This is one of our favorite blog posts from 2020. Enjoy it again or for the very first time.
Lucky am I that I have tasted coffee all over the world, in fact, in 110 countries. Wow that is a lot of countries and a lot of coffee. I’ve been able to narrow down my favorite coffee around the world. I do love coffee and although there has been many countries where the coffee was downright lousy or non-existent, luckily there have been many countries where it was delicious and abundant.
We are currently hunkered down on the island of Cyprus, where coffee rules. Cypriot coffee is much like the coffee of Turkey or Greece, and is usually made in a Cezva, a metal cooker with a long handle and a pouring lip. The coffee in Cyprus is arabica coffee and is ground so fine it is almost like a powder. Traditionally cooked in sand over an open fire, many traditional houses will still make the coffee in a machine that uses sand very hot, then place the Cezva into the sand and bring the coffee to boil twice.
I had never seen coffee made in this manner and it was something fun and new to see.
Cyprus is another of a long list of countries who know how to make good coffee, even though they don’t grow their own beans. Many countries with the best coffee don’t grow beans. It’s all in the way it’s prepared.
So I thought today I would share with you all my favorite coffee around the world, in addition to Cyprus. Some of the worlds best and most delicious. Whatever you call it; java, joe, mud, cuppa, brew, cafe, octane, rocket fuel or juice – here is my favorite coffee around the world.
I visited France in 2007 and despite the Starbucks phenom in the USA, France was the place I had my first and most memorable cup of real good espresso. And I didn’t have just one. I drank so many cups of espresso during my ten day visit to Paris and northern France. I learned how much I love a deep, dark rich cup and I have loved it ever since.
Most people think of espresso as Italian, and certainly they are credited with the invention of the espresso machine. I loved this amazing coffee here as well, and was a bit confused by the social etiquette surrounding your morning coffee. Most baristas were kind and assisted this silly American.
My 2008 trip to Ethiopia remains one of the highlights of my travel life, and learning the complicated process the Ethiopia Coffee ceremony encompasses is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. Ethiopians strongly claim their country as the birthplace of coffee, and they take the ceremony of coffee very seriously. You can’t be in a hurry for your morning cuppa here…but it is very much worth the wait.
The beautiful island country of Zanzibar (actually a self-governing island of Tanzania) has many coffee plantations as well as beautiful and interesting spice plantations. On a tour of one of these plantations we learned a lot about the coffee culture of Zanzibar and enjoyed drinking the rich dark brew at Zanzibar Coffee next to our hotel.
There are so many things I love about Morocco, including the food, and the coffee is high up on that list of favorite things. We drank it in all parts of the country and it was rich and delicious no matter where we were. Moroccans could be found drinking it morning and night, but for me I had to stick to the morning, or I would have been awake all night long.
Another country that really knows how to do coffee is Greece. Like other European countries coffee often comes with a “biscuit” for dipping, and a cup of beautiful dark coffee in the afternoon was my favorite mid-day treat.
This photo does not do justice to the coffee we had in Qatar. We transited through Qatar and spent only one night, and enjoyed on the morning of our departure what I can say is hands down the best breakfast I have ever eaten…including a pot of delicious brewed dark coffee.
We spent a month in Vietnam and really grew to love the coffee there. Often served with sweet milk, but you could order it without, the local coffee was almost always served in a clear glass cup without a handle.
When we returned home after our month in Guatemala we brought with us six pounds of coffee…now one of my favorite coffee around the world. The production of coffee is big in many Central American countries, but of all the countries we visited we liked Guatemalan coffee the best.
So there you have it, my favorite coffee around the world. I can’t wait to continue my coffee culture research when we can start traveling again and continue our ’round the world travel. Coffee makes me happy!
Enjoy this blog from 2020 again or for the very first time.
We are all a bit anxious these days about our health and well-being. Remembering the important recommendations for social distancing, mask wearing and washing your hands A LOT remains super important. But what we choose to eat in our social distanced lives is another important factor in staying healthy. Immunity boosting foods for healthy life is something we should learn to do all the time, not just when the world is fighting a pandemic.
Choosing to add immunity boosting foods to your diet is really easy, without giving up the tasty comfort foods we all are enjoying during these anxious days. Over the past few years I have been working on a diet that is rich in both immunity boosting foods, anti-inflamatory foods and foods that are good for gut health.
I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist, just a lay person who has experimented and found some things that work for me. And maybe they will work for you too!
