Author Q & A

How did you begin?

The first book, The Lost Colors was first written about 20 years ago. In 2019 when we lost our 10-month-old kitten, (who is the inspiration of this series) I was devastated. I was cleaning out my study and came across the manuscript and computer disc. I reread the manuscript (it was such a long time since I had written it, I could not remember what happen.) I thought it would make a great story of a girl, Caitlin and her cat Rio (based on my Rio.) We had to scrounge to find a computer old enough to download the files. My husband, Kevin unearthed an old computer from our basement. I was surprised when I found that the disc contained a number story outlines, and character outlines of a couple of other story ideas – including a murder mystery.

I wanted to write the kind of stories that I remember enjoying reading as a child. For this series, I wanted to create a world where anything is possible. I also wanted to create a story with strong female characters. I want the central characters, Caitlin and her best friends, Molly and Trudie to solve mysteries and defeat evil. Of course, they are helped by Caitlin’s extraordinary cat, Rio.

Can I read the books in any order?

I have tried to make each book stand alone. However, for your maximum enjoyment I think reading the books in order is the best way to read the entire series.

Are your books based on real life characters?

These stories are a work of fiction, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. However, I do take my inspiration from real life events, experiences and inspirations. For example, the Rio in the series is inspired by my kitten Rio. The Missing Cats was inspired by a walk around the neighborhood and seeing the lost cat notices. Mr. Brewster’s dog, Angus is based on a Jack Russell terrier called Angus that I had growing up.

Who is your audience?

This series is for ages 8 – 12 years.

Why did you decide to write for this age group?

I want to write the kind of stories that I remember loving at that age.

Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

Ordinary suburbia is my inspiration. I like thinking about how I can take something normal and turn into something interesting and different.

How many books are in the Series?

I am not sure. When it feels right, the series will end.

Are your books available in Kindle?

Yes. All the books in the series are and will be available in Kindle.

Are your books available as audio books?

No. Currently the books are not available as audio books.

Why can’t I buy your books at Barnes & Noble?

My books are only available for sale through Amazon.

How can I find out when the next book will be released?

There are several ways – you can follow me on Amazon. Or check the blog, www.sallyalexander.com for announcements. Or email me at sally dot alexander at comcast dot net to be signed up for author announcements.

What does it mean to be an independent publisher?

Thanks to Amazon, independent publishing is easy and accessible. This means I can publish my work, without having to try and find a corporate publisher. The decision of when and what to publish is my decision.

Another name for independent publishers is self-publishing. Before deciding to publish through Amazon, I did investigate several self-publishing companies. I was not prepared to spend the money they were asking to self-publish.

Why are the books only available in American English?

For my readers in Australia, New Zealand, UK and South Africa you will no doubt notice and be quite annoyed that the books are written in American English with American spelling. I am an American now, and I write in the USA, and so I write in American English. I am also an independent writer and publisher. If I had a corporate publishing contract, the publisher would handle the publications of different editions for different markets – that is American English for the USA market, and British English for the other English-speaking markets. Thank you for supporting independent writers and publishers.

I love your stories. I love the Series. Is it available as a computer game?

What a great question. Thank you. Currently I have no plans to release the series as a computer game

If you have other questions?

Email me at sally dot alexander at comcast dot net.


Amazon Independent Publishing - some thoughts

Thanks to Amazon, independent publishing (or "self publishing") has never been easier. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows you to publish and sell your work through the Amazon marketplace. The hard part is creating the material, designing the book cover, and marketing the finished product. 

I found the website to be very intuitive and packed full of very useful information, informative videos and a forum. Amazon KDP does offer templates - for designing your book cover (or you have a choice of Amazon design selections), for your manuscript for print versions, and an easy platform called "Kindle Create" to create your Kindle version. 

I am really cheap. I didn't want to spend any money on vanity publishers, nor did I want to spend any money on professional designers to design the book cover. My cover and illustrations do look cheesy. I am not a professional designer and illustrator, and I guess it shows. But it least all the content is mine. 

