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Camino

    Inspire

    Second Annual My Fab Fifties Life World Travel Awards

    And the Winner is…

    Location: Around the World

    And the Winner Is…

    If you’ve been following My Fab Fifties Life for awhile you will remember our 2017 World Travel Awards from last January.  I definitely feel with all of our travels in 2018 (covering 57,000 miles and 26 countries) we are well positioned to bestow the World Travel Awards – our version of the Oscar or the Razzy – on many people, places and travel experiences that have touched us this past year.  Just like the famous movie awards, we have seen a world of real life

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery, nature and animation.  Enough to last a lifetime.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Germany

    This is a long blog. But I believe it offers some valuable travel insight to the world. I hope you will find it informative and entertaining. So in keeping with the time of year for awards,  I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    (For reference – our 2018 countries visited were; India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Singapore, Guam, Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, USA, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil.

    DESTINATIONS

    26 Countries

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    Favorite Overall Country – Australia

    Australia takes the top award this year edging out a few others (Greece, Poland) but we both agreed.  Australia is the best.  The only negative about Australia is it’s expensive.  But we believe the beauty, culture, nature and environmental awareness helped us choose it as our favorite destination of 2018.  We plan to return in 2019.

    Favorite City – Sydney and Krakow

    Well there it is again – Australia.  Sydney Australia and Krakow Poland take our award this year for favorite city, and basically for the same reason.  Both offer a variety of cultural, historic and scenic options for visitors.  Sydney also has beaches while Krakow has great food.

    Most Beautiful City – Singapore

    Word Travel Awards

    Singapore

    Everything you ever heard about Singapore is true – sparkling clean, stunningly beautiful (especially at night), easy to maneuver and very pedestrian friendly, Singapore was our favorite beautiful city of the year.

    Cutest Town – Brugge

    Word Travel Awards

    Brugge Belgium

    Singapore might take the big city award but we are more small town folks, and Brugge was a perfect little package of history, beauty, beer, delicious food and very friendly people.  We spent four days and could easily have stayed on even longer.

    Most Expensive Country – Australia

    Australia has so much to offer, but inexpensive it is not.

    Least Expensive Country – Indonesia

    Finding an oasis

    Mount Batur Bali

    With some of the nicest people and most beautiful scenery Indonesia is a bargain, and we loved our time there.

    Most Disappointing City – Ubud (Bali Indonesia) Ubud is no longer the sweet little artists/yoga village we all imagine from Eat Pray Love.  When I saw the American brand chain stores I was so disappointed (Ralph Lauren, Starbucks, Nike).

     

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    29 Airbnbs, 42 hotels, 5 boats

    Word Travel Awards

    Airbnb Antiparos

    Best Airbnb OverallAntiparos, Greece. We loved our relaxing three weeks in this gorgeous, private, and big airbnb with a stunning view and wonderful host.  I hope to return someday. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20657689

    Best Airbnb for ServiceRio de Janeiro.  Our short visit to Rio (we really should have stayed longer) was extra special due to the hospitable and generous host at our sweet Airbnb.  She was one of the most thoughtful hosts we have ever had. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1149627 

    Best Airbnb for AuthenticitySantorini

    Santorini short and sweet

    Santorini

    Greece. Hands down the most expensive Airbnb we have ever stayed in, and yet it was also incredibly authentic Greek cliffside dwelling with a stunning crater view. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15926564

    Most Expensive AirbnbSantorini $220 a night (see above)

    Word Travel Awards

    Maldives

    Best Value AirbnbMaldives our tiny room

    in a tiny resort on the tiny island of Huraa was $90 a night but included three meals a day for both of us. We loved our relaxing three weeks here. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4490934

    Word Travel Awards

    Lombok

    Most Rustic AirbnbLombok, Indonesia. spending a week in a traditional Javenese cottage far from civilization was a favorite experience. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15991971

    Least Expensive AirbnbLombok at only $52 was a bargain and so relaxing (see above)

    Most Unique AirbnbKey West, USA I thought spending four days onboard a 30 foot sailboat would be fun.  Not so much.  It was definitely unique. And cute.  But also uncomfortable.

    Favorite HotelPuri Lumbung Cottage, Bali this beautiful hotel complex made out of

    Word Travel Awards

    Puri Lumbung Cottage Bali

    traditional rice barns was not only beautiful, but it offered so many activities as part of our package and an incredible view at a bargain price.  We loved our time here with our friends John and Carol

    Worst HotelSingapore.  Because Singapore is so expensive we booked this inexpensive $117 hotel and our room was literally a closet in the attic with no windows.  It felt like a jail cell.

