Follow:
Topics:
Search results for:

new zealand

    Everything Else Fabulous

    My Fab Fifties Life Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Location: Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Oscar nominations this week!  A big week if you are a movie fan – which of course I am but since I have not stepped foot in the United States in more than 14 months I haven’t seen any of this year’s big films.  But instead I have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery and animation.  Enough to last a life time.  So in keeping with the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations, I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2017 and 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    And the winner is…

    World Travel Awards 2017 2018

    Hoi An Vietnam

    DESTINATIONS

    Favorite City – Hoi An Vietnam

    By far our favorite destination in Vietnam with it’s colorful old town, beaches, rice fields and fabulous food.  We loved this place and the airbnb we stayed in here.

    Most Surprising – Namibia

    We came to Namibia practically blind, allowing our tour guide from Wild Wind Safaris to hold our hand and we were not disappointed.  A spectacular destination I think everyone should visit.

     

    Best Value Destination – Bulgaria

    We loved our month in the friendly, beautiful and historic country of Bulgaria where we didn’t

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Bulgaria

    meet any Americans.  Put this inexpensive and great country on your bucket list and go!

    Best Overall Scenery – New Zealand

    Jaw dropping scenery no matter where you go or which way you look, New Zealand is an

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Abel Tasman New Zealand

    outdoor enthusiast dream  and is stunningly beautiful.

    Most Crowded City – Hanoi

    The scooters alone make this wild city that never sleeps total chaos.  Then add the cars, trucks, carts, pedestrians, vendors and well – its pretty wild.

    Most Beautiful City – Split Croatia

    Whether you are perusing the mega yachts in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Diocletian’s Palace, Split

    harbor or wandering through Diocletian’s Palace, Split is a magical place and my favorite Croatian city.

    Most Interesting City – Fez Morocco

    Around every corner as you get lost in Fez there is something interesting and amazing and I enjoyed this maze of a city

     

     

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Fez Morocco

    Most Disappointing City – Tangier Morocco

    Getting lost in Tangier is easier but nowhere near as fun as getting lost in Fez.  We found Tangier a bit of a disappointment.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    Best Airbnb for Service – Asilah Morocco

    We adored our “mom” Latifah during our ten days

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Latifah unveiling the Tajine

    in Asilah and wanted to put her in our suitcase and take her with us.  The food and care she gave us was unparalleled.

    Best Airbnb Overall – Koh Samui Thailand

    We had a lot of discussion over this one.  We have been, frankly, so lucky with our airbnb’s.  And even this one had a few quirks.  But we loved it for the view, the private pool and the car that came with it.  It was however, also our most expensive Airbnb. https://myfabfiftieslife.com/sweet-samui/

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    We loved our private pool in Koh Samui

     

    Most Authentic Airbnb – Siem Reap Cambodia

    Staying in an authentic Khmer home in Siem Reap was a treat in itself, but then adding the wonderful breakfasts and services our host provided us made this place one of our all time favs.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Cambodian Khmer House

     

     

    Most Unusual AirbnbMotueka New Zealand

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Funky Truck

    We spent two nights in a funky old truck/camper with an outhouse and it was a hoot.

    Most Rustic AirbnbHikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    We nicknamed this place Castaway Cottage and it was like living on Gilligan’s Island – complete with lots of critters including rats, snakes, mongoose, monitor lizards, gecko and BUGS!

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    View from our Sozopol Airbnb

    Best Value Airbnb – Sozopol Bulgaria

    We loved this top floor unit with a huge deck and amazing view.  We think we might return to this place some day, only $55 a night.

    Best HotelLuang Prabang Laos

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Luang Prabang Laos

    We spent three nights in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in this darling and historic city on the Mekong River and it was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in.  From the comfortable and spacious room, the food, the pool, the flowers and the service, everything about it was first class on a budget.

    FOOD

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Because noodles always put a smile on your face.

    Favorite Overall Cuisine – Thailand

    This is the best food in the world.  Simple, healthy and so flavorful I can’t get enough of Thai Cuisine.

    Best Restaurant Meal – Ceverjaria Ramiro Lisbon Portugal, Honorable Mention to Ladja Podlanica in Piran Slovenia

    I’ll never forget the dinner we had at Cervejaria Ramiro with our son Erik and his friend

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Lisbon Portugal

    Salvador who lives in Lisbon.  It was a gluttonous evening and I loved every bite.  Someday I will go back.  In Piran Slovenia with our friends Raymond and Marbi we gorged ourself on the most amazing anchovies in oil followed by spectacular spaghetti

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran

    con vongole.  We loved it so very much we went twice.

    Worst Food Overall – Camino de Santiago

    When we really needed the sustenance the most, our 41 days on the Camino de Santiago provided the least inspiring of food.