 


Amazon's Author Central

So this is awkward. I published my first book in the Adventures of Caitlin and Rio series, The Lost Colors. Amazon automatically searches for authors of the same name, and assumes that if you have the same name, you must be the same person. It turns out there is another Sally Alexander out there. It is not immediately intuitive but I was able to contact Amazon's Author Central, identify the book by the other Sally Alexander, and request that the book not be associated under my bibliography. I do hope that Amazon can fix this. I feel awkward and uncomfortable having other people's work attributed to me. 

Fingers crossed. 


The writing project - The Adventures of Caitlin & Rio

I am so excited. I have published book 1 of the Adventures of Caitlin & Rio. It's called "The Lost Colors." It is now available on Amazon for $7.99 (print edition only.) 

The story is about a girl, called Caitlin and her cat, Rio. It's about 20,000 words. The intended audience is ages 8 - 12. I was inspired to write the story when our 10 month old kitten, Rio was diagnosed with Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP. We were devastated to say goodbye to such an amazing cat. Like the Rio in the story, my Rio had beautiful blue eyes, a panda face and a black tail.  Unlike my Rio, the Rio in the series is a very special cat - he can talk just like a human, and he has two superpowers - the power of telekinesis, and mind control. 

In "The Lost Colors" Caitlin and Rio have to save the world. Something, or someone has stolen all the colors. Together with Caitlin's best friends, Trudie and Molly, they hunt for clues in search of the lost colors. They find out that an international terrorist and criminal mastermind, MacDougal has stolen the colors. It was in fact Professor Pinch's invention that sucked up all the color from the world. Professor Pinch thought he would be able to convert the colors into clean energy. Instead, MacDougal had duped Professor Pinch. The Professor, Caitlin, Rio, Trudie and Molly find out what MacDougal is really planning to do. Can they stop him in time? Will they be able to restore the colors back to the world? 

I am currently working on book 2, "The Missing Cats", and book 3, "The Wild Turkeys."

Book 2, "The Missing Cats" picks up where "The Lost Colors" ended. In "The Missing Cats" something very odd is going on. Blue-eyed cats are disappearing. This is very distressing to their owners. Why are the cats missing? Where are they? Together Caitlin, Rio and their friends hunt for clues and solve the mystery. (The Missing Cats is not yet published. 

In Book 3 we see how MacDougal's mis-use of Professor Pinch's invention has further disrupted the natural world. (The Wild Turkeys is not yet published.) 


Decade in Review

Thanks to this blog, I can look back over this decade - this blog is like its own personal time capsule. I count the last decade as beginning January 1, 2009 and ending December 31, 2019. 

The decade begins with the inauguration of the first African American President, President Obama. I watched the ceremony and blogged about it here. That was the time of the Great Recession and the stimulus package. We had the 2009 March blizzard.  an April Texas Road Trip and a South Africa Trip. At the end of 2009 we lost my brother Andrew. I miss him so. 

I began 2010 with a Photo a Day Challenge   My brother Andrew was an organ and tissue donor. In 2010 we found out that Andy's cornea's were used in a corneal transplant. See here for more information. We did some fishing, and a California Thanksgiving Road Trip. The 2010 Photo a Day Challenge final report summarized the challenge: I missed a total of 13 days out of 365 days. Maddie, our furperson, was my favorite subject. 

At the beginning of 2011 my Gran passed away. She was a wonderful woman. She taught me "about kindness, grace, and class. Who showed me that our actions speak to who we really are. A woman who taught me how precious laughter is, and who finally taught me to enjoy who I really am."

2011 ushered in yet another challenge - the "Eat Less, Move More Challenge." In May 2011 we attended with my mom and dad the Donor Family Tribute. This is for those families of members who had provided organ and tissue donations. It was very moving. The challenge died, we sold our house, and moved. I remember the move to be very stressful. In September, my mom and dad were ready to honor Andy's wishes. He wanted his ashes to be spread in a special spot in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Here is the post about that. We like to visit that spot, especially on his birthday. Mom brings bird seed to feed the birds. 

