Showing posts with label Las Vegas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Las Vegas. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A First Class Start to 2014

We quite literally had a first class start to the New Year when Alaska Airlines upgraded us from coach to those big cushy seats in the front of the 737 on our Jan. 1st flight to Las Vegas from Seattle.

It’s the section of the plane where the real cups of coffee are constantly refilled  and real food is served on real plates.

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A real surprise.
A real treat.
A real reminder of why airline loyalty programs are still worth joining. (If you missed our article on other benefits a few weeks ago, click here.)

[Travel Tip:  The Scout had booked this trip an air/accommodation package on  The airfare was less than $200 per person round-trip, including taxes and fees.]

Vegas2014 046Our return from Vegas brought us back to reality – paper cups, one serving of coffee, and a package of nuts – ahh, but the memory remains of that New Year's Day  flight.

The unexpected upgrade was one of those ‘little things’ that are long remembered after a trip ends.

Sometimes those ‘little things’ fall into the ‘sad-but-true’ category, like this memory of Vdara, the hotel where we stayed as part of the package.

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Vdara, is a condo/hotel, a part of the recently completed City Center development. To get your bearings, that small tower in the photo above is a side view of Bellagio, home of The Strip’s famous fountains.

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Our room was a Vdara Suite, one of the smaller ones but at 810 sq. ft. plenty spacious for us and we had a killer view of the fountains next door.

[Travel Tip: We saved a tremendous amount eating breakfast and lunch ‘at home’ in the room. Had we needed them, it also was equipped with a washer and dryer.]

The kitchen (similar to the tale I wrote about The Cosmopolitan Hotel) was empty except here there was a coffee pot. (A make- or break-a-place item in my mind.)  However, with a single call housekeeping arrived bearing plates, bowls, flatware, cookware and utensils.  When I had called in advance to inquire about the kitchen I was told that in the beginning the kitchens were fully stocked but because so many items had ‘walked away’ with guests, they had to institute an inventory control system. 

[Travel Tip: The cost of our suite was just under $150 including taxes and booking fees; the resort levied a $28 additional resort fee per day for internet, telephone, use of the exercise facility and daily newspaper.]

We had daily maid service that couldn’t be faulted. . .and then on the third morning I thought the maid had forgotten to leave the wash (face) cloths in the bathroom.  We’d had had three – shower, sink and tub – each day.   I stopped her in the hallway and asked for one.  “Oh, they have to be ordered from housekeeping,” she explained apologetically.

Really?! I mean, really?! Without kitchen supplies for souvenirs could the guests now be taking wash cloths? I am struck with guilt when I forget to leave a plastic key that could be reused, the thought of taking property. . .hmmm. . .

As I said, it is those little things we remember when we come to travel. . .

That’s it for this Travel Tip Tuesday.  We’ll be back again this week and hope you’ll be traveling along with us.  You can follow TravelnWrite on Bloglovin and Networked Blogs or have posts delivered to your inbox. 

We’ve  just figured out Instagram and are posting travel photos there as well. Click the link to follow us there. 

Until next time, happy travels. . .
Jackie, The Scribe, and Joel, The Scout

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Las Vegas is Going to the Dogs and Other Tales

What happens in Vegas really can’t stay in Vegas these days because so much is changing – and for the good!  We are here for our traditional ‘watching football’ during Bowl Game week we thought we’d highlight some of what we've seen. . .

Going to the Dogs

One of the first things we noticed was the number of ‘traveling dogs’ – not those poor homeless types that wander foreign streets pulling at tourist heartstrings - but the pampered pooches who are staying in 5-star comfort.

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We first noticed the influx of four-footed visitors when we shared an elevator in our Vdara Hotel with a French Bulldog and his doting ‘parents’ the other morning and have since counted nearly a dozen canine companions.

Greening of The Strip

Four days ago the newest addition to The Strip, debuting on New Year’s Eve, opened.  Some smart designer had a vision for the service alley between the Flamingo Resort and The Quad (once the Imperial Resort). 

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Linq is the name of this new brick paved, tree-lined area that will be home to 30 open air retail, dining and entertainment outlets. It is estimated that some 20.4 million visitors walked past the old alleyway in a given year, making the transformation of this area into usable urban outdoor space a brilliant move by Caesars Entertainment.

