Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

Or in my case--cat days. Too lazy these days to do much but sit on the patio with a nice glass of white wine and a good book, while my husband manages the barbecue.

Ah, summer is so good while it lasts. Hope you all are enjoying yours. Back soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Cozy Mystery Series set in France

Recently discovered a new writer who writes about a fascinating French hero; a Chief of Police in a small village in Southwestern France. Have read two books of the series and will definitely be looking for more. Here is my Amazon Book Review.

Benoit Courrèges, better known as Bruno, is the Chief of Police in the small village of St. Denis in Southwestern France. Having held this position for the past ten years, Bruno is a definite part of the village scene, and he loves the life and the friends he has made for himself there.

He remodelled his own house on a plateau overlooking the Dordogne River Valley, where he grows his own veggies, raises his own chickens, and with his dog, Gigi, hunts the elusive Black Diamond truffle. He knows his way around his kitchen, where he whips up some succulent French dishes.

When Bruno discovers his good friend and hunting buddy, Hercule Vendroit has been murdered after being horribly tortured, he is suddenly up to his neck in government red tape. Turns out his friend was a high-level intelligence agent with roots going back to France’s colonization of Vietnam.

This is the third book in the series and the second that I have read. The author does include a lot of French political history, particularly regarding its military actions in places like Algeria and Bosnia. A real Francophile will no doubt appreciate these references, but I found them a little boring. It tends to slow down the pace of the present plot.

Nevertheless, Bruno’s interactions with the residents of the village, the descriptions of his culinary skills and the intrigue of his several “affaire de Coeur” all ensure that I’ll be reading more of this endearing French police officer.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Alaska Cruise - Part 2

Glaciers viewed from aeroplane

Ship in Glacier Bay National Park

One of the top ports of call for almost all Alaska cruise lines is the town of Skagway, situated at the top of the Alaska Panhandle, on the north end of Lynn Canal. It is most famous for being the gateway to the Yukon or Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-99.
As the news of the discovery of a mother lode in the Yukon, men from all walks of life headed there from as far away as New York, South African, the Great Britain, and Australia.

From Skagway, the prospectors traveled the dangerous Chilkoot Trail and crossed the Chilkoot Pass, or hiked up to the White Pass and proceeded to Bennet Lake, the headwaters of the Yukon River. Here, some 25 to 35 miles from where they landed, they built rafts and boats that would take them the final 500 miles or more down the Yukon to Dawson City, near the gold fields.

The gold stampeders were forced by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to carry a year's supply of goods — about a ton, more than half of it food — over the passes to be allowed to enter Canada. Some realized how difficult the trek ahead would be on route to the gold fields, and chose to stay behind in Skagway to supply goods and services to miners. Within weeks, stores, saloons, and offices lined the muddy streets. During the spring of 1898, with approximately 1,000 prospective miners passing through the town each week, the population was estimated at 8,000. By June 1898, with nearly 10,000 residents, it was named the largest city in Alaska.

Today, many remnants of that historic period remain for the adventurous at heart. Just walking down Broadway, the main street is like a journey to another century. You can pick up a walking tour map that shows some of the original spots and gives an overview of their history. A good example is the Red Onion Saloon, one of Skagway’s most infamous watering holes. It’s well known for its provocative past and the upstairs has changed little since the time when it was frequented by turn-of-the-century working girls.

Another adventure reminiscent of the town’s history is a trip on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. The "Scenic Railway of the World" links Skagway with Yukon, Canada, a 41-mile roundtrip offering an unforgettable journey to the summit of the White Pass, a 2,865-foot elevation.

Perhaps the hi-light of any cruise to Alaska is sailing as close as possible to the beautiful glaciers that make their slow journey to the Pacific Ocean, and watch them as they "calve" into the sea. You stand in amazement, as, with sonic booms, great chunks break away from the glacier; sometimes causing tsunami like waves. The excitement of those watching nature at work, is palpable.

With climate warming, these glaciers are fast retreating and one wonders how much longer we will be able to experience this marvel of nature.