I recently downloaded a new app to my phone that tracks National Parks in the USA. I didn’t know exactly how many I had been to, and wanted to know. Over the PanDamit year we did several road trips and I added a few to the list. So today I thought I would share my favorite USA National Parks.
This list below of my favorite USA National Parks is parks only. It does not include National Monuments or National Forests. Maybe I’ll blog about that in the future. The majority of National Parks are located in the more rural western half of the USA – while the eastern half of the USA is home to more of the nation’s National Monuments.
Lucky me to have visited all 50 states and 36 USA National Parks. There are a total of 60 USA National Parks from Alaska to Florida and even one in the Virgin Islands. So of the 36 today I want to share with you my top ten…even though I still have a few I need to see. But this might give you some ideas of great places to visit in the USA. I hope you have a future post-PanDamit road trip in your future in the USA. Here are my favorite USA National Parks.
In no particular order;
The beautiful state of Arizona is home to three national parks, and two of them make my list today;
SAGUARO – we visited this small but amazing park this past year on one of our PanDamit road trips. And I fell hard for the unique beauty of this park. Much less busy than many of my favorite USA National Parks, Saguaro is a great place for hiking, bird watching and enjoying the unique desert flora.
2. GRAND CANYON – the grand-daddy of all national parks in the USA, as well as one of the most remarkable places in the entire world. I have visited this gem three times, and we have it on our destination list again coming up next fall. I absolutely love the Grand Canyon National Park.
The diverse state of California is home to a whopping eight national parks, and I have been to all of them. Although only one made my favorites list….but several get an honorable mention including Yosemite, Death Valley and Redwoods.
3. CHANNEL ISLANDS – it’s not easy to get to the Channel Islands, one of my favorite USA National Parks located between 12 and 70 miles off the coast of California depending on where you start. We took a boat from Ventura about an hour and spent the whole day hiking this dry and hilly island. What a special day that was.
4. EVERGLADES – This park eluded me for many years, until we did a fabulous Florida trip in 2019, spending time in Miami, Key West and of course, the Everglades. When I was a little girl I loved the show ‘Flipper” and always wanted to go to the Everglades where the boy Sandy lived with his ranger dad. So, I finally got there and it did not disappoint. So many alligators!
Hawaii is home to two national parks both focused on Hawaii volcanoes. I have been to both and both are fantastic. But only one is my favorite;
5. HALEAKALA – I’ve lost track how many times I have visited my favorite Hawaiian Island of Maui, home to Haleakala National Park. Every time we go to Maui, we visit Haleakala to hike. Twice we have gone up for sunrise too, but mostly we just love to hike into the spectacular crater.
The state of Montana is home to two very important and beautiful National Parks; Yellowstone and Glacier. Now it’s hard to rival Yellowstone…and most would argue it should be in my top ten list. And perhaps it should, but I find it just too crowded for my liking. So my favorite USA National Park in Montana is Glacier.
6. GLACIER – this beauty in the Rocky Mountains can also be very crowded at times. But play your cards right, come in the Spring or Fall and midweek and you will find the most jaw dropping scenery and wildlife spotting. I adore Glacier National Park.
Five amazing National Parks call Utah home and I love all five of them. But this magnificent state gets two of my favorite USA National Park votes.
7. ARCHES – the first time I went to Arches I had never seen anything like it. The Hoodoos and rock formations and of course the arches…astonishing. I love the dry weather and it’s such a beautiful place to hike year around.
8. BRYCE CANYON – the first time I went to Bryce Canyon we arrive after dark and went straight to our hotel. It was April and we got up and found a dusting of snow on the ground. I really didn’t know too much about Bryce, but we drove to the park and walked up the hill to the edge of the canyon. OMG. To this day I will never forget how that view literally took my breath away. I have been there two more times and I love it so much.
Growing up in the state of Washington I had no idea what a treasure it was. It was just where I lived and I rarely gave it much thought. Today I know…Washington State is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and home to three national parks. Two of those make my favorite USA National Parks list.
