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    Inspire

    Capsule Wardrobe for Three Week Trip

    Carry On Luggage Only for Three Weeks

    Airline travel is stressful these days. Lost luggage, canceled flights, delays. It’s a tough time in the travel industry. Up until this year, our six years of the Grand Adventure has been relatively stress free with limited luggage or flight issues, six years and 161 flights, we only lost luggage twice (see last week’s blog about this Around the World Nine Times Lost Luggage Twice). But it’s a different beast now, and so I’ve put together a capsule wardrobe for three week trip we are embarking on.

    Travel is hard (Canva)

    We booked this trip last spring, before so much airline trouble began. I’m hopeful we might be past the worst of the summer travel nightmare, but still am not going to take a chance checking my bags. This trip is tight between flights, and I have enough to worry about with connections and potential cancellations I don’t want to worry about luggage too. So for the first time I am doing carry on only, so needed a capsule wardrobe for three week trip.

    Although I consider myself a really good packer, when we go for months at a time I never do carry on only because I need to bring so many things like months worth of contact lenses, or months worth of prescription meds. I also carry our French press, the mug, laundry supplies, first aid and toiletries for extended travel.

    Carry on to avoid loosing luggage (canva)

    All that said it’s time to tighten up the bags, and this trip, just under three weeks, gives me a good opportunity to give it a try with a capsule wardrobe for three week trip. I’ve learned a lot from my friend Katherine who writes a blog called The 5kilo Traveller. Her information and instagram posts are helpful and inspirational. Check her out on Instagram and her blog here.

    What is a Capsule Wardrobe

    With just a little bit of planning, it was easy to pull together a capsule wardrobe for travel from my pieces I already have. A capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe with multiple pieces that you can mix and match and layer and use in various ways. A capsule wardrobe starts with a simple color pallet. I chose black and white for my pants. Then added in pieces that I can mix and match.

    Capsule Wardrobe (Canva)

    Of course your capsule wardrobe will vary depending on your travel destination and the weather. But you should be able to bring the same number of items for five days as you might for five weeks. It’s all in the planning.

    My Trip

    I’m headed to the English Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, followed by a few days in France. Then I return to the USA via Boston and head immediately to Acadia National Park in Maine for five days of camping. So my capsule wardrobe needs to consist of comfortable and versatile clothes for fall weather that could be in the 70’s or the 40’s, sunshine or rain, as well as both city strolling or rugged hiking.

    Guernsey (Canva)

    Layers on the Plane

    It’s rare you get blankets on the plane anymore so I like to have a coat handy to use as a blanket. This is my airplane outfit in this photo. It consists of layers that should keep me comfortable no matter the temperature of the plane…and you never know what that will be. Also by layering I’m able to wear several items instead of squeezing them into my bag.

    Airplane layers in Capsule Wardrobe colors

    My airplane outfit is a tshirt, long sleeve cotton button up blouse and a cotton long sleeve sweatshirt paired with black leggings and my running shoes. The leggins will be handy for the camping portion of our trip and will likely serve as pajamas while camping too.

    Black and White

    Black and White bottoms with mix and match tops for various weather and activities

    I am packing one pair of black slacks, one pair of white slacks and one pair of black shorts. These staple bottoms will carry me through most days. To mix and match with these three bottoms (and also the leggings) I have another short sleeve tshirt in a bright pink, one yellow tank top, one blue linen lightweight blouse, one blue linen long sleeve blouse, a sweater set (polka dot and black) and a black and white pullover cotton sweater. These all mix and match with the airplane outfit items.

    Dresses

    Just in case dresses, easy to pack and care for and easy to layer too

    If we get fine weather in the Channel Island and France I have packed two cotton dresses. My green TravelSmith dress has been a workhorse in my travel wardrobe for years. And this orange cotton dress I added this year from Talbots. I can layer both of these with the black sweater or checked blouse. I’ve thrown in one scarf.

    Camping

    For Camping and Hiking

    In addition to the leggings and the tshirts already mentioned I have packed my long hiking pants, my hiking shorts, my short sleeve hiking shirt, a long sleeve tshirt and a lightweight quick dry hiking sweatshirt. Camping could be wet, my Gortex jacket with hood will serve for both rain and warmth.

    Shoes

    Just two this time

    It’s always hard for me not to bring too many shoes, so the fact that I’ve decided to only bring two pairs is kind of amazing. I am wearing my black running shoes on the plane and though I don’t plan to run during this trip, these shoes can be walking and hiking shoes as well. In addition I am bringing my new white leather sneakers from Soludos. These work with everything including dresses.

    And Everything Else

    Additional essentials.

