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Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #5 – ‘Bilbao, Spain: The City of Guggenheim’

Bilbao, Spain skyline

Bilbao, Spain skyline

On June 15th, 1300, Don Diego Lopez de Haro V, Lord of Biscay, founded the Basque city of Bilbao. Seven hundred and fourteen years later, Bilbao encompasses almost 1 million inhabitants, nearly half the total population of the Basque Country and the fourth-largest urban population in Spain.

La Salve Bridge with spider sculpture “Maman” (1999) by Louise Bourgeois, next to the Guggenheim Museum

La Salve Bridge with spider sculpture “Maman” (1999) by Louise Bourgeois, outside the Guggenheim Museum

The main reason I had been dreaming to visit Bilbao, was to finally set eyes on the magnificent Guggenheim Museum designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Thanks to the ship’s itinerary, my wish came true. As we drove toward the shimmering vision of 30,000 sheets of titanium, suddenly there before us was the towering 257,000 square foot monumental masterpiece, built in the shape of a ship. The museum opened in October 1997 and overnight, became Bilbao’s main attraction worldwide. The enormous atrium, more than 150-feet high, is connected to the 19 galleries by a system of suspended metal walkways and glass elevators. The museum’s collection has featured the works of some of the most influential artists of the last century, including Pablo Picasso, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollack, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Richard Serra.

Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #4 – ‘Le Verdon & Bordeaux: The City of Wine and Guillotines’

Plantation-style architecture on winery grounds - Le Verdon, France

Plantation-style home on winery grounds – Le Verdon, France

On a unseasonably sunny October day, we visited the Chateau Marquis de Terme vineyards and their winery, housed in ‘plantation’ architecture. We also toured their cellars and sampled some of their best wines. Following our ‘tasting of the vines,’ we headed from Le Verdon to Bordeaux, which is a UNESCO world heritage city. I soon discovered why…

Karen outside the Chateau Marquis de Terme vineyards

Karen outside the Chateau Marquis de Terme vineyards after a glass (or two) of their best wine

Victor Hugo described Bordeaux as, “Versailles plus Antwerp.” Conservative and refined, Bordeaux is an outstanding example of innovative classical and neoclassical architecture, and a melting pot of culture. The city is the world’s major wine industry capital. Bordeaux wine has been produced in the region since the 8th century, with an annual production of approximately 960 million bottles – some of which, are the most expensive in the world… as an example, the Mouton-Rothschild wines.

The seven-metre-high work, entitled "Sanna," (Jaume Plensa, 2013), depicts a woman’s head.

The seven-metre-high work, entitled “Sanna,” (Jaume Plensa, 2013), depicts a woman’s head.

Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #3 – ‘Lorient and Point-Aven, France: The Little City the Nazi’s tried to destroy’

Karen by stone house in Point-Aven

Karen by stone house in Point-Aven

Lorient is located south of Brittany on the Atlantic Ocean. It is a major fishing port that was established by the French East India Company in 1664, chartered by King Louie XIV. Lorient was a former base of the French Navy but then was taken over by the Germans in World War II and became a German U-boat base (Keroman Submarine Base). The base was capable of sheltering 30 submarines undercover. Although allied bombing raids heavily damaged Lorient, the naval base survived through to the end of the war. The Germans held the city until May 1945, refusing to surrender to the American army that surrounded them. Since the allies could not destroy the base and its submarine pens, they decided to flatten the city and the Port of Lorient, in order to cut the supply lines of the U-boat bases. Over 60,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on Lorient. The city was almost completely destroyed.

Where Paul Gauguin painted in Point-Aven

Where Paul Gauguin painted in Point-Aven

Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #2 – ‘St. Malo, Brittany: The Walled City of Pirates’

Traditional garden of a "Malouinière," Montmarin, France.

Traditional garden of a “Malouinière,” Montmarin, France.

St. Malo, France is an ancient walled city situated on the North Coast of the Province of Brittany. It is now a busy fishing port and seaside resort, with a long and proud history of nautical explorers, traders and pirates. The city sustained damage during World War II by the Germans but has since been restored. It was named for the 6th century monk who converted the locals to Christianity. It was also an important port in the voyages of discovery. Cartier sailed from there to Canada in 1534. Soon after, St. Malo began to flourish as a trading port.

Old walled city of Saint-Malo

Old walled city of Saint-Malo

From the ramparts of St. Malo, one can peer down over the beautiful town, built in solid-gray granite with uniform black slate roofs. The city became notorious as the home of ruthless French privateers and pirates, terrorizing all on the high seas. Even the French King had a certain grudging respect for them, and often helped fill their coffers with booty.

Le Petit Bé: fort Vauban à Saint-Malo

Le Petit Bé: fort Vauban à Saint-Malo

Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #1 – ‘Amsterdam: City of Bicycles, Beautiful Girls and Anything Goes’


Karen touring one of Amsterdam’s 88 canals.

The very first thing I noted, driving into Amsterdam, was a massive sea of bicycles, scooters and motorbikes. I actually saw a man, peddling away on his bike, reading his phone. I saw yet another man on his bike, riding next to a young woman on her bike, with his arm around her. There were children on bikes, senior citizens on bikes, girls, their blonde hair waving behind them, on bikes. In fact, bikes are so popular, there is a three-story garage filled to the brim with them, where one can park one’s bike – much like we do in America, except our garages are filled with automobiles. I was told the reason why everyone has as a bike, is because to park your car at a meter in Amsterdam, can cost over $30 Euros an hour ($37 USD)


The many bicycles of Amsterdam.

