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Adventure

    Inspire

    Away We Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again

    The Americas – North, Central and South

    Although we have been able to do some amazing travel over the past couple of years, we have not gone out for extended travel like we did in the past. Since we began the Grand Adventure our longest trip was 18 months, and several other trips were nine and ten months. We now feel confident to go long term again with the PanDamit waning and our health great. Away We Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again.

    Away We Go

    We started this travel life in 2016 when we sold almost all our belongings to begin a long planned and dreamed of retirement life of travel. It was everything we had dreamed of and more. But Whoa! That stupid PanDamit changed everything. If you have followed us for awhile you know our story of getting trapped abroad and giving up our itinerary to come back to the USA and wait.

    If anything, the PanDamit has made me more patient and able to relax and let things be what they are. But that said, we are excited to embark once again this time for seven months. So let me tell you our plans – Away we Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again.

    Maui, Hawaii USA

    Maui

    Our first stop is back to Maui. Maui is our favorite island, but we think this may likely be our last visit there for a long time. Maui is expensive, and through all of our travels we have learned we can travel much less expensively on islands beyond North America. Specifically Moorea and Cyprus our two favorites. It’s important that we stay within our budget, if we want to sustain long-term travel for the years ahead. And staying on budget in Maui is impossible. But, we made these reservations a year ago, when we still didn’t know what the PanDamit future looked like. So, we are headed back to Kihei and back to enjoy this beautiful paradise. We will be on the island of Maui from October 20- December 19.

    Roatan Island, Honduras

    Roatan Honduras

    The island of Roatan has been on my wishlist for longer than we have been traveling on the Grand Adventure. I first became aware of Roatan about 15 years ago when I watched a travel program about an American couple who had purchased a house there. OMgosh it looked so beautiful. It’s a bit of a saga to get from Maui to Roatan, but that is what we will do. It involves a night in Los Angeles and Miami. We will arrive at our Roatan Airbnb on December 21st. Time on Roatan December 21-January 26th.

    Granada and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

    Granada Nicaragua

    Like Honduras, Nicaragua has been on my travel list for a long time. This country is under traveled especially by American’s who don’t understand it. Recently Nicaragua made Travel and Leisure’s list of most affordable places to retire on a beautiful beach. Okay, please and thank you. We have a week in Granada at a resort and then just under four weeks at at Airbnb in San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. Time in Nicaragua January 26-February 28th.

    Mexico City Mexico

    Mexico City Mexico

    Last December we were enchanted by our week in Mexico City and so we decided we needed to return. Another undervalued destination for American’s who tend to only head to the beaches of Mexico. We fell hard for the beauty, history, architecture and food of Mexico City. We want to see more. We will stay at the same hotel we loved last year, The Red Tree House. We plan to explore more and eat everything. Mexico City, Mexico February 28-March 7.

    Bolivia

    Bolivia

    Bolivia is one of a few South American countries we still haven’t visited, and I have long wanted to visit this country, see the salt flats and get to know it better. Because Bolivia is a bit of challenge to navigate, we have decided this is a good country for us to hire a guide. So we have hooked up with Intrepid Travel to spend eleven days seeing Bolivia. But, before we embark on the tour we will spend a week in La Paz. A week might seem like a long time, but we have purposefully decided to do that, to help give me time to work through the altitude sickness I know I will suffer from. It’s happened before. We have the time, so we will take it so I can acclimate comfortably and for multiple days. If you have never experienced altitude sickness, it’s not fun…but it is a good weight loss program. We will be in Bolivia from March 8 – 25th.

    Barbados

    Barbados

    There are a handful of Caribbean Islands, mostly in the south, that remain on our wish list including Barbados. So after Bolivia we make our way (via Miami) to Barbados where we have rented a sweet little suite of an Airbnb for 8 days. And then we board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Barbados. Barbados March 26-April 2nd

    Southern Caribbean Cruise

    Bonaire

    Our first cruise in five years, we will head out for a week aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas cruising to Trinidad and Tobago, Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada and Aruba. We have been to two of these islands but the others are all new to us. Cruising, although not something we want to do regularly, is such a great way to see multiple places on one itinerary. The ship returns to Barbados. We are onboard April 2-9th.

    USA

    Atlanta Georgia

    April 9th we fly to Atlanta Georgia USA. Through the rest of April we will be be hopping around as we make our way to Boston for a college reunion. Although we have not yet nailed this down, we currently are planning to visit Atlanta, Savannah, Washington DC, New York City and Boston. We will be back to our summer home in Washington State by May 1st. We love Washington State and the west coast in the summer!

    Away We Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again

    We really like this itinerary because it has the things we love the best; long term stays in inexpensive, sunny places with options for both adventure and relaxing and lots of great food. Who doesn’t like that?

    The Grand Adventure Begins Again

    We plan to continue to blog about our travels, although sometimes I need to take a bit of a break. I plan to do that a little when we are in Hawaii and have banked some blog posts ahead of time. But for now, as we near our TENTH ANNIVERSARY of this My Fab Fifties Life blog, I will write and share amazing photos and adventures of this crazy and fabulous post-PanDamit travel life as regularly as I can. As always, I say thank you for your continued support and engagement. We love your comments on each post especially.

    Away!!

    Note – I have yet to post all the blogs about our recent adventures in Maine and Acadia National Park and in Palm Springs. It’s coming soon – please stay tuned.

