Follow:
Topics:
Browsing Tag:

USA

    North America Travel

    My Favorite Things in Washington State USA

    Location: Washington State USA

    How to talk about my favorite things in Washington State? There is NO WAY I can list all the wonderful things about my home state of Washington. No doubt someone reading this blog will think I have left something out. And so I encourage everyone to comment at the end of this blog with additional FAVORITE things about Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Lake Chelan
    Lake Chelan

    I was born in Washington 60 years ago and I know a lot of great places in the Pacific Northwest corner of the USA. As we travel the world I often reminisce about Washington, comparing other places around the world to her. I’m looking forward to getting back there, and once again enjoying my favorite things in Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Tacoma
    Tacoma

    If you have never visited the Pacific Northwest corner of the USA you are missing out on something pretty special. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. I feel quite qualified to say that, having visited 110 countries myself. Nicknamed the Evergreen State, it has both a very green side (west of the Cascade Mountains) and a gold side (east of the mountains) and I love them equally. Raised on the west side but going to college and spending a great deal of time on the east side, I have learned to appreciate and admire the beauty and diversity of this spectacular little piece of paradise – Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Seattle
    Seattle’s Lake Union

    Cities

    Seattle – Washington’s largest city is cosmopolitan, delicious, cultural and ethnically diverse. It is the number one place to visit in Washington.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Seattle
    Seattle’s Big Wheel

    Spokane – One of my favorite cities in Washington and the largest city on the east side of the state, Spokane has grown from a sleepy agricultural town to a wonderfully diverse and interesting city.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Microbrews
    Boundary Bay Brewery Bellingham

    Bellingham – Tucked in the Northwest corner of Washington State very near the Canadian border, Bellingham offers a waterfront location with wonderful history. Home to Western Washington University, the student life brings a mix of culture and dining to this medium size city.

    Tacoma – the second largest city in the state, Tacoma has long battled a poor reputation. But today’s Tacoma is a far cry from that of yesteryear. A cleaned up downtown and port area, multiple first class museums and a great selection of parks and restaurants makes T-town one of my favorites.

    Small Towns

    Gig Harbor – I lived in Gig Harbor for 25 years and watched it grow. And despite the traffic I still love this maritime village that has the single most beautiful view in the entire state.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Gig Harbor
    Gig Harbor

    Sequim – Much like Gig Harbor but without the traffic, Sequim’s location overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in the shadow of the Olympic mountains makes its temperate climate perfect. Throw in the amazing lavender farms and bike trails there is a lot to love about this town.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Pullman
    Pullman

    Walla Walla – when I was growing up Walla Walla was just the town with the funny stuttering name. Today it is one of the premier wine regions in the world and has a wonderfully restored downtown.

    Pullman – home to my alma mater Washington State University, Pullman is an upcoming destination even if you don’t say GO COUGS. Today’s Pullman has parks and trails and a much larger selection of dining and hotels than it did forty years ago when I was in school. And I love the weather.

    Hikes

    Lena Lake – One of our favorite hikes in the Olympics, the hike to both Lower Lena and Upper Lena can be done by most hikers with minimal experience.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Lena Lake
    Lena Lake

    Skokomish River Lower South Fork – This is always a great hike and mostly flat…easy to reach and makes a great day hike.

    Mount Rainier – If you can catch Mount Rainier on a sunny day any hike will be enjoyable. A wide variety of hike options can be found in the Mount Rainier National Park. This summer I did the Summerland Trail for the first time. I loved it.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Hiking Mount Rainier
    On top of Crystal Mountain
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Hiking Skokomish River
    Hiking the Lower Skokomish

    Crystal Mountain – hike up and ride the gondola down, or ride the gondola up and hike down…either way you will enjoy panoramic views of Rainier and on a good day, you can see four other volcanoes beyond.

    Cycling Trails

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cycling Spokane
    Centennial Trail Spokane

    Olympic Discovery Trail – I love this cycling trail and rode on it twice this past summer. The trail runs from Port Townsend all the way to the Pacific Ocean. However from Port Angeles west it is mostly on roads. Since we like to stay on trails, we usually start in Blyn and ride to Port Angeles and back, about 50 miles round trip.

    Centennial Trail – Spokane has several cycling trails and one of our favorites is the Centennial Trail that winds its way from Spokane into Idaho and Coeur d’Alene.

    Chehalis Western – I’ve spent hours and hours training for long rides on the Chehalis Western, located near Olympia. You can start and stop many places on this trail but if you ride the entire trail round trip it’s 90 miles.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cycling the Chehalis Western Trail
    Chehalis Western Trail

    Interurban/Burke Gilman – So many options with this very popular cycling and walking trail. We rode the Burke Gilman this year from Gas Works Park in Seattle to Woodinville (forty miles round trip). If you really want a long and amazing ride start the Interurban in Pacific (near Auburn) and connect in Seattle with the Burke Gilman to Woodinville. This round trip is about 90 miles.