2012 began with, you guessed it, another challenge. This time it is the 10,000 steps a day challenge. Kevin's sister came for a visit. We did a Memorial Day Road trip, and the Eustis Sausage Festival. That was the year of the devastating High Park Fire

We ended 2012 with a California Thanksgiving Road trip 

2013 began with the passing of my dear mom in law, Jane. During 2013 I explored poetry in its various forms. During the summer we visited the Greeley Freight Station Museum. It was surprisingly entertaining. In August we attended Jane's memorial service. We ended the year with a Thanksgiving trip to Tuscon. We really loved the break. In December Nelson Mandela passed away. RIP Madiba. 

But for me 2013 meant the beginning of something completely different. This was the year Kevin and I got serious about financial independence. We had some amazing conversations about saving and investing philosophy and what we wanted to do in retirement. (Retirement is not just for old people. I plan to make my retirement time count!) Luckily these conversations showed that Kevin and I were completely on the same page. 

2014 continued my exploration of poetry with a Haiku challenge. In June I traveled with a colleague to Kenya on a work related trip. I love to travel. So far we had confined ourselves to mostly domestic travel. On a whim we traveled to Costa Rica, and had a fabulous time. During 2014 we "rediscovered the little things; like the beauty of the haiku, playing ping pong, and puzzles."

Blogging became more infrequent from 2015 onwards. In 2015 we did a cruise to Alaska, and had a fabulous time. Since Costa Rica, Kevin has acquired the travel bug. In December 2016 we did a fabulous trip to Thailand. One of the highlights was signing up for a day's cooking class. 

In 2017 Kevin and I resolved (without the aid of a blog challenge) to lose weight. To date (Jan 2020) we have lost 20 lbs each. We still have some way to go. But this does take work. 

For 2018 Kevin and I planned a 3 week road trip traveling through Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro. This was by far the most ambitious of our trips in terms of independent traveling. In May of 2018 I finally finished my MBA and graduated. 

2019 has been a year with no blog posts. We have been busy. The main focus of 2019 has been continuing with our weight loss/ getting fit path. Kevin has become more involved in table tennis. In December 2019 we traveled to Fort Worth, Texas for the Table Tennis US Open. Kevin competed, and we got to watch some amazing table tennis. 

What will the next decade bring? 

I hope for peace. If that is too much for hope for, I hope for personal peace, and good health. I think I know what is important in life (although sometimes we need to remind ourselves, it is easy to be caught up in all the unimportant stuff.) Family and friendships are the most important things. Stuff and material things do not matter. 

 

 


2019 Year in Review

I say it every time, "Can you believe how quickly that year has gone by?" 

I wish that I could slow time down, that I could bottle it up, and save it. But if wishes were wings, we would all fly. 

I did no blogging over 2019. This was not because I did nothing, we were extemely busy, but because I did not have the discipline to blog. 2019 has been a year where Kevin has stretched himself by becoming more active with the local table tennis community. He played in the state games in Colorado Springs in July, and competed in a number of sanctioned competitions in the state. In December we traveled to Fort Worth, Texas as Kevin was competing in the US Open Table Tennis competition. I have really enjoyed being a "support spouse." Table tennis is a great game to watch. (And it is fun to play.) It is a small community of players and families. We have met some great people. 

My brother Mark and my sister in law, Cheryl came out in February. Mark was competing in an archery competition in Las Vegas. Kevin and I joined my mom and dad and we watched Mark compete. I learned a lot about the sport. The bows are really heavy. I don't know how they manage to shoot with any accuracy. While we were in Las Vegas we got tickets to see the Blue Man Group. We had so much fun. The visit was a great reminder of how important family is. 

At the beginning of the year we last our dear fur person - Maddie. She was a very old cat, and lasted three years longer than the vet's prognosis. We selected the "at home" euthanasia option. It was very sad. Our fur people certainly leave paw prints on our hearts. 

It took us several months to feel when the time was right to find another fur person. We ended up buying a kitten from a breeder (first time for both of us.) Darling Rio, a beautiful Ragdoll kitty entered our lives. I then got it into my head that Rio, our new kitten was lonely. We had never had a kitten before as we had always adopted grown up cats from shelters or rescues. I was worried that Rio had no one to play with when Kevin and I went to work. I thought he was depressed. We took him to the vet to get checked out (just in case there was something wrong.) The vet could find nothing wrong with him, so we made the decision to find Rio a baby brother or sister. 

Red entered our hearts. Red is another Ragdoll cat. We again purchased him from a breeder, instead of a rescue. We started the kitten introduction program to make sure that Rio, and his baby brother Red were introduced gradually. 

Then Rio got sick. Red was also sick - but he bounced back. But Rio did not. We learned that Rio had FIP - that is Feline Infectious Peritonitis. It is a dreadful disease that is almost always fatal. We were devastated. In a matter of days Rio had deteriorated so much that we had to make the awful decision. We opted to euthanize at home. Rio was just 10 months old. 

Luckily we had Red. We got him tested, and found out that he tested positive for the virus. The vet explained to us that that didn't mean he would develop the disease, but he might. She also advised us not to introduce a kitten into the household until Red was at least a year. Red is a wonderful kitty. He is currently 9 months old. He loves to cuddle, and sit in the window and watch the bunnies, and the squirrels. Kevin got some books out from the library on clicker training for cats. Every day (or as often as I can) Red and I practice our training. Red, being a cat, is much better at training his humans than we are at training our cat. But he is very quick to learn, and very funny. So far - he can come to me at a signal, sit up and "beg", jump up on a chair, and then jump to another chair. I think it is official - I have turned into a crazy cat lady!

I also re-discovered a passion - writing stories. While tidying my study I came across a manuscript I had written some twenty years ago. It was a children's chapter book about a girl and her toy pig. I even had the old floppy disk it had been saved on. Luckily Kevin had an ancient old computer in the basement, and he was able to extract the files. It was fun reading a story I had written so many years ago. I decided to take the basic story, and tweak it. It is still a children's story, and it is still about a girl. But this time it is about a girl and her cat. I've named her cat, Rio after the Rio we lost. Thanks to Amazon publishing, it is easy and cheap to self- publish. I am currently writing the third book in the series. 2020 will be the year of the self publishing experiment. 

As we begin 2020, I am reminded about what is really important- family and friendships, and the time we have together. 


Balkans Road Trip 2018 - Part 10 - Closing thoughts

Part 1. Part 2, Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9

We had a wonderful 3 weeks driving around Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia.

We had an interesting mix of accommodation type - traditional hotels with breakfasts included, actual apartments with full kitchens,  bed and breakfasts and simple comfortable rooms. We had positive interactions with a wide range of people from patient waiters, front desk staff as well as our hosts - whose families have opened their homes to house tourists. Here in America customer service is much more overtly friendly. Certainly a lot more smiles, and more hovering. We found all our interactions to be polite, courteous and professional. We found it interesting that tipping was not expected, and it made it awkward when we did try to tip. (Apart from rounding the bill up.) One thing I really appreciated was at restaurants no matter how crowded, once you had your table and your food and drink, you weren't bothered constantly. I think the expectation was that one would linger and enjoy the meal. There did not seem to be the same pressure to "turn" tables that seems to exist here in America.

Transportation:

I am glad we rented a small shift (manual) car. The road ways we ended up exploring were really narrow. I think we would have really battled with a bigger car. I think that a road trip is the best way to see these countries. The roads are good, and we had mostly very little difficulties navigating.

The driving overall was much more aggressive than what we were used to here. While drivers here in my home town are awful tailgaters, we didn't find tailgating to be a big thing. Rather we had cars overtake on solid white lines, blind rises and around blind curves. Pedestrians were also interesting. Rarely would any vehicle stop for a pedestrian if they were simply standing by the side of the road. Instead, cars would stop or slow down if a pedestrian was in the actual road. I thought that pedestrians were far more vigilant than here.

We used Nova Rent a Car, a local Croatian company. They were great to deal with. I had questions about my booking, and they answered my questions promptly. We had no issues with picking up or dropping the car off. I highly recommend them. We picked up our car in Zagreb down town, and returned it to Zagreb airport prior to our departure.

Bosnia and Herzegovina:

Bosnia and Herzegovina is an amazing country. But it is poorer than Croatia. I think it will only gain in popularity as more American tourists discover it. We found it beautiful and the food and accommodations really cheap. It is a fascinating country. I loved Sarajevo and Mostar. I really would like to return and spend more time exploring. I highly recommend actually staying a couple of nights or longer, instead of simply coming in for a day trip. (It's common for tourists to make the drive, or take a day trip tour to Mostar from Dubrovnik, Croatia) There are parts of this country that are an interesting mix of Eastern and Western Cultures. One of the most magical memories is watching the sunset and the final call to prayer from the local mosque in Mostar. Very moving. Bosnia Herzegovina does deserve a visit for its own sake.

Montenegro:

Like Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro is poor. However, its popular tourist attractions - such as its Bay of Kotor region are well established tourist destinations. Hopefully Montenegro won't be too seduced by tourist dollars to overdevelop some of its coast line. The interior does deserve some additional exploring. Hopefully tourists will linger a few more nights, instead of the popular day tripping option that seems popular. While our visit to Lake Skadar wasn't fantastic - mainly due to not choosing the right vendor, I think it would be an interesting area to spend some time - I think that the lake and the bird life would look particularly spectacular either early in the morning or in the evening.

We did notice than in comparison with Croatia - Montenegro had more visible signs of random dumping. As its economy improves, I do hope that it can get serious about controlling this. Kotor really does have a cat problem. While I am a cat person, the number of cats and cats that didn't look healthy that I saw in Kotor were troubling.

Croatia:

I was surprised at how much I liked Dubrovnik and Split. I easily could have spent longer in both places. Our day trip to Hvar Island was not part of the original plan. I really enjoyed it, and now get what all the fuss is about. It is easy to see why Croatia has become such a hot spot with tourists. Its coast line is gorgeous, and it has beautiful cities. I can see why Dubrovnik is called the "Jewel of the Adriatic" and why Diocletian wanted to build his retirement villa in Split.

One thing that became a common refrain throughout our 3 weeks was that we wished we could spend more time in these countries because we really didn't get to see everything that we thought we would. At least, this gives us an excellent excuse to return. (Although I don't think I am going to need any excuses.)

Travel tips:

1. For this trip we packed only carry on. It worked splendidly. In fact we ended up buying a small case in Split to pack away all our souvenirs. We computed it would be cheaper than shipping our items home via DHL. I really am a fan of the one bag, carry-on only approach to travel. The secret is clothing selection - pick good quality clothing that wicks, and is quick drying. We would do a quick wash and rinse every night. Even with my limited wardrobe I still packed one or 2 items too much. The other thing that I am a fan of is packing cubes. They really are an incredible way to keep clothing and other items under control.

2. We used Booking.com exclusively to book all our accommodations. This was not intentional it just happened that way. Airbnb, Hotels.com and other sites are all good. One thing that I did like about Booking.com was the free cancellation. You just have to watch the dates. But changing dates or itineraries on Booking.com was really easy. (We changed a number of times as we finalized our planning.)

3. Some of our accommodations were apartments with kitchens. I highly recommend this. It is really fun stopping off at the local supermarket, or bakery and browse the shelves for breakfast, and picnic items. It goes without saying that buying some food at local shops does save money. I bought an amazing bottle of the local wine for about $5.

