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    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    A Year in Review

    Location: Planet Earth

    I absolutely love writing this blog post each year. Throughout the year I think about what experiences and places might make this list. And when it’s time to write – it’s a fun walk down memory lane as I reminisce about the previous year of travel. Maybe I can inspire you to travel to some of these places. I know for a fact several of my followers traveled to Malta this past year. Malta was last year’s winner of our favorite country! I hope it’s fun for you to read and enjoy the awards we bestow on our favorites and the best of the best (and a few duds too) from our year of travel; the Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023.

    The Grand Adventure Year Seven

    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    I’m surprised that I am already talking about the “seventh annual” travel awards 2023! We are now well into our eighth year of travel as part of The Grand Adventure. What a remarkable ride it has been. Not sure exactly what year nine will bring…but it’s already open for discussion.

    2023

    We have had a wonderful year of travel; both long stays and short, independent travel and guided. The list includes; Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bolivia, Barbados, Curacao, Grenada, Bonaire, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Philippines and Australia. The states included Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Georgia, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington DC.

    Birds of Australia

    So sit back and get ready….here are the winners! Our Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. By the way see our First AnnualSecond AnnualThird Annual, Fourth Annual  Fifth Annual  and Sixth Annual awards by clicking on the links. Each one special in its own way.

    Destinations – 14 Countries and 8 USA States

    Favorite Country – Australia

    Australia – Our favorite country of 2023

    We spent the last two and a half months of 2023 in the amazing country of Australia. It’s our second visit to Australia since we started the Grand Adventure in 2016. The first time we spent three weeks. Oh but there is so very much to see in this amazing country and even two months didn’t cover it all. We loved Brisbane and spent four weeks in our Aussie Nest, the caravan we took more than 2400 miles. Also, Melbourne was incredible and then an entire month in Hobart enjoying the beauty of Tasmania. If you haven’t been to Australia…it’s time!

    Favorite City – Melbourne and Honorable Mention Hong Kong

    Beautiful Melbourne Australia
    Hong Kong

    Unlike most years, 2023 included several big cities. Not on purpose really, it just worked out that way. We loved Mexico City, La Paz Bolivia, Atlanta Georgia, Washington DC, New York City, Hong Kong, Brisbane and Melbourne. But, if we must – and we must – our choice for favorite is a tie. Beautiful Melbourne is a place I could go back and spend a few months. Astonishing Hong Kong was sparkling clean and HUGE, delicious and just a wonderful surprise.

    Cutest Town – Savannah Georgia and Honorable Mention Hobart Tasmania Australia

    Savannah Georgia USA
    Hobart Tasmania Australia

    Despite having traveled quite a lot around the US South, I had spent almost no time in Georgia. So this year we made it to both Atlanta and Savannah. Savannah is a fabulous town, historic and charming. We had great weather, ate great food, spent time with dear friends. It was worth the wait. On the other hand, Hobart on the island of Tasmania, Australia was such a wonderful surprise. With an incredible and diverse collection of things to do. We enjoyed both.

    Favorite Island – Panglao Philippines

    Panglao Philippines

    We arrived in Panglao Bohol with absolutely no expectations. I knew it wasn’t Maui. Or the island of Malta. But I was intrigued and curious. What we found was unexpected and fabulous. Nothing fancy..but ridiculously inexpensive, beautiful, friendly and sunny.

    Most Expensive Country – USA

    Snoqualmie Falls and Salish Lodge
    Snoqualmie Washington State USA

    Second year in a row that the USA is our pick for most expensive country. Granted we own a small house in the USA, so while in that part of the country we don’t need to pay for lodging. But groceries, dining out, excursions, flights and anything else to do with day to day life or domestic travel is more expensive than nearly anywhere else in the world.

    Least Expensive Country – Philippines

    Panglao Philippines

    It was frankly shocking how cheap the Philippines were. I mean an entire four course meal with drinks for 2 people was $20!! What? A manicure was $3! Our lodging with private swimming pool was $60 a night. Yep, hands down the Philippines is this year’s least expensive country.

    Accommodations – 11 Airbnbs, 15 hotels, one cruise ship, one Glamping tent and one motor-home

    Favorite Airbnb Hobart Tasmania, Australia – Honorable Mention Washington DC

    Airbnb Hobart Tasmania Australia
    Airbnb Capital Hill Washington DC USA

    The Airbnb in Hobart was such a lovely surprise. It’s a bigger house than we need, but we wanted something quaint and cozy for the holidays. We got that and a whole lot more in the historic Gatekeepers Lodge in Hobart for $170 per night. Although we never met our hosts, they left us delicious treats and were kind and generous. But the tiny basement studio Washington DC Airbnb in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington DC was also lovely. A perfectly appointed small space so well thought out. We loved it for our short visit at $150.

    Favorite Airbnb for service – Panglao Philippines and Roatan Honduras

    Airbnb Panglao Philippines
    Airbnb West End Roatan Honduras

    We rarely have complaints of any kind with our Airbnb choices, most are acceptable and usually better than expected. But once in a while we have an exceptional host that takes the customer service level up a notch. Of course those same hosts also know to give us the privacy we need. Our hosts in the bungalow in Panglao Philippines were so helpful with any questions, booking drivers and much more. Our host on the island of Roatan Honduras was also superb. We loved that big, beautiful third floor walk up and thanks to our host we had absolutely anything we needed and more.

    Most Expensive Airbnb – New York City.

    Airbnb Upper East Side Manhattan New York City USA

    The second year in a row New York takes this category. Everything is expensive in New York. At least the Airbnb we had this year was much more comfortable and bigger than the one we rented last year. We paid $320 per night. However, since we stayed there in April, New York City has passed a new law and Airbnb’s can no longer rent for less than 30 days. So, I’m not sure what that means for any future visits to NYC.

    Best Value Airbnb – Panglao Philippines

    Airbnb Panglao

    At only $60 a night our four week stay in Panglao was one of the least expensive, yet completely relaxing stays we have ever had. The private pool was wonderful, although rustic I had a nice running route, and we could walk or take a Tuk Tuk everywhere we needed to go. It was simple, with a very small kitchen but we made it work. We would visit here again in a minute.

    Best View Airbnb Roatan Honduras

    Airbnb West End Roatan Honduras

    The West End Roatan Airbnb was awesome. It involved ALOT of stairs, and since we didn’t have a car we also walked up and down a steep hill each day to town, but the hill and the stairs resulted in a lovely 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment with a beautiful deck and gorgeous view of the Caribbean for $140 per night.

    Favorite Hotel – Red Tree House, Mexico City and Honorable Mention Clarion Suites Gateway Melbourne

    Red Tree House Mexico City
    Upgraded to a full suite at the Clarion Gateway Melbourne

    Staying at the Red Tree House in Mexico City last March, was the first time we had ever returned to the same hotel again just because we loved it so much. The Red Tree House won our Favorite Hotel award in 2021, and our second stay was just as lovely. When in Mexico City it’s the only choice. Ask for a room that looks at the garden. But we also really loved the Clarion Suite Gateway in Melbourne – our suite was perfect and we could have stayed forever. The location is perfect for exploring Melbourne.

    Most Expensive Hotel – Hilton Logan Boston

    Well we often have an early morning flight out of Boston to Seattle, so it’s very convenient to stay at the airport. But it still is a sticker shock to me every time…The Hilton Logan Boston is lovely, but $400 plus per night.. Not our usual that’s for sure.

    Least Expensive Hotel – Sempre Premier Lapu Lapu, Cebu, Philippines

    Sempre Premier Lapu Lapu Cebu Island Philippines

    We spent one night in the Sempre Premier in Lapu Lapu before taking the ferry to the island of Bohol/Panglao. We stayed in the same hotel for one night again, on our way back, returning to the airport. The hotel room was compact but comfortable, spotlessly clean with all the comforts we needed. The hotel included a restaurant with a great breakfast (included) and dinner service for an added fee. We paid $40 per night.

