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    Snorkeling Around the World

    Memorable Moments of My Fab Fifties Life

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

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

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Costa Rica

    wonderful opportunities in our travels.

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Maldives

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Australia with Wally

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Dhow in Zanzibar

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

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

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Australia

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Hawaii

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Thailand

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

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Zanzibar

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

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Maldives Sand Island

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

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

    Fabulous!

    Manta Ray image from Pixabay

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

     

     

     

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Quindlen, now in her sixty’s, has been writing about motherhood, womanhood and feminism for decades, and Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake goes a step further, exploring ageism and the maturing woman.

    Well of course I’m interested in that.

    But – there was some of the book that fell flat.  And some parts I just didn’t agree with, such as statements on religion’s role in fulfillment or needing to have a girlfriend you talk on the phone to every single day.

    Those aren’t things I need for happiness in my mature years.  But there was a great deal of the book that could have been me talking –  Quindlen literally taking my thoughts and putting them into her book.

    Looking back at how we thought we knew everything when we were young.  Watching our grown children also thinking they know it all.  And all the while knowing what we know we can’t impart that knowledge to them, they must learn it with time.

    Quindlen writes about letting go of “stuff” (me again), career moves that slow your heart rate even if they lessen your bank account (me again), women needing to work twice as hard to get noticed on the career ladder and then becoming essentially invisible once you reach your fifties (me again).  It’s okay to find happiness in being alone.  Some solitude often is the stuff of clear mind and healthy soul (me again).

    I did not learn anything from this book, but my beliefs were certainly reinforced and I enjoyed reading that.  In fact, this statement really narrows it down for me, and is what I liked best about the book.  She writes;

    “There comes that moment when we give our children custody of their own selves or blight their lives forever, when we understand that being a parent is not transactional that we do not get what we give.  It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: we are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

    Read last week’s review of Educated

    Asia Travel

    Korean Spa – Some Like it Hot

    Re-visiting a Favorite Past Blog

    Location: Korea

    Korean Spa – Some Like it Hot

    On the 5th Anniversary of this particular blog, I thought I would share it again.  One of my all-time favs!! Enjoy!

    I’m discovering the Korean people love to be hot.  Setting the temperature in our hotel room lower than 80 * Fahrenheit is nearly impossible.  The toilet seat is heated and so are seats in the car.korean-spa

    And they love their hot baths and saunas.  And now I do too.

    I was a little apprehensive about going into the sauna the first time.  Only apprehensive because I’m not used to walking around naked with people I don’t know. This apparently is not a problem for the Koreans.  And frankly why it is for Americans I don’t know.  We do obsess a great deal about our bodies.  God knows mine is far from perfect.  But what is perfect anyway?  Wouldn’t it be great if we all just were satisfied with ourselves?

    I tried to think like this in the sauna.  No one paid any attention to me here.  You shower first, then choose between three different pools; hot (44 C), medium (41 C) and cool (21 C).  There is also a 95 C dry sauna, a 73 C wet sauna and a sun lamp room in addition to several stations to wash and scrub yourself.

    After two days of visiting the spa I decided to tackle the massage and body scrub.  I was met by a tiny little lady,

    This is not me. I found this on the internet.

    the only person in the spa wearing a bathing suit (or perhaps it was her underwear, I’m not exactly sure). She motioned me into the small room adjacent to the spa and encouraged me to get up on the bed face up.  She spoke only Korean except for the word “okay” which she used to show me I was following her instructions correctly.

    She then proceeded to scrub the hell out of my skin.  Using what I think was mitts on her hands that were abrasive and using some abrasive concoction she scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed.  With my eyes closed I had the image of me in my kitchen at home using my Brillo to scrub away baked-on macaroni and cheese. She scrubbed every nook, cranny, crevice and crease of my body, and I mean every crease and crevice – she was very thorough and diligent in her task.  For an hour she scrubbed away years of dead skin, old suntans and crud.  She even tried to scrub away a few scars. I have a permanent mark on my sternum where my running bra abrades me.  She did her best to scrub that sucker away.

    I wear a patch on my belly that is hormone replacement therapy.  I hadn’t even thought about the patch, but she scrubbed that away too.  I have no idea if she knew what it was but I felt it rip off and I laid there mentally calculating how many more I had with me, hoping the loss of one wouldn’t make me come up short before I headed home to my pharmacist.

    She scrubbed my armpits and I was wishing I had shaved that morning.  She scrubbed my breasts and I opened my eyes to peek and make sure my nipples were still there.  She scrubbed my neck, my ears and every toe and finger.

    She then soaped me up and I nearly shot right off the bed like an oiled pig for being so slippery…she tossed large tubs of hot water all over me and I nearly drowned.  And I loved every minute of it.

    “Okay, Okay” she said and sent me off to shower and soak in the pools while she cleaned the room and spaprepared for my massage.

