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). . . 
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:

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:


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.]

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, 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. 

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’.

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.

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!

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!”

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Something to Crow About: Kauai’s Birds of Paradise

KauiSm2014 008It was easy to be captivated by the beautiful birds that unknowingly entertained us during our time this fall on Hawaii’s island of Kaua’i.

This twosome clucked and cooed sweet nothings to each other early each morning, oblivious to the two of us sitting below them sipping coffee and watching the sun wake the day during our time in Princeville on Kauai’s North Shore.

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Morning love songs - Princeville, Kaua'i
Birds of paradise – just the phrase evokes images of cooing doves and graceful tropical creatures, like the swan that glided past our Poipu condo with regularity – undisturbed by the camera-toting visitors, like me.

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But, wait! These aren’t the ‘real’ birds of paradise on this island!

The real birds of this paradise – the one’s that give the island something to crow about -- are the hundreds of roosters, hens and chicks that freely roam the streets, sidewalks, parks, and public areas from restaurants to rental car lots.

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This fellow was patrolling the parking lot at a scenic overlook. . .

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And this one was ducking rain drops at the end of the road on the North Shore’s, Ha’ena Beach Park, in much the same manner we tourists were scurrying to find shelter from the often intense rain squalls there.

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But the funniest by far were the resident trio of mischief makers (pictured above) at the Marriott Waiohai in Poipu.  One morning while I was on our fourth floor deck, the normally quiet surroundings came to life with a commotion below me.

A guest in the ground floor unit just below us -- a grown man -- was shooing this Fowl Flock from his patio by doing what one might call a chicken dance -- hopping about while flapping his bended arms.  It worked for a minute or two then they chicken danced right back to him.  It went on for a few minutes .
(I was so busy laughing I didn’t think to get the camera).

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Chicken Marketing in Kaua'i
What Came First – the Chicken or the Egg?

One might ask from where the multitudes of these strutting troubadours came.  Historians can’t put all their eggs in one basket so I found two answers: the Polynesians who discovered the islands centuries ago brought chickens with them and they’ve been here since then. Some say the large numbers of Feral Fowl can be blamed on 1992’s Hurricane ‘Iniki that blasted the island with 145 mph winds (gusts of 165 mph) and scattered domestically raised poultry far and wide. 

PicMonkey Collage

Whatever the origin, they are a permanent part of the population now.  Souvenirs with roosters are everywhere from tee-shirts to home-décor, notepads to Christmas tree ornaments!  The tourism folks really do have something to crow about!!

Post Script: Your thoughts on Columbus Day

HAL 2009 cruise photos 051I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank those of you who responded to last week’s post about celebrating Columbus Day. 
The responses to that post are examples of what blogging should be – a thoughtful exchange of ideas and opinions from across the globe.

Too often we bloggers get caught up in a quest of statistics – the more ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ the better. This post and its responses reminded me why blogging should be a richer experience than that. For that, I thank you! (Click here to access it and the comments.)

As a result of that post, one of our blogger buddies, currently residing in Fiji, shared a link to a post written by Jose Alejandro Amores, a professor at Grand Valley State University who wrote an insightful piece with a headline that begins, “We are all Columbus. . .”   I’d encourage you to take a moment to read it.

Hope to see you back again next week ~ until then, 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

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Celebrating Christopher Columbus on His Day!

If you live in the Americas, will you be celebrating or condemning Columbus Day?  It seems there are two ways of looking at that voyager who back in 1492 crossed the ocean blue!
In the United States, October 12th (and now the second Monday of October) is known as Columbus Day, a federal holiday since 1937. It was celebrated unofficially by a number of cities and states far earlier than that – some dating back to the 18th century.
I would like to think that all travelers will be giving a nod of thanks to the courage of that daring 15th century explorer who has been credited throughout history with discovering the New World.

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Christopher Columbus statue - Lisbon, Portugal
However, despite his voyage and discovery – or maybe as result of it – there are those who won’t be celebrating his arrival in the present-day Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492 for reasons best explained by

“There are three main sources of controversy involving Columbus’s interactions with the indigenous people he labeled “Indians”: the use of violence and slavery, the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity, and the introduction of a host of new diseases that would have dramatic long-term effects on native people in the Americas.”

(Those indigenous people did introduce Columbus – and thus, the Old World -- to tobacco. In fact they gave him some of the dried leaves as a welcome, and he later learned from them how to smoke it, so in some ways maybe they got some revenge early on.)

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Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492
So now, more than 500 years later, controversy surrounds the celebration of Columbus Day in some places on the globe. . .prompted by a focus is on the treatment of the indigenous people – not the voyage of discovery.

In reality, it would be difficult to find a ‘hero’  in history who didn’t have some character or behavioral flaws shadowing their lauded contributions, wouldn’t it?  We can name several and I suspect you can as well. People aren’t perfect, plain and simple!

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Replica of one of Columbus's ships - Funchal, Madeira
The fact remains that the Italian-born Christopher Columbus had the guts to believe in himself and was able to get the Spanish king and queen to back the expedition of the trio of tiny ships (not much larger than present-day cruise ship life boats) in his attempt to find a western route to China – in 1492!

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Navigation in 1492 on left; present-day cruise ship bridge

We probably took Columbus and his courage for granted until the first time we took a repositioning cruise across that wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean a few years ago. We followed  a route similar to that of the early day sailor.

