Today I share a blog from the past as I am still in transit. Next week we will have a new blog about our travels to Guernsey and Jersey.
Malpais Costa Rica
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
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.
Watching the sun each night from Malpais Costa Rica has been a glorious part of our day. A reminder each evening of how lucky
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.
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.
Nile River Egypt
Our travels have presented many sunset opportunities to us, some better than others, but many very memorable. So in honor of
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
Seabeck Washington USA
Etosha National Park Namibia
Mekong River Laos
Wishing you and all those you love a Happy Valentines Day! I love you all!
During our six weeks back in Washington State, I spent a lot of time doing some updates to this blog (as well as complaining about the weather 🙂 ). Most of the updates are background things you will likely not notice, but you might notice a few tweaks to our design. I also have been doing some work on all of our associated social media accounts. So today very briefly I’ll tell you about the updates & changes My Fab Fifties Life.
Yep, somehow it’s already been nine years since I started this blog. Boy I sure didn’t know what the heck I was doing back then. Just blundering along, with no plans or goals. Fast forward nine years – once the blog became focused on travel (6 and a half years ago), I finally started to take it seriously. From other travel bloggers, classes, podcasts and groups I became associated with, I learned the tools of the trade.
I went through a period on social media and on the blog working diligently to build audience, make money and find travel freebies. To limited success.
Nine years in, now that I am no longer interested in partnering or adding advertising or frankly making the blog about income – I am almost daily approached by companies and individuals with offers to do so. But, I am perfectly happy with my little solo effort, my numbers and audience and the accolades I receive for my writing style and photography. I don’t need to buy followers (I have never) or compromise myself with false reviews. I don’t want to follow trends. I try to keep it real here, in all I write and all the photos I share. I try to keep it fun – for me and the followers.
Meanwhile, I am constantly trying to conserve energy with the effort I put into this endeavor. As much as possible I try to consolidate my social media posts, do my writing in advance during down time, and keep to a format that has proven pretty successful.
But despite all that, I’ve struggled with the different audiences that follow the different mediums. So over the past few weeks I’ve decided to make some changes. You may have seen a Facebook post a few weeks back where I announced the My Fab Fifties Life Facebook page was going to go away, and instead I would focus on the My Fab Fifties Facebook Group.
Well, I changed my mind. After consulting with some friends in the biz, I have realized these two entities are independent and should remain so.
If you are interested in following us on our six different Social Media platforms, we now have a specific format for each as follows;
My Fab Fifties Life Facebook Page – here you will find access to our twice weekly blog posts as well as , daily posts of our Travel Photography from around the world. I’ve learned how much followers love to see beautiful photos from places they have never been and I have ALOT of photos I can share.
My Fab Fifties Life Facebook Group – this very fun and interactive group page is where you can chime in with games and reminisce about growing up in the 60’s and 70’s including movies, music and cultural icons. This is also a place to find the twice weekly blog posts and interesting news and blogs that fit the theme from other writers.
Twitter @FabFiftiesLife – Sharing travel related stories from both My Fab Fifties Life as well as other Travel Writers from around the globe.
Instagram My Fab Fifties Life – Colorful and daily photos and lots of fun Reels of our travels as well as quotes and inspiration. Home to the fabulous traveling Mug as it moves around the globe.
YouTube – We post our Tasty Tuesday cooking classes on YouTube, focusing on cuisines from our travels around the world. On occasion we will also have other YouTube videos about travel related topics. Tasty Tuesday is no longer a weekly post, as that’s too difficult when we are on the road. A new Tasty Tuesday will appear at random intervals.
I try to keep my personal Facebook page, personal. Just for friends and family. I get so many requests from strange men…seriously do they not know I’m OLD? Take a look at my photo! LOL.
Updates & Changes My Fab Fifties Life
As we head off on another long-term travel itinerary, I hope you will hop on board any of the social media options listed above, and also subscribe to the blog (click here to subscribe) and follow along as we navigate the brave new world with an open mind, a big smile, a hearty embrace and the knowledge that life is short…it’s time to be fabulous.
Stay tuned for our first blog post about New York City coming up in two weeks.
We are loving our long visit to the gorgeous island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia where we are living for two months. As usual we are eating our way through this tropical culture and enjoying every morsel. It’s an eclectic collection of cultures and ingredients, so today we will attempt to pull together our impressions of The Flavors of French Polynesia, and specifically of Mo’orea.
The people known as Polynesians migrated to the Society Islands as long ago as 500 BC from as far away as Malaysia. These same people, who are known to be exceptional navigators, populated the south Pacific islands from Hawaii to Samoa and also New Zealand.
On these voyages the Polynesians had bananas and coconut, as well as taro, yams, plantain, breadfruit and sugarcane. It is thought they also brought pigs, dogs and chickens. They carried with them what would become the flavors of French Polynesia.
The Portuguese explorer Magellan sailed through this area in 1521 and the Dutch in the early 1700’s. But the first European to land on Tahiti was a British Explorer named Samuel Wallis who arrived in 1767 and claimed the island for Great Britain, despite the fact that there was already a monarchy ruling Tahiti.
Shortly after Louis-Antoine de Bougainville arrived and claimed it for France. Tahiti became a French Protectorate in 1840 and in 1880 a French Colony when King Pomare V of Tahiti accepted annexation.
Today it is known as a collectivity of France, comprising over 100 islands in the South Pacific. It holds more autonomy than most French possessions and has a President and Assembly.
Our food exploration on the island of Mo’orea turns up a lot of French influence in the cuisine. Despite the fact less than 9% of the population claims to be French, it is a big influence in the cuisine. In the grocery stores available for purchase are beautiful terrines, foie gras and cheeses as well as bread. Lots of French bread.
There are several French Restaurants on the island. We enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Mo’orea Beach Cafe and hope to visit another French Restaurant on the island in the weeks ahead.