    Water

    Puget Sound – Western Washington’s beauty can be attributed to water, both that which falls from the sky and that which surrounds it as the Puget Sound. With several cities and towns perched on the Sound, access to it is plentiful, and it is certainly one of my favorite things in Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Discovery Park
    Discovery Park Seattle

    Lake Chelan – Washington’s favorite lake is found right in the middle of the state, the 55 mile long, 1500 feet deep natural lake of Chelan. Both a summer and winter playground, Washingtonians from the westside flock to Chelan in the summer.

    Columbia River – Roll on Columbia still rings true, and visiting this amazing river that flows both south and west through the state offers a variety of recreational activities and history lessons along the way.

    Pacific Ocean – spending time enjoying the crashing waves of Washington’s Pacific Coast is a must when visiting the state. My favorite places to access the Pacific Ocean are Neah Bay or Ozette in the far northwest part of the state or Kalaloch or Long Beach further south.

    Green Lake – walking or cycling the 2.8 mile loop around Green Lake is one of my favorite things to do in Seattle. Greenlake is a wonderful little gem of a natural setting right in the heart of north Seattle…treasured by locals.

    San Juan Islands – To really see how glorious the Puget Sound is, taking a ferry to one or more of the San Juan Islands and enjoying a few days island hopping is sublime.

    Gig Harbor Gondola – if you visit tiny and scenic Gig Harbor on the Kitsap Peninsula don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a gondola ride in the harbor in an authentic Italian gondola.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State San Juan Islands
    San Juan Islands

    Snoqualmie Falls – Just about 40 min drive east of Seattle you will find the amazing Snoqualmie Falls….higher than Niagara. Depending on the time year Snoqualmie falls can be a slender and beautiful falls or a thunderous monster of a waterfall. Worth the drive and also if you are fit the hike to the bottom is breathtaking.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Gig Harbor Gondola
    Gig Harbor Gondola
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Klaloch Beach
    Kalaloch Beach

    Food Experiences

    Tillicum Village – Visitors and locals should experience Tillicum Village at least once in their lifetime. The getting there is half the fun, but the food and authentic Native American entertainment is incredible.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Geoduck
    My first Geoduck

    Pike Place Market – known for the throwing fish, there is a lot more to enjoy a Seattle’s Pike Place Market, even if you don’t buy a thing it is a not-to-be-missed Seattle institution.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State clamming
    Harvesting oysters and clams

    Geoduck Hunting – I went Geoducking for the first time this year on the Key Peninsula just west of Gig Harbor. If you have an opportunity, I highly recommend it. So much fun.

    Oysters – take the Olympic Peninsula loop drive and stop for oyster at Hama Hama Oyster Company. Or if you can’t drive the loop, pick up fresh oyster or order oyster on the half shell…usually available in a month with an R. Some of the world’s finest oysters come from Washington State.

    Dungeness Crab – If you grew up thinking Maryland Crab was crab you are in for a real shock when you eat Washington’s own world famous Dungeness Crab. Rich, buttery and delicious, Dungeness crab is best without any accoutrements…just eat it like nature intended.

    Boehm’s Chocolates – still hand made daily in Issaquah Washington you can have a taste of old European Swiss Chocolate just like the old country. Boehm’s has locations in Issaquah, Poulsbo and Yakima.

    Cafe Campagne – my favorite Seattle restaurant I go back to again and again with French food as good as any bistro in Paris.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cafe Campagne
    Steak Tartar at Cafe Campagne
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Luna
    Scallops at Luna

    Luna – just discovered this Spokane gem this summer and I will certainly be back. Possibly the best meal I had all summer.

    Brix 25 – in my hometown of Gig Harbor, this little gem is always spot on. Try the Beef Bourgignon. You won’t be disappointed.

    Tony’s Fillipis Pizza – growing up in Bremerton this was the place to get pizza, and still today Tony’s Fillipis Pizza is my favorite pizza anywhere in the world.

    The Valley Cafe – tucked into an old drug store in Ellensburg Washington, I stop to eat here anytime I am in this Central Washington Rodeo town. And you should too.

    The Pink Door – my second favorite Seattle restaurant (and just down the alley from my first) I try to visit in the summer and get a table on their deck. I have never had a bad meal at this iconic Seattle restaurant.

    Black Cypress – Pullman isn’t known for fine dining, and yet, the Black Cypress is an absolute find, and a must dine when in the tiny college town of Pullman.

    Wineries and Breweries

    Washington has become an award wining wine producing state over the past several decades as well as one of the launching places for many now famous microbrews. Washingtonians are well-known to be entrepreneurial and creative (think Bill Boeing, Bill Gates, Howard Schultz, Jeff Bezos) and this local trait shows in the wide variety of first rate wines and beers. Here is a list of my local favs;

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Jones of Washington
    Jones of Washington from Quincy

    Jones of Washington

    Seven Seas

    Bale Breaker Yakima

    Maryhill

    Gig Harbor Brewing

    Efeste

    Georgetown Brewing

    Resorts

    Since I live in the state part of the year I don’t often stay in local resorts, but over the years I have had the opportunity to visit several. Most resorts here focus on the beauty of the natural surroundings as well as the farm and forage to table dining Washington offers. Here is list of my favorites;

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Campbells Resort
    Campbells Resort at Lake Chelan

    Suncadia Cle Elum

    Campbells Chelan

    Rosario Resort Orcas Island

    Historic Davenport Spokane

    Willows Lodge Woodinville

    Alderbrook Inn Hood Canal

    Gardens

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Point Defiance Rose Garden
    Point Defiance Rose Garden Tacoma

    I love gardens, and even if you aren’t a gardener yourself, you can’t help but appreciate and admire the beauty of some of these stunning gardens throughout the state of Washington.