4. Since we had booked our accommodations ahead of time, we made it a rule to always call our hosts about 30 minutes from our destination. (Rule didn't apply to commercial hotels.) And then we would always call them as we got closer so that we could meet, and they would help us with any final directions and parking arrangements. This worked perfectly.

5. There are different types of travelers. We tend to be planners. Not because we have a rigid schedule that we want to follow regardless, but because that's part of the fun for us. Some of the best experiences are the spontaneous unplanned experiences - such as catching the cable car up Mount Srd and watching the sunset over Dubrovnik. Or deciding to spend the day at Hvar Island. Or instead of going to Plitvice National Park, we ended up exploring the sleepy country roads around Rakovica and Dreznik.

6. We use Skyscanner.com to watch for airline price deals. This means that if you are watching for it, you can get some really good deals. The down side is that you may have to make a decision and pay for tickets well in advance of the actual trip. This is because some airline deals just don't last long. Any delay and you may miss out.

7. One good thing about picking up good flight deals, it leaves more room in the budget if you want to pay a little extra to get some more leg room. I do recommend this, especially on the long trans- ocean flights.

8. Travel insurance. We do budget for travel insurance. We buy cancel for any reason trip cancellation or interruption insurance. It will typically includes medical evacuation insurance.

I love traveling. It is so interesting to see how other people live and view the world. I think it is very good for us to get ourselves outside of our comfort zones. I think traveling makes us better.

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Balkans Road Trip 2018 - Part 9 - Krka National Park, Rakovica, Dreznik, & Rastoke

Part 1. Part 2, Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. & Part 10.

It was super easy to check out of our rooms in Split. We had a bit of a challenge at navigating out of Split - but mainly due to driving in an unfamiliar city and a nutty GPS. We wanted to go to Krka National Park on our way to Rakovica.

Parking is free, but there is an entrance fee to get in. There is no car access, instead they load you in buses. We opted instead to walk down.

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We enjoyed being outside, and as we descended towards the lake we got some interesting views.

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Then you do have an option to buy tickets for the ferry ride which we didn't do as we didn't have time. Instead keep going left and eventually you will reach a part of the park where you can walk on walk ways... (There is also a WC, and a place to grab something to eat.)

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The guide books and forums do warn that this does start to get crowded. So it is advisable to get there early. Here is a photo of the walkway... the longer we stayed the more crowded it became.

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It was very pretty, and photogenic...

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and...

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I found the water and waterfalls very photogenic.

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And...

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The water was a beautiful turquoise and crystal clear...

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We enjoyed a rather nice lunch at the restaurant in the park. And then because we were feeling lazy we waited for the bus to take us back to the entrance and parking lot. I do recommend Krka National Park. It is not far from Split, and would make a good day trip if you use Split as a base. I recommend you give yourself the whole day to explore. And get there early before the tour groups arrive. Again, we needed to leave a place that we would've wanted to explore further. However, we needed to press on.

I had booked a single night in the little town of Rakovica, at the Rooms Mirabella.

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I chose this because it was cheap, and close to Plitvice National Park. Our GPS guided us to Mirabella. Our host's mother was there to meet us. She was a nice lady who spoke no English (she spoke German and Croatian.) She showed us to our room, and gave us some coffee and cookies. Mirabella is in a small farm - with an orchard and a meadow with a herd of deer.

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Rakovica is one of many small rural villages in this area. The countryside is gorgeous - narrow country lanes, and rolling hills.

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There were a lot of signs for rooms available. Clearly many folks use these areas for an overnight stay so that they can visit Plitvice. I found this area so pretty and interesting, I think it should be visited for its own sake. In fact we got so distracted ambling around that we ended up not visiting Plitvice at all.

I had the best lamb chops of the trip at restaurant Marko, nearby.

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There are clearly marked bicycle routes through the beautiful countryside.

We even came across some cows...

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We stopped by a cemetery with views of the valley.

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With a beautiful church nearby...