    See last week’s post Eating My Way Through Paris

    Photos in today’s blog post from Canva.

    See this week’s top performing pin Capsule Wardrobe for A Three Week Trip.

    We love it when you pin, comment and share our posts. Thank you.

    Europe Travel

    Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey

    We meant to visit here in 2020. But…well, you know. When our travels were shut down in 2020 we eventually got refunds for most of our reservations. But in Guernsey and Jersey we received vouchers from Expedia to be used at a later date for our hotels. And so, 26 months after our original booking we are visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey.

    We came with few expectations, just a desire to see a place we have never been. We knew only a bit about these islands and arrived with an open mind. Our stay on both islands was very short. But we enjoyed a taste of these unique places.

    Where Is Guernsey and Jersey?

    Protectorate countries today, Guernsey and Jersey retain their association with the United Kingdom, despite the geographic location close to France. We flew direct to Guernsey from Gatwick Airport London, a flight that took about an hour. Our flight on to Jersey three days later was the shortest flight we have ever taken, only eleven minutes.

    A Brief History

    This islands separated from mainland Europe about 6000 years ago and prehistoric evidence has been found. Third century Roman occupation of Europe brought settlers fleeing to the islands and Christianity arrived in the 10th century. The islands fell under the Duchy of Normandy and then King John of England throughout the middle ages. Little changed in the next centuries as the islands were a disputed stronghold.

    St Peters Port Guernsey

    As Napoleon and the wars of modern times unfurled, the islands once again found themselves under occupation due to their strategic location in the theater of war. Following German occupation during WWII the islands recovered industry, and tourism began to boom in the 1960’s.

    The flag of Jersey

    Today the people of Guernsey and Jersey are British nationals. The islands are known as Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey, self-governing but under the protection of Britain.

    Guernsey Things to Do

    Guernsey is very small, only about 6 miles long and 3 miles wide. However since it is very rural we decided to rent a car during our short three night two day visit. Driving in Guernsey is a bit nerve racking…tiny one lane roads dominate the island. If you aren’t up to tackling these roads, the island has a very well run bus transit system.

    During our two days we enjoyed a handful of the highlights of the island, but there are many more places to see with more time available. You can learn more at Visit Guernsey.

    German Underground Hospital Guernsey

    German Underground Hospital – both islands are home to several museums, tunnels and sites related to the five year occupation of the island by the Nazi Germans during WWII. We chose to visit the German Underground Hospital site. It was fascinating. More than 70,000 square feet, hand dug tunnels that served for a very short time as a hospital and ammunitions storage during the war. Absolutely fascinating. Be sure and have a coat or sweater as the tunnel is very cold.

    Little Chapel Guernsey

    Little Chapel – In 1914 Brother Diodat began a labor of love to build this beautiful tiny chapel and cover every surface with pottery and tile. It’s a lovely thing to see and enjoy and I highly recommend a brief visit.

    Jerbourg Headland Guernsey

    Jerbourg Headland Coastal Hike – as I’m sure you know, we love to walk and hike, and the island of Guernsey offers some lovely pastoral and coastal walks. We chose to do a coastal walk on the Jerbourg Headland. From the easy parking access at the start (with restrooms), we wandered the coastal trail with stunning views south east. It was a foggy morning and we saw a bit of rain, but still the views were great…I’m sure on a clear day you could see forever. Some steep parts but not a difficult hike.

    Lihou Island at High Tide
    Walking to Lihou at low tide

    Low Tide Visit to Lihou Island – at low tide you can make the trek on the causeway to Lihou Island. Be sure to check the tidal chart or risk getting stuck on the island. At low tide the path and causeway is exposed, though not completely dry so wear the proper footwear to make the trek. Enjoy a brief walk and maybe a picnic on the island before returning the way you came. No services on the island, except for a self-catering hostel for groups with advance reservation. A unique experience, a must when in Guernsey.

    St Peters Port
    Victor Hugo House

    Saint Peters Port – on the east side of the island is the capital city of Guernsey St. Peters Port. A lovely little coastal town, with shops, restaurants and historic sites including the home of Victor Hugo and the historic Town Church – the oldest in the Channel Islands.

    Guernsey Restaurant Recommendations

    The Hook – the best meal we had on Guernsey hands down was at The Hook. In fact it was one of the best meals on our two week trip. The Hook is located right in St. Peter’s Port. Be sure to make a reservation for this popular spot. I enjoyed a lovely cod dish and my husband had the Beef Wellington.

    Beef Wellington at The Hook

    Crabby Jacks – Much more casual and on the west side of the island facing Vazon Bay; we stopped for a late lunch early dinner at Crabby Jacks after our low tide walk. Lots of fried fish, burgers and salads, my husband had authentic fish and chips while I really enjoyed a delicious fish pie topped with cheesy mashed potatoes.

    Fish Pie at Crabby Jacks

    Jersey Things to Do

    St Aubin

    We arrived Jersey via a very short flight from Guernsey and had two nights and two full days here. This island is bigger than Guernsey but not by much, coming in at nine miles by five miles. The main city of St. Helier is very cosmopolitan and quite beautiful. We chose to stay close to St. Helier and not rent a car. But with a car, or on a island tour bus (all were full so we couldn’t do this), you can easily see the sites of the island that includes multiple castles and forts as well as WWII tunnels.