    Point Defiance Rose Garden – Tacoma

    Olympic Sculpture Garden – Seattle

    Volunteer Park Conservatory Seattle

    Seattle Arboretum

    Lakewold Gardens -Tacoma/Lakewood

    Ohme Gardens Wenatchee

    Bloedel Reserve- Bainbridge Island

    Nishinomiya Japanese Gardens – Spokane

    Rhododendron Species Garden Federal Way

    Also seasonally don’t miss the blooming Cherry Blossoms at the University of Washington Seattle (spring), the Sequim Lavender Festival (July), Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland (April May) and the Bob’s Pumpkin Farm in Snohomish (October)

    Views

    My Favorite Things in Washington State The Gorge
    The Gorge

    Since one of the reasons people LOVE Washington so much is the beauty, finding the best views in the state is something visitors always are looking for. For me personally the list below offers amazing views, history and recreation from ocean beaches to mountain tops and everything in between. These are all great options that fit most, budgets, fitness levels and schedules;

    Green Mountain Kitsap County

    Dry Falls State Park Vista, Coulee City

    Washington State Ferry

    Kerry Park Seattle (cover photo)

    Space Needle Seattle

    Discovery Park Seattle

    Vista House at Crown Point on the Columbia River Gorge (technically in Oregon but with a great view of Washington )

    Dungeness Spit Sequim

    Kamiak Butte Palouse

    North Head Light, Cape Disappointment, Long Beach

    What else?

    Oh my goodness I have so many favorite things in Washington State! I know I have missed some things – I didn’t even touch on museums or tours. I could write an entire blog about festivals, art and music. But the things I have listed here are the things I have experienced and personally enjoy going back to again and again. My Washington from my point of view. Please add your favorites to the list in the comments below. Get out and enjoy surprising, diverse, beautiful, delicious and friendly Washington State. I sure have these past four months. Washington my home.

    Please subscribe to our blog by clicking here.

    Please share or pin our blog. Thank you.

    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Review of McMenamins Elks Temple, Tacoma WA

    Summer in Washington State

    McMenains Tacoma

    Location: Tacoma Washington USA

    My Fab Fifties Life is enjoying a summer in Washington State, USA, where I was born and raised.  As much as I love my life of full-time travel, coming home to familiar ground where my family is brings a sense of stability to our nomad world.

    When we return to the USA most summers, my focus is always family, but we also get out at least once a week and play tourists in our own backyard.  And that is what we did this past weekend in celebration of both Father’s Day and my husband’s birthday.

    McMenamins Elks Lodge

    McMenamins Elks Lodge Tacoma

    Growing up in the Pacific Northwest the blue-collar town of Tacoma always had a bit of a “smelly” reputation because of the pulp and paper mill that cast an odor over the town for several generations.  Today however Tacoma has become a renaissance town, with gorgeous views, multiple incredible museums, beautiful parks, and delicious dining.

    And the newest little gem to open in Tacoma is the McMenamins franchise masterpiece in the historic and beautifully restored Elks Temple in downtown Tacoma.

    If you aren’t from around these parts you might not be familiar with the vision of Mike and Brian McMenamin, Oregon brothers who have built a legendary business of turning historic and dilapidated properties into spectacularly quirky and fun hotels, restaurants, breweries, distilleries,

    Many pubs at McMenamins

    Elks Lodge Pub & Restaurant

    and event venues. For the past 20 years my husband and I, (on many occasions with our kids in tow), have made one of the dozens of McMenamins properties a destination weekend.

    The latest addition to the McMenamins dynasty is the opening of the Tacoma Elks Temple after several years of extensive restoration. The building had sat abandoned for thirty-five years, and time, weather and graffiti all had taken a toll.

    And yet, this is what McMenamins does best – breathe life into old structures all while digging deep into the silent history of a building to awaken both the known and unknown stories of the people and events that were there.  The Elks Temple does just that.

    Reflecting Tacoma's history

    Art everywhere you look

    Built in 1916 for the Fraternal Order of Elks, the building was home to one of the nation’s largest Elks organizations until the 1960’s.  It was then used as an event venue and, unlike the all-white Elks organization, the building welcomed anyone of any race and held many of the local African-American Rose Cotillion Balls for several years.  But times changed and so did the building as it fell into disrepair for 33 years until the visionary McMenamins saw its potential.

    We arrived in the afternoon on a very crowded Father’s Day and proceeded to taste our way through all of the properties five bars.  Each bar named appropriately, decorated with fun and interesting relics including menu’s that reflect the individual personality of each bar.  For instance in

    Tacoma's Spanish Steps

    Hand crafted beer and tapas at the Spanish Steps Bar

    the Spanish Steps bar (named for Tacoma’s beautiful Spanish Steps that run along the south edge of the building) Tapas are featured on the menu, while in The Old Hangout, a throwback to Trader Vic’s style 1950’s Tiki Bar serves everything from Mai Tai to Singapore Sling, grilled Pineapple Sundae or Salt and Pepper Squid.u

    True to the McMenamins model, guests must try to find the “hidden” bar called The Vault. We found it, actually cheated a little because someone was coming out…and I don’t think we would have found it otherwise.  Cleverly disguised. That’s all I’m gonna say.