    I returned and she was waiting for me and I laid down again, top up.  She rubbed me down, starting with my face with an oil that smelled of the sea, fresh but also of seaweed.  She used another implement that was wood and covered with nodules to rub my body head to toe.  She occasionally would throw a bucket of hot water on me and then begin again.  She covered my face with a hot towel and then I heard her scraping something.  It sounded like my kitchen grater…and then the unmistakeable smell of fresh cucumber.  She grated and grated and then proceeded to artistically cover my entire face with the freshly and finely grated cucumber mash.  And suddenly I was hungry.

    While lunch sat on my face she continued my massage.  She found the knot in my neck where my massage therapist at home has spent a lot of time and energy.  My Korean masseuse was hell-bent on un-tieing this knot and she worked and worked it.  It was both painful and pleasurable.  She even massaged my belly, almost as if she was trying to manipulate my liver and kidneys.  Oops, and my bladder.  I hoped she would avoid that area or else I wasn’t gonna make it through this torture without a potty break.

    Finally she removed the salad from my face, lightly washed and dried my face and then it was time for dessert.  Yes I said dessert.  She drizzled honey all over my face and rubbed and patted it into my skin before saying “Okay okay” and had me roll over to my belly.

    And then she started on my backside.  During this 30 minutes she made my sciatica feel fabulous and my lower back feel young again.  She used a pumice stone on my feet and scraped away the dead skin and calluses.  She kneaded my neck further and worked my shoulders and arms.

    “Okay okay” and I rolled over again, thinking we must be done, but no.  She washed my face again, poured more water all over me and then had me scoot all the way to the top of the table where she proceeded to wash my hair and scrub my scalp.  Really, when has your masseuse ever done this?

    Finally, after nearly three hours, “Okay okay” and I am done.  Off to the showers I was sent.

    My day at the Korean spa was not just a body scrub and massage, it was a facial and a hair care and pure ecstacy.  My inhibitions are gone forever and I am now a super fan of Korean Spa Life.  I will absolutely do this again.

    And by the way, three hours and all this only cost me $75.  Wow. I’m really starting to enjoy Korea.

     

     

     

     

     

    Central America

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    Low cost ideas in beautiful La Fortuna

    Location: La Fortuna Costa Rica

    As full-time travelers we are very cognizant of staying on budget.  We always say we are not on

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    Toucan

    vacation…this is our real life.  And to continue living in this manner, we must stay within our means. So we were looking for low-cost ideas in Costa Rica, and we found you can enjoy La Fortuna Costa Rica on a budget.

    Here in beautiful La Fortuna Costa Rica there are dozens of guided tour options to some really amazing places.  Everything from Bird Watching to Ziplining.  From Cycling to River Rafting.  Our entire Costa Rica budget could be blown here in our first stop.

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    Beautiful Arenal Volcano

    Since we practice frugal travel, we came up with this list of less expensive and almost free things to do in La Fortuna Costa Rica on a budget.  If you too are a budget traveler, you might find these suggestions useful;

    Hike to La Fortuna Waterfall – From our Airbnb we walked about 4 miles to the La Fortuna Waterfall  it’s a pretty steep road and it was a great workout.  We were blessed with clear blue skies and spectacular view of the volcano, which rarely comes out of the clouds.  Arriving at the waterfall our entrance fee was $18 but worth it to walk down the

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    La Fortuna Waterfall

    500 steps and enjoy the cool waters of the falls.

    Sloth Watching/Bird Watching Tour  – We paid $60 for an early morning guided tour to search for sloths. The great thing about this tour is you have a guarantee that you will see sloths and if you don’t, you get all your money back! And the tour

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    Smiling Sloth

    includes a full breakfast! We saw four sloths and one baby too.

    Breakfast at Arenal Oasis with Bird Watching – have a breakfast for less than $5 at this hidden oasis and enjoy a spectacular display of birds while you eat.  Arenal Oasis has strategically placed feeders and we saw a huge variety of amazing birds including Toucans while we ate. Arenal Oasis also has a night

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    Toucan

    walk that sounds fun, but we didn’t do that.

    Tabacon Thermal River – just outside of La Fortuna in the small area known as Tabacon you can find a FREE hot springs experience in the thermal river.  This river completely changed after the last eruption of the Arenal Volcano and now is a flowing thermal river. Read more.

    Springs Resort with Tubing on the River – For $68 we enjoyed a full day at the gorgeous Spring Resort.  Rooms here cost a minimum of $500 a night – way out of our price range – so getting a day pass was much

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    Tubing on the Arenal River

    more within our budget.  A day pass provides you access to all the dozens of thermal pools as well as use of their changing rooms and showers.  Oh and the view! Wow! Worth a million dollars.

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    The Springs Resort and Spa

    Tubing at Springs Resort- For an additional $35 at the Springs Resort and Spa we had a blast tubing down the Arenal River with a guide and other guests.  Super safe with just enough “rapids” to make it exciting.  The River was very warm and we really felt it was worth the money.

    Self guided cycle tour – there are many options for GUIDED cycling in the area, but if you are an experienced and confident cyclists you can set out on your own with a bike rental.  Several kinds of bikes are available for rent around La Fortuna for one day or longer treks. Read more.