We have visited many nations with a history of French occupation. The cuisine in many of these still reflects the French influence. Everything from Bahn Mi in Vietnam to the Burkina Faso street food of omelet in a baguette.
In the 1860’s the French brought Chinese laborers to the Pacific islands to work in the sugar cane fields. With them of course came their cuisine and food influences. Today the population is made up of about 10% ethnic Chinese.
One food we had was a strange but delicious combination of French and Chinese when we were served Chop Suey noodles inside a French Baguette.
Bao Buns, dumplings and many fried Chinese Foods are popular, especially on Sunday mornings which is always family day.
This week is also the start of the Lunar New Year and there are some local celebrations. In honor we did a favorite Chinese dish at our Airbnb with local Tahitian Shrimp and shared it on our YouTube channel. Check it out here Kung Pao Shrimp,
I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts
Coconuts are a staple here on the island and islanders use every part, both historically and today. The amazing coconut has water, milk, meat as well as strong fiber for cloth and rope. Coconut sugar, coconut flour, coconut oil (known as Copra Oil) all are part of the culture. And the shell becomes a cup or a bowl. It’s a multipurpose and delicious food.
Beyond coconut the island weather creates a thriving environment for tropical fruits of many kinds. We have talked in past blog posts about the abundance of mango and banana around the world, and here on Mo’orea is no different. Also available and commercially produced are the sweetest little pineapples. Everywhere you look there are papaya, passion fruit, limes, breadfruit and plantain. Sometimes we can find starfruit, avocado, custard apple and guava.
This abundance of fruit makes it’s way into many local restaurants as well as into our morning breakfast bowl with yogurt.
The island of Mo’orea has both an Agriculture High School and College. Though pineapple is grown commercially it is not exported. Sugar cane is no longer a cash crop, but due to the resurgence of Rum it is being reinstated. Mo’orea has some commercial production of vanilla.
Today Tahiti exports coconut oil and pearls, with pearls making up the largest export by far and is second in economic impact to the nation to tourism.
Teach a Man to Fish…
Given it’s an island, fish is of course a staple protein. We have been astonished by the inexpensive and delicious red and white ahi. Ahi is served everywhere and is usually the fish enjoyed in the national dish of Tahiti called Poisson Cru. We have eaten Poisson Cru several times now, and have made it ourselves too. Mixing the island favorites of fish, lime and coconut milk with some veg it’s absolutely delicious and served everywhere.
Originally however, Poisson Cru was made with reef fish. Reef fish is still a staple and local fisherman, in small skiff or kayaks fish the reefs every morning for Dorado, Parrot Fish and other small fish that live in the coral. We purchased some small fish right in our front yard and enjoyed cooking them.
Sport fishing is also popular here for Big Eye, Wahoo, Marlin and more.
Mo’orea is home to a shrimp farm, producing some of the best shrimp I have ever eaten. I was surprised to find warm water shrimp this tasty. We used the local shrimp for our Kung Pao Shrimp recipe (see above).
Comfort Foods and Carbs
I try to stay away from bread and sweets most of the time, but both are very popular in the daily diet of locals. One such food is Firi Firi, a local donut. Firi Firi is available in road side stands around the island, usually on Sunday morning when families gather. Personally I thought the coconut sugar fried dough was too greasy.
Something I did really like was a coconut bread we had from the Chinese take out. It was wonderful and is a very popular local treat. On Sundays the Chinese take out is very busy as locals gather their favorites from bao buns to deep fried pork and sweets for family time.
Speaking of bread, the French Polynesia government subsidizes baguettes. Which means they are incredibly cheap and abundantly available six days a week, hot from the oven at a cost of 57 cents (USD). We were told this is to make sure everyone can at least afford bread. And boy do the locals eat up those cheap baguettes.
At the Polynesian Tiki Village Show we attended, our dinner included the local comfort food of Pua’a, a suckling pig cooked underground. Nearly identical to way it’s done in Hawaii. Also in the same pit was cooked breadfruit, coconut bread and plantains.
Street Food Tour
One of the first things we did during our first week in Mo’orea was spend a day with Tahiti Food Tours on a Mo’orea Tama’a Street Food Tour. I love doing these kinds of exploratory tours, to really kick start some knowledge about local cuisine. Our guide Heimata was fabulous and we tasted many different local street foods and the wide variety of different types of outdoor places locals go (see more below about that). Heimata, born on Mo’orea, was the perfect guide to show us the ropes. Some of my favorite things were the local mango sprinkled with plum powder, grilled beef heart, Chinese dumpling, Poisson Cru and homemade ice cream. Our tour also included a stop at the local rum distillery and juice factory.
Local Cooking Class
Heimata also turned us on to the Food and Cook Lab, an organic and locally sourced cooking experience here on Mo’orea. We spent a day with Audrey and Stevenson as well as two American women and a man from France at their beautiful and sustainable kitchens. The class we took was all about using locally sourced foods to make some of the traditional Tahitian dishes. We went out into the garden and dug up manioc root and made manioc chips. They were so delicious. We cooked breadfruit over an open flame and then made amazing Poisson Cru. They taught us to make coconut bread, steamed inside hibiscus leaves. And we also made pumpkin and plantain po’a, which was baked inside banana leaf and is like a pudding. What an amazing experience we had. I liked it so much I have registered for another class coming up to learn about fish!
These experiences above also opened our eyes to some of the different kinds of food and dining establishments available on the island. We learned about several different categories of dining;
Called Snacks locally, these are usually take out areas of restaurants, or very small roadside restaurants. On our food tour we visited a couple. My favorite was Snack Rotui right on the water at the head of Cooks Bay (often called First Bay). Snack Rotui is one of the oldest businesses on the island. The food is prepared across the street in a small kitchen and brought over to the road side “snack” by bicycle. Serving a variety of local specialties from quenelles to egg rolls and fish to chicken. Inexpensive and super yummy. We plan to return.
