Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Taste of the World

A certain number of people have only one question when we announce an upcoming far-distant destination:

 “But, what will you eat there?”

Following any trip, the question is usually, “But, was the food . . .good?”

Today, with 2013 only days from being history, I am serving up a helping of some of the mouth-watering foods that have given us a taste of the world in which we’ve traveled during its run.

Some of our happiest travel memories are those that involve food, like that time in:

Honolulu, Hawaii. . .

. . .where their traditional and inexpensive ‘plate lunch’ (total cost for the meal below about $20 US). This meal, served in a Styrofoam box is one of our favorite local eats.  Using our laps for a table we dined on Katsu chicken sitting on a bed of steamed rice and veggies (that's a bit of pork to the left), as we sat on our Waikiki Beach facing hotel room balcony last January.

OahuKolina2013 032

The View with our Hawaiian plate lunch:

OahuKolina2013 011

Chora Sfakia, southern coast of Crete, Greece:

Sfakian pie”  is one of the specialty menu items at Delfini’s Restaurant.  It is made at the time of ordering so that anticipation builds during that 20 minute wait for the fragrant pie stuffed with lamb and four Cretan cheeses to arrive at the table.  We ordered it with a side of “Horta” – those wild greens that grow on the rough and tumble hillsides surrounding the town and look much like spinach – but taste better! 

This may well be one of our favorite meals on earth! Confession: my mouth waters each time I look at these photos. (Cost: our three-course meal, including the pie,was about $22US total including wine.)

PicMonkey Collage

The View of Chora Sfakia’s waterfront that we had while we ate Sfakian Pie:

Sfakia2Amster2013 007

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Stamppot, a Dutch favorite (and one of ours as well)  is made of mashed potatoes, mixed with vegetable (carrots in the photo below) and served with rookworst, a smoked sausage and a 'pond' of gravy tops the potato mound. We could have eaten ourselves silly at every meal during our three-night stay en route from Greece to Seattle. (It’s a good thing we walked ourselves silly each day to counter those calories!)

Amsterdam2013 063

The setting:  While we didn’t have a 'view table' at this little pub across from our hotel, what made this meal memorable was that table full of people in this photo because it turned out they were a touring musical group and they broke into song and entertained us all!

Amsterdam2013 065

Russell township, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

The steaming hot Seafood Chowder with local fresh fish, bacon and shellfish came flowing over the sides of its compact cob loaf at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel – a place that began in 1827 as a grog shop – on the waterfront in picture-perfect Russell.

While we both exclaimed there was ‘too much to eat’ we barely managed to leave a polite tidbit of bread in our bowls. And, we used the occasion to taste two different Sauvignon Blanc wines, the white for which New Zealand is famous. (Cost: $56AUS, about $45US)


The setting: was the amazing patio in front of this historic hotel that overlooked the harbor and fronted the small main street that catered to pedestrians and an occasional car or two. (Russell will soon be featured in a post on TravelnWrite.)


A Sample of Southwestern United States: Las Vegas and Scottsdale
Gluttony – pure and simple!  I am almost ashamed to show you some of the food we ate while traveling in Nevada and Arizona this year. Let’s just say, I understand why my cholesterol count was off the chart a few weeks ago and why my doctor suggested 'continued attention to exercise and low fat foods'. . . (ahem, I hope she misses this post!)

Okay, so it was my July birthday. . .remember, 60, the Big One? I believed that a little self-indulgence was in order at Mon Ami Gaby Restaurant on Las Vegas Blvd. ~ and who can say 'no' to a birthday treat from the restaurant, right?

Vegas60Seattle 066

The View: was equally as delightful. . .we sat on the patio under ‘the Eiffel Tower’.

Vegas60Seattle 069

I’ll conclude this food fest retrospective with our November visit to Scottsdale, where we ate twice at the Four Season’s Proof American Canteen. We finally gave in on our last visit and each ordered – and ate – their  Best Burger - Vermont Cheddar, Smoked Ketchup Mayo, Bourbon Molasses Onions, Deep Fried Bacon.  Okay, it tasted as good and was as unhealthy as it looks BUT we didn’t order the optional fried egg on top and ate Cole slaw instead of French Fries. . .that must count for something. . .

ScottsdaleNov2013 009

The Setting at the foot of Pinnacle Peak (pictured below) couldn’t be beat!

We found plenty of good eats in 2013scottsdalenov2013 014 and the meals flavored our travels with great memories.

