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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Barcelona by Margot Justes

I’m working on the fourth hotel book, and this one is set in Barcelona. It is a city filled with art, amazing architecture and an incredible zest and appreciation for life.
Barcelona is exciting, vibrant and the locals know how to enjoy themselves, they possess the joie de vivre that is hard to miss, and often times hard to find.

The architecture is unsurpassed, modern and old blends well together, and of course there is Gaudi-it is worth a visit to Barcelona just to see his work. It is unforgettable. I loved it so much that I posted a separate blog about his stunning and imaginative style. The amazing thing is that once you see it, you want to do it again, and again, simply because you probably missed the marvelous details the first time through. His work is beyond whimsy.

There are museums to be sure, Miro, Dali and Picasso have a foundation in Barcelona. The stunning architecture will take your breath away, everywhere you turn you see a magnificent building, from Gothic to Art Nouveau to the indescribable and incomparable Gaudi treasures, to contemporary and everything in between. Landmarks abound.

At any given time stroll on La Rambla, and you’ll see locals and savvy tourists sit down in a cafe and enjoy a beer, tapas, coffee, along with a dish of green olives, or just stroll arm in arm on the wide avenue that is both romantic, hectic and invigorating. There are many souvenirs shops that line the famous paseo, all the kitschy tourist stuff, pottery, foods and other items made locally, along with entertainment, and all of it delightful.

The street is filled to capacity, and I for one at this stage in my life don’t like crowds, and if truth be told-never did-but I really rather enjoyed the lovely walk, and a stop for the obligatory delicious coffee. I had a wondrous adventure just walking down the street. You see people smile, nod their heads in acknowledgement as you stroll along as if in a romantic dream.

The city also boasts a beautiful coast line, and one of the biggest ports in Europe, along with some beautiful parks, even one designed by Gaudi.

Have I forgotten to mention the food-it is delicious-they create a mouth watering delight   with just potatoes. Okay, I’m Polish and happen to love potatoes, but the Patatas Bravas are truly yummy, roasted potatoes, a yummy sauce with a slight bite that you feel on the tip of your tongue. The excellent bread and incredible local hams would have kept me happy for a long time.

A huge array of cheeses, hams, breads, olives, an amazing selection of fish, all that is available in many tapas bars. The offerings are small, so you can visit many places and taste the amazing variety of appetizers. A delightful and delicious way to sample the local cuisine.

Shopping abounds on Passeig de Gracia, favorably compared to other famous boulevards with prices to match. I enjoyed the walk, and window shopping, the displays are imaginative and fun, and I was grateful that I travel light with little room for souvenirs.
That being said, I managed to buy a few small trinkets for family and friends, the souvenir shop at the Gaudi Casa Batllo was amazing, and yes-all my souvenirs came from that shop.

There are many hotels and as always prices range from low to high, it all depends on your budget. You will find delicious and reasonably priced tapas bars off the main tourist areas, but if you’re in with the tourist crowds be prepared to pay. I do a bit of research  before I leave, but I always allow for a tourist trap or two.

I booked the Casa Fuster Hotel, on Passeig de Gracia 132, on my first visit, a beautiful hotel reminiscent of Gaudi’s work, the service was superb, the rooms a good size, the breakfasts superb, and  the staff always eager to help with directions and available tours, they were friendly and caring. I hope to return and stay there again.

The second hotel was the Majestic, also on Passeig de Gracia 68-70, was a little more centrally located-by just a few blocks from Casa Fuster. That being said, I would rather walk the additional 4 or 5 blocks than stay at the Majestic again, lack of overall service, and a snippy registration cured me of ever staying there a second time.

The Majestic staff lost interest after I didn’t want to book a private car to Montserrat to the tune of 600Euros. After a discussion on booking a reasonable tour failed, a short 10 minute walk took me to a travel agency, where I was able to book a round trip ride for 29EU that would take me to the Montserrat  Monastery for the better part of the day. It is a trip not to be missed. I’ll post a separate blog on the location-it is in the mountains and it is magnificent.

I’m a breakfast person, and tend to eat the meal at the hotel to save on time, and the breakfast at the Majestic was outstanding. I couldn’t have asked for a more varied or delicious selection, and the coffee was delicious, but the lack of care and concern from the registration staff ruined any chance of my return to the hotel.