On another day we visited another Snack that sold mostly juice, smoothies and homemade jams. I bought some pineapple mint jam which I used on chicken and it was delicious.
Known as Roulotte, a French word that describes its mobility, Roulotte’s are everywhere. Not necessarily always “trucks” like we see in the USA, more often trailers. Some of the trailers are set up more permanent with attached covered seating, while others come and go. We noticed Roulottes selling noodles, crepes, whole chicken, pork, steak frits, grilled fish, tacos, and even churros. Our favorite is Kaylakea Moz Food right next door to the Mahana Resort. At Moz we had one grilled tuna and one tuna tartar and both were outstanding. So far the best meal we have enjoyed at this darling little Roulotte and much less expensive than a traditional restaurant.
For lack of a better name we call these small ma and pa roadside tables the Fruit Lady. Usually set up in front of someone’s home, these are likely unlicensed operators selling locally sourced fruit and veg and sometimes Firi Firi. We are trying to buy all our fruit and veg from these vendors and support local as much as we can.
Some of the vendors are at the same spot everyday, while others come and go, particularly the fish vendors who sell out of the back of their car when they have a catch. We have also seen vendors selling Mape, which is a local chestnut and very popular. At one fruit lady stand they also sell lovely leis and flower head pieces.
Of course there are traditional restaurants too, but they seem less frequent. All the resorts have traditional restaurants and there are several beach side ones as well. Because many business close between mid January and mid February, we are holding out to visit a few on our list. We did have an exceptional (but also expensive) French lunch at Mo’orea Beach Cafe on one of our first days. I had one of the best pieces of fish I have every had (Dover sole) cooked to perfection. The service and view was exceptional too.
The Flavors of French Polynesia
We have been on the island of Mo’orea now for three weeks and we have five weeks to go. So we still have lots of time to explore more of the flavors of French Polynesia. Next week we are flying over to Bora Bora for several days. I don’t expect the food to be different, but since we will be staying in a hotel and not in an Airbnb we will be eating out more. So I’ll be in search of the flavors of French Polynesia.
No blog next Friday but I’ll tell you all about Bora Bora the following week.
Thank you for joining me today to learn about the flavors of French Polynesia. We love it when you pin and share our blog. Thank you. Mauruuru!
It’s been a weird and wonderful first week in French Polynesia (our 111th country!) where we will be living on the island of Mo’orea for two months. Getting here was no simple task…with ever changing PanDamit rules, overnight flights, weather woes etc., we were filled with gratitude on arrival. Here is our story – Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.
As our departure date loomed and Omicron exploded we found ourselves checking the French Polynesia entry requirements incessantly. We didn’t honestly know if we would actually go. But as we have said before, we are approaching travel in the brave new world like a poker game…some skill, some luck, and some divine intervention. Living the gamble and a few prayers for good measure.
In November FP changed it’s entry requirements to a 24 hour test from time of departure. Our embarkation point was San Francisco so we had to base our 24 hour test on an 11pm departure from San Francisco. This meant testing in the morning before departing out of Seattle. No easy task. We pinpointed three Rapid Antigen sites and headed to the first one in Port Orchard Washington at 8:30am where we found a three hour wait (outdoors). Ugh. Moving on to Tacoma we lucked out at a site that took us in about 15 min. Only 30 minutes later we had our negative results. Hallelujah.
Both our flights were pretty full and we were happy to have our newly acquired N95 masks which feel much more secure and more comfortable than what we have been using (KN95 and regular surgical mask). We dozed but didn’t really sleep very well on the nine hour flight from SF to Tahiti so we were pretty dazed on arrival.
Despite all our research we weren’t really sure what to expect on arrival. One thing we were grateful for was that we had printed all of our Covid documents, entry documents as well as an email we had with correspondence from the French Polynesian President’s office. Although we had all this on our phones it was quick and easy to show the printed documents as we proceeded through the three step process on arrival;
Step One – showing our documents from our negative Antigen test 24 hours before departure.
Step Two – Anyone who had Antigen tests (even if negative) had to have a Rapid PCR on arrival. We knew this and got in that line next. There were about a dozen testers and it went really fast. We expected to pay for this but it was free.
Step Three – Our research had given us the impression we would need to quarantine for up to three days as we waited for the PCR. But instead, step three was to go through to passport control and into baggage, get the bags and then wait 25 minutes. A sticker on our passport said the time when we would be clear to leave the airport. So after 25 minutes and no red flag positive Covid results we were free to leave.
From landing to taxi was about one hour and 45 minutes. It was well organized and everyone was nice and helpful. So off we went to Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.
On to Mo’orea
It was POURING down rain. We grabbed a cab for the short ride to the ferry terminal to leave the island of Tahiti and head to Mo’orea. We made the 8:10am ferry but got absolutely drenched running from the terminal to the vessel. The stormy weather gave us rocky seas and I was really nervous given my motion sickness history. But, with mama’s little pill, and staring out at the horizon for the thirty minute crossing I made it. Maeva Mo’orea!
Avis Rent a Car right at the Mo’orea Ferry Terminal was convenient and very helpful. So we were in a car within minutes. Then we had two hours to kill before we could check in to our Airbnb. Super jet-lagged driving seemed dangerous. But since the weather was crappy there was really no where to go so we ended up stopping for groceries and then driving all the way around the island.
Mo’orea by the Numbers
Bigger than Praslin in the Seychelles and smaller than Maui, Mo’orea is about the same size as Orcas Island in Washington State. About ten miles by 7 miles. The ring road is about 61 km (38 miles) and encircles the island. A few roads go inland off the ring road but it is the main road for most of the traffic. The area is 134 square kilometers and the population is around 18,000. The highest point is Mont Tohi’e’a is 1207 m (3960 feet). It’s very mountainous!
Mo’orea has six communes (villages) scattered around the island. We are in the commune of Teavaro, home to about 2000 people.
