Saturday, November 9, 2013

Suffering from ‘traveler’s – not writer’s – block’

Have you ever suffered from ‘Traveler’s block’? 

Its symptoms are brought on by taking a fabulous trip through lands (and waters) that were previously unknown to you and then, after returning home, when you are trying to tell others what you’ve seen and experienced, your memories are so jammed into your head that it’s a struggle to get them out in some semblance of order.  

The ship's navigational map kept track of us
Our month-long trip slicing through the South Pacific was so sensory stimulating that we both admitted we were looking forward to that bottom-busting 17 hour flight home, simply to decompress and get those memories in order. Two weeks later we still are suffering ‘traveler’s block’.

I took pages of notes and hundreds of photos of places and people that I want to introduce to you. (Please, don’t unsubscribe. . .I promise not to overwhelm you!)

And I’ve started at least five posts, but can’t decide what to tell you first. . .

So today I decided to give you a sample of what is to come in future posts:

Hula class, anyone?  Just one of the activities offered on board

How to Savor – not just survive – long days at sea. We had 12 days at sea on this cruise; that means days where the only thing we saw from morning to night were endless stretches of the Pacific Ocean. No birds, no planes, no boats, no sea life. Just sea and sky.

Just the thought of that makes some uncomfortable and those folks probably shouldn’t sign up for a repositioning cruise that crosses the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.

The reality is there were so many activities offered that you couldn’t keep up with them or yourself. Each day they began at 6 a.m. and ended after midnight.

By Invitation Only Champagne Party . . .why were we there? You'll have to stay tuned.

By Invitation Only:  We will take you to some of the events we attended on board that were ‘by invitation only’ like a sail-away-from-Hawaii cocktail party held on the normally off-limits helicopter landing pad.

The beauty of Bora Bora was evident from every spot on the island

The Islands of the South Pacific: I’ve concluded that when God made heaven, he spilled some drops in the process. . .those are now islands in the South Pacific.  The magnitude of the beauty of the islands and their residents is difficult to capture in printed word and photo – but I will give it a try.

We will go back to Russell, New Zealand - in the Bay of Islands

The surprises:  We had both places and people surprises along the way. Places, like New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, a place that we’d likely never have picked out of a destination list on our own, but that charmed the pants right off of us!

And people, well,. . . we had some surprises. More on that soon.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney and the Land Down Under!  I was the ambivalent one when it came to Sydney and Australia. . .yes, it would be nice to go there, but it fell in the ‘someday’ category on my bucket list.  Well, I can tell you that after five nights in Sydney, I am ready to return – soon! The iconic Opera House and Bridge but the tip of the iceberg on wonderful experiences to be had in this art- and fashion-filled city with a population of millions (4.57 in 2010)

We know your time is in demand and we appreciate that you spend some of it with us. We hope our tales will inspire you and our tips will help you save some money when planning your trips.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Strolling Along Sydney’s Writer’s Walk

Sometimes the path you walk along is as interesting as what it is leading you to. . .

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Sydney Harbour ferry
As we made our way along the busy Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour’s transportation hub – buses, trains, ferries and taxis converge here -- we noted directional signs for the “Writer’s Walk”.
So, as any inquisitive traveler and writer would do, we set out to explore . . . and ‘met’ some interesting scribes along the way. . .

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And pondered their observations . . .

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And through the eyes of these writers, learned a bit more about Australia and  its history. . .

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The Writer’s Walk, a series of 47 metal discs the size of manhole covers embedded into the sidewalk, celebrates the lives and works of writers – both Australian natives as well as others who visited or relocated here. 

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While the lighting on Elizabeth Jolley wasn't the best, I am including this because I found her own story inspiring. Her first novel was accepted when she was ‘almost sixty’ – and she had  nearly two decades more during which time she produced 22 more works. 

If You Go:

The Sydney Writers Walk at Circular Quay

The Writers Walk plaques of honor are embedded at regular intervals along the Circular Quay stretching from the west, at its Overseas Passenger Terminal (near the bridge) along the train station walkway, then east to the Opera House forecourt. (Notice the one in the walkway above).