    Jersey Museum and Art Gallery

    Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, Saint Helier – this small but very interesting museum in the heart of the port city is a great place to start and learn the history of this fascinating island and its people. Run by the Jersey Heritage Foundation, we particularly enjoyed a very well done film with a great historic story told through today’s residents. A must in St. Helier.

    Elizabeth Castle

    Elizabeth Castle – Also run by Jersey Heritage visiting Elizabeth Castle is fun and interesting. Don’t miss it. Access to the island castle just off shore is by amphibious boat, or at very low tide you can walk to the island. We enjoyed the boat ride and a self-guided tour of the Castle on a beautiful sunny day.

    Portelet Bay

    Saint Aubin and Portelet Bay – on our second day in Jersey the sun shone bright and we decided to do a very long walk from St. Helier to Portelet Bay. This walk took us through the tiny seaside hamlet of Saint Aubin and then up and over the hill to Portelet Bay on the other side. A total round trip on foot of eleven miles; we enjoyed ocean views, pastoral fields, cows and crops and forests. This route would be very easy to do with a car. From St. Helier to St. Aubin you can enjoy Le Petit Train, a 35 minute ride in the summer months. I highly recommend it.

    Jersey Restaurant Recommendations

    Dover Sole at La Taverne

    La Taverne – we booked this restaurant in advance, a highly rated small space not far from our hotel. I enjoyed Dover Sole (a favorite of mine) and my husband had veal and oysters. Very good and the service was great.

    Quayside – our taxi driver from the airport told us this restaurant was his favorite on the island, but highly recommended getting a reservation no matter where we planned to go as Saturday’s could be very busy. So we were happy to find online an early dinner opening. Covered outdoor seating with a view of the marina, the food was really delicious although our waitress seemed distracted. I enjoyed fish again and Arne had a ribeye steak.

    How to Get Here?

    Boarding the ten minute flight from Guernsey to Jersey

    If you are in the United Kingdom or France flights are easy to either island. You can also take a ferry from Saint Malo, Brittany, France which is what we did leaving Jersey and going to France. The ferry was huge and it was also packed on a sunny Sunday. Many people make the trip as a day trip and turn around and go back the same day. Try to do this on a weekday instead to avoid the crowds. You will need to pass through passport control as United Kingdom is no longer in the EU.

    We flew between the islands, but there is also a ferry. The flight was only slightly more expensive and took ten minutes as opposed to two hours so we decided flying was better for us due to our tight travel schedule.

    A Few Other Things to Know

    Very narrow roads on the island of Guernsey

    Weather can be windy and rainy anytime of the year. We experienced, sun, rain, wind and fog all during our short visit. The British pound is accepted on both islands and credit cards are used everywhere. Wifi service is strong and reliable. Driving on Guernsey is not for the faint of heart but doable, Jersey roads are better. Transit and taxis are widely available on both islands.

    Agriculture

    Both Guernsey and Jersey are known throughout the world for the quaility dairy produced by the Guernsey and Jersey Cows. The cows and the cream are highly prized

    Cows
    Delicious

    Additionally both islands produce cider from locally grown apples. Both alcoholic cider and non-alcoholic I had the cider several times and it was very refreshing. On the island of Jersey the grown the world famous Jersey Royal potato. We were served the potato at most of our meals and it is small, tender and very delicious.

    Cider
    Jersey Royal potato

    Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey

    Thanks for reading our post this week Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey. I hope you will come back next week to read about our visit to Monet’s Gardens in Giverney.

    Hiking on Guernsey. Come prepared for all weather.

    See last week post Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    See This week’s top performing pin here Capsule Wardrobe For Three Week Trip.

    We love it when you comment, pin and share our blog posts. Thank you.

    Europe Travel  --  Island Life

    Cyprus In My Heart Forever

    This island. It will always hold a very special place in my heart. I truly love it for so many reasons. Cyprus in my heart forever.

    How do I love thee? Let’s count the ways…

    1.)Lockdown 2020

    The day before lockdown…we had no idea what was coming in March 2020

    In March 2020 after fleeing lockdown in Israel we landed in Cyprus. Our thoughts at the time were that we would sit tight for two or three weeks and wait out this crazy Corona thing. Five days later, we went into total lockdown which I always describe as house arrest. We could only leave our house once a day with permission from local Cyprus authorities, which we obtained through an app on our phones. What initially was presented as a ten-day lockdown became two months for us…and even longer for the Cypriot people.

    Empty Cyprus airport Spring 2020

    The airport shut down with no flights in or out, and so we hunkered down for a long stay. It was March, still cool in the Mediterranean, but dry and sunny most days. All archeological sites and museums, all beaches, trails and recreational facilities were closed. As well as all shops and restaurants except for a handful of grocery stores and pharmacies.

    My friend Patience who helped me stay sane during lockdown

    Lockdown 2020 on Cyprus was definitely not something we had on our travel itinerary, but it became one of the most unique and memorable experiences of our life – putting Cyprus in my heart forever.

    2.)Lemon Grove Villas, Argaka

    Lemon Grove Villa in the middle of a citrus grove

    Lucky for us, we were in an Airbnb called Lemon Grove Villas in the tiny village of Argaka. Argaka is on the far northwest corner of the island, about as far as you can get from the international airport city of Larnaca.