    Beyond my wardrobe I will be bringing underwear, first aid, one towel, a paired down toiletries bag, travel alarm and a small travel umbrella. We also have purchased two collapsible water bottles and we will try those out for the first time as well as a new collapsible hot water heater. I’m curious to see how I like that. I always carry my laptop, kindle, cords and chargers too. I have a new over the shoulder travel purse for my documents, passport, cash and credit cards as well as a few essentials for the airplane like my noise canceling headphones, lip balm, Tylenol and tiny toothbrush and toothpaste for the plane.

    And one more thing – if you aren’t using packing cubes go buy some now! Game changer.

    And That’s It

    So that is my capsule wardrobe for three week trip. I feel good about my choices. It won’t surprise me if I end up not using something, but that said I still don’t think I have over packed. It’s actually a fun challenge for me. If it goes well, we will see if I can compress when we leave for seven months in October.

    Be sure to check with YOUR airline as there are some differences as far as carry on size allowed. A little planning and you should be good to go.

    Thanks for reading my post Capsule Wardrobe Three Week Trip. Be sure to see last week’s post about our data from six years of world travel and airports and airlines around the world Nine Times Around the World Only Lost Luggage Twice.

    See this week’s top performing pin here Coastal Grandma Does That Make Me Cool?

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    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

    Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One

    Location: French Polynesia

    It’s been a weird and wonderful first week in French Polynesia (our 111th country!) where we will be living on the island of Mo’orea for two months. Getting here was no simple task…with ever changing PanDamit rules, overnight flights, weather woes etc., we were filled with gratitude on arrival. Here is our story – Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.

    The first picture I took in Mo’orea

    PanDamit Hurdles

    As our departure date loomed and Omicron exploded we found ourselves checking the French Polynesia entry requirements incessantly. We didn’t honestly know if we would actually go. But as we have said before, we are approaching travel in the brave new world like a poker game…some skill, some luck, and some divine intervention. Living the gamble and a few prayers for good measure.

    In November FP changed it’s entry requirements to a 24 hour test from time of departure. Our embarkation point was San Francisco so we had to base our 24 hour test on an 11pm departure from San Francisco. This meant testing in the morning before departing out of Seattle. No easy task. We pinpointed three Rapid Antigen sites and headed to the first one in Port Orchard Washington at 8:30am where we found a three hour wait (outdoors). Ugh. Moving on to Tacoma we lucked out at a site that took us in about 15 min. Only 30 minutes later we had our negative results. Hallelujah.

    Thumbs up for a negative Covid test

    Both our flights were pretty full and we were happy to have our newly acquired N95 masks which feel much more secure and more comfortable than what we have been using (KN95 and regular surgical mask). We dozed but didn’t really sleep very well on the nine hour flight from SF to Tahiti so we were pretty dazed on arrival.

    Arrival

    Despite all our research we weren’t really sure what to expect on arrival. One thing we were grateful for was that we had printed all of our Covid documents, entry documents as well as an email we had with correspondence from the French Polynesian President’s office. Although we had all this on our phones it was quick and easy to show the printed documents as we proceeded through the three step process on arrival;

    Step One – showing our documents from our negative Antigen test 24 hours before departure.

    Step Two – Anyone who had Antigen tests (even if negative) had to have a Rapid PCR on arrival. We knew this and got in that line next. There were about a dozen testers and it went really fast. We expected to pay for this but it was free.

    Step Three – Our research had given us the impression we would need to quarantine for up to three days as we waited for the PCR. But instead, step three was to go through to passport control and into baggage, get the bags and then wait 25 minutes. A sticker on our passport said the time when we would be clear to leave the airport. So after 25 minutes and no red flag positive Covid results we were free to leave.

    Sofitel Hotel near our Bungalow

    From landing to taxi was about one hour and 45 minutes. It was well organized and everyone was nice and helpful. So off we went to Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.

    On to Mo’orea

    It was POURING down rain. We grabbed a cab for the short ride to the ferry terminal to leave the island of Tahiti and head to Mo’orea. We made the 8:10am ferry but got absolutely drenched running from the terminal to the vessel. The stormy weather gave us rocky seas and I was really nervous given my motion sickness history. But, with mama’s little pill, and staring out at the horizon for the thirty minute crossing I made it. Maeva Mo’orea!

    Arriving at the Mo’orea Ferry Terminal

    Avis Rent a Car right at the Mo’orea Ferry Terminal was convenient and very helpful. So we were in a car within minutes. Then we had two hours to kill before we could check in to our Airbnb. Super jet-lagged driving seemed dangerous. But since the weather was crappy there was really no where to go so we ended up stopping for groceries and then driving all the way around the island.

    Mo’orea by the Numbers

    Bigger than Praslin in the Seychelles and smaller than Maui, Mo’orea is about the same size as Orcas Island in Washington State. About ten miles by 7 miles. The ring road is about 61 km (38 miles) and encircles the island. A few roads go inland off the ring road but it is the main road for most of the traffic. The area is 134 square kilometers and the population is around 18,000. The highest point is Mont Tohi’e’a is 1207 m (3960 feet). It’s very mountainous!