    Best Cooking Class –  Chiang Mai Thailand with Honorable Mention to Cape Town South Africa

    I try to take a cooking class in most of the countries we visit, and I do it as much for the cuisine

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    My favorite Chiang Mai Noodles

    and culture as to meet local people who love their food and want to share it.  My classes in Chiang Mai (two full days) and my evening class in the home of our instructor in Cape Town South Africa fulfilled what I am always looking for.

    Best Beer – Cape Town South Africa and Honorable Mention Piran Slovenia

    Capetown because they had a vibrant micro brew scene and good non-lager beers available in most stores and restaurants, and Piran because here my husband had the single best beer he has had since leaving the USA.  Don’t know what brand it was but it was a spectacular Slovenian IPA.

    Worst Grocery Availability – Seychelles

    Hands down the most difficult place to find decent produce and healthy ingredients for day-to-day cooking, we learned to eat a lot of rice, lentils and beans during our month in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Hmong Village Laos

    Seychelles Islands.

    CULTURE, NATURE AND EXPERIENCES

    Best Authentic Cultural Experience – It’s a tie between Hmong Village Laos and Himba Village Namibia

    Seeing these two places will stay with me all my life – when you think about opening your mind to understand cultural

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Himba Women and Children

    differences, embrace and learn from living hand to mouth and become more tolerant of other cultures – visiting these two places had all that and more.

    Best Beach for Scenery – La Digue Seychelles

    No wonder Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition has shot here several times.  This place with it’s unique rock formations, sparkling white sand and out of this world blue water is about as spectacular as they come.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    La Digue Seychelles

     

    Best Beach for Spending the Day – Meia Praia, Lagos Portugal

    It helped that our condo was a short walk to the beach, where we went everyday during our three weeks in Lagos.  Golden sand, lots of room to spread out and easy and safe swimming made this our favorite.

    Best Day Hike – Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

    An experience I will never forget, climbing the mountain, seeing the volcanic crater and lakes and just accomplishing this feat will always hold a special place for me.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tongariro Crossing

    Most Difficult Day Hike – Climbing Down Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa

    We thought down would be easier.  It wasn’t.  There were times where I literally didn’t think I was going to make it.  My body gave it all I had, and it was

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Table Mountain Hike

    more than a week before I didn’t hurt.

    Best Outdoor Experience – Able Tasman New Zealand

    Our three-day Glamping Tour on the Able Tasman was one of the highlights of our time in that country.  We were blessed with spectacular weather, met new friends and were introduced to the wonders of New Zealand.

    Best Historic Sight – Angor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Angor Wat Cambodia

    It was a lifelong dream for me to see Angor Wat and it was not disappointing.  The fascinating ancient story that unfolds in these ruins set amidst the friendly and persevering Cambodia people is not something I will ever forget.

    Fewest Tourist at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Dougga Tunisia

    Nothing like having an entire UNESCO site to

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tunisia

    yourself, and that is exactly what we enjoyed at the beautiful Dougga Roman Ruins in Tunisia.  Not many tourists in Tunisia, but slowly they are returning, and we loved our time in this ancient country, cradle of civilization as we know it today.

    Best Tour – Namibia

    Our ten-day tour with our amazing guide “Seven” introduced us to this unknown country so full of natural wonders and spectacular animals.  I love Namibia..

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Etosha National Park Namibia

     

    Worst Tour – Three day bus tour of the Mekong Delta Vietnam

    This tour was cheap but it wasn’t worth it still.  Terrible traffic, over pitched and very touristy.  Sorry we went.

    Most Unique experience – Camino de Santiago Spain

    Even though the food was bad, the experience is now branded on my soul. It changed me and I loved it.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the Camino

    Best Live Performance – Tie Violin Concert Piran Slovenia and Carmina Burana outdoors in Dubrovnik; Honorable Mention to Kandy Cultural Show, Kandy Sri Lanka

    Front row seats in a tiny historic theater in beautiful Piran Slovenia made for a special night as we enjoyed a beautiful violinist accompanied by a guitarist.  It was just so pleasant.  Just as mazing the spectacle that was hearing Carmina Burana performed outdoors in historic Dubrovnik

    Carmina Burana performed outdoors in Dubrovnik

    town center.  Spectacular!

    Kudos also to the very authentic Sri Lankan dance, music and firewalker show we enjoyed (also front row seats) in Kandy Sri Lanka.

    Best Nature and Animal Experience – Etosha National Park Namibia

    I’ve said it before – this country was such a surprise and this National Park was the bomb.

    Best Free Experience – Free Walking Tours 

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Our Free Walking tour guide in Sofia Bulgaria

    In nearly every major city  you can take what is known as “Free” guided walking tours.  These are awesome and we love them because it is always a local guide, someone young and enthusiastic.  You tip them at the end – so its not really Free – but it is worth it and we have done this at least ten times.  A great value.

