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    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Belize a Journey of Discovery by Ann MacLean

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Author Ann MacLean tells a funny and truthful tale of her own Fab Fifties journey to discovery, in her self published work, “Belize a Journey to Discovery and Some Snorkeling”.

    MacLean, like myself, is a travel diva in her Fab Fifties, but her journey has come from a very different place.  Taking the tragedies, heartaches and sorrows life throws at you, and turning them into a fabulous adventure life. This is what MacLean has done.

    Her first book, “Belize a Journey of Discovery”, chronicles her adventures, backpacking as a solo middle-aged woman in Belize.  It is a poignant diary of observations of the challenges any solo traveler faces, but from the perspective of one well beyond the age of most backpacker, hostel-staying, snorkel-enthused, Belize adventurer.

    Our own fabulous travels will take us to Belize in March where we will spend more than a month.  Reading this book made me excited for that destination, and opened my eyes to several places I want to go in Belize.  Though still fairly new as a tourist destination, Belize has a lot to offer a traveler, least of all English is the official language.

    Thank you Ann MacLean for your honesty and spirit and for being a trail blazer for women of a certain age.  We are still Fabulous in our Fifties.

    Four Stars for Belize a Kourney of Discovery ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Find Belize a Journey of Discovery here.

    Read last week’s review of Slaughterhouse Five.

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    Fab Europe Travel

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    My Fab Fifties Island Girl Life

    Location: South Aegean Greece

    What a wonderful decision it was for us to spend three weeks on the tiny island of Antiparos in the south Aegean.  We have truly loved our time here.

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Antiparos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Delos

    Using Antiparos as our home base for island hopping wasn’t really what we set out to do, but it worked out well for us to take short day trips to some of the other islands around the area. However, something to note – because of the unusual weather pattern (around the world) the ferry from Antiparos to Paros was shut down for two days due to wind while we were here.  Something to think about if you plan to stay only a short time.  We had lots of time so it did not affect our plans.

    Santorini

    You can hop to Santorini from here, but the off-season ferry schedule makes that tough.  During the summer more boats run.  But we had already spent three days there so no need to go back.  But if you visit and want to do a day trip to Santorini check out both the ferry schedule as well as the privately operated tour boats.  The private boats run more frequently. When we took the ferry from Santorini to Paros it costs us 58 Euro for both of us (one way) and took three hours, stopping at Ios along the way. We used Minoan ferry line for this trip.

    Mykonos and Delos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Delos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Mykonos

    We used a private tour boat to visit Delos and Mykonos together on one day.  We took the ferry from Antiparos to Paros and we got on a van that transported us to Naousa (the van transfer was included in the tour price).  Here we hopped on a boat that could carry about 200 people.  It wasn’t full, but perhaps 100 people.  It was an hour ride to Delos where we spent three hours touring this amazing island and its significant ancient ruins.  Guided tours were available  but we did the tour on our own and really enjoyed it.

    Back on the boat we motored 15 minutes to Mykonos.  We had three hours to wander here.  We had a fantastic lunch at Salparo, sitting on the rocks overlooking the harbor.  We then enjoyed sauntering around the historic blue and white village, visited historic sites and looked at shops.  Three hours was just enough, since we had been to Mykonos once before eleven years ago.

    That trip to Delos and Mykonos was an all-day adventure and costs us 50 euro each. We booked this through Polo Tours in Paros.

    Paros

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naousa,Paros

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naousa, Paros

    We visited the island of Paros twice. The first visit we had a car and we headed to Naousa in the north part of the island.  The weather wasn’t great but we still enjoyed exploring the tiny alleys and hidden shops and homes in the old chora (village).  Naousa also has a charming and picturesque port.  We  drove up into the mountains to visit the teeny village of Lefkes.  This ancient town, far from the water, is unusual in how green it is, unlike most of the brown island landscape, and is home to a small agricultural population.  Lefkes is one of the few remaining chora that retains its authentic roots.

    The next time we visited Paros we spent several hours discovering Paroikia, the port town where the large ferries come and go.  The port area is bustling and noisy, but hidden back behind it is an incredible old chora that many people miss.  It once again had some fascinating buildings, tunnels and passageways, a spectacular old castle and temple of Athena, many lovely shops and of course, cats.

    Naxos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naxos

    We traveled on the lovely Blue Star Ferries to the island of Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades Islands, about a 45 minute ferry ride from Pariokia.  We paid 42 Euro total for both of us round-trip. It was a very windy day and I  worried about the boat ride, but the Blue Star line runs large, almost cruise-ship style boats, and I did fine with my motion sickness issue.

