Showing posts with label boomer travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label boomer travel. Show all posts

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Southeast Asia ~ A Coming of Age

The fact is that a lot of years had passed since we were last in Malaysia. 

In our minds, our return visit last month was far overdue.  That was one reason we chose its capital, Kuala Lumpur, as the starting and ending point of our recently completed Southeast Asian adventure.  

Downtown Kuala Lumpur was a happening place

Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is often called, is 55 kilometers, or 35-miles, from its KLIA, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.  Our visit required four such rides; two at each end of the trip. Time and distance provided us ample time to visit with our cab drivers, all of whom spoke English well.  

At some point during each ride, the conversation invariably went something like: 

Chatting with our cab drivers - Oh My GAWD!

'So, your first time in KL?' asked the driver.

'No, we were here before. . .' one of us would answer, pausing, then adding, '. . .about forty years ago.'

At which point each of the cabbies -- who ranged in age from 40 to 56 -- nearly drove into the freeway barrier as his head snapped from focusing on the road to the rear-view mirror to get a good look at the talking fossils in the back seat.

The best verbal response was from the 56-year-old who exclaimed, 'Oh. My G-A-W-D! I was 15 then!!

Each of the conversations ended with the driver telling us about his elderly parents who were in our age range but were still 'getting around' and how good it was that we were still traveling. 

Coming of Age

Street scene 2023 Kuala Lumpur

We have aged, and hopefully grown a bit as well, since our first visit to Malaysia's capital city. But our changes pale in comparison with the changes to this cultural, financial and economic center of Malaysia.  

The city looked much like the photo above during our first visit in the early 1980's. But those old storefronts are fast being replaced with towering skyscrapers offering condominiums, offices and retail space.  The photo below was taken from our hotel room.

Kuala Lumpur from our hotel window

Back when we first visited KL it had a population of 1.1 million. Today's population is 8.6 million. Its population density and urban spread is evidenced by towering buildings of living accommodations that began to fill the skyline miles before we reached the city's center.

Residential high rises outside city center

What we found most interesting is that even with all the change, we were as taken with this new modern high-density version of the city as we were with the old charmer, we explored decades ago.  Maybe that is because it still retains many of its historical buildings which were a pleasant contrast to the ubiquitous high-rise structures.

A heritage building in KL

The Old and the New 

Entry display at one mall

Shopping malls abound in the heart of town. Our first stay was at the JW Marriott Hotel, which was part of a high-end shopping mall, and also across the street from yet another high-end mall.  We could log our day's footstep goal with a single trip through one of the multi-storied malls.

Coffee at one mall allowed us to watch video ads across the street

We were bedazzled with jewelry displays, clothing, and cars. There's definitely another world out there! I had no more than said, 'Can you imagine these places at Christmas?' when we saw this photo:

Christmas must be something else!

Each of the three nights we spent at the JW, we were treated to a car show outside the front door in the valet parking area. This purple car won out for the color, but each day we found some breathtakingly expensive car parked just outside the door.

Outside our hotel in valet parking

We had one additional night and a full day in KL on our return leg of our journey. We chose to experience a bit of history and stayed in the heritage wing of its Majestic Hotel, located in another part of the city. The hotel, with a tall sleek conference hotel wing to one side, was originally built in 1932, just across the street from its heritage train station. It simply oozed with charm. . .the music playing as we stood in line to check in was Glenn Miller's 'Moonlight Serenade'.

Hotel Majestic, since 1932.

We sipped cappuccinos while others had High Tea in the old wing's lobby. We could have sat in the Orchid Room but will save that for 'next time'. 

Orchid Room - Majestic

Happy Hour was held in the stately old bar where you could play a game of billiards or watch financial news on a flat screen television. The air was tinged with cigar smoke - just adding that perfect old gentlemen's club touch to the setting. 

Happy Hour at the Majestic Hotel

The Southeast Asian Adventure

For those who missed the last post outlining this adventure, a brief recap: 

KL was the first stop on a journey that would take us to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Singapore.  We flew from Athens to KL via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. We were reminded that it is a long haul to get to SE Asia no matter from which direction you fly. It was an hour and a half to Istanbul then 10.5 hours to Kuala Lumpur.  

Most of our journey was completed aboard Oceania's Nautica cruise ship.  We boarded that ship in Bangkok, Thailand after a brief stay there.  And that is where our tale begins next time when we will be: Bangkok Bound.

Thanks for the time you've spent with us today and thanks to those of you who sent us travel suggestions and recommendations. All were appreciated! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Kalo Mina! ~ July in Greece

 Kalo Mina, we call out in greeting, Good (New) Month! 

A summer sunset in Greece

July has arrived in Greece. The cicadas are filling the air with their surround-sound sizzling summer song. The sound they make reminds us of those huge oscillating irrigation sprinklers used to water thirsty fields in Washington State or the sound of electricity running through high voltage wires leading from the Columbia River on a hot summer's day.

The cicadas song is definitely the sound of summer in our slice of Greece but it also serves to remind us of the sounds we knew in our 'other world'. This is our fifth summer spent as American expats living in the rural part of the Peloponnese; transplants from the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Stoupa Beach - summertime!

Temperatures in Greece are soaring - with the thermometer climbing to 90F /32C. Humidity is just under 70%.  This is the type of weather that gets us up early so that outdoor olive grove and garden chores are completed by mid-morning, and errands are completed before noon. 

Afternoons - at least for locals - are spent indoors trying to stay cool. Tourists on foot, bike and in rental cars, head to the beaches to bake themselves into various shades of red and brown.

Last summer's fire got a bit close to us

Sadly, summer has become a time of wild fires, warnings and alerts have been coming fast and furiously in recent days. Now, reports of fires.  They remind us via social media that the level of heat and a brisk breeze is a dire combination. Greece has taken a proactive approach to firefighting this summer.  Firefighters from neighboring European Union countries have already arrived in Greece and are stationed throughout the country on the ready to fight any outbreaks that happen over the weekend.

Summer's Mid-Day Nap

With the heat and humidity climbing  and our ambition correspondingly dropping, summer here is a time to perfect the mid-day nap. This Greek equivalent of a siesta usually takes place between 2 pm and 5 pm. 

The Summer Nap - our cats love it!

Called  'these ores ths laikis isikhias' in Greek, its literal translation is, 'the hours of popular quiet'. It is taken so seriously that police can cite those who violate the quiet. It is a time for a mid-day meal, rest and quiet. Prompted by the intense heat, often times the mid-day meal is eaten as late as 4 p.m. and the nap times can extend to 6:30pm. 

Laborers stop work and resume in the cooler evening hours.  Many retail outlets close during  nap hours, opening in the evening and staying open as late as 11 p.m. or midnight.  Restaurant diners don't arrive for meals until  8 p.m. or later.

The Summer After Covid 

We have a fine dining restaurant in the village now

I will admit we worried about a number of our friends and their businesses as the year-long Covid lock-down pretty much stretched into a two year lockdown, but I am happy to report that not only have all of our retail stores and restaurants in this part of the Mani re-opened, but we have also added new businesses to the line up as well.

Medikon opens in Ag. Nikolaos. Photo: Medikon

In our village of Agios Nikolaos, we've had a fine dining/cocktail lounge open at the harbor in place of a long-time traditional Greek eatery. While we miss that menu and the folks who ran that place, the new restaurant has ratcheted up our dining options.  I might add, it is also run by a couple from Athens whose family is here and run a traditional beach taverna just down the road.

Gelato in Agios Dimitrios

And in Agios Dimitrios, the small hamlet literally at the foot of 'our' hill, a cafe has opened. This is BIG news as it is the only eatery or retail business in the village! A mom-and-two-daughter team from Kalamata has quickly turned it into a popular drink and snack destination.

Laid Back Locals

An early morning coffee klatch on the beach!

We were officially called 'locals' this week when a village businessman we often see having coffee at the same places we go to, labeled us as such. He said because we see each other enough to recognize each other - and he was born and raised here - then, we are considered, locals.  So being 'locals' our summer mornings are spent as locals do -having a coffee at one of the many tavernas and cafes in the village.  A group of lady friends met for coffee a few weeks ago and you can tell from the photo we are locals: as we are hovering in the shade and there so early the tourists haven't taken over the beach chairs in the background. 

Although 'meeting for coffee and conversation' here is much like anywhere, we expats always take a moment to marvel at our surroundings. 'Can you believe we are meeting for coffee on a beach, walking distance from home and can run our feet through the sand while visiting?' one of us will invariably ask of the other.

Summer Travels

It is a joy to once again be able to travel this summer - with limited required mask wearing and no need to show Covid vaccination cards.  It almost feels like 'normal'. We just returned from a 10-day outing which began in Athens and then involved island hopping.  We were reminded again by the languages we heard spoken, of Greece's world-wide appeal as a tourist destination.

Tourists, 'selfies' and Athens sights from our hotel

Despite airport chaos -- cancelled flights, delayed flights, lost luggage, enormous lines -- in major airports across the European Union and England, travelers keep on traveling.  

In the cool of the night - temperatures drop to the 70's

We are still waiting for those residency permits of ours to be renewed - now in month three of our countdown -- so we are required to stay within Greece for our travels this summer. Road trips (gasoline is just under $10 a gallon) and ferry trips are making this 'renewal lockdown' really quite tolerable.  We plan a return to the States in August/September.  At least the flights are booked, but with the continuing and increasing aviation chaos, we are braced for our flights to be cancelled -- hopefully soon enough to come up with a Plan B.

EasyJet, RyanAir, and British Air employees are all planning a series of strikes during the next two months.  Each strikes on a different set of days to make it real nasty and confusing. We are booked on British Air - they are to notify travelers by 14 days prior to departure. We will deal with that when we need to. In the meantime, we will enjoy the summer, naps, coffees and an occasional road trip.

TravelnWrite is on the Gold List!

We were most pleased to be notified this week of having made the Gold List of Boomer Travel blogs for 2022 by the folks at Getting on Travel. Check out some of the blogs on this list - it will be great for armchair getaways and might even prompt you to pack your bags!

Safe travels to you and yours~ hope to see you back here soon!

Linking this week with:

 Through My Lens

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Venice ~ Nothing Can Compare

We stood in the open mid-section of the vaporetto, braced against our suitcases and chilled by the cold wind that whipped off the canal that late November afternoon. We could have sat inside but didn't want to miss one minute of the sights, sounds, and smells that are Venice.

Venice vaporetto taking passengers to stops along the canal

We'd selected three cities to visit during our early winter 10-day Italian Escapade: Bologna, Verona and Venice.  I think we may just have unintentionally saved the best for last! 

Venice Revisited 

Oh the city of gondolas is magical

It wasn't our first visit to this centuries-old city built  atop some 117 small islands separated by 150+ canals and  connected by more than 400 bridges. But it certainly had been too long since we'd been back. On this late autumn trip we had arrived by train after spending a night in Verona then boarded a boat headed for our hotel in the San Marco district. Luckily our stop was one of the last so we could do some sightseeing along the way!

Aqua Alta 2012 in Venice  - photo from a blog post about that trip

Our last stay in 2012 was during a time known as 'acqua alta' (high water); a time when the city is flooded by high tide bringing the canals up over its walkways and piazzas. We didn't venture out often back then as each outing meant a balancing act on raised platforms installed for pedestrians to get around on when the floods occur. We hoped we'd not have a repeat of that weather phenomenon during this stay - and luckily, we didn't.

Famed Rialto Bridge - Venice

During our five day stay we planned to explore this fabled city's quarters, or sestieri, as they are called. Our overly-ambitious plans included visits to two nearby islands, Murano (for its glass) and Burano (for its lacemaking and colorful buildings). However, we were so taken with Venice we never made it to them. 

Exploring on a sunny but chilly morning

We again set forth on foot (as you do here until you are traveling on a canal) without any itinerary or 'must see' list. However we ended up visiting more tourist attractions than we had in the past because there were no lines of tourists.  We can probably thank the season and the lingering concerns over Covid for reducing the number of fellow visitors, but honestly, it was almost too good to be true.

No one taking a photo of the Bridge of Sighs - incredible sight!!

Take the Bridge of Sighs. . .on past visits so many tourists have wanted to take its photo - or worse, a selfie of themselves and the bridge - that we usually avoided the area all together as standing from where I took the photo above felt like being a sardine in a can.

We stood at that railing with few others

With maybe a dozen or so ahead of us, the line to check Covid vaccination status was longer at St. Mark's Basilic than was the ticket line. Absolutely no wait for tickets and no crowds inside. We were able to buy tickets once inside (again no wait) and visit the upper level art gallery and outdoor viewing area on the roof - again with only a handful of  others.

Waiting in the rain for the restaurant to open

The weather was fickle - one day we'd have sunshine and on another, rain.  It was chilly in the daytime and got rather cold at night which prevented us from enjoying the many bars and restaurants with tables and chairs that spill out onto the piazzas.  But it was never so extreme as to keep us inside as had the acqua alta on the previous trip.

The major sestieri (districts) of Venice

There is nothing better to our way of thinking in Venice than setting out on a walk with no destination in mind. Twisting walkways lead you over bridges, past shops, through piazzas and reveal all sorts of treasures that we find as interesting as those highly touted tourist sites. Take for instance:
Window food and drink storage

  A favorite walk was through residential areas, admiring flower boxes, shutters and facades on the ages-old buildings. It was  fun to spot places like the window sill above. It was cold enough to keep food and beverages chilled outside and that is just for what this window was being used. 

Ambulances and emergency rooms

We are both fans of Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti novels. Often a victim is taken to the hospital by ambulance in these 'who-dunnit' stories. It was interesting to see what the ambulances and emergency room entrances look like in a city whose 'roads' are canals.

Dock builders balanced on beams over the water

We found it interesting to watch workers balance on narrow beams - walking, and kneeling -- on the frame they were putting into place.  I'd not seen construction equipment working from a barge before nor workers balancing as if they were ballerinas. 

Did I mention the food?

Needless to say all the walking we did worked up both thirsts and appetites in all three cities we visited.  I haven't yet told you much about Italian food and drink. The next post will take you to public markets, shops, bars and restaurants. . .I promise to make your mouth water in a 'Taste of Italy'  

An Aperol Spritz

For those of you who are reading The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine, you'll get a taste of Italy in  my article "A Bite of Bologna" that appears in the just-published Feb/March edition.  This edition is available on line and for the first time ever - in print as well!  

My article in The Mediterranean Lifestyle Magazine

That is it for this time around. We send wishes for safe travels to you and yours and thank you for the time you've spent with us strolling through Venice on a winter's day. Please come back for a serving of Italy's culinary arts and bring a friend or two with you~ 

Linking with:

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Mamma mia! An Italian Escapade

The mist descended like a shroud over the old historic square, softening shadows and silhouettes cast from streetlights. We pulled our wraps a bit tighter and picked up our pace as we crossed Piazza Maggiore on that late November evening. It was rather empty and somewhat eerie; definitely atmospheric as we made our way to dinner. 

Just a couple hours later, under clear skies, we sipped wine at a table to the side of the square. A fickle Italian winter's night, to be sure.

Winter's night in Bologna, Italy

Winter isn't a time recommended by guidebooks to visit Bologna, Italy. But when have we done exactly as was recommended by guidebooks? We were ready for a getaway and Italy was a two-hour flight from Athens. Covid contact tracing paperwork was completed and pre-travel testing was done. We were off!

Bologna's Neptune's Fountain

Looking back, we think early winter was a perfect time to visit because there were fewer tourists, easy access to restaurants, historic and cultural exhibits and hotel reservations were easy to obtain.  

Street scene on a November night in Bologna, Italy

As it turns out we also completed the trip just before Omicron, the new Covid variant, caused a tightening of travel restrictions in December.  Now just keeping track of the near-constantly changing rules for entry into countries has kept us homebound in Greece. 

The appetizers were free, with the two glasses of wine

I chose to call it an  'Italian Escapade' because escapade refers to something daring and adventurous, which in many people's minds is any act of travel in this 'Time of Covid'. (I can assure you it was in reality neither daring nor adventurous - it was delightful.)

Nighttime in Bologna was magical no matter the weather

Our 10-day escapade began in Bologna, considered the culinary capital of Italy. We had a night in Verona and spent the remainder of our visit in Venice. 

Bologna, a city of just under 400,000, is the capital and largest city in the Emilia-Romagna region. Parmesan cheese, Parma ham and balsamic vinegar are among the specialties from here.

So much food and so little time. . .

We gave ourselves three days in which to taste and tour this once-walled Medieval city that boasts the longest continuously operating university in the world. The University of Bologna opened in 1088.  We could have stayed twice as long and still not seen and tasted all that this city has to offer. Our first morning's tour aboard a Hop-On, Hop-Off double-decker bus convinced us we'd never get to all the places we'd like to have spent more time. 

The Scout is to be credited with picking a hotel that put us in a perfect location, footsteps from Piazzas Neptune and Maggiore.  A hotel that was not only luxurious but also one with a bit of the remains of a Roman road running through its lower level.  Breakfast was served in a dining room at that level and gave us a chance to view a bit of Roman history up-close and personal.

Remains of a Roman road in the basement of the hotel

Breakfast was included in the room rate - which is often the case in European hotels. This was a feast served in an elegant dining room. So much food that we didn't need to eat lunch.

What a treat to drink coffee from a china cup at breakfast

Note I said, didn't need to eat lunch but sometimes in this foodie town, one couldn't resist eating lunch. Even the tuna sandwich stacked with thick slides of cheese, tomatoes and lettuce, from a sidewalk cafe was a gourmet feast!

Stacked tuna sandwich - couldn't be beat

I was researching a magazine article about Bologna with a food focus, so we quite often found ourselves in delightful markets that offered some of the most tempting selections. 

So many taste temptations in the Quadrilatero market area

And we sampled local wine, Sangiovese, and red blends from the Emilia-Romagna region. My favorite was a Pignoletto, a white wine from the area that came with just the slightest bit of bubbles. 

The Scout sips wine in the Quadrilatero 

The city, although considered the nation's culinary capital, is equally famous for its Medieval towers and porticos, the latter just recently nominated for UNESCO Heritage status. We love those ancient towers (after all, we live in The Mani region of Greece, also known for its towers.) In Bologna more than 100 towers once made up the cityscape; now just two dozen are left.

UNESCO nominated porticos lace the old town

One can't miss the town's two most famous, the Due Torre (Two Towers). The tallest, Asinelle at 97.2 meters, is open to the public and a climb of just under 500 steps gets you to the top. We passed on that. The shorter, Garisenda, is under renovation and is closed. 

Bologna's Due Torre

We were so enjoying Bologna that we considered extending our stay and skipping Verona, but then we'd never been to Verona, so we packed our bags and headed to the train station for what turned out to be a great introduction to a city we hope to return to one day. It will be the topic of the next post.

Before signing off, I must tell you that two of the smallest things made for the biggest culinary memory of Bologna. One evening I was looking for 'just a little sweet' as I told the waiter. He didn't hesitate and within minutes of my request we were presented with these two white chocolate topped strawberries each sitting on a tiny chocolate chip cookie.  

As always, our thanks as always for the time you spent with us today. Safe travels to you and yours!


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