French Polynesia is 60% vaccinated and a mask mandate is in effect for indoors, although many people where masks outdoors as well. FP had a huge Covid spike in August which dropped off to zero for early winter, but began a gradual climb again over the holidays. But nowhere near what it was in August. Mo’orea has one hospital and several clinics that service the population, which currently is very light with tourists. We feel quit alone in the tourist category. We feel safer from Covid here than we do at home.
Parlez Vous Francais?
French is the official language but most people speak excellent English as well as the local Polynesian language Tahitian. Our Airbnb host, who lives on Tahiti but is here one day a week, speaks excellent English. I know bits and pieces of French but not enough to carry on an intelligent conversation. Of course through all our travels we have learned to use Google translate to read information on packages and signs. Even with Google it took us 20 minutes to figure out how to turn on the washing machine. Oh la la.
Meanwhile our darling little bungalow in the village known as Teavaro is a fabulous space, with a kitchen, large covered porch, tiny pool and beach front. Less than a mile to grocery and restaurants and large public beaches. We feel very comfortable here and our host is wonderful. Merci!
Tsunamis and Celebrations
We arrived on January 13th and I celebrated my birthday on January 14th. Still incredibly jet-lagged we enjoyed a quiet birthday at the bungalow, and watched it rain nearly two inches in 24 hours (more on that below). It was an uneventful but nice birthday. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, 1200 miles West a giant volcanic explosion near the island of Tonga created tsunami warnings all around the Pacific. We didn’t learn about this until nearly 12 hours later when we awoke on the 15th and read it in the news.
Although Hawaii (due north of us 2600 miles) as well as the West Coast of the USA, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan all went into Tsunami alert, we heard absolutely nothing from the FP government or warning systems. What the heck?
There were no visible signs of anything unusual on our beach, which is only about 30 feet from our front porch. This experience however prompted us to take a good look around at what our evacuation options are. When we first started traveling we used to do this regularly, but I admit I have gotten a bit lax about it. I still am that girl on an airplane that pinpoints my nearest exit before settling into my seat…but tsunami evacuation route isn’t something I think about…until now.
The reality is, no matter where we are, or what disaster might present itself, we will be on our own to save ourselves. This is true at home or abroad. A little preparation goes a long way.
Monsoons and Mosquitoes
Well we are here in the rainy season. However, everyone we meet, including our host, says this sustained rain is extremely unusual. If you have any doubt about climate change spend a few years traveling around the world. Because EVERYWHERE we have gone over the past five years we have heard these words about the weather, “this is not normal”. Not normal is the new normal from what we can tell. And the incredible amount of rain we have seen since arriving on Mo’orea is not normal. Not much to do about it though, and so we are okay. Hopeful it will clear eventually.
Meanwhile the rain and floods have brought out the mosquitoes in droves. Mosquitoes generally find me exceptionally tasty anyway, but at the end of week one I am covered in bites. C’est la vie!
Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One
After a week of pretty much doing nothing but reading, playing scrabble and watching it rain, we have some plans for the week ahead. We have a reservation to do both a street food tour and a Polynesian dinner and show. With improving weather we also plan to get out to some of the beaches and restaurants. But we have enjoyed a relaxing week and have been perfectly fine just hanging out and doing very little for our Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One. We may or may not blog each week…time will tell.
Thank you for joining us in this weird and wonderful week.
Well. Here we still are…that crazy PanDamit just won’t give up. If you had told me a year ago when I wrote last year’s 2020 Travel Awards that I would actually travel LESS in 2021 I would not have believed you. And yet…. But nevertheless, we are presenting to you our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021.
In winter 2021 we did some USA exploring, staying away from most people and out of most restaurants. Our USA travel revolved around activities outdoors in sunny places. In April we got our vaccine and we celebrated that milestone by booking our first international trip in more than a year to Iceland. But as summer waned, variants persisted. We continued to travel in the USA and got our booster shot in October, just in time to spend a month in Mexico.
So there was some travel…most of it in the USA, but all of it wonderful. Making the most of a bad situation we continue to live My Fab Fifties Life with courage and caution. For me and my husband, we refuse to be victims or feel controlled by the virus or those who don’t believe in science. Instead, our life is evolving to be happy in this situation that is beyond our control. Doing our best we had some great adventures this year, as you will see in our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021.
And so, we plan to travel in 2022. But in the meantime, we present our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021. I hope it will inspire you to be brave, be smart, be happy and be safe. Happy New Year!
And the winner is…
We visited three countries, plus nine states in the USA.
Favorite City – Mexico City What a fabulous surprise Mexico City was. Huge but with great transportation, this ancient and beautiful city is colorful and remarkably clean and astonishingly delicious. I now rank it as one of my favorite cities in the world. We didn’t have enough time to see it all, so we are considering another visit in 2022.
Cutest Town – Ogunquit Maine We visited Ogunquit in September spending a week with our friends in their summer home and we had the best time. It’s everything you imagine an Eastern Seaboard village to be with beautiful architecture, nice restaurants and shops and beaches too.
Favorite Island – Maui, Hawaii It’s no secret our love for the island of Maui. Of the hundreds of islands we have been blessed to visit around the world Maui remains at the top of our favorite island list. Although it is expensive and can be incredibly crowded, we try to visit during the shoulder season and always fall in love with it again. Read about our Maui adventures here.
Most Expensive Country – Iceland We spent fourteen fun days in Iceland enjoying it’s jaw dropping scenery, with ten of those days in a camper van. We avoided restaurants most of the time, but groceries are expensive, fuel is expensive and the camper van was expensive. But as you will see in the blog below there is a lot to love about Iceland. Read about our Iceland adventures here.
Least Expensive Country – Mexico We were surprised and delighted about the cost of things in Mexico from restaurants and groceries to transportation and lodging. Even our four day food tour was well worth the money and we can’t wait to visit Mexico again. Read about Mexico here.