Today we raise our glasses to each of you in a toast of “Thanks!” as our travels in 2013 come to an end:

Thanks for the time you’ve spent sharing our close-to-home and far-distant adventures.  Hopefully our tips were useful and tales entertaining. The Scout and The Scribe recognize that time is a valuable commodity these days and we can't thank you enough for sharing a bit of yours with us.

We look forward to having you join us again in 2014 because there’s a lot of world out there to savor and we hope to have a big helping of it. . .maybe even seconds and some desert as well!

Our thanks and best wishes for a Happy New Year and Happy Travels  ~  Jackie and Joel

We are linking up at:
Noel Morata’s Monday Travel Photo Discovery
Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Traveling the Road Not. . ., well. . ., less Taken in 2013

Pelop2013 020I’ve chosen to put a new twist on Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, as we reflect on our travels this last year.

Sadly, with limited amounts of time we will always have roads not taken, but we’ve also had some great travel by choosing roads, less taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

O’ahu, Hawaii – January – February

KoOlina2013 017

KoOlina2013 013If you drive west from Honolulu, past the town of Kapolei, past Ko Olina, a planned unit development, past Waipahu town, you come to the end of the road, where waves crash against the shore and the real beauty of O’ahu is found at every turn. . .even on days when clouds cloak the Waianae Mountains.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

Greece – Mani, Peloponnese – April

Pelop2013 023

Pelop2013 019We set out in our rented car from Nafplio, Greece to explore a section of the Peloponnese – a taster sized sample of a rugged, but beautiful part of this country with which we are so taken. Often times we found ourselves alone for hours on a narrow roadway that looped up and down, over and around the stunning countryside. (GPS hasn’t discovered this part of the world yet.)

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia – September

VancouverIs2013 048

VancouverIs2013 072The narrow roadway that cuts across Vancouver Island, British Columbia was a new route for us and one that cut through magnificent old growth forests leading us to Tofino, the small fishing (and tourist) village at the end of the road.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Mo’orea – French Polynesia – South Pacific – November


DSCF1299Never ones to favor those group tours organized by cruise ships, we prefer to set out on our own.

Lucky for us, Avis had an ‘office’ at the dock when we arrived in Mo’orea!  And some of the sights we saw were simply amazing to our American-safety-first way of thinking.

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday! Drop by Budget Travelers Sandbox where we are linking up today for some more armchair travel!

Our wishes to each of you for a Happy New Year – full of travel whether it be by car, bike, ship, plane or armchair.  And try putting away that GPS once or twice and set out on the road less traveled. We recommend it!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

‘Twas the Time Before Christmas

GreecePt12013 001It’s that time of year when suitcases sit empty at the TravelnWrite House

The flurry of pre-travel packing and departure preparation has been replaced by Christmas preparations for a stay-at-home holiday.

But there was a time in our early years together when my work – and its Scrooge-like amount of vacation time -forced us to travel at Christmas (one week of current year’s vacation coupled with one week of the next, made for a blessed two week getaway without zapping my entire year’s 10 vacation days).

So Christmas time was always spent in some far away place;  thousands of miles from family and friends. . . And you know what?

It was a great time to travel!

SanAntChristmas2013 005

We were surrounded by knock-out holiday decorations the filled the hotels (much more elaborate than we’d have done at home), we ate Christmas dinners and goodies that we didn’t have to prepare (whew!) and we had time to enjoy the season, our surroundings and our time together . . .

SanAntChristmas2013 003

This year we had a taste of those old Christmas travel memories when we began the month of December by spending a few days at the JW Marriott in Texas Hill Country, outside San Antonio. The photos in the post were taken there.

SanAntChristmas2013 031

I was among some 1,200 conference attendees and outside each conference room a festive tree and poinsettias made it clear the Holiday Season was upon us.

SanAntChristmas2013 030

Amazing what a couple of Poinsettias will do to enhance everyday décor.


And a gingerbread display filled the hotel foyer with cowboy boots as big as the State of Texas!

SanAntChristmas2013 004

The decorations that filled the grounds and the building provided a chuckwagon-sized helping of Christmas Cheer and guests couldn’t help but be caught up in the festive feel of the season.

We hope this Christmas Season you will be caught up in festive surroundings 
and that your hearts will be filled with Christmas Cheer!

