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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.

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    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

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    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

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    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Camino de Santiago Portugal

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

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    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.

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    My Fab Fifties Life Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Location: Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Oscar nominations this week!  A big week if you are a movie fan – which of course I am but since I have not stepped foot in the United States in more than 14 months I haven’t seen any of this year’s big films.  But instead I have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery and animation.  Enough to last a life time.  So in keeping with the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations, I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2017 and 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    And the winner is…

    World Travel Awards 2017 2018

    Hoi An Vietnam

    DESTINATIONS

    Favorite City – Hoi An Vietnam

    By far our favorite destination in Vietnam with it’s colorful old town, beaches, rice fields and fabulous food.  We loved this place and the airbnb we stayed in here.

    Most Surprising – Namibia

    We came to Namibia practically blind, allowing our tour guide from Wild Wind Safaris to hold our hand and we were not disappointed.  A spectacular destination I think everyone should visit.

     

    Best Value Destination – Bulgaria

    We loved our month in the friendly, beautiful and historic country of Bulgaria where we didn’t

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Bulgaria

    meet any Americans.  Put this inexpensive and great country on your bucket list and go!

    Best Overall Scenery – New Zealand

    Jaw dropping scenery no matter where you go or which way you look, New Zealand is an

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Abel Tasman New Zealand

    outdoor enthusiast dream  and is stunningly beautiful.

    Most Crowded City – Hanoi

    The scooters alone make this wild city that never sleeps total chaos.  Then add the cars, trucks, carts, pedestrians, vendors and well – its pretty wild.

    Most Beautiful City – Split Croatia

    Whether you are perusing the mega yachts in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Diocletian’s Palace, Split

    harbor or wandering through Diocletian’s Palace, Split is a magical place and my favorite Croatian city.

    Most Interesting City – Fez Morocco

    Around every corner as you get lost in Fez there is something interesting and amazing and I enjoyed this maze of a city

     

     

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Fez Morocco

    Most Disappointing City – Tangier Morocco

    Getting lost in Tangier is easier but nowhere near as fun as getting lost in Fez.  We found Tangier a bit of a disappointment.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    Best Airbnb for Service – Asilah Morocco

    We adored our “mom” Latifah during our ten days

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Latifah unveiling the Tajine

    in Asilah and wanted to put her in our suitcase and take her with us.  The food and care she gave us was unparalleled.

    Best Airbnb Overall – Koh Samui Thailand

    We had a lot of discussion over this one.  We have been, frankly, so lucky with our airbnb’s.  And even this one had a few quirks.  But we loved it for the view, the private pool and the car that came with it.  It was however, also our most expensive Airbnb. https://myfabfiftieslife.com/sweet-samui/

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    We loved our private pool in Koh Samui

     

    Most Authentic Airbnb – Siem Reap Cambodia

    Staying in an authentic Khmer home in Siem Reap was a treat in itself, but then adding the wonderful breakfasts and services our host provided us made this place one of our all time favs.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Cambodian Khmer House

     

     

    Most Unusual AirbnbMotueka New Zealand

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Funky Truck

    We spent two nights in a funky old truck/camper with an outhouse and it was a hoot.

    Most Rustic AirbnbHikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    We nicknamed this place Castaway Cottage and it was like living on Gilligan’s Island – complete with lots of critters including rats, snakes, mongoose, monitor lizards, gecko and BUGS!

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    View from our Sozopol Airbnb

    Best Value Airbnb – Sozopol Bulgaria

    We loved this top floor unit with a huge deck and amazing view.  We think we might return to this place some day, only $55 a night.

    Best HotelLuang Prabang Laos

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Luang Prabang Laos

    We spent three nights in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in this darling and historic city on the Mekong River and it was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in.  From the comfortable and spacious room, the food, the pool, the flowers and the service, everything about it was first class on a budget.

    FOOD

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Because noodles always put a smile on your face.

    Favorite Overall Cuisine – Thailand

    This is the best food in the world.  Simple, healthy and so flavorful I can’t get enough of Thai Cuisine.