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And Linq is aptly named because it ‘linqs’ The Strip to the Vegas High Roller, reputedly the worlds largest observation wheel which will be opening later this year.

Just Down the Road

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MGM has torn up the sidewalk and front facades of its properties, New York – New York and the Monte Carlo and is also building an outdoor promenade that will house more open-air establishments.

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Travel Weekly, an industry publication, says the tourists coming to this city are spending an increasing amount of time away from slot machines and casino tables.  Only 72% of the visitors gambled in 2012 as compared to 85% in 2008.

As I said in the opening, there is a lot happening in Vegas that really shouldn’t stay here!

Happy New Year to you all. And thanks for stopping by today ~ the time you spend with us is appreciated. We are now on Instagram so hope you'll visit us there as well. . .we are posting views of Vegas this week! Linking this one up with Noel Morata's Travel Photo Discovery!

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.

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The View with our Hawaiian plate lunch:

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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.)

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

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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!)

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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!

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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?

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

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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. . .

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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

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tasting a Vegas “Cosmopolitan”

We left the wide open spaces of Arizona and headed north to Sin City – Las Vegas – two weekends ago on a route that lead us through picturesque Wickenburg and Kingman, Arizona and past Hoover dam.

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On the road near Kingman, Arizona

Following our north-bound journey, we returned the rental car, hopped a cab and headed out for a new adventure on the famous Vegas Strip; we'd booked ourselves at the Cosmopolitan Resort, a Marriott managed property, between The Bellagio and City Center.

We’d watched its construction progress slowly in recent years and after its opening had visited its over-the-top glitzy casino and common areas, but its price tag for rooms had kept us from staying there - until The Scout found us a deal on Expedia.

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Las Vegas Cosmopolitan from The Bellagio

Following a groundbreaking in 2005, the hotel finally opened its doors in December 2010. The original plan for a condo-hotel mixed use property was dashed by financial difficulties during the construction process and the focus became solely hotel – but there was no doubt the room we were in was intended to be a condo. 

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[Travel Tip: I can’t emphasize often enough, how valuable are the brand loyalty programs. Our Marriott loyalty got us upgraded to a one-bedroom suite and a room with a balcony. But sometimes even an upgraded room just doesn’t make a property any more appealing to one’s personal tastes.]

The south-facing balcony (pictured above) got both morning and afternoon sun but the unit itself was very dark; decorated in browns, slate gray and muted blue colors. It was the camera’s flash that lightened its appearance in the photos below.

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There was no doubt this room had been intended to be a condo, as evidenced by a kitchenette complete with full-sized microwave, built-in dishwasher, small refrigerator and tons of cupboard space.

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The cupboards were empty – not a plate or spoon to be found. The refrigerator was pre-stocked with snacks, the kind that if you move them you are charged for them. (That empty part in the photo, is a freezer we quickly learned when those bottles of water in the above photo froze within an hour of being placed there.)

A selling point was the thought of coffee made in the room (sipping it while in your jammies in bed = perfection!) but there wasn't a coffee or hot water pot and cups to be found. Nor were there any to be had in the hotel. Coffee, we were told, had to be ordered from room service.

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The room décor was  also very modern and artsy. . .two features that don’t appeal to our more traditional tastes in hotel décor. These are two of the wall coverings: the left one blasts you from the closet and the right is a portion of the bathroom wall covering – take a close look at the one on the right, see the women? 

Housekeeping wasn't at the standard to which we've become accustomed to at a Marriott facility (and those details were noted on the follow up evaluation of our stay).

On the bright side: At least our two-night stay satiated our curiosity about the nearly 3,000 rooms that tower above that glitzy chandelier-draped common area.

PhxtoVegas2013 079But the reality was, we just didn't like the place.

Its vibe and our tastes just didn't mesh.

In fairness I have to tell you that we may be in the minority. I just read that the 2.5 million on-line users and travelers of named The Cosmopolitan the “Best Hotel in the World” 2013.

On the bright side - one more time: We’d signed up for a Marriott promotion, forgotten about it, and just learned that our two night stay here earned us a free night’s stay – which will be used at another Marriott property!

So there you go!  Have you ever stayed at a highly rated place to find that you didn’t like it? If so, tell us about it in the comment section below or shoot us an email and I’ll include your comments in a future post (if you give me permission to do so).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Travel Tuesday: What’s New in Vegas?

