Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Media viral vortex: shelf life of a story

My work has been sucked into a media viral vortex.

When I met Lee Wachstetter aboard the Crystal Serenity in 2012 I was captivated with her story. She loves to dance, and since her husband died she's lived aboard the ship so she could dance every evening.

I met her through  Emery Lendvay, a Madison Township man who was an Ambassador Host for Crystal. He danced the evenings away with women like Mama Lee, the affectionate nickname given Wachstetter by the ship's staff  His courtly European manners and smooth  dancing style made him a favorite. So, of course, I also wrote about him.
Not long after those stories appeared, I got an email from Dave Ashley who played trombone with the ship's Galaxy Orchestra. He was home in Lexington, Kentucky on a break between sailings and had found my stories online. He asked if I had any photos of the orchestra. I told him I'd look, and later I blogged about how he found the earlier stories online.

Fast forward to January 2015. Someone else wrote about Mama Lee. I heard it was USA Today but things have moved so quickly since then I haven't been able to check.
Soon the story had gone viral. It was picked up by other newspapers and TV stations and everyone was looking for another angle. The ship was at sea so calling Mama Lee was not an option.

Sharp reporters searched with Google and found my earlier stories and soon I was being contacted by other news outlets. First it was London's Daily Mail and then it was a German television network, both asking to use my video. I gave permission as long as they  linked back to The News-Herald. Newspapers these days live by hits, It's something they can take to the bank in terms of ad revenue.
The Daily Mail, with its one million circulation, credited me, Janet Podolak but at the Miami Herald. I asked for a correction, which they made. And we got plenty of hits.

 I haven't yet seen what the German TV network is doing but now when I Google "Mama Lee" I find my story and its video have been put up on many other newspaper websites. But you can click on the words in contrasting print for the original stories in this saga.
Simply amazing!

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Seafood extravaganza a motorcoach tour's Lisbon treat

A rainy night in Lisbon found us in a great seafood spot in a working class neighborhood. 

I'd never been to Portugal but  knew the Atlantic defined its western coast and the country was one of Europe's wealthiest during the Age of Discovery.  Early in our Iberian adventure our Insight tour took us to a Lisbon monument marking the place where  Vasco de Gama and Magellan set out to explore the world. 

I was  looking forward to eating some great seafood, but concerned that  motorcoach tour dining would be less than stellar. It's got to be a challenge in planning such a trip to find restaurants to handle 28 people at one time. Food on my earlier motorcoach tours  usually ranged from adequate to  ordinary so I didn't have high expectations.  
Platters filled with seafood kept coming.

Extraordinary clams, unlike any I'd seen before,  were succulent and delicious.
Most meals on the Insight itinerary were included but several times  we were free to arrange our own dining. On our second  evening in Lisbon  I'd intended to go to a newly opened market boasting food stations staffed by a rotating group of local chefs. t sounded like a good story, but it was pouring rain. I didn't want to take a cab, and lacked confidence in negotiating the streetcar to the waterfront,.

 So when Insight president John Boulding asked us if we wanted to join him for seafood, I jumped at the chance. 
Several writers had other plans so our  group numbered about a dozen.,

John told us we'd be taking the ferry across the Tagus River to dine in a working class neighborhood far from the tourist haunts

Our coach took us to the ferry where we all got umbrellas and queued up to board the boat, which ran every few minutes.
We were urged to stay together and used tickets handed us by Toni, guide/conceirge extraordinaire.

Whole shrimp, with eyes still in place, required us to bite of the heads before consuming them.

The restaurant Marisqueira Val de Rio was just a half block from the ferry landing, but it was pouring by then. We raised our umbrellas and leaned into  the deluge to follow John to dinner, while Toni brought up the rear. Keeping travel writers on the straight and narrow is something like herding cats. We're curious types who are easily distracted. But the rain probably helped.

I'd hoped for octopus and got it

Once inside the restaurant we relinquished umbrellas and were shown to a trio of tables.
I eyed a blackboard menu promising octopus and planned to order it.  After orders for beer and wine were filled  platters filled with all kinds of seafood kept coming our way . It  proved to be an extravaganza of clams, crab, lobster and other shellfish and crustaceans and included the octopus I'd eyed.  

The place was not fancy but the food was extraordinary. My concerns about  dining quality were quickly put to rest. 

Toothsome crab claws had a side of bread stuffing on the plate.

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