9. OLYMPIC – as a kid we hiked and camped every summer in Olympic National Park. The Rainforest, rivers and ocean were a big part of my growing up years. Back in the 60’s and 70’s you could always find a campsite without a reservation, but today that is not the case. It is popular and it’s easy to see why.
10. MOUNT RAINIER – from my window as a child we could see Mount Rainier off in the distance and we took that view for granted. Locals refer to it as “the mountain” and the national park that surrounds it provides visitors a never ending list of hikes. Camping, history, rivers, wildlife and the most incredible views you could ask for are what you will find in Mount Rainier National Park. Read about all my other favorite things to do in Washington State here.
These are my favorite USA National Parks. What an amazing thing it is to have access to all of these unique and varied parks within the borders of my diverse country. I hope to visit them all in the next few years. Thanks for reading about my favorite USA National Parks.
This is a repost of one of our favorite blogs from 2020. Enjoy again or for the first time.
We spent seven weeks on the island of Cyprus – 37 days longer than we thought we would be here. During that time we were basically under house arrest so there was very little sight-seeing. Fortunately we are allowed to go out to the grocery store (with advanced permission) and the stores were bursting with wonderful fresh produce; avocados, citrus of every kind, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, pomegranates, lots of greens and potatoes and cucumbers. Just about anything you can think of to use in my Cyprus test kitchen.
I’m very grateful that one of the first things we did on arriving in Cyprus in early March, (before all hell broke loose and quarantines and lock downs became the norm), was take a cooking class. By doing so during our first few days, I was introduced to the incredible cuisine of Cyprus; a little Greek, a little Turkish and a bit reminiscent of Eastern Europe. The cuisine is hearty with pork, beef, lamb as well as middle eastern spices and lots of beans, rice and local produce. There is also seafood, although we unfortunately did not experience it.
Since the island was on lockdown during our visit, we were unable to go out and taste the cuisine at the hundreds of restaurants and tavernas dotting the island landscape. So I decided to use all that time I had on my hands to bring the cuisine to us, creating a personal Cyprus test kitchen. I did a similar thing when we spent three weeks on the island of Antiparos a few years ago. We were there in the off-season and almost everything was closed. So I taught myself to cook Greek (see it here). And that was my attitude and goal here in Cyprus. It’s been one of my favorite boredom-buster-in-lockdown activities.
Taste of Cyprus
Before the lockdown began, during our first few days on the island, we signed up for a full-day tour with Cyprus Taste Tours, a local tour company and we were so blessed to meet Liza (Lee-zah) a Cypriot who loves food and loves introducing it to visitors. Our day included a beautiful drive through the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus, a visit to the Vouni Panayia Winery and a visit to the Loukoumia Geroskipou candy making factory. We also made a brief stop at the Chrysoroyiatissa Monastery to learn a bit about the ancient ways of making wine.
But the best part of the day was the four hours we spent at Mrs. Sofia’s Traditional House learning and eating several of Cyprus’ most traditional foods. She has a perfect Cyprus test kitchen and I was infatuated.
Cooking with Mrs. Sofia
As you know, I love taking cooking classes in every country we visit, and it’s always my favorite when I am cooking in a local home with a local family. That’s what happened at Sofia’s Traditional House.
We were at the family home of Sofia and Andreas, the home Sofia grew up in. The original part of the home has been preserved in a way that guests can see how a traditional Cypriot home was in the past. Sofia and Andreas have added a cooking kitchen on to create a space for classes (only through Cyprus Taste Tours) as well as serving meals to tour groups that come through.
We learned so many things during our time with Sofia. First she pulled fresh bread out of the outdoor oven and fresh halloumi out of the outdoor cheese maker. Wow. Delicious.
Next we watched the interesting process of making traditional Cypriot Coffee in a special machine where the coffee cooks in hot sand. Amazing.
Then we began to prepare the ingredients for our feast.
Six Famous Cypriot Dishes
During our time with Mrs. Sofia we learned to make the following dishes;
Halloumi Cheese – famous cheese of Cyprus is fantastic eat fresh, boiled or grilled. Squeaky texture with a very high melting point give it an unusual variety of cooking and eating options.
