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Month: October 2018

3 Travel Stops For Edgar Allan Poe Fans

Posted on October 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

Do you listen to ravens… wondering if they’ll ever say “Never more”? Does the clicking of your clock sound just a little too much like a tell tale heart? When you shop for wine, do your eyes linger over that bottle of Amontillado? Then you’re probably a genre traveler with a soft spot for the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

This American writer, poet, editor and literary critic was best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. Born in Boston, Mass., he moved to Richmond, Va. after his mother died when he but a toddler. He, himself, died in Baltimore, Md, when he was only 40 years old.

If you’ll be traveling the North East of the United States and would like to pay homage to this very talented American writer, here are a few suggested stops for your itinerary.

Boston, Massachusetts
There is a plaque mounted on Carver Street mounted near the place where Poe was born. The plaque mentions other Boston place you might want to see, such as the corner of Washington and State Streets,where Poe’s first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, was published.

Baltimore, Maryland
There are several stops in Baltimore that you can visit on your EAP tour. There is the Baltimore Poe House and Museum at 203 Amity street. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore rescued this building demolition in 1941. If you visit in October, you can attend the annual Halloween celebration, held at the Poe House on the weekends before and after Oct. 31. Also, the weekend nearest January 19 marks the Edgar Allan Poe Birthday Celebration, held every year at the Poe House.

Poe’s grave can be found at the Westminster Burying Ground. It is marked by an 80-inch tall monument that features a bas-relief bust of Poe. Tours of the Westminster Burying Grounds and Catacombs are held the first and third Fridays of each month, April through November.

Other Baltimore Poe stops might include the Sir Moses Ezekiel statue of Poe located in the plaza of the Law School of the University of Baltimore and Church Hospital, the Site of Poe’s Death.

Richmond, Virginia
The Poe Museum “boasts the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings”… at least that’s what their website says. Poe moved to Richmond when he as about two years old. The museum, opened in 1922, is just blocks away from Poe’s first home in the area, as well as his first place of employment, the Southern Literary Messenger.

Traveling to Bhutan, the Mystical Land of the Thunder Dragon

Posted on October 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

If you have the cash saved up, a little time and planning can get you to this land locked Himalayan Kingdom and open up a wonder world of picturesque landscapes, enchanting villages, snow capped mountains, ageless forests, erotic sculptures, dark musty monasteries and a culture so rich and steeped in time you will think you have indeed been transported back a few hundred years.

Firstly you have to get to Paro. The government imposed rule is that you must fly at least one way with the National Carrier, Druk Air. As Druk is actually the only carrier that flies into Paro, Bhutan’s airport, then the choice is easy. Druk flies a couple of times a week from Kathmandu, Bangkok and Dehli.

Booking your trip is no easy task with so many online tour operators all offering package tours to Bhutan. The Government of Bhutan has set a daily tariff fee for foreigners visiting the country. Many people confuse this with the visa fee and think that is what costs so much. In fact the visa to visit Bhutan is only US$25. Tours are expensive due to the imposed daily tariff.

Many companies offer what look like value for money Bhutan Tours, but inspect the itineraries closer, especially for tours that commence in places like Kathmandu, Bangkok or Delhi, they may include your flight to Paro, but check out how many days you will actually be spending inside Bhutan as that is where the money should be spent. Some tour agents fluff out tours by selling a ten day trip, where only five days may actually be in Bhutan and the rest doing sightseeing around the joining point country.

Look for a tour that you can meet in Paro, making your own way there will ensure that you get 100% value for money inside Bhutan. If you book a tour with an agent they will most likely be able to help you with arranging your flights.
The best time to visit Bhutan is of course the main festival seasons where the culture and colour is at its best. During these times, normally March, April, September and October, it can be very hard to book a flight. So make sure you book well ahead and get your agent to arrange and confirm flights for you (most airlines can be booked up to 10 months in advance only). Also double check that if you are booking your tour to coincide with a festival, that you will get the chance to see one. During these festival times the tariff rate will be at a premium. If festivals are not your thing, then try going outside of season and you should be able to get as much as a 30% discount on your tour.

As a trip to Bhutan is such a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ a true travel investment you should choose your tour operator wisely. As all tours to Bhutan are pre arranged, it’s all too easy for a travel company to tack Bhutan tours onto their list of tours without having properly made contacts with agents inside Bhutan. As Bhutan tours are 100% operated by Bhutanese tour companies, you should be looking for a company that either represents a Bhutan Agent or is a certified tour operator for Bhutan. I could not think of anything worse than spending a lot of money and not getting to see half the things mentioned on the itinerary or having a poorly arranged holiday.

When planning your trip, obviously your budget will factor the amount of days you are able to spend in Bhutan. Here are a few places that you must see, so make sure that your itinerary and time frame covers them.

Kichu Lhakhang- This Monastery is one of the 108 monasteries built across the Himalayan region by the Tibetan King to subdue the Demoness that lay across the Himalayan region.
Taktsang Monastery- The Tigers Nest. This is one of the most famous sights in Bhutan. The monastery is perched on a cliff in the midst of a lush green jungle. It is reached by a short walk and offers stunning views. This is one of the most memorable sights to visit in Bhutan and the main reason why a lot of visitors come here. The primary Lhakhang was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in the 1684 by the Penlop of Paro Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo, said to be his favorite consort.

