comes from tagging along with
my husband, who often works while I play, but even before I met him, I was exploring cities on my own. I personally find there’s nothing more empowering, no better way to make a city my friend that to follow my nose, 2015-07-20 10.56.18and my map. And NYC is easy on both. Common sense is the key in the Big Apple just like it is anywhere else I’ve ever been.

On both trips I’ve relished the days I’ve had to explore alone in a city that never fails to inspire. The very best parts of NYC are the opportunities to follow my nose, to get lost in the thoughts and ideas and inspiration that flow from being anonymous among the throngs. I get to be the invisible observer, a voyeur with a purpose.

 

Snippets of convo …
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Two young women talking in a coffee bar:

“Did he say anything about me?”

            “He did.”

            “So what did he say?”

            “You don’t want to know.”

 

Young man behind me on the train talking on his mobile:

  “Dad, I underestimated how much money I needed. No! No, I’m find, I’m all right, don’t worry. I just 2015-07-17 20.58.55underestimated how much New York would cost.”

Visual inspiration:

A frantic- looking young woman decked out in evening wear at 10:30 in the morning, running to catch the subway.

Cynthia and I had great fun making up a story about her situation while we wandered around Midtown Manhattan.

 

 

P1030705There you go! Myths busted! In my opinion, there are two big dangers in NYC. The first is being too timid and missing the good stuff. I was shocked at the number of tourists I saw seeking out McDonalds or Sbarros (and yes tourists are as easy to pick out in NYC as they are the world over. I’m sure I am too, though I did remember to remove my bin-bag rain poncho when I left the tour bus.)2015-07-20 14.00.30

 
The second, and the biggie for me, is falling totally in love with the city, even as I’m melting in the 100 degree heat or
doing the back stroke in a glorified garbage bag in a rainstorm in an open topped bus. I’m a tourist. I know that’s completely different from living in a place and dealing with all the little niggles and irritations local folks deal with all the time, but then that’s part of the fun. I can have a love-affair with the Big Apple, let it tease me and entice me and seduce me for one week a year, and I can come home smug in the fact that I spent a delicious, inspiring, tantalizing few days in the arms of one of the coolest cities on the planet.

 

The Sex Toy Incentive

My husband, Raymond, is a great promoter of my work, and he’s been known to sell a novel or three through his extensive social media contacts, and word of mouth. He’s full of great ideas to gets more attention for my work. One of those ideas resulted in a discussion about teaming up sexy novels with sex toys to enhance the reading experience and encourage further purchases. Raymond is an engineer, a born problem solver, always trying to figure ways to make systems more efficient. He commented that this combination was great for print books, but what about eBooks? In true engineer fashion, he came up with the perfect solution, Kindles with ‘attachments!’ I reckon that would give a whole new meaning to the term Kindle Fire.

Sex toy incentiveMG00625-20140322-1049That got us thinking how many things could be improved with the extra-added incentive of a sex toy. Even a subtle little bullet vibe discretely packaged and slipped into the bags of fast-food take-out meals would make for better sales and vastly improve the quality of the meal. This could be the adult version of a Happy Meal … a Very Happy Meal. It would be a way to burn off those high-cal lunches and have a yummy ‘dessert’ that’s totally calorie-free and releases more endorphins than even good chocolate.

And fast food meals would be just the beginning. Imagine bullet vibes and cock rings instead of wafer thin mints at restaurants. Maybe each restaurant could have its name and info printed on the side, sort of like a calling card that won’t get tossed in the bottom of the bag and forgotten about. It would be a subtle little reminder that good food and good sex go together.

Sex toy incentives in hotel rooms would be even more beneficial – especially on those long, lonely business trips. Forget the ink pen and pad on the nightstand, forget the choccies on the pillow. A little vibe’ll do ya, or a Tenga Egg strategically placed, maybe a vibrating cock ring? Yes, I know a lot of hotels offer discrete access to steamy films, but you have to pay for those. It just seems to me that a little something extra on the night table or on the pillow would be such a nice way of saying, ‘we appreciate your business. Please come again.’