    Lemon Grove Villas

    Not only was Lemon Grove Villa comfortable and spacious, but it also had one of the absolute best hosts we have had in all of our travels. Maria and Fytos were outstanding and made such an effort to make our unexpectedly long stay, unexpectedly comfortable.

    3.)We Shall Return

    Lemon Grove swimming pool

    When we finally left Cyprus after two months, we vowed to return – and we kept that vow, returning 26 months later this past June. We only had a week this time, but we spent the entire week back at our beloved Lemon Grove Villa, getting to see our sweet hosts Maria and Fytos. And this time, thanks to fabulous weather, enjoying the beautiful pool.

    4.)Sunshine and Sand

    Sandy beaches

    If you have been to Greece, Cyprus feels just like that. But without the crowds or the price tag. Sunny skies, turquoise water, beautiful beaches. It’s surprising Cyprus is not one of the Greek islands, but most Cypriots consider themselves Greek and you will see the Greek flag everywhere. At least on the Greek Cypriot side (south side) of this island.

    5.)Ancient History, Recent History

    Aphrodite’s Rock

    This island is said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love. The island has been occupied by many civilizations dating back as far as far as the 12th century BC. Given its strategic position in the Mediterranean it’s no wonder so many wanted a piece of it over the millennia. Throughout the 140 mile long by 60 miles wide island you will find a fascinating array of ancient ruins and archeological sites all worth a visit.

    Paphos Archeological Site (UNESCO)

    More recent history has included a civil war in 1974 when Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, occupying and taking over entire cities including property and homes. Greek Cypriots fled south and Turkish Cypriots fled north, leaving everything behind. Still today Turkey has control of the northern part of the island but it is not recognized by the United Nations. It wasn’t until 2003 that a border crossing was opened. Today you can still see the sad remains of people’s homes and businesses abandoned and bullet ridden along the UN Buffer Zone.

    Looking towards the former resort town of Famagusta, now a ghost town on the Turkish side of the occupied North

    6.)Hiking and Running

    Beautiful slot canyon hike

    We love to run and hike and Cyprus offered beautiful and safe places to do both. In Argaka we ran nearly every day, both during lockdown and in our recent visit. And we also enjoyed several hikes along the ocean, in the mountains and through some glorious slot canyons.

    Early morning beach run

    7.)Food Glorious Food

    Kleftiko one of the island’s famous dishes made with lamb

    Very similar to Greek food, Cypriot food is abundant with fresh and locally grown produce. Throughout the island and especially in Argaka you will find citrus, olives, nuts, and berries growing next to wheat, barley, watermelons, zucchini and tomatoes. Honey and breads are abundant as are candies and amazing coffee. You can find local wine that is cheap and delicious and recently a surge of craft beer. It is a breadbasket of the Mediterranean. The cuisine includes a lot of fish, lamb, beef and chicken as well as yogurt, feta and amazing halloumi cheese. Oh my goodness. I was in heaven. Learn more about Cypriot foods and cooking in this post In the Cyprus Test Kitchen.

    Grilled Octopus

    8.) Kind and Hardworking People

    Cyprus Cooking Class

    And then there are the quiet and kind Cypriots. Some of the hardest working people I have ever met, yet always ready with a shy smile and a welcome.

    Cyprus in My Heart Forever

    Orthodox Church in Argaka

    What more could anyone want in a destination? It’s inexpensive, beautiful, delicious and great weather. There is interesting history and architecture, nature and views. Each city offers a wide variety of accommodations and restaurants. If I compare it to Maui it is half the price or less, with fewer tourists and traffic. For Americans it’s a bit difficult to get to, but there are lots of direct flights from London, so that’s typically the best way to get here. But however you get here, just get here.

    The UN Border crossing between Cyprus and the occupied north

    I am already working on a plan to get back to Cyprus for a long extended visit in 2024. Cyprus, in my heart forever.

    Learn more about the Civil War and unrest in Cyprus through this beautiful book The Island of Missing Trees.

    Read our post the Cyprus Test Kitchen here.

    See last week’s blog post about our trip to Israel, Visiting Israel – We Finally Made it Back.

    See this week’s top performing pin Authentic Moroccan Food Tour

    We love it when you pin and share our blog posts. Thank you.

    Europe Travel

    Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite

    We were supposed to visit Malta in May 2020…well you know why we didn’t. So it was exciting to be able to add Malta back into our travel itinerary. In 2020 our plans were to spend 10 days on the island of Malta and an additional six on the island of Gozo. Our rescheduled trip however needed to be shorter, so we spent our time on the main island of Malta with a quick day trip to Gozo. I fell hard for this beautiful and ancient place. Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite.

    Valletta

    Two Years Later

    This itinerary was pretty tight, as we attempted to resurrect our original trip we were on when the Pandamit made its nasty entrance. At that time, you might remember, we fled Israel to Cyprus but were locked down in Cyprus for two months. Eventually abandoning the remaining itinerary, which included Malta, and making our way back to the USA to wait it out. Wait it out we did, with the rest of the world, and two years later we are out here again…Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite.

    Enjoying Valletta from the water

    Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite

    From the moment we arrived in Valletta, the fortress city on a peninsula, I knew this was my kind of place. So much history as well as pre-historic history, yet alive and so incredibly beautiful. The most surprising thing we found was it is CHEAP. By far the cheapest country we have visited in the European Union. Gotta love that!

