Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Last night I was thinking to myself, "What good is a travel blog if you're not traveling?" Then, my brain reminded me that half the fun in actually experiencing travel is in the planning of the adventure. A fair amount of planning goes into our travels, but that's not to say that we don't leave opportunities for impulsive decisions.
For example, we're planning a full transit of the Panama Canal in March with some good friends. We'll call them Jessie and Devin to protect their innocence (I just wanted to say that, as it reminds me of Dragnet). We plan to fly to Acapulco, and then embark on a 10-day sail that will take us south to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama before spending time at sea in the canal itself and crossing over into the Caribbean to Jamaica, and finally up to the Atlantic waters of Ft. Lauderdale. This little journey has been on our calendars for just about a year and while we plan to leave some time to just explore and spontaneously run about (or is that 'run amuk'?), we are making plans to see some of the natural wonders of Central America.
For example, in Guatemala, how cool would it be to explore Antigua and visit the old churches and museums? Or, what about experiencing Lake Nicaragua and the centuries-old Spanish churches, convents and homes? Nothing really floats my boat more than the thought of seeing monkeys swinging through trees or just hanging out in Costa Rica, and buying some good ol' Costa Rican coffee. Can you say, "Yum. If I drink 2 cups in the morning and 2 cups at night, I hope to have some left over to bring home and share?" Share really isn't a word that most only children know about, but I have learned over the years that giving is WAY more fulfilling than receiving. So, I think I'll plan to bring some of that good java back and let others experience what we did through the essence of some good Central American joe. And if that's not enough, perhaps we can pick up a little mini bobsled ornament when we visit the new Mystic Mountain Jamaica bobsled park. Can you just visualize yourself zoom, zoom, zooming down a Jamaican mountain with no snow? Imagine it. It could be you. I sure hope it will be me.
While we live and breathe travel every day of our lives, it's in the planning and the research we do for travel clients, and in the anticipation of our own upcoming travels. Remember this -- "The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page." ~Saint Augustine
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Having returned from Aruba almost three weeks ago, we thought it was about time we updated the blog with some final thoughts on our travels to this beautiful and serene island. After all, we spent nearly two weeks traveling to, enjoying, and traveling home from the southern Caribbean.
Our visit not only included the fantastic eats at The Dutch Pancakehouse (and by the way, we have since learned to cook poffertjes at home!), the colorful snorkeling in and around the off-shore reefs, the CRAZY Kuku Kanuku paranda bus, the BEST all-around fare at Que Pasa, the Indian cave drawings at Arikok National Park, a visit to the aloe fields, genuine hospitality from the locals, and the crystal clear waters surrounding the island, but the island also presented us with magical gifts that we won't soon forget.
As most of our days were spent with a mixture of sunning, exploration to all parts of the island, inquisitive conversations with locals, sampling a variety of specialty foods and beverages, and truly living life like it was meant to be lived, every evening bestowed the most humbling sunsets ever imagined. Specifically, Arashi Beach -- Its lack of facilities generally keeps most tourists away from exploring this wonderland, yet the unspoiled nature of the area delivered a calmness and appreciation not found on other areas of the island. Its picturesque beauty is truly a vision plastered in my memory as an imprint of a place that I will forever remember. It's amazing how a sunset on a quiet beach can be so powerful, isn't it?
When we travel, we create memories and experiences that each of us holds in a different way. TravelGuy and I have found a way to live our dreams through travel. After all, life is short and each year seems to pass by quicker than the last. We can't get that time back, but we can look forward to what's next.
What's keeping you from living your dreams?
Monday, October 12, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
It's been a month since we've posted a blog update but I think we'll be making up for it as we blog daily (or close to it) while on our trip to, in, and from Aruba.
Monday, September 7, 2009
It really amazes me how much luggage people bring on a weekend getaway or on a 2-week adventure. Why, people, why? Do you REALLY enjoy lugging around bags while you're traveling? Why is it that so many women must emulate their daily cosmetic routine while traveling for leisure? I just don't understand it. Leave the make-up at home! Travel light and enjoy your time OUTSIDE of your hostel, hotel, resort, yurt, villa, vacation rental, or cruise cabin. Get out and see the world.