Last summer we purchased a sauerkraut maker, manufactured by a company called Cultures for Health. Now we eat a few tablespoons of homemade sauerkraut every day. Homemade sauerkraut is full of good bacteria for your gut. Unrefrigerated store-bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized. Pasteurization kills all those good bacteria and so you lose the healthy benefits. You can use this sauerkraut maker for other fermented foods too like pickles, beans, radishes. Eating fermented foods adds good bacteria and enzymes to your gut! And they taste good too.
Here is our fun video on how to make your own!
Now I know you’re gonna want your own fermenter. Here is the one we recommend.
Our daily breakfast nearly every day of the week includes a lot of immunity boosting foods for healthy life. Each morning we eat a bowl full of blueberries (antioxidants, phytoflavinoids & Vitamin C), spinach (fights cardiovascular and chronic disease), almonds or walnuts (packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals) and other fruits like apples, bananas, mango. We mix this with homemade yogurt.
The probiotics in yogurt (live cultures) are really good for your health. Yogurt is a great source of low calorie protein, as long as you aren’t eating the sweet and fruity kind. We make our own yogurt very simply in a yogurt maker we bought from a manufacturer called Euro Cuisine, through Cultures for Health. It’s really easy. All you need is a live-culture yogurt starter and milk. We make it once a week at night, and when we wake up in the morning it’s ready to eat.
Eat the Rainbow
The rest of our daily diet includes a variety of immunity boosting foods for healthy life like ginger (free radicals build a defense system), garlic (anti-inflamatory), dark greens and broccoli ( full of good vitamins and anti-oxidant goodness) peppers and citrus (nothing like the Vitamin C in these foods to strengthen your immunity) and apple cider vinegar (used in small quantities is a great anti-oxidant boost).
We eat meat including beef and pork, although most of our meat consumption is chicken and fish. We consume so much fish, mostly cold water fish. We try to have salmon, canned sardines and responsibly fished canned tuna regularly, all foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Although I am a coffee lover, I often take a cup of herbal tea before bed. I love a ginger tea which helps me sleep as does chamomile, and I’m also fond of peppermint tea as a pick me up in the afternoon. I don’t drink green tea very often, but like the teas I mentioned above, these all are high in immunity boosting anti-oxidants. The world of tea is actually very fascinating…there are entire books written about it and tea is definitely a immunity boosting food for healthy life. For me, just an herbal cup each evening is both delicious, healthy and relaxing.
Staying healthy isn’t just about food of course. Finding ways to stay active, get lots of rest, drink lots of water and engage in activities we love during these stressful times are all part of keeping your immunity system thriving despite the stress. It’s okay to have that brownie, or burger too. It’s not about depriving yourself. It’s about making good choices as often as possible, adding immunity boosting foods for healthy life to your diet, the things science knows help our bodies fight back anything from the common cold to an uncontrolled virus. Doing this on a regular basis will make you look and feel better.
Take care of yourself my friends. Choose healthy options and be well.
Enjoy this post, Skin Care at Sixty, from 2020 again or for the very first time.
Being in lockdown, and returning so abruptly from our world travels back to the USA, put me in a position with free time to step back and take a look at myself. Everything that had fully occupied my time over the last four years had come to a complete and unexpected stop.
But this provided an unexpected blessing – an opportunity for me to focus on self care. Something I have been wholly unable to do most of my life; to no one’s fault but my own.
When we arrived in the USA I found I had a lot of free time on my hands. I began to realize I could use this stay-at-home time to accomplish some self-care things I had so often put on the back burner before. I immediately started a running training program, joined NOOM weight loss (to date have dropped 20 pounds and will be blogging on this later) and set out to focus on revitalizing my aging and neglected skin and focusing on skin care at sixty.
I’ve never been someone to spend a lot of money on beauty. I get my hair and nails done, but shop for myself infrequently and never too extravagantly. Most of my skincare products and makeup generally come from Target. When we travel I go months without wearing makeup and most days only use cleanser and moisturizer with SPF 15.
But here I am with all this free time…free time to get healthy both inside and out. Free time to finally focus on skin care at sixty. Better late than never? Well, you be the judge.
On arriving back home I contacted my friend Susi who is a Mary Kay consultant, because I had heard some good reviews about the MK line called TimeWise Repair. This line of skincare products is specifically designed for women like me, who are looking to repair damage from sun and sea, age and neglect.