    Mo’orea has six communes (villages) scattered around the island. We are in the commune of Teavaro, home to about 2000 people.

    French Polynesia is 60% vaccinated and a mask mandate is in effect for indoors, although many people where masks outdoors as well. FP had a huge Covid spike in August which dropped off to zero for early winter, but began a gradual climb again over the holidays. But nowhere near what it was in August. Mo’orea has one hospital and several clinics that service the population, which currently is very light with tourists. We feel quit alone in the tourist category. We feel safer from Covid here than we do at home.

    The island rises right up out of the sea

    Parlez Vous Francais?

    Francais

    French is the official language but most people speak excellent English as well as the local Polynesian language Tahitian. Our Airbnb host, who lives on Tahiti but is here one day a week, speaks excellent English. I know bits and pieces of French but not enough to carry on an intelligent conversation. Of course through all our travels we have learned to use Google translate to read information on packages and signs. Even with Google it took us 20 minutes to figure out how to turn on the washing machine. Oh la la.

    Our bungalow in Teavaro

    Meanwhile our darling little bungalow in the village known as Teavaro is a fabulous space, with a kitchen, large covered porch, tiny pool and beach front. Less than a mile to grocery and restaurants and large public beaches. We feel very comfortable here and our host is wonderful. Merci!

    Tsunamis and Celebrations

    We arrived on January 13th and I celebrated my birthday on January 14th. Still incredibly jet-lagged we enjoyed a quiet birthday at the bungalow, and watched it rain nearly two inches in 24 hours (more on that below). It was an uneventful but nice birthday. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, 1200 miles West a giant volcanic explosion near the island of Tonga created tsunami warnings all around the Pacific. We didn’t learn about this until nearly 12 hours later when we awoke on the 15th and read it in the news.

    Birthday dinner fresh Ahi which is abundant and cheap on the island

    Although Hawaii (due north of us 2600 miles) as well as the West Coast of the USA, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan all went into Tsunami alert, we heard absolutely nothing from the FP government or warning systems. What the heck?

    There were no visible signs of anything unusual on our beach, which is only about 30 feet from our front porch. This experience however prompted us to take a good look around at what our evacuation options are. When we first started traveling we used to do this regularly, but I admit I have gotten a bit lax about it. I still am that girl on an airplane that pinpoints my nearest exit before settling into my seat…but tsunami evacuation route isn’t something I think about…until now.

    The reality is, no matter where we are, or what disaster might present itself, we will be on our own to save ourselves. This is true at home or abroad. A little preparation goes a long way.

    Monsoons and Mosquitoes

    Well we are here in the rainy season. However, everyone we meet, including our host, says this sustained rain is extremely unusual. If you have any doubt about climate change spend a few years traveling around the world. Because EVERYWHERE we have gone over the past five years we have heard these words about the weather, “this is not normal”. Not normal is the new normal from what we can tell. And the incredible amount of rain we have seen since arriving on Mo’orea is not normal. Not much to do about it though, and so we are okay. Hopeful it will clear eventually.

    Wet and rainy birthday

    Meanwhile the rain and floods have brought out the mosquitoes in droves. Mosquitoes generally find me exceptionally tasty anyway, but at the end of week one I am covered in bites. C’est la vie!

    Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One

    After a week of pretty much doing nothing but reading, playing scrabble and watching it rain, we have some plans for the week ahead. We have a reservation to do both a street food tour and a Polynesian dinner and show. With improving weather we also plan to get out to some of the beaches and restaurants. But we have enjoyed a relaxing week and have been perfectly fine just hanging out and doing very little for our Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One. We may or may not blog each week…time will tell.

    Warm and muggy

    Thank you for joining us in this weird and wonderful week.

    See last week’s annual blog post Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021 here.

    Check out our earlier blog My Favorite Islands Around the World here

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    Inspire

    My Favorite Gardens Around the World

    Enjoying Gardenss for Education and Beauty

    In our travels we have been blessed to visit a lot of gardens; botanical gardens, native gardens, home gardens, arboretums…even sculpture gardens. Fun and educational, I always look for these places in cities and countries as we travel. So today I will share with you My Favorite Gardens Around the World.

    singapore
    Singapore

    I sat down and tried to remember all the gardens we have seen. Because I enjoy gardening back in my home state of Washington in the USA, I always want to check out gardens in other places. My husband also enjoys looking at gardens, especially ones with native species we may not be familiar with. Lately Arne and I have become amateur bird watchers, and my favorite gardens around the world are always a great place to see birds.

    My Favorite Gardens Around the World

    As I have been working on my own tiny garden this spring I’ve been dreaming of starting to travel again and some of the world’s most beautiful gardens have been floating through my head…and thus this idea to blog about them has bloomed. I don’t have photos of all my favorite gardens around the world, but I do hope in your own travels you can find your way to some of these enchanting locations….some big, some small, all beautiful.