    Friendliest Airbnb FamilyExmouth, Western Australia.  We spent ten days in the

    Word Travel Awards

    Exmouth Australia

    tiny Western Australia town of Exmouth and we loved our little Airbnb and the darling family that lived next door.  We would love to go back. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/18258544

    Worst Hotel Experience – Bucharest Romania. Arriving at our booked and paid-for hotel near the Bucharest Airport, we learned there was a “septic” problem.  No room at the inn.  Nearly five hours later we finally laid our heads on a FUTON, in a teeny apartment of some guy who wasn’t using it, well away from the airport but grateful to just go to sleep.  We had a very early flight and it was not a great way to end our three weeks in Romania.

     

    FOOD

    Favorite Country Cuisine Poland, rich and

    The Foods of Poland

    Poland

    hearty comfort foods make Poland our fav in 2018. But Greece comes in a close second.

    Word Travel Awards

    Spanish Tapas

    Best MealTapas Tour in Sevilla Spain our self guided Tapas Tour in Sevilla’s Triana neighborhood was so delicious and fun. A perfect Spanish memory.

    Best Cooking ClassKrakow Poland I really enjoyed learning to make handmade Pierogi in the tiny communist era apartment of our sweet cooking instructor.

    Best BeerBrugge runs away with this

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    Brugge beer

    award, nowhere else even in the running.  Brugge is a beer lovers town and we are beer lovers.  Our visit to Brugge was memorable for many reasons including the wonderful selection of really outstanding beer.

    Best Food Experience/TourBrugge wins this one too! We really enjoyed having dinner in the home of a lovely Brugge couple who through the website With Locals offered a home cooked Belgian meal in a typical Belgian home.  What a lovely treat.

    Word Travel Awards

    Port Wine

    Best Drinks TourPort Tour Porto Portugal.  I wasn’t sure I was going to like this tour but it ended up being so wonderful, educational, delicious and fun.  I highly recommend this if you are in the beautiful Portuguese city of Porto.

     

    CULTURAL AND NATURAL EXPERIENCES

    Word Travel Awards

    Guam

    Best SunsetGuam. With Gin and Tonic in hand and enjoying some family time while visiting my niece Bekah and her husband Davy, we enjoyed our favorite sunset of the year on the little Dungcas beach in Guam.

    Most Authentic Cultural ExperienceBangladesh Tour. Who goes to Bangladesh?  Well just about no one, and it is exactly the

    Word Travel Awards

    Bangladesh

    reason we enjoyed our time there so very much.  By far the most authentic and least touristy country we have been to in a long time. The people were so interested and amazed by us and they treated us like celebrities.  We loved our time there.

    Word Travel Awards

    Antiparos

    Best Beach – It’s a tie!  Antiparos, Greece and Ilha Grande, Brazil both deserve to be winners, even though they were quit different.  Antiparos was amazing for the solitude, beauty and spectacular turquoise water.  Ilha Grande had such warm water and the beaches were clean and beautiful despite being challenging to get to, we loved exploring the Ilha Grande beaches

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    Egypt

    Best TourMemphis Tours Egypt was one of the best tour companies we have ever dealt with providing us incredible detail prior to arriving, and being present and on top of every detail throughout our ten-day visit to Egypt and Jordan.  Our guides, drivers, accommodations and everything else were flawless.

    Best DriverKadek in Bali. I found Kadek on Trip Advisor and he served as our driver for our entire three weeks on the island of Bali.  He was a very good driver, spoke great English and in addition to picking us and dropping us at our destination he made sure we saw lots of interesting things along the way.  I hope to meet Kadek again some day.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Germany

    Best Free Walking TourBerlin Germany. We have done so many free walking tours over the past several years and only once did we NOT like our guide.  But the young lady we had in Berlin was hands down one of the most charming, interesting, factual, fun and entertaining humans I have ever met.  It made for a most memorable experience and a big tip for her.

    Best Tour GuideCristian, Santiago Chile.  Cristian was our guide on a bus tour we took the day we left our cruise ship and headed to Santiago for our flight.  We spent the day touring the wine region of Chile as well as seeing a small authentic rodeo and dancing. Cristian was patient,

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    India

    informative, interesting and entertaining.

    Best Bucket List Historic SiteWinner Taj Mahal.  Runner-ups The Great Pyramids and Petra. I cried the day I stood in front of the Taj Mahal.  It was even more beautiful than I imagined.  And lucky for us, we hit it on an unusually clear blue sunny day with hardly any people.  Magnificent site to

    The Magical History Tour

    Cairo

    behold.  Totally worth it.  Of course the Pyramids and Petra are a close second.  After seeing these sites your whole life in pictures, it’s surreal to finally see, touch and feel such awesome history and beauty first hand.