I began using these products in early May. I did a video on YouTube at that time, to share the start of my journey. You can see that first video below. In the video I share all the products I began using; 1) TimeWise Repair Foaming Cleanser 2) Indulge Soothing Eye Gel 3) Eye Renewal Cream 4) Vitamin C 5) Lifting Serum 6) TimeWise Repair Retinol Night Cream and TimeWise Repair SPF 30 Day Cream 7) Deep Wrinkle Filler
Here is the first video…and by the way you will notice the 20 pounds heavier in this first video as compared to today…that alone makes my face look healthier.
I spent the next three weeks religiously following the night and day program for Mary Kay’s TimeWise Repair products and I immediately began to feel my skin was moister and generally all-around healthier. Once a week I used two more products in the evening; 8) TimeWise Repair Facial Peel and 9) TimeWise Repair Moisture Renewing Gel Mask.
Here is the second video I did at week three. I REALLY notice in this video the bags under my eyes. At the time of this video I had not yet been diagnosed with a sinus infection…but clearly it was raging and causing me trouble. I kept hoping the Mary Kay eye cream would take care of the bags, not realizing it was something more. Here is the second video.
So today at week six I am pretty happy about how my skin FEELS as much as how it looks. I also feel like by focusing on this for six weeks I have developed good skin care habits for both morning and night, something I never had before. I would say that the products I feel have been the best for me would be the TimeWise Repair Foaming Cleanser, the Indulge Soothing Eye Gel, the Day Cream, the Night Cream, the Facial Peel and the Gel Mask.
My consultant Susi feels strongly that the serum is one of the best things I can do for my skin. And I feel like the night cream with retinal has contributed greatly to the diminished wrinkles. It’s been nice having Susi at my fingertips for questions…something I can’t get from sales people at Target or the mall. Worth it for me in my busy life.
It’s not pretty, but I’m sharing with you my before shot that was done on the Mary Kay Skin Analyzer App the first week of May, and my After Shot taken this week. Note I’m purposefully not smiling…to really be able to see my problem areas. The skin analyzer is the tool we used to both determine the products that would be best for my skin issues, and to see the results. Here it is. Oi. Embarrassing.
However, I see much improvement in the wrinkles, and am hopeful with continued use it will get better still. Although some of my most prominent wrinkles, like the “11” between my brows haven’t really improved at all, I’m happy to accept those as part of my sixty year journey. I think those are just here to stay.
My final video, posted yesterday, shares a fun time lapse look at my routine to finish off the experiment. Here it is.
So, again realizing I have dropped 20 lbs in six weeks, and started running every day combined with this skin care routine I feel really healthy overall. I see a difference in my skin, especially how it feels and even how my makeup feels on my skin. Here is another before and after shot with my make up on.
AND since I am making all this effort, I bought a new hat with a wider brim to protect my skin more than any hat I’ve owned before. Sassy. I am feeling so much healthier over all, I hope all these new habits will stick, and I can continue to improve my skin, weight and activity level in the months and years ahead. Because, you know, I’m fabulous!
I would love to hear about your self care journey. Comment below or message me anytime.
We love Paris like everyone else. But really that’s the problem. EVERYONE loves Paris (and London and Rome) and so you find lots of crowds and high cost. In our travels around the world we have really tried to find new places that few tourists go. Often these destinations end up being our most favorite. And the more we travel the more we want to encourage everyone to consider stepping out of their travel comfort zone, and exploring the unknown – the favorite destinations no one goes. Finding your way to the lesser traveled destinations creates less impact on the planet while bringing greater cultural awareness to the traveler. We ask you to consider these options:
Instead of Croatia consider visiting Bulgaria, one of our favorite countries we have ever been to. Bulgaria has so much to offer, and yet we did not meet a single American during the entire month we were there. We did meet lots of Russians, Germans and some Brits. Bulgaria has a remarkable coastline along the gorgeous Black Sea as well as great mountains for hiking. The food is amazing, the wine is cheap and the 5000 year history is astounding. And the people are so amazing, welcoming and proud. They have endured a great deal in their history, and they have a “come what may” attitude that is infectious. Go visit Bulgaria.
Instead of Italy go to fascinating Slovenia. From Trieste, Italy it’s just a hop across the border to Slovenia, the tiny country once part of Yugoslavia. We have been to Slovenia twice and I suspect we will be there again. Slovenia has a tiny coastline on the Adriatic, and our favorite town of Piran is a perfect place to visit and get some local flavor. But don’t stop there, Slovenia has some of the most beautiful mountain towns and lakes. Much of Slovenia is still agrarian and the people are welcoming and patriotic and friendly. Oh and the seafood. So darn delicious. Go visit Slovenia.