    Sodas – no this isn’t a drink.  A traditional fast food and delicious restaurant in Costa Rica is called a

    La Fortuna Costa Rica on a Budget

    Lunch at Soda Del Rio in La Fortuna

    soda.  Here you can get the choice of the day, or one of several “typico” plates that will include your meat of choice, rice, beans, vegetable, salad and probably a fried banana .  All for about $6.  You can’t beat it.

    Yoga – Looking for some zen while in La Fortuna? Take one or more of the amazing yoga classes with Amanda at La Fortuna Yoga .  For $10 I enjoyed  one of the best yoga classes I have ever had.  Amanda offers multiple classes most days including Vinyasa and Hatha.   I went to four classes during our week in La Fortuna.

    People come to Costa Rica for the beaches – but spending some time in the beautiful rain forest and the small town of La Fortuna is a great way to enjoy the amazing nature of Costa Rica.  And you can do it on a budget!

     

     

     

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is one of the best books I have read this year.

    And that is a powerful statement since I read more than one book a week on average.  You must read Educated.

    The true story of Tara Westover’s life, raised by a survivalist father and a meek mother in the mountains of Idaho, her story is real, fascinating and a triumph.

    Having never attended school until she applied to go to college, Tara’s childhood was a crazy mix of violence, danger, suspicion, work, work and more work as she and her many siblings tried to please a demanding, religious father in a tight family lacking love.

    Despite being raised in isolation and taught that the government was out to kill them, Tara suspected there was more to life than what she knew.  Eventually going out on a limb and taking the college entrance exams, Tara suddenly finds herself in a classroom for the first time as a seventeen year old.

    College mentors and professors quickly see Tara’s potential and hunger for knowledge and opportunities begin to come her way, including Harvard and Cambridge.

    The new Tara finds herself shunned by much of her family, and yet despite that separation she perseveres with her education and the eventual writing of this book, a triumphant tale of breaking-away and a testament to the life-changing power of education.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five Stars for Educated.

    Read last week’s review of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

     

    Inspire

    Second Annual My Fab Fifties Life World Travel Awards

    And the Winner is…

    Location: Around the World

    And the Winner Is…

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Germany

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

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

    DESTINATIONS

    26 Countries

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    Favorite Overall Country – Australia

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

    Favorite City – Sydney and Krakow

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

    Most Beautiful City – Singapore

    Word Travel Awards

    Singapore

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

    Cutest Town – Brugge

    Word Travel Awards

    Brugge Belgium

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

    Most Expensive Country – Australia

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

    Least Expensive Country – Indonesia

    Finding an oasis

    Mount Batur Bali

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

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

     

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    29 Airbnbs, 42 hotels, 5 boats

    Word Travel Awards

    Airbnb Antiparos

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

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

    Best Airbnb for AuthenticitySantorini

    Santorini short and sweet

    Santorini

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

    Most Expensive AirbnbSantorini $220 a night (see above)

    Word Travel Awards

    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

    Word Travel Awards

    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

    Word Travel Awards

    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

    Word Travel Awards

    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.

    Word Travel Awards

    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

    Word Travel Awards

    Brugge beer

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Port Wine

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

     

    CULTURAL AND NATURAL EXPERIENCES

    Word Travel Awards

    Guam

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Bangladesh

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Antiparos

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Egypt

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Germany

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

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

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    India

    informative, interesting and entertaining.

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

    The Magical History Tour

    Cairo

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Maldives

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Uluru

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Malaga Cathedral, Spain

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

    Word Travel Awards

    7 Ladders, Brasov Romania

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

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Platypus Australia

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Auschwitz

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Performance, Ubud Bali

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Ecuador

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Wall

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Count Dracula Romania

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

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

     

    WEATHER

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Muxia Spain

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

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

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

     

     

    TRAVEL

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

    Smallest AirportParos Greece

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

    Word Travel Awards

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Train Travel

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

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Camino de Santiago Portugal

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

    Word Travel Awards

    Dead Sea Jordan

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

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

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

    What a fabulous life it is.

    Please comment and share.  We appreciate your love.

     

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

    Pilgrimages come in many packages. Some planned. Some not. For Harold Fry his was unlikely and most unexpected. And most certainly a transformative life-changing event.

    Having been on my own life-changing pilgrimage these past few years, I really felt a kinship with Harold. Recently retired, looking for purpose, unable to make his wife happy, Harold’s life takes a major turn the day he receives a letter from a former colleague.

    And thus begins the unlikely adventure. Part Forest Gump, part Walter Mitty – Harold’s pilgrim path ebbs and flows and throughout he impacts people’s lives in a sincere and honest way during the more than six month journey- all while learning so much about himself.

    I really enjoyed this book and the story of an ordinary man with an extraordinary sense of commitment, humanity and perseverance. You will love Harold Fry and his unorthodox adventure too.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

    Read last week’s review of Becoming