    In no particular order, here are my favorite gardens around the world.

    United States

    Palm Springs, California – I enjoyed our recent seven week visit to Palm Springs area where we particularly enjoyed learning about the flora of the desert at the tiny Moorten Botanical Gardens and Sunnylands. Sunnylands is one of my all time favorite gardens anywhere.

    Palm Springs
    Palm Springs

    Tucson, Arizona – Our recent two weeks in Tucson had us falling in love with this area, including the Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Arizona Sonora Living Desert Museum, our favorite thing in Tucson.

    Phoenix, Arizona – the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix is not large but it is laid out beautifully and makes a beautiful and interesting garden to stroll through.

    Sunnylands
    Palm Springs
    Phoenix

    Portland, Oregon – The Portland Japanese Gardens is one of the most unexpected gardens I have ever been to. A hidden gem right in the heart of beautiful Portland Oregon

    Seattle, Washington – Volunteer Park Conservatory. I have only been here once, and it was on a blustery cold winter day, and stepping into this warm and alluring conservatory was a perfect activity for a winter day. I loved everything about this place and hope to return soon.

    Spokane, Washington – Manito Park and Botanical Gardens is one of my most favorite things to do when visiting Spokane. The sprawling park offers so much plant beauty, including a Japanese Garden and a beautiful Rose Garden.

    Spokane

    Boston, Massachusetts – Boston Public Gardens is the oldest botanical gardens in the USA and offers 24 acres of beauty to stroll through in any season. One of my favorite Boston sites in a town full of amazing sites.

    Kula Hawaii
    Kula

    Kula, Maui, Hawaii – Kula Botanic Gardens is a hidden gem on the slopes of Haleakala. I visited this privately owned garden for the first time this past year and it was such a pleasant surprise. Don’t miss this hidden gem when you visit Maui

    Bainbridge Island, Washington – practically in my own back yard, Bloedel Reserve is a 150 acre historic property and gardens whose mission is to enrich people’s lives through a premier public garden of natural and designed Pacific Northwest landscapes. Timed entrance tickets available online.

    Bloedel Reserve

    San Marino, California – The Huntington Botanical Gardens is so much more than just spectacular gardens. This historic site is home to an Art Museum, Library, events and lectures…and of course one of the most beautiful gardens in the USA.

    Huntington

    Canada

    Victoria British Columbia – The Butchart Gardens is one of the most outstanding gardens anywhere in the world. No matter the season, it is a jaw dropping and magnificent 55 acres to behold.

    Butchart Gardens

    Montreal Quebec – Jardin Botanique de Montreal was not on our radar when we set out to visit beautiful Montreal, we fortunately just stumbled upon it. We were there in the fall and it was truly first class, one of my favorite gardens ever.

    Montreal

    Australia

    Sydney – Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney we only had four days to explore the beautiful city of Sydney and we made the most of our time from beach to hiking, performance and food. But one of our favorite discoveries was these phenomenal gardens, home to both flora, fauna and feathers.

    Sydney

    Singapore

    Singapore – Gardens by the Bay. Amazing. I could have spent a week in this place, an astonishing futuristic garden in one of the most astonishing cities in the world. The super tree structures and skywalk were incredible (especially at night) but my favorite was the cloud forest and flower dome. Worth a trip to Singapore just to see this.

    Singapore

    Mauritius

    Pamplemousses – Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens. Often referred to as the SSR Botanical Gardens, this beautiful garden is named for Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Mauritius’ first Prime Minister and a leader in Mauritius independence. The gardens were begun in the late 1700’s during the French occupation and today incorporates fruits, flowers and trees from all over the world in its 33 hectare site.

    Mauritius

    Sri Lanka

    Kandy – Royal Botanical Gardens. Our visit to Sri Lanka was so wonderful and this country remains one of our favorites. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy is one of three botanical gardens in the country – each unique. This garden was beautiful, very large and home to a great many species of trees, flowering plants, orchids, birds and bats.

    Kandy

    China

    Shanghai – Shanghai Botanical Gardens is the largest botanical garden in all of China. It encompasses more than 81 hectares and includes beautiful strolling paths and water features as well as thousands of trees, flowers, shrubs and more. Shanghai is a beautiful city, so different from Beijing.

    Shanghai

    Israel

    Haifa – Baha’i Hanging Gardens this was a surprising place in the heart of Haifa. These gardens aren’t actually “hanging” but the crawl up the hill and present a spectacular site for many vantage points. The gardens are the home to the shrines where the founders of the Baha’i faith are buried. A site to see.

    Touring gardens when you travel provides a peek into local culture and customs, while also enriching with beauty and education. I encourage you to support these beautiful places everywhere you go.

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    See last week’s fun post A Passion for Coffee in Gig Harbor.