Barcelona has it all, and is definitely worth a visit or two, or three.

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Settings by Margot Justes

The old adage write what you know and love is true, at least for me-but you should also learn while you write. It adds an additional dimension to the stories. A sense of wonder and discovery both for the reader and the writer.

I love to travel and have been fortunate to be able to visit the places I write about.

My first love is Paris, I lived there for a year, and have gone back a few times. It stood to reason that my first romantic mystery story should be set there.  I’m familiar with the city, and over the years little has changed in my perspective. The Louvre now has Pei’s Pyramid at the entrance, many more buildings have been added, but the age old charm is still very much there.

The charming cafes, the gardens, the historical buildings are all as they were. It is easy to write as if sitting in a cafe and observing life go by. That is especially true on the grandest  boulevard of them all, the Champs Elyssee. It’s easy to make the city come alive, it was my first love as a semi adult, and continues to this day. A grand love affair with the city of lights.

The second book, set in Bath, England was a bit more difficult, but I have visited twice, the second time, I spent a few days getting to know the city. The historical significance is amazing, after all the city is over two thousand years old, and dates back to the Romans.

Most information is available on line, but you need to be careful to select only the key points that are relevant to the story, otherwise it will turn out to be a travelogue within the story.  You need the ‘scent’ of the city, what does it feel like to walk the streets Jane Austen most probably walked. Stroll over lead pipes that the Romans built,  and imagine who else followed in those same footsteps. Who else prayed in the ancient Abbey, and who ate the Sally Lunn cakes, after all the restaurant dates back to the 1620’s.

The third book in the hotel cities is set in Venice, a city that has captured my heart and hasn’t let go.

It’s magic is potent, the architecture, history and art sublime. Every step taken is an amazing adventure in the past. Follow the path of Casanova, on which bridge did he wait in the cover of darkness for his rendezvous with a lover? Who else walked in those same footsteps? Who crossed the Bridge of Sighs-going from palace to prison?

A tourist trap to be sure, but there are places that few tourists visit, side streets, small canals, churches, all it takes is a sense of adventure and wonder, and a map. I get lost sometimes just crossing a couple of streets, and in Venice there are many curvy and meandering little alleys that will ultimately lead to water, and the getting lost process is rather enjoyable. I speak from experience.

Even though I write contemporary romance stories, I love history and art, and that is what I write, goes back to the beginning, write what you know and love. 

I have posted more extensive articles on the three cities on my website on the travel page.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice
Blood Art
A Fire Within

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Writing and Finishing by Margot Justes

 There is a sense of relief, once the end is typed, and the manuscript is finished, well at least written. I'm at that stage now. 

English is not my first language, and when I came to this country (a few years-as in many- years ago), students were put in a class based on age-and the grammar part has long past.

I have been assured by my editor that my grammar is not that bad, and I think that is due to the fact that I love to read, but I digress...Finishing a manuscript is a wondrous sense of relief, because while writing, it seems as if it won’t ever happen.

I edit every time I sit down to write, and once the manuscript is finished it goes to my editor and she goes through it, then of course I read it and invariably make corrections based on her recommendations-especially in grammar. Then it goes back to the editor, well you get the drift. I have my final two, three, four reads and off it goes to the formatter.

I’m an indie author and my formatter does all the magical stuff to make sure everything is done correctly. Once he’s done I read it again, and invariably I find little errors, and back it goes. By the time I get the last peek, it really doesn’t matter because I expect to see all the words aligned perfectly, and in place.  

The writing process is humbling, I start off excited, I have an idea and off I go. Then reality sets in, I have to figure out what will happen and how will I ever tie all the pieces together. Since I write by the proverbial seat of my pants, the endings tend to surprise me. That was especially true in A Hotel in Venice.

One day the story is terrific, the next it is rubbish that no one will want to read, the next day, it’s not so bad, back to get the drift. It is a never ending process of self doubt, until finally everything falls into place, and then I wonder exactly how did that all work out? That being said, the doubts persist, at least for me.

A Hotel in Venice has been released, and now I’m working on A Hotel in Barcelona. I love the characters, Barcelona is beautiful, with an astounding zest for life, the architecture sublime, food delicious, what better place for a honeymoon.

A Hotel In Venice

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice