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    Oceania Travel

    The Great Barrier Reef Australia

    Just Keep Swimming

    Location: The Great Barrier Reef Australia

    “Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills… When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming.” – Dory the Fish from Disney’s Finding Nemo

    The Great Barriee Reef

    Nemo

    Finding Nemo is one of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies, and this past week I have had endless Finding Nemo moments and quotes running through my head.  Being

    in Australia and finally snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, my thoughts have wandered to the

    The Great Barriee Reef

    Reef and fish

    adventures of that movie and I have smiled to myself underwater and thought “Just keep swimming.”

    Although going out on a snorkel trip on The Great Barrier Reef took us way over our Grand Adventure daily budget (actually everything in Australia is

    The Great Barrier Reef

    Birdseye view

    taking us over budget), we could not come here to beautiful Cairns and not see the reef.  It’s another one of those “I don’t have a bucket list” bucket list items.  I love snorkeling and I wanted to have that once in a lifetime opportunity.

    The weather on the day we went wasn’t great – grey and overcast and we even saw some rain.  I am in constant worry about my motion sickness

    The Great Barriee Reef

    Colorful

    problem, so I stood outside and watched the horizon the entire hour and half boat trip out to the reef, even when the rain started to come down.  Hey I was gonna get wet anyway right?  Luckily, thanks to massive amounts of drugs, my sea sickness problem did not materialize while on the boat.  That was a good sign!

    “You got a problem, buddy? Huh? Huh? Do ya, do ya, do ya?” Dory

    We booked our reef tour with Reef Magic out of

    The Great Barrier Reef

    Marine World of Reef Magic

    Cairns which took us to the outer reef and a pontoon platform stationed there called Marine World.  We disembarked the boat to the pontoon and here we were outfitted with our snorkels, fins, masks and Lycra “stinger” suits to protect us from

    Great Barriee Reef

    Jellyfish

    jellyfish.

    “I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy.” Dory

    Reef Magic offers many options from the pontoon, all at an additional charge including snorkel safari, snuba, scuba, glass bottom boat, semi-submersible boat and helicopter rides.  But since

    Great Barriee Reef

    That’s us!

    we had already exceeded our budget (for two of us we paid $426 Australian about $330 US), we were just interested in snorkeling.  We were dressed and ready to go pretty quickly and one of the first people in the water.

    Great Barrier Reef

    Us with Wally

    We immediately encountered “Wally”, one of the biggest fish on the reef.  Luckily Reef Magic’s professional photographer was on hand as we entered the water and she got some amazing shots of us with Wally.  All the photos in this blog are from Reef Magic’s professional photographer.  Since we don’t have an underwater camera we have never gotten underwater photos on any of our snorkel trips on the Grand Adventure.  So, despite the fact my husband almost wet his pants when I told him the price, we bit the bullet and bought the photos for an additional $75 (about

    Great Barrier Reef

    Hey Wally

    $60 US).

    “Ahh you guys made me ink.” Pearl

    Wally is a resident fish of this part of the reef.  He is an amazing species called Maori Wrasse.  This fish is a female for the first eight years of its life.  And then poof.  It’s a male.  I know – what the heck?  Isn’t that nuts?  Some times I think Mother Nature is menopausal!

    Great Barrier Reef

    Coral

    After our encounter with Wally we began to explore the reef.  Marine World has a cordoned off section of the reef for its guests to enjoy.  Within this area there was a huge variety of corals; big, small, blue, green, orange, white.  Some are soft and rounded, others spikey and dangerous looking.  In all the

    Great Barriee Reef

    Coral

    snorkeling I have done, I had never seen coral that waved in the current like it did here.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.  Most of the coral we see in our lives is dead.  And while its pretty even when it is dead and dry, the beauty of live coral is spectacular.  Yes this is an incredible living

    Great Barriee Reef

    Coral

    creature and we surely must protect it.

    “Righteous! Righteous! ” Crush

    So I loved the corals and kept going back for more of that but of course there were the fish. Many, many fish.  I don’t know all their names, but they really are beautiful to watch.  Some of the fish are very solitary, just going along and doing their

    Great Barrier Reef

    Fish!

    business, feeding and swimming and doing what fish do.  Other fish keep in groups, large schools that move together almost as one, weaving above and around the coral mountains.  There are some fish that are so tiny you don’t even see them until you are swimming right through them, while others

    Great Barrier Reef

    Giant Clam

    are so big that they freak you out a bit.  Many fish are shy and you need to look inside the coral to find them.  There are also beautiful giant clams, sea slugs, squid, eels and rays.  And no we did not see any sharks.

    Great Barrier Reef

    Ray

    From this moment on, you shall now be known as Sharkbait.” Gill

    We swam to the outer edge of the roped off area and we were alone in this section just as a beautiful turtle swam by on the surface.  We

    Great Barrier Reef

    Turtle

    almost missed him because we were looking down and he was swimming right next to us on the surface.  But then he dived and we watched him swim to the bottom looking for a snack.  I believe this was a loggerhead turtle.  We had seen this kind in Sri Lanka. Beautiful brown bodies and not too large.  We watched him swim away beyond the area we were confined to and into the great wide ocean.

    “Saw the whole thing, dude. First you were all like “whoa”, and we were like “whoa”, and you were like “whoa…” Crush

    After about an hour we went back to the pontoon to have a rest.  Reef Magic served a buffet lunch

    Great Barrier Reef

    Pontoon

    that included salads and fruit, bread, chicken, sushi, lasagna, curry and roast beef.  But I only ate a little cause I continued to worry about my motion sickness.  Arne ate my share.  It all looked good.  Great Barrier ReefCoffee, tea and water was also available and a bar on the boat was open when we weren’t underway.  Clearly they have had motion sensitive passengers before and they were well stocked with ginger beer (like ginger ale, non-alcoholic). My beverage of choice.

    “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine.” Bruce the Great White Shark

    The Great Barriee Reef

    Fish in all sizes

    We headed back out to snorkel more after lunch.  The water seemed a bit calmer but it was also more cloudy so not as easy to see – but that was okay.  We tried to swim to all the areas and to the far-reaching parts of the swimming area.  We noticed most snorkelers stayed very close to the boat.  Understandably if you are an inexperienced snorkeler or not comfortable in the water.  Reef Magic had life jackets as well as float noodles and other devices for anyone looking for a little more reassurance.

    Great Barrier Reef

    Some are shy

    We snorkeled for about 30 minutes and then decided to call it a day.  We went back on the pontoon and stretched out on a lounge chair for the next hour and a half.  Surprisingly, despite the overcast sky, it was warm and we both got a bit of a sunburn.

    Great Barrier Reef

    My Fab Fifties Life!

    Finally it was time to turn in our gear and make our way off the pontoon and back to the vessel for the hour and half ride back.  Once again I stood and watched the horizon the entire way, including during a deluge about half way home.

    But I did it.  I did not get sick.  I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef.  I can check that off the “I don’t have a bucket list”

    Great Barrier Reef

    Dory

    bucket list.  And remembered to just keep swimming.

    “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.” Dory

    Thanks goes to the wonderful photography of Reef Magic!

    Read more of our Australia adventure here

     

     

    This post includes affiliate links and I may receive a commission if you buy any of these products.  Any money earned goes to help support the cost of the blog.

     

    Oceania Travel

    Exmouth Western Australia

    Ten Reasons I Fell For It

    Location: Exmouth Western Australia

    Australia is huge.  So. Darn. Huge.  Unfortunately, we get a skewed image of our world, by the skewed world maps we use.  But the reality is, Australia is the same size as the lower 48 of the USA.  Even here in little ole Exmouth Western

    Exmouth Western Australia

    Same size

    Australia it’s easy to feel how vast this country is.  Wide open.

    Australia has a population of 25 million living in a country the same size as the USA.  The USA has a population of 325 million.  So it’s easy to understand how big and empty it feels.

    They call Western Australia WA and if you compare it to the state of Washington – also called WA – you will get a good feel for how big this place is.

    Exmouth Western Australia

    Little WA and big WA

    You could put at least a dozen Washington WAs into Western Australia WA.

    Sometimes we meet people who tell us they have traveled to the USA.  We ask where they have been and they say- New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Fransisco.  Sometimes it is also Grand Canyon and Orlando.  Although I love all of these places, I always feel these people have not seen the real USA – that big open prairie, the purple mountains majesty, the crashing Pacific and the Great Lakes.

    Here in Exmouth Western Australia I realize I find

    Exmouth Western Australia

    Sunset Exmouth

    myself guilty of the same.  We will be heading to Ayers Rock next, then the Great Barrier Reef and on to Sydney.  Seeing all the top sites but

    Exmouth Western Australia

    Beautiful water

    are we seeing the real Australia?

    So this is one of the reasons I am so thankful Arne said we needed to come here, and specifically to come to Western Australia where few tourists go.  I love this town and this coast and I want to encourage others to love it too.  So, here are the ten reasons I have fallen in love with Exmouth Western

    Exmouth Western Australia

    Sandy beaches

    Australia.

    1.  The Coast – the West coast of Western Australia is diverse, even here in this tiny part we have enjoyed.  The amazing Ningaloo Reef is beautiful and the water is turquoise and the sand is white. It’s pretty close to perfect.  From the town of Exmouth Western Australia you’re at the beach in
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Amazing sea life

      minutes.

    2. The Marine Park – all along the coast here the marine park draws those who love the ocean.  So much to love here as a diver or snorkeler or fisherman.  Some of the world’s most amazing creatures call this coast home at
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Ant hill

      some time during the year, including the largest fish in the world, the Whale Shark, the Humbpack Whale, Orca Whale, Manta Rays and many other kinds of rays, sharks of every kind and so many, many fish.

    3. Turtles – in addition to all the above mentioned sealife the Coast Range National Park is home to one of the largest turtle
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Amazing

      nesting sites in the world.  You can swim with the turtles by day, and at sunset or sunrise and sometimes other times you can watch the female turtles nest.  They haul themselves out of the water and up to a safe spot in the dunes where they dig a nest and lay their eggs.  They then go back to the ocean and leave their progeny to fend for themselves.  Approximately 50 days later the eggs hatch en masse.  If you are lucky you can witness the little babes scurry to the ocean, drawn by an inner compass telling them where to go.  Incredible.

    4. Wildlife – it’s more than just remarkable sea life around Exmouth Western Australia.  Don’t be surprised if you see an Emu walking down the sidewalk or through the little village.
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Emu

      Kangaroos?  Definitely.  There are three kinds of kangaroos in the area, the smaller Euro, the larger red and the grey.  We’ve seen them all.  We also saw two dingos – similar to

      Exmouth Western Australia

      Kangaroo

      coyotes, they are nocturnal and hard to spot.  We have seen a lot of lizards, including the Perentie, and a plethora of birds big and small.

    5. Hiking – the Coast Range National Park runs
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Perentie

      for about 70km along the coast and provides several opportunities to get out of your car and see the rocky range and canyons dotted through the park.  The favorite is the Yardie Creek at the end of the road.  Surprising to see this

      Exmouth Western Australia

      Yardie Creek

      beautiful creek coming out of the dry and arid mountains.  We also enjoyed visit the Charles Knife and Shothole Canyons for spectacular views as far as the eye can see.  Caution is important in these wild, hot and

      Exmouth Western Australia

      Shothole Canyon

      dry areas and you must carry plenty of water.  A fly net for your face is also extremely important, as the flies are a real nuisance otherwise.

    6. The Village of Exmouth – tiny Exmouth Western Australia is home to about 2000 people.  We visited in the late summer, after the kids had gone back to school.  Few tourists are here at this time of year, although during the Australian summer months
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Using our fly nets

      (November – February) the population swells with many Australians and other visitors from around the world.  We liked how quiet it was.  Exmouth Western Australia has a nice grocery store, a handful of restaurants, a pharmacy, a hair and nail salon and a few

      Exmouth Western Australia

      New Ningaloo Center

      other shops.  The town also has a very nice brand new “center” that includes a visitor information center, senior center, library, and meeting rooms.

    7. Craft Beer – for a small town we were very happy to find not one, but TWO craft
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Froth Craft

      breweries.  Froth Craft and Whalebone both had excellent locally made brews and food.  We spent one Saturday evening at Whalebone listening to the band our Airbnb host is in.  So fun!  Our server at Whalebone

      Exmouth Western Australia

      Whalebone

      that night was the same woman who was our server for lunch at the local Vegan Social Society a few days before.  It’s a very small town.

    8. Speaking of Airbnb – The one we stayed in here in Exmouth Western Australia is number 39 and it has shot to the top of our list, one
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Social Society

      of our favorite Airbnb’s so far.  A guest house next to the hosts home, we felt so comfortable here in our space and really enjoyed the lovely family.  This family is very entrenched in their community with their two darling daughters and the husband’s local

      Exmouth Western Australia

      We loved our Airbnb

      construction business.  We were very impressed when he went off as a volunteer firefighter to try to put out a big wildfire we had watched out in the distance for several days.

    9. The weather – it is a wee bit hotter than I would like, but “it’s a dry heat”!  We are out in it everyday and we have adjusted.  I’m thrilled  to get away from the humidity for a while and so is my hair!  In  fact, I have realized that
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Sunrise run in our neighborhood

      some of my aches and pains I endure are likely due to high humidity.  Here I have felt great, very little pain in my normal hip and sciatic area and I have been running again everyday!  Feels so good to be back at it, especially with the handy, flat trail right next to our airbnb.

    10. English – it’s really nice to find ourselves back in an English-speaking country.  We get a
      Exmouth Western Australia

      Farewell Exmouth!

      kick out of trying to communicate as we go around the world, but it also is tiring and sometimes problematic.  So here we are speaking English, a somewhat different, but easy to grasp version, and we are very happy.

    So, there you go.  Ten reasons I fell for Exmouth Western Australia.  I even looked at real estate listings.  It’s a sweet town – you should come and see!

     

    Inspire

    Travel is Not Always Glamorous – Despite What Instagram Says

    Memorable Moments of My Fab Fifties Life

    Location: Costa Rica

    Let’s just say it.  Sometimes a life of full-time travel or even a short vacation, can just plain suck.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Clinic in Namibia

    Despite what everyone tries to make you believe through social media – travel, like everything else in life, can and will involve many less-than-glamorous moments.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Bad hair day in Denmark

    You will puke.  You will have diarrhea.  You will be exhausted.  You will snore and or drool on an airplane.  You will fall off your paddle board and lose your swim top.  You will have horrendous humidity hair. You will not shave your legs for weeks at a time. You will sweat. You will cough so hard you pee.  You will fall

    Humidity hair in Costa Rica

    on your face even though you are sober. You will get caught in a downpour in your only nice shoes. You will get sunburned. You will get a thousand bug bites. You will lose your luggage. You will inevitably need to see a pharmacist, doctor or dentist in a foreign country.

    Travel is not always glamorous despite what Instagram says.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Not figure flattering in Chile

    Travel is real.  And though it is, for the most part, a wonderful and fun adventure, it is not always perfect.

    Take yesterday for example. After a year and a half of babying along a bad tooth, I spent six hours in a dentist chair in Costa Rica.  They cleaned me, extracted the bad tooth, did a bone graft and gave me an implant.  It was a  long and painful way to spend Valentines Day.  But it was necessary.  And much cheaper than doing it in the USA.

    Not too glamorous as I sat there with the dentist prodding and poking

    Best and Worst airports

    Motion sickness in Seychelles

    and prying me all day long.  I did walk away with some good pain meds.  I’m putting those to good use right now.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Cold and wet in Spain

    No, travel is not always glamorous, despite what Instagram says.  I’ve written blogs before about how frustrating I find so-called “influencers” on Instagram who make it look like travel is perfect every day.  Who make every destination look like a magazine cover.    Who are young, thin and glamorous in every shot. It is not reality. It is not authentic.  It is all fake news.

    I am not now, nor will I ever be “thin”.  I am, shall we say, endowed.  But I am not

    Walk On

    Covered with flies in Australia

    ashamed.  This is me, real in the flesh, not a made up version for Instagram.  Glamorous? No.  And I sure didn’t feel glamorous in the dentist chair, or when I was sick in the bathroom, or covered with sweat, or drenched from the rain, or laying on the

    Not so glamorous swimsuit shot in Costa Rica

    sidewalk wondering “how did I get down here?”

    Don’t believe everything you see on Social Media.  I think most of you know this already.  Instead, get out and see the real authentic

    Not so glamorous at the dentist in Costa Rica

    world yourself – it will be amazing, if not glamorous, and you will be a better person for the experience. Real, authentic and fabulous travel.  It’s the best kind.

    Just remember to bring your Imodium.

    Be fabulous (not glamorous).

     

     

     

     

     

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    Inspire

    Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    Celebrate Valentines with a Sunset and your Honey

    Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Malpais Costa Rica

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Guam

    For the past two weeks, the nightly show the sun has put on here in Malpais has been nothing less than astounding. Each evening we watch breathless as it dips into the blue

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Hawks Bay New Zealand

    ocean dressed in a beautiful pink and orange gown.  Some nights the show actually gets better after sunset – as the sky extends the celebration with a spectacular rainbow of hues of pink, purple, orange, yellow and indigo across the western sky.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    AntiParos Greece

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Huraa Maldives

    Watching the sun each night from Malpais Costa Rica has been a glorious part of our day.  A reminder each evening of how lucky

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    we are.  A romantic interlude of breathtaking beauty, mixed with awe for our planet. A planet that loves to share the most romantic sunsets around the world.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Exmouth Australia

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Cairo-Giza Egypt

    As we celebrate this annual week of love I thought what could be more romantic than watching a sunset on Valentine’s Day?  Or how about on any day?  Watching a sunset with the one you love.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Nile River Egypt

    Our travels have presented many sunset opportunities to us, some better than others, but many very memorable.  So in honor of

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Praslin Seychelles

    Valentines week, I give you our most romantic sunsets around the world – memorable moments of the Grand Adventure.

    Note – double-click on any photo in this blog for a larger view

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Seabeck Washington USA

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Etosha National Park Namibia

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Mekong River Laos

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Sydney Austalia

    Wishing you and all those you love a Happy Valentines Day! I love you all!

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    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Memorable Moments of My Fab Fifties Life

    Yesterday we spent the morning on a private snorkel tour from our beach here in Ocotal in Costa Rica.  We had a very enjoyable time on what was a really good value tour ($65 per person), and even though we didn’t see a lot of sea life, we did see a variety.  The water was bit murky but we saw a dozen or more varieties of fish, one eel, one sea snake, a puffer fish, starfish and lots of interesting sea anemones.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    From the boat we also saw hundreds of “flying” devil rays, several dolphins and a turtle.  It was a lot of fun.

    It got me to thinking and comparing different snorkel tours we have taken over the years so I decided to  share about some of our various snorkeling adventures.  I’m not a diver but I really enjoy snorkeling and have enjoyed some

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Costa Rica

    wonderful opportunities in our travels.

    Here is our list of Snorkeling Around the World – Memorable Moments;

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Maldives

    Sand  Island Maldives – My favorite snorkeling day ever was our morning on the tiny (50×75 yards) sand island about an hour boat ride from the island of Huraa in the Maldives.  Known for the spectacular crystal clear blue water, the Maldives are a divers paradise.  Our snorkeling day rewarded us with a vast collection of sea life, but the more amazing part of this day was the stunningly beautiful coral reef.  I’ve never witnessed anything like it before or since.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Australia with Wally

    Great Barrier Reef Australia – Memorable, iconic and expensive, our day on the Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns was fun.  An overcast day made for some murky water and rough seas but we enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience with a nice selection of interesting coral and fish including the resident Maori Wrasse named Wally (see photo). Read more about it here.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    Galapagos Ecuador – Everything about the Galapagos Islands is unique and memorable – both on land and in the sea. One of our favorite trips of all time.  The day we snorkled in the Galapagos was the only time I have ever swam with seals who danced a playful ballet around us as we swam. We also encountered baby seals, beautiful turtles and small sharks.  Just one remarkable event in a very remarkable place.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Dhow in Zanzibar

    Zanzibar – possibly my worst sunburn in my life occurred the day I snorkeled with my sister in Zanzibar.  My sister’s first time snorkeling and in our excitement we both forgot to lube up.  The waters off of Zanzibar are incredibly beautiful, but we actually didn’t see that many fish. As memorable as the sunburn was the rickety Dhow boat (traditional Zanzibar wooden fishing boat) that took us off the beach out to the snorkel area.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    Hawaii – I’ve been to Hawaii so many times I’ve lost track and it’s here I’ve enjoyed some of the best snorkeling ever.  We went to Hawaii a lot when our kids were small, and for family snorkeling Hawaii can’t be beat.  Our favorites are;

    Molokini (Maui) – our favorite island is Maui and when in Maui snorkeling at Molokini is a highlight. Depending on the time of day you go, it can be pretty crowded but you will see such a great variety of colorful tropical fish it’s worth it. And if you can, book a tour that also goes to Turtle Island so you can see these magnificent creatures.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Australia

    Captain Cook (Big Island) – We have snorkeled in the Captain Cook bay on the Big Island twice. Once we came on a tour boat and once we did the steep hike down (and eventually back up) to the bay.  The bay doesn’t have much coral but lots and lots of beautiful fish make the bay their home.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Hawaii

    Kona Manta Ray Snorkeling (Big Island)– one of the funnest, most breathtaking and most amazing things I have ever done was the nighttime snorkel in Kona to swim with the amazing and giant (up to 20 feet wingspan) Manta Rays. These gentle giants are graceful and harmless and truly spectacular. Read more about it here.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Thailand

    Black Rock (Maui) – my son Dane and I had a remarkable experience at Black Rock while snorkeling

    just off the beach. We encountered a solo turtle which let us swim and follow him for more than half an hour.  Just me, my son and this beautiful creature.  I’ll never forget it.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Zanzibar

    Koh Phi Phi Thailand – very crowded and somewhat overrated was our snorkel tour adventure to Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Although the beautiful blue water is warm and fun to swim in, we didn’t see much of a variety of fish and there were so many tour boats there it was ridiculous. We did enjoy the water though and most of all having fun with our adult sons in the gorgeous tropical Thailand waters.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Maldives Sand Island

    There you go, our list of of favorite snorkeling around the world sites.  Some of our most memorable travel days have included snorkelin

    I hope you too will have the chance to visit one or more of these beautiful and amazing snorkeling places.  I have no doubt you will remember it forever.

    Fabulous!

    Manta Ray image from Pixabay

    Note – double click on any photo in this blog for a larger version!

     

     

     

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    Inspire

    Second Annual My Fab Fifties Life World Travel Awards

    And the Winner is…

    Location: Around the World

    And the Winner Is…

    If you’ve been following My Fab Fifties Life for awhile you will remember our 2017 World Travel Awards from last January.  I definitely feel with all of our travels in 2018 (covering 57,000 miles and 26 countries) we are well positioned to bestow the World Travel Awards – our version of the Oscar or the Razzy – on many people, places and travel experiences that have touched us this past year.  Just like the famous movie awards, we have seen a world of real life

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery, nature and animation.  Enough to last a lifetime.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Germany

    This is a long blog. But I believe it offers some valuable travel insight to the world. I hope you will find it informative and entertaining. So in keeping with the time of year for awards,  I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    (For reference – our 2018 countries visited were; India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Singapore, Guam, Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, USA, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil.

    DESTINATIONS

    26 Countries

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    Favorite Overall Country – Australia

    Australia takes the top award this year edging out a few others (Greece, Poland) but we both agreed.  Australia is the best.  The only negative about Australia is it’s expensive.  But we believe the beauty, culture, nature and environmental awareness helped us choose it as our favorite destination of 2018.  We plan to return in 2019.

    Favorite City – Sydney and Krakow

    Well there it is again – Australia.  Sydney Australia and Krakow Poland take our award this year for favorite city, and basically for the same reason.  Both offer a variety of cultural, historic and scenic options for visitors.  Sydney also has beaches while Krakow has great food.

    Most Beautiful City – Singapore

    Word Travel Awards

    Singapore

    Everything you ever heard about Singapore is true – sparkling clean, stunningly beautiful (especially at night), easy to maneuver and very pedestrian friendly, Singapore was our favorite beautiful city of the year.

    Cutest Town – Brugge

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    Brugge Belgium

    Singapore might take the big city award but we are more small town folks, and Brugge was a perfect little package of history, beauty, beer, delicious food and very friendly people.  We spent four days and could easily have stayed on even longer.

    Most Expensive Country – Australia

    Australia has so much to offer, but inexpensive it is not.

    Least Expensive Country – Indonesia

    Finding an oasis

    Mount Batur Bali

    With some of the nicest people and most beautiful scenery Indonesia is a bargain, and we loved our time there.

    Most Disappointing City – Ubud (Bali Indonesia) Ubud is no longer the sweet little artists/yoga village we all imagine from Eat Pray Love.  When I saw the American brand chain stores I was so disappointed (Ralph Lauren, Starbucks, Nike).

     

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    29 Airbnbs, 42 hotels, 5 boats

    Word Travel Awards

    Airbnb Antiparos

    Best Airbnb OverallAntiparos, Greece. We loved our relaxing three weeks in this gorgeous, private, and big airbnb with a stunning view and wonderful host.  I hope to return someday. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20657689

    Best Airbnb for ServiceRio de Janeiro.  Our short visit to Rio (we really should have stayed longer) was extra special due to the hospitable and generous host at our sweet Airbnb.  She was one of the most thoughtful hosts we have ever had. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1149627 

    Best Airbnb for AuthenticitySantorini

    Santorini short and sweet

    Santorini

    Greece. Hands down the most expensive Airbnb we have ever stayed in, and yet it was also incredibly authentic Greek cliffside dwelling with a stunning crater view. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15926564

    Most Expensive AirbnbSantorini $220 a night (see above)

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    Maldives

    Best Value AirbnbMaldives our tiny room

    in a tiny resort on the tiny island of Huraa was $90 a night but included three meals a day for both of us. We loved our relaxing three weeks here. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4490934

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    Lombok

    Most Rustic AirbnbLombok, Indonesia. spending a week in a traditional Javenese cottage far from civilization was a favorite experience. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15991971

    Least Expensive AirbnbLombok at only $52 was a bargain and so relaxing (see above)

    Most Unique AirbnbKey West, USA I thought spending four days onboard a 30 foot sailboat would be fun.  Not so much.  It was definitely unique. And cute.  But also uncomfortable.

    Favorite HotelPuri Lumbung Cottage, Bali this beautiful hotel complex made out of

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    Puri Lumbung Cottage Bali

    traditional rice barns was not only beautiful, but it offered so many activities as part of our package and an incredible view at a bargain price.  We loved our time here with our friends John and Carol

    Worst HotelSingapore.  Because Singapore is so expensive we booked this inexpensive $117 hotel and our room was literally a closet in the attic with no windows.  It felt like a jail cell.

    Friendliest Airbnb FamilyExmouth, Western Australia.  We spent ten days in the

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    Exmouth Australia

    tiny Western Australia town of Exmouth and we loved our little Airbnb and the darling family that lived next door.  We would love to go back. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/18258544

    Worst Hotel Experience – Bucharest Romania. Arriving at our booked and paid-for hotel near the Bucharest Airport, we learned there was a “septic” problem.  No room at the inn.  Nearly five hours later we finally laid our heads on a FUTON, in a teeny apartment of some guy who wasn’t using it, well away from the airport but grateful to just go to sleep.  We had a very early flight and it was not a great way to end our three weeks in Romania.

     

    FOOD

    Favorite Country Cuisine Poland, rich and

    The Foods of Poland

    Poland

    hearty comfort foods make Poland our fav in 2018. But Greece comes in a close second.

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    Spanish Tapas

    Best MealTapas Tour in Sevilla Spain our self guided Tapas Tour in Sevilla’s Triana neighborhood was so delicious and fun. A perfect Spanish memory.

    Best Cooking ClassKrakow Poland I really enjoyed learning to make handmade Pierogi in the tiny communist era apartment of our sweet cooking instructor.

    Best BeerBrugge runs away with this

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    Brugge beer

    award, nowhere else even in the running.  Brugge is a beer lovers town and we are beer lovers.  Our visit to Brugge was memorable for many reasons including the wonderful selection of really outstanding beer.