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    Asia Travel

    Taipei Taiwan Last Minute

    Location: Taipei Taiwan

    We were supposed to go to Hong Kong, but canceled at the last minute due to the violence going on there. What to do? Where to go? How about Taipei Taiwan last minute? Great decision. What a great place.

    Like Formosa Free Walking Tour
    Lungshan Temple

    I knew nothing about Taipei. I didn’t mean for it to be my second choice. And after spending six days there, I can most assuredly say you should put it in your travel destinations.

    Here are my favorite things we did in beautiful Taipei Taiwan last minute;

    Like It Formosa

    As we do on our first day in most cities we did a “free” walking tour with Like It Formosa. Our tour guide Eleanor was amazing. Her wealth of knowledge about Taipei old and new, ancient history and current events made the three plus hour tour remarkable. I highly recommend Like It Formosa. On the tour we made several stops but my favorites were;

    Like it Formasa Free Walking Tour
    Original painted movie poster, Sanxia Old Street

    Lungshan Temple – this is a favorite of locals – one of the few that survived WWII. This 300 year-old temple is in one of Taipei’s oldest neighborhoods and it is visited by people of multiple faiths including Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians. As a visitor it’s a wonderful place to see local people who bring offerings of flowers, food and other items as they worship here to several gods including a match-making god and a fertility god.

    Sanxia Old Street – partially restored (with additionally restoration underway) this ancient street was built during Taiwan’s period of Japanese rule and displays the baroque-style architecture of the period.

    Like it Formosa Walking Tour
    Chiang Kai Shek Memorial

    Chiang Kai Shek Memorial – a bit shocking in its immensity, it was here we learned on our tour details about this man…someone I would have thought the Taiwanese revered. But Chiang Kai Shek held the country under martial law for decades, and in his life acted more like an Emperor than a President and so the Taiwanese have mixed feelings about the leader of the Republic of China.

    Tower 101 and Neighborhood

    On our second day we wandered the city on our own and enjoyed riding up to the top of the Taipei 101 Tower. We had bought ticket online ahead of time but did not need to as it was not busy at all. The view in this 1200 foot high building is remarkable, and the elevator ride is impressive – one of the fastest elevators in the world.

    Taipei 101 Tower
    The 1200 foot Taipei 101 Tower

    The tower building is also home to a vast shopping mall as well as a wonderful food court in the basement. We enjoyed dinner here walking around and choosing a variety of dishes including the popular oyster omelet, glazed chicken, tempura vegetables and a chocolate pound cake.

    Taipei 101 Tower
    From the 101 Tower Observatory

    We hiked up the arduous 500 steps to Elephant Mountain, a popular and sometimes busy viewpoint of the city. It was a real workout, but we were glad we did it.

    Elephant Mountain
    The view from Elephant Mountain

    Local Markets

    We visited the lively, local Beitou daily market where locals buy and sell everything from bok choi to pigs trotters and papaya to frogs legs. It was busy and loud and colorful and I loved it.

    Beitou Market
    Pig trotters at Beitou Market

    We also visited two of Taipei’s famous night markets…there are dozens of night markets. These serve as gathering places for locals to walk, meet, eat, drink and shop. We loved the Shiling Night Market and spent several hours there grazing our way through dumplings and octopus and more. We also went to the Linjiang Night Market, but it was rainy and wet that night and there were not many people out enjoying it.

    Shiling Night Market
    Shiling Night Market

    Cooking Class

    As I do as often as I possibly can while traveling I spent a day in a cooking class with a local chef. It was outstanding and I learned some fun recipes and enjoyed a great meal at the end with Chef Calvin of GoTuCook. I’ll be writing a full blog about this soon.

    Taiwan Cooking Class
    Cooking with GoTuCooks

    Taipei Eats

    As usual food is a big part of our travels and one of the best things we did during our visit to Taipei was a Night Food Tour with Taipei Eats. Our guide Diego was awesome! And we tasted at least ten different foods and I was about to explode by the end of the night. I highly recommend this tour and ask for Diego. Some of my favorite things were Taiwan Green Guava with salt, Taiwan “burger” which was pork, peanut powder and cilantro in a hot fresh Bao Bun, scallion pancake, soup dumplings, Moon Cake (filled with egg yolk and sweet red beans. We also tried stinky tofu (no thanks) and betel nut (like tobacco – eww) and the specialty of Taiwan pineapple cake. What a wonderful night it was.

    Taipei Eats Food Tour
    Scallion Pancake

    Out of the City

    We spent one day checking out some sights outside of the city. Originally we wanted to do some hiking, but the weather turned wet so we ended up booking a shuttle service with Klook that would take us to several beautiful and interesting places outside of the city throughout the day. I’m really glad we did because we enjoyed most of it. We especially liked;

    Yeolin Geo Park – a UNESCO National Geological site with incredibly strange yet beautiful geological formations on the sea in the north of Taiwan. It was fascinating and if you had the time you could spend many hours in the park.