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Pariokia, Paros

    It was also very windy in Naxos, and this port town is very exposed, so we spent a lot of time wandering the old chora up to the ancient castle and trying to stay out of the wind.  It’s another beautiful ancient town.  We enjoyed having a drink at the rooftop of 1739, which was out of the wind and offered a spectacular panoramic view.  We had a nice lunch of simple souvlaki at Yasouvlaki.  We then braved the crashing waves to cross the pedestrian manmade causeway to walk out to the famous ancient portara (door), site of an unfinished temple from 530BC.  We got wet.  Like I said, it was very windy. But it was worth it.  The Naxos Portara was worth it.

    Antiparos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naxos

    At the end of the day in Naxos I told my husband that I have really enjoyed visiting all five of the islands, but in the end, I am so glad we stayed three weeks on Antiparos.  It has everything we want; quiet and peaceful, small village, beautiful secluded beaches, a handful of shops and is still close enough to visit the surrounding islands.

    I do hope to return here someday.

    Where to next?

    But now its time to leave.  Next stop – ten-day tour of Egypt and Jordan.  A definite bucket list destination for me ever since I was a child.  We hope you will continue to follow along on our Fab Fifties Adventures.

    Farewell Greece and Antiparos.   I love you.

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    Everything Else Fabulous

    Walk On

    My Fab Walking Life

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    Walk On

    And where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear? Walk On.

    Taking a few liberties with David Essex lyrics “Rock On”.  I remember this song from Junior High (1973) – I’d never have imagined back then how it might be the theme of my life.  Walk on.

    Walk on

    Walking in Antiparos

    Walk On

    Walking in Santorini

    I use the health tracker on my iPhone to track my miles – especially when we are in training mode like we are right now.  Preparing for our second Camino de Santiago just three weeks from today. But even when we aren’t “training”, our lifestyle involves a great deal of walking.  The best possible exercise there is.

    Thanks to my health tracker, I know that I have walked 4600 miles in the last three years.  That’s like walking from Seattle to New York and half way back.  Or about a fifth of the way around the world. Not bad for an old gal.

    Walk On

    Walking in Romania

    Since beginning our world tour, we have come to realize how walking is a mode of transportation for most people around the world – but not in the USA.  We much prefer not to have a car on our travels, to avoid the hassle of parking, gas and navigation.  But

    Walk On

    Walking in Australia

    sometimes we need a car.  Even when we do have a car, like here in Antiparos, we still walk everywhere.  Yesterday we walked from our house 7.8 miles round trip to visit the caves.  As we arrived at the caves most of the other tourists were arriving by car or scooter.  Some by bicycle.  We were the only walkers.

    Walking offers so many benefits beyond the health benefit.  It helps you slow down and be present.  It provides you an incredible opportunity to see and hear things that are not possible from a car; plants, animals, bugs, geology.  We stop often when we are walking to inspect little treasures, from a tiny solitary blossom to a giant geological feature.  Walking puts you up close and personal with so many things – things people in cars never realize are even there to enjoy.

    Walking is wondrous.

    However, walking is also time consuming.  It’s a bit like golf.  Not a sport you can take up if you have a lot of time constraints.  But for us, time is a precious gift we have. A luxury. And so we walk.

    Walk On

    Walking in Berlin Germany

    We could have taken the car to the caves, but instead we walked.  We could have taken a bus in Berlin to visit the wall, but instead we walked.  We could have hired an Uber in the big cities, but instead we walked. We could have driven to the beach, the castle, the store…but instead we walked.  Because we love it.  It is good for us.  And we have the time.  

    My Fab Fifties Walking Life.  For this I am grateful.

    Walk On.

     

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    Walk On

    Walking in Antiparos

    Fab Europe Travel

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos Greece

    The Tiny Island of the Cyclades

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos – The Tiny Island of the Cyclades

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos

    Fishing boats in the harbor

    Greece (official name Hellenic Republic) is a diverse country geographically.  It consists of the mainland which  borders Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as a vast number of islands (between 1200 and 6000 depending on the definition you are using for island).  Only 227 of those islands have inhabitants.  Some of the inhabited islands, like Antiparos (pronounced Anti- Pear-osh) are quite small, but still have a village that thrives.  Today Antiparos, like most of Greece, thrives from tourists.  I wish I could have visited here two decades ago, when the village had no shops with trinkets or cafes for coffee.  Just locals, fishermen and families.