    Best SnorkelingMaldives. You might be surprised we aren’t giving this award to The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Yes that was amazing.  But our best one day snorkeling actually took place in the crystal clear

    Word Travel Awards

    Maldives

    blue waters of the Maldives, on a tiny sand island of only about 20 yards wide and 75 yards long. Here we witnessed the most beautiful coral reef I’ve ever seen, and the most amazing variety of fish and sealife.

    Best Natural Site Uluru Australia.  It’s a trek to get to Uluru.  And like everything in Australia it will be expensive.

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    Uluru

    But standing next that incredible natural phenomenon will be something you will never forget.

    Best Manmade SitePanama Canal Panama.  I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy our eleven hour crossing of the amazing Panama Canal.  Truly a modern day wonder of the world.

    Word Travel Awards

    Malaga Cathedral, Spain

    Best CathedralMalaga Spain.  We see a lot of cathedrals.  Sometimes individual ones are difficult to remember. Malaga is not one of those. A distinctively beautiful design inside makes it my favorite and most memorable cathedral in 2018.

    Word Travel Awards

    7 Ladders, Brasov Romania

    Best Day HikeWe have a three way tie for this one with 1. Canyon of the Seven Ladders, Brasov Romania 2. Campuhan trail in the rice fields outside of Ubud, Bali. 3. Coogee to Bondi Beach ocean trail Australia. All providing us wonderful days outdoors in three very distinctively different natural settings.

    Best Multi-Day Hike – Well, the Camino Portuguese of course!

    Most Exhilarating Outdoor ExperienceMorning swim Denmark.  Even though it was August, jumping into the North Sea before breakfast was an eye-popping way to start your day – and a very Danish thing to do!

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    Expensive but Worth itClimbing the Harbor Bridge Sydney Australia $467. I had to really convince Arne to do this because it was outrageously expensive.  But in the end he agreed it was worth it.   An impressively well done and safe operation with a spectacular view to boot.

    Word Travel Awards

    Platypus Australia

    Best Wildlife Experience  1. Platypus spotting Australia 2. Aligator Spotting Florida. We love it when we can see wildlife in its natural habitat, untouched by humans.  Seeing a wild platypus in Australia was so incredible.  I still can hardly believe our luck and timing to spot the elusive and shy creature.  On the other hand, seeing literally dozens and dozens of alligators within just a few feet of us as we rode bikes on the Shark Valley trail in the Florida Everglades was one of the strangest experiences of my life.

    Word Travel Awards

    Auschwitz

    Most Moving ExperienceAuschwitz, Poland Hands down – seeing and learning about the extermination of Jews in Auschwitz and in Krakow was the most astonishing and moving experience in all of our travels.  I tried to put it into perspective in a blog.  It was difficult.  Some people choose not to visit.  For us it was the reason for going to Poland and I believe EVERYONE should go.

    Word Travel Awards

    Performance, Ubud Bali

    Best Performance 1. Bali 2. Sydney 3. Krakow  It’s one of our favorite things to do when traveling, attending a local performance.  And this past year we saw several remarkable shows including two fascinating and authentic indigenous dance shows in Ubud Bali, a circus/dance show at the Sydney Opera House as well as an outdoor spectacle of La Boheme on Sydney Harbor.  In Krakow we enjoyed a piano solo performance of Krakow’s favorite son Chopin and LOVED a string quartet concert inside the tiniest historic chapel.

    Best Museum Skagen Denmark A surprising find in this tiny historic seaside town in Northern Denmark, Skagens Museum featured the remarkable art of the amazing talents of the area’s 1800’s artist colony.

    Word Travel Awards

    Ecuador

    Best Cultural Art Experience Ecuador Panama Hat Making in the tiny mountain town of Monticristi a tradition endures where skilled artists produce these works of beauty known as Panama Hats.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Wall

    Best Historical Art Experience Berlin Wall  The reason we came to Berlin was to see the iconic wall, which did not disappoint, and the rest of this amazing city made it one of our favorite stops on European adventure.

    Word Travel Awards

    Count Dracula Romania

    Kitsch Award – we make an effort to avoid tourist kitsch, but sometimes we fall for it, as we did in Sighisoara Romania.  Touted as the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula), we paid a couple of dollars to walk into a dark and spooky room where an open coffin waited with the Count himself asleep.  Well until he jumped up and scared me to death.  LOL.

    Least English SpokenBrazil.  Portuguese is the official language of Brazil and we found through out the country even in high tourist areas English is rare.  Much like in Portugal and in Spain, there are few fluent English speakers.  Even in the airport and on the flights English is unusual.

     

    WEATHER

    Hottest Day: Ilha Grande Brazil 95 degrees F and 76 degree dew point.  We swooned.

