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Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021

PanDamit Be Damned

Well. Here we still are…that crazy PanDamit just won’t give up. If you had told me a year ago when I wrote last year’s 2020 Travel Awards that I would actually travel LESS in 2021 I would not have believed you. And yet…. But nevertheless, we are presenting to you our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021.

We did our first Travel Awards in 2017. Ahh those days we remember fondly…. 2018 was amazing too. And 2019 so incredible. And like everyone else, all seemed well when 2020 began but then…well you know what happened. Guess we don’t need to dwell on it do we?

In winter 2021 we did some USA exploring, staying away from most people and out of most restaurants. Our USA travel revolved around activities outdoors in sunny places. In April we got our vaccine and we celebrated that milestone by booking our first international trip in more than a year to Iceland. But as summer waned, variants persisted. We continued to travel in the USA and got our booster shot in October, just in time to spend a month in Mexico.

Vaccine
Getting Vaccinated in April

So there was some travel…most of it in the USA, but all of it wonderful. Making the most of a bad situation we continue to live My Fab Fifties Life with courage and caution. For me and my husband, we refuse to be victims or feel controlled by the virus or those who don’t believe in science. Instead, our life is evolving to be happy in this situation that is beyond our control. Doing our best we had some great adventures this year, as you will see in our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021.

And so, we plan to travel in 2022. But in the meantime, we present our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021. I hope it will inspire you to be brave, be smart, be happy and be safe. Happy New Year!

And the winner is…

Destinations

We visited three countries, plus nine states in the USA.

Favorite City – Mexico City What a fabulous surprise Mexico City was. Huge but with great transportation, this ancient and beautiful city is colorful and remarkably clean and astonishingly delicious. I now rank it as one of my favorite cities in the world. We didn’t have enough time to see it all, so we are considering another visit in 2022.

Mexico City
Mexico City

Cutest Town – Ogunquit Maine We visited Ogunquit in September spending a week with our friends in their summer home and we had the best time. It’s everything you imagine an Eastern Seaboard village to be with beautiful architecture, nice restaurants and shops and beaches too.

Maine
Ogunquit Maine

Favorite Island – Maui, Hawaii It’s no secret our love for the island of Maui. Of the hundreds of islands we have been blessed to visit around the world Maui remains at the top of our favorite island list. Although it is expensive and can be incredibly crowded, we try to visit during the shoulder season and always fall in love with it again. Read about our Maui adventures here.

Maui
Maui

Most Expensive Country – Iceland We spent fourteen fun days in Iceland enjoying it’s jaw dropping scenery, with ten of those days in a camper van. We avoided restaurants most of the time, but groceries are expensive, fuel is expensive and the camper van was expensive. But as you will see in the blog below there is a lot to love about Iceland. Read about our Iceland adventures here.

Iceland
Iceland

Least Expensive Country – Mexico We were surprised and delighted about the cost of things in Mexico from restaurants and groceries to transportation and lodging. Even our four day food tour was well worth the money and we can’t wait to visit Mexico again. Read about Mexico here.

Mexico
Mexico

Accommodations

Favorite Airbnb – Tucson this year we stayed in the fewest Airbnb’s in our entire Airbnb history. Only five. Usually it’s more like thirty. But most of them were great and our favorite was the beautiful house in East Tuscon. It was comfortable and well laid out in a really nice neighborhood where we could run and really get outdoors, right next to Saguaro National Park.

Tucson
Tucson Airbnb

Favorite Hotel – The Red Tree House B&B Mexico City For many reasons, but mostly due to Covid, we ended up in more hotels than Airbnb’s in 2021, a total of 16. Many of these were for only one or two nights as we were just passing through. But The Red Tree House in Mexico City was hands down our favorite. One of the best, if not the best service hotel I have ever stayed in. Beautiful and with excellent breakfast we are already talking about going back next winter.

Red Tree Bnb Mexico City
The Red Tree Bed & Breakfast

Honorable Mention goes to the beautiful La Conner Channel Lodge right on the Swinomish Channel in La Conner Washington (read about it here) and the historic Hotel Del Coronado San Diego California (read about it here) – a bucket list hotel for me. Both these properties were fun and fabulous to visit.