    Best Restaurant Meal – Ceverjaria Ramiro Lisbon Portugal, Honorable Mention to Ladja Podlanica in Piran Slovenia

    I’ll never forget the dinner we had at Cervejaria Ramiro with our son Erik and his friend

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Lisbon Portugal

    Salvador who lives in Lisbon.  It was a gluttonous evening and I loved every bite.  Someday I will go back.  In Piran Slovenia with our friends Raymond and Marbi we gorged ourself on the most amazing anchovies in oil followed by spectacular spaghetti

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran

    con vongole.  We loved it so very much we went twice.

    Worst Food Overall – Camino de Santiago

    When we really needed the sustenance the most, our 41 days on the Camino de Santiago provided the least inspiring of food.

    Best Cooking Class –  Chiang Mai Thailand with Honorable Mention to Cape Town South Africa

    I try to take a cooking class in most of the countries we visit, and I do it as much for the cuisine

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    My favorite Chiang Mai Noodles

    and culture as to meet local people who love their food and want to share it.  My classes in Chiang Mai (two full days) and my evening class in the home of our instructor in Cape Town South Africa fulfilled what I am always looking for.

    Best Beer – Cape Town South Africa and Honorable Mention Piran Slovenia

    Capetown because they had a vibrant micro brew scene and good non-lager beers available in most stores and restaurants, and Piran because here my husband had the single best beer he has had since leaving the USA.  Don’t know what brand it was but it was a spectacular Slovenian IPA.

    Worst Grocery Availability – Seychelles

    Hands down the most difficult place to find decent produce and healthy ingredients for day-to-day cooking, we learned to eat a lot of rice, lentils and beans during our month in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Hmong Village Laos

    Seychelles Islands.

    CULTURE, NATURE AND EXPERIENCES

    Best Authentic Cultural Experience – It’s a tie between Hmong Village Laos and Himba Village Namibia

    Seeing these two places will stay with me all my life – when you think about opening your mind to understand cultural

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Himba Women and Children

    differences, embrace and learn from living hand to mouth and become more tolerant of other cultures – visiting these two places had all that and more.

    Best Beach for Scenery – La Digue Seychelles

    No wonder Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition has shot here several times.  This place with it’s unique rock formations, sparkling white sand and out of this world blue water is about as spectacular as they come.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    La Digue Seychelles

     

    Best Beach for Spending the Day – Meia Praia, Lagos Portugal

    It helped that our condo was a short walk to the beach, where we went everyday during our three weeks in Lagos.  Golden sand, lots of room to spread out and easy and safe swimming made this our favorite.

    Best Day Hike – Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

    An experience I will never forget, climbing the mountain, seeing the volcanic crater and lakes and just accomplishing this feat will always hold a special place for me.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tongariro Crossing

    Most Difficult Day Hike – Climbing Down Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa

    We thought down would be easier.  It wasn’t.  There were times where I literally didn’t think I was going to make it.  My body gave it all I had, and it was

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Table Mountain Hike

    more than a week before I didn’t hurt.

    Best Outdoor Experience – Able Tasman New Zealand

    Our three-day Glamping Tour on the Able Tasman was one of the highlights of our time in that country.  We were blessed with spectacular weather, met new friends and were introduced to the wonders of New Zealand.

    Best Historic Sight – Angor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Angor Wat Cambodia

    It was a lifelong dream for me to see Angor Wat and it was not disappointing.  The fascinating ancient story that unfolds in these ruins set amidst the friendly and persevering Cambodia people is not something I will ever forget.

    Fewest Tourist at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Dougga Tunisia

    Nothing like having an entire UNESCO site to

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tunisia

    yourself, and that is exactly what we enjoyed at the beautiful Dougga Roman Ruins in Tunisia.  Not many tourists in Tunisia, but slowly they are returning, and we loved our time in this ancient country, cradle of civilization as we know it today.

    Best Tour – Namibia

    Our ten-day tour with our amazing guide “Seven” introduced us to this unknown country so full of natural wonders and spectacular animals.  I love Namibia..

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Etosha National Park Namibia

     

    Worst Tour – Three day bus tour of the Mekong Delta Vietnam

    This tour was cheap but it wasn’t worth it still.  Terrible traffic, over pitched and very touristy.  Sorry we went.