    Word Travel Awards

    Muxia Spain

    Coldest Day: Pontevedra Spain 39 degrees F on our Camino de Santiago we froze and this was the start of my chest cold that lasted 8 weeks.

    Wettest Day: Muxia Spain a four day monsoon kept us indoors, stuffing paper towels into the frames of the windows to keep the water from pouring in.

    Windiest Day: Antiparos Greece – a rare October cyclone closed down shops, the ferry, and toppled trees.

     

     

    TRAVEL

    30 flights, 8 train rides, lots of small boat rides, one river cruise, two ocean cruises

    Smallest AirportParos Greece

    Worst Flight ExperienceIceland Air lost luggage. It took three days before we saw our luggage again.

    Word Travel Awards

    Worst AirlineScoot. Worst flight I can remember in a while from Singapore to Perth.  Everything cost extra including baggage, drinks, food and even a blanket.

    Word Travel Awards

    Train Travel

    Best Travel ExperienceEurope Train Travel. We had a wonderful experience using the trains from Belgium to Germany to Poland and throughout Andalucia and I would do that again in a minute.

    Worst AirportManila We had a long layover here and there was nowhere to sit.  There was no ATM to get local currency and none of the concessionaires took credit cards.  The part of the airport we saw was old and dirty.

    Word Travel Awards

    Camino de Santiago Portugal

    Best Airport – In contrast and like everything else in Singapore, the airport is new, shiny, efficient and beautiful.

    Word Travel Awards

    Dead Sea Jordan

    Worst Security Line – Seattle WA USA.  Way to go USA.  My flight from Seattle to Nashville was a near disaster when I arrived more than two hours ahead of schedule to find a more than two-hour security line.  Seattle’s inability to separate out domestic and international travelers and offer expanded security lanes has made it one of my least favorite airports in the entire world.

    Worst Travel Experiencemissing our flight in Perth.  Expedia took the blame and even gave us a $200 credit for this flight debacle, but it didn’t help our situation as we had to stay an additional day in Perth and did not get to see the town of Alice Springs before heading on to visit Uluru.  Hope to see you again someday Alice Springs.

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

    What a fabulous life it is.

    Please comment and share.  We appreciate your love.

     

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

    Pilgrimages come in many packages. Some planned. Some not. For Harold Fry his was unlikely and most unexpected. And most certainly a transformative life-changing event.

    Having been on my own life-changing pilgrimage these past few years, I really felt a kinship with Harold. Recently retired, looking for purpose, unable to make his wife happy, Harold’s life takes a major turn the day he receives a letter from a former colleague.

    And thus begins the unlikely adventure. Part Forest Gump, part Walter Mitty – Harold’s pilgrim path ebbs and flows and throughout he impacts people’s lives in a sincere and honest way during the more than six month journey- all while learning so much about himself.

    I really enjoyed this book and the story of an ordinary man with an extraordinary sense of commitment, humanity and perseverance. You will love Harold Fry and his unorthodox adventure too.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

    Read last week’s review of Becoming

    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Camino de Santiago Final Thoughts

    Enjoy our Fun Video

    Location: Camino de Santiago Spain


    We say farewell to the Camino de Santiago with this fun video we put together while walking the Camino Portuguese.  We hope you enjoy it.

    And we share with you some final thoughts.   If our blog, our travels and our Caminos inspire you in any way, to go do things you never imagined you could do, then we are fulfilled.  Because life is short, the world is amazing, and each one of us has a spark inside that, with a little bit of oxygen, is ready to flame.

    Don’t wait to find what makes you happy.  Go be Fabulous today.

     

    Our journey now continues with two more weeks in Spain and then on to Florida, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and much more.

    Thanks for following.  Go. Be. Fabulous.

    Please share our blog! 

     

    Adventure Travel

    The End of the Earth

    Ending our Camino at the Atlantic Ocean

    Location: Muxia Spain

    Over the past two years I’ve spent nearly three months of my days in the beautiful country of Spain.  I’ve seen a lot of it’s wonders.  And yet, here I am at the ‘End of the Earth’- totally surprised and in awe of this beautiful rugged coast – unlike anything else I have seen in Spain.

    I’m so glad we came.

    Finisterre.

    Bronze boot at the fini

    Finisterre & Muxia are located on the Coste de Morte (Coast of Death), at the most western spot in Spain (and some argue in Europe).  Located in the autonomous community of Galicia, both Spanish and Galician is spoken.  The Coste de Morte is named thus because of the countless shipwrecks that have occurred on this rocky coast over the millennia.

    For many pilgrims, this rocky coast is their final destination, after visiting the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.  It’s a three-day walk to Finisterre and another day on to Muxia.  For those who don’t have

    Camino de Santiago

    Santiago Cathedral

    the time, bus tours are available so pilgrims can come and see the historic and beautiful location.