Alex and I typically don't check our luggage when we travel. Prior to an 18-day trip to Europe in 2005, I took a "packing class" in Edmonds, WA offered by one of Rick Steves' packing gurus, and WOW did I learn a lot. Since then, it has been my goal to never again check a bag on a plane flight. I admit though that some of my overseas purchases have included many bottles of rum, and therefore, I've been required to check a bag on the way home.
If you've traveled with Alex and I, you have seen our brows raise when we see the plethora of bags you've decided to schlep along with you. Not only does this delay the start of your travels when you've landed at your destination, but it also delays the start of the adventure for your travel companions who are waiting with you at the baggage carousel. Out of courtesy for your travel buddies, and to get you moving along to begin your journey, we've decided to arm you with a couple of packing resources. After all, you really don't want to spend your time packing, and waiting for, multiple bags of luggage…do you?
My favorite packing tips for cruise travel is from Cruise Diva, Linda Coffman.
I hope you'll learn as much as I did. Enjoy!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
By TravelGuy --
Many of you have asked me to look for special cruise deals, so I thought I’d make it really easy on everyone by posting the cruises where my agency is offering extra benefits. If you call me to book one of the cruises below, you will receive the benefits associated. Not enough sun where you live? Take a cruise! Too much sun where you live? Take a cruise! What are you waiting for?
9/28/09 – 12-night Pacific Coastal “wine” cruise aboard Celebrity Millennium starting at $580/pp, departs
10/12/09 – 10-night Mediterranean cruise aboard Oceania Insignia starting at $1500/pp, departs
10/24/09 – 7-night Mexican Riviera cruise aboard Sapphire Princess starting at $464/pp, departs L.A. (Receive $75 onboard credit per cabin)10/25/09 – 14-night
11/09/09 – 5-night Key West/Bahamas cruise aboard Carnival Fascination starting at $170/pp, departs
11/16/09 – 4-night Baja
11/16/09 – 5-night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard Carnival Destiny starting at $240/pp, departs
11/22/09 – 7-night
Be looking for some updated ship tour videos soon!
Alex@TravelGuyTravel.com or 206.335.4676
Monday, August 10, 2009
We arrived in Phoenix on Thursday July 16th. Here are some similarities and some differences between the two cities:
• Seattle has 7 letters
• Phoenix has 7 letters
• Phoenix’s light rail system opened in December, 2008
• Seattle’s light rail system opened in an abbreviated version on July 18th, 2009
• Phoenicians still love Randy Johnson
• Seattleites still love Randy Johnson… mostly
• The Phoenix Cardinals play in the NFC west and lost in the Super Bowl to the Steelers
• The Seattle Seahawks play in the NFC west and lost in the Super Bowl to the Steelers
• Phoenix had only one of two Costco Home stores in the country and it just shut down
• Seattle (Kirkland) had only one of two Costco Home stores in the country and it just shut down
• Phoenix has cowboys
• Seattle has Cowgirls Inc.
• In Phoenix you can go through neighborhoods where 100% of the store signs are in Spanish
• In Seattle you can go through neighborhoods where 100% of the store signs are Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese
• Phoenicians look forward to October when it cools to the 80s
• Seattleites look forward to July when it warms to the 80s
• Phoenix has excessive heat warnings when the temperature goes above 110 degrees
• Seattle has excessive heat warnings when the temperature goes above 85 degrees
• Phoenix just suffered through its hottest July on record
• Seattle just suffered through its hottest day on record during July (103 degrees)
• Phoenix does not observe daylight savings time during winter
• Seattleites rarely get any daylight time during winter
• It is a 5 hour drive (approximately) from Phoenix to Las Vegas, San Diego or Los Angeles
• It is a 5 hour drive (approximately) from Seattle to Spokane or Eugene
• The median home price in Seattle is $369,000
• The median home price in Phoenix is $192,790
• The average price for gas in Washington is $2.80
• The average price for gas in Arizona is $2.51
• Phoenix drivers will park at the other end of the parking lot to score some shade
• Seattle drivers will go around and around the parking lot to get 3 spots closer to the entrance if it’s raining
• Phoenix drivers will tailgate you while on their cell phones. They are relentless.
• Seattle drivers will hang out in the left/fast lane while doing 60 mph. They are relentless.
• About 50% of Phoenix drivers start to coast forward in anticipation of a green light
• About 50% of Seattle drivers have no clue when they’re supposed to go at a 4-way stop
• Phoenix has suicide lanes that become normal lanes during rush hour
• Seattle has the highest rate of suicide in the country
• Phoenix has cactus everywhere
• Seattle has Cactus in Madison Valley (and it’s delicious!)