La Connor Washington
La Connor Channel Lodge
Del Coronado San Diego
The Del Coronado

Most Unique Accommodations – Camper Van Iceland our second time traveling in a camper van in a foreign country. This vehicle was not laid out as nicely as the one we had in New Zealand, but for ten days it worked out fine. And it gave us lots of flexibility to see all the great sights on the fascinating Ring Road in Iceland.

Iceland
Camper Van Iceland

Best View Accommodations – Puerto Escondido Mexico although we found this very open air Airbnb pretty noisy, you just could not beat the view of the Pacific Ocean and the swaying palm trees. Lovely.

Puerto Escondido
View our Airbnb Puerto Escondido

Food

Best Food Tour – Mexico City Eat Like a Local Four days of touring with Eat Like a Local Mx opened our eyes to the hidden treasures of this amazing city. We loved every minute and every bite as well as all the history and culture. We also loved our guides Astrid and Rocio and hope to see them again some day. Read about it here.

Mexico City Street Food
Food Tour with Eat Like a Local Mexico City
Mexico City Street Food
Food Tour with Eat Like a Local Mexico City

Weirdest Food – Iceland Fermented Shark We also enjoyed our food tour in Reykjavik Iceland. Iceland has some delicious food, but also some weird food too, like fermented shark. Not my favorite thing ever…tasted like ammonia.

Fermented Shark
Fermented Shark Iceland

Best Cooking Class – Casa Jacaranda Mexico City Our full day cooking with Casa Jacaranda in Mexico City was one of the best cooking classes I have ever taken…and I have taken a lot of cooking classes over the years. Learning about the ingredients, cooking in the beautiful home kitchens of Casa Jacaranda and enjoying a meal together at the end was just the perfect way to end our visit to Mexico City.

Casa Jacaranda Cooking School
Casa Jacaranda Cooking School Mexico City

Most Unique Food Experience – O’O Farm Kula Maui during this long visit to Maui we set out to really find some deeper hidden and authentic treasures of this beautiful island (read about it here) and discovering the O’O Farm was one of the most amazing finds. We will definitely visit there again.

O' O Farms Maui
Delicious meal and tour at O’O Farms Maui

Unexpected Food Trend – Sonoran Dog Tucson this unexpected food trend in Tucson was something I had never heard of, but apparently Sonoran Hot Dogs are well loved by those in the know. We did a Tasty Tuesday all about it.

Sonoran Hotdogs Tucson
Sonoran Hot Dogs

Best Alcohol Tour – Puerto Escondido Mexico a few years ago I was introduced to Mezcal for the first time. Since then, I have learned a bit more about Tequila in general and Mezcal in particular and while in Puerto Escondido we did our first Mezcal Tour. We learned so much from Puerto Mezcal Tours and highly recommend this tour company if you are in the area. Really fun.

Puerto Mezcal Tours
Mezcal Tour with Puerto Mezcal Tours

Best Micro brews – This one is a tie: Tucson Arizona, and the Breweries of Kitsap Peninsula. While visiting Tucson last winter we set out to taste test all the local microbreweries. During this time there still was no indoor dining, but finding lots of outdoor dining and drinking opportunities we discovered a wide variety of really good beer in Tucson. Back home in Washington State in the spring and summer we spent 8 weeks visiting 24 local microbreweries of the Kitsap Peninsula…if you live anywhere near the Kitsap Peninsula you really need to check this out.

Tucson Micro Brews
One of many micro breweries in Tucson
Micro Brews of Kitsap
So many great beers on the Kitsap Peninsula Washington

Best Meal – Rok, Reykjavik Iceland we had two fabulous meals in Reykjavik and also ate some strange and crazy things in Iceland. But our dinner at the beautiful little Rok was so delicious and one of the most unique meals I’ve ever had. Rok, along with some other restaurants and local Icelandic chefs have put Reykjavik on the map for the Nuevo Icelandic cuisine. If you make it to Reykjavik, get a reservation at Rok.

Rok Reykjavik
Beautiful food of Iceland at Rok

Best Cultural and Natural Experiences

Best Sunrise – Ogunquit Maine – we loved our week in Ogunquit with dear friends and enjoyed the spectacular sunrises each and every morning. Stunning.