We’d not been to Las Vegas in more than a year and half and part of the reason was that from McCarran Airport to The Strip, it was becoming a comfortable -- but an almost too predictable -- travel experience.

Not so, this trip! What a difference a bit of time makes. . .

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McCarran International Airport - Las Vegas, Nevada
We had a slightly disconcerting moment as we entered the concourse from the jet way; had it not been for the slot machines, we would have almost thought we’d arrived at the wrong place.  There was nothing familiar or predictable, about this airport!

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Vegas60Seattle 112The new wing in which we found ourselves opened a year ago in July 2012.  Its now wide, sleek hallway is interspersed with moving walkways, retail outlets andtempting eateries.

There are numerous easy access points to  the lower baggage claim area and ground transportation. (yea!).

And The Strip also had several surprises including:

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Where once stood the Imperial Palace Casino and Resort (across from Caesar’s Forum Shops), we found The Quad. From reviews on TripAdvisor it sounds as though the revamping of the old hotel is still a work in progress. For those of you who saw the Australian group, Human Nature, performing on stage there, don't despair. You can now see them at The Venetian.

To the side of The Quad, Caesars Entertainment is reshaping the the Vegas Strip with The LINQ, a 200,000 square-foot open-air retail, dining and entertainment district, anchored by what they claim to be the world's tallest observation wheel, known as the High Roller (that’s its beginning in the photo below).

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Construction begins on High Roller - Las Vegas
Developers say “the High Roller at 550 feet and measuring 520 feet in diameter, will eclipse both the London Eye and Singapore Flyer. Facing north and south (parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard), the wheel will feature 28 glass-enclosed cabins that will unveil broad views of the famed-resort city in the 30 minutes it takes to complete one full revolution. Each cabin will accommodate up to 40 people and will be available for individual or group experiences.”

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We even encountered this new centerpiece on display outside the Encore Theater, at Wynn/Encore, where we were staying. Some of you might recognize the piece by Jeff Koons, as the one that was previously on display outside Christie’s (Auction House) Gallery at Rockefeller Center, New York City.
The piece was made in five versions over a time period spanning 1995 – 2004 and is the culmination of Koons’ “Celebration Series”. Tulips, says the creator, are a symbol of spring, hope and fertility.

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As the story goes (in the in-house Wynn Magazine publication) the piece was auctioned last November 2012 and the highest bid was from a telephone bidder by the name of Steve Wynn (owner of the resort).

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The small print on the sign in the first photo above says, “Price available upon request.”  We were told  that if it doesn’t sell, it will be moved to the rotunda of Cotai, Wynn’s new resort/casino opening in Macau, China.

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If you are interested in buying the piece, I should tell you, that we were also told that Wynn wants a bit more for it than what he paid.

His purchase price was $33,682,500.  

By the way, if you do buy it, let him know that we sent you – it’s a gamble, but we might even get a free overnight stay (in Macau, we hope) as resultWinking smile!

That’s it for this Travel Tuesday – thanks for joining us today. Hope you'll be back Thursday and  that you'll recommend us to others as well!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Travel Tuesday: A Vegas Room with a View. . .

After being somewhat regular ‘sun seekers’ to this Nevada hot spot (figuratively and literally) we’ve recently had so many other places on our ‘travel bucket list’ that we hadn’t made it back here for a year and a half.   Until last week. . . when we stayed at Encore, a resort on the northern end of the town’s famous, Strip. It is a sister resort to Wynn, which is pictured below.

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Our view from Encore’s 51st floor was nothing short of spectacular (and for those inquiring minds out there, we did pay an additional $30 a night over the standard room rate, for the room on a higher floor that provided us this view – but it was worth it in our estimation).  When the mercury topped out in the triple digits, we sat in air-conditioned comfort and gazed at this view.

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One morning we were amazed to watch these two workmen ease their scaffolding past our window, so very high up on this building that it made me nauseous just taking the photo.

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A few hours later, what went down earlier in the already hot morning, came back up again in the hotter afternoon.  These two and so many other unsung heroes of the hospitality industry do the work that keeps travelers like us wrapped in cozy, comfortable digs.

We are guilty of taking such work for granted until we witness such hair-raising scenes as this.  Today I wanted to take a moment to honor – and thank -- all those behind-the-scenes folks (we were told Wynn/Encore alone employs some 12,000 employees) who made our stay such a treat!