• Phoenix dog parks have quite a bit of poop laying around
• Seattleites will dial 911 if they see someone not pick up after their dog
• In Seattle, the garbage/recycle man hops out of his truck, picks up the trash can and physically dumps it in the truck or they wheel the bin over to the truck which then lifts and dumps the contents
• In Phoenix, the garbage/recycle man never gets out of his truck. He pulls along side the bin, then a giant metal claw extends, clamps around the bin, lifts it up and over the top of the truck and dumps the contents. I love this!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
By TravelGirl --
It’s no secret that TravelGuy and I are relocating to
Our journey began on a Wednesday morning, with blue skies and decent weather for
We drove through
Ah, Kanab. If you have never been to Kanab, go there. If you have no idea where Kanab is or why you should go, keep reading. Kanab is known as the “Little Hollywood” of
Friday morning brought more sun and increasing temperatures. Heading east on 89, we drove along
The day wore on and the heat started to warm our blood to the point of discomfort. As we meandered our way out of the national park and over to
Friday, June 12, 2009
What a summer it’s been in Seattle. We actually hit 80 degrees in late May, and here we are approaching mid-June and we’ve had consistent 70-80 degree weather for two straight weeks now! If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, you’re probably thinking, “Hmm…sounds a little chilly to me.” The truth is, it is usually drizzly, rainy, and cloudy, at least on and off in June. Not this year. Perhaps we’re making up for the 6 snow storms we had this past winter? Or, the snow/hail we experienced in April? Who knows for sure, but I think it’s all Mother Nature’s ploy to try to get TravelGuy and I to stay in Seattle.
That’s right folks – we are moving to sunny Phoenix! We’ve had enough of the grey skies 10 months out of the year (well, ok, not counting this month), and the continual investment in moss remover, duck shoes, sweaters, carpet cleaning (yeah, when ya have dogs in the Northwest, count on a dirty carpet or get wood floors or laminates). It feels like we spend most of our time complaining about the crappy weather, then raving about the 75 degrees when we get it. I seriously feel like the topic of weather is the number one thing we talk about here, and now I’m blogging about it.
Phoenix, here we come! Ok, so we’re not set on where we’re going to live yet, but we have a great list of rental houses we plan to visit soon. Our good friends (Jimmi and Kevin) have been fantabulous in providing feedback, though I DO know that as a native girl from the PNW, if I am packing up and moving to Arizona you BETTER BELIEVE that any house I live in will have a pool. A private pool is almost more important than a bathroom. Well, if you know me, I guess that statement really isn’t true. Anyway, while we get ready to spring from Seattle in favor of Phoenix, we will always remember the great memories we have created here (and in Portland of course!) with our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers – all good times. Let the good times continue in the Northwest, and may we create new memories in the desert.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
By TravelGirl --
Pets on Airlines. Love it. A Pets-Only Airline. Even better.
Southwest Airlines announced this week that they will start allowing pets on their aircraft. Well, woop – tee – doo! It’s about time! This isn’t new in the travel world. It’s just new for Southwest. I really don’t understand some of the rage from current Southwest customers about this. Other airlines, except Frontier, allow this and they’ve reported very few negative incidents. In fact, just like a screaming child, a pet can be moved to another seat (or UNDER another seat, rather) where they won’t bother someone who may be allergic. Yes, I wrote that correctly. Some people are allergic to children simply because of their distaste for the small humans. And, some people are obviously allergic to pet dander. My point is that you can’t please everyone but there are measures in place to make sure passengers will be kept safe.
The fact that Southwest is finally acknowledging that pets are family members is one step closer to improving how we treat animals. How would you feel if you were placed in cargo hold? I mean, really! Why is it ok to do that to a dog or cat? Is it because they are an inferior species to humans? Is that what we think as a society? Sad. In fact, the Humane Society of the
Then there is the new airline – Pet Airways – where you can send your fluffy babies in a first class environment – a pre-boarding pet lounge, a potty break, flight attendant service during the flight, and a post-flight pet lounge where you get to pick up your furry kids upon their arrival. No, pet parents -- you can’t come along. The only downside that I see for this service is that it’s only offered in a limited number of cities –
I am dedicating this blog post to my dear sweet Charlie. Charlie was my kitty for the last 16 years, and we made the tough decision to let him go this past Saturday due to a severe illness that he couldn’t beat. He was a beloved housecat, and will be missed by all of us.
