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My Fab Fifties Life

    Central America

    I Left My Heart in Guatemala

    Dejé Mi Corazón en Guatemala

    Location: Guatemala

    Entirely unexpected.  Completely beautiful.  So much better than I imagined.

    Dear Guatemala.  You had me at Hola!  I hated to say good-bye.  I left my heart in Guatemala.

    Once again, I approached another Central American country with apprehension, based solely on the information on the U.S. State Department website.  I should know by now not to allow that to sway me totally. I should heed the warnings for sure, and carry on with caution.

    Yes, Guatemala has some dangers just like every other country I have been too (and the USA too).  Pick

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Livingston

    pockets are a problem, although we did not have an issue.  Like always, whether in Central America, Europe or anywhere else in the world we are cautious.  There are definitely some horrendous violent crimes, rarely against foreigners.  Unless you go looking for trouble.  Smart and cautious travel with guides when possible is the best way in this country. Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the world, and yet there is a small population who hold extreme wealth while the rest suffer. There are some other issues in Guatemala, particularly government corruption.  However this is not something the average visitor will see.  The only thing we saw was one entry fee into the town of Panajachel that was illegal.  We also ended up paying twice for our boat on Lake Atitlan because the first guy was a scam.  This ended up costing us an additional $6.50.  Small problems – other than that we found the

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Semana Santa

    country no more dangerous than anywhere we have been.

    And the positives certainly outweighed the negatives.  In fact, I would put Guatemala in my top list of favorite places I have been.  And that is saying an awful lot.  Yes I left my heart in Guatemala.

    So Guatemala how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways;

    1. I love Antigua, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.  Being there for the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) was an incredible experience.  Although I am not Catholic, the Palm
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Antigua

      Sunday spectacle we witnessed was so full of tradition, majesty, history and faith I was incredibly moved.  I think I became Catholic for a day.  We have had similar experiences in other places around the world where faith is such an important part of everyday life.  On the Camino de Santiago in Spain, in New Delhi India, in Istanbul Turkey, in Seoul South Korea.  A few examples of the places where we felt privileged to witness how faith, history and community converge.  Additionally Antigua offers gorgeous scenery, delicious food and incredible history.  Seeing lava spewing from the active volcano Fuego was a definite highlight. We enjoyed two tours with Antigua Tours and my cooking class with La Tortilla was a highlight.  I hope to visit again.

    2. I love Lake Atitlan.  Here we spent a week enjoying the beauty of Guatemala, and not doing much else.  It was one of the more peaceful places I have been in the world; a crater lake surrounded by three beautiful extinct volcanoes.  The small villages surrounding the lake are each named after one of the apostles.  We spent our time in San Marcos, a teeny village known for its holistic

      Our view Lake Atitlan

      offerings, yoga, health food and hippies.  Our airbnb was one of the most unique we have ever had…a cave dwelling nestled into the cliff.  Memorable for sure.  We hiked and swam and did yoga every day.  Heaven on earth.

    3. I love Flores.  We went to Flores so we could visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal, about an hour and a half drive north.  Tikal was amazing…but the tiny town of Flores was such a pleasant surprise.  Situated on a tiny island in Lake Petenitza, the tiny town is colorful, historic, beautiful and yummy.  The town dates back to the 1400’s.  We enjoyed the very warm weather here and a highlight was a private boat tour of the very large and beautiful lake.  Muy bien.

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Flores

    4. I love Rio Dulce.  The region known as Rio Dulce encompasses Livingston on the Caribbean coast (Livingston is only accessible by boat) to the town of Rio Dulce on Lake Izabal.  A gorgeous stretch of water known as the Rio Dulce connects the two.  Our boat ride from Livingston to Rio Dulce was stunning as we

      Lake Izabal, Rio Dulce

      wound our way in an open boat through the narrow gorge, through which the Rio Dulce drains into the Caribbean.  Although VERY rustic, our accommodations in Rio Dulce served us well, and had some of the BEST Mexican food we have ever had.  From our tiny cabin in the marsh we took excursions to the ancient Castillo San Felipe de Lara, to the Agua Caliente waterfall known as El Paraiso and to the beautiful Boqueron Canyon, where we spent several solitary hours deep in the canyon on a beautiful sunny day.  We also learned the very humble ways of the

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      El Parisio Rio Dulce

      Guatemalan people and their use of the collectivos for transportation and saw our first manatee in the wild, although not as close up as we would have liked.