    Friendliest People – Sri Lanka

    Hands down the kindest and friendliest people we

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Monk in Sri Lanka

    have met – despite all the hardships they have been through; colonialism, monarch assassination , civil war and tsunami.  Still they smile.  Love them.

    Worst Drivers – Vietnam

    There are several runners-up here, including Sri Lanka (and we haven’t gotten to India or Bangladesh yet), but still Vietnam takes the prize for the craziest drivers, most dishonest cabbies, scooter

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Scooters in vietnam

    mania and absolute lack of any pedestrian rights.

    Worst Experience – Dog Bite Koh Samui Thailand

    Hands down the worst day has been the day Arne was bit by a dog in Koh Samui.  The one saving grace is it could have been much worse.  But still it makes me angry and the overall feral dog situation in Thailand makes me question whether I will ever visit again.

    Experience I liked More Than I thought I would – Camel Ride, Erg Cheba, Sahara Morocco

    The colors and the light of the desert at dusk, the animals, the other guest from around the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the camel trek in Morocco

    world and having this experience with our friends Sarah and Steve all added up to a very fun two days and one night camel trek in the desert.

    Least English Spoken – Spain

    Only in the last decade has English been taught in schools, so few adults are fluent.  Especially in the small towns and villages on the Camino we did a lot of pointing and hand charades to communicate.  It was fun!

    WEATHER

    Hottest – Seychelle’s and Honorable Mention Doha, Qatar

    We saw some rain in the Seychelles but it was never

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Seychelle Islands, Praslin

    under 85 degrees and the water was like a bathtub.  We only spent one night in Doha Qatar, but it marked the hottest one day on the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Doha Qatar

    trip at 113 F.

    Coldest – New Zealand

    We were in New Zealand in the fall and we had a few nights were the temperature dropped in the 30’s.  Living in the Kiwi Karavan we wore hats and coats and wool socks to bed to stay

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    New Zealand

    warm.

    Worst Rain Storm – Tie between Hua Hin Thailand and Koh Samui Thailand

    After a two hour taxi ride turned into a five hour taxi ride in a monsoon we arrived in flooded Hua Hin Thailand not sure what we had gotten ourselves into.

    More than once the sky opened up in Koh Samui, accompanied by flashing lighting and booming thunder.

    Best Sunrise – It’s a tie between Napier New Zealand and Galicia Spain

    I’m a sucker for a good sunrise, and we have seen

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Napier New Zealand

    some amazing ones but these two stand out above and beyond for the sheer majesty of the experience.

    Best Sunset – La Digue Seychelles (see cover photo)

    Mother’s Day Dinner in La Digue we watched the sunset from a beach restaurant and it was a religious experience.

     

     

    TRAVEL

    Favorite Airline – Emirates

    They know how to treat their passengers, even those of us in Coach

    Least Favorite Airline – Air Maroc

    The only airline (after 37 flights) to lose our luggage.  Eventually it was found.  Plus the smell of something (not cigarettes) burning during approach.  Ack.

    Best Airport – Hamad International Qatar

    A very user-friendly and beautifully designed airport.

    Teeniest Airplane – Air Seychelles 

    Eight seats.  ‘Nuff Said.

    Most Expensive Visa – India

    We haven’t even arrived in India yet, but it was hands down the most expensive Visa we have purchased and one of the most difficult online applications.  Hopefully when we arrive tomorrow everything will be in order!

    Easiest Airport Entry – Capetown South Africa

    We breezed through passport and customs so fast in Capetown we were totally surprised.

    Worst Airport Entry – tie between Siem Reap Cambodia and Carthage Tunisia

    In both cases we got in the wrong line.  The line with the guy who was arrogant and pompous and was going to make every passenger know he was the boss.  Any sign of dissatisfaction could get you pulled out of line and make your life hell.  And so we waited.

    Lucky Girl. Fabulous Life Award.

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2017-2018.  But you do know, the real winner is me.  Me and my husband.  The luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    One Year of Travel

    The Grand Adventure Abroad

    One full year.  On the move.  Out of the USA.  Living the Grand Adventure.

    Yes it’s already been a year.  So very much has happened. So many miles we’ve traveled.  And I am not the same.

    Thailand

    58,000 Miles

    Living outside of the United States as an American creates such an amazing opportunity to really understand privilege and gluttony and consumerism.  These words I use not only because I am guilty of these things but it is how much of the rest of the world sees Americans. Not flattering.

    Cambodia

    What is a surprise is when we are able to spend quality time with someone we meet in our travels and change their view of the average American.  This means more to me than most anything else over the past year.