Instead of Mexico go to El Salvador. We just spent two weeks on the Pacific Coast of tiny El Salvador and we absolutely loved it. There are some Americans coming here, but mostly 20-year-old surfers. The media has made us believe El Salvador is a dangerous place, and yet it is no more dangerous than Mexico and Americans flock to Mexico. Come to El Salvador where the water is warm, the people are welcoming, the food is delicious and the history though brutal and bloody – is fascinating. El Salvador will soon come out the shadow of its violent past, so visit before the secret gets out. Go visit El Salvador.
Instead of Germany go to Poland. Poland is just beginning to step out of the shadow and become a tourist destination. And it should. We fell hard for Poland spending three weeks there last fall. Poland has some of the most astonishing history anywhere in Europe. The food is fantastic. The people are warm and happy to meet you. The historic villages are well-preserved and beautiful. And it is cheap and easy to get to. We loved Krakow as well as all the other places we visited and using the train in Poland was a great way to travel. You really should visit Poland now.
Instead of India go to Bangladesh. I loved our time in India too, but if you want to push yourself and visit somewhere no tourists go, visit the remarkable, tiny country of Bangladesh. Our short visit to Bangladesh provided us some of the most rewarding moments we have ever had in our travels. It’s difficult to visit Bangladesh without a guide, and we were lucky to find Deshguri, one of the few tour operators in the country. Through Deshguri we able to meet so many Bangladeshi people, who greeted us with more kindness than anywhere we have ever been in the world. We certainly stood out in both crowded Dakar as well as the beautiful villages and countryside, since almost no Western tourists come here. We learned so much during our time in Bangladesh, and left our heart with its beautiful people. A remarkable experience that everyone should have. Visit Bangladesh soon.
Instead of Thailand go to Sri Lanka. Thailand is overrun with tourists anymore. So if you are looking for beautiful beaches, mountains and more, visit Sri Lanka instead. The young backpacking set has found Sri Lanka, but few American visitors of the Fab Fifties era are traveling here. Why not? It is amazing. We spent three of our most favorite weeks in Sri Lanka, one of the friendliest countries we have ever visited. The Civil War is over and Sri Lanka is safe and inexpensive. The food is the da bomb. Hiking and history is around every corner and the beaches are incredible. We saw elephants and leopards, monkeys and snakes. Oh my. It’s Sri Lanka for me.
Instead of South Africa go to Namibia. Our ten-day tour in Namibia with Wild Wind Safaris will go down in our travels as one of the most remarkable places. This country that nobody has heard of is one of the most beautiful in the world. We had an amazing private guide during our time there, but you can also see the country easily with your own 4×4 vehicle (careful though, there is a high traffic fatality rate in Namibia). Namibia has a gorgeous Atlantic coastline, dry mountainous region that is like a moonscape, and multiple fascinating cultures such as the Himba, Damara and Herero people. And to top it off Etosha National Park – single-handedly the best wildlife viewing we have ever encountered. I absolutely fell in love with Namibia. If you have ever considered a safari in Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa take a moment and research Namibia. You will be so glad you did. Go see Namibia now.
Instead of the Maldives go to the Seychelles. First a word about the Maldives. We loved our time there, and luckily we found a very inexpensive place to stay. But in general the Maldives are expensive and there is no alcohol! So consider the Seychelles instead. A beautiful set of small islands out in the middle of nowhere off of east Africa. We spent a month on the tiny island of Praslin and loved every minute of it. Groceries were expensive and the variety was less than desirable, but the rest of the experience was very positive. The islanders speak French/Creole mix, and the shy people are friendly and religious. If you are looking for a place to kick back and relax with the warmest turquoise waters in the world, visit Seychelles now.
Instead of Spain go to Portugal. I hesitated about adding Portugal to this list because Portugal does have a thriving tourism industry. But we met very few Americans while we were there. Perhaps more Americans go to Spain because Spanish is a language more Americans can handle. But during our time in Portugal we had very little difficulty with the Portuguese language. We loved Portugal so much we would consider living there. The food is incredible, the cities are beautiful and the beaches are fantastic. It’s a remarkable place with such a variety of geography. Historically Portugal was once a powerful country of explorers and merchants, colonizers and tyrants but today, this quiet and beautiful country is laid back and relaxed and fun. Visit Portugal.
