Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stavros and Spinalonga - Novel Destinations

While we have no set Greek destinations, beyond the first week in Chania, two possible 'novel' destinations have been added to the travel journal. Stavros, on the Akrotiri Peninsula, 14 kilometers east of Chania is where Anthony Quinn, as Alexis Zorba, did his famous dance in the 1964 black-and-white Academy Award nominated-movie, "Zorba the Greek". We will watch the DVD prior to the trip right after reading the 1952 novel, of the same name, by Cretan author Nikos Kazantzkis.

At the other end of Crete, off its north coast, the island of Spinalonga, was Greece's main leper colony from 1903 to 1957. "The Island," a 2005 novel by English writer, Victoria Hislop brings the island and its one-time residents to life, sparking an interest in visiting it one on of the many day trips offered.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Peru and Chile Beckon

Fellow cruise enthusiasts from Camano Island, WA have booked a 23-day combination cruise/land trip to Peru and Chile this coming November.

They'll spend three days in Santiago, three in Rio de Janiero, cruise Cape Horn, Chilean fjords and Straights of Magellan, head to the Falkland Islands and into Uruguay.

The trip is being done in part with Grand Circle Tours ( and Holland America cruise line ( The price (including airfare from Seattle to Santiago and a return flight from Rio to Seattle) is just $129 per person, per day. They head out Nov. 15th. We will watch for trip reports from them.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Special occasion destinations

Special occasions call for out-of-the-ordinary getaways. Jackie wrote about three luxury getaways, all within a day's drive of Seattle -- Desert Wind Winery, Prosser, WA; Thornewood Castle, Lakewood, WA and Sooke Harbour Inn, Sooke, British Columbia -- in, "Special days, special destinations," in the Seattle Times, NWWeekend section, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009. Read about them at:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Greece countdown

We are heading to some Greek Islands for five weeks this fall. Which islands, we don't know.

And we may not know until we catch the ferry to get us where ever we end up going.

What we do know: We'll fly Seattle to London Heathrow on British Air, spending a night at the Courtyard Marriott, ( walking distance to Gatwick, from where we will fly out early the next morning on an inexpensive Easy Jet flight to Crete.

We have reservations in Chania for a week-long stay at Lefka Apartments ( The complex comes recommended by TripAdvisor members ( - in the past we've relied on their opinions and stayed in nice, but inexpensive accommodations. After spending a few nights there in spring 2008, we vowed to return to this old Venetian port city which allows further on-foot exploration of it. We continue to search rental car web sites but may opt to use public bus service to explore the neighboring villages.

We have a flight booked from London to Seattle five weeks after our arrival in Greece - we don't yet know from where we will be departing to connect to the London flight.
One thing is for sure, because we don't know where we are going, we've had to expand our research. With this trip, we have considered revisiting island favorites from our spring 2008 trip as well as expanding our travels to Symi Island and Rhodes, both near Turkey, which prompted new considerations . . .a stop in Istanbul perhaps? Among favorite web sites are: and

Plans are that we will each of take a wheeled 21"-carry-on bag and a smaller bag. . .a large 'purse tote' by Baggalini Bags for Jackie with a smaller everyday Baggalini packed in it. Joel will have a small bag with documents and books to read during the flight. (We don't do Kindle - we take paperbacks). Travel clothing will include Chico's, Ex-Officio and TravelSmith labels - all which can be washed and dried overnight and don't require pressing.

We've purchased a 2.7 pound NetBook by Acer; it's loaded with Microsoft XP and provides internet connection. It is easily tucked into the side pocket of the Baggalini. If we can figure out how to connect its three-pronged cord to an adaptor for Greece we will have it made. Jackie is reluctantly entering the digital camera world, leaving her bag of film canisters and 35-mm camera at home.

Alaska Airlines - credit card mileage plan changes

They aren't increasing the annual fees for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card.

The two things that will change: 2009 is the last year we cardholders (who are in good standing) will be awarded anniversary miles. The $50 campanion certificate will be increasing from $50 to $99 on Oct. 1, 2009. This applies to all new certificates earned on or after Oct. 1, 2009. All of this comes in a letter we received today from James Rice, a Sr. VP at Bank of America and Rick Rasmussen, Director of Customer Loyalty & Marketing Programs at Alaska Air. They assure all other card benefits remain in place.

Life gives Lemons? Make them a French Festival

Menton, ( a town nestled between the Italian border and the Principality of Monaco, will host its annual Fete du Citron from February 15 – March 3, 2010 ( This garden-filled community is a quick train or bus ride from neighboring Nice. As its name indicates the Fete du Citron -- Citron Festival --is about all things citrus. . .floats are decorated with lemons and oranges, they are featured topics of exhibitions and are the basis of a myriad of public celebrations.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Paris - armchair travel

Researching our trips is half the fun of taking them to our way of thinking. While it does involve cost analysis and scheduling, we've found that a good source of information comes from books other than guide books. These entertaining reads are great for armchair travel as well.

Take Paris.

In Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, a memoir of living in the City of Light in the 1920's, you'll sip wine in his favorite Parisian cafes, stroll along the Seine and meet his contemporaries, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. My Life in F rance by Julia Child (with Alex Prud'homme) takes you to Paris in the late 1940's. You'll go to street markets with her as she explores her new home and follow the development of her passion for cooking which ultimately led to the creation of her now-famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Fast forward to 1994 with Susan Herrmann Loomis in her, On Rue Tatin, Living and Cooking in a French town, as she takes you from Paris on her journey to Louviers, a small town in Normandy.

Many of these authors' favorite spots still exist. Our travel journal begins before we leave home as we take notes from these books on places that we might want to visit, turning our journal into a customized guidebook.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Off the tourist track eats

New eatery finds are a part of every trip and this time we added one to our Victoria list:

Sips, artisan bistro, 425 Simcoe Street in James Bay Square, a few blocks from Victoria's Inner Harbour, is tucked away on the lower level of this small shopping center, next door to Spinnakers James Bay Spirit Merchants, a business where shelves are filled with spirits, wines and brews for sale. Their ad in the Victoria Clipper Magazine tempted us to search them out - we would have missed their lower level location had we not been looking for them.

Sips, we agreed, lived up to its 'artisan bistro name. Our panini filled with locally grown and produced artisan charcuiterie and cheese, served bread from a local bakery rivaled some of the mouth-watering creations we've found in Italy. We sipped a B.C. white wine and then a red -- both offered as samples during our lunch hour stop.

Open from 11:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m., we plan to make this a regular stop - next time an early evening stop for a glass or two of vino paired with their B.C. cheese plate.


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