    My eyes have been opened, looking back to the USA and my friends there, I now clearly see two kinds of people – those who embrace this image of Americans and cultivate it greedily, happily and knowingly, and those who acknowledge it but want to change it.

    To each his own.  I know both kinds.  But as for me and my travels, there is only one way to

    Vietnam

    move forward in our travels and that is to do anything and everything to debunk the image.  In my own little way – one human at a time. One country at a time.  This is not what I expected when I started this journey but it is important to me now more than ever.

    23 Countries

    New Zealand

    We get asked the same questions over and over, and always the first question is “what has been your favorite so far?”.  It’s become a little joke.  We keep telling each other we need to come up with an answer to this question.  But we honestly don’t have a favorite.  We have favorite things about every place we have been.  We have things we disliked about many places.  Mostly our favorite thing is the surprises and education we get from staying a long

    Laos

    time in a place and really feeling the culture, the food, the religion, the life of the place.  That by far is our favorite thing.  I’ve changed in my travel goals – loving the days we truly are not tourists, the days we are able to haltingly communicate in someone elses language, the days we blend in.  Not the things I was expecting – but definitely

    New Zealand

    the most meaningful of all our “favorite” things.

    We’ve learned most people are sincerely nice and helpful and interested in telling us about their country.  They are proud and patriotic.  And yet so many countries are oblivious to trash and litter and pollution and it can really be astonishing.  Feral cats and stray dogs another big problem in so many countries – as a visitor you notice these things, all while being acutely aware that many people have very little and live on the street as well.  In some countries people just can’t worry about dogs and

    Portugal

    trash – they are just trying to find their next meal. It would be nice to see governments addressing all these issues.  But, none of these things stop us from visiting these places. It is part of the Grand Adventure.

    I’ve become more aware of the negative impact tourism has on many places and I am uncomfortable contributing to that.  Europe is very different in 2017 than the first time I visited 1988. We are tourists some days, while other days we steer away to less traveled and under the radar destinations.  But in a global world things begin to

    Bulgaria

    feel the same – tchosky souvenirs start to look the same in Bulgaria and Morocco. Locally handcrafted? Not likely.

    We’ve learned to sleep in beds hard and soft and eat every imaginable cuisine.  We’ve learned food is a great introduction to culture and a great conversation starter but also a comfort when we feel a bit homesick.  A good taco makes me happy when I miss our old life.

    6 Mexican Restaurants in 4 countries

    We embrace technology for communicating with our children and parents and for tracking so

    Seychelles

    much of our travel details.  I do miss my kids but speak with them frequently and marvel at their own personal journey each is on.  I think the coming Christmas season I’ll feel their absence the most.

    Speaking of holidays, they go by in a blur.  Other than Christmas last year in Thailand, most places

    Bulgaria

    we have been,holidays have shown little consumerism and celebration.  In the USA we embrace every little holiday from St. Patrick’s Day to Halloween and have our own unique set of holidays that we make a big to do over such as Thanksgiving and Fourth of July.

    19 holidays abroad

    Croatia

    Holiday celebrations in countries we have been in so far focus mostly on family and religion and food and almost not at all on buying things and decorations or gift giving.  I think it used to be this way in America, but our focus is different now.  As for me, I no longer want the gifts to give or receive.  The experiences we are having are the best gift of all.

    Slovenia

    Sometimes a holiday sneaks up on us.  Because we spend much of our time not even knowing what day or month it is.  When it’s 85 degrees in February or 32 degrees in April my brain and body get confused.  Am I above or below the equator?  Is it winter or summer?  What country am I in?  What day is it?  It’s actually a bit scary how often we have to stop and think about these simple questions.

    I’ve learned how little you need in a day-to-day life

    Portugal

    to feel satisfied.  Although I did get pretty tired of the three sets of clothes I wore over and over on the Camino, in general I don’t desire more than what we currently have in our suitcase.  It’s enough.  I have what is comfortable and works for our life. I still have one pair of shoes in the suitcase that I’ve only worn twice in a year – the low black heel.  I keep looking at those thinking I should throw them away.

    Lost luggage once. Found luggage once.

    I’ve learned to live without a clothes dryer and sometimes without a washing machine. No dishwasher, no movies, no American TV.  Don’t miss it. Don’t need it.

    I’ve also changed as far as what I would describe as “beauty ritual”.  Water conservation in most

    Camino

    countries makes me realize I don’t need to shower and wash my hair every day as I used to.  I no longer wear makeup (except on a rare occasion) and my hair is easy and manageable with a washing every few days. And nobody cares.  Really.  One more thing I can let go of for now at least (and I still get so many compliments on the grey).

    3 hair cuts 

    Occasionally I have a nesting urge – when I miss my

    Spain

    house and garden – but it’s rare.  Sometimes I see things I’d like to buy for a future home but I check myself.  Sure the Moroccan rugs are stunning – but, I really don’t know what my next house will look like so I walk away.  Save my money for an experience instead of a thing.