Favorite Airbnb – Tucson this year we stayed in the fewest Airbnb’s in our entire Airbnb history. Only five. Usually it’s more like thirty. But most of them were great and our favorite was the beautiful house in East Tuscon. It was comfortable and well laid out in a really nice neighborhood where we could run and really get outdoors, right next to Saguaro National Park.
Favorite Hotel – The Red Tree House B&B Mexico City For many reasons, but mostly due to Covid, we ended up in more hotels than Airbnb’s in 2021, a total of 16. Many of these were for only one or two nights as we were just passing through. But The Red Tree House in Mexico City was hands down our favorite. One of the best, if not the best service hotel I have ever stayed in. Beautiful and with excellent breakfast we are already talking about going back next winter.
Most Unique Accommodations – Camper Van Iceland our second time traveling in a camper van in a foreign country. This vehicle was not laid out as nicely as the one we had in New Zealand, but for ten days it worked out fine. And it gave us lots of flexibility to see all the great sights on the fascinating Ring Road in Iceland.
Best View Accommodations – Puerto Escondido Mexico although we found this very open air Airbnb pretty noisy, you just could not beat the view of the Pacific Ocean and the swaying palm trees. Lovely.
Best Food Tour – Mexico City Eat Like a Local Four days of touring with Eat Like a Local Mx opened our eyes to the hidden treasures of this amazing city. We loved every minute and every bite as well as all the history and culture. We also loved our guides Astrid and Rocio and hope to see them again some day. Read about it here.
Weirdest Food – Iceland Fermented Shark We also enjoyed our food tour in Reykjavik Iceland. Iceland has some delicious food, but also some weird food too, like fermented shark. Not my favorite thing ever…tasted like ammonia.
Best Cooking Class – Casa Jacaranda Mexico City Our full day cooking with Casa Jacaranda in Mexico City was one of the best cooking classes I have ever taken…and I have taken a lot of cooking classes over the years. Learning about the ingredients, cooking in the beautiful home kitchens of Casa Jacaranda and enjoying a meal together at the end was just the perfect way to end our visit to Mexico City.
Most Unique Food Experience – O’O Farm Kula Maui during this long visit to Maui we set out to really find some deeper hidden and authentic treasures of this beautiful island (read about it here) and discovering the O’O Farm was one of the most amazing finds. We will definitely visit there again.
Unexpected Food Trend – Sonoran Dog Tucson this unexpected food trend in Tucson was something I had never heard of, but apparently Sonoran Hot Dogs are well loved by those in the know. We did a Tasty Tuesday all about it.
Best Alcohol Tour – Puerto Escondido Mexico a few years ago I was introduced to Mezcal for the first time. Since then, I have learned a bit more about Tequila in general and Mezcal in particular and while in Puerto Escondido we did our first Mezcal Tour. We learned so much from Puerto Mezcal Tours and highly recommend this tour company if you are in the area. Really fun.
Best Micro brews – This one is a tie: Tucson Arizona, and the Breweries of Kitsap Peninsula. While visiting Tucson last winter we set out to taste test all the local microbreweries. During this time there still was no indoor dining, but finding lots of outdoor dining and drinking opportunities we discovered a wide variety of really good beer in Tucson. Back home in Washington State in the spring and summer we spent 8 weeks visiting 24 local microbreweries of the Kitsap Peninsula…if you live anywhere near the Kitsap Peninsula you really need to check this out.
Best Sunrise – Ogunquit Maine – we loved our week in Ogunquit with dear friends and enjoyed the spectacular sunrises each and every morning. Stunning.
Best Sunset – Puerto Escondido Mexico and Maui Hawaii Sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from these two locations never disappointed and we looked forward each evening to the experience.
Best Beach – Maui it’s no secret how much I love the island of Maui, even though it has changed so much in the forty plus years I have been visiting. This year we spent the majority of our time in West Maui, a change for us from past visits, and discovered so many new and lovely beaches…our favorite, Kahana Secret Beach. Shhhhhhh….don’t tell anyone.
Best Waterfall – Iceland – when you first arrive in Iceland you pull over on the road for every waterfall. Until you realize there are tens of thousands of waterfalls and you just can’t possibly see them all. But during our two weeks in Iceland we had three favorites; Dettifoss, Svartifoss, and Hengifoss
Best Natural Site – Antelope Canyon Utah it’s been years that I have wanted to visit Antelope Canyon. I also have tried to get in on the lottery to visit “The Wave”. Still working on that one. But Antelope Canyon is absolutely stunning and it was a definite bucket list for me. I am so glad we finally made it.
Honorable Mention – Kirkjufell Iceland – it was our lucky day to visit this beautiful site on such a clear and sunny day. Kirkjufell is one of the most photographed places in all of Iceland, and it was just stunning.
Best Wildlife Sighting – Grey Wolf Grand Canyon Arizona – a rare and chance siting of a wild wolf on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was such a fluke. I just happened to be looking across a field as we were driving and I yelled Stop! I wasn’t exactly sure what it was I was seeing but we got out the long lens and binoculars and while other cars zoomed right past, we enjoyed seeing a Grey Wolf in the wild. Good eyes Laureen!
Best Wildlife Exhibit – Maui Ocean Center Humpbacks of Hawaii 3D Exhibit it had been many years since we had visited the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium, but their brand new 3D film entitled Humpbacks of Hawaii intrigued us and so we went. Boy were we glad we did. The 3D movie is worth the price of admission, while you can also enjoy the other marine life exhibits. If you have ever hoped to swim with whales, well this is the next best thing. So real.
Best Historic Church – Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson This historic and beautiful old mission just outside of Tucson Arizona was a beautiful surprise both inside and out and I am so glad we took the time to visit it.
Best Modern Architecture – The Chapel of the Holy Cross Sedona Wow. We could see this church from a couple of miles away and even though we weren’t looking for it we headed that way to get a closer look. This Roman Catholic Church is a stunner built into the red rock of Sedona.