Koupepia – stuffed grape leaves, very similar to Greek Dolmades, the Cypriot version is filled with rice, pork, tomato and parsley and simmered in a tomato broth.
Keftedes – a word that means meatballs and can refer to many kinds but the most popular are a minced pork, grated potato, onion and parsley with a hint of cinnamon.
Pligouri – which is a pilaf of bulgur wheat. Bulgur wheat is what you might know in tabouleh. Pligouri is considered a poor man’s food, but is delicious, quick and easy to make.
Spoon Sweets and Anari Cheese – Anari Cheese is the fluffy white byproduct of halloumi cheese made by adding fresh raw milk to the whey after the halloumi curds have been separated. Spoon Sweets are spoon size bites of usually fruit but sometimes vegetables, usually the rind preserved in a sweet syrup.
Things I Tackled at Home
After going in to quarantine then followed by lockdown, I realized I wasn’t going to be eating in any local restaurants. So I set out to teach myself in my own Cyprus test kitchen, how to make several more of Cyprus’ most famous dishes. Here is everything I tackled during our weeks of solitude with recipe links when possible;
Sheftalia – a type of sausage without skin its held together with caul fat. Very popular taverna meze. I was able to buy the Sheftalia already prepared at the butcher and grilled it up at home.
Kolokouthkia me ta afka – is a traditional scrambled egg and zuchinni dish often eaten as a mezzo.
Fried Halloumi – this cheese is really amazing, with a very high melting point so it’s perfect for frying…but I also love it’s dense saltiness just to pop in my mouth.
Macaronia Tou Fournou (similar to Greek Pastitsio ) this deep dish casserole was delicious and I plan to make it again. Layers of macaroni pasta, Bolognese sauce, bechamel sauce and grated halloumi it was comfort food at its finest.
Melitzanosalata – smashed eggplant cooked and mixed with garlic, lemon and parsley and usually served as a mezzob.
Avgolemoni Soup – Lemon and Egg Soup. Simple and absolutely delicious. What a refreshing surprise this treat was. I will certainly make it again.
Lamb Chops – for our first Easter dinner we had lamb chops fresh from the butcher, marinated simply in olive oil, lemon and rosemary.
Kleftiko – Lamb Shank. This is the most famous dish on this island, and I wasn’t sure about tackling it. Usually cooked in a traditional outdoor oven for hours and hours, I took my chances cooking it in the oven in my kitchen. This was our Easter dinner on the Cypriot Easter Sunday and it was amazing.
Souvlaki – I’ve eaten souvlaki in Greece and the USA and I love it but I wasn’t sure about making it myself. But on one of our final days in Cyprus I went to the butcher and bought beautiful piece of pork tenderloin and made the most mouth-watering meal! We had a lot of meat left and we enjoyed it again on day two.
Fresh Lemonade – we were up to our ears in both lemons and oranges and we loved having fresh squeezed OJ each morning. We put our fresh lemonade skills to the test and what a refreshing afternoon pick me up.
In addition we learned to make Cypriot coffee in our Cyprus test kitchen, just like Turkish coffee, dark and strong.
Things We Ate Elsewhere
Our lovely Airbnb host kept us in delicious baked goods, including one of Cyprus’ most famous desert flat breads called kattimerka, very much like lefse. She brought us a local molded pudding (cake) made from semolina flour called Halva as well as orange cake. And she also made us our favorite, the traditional Easter bread called Flaounes.
We bought Galaktoboureko at the local bakery, a very dense custard, phyllo, and honey pie.
From the grocery store we enjoyed excellent local olives and olive oil as well as wonderful wines from Cyprus including Commanderia, the Cypriot favorite. As well as Tahini, Hummus and Tzatziki.
At the local butcher we sampled the traditional Tsamarella, a sausage made from lamb or goat and served like an appetizer with cheese and bread.
Things I Didn’t Have
We missed out on one famous Cypriot specialty, a slow clay pot cooked meal called Ttavas. We also didn’t get to experience the cultural tradition of mezzo meals, either a meat mezzo or seafood mezzo at a traditional taverna. This is the most popular way to eat in company, sampling dozens of small dishes while drinking and enjoying each other’s company. So sorry we never got to do that.