    Our “home” over the past year, and actually over the past 19 months since we closed the door and walked away from our house in Gig Harbor, our home has been wherever we are at the moment.  When people ask where we are from we say the United States, Washington or Seattle, depending on who we are talking to.  And if we meet someone from the Pacific Northwest we say Gig Harbor.  But really none of

    Tunisia

    those places are home.  Where is home?  Right this minute as I write this it’s Morocco.  In a few days it will be Namibia. On Christmas it will be South Africa.  Home is where I am with Arne at this moment.

    27 Airbnb’s 

    63 other lodgings (boats, hotels, apartments, Kiwi Caravan and Albergues includes 41 nights on the Camino)

    I read more than I ever have in my entire life.  I walk more than I ever thought possible. Yoga is a very important part of our lives to keep us going. I challenge myself at almost 58 years old in ways I could never, would never have even considered at 28 or 38.  I see myself in an entirely different way than I did just ten years ago.  I am better, stronger, smarter, happier and more relaxed than at any other time in

    Morocco

    my life.

    This is not a coincidence.  It is entirely by design.

    I want to influence and encourage other people to seek happiness for themselves.  Not my kind of happiness but yours – whatever that is. I ignore those who push negativity towards me – and yes they are out there. Masquerading as “friends” on Facebook while criticizing our life, our message, our politics our choices and our success.  I don’t ask or expect everyone to understand this journey I’m on.  But it’s not about you is it?  It’s about us and it is exactly what we needed and when we needed it.

    Morocco

    62 books read

    20 pounds lost

    2446 miles walked

    And every day of this journey, nearly every minute of it and every mile has been spent with my best friend Arne.  People have asked if we get tired of each other?  Nope.  In fact the opposite.  We find we are the best companions – encouraging and collaborating better now than ever in our entire lives.  It’s both a test and a testament to our relationship and how we have developed it and defined it over the years.  We celebrate our wedding anniversary tomorrow as a matter of fact.  Yes we do, it seems like we have been married forever, and

    Vietnam

    I hope forever is how long we will be together.

    35 years

    And now year two begins.  Can I do this forever?  I doubt it.  Some times it’s exhausting and frustrating.  Those times are infrequent though so I think I can do it for quit a while longer.  So for the next six months we have ten more countries before heading back to the USA for a two and a half month visit.  Then we will finish year two back in Europe and Africa.  We are already toying with ideas for year three.  But it’s a bit too soon.  Let’s not get

    The family last Christmas in Thailand

    ahead of ourselves.  Take it just a few months at a time is best.

    Thank you for sticking with us this past year and continuing to love our blog because the blog is a labor of love for me.  Tomorrow we fly to Namibia for ten days then on to South Africa where we plan to really relax for three weeks as we end 2017. A year for the record books!

    One year. One fabulous year!  Year two here we come!

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Cats of the World

    Chapter Eleven – The Cat Lady

    I did not intend to become the Cat Lady. It just happened. The Cats of the World have intrigued me and now I’m hooked.

    Of course there are dogs.  Remember the dog bite in Thailand?  But cats are much more patient than dogs – aloof As well and therefore easier to

    It all started with this picture in Bulgaria

    photograph.  And so I do.

    It all began by accident, while traveling in Bulgaria.  It was here where I first began to see many feral cats.  Hadn’t seen cats in Asia (opps let’s not talk

    Croatia

    about why…), New Zealand or Seychelles.  But there they were in Bulgaria sleeping in the sun, rubbing against my leg, strutting down the street.

    The first cat

    Slovenia

    photo I posted on Instagram was a surprising hit with my followers.  So then there was another post, and another and next thing I knew I was stopping to take photos of cats around the world;Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain and the Camino, Tunisia and now here in Morocco.

    Portugal

    I’m hooked.  But, it’s also sad.  We don’t see the stray dog population like we saw in Thailand and Vietnam (although Thailand was so much worse than Vietnam).  Where are the dogs?  Are they using spay

    Spain

    and neuter practices for dogs and not cats?  We do see some dogs, but the cats outnumber the dogs easily 50 to one.

    Some of the cats look cared for, but many do not.  In fact, clearly some are ill and won’t make it.  The smallest babies seem to be fending for

    Camino

    themselves.

    And so I have become a cat whisperer.  A little kindness and love to the creatures of the world.

    Morocco

    Cats of the world – what will the next countries bring?

    Europe Travel  --  Everything Else Fabulous

    The People You Will Meet on the Camino de Santiago

    My Camino

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    I can’t begin to count the people we have met. Hundreds. Thousands? Unique all.

