Writing Portfolio, Travel Stories & Other Diversions

Month: October 2013

Tourism indicators up in New Orleans and Sonoma County


New Orleans Home in Mardi Gras Colors

New Orleans Home in Mardi Gras Colors

As an informal ambassador for both New Orleans and Sonoma County, I’m happy to pass along positive tourism news for both sweet spots.

According to Don Ames at Gulf Coast radio station WWL, Fall convention business is booming in New Orleans:

“We’re 60 percent up, compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. For the next three month, … just in CVB-booked conventions, about 130,000 people coming from all over the world for major medical conventions and this is going to bring about 153 million dollars into the City of New Orleans,” says Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Kelly Schulz.

(Although not a convention attendee, I am happy to report that I’m a generous hospitality industry consumer during my regular visits to the Crescent City.)

For more on New Orleans’ healthy tourism business, check out

In news closer to my home, Sonoma County tourism is also hopping. Writing in the North Bay Business Journal, Eric Gneckow reports that Horizon Air — the sole commercial carrier at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County airport, has hit a significant milestone with the number of flight operations returning to levels not seen since before the financial downturn.For more, click here

Sonoma County vineyards

Red and White


In California’s wine country, the grape harvest starts well before fall — the fruit ripens fast during the sweltering midsummer days when our vineyards seem like magnets for the summer sun, trapping the heat between the hills and valleys that define our terroir. Those heat wave days can quickly turn into sudden thundershowers, threatening the crops with mildew and ruination.It is turncoat weather. If grapes aren’t harvested in time a precious vintage may be lost.

As long summer days come to a close, and the erratic harvest weather sends me home earlier on Saturdays, I open a bottle of local Pinot Noir and settle in to watch BBC’s The White Queen, the poorly-reviewed ten episode production based on Philippa Gregory’s three books: The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter.

Each Saturday night I turn on satellite TV to watch the small screen rendition the War of the Roses (WOTR). It is an time that historian Allison Weir calls anunfolding pageant of treason and conflict.” I’m vigilantly watching the show because this year, surprisingly, the fictional tales of the historic conflict between the (red) Lancastrians and the (white) Yorkist roses/houses are my favorite bedtime reading: escapist, romantic, devious, epic, and always volatile.

Sure, I’ve grabbed Ms. Gregory’s popular WOTR novels, but even before The White Queen TV show landed in the U.S, I’d found other fiction authors who have tackled the pivotal century with careful plot development, thoughtful character interpretations, and insights into the mercurial relationships within, and between, the two houses. Since Sheli reads loves good historical fiction, I’m delighted the saucy Welsh blogger invited me to guest post this week so I can share my thoughts on a few key re-tellings of this era.

The Tudor Rose

Tudor Rose: the Story of the Queen Who United a Kingdom and Birthed a Dynasty

Margaret Campbell Barnes wrote Tudor Rose: the Story of the Queen Who United a Kingdom and Birthed a Dynasty sixty years ago. Tudor Rose brightly weaves the history of Elizabeth of York, the White Queen’s eldest daughter, and the most recent common ancestor of all English monarchs. Elizabeth shines through as a naturally cheerful girl who develops into a wise and warm queen. The book moves quickly, is carefully researched, and is well worth reading. However, towards the end Barnes tosses in a few strange fictional twists that seem both implausible and rushed. 

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