Maine
Sunrise Maine

Best Sunset – Puerto Escondido Mexico and Maui Hawaii Sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from these two locations never disappointed and we looked forward each evening to the experience.

Sunset Mexico
Puerto Escondido Sunset
Maui Sunset
Sunset in Napili Maui

Best Beach – Maui it’s no secret how much I love the island of Maui, even though it has changed so much in the forty plus years I have been visiting. This year we spent the majority of our time in West Maui, a change for us from past visits, and discovered so many new and lovely beaches…our favorite, Kahana Secret Beach. Shhhhhhh….don’t tell anyone.

Maui
Secret Beach Kahana

Best Waterfall – Iceland – when you first arrive in Iceland you pull over on the road for every waterfall. Until you realize there are tens of thousands of waterfalls and you just can’t possibly see them all. But during our two weeks in Iceland we had three favorites; Dettifoss, Svartifoss, and Hengifoss

Iceland
Ditfoss Iceland
Svartifoss
Hengifoss

Best Natural Site – Antelope Canyon Utah it’s been years that I have wanted to visit Antelope Canyon. I also have tried to get in on the lottery to visit “The Wave”. Still working on that one. But Antelope Canyon is absolutely stunning and it was a definite bucket list for me. I am so glad we finally made it.

Arizona
Antelope Canyon Arizona
Arizona
Antelope Canyon Arizona

Honorable Mention – Kirkjufell Iceland – it was our lucky day to visit this beautiful site on such a clear and sunny day. Kirkjufell is one of the most photographed places in all of Iceland, and it was just stunning.

Iceland
Kirkjufell Iceland

Best Wildlife Sighting – Grey Wolf Grand Canyon Arizona – a rare and chance siting of a wild wolf on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was such a fluke. I just happened to be looking across a field as we were driving and I yelled Stop! I wasn’t exactly sure what it was I was seeing but we got out the long lens and binoculars and while other cars zoomed right past, we enjoyed seeing a Grey Wolf in the wild. Good eyes Laureen!

Grey Wolf
Grey Wolf North Rim Grand Canyon

Best Wildlife Exhibit – Maui Ocean Center Humpbacks of Hawaii 3D Exhibit it had been many years since we had visited the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium, but their brand new 3D film entitled Humpbacks of Hawaii intrigued us and so we went. Boy were we glad we did. The 3D movie is worth the price of admission, while you can also enjoy the other marine life exhibits. If you have ever hoped to swim with whales, well this is the next best thing. So real.

Maui Ocean Center
Maui Ocean Center Humpbacks of Hawaii

Best Historic Church – Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson This historic and beautiful old mission just outside of Tucson Arizona was a beautiful surprise both inside and out and I am so glad we took the time to visit it.

Arizona
San Xavier del Bac

Best Modern Architecture – The Chapel of the Holy Cross Sedona Wow. We could see this church from a couple of miles away and even though we weren’t looking for it we headed that way to get a closer look. This Roman Catholic Church is a stunner built into the red rock of Sedona.

Sedona
The Chapel of the Holy Cross Sedona

Best Museum – Frida Kahlo Mexico City Outstanding small museum in Mexico City, also known as Casa Azul, is the home where Frida Kahlo was born, lived her entire life, and died. The museum dedicated to this strong woman and her fascinating life was our favorite this year.

Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo Museum Mexico City

Best Outdoor Museum – Arizona Sonora Desert Museum one of the best things we did in Tucson, was driving out of town to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, a beautifully laid out outdoor museum. With interpretive signage for the wide variety of plants, wildlife and birds, we spent several hours enjoying this remarkable place.

