Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Trip to Who-ville

Dr. Seuss, the beloved children’s author, who gave life to
The Cat in the Hat, Horton and the Grinch,
also created the place known as Whoville, or Who-ville.

In one of his books, Whoville 
is a floating speck of dust placed inside a clover flower                                                              
in another it is located inside a snowflake.

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With all due respect to Dr. Seuss, today we’d like to take you on a Thanksgiving trip to our “Who-ville” ~ a place we’ve been exploring since beginning this travel blog five years ago. 

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The idea for this Thanksgiving trip to our Who-ville began a few weeks ago when a friend asked of the blog, “How many readers do you have now?” 

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I started to answer with the statistical explanations that we bloggers fall victim to every now and then and realized I sounded like a Dr. Seuss character as I tried to explain the blog’s varying numbers:  page views verse readers verse followers verse subscribers . . .

“Think left and think right and think low and think high.
Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”
- Dr. Seuss

Instead of looking at just numbers, it seemed a trip to Who-ville might be a more interesting way to answer my friend’s question.

To get there we start at the small box on the TravelnWrite home page called, Clustrmaps.  I signed up for this free feature a few months after starting the blog back in 2009.  It shows the location of people who are reading the blog – in real time, in fact,  if you care to look closely enough.

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This map leads to our somewhat enchanting Who-ville. . . where we don’t know exactly the ‘who’ of you are visiting the blog, but we do know your ‘ville’. 

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
- Dr. Seuss

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While statistically speaking the ‘who’s’ total 41,524 visits in the last five years, what is the most fun about our Who-ville is that they’ve come  from every corner of  the United States and 170 countries!  (I remember when I first added the map I kept hoping that someday I would have a visit from Canada – it now ranks third in number of visits in our ‘Who-ville’!)

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What is simply amazing are some of the locations from where our visitors have come. Some places on our ‘Who-ville’ map were so far off our radar that I’ve had to research them because I flat out didn’t know where they were. . .

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
-Dr. Seuss

. . .places like Aland Islands, a chain of 6,757 islands  between Sweden and Finland or Reunion Island, a French Island with a population of 840,974 just east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

Some visits have come from ambiguous places listed as  “Armed Forces, Europe, Middle East and Canada”.  While headlines scream  strife and war in places like Israel, Iraq and Iran, we are gratified to find visitors from each of those places have found the time to visit the blog.

Many of you in ‘Who-ville’ have become friends over the years – and many old friendships rediscovered in Who-ville have taken up right where they left off. . .

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“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
- Dr. Seuss

To all of you in our ‘Who-ville’ we thank you for joining us on our journeys and for the time you spend with us. You’ve enriched our lives.  Happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating the day today and Happy Travels to all~ (And if you’ve just discovered us, please come back again!)


Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chelan ~ A Winter “Wander” Land

Lake Chelan – the 55-mile long glacier fed lake -- in Central Washington State is a magnet for summer fun and sun seekers. But did you know the area is becoming increasingly popular as a winter destination as well?

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Lake Chelan and the North Cascade Mountains

For example, there are six Sno-Parks (parking lots in the wilderness areas where snow  has been groomed into trails for use by snowmobilers), there’s miles of groomed Nordic cross-country ski trails and there’s downhill skiing. . .

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Benson Estate Winery - Chelan, Washington

And of course there is wine – 24 wineries are scattered among vineyards that carpet the surrounding hillsides.  In the winter the vineyards might be bare, but the tasting rooms are often open on weekends or by appointment.

There’s a lot to do and see in Chelan during the cold, crisp winter months.  The lead story in the Seattle Times travel section yesterday tells you about its eateries, stores, and outdoor activities.  There’s a ton to do there; take my word for it.  . .I wrote the article! And I was on the road and didn't even see it until tonight. So take a look and be sure to click through the 30-photos that accompany the story on line!

Check it out by clicking this link:  http://seattletimes.com/html/travel/2025059605_washingtonweekendschelanxml.html
and then think Chelan for a winter getaway!

Thanks for the time you spent with us – hope to see you back again later this week!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In Scottsdale ~ ‘Tis the Season. . .almost!

I’ve written in recent weeks about the concept of not being home for Christmas which also means not doing the traditional decorating of our house.  In response, a friend or two have exclaimed, “But you love Christmas!”

And that I do. But it doesn’t mean I need to be the one doing the decorating to enjoy the season.  To illustrate that point, I thought I’d take you on a tour of Scottsdale and Phoenix where we've been for the last three weeks and where ‘Tis the Season. . .


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Christmas trees stand taller than palm trees in some displays around town. 
And how about that blue-sky backdrop?