    We had both dinner and breakfast in the Elks Pub and Restaurant where we enjoyed pizza, salad and soup for dinner with more McMenamin

    McMenamins Bars

    The Old Hang Out Bar throwback to old style Tiki

    hand-crafted beer.  For breakfast I had an amazing Eggs Benedict that included artichoke hearts and spinach and included cheese jalapeño grits.  Wow.

    The Elks Lodge now has 45 rooms, each and every one named for a person or group of persons who had something to do with the building or the surrounding area.  Everyone from Robert Cray (musician) to Bill Baarsma (former mayor) to Hattie Lund (no relation to me but a long-time Tacoma philanthropist) to the Puyallup Native American Tribe.

    I have two small complaints about our visit.  Our room which opened to

    McMenamins Elks Lodge

    Our room

    an atrium and did not have an outside window, was a bit stuffy and I wished for a window.  If I return I’ll pay a little more for a room on the perimeter of the building.  My other complaint is that although the wifi worked great throughout the building in bars and public spaces, it was non-existent in our room.

    Rooms start around $140 per night.  Food and beverage is very reasonably priced.  If you come, allow plenty of time to just explore…it’s like a museum of both art and history as well as a wonderful place to people watch Tacoma’s eclectic and proud residents.  So much fun.  We will be back.

    Learn more at McMenamins Tacoma Elks Temple

     

    Please pin or share our blog!  We love you for it! 

     

     

     

    North America Travel

    Charleston South Carolina – Southern Charm and Hospitality

    Location: Charleston South Carolina

    We were so lucky to spend a few lovely days visiting friends in Charleston South Carolina.  It’s a bonus when friends live in cities worth visiting and Charleston is definitely one of those.  Charleston South Carolina oozes southern charm and hospitality – you just want to eat it up.

    We had visited Charleston years ago, in fact about 27 years ago.  Boy time does fly.  And although the surrounding areas of Charleston proper including the town of Mount Pleasant where we were staying, have grown exponentially, historic Charleston has stayed much the same.

    The oldest town in the American south, Charleston dates to 1718 and is named for King Charles II of England.  Originally located north and founded in 1680 (location now known as Charles Town Landing), the town moved south to the strategic location where the confluence of the Wando and the Ashleigh Rivers meet Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

    The city today (population of the greater Charleston area about 775,000) is well-known for its beauty, colonial history, hospitality, exceptional restaurants, and surrounding recreational opportunities.

    We spent our short time in the area enjoying the company of our friends, and several sites around the region.  We did not go out to Fort Sumter, because we did that long ago.  Instead we walked more than eight miles all over historic Charleston.  Although the horse-drawn carriages are fun, Charleston is a pedestrian friendly town.  It’s perfect for walking; flat, safe and beautiful.  On our walk we enjoyed the magnificent historic churches (Charleston is nicknamed the Holy City because it has so many church spires) and cemeteries. The colonial historic homes are enchanting, each so perfectly coiffed and dressed as if going to a ball.  The week we were visiting was the peak of the jasmine bloom – literally millions of jasmine blossoms on nearly every beautiful home, perfumed the air for miles around.  We visited Battery Park where the herons were nesting in the giant oak trees overlooking Charleston Harbor.  Of course we stopped for photos at Rainbow Row, the original commercial district and now the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the USA.  Our walk took us to The Pink House, the oldest stone building in Charleston dated 1674.

    I really enjoyed the Historic Charleston Market, stretching for four blocks it has been a market of one sort or another since 1790 and operates in the beautiful and historic market hall.  Today the market is almost all arts and crafts, showcasing the region’s blend of Southern US, English, French and West African cultures.  My favorite was the spectacular handmade reed baskets known as Sweetgrass Baskets.  Made still today in the traditional manner by the descendants of West Africans, the baskets are works of art and sell for hundreds of dollars.

    Shem Creek Park north of historic Charleston, has a lovely park and nature preserve made for walking and enjoying the birds and beauty of the area.  This is also where you can see all the shrimp boats and pick up some fresh shrimp for dinner, which we did! Another beautiful walk is out the former bridge to Sullivan’s Island.  When the new bridge opened the old bridge found new purpose as a wonderful pedestrian park across the estuary and perfect for kayak launching, bird watching, fishing and picnicking.

    Boone Hall Plantation is definitely worth a visit even with the $25 entrance fee.  Boone Hall has been a working plantation for more than 350 years.  Although the current main house is not original (dates to 1936), it is beautiful and keeps to the authentic time period.  The row of brick slave cabins were really interesting, with each one focusing on interpretive information about the slave life.  Local docents offer short talks about the plantation and slavery, and a half an hour storytelling and singing presentation by a local Gullah woman was first-rate.  I am so glad we visited beautiful Boone Hall.