What is next for us?
We are now into a full-fledged planning phase of our next chapter of the Grand Adventure. We will spend May-September in the USA then depart again. Without really trying, we have noticed
a trend in the countries we are planning to visit next, a trend towards less touristy. A trend towards staying longer in one place. A trend towards trying to make less of an impact and remove ourselves from the fray.
I think this is what we always intended to happen on this journey, but it just took us a while to get there. But when we look back on our favorite places we have been so far, it’s always the places with the road less traveled. It’s always the places with few western tourists. It’s always the places the cruise ships don’t go. The authentic and relatively untouched destinations.
On Wednesday January 20th I realized I had been holding my breath. For months. Literally unable to breath. But on Wednesday I let go of a long breath and decided to pull myself up and away from the despair that has settled on me. The two nasty “P” words (Politics and Pandemic) had me unable to relax and enjoy life as I used to…for nearly a year now. This week I realized I have been waiting to exhale.
So the waiting continues…and as the song says, the waiting is the hardest part. But I am feeling more hopeful than I have in a long time.
I’ve said over and over these past months that the hate and vitriol in the USA was causing me stress. My feeling has always been I don’t honestly care how people vote. But I care very much how people treat each other. And both the pandemic and the politics have created a tired, exasperated and often savage nation and dialogue. It’s just not for me. I refuse to participate.
Breathe. Wait. Breathe. It may still be a long time until people are kind again. It may still be along time until I can be vaccinated. It may still be a long time until I can travel abroad. But I am no longer waiting to exhale.
Instead I am going in search of peace.
First of all…
I feel blessed that I have the means to go in search of the sun. Our time in Maui showed us we could safely social distance away from home. In fact, it actually gave us time to invent some creative socially distanced activities. But, we aren’t going back to Maui, unfortunately.
Instead we have rented a house in the desert. Not a condo, a house. Somewhere we can stay completely away from other people if necessary, while enjoying some warm weather. Getting away from the Pacific Northwest gray is my goal. I know some of you like the rain…but for me, it makes me physically ill. No joke. My joints ache, my sinuses ache, I have bursitis and my energy is zapped. So we are no longer waiting for good weather…we will go in search of it and the joy and good health it brings.
While I do a little soul searching and invest in my personal well-being, I’m going to take a mini blog and social media break. Not too long, just enough to recenter and exhale.
I’ve spent some time scheduling ahead some Friday Travel Posts, lots of Reading Wednesday posts and several of our popular Tasty Tuesday YouTube posts, as well as some Facebook and Instagram posts. You will hardly notice I’m on a break. I can log off, tune out, shut down and take a hiatus from the madness. And breathe.
I’ll check in from time to time, but mostly I want to rinse away some of the negative energy and renew my faith in mankind. That should be easy right?
So what’s next for My Fab Fifties Life? Three months in the desert, then back to the Pacific Northwest in the spring. After that, no idea. We will take it as it comes. Fingers crossed we will be able to be vaccinated by April, and won’t get the virus before that happens. Perhaps we can travel next fall or winter. But, we wait.
So I hope you enjoy all the posts I have been working on for advance scheduling, and I’ll check in on Social Media from time to time and probably rejoin after a month.
And by the way, if you are waiting to exhale, feeling a little overwhelmed by world events, USA madness, media, screen time and snarky, judgemental or ignorant people, you should do a little social media cleanse too. It’s a good way to restart your engines for 2021.
Yep it was one for the record books, and yet, we managed some remarkable and inspiring travel moments despite it all. So in keeping with the past four years, we want to bestow our 2020 World Travel Awards. This year we have fewer countries, lodgings, and experiences to consider…but we believe they deserve our 2020 World Travel Awards recognition nonetheless.
By the way, I’ve been asked many times whether we lost a lot of money on travel when we had to abandon our trip in 2020. It took some work and persistence but most airlines, all Airbnb’s and all but one hotel gave us refunds or vouchers for future use. With about $10,000 at stake, we feel blessed to have only ended up losing about $1500. One silver lining in the Covid nightmare.
For reference we visited Mauritius, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Uganda, Rwanda, Israel, Cyprus, England and the United States.
Favorite Overall Country – Cyprus
Despite the fact we hardly saw any of Cyprus, we still bestow it the 2020 World Travel Awards favorite overall country. Cyprus is where we went into lockdown and where we were stuck for seven weeks, housebound and unable to see any sites. We never ate in a single restaurant, went to the beach or saw any historic ruins or sites. Luckily the one thing we were able to do before we were forced into house arrest, was a wonderful cooking class. More about that below.