    Greek Islands

    The islands of Greece are categorized in regional clusters; Argo-Saronic near Athens, the Cyclades in the South Aegean, the North Aegean cluster off the coast of Turkey, the Dodecanese between Crete and Turkey, the Sporades off the coast of the large island of Euboea and the Ionian Islands west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea.  Antiparos is in the Cyclades.  Other prominent islands in the Cyclades include Santorini and Mykonos.  

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos

    Streets of Antiparos

    But, if you are looking to find a place in Greece where fewer tourists go, exploring Antiparos is a great option.  It is so diametrically opposed to somewhere like Santorini, it doesn’t even seem like the same country. (Want to learn about other Greek Islands that aren’t overrun with tourists? Read this.)

    Arriving in Antiparos

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    The ancient castle

    We arrived by ferry to Paros from Santorini.  At the port in Paros the rental car agency we had booked in advance met us with a car and driver.  He drove us to another part of Paros where we walked on to the smaller ferry that crosses throughout the day between the larger island of Paros (196 square kilometers) and the tiny island of Antiparos (35 square kilometers).  This half mile crossing takes ten minutes and costs 1.60 Euro for walk on and 6 Euro to take a car.  We made the crossing and found on the other side an agent from the rental car agency waiting with our little car.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    The caves

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Antiparos Time

    This is also where we met our wonderful Airbnb host Xanthippy.  Xanthippy lives in Athens, and owns a beautiful home on Antiparos that she rents as an Airbnb.  She is not always able to come from Athens and meet her guests (a four and half hour ferry ride), but she was able to on the day we arrived.  Luckily for us, because we learned on arrival that there are no addresses on either Paros or Antiparos.  Crazy.  Apparently this is true on many of the small Greek islands.  So Xanthippy led us to the grocery store for supplies, before leading us to our spacious Airbnb with a spectacular view.  We found our accommodations even better than the photos. It’s a beautiful villa.

    Xanthippy gave us some important instructions; don’t drink the water, don’t flush anything that doesn’t come out of your body, take the trash and recycling to the conveniently placed bins around the island, don’t use the grill if its windy.  She also showed us how to use the little combination stove and oven, a style of appliance we have not encountered until arriving in Greece. And it works great.

    Antiparos Time

    We have now been in Antiparos for eleven days.  We have enjoyed the laid back island life and being on “Antiparos time”.  Although we have had sun everyday, some days quit hot, we have also experienced unusually high winds.  In fact so high we had to cancel our planned boat trip to the deserted island of Despotiko (an archeology site of immense historical significance, second only to Delos in the Greek islands, just across the bay from our Airbnb) and a day on the island of Paros to visit the colorful city of Naousa.  We plan to reschedule both of those when the wind dies down and continue exploring hidden Antiparos.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Agios Georgios Beach

    The wind has not stopped us from visiting several of the islands local beaches (there are at least a dozen public beaches on this small island that boasts 57 km of coastline), hiking to the local stalactite cave, visiting the tiny village (also called Antiparos but usually referred to as the village; it’s the only one on the island) and the ancient Kastro (castle) from the 15th century and just walking, walking, walking as we train for the upcoming Camino de Santiago.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Sunset at Capt Pipinos

    Because we are trying to stay on budget, we have only eaten dinner out one time.  We ate a wonderful seafood meal at Captain Pipinos, a seaside seafood joint within walking distance of our house.  It was delicious, and watching the sunset from there was really special.  However, if we want to dine out anymore, we better do it soon.  Many of the islands restaurants and shops close down at the end of September, what is considered the “end of the season”.

    We didn’t realize when deciding to come here that Antiparos, unlike the larger more well-known islands, has a tourist season.  Basically from May – September.  The rest of the year there just aren’t enough visitors to make it viable for most businesses to remain open. When we picked up our rental car the agent told us when we return the car October 8th they will close down for the season.  We are their final customer. Fingers crossed the grocery store will stay open.  We don’t mind cooking.

    In fact, since I haven’t been able to find a cooking class on this small island, I’ve been teaching myself and trying out several Greek dishes.  Watch for a blog coming on this soon.

    Antiparos day eleven. Heaven on earth. Fabulous. υπέροχο 

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    Fab Europe Travel

    I Will Go Where the Wind Blows Me

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.    -Dolly Parton

    I Will Go Where the Wind Blows Me. That is the motto for the day.  We will go where the wind blows.  But today, that means going nowhere.

    High wind is common in Antiparos – but not common this time of year.  Since arriving here ten days ago we have had about five windy days.  And right now we are in the midst of a very unusual weather pattern (according to the locals) that has shut down the ferries off the island.