    Hiking Skirt Lady – Cheerleader  Guy – Peter &Jane – Pennsylvania – Crazy Wine Guy – Dan & Louann – Japanese couple – Argentina – Gail from Sequim – Calgary Ladies

    It’s another amazing aspect of the journey we are on. You can’t begin to comprehend the array of nationalities, personalities, physical abilities, age and languages you encounter amongst the pilgrims on the Camino.

    The Marys – Guy with Dog – Bad Leg Australia – Denver – Super nice Italian Guy – The Brits with the van – Mexican partners – Nebraska

    We can’t remember everyone’s names so we give them nicknames.  “Hey look there’s little Japanese lady.  We haven’t seen her since Burgos.”  Or “Was that South Africa #2 we just passed?”

    So many conversations.  We learn a little bit about a lot of people.  Once again it’s astounding how each person’s journey is unique.

    Sisters from Sisters – Nathan – German tour group – Quebec – Lady/Man? With stuffed Tiger – South Korea – Brazil Guy – Obnoxious Vegetarian American

    A woman from Australia told us she hates the Meseta, it reminded her too much of the Outback. So she took a bus and skipped the entire section.  What??  That was my favorite! So beautiful.

    French boys – Finnish Family – New Zealand – Cute Irish couple – Richmond Virginia – Rogue River – Flower hat lady – Texas Gals

    For weeks we have encountered a British group of
    six walking, and one woman driving a van to meet them at the end of each day.  Another group of Germans also with a support vehicle following but they stopped at the halfway point.  They will return next year to do the second half.

    Old Slow Man – Toronto – The Dutch – Big guy with tattoos – Mexico – Catalan Girls – Guy with long hair – Salt Spring Island – Northern Ireland

    A conversation with  Spanish man who thinks too many tourists on the Camino take away from the “original” purpose – only to find out this guy is riding a bike.  Doubtful many original pilgrims had a mountain bike.

    Mutt & Jeff – Munich – Maia from Australia – Vancouver – Wilkerson WA – Chain Smoker – Guy in my Bunk – Ohio

    At the same time we arrived at the Cruz de Ferro the other day two huge tour buses pulled up on the road and out piled at least 100 Korean tourists.  We had just walked up to the 5000 foot mark while they came up on a bus.  Then they proceeded to walk down the other side making the trail crowded and making me irritated. I was exhausted and they were fresh and fast.  This seems wrong to me to see the Camino done this way, but I’m trying hard not to judge.  It’s hard though.

    Couple celebrating 30th Anniversary – Punk Rocker from Taiwan – Loud Woman on her cell phone – Utah – Munich – Blind Guy with Brother

    On our first day we met an older woman from Australia and she was walking alone.  She said she was slow but could go far.  I’ve thought of her every day since. Particularly on the days where I was struggling, when the weather was bad or the trail was tough. I hope she is still out there. I wish I had gotten her contact info.  I’m worried for her.  This isn’t easy.

    Spanish Six – Curly Redhead – Irish Hiking Club – Scotland – Tattoo Girl – Phoenix – Lost Lady

    In just a few days we will reach Sarria, 100km from Santiago.  We know the Camino will change at this point and we feel sad about it.  Here is where we will be joined by hundreds of pilgrims who only walk the final 100km.  I know the experience will be different starting here and I expect not as serene.  It will also be odd to suddenly be surrounded by fresh new pilgrims we don’t know.  I hope our comrades aren’t lost in the shuffle.

    Seattle – Grey Couple – Slow Walkers – Coug – Hawks Fan –

    What do others call us I wonder?

    We all are here for different reasons with different goals, life experiences and expectations.  But we all share one name in common;

    Pilgrim.

    Buen Camino.

    Miles walked 375. Miles to go 114.

     

     

     

     

    Europe Travel

    The Long Haul

    My Camino

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    Day 14 and there is something happening that hadn’t occurred to me before – mental fatigue. Walking everyday, all day it begins to set in just how long this adventure is, both in miles and in days. At two weeks in I’m astonished at how far we still have to go. The days, weeks and miles unfold ahead in and endless fog and the end seems nowhere in sight.

    And so we settle in for the long haul. 

    After two weeks we have made some adjustments to help both the physical and mental strain;

    1. We are taking days off. Today we arrived in Burgos. Originally we had planned Burgos to be our first day off but it is actually our second. We plan to take at least one day a week off from here on. Originally we planned to arrive in Santiago around
    October 8th. Now we think it will be the 11th.

    2. I got rid of my pack. Arne has changed his mind about it being “cheating” not to carry the pack. I feel so much better now. The service picks up the pack in the morning and it is waiting for me when we arrive at our destination. We have lightened Arne’s load too, putting much of what he was carrying into my pack to take at least ten lbs off of him. 