I visited the magnificent Rijksmuseum. We got there late, unfortunately, so the tour guide flew me around the rooms. As a result, I only had a nibble of what is housed in that brilliant museum. The Rembrandts, in particular, The Night Watch, is a towering, gigantic painting. It is so powerful, that one wonders how Rembrandt was able to capture in paint, the souls of his subjects.

Q&A with Karen & LLC Book Club & Northpark Book Club, Louisiana

Q&A with Karen & LLC Book Club U and Northpark Book Club, Louisiana

1) Would you rather be noted/remembered as an author or actress?

In this day of multi-hyphenates, I guess one is allowed to be all things that give one pleasure… So, to answer your question, I would love to be remembered as a free-spirited actress/author/teacher/adventurer/world traveler!

2) What are some, of your personal favorite books?

Reading is one of my great passions and always has been, since my grandmother sat me on her lap in her rocking chair, reading to me Heidi and The Wizard of Oz.

I adore poetry… a few of my favorite poets being: T.S. Elliott, E.E. Cummings, Mary Oliver, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson and the magnificent Rumi.

My favorite playwright is and always will be Tennessee Williams.

I am addicted to non-fiction, particularly about the writing process – such as Stephen King’s On Writing, and Steven Pressfield’s, The War Of Art. I also have a great love for biographies and autobiographies.

As for fiction, I would have to write a very long list of titles… a few authors from that list being: John Steinbeck, Larry McMurtry, Isabelle Allende, Isak Dinesen, Harper Lee, Maya Angelou, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Q&A w/ Karen & The Pelican Pointe Women’s Association Wednesday Night Book Club – Venice, FL

The Pelican Pointe Womens Association Wednesday Night Book Club - Venice, FL

The Pelican Pointe Womens Association Wednesday Night Book Club – Venice, FL

The Pelican Pointe Women’s Association Wednesday Night Book Club sent me Q&A questions for their book club discussion. I enjoyed the questions and answering so much that I thought to share on my blog:

1) From Marsha: How was Kondazian introduced to Charley? Did all the events really happen or did you embellish them for the story?

Hi Marsha, when I was a young woman I used to read Cosmopolitan magazine 🙂 and in one issue there was actually a great article on Wild Woman of the Old West. One of the characters they wrote about was Charley Parkhurst. The idea of a woman living her life as a man, with all of those macho stagecoach drivers she hung out with, fascinated me. I wondered how in the world did she carry off her disguise for twenty years and was not discovered? I couldn’t imagine being so isolated from people to keep such a secret. As the years went by, I used to think about Charley and thought what a wonderful book it might make.

Accessing Your Emotions For Writing Through Acting Excercises

Accessing Your Emotions For Writing Through Acting Exercises.

Work for the actor lies in two areas: the ability to consistently create reality and the ability to express that reality.
– Lee Strasberg.

I’ve been acting since I was eight years old.

Believe it or not, I was one of the obnoxious children on the Art Linkletter show. On the show I announced that I was switching professions from a CIA Agent to an Actress— primarily because I could skip school, and all the nice people on set gave me all the free grilled cheese sandwiches and orange sherbet I so desired. Thank God my reasons for acting grew in scope as I got older. Then, fortunately, one day I was chosen to be a member of The Actor’s Studio and trained with the great Lee Strasberg.

When I finally began writing my first book, “The Whip”—inspired by the true story of the famous Wells Fargo stagecoach driver, Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst (1812-1879)—I realized that I was subconsciously using many of the acting techniques I had learned through my years as an actress. It seemed to work for me, so I always suggest to writers to explore an introductory acting class. I believe the exercises one learns as an actor are incredibly helpful to a writer.

“The Whip” wins the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award for Best Western

“The Whip” wins the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award for Best Western Click to read the announcement

The Whip wins USA Book News Best Historical Fiction Award


For Immediate Release
November 2012


Mainstream & Independent Titles Score Top Honors in the 
9th Annual USA Best Book Awards

St. Martin’s Press, Harper Collins, Crown, John Wiley & Sons, Hyperion, McGraw-Hill, Sterling, Llewellyn Worldwide, Tyndale House, Thomas Nelson, Sounds True, Chicago Review Press, NASA, American Cancer Society, and hundreds of Independent Houses contribute to this year’s Outstanding Competition!

LOS ANGELES – USABookNews.com, the premier online magazine and review website for mainstream and independent publishing houses, announced the winners and finalists of THE 2012 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS on November 16, 2012. Over 400 winners and finalists were announced in over 100 categories covering print, e-books and audio books. Awards were presented for titles published in 2011 and 2012.

Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of USA Book News, said this year’s contest yielded over 1500 entries from mainstream and independent publishers, which were then narrowed down to over 400 winners and finalists.

Award highlights include the following (Full results listing available on USABooknews.com):

  • Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan with Bret Witter (Hyperion) was honored in the “Autobiography/Memoirs” category
  • The Whip by Karen Kondazian (Hansen Publishing Group) won “Best Historical Fiction”