    Today’s forecast is for winds of 38mph with gusts up to 60pmh.  To be truthful, I don’t really want to go off the island enough to get on a boat today…yikes.  Luckily, we have lots of time left and we can rearrange our schedule.  I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t have that luxury.  If you have a flight to catch today, well, its not going to happen.

    “Unusual weather” is a topic that comes up often, in every signal country we have visited.  This can no longer be attributed to coincidence.  The weather of the world has left the “normal” pattern behind.  No matter where you are – a tiny island in Greece or in the heartland of the USA – there is no normal weather anymore.  

     

    I am not a scientist or a meteorologist.  But I am a world traveler with what I don’t think is unfair to say, a “vast” experience of encountering unusual weather around the world.  Cyclone in New Zealand, heat wave in Australia, flooding in Thailand, cold in Vietnam, fires in Croatia and Portugal, early trade winds in Seychelles,  chilly in India, wet in Hawaii. And extreme wind in Greece.

    We go with the flow, because, well, what else can we do?  But it’s interesting, and it should be of interest to you too.  The world weather is in turmoil (along with a lot of other things).  It’s clear to me.  I don’t know if we can fix it, or even if we should.  All I know is we better get used to it.  I personally think the worst is yet to come.

    Meanwhile, here we are.  Writing this blog in text editor because the wind has taken the wifi out.  Hoping I can post at some point later today.  Or not?  We are lucky we have the luxury of time on our side, to wait it out, and just enjoy the ride.  Although a bit bumpy ride.  Sails up and going with the wind.

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    A windy day in Antiparos Greece

     

    Fab Europe Travel

    Santorini Short and Sweet

    Location: Santorini Greece

    The Grand Adventure follows a pretty strict budget, and unfortunately places like Santorini definitely don’t fit that budget.  But here we are anyway.  We made the choice to blow the budget for three short and sweet days on the stunning island of Santorini.

    Our budget is usually $200 a day all-inclusive.  Our Airbnb’s usually average around $75 a night.

    Santorini short and sweet

    Our airbnb is in the middle of this photo

    Here in Santorini, our teeny tiny cave house is $250.  But it comes with the most spectacular view.  At about 250 square feet, it is likely the smallest we have ever had.  But add the outdoor space and the expansive crater view, well, suddenly it seems like an emperor’s palace.  Worth every penny.

    The villas here are all new, this used to be a desolate trail.

    Santorini has changed significantly since we were here eleven years ago.  Our main goal here was to walk the Oia to Fira trail – to experience again as we did before.  That however wasn’t possible.  Oh you can still walk it, but it is not the same trail.

    When we walked it eleven years ago in 2007 it was

    Santorini short and sweet

    Top 2007. Bottom 2018 – older, wiser and way more fabulous!

    remote and desolate along the crater rim.  Miles of nothing but brown volcanic pumice trail hugging the edge of the spectacular trail. Fast forward to the walk we did yesterday (round trip 14 miles) we were shocked to find only a short part of the trail still remote.  All of those miles of nothingness now covered with high-end luxury villas and hotels.

    Santorini short and sweet

    Sunset from our airbnb

    When we walked it eleven years ago we saw two other people walking.  Yesterday we decided to count how many people we passed on the trail.  We stopped counting at 200.

    Please don’t misunderstand me – it is still stunningly gorgeous and unlike anywhere I have been in the world.  I am grateful I had the opportunity to walk this trail before it became developed.  A unique experience few people have had.  My Fab Fifties Life is fabulous because of that

    Santorini short and sweet

    Today on the trail high above Oia.

    experience.

    The village of Fira, seemed about the same to me, although it now extends a mile or more from the borders of eleven years ago – completely with luxury villas.  The village of Oia seemed significantly different.  Before it was a sleepy town.  Now your can find Versace and Michael Kors.  A decade ago, its tiny cobble stone narrow streets were authentic.  Now we find the wide paved paths lined with high-end jewelry stores and boutiques.

    But most astonishing to me is this – when I visited in 2007, in both Oia and Fira you could see the tiny Greek homes of the average Santorini people mixed in among the shops and along the caldera.  None of that in here any longer.  I don’t know where they live now – somewhere out in other parts of the island.  The victim of tourists like me, willing to pay $250 a night for a 250 square foot cave house.  All the locals moving away from the tourist centers.

    Other than Venice, this place is the most striking as far as what tourism creates.  And I am part of the problem.

    Santorini short and sweet

    Oia

    We want to see these places, just like everyone else.  Santorini, short and sweet, is spectacular and surreal.  So here I am guilty of contributing to the loss of authenticity.