When we can travel again, we will return to Cyprus, to see the sights and to see the wonderful people we met during our time there.
Favorite City – Tel Aviv, Israel
We had four days in the beautiful city of Tel Aviv, a little jewel of a modern city in this incredibly ancient country. On day five as we began to explore more of Israel is when we, with only a few hours notice, were forced to leave as Israel went into lockdown. So the rest of Israel remains on our list, but thank you Tel Aviv for a wonderful visit.
Cutest Town – Bend Oregon USA
On our road trip in August we spent three quick days in Bend and I was reminded once again how much I love this part of the USA. It’s just beautiful and the food and beer are excellent too. I will definitely go again and spend more time eating and playing in this beautiful area.
Favorite Island – Maui Hawaii USA
It’s no secret how much I love the island of Maui…one of the most beautiful islands of the world. I have been blessed to visit many, many MANY islands, and still Maui remains at the top of my list. This past year in an effort to hide from Covid, we spent nine lovely weeks in Maui.
Most Expensive Country – Israel
Even though we did not spend even an entire week in Israel, it was clearly one of the most expensive countries we have been to. Still it remains at the top of our list we want to return to and enjoy.
Least Expensive Country – Mauritius
Considered an African country but feeling more like India, Mauritius is a unique place for culture, food and weather. Six weeks here was inexpensive for us and we enjoyed it very much.
Ten Airbnb/VRBO, Eleven Hotels, One Tree House, One Kibbutz
Favorite Airbnb – Cyprus
Our Airbnb in Cyprus, called Lemon Grove Ena was an absolute blessing – and we will forever be grateful that it is where we were when we got locked down. For seven weeks our hosts Maria and Fritos, as well as their property manager Sofronios, all of whom spoke minimal English, made heroic efforts to keep us safe and comfortable. We could not have been in better hands.
Favorite Airbnb Hosts – Cyprus
As above, our Cyprus hosts were so special. We hope to see them again soon.
Most Unique Accommodation – Tie for this category; Tree House Fall City Washington and Glamping in Carbondale Colorado
Back in the USA we were looking for ways to stay sane so we took a couple much needed Sanity Staycations. In doing so we discovered some unique places to stay. The first one was a beautiful Tree House about an hour from our home. The second was an awesome Glamping Safari Tent just outside of Aspen Colorado in Carbondale.
Best Hotel – Uganda
We were on a tour in Uganda, four days to see the Mountain Gorillas. And for two of those nights we stayed in a mountainside hotel called Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge. It was a tiny place with each room a separate cabin perched in the hills just outside of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Of all the places I have stayed around the world, the service here was one of the best. It also included a delicious small restaurant and bar. Each night they provided a turn down service as well as a hot water bottle tucked into the sheets. When we returned from our very wet and muddy trek in the jungle, they did our laundry too. Lovely.
Most Unique Hotel – Zambia
During our time at Victoria Falls we spent a week in a tiny African hotel called Ngoma Zanga. We ate all our meals here, enjoyed our comfortable room and the amazing staff that helped us have the best experience possible at Victoria Falls.
Best View Accommodations – Maui
We love to visit Maui and when there we always try to stay at the Kihei Surfside with it’s impeccable view
Strangest Hotel Experience – London
When we finally were allowed to leave Cyprus we headed back to the USA via London and those two days of travel were unlike anything we have ever experienced. See below for details. But we had to find a room at Heathrow, when everything was shut down. And so we stayed in what was essentially a closet for one night at Aerotel Hotel. There was no food available anywhere in or near the hotel so we ate day old sandwiches we had brought from Cyprus, slept fitfully and then boarded a USA bound flight in the morning. See more about that below.
Favorite Cuisine – Israel
Mediterranean food and middle eastern food collides in Israel and we enjoyed every bite and every morsel we could in our short visit. Even in the short time we had, this country easily is the tops in food for the 2020 World Travel Awards.
Best Cooking Class – Cyprus
So grateful to have had this experience just hours before going into full lockdown on Cyprus. It was our one opportunity to learn some culture and history and to meet some amazing locals. I cherish this day and all we learned and continue to make Cypriot dishes here at home. Our tour was organized by Cyprus Taste Tours.
Best Beer – Maui
Maui has a great microbrew culture and we visited three different microbreweries (and one distillery) on the island.
