Tuesday, February 28, 2012

‘Our Minds and Feet are Getting Restless. . .’

.. .recently wrote a fellow travel blogger.  We know that feeling.  We are ready to hit the road again. You travelers out there know the symptoms: 

DSCF1621A desire to explore. . .a new destination. . .an old  favorite.

Maps are pulled out of drawers. 

Travel guide books pulled from shelves, now sit within easy reach on the coffee table.

Photo albums are reviewed; memories renewed. 

Winter days are the perfect time for planning the next adventure.Old favorites might include a return to DSCF0072Spain. . .perhaps

A trip in late spring to Arizona. . .for sure





But we’ll quell our restlessness starting next week with a beach getaway.  . .and not quite the type to which the sun-seeking Hula Babe and Beach Boy are accustomed.

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We will be donning rain gear and blue jeans and exploring a tiny bit of  Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula

We’re heading  to Copalis Beach, “The Home of the Razor Clam”. Located just seven miles north of Ocean Shores, Copalis Beach in 2010 had a population of 415. That number swells to 1,500 when clam season rolls around. 

Our original plan was to go there to watch the winter storms that swell the ocean and crash its waves against the long flat stretch of beach. It is so flat and solid that  you can drive autos on it and in good weather it serves as an airport landing strip, (or so we've read).

However, yesterday we learned of an added bonus: our visit will fall on a day during which clam digging is permitted.

One of our hosts, Doug True, who dug his first clam there as a child, is going to lead us in our first clam digging adventure at his Iron Springs Resort.

We’ve never dug clams. I don’t think I know what a razor clam looks like. We’ve never stayed on the Washington Coast.  I think this getaway holds lots of new adventures for us.

What else should we do there? What else should we see? Let us know in the comments below or shoot us an email.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

TP Thursday: Santa Cruz ~ Cruise Views

One of the best parts of a cruise is the early morning arrival at a new port of call. It’s the time when that city comes to life for us. No longer a section in a guide book or a point on the map, it is out there just waiting to be explored.
Many times we are so taken with a place that we vow we must return. That’s how we felt about  Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife – one of  the seven Canary Islands:
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As we approached the island about 7 a.m. the rising sun was a spotlight on clusters of homes tucked away in the hills to the north of the city.
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From the balcony of our Celebrity Constellation we watched passing ferries which always prompt  ponderings about their destinations followed by speculation that “if we were to return one day we could hop aboard and see first hand where it goes. . .”
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We’ve become accustomed to Fred Olsen cruise ships in Europe but were surprised to see this Fred Olsen Express ferry zip past us. We’ve since learned the fleet  has 76 weekly departures and transports some 2.7 million foot passengers annually between cities in the Canaries.  It would be a way to get around that island chain. . .hmmmm, the temptations grew.

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We shared the usually-busy cruise port that day with only one other cruise ship. More than 800,000 cruise passengers visited in 2011. It was the end of the season, though, and we were among the last of the ships to stop prior to repositioning across the Atlantic.

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Tenerife was the last land we’d see for seven days. Refueling  took a bit longer than expected so as the sun began to set it was time to cast off for our trip across the Atlantic.  It is always fun to watch the shore crew release the ropes and send us on our way. . .

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The Canary Islands are just 300 km (180 miles) off the coast of Africa. We think it would be great fun to one day take a ferry trip from Spain to the Canary Islands with a stop in Funchal, Madeira before returning to Spain.  Have you done that? Got any recommendations for us?

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And.. . it is Travel Photo Thursday so take a quick spin around the world without moving from your computer through photos at Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hawaii: "So what do you do there?"

hawaii 2010 024 Our island days moved as gently as tropical breezes. They also moved far too quickly.

Maybe that was why we extended our stay for just a few extra days (despite the airline change fees) . . .just to squeeze in a bit more time in our Pacific Paradise.

Several friends have asked, in somewhat incredulous tones, about our near month-long stay, "But what do you do there when you stay that long?"  .

I was reminded of yet another passage -- words to ponder -- written by my 'beach book buddy' Frances Mayes, in her book, "Every day in Tuscany":

"I'll never be over the nagging sense: I should be doing something. My friends in Cortona (Italy) don't have that particular demon. They are doing what they need to be doing by being."