    Most Unique Accommodations – Salt Hotel Bolivia

    Salt Hotel Uyuni Bolivia

    Our eleven day tour with Intrepid Travels around Bolivia we stayed in several different lodgings…some nicer than others, but all acceptable enough. But one stood out above all others – The Salt Hotel. On the salt flats of Uyuni, we spent one night in a hotel made of salt. The walls, the floor, even the bed was made of salt. Apparently some people lick the walls to be sure. I declined, but it was interesting.

    Tiny But Fun Award – The Aussie Nest Motorhome, Glamping in Millersylvania State Park Washington

    Our Aussie Nest
    Pampered Wilderness

    Spending a month in a tiny motorhome traveling 2400 miles in eastern Australia was one of our favorite things this year. The space was tiny, unique and very memorable. But I also have to give a shout out to the Glamping Tent we stayed in back in Washington State USA in the summer. I highly recommend it a visit to Pampered Wilderness at Millersylvania State Park.

    Food and Drink

    Favorite Country Cuisine – Mexico

    Breakfast at the Red Tree House Mexico City

    Returning to Mexico City, one of our favorite cities in the world, was a special treat. We ate nonstop during this second visit to this beautiful, historic and delicious city. I can’t wait to go again.

    Best Food Tour – Hong Kong

    Hong Kong Food Tour all the dumplings I could eat

    Angel our tour guide, who we found through With Locals ,took us on such a wonderful tour of delicious Hong Kong. We would never have found the hidden gems she took us to, or learned the hidden stories about delicious Hong Kong. It was a wonderful tour!

    Best Cooking Class – Hong Kong

    Pots and Pans Cooking School Hong Kong

    What a wonderful private cooking class we had in Hong Kong with our new friend Bill at Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio. It was fun talking to Bill about Hong Kong, the cuisine and learning to cook multiple delicious dishes. We ate till we thought we would burst and then we took home even more!

    Best Meal Carmine’s Italian Restaurant New York City

    Veal Picatta at Carmine’s NYC

    We eat well on our travels. Even though we try to cook in our airbnb’s as often as possible, we still dine out and enjoy local cuisines everywhere we go. While in New York for five nights we ate out each night and enjoyed delicious meals. But our evening at the famous Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, where we met up with good friends, was memorable. The family style (huge portions) was delicious, the service on point, the atmosphere boisterous and fun.

    Most Overrated Restaurant – Pujol Mexico City

    Pujol

    I hadn’t known about this restaurant the first time we visited Mexico City. So when I knew we were going again I made a reservation seven months in advance at Pujol – the highest rated restaurant in Mexico City. But, I was underwhelmed. It was unique, most certainly, but not up to the hype I’m afraid. As a matter of fact, the authentic meal we had at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City restaurant called Sala Gastronomica was so much better.   

    Most Unique Meal – Popular La Paz Bolivia

    Amazing meal at Popular, La Paz Bolivia

    We learned about this restaurant from our walking tour guide. Otherwise I don’t know if we would have found it. Popular is only opened for lunch and reservations are required. Hands down one of the most unique, beautiful and delicious meals I’ve experienced.

    Best Beer – Australia

    Beer in Australia

    Well it’s Australia Mate! And they love a cold one here. Australia’s Microbrewery scene is fantastic, throughout the country and we enjoyed each regional specialty. We also had a wonderful tour in Hobart Tasmania of the oldest brewery in Australia – Cascade Brewing, established. BTW – Australian wine…also really great.

    Culture

    Best Overall Cultural Experience – Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    Goroka Festival
    Goroka Festival

    Two categories – one winner. It was a stretch for us to book this tour with Indigo Tours, more expensive than our usual choices, but Papua New Guinea was not a place we felt we could tackle on our own. Lots of back and forth with the owner of the company before we pulled the trigger. And I’m so glad we did. This experience, participating in the annual Goroka Festival with more than 150 tribes of Papua New Guinea was once in a life time. Papua New Guinea, one of the least understood places in the world, lost in time, beautiful. The tribal spectacle that is the Goroka Festival is undeniably one of the most incredible shows on earth…and I was there.

    Most Amazing Man Made Structure – Teotihuacan Mexico

    Teotihuacan, Mexico

    This place blew my mind. So incredibly underrated…I had actually never heard of it until we visited Mexico City the first time. So, on our second visit it was top of my list. Construction of Teotihuacan began in 100 BCE, long before the Aztecs. The actual name of the people who built it and lived here is unknown and there is no written record. But they left behind this vast site that today is still being discovered. The Aztecs settled here and ruled the region much later from about 1200 CE until the Spanish obliterated them in the 1500’s. Archaeological research and discovery first began in 1904.

    Best US History Site – Martin Luther King Museum and Ebenzer Baptist Church Atlanta Georgia

    Martin Luther King National Historic Site, Atlanta Georgia

    MLK National Historic Park is Atlanta’s top tourist attraction and it’s free! We visited this moving and inspiring site on two different days. The first day we visited Ebenezer Church where King preached as did his father. We also visited the beautiful memorial area where both Martin and his wife Coretta’s tombs are.

    The MLK museum was so good, and actually made me cry. This is worth going to Atlanta for more than anything else.

    Best Garden – Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne – Honorable Mention Rhododendron Spieces Garden Federal Way Washington

    Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
    Rhododendron Species Garden, Federal Way Washington State USA

    We visit a lot of gardens in our travels. But Australia has been an absolute paradise when it comes to the botanical gardens in every town we have visited. Every single town. And every one was free. The pinnacle of all these gardens was the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. Fabulous.

    Honorable Mention goes to a garden very close to my home – The Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way Washington. This little beauty was such a surprise I don’t know why I had never visited. And a bonus was the remarkable Pacific Northwest Bonsai Gardens. I’ll be taking my out of town visitors to this place in the future.

    Best Museum – Anthropology Mexico City and the African American Museum WA DC

    Anthropology Museum Mexico City
    African American Museum Washington DC USA

    The Anthropology Museum in Mexico City is one of the finest museums in the world. Astonishing the story it tells of the cultural history of this amazing land we know as Mexico. And by the way, don’t miss the cafe. It too was remarkable as it explored the ancient tribal foods of Mexico.

    BUT, there is another museum that was just as remarkable. The African American Museum in Washington DC. The depth of this experiential museum will blow your mind. I wish we had known, we would have gotten tickets two days in a row. It is worth it. Entrance is free but booking is definitely advised.

    Most Bizarre Museum – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart Australia

    MONA, Hobart Tasmania Australia

    The strange Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), located on the Derwent River in Hobart is definitely the most unusual museum I’ve ever been to. I’m still not sure what it was…art? Culture? Or was it about architecuture? Maybe the goal is just to be different…and it certainly suceeds there.

    Best Walking Tour – La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz is, frankly, a strange place but strange in a wonderful way. The cultural history, the incredible people living at 11,000 feet, and the architecture will blow your mind. And then there are the myths and religions and witchcraft. We learned all about this on our amazing walking tour with a local.

    Best Historical Sight –  City of La Paz, Bolivia

    La Paz Bolivia

    We spent about three times more time in La Paz than most people do – a full 12 days. We planned the time so I could acclimate to the altitude because I have suffered from altitude sickness in the past. And for the most part, it worked. And, over those 12 days we discovered this remarkable city. A place unlike anywhere we have ever been from the way of life, the people, the myths and the construction. Mind boggling.

    Best Performance – Ballet Folkloric Mexico City

    Ballet Folkloric Mexico City

    Not only was this performance the best of the entire year, it was honestly one of the best things I have seen anywhere in the world. The Ballet Forkloric in Mexico City is an ethnic cultural dance and music performance, professional and mesmerizing in a beautiful and historic theater. Stunning.

    Best One Day Tour – Roatan Honduras

    Holding a sloth in Roatan Honduras

    One of our most favorite things was a full island, full day tour of Roatan Honduras. If you only have one day this might not be for you, but those staying longer definitely should do this. We booked with Omar Tourist Transportation and our driver Dario was amazing. We discussed the things we were interested in seeing and he made sure we saw those and much more. He also took us to the most amazing place for lunch, an out-of-the-way, over-the-water spot with delicious food called La Sirena.