Best Museum – Frida Kahlo Mexico City Outstanding small museum in Mexico City, also known as Casa Azul, is the home where Frida Kahlo was born, lived her entire life, and died. The museum dedicated to this strong woman and her fascinating life was our favorite this year.
Best Outdoor Museum – Arizona Sonora Desert Museum one of the best things we did in Tucson, was driving out of town to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, a beautifully laid out outdoor museum. With interpretive signage for the wide variety of plants, wildlife and birds, we spent several hours enjoying this remarkable place.
Best Garden – Sunnylands Palm Springs, Akureyri Botanical Gardens Iceland visiting botanical gardens is a favorite thing we do everywhere we travel. This year we visited several in Arizona, California and Maui. But these two were are favorites for their distinct beauty, surprising colorful blooms (especially in Iceland) and easy accessibility for the visitor. I highly recommend them both. Sunnylands and Akureyri Botanical Gardens
Best Kitsch – Tombstone, Arizona we don’t often fall for the kitsch, but sometimes it’s fun to do the touristy things. In Arizona we spent a day driving from Tucson to Tubac, Bisbee and Tombstone enjoying some history and shopping as well as the touristy kitsch in Tombstone, home to the OK Corral and Wyatt Earp. We were glad we went. Tombstone
Most Unique Experience – Beer Spa Iceland I never did see this activity in any of the research I did for our visit to Iceland, until I stumbled on a brochure. It wasn’t cheap but it was certainly unique and close to where we were spending several days in Akureyri. Bjorbodin was about an hour’s drive. Drinking beer, soaking in beer and having a wonderful time on a very memorable day.
Best Outdoor Art – Borrego Springs California we spent seven weeks in the Palm Springs California area, and one day while driving around we stumbled onto these incredible outdoor sculptures in Borrego Springs. There are dozens of these…perhaps even hundreds. Some small and some huge and all fascinating and fun to see. Worth a side trip if you are in the area.
Best Interactive Exhibit – Wonders of Iceland & Planetarium although this brand new museum and exhibit is pricey, it is really well done and a perfect introduction to Iceland. We learned a lot about the history, geology and geography of the island nation at this exhibit while in Reykjavik, prior to setting out on our 9 day driving tour.
Honorable Mention Van Gogh Immersive Experience Seattle – this traveling exhibit has been getting rave reviews all of the world. We saw it in Seattle and really enjoyed it. Especially if you have never had the opportunity to visit European museums that house Van Gogh, you might find it entertaining.
Best Hike – Tucson, Sedona, Washington State, Maui, Utah if you follow My Fab Fifties Life regularly you know that we hike one day a week, nearly every week of the year. Hiking is a big part of both our travels and when we are at home in Washington State. This past year we have had so many amazing hiking adventures enjoying new hiking experiences in Tucson and Sedona and Page Arizona as well as Utah. We also revisited our favorites in Maui and Washington State. I can’t choose a favorite. I just can’t! So if you are looking to hike in any of these locations click on the live links above to learn more.
Best Place to Run – Maui as I write this I am snowbound in Washington State and unable to keep up with my running schedule. Boy do I miss running in Maui. It’s hands down my favorite place to run in the entire world. I often run before it even gets light, I always feel safe, and I adore the island breeze.
Best Place to Golf – Maui Nui Maui because we were in Maui for two months again this year, we decided to get a membership to Maui Nui in the Kihei area. It’s such a great place to golf if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for some of the fancier courses. We golfed every Monday for eight weeks with our membership and made vast improvements in our game. I can’t wait to go back next fall.
Expensive But Worth It – White Pocket Utah we paid to take a tour to White Pocket in Utah (about two hours from Page Arizona) because getting there requires a four wheel vehicle. Despite the nearly $400 cost, it was worth it…truly one of the most amazing geological sights I have ever seen. The world is strange and wonderful and Arizona and Utah have more than their share of fantastic geological sites!
Best Yoga – Maui Goat Yoga well I saw this on Trip Advisor and without telling my hubs I signed us up. So much fun! For something completely different, spend a morning with the goats in Maui’s Upcountry area of Kula. It was fun. Maui Goat Yoga.
Hottest Day – Puerto Escondido Mexico we love hot weather, and often find ourselves in places without AC, which was the case in Puerto Escondido Mexico where the temperatures daily reached into the upper 90’s Fahrenheit. But we are used to sleeping with open windows and fans and that is what we did in Puerto Escondido.
Coldest Day – Sedona Arizona we knew Sedona could be chilly and we were mostly prepared, although the morning we woke to a blanket of snow we were a little surprised. We still got out and did our hikes and enjoyed the beauty of the low 30’s temperatures and the white snow blanketing the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona
Honorable Mention – Port Orchard Washington unusually cold weather the week after Christmas kept us housebound with 8 inches of snow at our home in Port Orchard Washington.
The Oopsie That Happened Award 2021
Sea Urchin Attack Maui – every year something weird happens that is worth a mention but doesn’t fit into any category. This year it’s the Sea Urchin Attack. When I got caught in a small wave and my foot was dragged across a bed of sea urchins I ended up with 25 sea urchin spines embedded in my foot. And it hurt like hell. Gratefully we learned the remedy is soaking your foot in vinegar for days and days and eventually the spines dissolve. Who knew?
That’s a Wrap
As you can see, despite it all we had some memorable travel experiences in 2021. We no longer carry many expectations for what 2022 will look like. We will just wait and see and be grateful for whatever comes.
I hope you are healthy and safe. I’ll be blogging in the next few weeks about our impressions and experiences in French Polynesia – our 111th country! We will be in French Polynesia for two months! Life goes on – PanDamit be damned!
Thanks for reading this post Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021. Thanks for your continued love and support of this blog. We love it when you pin and share our blog posts.
Enjoying my time on Maui I’ve been thinking about all the island’s I have been blessed to visit. It’s a long list. My favorite islands around the world are usually remote and small. But I have also loved some larger, populated and sometimes touristy islands. We are doubtful we will travel international in 2021, but as soon as we can we will be heading to some of the world’s best islands. So many islands, so little time.