    5. I love a challenge. It’s a challenge getting around Guatemala, as it is still a developing country.  But some of those challenges made for memorable moments.  As mentioned above the collectivo experience in Rio Dulce was certainly unforgettable, riding in a van made for 12 with 23 other people.  During our time here we
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Many boats

      road in twelve different boats, mostly for transportation, but a couple for pleasure.  We also hired a driver for a private shuttle three times, and through that experience met a wonderful Guatemalan man named Alejandro who we hope to see again some day.  We felt safe in all of these situations and enjoyed the experience.  My least enjoyable experience was the plane ride from Flores to Guatemala city in a small 20 seat plane.  I got sick on this very bumpy and diesel-smelling ride.  Ugh.

    6. I love a bargain.  Guatemala is cheap.  Although we spent money on private shuttles, we could have  gone with less expensive non-private shuttles or public transportation known as chicken busses. We used the kitchens in our airbnb’s when possible, but eating in restaurants was very inexpensive
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Marsh cabin Rio Dulce

      and all the food we ate was amazing, fresh and local.  Our accommodations have ranged from $30 to $100 a night.  We loved our Antigua Airbnb for $80 a night and our spectacular Airbnb in San Marcos with lake view was $75 a night.  In Rio Dulce we paid $30 and Livingston was $70.  We ended up spending $100 a night at a Ramada in Flores after the hotel we booked was CLOSED on arrival.  That was something that had never happened before.  But all in all Guatemala is one of the least expensive countries of our travels. The gorgeous textiles made by the indigenous Mayan people are so inexpensive, buying the same thing online would cost five times as much. Alas my suitcase it too small…

    7. I love Guatemalan coffee.  Guatemala is known for its coffee, and I have to agree…it is now possibly my favorite coffee of the world.  Dark, rich and very flavorful, I am a convert.  Guatemala is also
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Coffee with Volcano view

      known for its chocolate.  Although I am not a big consumer of chocolate, the samples of chocolate I had were exceptional.  The Maya used cacao as currency once upon a time. More valuable than gold.

    8. I loved the people.  Everyone we met (except for the one guy who ripped us off $6.50) was amazing.  Few people spoke English and we actually enjoy being forced to expand our limited Spanish knowledge.  Many people however also didn’t speak Spanish, as the Maya who are my generation mostly only spoke their native tongue.  I loved the shy and traditional Maya, especially the beautiful women in their traditional dress.  These are not costumes but how they dress everyday.  The Guatemalan people
      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Mayan women, San Marcos

      were all very private yet friendly, hard working and religious, welcoming and helpful.  We enjoyed being a part of their culture and community.

    So I left my heart in Guatemala.  Possibly my favorite Central American country.  Of course our time in Mal Pais in Costa Rica ranks VERY high.  But Guatemala you are special.  Unique. Beautiful. If you have

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Mayan women selling palms

    every considered visiting Guatemala you should do it.  And do it soon.  Supporting these developing countries through tourism is the least we can do, especially since America’s abandoning Guatemala after funding of guerrilla warfare during the civil war has caused much of the current economic situation Guatemala suffers.

    Guatemala’s upcoming elections could be a turning point for the country…but perhaps things will stay the same, and the slow climb out of the devastation from a two-decade civil war will continue at a snail’s pace.

    We hope for the best for this country and its beautiful people, where we have left our heart.  We will be back.

    God speed Guatemala.

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    See our 2018 Travel Award Guide here.

    Are you curious about how you can have a life of full-time travel?  Check this guide out!

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This is a depressing story. A very real look at the incredibly difficult life of many people in India. This book was first published in 1954, and although there has been much improvement in the lives of people in India, there are still people like Rukmani.

    Rukmani tells the story of her life from child bride to widow.  The very difficult life of a serf farmer, a mother of several sons and a daughter during a turbulent and changing time, and a woman just trying to hold her family together and survive day-to-day.

    I have read several books over the years with similar themes.  One of the best books I have ever read follows the plight of a young man in India.  I highly recommend A Fine Balance, a book that remains one of my favorites of all time.  And though Nectar in a Sieve is not as good, it is still a sad and helpless tale – one that most of us cannot possible ever fully comprehend. And for that exact reason you should read it.

    The book reminded me of the classic The Good Earth by Pearl S.Buck.  However The Good Earth has a slightly happier ending.  Nectar in a Sieve does not end happily.  In fact, there is very few happy moments in the entire book.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for Nectar in a Sieve by Kamal Markandaya

    Read last week’s review of The Pecan Man

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Powerful.  This story is powerful.  These women are powerful. The history is powerful.  The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman is one of the most powerful books I have read in a very long time.

    I actually know very little about the history of Israel, Jerusalem and the legend of Masada – the last stronghold of the Jews during the Roman siege in 73 AD.  After reading this novel however, I am so intrigued to learn more about the plight of these people – a struggle that has continued for thousands of years.