Have you had any similar sightings on your travels? Or moments that made you pause to think about all the behind-the-scenes folks? 

As always, thanks for your visit today; we hope to see you back again as regulars and definitely on Thursday for our weekly travel photo fest!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Happens in Vegas. . .

. . .sometimes really shouldn’t stay in Vegas. Because this fantasy-land city – often referred to as America’s Adult Disneyland is, in a word, fun.

 The temperatures are a toasty three-digits in this mid-July and the town is alive with tourists. The only summer trip it seems we had time to take was to this metropolis in the Nevada desert.  It was here I chose to celebrate the new decade – my new decade, that is. Where else could I have a before dinner drink in Rome and then dine in Paris within an hour?

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We sipped a celebratory glass of Pinot Grigio while sitting at a bar near Rome’s Trevi Fountain (okay, so it was the Caesar’s Palace version, but still good).

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And then had ‘birthday dinner’ at Mon Ami Gaby, at the base of Paris’s Eiffel Tower (honestly, it was the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Casino). If you are wondering, we did have a meal then shared this dessert.

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“The Strip” as Las Vegas Blvd is known is lined with mega-resorts and casinos. As nighttime blanketed the area with cooler temperatures, the street had come to life while we dined. So our walk back to our hotel was a light show to remember. It also reminded us why we like walking The Strip in lieu of driving on it.
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The two buildings with blue lights are The Cosmopolitan Hotel towers which just opened a few years ago. The building on the right is The Bellagio, home of the famous free water fountain shows that take place regularly throughout the day and evenings.

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Our walk took us under and around the bright lights of Vegas icons, like the Flamingo Casino and Resort (where you’ll notice Donnie and Marie Osmond are the headline act);  The Strip never fails to entertain.  It’s been a year and a half since we’ve been here and this famous stretch of road is undergoing some major changes. We’ll tell you about those in a future post.

That’s it for today’s Travel Photo Thursday. Don’t forget to stop by Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travels.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vegas Odds: Lucky number. . . “60!”

The precise hour isn’t important, but at some point today right here in the heart of Las Vegas my biological clock started clanging, “60!” -- just like slot machines do with big wins!


I chose to be in this city known for odds making, when I rolled the birthday dice this year because I knew they’d land on ‘60’ – hopefully marking the start of a winner of a decade filled with all sorts of travel jackpots.

Birthday Travels

Traveling for my birthday actually began at age 10 when I traveled to Meridian, Idaho, then a distant suburb of – and now contiguous to Boise. I stayed with an aunt and uncle – all by myself! They owned a bakery – note that cake. . .lucky me!!!

My 40th birthday marked the beginning of the end of our conventional life – another lucky roll of the dice. We were DINKS – double incomes, no kids – and we owned homes in Mexico where I celebrated the big birthday. Those same homes prompted us to quit our 8 – 5 work lives for this vagabond lifestyle we now lead.

As those of you who read this blog regularly know, I chose to return to Greece this April/May for my 60th birthday gift.  And you know, that it was such an incredible trip – an incredible gift – that we are already planning a return next year. . .

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Upper Left: Age 10 Meridian, Idaho; age 40 in Bucerias Mexico,
and to the right,  Elounda, Crete in April celebrating  the coming 60
The Birthday and The Travel Bucket List

While I feel no different than yesterday and somewhat younger than I did at age 40, the reality is that the travel window opening narrows just a bit more with each passing year.

We find ourselves contemplating a re-shuffle of  our travel bucket list . . . items like hiking Crete’s Samaria Gorge and pack horse camping in the North Cascade’s of Washington State, have moved up considerably higher. The ‘let’s do someday’ we are now changing to ‘in next couple years’. 

We’ve even heard ourselves say, “Let’s do this while we are able. . .” Yikes! When did we start talking  like that? We used to say, " We have to go there someday. . ."

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But, for today, I am in the Land of Lady Luck, soaking up as much of the devil-may-care, roll-the-dice atmosphere as possible because I am betting on lucky number 60! Not just for today, but for the coming decade as well.

That’s it for Travel Tuesday. Thanks for coming along with us. If you’ve not signed up to receive our posts in your inbox please do so (it’s free and we don’t SPAM) or . . .
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