Much like those Tuscans, we didn't go to Hawaii with the idea of doing we went there to experience being.  Some days we were entertained for hours watching a pattern of sunlight sprinkle its diamonds across the sea. Sometimes we'd go grocery shopping. Other days we watched stormy waves crash against the shore. Sometimes we took out the garbage. Other times the whales entertained us as they made their way past. Sometimes we did laundry. Other times we read books and napped.  A few times we'd go explore another part of the island. . . but we weren't often moved to do so.  

We spent the majority of our time on O'ahu at  Ko Olina , a development of single-family residences, an 18-hole golf course, marina, hotels, timeshares and privately owned condos on O'ahu's western Wai’anae Coast. It's a laid-back place far different from Waikiki but close enough that we could easily drive there in a half hour.

When we took the timeshare plunge five years ago by purchasing a week in Hawaii, we were not only giving ourselves a vacation destination, but we were also giving ourselves permission to 'be doing by being'.

So, Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club (top photo) has become that vacation beach home we once dreamed of -- without the cost or headaches that accompany long-distance vacation home ownership. 

It really does feel like going home now. We have staff members who remember us from our previous  stays. We have met other owners over the years and have become friends. We are lucky when our visits overlap as we have time to catch up on news over home-cooked meals.
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 We are so taken with Ko Olina that we've returned each winter, and will likely continue doing so for many years to come. Although one of the positives for us in this timeshare world is that we can trade our place, or a portion of it, for nearly anywhere else in the world we might want to go. We did that last fall when we stayed at the Marriott Vacation Club on Spain's Costa del Sol.



hawaii 2010 050 We purchased the type of two bedroom unit called a lock-off which means that we stay two weeks a year in our ocean front home: one week in the lock-off, a small efficiency sized place 360-sq. ft. (32 sq. meter)  unit with an18-sq. ft (2 sq. m) balcony.  The second week is in  the much larger sized unit (pictures in this post). It is the smaller unit we trade for accommodations in other destinations. Since our initial purchase, we've added time at Ko Olina, which lets us stay longer and trade more

 So this is our getaway and what we do there.  How about you? Where do you go when you 'do what you need to be doing by being'?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TP Thursday: The Train in Spain

We have limited options for train travel in the Pacific Northwest so we savor the experience when we are in Europe. In November, we traveled in Spain by train:

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We first hopped aboard in Osuna, the town I’ve written about in earlier posts – Land of the Olives.  We loved its small station, opened in 1874. The agent who manned the ticket window also had the only desk job. Prior to each  train’s arrival, though, he’d put on his uniform’s cap and head to the station’s platform to manually adjusted the large levers that set the tracks in the correct position.

DSCF1696 From that history-laden platform, we caught a regional, regionales, train - similar to this one - that delivered us to Malaga. Two tickets cost 22.40-euro, or about $31US.  We purchased them the day we traveled.

After spending a week on the Costa del Sol, we returned to Malaga’s station to catch a long-distance train that would take us north through central Spain, hurtling us as speeds reaching 300 kilometers an hour through Andalusia and its neighboring Castilla-La Mancha region to Madrid.

DSCF1908In stark contrast to Osuna, Malaga’s train station is an enormous – think international airport size – modern facility.


DSCF1911The trains are equally as modern . . .and large; very large. Renfe is the national train service that runs most of Spain’s trains.



 
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We walked past the engine pictured above to get to our car, half way down the length of the train. Note how far behind me the train stretches back to this engine.

The cost of our two AVE (the high speed train) tickets, which we purchased before leaving home and printed out on our computer (Malaga to Barcelona), was 316-euro, or $433US.

We would  have paid less to fly; it would certainly have been faster, but for us, the trip is as much about the journey as the destination and had we flown we would have missed scenes such as these:


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One of Spain’s “White Towns” – loved the castle on the hill to the left.

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Spectacular vistas stretched for miles in every direction. . .

DSCF1933At Madrid’s Atocha Station we connected with the train that would  take us to our final destination, Barcelona, on the northeast coast.

Again we had a slide show of Catalonian towns through the power lines that often line the tracks. 

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Trains are a ticket to adventure for us. Got any suggestions for our next train trip?

Today is Travel Photo Thursday so be sure to visit, Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos and destination temptations.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Romance of Travel. . .

It’s February 14th, Valentine’s Day; a perfect time to immerse ourselves in the romance of travel. Romance, both in the cupid-arrow type, and that defined by Webster’s as an ‘emotional attraction or aura belonging to . . .adventure’.

