A Travellerspoint blog

Historical San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Researching book scenes in a splendid colonial town

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Mexico (May 21-24, 2010) -- I arrived in the central Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende, partly to research scenes for an upcoming thriller. San Miguel de Allende was founded in 1542 by the Franciscan friar Juan de San Miguel and remains one of the most well preserved examples of Mexico’s colonial past. In its prime centuries ago, the town was an important stopover on the Antiguo Camino Real, part of the silver route from Zacatecas. And it has a unique local vibe, different from other towns in the region, while it also hosts a growing U.S./Canadian expat community that creates its own community dynamic. And the well preserved historic center of town, with its splendid colonial architecture, offers many interesting venues to blend into a novel.

Photo above: Walking along the old cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende.

The two most impressive sites in town are La Parroquia (the Parish Church) and the Templo de San Rafael. Another important site is El Jardin, the main town square facing the church. In 2008, San Miguel was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, adding to its already well known historical significance.

Photo above: The main parish church, La Parroquia, in the center of town, across from the main square commonly known as El Jardin.



San Miguel de Allende is also one of the key sites in the Mexican Independence movement that began in 1810. In particular, it is the birthday of Ignacio de Allende, a captain in the Spanish colonial army who became one of the founders of the revolution. He fought along with Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in the first stages of the struggle, eventually succeeding him in leadership of the rebellion. Following an ambush by Spanish authorities at the Wells of Baján (Norias de Baján) Allende, Hidalgo, and several other commanders were captured. Allende was tried and then executed by firing squad on June 26, 1811, before his dream of independence became reality. Today, the house where he was born, located at the Plaza Mayor, is a museum.


In addition to looking at the historical sites around town, I attended a bullfight in the Plaza del Toros Oriente. This was my first time witnessing this brutal entertainment.


---- Travel Essentials Summary (and ratings) ----
Hotels: Quinta Recreo*** (7)
Restaurants: Mama Mia (7); Restaurant del Jardin (5); Cafe Iberico (8); Restaurant in Hotel El Mesón (9);
Bars/Night Clubs: Mama Mia (8)

All photos and text Copyright © 2010 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 22:23 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Researching New Orleans for a Sequel Thriller

Finding remote, off-the-beaten-path places of interest for book scenes

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, USA (Mar. 19-22, 2010) -- I arrived in New Orleans this weekend in part to research scenes for the sequel to his latest thriller, Tranquility Denied. Frieden concentrated his time on sites in the north end of the French Quarter, as well as on the city’s north side and in the central business district. The thriller series’ protagonist is a New Orleans maritime lawyer named Jonathan Brooks, who in the first novel become entangled in a deadly web of Cold War espionage. “The sequel follows the same genre, with several early chapters that take place in New Orleans,” said Frieden. “But like in the first novel in the series, Brooks then gets involved in a globetrotting adventure that takes his to Panama, Vietnam and other interesting places.



Now I'm no stranger to New Orleans. I have always found this city truly fascinating, not only during my three years
in law school here, but every time that I have since returned. And as I spend time here researching for
my next book, I am hit by so many amazingly enriching memories of my time in this city. Living in New Orleans at the time was a life-altering experience and it brings me much happiness to keep this place in my Jonathan Brooks thriller series.




---- Travel Essentials Summary (and ratings) ----
Hotels: Intercontinental New Orleans***** (9)
Restaurants: Brennan's (9) and others in the French Quarter
Bars/Night Clubs: Lafite's Piano Bar (8) and several other bars.

All photos and text Copyright © 2010 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 18:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Literary Research in Uruguay and Brazil

View Uruguay-Brazil 2009-2010 on AC Frieden's travel map.

PUNTA DEL DIABLO, Uruguay, and CHUI, Brazil (Jan. 3, 2010) -- details coming soon...









---- Travel Essentials Summary (and ratings) ----
Hotels: La Viuda del Diablo (8.5)
Restaurants: La Huella (in Jose Ignacio)(9); SushiClub (in La Barra)(7.5); Restaurant in the Serena Hotel (9)
Bars/Night Clubs: Bar in the La Posta del Congrejo (in La Barra)(8.5);

All photos and text Copyright © 2009-2010 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 18:55 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Searching for Crime Scenes in Amsterdam

View Netherlands 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (Oct. XX-XX, 2009) -- details coming soon...










---- Travel Essentials Summary (and ratings) ----
Hotels: Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Hotel***** (8)
Restaurants: Gauchos Grill (9); Alberto's Uruguayan Steakhouse (9); Restaurant in Hilton Schiphol Hotel (8)
Bars/Night Clubs: The Grasshopper (8); St James's Gate Irish Pub (7); Palladium (8) and several others

All photos and text Copyright © 2009 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 18:54 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Exploring North Korea

Research trip to better understand this mysterious nation

View North Korea 2009 & China 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (Sept. 8-13, 2009) -- The capital of North Korea is a short flight from Beijing but soon after landing you can't help but feel like you're on a different planet. As a private pilot, I immediately appreciated the vintage Tupolev 154 aircraft waiting at Beijing airport's terminal 2. Yes, an old Russian-made plane with none of the amenities of today's Boeing and Airbus aircraft. But it was a fitting introduction to my six-day tour of one of the most isolated nations on earth.

Here are a few photos, but many more details will follow. Check back soon!


Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea, located on the Taedong River, with over 3 million inhabitants. The city was split from the South P'yŏngan province in 1946. It is administered as a directly-governed city. The capital has been completely redesigned since the Korean War (1950–1953), where most of the city was destroyed by aerial bombing. It has very wide avenues, imposing monuments, and monolithic buildings but very little traffic and almost no Western-style commercial activity. The tallest structure in the city is the uncompleted 330-meter (1,083 ft) Ryugyŏng Hotel. This hotel has 105 floors, and was planned to be topped by several revolving restaurants. After many delays, construction has again picked up this year for a tentative completion in 2012.

Above: Pyongyang airport is a very basic facility, and two weeks it ago hosted former U.S. President Clinton and his delegation who'd arrived to facilitate the release of two American journalists.

Above: The skyline of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

Some notable landmarks in Pyongyang include the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, the Arch of Triumph (heavily inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris but of a larger size), the reputed birthplace of Kim Il-sung at Mangyongdae Hill, Juche Tower, Pyongyang TV Tower, and two of the world's largest stadiums (Kim Il Sung Stadium and Rungrado May Day Stadium), and the Arch of Reunification over the multi-laned Reunification Highway that stretches from Pyongyang to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Above: The building of the DPRK People's Party in the center of Pyongyang.

Above: The Kumsusan Memorial Palace, sometimes referred to as the Kim Il-sung mausoleum, where the body of the nation's founder lies in state since his death in 1994 (North Korea is among four nations who have embalmed the corpses of their founding leaders. The others are Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh).

Above: The Yanggakdo International Hotel where I stayed on the 36th floor, with great views of the city.

Above: Pyongyang by night (seen from my hotel room).

Above: A North Korean Air Force MiG-17 fighter-bomber from the Korean War (1950-53) at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang.

Above: A military guide points to a huge patriotic mural in the lobby of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

Above: U.S. Army tanks, along with destroyed or captured aircraft and weapons, left over from the Korean War are also on display at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.

Above and below: I attended the Mass Games in the Rungnado May Day Stadium, built as a multipurpose facility in 1989. The Mass Games are seasonal performances by thousands of trained participants that combine performing arts, gymnastics, choreography with strong patriotic and native cultural themes. I found interesting the performance by mini-skirted military women with swords and knee-high army boots.


Above: The USS Pueblo is on display in Pyongyangs. The vessel a Banner-class technical research ship (U.S. Navy intelligence) which was boarded and captured by the DPRK military on January 23, 1968. Evidence appears to favor the DPRK account that the ship was operating intermittently in its territorial waters, although the U.S. has retracted its apology and written admission, which were made in order to facilitate the release of the crew. The North Korean government released the 82 remaining crew members after eleven months in captivity. For more information on the USS Pueblo incident, click here.

Above: A DPRK sailor guards the dock where the USS Pueblo is anchored.

Above: Heading south of Pyongyang is the Arch of Reunification which spans over the Reunification Highway. Only cars (and there are very few in the country) are allowed to pass under the arch, while trucks pass around it. The Reunification Highway has about four military checkpoints along the way, and at three locations the roadway can serve as a reserve military airstrip (each about a 2000 meter stretch).

Above: The deserted highways of North Korea (you'll never get run over!) heading south toward Kaesong.

Kaesong, Panmunjom and the Demilitarized Zone

Kaesŏng is a city in North Hwanghae Province, southern North Korea (DPRK), and the capital of Korea during the Koryo Dynasty. The city is near Kaesŏng Industrial Region and it contains the remains of the Manwoldae palace. It was formally named Songdo while it was the ancient capital of Koryo and is home to the Koryo Museum on the grounds of the ancient university. The city prospered as a trade center and is known for producing Korean ginseng. The city is close to the Demilitarized Zone that divides North and South Korea. When Korea was partitioned at the 38th parallel after World War Two, Kaesong was on the southern side of the line (within the Republic of Korea), but this changed after the armistice at the end of the Korean War, thus making Kaesong part of North Korea.

Above: End of a workday in downtown Kaesong, North Korea.

Above: The Koryo Museum in Kaesong.

Above: Near Kaesong are tombs from an ancient dynasty.

Above: barbed wire, electrical fences and mines help separate the border near the Demilitarized Zone.

Above: Visiting Panmunjom in the DMZ in the company of a Lieutenant Colonel of the Korean People's Army. The buildings in the background are South Korean/U.S. observation posts across the border.

Above and two pics below: North Korean soldiers guarding their side of the border zone at Panmunjom (notice in pictures below -- the U.S. serviceman taking pictures of me and my group near the glass doors in the background).



---- Travel Essentials Summary (and ratings) ----
Hotels: Yonggakdo International Hotel**** (7); Kaesong Traditional Hotel*** (6)
Restaurants: several restaurants outside hotel (names unknown)
Bars/Night Clubs: only in the hotels

All photos and text Copyright © 2009 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 12:54 Archived in North Korea Comments (0)

Beijing: A City on the Rise

Researching scenes and historical information in Beijing for an upcoming novel

View North Korea 2009 & China 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

BEIJING, China (Sept. 4-8, 12-13) --

more information soon, so here are a few photos for starters...














Above: Seen after midnight from my 48th floor room at the Park Hyatt are two DongFeng 31A intercontinental ballistic missile TELs (ICBM transporter-erector-launchers) seen rehearsing in preparation for the October 1, 2009 military parade. The national day display will be the largest of its kind in China's history and will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the communist revolution. The DF-31A is a road-mobile, three-stage, solid-propellant ICBM capable of reaching most of the planet except South America and parts of the South Pacific and Antarctica. The missile also contains a new generation of penetration aids, including decoys and active electronic countermeasures and contains enhanced plume supression technology.

more pictures and information soon...

Posted by AC Frieden 15:37 Archived in China Comments (0)