    Most Unique experience – Camino de Santiago Spain

    Even though the food was bad, the experience is now branded on my soul. It changed me and I loved it.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the Camino

    Best Live Performance – Tie Violin Concert Piran Slovenia and Carmina Burana outdoors in Dubrovnik; Honorable Mention to Kandy Cultural Show, Kandy Sri Lanka

    Front row seats in a tiny historic theater in beautiful Piran Slovenia made for a special night as we enjoyed a beautiful violinist accompanied by a guitarist.  It was just so pleasant.  Just as mazing the spectacle that was hearing Carmina Burana performed outdoors in historic Dubrovnik

    Carmina Burana performed outdoors in Dubrovnik

    town center.  Spectacular!

    Kudos also to the very authentic Sri Lankan dance, music and firewalker show we enjoyed (also front row seats) in Kandy Sri Lanka.

    Best Nature and Animal Experience – Etosha National Park Namibia

    I’ve said it before – this country was such a surprise and this National Park was the bomb.

    Best Free Experience – Free Walking Tours 

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Our Free Walking tour guide in Sofia Bulgaria

    In nearly every major city  you can take what is known as “Free” guided walking tours.  These are awesome and we love them because it is always a local guide, someone young and enthusiastic.  You tip them at the end – so its not really Free – but it is worth it and we have done this at least ten times.  A great value.

    Friendliest People – Sri Lanka

    Hands down the kindest and friendliest people we

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Monk in Sri Lanka

    have met – despite all the hardships they have been through; colonialism, monarch assassination , civil war and tsunami.  Still they smile.  Love them.

    Worst Drivers – Vietnam

    There are several runners-up here, including Sri Lanka (and we haven’t gotten to India or Bangladesh yet), but still Vietnam takes the prize for the craziest drivers, most dishonest cabbies, scooter

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Scooters in vietnam

    mania and absolute lack of any pedestrian rights.

    Worst Experience – Dog Bite Koh Samui Thailand

    Hands down the worst day has been the day Arne was bit by a dog in Koh Samui.  The one saving grace is it could have been much worse.  But still it makes me angry and the overall feral dog situation in Thailand makes me question whether I will ever visit again.

    Experience I liked More Than I thought I would – Camel Ride, Erg Cheba, Sahara Morocco

    The colors and the light of the desert at dusk, the animals, the other guest from around the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the camel trek in Morocco

    world and having this experience with our friends Sarah and Steve all added up to a very fun two days and one night camel trek in the desert.

    Least English Spoken – Spain

    Only in the last decade has English been taught in schools, so few adults are fluent.  Especially in the small towns and villages on the Camino we did a lot of pointing and hand charades to communicate.  It was fun!

    WEATHER

    Hottest – Seychelle’s and Honorable Mention Doha, Qatar

    We saw some rain in the Seychelles but it was never

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Seychelle Islands, Praslin

    under 85 degrees and the water was like a bathtub.  We only spent one night in Doha Qatar, but it marked the hottest one day on the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Doha Qatar

    trip at 113 F.

    Coldest – New Zealand

    We were in New Zealand in the fall and we had a few nights were the temperature dropped in the 30’s.  Living in the Kiwi Karavan we wore hats and coats and wool socks to bed to stay

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    New Zealand

    warm.

    Worst Rain Storm – Tie between Hua Hin Thailand and Koh Samui Thailand

    After a two hour taxi ride turned into a five hour taxi ride in a monsoon we arrived in flooded Hua Hin Thailand not sure what we had gotten ourselves into.

    More than once the sky opened up in Koh Samui, accompanied by flashing lighting and booming thunder.

    Best Sunrise – It’s a tie between Napier New Zealand and Galicia Spain

    I’m a sucker for a good sunrise, and we have seen

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Napier New Zealand

    some amazing ones but these two stand out above and beyond for the sheer majesty of the experience.

    Best Sunset – La Digue Seychelles (see cover photo)

    Mother’s Day Dinner in La Digue we watched the sunset from a beach restaurant and it was a religious experience.

     

     

    TRAVEL

    Favorite Airline – Emirates

    They know how to treat their passengers, even those of us in Coach

    Least Favorite Airline – Air Maroc

    The only airline (after 37 flights) to lose our luggage.  Eventually it was found.  Plus the smell of something (not cigarettes) burning during approach.  Ack.