Cyprus will always hold a special place in my heart…what a remarkable place to be in lockdown. Even though we missed so much, I still feel a great emotion to the people and the place…perhaps we can return when times are better.
I am so grateful to this country for the love they showed us. EUCARISTW POLU. Thank you very much. You will never know how much it has meant to us.
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.
How to describe the unexpected, slightly annoying, and hopefully soon-to-be obsolete summer of 2020? I don’t think any of us will forget it soon. No sir, summer 2020 is branded on each of us forever; a somewhat sad, somewhat frightening, but often annoying period in history.
I approached this time of my life as optimistically as I could muster, setting my sights on goals and activities to keep me from going crazy. I can’t remember another summer in my life with so few parties, not a single concert, and zero festivals. No family reunion, no weddings, no fair or rodeo. No summer blockbuster movies, organized runs or even Seafair hydroplanes. Ho hum.
But most of all it’s been years since I haven’t had a vacation or trip looming on the horizon. The world according to Covid. So sad….
I knew full well as we flew half way across the world back to the United States on April 30th (abruptly ending our world tour) that nothing was going to be the same this summer. Our two months locked down on the island of Cyprus had us fully prepared with a good understanding of the dangers and contagion of the virus. We weren’t however prepared for the way the USA handled the virus with lack of cohesion, lack of preparation, lack of equipment, lack of communication. That part blew my mind. And thanks to all of that, we as Americans can’t travel now…perhaps for a very long time. Annoying.
The term ‘growth mindset’ is a bit of mantra for me, and I, sometimes to my husband’s dismay, tackle each problem head on with belief I can make something good out of the situation. And do it today. Generally I am a positive person with a somewhat Pollyanna view and so I set out to make the most of the situation. I lead a quantified life, meaning quarantine and lockdown seemed like another opportunity to tackle and reach some goals. This isn’t for everyone, but it works for me and damn I get a lot done!
So after four months stuck back in the USA it’s time to review my summer of miscontent, and consider what lies ahead.
Learning New Garden Skills
I didn’t do much work on my garden last summer because we were up to our eyeballs in remodeling our new villa. This year I set out to learn all I could about deer resistant gardening as well as gardening with woodland plants. Read Deer Resistant Gardening post here.
I have learned so much this summer, mostly by trial and error and I can say a few things with confidence about deer resistant gardening. First, the deer will try anything at least once…even if it’s supposedly “deer resistant”. Second, the female deer eat like pigs in the spring when they are carrying their fawns. And finally, there really are some plants the deer don’t like…thankfully. My successes this summer include lavender and all herbs, canna, cone flowers, daises, peonies, most grasses, cotoneaster and most woody shrubs, day lilies, and mums. I won’t be planting much beyond this list in the years ahead.
BTW my Master Gardener friend Kim (who helped me a lot) reminded me that no matter if the tag on the plant says “deer resistant” the deer can’t read.
Getting My Glow Back
Something I wasn’t prepared for when we started our life of nearly full time travel more than four years ago is how hard travel is on your skin and hair. Yes, I said skin and hair. Sun and sand, chlorine and salt, dry airplanes, dehydration, humidity…you name it. I felt my skin looked ancient when I arrived back in the USA. So, since we were going to be staying close to home, it seemed like a good time to launch a much needed and long neglected anti-aging skin care routine. Within a week of arrival I was into it and here is the post I wrote about Skin Care at Sixty
It’s now been 18 weeks since I took control of the future of my skin and I can’t tell you how much better I look and I feel. It is worth the effort and the money and I will never go back to neglecting my own self-care again. Whether you use the products I used or another brand or approach, just taking the time to put yourself first and take care of you is an important goal in life.
While I’m At It – Let’s Get Skinny
The two months on lockdown in Cyprus was a time I taught myself all about Cypriot cuisine. It was fun to have the time to do that. We also had an amazing Airbnb host who brought us baked goods nearly everyday. Oh boy those were good.