    I could write another entire blog about the delicious food of this region…but I’ll just end the post today with a shout out to pimento cheese and  pork rinds, cheeseburger with fried green tomato, BBQ Brisket and coleslaw, scallops with pesto and mushrooms and fresh-off-the-boat shrimp. It’s a delicious city, one of its many, many charms.

    Charleston South Carolina, a perfect little package of southern charm tied pretty with a hospitality bow.  Visit soon.

     

    Please pin or share our blog to help us build our audience.  Thank you!

     

     

    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Hello USA – Back Once Again

    Visiting the United States for Four Months

    Location: United States of America

    Our round two of the Grand Adventure has come to an end and we are returning to our home country of the United States for four months.  We head back out for round three in September.

    Meanwhile, dropping back in to the hectic and crazy USA is causing us some anxiety.  Living in the USA is

    My hometown of Gig Harbor

    fast-paced and a bit maniacal, and last summer we found our visit after 18 months away, a bit of a blow.  After living in places with no cars, no grocery stores, no English and sometimes no sanitary systems…arriving in the USA is both deja vu and a culture shock.

    We have grown accustomed to our travel way of life, amongst people who are different, cultures that are

    Our new Condo

    different, food that is different and language that is different. So adjusting back takes some effort when the USA seems a bit weird.  But I’m sure we will adjust.  It will be a relief to have Safeway, Target and a few other things like good gas prices, my hair dresser and my manicurist, a washer and dryer -things that seem such a luxury to us now.

    All that said we are looking forward to seeing our family.  And we are very excited to finally see the condo we bought last fall sight unseen.  This condo will serve as our home when we are in the USA for the foreseeable future as we continue to travel.  We are

    Seeing friends

    hopeful that it was a wise investment and are really looking forward to unpacking our things that have been in storage, some of them for nearly four years.

    We hope to have a bit slower pace this summer than last summer, when we tried to do and see too much.  Our priorities this summer are family, and working on the new condo.  Of course we hope to see some friends too and finding time to work out and get in shape is a goal.  Two short trips are in the works; Scottsdale Arizona and Big Fork Montana.  But other than that, we will stay close to Gig Harbor, family and our new condo.

    While in the USA we will still have a travel blog every Friday and a book review every Wednesday and I hope to post some blogs about the remodel of the condo.  We hope you will continue to follow and enjoy My Fab Fifties Life. We are so grateful to our faithful followers of our blog and our journey.

    Hanging out with family

    We depart the USA again on September 11th and you are invited to follow our round three as we head out for ten months with destinations that include China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Kenya, Mauritius, Zambia, Uganda, Israel, Cypress, Malta, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Czek Republic, Belarus, Lativia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Greenland.  Big plans.  We hope you follow along.

    Hey USA!  You look Fabulous!

     

     

    When you share our blog it helps build our audience.  Please Pinit or Share

     

    North America Travel

    Miami Nice – Four Miami Neighborhoods to Visit

    Location: Miami Florida USA

    Miami is much bigger than I expected.  A shiny port city with lots of shiny expensive cars and beautiful people.

    I was pleasantly surprised – arriving without really any expectations.  It’s beautiful, but

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Ceviche at Jaguar

    also expensive.  There is a lot of traffic too, but we enjoyed our six days and explored as much as we could.

    I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford to live here – but apparently a lot of people can.  The city is growing, with construction of both sky scrapers and roads all around.

    Four Miami neighborhoods to visit

    Cigar rolling Little Havana

    We stayed in a cute little cottage Airbnb in Coconut Grove – one of my favorite neighborhoods we discovered during our visit.  Here’s our list;

    Coconut Grove

    The Grove has a nice neighborhood feel, although mega mansions are hidden behind high walls and in immaculately landscaped gated communities.  But still it felt like a

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Cuban Sandwich Little Havana

    family place, although we never saw a public school – we did count six fancy private schools within the neighborhood we were staying.  Coconut Grove reminded me of Pasadena, with similar street shopping and restaurants and sidewalk cafe’s.  But it also has a beautiful harbor with hundreds of sailboats and yachts moored.   Coconut Grove also has a “low rent” district, but as a visitor you are likely to spend your time in the historic old town.                                                                             Favorite Spot – Jaguar Restaurant for delicious Peruvian ceviche and other specialities.

    Little Havana

    Historic and quit small Little Havana is easy to explore – pretty much all on one street,

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Art Deco south Beach

    Calle Ocho (8th Street).  Here you must try the amazing Cuban Coffee (similar to Turkish Coffee – sweet and strong) as well as delicious Cuban Food.  We ate lunch at Old’s Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina where we had a giant Cuban Sandwich and a delicious mango mojito.  There are some small shops and some kitschy Cuban souvenirs.  Stop to watch the old men playing Dominoes at Dominoes Park.                                                                                                                                                       Favorite Spot – Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company, family owned and operated by the Bellos Family for 100 years.  Here you can watch the art of hand rolling cigars.  Of course you can also buy cigars (many kinds and prices) if you are in to that.

    South Beach

    South Beach is every thing you imagined.