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And speaking of palm trees. . .
how about this duo decked out in their sparkling holiday jewels?


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The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel gets into the celebration with a garden of lights 
and an ice skating rink – all open to the public as well as guests.


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They also have a tree that changes its holiday gowns as Christmas carols fill the air.


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But let’s not forget we are in the desert and those stately Saguaro cacti and Palo Verde trees (these at the Four Seasons Troon Resort) like to get dressed up as well for the holidays.

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Nothing compares with the gingerbread displays at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Phoenix.  
This display from a couple of years ago was the Wizard of Oz theme – 
see the brave foursome at the Emerald City?


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So I am not decorating this year. 
Our setting is not the usual one and our traditions are left behind, 
but there is no doubt ‘Tis the Season!
And we plan to enjoy it where ever we are! 
Hope you will too!

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As the busy holiday season is upon us, we appreciate even more the time you spent with us today!  Photos in this post were from our trip here two years ago – but I can assure you Arizona is as decked out this year as it was then! The decorators have seen out in full force for the last two weeks!

Linking up with:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Scottsdale. . .Walkin' in Sunshine

I hate to admit it, but I wasn’t taken with Arizona the first couple of times we visited here decades ago.  But with each return visit over the years I found some new ‘wonder’ which I kept adding to our ‘reasons to return’ list.

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Sunset - Scottsdale

Now, several years later, we actually own here – admittedly, a small bit of deeded property that affords us an annual visit of at least two weeks in our timeshare home.  And as reports of the Arctic Blast that is sweeping the Pacific Northwest keep arriving in our inbox today we are even more grateful for this warm-weather respite.

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Four Seasons Residence Club - Troon Mountain to the right
Last week I wrote from our “Marriott” home in Phoenix and by this week we’ve moved to our “Four Seasons” home in Scottsdale.

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Four Seasons Hotel Scottsdale, Arizona
One of the benefits of timeshare life at this Four Season’s Residence Club is that we are footsteps from the hotel. And as residents, we have access to the hotel’s pool, spa, exercise facility and grounds as do hotel guests.  (We have our own pool and exercise facility as well.)

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The Terrace at Onyx Bar - the Four Seasons overlooks the garden above
I’ve invited you in to see our condo on previous posts, so today I  thought we’d stroll around the property for a bit of a tour:

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We’ll start in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel where vibrant southwest colors bring the stucco Adobe-style walls to life.

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We follow a path through the natural landscape to get to and from the Residence Club and the hotel.  The stately Saguaro cactus stand like sentries and wild bunnies skitter among the bushes along the route.

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Then it is back to the Residence Club and its own lobby where easy chairs face fireplaces and southwest colors figure prominently in the d├ęcor.  The library (far right in photo above) is a quiet place to peruse the books available on the lending shelf or relax in front of yet another fireplace.  (It does get chilly this time of year, so fireplaces aren’t just for decoration!)

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Fireplaces and chimineas (like the one pictured above) are lit each night and fill the air with the scent of the southwest – the pungent smoke from the Mesquite wood – making it difficult to resist their magnetic pull to just ‘sit a spell’.

Arizona Spring 2012 154But we pass up the fireplace and head back to our place.

There, we bundle up in coats and sip a glass of wine on our deck while listening to the call of the desert animals that break the still of the night.

That’s it from Arizona for this week.  Hope to see you back again soon and until then, thanks for your time and Happy Travels!


Linking up this week with fellow bloggers at:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On the Road Again. . .off to “Play House”

Hail, rain, gray skies and gusty winds – the combination made a perfect send-off from the Pacific Northwest last week as we kicked off the first of our ‘travel season’ adventures.




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Pinnacle Peak - Scottsdale, Arizona
 The High Plains Drifters, our nom de blog, when we head to the Southwest set forth on our journey last week. Our destination: our Phoenix/Scottsdale Arizona timeshare homes where we have taken up residence for the better part of this month.

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Snoqualmie Pass - Washington State
Our route took us over the Cascade Mountain range then through Yakima and Walla Walla Valleys and past the Tri Cities, in all a nice long stretch of Washington State’s Wine Country.  No time to sample any though as we were headed across the Columbia River and into Oregon before stopping for the night in Baker City, Oregon. A town so charming that it is deserving of an entire blog post - one that will be forthcoming in future weeks.




Statue of Meriwether Lewis seeking directions from local Chief - Capitol grounds Boise
Our second night was spent in Boise, known as the City of Trees -- a most appropriate name for this city, the capital of the state of Idaho. We sliced through the southern tip of the state and headed for Utah.