    A beautifully written tale weaving fact and fiction together, Hoffman creates four remarkable women who lead the reader through this turbulent, magical, bloody, faithful and powerful period of history.  Each of these powerful women bring a different strength, different background, different loss and different love to Masada.  The author uses Biblical history and the historical chronicle by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish rebel leader captured by the Romans.  Through her meticulous research she captures the magic of the era and creates these characters, developing the story through their lives, as they each find themselves in Masada by different paths. Each women carries with her secrets and strengths that come to play in the final days of the bloody siege that will ultimately take the lives of more than 1000 men, women and children, and change the course of history.

    Who survives in this amazing fictional tale of a real-life event?  You must read The Dovekeepers to find out.  Read it today.  A fascinating and powerful novel.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five Stars for the The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

    Read last week’s review of Twenty-Five Years in Provence

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    His first thought was of her. His final thought was of her.

    At the heart of it, Freeman is a love story.  But it is much more.  It is a story of endurance and heartache. Determination and sorrow.  It is a story of human sacrifice and conviction.  And it is a love story.

    Pitts creates a novel with a wonderful cast of characters who draw you in to the story of the months following the end of the Civil War.  It’s not a book about the Civil War.  It is a novel, much like Cold Mountain, that begins when the war ends and follows the lives of four complex human beings.  Sam a free black man in the North who goes South looking for his lost wife; Tilda a slave woman down-trodden and still with her protagonist “owner” unsure what the end to slavery and the word “free” means to her; Prudence a young, wealthy, educated white widow from Boston who ventures South to open a Negro school and fulfill her father’s wishes; and Bonnie, the black woman raised and educated with Prudence who finds herself struggling with her own feelings about her heritage.

    Sam undertakes a 1000 mile journey on foot.  Tilda is beaten, abused and raped. Prudence and Bonnie turn a town to violence against them in their quest to help and educate the free slaves.

    The book is often violent but written with compassion and care and the reader finds much to love about this hard-scrabble life during one of the most brutal periods in the history of the United States.  It is a sweeping saga that takes place all within just a few months – months when the country should be at peace and yet death is around every corner.

    I really enjoyed the perspective of this story, looking at the post-war era filled with possibility from the black slaves point of view, their hope and fear of what lies ahead for them in the “united” states.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.

    Read last week’s review of The Good Neighbor – The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

     

    Central America  --  Inspire

    Yoga as Part of My Fab Fifties Life

    Yoga Everyday

    Location: El Salvador

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    Maldives

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    Costa Rica

    We have just arrived in El Salvador, in a small beach town on the Pacific Coast called Playa El Tunco.  We will be here at Balance Yoga Retreat for two weeks.  Although this place does group retreats, we are staying in one of their beautiful units and just doing individual yoga. Hoping to expand my knowledge of yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life during this relaxing two weeks.

    yo-ga /’yogeh/

    A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific body postures, is widely practiced today for health and relaxation around the world.

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    El Salvador

    I am really enjoying it so far.  Yoga has become such an important part of nearly every day of My Fab Fifties Life.  I do my version of yoga, a pieced together practice from all the different classes I have taken over the years, as well as many poses I learned from my past physical therapy sessions.  I hope to expand my yoga knowledge during our time here at Balance.  There are many different kinds of yoga, of which I am most familiar with four.

    1. Hatha Yoga (easiest and my favorite)

    The term is derived from the Sanskrit ha, meaning “sun,” and tha, meaning “moon.” Practitioners of Hatha yoga use physical alignment and breathing control to achieve an equilibrium between the active body and its universe. The resulting harmony manifests itself as physical strength, physiological health and emotional well-being.

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    Costa Rica

    As a fabulous fifties travel diva I have grown to love my morning yoga.  It has improved my agility, cured many of my aches and pains, lengthened my muscles and spine and given me both strength and a way to quiet my mind.

    2. Vinyasa Yoga (my second favorite) 

    A type of yoga that links movement and breath to attain balance in the mind and body. From the Sanskrit “to place in a special way,” vinyasa aligns a deliberate sequence of poses with the breath to achieve a continuous flow. Inhalation is usually connected to upward, open movements, while exhalation is often tied to downward movements or twists.

    Some of you are probably thinking that my life, a full-time travel life, is stress-free.  Why does she need yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life? Well here’s the thing;

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    El Salvador

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    Costa Rica

    I feel better. Period.  That is the most important reason.  Yoga has made it possible for me to start a running program again, after almost two years of not being able to run due to sciatic pain.  Yoga helps my digestion. It expands my lung capacity and strengthens my core. It gives me strength and stability.  When I’m practicing regularly I (almost) never have heart palpitations anymore.  It clears my mind and makes me present and appreciative of my one fabulous life.

    And usually it’s free.