    Best Food Experience/TourBrugge wins this one too! We really enjoyed having dinner in the home of a lovely Brugge couple who through the website With Locals offered a home cooked Belgian meal in a typical Belgian home.  What a lovely treat.

    Word Travel Awards

    Port Wine

    Best Drinks TourPort Tour Porto Portugal.  I wasn’t sure I was going to like this tour but it ended up being so wonderful, educational, delicious and fun.  I highly recommend this if you are in the beautiful Portuguese city of Porto.

     

    CULTURAL AND NATURAL EXPERIENCES

    Word Travel Awards

    Guam

    Best SunsetGuam. With Gin and Tonic in hand and enjoying some family time while visiting my niece Bekah and her husband Davy, we enjoyed our favorite sunset of the year on the little Dungcas beach in Guam.

    Most Authentic Cultural ExperienceBangladesh Tour. Who goes to Bangladesh?  Well just about no one, and it is exactly the

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    Bangladesh

    reason we enjoyed our time there so very much.  By far the most authentic and least touristy country we have been to in a long time. The people were so interested and amazed by us and they treated us like celebrities.  We loved our time there.

    Word Travel Awards

    Antiparos

    Best Beach – It’s a tie!  Antiparos, Greece and Ilha Grande, Brazil both deserve to be winners, even though they were quit different.  Antiparos was amazing for the solitude, beauty and spectacular turquoise water.  Ilha Grande had such warm water and the beaches were clean and beautiful despite being challenging to get to, we loved exploring the Ilha Grande beaches

    Word Travel Awards

    Egypt

    Best TourMemphis Tours Egypt was one of the best tour companies we have ever dealt with providing us incredible detail prior to arriving, and being present and on top of every detail throughout our ten-day visit to Egypt and Jordan.  Our guides, drivers, accommodations and everything else were flawless.

    Best DriverKadek in Bali. I found Kadek on Trip Advisor and he served as our driver for our entire three weeks on the island of Bali.  He was a very good driver, spoke great English and in addition to picking us and dropping us at our destination he made sure we saw lots of interesting things along the way.  I hope to meet Kadek again some day.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Germany

    Best Free Walking TourBerlin Germany. We have done so many free walking tours over the past several years and only once did we NOT like our guide.  But the young lady we had in Berlin was hands down one of the most charming, interesting, factual, fun and entertaining humans I have ever met.  It made for a most memorable experience and a big tip for her.

    Best Tour GuideCristian, Santiago Chile.  Cristian was our guide on a bus tour we took the day we left our cruise ship and headed to Santiago for our flight.  We spent the day touring the wine region of Chile as well as seeing a small authentic rodeo and dancing. Cristian was patient,

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    India

    informative, interesting and entertaining.

    Best Bucket List Historic SiteWinner Taj Mahal.  Runner-ups The Great Pyramids and Petra. I cried the day I stood in front of the Taj Mahal.  It was even more beautiful than I imagined.  And lucky for us, we hit it on an unusually clear blue sunny day with hardly any people.  Magnificent site to

    The Magical History Tour

    Cairo

    behold.  Totally worth it.  Of course the Pyramids and Petra are a close second.  After seeing these sites your whole life in pictures, it’s surreal to finally see, touch and feel such awesome history and beauty first hand.

    Best SnorkelingMaldives. You might be surprised we aren’t giving this award to The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Yes that was amazing.  But our best one day snorkeling actually took place in the crystal clear

    Word Travel Awards

    Maldives

    blue waters of the Maldives, on a tiny sand island of only about 20 yards wide and 75 yards long. Here we witnessed the most beautiful coral reef I’ve ever seen, and the most amazing variety of fish and sealife.

    Best Natural Site Uluru Australia.  It’s a trek to get to Uluru.  And like everything in Australia it will be expensive.

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    Uluru

    But standing next that incredible natural phenomenon will be something you will never forget.

    Best Manmade SitePanama Canal Panama.  I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy our eleven hour crossing of the amazing Panama Canal.  Truly a modern day wonder of the world.

    Word Travel Awards

    Malaga Cathedral, Spain

    Best CathedralMalaga Spain.  We see a lot of cathedrals.  Sometimes individual ones are difficult to remember. Malaga is not one of those. A distinctively beautiful design inside makes it my favorite and most memorable cathedral in 2018.

    Word Travel Awards

    7 Ladders, Brasov Romania

    Best Day HikeWe have a three way tie for this one with 1. Canyon of the Seven Ladders, Brasov Romania 2. Campuhan trail in the rice fields outside of Ubud, Bali. 3. Coogee to Bondi Beach ocean trail Australia. All providing us wonderful days outdoors in three very distinctively different natural settings.

    Best Multi-Day Hike – Well, the Camino Portuguese of course!

    Most Exhilarating Outdoor ExperienceMorning swim Denmark.  Even though it was August, jumping into the North Sea before breakfast was an eye-popping way to start your day – and a very Danish thing to do!

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    Expensive but Worth itClimbing the Harbor Bridge Sydney Australia $467. I had to really convince Arne to do this because it was outrageously expensive.  But in the end he agreed it was worth it.   An impressively well done and safe operation with a spectacular view to boot.

    Word Travel Awards

    Platypus Australia

    Best Wildlife Experience  1. Platypus spotting Australia 2. Aligator Spotting Florida. We love it when we can see wildlife in its natural habitat, untouched by humans.  Seeing a wild platypus in Australia was so incredible.  I still can hardly believe our luck and timing to spot the elusive and shy creature.  On the other hand, seeing literally dozens and dozens of alligators within just a few feet of us as we rode bikes on the Shark Valley trail in the Florida Everglades was one of the strangest experiences of my life.