    Malta is also friendly, clean, delicious and just about everyone speaks English. English is an official language, but the local Maltese language prevails. It is an interesting mix of Arabic and Italian.

    Art Installation Valletta

    Where We Stayed

    We stuck pretty close to Valletta, opting for an Airbnb in the historic area rather than a resort in the more cosmopolitan areas of St. Julian or Sliema. In hindsight I think with more time I would have also enjoyed a night or two inside the walled village of Mdina, and a longer more leisurely visit to Gozo Island.


    There is no shortage of accommodations all over the island, which is only 17 miles long and 9 miles wide. Depending on what is important to you (history, nightlife, beaches) you will find something to match your desires.

    Valletta

    Nutshell History

    Malta can trace it’s history back to 5200BC. I mean wow. That is crazy right? I love this kinda stuff so much and it is one of the astonishing things about Malta that caused me to fall in love with it. In recent years some incredible pre-historic ruins have been found, known as the Hypogeum. The Smithsonian Foundation claims this site to be the most significant pre-history site in the world. (Tip – only 80 people a day are allowed to visit the Hypogeum. Plan ahead for this. Unfortunately we did not get to see it.)

    From the arrival of man Malta became a place everyone wanted to get their hands on, due to it’s central location in the Mediterranean. Over the centuries the island was controlled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and the Byzantines. Then came the Arabs, followed by the Normans and then the Knights of St. John before the Ottomans arrived. Napoleon gave it a try, but the British secured the island for 170 years. In 1974 Malta became independent.

    This vast and diverse history is evident in the architecture, language, people and food. Absolutely fascinating to a history geek like me.

    Daily firing of the cannon, a throwback to British occupation

    Recommended Things To Do

    First of all Malta is surprisingly affordable compared to most of Europe. We were astonished at how cheaply we could eat, drink, shop and be entertained. Malta uses the Euro and credit cards are accepted everywhere. A dinner with wine or beer for two could be had for around 45 Euros.

    Some of our favorite things we did were;

    Food Tour

    As you likely know I love to take a food tour whenever I visit a new destination. I usually try to do it early in my itinerary because it is always both a history lesson and yummy. We booked our tour through Viator with Best Tours Malta and our guide Chris was not only knowledgeable about food but we learned a great deal about the history of Valletta.

    Food Tour
    Food Tour

    Museums

    I recommend three places in Valletta that provide a wonderful opportunity to learn about the astonishing history of both Valletta and Malta. Be sure to visit St. John’s Cathedral, The National War Museum (Fort Saint Elmo) and the The National Museum of Archeology.

    St John’s Co-Cathedral
    National War Museum

    Archeology Sites

    We rented a car for two days to get out of Valletta and see some sites. Seeing some significant archeology sites made us thankful we made the effort. Hagar Qim is a significant pre-historic site on the island of Malta dating to 3200 BC. It is one of several UNESCO sites in the country and it is fascinating. A very well done interpretive self-guided tour is included with your admission. At the Hagar Qim site you will also see another pre-historic temple site called Mnajdra. Both sites worth your time.

    There are multiple other ruins on the island of Malta and on Gozo as well. I wish we had the time to see more. We briefly visited Dingli Cliffs, not known for ruins although there are some, but known more for the spectacular views of the cliffs and the beautiful sea.

    Hagar Qim
    Mnajdra
    Dingli Cliffs

    Gozo Island

    Because we were short on time, we only did a day trip to Gozo. Our original itinerary had us spending six days there with a car. I sure wish we could have done that, because a day trip did not do it justice. Partly because we were with way too many people and it just was not enough time. IF YOU ONLY HAVE A DAY, here is what I recommend. Take an ECab (Malta’s version of Uber and highly recommended over a regular taxi) to the ferry, walk on the ferry, and prearrange a PRIVATE GUIDE to meet you on the other side. This way you can gear your day to the things that are important to you; architecture, pre-history, churches and cathedrals, agriculture, salt pans and more. I’m still glad we went but if I did it again I would definitely spend the money for a private tour.

    Salt Pans Gozo
    Gozo

    Blue Grotto and Sea Caves

    On Malta’s south coast you will find the most beautiful blue water. The Blue Grotto viewpoint is definitely worth a stop (it’s on the way to Hager Qim) and with more time you can also take a boat to the Blue Grotto and the Sea Caves. We did not go in the boat but it looked really fun. It is a beautiful spot.

    St. Peter’s Pool

    St. Peter’s Pool is a popular swimming and sunning site of St. Peter’s Pool. Although we were the oldest people there (easily by 30 years), we had a blast!! Stunning location. Parking is tight, but there is overflow parking for busy days. On the day we visited it wasn’t terribly crowded but I understand it can get very crowded. Try to go on a weekday. So much fun and worth the effort to get there.

    After our swim we continued on to the beautiful fishing village of Marsaxlok. We had a delicious lunch on the seaside.

    St Peter’s Pool
    St. Peter’s Pool
    Marsaxlok

    Mdina & Rabat

    With our rental car we went to the inland walled city of Mdina, which is surrounded by the newer city of Rabat. We were really glad we arrived an hour before our 11am guided walking tour because the village was abandoned and so quiet. And boom, at 11am all the tour buses from the cruise ships arrived. Wow, suddenly it was like Disneyland! We learned a lot from our walking tour and our guide was exceptionally knowledgeable in the history of the two cities. I am so glad we did this and recommend it definitely if you visit Malta. In hindsight it would have been fun to spend a night or two inside the ancient town.