    Final day walking

    Horreo a Galician corn crib

    It was Saint James who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 AD, he was beheaded in Jerusalem and his remains were brought back to Galicia. Following Roman persecutions of Spanish Christians, his tomb was abandoned in the 3rd century. In 814 AD, legends have the tomb rediscovered, and King Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia is responsible for ordering the construction of a chapel to house the tomb, on the site where today’s Cathedral stands.  This created the gradual development of the pilgrimage to the tomb.  

    The beach at Finisterr

    As pilgrimage to Santiago grew, pilgrims also started arriving in Finisterre to worship and see the “End of the Earth”. The first hospital (hostel) was built in 1479.

    Sculpture at Muxia

    For the people of ancient times, the Costa da Morte was the last redoubt of explored land, the westernmost part of continental Europe, the final stretch of an itinerary traced in the sky by the Milky Way.

    Legend has this ‘End of the Earth’ also as the place where pilgrims would collect a scallop shell, to prove they had made the journey to the sea.  The scallop shell has many meanings to pilgrims and the Camino de Santiago, read about that here.

    Our Lady of d Barca Muxia

    So visiting Finesterre and Muxia was something we wanted to do.  We had the time and seeing the Atlantic Coast of Spain was high on our list.  Although the weather is cool and cloudy I’m still glad we came.  The stormy coast is a great place to relax and enjoy a few cozy days before we continue on our journey. The End of the Earth as we know it.  And I feel fine.

    Note: We continue our Spanish journey in a few days.  On to Sevilla, Malaga and Cadiz.  Watch for more

    The End of the Earth

    Many people don’t realize how far west Spain is. Finisterre is on the same latitude as Boston

    about those destinations soon.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Adventure Travel

    Gotta Be Flexible in our Fabulous Fifties

    My Camino Week Two

    Camino de Santiago

    Location: Camino de Santiago Spain

    We had planned to walk from Santiago de Compostela on to Finisterre on the Atlantic and then on to Muxia.  That was always our plan.  But two major factors created a need for us to reevaluate our plans.  Gotta be Flexible in our Fabulous Fifties. Gotta be flexible on the Camino de Santiago.

    Camino de Santiago

    Santiago Cathedral where the pilgrims arrive

    The Best Laid Plans

    The weather of course was the first reason.  After walking in low forty degree temperatures and pouring rain we both agreed we didn’t want to do that.  We have some rain gear but not gear for the

    Camino de Santiago

    Cold and wet

    thermometer dropping into the 30’s…unseasonably cold for Spain in late October.  Our last day hiking left me stiff and sore and it took me hours to thaw out.

    The second reason came just as unexpected as the freezing weather.  We learned on the day we were walking into Santiago that the courier service we have been using to transport our bag only operates through the end of October.  Wait. What?  Shouldn’t they have mentioned this to us a little earlier?

    We can’t walk the Camino de Santiago with a roller suitcase, even though it’s not very big.  With at least five more days of walking, we sat down and reevaluated our plan.

    Camino de Santiago

    Approaching the Cathedral from the south

    Santiago de Compostela

    Arriving in Santiago was fun, although a bit anti-climatic compared to last year’s arrival after walking for 41 days. The best part was seeing the gorgeous cathedral sans the scaffolding it had been wearing last year. We took the time to do the cathedral tour (which we didn’t do last year) and admire the remarkable gold altar and the relics of Saint James, housed in the beautiful silver tomb. This 1000 year-old-cathedral is one of the most important in the Catholic faith.  And you don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to be in awe of the history that is housed here.  For me, the idea of the millions of people who have all made the walk here for all their own reasons is absolutely

    Camino de Santiago

    The gold nave

    fascinating, spiritual and worthy of respect.

    We took all the obligatory photos, picked up our Compostela (certificate of completion) and had a delicious dinner and lots of wine to celebrate and warm up.  While drinking wine and eating Spanish tapas we made the decision to take the bus to Finisterre instead of walking.

    The End of the Earth – Finisterre

    Finisterre was where the devout pilgrims to Santiago came to collect the proof of their pilgrimage in the form of the scallop shell. In medieval times this rock was the end of the known world, where the sun set into what was then thought of as the end of the earth. The word Finisterre derives from the Latin finis terrae, meaning “end of the

    Camino de Santiago

    Arriving in grey Finisterre

    earth”.

    So a four-day walk became a three-hour bus ride. We are here in Finisterre for two days and will walk and see some of the Camino sights here, as well as enjoy the bounty of Galician seafood. With the weather forecast improving, we plan to walk on Friday the 20 miles to Muxia and send our roller bag via taxi to meet us there.