Traveling down memory lane, these are some of our favorite travel romance destinations:

France Vegas Mike G. 2009 0181. Paris, France

It is not a clichĂ© – this is a romantic city. We don’t have any one spot to recommend, but I can tell you that strolling along  the Seine is romantic.

2. Cape Panwa House, Phuket Island, Thailand.

The Cape Panwa House restaurant is where I’d go for a romantic Valentine’s dinner.  This Sino-Portuguese mansion  made such an impression on us 30 years ago that I checked the Internet and was delighted to see it is still offers diners the exotic - and romantic setting - we so fondly recall.

DSCF05863.  Stehekin, head of Lake Chelan, Washington State.

The only way into Stehekin is by boat, float plane or on foot. This remote  hamlet at the head of the 55-mile-long glacier- fed Lake Chelan is the perfect place to picnic with  bread, wine and cheese. (Buy a couple bottles of wine at any of the two dozen wineries in Chelan and don’t forget the picnic blanket.)

4. San Sebastian del Oeste, Mexico

Back when we owned vacation homes outside Puerto Vallarta, we’d break up our working trips with a getaway to the towns  tucked high above us in the nearby Sierra Madres. 

One of our favorite places was the old silver mining town of San Sebastian del Oeste, and our favorite place to stay was in one of the very rustic rooms at Hacienda Jalisco, just outside town.  Back then it was run by a lovable character, Bud Accord.  We’ve not been back to Mexico for several years and San Sebastian now has several accommodation and dining options, a web site and Facebook page! We can tell you there was no better place for star gazing than from our deck at the Hacienda – it felt as if we’d landed in the middle of the Milky Way.

DSCF06775. Palace Hotel. Madrid, Spain

Our vote goes to the lobby bar at the Palace Hotel for the most romantic spot to sip a cava, the Spanish equivalent to champagne.  The dignified, library-like setting is perfect for settling into its comfy chairs and couches and getting lost in its old-world flair. . .or for watching other romantics.

6.  Le Sorelle Restaurant, Rome, Italy

On our last night in Rome a  few years ago we happened upon this small restaurant owned by two sisters (sorelle is sister in Italian) not far from the Spanish Steps at Via Bellsiana, 30. 
The food, wine, atmosphere and the sisters’ warm welcome, made us vow to return any time we found ourselves in this magnificent city.  We’ve manage to keep our pledge – twice. Once when the food was as good as we remembered it being and once when our single-night stay fell on the night they were closed – we were thoroughly disappointed!

0006100-R2-033-157.  On deck a Greek ferry sailing the Aegean or Ionian Seas.

Despite the current economic woes and related unrest in Greece,  we can hardly wait to return to its magical islands. Anyone who loves the romance of travel would find a trip on one of Greece’s cruise-ship-sized ferries to be a magical experience.. .no matter which island you were heading toward.


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8. Washington State ferries from Seattle, Washington

We can’t overlook our own backyard, so must make note of the ferries that ply the waters of Puget Sound providing great views of Seattle and wonderful trips to the San Juan Island port cities and as far as Vancouver Island, British Columbia

If you are not into ferries, take a trip up Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair Space Needle that continues, 50 years later, to be the Emerald City’s icon.  On a clear day (and we do have them sometimes) you can take a 360-degree tour of Puget Sound by walking the outside deck or dining in the restaurant.

DSCF01089.  Ko Olina, O’ahu, Hawaii.

Ko Olina in Hawaiian means ‘place of joy’ and it has been that for us since we began our annual visits there five years ago.  Bird song at sunrise and sunset, swaying palms, gentle ocean waves, lagoons with tropical fish that find you as interesting as you do them, those incredible sea turtles, honus, in Hawaiian. . .ah, yes, a most romantic place.



10.  This one is yours.  What romantic destination – past, present or future - are you thinking of today?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TP Thursday: Aloha Hawaii ~

Hula Babe and Beach Boy (our noms de blog while in this Pacific Paradise) are saying a fond Aloha to the island of O’ahu on this Travel Photo Thursday . . .we are Pacific Northwest bound today~

For a month, I can say quite honestly, 'Life's been a Beach' for us. We've basked in the gifts of tranquil tropical days and nights that arrived wrapped in aloha spirit. It's been the kind of trip where we lived in the moment, not for the moment.  But as with all travel there comes a time when the moments become memories.  Some of our favorite moments turned memories are:

Walks on the beach. . .

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revisiting our old friends like, honu,

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and in spending time as any Hula Babe and Beach Boy might. . .