Best Coffee – Cyprus
Much like Greek or Turkish coffee, Cypriot Coffee is rich and dark and cooked in an Cezva and we loved it.
Best Meal – Maui
Nine weeks in Maui was amazing, but in an effort to social distance we did not eat in very many restaurants. But, when we did we had no complaints. Two incredible fish meals stand out for me; Mala Ocean Tavern and The Sea House Restaurant.
Best Cultural & Natural Experiences
Best Sunset – Maui
There it is again, my favorite island, which for 2020 also presented me my favorite sunsets…night after night.
Best Cultural Experience – Soweto South Africa
While in Johannesburg we took a cultural tour that included time in Soweto – the infamous township just outside of Johannesburg. We were thrilled by our reception, visiting a home, meeting lots of kids and learning so much about all that has happened to the people of Soweto. We booked this tour through Get Your Guide.
Best Beach – Maui and Honorable Mention Tel Aviv
Our favorite beaches are all in Maui, and while there we went to dozens. But we also thought the public beach in Tel Aviv was astonishingly beautiful. The beaches of Tel Aviv are another reason we can’t wait to return to Israel.
Best Tour and Best Tour Guide – Uganda
Best Bucket List Experience – Uganda
Seeing Mountain Gorillas in the wild was a lifelong dream for me, and celebrating this bucket list adventure for my 60th birthday could not have been better. Working with a tour operator called Achieve Global Safaris we were greeted at the airport by our guide John, who spent the next four days making sure we had an experience of a lifetime. I loved our time in beautiful Uganda and seeing the gorillas.
Best Natural Site – Victoria Falls with Honorable Mention to Mount Rainier
I am a bit of a waterfall junkie…can’t get enough! Our world travels have included seeing some of the most majestic and beautiful waterfalls around the world! In February we were blessed to visit the spectacular Victoria Falls, which straddles the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Beyond breathtaking. Magnificent.
And right in our home region of Washington State is another breathtaking and magnificent Natural Site – Mount Rainier. We did a lot of hiking this summer in and around Mount Rainier National Park. A place I do not take for granted and know how lucky I am to have this so close to home.
Best Manmade Site – Caesarea Israel
Although we were very disappointed to unexpectedly end our time in Israel due to the lockdown, we did get to see a few amazing things, including several remarkable ancient sites. We particularly enjoyed the ancient city of Caesarea with it’s fabulous chariot race track, remarkably intact amphitheater and many other interesting sites, all with a view of the ocean.
Best History Tour – Johannesburg South Africa
Our full day tour of Johannesburg not only gave us the opportunity to visit Soweto (see above) and the Apartheid Museum (see below) it also covered many significant historical events that have occurred in Johannesburg. It was fascinating and I highly recommend it.
Best Day Hike – Rwanda
Our week in Rwanda gave us a chance to learn more about the genocide that happened there in 1994, but it also gave us a chance to get out into the rural areas and see some of the beauty of this often overlooked destination. From the lakeside town of Kivu, we hiked with a guide over a mountain to a small village (about 8 miles) on the Rwanda Congo Nile Trail, and then took a tiny boat back. We learned so much about the history, culture, industry, agriculture, flora and fauna of this tiny little nation. It was a remarkable day – one of those rare and memorable experiences that was delightfully authentic – a top prize for the 2020 Travel Awards.
Expensive but Worth It – Mountain Gorillas Uganda
At nearly $4000 for a five day visit, this tour was far and away more expensive than anything we have ever spent our travel dollars on. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Speaking of heartbeat…mine nearly stopped when we finally found the family of eight gorillas we had spent three hours tromping through the jungle looking for. One of the most unforgettable days of my life. Enjoy this little video (which is by far my most watched YouTube video ever! ) Achieve Global Safaris was amazing.
Best Gardens – Mauritius
We spent one day at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens near the town of Port Louise on the island of Mauritius. We were really surprised to find such a vast and well maintained Botanical Gardens in this tiny island nation.
Best Conservation/Environmental Protection Site – Mauritius
Definitely my favorite thing we did on the island of Mauritius was the boat tour to Ile aux Aigrettes, a protected atoll only 100 yards off shore. Here we took a remarkable guided walking tour to learn about the work being done by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to preserve and protect numerous endangered species of animals, birds and plants. Mauritius can’t bring back the extinct Dodo bird, but they are working very hard to preserve the other unique and beautiful animals and flora of this special island.