    3. We are listening to our bodies. Most of our early aches and pains have gone, but we both have colds and the plantar fasciitis has continued  to give me trouble. Today, rather than take a chance of completely ruining my foot we called a cab to take us the last three miles into Burgos. My thinking is better I take a cab three miles than have my whole Camino ruined.  Tomorrow in Burgos I might go shop for some shoes that can provide me some additional support.

    With all that said, we are really thankful to be here.  Each mile has something new be it people or scenery or history or weather. Spain is a gorgeous place and all along the Camino the people are kind and supportive. We have met people from all around the world – Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Germany , France, England, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, and of course the USA (Nebraska, Ohio, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Florida).

    We have found our comfort zone in our pace and in
    our style of accommodations. Still working out the food however (blog to come on that).  Rain has threatened but only materialized twice and Mother Nature has been very gentle on us and we are very grateful for that.

    Walking side by side with my husband we sometimes go thirty minutes without speaking.  And other times we talk about the future or reminisce about the past or laugh and sing and pass the time in idle chatter.

    Each day is good.  We have settled in for the long haul.

    179 miles so far. 310 miles to go.

    Europe Travel

    My Camino

    In the beginning…

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    It was a relief to finally start walking. I just needed to GO. And so we did.

    Day One. Leaving Saint Jean Pied de Port

    We arrived in Saint Jean Pied de Port France on the evening of August 31st. Went straight to the Albergue we had reserved in advance, located right in the Camino. But at checkin

    On the steep climb on day one

    the very rude owner
    told us we would need to pay again, even though we had a paid in full confirmation from

    Bunk room in Orisson

    Booking.com. Apparently Booking. Com hadn’t paid her, even though we booked months ago. Arne says to her this is between her and Booking.com. She says no, I won’t allow you in the room until you pay.

    Ugh. What are we supposed to do?  We need a place to sleep. So we pay. She is not kind. We are pissed and now need to try and get a refund from Booking.com.

    The Albergue in Orisson

    So I try to put it behind me. I want my mind clear and focused on the task we have worked hard for. We sleep restlessly and are up and ready to go by 7:30am. Step out the door and we are on the path. Here we go.

    The beginning poses a problem. You need to choose. Either only go five miles day one because it is very

    We frequently have an audience.

    steep. Or do the steep five miles and then continue another 12 to the next town.

    Since it was day one we chose the short day. And it was very steep, and also very beautiful. But it wasn’t all that difficult to do just five miles and we were at our stopping point by 10am. Sheesh. What were we going to do all day?

    Water is available all along the route

    We ate lunch at 10:30 because I was starving. We then showered and sat out in the sun to get my hair to dry. But the weather then took a turn so we went and laid in our bunk beds and read for hours.

    We were in a bunk room with a total of ten beds. Arne was the only male. Women seem to outnumber men about four to one.  Curious that.

    Dinner in Orisson

    Dinner for forty people was served at 6:30 and it was really delicious – chicken and vegetables with wine.  We enjoyed talking to other guests and then everyone introduced themselves and said where they were from.  Pilgrims from South Korea, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Brazil, Ireland, Holland, England, Spain, France and the USA.  We briefly told our story about how the Camino was the

    Bread and coffee for breakfast

    catalyst for our Grand Adventure and we got a big round of applause.

    I slept like a log with my ear plugs in and woke at 6:15.  Breakfast so far has only been bread and jam and coffee.  I’m a bit disappointed by that.  I really need some protein when I’m tackling a mountain.  But no protein for this mountain.

    It was beautiful but chilly when we started walking at 7:45.  We had 12 miles today, and most of it up.  But after less than an hour we saw the storm coming.  We stopped and put our rain covers on our packs and put on our ponchos.

    The start of day two

    The rain came.  It was a sideways rain.  Very cold.  Windy and the damp seeped into my bones.  Slogging along the fog so thick we couldn’t see more than 40 feet in front of us.  After an hour I needed to put on another layer.  I was shivering and so cold so we stopped and got out another coat.  Then we continued the climb.  We ate our sandwiches as we walked because it was just too wet to stop.  Slogging on.

    Miserable conditions

    Finally the wind stopped and the rain lessened.  Grateful.  At the peak elevation 4680 feet there was actually someone selling hot coffee.  I think he was an angel in disguise.  That coffee made the

    At the summit 1420 metres

    remaining three miles down much easier.

    We arrived in Roncesvalles 6 hours after leaving Orison. Here we have a real hotel.  No bunk beds.  Happy Hiker! Hot shower, a little yoga, a beer.  Oh the pleasures of life!

    Tomorrow is a long one – 17 miles.  But it is relatively flat and hopefully dry.  Surely better weather than today!

    Our route yesterday, today and tomorrow

    Total so far 17 miles!  Only 472 more to go!! 😳

    Buen Camino!