SanAntChristmas2013 038

We thank you for the time you spent with us today during this busy season ~
hope to see you back again soon! As our greeting card says this year, 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

South Pacific ~ Some Enchanted Evening

“I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. . .


The infinite specks of coral we called islands. . .


Coconut palms waving gracefully toward the ocean. . .


Reefs upon which waves broke into a spray and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description.. . ."


The words above are from the opening scene of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, South Pacific. I couldn’t have found a better description of sights we saw during our cruise on the Celebrity Solstice in October.

DSCF1646And there was no better way to end the cruise than by attending a performance of the musical at the iconic Sydney Opera House!

So please join us as we re-live our ‘Enchanted Evening’. . .

The Opera House’s 40th Birthday celebration was underway while we were in town -- gala musical performances, fireworks and special activities that filled both days and evenings – and it was the last week’s run of “South Pacific”.


The musical, an adaptation of James Mitchener’s Tales of the South Pacific, was first performed on New York City’s Broadway back in 1949. This,on-the-surface lighthearted song and dance tale of romance, has also been described as a 'strong progressive message on racism'. The story is of an American nurse stationed in the South Pacific who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner and who struggles to accept his mixed race children. A secondary story line focuses on a U.S. Lieutenant who falls in love with a Tonkinese woman but who fears the social consequences if he should marry his Asian sweetheart.


Theater-goers flocked to the Opera Bar that stretches along Circular Quay to enjoy a libation on the way to the Opera House – it is ‘the’ thing to do, we were told. We opted to have our drink inside so that we could enjoy the ambiance of this whimsical building and watch the departing cruise ships – so close it felt as if we could touch them.


I took only a couple of photos—all without flash, thus the slight blur -- inside the theater; this one during intermission.


And this one of the stage as we entered the theater:


The performance was by the cast and crew of the Lincoln Center Production, winner of seven Tony Awards, and it is continuing to be performed in other cities in Australia this fall but I doubt if any production could be half as enchanting as the one performed at the Sydney Opera House.

Let me end by providing you a sample of the evening, just click the following link. . .be forewarned you’ll be humming and smiling for the rest of the day!


We are linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox and The Tablescraper – check out the other armchair trips there today.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesday: More Money Saving Tips

Saving Money tips from you:

VegasAppleCup2013 028I promised I’d share reader responses to our 'hitting the travel jackpot' post about getting  more travel and spending less money on our recent trip to Scottsdale, Arizona  by going via Las Vegas, Nevada:

Mark in Florida sent a tip about ways to save on rental cars:

“We find it is almost always cheaper to rent cars a couple miles from the airport . . . especially if your hotel has a free shuttle and Enterprise (car rental) picks you up.”

Paula in Washington State sent a tip for finding luxury and saving money on the Oregon Coast:

“We were visiting our daughter down in Coos Bay (on the Oregon coast) last month and stayed at the Mill Casino Hotel. I fell in love with the hotel with it's ‘. . . stunning waterfront views of Coos Bay in . . . Northwest-inspired décor. . .’ It's actually right on the Bay and you can step outside to find all kinds of wildlife.  We found an internet special of $89 a night for a 4-star room.”

KOandSeattle 041Credit Card Benefits Are No Joke!
In that same jackpot post I told you we’d applied for two additional Alaska Airlines credit cards at the encouragement of the ‘sign up man’ working the waiting area in the Las Vegas airport. 

Our new cards arrived last week, the signing bonus 25,000 air miles (good for a domestic round-trip) has been deposited to each of our mileage accounts and we each have a $99 companion ticket in our account – just waiting to be used sometime in the next 12 months. When added to our existing cards, we'll have four 'cheap' trips a year.

Alaska Air, once a regional airline now flies to destinations throughout the entire U.S from the East Coast to Hawaii. Alaska credit cards are available to U.S. and Canadian residents.

Other good news for Alaska Airlines frequent fliers is that the airline just announced they are allowing miles flown on an increasing number of their partner airlines to count toward Alaska elite flyer status. 

