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    Central America

    In the Garifuna Kitchen with Chef Gloria

    Our Belize Adventure Cooking Local

    Location: Hopkins Village, Belize

    Faithful followers of this blog are familiar with my desire to explore and embrace local cultures in my travels.  One of the absolute best ways to do that, is to spend time in the home of a local person learning how to cook the local cuisine.  There is nothing better.  Authentic, informative and delicious.  So that is how we found ourselves in the Garifuna kitchen with Chef Gloria.

    We found Chef Gloria (conveniently just down the street from where we are staying in Hopkins) through

    Garifuna Kitchen

    Chef Gloria

    Taste Belize, a website connecting visiting foodies with local food adventures.  Taste Belize has several options, but the option to learn about the Garifuna culture and foods was the one for us.

    Garifuna

    If you  are not familiar with the word Garifuna, here is a brief description from Wikipedia;

    “The Garifuna (/ˌɡɑːrˈfnə/ GAR-ee-FOO-nə;[3][4] pl. Garinagu[5] in Garifuna) are an indigenous people native to the island of St. Vincent who speak an eponymous Arawakan language.

    While they are ancestrally and genealogically descended from groups that migrated from the Lesser Antilles, mainly Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, many Garifuna today are of mixed ancestry, primarily with West African, Central African, Island Carib, European, and Arawak admixture.

    Garifuna Kitchen

    Cutting the plantains

    Most Garifuna people live along the Caribbean coast of Honduras, with smaller populations in Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. They arrived there after being exiled from the islands of the Lesser Antilles by British colonial administration as “Black Caribs” after a series of slave rebellions. Those Caribs deemed to have had less African admixture were not exiled and are still present in the Caribbean. There is now also a large number that have moved to the United States.”

    Chef Gloria

    Chef Gloria met us in her brightly colored yellow Garifuna dress (yellow, black and white the official Garifuna colors) with a big smile and generous welcome to her small outdoor cooking facility.  She began our visit with a simple language lesson;

    Good Morning – Buiti Binafin

    Welcome – Buiti achüluruni

    How Are You – Ida biña?

    Thank you – Seremein

    The Garifuna language is primarily based on the Arawak language of the indigenous people of Central America, but also incorporates elements of French, Spanish, English, Carib and West African languages.

    The Garifuna cuisine, just like its language, is a colorful melding together from the history and environment

    Garifuna Kitchen

    Husking the coconuts

    of which the Garifuna people have emerged.

    Fresh and Local

    Our ingredients for the dish we were preparing on this day all came either from Gloria’s yard, or the sea in front of the kitchen.  Making the favorite Garifuna dish of Hudut (mashed plantains) with Sere (coconut fish stew) we used fresh coconut, plantain, basil, oregano, habanero and red snapper all gathered just for our feast.

    So we began our work in the Garifuna kitchen with Chef Gloria.  The wood burning stove was hot when we arrived and we began by carefully using a very sharp knife to peel the plantains.  If you have never peeled a plantain

    Garifuna Kitchen

    Family Coconut Success

    you might be surprised.  The texture of both the skin and the fruit is firmer than a banana.  We used about a dozen unripe plantains and about a half a dozen softer ripe ones.  These boiled for 15 minutes (unripe) and we added the ripe at the end for five minutes.

    While the plantains were over the fire we headed out to shuck the coconuts.  Still in their green outer shells, Gloria helped us peel away the husk with the use of a wooden stake in the ground.  I broke the stake when it was my turn (I don’t know my own strength), so we then went to the sharper metal stake not usually used by the amateurs.  Once we each had a husked coconut, Gloria masterfully used a machete to open each and

    Garifuna Kitchen

    The Mennonite Coconut Drill

    we drank the delicious water inside.

    Traditional and New

    Next in the Garifuna kitchen with Chef Gloria we learned two different methods used for shredding the coconut;

    The Mennonite method created by the local Mennonite population is now the preferred method, which is an ingenious “drill” that is simple, effective and quick (see photo).

    The traditional Garifuna way, is a grater method, using a board with small pebbles embedded in it.  Effective but much more labor intensive (see photo).

    Garifuna Kitchen

    The traditional Garifuna Coconut grater

    We took all the grated coconut and hand squeezed all the milk out of it.  We added some water to the coconut and squeezed it some more.  Once the coconut was completely dry it no longer had the flavor we all know and love.  So I learned in the Garifuna kitchen with Chef Gloria that it’s all about the milk when it comes to coconut flavor.

    The milk became the base of the dish we were making and the coconut meat all went to the compost.