    Camino de Santiago

    Tapas in Santiago

    Hopefully this will work out, and given our extra time, we can relax and enjoy a comfy Airbnb in Muxia for five nights. I’ll certainly be blogging on how these plans unfold. Fingers crossed.

    Our Journey Continues

    In the meantime, feeling accomplished to have made it this far.  I have no need to prove anything to anyone including myself, so I am perfectly happy with our current plans.  And watching the weather forecast with a hopeful heart for a warming trend in the days ahead.

    Buen Camino!

     

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    Adventure Travel

    Comparing the Camino Portuguese to the Camino Frances

    My Camino Week One

    Camino de Santiago

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    Here we are.  Walking our second Camino de Santiago.  Why you ask?  Why not?  It just seemed like we should.  Six months ago when we were planning our fall itinerary we were looking at being in Madagascar in October.  Until we looked at the airfare. Yikes.  Madagascar will need to stay on theCamino de Santiago bucket list for a while longer.  So we turned our attention back to one of our favorite countries, Portugal.  And well, here we are.

    Having completed the 486 mile Camino Frances last September, I wasnt sure if the Camino Portuguese would be different.

    It is different. While also being somewhat similar.  One week into the Camino Portuguese, I don’t think I can say I prefer one over the other (yet), because each is special in its own way.  But I have found  myself during week one on the Portuguese Way comparing it to the Frances Way.

    Here are my thoughts so far after one week of walking;

    Distances are Different

    Of course the biggest difference between the two walks is the distance.  When setting out to walk the  most popular Camino Frances many people begin in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France.  This is where we began on September 1, 2017. Forty-one days and 486 miles later we arrived in Santiago, Spain.Camino de Santiago

    On the Camino Portuguese we started in Porto, Portugal on October 21, 2018.  We plan to walk to Santiago and then beyond to  Muxia on the Atlantic Ocean.  This walk will take us about 15 days and will be 217 miles.

    It is a significant difference in distance and days walked – making some of the comparisons here not really fair.

    We are Different

    We are not the same people we were a year ago.  And so this is another major difference.  A year ago we had never tackled anything like walking the Camino de Santiago.  We were a bit frightened, naive and apprehensive.  I think we over trained and over planned and over stressed.  I spent too much time reading what other people thought Camino de Santiagowas best.  Ultimately most of that wasn’t best for me.

    This time we hardly trained, barely planned and did almost zero research.  In fact I stayed away from the Camino Facebook pages (which I found last year too judgmental) and just went with what felt good for us.  We did use the John Brierley books again – a valuable resource for any Camino pilgrim.Camino de Santiago

    We also don’t feel any pressure this time to “succeed”.  We are just enjoying it.  If we don’t finish – no worries.  If it pours down rain and we hop on a train, so be it.  If we get sick or tired and decide to sleep all day – well Buen Camino.  Our Camino, our way.

    Our Bags are Different

    Last year I walked the first 100 miles with a 15 pound pack.  But eventually it was too much for my plantar fasciitis and I began shipping my pack ahead each day.  This year I decided to do it from the very start.  It’s so much better.  I last longer and feel better at the end of the day.  My Camino, my way.Camino de Santiago

    The Terrain is Different

    Over these past six days we have seen quite different terrain than what we enjoyed walking across Spain.  We have spent a lot of time in beautiful wooded areas of eucalyptus, cork and pine trees. We have also spent a lot of time on rocky paths climbing over mountains.  In Portugal in the suburban areas, and even on country roads, we were forced to walk on difficult cobblestones –  both ancient and new.

    Camino de SantiagoSimilar to the Frances we have also spent a lot of time in bucolic farmland with cows, sheep, horses and goats (there is a distinct Camino aroma!).  Most enjoyable is passing miles of vineyards, corn fields, chestnuts, vegetables of all kinds and many fruit and nut trees.  Here along the Portuguese way these things are grown altogether.  In Spain there were more distinctive sections of types of agriculture.

    We left Portugal and entered Spain on day five. Here the path meandered through lovely creek-side Camino de Santiagoshaded paths before we had a major climb with a very steep descent into Redondela.  We are now in Spain’s Galicia region, one of our favorite areas last year on our walk. The mountains bring cooler weather, and marine air from the ocean just 8 miles away.

    On both routes we enjoy the incredible medieval villages, most fully functional and still living, breathing towns – on the Camino Frances it felt like many of these towns were only there because of the Camino – not so much on the Portuguese.   For someone from the USA where old is 200 years, seeing 900 year old villages and 2000 year old Roman bridges and roads still in use is just mind-boggling.