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We decided after reading some materials left in our rooms at Mirabella to visit the old town of Dreznik. An old castle which had been destroyed had been reconstructed. From 1323 - 1592 the Frankopans of Krk ruled the city. From 1592 - 1788 the Turks seized Dreznik, ending with its liberation from Turk rule. In 1791 under the Treaty of Sistova, Dreznik returned to the Habsburg Crown.

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And more ruins...

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We passed farmers fields with hale bales with this hawk perched on one.

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I managed to capture him taking off...

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Beautiful farmers fields of hay...

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We really enjoyed exploring the area around Rakovica. So much so that we had left no time to visit Plitvice. We decided that we would save Plitvice for a return visit.

We decided to stop off at the little town of Rastoke. We had a pleasant visit walking around and taking photos.

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and...

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and..

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Then Kevin wanted to find a Spomenik in a forest called Petrova Gora. We did use the GPS and the forest reminded us of Colorado.

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We eventually turned back without visiting it. We think that the GPS lost its signal and sent us off in the opposite direction. We did manage to see it from afar. The monument is now being used to house cell phone and other communication antenna.

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We were quite convinced that we were on the wrong road heading in the wrong direction...

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It was beautiful to be in these forests. But it wasn't busy. We saw very few other cars driving around.

Here's a view of one of the many Croatian highways. As you can it is a good road, and is well signposted.

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Our hotel, Best Western Stella was a hotel in Zagreb by the airport. We had a flight early the next morning to Frankfurt to catch our flight home to Denver. The plan was to drop our car off at the airport the next morning. For our last night in Croatia we found a restoran called Hrasce nearby our hotel. It was somewhat confusing to get to, but thank goodness for GPS. It was a modest restaurant, but the food was delicious. It also helped that we decided to have an early dinner so at least we could drive when it wasn't so dark.

It is ironic that I had to wait until the end of the trip to have the best lamb. It was delicious - so sweet and succulent, just as I remembered it!

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Balkans Road Trip 2018 - Part 8 - Split, Diocletian's Palace & Hvar Island

Part 1. Part 2, Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 9 & Part 10.

We arrived in Split around 7pm. Our GPS went a little nuts. It really struggles with roads that have no car access.(Usually due to the stairs...)

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Luckily as per our usual practice I had called our host, Petro about 30 minutes from arrival, and had received instructions. We ended up having to meet our host, and then have him drive us in, and park. Our rooms were located just minutes from Diocletian's Palace. We walked into the old city, and grabbed a burger before heading back to bed.

As you may have guessed I have a slight obsession with the laundry out the window thing. Well, our rooms had shutters that opened up, and they had a washing line! So naturally we had to try it. (It works very well.)

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Our rooms in Split did not have a kitchen (only a small fridge which was fine.) So our first morning we ambled into the old City to find some breakfast.

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 This (above) photo is of the closest entrance into Diocletian's Palace from our rooms. I had thought that Diocletian's Palace would be a Roman ruin empty except for tourists. It isn't. It actually is a vibrant old city - filled with shops, hotels and restaurants. It's lived in! We found breakfast at a place (hotel) called Augubio. There we had omelets, juice and coffee.

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The stone and brick walls behind Kevin are original from Diocletian's Palace. After breakfast we found a tourist vendor office and booked for the 12:15pm Walking Tour (100 Kuna per person.) The photo (below) is a reconstruction of what the palace must have looked like. Not bad for a place by the beach to retire to!

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 The tour ended up being a private tour - just us and a very nice guide. We learned about how the different eras left their architectural marks behind - Roman, Venetian, Ottoman and Medieval. Diocletian was quite an emperor. He built this palace (sea views, a Temple of Jupiter - so that he could be worshipped, and of course his own personal army) as his place by the sea. (It certainly puts my retirement plans into perspective!) All the columns came from Egypt.

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Including a couple of Sphinxes...

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One had lost its head, as its head was used as decoration elsewhere...

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Romans loved their arches, and liked big wide windows. Later periods, such as during Medieval times bricked them in and made them smaller.