For a look at all 47 plaques:

Note: November 2013 marks the 15th year of the annual National Novel Writing Month ( Its a time when amateurs and professionals challenge themselves to write 50,000 words. Whew! ~ this post is only 295 words, so you see what they are up against. Good luck to you all.

We are linking up to and then doing some armchair travel at these blogs this week:
Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox,
Friday’s Oh the Places I Have Been at The Tablescraper

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Travel Tuesday: “Screamin’” and other Cyber deals

We’re taking a break from our Tales of the South Pacific because we have some tips on travel deals for you today. . .

DSCF0037We’d been home from the South Pacific for about 72 hours, travel clothes were still piled in the family room awaiting their turn in the washing machine.

That’s when The Scout came across such a ‘screamin’* deal that we booked ourselves to Istanbul, Turkey. Just like that!

That’s the way it works most the time with the ‘real deals.’ They come and they go within hours so there’s not a lot of room to waffle. . . you book, and go. 

Since we’d already penciled in a return trip to Greece next spring, the deal just forced us to give it real dates and a starting point.

Now we can start planning the Greek trip with the bonus of Istanbul at either end.

Istanbul's Spice Market
The ‘screamin’ deal:  Round-trip ticket Seattle to Istanbul for $608US, flying Lufthansa Airlines with a stop and change of planes in Frankfurt.

 The Scout found and booked the deal on Kayak (this link takes you to the flight page).

Those low rates were still available Monday, Nov. 4, at the time of writing this post.To put that fare in perspective, the round-trip ticket price from Seattle to Honolulu in January on Alaska Airlines is $880 and the best we could find to Athens was more than $1,000!

Closer to Home – Some Tempting Pacific Northwest Cyber Deals

On Dec. 2, Provenance Hotels is launching its first ever Cyber Monday sale offering Facebook fans and email subscribers of the award-winning, art-filled hotels a discount of 35% off the best available rates at Hotel Max in Seattle, Hotel Murano in Tacoma, and Portland’s Hotel deluxe, Hotel Lucia and Governor Hotel for stays between December 2, 2013 and March 31, 2014. (They also have a hotel in Nashville).

Note: Cyber Monday sale booking links will be emailed to subscribers and posted on the hotels’ Facebook pages on Monday, December 2, 2013 at 10 a.m. PST.  Travelers can subscribe to email newsletters and follow the hotels on Facebook at:

•       Hotel Max -,
•       Hotel Murano –,
•       Hotel Preston –,
•       Hotel Lucia –,
•       Hotel deluxe –,
•       Governor Hotel –,

The catch: The 35% Cyber Monday discount will be available to the first 100 people that book prepaid nonrefundable reservations at each hotel or until December 5, 2013, whichever comes first. Blackout dates may apply.

Or check out Vancouver, B.C.’s "Holiday Shopping Days" Deal

· This deal is good from Nov.22 until Dec 1, 2013. 

· What you get: One-night stays at $88, $118 and $148 price points at a wide selection of Vancouver hotels and one $50 American Express Gift Card (which you can use anywhere) for every reservation booked.  · You also get passes to the Holiday Shopping Days Shuttle on Vancouver Trolley. 

From November 22 to December 1, The Shopping Days Shuttle will connect shoppers from the West End to the West Side with drop-offs at various shopping districts throughout the afternoon. The Shuttle runs four times each day so you can hop-on and hop-off as you want. · Book it at:  www.tourismvancouer/shop (will be live on Nov 5)

Thanks for the time you spent with us today~ please encourage others to drop by. Check out our Deal Finder page for links to other resources. Then head back here on Travel Photo Thursday.

And about that ‘screamin’ deal: our neighbor is from Istanbul and travels there often. We ran the deal past him and he labeled it, not just good, but screamin’ good! And  that's when we booked.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

WAWeekend: Seattle Sidewalk Tours

I spent several days of our perfect summer being a ‘tourist in my own town’.  I’d catch the METRO bus in Kirkland and a 20 minute ride later, I was in downtown Seattle.