    To the milk over the fire we added basil, oregano and three whole habaneros.  Gloria assured me that as long as the habanero is whole, with no breaks or blemishes in the skin, it will give a wonderful flavor to the soup without adding any heat – something else I learned in the Garifuna

    Garifuna Kitchen

    Squeezing the milk from the coconut

    kitchen with Chef Gloria.

    While the coconut milk simmered we began work on turning the plantains into Hudut.  Using the mata and mata stick (a giant mortar and pestle) we smashed the plantains until they formed a ball firm like dough.  This dish was very similar in texture and flavor to the Fu Fu we ate in Burkina Faso, made from Casava.

    Casava also features prominently in Garifuna cuisine, particularly the flat Casava bread, a staple food of the Garifuna.

    It took awhile to get the texture of the Hudut just right and during that time

    Garifuna Kitchen

    Pounding the Hudut

    we added the already seared whole red snapper and then the okra to the simmering coconut milk.  And the tiny and rustic outdoor kitchen started to smell heavenly.

    The Garifuna Feast

    Gloria shooed us out of the kitchen and we sat down in the dining area and waited to enjoy the finished product.  The Hudut arrived, still warm and firm enough to eat with your fingers, then the beautiful Sere soup served in a calabash bowl, the whole fish smothered in the coconut goodness lightly fragranced with basil and oregano.  And as promised the habaneros added only flavor and no heat.

    Garifuna Kitchen

    Before serving

    Simple ingredients.  Locally sourced.  Lovingly prepared. Gratefully consumed.  Our day in the Garifuna kitchen with Chef Gloria was memorable, educational and delicious.  We will definitely make Sere and Hudut back

    Garifuna Kitchen

    Our feast

    home, and hopefully do it justice in honor of our new friend Gloria.

    We thank you.

    Seremein.

     

     

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    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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    Central America

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    A Step Back in Time

    Location: Malpais Costa Rica

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    No matter how you spell it, it’s laid back.

     

    Getting here isn’t easy.  We found ourselves bumping along dusty dirt roads on the six-hour drive from Coco Beach.  With each passing mile we were transported back to another time.  A slower time.  Malpais is lost in time.  It’s time to slow down in Malpais Costa Rica.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Rocky beaches

    Long just a fishing and cattle-farming village, Malpais (often spelled Mal Pais) has become popular among surfers and adventure travelers around the world. Recently, Forbes Magazine voted the beaches of Malpais and neighboring Santa Teresa as “One of the ten most beautiful in the world.”

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Our beachfront Airbnb

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Amazing sunsets

    I don’t know if I would put the beaches on my top ten beach list, but I would definitely rank it at the top for sunsets.  Our fabulous little hidden Airbnb offers a spectacular west-facing view of the Pacific and the nightly sunset show is sublime.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Dusty roads

    Malpais means “bad land” or “bad country”, with the name originating from the dry dusty waterless conditions during the summer.  The town of Malpais is teeny, stretching only about 6km from the village of Santa Teresa to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve.  Santa Teresa is about 2km from our Airbnb.  Because Malpais is so small (just a tiny convenience store, a church, a school and one restaurant), we walk to Santa Teresa for our groceries and restaurant needs.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Surfer paradise

    This part of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is often referred to as Malpais – inclusive of Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa and Malpais.

    Surfing is now king in the area, taking over from to the old days of farming.  Fishing still also reigns and fresh fish is available most days at the pier. Don’t ask what time though – when the fisherman come.  That’s what time.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

    In Santa Teresa shops and restaurants, hostels and a few hotels cater to the twenty-something surfing crowd.  Young kids outnumber us fabulous fifties 100 to one.  I can’t help wonder where are these kids all from and how do they sustain this lifestyle?

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Tide pools

    There is a long sandy beach at Santa Teresa (where most the surfing takes place) but in Malpais the beach is mostly of unique rock formations pocked with deep holes where both fish and humans soak the day away in the bathtub-like water.  Well, until the tide comes in and covers these pools until the next day.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Tide pool

    No watch needed, your day consists of morning yoga, noon tide pools, dinner following the sunset.  Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

    What do you do if you aren’t a surfer in Malpais?  Relax. Read. Soak in the pools.  Yoga at sunrise and drink gin and tonic at sunset.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Howler Monkey

    Monkey watching is another favorite pastime.  Howler Monkeys are abundant (and loud) and a family of ten visit our Airbnb often.  White faced monkeys (smaller and squeaky) also make their home in the trees around the area.  There are butterflies and birds galore.  There are iguanas and many other lizards.  A fascinating collection of nature, including wild horses, pass through our little paradise.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Moctezuma waterfall

    Paddle Boarding

    Fresh catch

    You can hike about 3 miles from Malpais to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve and beach.  Or rent an ATV and go to Moctezuma on the other side of the Nicoya Peninsula and make a visit to the Moctezuma waterfall (a past Sport Illustrated Swimsuit Edition shoot location). Its’ a lot of fun to rent stand up paddle boards and have a fun day out on the water.  Maybe consider a guided beach horse back ride, ziplining or go charter fishing.