Our sudden disruption to our 2020 Grand Adventure last spring due to the virus, eliminated our visit to many islands we have long desired to see; Malta, Guernsey, Jersey and the archipelogos of Finland. We spent seven unexpected weeks on the beautiful island of Cyprus, but in total lockdown and so nothing more than our tiny neighborhood in the village of Argaka. So each of these islands remain on our to visit list.
Over the past five weeks we have been living on the island of Maui, and have just extended our stay another four weeks. So in 2020 we spent six weeks on Mauritius, seven weeks on Cyprus and will have a total of nine weeks on Maui. A total of 22 weeks on islands in 2020. It’s one of the few good things about 2020.
So in today’s blog I thought I would share some of my favorite islands around the world, and a brief description of why they make my fav list. There are several other islands we have visited I don’t mention here…I had to narrow it down. But if you have ever considered traveling to any of these – here are my recommendations;
Very quiet but also expensive. Beaches are nice but having a car at least part of the time is a must if you need to shop. Groceries are very expensive and produce is difficult to get. The people are quiet but nice and it is just beautiful. Boats available to visit other islands.
Don’t miss swimming at Gold Beach Anse Volbert-Côte D’Or,
In October Antiparos was really quiet as the season ends in September. But we had exceptional weather. Some restaurants and businesses in the tiny town were closed for the season but we found everything we needed at reasonable prices. Ferries available to surrounding islands.
By far the tiniest island we have been on, this very low lying Maldivian island is actually an atoll, made up of coral. The weather was incredible and we had the most relaxing three weeks of our life here. Best one day snorkeling of my life off of Huraa. Very little to do, and nearly no shopping. Note that there is no alcohol on this Muslim island!
Size 150 X 500 miles (12th largest island in the world)
Population 1.3 million
Best time to visit December to May
Where we stayed – we rented a caravan and traveled around
New Zealand is downright amazing. We loved both the North and South Island and we would really love to go back and visit again. This is not a laying in the sun island. Rather it is an island for all things recreational: hiking, walking, cycling, bird watching and more. Absolutely stunning. And ridiculously expensive.
It’s been a long time since I visited magical Mackinac and I sure would love to go again. It is so unique, especially in the USA, to find a place with no motor vehicles. Both times I was there in the summer with beautiful weather. Renting bikes and riding around the island is a highlight.
I’m lucky to count myself as one who has visited every Hawaiian Island that isn’t privately owned, and hands down Maui is the best. It is expensive but beyond that everything about it is perfect – the weather, the water, the beach, the food, the activities and the fact for people who live on the west coast of the USA, it’s really easy to get to.
Don’t miss whale watching for humpback whales in the winter months
Lombok and Bali Indonesia
Visited in March and April 2018 – two weeks on Bali and one week on Lombok
We loved our time on both of these beautiful islands. Bali is very popular with tourists for its beauty, beaches and vibe. Lombok on the other hand is a unique, tiny and non-touristy island where we spent six glorious days doing nothing but laying in a hammock.
Don’t miss an authentic Balinese Cultural performance in Ubud
I visited Zanzibar with my sister after spending a week on a safari in mainland Tanzania. It remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is also the second worst sunburn I have got. The white sand beaches are amazing. The people are quiet and kind. The seafood delicious.
Don’t miss a ride in an authentic Zanzibar Dhow Boat
Definitely one of the most interesting places I have ever been. This tiny island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is difficult to get to and expensive but worth it. We loved our time here learning about the Moai and the history of Rapa Nui. I highly recommend.
Don’t miss touring with an authorized tour guide to understand the amazing statues and history of this island
We did a five day tour with a guide around the major sites of Sri Lanka seeing some of the most amazing things including the astonishing Sigiriya ancient mountain fortress. Then we kicked back for more than two weeks in a tiny hut on the beach in Hikkadua, which ended up being “interesting” but super fun and the weather and the beach were perfect. The Sri Lankan people are some of the kindest on the planet.
Don’t miss Sigiriya Fortress one of the most incredible things I have ever seen
Size 50 x 80 miles (Isla Isabela, the largest of the archipelago)
Best time to visit January to June
Where we stayed – we were on a small 12 person cruise
My first dip into my bucket list was this trip to the Galapagos Islands to celebrate my 50th birthday. Living on a boat for five nights we saw many islands and the most amazing collection of wildlife and sea life. We loved every minute of it and although it’s expensive, we recommend it to anyone!
We only had a couple of days in Singapore, the teeny island city/state that is one of the most expensive places in the world. It is also one of the cleanest and most colorful, particularly at night. I hope to return.
Don’t miss the Singapore Gardens by the Bay at night and the amazing Singapore Botanic Garden
We only had a couple of day on Nantucket but we were traveling with our young children at the time and it was a great little place for a family vacation. We were there in spring before the hoard of tourists descend in the summer and it was peaceful and beautiful and historic.
Don’t miss a Clam Bake and riding bikes around the island
We drove up to the Maritimes from Boston and enjoyed the drive as much as the islands. Prince Edward Island was still at that time very quiet and we enjoyed riding bikes, eating lobster and learning about history.
Don’t miss searching for sea glass at Souris Beaches
Average temperature – Honshu is a big island with multiple climates but Tokyo average summer high is 80 F
Size 150 x 500 miles
Population 104 million (2nd most populous island after Java Indonesia)
Best time to visit – March to May and September to November
We spent five weeks exploring the island of Honshu. Our kids were little and it was a magical time for us as a family. Japan is one of the most unique and beautiful places in the world. I hope to go back some day.
I have visited these islands many times as they are in the backyard of where I grew up
Average Temperature 55 F
Size – there are nine islands in varying sizes. The two largest are Orcas and San Juan
Best time to visit – Summer months
We have traveled to nearly all of the islands over my lifetime growing up in the Pacific Northwest. The islands are a great place for family camping or romantic getaways. Hiking, cycling and kayaking are popular.