    Best Airport – Hamad International Qatar

    A very user-friendly and beautifully designed airport.

    Teeniest Airplane – Air Seychelles 

    Eight seats.  ‘Nuff Said.

    Most Expensive Visa – India

    We haven’t even arrived in India yet, but it was hands down the most expensive Visa we have purchased and one of the most difficult online applications.  Hopefully when we arrive tomorrow everything will be in order!

    Easiest Airport Entry – Capetown South Africa

    We breezed through passport and customs so fast in Capetown we were totally surprised.

    Worst Airport Entry – tie between Siem Reap Cambodia and Carthage Tunisia

    In both cases we got in the wrong line.  The line with the guy who was arrogant and pompous and was going to make every passenger know he was the boss.  Any sign of dissatisfaction could get you pulled out of line and make your life hell.  And so we waited.

    Lucky Girl. Fabulous Life Award.

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2017-2018.  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.

    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Inspire

    Travel & Staying Fit – A Difficult Part of the Journey

    Challenges of Full-Time Travel

    Location: Punta Cana Dominican Republic

    When we started this life of full-time travel I imagined getting in awesome shape while we traveled.  But it hasn’t been that easy.  In fact, it’s one of the more difficult parts of this ongoing journey – getting and staying in shape.  Not at all what I was expecting.

    There are several factors I’ve identified to this particular travel challenge.  But before I share those, let me say that this has been a life long battle for me.  Keeping a healthy weight has never come easy for

    Running in our neighborhood

    me.  I am not a tiny girl…a comfortable size 12 or 10 is my USA size.  But I fluctuate a lot and always have.

    A decade ago when I began running I found a wonderful new outlet for both stress release and weight control.  I love to run!.  But in that decade I have also experienced some severe injuries that kept me from running up to as long as a year.  Suffering from sciatic nerve damage and plantar fasciitis being two of the worst things that have sidelined me.

     

    But even when I am healthy, running is not always feasible on this full-time travel journey.  I was surprised to find as we circled the globe how many destinations are unsafe for running; dangerous roads, uneven sidewalks, vicious dogs (remember the  dog bite?) not to mention many countries where a woman should not be out alone.  These surprises stymied my running for months at a time.

    We cycle when we can

    We are currently in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and I am really enjoying running here.  After not running for the entire month we were in Guatemala (all the reasons listed above) Punta Cana offers a flat, safe (sidewalks wow!) and easy routes direct from our apartment.  Today I did 3.5 and my goal is 5 miles before we leave here.

    Swimming is another favorite work out of mine, but alas, in three years of travel I can only think of three places we have been where a swimming pool was large enough to swim laps.  Most pools are very small, and open ocean swimming isn’t something I’m comfortable with.

    I can do yoga just about anywhere, and I do.  I do it on my own nearly every day, and take classes when they are convenient and affordable.  Yoga builds strength and flexibility as well as clears the mind and helps focus, but I really need to have a good strong regular aerobic exercise to keep my weight down.

    Yoga for body and mind

    And then of course there is the food.  And the alcohol.  I love to eat and cook and try lots of new foods in every country we visit.  Some countries the food is better than others, but I’ll try everything once (well

    We hike and walk a lot

    almost everything) and we enjoy food as a cultural experience wherever we are. Although I believe we are eating fresher and more organic and locally grown than in the USA, we still eat with pleasure and sometimes too much, despite the fact we usually only have two meals a day.

    During our first part of the Grand Adventure I drank alcohol every day, usually a gin and tonic or two, sometimes beer.  But this past winter I decided the caloric intake of alcohol just isn’t worth it to me, particularly when I am in countries where I feel like I’m not getting enough exercise.  So I cut way back on alcohol.  I now drink one or two drinks a week, and sometimes not even that.

    But alas, I am returning to the USA in May after nearly ten months of travel, about ten pounds gained since leaving.  When we returned to the USA last summer it was the same…and I worked all summer to take it off, successfully.

    Hopefully being back in the USA where I know I have access to the YMCA as well as safe running roads

    Swimming in Thailand

    and trails I can get back into a fabulous and fit daily work out routine.  It’s one of the things I am most looking forward to back in Washington State.