    Or you can do nothing at all.  Just slow down in Malpais Costa Rica.  And that’s alright with me.

    Fabuloso!

     

     

     

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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.

    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

    Word Travel Awards

    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.

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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.

    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.

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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.

    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.

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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.

     

    Inspire

    The Suitcase Nomad Life

    Two Plus Years and Counting

    Location: Everglades Florida

    It’s been two years today since we took our shiny new REI bags and got on a plane to Thailand.  Although it’s actually been more than two years since we became suitcase nomads when we left our little condo rental and headed to Hawaii on June 12, 2016 (exactly two years, five months, 17 days, 12 hours, 45 minutes and 49 seconds ago).

    We have been living out of those (no longer shiny) REI bags now for 900 days.  In the beginning Arne said we would know after six months whether or not we could live this lifestyle.

    Suitcase nomad

    Our bags the day we left November 2016

    Apparently we can.

    65 Flights and 48 countries later here we are in Florida.  Florida?  How did we get here?

    We are on our way from Florida next week to five more months in South and Central America, seeing many countries we have wanted to visit for a very long time.  Expecting the suitcase nomad life to continue – full of adventure and fun.

    This week marked two years since we headed to Thailand as well as 36 years since we got married.  Our anniversary also

    Packing (again) after three weeks in Greece

    marked the closing day for the condo we have purchased (sight unseen) back in our home state of Washington.

    We plan to continue the suitcase nomad life, but we also look forward to having a “home” once again…a place we can unpack and kick back and call our own when we are in the USA.

    Suitcase nomad

    Leaving again August 2018

    But, that won’t happen until May.  Meanwhile my niece and her family will housesit in our new condo – while we continue gallivanting around…suitcase nomad life on a roll.

    It’s fun.  It’s exhausting.  It’s exciting. It’s hard.  It’s exhilarating. It’s monotonous. It’s not for everyone.  It’s our life.  This is our suitcase nomad life.

    I wouldn’t change it.  What we have seen.  What we have learned.  How we have grown.  What more could anyone ask for? My Fab Fifties Life.

     

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    Inspire

    Where The Hell Was That?

    Travel Amnesia – Yes it’s a Thing

    I have talked a little in the past about travel fatigue – a real ailment that afflicts most full-time travelers, but I’ve never mentioned travel amnesia. Yes, it’s a thing. Not a day goes by where one of us doesn’t have a total brain meltdown and say “Where the hell was that?”

    Let me give you an example. Walking around Malaga Spain my husband says “this reminds me of that place where there were all those sailboats.”

    Me “We’ve been lots of places with sailboats”.

    Him “You know it was real busy and there was a soccer match and we waited forever for the Uber because there was so much traffic”.

    Me “Oh and we had that terrible meal at that restaurant. That was Sydney”.

    Him “Was it? I don’t think so. Where the hell was that?”

    Me “I’m sure it was Sydney and we went to that new art museum in the industrial area.”

    Him “That doesn’t seem quite right but I guess it was”.

    We go round and round like this daily. Sometimes more than once a day. Travel amnesia. Sometimes we pull out my phone to look up a photo to remember where we were.

    Sometimes this “where the hell was that” moment creates a disagreement, but usually it resolves itself quickly, when one or both of us remember a detail that jogs the other’s memory.

    But sometimes it doesn’t. Going back to the conversation above, the next morning I was waking up from a good night’s sleep when my travel amnesia floodgates opened. I turned my head to see if Arne’s eye were open. They were so I said –

    “Cape Town”.

    It took him only a split second.

    “That’s it. I knew Sydney didn’t seem quite right.” We laughed about it the rest of the day.

    Problem solved. Until travel amnesia rears it’s ugly head once again.

    It’s actually become a game for us. Part “too much travel” and part “I’m getting old” – keeping the internal database clicking along without any glitches is a challenge. Thank goodness we have each other, it’s the only way to solve our daily travel amnesia question “where the hell was that?”.

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