    Best Multi Day Tour – Bolivia

    Bolivia with Intrepid Travels

    We wanted to cover a lot of territory in Bolivia, and didn’t feel confident to handle those logistics as independent travelers in this country. So we took a recommendation from a fellow full-time traveler and booked our tour with the highly regarded Intrepid Travel. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Intrepid, and particularly our guide Wendy, who made this tour the once in a life time experience it was. She is amazing. If you have ever considered Bolivia…Intrepid is the way to go. You will be so amazed by this country, the quality of the tour and the adventure.

    Best Tour Guide

    Wendy with Intrepid Travel Bolivia – Best Tour Guide EVER

    Hands down our guide with Intrepid Tours in Bolivia, Wendy was the best this year and honestly probably the best guide EVER. I experienced some altitude sickness, and we encountered some other strange situations (see below under Travel) and Wendy handled everything with a stealthy ease and a touch of humor.

    Unexpectedly Fun Tour – San Juan del Sur Nicaragua ATV Tour

    Day tour, San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua

    We booked a one day tour with Pacific Adventures. Using a rugged ATV, we spent hours with our guide on a private tour of the mountains of Nicaragua. We swam in hidden pools, climbed waterfalls and had lunch with a local family who made us an authentic Nicaraguan farm to table meal. It was a fun day.

    Nature

    Best Sunrise – Eden, Australia

    Sunrise Eden Australia

    While traveling in our Aussie Nest motorhome we enjoyed an early morning walk on the beach to watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

    Best Sunset – Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Sunset Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Another remarkable experience on the Uyuni Salt Flats, watching the glory of sunset turn everything you could see pink and purple, then star studded black. Spectacular experience.

    Best Beach – Nobby Beach Gold Coast

    Nobby Beach, Gold Coast Australia

    We actually spent less time on beaches this year than we have the past few years. So when we did have some beach time I really wanted to enjoy. We were lucky to have beautiful weather when we were on the Gold Coast in Australia. It’s stunning.

    Best Hike – Booderee Australia Honorable Mention Papua New Guinea

    Booderee National Park Australia
    Papua New Guinea

    So MANY hikes to try to chose from this year! Since we hike at least once a week, year round and in every country. Australia alone provided at least 6 candidates for this category. But we chose Booderee National Park in New South Wales Australia. We spent three days there and were astonished with the bird and wildlife. We did a long hike one day where I almost stepped on a venomous snake…that was memorable! But what a place it was! Honorable mention too in this category, because hiking in Papua New Guinea in a successful search of the exquisite Bird of Paradise will always be a great memory.

    Best View Hike – Fluted Cape Bruny Island Australia

    Fluted Cape, Bruny Island Tasmania Australia

    Spectacular weather, no other hikers and views to rival anywhere in the world made this day hike on Bruny Island near Hobart just so memorable and breathtaking.

    Best Natural Sight – Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Unbelievable Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    A bucketlist for me was visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia and it did not disappoint. One of the most incredible natural sights I have seen anywhere in the entire world. It’s out-of-this-world beautiful and worth the effort it takes to get there.

    Best Overall Wildlife Viewing – Australia

    Mama and Baby Wombats Maria Island Tasmania Australia

    At every turn in Australia there is something unique to see…especially in the wildlife category. From kangaroos to wombats, platypus to wallaby, the wildlife of Australia is unlike anywhere else in the world…worth a trip just to see it.

    Most Unexpected Wildlife Moment – Bohol Philippines

    Tiny 6 inch Tarsier, Bohol Philippines

    Despite the abundance of wildllife in Australia, the winner of the most unexpcted wildlife moment for 2023 was seeing the teeny tarsier on the island of Bohol in the Philippines. These shy little nocturnal creatures return to the sanctuary during the day because they feel safe there. So with a guide we wandered only a short distance into the jungle to see these darlings up close and personal. A breathtaking experience.

    Best Bird-Watching – Australia

    Crimson Rosella, Canberra Australia

    We track our birds through out the world, and Australia hands down wins the award of all time for the MOST new to us birds spotted. During our two month visit we marked over 80 new birds from the teeny Fairy Wren to the giant Pelican and dozens in between. So much fun!

    Athletic Pursuits

    Best Snorkeling – Panglao Philippines

    Such a great snorkle experience in Panglao Bohol

    Without even going on a boat we were able to snorkle the Napaling Reef on the eastside of the island of Panglao. With a guide we snorkled through literal millions of sardines, lots of other fish too in the crystal clear waters. One of the best snorkeling experiences we have ever had.

    Best Golf – Washington State

    Golfing all summer long in Washington State

    Our home course in Port Orchard Washington where we spend the summers takes the prize this year for best golf. During our four months back in Washington State we played golf at least once a week and sometimes more often. It’s a great golfing community.

    Best Place to Run – Brisbane Australia

    Riverwalk ancient lava flows, Kangaroo Cliffs, Brisbane Australia

    I run usually five days a week when I can, and I really loved running on the beautiful river trail in Brisbane. With nearly endless possibilities this trail is really the lifeline of this beautiful city.

    Weather

    Hottest Day – Barbados

    Barbados

    We spent five brief days in Barbados. And though we didn’t love the island, we did enjoy a couple of nice days at the beach when the temps soared over 90 fahrenheit on Easter.

    Coldest Day Australia

    Cradle Mountain National Park Tasmania Australia

    We expected Australia to be warmer than it was but we saw a little bit of everything during our visit. One very hot day and some very chilly days too. Our hike in Cradle Mountain produced the coldest day and we wore every bit of clothing that we had with us in the icy wind at 3500 feet.

    Wettest Day – Philippines

    Tropical storms can produce a whole lotta rain, and rain it did on three different occassions while we were on Bohol/Panglao Philippines. An absolute deluge.

    Travel

    Longest Travel Day – Los Angeles to Port Moresby 9730 miles

    First Class all the way! A great flight to have an upgrade since it was 10 hours. Philippine Airways was great.

    Our overnight flight from LA to Manila was luckily made bearable because of a last minute upgrade to business class. What an unusual luxury for us.

    Shortest Flight – Papua New Guinea

    Finally boarding after being delayed an entire day for only a 30 min flight

    A quick 30 minute hop (that was delayed about 16 hours) was worth the wait to get us to the amazing Goroka Festival in Papua New Guinea. When traveling somewhere like PNG you always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

    Worst Airport Manila Philippines

    I’m not giving a best airport award this year, but for the second time in our travels the worst airport award goes to Manila. It is just an awful airport and there really is no excuse for it. Signage is non-existant. Escalators rarely work. The Public Address system is awful. Even worse the Domestic and International terminals are a long ways apart and you have to ride a bus, and so if you are trying to make a connection it is stressful and frankly tricky.

    Craziest Travel Day – Bolivia

    What a strange thing to happen – but it makes a good travel story.

    On our first day of the group tour in Bolivia our bus got stopped in the road where strikers from the lithium mine had put up barricades and were threatening. We waited six hours and our AMAZING guide Wendy finally decided we would walk across. She arranged for us to quietly walk through the strikers while drivers in 4-wheel-drive vehicles snuck through the desert, lights off, to meet us and whisk us away into the night. It was totally like a movie, frightening but also exciting, especially in hindsight. We learned the next day the road remained closed for several days…if we hadn’t taken this chance we would not have been able to do the tour. And of course this tour ended up being one of the highlights of the year. It’s a good travel story too.

    Most Incredible City Transportation System – La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz is so under rated! We loved it.

    A city wedged into the mountains at more than 11,000 foot elevation means driving is difficult…and walking even harder. But La Paz has an ingenious, thorough, and even colorful system of gondolas, built specifically as public transportation, in this densely populated city in the sky – it is beyond astonishing.

    Miscellaneous

    The Ouch Award – Bug Bite Australia

    Red Bull Ant
    Ouch!

    Australia is known for things that can kill you…from snakes to jellyfish. Luckily the thing that got me was a Red Bull Ant. Evolved from a wasp, this little red devil actually stings rather than bites and the sting was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had. As I write this it’s been two months since my rumble with the mean fella, and my leg still has a bruise and scar. It may never go away.