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Aloha . . . I'll tell you more about our Hawaiian adventures in future posts, but for now, it is time to start packing.

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It is Travel Photo Thursday so be sure to head to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos from travel bloggers around the world.  (Click the photos above to enlarge them).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

On the beach with Frances Mayes

‘The journey itself is home’  Frances said, quoting the 17th Century Japanese poet and haiku master, Matsuo Basho.

Actually, Basho’s full quote was, “Each day is a journey and the journey itself is home” -- the first entry of his masterpiece, “Narrow Road to a Far Provence.”

hawaii2012 013 Long or short version -  it works for me. It’s the perfect response to those who say, ‘You are never home anymore.’ 

‘No, The journey itself is home,’ I will answer from now on.

Frances Mayes, the author who introduced the world to Tuscany and its sun, has been a friend and mentor of mine for nearly 20 years:

We both embarked on adventures of home ownership on foreign soil two decades ago. She and her husband, Ed, in Tuscany and Joel and I in Mexico.We had similar adventures along the way – she just had the good sense to write about them and make money – I didn’t.
She and Ed now spend a great deal of time at their homes in Cortona, Italy. Joel and I sold ours in Bucerias, Mexico several years ago.

I should mention Frances and I have never met; probably never will.  But I’ve read and re-read her books so many times that I feel as though we are long-time friends. She’s definitely a mentor.

Before traveling in Europe, I always grab my, now dog-eared, copy of “A Year in the World to see if Frances spent time in any of our intended destinations and if so, what tips she has for me.  She is the one who introduced me to Spanish poet, Lorca, and inspired my search for his ‘duende’, that elusive earth spirit of Andalucia on our recent travels there.

***

I’ve been reading her, Every Day in Tuscany, Seasons of Italian Life during my lazy afternoons on the beach.  It’s a touching look at  her experiences and life’s lessons learned since she lost her heart to Tuscany.

hawaii2012 017 When I selected her to join me on our Hawaiian holiday, I didn’t realize that my friend Frances would be mentoring me again.

This trip, while providing us post-card perfect  idyllic tropical days has also found us being jolted –  far too many times – with disquieting news about friends. . . a colleague’s death, . . .a friend’s cancer diagnosis. . .another facing surgery. . .with frightening regularity the negative news has arrived.

Is it a sign of our age or could the moon and stars simply be out of alignment?  

We think about our friends. We think about us. How many years ahead will we be able to consider our days as journeys and the journeys home?  Life, like travel itself, is an experience in which we must anticipate the unexpected – but must it be bad?

So having pondering repeatedly those and related questions at seaside, I returned to Frances and as if on cue, she was also pondering similar questions and observed: 

“Life’s little wake-up calls. (Do they have to be so numerous?) Scroll down the list and start to wail – or shout out Carpe diem.”

hawaii2012 036 Carpe diem, seize the day! Once again Frances has given me a phrase. . .one I’ve been repeating all week. 

We must seize the day –  yes, we will plan for next year’s return. . .in fact, we’ve been invited to dance with the the Honolulu Lions I wrote about earlier this week and who in their right mind would want to miss that. . .right? The reservations at Ko Olina, our Pacific paradise home are confirmed. We plan to be here under the Hawaiian sun. . .just as Frances will be under her Tuscan sun.

Carpe diem. . .seize the day.  . .each day is a journey and the journey itself is home.

How have you seized your day? Is your journey itself a home?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

TP Thursday: When the Lions Dance

The belief is that when the lions dance they bring good luck, prosperity and happiness to every joyous occasion. And such was the case when the lions danced at Ko Olina to celebrate the arrival of Chinese New Year.

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Some of you may know that this is The Year of the Dragon –  he didn’t make it out to dance because he’s some 80-feet long and requires some 27 adults to bring him to life. 

hawaii2012 067 We were quite happy having a foursome of Lions come to life, thanks to the youth and adults who make up the Hawaiian Lion Dance Association.

Most of the dancers and musicians were young people being guided by adults, a refreshing demonstration of what wonderful things can happen when elders pass traditions on to the next generation. 

Those of us who attended the dance presentation learned much about Chinese Culture and the role of the dance within it. . .culture and tradition, celebration and happiness – the new year was off to a great start.




With the beat of the drum. . .

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The lions danced . . .

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And then they rested. . .until the drum beat again brings them to life.

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It is again Travel Photo Thursday, so be sure to visit Budget Travelers Sandbox, creator of this weekly event.

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