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    South Beach

    White sand, blue water, tropical pink lifeguard station and lots of sunbathers glistening in oil.  We spent several hours enjoying the sun and the warm waters of the Atlantic.  Quit the contrast to the Atlantic we watched a few weeks ago in Spain.  South Beach is home to a lot of celebrities, as well as high-end shopping, hotels, bars and restaurants.  Choose a street cafe and sip on one of the fishbowl sized tropical drinks and watch the people go by.                                                                                                                                 Favorite spot – South Beach’s famous Art Deco Architecture is worth a visit.  You can take a guided tour ($25) or just walk around on your own to see the wonderful collection, most very well-preserved, from the 1920’s era of glitz and glam.

    Wynwood Art District

    This reincarnated neighborhood is really cool.  You don’t need a lot of time here, or you can

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to bisit

    Wynwood Walls

    make it a full day because there are lots of restaurants, shops, art galleries and a couple of breweries.  This old industrial neighborhood used to be no mans land.  Until a few artists started opening up art space. It grew.  Someone painted a mural.  Then another.  Today nearly every paintable space in the small neighborhood is covered with art – more than 70 murals as well as sidewalk art and more.  It’s definitely unique, fun and colorful!                                                                                                   Favorite spot – the Wynwood Walls, an enclosed area of spectacular murals you can view for free.

     

    There is certainly more to Miami than these four neighborhoods – in fact a lot more.  We will need to visit again, to enjoy the beautiful weather, history, water and restaurant scene.  Miami nice.  Yes it is. Fabulous!

    Please share our blog!

     

     

     

    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    Preparing to Travel Full Time – It’s In The Details

    The Grand Adventure

    Location: United States

    Follow my blog with Bloglovin
    Note – at the request of one of my friends, I have updated this blog, originally posted in November 2016, with fresh new information.  Enjoy it again.

    “How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?”

    As our departure day to leave the USA again grows near, this is the recurring question.  People we meet often show, interest, surprise, envy, jealousy, horror and confusion. But most of all they are curious. How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Thailand

    So over the past couple of weeks I have been pulling together some details to share again. A lot of details.  In fact, I would answer the above question with a simple sentence.  “It’s in the details.”

    Before we embarked on the first phase of the Grand Adventure we spent several years preparing.  A younger person, like my son, can prepare more quickly, in a matter of months.  But for Fab Fifty rock stars like me and my husband, it took more time.

    For us about three years.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Morocco

    When the idea first sprouted, I knew immediately we would do it.  Without a question I knew it was right for us.  All while knowing it isn’t right for everyone.

    In fact, making a major life change like this should take some serious soul searching – are you cut out for a life of travel? What is your tolerance level?  Consider everything from beds to cultural customs when considering your personal tolerance for living outside of the United States.  Do you have phobias? Afraid of bugs? Snakes? Rodents or people not like you? Are you afraid of cultures where everyone isn’t white?  Are you willing to eat new foods, communicate in languages other than English and squat to go to the bathroom? Give it a think because, a life of full-time travel isn’t for sissies or intolerant people. You gotta be open, willing and fairly fearless while being smart, observant and adventurous.

    Once you know your tolerance level that in-turn will help you determine your budget.  Because if you are only willing to stay in upscale American style hotels, then your budget will need to look very different

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Vietnam

    from ours.  Our travels have us staying in primarily Airbnb’s that average about $70.  And honestly if you are only willing to stay in American brand hotels with 300 thread count sheets and someone to cater to your every whim – well, you should just stay in the USA. Because you will miss the most rewarding part of travel – getting out of your comfort zone and expanding your world view.

    We have a daily budget of $200 all-inclusive (transportation, lodging, food and misc).  This is plenty for most places and not enough for a few places, but we are frugal and hope it all evens out.  Because the

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Spain

    reality is if we can’t stay within our designated budget then the Grand Adventure will be over, sooner rather than later.

    Speaking of timeline – we don’t have one.  This of course would not work for everyone, but for us it fits.  We will continue the vagabond life as long as we are having fun.  As soon as it becomes anything other than fun, we will wrap it up.  But so far, 99% fun.

    So listed below are some “details” on how to prepare to leave the country and travel full-time.  Most of these things we have had to learn on our own – so if this list can alleviate any work for someone else considering traveling abroad full-time in retirement, use it well.

    PURGE – we started our purge process more than two years before we put our house on the market, as we let go of nearly every bit of fluff we owned, including house, cars, boats, trailer, furniture and more.  We have a 10×12 storage unit now that is holding what remains of our stationary lifestyle and life’s memories. During this same period we worked to purge my Dad’s house, remodel his place and get it on the market as well as move him to a smaller place.  It was a big goal to get him out of his large house before we left. It was a huge job but it needed to be done.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Cambodia

    DOCUMENTS – we updated our passports even though they were not expired, so we would not have any issues with needing to do that from abroad.  We also updated our Washington State Drivers License.  We will carry a copy of our marriage certificate with us but not our birth certificates because the passport is sufficient.  We have researched every possible country we think we might visit to learn the entry/visa requirements. We are carrying extra passport photos because some countries require obtaining a visa on entry with photo. We also carry International Drivers License, even though we have NEVER been asked for one.