    So I have two goals;.

    1. Drop the ten pounds gained and perhaps a few more.  Feel fit and ready to tackle the world once again when we head out for our third round of the Grand Adventure next September.
    2. While traveling focus on aerobic exercise, fresh and locally grown and prepared food, eat only two meals a day, drink lots of water and diminish the amount of alcohol and sugar I consume.

    Want to join me in a summer get fit challenge?  Let’s do it.

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    See our 2018 Travel Award Guide here.

    Are you curious about how you can have a life of full-time travel?  Check this guide out!

    Central America

    I Left My Heart in Guatemala

    Dejé Mi Corazón en Guatemala

    Location: Guatemala

    Entirely unexpected.  Completely beautiful.  So much better than I imagined.

    Dear Guatemala.  You had me at Hola!  I hated to say good-bye.  I left my heart in Guatemala.

    Once again, I approached another Central American country with apprehension, based solely on the information on the U.S. State Department website.  I should know by now not to allow that to sway me totally. I should heed the warnings for sure, and carry on with caution.

    Yes, Guatemala has some dangers just like every other country I have been too (and the USA too).  Pick

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Livingston

    pockets are a problem, although we did not have an issue.  Like always, whether in Central America, Europe or anywhere else in the world we are cautious.  There are definitely some horrendous violent crimes, rarely against foreigners.  Unless you go looking for trouble.  Smart and cautious travel with guides when possible is the best way in this country. Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the world, and yet there is a small population who hold extreme wealth while the rest suffer. There are some other issues in Guatemala, particularly government corruption.  However this is not something the average visitor will see.  The only thing we saw was one entry fee into the town of Panajachel that was illegal.  We also ended up paying twice for our boat on Lake Atitlan because the first guy was a scam.  This ended up costing us an additional $6.50.  Small problems – other than that we found the

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Semana Santa

    country no more dangerous than anywhere we have been.

    And the positives certainly outweighed the negatives.  In fact, I would put Guatemala in my top list of favorite places I have been.  And that is saying an awful lot.  Yes I left my heart in Guatemala.

    So Guatemala how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways;

    1. I love Antigua, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.  Being there for the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) was an incredible experience.  Although I am not Catholic, the Palm
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Antigua

      Sunday spectacle we witnessed was so full of tradition, majesty, history and faith I was incredibly moved.  I think I became Catholic for a day.  We have had similar experiences in other places around the world where faith is such an important part of everyday life.  On the Camino de Santiago in Spain, in New Delhi India, in Istanbul Turkey, in Seoul South Korea.  A few examples of the places where we felt privileged to witness how faith, history and community converge.  Additionally Antigua offers gorgeous scenery, delicious food and incredible history.  Seeing lava spewing from the active volcano Fuego was a definite highlight. We enjoyed two tours with Antigua Tours and my cooking class with La Tortilla was a highlight.  I hope to visit again.

    2. I love Lake Atitlan.  Here we spent a week enjoying the beauty of Guatemala, and not doing much else.  It was one of the more peaceful places I have been in the world; a crater lake surrounded by three beautiful extinct volcanoes.  The small villages surrounding the lake are each named after one of the apostles.  We spent our time in San Marcos, a teeny village known for its holistic

      Our view Lake Atitlan

      offerings, yoga, health food and hippies.  Our airbnb was one of the most unique we have ever had…a cave dwelling nestled into the cliff.  Memorable for sure.  We hiked and swam and did yoga every day.  Heaven on earth.

    3. I love Flores.  We went to Flores so we could visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal, about an hour and a half drive north.  Tikal was amazing…but the tiny town of Flores was such a pleasant surprise.  Situated on a tiny island in Lake Petenitza, the tiny town is colorful, historic, beautiful and yummy.  The town dates back to the 1400’s.  We enjoyed the very warm weather here and a highlight was a private boat tour of the very large and beautiful lake.  Muy bien.