But on touchdown in the USA I was at least fifteen pounds heavier than when I had left, and my weight then wasn’t ideal either. One of the best things about travel is the wonderful food around the world – and I want to try it all. But, back in the USA it was time to take some serious measures and drop some serious pounds. And so I joined Noom and got to work within a week of arriving back home. Here is the post I wrote about Noom Weightloss.
I also set out to make better choices of what I ate and Noom helped me with that. We joined a seafood club and began receiving delicious wild caught Alaska Seafood and I taught myself all kinds of delicious seafood recipes. Cooking fish has always been a bit daunting for me, but not anymore. See some of the recipes here for Alaska Wild Caught Fish.
It’s now been four and half months and I have lost 27 pounds and I am currently maintaining my new weight. My god I feel so great! Noom is a great program. It might not be for everyone but it was just right for me and my growth mindset life and I am going to do everything I can to keep the weight off.
Let’s Get Physical
Noom was my motivation, but running really helped me kickstart a quick weight loss from the beginning. I set out to train for a half marathon, knowing full well the virus was causing all organized runs to be canceled. But I decided I could do my own half marathons and gave myself twelve weeks to be ready using Hal Higdon’s training program. See the post I wrote about Half Marathon Training
The twelve weeks have come and gone and I have run my half marathon and plan to run my second one this coming weekend. And as long as this old sixty year old body will let me, I’ll just keep right on running. I love it and it helps me stay slim.
Learning Something New
We can’t travel but I live on a golf course…there it is right in my own front yard. So no time like the present to learn something new. I have golfed in the past but it had been at least 15 years since I picked up some clubs. So my summer of miscontent became my summer of learn to golf. I took 8 lessons and learned a great deal during that time. I got a new driver, new shoes and a whole new atititude and confidence to this game and I look forward to golfing through out the fall and even the winter as I work to feel natural with a club in my hand. Another great way to get my exercise in.
Staycations and Road Trips
Once I felt safe to be out and about on a limited basis, we planned some close-to-home two and three day getaways (see our Island Sanity Staycation #1 here and our Tree House #2 here). I also got outside to hike and cycle as often as possible, keeping social distancing top of mind. I was really grateful for those close to home activities with my husband, my grown sons and some of our close friends.
In August we decided to venture a little farther from home and did a 13 day road trip through Idaho to Colorado and back through Oregon. It was a lot of driving and in hind sight we should have added a few more days, but the weather was excellent, the scenery sublime and the ability to play my “get out of jail free card” really helped my sanity. I felt safe the entire time and we were careful and social distanced everywhere we went.
And Just Like That, Fall is Here
The virus is here for a long while, and learning to deal with it has been the unexpected outcome of my summer of miscontent. So now I look forward. I’ve done a little soul searching through all of this. Learning to accept the fact I can’t travel and I am not in control of when I might be able to again. Learning to find peace with that and find other things to occupy my over active brain. Learning to socialize primarily with my closest family and keep most everyone at arms length. No hugs. That sucks.
The weather will turn soon and I will turn to my arts and crafts and focus on healthy eating and working out. We might do another road trip…or even fly to the sunny parts of the USA if we decide it’s safe to do so. But learning to be kinder, quieter, more thoughtful has been good medicine for me. I’ve given up the news and refuse to engage in politics or hate. It’s not my way.
I know well there are so many people who have it so much worse than I do. I have a home, a family and I am safe and so far healthy. There is nothing more that I need.
I know a handful of people who have had the virus, all but one of them surviving. It’s real and it’s going to be around for a while…I am settling in for the long haul. Likely no travel for a while, but learning to live within the boundaries the virus has imposed. And do so with a positive attitude…as much as possible. Sometimes that means stepping away from the news, shutting down the social media, turning away from the screen.
My goal – a fall and winter of contentment. Putting away the miscontent and finding acceptance and satisfaction in the solitude this virus has thrust on us, and the major change in lifestyle that is now my routine. My autumn of contentment. My winter of gratitude. My Fab Fifties Life.
We are still here! Hope you all are hanging in there…I gotta say, it’s kind of weird, but it’s starting to not feel all that strange…like this is just my life now. Living on this island but not being able to see any of it.