    SPREADSHEET – we created a spread sheet, which is evolving constantly and we can access via Google Drive, to track all of our travel including air and ground transportation and lodging.  This spreadsheet includes notes regarding entry rules for countries. It’s also a fun tool for tracking so many things from miles traveled to beds slept in.  The data we have is incredible.

    MAIL – we are using a PO Box that belongs to my Mother-in-law, but we are trying hard not to receive

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Croatia

    any mail.  We have notified our friends and family not to snail mail us, we have contacted magazines and catalogs to eliminate junk (not very successful however) and we have changed all of our banking, retirement and property related mail to online only. I canceled my 35 year subscription to Bon Apetit.

    TECHNOLOGY – we have new smart phones, an iPad and my Brand new light weight Mac Book that will travel with us.  In addition we will bring our old flip phone.  For our smartphones (we each have an iPhone) we buy a sim card in each country for one of our phones to enable the phone to have a local phone number and data.  We then also use our iPhones with wifi for things like blogging, Facebook and Instagram.  The flip phone is programmed  with our old Verizon phone number from the states.  Although we don’t plan to use that number often, it keeps it active for emergency.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Seychelles

    We also have our Bose noise-canceling headphones and our Bose SoundLink Mini speaker that measures about 6 in x 3 in.  We carry this with us and it allows us to listen to music using Spotify and listen to Audible or other books.

    APPS – We have a few travel apps we like especially Airbnb, Expedia and Google Maps.  We also have a Google translate which is really cool.  You can point your phone at a sign or menu item in another language and it will show you what it says in English.  Love it.  We use WhatsApp, an app that allows you to make overseas calls via the internet, this is primarily the way we communicate with our kids.  To call our parents, who aren’t on WiFi, we use an app called TextNow which allows free phone calls from anywhere to the USA. We also use Kindle, Yelp, Uber, Get Your Guide and Trip Advisor.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure New Zealand

    CORDS AND CHARGERS – I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a universal cord for all electronics, but alas wishful thinking.  So we have organized and sorted all our cords, charges and adaptors to travel along. We research ahead to make sure we know what adaptors we need in each country. We have one packing cube we use for all of these items.

    CREDIT CARDS – don’t you hate it when your credit card company announces suddenly that you are being mailed a new credit card because your card has been compromised?  Well that would really screw us up if that happens.  So we have FOUR credit cards.  One is our primary and three are backups.  Three cards have no foreign transaction fees (which is a killer).  We also have multiple ATM cards. All credit and debit cards are chipped.  VERY IMPORTANT is that we do not carry all these cards together in one place.  That way, if our wallet or purse is lost or stolen, we will have back up cards available in a different location.  We have contacted all of the card companies for both credit and debit and let them know we will be traveling abroad for an extended period.  We have put a reminder on our calendar to do this again periodically. We carry several hundred US dollar in cash for emergencies.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Portugal

    PRESCRIPTIONS – I take two prescriptions regularly.  It’s been a challenge to get enough of my meds stocked up.  My insurance company will allow, with a special doctor’s note, two 90 day vacation overrides.  I have been stocking up in other ways too, but it’s not going to be enough.  I will need to find access to these meds to fill the rest of the time, because we won’t be back in the US for a visit until next summer. Shipping prescriptions abroad is illegal. We have some people coming to visit us, so I may have them bring me my pills. But I am confident I can find the meds or an equivalent.  I will need to pay cash for those at the time.  I have also 12 months worth of contact lenses and we each have our glasses plus a back up pair.

    DOCTORS – during the three months we have been in the USA we have had a ton of appointments; family physician for full physicals, new prescriptions and precautionary antibiotics; eye doctor for new contacts and glasses; dermatologist for annual check up; dentist for cleaning and some work; gynecologist for check up; and annual mammogram. I had my updated yellow fever, and DPT shot and did a round of typhoid and got a two month supply of malaria meds.

    MEDIVAC INSURANCE – considering our age, we felt there was value in purchasing evacuation insurance.  This insurance covers expenses to transport us back to the USA in case of a medical emergency that can’t be handled locally.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Spain

    EXPEDIA AND AIRBNB – we love how these two
    online websites allow us to keep files of all your bookings.  This eliminates the need for printing and gives us easy access to our bookings.  We use them both frequently.

    DECIDING WHERE TO GO – After two years of non-stop travel we feel much more comfortable with our movement around the planet.  It feels natural.  We usually agree on where we want to go and make our decisions based on budget, weather, safety and interest. We love to go new places, but have a few favorites we return to. We take turns planing the itinerary, often taking a country each.

    Although we aren’t completely booked yet, we have a plan for August 2018 through June 2019 that includes; Denmark (visiting Arne’s cousins), Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt &Jordan (the only countries currently where we are doing a tour), Portugal & Spain (where we will walk our second Camino de Santiago), Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru & Chile (these five countries on a cruise with Arne’s Mom), Brazil, Costa Rica (joined by our friends from Washington), El Salvador, Belize (joined by our two sons), Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Cuba.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Tunisia

    GIRL STUFF – I’ve learned some things about myself over the past two years. Despite how easy it is to have long hair and wear it in a pony tail everyday, I just hate the look on me.  So the budget will need to include more haircuts.  Mostly I do my own nails and wear hardly no makeup, but I still like to have my eyebrows waxed from time to time. I have just a handful of earrings and necklaces I wear and of course the charm bracelet. I’ve just purchased a jewelry case that’s I hope will help my jewelry not take such a travel beating.