    Expensive But Worth It – Papua New Guinea

    Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    It was a stretch for us to book this tour to Papua New Guinea because the cost was a lot… for two people for a week we paid $7500. This included most everything, from lodging to most meals. But that said this was still really roughing it. It’s not an easy place to travel, with terrible roads and unreliable air travel. It certainly isn’t a place I’d want to navigate without a guide. So this is how we did it, expensive but worth it.

    Favorite Photo

    I love this photo because this man asked me for water….the dancers have no access to food or water and they are sweating in the hot sun. His request helped me engage even more with the incredible spectacle of the dancers. I was happy to provide him water and he was happy to provide me a photo.
    A life long dream for me to see the Uyuni Salt Flats and it was even better than I had imagined. In the sun and at sunset the other worldly nature phenomenon did not disappoint.

    I try to chose a single photo each year, out of the tens of thousands of images I take on our travels around the world. This year I have chosen two because I just could not decide. My photography is a big part of both our world travels and this blog. It hopefully takes my followers to these unique places and into my life experiences. I hope you enjoy seeing these images as much as I enjoy taking them.

    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    US Supreme Court Washington DC USA

    There you have it. The best of the best of My Fab Fifties Life travel of 2023. Amazing, memorable and unique experiences with new cultures and fantastic experiences around the world. What a grand adventure it is. We sure hope you will consider visiting some of these places and enjoying some of these unique experiences too – the seventh annual world travel awards 2023.

    As I post this annual awards I am in the country of Thailand. Over the next few months we will visit 12 more countries before returning to the USA in early May where we spend our summers. Beyond May we don’t know yet.

    Old and New in amazing La Paz Bolivia

    It takes me weeks to write this post so I hope you have enjoyed the Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. My goal is to inspire you. The world is so amazing…not everyone is going to want to go to places like Papua New Guinea. I understand that. But I hope you have learned something and perhaps are motivated to step beyond your comfort zone. We hope you will continue to follow us around the globe, comment, pin and share this post so others can follow as well. Thank you and stay fabulous. This travel blog wouldn’t be possible without all of you. And if you are ready to begin a travel life of your own, see our post Becoming a Traveler here.

    See last week’s post Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise. Come back next week for our post all about Singapore.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR OF TRAVEL!!! We appreciate it when you comment, share and pin our blog posts – especially this one!! The Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. Thank you.

    North America Travel

    Washington DC – Old, New, Red, White & Blue

    Location: Washington DC

    In 1992 & 1993 we lived in Reston Virginian, a suburb of Washington DC. I loved Reston and loved our 20 months in the DC area. There were endless things to do and we did them all. If you are an American history buff even a tiny bit, this region will make you swoon. But despite how much we loved our time here, we had never been back, except for passing through Dulles Airport now and then. So on our road trip from Atlanta to Boston, we planned five days in Washington DC. I wanted to revisit a few of my favorites, but I also wanted to see all of the things that have changed in thirty years. So we set out to explore Washington DC – Old, New, Red, White & Blue.

    1992
    Today

    Day One

    Arriving by car, as we crossed into the district from Virginia we were greeted by the familiar and beautiful sight of The Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. Iconic images for any American. We drove down Independence Avenue and I was so happy to see these “old” friends.

    The Capitol

    Something “new” for us was arriving in the neighborhood of Capitol Hill to our Airbnb. When we lived here we spent almost no time in the area East of the Capitol building. So I was excited to explore and enjoy this beautiful neighborhood of historic homes, parks and small shops. Over the next few days we walked and ran all over this area, visited the wonderful Eastern Market (a favorite local attraction for food, flowers, produce and meat), and admired the architecture. I highly recommend the Airbnb we stayed in. Check it out.

    Day Two

    We hit the ground running on day two. First, on this sunny and cool morning, we walked from our Airbnb to the White House, which took us about one hour. I am very lucky to say this was my seventh visit to the White House. When we lived here we went twice with out of town guests, twice to see the Christmas decorations and twice for the White House Easter Egg Roll. What is “new” however is how you visit. Back in the day you could arrive and wait in a long line and then walk through the White House with lots of other visitors. Today, things have changed. You can only visit the White House with a timed entry ticket that you obtain through your Congressional representative or Senator. Luckily we knew this in advance, and thanks to our Congressman we had a 9:30am tour. It was everything I remembered and more. Truly something everyone should try to do at least once in their lifetime at least once…if not seven times!

    Green Room looked much the same
    Several new portraits
    Looking presidential
    I love this room – The East Room

    Next we headed to the National Gallery of Art. This falls into the “old” category as we had visited it many times but it remains a favorite. Did you know all the Smithsonian and Public Buildings in Washington DC are free? Well, when planning a visit to DC take that into account. Compared to what you pay to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Natural History Museum in New York you will definitely save money visiting DC.

    Da Vinci
    Rodin

    Next was something “new” – the National Museum of the American Indian. Opened in 2016, this beautiful building houses a wonderful collection of artifacts and tells the remarkable story of the American Indian. Chronological history of the treaties, slaughter and oppression of the Native Americans as well as wonderful handcraft, carvings, beadwork and much more. I highly recommend you visit this wonderful museum.

    Artifacts in National Museum of American Indian
    Artifact National Museum of the American Indian

    Back up to Capitol Hill we headed to have a one-on-one with our Congressional representative Derek Kilmer. This was a “new” experience for us. Although we have known Representative Kilmer since before he was in office, it was a great privilege to visit with him in his office in the Longworth Building. We can’t thank him enough for taking the time to meet with us.

    Visiting with our Congressman Derek Kilmer

    Back to the Airbnb for a quick freshen up and then on to something else “new”. Nationals Park, opened in 2008, began a revitalization of the Navy Yard area. Formerly a working class and somewhat rough area, today the stadium and the Washington Nationals team (World Champions in 2019) have breathed new life into this part of the city. Restaurants, bars, shops, apartments, hotels and condominiums fill the neighborhood. We had a great time watching the Nationals play the Orioles.

    Nationals Park
    Washington Nationals

    Day Three

    We had a little more time in the morning so I enjoyed a run in Capitol Hill before walking back down into the heart of the city. We could not wait for this “new” adventure today, visiting the highly acclaimed Museum of African American History and Culture. Absolutely amazing. We spent about 2 hours and twenty minutes and we could easily have spent two more hours. It’s a vast look at the story of African Americans and it is not to be missed. We see a lot of museums in our travels…this was one of the best.

    Museum of African American History and Culture
    Museum of African American History and Culture

    Important things to know; because of its popularity you will need a timed-entry ticket. Tickets are free and you can get them online. If I had planned better, we would have done two hours on the first day and come back and done two hours the next day. Get your tickets as far in advance as you can.

    Museum of African American History and Culture

    We spent most of our time in the “C” sections (starting on the bottom floor), which chronologically covers everything from the start of the slave trade to civil rights to the election of Barack Obama. The upper floors include wonderful sections on music, entertainment, sports, and other cultural subjects.

    We tore ourselves away from this museum and headed back up the hill for our tour of the Capitol Building. Although we had toured the building thirty years ago, we really wanted to do it again. Once again our Congressman’s staff made sure we had an exceptional experience, giving us a personal tour. What a treat to not be in a group of thirty people, but instead have a personal guide. Our guide Hayden explained so many things to us about the history, art, architecture and events that have occurred in this building from when the British burned the Capitol in 1814 to the Insurrection on January 6th 2021. And through it all, the beautiful building stands, our democracy stands and we the people stand.

    The former Senate Chambers
    Looking up at the dome

    By this time we were pretty tired, but the weather was incredible so we decided to do one more “new” thing at the end of this day. We took an Uber to The Wharf, another newly revitalized area on the Potomac River. I remember this area from thirty years ago. Kinda decrepit and somewhat unsafe. We came here to buy blue crabs from the fisherman on the pier. Well you would not even recognize it today. Another gathering place of restaurants and shops as well as The Anthem performing arts center. A boardwalk goes along the river, kids were playing in a water feature, people were kayaking…it was wonderful. We had oysters and seafood at Hank’s Oyster Bar. A perfect end to a great day.

    Muscles at Hanks
    The Wharf

    Day Four

    Something else “new” (like in many cities) is the ability to grab a bike (conventional or e-bike) or razr-style scooter all over DC. So on Day four that’s what we did. First we walked to the National Archives. We have been here before but we wanted to see it again. We made a brief visit because it was jam packed with school kids, but it’s always inspiring to gaze upon the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States.