Pacific Northwest Deals:
VancouverIs2013 067

Canada: The Wickaninnish Inn, that high-end place on Vancouver Island’s West Coast (they offered us rooms for $420 or $460 per night last September when we stopped and didn’t stay), has a spring get-away special:  book a minimum three-night getaway at the Inn from January 24th through April 30th, 2013, and save $100/night from their regular room rates.   Available for new reservations on select dates and room types. Call 1-800-333-4604 or email

Seattle: Mayflower Park Hotel

Summer2013 031 The historic Mayflower Park Hotel, built in 1927, and located in the heart of the city, next to Westlake Center has a Holiday Traditions Package with weekday prices (Sun, – Thurs.) starting at $139 for a Classic guestroom; $159 Deluxe and $199 Suites. Weekend rates (Friday and Saturday) start at $179 for a Classic, $199 Deluxe and $239 Suites. Good through December 30, 2013. Reservations: 206-382-6990, 800-426-5100 or e-mail at  Keep in mind: rates are based on a space available basis and do not include tax.

That’s it for now. . .stop by on Thursday for our weekly photo tour link up!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sydney, Australia: A taste of Watsons Bay

One of our favorite things to do each of the six days we stayed at Sydney’s Circular Quay was to hop one of those fantastic ferries headquartered there and head out to explore other small hamlets that dotted the coastline.
Sydney, Australia's Circular Quay

Watsons Bay, a suburb of Sydney, just 11 miles away, was our Sunday lunch destination because a few months ago we’d read a murder mystery novel, The Bat, by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo. One of its scenes was set in Doyles, a restaurant operated since 1885 on Watsons Bay beach. It sounded worth a visit if we had the opportunity during our stay.

[Travel Tip: We have visited some interesting places in our travels and many of them we’ve learned about by reading novels set in those destinations. We follow up with a bit of research before the trip and then figure out how to include them in the itinerary. We don’t rely solely on travel guides.]


Our decision to go there, however, on that Sunday was rather spur of the moment. After arriving at the restaurant, we realized that we were lucky to get in to this in this beachfront, family-owned and operated (for five generations) eatery even though it has expansive indoor and outdoor seating areas.  

Doyles was one happening spot on Sunday

It seemed most of the passengers on the ferry were headed to the same place that we were – Doyles is ‘the place’ to go on a Sunday, not just for tourists like ourselves but for Sydney-ites as well. Those in the know were able to go straight to the ‘with reservations’ line whle we joined a short line of others in the ‘without’ line.

We each ordered a bowl of their seafood chowder and we knew we were in for a treat when the waiter came and set up the tools for each of us to use when consuming it. “We put seafood in our chowder. You will need to eat it,” he explained.


Soon after, he brought the bottled water we’d ordered as well as a finger bowl with lemon-scented water in which to rinse our fingers as we ate our chowder and another large bowl for the emptied shells. These were bowls – not dainty dishes.


The bowl of chowder at $18.50AUD,(then about the same in US$$) was not inexpensive, although it was one of the least expensive items on the menu. But, was indeed full of seafood including mussels, lobster, scallops, shrimp and crab.


The small loaf of sour dough bread (pictured below) that came as a side, and cost an additional $7.50AUD.


It was a delicious and filling lunch in a beautiful setting ( from some areas of the restaurant you could see the Sydney skyline off in the distance – tables in those areas had been reserved, by the way).

So we agreed that while paying $44.50 was more than we would normally pay for an alcohol-free lunch, it had been worth it.  You can image our surprise when the bill arrived at the table and we found that an additional $5 per person had been added as the ‘adult weekend surcharge’ bringing our bill to $54.50. 

Hmmm. . .that ‘ding’ left just a bit of a bitter aftertaste. Have you ever paid a restaurant 'weekend surcharge?

If You Go:

Ferries regularly depart Sydney’s Circular Quay for Watsons Bay. It is also accessible by water taxi or bus.

Map picture
Doyles Restaurant is located at:
11 Marine Parade, Watsons Bay, Sydney
phone: (02) 9337 2007 Web:  
Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, closed Christmas Day.

The restaurant’s website offers a link to Alice Doyles’ recipes; recipes like:

 Do Drop in Salmon Spread
Fry sliced onions gently in a little butter until soft, mix in sugar.
Drain salmon, reserving liquid in case needed. Mash salmon, add onions and all other ingredients together. Make the spread very moist -if it seems too dry, add some of the juice from the salmon.
Serve with potato crisps or savoury biscuits. Makes about 2 1/2 cups
  • 2 large brown onions, fine sliced
  • butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large can red salmon
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • pinch basil
  • few drops Tabasco
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
We’ll be adding this post to the Foodie Tuesday linkup over at Inside Journeys, so head that direction then and be sure to come back here for Travel Tip Tuesday when we have more money saving updates for you!.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...