    Mdina and Rabat
    Mdina and Rabat

    Dance Performance

    On a whim we looked up what our options were to attend a live performance in Valletta. This is something we have come to enjoy in places we visit around the world. The only thing on during our short visit was a dance performance at the remarkable and historic Teatru Manoel right in old town Valletta. The performance, an interpretive dance about the life of Frida Kahlo, was incredible, but the historic theater was astonishing. We would not of visited the theater if we hadn’t decided to go to the performance so I am so glad we did.

    Teatru Manoel

    Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite

    Sometimes I am flabbergasted at the wealth of history and beauty we discover in our travels. It never ceases to amaze me and Malta was all that and more. I am so very glad we finally made it to this fascinating island nation. I hope you can visit too. Marvelous Malta – a New Favorite.

    Watch for an upcoming post about our experience in Israel and Cyprus. See last week’s blog post Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit.

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    Island Life  --  Oceania Travel

    Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two

    I was trying to write a blog about the local food for this week, but oh my goodness there is so much excellent food and I am still experimenting and eating my way through! So, instead I will wait and have a foodie post next week. I should be ready by then so be sure not to miss it – the flavors of French Polynesia are wonderful. Meanwhile, this week, we have been happily exploring and settling into our long stay on this remarkable island. And so I give you Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two.

    Sunrise

    Weather

    Beach time

    Week two provided us exactly the weather we had expected when planning this trip. No more monsoons! Just showers now and then with lots and lots of sunshine in between. We are very happy about all of that. We know we will have more rain, but Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two has provided us many opportunities to be active and explore in the warm (and humid) temperatures. We are now into a regular running and hiking schedule. No golf though, as we left our clubs at home this time.

    Food and Culture

    Tahitian Art

    Week Two we discovered so much about the local food and culture and this is why it needs its own entire blog post. The local influence of French and Chinese to the Polynesian foods has created a wonderful and delicious as well as eclectic cuisine. I’ll tell you more next week. Meanwhile, the local people are incredibly friendly and helpful. On more than one occasion we have had locals drop what they were doing to help us find our way or interpret for us. They are kind and sweet and make us feel very welcome.

    Polynesia show

    Life is pretty simple on Mo’orea. People live in simple homes and live simple lives. I’m sure on Tahiti it’s a bit more citified…but here it’s very laid back and slow.

    Beautiful tropical fruit

    The culture of these islands is influenced by many factors. The Polynesian people, known as great navigators, migrated to these islands from all over Southeast Asia starting in 500BC. They managed to govern themselves fine, but the French arrived in the 1600’s and took over. C’est le vie. Today French is the official language but English is spoken by many and the native language of Tahitian is spoken by many. There are still about 2 million people who claim Polynesian ethnicity.

    This week we took a food tour, a cooking class, ate in a couple of restaurants and went to a Polynesian cultural show and dinner. All of these experiences will get pulled into next week’s post.

    Geography

    Geography

    Mo’orea is an ancient volcanic island, about ten miles from its larger sister of Tahiti. This beautiful and lush island is very reminiscent of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Kauai is estimated to be about 5 million years old while Mo’orea is closer to 2 million years old. The green mountains rise dramatically out of the incredible turquoise water with spires and peaks and craggy rocks jutting here and there. This makes for difficult but beautiful hiking options.

    Lagoon kayaking

    The coral reef that surrounds the island was described by Darwin as like a picture frame and helped him solidify his theory about atolls. The coral was originally part of the island’s lava flow. Over the millennia it pushed it way out to ring the island and the coral thrived in the environment. It makes a beautiful lagoon around the island and provides safe snorkeling, paddling and swimming opportunities as well as a wonderful home for sea life.

    Pacific Rim

    On top of Magic Mountain

    Although Mo’orea is not an active volcano, the recent volcanic explosion and ensuing tsunami in Tonga (1200 miles west) reminds us how our planet is in constant evolution. Following the tsunami we went in search of information regarding the local tsunami procedures and warning systems here on Mo’orea and learned where we are to go in such an emergency. We feel prepared.

    Negatives

    There are however a few negatives, but they are hardly enough to mention. But here they are anyway;

    Dogs – like many places we have traveled around the world there are ALOT of feral dogs and clearly there is no spay-neuter program in place. It’s sad to see the condition of many of these animals.

    Speed – people drive REALLY fast on the two lane road that rings the island and often pass. Yikes. However, over the past couple of years a bike lane has been added on both sides of the ring road all the way around the island. This gives me a safe running lane, although staying alert with the speeding cars is important. Many people use bikes to get around an Motos too, but the bike lane is a nice addition for all of us.

    Mosquitos – not the worst place I have been for bug bites (Seychelles Islands wins that award) but the mosquitos have been pretty annoying. Hopefully now that the sun is back, the mosquitoes will go!

    Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two

    High above the lagoon

    We are relaxed and enjoying our new little island life. I promise next week we will have lot of foodie information to share! So I hope you will check back! Merci!

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    See last week’s post Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One

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    Inspire

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Add These to Your Bucket List

    Location: Around the World

    It’s blog bonus day! Enjoy this one once again.