The Tango Monastery- The trail Tango is a climb of 280 meters and it takes an hour to reach the monastery. Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa founded the monastery in 12th century. The building was re-built in 15th century by the “Divine Madman”. This is one of the best places for meditation in Bhutan.
Chimi Lhakhang- Built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in 15th century. (This monk is popularly known as the Devine Madman for his philosophy, “Salvation through sex”). He subdued the demons with his “Magical Thunder bolt”. The Temple is also known as “The Temple of Fertility”. Sterile women from far and wide come to this Temple to get blessed.

Wangdiphodrang Dzong- Built in 1638. Legend has it as the people were searching for the site of this Dzong, four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered an auspicious sign, representing the spread of religion to the four points of the compass.

Chendebji Monastery- This Monastery is patterned after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu and was built in the 19th century by Lama Shida, from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was killed at this spot.
Trongsa Dzong- I think that this is the most impressive fort in Bhutan. The present form was built in 1644 and was built in aim to unify Eastern Bhutan. The Dzong, which means fort in Bhutanese is the present home of the Royal Family and the first two hereditary kings who rule the country from this place.

Gangtey Gompa – This is famous for the Black Necked Cranes during winter. These cranes are very rare and endangered and highly protected by the Government. These cranes fly to Phobjikha valley which is their winter habitat. The Cranes circle three times in a clock-wise direction around the Gangtey Gompa as a reverence to the Monastery before landing in the valley. They repeat the same practice before flying back to Tibet in early spring.

Romance from the American West: Raven Dove

Posted on October 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

Raven Dove (Whiskey Press, 2005) is an historical romance by Joanne Walpole. Joanne’s first novel shares with us the tragedy and success of Vivien Clinton, a lonely neglected girl in the small town of Wagoner in the American Southwest. Living with her abusive Uncle, Vivien has grown up hiding herself beneath a mask of tomboyish indifference, until the night she meets Gabe Johnson. Gabe, an injured stranger, protects her from her Uncle’s anger and gives her hope for the future. Feeling a connection to the girl, despite the situation in which they meet, Gabe vows to himself that this wraith of a teenager will one day be the woman he marries.

Readers will be captured in the spell Joanne weaves with her realistic portrayal of characters and mesmerising storyline. The protagonist, Vivien Clinton, is a strong, determined young woman. Readers will feel for her in the dismal life she is forced to lead and the decisions she must make if she is ever to escape. We travel along every bumpy road with Vivien as she leaves Wagoner behind after her uncle’s death and arrives in Tucson. Through Vivien’s eyes we share the experience of the carriage ride and meet three of the characters who come to play a part in our heroine’s future. And, as Vivien starts to unravel a mystery she is unknowingly the centre of, we understand her frustration in dealing with the people around her who aren’t being honest with her.
Eventually, Vivien does discover the truth of her life and within a brief time must learn to cope with the lies and deception that have dogged her every day. Joanne Walpole uses the tribulations of Vivien as a means of drawing the reader further into the story with her clever observations of real life combined with solid research into life during the great Western era of the 19th century.

Hope waits behind every despairing moment and readers will be as determined as Vivien that she leave her past behind and find the future she’s dreamed of since the night she fell in love with Gabe Johnson. Her strength of character pulls her through each setback and sets her firmly back on the road to happiness.

And, just as Vivien finds she has friends in strange places, readers will discover the strength and completeness of the supporting characters of Raven Dove. Chad Green is the first of her ‘new’ friends. A local saloonkeeper and businessman, Chad, steers Vivien away from the confusion of her Uncle’s death, and onto the path she must travel. Charlie Jones is a loyal and steadfast young man who supports Vivien regardless the cost and in the face of his family’s displeasure. Peggy Webster is a manipulative woman shaped by her own unhappy past and linked with Vivien in ways that unfold in layers before us. Madeline Bonchance is a successful actress who appears in Vivien’s life for a short time. Yet, when she is kidnapped by Peggy Webster and her son, Luke, Madeline becomes the catalyst for the event that will make or break Vivien’s dreams. Then there’s Gabe Johnson, the stranger who promised her the world and disappeared without a word. His arrival into her new life only adds to the bewilderment she feels. Can she trust him with her future? Is he as trustworthy and solid as she sensed at their last meeting? Does she still love him?

Gabe Johnson is more than the romantic hero, more than a reflection of Vivien’s love and hope. His roundness of character shows us a compassionate man who has faced tragedy and dealt out revenge. A man who rides alone, yet knows what love is, an experience to be shared and treasured.

Through it all is Vivien’s Uncle Pete. A ghost of a figure, shown to the reader through the eyes of the people who knew him. Vivien’s feelings for him are often ambivalent. He is not a nice man, but he too is shaped by the past and even in this unsteady relationship Vivien finds underlying mystery and intrigue. Who was Pete Clinton?
Joanne’s range of characters are woven into a story that traces the journey of Vivien Clinton from innocent child to strong woman. She shares with the reader an understanding of the events that shape peoples lives and brings those events to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. Surprises and twists take shape and burst apart to reveal new surprises and hidden relationships.

The threads of the story come together in a finale worthy of a great western love epic as truth is drawn from the barrel of a smoking gun.

Raven Dove by Joanne Walpole is available from Whiskey Creek Press.