We took a route through Utah and were blown-away (literally and figuratively) by both its vast beauty and emptiness AND its strong winds! Our third night was spent in southern Utah - Cedar City - where we were awakened by a storm in the middle of the night. The winds howled and shrieked from 2 a.m. on and as we left town we saw signs and dumpsters toppled by the strong winds. Luckily we missed the snow forecast to fall later in the day.

Arizona Spring 2012 131We undertook our journey at a leisurely pace, so we didn’t arrive in Arizona until the fourth day.

Saturday night was spent in Camp Verde, in northeast Arizona so that we could time our arrival in Phoenix to coincide with the early afternoon check-in at the Marriott Canyon Villas, our home for our first week.

Regulars here know that we’ve become sold on the timeshare-vacation-home approach to life.  It allows us to ‘live’ in Arizona in the fall and to move our Hawaiian ‘residence’ in the winter.








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Our home - Marriott Vacation Club Canyon Villas - Phoenix, Arizona
Because we traded a studio week that we own at the Marriott KoOlina in Hawaii, we are spending our first week in a spacious one-bedroom condo at its sister Vacation Club here. Next week we will move to our Four Seasons timeshare home.

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An Arizona Afternoon
I call our timeshare time, ‘playing house’ because we do spend our days much as we do back in the Pacific Northwest:  time at the gym, time writing, time reading, doing grocery shopping, cooking, doing laundry . . .plain old every day retirement living.

What we don’t do are chores and cleaning, repairs and upgrades – those things are handled by staff. Isn’t that a nice concept? All that in exchange for an annual maintenance fee which we gladly pay!

Arizona Spring 2012 127 In fact this ‘playhouse’ allows us the time to do nothing – a luxury even in retired life. We can hop in the car and take excursions on a whim (the kind we put off in the Northwest because we have chores to do.)

Sometimes we do nothing more than laze at poolside or watch the wild bunnies that scamper through the grounds. . .

. . .and that is far more fun than watching rain and hail fall up north!


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On the Road in Nevada

Have you taken any road trips lately? If so where did you go? Let us know in the comments below or shoot us an email.

Happy and safe Travels to you and thanks so much for the time you spent with us today! Hope to see you back again next week! Bear with the looks of the blog until I get the hang of using our new Surface - that we purchased just before the trip. I've not yet downloaded Windows Live Writer so you are seeing a mishmash of blog layout. . .I had another mosaic that I managed to kill out or lose somewhere. . .oh, the joys of technology~

We are linking up with these fun blogs – drop by for some great armchair getaways:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Leaving Tradition Behind ~ Heading South for the Holidays

 
Hot steamy jungles thick with lush tropical plants and vines. . . 
Piranhas –  fish that like to eat meat – human, or otherwise. . .
Anacondas - snakes so large that they can eat goats. . .
Villages along a river bank, so small there is no organized tourism. . .
 
Now that’s a 180-degrees from the traditional Christmas tree and traditions, don’t you think?
 
You recall that last week I told you we were leaving holiday traditions behind this year and setting out to stretch our travel lifestyle. Well, this is where we are going to do just that. . . 
 
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Tropical plants - South Pacific
 
We will be traveling up the Amazon River!
 
 
Slicing through Brazil we will be stopping at small villages on our way to Manaus, a thriving metropolis of 1.2 million people (complete with airport), overnight there, and start our journey back down the Amazon.
 
I know you are probably shaking your heads. . .your vision of us a la Bogart and Hepburn, clad in khaki-colored safari suits, my wide brimmed hat wrapped with mosquito netting, The Scout paddling our dugout canoe. . .(you can quit laughing now). . . 
 
 
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Hate to shoot that adventuresome image of us, but we will be traveling on a cruise ship – an ocean going vessel, as a matter of fact. And we’ll be surrounded by top of the line luxury:
 
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We’ll be traveling on Oceania’s Insignia, a ship that accommodates some 672 passengers and 400 staff. Small, by cruise ship sizes, but definitely top of the line luxury by cruise industry standards.

I should probably mention that in addition to the Amazon River, we’ll also be hitting our fair share of Caribbean islands – and that we’ll depart from and return to Miami, Florida with an itinerary that takes us to:

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It is a VERY different trip for us, in many ways. . .we are sailing on a cruise line we’ve never tried before and the cruise at 24-days is the longest we’ve ever taken. We are going to an area that we'd pretty much never talked about before - if ever!

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A huge difference will be that this cruise has no requirements for formal attire! We will leave the suits, and little black dresses and related shoes at home!! Aloha shirts will be The Scout’s formal wear and I shall make do with a couple of glittery tops – to wear with those Chico’s Zenergy pants, that I call my travel uniform.

loutro to kirkland 493 (1)We’ve also had to demonstrate a leap of faith – as we had to ship our passports off, along with a variety of documents including financial information, to a company that works with the Brazilian consulate in obtaining entry visas for U.S. citizens. (We didn't have to do that with the passports when trying to buy a house in Greece!)