Cyprus Covid-19 Cases 760 Deaths 13
Day 41 on Cyprus. Day 37 in Quarantine/Lockdown
The strange thing about these numbers above is my perception of them. For instance…it took us 41 days to walk the Camino Francis…that was 37 days of walking and 4 rest days. But THAT actually seemed longer than the time I have been here. Why?
Additionally, we spent 42 days on the Island of Mauritius. And THAT seemed longer than the time I have been here. Why?
I think it’s because there is no end date for me to look at here. It’s just a never ending carousel of days. Around and around we go…
Today is Orthodox Easter, the biggest holiday of the year in Cyprus. I’m sorry we are not able to participate in this celebration. I understand it is a very special four days. Everything of course was canceled…or postponed until further notice. I posted a blog on Friday all about the way this holiday is celebrated in Cyprus. Please find it here.
Even though virus cases have continued to grow, wide spread testing has been available and many people are getting tested, which of course is affecting the numbers. There are still infractions being issued for those who break the curfew or are out with out their “permission slip”. We have settled into life with only leaving the house once a day. Sometimes when we are out on our run, we will make a quick pit-stop at the mini market down the street if we need bread or eggs or gin! But I believe these restriction are helping Cyprus – while back home it sounds like much of the population are ignoring the rules, going to Home Depot, walking along Tacoma’s waterfront etc.
The President of Cyprus and cabinet announced this week a four step plan to reopen the economy in early May. But the plan begins with very minor lessening of the restrictions, and we do not yet know if it will include opening the airport or even give us an opportunity to get outside our village.
Mostly Good News
I’m happy to share that Airbnb came through for us and has issued us a full refund for our Jerusalem house. They have been redeemed in my eyes. We have three more Airbnb’s currently reserved; Finland and France in June and New York City in December. We will wait and see what’s next.
The flight we had booked from Malta to Belgrade via Istanbul has been canceled…but they are giving us credit towards a future flight. Not helpful.
We have also negotiated to continue to stay here at Lemon Grove Villa with a week by week extension at the same rate per day ($69 USD). We are happy about that. If we do need to leave at the spur of the moment they will also issue us a refund. So no complaints there. All of the flights we have seen leave the island, have happened with only 24 hours notice. So we need to be ready at a moments notice.
I have leaped past my “feeling sorry for myself” state-of-mind and have had a very productive week. I’ve lost track of how many webinars I have participated in. This week I continued to revamp my Pinterest account, did a total rebranding of my Instagram and have spent hours learning Tailwind. This stuff is really interesting to me….I’m a marketing geek what can I say? I also loved having an hour and a half on Zoom with my Book Club, even at 4:00 am. That made me happy.
I’m still having trouble reading though…and I’ve also had a couple nightmares and restless nights.
Since we arrived I’ve been focused on teaching myself the cuisine of Cyprus, and hope to have a blog all about that in the weeks ahead. Hard to believe we have been here 41 days and not eaten in a single restaurant.
I hope you all are finding your peace in all this mess and accepting how life has changed forever. Please stay well. Please stay positive. Please stay fabulous.
Thanks for caring about us. We are doing fine. Thanks for continuing to support my blog. Love you all.
April 11 th marked seven months since we left the USA
Cyprus Virus Cases as of today 620 – Deaths 13
See below for latest news and developments from the island under lockdown.
It’s Easter Sunday and I’m determined to count my blessings all day…and especially in this message before I move on to the other details of our lockdown life. There are many blessings and I remind myself this when I am falling down the rabbit hole of too much news, too much worry and too much social media. I am blessed;
I’m healthy and safe
Although I know some people with the virus, they are all acquaintances of acquaintances and so far none of my family or close circle of friends have been afflicted. That I know of.
My husband is with me
I can talk to my family and friends regularly
Cyprus is beautiful
Our villa and hosts have been exceptional
I have been to 110 countries and if I never get to travel again, well I have been to 110 countries and I am blessed.
It may be Easter in most of the world, but it’s not Easter here in Cyprus. We actually get to celebrate Easter twice. Small blessing. Today we celebrate on the day most of the Christian world celebrates and next Sunday the Orthodox Easter is celebrated. It’s something to look forward to, although we won’t leave the house for either of these holidays. Blessings.