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The award-winning Central Public Library Building
Each day, for a week, I’d set out in a new direction to experience the city just as tourists might: on foot. I was researching an article for the Seattle Times. 

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The Giant Wheel that towers over Elliott Bayy
I have to say that our “Emerald City” does sparkle in the summer. I was again reminded of many of its amazing features and its quirky ones, as I hiked up and down its hills on sidewalks that lead from city center to Elliott Bay. 
Along my travels, I visited. . .
the International District’s Panama Hotel, made famous in the book, 
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
the longest continuously operating restaurant in town in Pioneer Square ~
I strolled through parks that stretched along the waterfront ~
I wandered through the vendor stalls at the iconic Pike Place Market.
I took a Public Art walk tour through the heart of town and the Central Library
and, oh so much, more!

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Close up view of "The Gum Wall" - yes, it really is a chewed gum wall!
I scribbled notes and drew maps keeping track of where I’d been. Those same hand-drawn maps, when turned over to the creative talents of the newspaper’s production staff were turned into the maps used in the article.

Last Sunday, when the article appeared, we were in Sydney, Australia. A friend’s email alerted me to its publication and thanks to technology I read it while “Down Under”. 

Summer2013 024Many of you followed my summer travels as I did the research, so for those who didn’t see the link on TravelnWrite’s FB page, here’s a link to the article:  Seattle Walks.

By the way, if you get to Seattle and need an enthusiastic tour guide, just give me a call!

Have a great week ~ hope you'll come back soon!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Song of the South . . .Pacific, that is!

Our month-long journey that sliced through a mere section of the South Pacific has come to an end.  We sailed 18 days across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu to reach Australia and flew home to Seattle in 17 hours. We sampled a tiny bit of a very vast region, overwhelmingly vast. . .

The Pacific Ocean covers 63.78 million square miles, 165.2 million square kilometers.

We knew it was big but didn’t comprehend its vastness until we found ourselves aboard the Celebrity Solstice sailing from Honolulu, Hawaii to Sydney, Australia.

The Pacific Ocean is home to some 25,000 islands; some 6,000 – 10,000 of which are inhabited.

We visited six in a month’s time.

When remembering those visits – aside from the sheer joy of seeing land each time we approached a new island – we remember the welcomes we received by the Pacific Islanders who shared their proud heritage and culture with us through song and dance. . .


This Hawaiian troupe from the Lahaina, Maui Senior Center showered us with sweet ‘aloha’ through their songs and dances.


Six days later when we reached the next island in our journey, this band of troubadours greeted us in Pape’ete, Tahiti. And just footsteps beyond, another group performed for us:


We had reached French Polynesia, almost a mid-way point in our journey. Before leaving Tahiti we were treated to a bit more entertainment as we returned to the ship for a mid-day break from the 90-degree temperatures, which didn’t stop these two from performing.

PicMonkey Collage

Then it was on to Bora Bora and Mo’orea, where musicians again filled the air with lyrical welcome.

DSCF1168The old adage, ‘first impressions count’ couldn’t hold more true than for cruise passengers disembarking at new locations. Those first few steps off a ship can say a lot about a place. Here, it was warmth and welcome

When we think French Polynesia now, we think of the warmth of smiles and the Songs of the South.

Hope you’ll sign up to receive our reports about the South Pacific – you can do so on our home page,TravelnWrite. We’ve got a lot of places and people to tell you about in the coming weeks, and we'll take you behind the scenes on board the Solstice, and we've got some new tips for finding cruise deals! See you again soon.

That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday so head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travel.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Time Flies When You Travel

Just like that it is over.
A month.

It seemed, back in January, when we started putting this adventure together that our departure date would never arrive. Then as we set out on October 1st, the month-long trip sounded as though it would stretch endlessly into the South Pacific.

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Tomorrow on a springtime Monday evening we fly out of Sydney, Australia and some 20 hours later we will arrive home on a late Monday evening in the midst of autumn.

While the month has gone far too quickly, this trip is one that has definitely made our Pacific Northwest life seem long ago and far away.  We’ve heard very little from family and friends.  We’ve seen bits and pieces of headline news and sports from home; a good reminder that there’s a big ol’ world out there with lots going on beyond the United States.