    The Grand Adventure Australia

    PACKING – this topic is by far the one most people ask about, and indeed one of the hardest.  We will continue to use two large REI rolling bags.  Arne will continue to use his backpack as a carry on. But this time my backpack will stay home and I just purchased a new rolling carry on. And packing cubes have changed my life.  Organized and categorized I love using packing cubes.

    It helps that we are traveling, for the most part, to warm climates or to areas during their warm season.  We may see cool and rainy in Portugal and Spain in the late fall. Honestly the clothing choice has been easier than the shoes.  And the bulkiest items are not clothes or shoes it’s toiletries and

    The Grand Adventure Namibia

    medicines. I just purchased a flat style toilette bag to replace the larger boxier cube style one we have been carrying. I’m hoping this will free up some space in the suitcase.

    Without a doubt I am bringing twice the clothes as my husband, but I have learned so much this past two years for what works for me and what is comfortable and easy to maintain.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Laos

    I threw out almost all the clothes I used the past two years and have replaced them with fresh, new and comfortable.  Watch for a blog soon all about my new travel wardrobe. I think you’re gonna love it.

    In addition we have our electronics and documents and toiletries, first aid and meds.  We have our Scrabble game, our hiking poles, a selfie stick, an REI titanium French press, a can opener,a small knife, collapsible small cooler and colander.  I have a new “butt cushion” to hopefully alleviate sciatic pain on long flights.  I’ve thrown in some pens and pencils, scotch tape and packing tape, a bungee cord, cloths pens, plastic bags (multiple sizes) our headlamps and some extra batteries.  Of course I don’t leave home without my Washington State University flag, my Seattle Seahawks flag and THE MUG.

    So there you have it.  The details.  I’ve probably forgotten something.  We feel more prepared and less anxious than when we left two years ago.  We are looking forward to this next phase.

    Ready to launch year three of the Grand Adventure! T minus 33 days.

    I welcome your questions.

    Fabulous!

     

     

     

    North America Travel

    Let’s Go Gondola in Gig Harbor Washington

    Authentic Gondola Experience in Beautiful Gig Harbor

    Location: Gig Harbor Washington USA

    It’s been three years since John Synco realized his dream of starting his own Gondola business, Gig Harbor Gondola.  But John isn’t Italian.  Nor does he live in Italy.  He is just another amazing entrepreneur in the small town of Gig Harbor Washington who made his dreams come true.

    John had been a professional Gondolier in Southern California for several years starting in 2002.  He had traveled to Venice

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    Onboard Nellie

    several times and loved the beautiful boats and the life of the Gondolier.

    A friend of John’s purchased two authentic Venetian Gondolas a few years back. At the time John was living with his wife and young daughter in Edmonds, having recently left California for Washington.  John wanted one of the gondolas, but knew the waters in Edmonds wouldn’t be conducive to a peaceful gondola ride.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    Peacefully slicing through the water

    So after searching the area, the family moved to Gig Harbor, with its peaceful small harbor, to start Gig Harbor Gondola. His new Venetian Gondola christened Nellie.  A dream realized.  Three years later John’s business is his full-time, year-around job.  And he is so good at it.

    I took my Mom on the gondola for an evening one-hour tour of the beautiful Gig Harbor Bay.  The $85  one hour tour is for two people.  You can add up to four more people for $20 each.  You can also do a one and half hour tour for $115 for two people and again each additional person is $20 up to six people maximum.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    My Mom and I enjoying the ride

    The Gig Harbor Gondola price includes appetizers (meats, cheese, grapes and crackers) and you are welcome to bring additional food and drinks.

    John has done his research, and even though he is a relative newcomer to Gig Harbor he really knows the history of the town.  His tour provides lots of fun information, history and insight into this tiny community on the bay, nestled so peacefully in the shadow of Mount Rainer.

    The night we toured was calm with little wind and though a bit chilly, the sun was shining.  The gondola includes blankets though just in case.  Through out our tour one harbor seal followed the gondola around the bay, curiously watching us and

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    The mouth of Gig Harbor Bay and it’s welcoming lighthouse

    keeping just to the right of John’s oar.  Speaking of John’s oar, he has learned the craft of being a gondolier perfectly.  The rowing oar, which is not attached to the boat, is used to both propel the boat and as a rudder. Our ride was smooth and silent and safe.

    After learning and chatting as we calmly sliced through the water, John took a moment to serenade us with a beautiful Italian ballad.  I have no idea what he was singing about – but it was lovely.  I’m sure people on shore could hear his crisp tenor voice across the water.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    The sun sets on our tour

    Spending time on Gig Harbor bay with Gig Harbor Gondola is always a treat.  Seeing this lovely town from the water gives you such a different perspective.  And now I’ve seen it through new eyes, the eyes of John and Nellie the Gondola.  Bellissimo!

    Grazie John!  What a lovely, relaxing excursion.

    Favoloso!

    Make your reservation to enjoy Gig Harbor Gondola today! Click here!

    Visit Gig Harbor