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This Could Be The Best Job Ever!

Those of you who read this blog, and my other blog (at sharibet.livejournal.com) know that I travel a lot, and that usually bring my mini-laptop along and blog about my adventures while I’m on the road.

After hearing about this opportunity,  I decided to go ahead and take the plunge to apply for the Best Job Ever…a one-year contract as a blogger and “Chief World Explorer” for Jauntaroo, a travel services company. I decided to take an alternate approach to the “Please hire me” plea—I created a sample 1-minute video travel blog.

(Many thanks to Alex Sato for helping me out yesterday as my cameraman and production assistant!)

Please visit my video application page and click Like! I’m about a month behind the other candidates so I need every vote I can get!


Book Review: The Lies Of Locke Lamora

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of this fantasy novel, and what a fun story it was!

The Lies of Locke Lamora is set in a world littered with the mysterious buildings and artifacts of an alien civilization, master con-man Lock Lamora and his band of sworn brothers set out to swindle the nobility, Robin Hood-style, in a setting that mingles Renaissance Italy and Dickensian London.

An orphan sold to a notorious thief-master, and trained as a pickpocket and petty thief, Locke is a born troublemaker, a restless genius with a knack for biting off more than he can chew, and leaving chaos and unintended destruction in his wake. Along with Jean Tannen, warrior and intellectual, a young thief nicknamed ‘Bug,’ and a set of larcenous twin brothers, Carlo and Galdo, Locke is later adopted by a priest determined to train a select group of thieves to prey upon the city’s upper classes, and ultimately to break the power of the city’s Capo, the master of all the criminal gangs.

Unfortunately for Locke and his gang, a new and mysterious criminal figure, nicknamed The Gray King, is also determined to take over the city’s criminal underworld…and the Gray King has a frightening and powerful sorcerer at his bidding. What follows catapults Locke into a complex scheme of revenge and bloody conflict as he finds himself cast into the role of the city’s unwilling savior.

Loved the high-spirited plot and the sharp dialogue, enhanced by a wonderful performance from narrator Michael Page, who gives each character a distinctive voice and characterization. I’ve already downloaded the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and am looking forward the publication of the third book in the series in October 2013.

In The Footsteps Of The Crusaders – The Templars And Hospitallers

Sunny skies, clear turquoise waters, and a harbor ringed with medieval fortification walls greeted me when I arrived on the island of Rhodes, former headquarters of the crusading order of the Knights of St. John (also known as the Hospitallers) via cruise ship in June of 2006.

Behind the honey-colored medieval stone walls still surrounding the Old Town of Rhodes, we could see the tops of palm trees, crenellated castle towers belonging to the Hospitallers, and the slender white spire and large domed roof of the Suleiman Mosque, legacy of the Ottoman Turks who drove out the Knights of St. John in the 1500s, and occupied Rhodes for the next 400 years.

Passing under the arched Gate of D’Amboise, the fortification walls so thick that the gate is really a tunnel, forty feet long and with a sharp left turn halfway through, we emerged into the bright sunlit space of the dry moat, now planted with palm trees and flowering plants. More crenellated walls lay ahead, and another arched gateway, until finally, we found ourselves in the narrow, cobblestone-paved streets of the Old City.

Near the reconstructed Palace of the Grand Master, I found myself walking down the Street of the Knights. The Knights of St. John were divided into groups by nationality, and each nationality had its own mini-headquarters and dormitory, as well as its assigned portion of the city walls to defend. Nowadays, the knights’ dormitories house government offices, and in the case of the French knights’ dormitory, the Consulate of France. At least they didn’t have to change the carved marble French royal coat of arms over the doorway!

My walking tour of the Knights’ quarters ended at the bottom of the hill, in a small cobbled square shaded by a walnut tree, surrounded by shops, and fronted by the impressive two-story bulk of the Hospital of the Knights, dating from the late 1400s, which is now the Archaeological Museum.

I had about 45 minutes before the museum closed for a three-hour siesta, so I made a hurried trip through it, more curious to see the inside of a genuine Crusader building than the collection of ancient pottery and sculptures (which was actually pretty good).

It’s a very impressive building, and still in excellent shape. The hospital is built around a central courtyard, with wide arcaded walks on both floors, and stone-walled rooms opening up to the courtyard.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, these rooms served as hostel accommodations for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land, as well as hospice care for the ill or injured. Nowadays, they house the collection of the archaeological museum.

Spanning the width of the second story, just behind the façade, is the Great Hall, which is dark and mostly empty, except for an exhibit of the marble gravestones of the various knights and Grand Masters.

My first encounter with the legacy of the Knights Templar, who play such a large role in the first volume of The House of the Rose, Glass Souls, was in England in the summer of 2000. Marian and I were in the middle of working on the book, and I was excited at the prospect of actually visiting a genuine Templar building, Temple Church, located in the heart of London.

An unexpected surprise awaited us on an outing to the beautiful city of Salisbury. Touring Salisbury Cathedral, we found an effigy dedicated to the memory of William Longspee the Younger, son of the earl of Salisbury, a minor character in Glass Souls, who died at Al-Mansurah.

Finally, on a visit to Provence three years ago, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon wandering around the tiny walled medieval town of Aigues-Mortes, used by St. Louis (King Louis IX) as a seaport and launching point for his disastrous Crusades in 1248 and 1270. It’s an interesting cross between town and a fortress, surrounded by high stone walls, with cobblestone streets and stone houses. Aigues Mortes and Louis’ second crusade in 1270 are described in the fourth volume of The House of the Rose, Queen of Heaven.

And without further ado, here’s this week’s photo tour of the places described above!

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