    The National Archives

    On our bikes we set out to the far end of the mall to visit some old and some new. The Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool and the Vietnam Memorial are some of our favorites from the past and they never get old so we spent some time there saying hello once again.

    The Vietnam Memorial
    The Lincoln Memorial

    “New” since we were here are the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Martin Luther King Memorial. We loved all of these. In honor of my dad we spent a lot of time at the Korean War Memorial looking for family names. We found one person with my birth name of Haydock and four with my married name of Lund.

    MLK Memorial
    WWII Memorial

    We continued on the bikes along the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial and then out to East Potomac Park. We had never been out to this small island park before, where we took a break off the bikes and watched the planes come and go from Reagan International across the river, before riding the bikes all the back up Capitol Hill.

    Jefferson Memorial

    A quick shower and rest and then we headed to one of Capitol Hill’s thriving areas of restaurants, also “new” to us, to meet our “old” friend Mimi. I’ve stayed in touch with Mimi since we lived here and I always love catching up with her. We had a fantastic meal at a Belgian Restaurant called Belga Cafe and enjoyed every minute of it. Great food and conversation. What a great day.

    With Mimi and Belgian Waffles
    Belgian Stew

    Day Five

    Our last day in DC! It’s been fabulous! Although the weather changed and it was a bit stormy, I still squeezed in one last run, we went to the laundromat and worked on the laptop. We found a few minutes to walk to the Eastern Market, one of the coolest and “new” to us places on Capitol Hill for an outdoor farmers market. Also packed our bags, ready to take the train to New York the next day. But we had one last “new” thing to do.

    Eastern Market
    Eastern Market

    For dinner on this night we met Arne’s second cousin and her husband for an amazing dinner. This was our first time meeting Hannah and Fatih and they took us to a remarkable Turkish Restaurant called the Ottoman Taverna. We loved meeting them and spending time together. It was a perfect ending to a perfect visit to our nations capital.

    Meeting new family
    Amazing Turkish Food

    Washington DC – Old, New, Red, White & Blue

    Whether you are American or not, this city has so much to offer…we hardly scratched the surface. So many other museums and sites. A variety theater and music. Vast outdoor activities. And endless options for great food. Come and see for yourself – Washington DC – Old, New, Red, White & Blue.

    At the Capitol Building

    Thank you for reading our post Washington DC – Old, New, Red, White & Blue. See last week’s post Georgia On My Mind – Southern Charm and So Much More.

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    Island Life  --  South & Central America Travel

    Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean

    Location: Southern Caribbean

    At the end of this seven month travel itinerary, we found ourselves on board a cruise ship for the first time in five years. Over the past thirty years we have cruised about a dozen times. There are some really great things about cruising….and some not so great things. But overall our one week aboard Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean (Royal Caribbean) was a good experience, and a relaxing week after our whirlwind in Bolivia.

    Rhapsody of the Seas

    Let Me Be Honest

    So I’m going to be brutally honest about the things I enjoy about cruising and the things I don’t. So if you are a big fan of cruising fair warning…you might get defensive. But this is my opinion and you can take or leave it, so here we go.

    Rhapsody of the Seas

    Not Like It Used to Be

    Alas, cruising is just not like it used to be. Our very first cruise, in 1992, still to this day remains one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. The service was impeccable. The food was unforgettable. The ship, though small (we were on Norwegian Cruise Line) was spotless.

    In port in Grenada

    Today service and food both are not near up to the standards of that first cruise. Unfortunately I would say the food on this cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas was the weakest I’ve had. And although our nightly wait staff ( Emily and Princess) were lovely…the dining room seemed understaffed and a bit harried. Our room steward on this cruise was Roxanne and she was great.

    I loved our balcony

    Today the cruise lines nickle and dime you for everything. Years ago a cappuccino was part of breakfast…not anymore. Pay extra. Years ago yoga or cycling class was free in the fitness center…not anymore. Pay extra. Years ago room service was included if you wanted it. Not anymore…pay extra (except for continental breakfast). Back in the day everyone dined in the dining room and a buffet was a special event…now its a cafeteria style all day long feast where people over indulge to excess. But at least you don’t pay extra.

    We had a great room steward

    Relax and Enjoy

    Today we cruise from time to time (last one was pre-pandamit in 2018) and when we cruise we approach it with low expectations. We enjoy the pool and always get a room with a balcony if possible. We love sitting on our private balcony. We enjoy the dining room, but are not fans of the buffet. We enjoy the Broadway style shows, but aren’t big fans of comedians or magicians.

    There were a couple of good shows on board

    Itinerary

    This seven day cruise on board Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean departed from Barbados where we had spent a relaxing week in an Airbnb. We docked in five island ports over the seven days; Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao and Trinidad & Tobago. Three of these were new to us, bringing our country total to 125.

    Grenada

    We chose to do only two excursions during the week. We did a bicycle tour in Bonaire, which was really beautiful but difficult due to the high winds. And we did a kayak bird watching tour in Trinidad & Tobago which we loved. On the kayaking tour we saw an astonishing array of birds and wildlife in Caroni Wildlife Sanctuary on the island of Trinidad. In the other ports of call we enjoyed just strolling around the colorful Caribbean ports.

    Cycling on Bonaire
    Kayaking in Caroni Wildlife Preserve

    My favorite cruise itinerary was eight years ago when I took my mom on a cruise for her 75th birthday. My sister came too and we visited St Petersburg Russia, Copenhagen, Sweden, Estonia and Finland. It was great.

    The longest cruise I’ve ever done was 28 days! This was when my husband and I used a cruise ship that was repositioning to get from Australia to Seattle. Even though it was LONG, it still was one of the funnest, most relaxing and most interesting cruises we have done. We made stops in Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Hawaii. I would consider a repositioning cruise again.

    My Favorite Things on Rhapsody of the Seas

    This ship is one of the smallest in the RCL line. For a short cruise like this one I like a smaller ship. I loved our dinner wait staff, but like I said before the food was unfortunately just mediocre.

    Some pool time

    Our room was very spacious and surprisingly had a lot of storage. I am always amazed how they squeeze storage into every nook and cranny in these rooms. We were very comfortable; thebed was great and the balcony was awesome. Our room steward was fantastic, and the room was very quiet.

    We only went to a couple of the shows, but the ones we saw were just okay. I think the larger ships tend to have better entertainment. On our one day at sea the cruise staff had so many different things to do and that gave us lot of choices. I enjoyed the cake competition and the parade of flags the most.

    Cake Competition
    Over sixty countries represented in the crew Parade of Flags

    Everyday we played trivia at least once, it’s one of our favorite things to do on board any cruise.

    Trivia

    I love formal night in the dining room, although most people don’t dress to the nines like back in the day. But since I don’t really have much of a reason to get dressed up very often, I like to have fun in a pretty dress. On this seven day cruise we actually had two formal nights on board Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean.

    Formal Night

    My Least Favorite Things

    The buffet is annoying to me…people get so worked up over food. I only ever had the salad bar in the buffet during this cruise because fighting for food is not my idea of a good time. There was never a line for salad bar…hmmm. I must point out though, this buffet on this smaller ship was extremely small compared to some ships, so that played into my annoyance.

    I’m not a big fan of dining with strangers, so we always try to get a table for two in the main dining room on our cruises.

    Great sunsets

    Anytime you throw a couple of thousand people together there are going to be people who are entitled. This is a big issue for me in any group situations…loud, pushy, or just plain rude. I do my best to take a deep breath and move along.

    The ship seemed understaffed, particularly in the dining room during breakfast. One morning we waited 45 min for our food. Not acceptable.

    On the final day disembarking was the most disorganized I have ever seen. What a cluster! No signage and no helpful personnel as we tried to find the right bus to the airport.

    Royal Caribbean

    I’ve cruised enough times on RCL to have Platinum status. It’s a low ranking frequent cruiser status that comes with a couple of minor perks. But the really big time cruisers are Diamonds and they get some awesome perks. Because cruising is not something I want to do very often, I have no plans to reach Diamond. But for those who do love cruising, all cruise lines have great loyalty programs including Royal Caribbean. I suspect we would choose Royal Caribbean again, although we usually choose based on itinerary not cruise line.