    I found two particularly irritating things about our Santorini short and sweet stay.  The first is watching young people trying to get their “instragram” picture and in doing so trespassing and doing dangerous things.  But of course doing so in a fabulous designer dress and posing like a fashion model.  For all the good social media has done, this habit of getting the perfect “selfie” I find appalling. This isn’t the only place we have seen this behavior, and it’s always people of the same generation. We watched in horror as young visitors trampled the sacred Uluru area in Australia for their perfect selfie.  We watched terrified as others ignored the danger signs at the Cliffs of Moher, in Ireland, to walk out to the edge of the cliffs for a selfie.

    The second thing we have found aggravating is the drones.  Hovering over our deck starting at 6:30am, buzzing around the caldera and over all the houses.  Another sign of our media obsessed world. I read an article that says the drones are banned in Santorini.  But still it persists.  I don’t have a drone, but I admit I have considered getting one. I certainly take a lot of photos and I love to share them.  But I will never trespass, do anything dangerous, or wake up someone at 6:30 am to get the

    Santorini short and sweet

    Top 2007. Bottom 2018 Still with the same fabulous guy

    perfect shot.

    It’s a hard pill to swallow.  It reminds me to try really hard to look for undeveloped places to visit.  But then do those places eventually become tourist centers and overrun?  I don’t know what the answer is?  We live in a world with a lot of people who have the means to travel.  And travel they will.  And post on instagram they will. And learn to live with it I will.

    As I sit here on our last day in Santorini short and sweet, I am looking forward to our next stop in Greece, the tiny island of Antiparos.  I know this is not the kind of destination Santorini is, but it still has the same sun, the same island beauty, the same Mediterranean sea and the same delicious seafood.  For a third the price and probably no social media self proclaimed “influencers.”  Sounds pretty fabulous to me.

    In Antiparos we will rest for three solid weeks.  We are ready.  After being on the road for six weeks, Antiparos will be the first place we have stayed longer than 6 nights.  We have broken all our own rules over the past six weeks as far as slow travel and budget.  It’s time to regroup and recoup before we continue on the Grand Adventure.

    What an amazing life it is.  My Fab Fifties Life.  I welcome your comments and ideas. Fabulous!

     

    Fab Europe Travel

    Our Return to Santorini

    Eleven Years in the Making

    Location: Santorini Greece

    Two weeks shy of eleven years since we visited the incredible island of Santorini.  And nearly everyday since we have wanted to return.  Today that happens.

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    We only spent one day on Santorini, since we were on a Mediterranean cruise and it was one of our stops.  We loved all of our stops on that cruise, but Santorini was, well, magical.

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    It was magical for its stunning beauty – that shot the world thinks of when they think of Greece.  It was magical for the view – and one of the most memorable meals I ever had overlooking the crater.  It was magical for the authentic villages – like a movie but better.

    But more important than any of that, it was magical because that day I changed.  It may seem silly, but it’s not silly to me.  That magical day on Santorini I discovered a new person within myself.  The beginning of finding my Fabulous Fifties Life.

    See it happened like this:

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    Laying on the cruise ship at the pool the day before arriving in Santorini I was reading the guidebook about things to do in Santorini.  In the book it suggested walking from Fira (where the ship tenders) to Oia on the far end of the island.  The walk was six miles and went all along the crater rim.

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    As soon as I read it, I knew my husband would want to do it.  Should I tell him?  Should I keep it to myself?  Hike six miles?  Yikes I don’t think I can do it.  In the hot sun?  I was torn.

    But I love my husband so I said “Honey, there is this hike on Santorini maybe we can do.”  He was all over it.

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    That day I was nervous since I hadn’t done a hike in YEARS.  But we left the ship really early and got started before the heat of the day – and well, the rest is history.  That hike changed my life.  Not only was it SPECTACULAR, but it was inspirational.  We saw only two other people (today this rim walk is much more popular) as we maneuvered our way on this rocky island in the middle of the turquoise blue mediterranean sea.  During that six miles and about three hours I became someone who could hike six miles, who could adventure in the unknown, who could feel alive and free in the wild.  A new person emerged who had been hidden inside of me all those years.

    And that is how it began.  Without that hike I would never have tackled hiking from Cusco to Machu Picchu. I would never have tackled walking 486 miles on the Camino de Santiago.  I would never have tackled many of the things I now do everyday, knowing I am capable and not afraid.

    Magical Santorini shaped me and I’m going back to say

    Our Return to Santorini

    Santorini 2007

    thank you.  Just for three days this time, but long enough to remember and pay my respects.  A beautiful and magical place where I was transformed, and my Fab Fifties Life was born.

    Fabulous!