    Yeolin Geo Parak
    Yeolin Geo Park Formations

    Jioufen – a historic mountain side village literally hangs from the side of the mountain. Jioufen is now pretty much gone over to tourism, but we still enjoyed the beautiful views from the town and walking around the historic old village. We had a remarkable bowl of beef noodle soup to that was worth the price of admission.

    Jioufen
    Jioufen Mountain Village

    We also stopped at Shifen…but were a bit disappointed in this place. First of all it was pouring down ran, but mostly it was crowded with tourists who come to release paper lanterns into the sky for luck. But it was pretty kitschy and not at all authentic and so we didn’t love it. Maybe on a sunny day…

    Shifen
    Shifen Village, note lantern being released in the back

    Taipei Taiwan Last Minute

    We have no regrets about our visit to Taipei. We stayed at the Dandy Hotel near Daan Park, which we loved. The room was small but comfortable, the breakfast was incredible and the staff was excellent. Right next door was the Metro. We used Taipei’s remarkably efficient and inexpensive metro throughout our visit and loved it.

    And finally the Taiwanese people are wonderful. They are proud to be Taiwanese NOT Chinese, although there is a small faction that wants the island nation to return to China and the People’s Republic of China. But everyone we met wants to remain independent with their current government (Republic of China) which has been governing for 70 years despite the fact they still are not recognized by the United Nations.

    Taipei Taiwan last minute. So glad it happened.

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    Inspire

    How to Prepare For a Long Flight

    Seattle to Shanghai

    Location: Seattle Washington USA

    Even after all the flights I have taken, I still don’t enjoy it. And our flight to Shanghai is 13 hours – one of the longest we have had. We will fly from Seattle to Shanghai non-stop on Delta Airlines. How to prepare for a long flight? With all the flights I’ve taken, I have a system.

    I don’t like taking sleeping pills, because I am just too drowsy throughout the following days, so I have developed a a long-flight preparation plan. Even when the flight is not 13 hours (most of our flights are 3-6 hours) I practice the following flight preparation plan:

    Two-Three days before;

    No alcohol and no spicy foods. Eat healthy, low sodium and easy to digest foods.

    Drink lots of water

    Exercise

    Moisturize my skin

    One day before;

    Make sure my carry-on is well organized and includes the following; passport, earplugs, headphones, eyemask, water bottle, Ibuprofen, motion sickness medicine, chapstick, moisturizer, neck support, wet wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste

    Exercise

    Get a good night’s sleep – limit late day screen time

    Do all of the above from two-days before

    Day of Flight;

    All of the above

    Get up as early as I can but limit caffeine

    Drink a lot of water in the hours before boarding

    Moisturize

    Set my watch to the destination time

    Dress in non-binding clothes including shoes and socks or be sure to pack a pair of socks. Wear a sweater that can be easily put on and off and used as a blanket.

    I never wear my contacts on the flight. I always wear my glasses.

    Greet my flight attendant and be kind to them. Not only do they deserve it they might be more inclined to help if I need something during the flight.

    After I board;

    Organize my space before take off so I know where my things are including earplugs, water, headphones, neck pillow etc. I also use wet wipes or sanitizer and wipe down my tray table and armrests as soon as I sit down.

    I like to support my feet and either do that with an inflatable foot rest or my backpack.

    Take two ibuprofen with water

    Look at my watch and visualize the place I’m going and the time of day it is there…see myself there.

    Find a meditation station on the in-flight audio or iTunes and begin listening to the calming voice and music.

    If I want to eat before sleeping, I choose a light, non-spicy meal and have a non-caffeinated non-alcoholic drink. I never drink wine because it dries me out.

    After the meal I go to the toilet, moisturize in the bathroom, brush my teeth and use my chapstick too.

    Back at my seat I settle in. Get cozy and warm. Check my watch and think about what time it is where I’m going. Find my meditation music and sit back. Clear my mind of everything or think about fun things I want to do when I arrive. Think about my breathing – like in yoga breath deep from the belly. Relax my jaw. Relax my shoulders. Think about restful sleep.

    If I wake up, I drink water. I take a walk to stretch. I take more ibuprofen. I moisturize and use chapstick. Then I settle back in again with the restful music.

    This is my best advice for long haul flights. Sometimes I watch a movie if I’m having trouble falling asleep. I never sleep soundly, but I do arrive relaxed and not too disheveled. On arrival I always try to stay awake until a normal bedtime for my destination. Luckily for us, we arrive in Shanghai in the early evening. We should be able to go to bed and hopefully wake up ready to go on our first full-day in China.

    I have purchased some compression socks to try this flight. This is the first time I have done that but I know many people swear by them. So I’ll give it a try.