     

     

    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Food As Culture and History

    Chapter Nine – Croatian Cooking

    Location: Croatia

    It’s my goal in each country to take a cooking class.  It is always an unforgettable experience – as much about culture and history as it is about food. Unfortunately it didnt happen in New Zealand, Seychelles or Bulgaria. But here in Croatia I’m back at it, and enjoyed last night an amazing cultural Croatian experience at the historic Agroturizam Kameni Dvori

    Coming to Dubrovnik?  Make this a priority. Definitely.

    Our tour guide Marija with Dubrovnik Food Story picked me up right across the street from our Airbnb. I joined one other couple, Americans on their honeymoon from Dallas.  We drove about 35 minutes into the hills outside of Dubrovnik, enjoying the scenic views along the way. Our destination Kameni Dvori in the village of Livorno in the Konovale region. This tiny part of Croatia is about ten minutes west of the border with Bosnia Herzegovina and 15 miles north of the border with Montenegro and is steeped in agricultural as well as border conflict history.

    We were greeted on arrival by Katerina, one member of the 16 member family that lives on this site. The family Mojo can trace their ancestors in this very house back to 1536. Remarkable.

    Katarina welcomed us with two kinds of homemade grappa, two kinds of homemade candy and dried figs followed by a brief tour of the main house which is now used for the cooking classes, a taverna and for dining for guests of the inn.

    The massive open fireplace dwarfs the tiny kitchen where we headed next to make Turkish coffee.  While we sat and enjoyed our coffee Katarina and Marija talked about some of the history of the house and the family. Then it was time to head to the garden.

    Baskets in hand we proceeded to gather the fresh ingredients for our dinner picking tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, celery and parsley.  Then we toured the rest of the garden where everything from laurel trees, figs,olives and pomegranates grow.  We gathered eggs from the happy Croatian chickens and headed back to the kitchen.

    First job was to get the fresh bread mixed and kneeded and set it to rise. Next we whipped a dozen egg whites to a lovely froth, added sugar and flour to prepare the traditional Croatian wedding cake called padispanj. While it baked we popped in to the car and drove to the next farm over where we milked a goat. My first milking experience! Thank goodness for a patient goat!  It was fun, not too difficult and surprisingly warm!!

    Milk pail in hand we thanked the neighbor and looked forward to the goat cheese we would be having at dinner thanks to her goats.  Back to the kitchens we went where it was time to start the fire for the main attraction the Peka, traditional Croatian meat and potato dish .  It takes an hour to get the coals hot enough in the fireplace so while the fire burned we prepared a vegetable soup with hand made gnocchi.  Our gnocchi was not potatoe but made simply with egg, olive oil and semolina flour.

    Next we sliced eggplant and zucchini dipped in corn flour and fried it golden brown on the stove, then let it sit on paper towels.

    When the coals were ready the Peka was prepared – olive oil (produced on the farm) is poured into a large round and shallow pan.  Into the pan goes veal, lamb, garlic, onion and salt.  A layer of potatoes goes on top and then it is placed into the fire and covered with a giant steel “bell”.  Ashes are placed all around to seal and then the bell is covered with coals.  Now it bakes for 90 minutes.  Oh the smell!

    Peka is a complicated and time -consuming dish. Not something you would prepare everyday. It is for special occasions and unfortunately there is no “quickie” version.  If you don’t have a giant fireplace you aren’t going to be making Peka.

    While the Peka was on the fire we hiked up to the top of the property to survey the estate. Here you can see the entire valley and all the way to the Adriatic Sea. We learned more about the incredible history, including that during the 1991 war the Yugoslav Army occupied the village and the estate and the family fled into old Dubrovnik. Luckily the estate was not destroyed, although many things were stolen.  Not everyone was so lucky.

    Back to the kitchen and it was time for dinner. We first enjoyed grappa and figs as well as our own bread with olive tapenade, pickled peppers and cheese from our friendly goat.  Next a beautiful selection of smoked meats they do on the farm and a different cheese from our goat as well as sliced fresh tomatoes and our fried eggplant and zucchini.

    Next the Peka was served and it was incredible.  The lamb so tender and the veal falling apart.  Best potatoes I ever had.  When our platter was empty and we were all full here comes another platter full! All of this washed down with both white and red wine made on the farm. Delicious.

    We ended our Croatian feast with our light and airy cake with a cup of warm fresh goats milk and mint tea.

    A remarkable experience.  I felt very much a part of this family and their remarkable tradition and dedication to their culture and history- all while enjoying a spectacular meal based on sustainable farming and dedication to historical practices.

    When you are in Dubrovnik, make this a priority. And anywhere you travel – slow down and embrace food as culture and history.

    Hvala to Dubrovnik Food Storyand Kameni Dvori. Hvala!