    The Portuguese People are Different

    Perhaps because the Portuguese Way is not as popular as the Frances, or perhaps because the Portuguese people are only beginning to learn how to be Camino entrepreneurs as The Way becomes more popular; for whatever reason there just are not as many businesses catering to pilgrims.

    The accommodations are fewer, the food is definitely not as available and we never encountered anyoneCamino de Santiago just trying to make a buck off of the pilgrims.  Last year in Spain it was a normal sight for someone to be set up on the side of the road selling things to pilgrims.  Restaurants, bars, cafes were abundant.

    But we have found the Portuguese Camino much less developed for pilgrim services.

    The Portuguese people are a bit more shy and quiet.  They nod and say Bom Dia but keep more to themselves than most of the Spanish we encountered on the Frances.

    We expect this to change now that we have arrived in Spain.

    Vandalism is Present

    The first day we entered Spain our guide-book gave us a choice on routes.  We could take the shorter “industrial” route or the slightly longer “scenic” route.  We chose the scenic route.

    Immediately, and for the first time on either the Portuguese or the Frances, we began to see a clear Camino de Santiagoeffort to vandalize signage, misdirect pilgrims and disrupt progress on the “scenic” route.  Beautiful granite markers splattered with paint, arrows blacked out and other arrows trying to get walkers to go another way.  We stayed the course using the map on our phone.

    Our assumption is there are locals not wanting pilgrims to go this way.  I’m sure it’s not all locals, but it was a disappointment to us.  On the Francis we always felt welcome.

    The Pilgrims are Fewer

    The most striking difference to us in week one is how few pilgrims there are.  Last year we found ourselves on the Camino Frances during Camino de Santiagoits busiest September ever.  We had chosen to walk in September because we had read it was a time with fewer pilgrims than in summer but still with good weather.

    Well clearly we were not the only ones who had read this recommendation.  It was very crowded.

    Most days it didn’t matter, but as we got closer to Santiago it was busy and not very peaceful.  Rooms were hard to come by and so we started booking several days and even weeks ahead.Camino de Santiago

    Late October on the Portuguese Way is very quiet.  On our first day we did not see any other pilgrims.  That night at dinner we met a man from Holland.  We have now seen him several times.  We also have often seen a young couple from Italy/Australia and  few others along the way.  But until day five the total number was only about a dozen.

    Camino de SantiagoOn day five we began to encounter more Pilgrims.  We learned many start walking in Valenca, the border between Portugal and Spain.  We met a woman from Seattle (who had heard about us), another woman from Ottawa and another woman from Russia.  We met a group from Australia, a couple from Germany and a couple from Mexico.  We have also seen two young men walking with a dog, several cyclists and a handful of people walking the other direction.  The Portuguese Camino also supports the route to Fatima going south.  Some people walk south from Santiago to Fatima Portugal, a town between Porto and Lisbon where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was considered a miracle and brings pilgrims.Camino de Santiago

    We have enjoyed week one.  We feel healthy and capable.  The forecast for the week ahead has much rain, and we will take it day by day to see how we proceed.  Meanwhile,  I am very happy to be here, experiencing once again the magic of the Camino de Santiago.

    More soon, from the Way of Saint James.  Buen Camino!

    Read about our Camino Frances last year here.

     

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    Middle East Travel

    The Magical History Tour

    A Bucket List After All – Jordan and More

    Location: Jordan & More

    The Magical History Tour, what a ride it has been. I never thought of myself as having a bucket list.  Mostly because I just want to see EVERYTHING and go EVERYWHERE. But I have realized over the past two months that I do have a bucket list, and I am slowly ticking things off that list, all while adding more to it.  And for the past ten weeks the Magical History Tour has taken us away.

    We’ve been very lucky to see incredible things in our travels.  Unimagineable things.  Without even really realizing it we have seen five of the present day Seven Wonders of the World, included on that list was Petra in Jordan where we visited this week.

    The Magical History Tour

    At Petra

    I saw a television program about ten years ago about Jordan and they interviewed Queen Noor standing in front of the incredible Treasury building at Petra.  I was smitten and knew I would visit there some day.  It was easy to add Jordan to our Egypt itinerary.  Now, having been in Jordan, I realize I could have added Egypt to my Jordan itinerary.  Jordan is extroardinary.  A cradle of ancient, biblical, Roman and natural history.  We did not allow enough time to see it all.