    Platinum status perk

    For the price, cruising is an economical way to explore multiple destinations and is particularly good for families, singles or the elderly. It has a lot of advantages, and despite some of the disadvantages you can’t beat the price per day for what you get. It’s also really nice to wake up in a new place each day without having to pack your bags. However, a short port of call will never give you the opportunity to really get to know a country deeply – which is something we value highly. So we will only cruise occasionally.

    Caribbean sunsets

    Thanks for reading my post Rhapsody of the Sea Southern Caribbean. However you like to travel, it’s time to get back out there people…start making some travel memories today.

    Our next stop is the USA. We begin with a three week tour from Atlanta to Boston before returning to our home state of Washington for the entire summer. Looking forward to being home in the USA for four and half months before heading international again mid September. Blog posts coming about our Eastern USA stops.

    See last week’s post Barbados Beaches and Beyond.

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    Become a World Traveler  --  Inspire

    Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022

    I absolutely love writing this blog post each year, even though it takes me weeks to put it together. It is fun for me to reminisce about another amazing travel year! I hope it’s fun for you to read and enjoy the awards we bestow on our favorites and the best of the best from our year of travel; the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022.

    Bayeux France

    Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022

    I’m surprised that I am already talking about the “sixth annual” travel awards 2022! We are now well into our seventh year of travel as part of The Grand Adventure and still no end in sight. What a remarkable ride it has been. As I write this post, I’m in the country of Honduras – our 123rd country.

    2022

    Unlike 2021 where we only visited three countries due to that damn Pandamit, this past year has been a full and fabulous year of new destinations. We visited 14 countries as well as ten states in the USA. The list includes; French Polynesia, USA, Antigua, Turks and Caicos, Morocco, Senegal, France, Malta, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Guernsey, and Jersey. The states included Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Wisconsin, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Virginia and Hawaii.

    Maine USA

    So sit back and get ready….here are the winners! Our Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022. ( By the way see our First Annual, Second Annual, Third Annual, Fourth Annual and Fifth Annual awards by clicking on the links. You might also enjoy the observations and lessons I shared after One Year of Travel.)

    Destinations – 14 Countries and 10 USA States

    Favorite Country – Malta

    Valetta Malta

    Malta was such a pleasant surprise. Beautiful, ancient and surprisingly inexpensive. We had planned to visit Malta in 2020…so that didn’t happen of course. We were very happy to get it back on our itinerary. Malta has a very interesting and ancient history. Valletta where we stayed was a fascinating walled city and we just loved everything about it. We highly recommend our favorite country of 2022 – Malta!

    Favorite City – Jerusalem, Israel

    Old Jerusalem Israel

    Returning to Israel, after fleeing in March of 2020 when the Pandamit was closing everything, was a high priority. So it was a true blessing to get back to this fascinating country. This time we based ourselves in the astonishing city of Jerusalem and I am so glad we did. What an incredible place to visit and we absolutely loved everything about beautiful and fascinating Jerusalem.

    Cutest Town – Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, USA

    Cute Sturgeon Bay, Door County Wisconsin

    Sturgeon Bay in Door County Wisconsin was such an unexpected surprise as I visited with two good friends for a long weekend. We lucked out by choosing Sturgeon Bay as our home base. Colorful, centrally located and lots of wonderful things to do, July in Sturgeon Bay was a real treat.

    Favorite Island – Moorea, French Polynesia

    Sofitel Hotel Moorea French Polynesia

    High on our list for a return visit, the small French Polynesian island is a short ferry crossing from the larger and more populated island of Tahiti. We loved our cute Airbnb bungalow in Moorea, and found the island a wonderful and relaxing destination. We really hope to return in 2024.

    Most Expensive Country – USA

    Little Italy New York City

    The United States continues to be an expensive destination for us, compared to so many places we travel around the world. Especially given our long visit to the island of Maui in the state of Hawaii which really ratchets up our daily average. We also had a long visit to New York City which is also very expensive, so all in all, this year the award for most expensive has to go to the United States on our list for the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022.

    Least Expensive Country – French Polynesia

    Coco Beach, Moorea French Polynesia

    Our two months on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia was really inexpensive. Granted we were there in the off-season, but if you compare to other tropical places we have visited, French Polynesia can be downright cheap. Our choice of simple accommodations and living frugally really puts Moorea on our wishlist to return for great price, friendly atmosphere, and natural beauty.

    Accommodations – 10 Airbnbs, 22 hotels and one desert camp

    Favorite Airbnb – A Tie between Moorea and Valletta Malta

    Our bungalow in Teavaro, Moorea
    Our authentic stone house in Valletta Malta

    We have really been so lucky in our travels to rarely, rarely have a bad experience with any of our lodgings. And this year once again we had some first rate accommodations. Two of our favorites were our lovely bungalow on the island in Moorea and our tiny authentic stone house in Valletta Malta. We highly recommend both!

    Favorite Airbnb for service – Moorea

    With our beautiful and amazing host Maea in Moorea French Polynesia

    We have had several experiences over the years where we have become friends with our Airbnb hosts and our host Maea in Moorea was one of the best hosts we have ever had.

    Most Expensive Airbnb – New York City.

    New York is expensive – but we loved the Upper East Side and will stay in that neighborhood again

    Everything in New York City is expensive. Trying to find a place to stay for our two week visit was difficult, with prices in every neighborhood outrageous. Our very teeny Airbnb space in the Upper East Side was more like a closet than an apartment, but we loved the location so it certainly had that going for it. $230 a night.

    Best Value Airbnb – Moorea French Polynesia

    The tiny beach at our Moorea Airbnb

    With a kitchen, two bedrooms, parking, beach access with great snorkeling and the best host, we have nothing to complain about with our Airbnb on the island of Moorea. $75 a night – which was a substantial discount for our extended two-month stay.

    Favorite Hotel – O Plum ‘Art, Giverny France

    O’ Plum ‘Art Boutique Hotel in Giverny France

    This very unique, but slightly expensive, lodging in the teeny French village of Giverny was a wonderful pit stop on our September whirlwind tour. Walking distance to Monet’s Gardens, we loved this rural little farm hotel and the breakfast was fantastic. Highly recommend O’ Plum ‘Art.

    Most Expensive Hotel – Hilton Logan Boston

    Logan Airport Boston

    Ridiculously expensive relative to our normal hotels, the Hilton at Logan International Airport in Boston is certainly convenient but expensive. $390 a night.

    Most Authentic and Least Expensive Hotel – Dar Abdesalaam, Fez Morocco

    With my whole family at Dar Abdesalaam, Fez Morocco

    With the kindest proprietor, the Riad we stayed in for the wedding of our friends in Fez was both inexpensive and very authentic. Beautiful five story old house with central courtyard and roof top area, located in the beautiful old city of Fez. $45 per night with breakfast! When in Fez stay at Dar Abdesalaam.

    Most Unique Accommodations – Marrakesh Camel Trips

    A most memorable night, Marrakesh Camel Trips

    This was our second time doing an overnight camel trip in the Moroccan Sahara. Without realizing it, we booked a very different camp this time…with more amenities. This time we had electricity!! It was warmer too, being May instead of November so we were very comfortable. A two hour camel ride (gorgeous) a full queen bed, delicious dinner, music around the campfire and a fantastic breakfast. We loved every minute of it.

    Best View Accommodations – Kihei Surfside Maui

    Kihei Surfside Maui

    Not a hotel or an Airbnb, the Kihei Surfside in Maui is one of our most favorite destinations in the world, precisely for the view. There really is nothing like it.

    Honorable Mention – Cyprus

    Lemon Grove Villas Argaka Cyprus

    Returning to one of our all time favorite Airbnbs was a special treat – the ONLY Airbnb we have every returned to so far. We returned to thank our Cyprus Airbnb hosts and see the sights we were not able to see when we were locked down on the island of Cyprus early during the PanDamit. The view, the neighborhood, the hosts, the pool….we love this place so much. We just might visit again!