I am happy to report, the passports were delivered to our front door by the postman a couple of weeks ago, complete with Brazilian visas attached. . .whew!



[Note:  Visas are required for entry into Brazil for American citizens – and they are not inexpensive. Documents are required, including bank account statements.  Depending on the company you use, it could range from $200 – $400 per visa. (luckily, the travel agent we used paid for the cost of our visas, as one of the many benefits we got by booking with them).  Some of you may have obtained your own but when you live in the Pacific Northwest, the nearest Brazilian consulate choices are in Atlanta and California – airfare to either would have made the ‘do it yourself’ option even more expensive.]
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There’s a lot to study before we set out! We’ve loaded up on travel guides, novels and true stories about the Caribbean, Brazil and the Amazon.  So far it sounds as though I may often be quoting, Dorothy when she landed in Oz and said to Toto: “We are not in Kansas any more!”
Booking the cruise: I’ll spare the details of booking the cruise other than to say The Scout nailed a great deal by booking through our tried-and-true cruise travel agency, Crucon.com based in New Hampshire. While their lowest prices were comparable to that offered by others, their on-board credits and benefits far exceeded any others and included prepaid tips/gratuities ($720 value), a huge credit to on-board spending ($1,800), FREE unlimited internet ($525), and the cost of the Brazilian visas ($400)! Note: The deal was available to anyone – we don’t get discounts because of the blog or my freelance writing.
That’s it for now.  Happy Travels to you. If you’ve been to any of the places on the map above, we’d appreciate any recommendations or suggestions. We are linking up this week with our friends at:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oh there’s no place like “_________” for the Holidays!

The sky is gray more often than not in Washington State’s Puget Sound these days. It’s a sure sign that summer is a fleeting memory and that – for us -  travel season is just around the corner. 

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Seattle skyline - October 2014
While for many, these dark, dreary days are the prelude to upcoming holiday decorating and dinners – for us, it is the promise of new adventures.

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J.W. Marriott - San Antonio, Texas, 2013
The ‘holiday season’ in the United States has a dual kick-off in October as December’s Christmas decorations (some actually appear in stores in July) are competing with Halloween for shelf space. Thanksgiving is simply scrunched in between the two at the end of November.

Coincidentally, travel season at our house is on the same schedule. . .we start talking winter travel in July and by October are ready to pack suitcases instead of unpacking decoration boxes.

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San Antonio, Texas, 2013
This Traveling Twosome won’t be decking any halls this year. We’ll more likely be hanging hand-washed travel clothes than mistletoe and holly. 

As I’ve pointed out before, a travel lifestyle – sometimes requires the old traditions, like Christmas, give way to new adventures.

So our ‘season’ begins with an 'almost Thanksgiving' tradition – an old familiar favorite - a road trip to Arizona for a stay at our timeshare ‘desert home’.

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The Mani - Greece
But after we return that’s when we’ll begin preparing for a real adventure and shake up our holiday routines but good! You might say we are practicing what we preach in this blog: we are traveling out of our tried-and-true destination comfort zones, stretching ourselves a bit and heading to a place. . .well, a place that three months ago wasn’t on our radar. Not. At. All.

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The Mani - Greece
“How about ________________ for Christmas and New Year’s?” The Scout asked a few weeks ago.  He’d been researching and happened upon this destination. Chuckling a bit, we agreed that it would certainly be different – then we gave ourselves a couple days to think it over.  We finally used our age-old reasoning, “Why not?” And booked it!

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Sunset - the South Pacific
As we’ve begun telling friends of our plans we’ve had two distinct reactions (there haven’t been any gray areas with this one): the first is an involuntary jerk of their heads and then a noticeable pause before asking either, “Why?” or “Where?” (perhaps hoping they hadn’t heard us correctly the first time).  Only a few have said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go there!”

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The South Pacific

I’ve used a mix of photos in this post – they are all from previous trips as obviously I don’t have any to use to give you a hint of this new destination. And by now, you’ve probably realized I am not telling you our destination until next week. . . I’ve got to round up something suitable to use to illustrate that post. 

In the meantime, where would you go if you were to stretch yourself and go somewhere different? A stretch. . .some place that might have your friends asking, “Where!?!?”  

Welcome to our new followers and subscribers this week and thanks to all of you for your time ~ Happy Travels!

Linking Up this week at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Travel Photo Monday – Travel Photo Discovery 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

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