Podcast Review: Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood

Today I binge-listened to Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood, thirteen episodes and over 5 and a half hours of podcast audio. Natalie Wood was an A-class actress in her day, married to leading man, Robert Wagner. Their love was the stuff of fairy tales! ….Or was it?

In 1981, detectives and the medical examiner concluded that Natalie Wood accidentally drowned, falling from her yacht, Splendour. Robert Wagner, her husband was devastated at the loss. They were deeply in love. He refused to identify the body, sending someone else instead. Ten weeks later, he announced his relationship with Jill St. John, who is still his wife. Questions quickly began to rise about the true cause of Natalie Wood’s death. Were these just stories to sell tabloids in the supermarket? This story hasn’t died in close to 40 years and it includes several Hollywood celebrities, gossip and bisexual scandal!

Continue reading “Podcast Review: Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood”

Aixa-en-Provence: Instagram Myth Breakers In The Lavender Fields! Goodbye FOMO

Warning: this is an Instagram myth breaker post. If you love your feelings of FOMO, then do not read any further.

Two years ago driving to Nice in the south of France, I saw signs for Aix-en-Provence and thought, I have to visit this town named after me! Two years later, here I am. It’s also near the home of my favorite store, L’Occitane (the full store name is L’Occitane en Provence).

The factory is here, the official company store and even a museum dedicated to the history of this company that so many women love!

Provence is such a beautiful region, full of flowers and herbs and some of the most picturesque towns you will find anywhere on earth. If you know where to drive, you will pass rolling lavender fields!

The best time to visit the lavender fields is from the last week in June to the first or second week of July. Harvest is a little earlier because of the heat.

Hundreds of people go to the fields every day to take their Instagram photos. Some go with organized day tours and others go on their own… but remember, this is private property. Even the organized day tour companies don’t get permission from the owners, although the guides make sure you don’t damage any of the lavender.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 1

A post shared by Aixa (@muchospanish) on

Instagram is full of photos like mine, rolling purple hills of lavender fields and women with a bunch of fresh-picked lavender in one hand. They buy these lavender bunches and bring them to the fields for the photo. I didn’t think that far ahead, though, and when I saw someone else get off the bus with hers, I knew I should have put more thought into this.

I walked into a row of lavender ready to be harvested, the bees buzzing all around me, and I started to pose, I saw a bunch of lavender that someone else left behind. Look at the color in the photo: it doesn’t even match! And there’s a rubber band around the stems.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 2

If I did try to pick this lavender, I would have gotten dozens of bee stings. The lavender at the point that it’s ready to be harvested, is full of bees. None of these women there in the fields is so infatuated with the beautiful flower in the moment the photo is being taken.

Other fields have blotches of yellowish wheat mixed in and this is to make the fields less attractive to Instagrammers, like this field below.

My photo below in this mixed field is interesting because of the snails climbing on the lavender. They come after it rains.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 3

There are two types: Lavender and lavandine. Lavender is lighter in color and has less of an aroma. Lavandine is a hybrid, has a much deeper purple color and a much stronger aroma. They serve different purposes but the point here is that those deep purple colors in your favorite Instagrammer’s photo are saturated with an app. Even lavendine isn’t hat deep a shade of purple.

So why do such a fake stunt?

Instagram has millions of photos like mine. I met a Brazilian woman named Mariani in the fields. She’s a doctor and was in Provence for a conference. She didn’t think of bringing a bunch of lavender either, so I lent her mine when I was done with my photos. We both love lavender and we’re part of the L’Occitane cult. We both wanted the chance to see some lavender fields and go home with some photos.

Photo licensed for free use

Anyway, the impressionist painters like Van Gogh and Cezanne thought the fields were worth paining.

Sightsmap.com Is An Invaluable Sightseeing Tool

Sightsmap.com looks like a thermal map, but the heat comes from the concentration of photos of an area. The thermal map is then overlaid on a Google map.

My examples, of course, are from NYC, the city I mostly write about. Sightmaps itself says it’s a sightseeing tool and has included several features to back this up.

Here are the features of Sightmaps.com

Here is what I like about Sightmaps.com

🙌 The “zoom” button lets you see the sight and the surround area and the “see more” button gives you a brief description.

Sightsmap has several buttons for sightseers (see the photo above).

🙌 Save a sight to have a list of places to visit!

🙌 Read a description of the sight with a Wikipedia button!

Here is what I don’t like about Sightmaps.com

😖 The only unfortunately part is that the website runs slow on my iPhone, iPad and Chromebook. Still, it gives me enough value to recommend it here. I will be using it for my next trip.

😮 The directions are given on the map, not in my GPS app…

I don’t understand how I ended up with this starting point…

😞 I’ve only had success with cities, not with less urban areas. I guess there aren’t enough photos to draw from…

😮 There’s no specialized app for the phone…

😕 I get the feeling that Sightsmap.com got off to a good start, and then they lost interest in it…

Sightsmap.com is a lot of fun to use, despite its limitations. Try it in a city of your choice! Let me know how you like it. How do you plan for a trip? Let me know in the comments…

Aixa’s Recommended Reading

Take Much Better Travel Photos With Your Smart Phone

NYC Streetcars Are Making A Comeback!

I never thought about streetcars in New York until I saw the old one in front of the upscale Fairway Market in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The streetcar with the old factory behind it was a lot of fun to look at and lead to my most popular Instagram post at the time.

A post shared by Aixa (@muchospanish) on When we got home, my husband Googled it and saw the streetcar had been bought by Bob Diamond, a New Yorker who dreamt of restoring the streetcar service in Red Hook. The city, once having backed his project, suddenly backed out and the project died.

I wouldn’t have thought about New York streetcars again, except my husband saw streetcar rails in an open area of pavement by one of his job sites on the Brooklyn-Queens border. The streetcar went into service in 1899. It was replaced by a bus line in 1949. The old streetcar routes are now bus lines.

New York History

Streetcar from the NYC Transit Museum
The NYC Transit Museum is a great place to learn more about the streetcar (see my link at the end of this post)

In 1832, New York was the first city in the world to have streetcars on rails. Horses pulled them down the streets. Now, New York is planning a project to restore a streetcar line, stretching along the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront.

Are Streetcars Better Than Buses?

To sum up a wonderful article from The Verge:

😮 Streetcars are half the speed of city buses

😱 The investment is much higher. This one will cost $2.5 billion USD…

😃 People like streetcars so they’re expected to be popular… just like the NYC Ferry I’m always writing about. The streetcars are expected to raise the real estate values of the areas they serve.

Don’t expect to see any on your next trip to New York. They won’t be in operation until 2024 so don’t expect to see them anytime soon. Still, you may run across some tracks or even long-abandoned streetcar stations.

Take #iconic NYC Photos eBook by Aixa