    I welcome your suggestions for making a long flight tolerable. Please comment below. If you like our blog, please pin and share. Thanks!

    Inspire

    The Grand Adventure – Around the World 3.0

    Off For Another Nine Months

    Location: Around the World

    Here we go again. When this all started in June 2016 we said we would either be gone for six months or six years. Well, it looks like we have found a way to make this travel life work, and I expect we will continue well beyond six years. It’s time for our around the world adventure year four.

    Belize

    I have learned so much since we started this adventure. But it’s probably not what you are thinking. Sure I’ve learned how to get good deals, how to maneuver public transit, how to pack and how to say thank you in ten languages.

    But those are all technicalities. Not the soul of the journey. Because really, what I have witnessed, experienced and felt the most blessed about is the way this adventure has changed me deep inside. Serendipity.

    Spain

    Watching the sunrise and the moon set at the same time on top of the most peaceful and serene mountains in Galicia, on the final days of my walk across Spain – I experienced deep gratitude.

    Conversing without sharing a language with a tiny and precious old man in a backwater village deep in Bangladesh, a man who had nothing to give but wanted to serve us tea – I was humbled.

    Having a monk come out of the temple and invite us in for a special tour in Sri Lanka. Sharing with us his temple as his pride for it beamed light out his fingertips and then him blessing us quietly and sincerely for our continued safe journey – I was exalted.

    Meeting a tiny Himba girl in Namibia and watching her smile up at Arne with her face full of wonder and awe. I was in love.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world
    Sri Lanka

    We have watched people so different from those in the USA embracing their cultures, their foods, their history with love and understanding of each other – I was astonished.

    One rare Bangladesh
    Bangladesh

    I am secure in my belief that you can never understand the world, or its many problems, unless you travel. You cannot pass judgement on anyone, anywhere on this earth if you are doing so without ever leaving your own country.

    I know this as fact. And more than anything, this is why we continue. Do not fear for us, we are careful. Do not question us we are smart. This lifestyle is not for everyone, but if you wanted it, you too could do it … and you would never be the same.

    500 days of summer
    Namibia

    So once again we depart. Time to say farewell. It’s time for our around the world adventure year four. Our first leg was 22 months. Our second was nine months. And this one – 3.0 – will also be nine months from September to June.

    After that – who knows?

    We’ve seen a total of 96 countries (some of those before we started the Grand Adventure) and we have rarely returned to a country. With 3.0 itinerary nearly complete, it’s clear to us that we are now tackling less touristy countries, more remote and more exciting – those are our favorites.

    We can’t wait. So for all of those who have been asking the where, when, why, and how of our itinerary, here it is. We hope you will follow along. We welcome your questions.

    Note – we are usually booked about six months in advance. We are not spontaneous travelers. That is not our style. We are in a constant state of planning as it is, one of the more difficult parts of our journey.

    China – September – Booked

    China

    We have been to China before and we loved it. Five years ago we traveled to South Korea and China. Visiting Beijing and Xian I was enchanted with the history, the food and the mystique of China. So it’s time to go back. We will visit Shanghai first, then take a river cruise on the Yangtze. We had reservations and plans to spend a week in Hong Kong, but this week we cancelled those. This is the first time on our Grand Adventure that we felt it was unsafe enough to change our plans. Hopeful we will visit Hong Kong in the future.

    In Shanghai and on the Yangtze we are on a private tour.

    Instead of Hong Kong we are headed to…

    Taiwan – September -Booked

    COUNTRY NUMBER 97

    Taiwan

    We actually had discussed going to Taiwan early on in our planning, but the flights were expensive. Funny though, booking flights today it was quit inexpensive. So Taipei here we come. The time we would have had in Hong Kong (6 days) will now be in Taipei. We plan to book a food tour and a cooking class- exactly like we had planned in Hong Kong. I don’t know that much about Taipei, so it will an adventure.

    Malaysia – October – Booked

    Malaysia

    We have only ever transited through Malaysia but have heard such wonderful things about this country we can’t wait to spend an entire month there. First we visit northern Malaysia and Borneo to see the orangutans ( a bucket list for me). Then we have a week in Kuala Lumpur followed by almost three weeks on the island of Langkawi.

    We are in hotels in Borneo and Kuala Lumpur and in an Airbnb on Langkawi.

    Myanmar – November – Booked

    Myanmar

    COUNTRY NUMBER 98

    Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has only been open to tourists since 2012, and the tourism industry has been slow to grow due to all the much bigger Asian players out there. But this is exactly the kind of destination we are interested in…experiencing the history and culture before it gets run over by tourists.

    We will be in four different locations over an entire month, taking our time to really slow travel in Myanmar. We have two weeks in a hotel perched on famous Lake Inle. It may be too much time, but if it is we will sit back, relax and read.