    Word Travel Awards

    Auschwitz

    Most Moving ExperienceAuschwitz, Poland Hands down – seeing and learning about the extermination of Jews in Auschwitz and in Krakow was the most astonishing and moving experience in all of our travels.  I tried to put it into perspective in a blog.  It was difficult.  Some people choose not to visit.  For us it was the reason for going to Poland and I believe EVERYONE should go.

    Word Travel Awards

    Performance, Ubud Bali

    Best Performance 1. Bali 2. Sydney 3. Krakow  It’s one of our favorite things to do when traveling, attending a local performance.  And this past year we saw several remarkable shows including two fascinating and authentic indigenous dance shows in Ubud Bali, a circus/dance show at the Sydney Opera House as well as an outdoor spectacle of La Boheme on Sydney Harbor.  In Krakow we enjoyed a piano solo performance of Krakow’s favorite son Chopin and LOVED a string quartet concert inside the tiniest historic chapel.

    Best Museum Skagen Denmark A surprising find in this tiny historic seaside town in Northern Denmark, Skagens Museum featured the remarkable art of the amazing talents of the area’s 1800’s artist colony.

    Word Travel Awards

    Ecuador

    Best Cultural Art Experience Ecuador Panama Hat Making in the tiny mountain town of Monticristi a tradition endures where skilled artists produce these works of beauty known as Panama Hats.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Wall

    Best Historical Art Experience Berlin Wall  The reason we came to Berlin was to see the iconic wall, which did not disappoint, and the rest of this amazing city made it one of our favorite stops on European adventure.

    Word Travel Awards

    Count Dracula Romania

    Kitsch Award – we make an effort to avoid tourist kitsch, but sometimes we fall for it, as we did in Sighisoara Romania.  Touted as the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula), we paid a couple of dollars to walk into a dark and spooky room where an open coffin waited with the Count himself asleep.  Well until he jumped up and scared me to death.  LOL.

    Least English SpokenBrazil.  Portuguese is the official language of Brazil and we found through out the country even in high tourist areas English is rare.  Much like in Portugal and in Spain, there are few fluent English speakers.  Even in the airport and on the flights English is unusual.

     

    WEATHER

    Hottest Day: Ilha Grande Brazil 95 degrees F and 76 degree dew point.  We swooned.

    Word Travel Awards

    Muxia Spain

    Coldest Day: Pontevedra Spain 39 degrees F on our Camino de Santiago we froze and this was the start of my chest cold that lasted 8 weeks.

    Wettest Day: Muxia Spain a four day monsoon kept us indoors, stuffing paper towels into the frames of the windows to keep the water from pouring in.

    Windiest Day: Antiparos Greece – a rare October cyclone closed down shops, the ferry, and toppled trees.

     

     

    TRAVEL

    30 flights, 8 train rides, lots of small boat rides, one river cruise, two ocean cruises

    Smallest AirportParos Greece

    Worst Flight ExperienceIceland Air lost luggage. It took three days before we saw our luggage again.

    Word Travel Awards

    Worst AirlineScoot. Worst flight I can remember in a while from Singapore to Perth.  Everything cost extra including baggage, drinks, food and even a blanket.

    Word Travel Awards

    Train Travel

    Best Travel ExperienceEurope Train Travel. We had a wonderful experience using the trains from Belgium to Germany to Poland and throughout Andalucia and I would do that again in a minute.

    Worst AirportManila We had a long layover here and there was nowhere to sit.  There was no ATM to get local currency and none of the concessionaires took credit cards.  The part of the airport we saw was old and dirty.

    Word Travel Awards

    Camino de Santiago Portugal

    Best Airport – In contrast and like everything else in Singapore, the airport is new, shiny, efficient and beautiful.

    Word Travel Awards

    Dead Sea Jordan

    Worst Security Line – Seattle WA USA.  Way to go USA.  My flight from Seattle to Nashville was a near disaster when I arrived more than two hours ahead of schedule to find a more than two-hour security line.  Seattle’s inability to separate out domestic and international travelers and offer expanded security lanes has made it one of my least favorite airports in the entire world.

    Worst Travel Experiencemissing our flight in Perth.  Expedia took the blame and even gave us a $200 credit for this flight debacle, but it didn’t help our situation as we had to stay an additional day in Perth and did not get to see the town of Alice Springs before heading on to visit Uluru.  Hope to see you again someday Alice Springs.

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2018.  But you do know, the real winner is me.  Me and my husband.  The luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is.

    Please comment and share.  We appreciate your love.

     

    Adventure Travel

    Comparing the Camino Portuguese to the Camino Frances

    My Camino Week One

    Camino de Santiago

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    Here we are.  Walking our second Camino de Santiago.  Why you ask?  Why not?  It just seemed like we should.  Six months ago when we were planning our fall itinerary we were looking at being in Madagascar in October.  Until we looked at the airfare. Yikes.  Madagascar will need to stay on theCamino de Santiago bucket list for a while longer.  So we turned our attention back to one of our favorite countries, Portugal.  And well, here we are.

    Having completed the 486 mile Camino Frances last September, I wasnt sure if the Camino Portuguese would be different.

    It is different. While also being somewhat similar.  One week into the Camino Portuguese, I don’t think I can say I prefer one over the other (yet), because each is special in its own way.  But I have found  myself during week one on the Portuguese Way comparing it to the Frances Way.

    Here are my thoughts so far after one week of walking;

    Distances are Different

    Of course the biggest difference between the two walks is the distance.  When setting out to walk the  most popular Camino Frances many people begin in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France.  This is where we began on September 1, 2017. Forty-one days and 486 miles later we arrived in Santiago, Spain.Camino de Santiago

    On the Camino Portuguese we started in Porto, Portugal on October 21, 2018.  We plan to walk to Santiago and then beyond to  Muxia on the Atlantic Ocean.  This walk will take us about 15 days and will be 217 miles.

    It is a significant difference in distance and days walked – making some of the comparisons here not really fair.