    We love Paris like everyone else.  But really that’s the problem.  EVERYONE loves Paris (and London and Rome) and so you find lots of crowds and high cost.  In our travels around the world we have really tried to find new places that few tourists go.  Often these destinations end up being our most favorite.  And the more we travel the more we want to encourage everyone to consider stepping out of their travel comfort zone, and exploring the unknown – the favorite destinations no one goes.   Finding your way to the lesser traveled destinations creates less impact on the planet while bringing greater cultural awareness to the traveler.  We ask you to consider these options:

    Bulgaria

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Bulgaria

    Instead of Croatia consider visiting  Bulgaria, one of our favorite countries we have ever been to.  Bulgaria has so much to offer, and yet we did not meet a single American during the entire month we were there.  We did meet lots of Russians, Germans and some Brits.  Bulgaria has a remarkable coastline along the gorgeous Black Sea as well as great mountains for hiking.  The food is amazing, the wine is cheap and the 5000 year history is astounding.  And the people are so amazing, welcoming and proud. They have endured a great deal in their history, and they have a “come what may” attitude that is infectious. Go visit Bulgaria.

    Slovenia

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Slovenia

    Instead of Italy go to fascinating Slovenia. From Trieste, Italy it’s just a hop across the border to Slovenia, the tiny country once part of Yugoslavia.  We have been to Slovenia twice and I suspect we will be there again.  Slovenia has a tiny coastline on the Adriatic, and our favorite town of Piran is a perfect place to visit and get some local flavor.  But don’t stop there, Slovenia has some of the most beautiful mountain towns and lakes.  Much of Slovenia is still agrarian and the people are welcoming and patriotic and friendly.  Oh and the seafood.  So darn delicious. Go visit Slovenia.

    El Salvador

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    El Salvador

    Instead of Mexico go to El Salvador.  We just spent two weeks on the Pacific Coast of tiny El Salvador and we absolutely loved it.  There are some Americans coming here, but mostly 20-year-old surfers. The media has made us believe El Salvador is a dangerous place, and yet it is no more dangerous than Mexico and Americans flock to Mexico.  Come to El Salvador where the water is warm, the people are welcoming, the food is delicious and the history though brutal and bloody – is fascinating.  El Salvador will soon come out the shadow of its violent past, so visit before the secret gets out.  Go visit El Salvador.

    Poland

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Poland

    Instead of Germany go to Poland.  Poland is just beginning to step out of the shadow and become a tourist destination.  And it should.  We fell hard for Poland spending three weeks there last fall.  Poland has some of the most astonishing history anywhere in Europe.  The food is fantastic.  The people are warm and happy to meet you.  The historic villages are well-preserved and beautiful.  And it is cheap and easy to get to.  We loved Krakow as well as all the other places we visited and using the train in Poland was a great way to travel.  You really should visit Poland now.

    Bangladesh

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Bangladesh

    Instead of India go to Bangladesh.  I loved our time in India too, but if you want to push yourself and visit somewhere no tourists go, visit the remarkable, tiny country of Bangladesh.  Our short visit to Bangladesh provided us some of the most rewarding moments we have ever had in our travels. It’s difficult to visit Bangladesh without a guide, and we were lucky to find Deshguri, one of the few tour operators in the country.  Through Deshguri we able to meet so many Bangladeshi people, who greeted us with more kindness than anywhere we have ever been in the world.  We certainly stood out in both crowded Dakar as well as the beautiful villages and countryside, since almost no Western tourists come here.  We learned so much during our time in Bangladesh, and left our heart with its beautiful people. A remarkable experience that everyone should have. Visit Bangladesh soon.

    Sri Lanka

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Sri Lanka

    Instead of Thailand go to Sri Lanka. Thailand is overrun with tourists anymore.  So if you are looking for beautiful beaches, mountains and more, visit Sri Lanka instead.  The young backpacking set has found Sri Lanka, but few American visitors of the Fab Fifties era are traveling here.  Why not?  It is amazing.  We spent three of our most favorite weeks in Sri Lanka, one of the friendliest countries we have ever visited.  The Civil War is over and Sri Lanka is safe and inexpensive.  The food is the da bomb. Hiking and history is around every corner and the beaches are incredible.  We saw elephants and leopards, monkeys and snakes.  Oh my.  It’s Sri Lanka for me.

    Namibia

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Namibia

    Instead of South Africa go to Namibia.  Our ten-day tour in Namibia with Wild Wind Safaris will go down in our travels as one of the most remarkable places.  This country that nobody has heard of is one of the most beautiful in the world.  We had an amazing private guide during our time there, but you can also see the country easily with your own 4×4 vehicle (careful though, there is a high traffic fatality rate in Namibia). Namibia has a gorgeous Atlantic coastline, dry mountainous region that is like a moonscape, and multiple fascinating cultures such as the Himba, Damara and Herero people.  And to top it off Etosha National Park – single-handedly the best wildlife viewing we have ever encountered.  I absolutely fell in love with Namibia.  If you have ever considered a safari in Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa take a moment and research Namibia.  You will be so glad you did.  Go see Namibia now.

    Seychelles

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Seychelles

    Instead of the Maldives go to the Seychelles.  First a word about the Maldives.  We loved our time there, and luckily we found a very inexpensive place to stay.  But in general the Maldives are expensive and there is no alcohol! So consider the Seychelles instead.  A beautiful set of small islands out in the middle of nowhere off of east Africa.  We spent a month on the tiny island of Praslin and loved every minute of it.  Groceries were expensive and the variety was less than desirable, but the rest of the experience was very positive.  The islanders speak French/Creole mix, and the shy people are friendly and religious.  If you are looking for a place to kick back and relax with the warmest turquoise waters in the world, visit Seychelles now.