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Flores

    4. I love Rio Dulce.  The region known as Rio Dulce encompasses Livingston on the Caribbean coast (Livingston is only accessible by boat) to the town of Rio Dulce on Lake Izabal.  A gorgeous stretch of water known as the Rio Dulce connects the two.  Our boat ride from Livingston to Rio Dulce was stunning as we

      Lake Izabal, Rio Dulce

      wound our way in an open boat through the narrow gorge, through which the Rio Dulce drains into the Caribbean.  Although VERY rustic, our accommodations in Rio Dulce served us well, and had some of the BEST Mexican food we have ever had.  From our tiny cabin in the marsh we took excursions to the ancient Castillo San Felipe de Lara, to the Agua Caliente waterfall known as El Paraiso and to the beautiful Boqueron Canyon, where we spent several solitary hours deep in the canyon on a beautiful sunny day.  We also learned the very humble ways of the

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      El Parisio Rio Dulce

      Guatemalan people and their use of the collectivos for transportation and saw our first manatee in the wild, although not as close up as we would have liked.

    5. I love a challenge. It’s a challenge getting around Guatemala, as it is still a developing country.  But some of those challenges made for memorable moments.  As mentioned above the collectivo experience in Rio Dulce was certainly unforgettable, riding in a van made for 12 with 23 other people.  During our time here we
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Many boats

      road in twelve different boats, mostly for transportation, but a couple for pleasure.  We also hired a driver for a private shuttle three times, and through that experience met a wonderful Guatemalan man named Alejandro who we hope to see again some day.  We felt safe in all of these situations and enjoyed the experience.  My least enjoyable experience was the plane ride from Flores to Guatemala city in a small 20 seat plane.  I got sick on this very bumpy and diesel-smelling ride.  Ugh.

    6. I love a bargain.  Guatemala is cheap.  Although we spent money on private shuttles, we could have  gone with less expensive non-private shuttles or public transportation known as chicken busses. We used the kitchens in our airbnb’s when possible, but eating in restaurants was very inexpensive
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Marsh cabin Rio Dulce

      and all the food we ate was amazing, fresh and local.  Our accommodations have ranged from $30 to $100 a night.  We loved our Antigua Airbnb for $80 a night and our spectacular Airbnb in San Marcos with lake view was $75 a night.  In Rio Dulce we paid $30 and Livingston was $70.  We ended up spending $100 a night at a Ramada in Flores after the hotel we booked was CLOSED on arrival.  That was something that had never happened before.  But all in all Guatemala is one of the least expensive countries of our travels. The gorgeous textiles made by the indigenous Mayan people are so inexpensive, buying the same thing online would cost five times as much. Alas my suitcase it too small…

    7. I love Guatemalan coffee.  Guatemala is known for its coffee, and I have to agree…it is now possibly my favorite coffee of the world.  Dark, rich and very flavorful, I am a convert.  Guatemala is also
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Coffee with Volcano view

      known for its chocolate.  Although I am not a big consumer of chocolate, the samples of chocolate I had were exceptional.  The Maya used cacao as currency once upon a time. More valuable than gold.

    8. I loved the people.  Everyone we met (except for the one guy who ripped us off $6.50) was amazing.  Few people spoke English and we actually enjoy being forced to expand our limited Spanish knowledge.  Many people however also didn’t speak Spanish, as the Maya who are my generation mostly only spoke their native tongue.  I loved the shy and traditional Maya, especially the beautiful women in their traditional dress.  These are not costumes but how they dress everyday.  The Guatemalan people
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Mayan women, San Marcos

      were all very private yet friendly, hard working and religious, welcoming and helpful.  We enjoyed being a part of their culture and community.

    So I left my heart in Guatemala.  Possibly my favorite Central American country.  Of course our time in Mal Pais in Costa Rica ranks VERY high.  But Guatemala you are special.  Unique. Beautiful. If you have

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Mayan women selling palms

    every considered visiting Guatemala you should do it.  And do it soon.  Supporting these developing countries through tourism is the least we can do, especially since America’s abandoning Guatemala after funding of guerrilla warfare during the civil war has caused much of the current economic situation Guatemala suffers.

    Guatemala’s upcoming elections could be a turning point for the country…but perhaps things will stay the same, and the slow climb out of the devastation from a two-decade civil war will continue at a snail’s pace.

    We hope for the best for this country and its beautiful people, where we have left our heart.  We will be back.

    God speed Guatemala.

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    See our 2018 Travel Award Guide here.

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