    3. Iyengar Yoga (a form of Hatha and my third favorite)

    Iyenga often makes use of props, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, as aids in performing asanas (postures). The props enable students to perform the asanas correctly, minimising the risk of injury or strain, and making the postures accessible to both young and old.

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    USA

    There are still people out there who think yoga is a weird meditative Indian guru activity for hippies.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  My Fab Fifties Life has benefited tremendously from practicing yoga nearly everyday.  I cannot do every pose.  Many poses I will never be able to do.  Perhaps if I had started earlier in my life.  But I am very happy with how I have improved and I can stretch farther and do more difficult poses every day. And I feel good.

    I’ve learned to breathe deeper, stand taller and be present.  And most of all, I’ve grown to love my one and only body and treat it kindly – something I never did during most of my life.

    4. Bikram Yoga (not my favorite)

    Also a form of Hatha but Bikram is done in a hot room and the same 26 poses are done every time.  No variation.  So you always know what is coming next and you learn to perfect these poses.

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    Seychelles

    You don’t need to be young, thin or even fit to start a yoga practice.  You can do it alone or in a group and know that you are not being judged. You can use yoga for stress relief, digestion issues, metabolism boost, respiratory and circulatory health and mental clarity.  To each his own.  For me, and usually my husband who practices with me, it is the best way to start or end my day.

    Any day around the world. But for the next two weeks, here at Balance

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life

    Balance Yoga Retreat

    Yoga Retreat.

     

    Yoga everyday. How fabulous.

     

    Namaste.

     

    Note – thanks to Wikipedia, yogapedia.com and dailyburn.com for information used in this blog. Click on any of these links to see more styled and variations of yoga other than the four I have listed here.

     

     

     

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    Inspire

    Travel is Not Always Glamorous – Despite What Instagram Says

    Memorable Moments of My Fab Fifties Life

    Location: Costa Rica

    Let’s just say it.  Sometimes a life of full-time travel or even a short vacation, can just plain suck.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Clinic in Namibia

    Despite what everyone tries to make you believe through social media – travel, like everything else in life, can and will involve many less-than-glamorous moments.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Bad hair day in Denmark

    You will puke.  You will have diarrhea.  You will be exhausted.  You will snore and or drool on an airplane.  You will fall off your paddle board and lose your swim top.  You will have horrendous humidity hair. You will not shave your legs for weeks at a time. You will sweat. You will cough so hard you pee.  You will fall

    Humidity hair in Costa Rica

    on your face even though you are sober. You will get caught in a downpour in your only nice shoes. You will get sunburned. You will get a thousand bug bites. You will lose your luggage. You will inevitably need to see a pharmacist, doctor or dentist in a foreign country.

    Travel is not always glamorous despite what Instagram says.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Not figure flattering in Chile

    Travel is real.  And though it is, for the most part, a wonderful and fun adventure, it is not always perfect.

    Take yesterday for example. After a year and a half of babying along a bad tooth, I spent six hours in a dentist chair in Costa Rica.  They cleaned me, extracted the bad tooth, did a bone graft and gave me an implant.  It was a  long and painful way to spend Valentines Day.  But it was necessary.  And much cheaper than doing it in the USA.

    Not too glamorous as I sat there with the dentist prodding and poking

    Best and Worst airports

    Motion sickness in Seychelles

    and prying me all day long.  I did walk away with some good pain meds.  I’m putting those to good use right now.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Cold and wet in Spain

    No, travel is not always glamorous, despite what Instagram says.  I’ve written blogs before about how frustrating I find so-called “influencers” on Instagram who make it look like travel is perfect every day.  Who make every destination look like a magazine cover.    Who are young, thin and glamorous in every shot. It is not reality. It is not authentic.  It is all fake news.

    I am not now, nor will I ever be “thin”.  I am, shall we say, endowed.  But I am not

    Walk On

    Covered with flies in Australia

    ashamed.  This is me, real in the flesh, not a made up version for Instagram.  Glamorous? No.  And I sure didn’t feel glamorous in the dentist chair, or when I was sick in the bathroom, or covered with sweat, or drenched from the rain, or laying on the

    Not so glamorous swimsuit shot in Costa Rica

    sidewalk wondering “how did I get down here?”

    Don’t believe everything you see on Social Media.  I think most of you know this already.  Instead, get out and see the real authentic

    Not so glamorous at the dentist in Costa Rica

    world yourself – it will be amazing, if not glamorous, and you will be a better person for the experience. Real, authentic and fabulous travel.  It’s the best kind.

    Just remember to bring your Imodium.

    Be fabulous (not glamorous).

     

     

     

     

     

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    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

    Word Travel Awards

    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.

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    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Camino de Santiago Portugal

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

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    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.