Best Museum – Apartheid Museum Johannesburg South Africa
This museum is one of the best I’ve been to in the entire world. Amazingly organized to enjoy and learn chronologically it includes many interactive, video, audio aspects as well as an outdoor art exhibit. We were there for two hours and I wish we had two more. The Apartheid Museum is worth a trip to Johannesburg to see.
Craziest Thing We Did – Angels Pool Victoria Falls Zimbabwe
Whenever I look at these photos, I wonder what was I thinking? To be honest I did not really understand what I was signing up to do and it was only in the moment that I thought “oh shit.” But with caution we proceeded and it was actually fun, but also pretty freaking crazy. One of those things you do in a foreign country and afterwards you think “this would never be allowed in the USA.” I survived Angels Pool, Victoria Falls.
Least English Spoken – Cyprus
To be fair, we only dealt with a handful of people in Cyprus since we were mostly in house arrest, but the few friends we made we needed to do a lot of hand signals and pointing and laughing trying to get our message across
Friendliest People – Rwanda
Every person we met in Rwanda was a delight. From hotel people to just people on the street we found Rwandans sincere, kind and very interested in us. Like in some other countries, I still hear from a few people we connected with and I love knowing they are well and still remembering meeting us.
Hottest Day – Mauritius
I swooned in Mauritius. The humidity was oppressive on a few days. Hottest day was 101F. We also lived through our third cyclone while on the island.
Coldest Day – Haleakala Maui
At 10,000 feet Haleakala, particularly on a windy day, can be downright frigid. It was 37F in the morning with a nasty wind chill as we started our hike there.
Best Place to Run – Maui
Hands down of all the places we traveled this year running in Maui was the best. I always run in the morning before it got too warm, and the view, well, you can’t beat it.
Best Game of Golf – Sun Valley Idaho USA
We golfed a lot this year, it being one of the few things we could get out and do safely. I made a commitment to really improve my game and I did. My favorite golf day was at Elk Horn in Sun Valley Idaho
Best Yoga Spot – Maui
Yoga continues to be part of our daily routine, and Maui wins again, offering us the best yoga spot we found.
Craziest Travel Day Ever – Heathrow, London England
The day we finally left Cyprus after seven weeks we flew to Heathrow and spent the night. The following morning we headed to our gate for our 12 hour flight back to the USA. This experience in Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, will remain with me for the rest of my life. Walking through Heathrow without another person anywhere to be seen was eerie, surreal and the most defining moment for me of what Covid-19 had done to our world. It was frightening. But I’m glad I had the experience of it, I certainly will never forget it.
Craziest Experience Overall – Cyprus
If you have read this far, you know we were locked down in Cyprus, basically under house arrest for seven weeks. To leave our Airbnb we had to ask permission via text. We could only leave our house once a day. So if we needed groceries, that was all we could do that day. No groceries needed? Then we could ask permission to exercise, which we did most days, running in our little neighborhood around the village of Argaka. It was a surreal experience, definitely unlike anything else we have encountered in our world travels. And despite it all, we wouldn’t change it…it certainly is something we will never ever forget. Thank you Cyprus for taking such good care of us. And no question it needs to make the list for our 2020 World Travel Awards.
I will add, that in all our travels, our time in Cyprus was the first time we needed to be in direct contact with the US Embassy. We were grateful for the guidance they provided even though their hands were tied. If you travel international, we highly recommend signing up with each Embassy you visit through the State Department Step program…apparently you never known when you are going to need it. See how to do that here.
That’s a Wrap
It was not the travel year we imagined in January 2020, and yet, we added some of the most remarkable experiences of our life to a life of extensive remarkable experiences. I am very grateful for that. And, I am beyond grateful to all the kind and wonderful people we met this year while traveling. So many just trying to save their businesses, stay safe and healthy, and do the right thing. What a blessing to have met them all.
Next week I will share a blog about our near term travel plans. But as far as long term or international travel, we have none. My guess would be we might not leave the USA until 2022. But I can’t know that so early. If that happens, next years Travel Awards will look very different, or perhaps I will need to decide if the blog has run its course. But I can’t know that yet either. All I know is the 2020 World Travel Awards have a special place in my heart.
Meanwhile we continue to be grateful for all the travel we have enjoyed, our current state of health and wellness, and our upcoming USA travel plans where we can lockdown in the sun. I have no regrets, no complaints and just a wee bit of sadness for all that has happened, or not happened.
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Please be sure to read next Friday’s blog to see what happens next for My Fab Fifties Life.
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