    Oman – December – Booked

    Oman

    COUNTRY NUMBER 99

    Oman is consistently showing up in lists of where to travel now – particularly where to travel if you don’t want to be with hordes of tourists, tour buses and cruise ships. And that sounds right up our alley.

    We will spend ten days in Muscat, the biggest city in Oman, with some day tours planned as well as renting a car to do some exploration on our own of this small, beautiful, historic and safe Middle East country.

    Kenya – December – Booked

    Kenya

    COUNTRY NUMBER 100

    We have skirted Kenya on our African travels, not intentionally, but for some reason have not stepped foot there. So we plan to spend our Christmas holiday lounging on the beach in Kenya.

    We have done two safaris in the past (as well as two additional Elephant safaris) so we will not do a safari in Kenya. Instead we have a beach Airbnb and we plan to relax and enjoy the side of Kenya fewer people visit.

    Mauritius – January – Booked

    Mauritius

    COUNTRY NUMBER 101

    Well we love a remote island and have had some of our best travel experiences on tiny islands in the Indian Ocean (Seychelles, Maldives) and so this time we will venture to the teeny island nation of Mauritius. Here we plan to really get ensconced in the community, spending six weeks enjoying an Airbnb, the pool and not a whole lot more.

    Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana – February – Partially Booked

    Zambia

    COUNTRIES 102-104

    Our plan is to visit Zambia to see Victoria Falls, one of many bucketlist waterfalls I am working my way through. We will be staying in Livingstone Zambia but the falls border Zimbabwe and it’s easy to walk across the border.

    Not as close but close enough for a day trip is Botswana, and we will take a guided to tour to Botswana while we are in the region.

    Uganda – February – Booked

    COUNTRY 105

    Uganda

    Ever since I saw Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist I have dreamed of trekking to see the Mountain Gorillas. Mountain Gorillas are NOT FOUND anywhere in captivity in the world, and they are endangered. The only way to see these magnificent primates is to hike into the mountains of either Uganda or Rwanda.

    Instead of having a 60th birthday party for me in 2020, I chose to spend the money and go see the Gorillas. I doubt I will regret it.

    Rwanda – February – Not Booked

    Rwanda

    COUNTRY 106

    Well, we are in the neighborhood, so why not pop over for a quick visit to Rwanda – the safest country in all of Africa. Following the genocide in 1994, Rwanda has made a remarkable comeback. Twenty five years later Rwanda has a growing tourism industry, thoughtful memorials and museums explaining the atrocities and a welcoming culture. We will visit the cosmopolitan city of Kigali and spend several days on Lake Kivu.

    Israel – March – Partially Booked

    Israel

    COUNTRY 107

    When I was a little girl I went to summer camp. My young and fun camp counselor had just returned from visiting Israel and she told us so many things about the country, which at the time I knew nothing about. Fast forward fifty years and I am finally going to see it for myself – a dream come true.

    We plan to spend 16 days in the country, about ten days with a car traveling to both ends of this small country and then another six days in Jerusalem. We want to take our time and really experience this remarkable land.

    Armenia, Georgia – March – Not Booked

    Armenia

    COUNTRIES 108 & 109

    Like Oman, Armenia and Georgia are two countries few people visit and yet both are safe, welcoming and full of remarkable history. It’s time to discover them.

    Our plan is to spend about a week (maybe a little less) in each country and travel by overnight train from Armenia to Georgia. The weather may still be cool in late March, but we are excited to see more of the former Soviet Union and learn how these resilient people have recaptured their culture, religion and history.

    Cyprus – April – Not Booked

    Country 110

    Cyprus

    Gonna kick back for a couple weeks on the island of Cyprus another underrated destination of glorious beaches and remarkable history – and the birthplace of Aphrodite.

    Very inexpensive with few tourists, this island off the coast of Turkey should be a wonderful respite.

    Malta – April – Not Booked

    Malta

    COUNTRY 111

    We will spend April and May relaxing on the island of Malta, another up and coming tourism destination we want to see before it gets too crowded. This beautiful island is autonomous and has sat peacefully and often unnoticed in the Mediterranean just off of Sicily and Tunisia.

    We will stay in an Airbnb here and hopefully have warm late spring weather to enjoy the sand and sea.

    And then what?

    Okay – that is as far as we know for now. Following Malta and as summer emerges in Europe we are considering a car and train trip throughout much of the Eastern European countries we have yet to see; Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This should take up all of May. But details are still developing here.

    The Grand Adventure Laos

    From Estonia we hope to head to Finland and spend time exploring the northern areas. By this time it should be middle of June. We are currently debating our options from here…Greenland perhaps? Or maybe a Rhone River cruise in France. Perhaps hiking in Scotland. It’s too soon to know.

    Our plan is to be back in the USA and our Villa by the third or fourth week of June. And then we start planning for The Grand Adventure 4.0.

    Count down to lift off…five days. Yes indeed it is a fabulous life. My Fab Fifties Life.

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