    Food and Drink

    Favorite Country Cuisine – Israel

    Falafel and hummus are so amazing in Israel!

    Mediterranean style food is always my favorite, and the amazing combination of Mediterranean, middle eastern and everything fresh and local makes the foods of Israel the best. Israel has the best hummus in the world and I could (and did) eat it everyday.

    Best Food Tour – Marrakesh Food Tour

    With our guide Yahya on our incredible Marrakesh Food Tour

    We try to do food tours in as many countries as we can, so we definitely have some experience in this category. And our food tour, and our guide in Marrakesh was one of the absolute best we have ever had in any country. At $50 per person we more than ate our weight in every Moroccan delicacy learning so much about food, culture and history. We loved our guide Yahya who made the tour so much fun!

    Best Cooking Class – Food Cook Lab Moorea

    Prepping the Taro to be cooked inside the banana leaf

    I’m so glad I stumbled on to Food Cook Lab Tahiti, a local, organically focused cooking school. Arne and I took a Tahitian cooking class, which was so phenomenal, I signed up for a second class about fish. Everything I learned was amazing, delicious and so much fun. I loved the flavors of French Polynesia.

    Best Meal – Jardin de Plumes Giverny

    Lobster and Poached Tomato

    Our lovely boutique hotel in Giverny was associated with this restaurant Le Jardin de Plumes and though more expensive than we would usually choose…it was worth every penny. A very unique tasting menu of the chefs choice. The best way to describe it is food as art. Beautiful and delicious.

    Best Beer – Bend Oregon

    Bend is all about the beer

    Our third visit to Bend Oregon, we always make time to try new breweries when we visit this lovely town. One of the best beer towns in the Pacific Northwest and that is surely saying something.

    Best Distillery – Hali’mail’e Distillery Maui

    Hali’mail’e Distillery

    Last year we visited a different Maui distillery, Ocean, but this time we discovered Hali’mail’e Distillery in Upcountry where they use local pineapple juice for their products. We enjoyed it and recommend it.

    Best Coffee – Morocco

    Happy girl with her coffee in Marrakesh

    As you know I love my coffee, and real Moroccan coffee is right up there with some of the best in the world…deep, dark, rich Arabic coffee often lightly spiced.

    Culture

    Best Overall Cultural Experience – Shabat dinner Jerusalem

    Shabat dinner (Canva)

    This experience, having Shabat dinner with a local Jerusalem family, is not only our fondest memory of Israel, but one of fondest memories of all our travels. I am not Jewish but always hope to understand all faiths, particularly when in a country. Warmly welcomed by Osnat and Shaul into their beautiful home with a handful of other visitors as well as students from the local university. This lovely, authentic, delicious and religious experience will live forever in our hearts. I highly recommend it to everyone.

    Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Kayar Fishing Village Senegal

    Kayar at dawn

    As we drove several hours to this unknown destination in terrible Senegalese traffic I began to regret this tour. But in hindsight, it was the most amazing thing we did in the country of Senegal. The thousands of locals processing millions of fish on the beach…men, women and children…was colorful and almost like a festival. Our guide Oumar from Senegal Odyssey Tours was excellent and took exceptional care of us during our two days with him.

    Most Amazing Manmade Structure – Masada, Israel

    A couple years ago, one of my favorite books of the year was The Dove Keepers by Alice Hoffman , a fictional book about the factual siege of Masada in Israel. So visiting Masada was a top priority for me, and it did not disappoint. We visited on a scorching hot day but the Masada National Park is truly remarkable, a UNESCO World Heritage site with astonishing history.

    Most Unexpected Ancient Ruins – Cyprus

    Cyprus is so full of surprises…so much ancient history that rivals some of the best known historic ruins around the world. We really found the UNESCO Paphos Archeological site beautiful and staggering.

    Best Garden – Monet’s Giverny

    Long on my bucket list, and one of the things we canceled due to the PanDamit, to finally see this astonishing gardens was a dream for me. I loved the raucous and riotous collection of flowers, and of course, the ponds so famously depicted in Monet’s work. This was an easy choice for the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022, Monet’s Giverny and a Wee Bit More.

    Best Museum – 911 Museum New York City and Western Wall Tunnel Tours Jerusalem

    In our world travels we have had incredible opportunities to visit some of the most amazing museums and historic sites. This year two museums that were at historic sites captivated us; the astonishing 911 Museum in New York City and the unbelievable Western Wall Tunnel Tour and Heritage site in Jerusalem.

    Best Walking Tour – 911 Ground Zero Tour New York City

    We could have done this walking tour self-guided, but I am so glad we decided to have a guide. Our guide was in the city on September 11th and had so much amazing insight for us to understand about Ground Zero prior to us going into the 911 Museum.

    Best Historical Sight – Wailing Wall (Western Wall) Jerusalem

    Even after seeing the photos all my life, seeing something as iconic, reverent and symbolic as the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) in Jerusalem was a wonder.

    Most Amazing Church – tie The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine and St. John’s Co-Cathedral Valetta in Malta

    Giving this award to two this year…the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the sheer historical significance to the Christian faith and to St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta Malta, for the astonishing 450 year old Baroque architecture and grandeur.

    Best Performance – Hamilton on Broadway

    I felt like I was the last person on the planet to see this phenomenal play. Seeing it on Broadway was unforgettable. I was so enthralled I saw it again in Seattle with my son. See it if you can.

    Best One Day Tour – Michael Tours Palestine

    There are many, many options for group tours that take you across the disputed border from Jerusalem to Palestine. But I thought a private tour, for such an important event would be better. I wanted a local who could really guide us expertly through the eyes of a Palestinian. It was a fascinating day. I highly recommend Michael of Michael Tours.

    Best Multi Day Tour – Marrakesh Camel Tours Morocco

    If you are ever in Morocco, absolutely hire Lhoucine with Marrakesh Camel Tours. Doing this four day tour with our two adult sons was as memorable as it could be, and our tour guide was one of the best we have ever had anywhere in the world.

    Unexpectedly Fun Tour – Nicosia Segway Tour Cyprus

    The UN Border crossing between Cyprus and the occupied north on our Segway

    We were recommended to this tour by another tour guide who we met two years before in Cyprus. It sounded like a fun way to see the interesting capital of Cyprus, Nicosia. And we had a blast. I highly recommend Nicosia Segway Tours.

    Nature

    Best Sunrise – Moorea

    Sunrise – each morning unique, Moorea

    Every morning I had my solitary moment with The Mug and the sunrise.

    Best Sunset – Maui

    A changing show every night

    Every night we watched the sun go to bed and it was always an amazing performance.

    Best Beach – Moorea

    Ta’ahiamanu Public Beach Moorea

    Yes the beaches of Hawaii are amazing, but Moorea really was something special. Our favorite beach was a crystal clear white sand park called Ta’ahiamanu Public Beach.

    Best Hike – tie; Washington State, Jersey

    Mount St. Helens Washington State USA
    Jersey Channel Islands

    Hiking is a big part of our life, and we try to hike once a week no matter where we are. Our home state of Washington is one of the best places in the world to hike and we have half a dozen favorites we go back to over and over. Our time on the tiny island of Jersey in the English Channel also offered us one of our most memorable day hikes in September.

    Most Unusual Hike – Guernsey Lihou Causeway Low Tide Crossing

    Low tide hike to the tiny island of Lihou off the coast of Guernsey, Channel Islands

    We spent several days on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands off the coast of France. Though the weather was wet, we did the low-tide crossing hike from Guernsey to the tiny island of Lihou. This was a very unique experience and worth getting drenched for.

    Best Natural Sight – Sahara Desert

    That’s me with my camel buddies just taking it all in

    Not our first venture into the Sahara, but it still is a mind-boggling sight to see and the overnight camel tour is something everyone should do at least once in their life time.

    Best USA National Park/National Monument – Mount St Helens

    Me showing my gratitude to Mount Saint Helens

    Again, gratitude to the beauty of my home state and all its national sites, including the National Monument of Mount Saint Helens. We hadn’t visited Mt. St. Helens in many years and thoroughly enjoyed our day hiking in this national monument. Fascinating.