Don’t miss getting up close and personal with the famous J-Pod of Orca Whales on a whale watching tour.
Just under four years of nearly non-stop travel, as well as many adventures earlier in my life, has left me with an unbelievable collection of epic adventures around the world memories. Lucky me.
I’m not giving up on resuming our travel life…however I expect we will sit home for a year before we set out on anything too epic. And even if that never happens, what a life we have led.
In my living room I have a large book case that I call “The Museum”. Here I display my world treasures. There are not alot, given the fact that we travel light and I try not to do too much shopping as we travel, but I rarely leave any country without picking up something special. I love looking at “The Museum” and although I appreciate when guests look too, “The Museum” is really for me, a reminder of my blessed and adventurous life.
As I wait to determine what my next chapter in my life is going to look like, I spend a lot of my brain cells reliving some of my life’s greatest epic adventures. Therefore it seemed like a perfect blog to pull together and share. My Epic Adventures Around the World. I hope you enjoy.
The Inca Trail and Machu Pichu – I don’t have a blog about this experience, it was before I began blogging about my travels. But it was a defining experience in my life, opening my eyes to my own physical capabilities. The five day hike on the Inca trail to Machu Pichu took every thing my body had to give, while also providing some of my all -time favorite zen moments. Life changing.
Galapagos Islands – 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 snorkeled 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.
Weekend with the Monks South Korea – spending the weekend at a Korean Buddhist monastery was a unique and slightly painful experience. Living as a monk, mostly in silence, sleeping on the concrete, up before the sun and hours of meditative prayer was certainly memorable. But my favorite part was meeting the female monks at this monastery, hearing their story and gaining such an admiration for such a devout life.
Easter Island Chile – Everything about Rapa Nui was stunning, but like most visitors I had my favorites. And like most visitors my two favorite sites were the Ranu Raraku quarry site and the Ahu Tongariki. Upon laying your eyes on these two sites for the first time you conjure a list of adjectives; breathtaking, fascinating, interesting, surprising, remarkable. At one point I had to just stop and breathe deep – and remind myself how remarkable it all was, and how remarkable it was that I was standing there.
Namibia – Arne and I both have Namibia on our top five list of one of the most beautiful countries and most incredible experiences ever. That is saying a lot in 110 countries. Unspoiled, incredibly diverse and still remarkably authentic, Namibia is astonishing. I have two excellent blogs about our experience there. The link above is the first one. Here is the second.
Burkina Faso – who goes to Burkina Faso? Well apparently I do. I didn’t really want to go, but in hindsight spending three weeks there visiting our Peace Corps son was one of the most remarkable and eye-opening travel experiences of my life. And doing it with my grown sons made such fantastic family memories. I will never regret having gone.
Inle to Kalaw Hike Myanmar – I don’t have a blog about this experience, but it did win one of our 2019 Travel Awards for it’s uniqueness. This two day hike was longer and harder than I thought it would be (I should read the fine print) but the experience was amazing. Our guide was great, the food was surprisingly abundant and delicious and even sleeping on the floor in the home of a local Myanmar family with no electricity or running water was a memorable experience.
Camino de Santiago Spain – Hands down one of the best, most spiritual, most life affirming experiences of my life. Walking 500 miles across Spain – 40 days, thousands of memories, one incredible experience. I hold this memory very, very dear.
Gorilla Trek Uganda – a life-long dream for me to trek to see the elusive Mountain Gorilla, for me this has also become a marker for the Corona world-crisis. Doing this tour was the last “normal” thing we did, before the world spiraled out of control, and came to a screeching halt. I will be forever grateful that Covid-19 did not stop us from doing this experience, and I will remember these creatures fondly.
Tiki Tour in New Zealand– who knew living in 90 square feet could be so much fun? What a remarkable way to see one of my top favorite countries, New Zealand. I would do this again…and have also considered doing it in Australia. To really see all that is fabulous about New Zealand, a Tiki Tour is the way to go.
The Great Barrier Reef Australia – I had to really convince my husband that snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef off of the east coast of Australia was worth the money. But I wasn’t visiting Australia without seeing the reef, and despite a crappy weather day, our experience in the ocean was amazing. A pinch me moment, in a life of pinch me moments.
Alps Hike Switzerland – with total honesty and without hyperbole, this day hiking the Schilthorn was one of the best days of my life. The physical challenge of it was astonishing, the beauty of it was heavenly and the satisfation on a travel scale of 1-10 was a million. Blessed day.
Camel Trek in Morocco – incredibly painful, incredibly memorable. Our overnight camel trek in the dessert of Morocco was quirky and special, despite how uncomfortable riding a camel can be…who knew? But I’m so glad we did it; overnighting in the Bedouin camp, drinking wine around the camp fire in the chilly dessert night air, then rising again and clamoring back onto the beast for the trek back. I’ll never forget it.
Bangladesh– we would have never gone to Bangladesh, except our friend Natalie was teaching there…so why not? A quick stop in this untouristed country to see what we can see. Wow. I would never imagined that we would have enjoyed it so much and have one of the most authentic travel experiences of our life.
Above it all – we paid a ridiculous amount of money to have two separate experiences in our travels – both taking us high above it all. It’s always hard to know if these things are worth the money, especially when we travel on a fairly strict budget. But for me, both of these experiences were worth every penny. Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney Australia and flying in a Hot Air Balloon over Bagan Myanmar. These both will go down in our travel life as phenomenal.
So the Grand Adventure is on sabbatical until further notice. I continue to hope we will travel again…but the brake is firmly set until further notice and we turn our attention to other inspiring adventures…stay tuned, and don’t give up.
Thank you for continuing to support our blog – we promise lots of interesting and inspiring articles coming your way. Be safe. Be healthy.
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