Restaurants and hotel rooms would only be the beginning of the sex-toys incentive program. Once people saw the benefit, I could see it becoming a way to promote better habits in the work place – efficiency being rewarded by a little personal time in the loo with the sex toy of the week. Sounds like the perfect carrot on the end of the stick to me.

From the work place, the sky’s the limits. I think sex toys would be fabulous incentive for negotiating treaties and trade-agreements. Win-win deals would be rewarded by vibes, cock rings and Tenga Eggs all around, then everyone would be off back to the hotel for a nice celebratory wank.

Now I can already imagine people complaining that sex for one would make a partner superfluous. My response to that is what’s fun for one is twice as much fun for two. And after spending time at the fabulous Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium in London drinking pink fizz, listening to steamy stories while totally surrounded by sex toys, I can say that a party with sex toys and fizz would not go unappreciated. I can’t think of a friendlier way to wrap up negotiations.

From sexy novels with vibes to Kindles with attachments to Tenga treaties Fleshlight finance, I think it’s an exciting vision for the future, a happier, more satisfied future all around. I can easily envision these pleasurable incentives as a way to make the world a better place, one sex toy at a time.

(from the archives)

 

Pyritic Ammonites and Dino-Poo

Pyritic ammonites – I found the first one by accident. We were at Charmouth on the Jurassic Coast. We’d just had lunch at the Heritage Centre Café and crossed the bridge heading up the beach toward Golden Cap. The mountain of mud rose up above us on our left and the sea on our right. Raymond, in his goggles, with hammer in hand was ready to find the pterodactyl we were sure we’d find.

Instead, I found a tiny pyritic ammonite. At first I thought someone had lost a charm off an earring or a bracelet. The ammonite was shiny and metallic, but it was a fossil, no bigger than a five pence piece, and perfectly formed. Pyritic ammonites, Raymond told me, were formed when the shells of the ammonites were gradually replaced in the fossilization process with iron pyrite.

A very helpful gentleman walking his dog on the beech told us that we needed to look for

the black places in the sand. That’s where the mud had washed down with the last tide or last night’s rain. Raymond put the hammer away, took off the goggles and the ammonite hunt was on.Lesson number one: Look for the black wash-outs in the sand. That’s where the mud has washed out from the Jurassic mud mountain.

Lesson number two: Look for the dino-poo. Okay, it’s probably really ichthyo-poo, but you get the picture. We discovered that once we found the mud wash-outs, then the best places to look for the pyritic ammonites were the places where we found coprolites. Yep, that’s right, fossilized poo – which was also pyritic.

Why on earth am I telling you about dino-poo, you may wonder. Well because of the way the pieces fit together. You know, the pieces of any puzzle, what has to happen in order to see the whole picture. First we looked for the dark spots in the sand, then we looked for the fossilized poo. Then we found those exquisite, pendant perfect pyritic ammonites.

Somehow our eyes got used to finding the mud then the poo then pulling back just enough to see the delicate curved edges sparkling in the sand. It was sort of like playing the slot machines in Vegas, just one win could keep you going for ages. Just one little ammonite could totally focus our attention for however long it took until we found the next one lying round and perfect and bright amid the coprolites. And then we were off to look for the next one until the tide came in and we had to retreat, always shaking our heads, always thinking about all those loveley ammonites washing out to sea.

They were all tiny – every pyritic ammonite we found. A low-tide beach combing would net us less than a palm full and yet they were exquisite, perfectly formed, looking like they’d come from a jewelry store rather than just washed out of the mud with the fossilized poo.

I can’t stop thinking about it, treasure in strange places. Not just treasure, but ancient treasure, and we carried them back to our cottage in the palm of our hand, feeling the weight of them pressed like coins in a child’s clenched fist. Our week in Lyme Regis was amazing. There were so many good things; laughter and friend and writing and fish pie and good ale in local pubs, but it’s the pyritic ammonites I’ll remember most, and the delightful treasure hunt of finding them.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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