    Best Wildlife Viewing – Maui

    Humpback Whale (Canva)

    From whales to sharks, turtles to wild pigs, tropical fish to deer and the omnipresent chickens, Maui is a surprising place for wildlife viewing.

    Best Bird-Watching – Antigua

    Bird Watching Antigua

    As we travel we have become amateur birdwatchers and really enjoy it. We were very surprised by the variety of beautiful birds we found on the island of Antigua.

    Best City Park – Central Park NYC

    My morning run in NYC’s amazing Central Park

    We plan to return to NYC next spring, and staying near Central Park is a high priority. New Yorkers cherish this park and it really is the heart of the city. I love it too for morning runs, afternoon strolls, people (and dog) watching, live entertainment and bird watching just to name a few reasons.

    Athletic Pursuits

    Best Snorkeling – Moorea

    Snorkeling at the public beach in Moorea

    We LOVED our little bungalow on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia for many reasons…including access to snorkeling. Stepping right outside our door we could swim out about 60 yards to a remarkable reef with some of the most astonishing coral I have seen anywhere in the world.

    Best Golf – Maui

    Great golf and views at Maui Nui

    Our home course of Maui Nui in Kihei is where we golf every time we visit this island and I had my best score ever this year!

    Best Place to Run – Maui

    Almost every morning I ran during our two months in Maui

    I trained for and ran a half marathon (again) while on the island of Maui. Sidewalks, street lights, safe and beautiful, Kihei is my favorite place in the world to be a runner.

    Weather

    Hottest Day – Palestine

    Our day trip from Jerusalem to Palestine was one of the hottest days of our year with temperatures well over 100F. The desert was still and treeless and we swooned.

    Coldest Day – Maine and Washington

    Bundled up against the September chill in Maine
    December snow in Washington State

    Just days before departing for two months in tropical French Polynesia we had a giant snowstorm at our home in Washington State. And when we arrived in Maine in September for a college reunion/camping trip, Hurricane Fiona off the coast pounded Maine with rain, wind and very chilly temperatures. My body responded with one of the worst colds I’d had in years – made a pilgrimage to Walmart to get some warm clothes!

    Wettest Day – Moorea

    Wet and rainy birthday on our first full day in Moorea

    Arriving in Moorea mid January to monsoon conditions our first week created a lake in our front yard, massive mosquitos and cool temperatures. Luckily it cleared and we loved our time in Moorea.

    Windiest Day – Maui

    The photo really doesn’t show how windy it was….we barely could hold still.

    Thanksgiving Day was one of the windiest Maui had seen in a long time with gusts blowing everything around including people. The only time in our two months on the island we ate our meal indoors with the doors closed.

    Travel

    Longest Travel Day – Cyprus to Seattle

    Heathrow (Canva)

    Returning to Seattle from Larnaca Cyprus involved two flights and a stop in London for a total of 6840 miles.

    Shortest Flight – Guernsey to Jersey

    It was over before it started!

    Originally we were going to take a 3 hour ferry from Guernsey to Jersey, but when we realized the flight was only slightly more expensive we booked it. Total flight time take off to touch down: 10 minutes 30 seconds.

    Craziest Travel Day – Morocco

    With my son Dane as we waited five hours for the storm to pass so we could take off from Dulles to Casablanca

    We flew to Dulles Airport from Turks and Caicos where we met up with our two sons who flew in from Seattle. We should have only had a three hour layover but due to a terrible storm we ended up being delayed for another 5 hours. Amazingly when we finally arrived in Casablanca our driver was still waiting for us. What a sight for sore eyes that was.

    Miscellaneous

    Weirdest Event – Shark Attack

    Shark (Canva)

    A very sad and scary event while we were on the island of Maui was the death of a snorkeler who was attacked by a Tiger Shark. We felt so bad for her husband and family.

    Strangest Experience – Disputed Border Crossings

    Palestinian side of the wall between Palestine and Jerusalem
    UN Border crossing between Cyprus and occupied Northern Cyprus

    This year we crossed two disputed borders; Israel to Palestine where Israelis soldiers were heavily armed and a bit rude as they guarded a 40 foot wall; and Cyprus to Northern Cyprus where UN forces keep the peace between Greek Cyprus and the disputed occupied Turkish Northern Cyprus.

    Bucket list – Palestine and Israel

    Banksy Art Palestine
    Old Town Jerusalem

    Since I was 12 years old I had wanted to go to Israel and Palestine. I feel very blessed to have visited.

    Best Celebration – 40th Anniversary

    With dear friends at Mama’s Fish House
    Just the two of us at Merriman’s Kapalua celebrating 40 years of marriage

    While in Maui we had a wonderful 40th wedding anniversary celebration, in fact two. The first with our friends from home who were on the island as well as our friends from Molokai who came to join us at Mama’s Fish House. The second, just Arne and I, at the incomparable Merriman’s at Kapalua. I hope to do that again on our 80th anniversary.

    Favorite Photo – Senegal

    Hauling in the catch, all hands on deck, in Kayar Senegal. This happens every morning.

    I take thousands of photos…I mean it – thousands. So choosing a favorite is hard. This year I choose this one. The color. The culture. The authentic feel of hard work and community. And that baby.

    Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022

    There you have it. The best of the best of My Fab Fifties Life travel of 2022. Amazing, memorable and unique experiences with new cultures and experiences around the world. What a grand adventure it is. We sure hope you will consider visiting some of these places and enjoying some of these unique experiences too.

    That’s my guy…and those bags…oh the stories they could tell.

    As I post this annual awards I am in the country of Honduras…my 123rd country. Our travels in 2023 currently are planned for us to visit at least a dozen and maybe more as we explore and find the rich and rewarding destinations, people, experiences, foods and beauty of this amazing planet we call home.

    I hope you have enjoyed the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022. We hope you will continue to follow us around the globe, comment, pin and share this post so others can follow as well. Thank you and be fabulous. Our blog is nearly ten years old…it wouldn’t be possible without all of you.

    See our Top Blogs of 2022 here. See our recent post Becoming a Traveler here.

    We appreciate it when you comment, share and pin our blog posts – especially this one!! Thank you.

    Malta
    Moorea
    Inspire

    Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021

    PanDamit Be Damned

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

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

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

    Vaccine
    Getting Vaccinated in April

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

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

    And the winner is…

    Destinations

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

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

    Mexico City
    Mexico City

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

    Maine
    Ogunquit Maine

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

    Maui
    Maui

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

    Iceland
    Iceland

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

    Mexico
    Mexico

    Accommodations

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

    Tucson
    Tucson Airbnb

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

    Red Tree Bnb Mexico City
    The Red Tree Bed & Breakfast

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

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

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

    Iceland
    Camper Van Iceland

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

    Puerto Escondido
    View our Airbnb Puerto Escondido

    Food

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

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

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

    Fermented Shark
    Fermented Shark Iceland

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

    Casa Jacaranda Cooking School
    Casa Jacaranda Cooking School Mexico City

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

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

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

    Sonoran Hotdogs Tucson
    Sonoran Hot Dogs

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

    Puerto Mezcal Tours
    Mezcal Tour with Puerto Mezcal Tours

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

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

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

    Rok Reykjavik
    Beautiful food of Iceland at Rok

    Best Cultural and Natural Experiences

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

    Maine
    Sunrise Maine

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

    Sunset Mexico
    Puerto Escondido Sunset
    Maui Sunset
    Sunset in Napili Maui

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

    Maui
    Secret Beach Kahana

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

    Iceland
    Ditfoss Iceland
    Svartifoss
    Hengifoss

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

    Arizona
    Antelope Canyon Arizona
    Arizona
    Antelope Canyon Arizona

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

    Iceland
    Kirkjufell Iceland

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

    Grey Wolf
    Grey Wolf North Rim Grand Canyon

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

    Maui Ocean Center
    Maui Ocean Center Humpbacks of Hawaii

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

    Arizona
    San Xavier del Bac

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

    Sedona
    The Chapel of the Holy Cross Sedona

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

    Frida Kahlo
    Frida Kahlo Museum Mexico City

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

    Arizona
    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum Tucson

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