    We are Different

    We are not the same people we were a year ago.  And so this is another major difference.  A year ago we had never tackled anything like walking the Camino de Santiago.  We were a bit frightened, naive and apprehensive.  I think we over trained and over planned and over stressed.  I spent too much time reading what other people thought Camino de Santiagowas best.  Ultimately most of that wasn’t best for me.

    This time we hardly trained, barely planned and did almost zero research.  In fact I stayed away from the Camino Facebook pages (which I found last year too judgmental) and just went with what felt good for us.  We did use the John Brierley books again – a valuable resource for any Camino pilgrim.Camino de Santiago

    We also don’t feel any pressure this time to “succeed”.  We are just enjoying it.  If we don’t finish – no worries.  If it pours down rain and we hop on a train, so be it.  If we get sick or tired and decide to sleep all day – well Buen Camino.  Our Camino, our way.

    Our Bags are Different

    Last year I walked the first 100 miles with a 15 pound pack.  But eventually it was too much for my plantar fasciitis and I began shipping my pack ahead each day.  This year I decided to do it from the very start.  It’s so much better.  I last longer and feel better at the end of the day.  My Camino, my way.Camino de Santiago

    The Terrain is Different

    Over these past six days we have seen quite different terrain than what we enjoyed walking across Spain.  We have spent a lot of time in beautiful wooded areas of eucalyptus, cork and pine trees. We have also spent a lot of time on rocky paths climbing over mountains.  In Portugal in the suburban areas, and even on country roads, we were forced to walk on difficult cobblestones –  both ancient and new.

    Camino de SantiagoSimilar to the Frances we have also spent a lot of time in bucolic farmland with cows, sheep, horses and goats (there is a distinct Camino aroma!).  Most enjoyable is passing miles of vineyards, corn fields, chestnuts, vegetables of all kinds and many fruit and nut trees.  Here along the Portuguese way these things are grown altogether.  In Spain there were more distinctive sections of types of agriculture.

    We left Portugal and entered Spain on day five. Here the path meandered through lovely creek-side Camino de Santiagoshaded paths before we had a major climb with a very steep descent into Redondela.  We are now in Spain’s Galicia region, one of our favorite areas last year on our walk. The mountains bring cooler weather, and marine air from the ocean just 8 miles away.

    On both routes we enjoy the incredible medieval villages, most fully functional and still living, breathing towns – on the Camino Frances it felt like many of these towns were only there because of the Camino – not so much on the Portuguese.   For someone from the USA where old is 200 years, seeing 900 year old villages and 2000 year old Roman bridges and roads still in use is just mind-boggling.

    The Portuguese People are Different

    Perhaps because the Portuguese Way is not as popular as the Frances, or perhaps because the Portuguese people are only beginning to learn how to be Camino entrepreneurs as The Way becomes more popular; for whatever reason there just are not as many businesses catering to pilgrims.

    The accommodations are fewer, the food is definitely not as available and we never encountered anyoneCamino de Santiago just trying to make a buck off of the pilgrims.  Last year in Spain it was a normal sight for someone to be set up on the side of the road selling things to pilgrims.  Restaurants, bars, cafes were abundant.

    But we have found the Portuguese Camino much less developed for pilgrim services.

    The Portuguese people are a bit more shy and quiet.  They nod and say Bom Dia but keep more to themselves than most of the Spanish we encountered on the Frances.

    We expect this to change now that we have arrived in Spain.

    Vandalism is Present

    The first day we entered Spain our guide-book gave us a choice on routes.  We could take the shorter “industrial” route or the slightly longer “scenic” route.  We chose the scenic route.

    Immediately, and for the first time on either the Portuguese or the Frances, we began to see a clear Camino de Santiagoeffort to vandalize signage, misdirect pilgrims and disrupt progress on the “scenic” route.  Beautiful granite markers splattered with paint, arrows blacked out and other arrows trying to get walkers to go another way.  We stayed the course using the map on our phone.

    Our assumption is there are locals not wanting pilgrims to go this way.  I’m sure it’s not all locals, but it was a disappointment to us.  On the Francis we always felt welcome.

    The Pilgrims are Fewer

    The most striking difference to us in week one is how few pilgrims there are.  Last year we found ourselves on the Camino Frances during Camino de Santiagoits busiest September ever.  We had chosen to walk in September because we had read it was a time with fewer pilgrims than in summer but still with good weather.

    Well clearly we were not the only ones who had read this recommendation.  It was very crowded.

    Most days it didn’t matter, but as we got closer to Santiago it was busy and not very peaceful.  Rooms were hard to come by and so we started booking several days and even weeks ahead.Camino de Santiago

    Late October on the Portuguese Way is very quiet.  On our first day we did not see any other pilgrims.  That night at dinner we met a man from Holland.  We have now seen him several times.  We also have often seen a young couple from Italy/Australia and  few others along the way.  But until day five the total number was only about a dozen.

    Camino de SantiagoOn day five we began to encounter more Pilgrims.  We learned many start walking in Valenca, the border between Portugal and Spain.  We met a woman from Seattle (who had heard about us), another woman from Ottawa and another woman from Russia.  We met a group from Australia, a couple from Germany and a couple from Mexico.  We have also seen two young men walking with a dog, several cyclists and a handful of people walking the other direction.  The Portuguese Camino also supports the route to Fatima going south.  Some people walk south from Santiago to Fatima Portugal, a town between Porto and Lisbon where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was considered a miracle and brings pilgrims.Camino de Santiago

    We have enjoyed week one.  We feel healthy and capable.  The forecast for the week ahead has much rain, and we will take it day by day to see how we proceed.  Meanwhile,  I am very happy to be here, experiencing once again the magic of the Camino de Santiago.

    More soon, from the Way of Saint James.  Buen Camino!

    Read about our Camino Frances last year here.

     

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