    During out time in Jordan we visited three main sites, two on my bucket list and one I wasn’t even aware of;

    1. Jerash – I had never heard of and yet we found this amazing ancient provincial Roman city more beautiful, interesting and preserved than Rome itself.  Jerash likely dates back to the time of Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BC.  It is an immense archeological site with only about 15% excavated.  Unfortunately it is not a UNESCO site, despite the antiquity masterpiece that it is.  Apparently one of UNESCO’s stipulations was for a music festival that is held here annually to be discontinued because of the damage it causes to the site.  Our guide told us that
      The Magical History Tour

      Jerash

      too many pockets are lined as a result of this music festival and the powers that be are not willing to give the festival up.  Very sad as this site was truly impressive and needs UNESCO’s preservation assistance.

    2. The Dead Sea – my “no bucket list” bucket list has include floating in the Dead Sea for a long time and here in Jordan we had that opportunity.  You can access the Dead Sea from Israel as well as Jordan, and in fact more of the Dead Sea is in Israel.  But Jordan has a portion of it at the south end.  It is truly amazing how salty it is and how buoyant you are when floating.  In fact all you can do is float.  You can barely walk or stand and swimming is out of the question because you just flip over and float.  It tasted horrible and you certainly don’t want to get it in your eyes.  But it was warm, clean, blue and a once in a lifetime event filled with lots of giggles.
    3. Petra – Of course here it is the main reason we came to Jordan to see Petra as part of our Magical History Tour. I can’t possibly do the vast history of Petra justice in this blog, nor were we able to see the entire site (you need two or three days), but in our five-hour visit we did and saw the most amazing highlights. Of course the Treasury (named thus because of
      The Magical History Tour

      The Dead Sea

      the Roman’s using it as such but originally it was a temple), is the most amazing of the antiquities in the site, the best preserved and most beautifully designed.  There are several other amazing temples, tombs, palaces and more throughout the 60 square km site. We spent an hour and a half with a guide and then three hours wandering on our own including hiking up high above the Treasury for that iconic photo shot.  We did not hike to the Monastery or the sacrificial site.  We would have needed much more time than we had.  I would love to come back here again some day – it is just so amazing, truly a wonder deserving its Seven Wonders status.

    So Jordan was a surprise,  and worth the effort to get here. We felt incredibly safe at all times. The people are friendly and helpful and speak excellent English.  I am so glad we came.

    And with our farewell to Jordan we say farewell to The Magical History Tour that began in August when

    The Magical History Tour

    Petra

    we left the USA. We have covered so much amazing history over the past ten and a half weeks traveling through and exploring eight countries.  Highlights of the Magical History Tour have included such bucket list items as;

     

    1. Northern Denmark – where we learned captivating medieval and WWII history. Read about it here.
    2. Brugge – the beautiful historic town and now one of my favorite medieval villages. Read about it here.
    3. Berlin – the beguilling and resilient city of Berlin and the Cold War era history and Berlin Wall. Read about it here.
    4. All of Poland – incredible medieval and more importantly the World War Two history in this country made it one of my long time bucket list goals and experiencing Auschwitz (Read about it here) will remain with me all my life. Read about Poland here. 
    5. Romania Castles – seeing the fortress cities and castles of Romania with their ancient history and stories (Dracula) was a long bucket list destination.  Read about it here.
    6. Greece – although we had visited Greece before we had wanted to return for years.  I suspect we will visit again too.  The ancient Greek history in this country combined with the sheer beauty of the Mediterranean will keep it on our travel destination list for years to come. Read about it here.
    7. Egypt – Of all the places we visited on the Magical History Tour, Egypt was the long-awaited
      The Magical History Tour

      Jerash

      destination for me.  And it did not disappoint.  Seeing the Valley of the Kings, the Nile River, the Sphinx, the Pyramids and so much more was a bucket list triumph.  I loved it all. And perhaps the friendliest people we have met.  Read about Cairo here. And about the Nile Cruise here.

    The Magical History Tour covered about 10,400 miles including 11 flights, 5 train rides, 12 ferry crossings, 6 airbnb’s, 11 hotels, one river cruise ship, and 72 days.  It was educational, insightful, fascinating, delicious and fun. But time to move on.

    Now we turn our attention to something new.  We will spend the next four weeks and four days in Portugal and Spain.  The first half of that time is focused on walking another Camino de Santiago.  We start on Sunday to walk 250km to Muxia Spain.  The Magical History Tour has kept us so occupied, we don’t really feel prepared either mentally or physically to tackle this next Camino. But nonetheless we will.  I’m sure we will fall into the rhythm quickly.

    We then spend another two weeks exploring Spain before flying on November 22nd to begin five and a

    The Magical History Tour

    Cairo

    half months in the Americas (Florida, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Dominican Republic). I suspect there will be a great deal of magical history there as well.

    As always we thank you for your continued support and interest in our travels and My Fab Fifties Life. Watch for posts from Portugal and the Camino coming soon!

    And Go. Be. Fabulous.

    Read about last year’s Camino adventures here.

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