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Our days at sea provided a pleasant mix of time for relaxing and introspection.  And thanks to Celebrity we had a variety of special on-board experiences like dining with the captain and visiting the bridge. . .all of which we will tell you about in  future posts.

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A warm welcome in Papeete, Tahiti

Our three days in French Polynesia was a wonderful taster plate of experiences that calls out for  a second helping of this amazing tropical paradise.

Many of you know that I was ambivalent about visiting New Zealand and Australia prior to the trip.  Not so, any longer.  We have seen stunningly beautiful parts of both countries and will long remember the warm welcomes that have greeted us ‘Down Under’. 

If the travel gods smile upon us, our next report will be written from back in Kirkland.  Hope you’ll come back later this week because our Tales of the South Pacific are just beginning!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

G’Day Mates from Down Under!

After an 18 day journey that covered more than 6,400 nautical miles we glided through Sydney Harbor Wednesday morning past the Opera House and docked at the International Terminal near the Harbor Bridge. The shadowy outlines of those two icons were  rather welcoming sights I have to admit!

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We arrived sunburned, wind-blown (probably weighing more than when we left) and about as relaxed as one could get before entering a coma state.  The waters of the Pacific and its winds kept us rocking and rolling at times – unlike the Atlantic crossings we’ve made, so we didn't get quite as much 'lazing in the sun' as we'd hoped, but still got plenty.

This was our longest voyage. All but six had been ‘at sea’ aboard the Celebrity Solstice – a floating home-away-from-home.  However some of our fellow passengers had boarded the ship back in Seattle and had been aboard for seven weeks!

One of the best parts of such long periods at sea are those travelers you meet and friendships that are forged along the way.  We have a wonderful new group of friendships that span the globe from Australia to the U.S. and on to Greece.  (Many of these folks make our travels sound like we are ‘stay at homes’ in comparison to their adventures.)

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Our appreciation of the size and vastness of the Pacific Ocean has grown. It is amazing to go for days without seeing another ship, bird or plane.  I heard a siren today in Sydney’s early morning and realized it was the first I had heard for weeks. Although the ship was as modern as one could be, in the midst of that ocean there were times we had no television or internet signals . . .

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We were off the ship and settled into our room at the Marriott Harbourside Circular Quay before 9 a.m. – a record for smooth disembarkation and check-in (20 minutes from start to finish).  We hit the deck running and covered nearly 10 miles of the city yesterday and a similar amount today.  Tonight (for those of you who didn’t see my Facebook post) we are attending a performance of the musical, South Pacific at the Sydney Opera House pictured above.  So our journey continues. . .

It was sad seeing our ship set sail last night as it begins its South Pacific season. I’ve taken loads of photos and have Tales of the South Pacific to tell you after we get home and settled back into the Northwest – until then we wish you safe travels and hope this post finds you well. That’s it for Travel Photo Thursday!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Boys of Bora Bora

Some of our favorite travel moments are those that you’ll never find highlighted in tourist brochures. They are those spontaneous happenings that capture your heart ‘just because’.

Such was the case of The Boys of Bora Bora

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I’d noticed the twosome heading towards the water while The Scout was collecting some Polynesian French Francs from a cash machine outside the small wood-frame bank that serves the area. (The local currency, pictured above, is colorful array of miniature artworks.)

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We also headed towards the water after the cash machine stop and the two little explorers must have decided that we, well, at least The Scout, was pretty interesting. First one and then the other cautiously approached him.

And then they decided to stick with him:

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“Hello!” “Bon Jour!” he tried, but the two wee ones neither spoke nor understood English or the commonly spoken French language.  They spoke Polynesian. . .but that communication snag didn’t stop them.  They chattered up a storm and The Scout resorted to gesturing towards the Solstice ship to explain from where we had come.

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We’ll remember these two and our brief time with them long after we’ve forgotten sights pointed out to us on our island tour that took place later in the day. But that’s really the way it should be, isn’t it?


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