Grief Becomes Goals
Like a big heavy wet blanket, grief is oppressive as it lays on our lives. I’m aware how many people have been feeling this way, and I have too. We are grieving for our past lives and for things familiar. Recognizing what this emotion is is definitely the healthiest step we can make, and recognizing the chapters and long road we face ahead is important.
On my run this morning I was remembering my personal battle of grief when my brother died. I was highly functioning for months following his death, handling all the gruesome details of my brother’s sudden death, pushing my grief away. There was a very poignant moment for me, when, feeling sorry for myself I was thinking how much I wanted things to just go back to normal. Normal.
What is normal after a loss, tragedy, crisis? It was that moment that I instinctively knew the answer to one of life’s most difficult questions. There never will be a normal of old. It’s gone, just like yesterday and two minutes ago. Can’t get it back. A new normal develops…and we gradually accept and live in it.
I think I’m making positive steps towards the new normal, as I have found myself much more engaged in trying to keep busy and definitely looking at what life will look like going forward. Blessings.
Healthy Body and Mind
The movie Wall-E keeps running through my mind, where the human race needs to leave planet earth to let it heal. Remember? And they all live on some kind of Starship Enterprise, getting fat, and lazy and stupid.
I am still finding it difficult to focus on reading…of all things. I should be devouring books, but I’m not. But I have found something else to take my mind off of the bad news. I’ve never allowed myself the time to listen to podcasts, take webinars, or sign up for classes on line. This past week I have done all of those things. And I have learned so much and it feels great.
Most of the learning I’m doing online is geared towards this blog (although I snuk in a cooking class)…how might this blog look in the months and years ahead with the changes in travel? How can I keep it viable and interesting, inspiring and fun? I took a class about Pinterest and Tailwind and am considering doing an online Tailwind consulting. Tailwind has always baffled me so I kind of ignore it. I also took a wonderful webinar about Instagram and learned some fun new things. Additionally I took a live online class with other bloggers about search engine optimization and affiliate options for bloggers. BTW check out my new and improved Pinterest account here. It’s pretty.
These are all things I never paid much attention to…but now I am learning and finding it really fascinating. Keeping my mind open to learning. I’m doing yoga and have a new app for that too and I’ve begun training for a half marathon. No Wall-E for this girl. Blessings.
Latest Cyprus News
A lot of things happened this week on the island. First, the stay home lockdown has been extended to April 30 th, same as the USA. Easter has been “postponed” until May, as the government tries to get the Church to agree to not hold Easter services. A big task in this very religious country.
We still need to ask permission to leave the house, which we do via text. We went to the grocery store this week, and were stopped by the police at a road block. We had to show our “permission” to be out, and then we were flagged through. If we didn’t have that authorization, we would each be fined $300. Thousands of citations have been given over the past few weeks and one man has been arrested for some kind of fake SMS scheme he was running.
There was a flight that left Cyprus this week to Stockholm. We considered taking it, but decided against it. We would have needed to stay the night in Stockholm, take a second flight to London, stay the night in London and then take a third flight to Seattle. This did not seem like a healthy or safe scenario so we decided to wait.
We received a phone call from the Embassy checking on us. They were trying to determine the level of “need” each American has. This is good, the most interest they have shown in our welfare. We are aware that there are many people who have much more urgent reasons to get back to the USA (jobs, kids etc) than we do. We are also aware of some cases where people are running out of money and need to get out. We do not fall into those categories. We continue to be safe and comfortable. Blessings.
You may have seen the interview that I did with Q13 News in Seattle this week. It was fun to tell our story, even if they did pronounce my name wrong. It’s okay – not the first time I’ve been called Loud. 🙂
In our original itinerary we would have been touring the Caucasus right now; Armenia. Georgia and Azerbaijan. But we aren’t so no point in dwelling on it. It’s the new normal.
Still waiting for Airbnb to make it right by us. Flights we had in May have now all been canceled. Unfortunately they are giving credit not cash. Ugh.