Arizona
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum Tucson

Best Garden – Sunnylands Palm Springs, Akureyri Botanical Gardens Iceland visiting botanical gardens is a favorite thing we do everywhere we travel. This year we visited several in Arizona, California and Maui. But these two were are favorites for their distinct beauty, surprising colorful blooms (especially in Iceland) and easy accessibility for the visitor. I highly recommend them both. Sunnylands and Akureyri Botanical Gardens

Palm Springs
Sunnylands Palm Springs
Iceland
Akureyea Botanical Gardens Iceland

Best Kitsch – Tombstone, Arizona we don’t often fall for the kitsch, but sometimes it’s fun to do the touristy things. In Arizona we spent a day driving from Tucson to Tubac, Bisbee and Tombstone enjoying some history and shopping as well as the touristy kitsch in Tombstone, home to the OK Corral and Wyatt Earp. We were glad we went. Tombstone

Tombstone Arizona
Tombstone
Tombstone Arizona

Most Unique Experience – Beer Spa Iceland I never did see this activity in any of the research I did for our visit to Iceland, until I stumbled on a brochure. It wasn’t cheap but it was certainly unique and close to where we were spending several days in Akureyri. Bjorbodin was about an hour’s drive. Drinking beer, soaking in beer and having a wonderful time on a very memorable day.

Beer Spa Iceland
Beer Spa Iceland

Best Outdoor Art – Borrego Springs California we spent seven weeks in the Palm Springs California area, and one day while driving around we stumbled onto these incredible outdoor sculptures in Borrego Springs. There are dozens of these…perhaps even hundreds. Some small and some huge and all fascinating and fun to see. Worth a side trip if you are in the area.

Borrego Springs
Borrego Springs Outdoor Sculptures California

Best Interactive Exhibit – Wonders of Iceland & Planetarium although this brand new museum and exhibit is pricey, it is really well done and a perfect introduction to Iceland. We learned a lot about the history, geology and geography of the island nation at this exhibit while in Reykjavik, prior to setting out on our 9 day driving tour.

Wonders of Iceland and Planetarium

Honorable Mention Van Gogh Immersive Experience Seattle – this traveling exhibit has been getting rave reviews all of the world. We saw it in Seattle and really enjoyed it. Especially if you have never had the opportunity to visit European museums that house Van Gogh, you might find it entertaining.

Van Gogh Immersive Experience

Athletic Pursuits

Best Hike – Tucson, Sedona, Washington State, Maui, Utah if you follow My Fab Fifties Life regularly you know that we hike one day a week, nearly every week of the year. Hiking is a big part of both our travels and when we are at home in Washington State. This past year we have had so many amazing hiking adventures enjoying new hiking experiences in Tucson and Sedona and Page Arizona as well as Utah. We also revisited our favorites in Maui and Washington State. I can’t choose a favorite. I just can’t! So if you are looking to hike in any of these locations click on the live links above to learn more.

Maui
Washington
Arizona

Best Place to Run – Maui as I write this I am snowbound in Washington State and unable to keep up with my running schedule. Boy do I miss running in Maui. It’s hands down my favorite place to run in the entire world. I often run before it even gets light, I always feel safe, and I adore the island breeze.

Maui
My morning view running in Maui

Best Place to Golf – Maui Nui Maui because we were in Maui for two months again this year, we decided to get a membership to Maui Nui in the Kihei area. It’s such a great place to golf if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for some of the fancier courses. We golfed every Monday for eight weeks with our membership and made vast improvements in our game. I can’t wait to go back next fall.

Maui Nui Golf Maui

Expensive But Worth It – White Pocket Utah we paid to take a tour to White Pocket in Utah (about two hours from Page Arizona) because getting there requires a four wheel vehicle. Despite the nearly $400 cost, it was worth it…truly one of the most amazing geological sights I have ever seen. The world is strange and wonderful and Arizona and Utah have more than their share of fantastic geological sites!

White Pocket
White Pocket

Best Yoga – Maui Goat Yoga well I saw this on Trip Advisor and without telling my hubs I signed us up. So much fun! For something completely different, spend a morning with the goats in Maui’s Upcountry area of Kula. It was fun. Maui Goat Yoga.

Maui Goat Yoga
Maui Goat Yoga

Weather

Hottest Day – Puerto Escondido Mexico we love hot weather, and often find ourselves in places without AC, which was the case in Puerto Escondido Mexico where the temperatures daily reached into the upper 90’s Fahrenheit. But we are used to sleeping with open windows and fans and that is what we did in Puerto Escondido.