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Crossing the Atlantic - only sea and sky and our ship

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the earth’s four oceans.
Its surface area is about 31,660 sq. miles (82 million sq. kilometers).
It has an an average depth of 12,881 feet (3926 meters). Its deepest point is the 
Puerto Rico Trench with a depth of 28,681 feet (8742 meters).

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Leaving Fort Lauderdale to cross the Atlantic
We’ve now crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times –  each time in large, modern cruise ships with the latest medical facilities, on-board communication and navigation equipment.  As we’ve sailed from Florida’s Fort Lauderdale, the logical side of our brains ‘know’ we will be safe.

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On the Atlantic Ocean 
Yet . .we pause as we pass that last  tip of land knowing we will see nothing but water and sky  – no birds, no ships for at least six days . . . I can’t imagine being in those tiny wooden ships that took two months to cross the Atlantic and not knowing when I would see land again.

Celebrating the Explorers

Unlike on this side of the Atlantic, we’ve seen tributes – towering statues and monuments -- to Columbus and his fellow early day explorers throughout Europe;  Lisbon, Madeira, Cadiz, Seville, Barcelona, just to name a few. The enormous tribute below, the Monument to the Discoveries (Padrao dos Descobrimentos) on the approach to Lisbon, Portugal honors Henry the Navigator.

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Monument to the Discoveries - Lisbon, Portugal

Post Script:
If you’ve stayed with me this long, and you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, and here’s why:

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Seattle Space Needle
The Seattle City Council took action this week declaring the second Monday in October (aka Columbus Day), Indigenous People’s Day. In taking the action, Seattle has joined a few other city’s who’ve shifted the day’s focus.

A Seattle council member was quoted as saying, (Columbus) “played such a pivotal role in the worst genocide humankind has ever known.”

What put the bee in my bonnet was the singular focus; the condemnation of a portion of his actions without recognition of the exploration, the discovery – not even by the media who covered the council's deliberations.

I believe all historic events are most accurately told by more than one story -  if we don’t tell them all, our true history will be lost.

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Native American Totem Pole - Seattle
The Seattle council’s action brought cheers from local Native Americans while Italian Americans were insulted by it.

In reality, Washington State doesn’t recognize Columbus Day (meaning it isn’t a day off work for most).

Indigenous People’s Day is much the same; no time off, just a holiday in name only. 

Without a day off work, the day -- by either name -- will likely go unnoticed by most living  in the “New World”.

I suspect that if my maternal grandparents, who at the turn of the 20th century escaped to the “New World” from the Russian hell-hole in which they lived, were still alive, they’d be celebrating the day set aside to honor the guy credited with discovering it.

Perhaps in that sense, we all should be celebrating those early discoverers.

Linking today:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Weekend Travel Inspiration - Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Travel Photo Monday - Travel Photo Discovery

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Seattle Seahawks and Other Travel News . . .

What do those Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawk’s have to do with travel?
Well, plenty in the Pacific Northwest!

And as the football season gets underway, several Seattle hotels are paying tribute to the "12th Man" as the fans are known, by offering some interesting packages. Take Seattle’s Kimpton Hotels (Alexis, Hotel Monaco and Hotel Vintage), for example:

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Each of the three Kimpton hotels is offering the ‘12th Man’ Package (Thursday – Sunday on home game weekends) which includes:

· Accommodations
· Poster making bar in the lobby for game days
· Upgrade (based on availability) for guests who wear a 12th Man jersey upon check-in
· In-room gold fish named for Seahawk player (i.e. Russell Gilson, Richard Merman, etc)
Remember to use the rate code 12MAN when making reservations:

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More Travel Tidbits from this week’s headlines

Web based travel companies are coming under scrutiny in various metropolitan areas, among them:

Boston, Mass., USA:  The City Council is considering restrictions on ride-sharing services like Sidecar, Lyft and Uber and lodging websites like Airbnb, HomeAway and Flipkey. reports  The Associated Press

Austin, Texas, USA:  has set up a licensing system with an annual fee and limits on the number of units in a building – or houses in a residential neighborhood – that can be rented at a given time. – reports The Associated Press.

Portland, Oregon, USA – allows single-family homeowners – but not apartment and condo owners – to offer short-term rentals as long as they notify neighbors and complete a safety inspection. –  reports The Associated Press

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London’s Gatwick Airport, England  British Airways has added three new routes from Gatwick airport to its 2015 schedule:  Seville (Spain), Funchal (Madeira) and Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) will be introduced from March 2015.  They join the new routes  for next year from previously announced:  Cagliari (Sardinia), Heraklion (Crete), Rhodes (Greece) and Bodrum and Dalaman (Turkey).

Also beginning in December are the new winter sun and ski destinations of Fuerteventura (Caneries), Friedrichshafen (Germany) and Grenoble (Switzerland). reports BTN, The Business Travel News

 English football fans take note:

London, England:  Coming soon: The Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium – 99 Sir Matt Busby Way, a location that is recognized by sports fans all over the world will open as  Hotel Football on Dec. 8, 2014. Behind the project are former Man U teammates, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, all members of what is known as “the class of ‘92”, are also involved.
The 133-room hotel will offer the ultimate match day experience, as well as being home to The Old Trafford Supporters Club.” –  reports BTN, The Business Travel News

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That’s it for now ~ happy travels to you! Hope to see you back here soon and do bring some friends and family with you!  If you’ve not yet signed up to receive posts in your inbox, do so by using the box to the right on our home page. 

And if you liked these news tidbits let us know and we will keep them coming ~


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