My gut tells me we will be here until May…assuming the airport opens in early May. At that time we will determine a plan of action. But until then, we will certainly consider any possible flight that comes available, but more likely we will spend our days here, waiting like the rest of the world. Blessings.
Stay safe my friends. Be good to each other. Happy Easter.
Message from Cyprus Lockdown 2020 – Cyprus Day 22. Lockdown Day 8.
Note: Since Wednesday is a regular blog day for Reading Wednesday, I hope you won’t be confused by this second blog. I’ve never posted two blogs in one day. Please see the Reading Wednesday blog here. Thanks.
It’s feast or famine here with either a whole lot of nada going on or so much happening it’s overload and hard to keep up.
It’s been seven days since we received an email from the Cyprus Embassy telling us there may be a flight out for US Citizens within 48 hours. Since then we have heard absolutely nothing. I am getting much more information from other embassies around the globe than I am getting from Cyprus. No explanation on their website regarding their silence. Nada.
HOWEVER tomorrow there is a live Facebook feed for US citizens with the US Ambassador to Cyprus. We will sit in on that and hopefully get some news. Check the My Fab Fifties FB page tomorrow (Thursday) to see if we learned anything.
Every morning I check the Cyprus Mail website for the latest information. On Tuesday further restriction to movement were put into place. Now we can only leave the house once a day, still using the SMS system and asking permission for one of the 8 categories. Which sucks because we have to choose do we go for a run today or do we go to the grocery store. They are also closing grocery stores on Sundays. Locals are really up in arms about all of this…one man laments what is he to do about walking his dogs on a day he needs to go to the store, pharmacy or doctor? Another crazy new rule is anyone who has tested positive and told to self-isolate will be forced to wear monitoring ankle bracelets so authorities can track their movement…just like a criminal.
I’m kinda pissed at Airbnb right now (and ya all know I’m a big fan) but after 22 days we still have not received our refund from Jerusalem that was promised to be sent within ten days. Additionally they aren’t communicating with us any longer. I’m sure they are overwhelmed but all I was looking for was a status for the delayed refund of nearly $900. They have just updated their website however, giving us an option to either get 50% cash back for our Airbnb in Malta or 100% in credit. We are taking the credit…and still waiting about Jerusalem.
We would like to help local businesses, but the tiny village we are in has no restaurants doing take-out or curbside. We would need to go to the big city of Paphos for that an hour away. So unfortunately we have had zero chance to enjoy the local Cypriot cuisine from local restaurants. So glad we took the cooking class the first few days we were here…it may likley be the only thing we get to do on this beautiful island.
The exasperating news from the USA gives me a headache and I’m trying to train myself to not spend so much time looking at it. It’s grim and the politics of it all makes me sick. If only, if only, if only. Two months ago and things could have been so different – one month ago would have saved lives. It’s sad how many people will die and how many people still can’t see the forest through the trees.
My hands are tied as far as being able to help small businesses back home. Can’t really get take-out can I? I did however order a bunch of Easter yummies for delivery from Boehm’s Chocolates of Poulsbo, owned by a good friend of mine. It’s not much and I wish I could do more.
Spring is in full force here on the island and the pollen is in total overload and the symptom are kinda like Covid; eyes, throat, lethargic. Ugh. Too much.
Cyprus loves its holidays and TODAY is Cyprus National Day – a celebration of the day the war between Cyprus and Britain began in 1955 that eventually resulted in Cyprus Independence in 1959. But, no celebrations anywhere…churches are closed, parks, beaches and no one can gather. Party pooper. I’m interested to see what happens with Easter in this very religious country. Curiously Easter in Orthodox is not celebrated on the same day as everyone else. It’s celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon which in 2020 is April 19th.
And so we sit tight. Few options but we are still healthy and comfortable. Our Airbnb hosts have been wonderful, continuing to deliver fresh produce and baked goods several times a week. It’s so quiet here…no airplanes and few cars…just the wind and the waves.
Our original dates on Cyprus were supposed to be March 25-April 7. Our changed plans had us arrive on March 10 and our departure date remains unknown, it could be tomorrow…or it could be in June. Your guess is as good as mine.
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