Puerto Escondido Mexico

Coldest Day – Sedona Arizona we knew Sedona could be chilly and we were mostly prepared, although the morning we woke to a blanket of snow we were a little surprised. We still got out and did our hikes and enjoyed the beauty of the low 30’s temperatures and the white snow blanketing the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona

Sedona Arizona
Snowy Sedona Arizona

Honorable Mention – Port Orchard Washington unusually cold weather the week after Christmas kept us housebound with 8 inches of snow at our home in Port Orchard Washington.

Snow at home in Washington

The Oopsie That Happened Award 2021

Sea Urchin Attack Maui – every year something weird happens that is worth a mention but doesn’t fit into any category. This year it’s the Sea Urchin Attack. When I got caught in a small wave and my foot was dragged across a bed of sea urchins I ended up with 25 sea urchin spines embedded in my foot. And it hurt like hell. Gratefully we learned the remedy is soaking your foot in vinegar for days and days and eventually the spines dissolve. Who knew?

Sea Urchin attack
Sea Urchin spines in my foot in Maui

That’s a Wrap

As you can see, despite it all we had some memorable travel experiences in 2021. We no longer carry many expectations for what 2022 will look like. We will just wait and see and be grateful for whatever comes.

Hiking in Sedona

I hope you are healthy and safe. I’ll be blogging in the next few weeks about our impressions and experiences in French Polynesia – our 111th country! We will be in French Polynesia for two months! Life goes on – PanDamit be damned!

Thanks for reading this post Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021. Thanks for your continued love and support of this blog. We love it when you pin and share our blog posts.

Iceland
Sedona

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20 Comments

  • Reply Ava

    Wow! You certainly did have some amazing experiences in spite of the world condition. I really enjoyed reading about your category winners. Just enough info to make you want to read more.

    January 14, 2022 at 1:01 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thank you so much!

      January 15, 2022 at 10:59 am
  • Reply Claudia

    Nice job of making something out of a fairly minor travel year compared to others.

    January 14, 2022 at 5:53 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks Claudia. It’s been fun.

      January 15, 2022 at 11:01 am
  • Reply Heather

    What s great round up party! Oh I’ve wanted to go to that beautiful canyon as well and Mexico too! Looks like you did 2021 right!

    January 14, 2022 at 6:31 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks Heather. You’ve certainly had your own adventures!

      January 15, 2022 at 11:01 am
  • Reply Laura Deaton

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your recap. What a year you had, despite the pandemic. Will enjoy following your travels in French Polynesia. Safe travels!

    January 14, 2022 at 7:54 pm
  • Reply Ruth Martin

    Love following your travels Laureen! Happy Birthday and looking forward to seeing you again in March.

    January 14, 2022 at 11:32 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Love you Ruthie!

      January 15, 2022 at 11:00 am
  • Reply Alma

    Not too shabby for a pandemic year! Well done that you could do so much. Loved ALL your travel awards 😉

    January 15, 2022 at 1:11 am
  • Reply Margaret Wilsher

    After reading this, I just want to go to all of these places (Arizona again). Especially Mexico which is easy for us to get to. Just waiting for our borders to open……
    Pandammit indeed!
    Happy Birthday.

    January 15, 2022 at 12:24 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Until we meet again!!

      January 15, 2022 at 2:05 pm
  • Reply Ellen Burne

    Love these awards! Iceland is definitely not cheap but it can be done super budget – we got around in a tiny car and stayed at the cheapest backpackers whilst spending the entire time eating ramen noodles! I’d like to go back with a bit more cash and enjoy the restaurant scene one day 🙂

    January 15, 2022 at 12:29 pm
  • Reply MaryBeth Hined

    I’ve learned so much about the world just by reading your blog! I love to see all the interesting places you stay!’

    January 15, 2022 at 12:31 pm
  • Reply MaryBeth Hines

    I’ve learned so much about the world just by reading your blog! I love to see all the interesting places you stay!

    January 15, 2022 at 12:32 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks my friend!

      January 15, 2022 at 2:04 pm
  • Reply Annie

    I love this concept. I’ll have to see what categories I can come up with relevant to watching wildlife! And hope I can get back to travelling in 2022. It’s certainly a good way to make memories.

    January 15, 2022 at 12:46 pm
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