    Portugal

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Portugal

    Instead of Spain go to Portugal.  I hesitated about adding Portugal to this list because Portugal does have a thriving tourism industry.  But we met very few Americans while we were there.  Perhaps more Americans go to Spain because Spanish is a language more Americans can handle.  But during our time in Portugal we had very little difficulty with the Portuguese language.  We loved Portugal so much we would consider living there.  The food is incredible, the cities are beautiful and the beaches are fantastic.   It’s a remarkable place with such a variety of geography.  Historically Portugal was once a powerful country of explorers and merchants, colonizers and tyrants but today, this quiet and beautiful country is laid back and relaxed and fun.  Visit Portugal.

    What is next for us?

    We are now into a full-fledged planning phase of our next chapter of the Grand Adventure. We will spend May-September in the USA then depart again.  Without really trying, we have noticed

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    Portugal

    a trend in the countries we are planning to visit next, a trend towards less touristy.  A trend towards staying longer in one place.  A trend towards trying to make less of an impact and remove ourselves from the fray.

    I think this is what we always intended to happen on this journey, but it just took us a while to get there.  But when we look back on our favorite places we have been so far, it’s always the places with the road less traveled.  It’s always the places with few western tourists.  It’s always the places the cruise ships don’t go.  The authentic and relatively untouched destinations.

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    North America Travel

    Charleston South Carolina – Southern Charm and Hospitality

    Location: Charleston South Carolina

    We were so lucky to spend a few lovely days visiting friends in Charleston South Carolina.  It’s a bonus when friends live in cities worth visiting and Charleston is definitely one of those.  Charleston South Carolina oozes southern charm and hospitality – you just want to eat it up.

    We had visited Charleston years ago, in fact about 27 years ago.  Boy time does fly.  And although the surrounding areas of Charleston proper including the town of Mount Pleasant where we were staying, have grown exponentially, historic Charleston has stayed much the same.

    The oldest town in the American south, Charleston dates to 1718 and is named for King Charles II of England.  Originally located north and founded in 1680 (location now known as Charles Town Landing), the town moved south to the strategic location where the confluence of the Wando and the Ashleigh Rivers meet Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

    The city today (population of the greater Charleston area about 775,000) is well-known for its beauty, colonial history, hospitality, exceptional restaurants, and surrounding recreational opportunities.

    We spent our short time in the area enjoying the company of our friends, and several sites around the region.  We did not go out to Fort Sumter, because we did that long ago.  Instead we walked more than eight miles all over historic Charleston.  Although the horse-drawn carriages are fun, Charleston is a pedestrian friendly town.  It’s perfect for walking; flat, safe and beautiful.  On our walk we enjoyed the magnificent historic churches (Charleston is nicknamed the Holy City because it has so many church spires) and cemeteries. The colonial historic homes are enchanting, each so perfectly coiffed and dressed as if going to a ball.  The week we were visiting was the peak of the jasmine bloom – literally millions of jasmine blossoms on nearly every beautiful home, perfumed the air for miles around.  We visited Battery Park where the herons were nesting in the giant oak trees overlooking Charleston Harbor.  Of course we stopped for photos at Rainbow Row, the original commercial district and now the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the USA.  Our walk took us to The Pink House, the oldest stone building in Charleston dated 1674.

    I really enjoyed the Historic Charleston Market, stretching for four blocks it has been a market of one sort or another since 1790 and operates in the beautiful and historic market hall.  Today the market is almost all arts and crafts, showcasing the region’s blend of Southern US, English, French and West African cultures.  My favorite was the spectacular handmade reed baskets known as Sweetgrass Baskets.  Made still today in the traditional manner by the descendants of West Africans, the baskets are works of art and sell for hundreds of dollars.

    Shem Creek Park north of historic Charleston, has a lovely park and nature preserve made for walking and enjoying the birds and beauty of the area.  This is also where you can see all the shrimp boats and pick up some fresh shrimp for dinner, which we did! Another beautiful walk is out the former bridge to Sullivan’s Island.  When the new bridge opened the old bridge found new purpose as a wonderful pedestrian park across the estuary and perfect for kayak launching, bird watching, fishing and picnicking.

    Boone Hall Plantation is definitely worth a visit even with the $25 entrance fee.  Boone Hall has been a working plantation for more than 350 years.  Although the current main house is not original (dates to 1936), it is beautiful and keeps to the authentic time period.  The row of brick slave cabins were really interesting, with each one focusing on interpretive information about the slave life.  Local docents offer short talks about the plantation and slavery, and a half an hour storytelling and singing presentation by a local Gullah woman was first-rate.  I am so glad we visited beautiful Boone Hall.

    I could write another entire blog about the delicious food of this region…but I’ll just end the post today with a shout out to pimento cheese and  pork rinds, cheeseburger with fried green tomato, BBQ Brisket and coleslaw, scallops with pesto and mushrooms and fresh-off-the-boat shrimp. It’s a delicious city, one of its many, many charms.

    Charleston South Carolina, a perfect little package of southern charm tied pretty with a hospitality bow.  Visit soon.

     

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