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We saw evidence of Roman mosaics (for the baths)

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And amazing arches...

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Water fountains...

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Later during the Medieval times, the streets and windows became narrower...

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 Caper bushes grow out of the cracks... (I had no idea what caper bushes actually looked like. My only experience with capers is buying the bottles in the store.)

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More caper bushes, Roman walls, and Roman mosaics...

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The underground cellars are still largely intact, but now house vendors who sell souvenirs to passing tourists...

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The Romans were good engineers, and some of the drains they built are still intact. Like this one we saw in this shop...

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The original Diocletian's Palace was expanded by the Venetians with additional defensive fortifications against the Ottomans.

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This is the view along the Riva. It is lined with restaurants.

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It is gorgeous at sunset...

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We ate dinner at a restaurant in Diocletian's Palace - I had mussels and Kevin had the swordfish. He had a local beer, and I had a glass of local wine.

We decided to catch one of the ferries from Split to Hvar Island. While we were waiting for our City Walking Tour we had walked to the ferry docks and had purchased tickets to leave early in the morning, and to return mid afternoon the following day. The ferry we caught was a passenger only ferry that took us directly to Hvar Town. The car ferry has a different route and landing point. It took about one hour to get from Split to our destination.

Here's a screen shot of Google Maps tracking our location.

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We arrived rather early in Hvar Town, so it was nice to see the town in the morning light. We saw another ferry line picking up waiting passengers...

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 Restaurants and coffee shops lined the small harbor.

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Small boats including water taxis were lined up in the dock...

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A fort overlooks the town...

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There are wide open plazas

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After exploring a little, we decided to walk around the harbor and see whether we could find a spot for a swim.

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I thought that Hvar Town was very pretty.

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I loved how it looked in the morning light.

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It did have a list of rules... which came with some hefty fines (the fines are quoted in euros.)

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 And soon we found a place to swim...

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 The beaches are rocky so wearing water shoes is advisable. We felt too cheap to pay money for the beach chairs. We found a spot to set up for free.

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The water was very clear, and refreshing. We really enjoyed our swim.

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After a nice lazy time by the beach we enjoyed a leisurely stroll back to the Town.

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Passed yachts...

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And...

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We found a restaurant on the plaza and shared a Greek salad and a pizza. After lunch we decided to do some more exploring. The streets are narrow and photogenic. They are lined with restaurants and art shops as well as accommodations for visitors.

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None of the streets were very wide, and some were simply stairs.

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This is the way up the stairs to the fort...

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We got a little distracted by other things, and so never had time to visit the fort.

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We had been so used to seeing cats everywhere we had to stop and take a photo of this friendly canine...

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I found the architectural details quite photogenic - like this griffin...

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and these columns...

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I can see why Hvar Town is such a popular tourist destination. It is very pretty.

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And then things got interesting. The blue sky gave way to gray, and the weather turned bad - we had winds, and rain. I was worried that the ferry would be cancelled due to the storm, and we would be stuck on the island. All the outside seating was packed away due to the wind and rain, which made indoor seating hard to come by. We found a spot for a snack, and took shelter from the wind and rain as we waited for our ferry to arrive, which it did in due course. The ride back to Split was interesting. It felt as though we were in an hour long roller coaster ride as the ferry sailed through some quite rough seas. We had a number of passengers that got sick - really sick. I spent most of the time concentrating on not getting sick. My legs were shaking and my stomach was in knots when we eventually arrived in Split. This was only the second day in our entire 3 week stay where we had rain. Boy was I glad to get back on terra firma. I think that the ferry ride aka the roller coaster ride was the scariest moment of our trip. (Kevin disagrees. For him the drive in Biokovo was more scary.)

We were sad to say good bye to Split. Again, we didn't get to see all the things we wanted to see at the pace we set. I would definitely come back, and I would also spend some more time on the Hvar Island. Our next stop - Krka National Park, and Rakovica.