Charlie Jacobs – 1992 - 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Imagine this – You’ve just graduated from high school after what seems like an eternity. All of those hours spent in math class, at school dances, at football games, studying for mid-terms and finals have finally come to an end and you get to celebrate with 35 of your classmates! Your parents got together and sent you on a week-long cruise out of New Orleans to Key West and the Bahamas as your big bang into adulthood. How cool would that be?
Then, imagine your second night at sea. You and your friends are scarfing down at the buffet, dancing and partying, and just having a grand ol’ time when you find out your classmate is missing and has reportedly fallen overboard. What a horrifying feeling for you, your friend, and for his family!
Well, that happened last night – again. It seems like we hear about a handful of people falling overboard from cruise ships every year. What’s really perplexing is that it is actually difficult to fall over the railings. If you are standing on the railing, yes you could fall over. If you are sitting on the side of the railing, yes you could fall over. If you leap over the side and dangle, yes you could fall over. Those are all deliberate actions one must take or be forced into taking. It just makes me wonder if foul play is involved in many of the overboard stories we hear about since no one would intentionally do those things. Would they?
It’s so sad to hear about news like this, and especially when it’s a young person whose best years are yet to come. Positive thoughts and wishes go to the family and friends of 18-year-old Bruce O'Krepki in hopes he will be found safe and unharmed.
Monday, May 18, 2009
It’s been a week since we’ve blogged from Playa del Carmen. You’d think our fingers were broken from typing, but the truth is that life has just been very busy. I flew to
Life is good, despite the return to rain in
Saturday, May 9, 2009
We spent last night in the main drag of Playa, yearning for more shrimp tacos. Our pre-planning had pointed us to El Fogon, which was to have some of the most authentic food in town though about a 6-8 walk block away from the action. The bounces in our steps enabled us to make it through a shack-filled neighborhood to 30th and 6th Calle last night, where we were welcomed by Miguel. It was still about 85 degrees last night at 7 p.m. and something about the heat takes away an appetite. After looking at the menu, we opted for simple drinks, chips and guacamole. Alex drank a Dirty Banana while I sipped an Apple Daiquiri – good stuff to wash down the complementary sautéed cactus, radishes and cucumbers. Ah, Mexico!
Strong drinks El Fogon does make! We slumbered our way back to the main drag in Playa where the nightlife was barely starting to get underway. Still yearning for shrimp tacos, we headed to El Oasis, another little joint known for its seafood and service, where I indulged on my sought-after shrimp taco (only 20 pesos!) while Alex enjoyed chicken fajitas. The people-watching from this locale was great as it was right off of 5th Avenue, on a side street where many people enter the main downtown area of Playa. We were lucky to have two cute Europeans seated next to us. I wanted to hug them both, but instead…I snuck a pic of them while pretending to photograph Alex. Yeah, I can be sneaky that way.
Finally, we decided to hit the beach and the old favorite – The Blue Parrot. Seated in the sand on the beach at The Blue Parrot, we sipped on a Banana Daiquiri and a Blue Parrot (mixture of blue curacao, vodka, and some other tropical flavor). With a full moon (no, I’m not talking about Alex getting all wild and crazy), sounds of ‘80s music thumped in the night sky as we watched late-night fishermen pulling in their nets against the backdrop of the strobe-like light that was flashing to the beat of “Hungry Like the Wolf”. Seconds later, a child of maybe 9 or 10 asked us for money. The odd part of his request was that he wasn’t selling anything. He simply wanted money. All we had on us was cab fare, and we couldn’t give that to him or we’d be walking 5 miles in the heat. After all, this was a budget vacation so we needed every last peso we had just to get back to our room!
As the clock nearly struck 10 p.m. we decided these two bodies needed to hit the sack, so we headed back for a nightcap of leftover Mexican eggnog, watched the ending of Finding Nemo, and drifted to sleep to the sounds of the seas.
Alaska Airlines canceled our direct flight to Seattle (back in Jan/Feb when all airlines were eliminating itineraries) so we’re flying to LAX this afternoon where we’ll spend the night before flying to Seattle tomorrow morning. Alaska is paying for our hotel since they canceled our original itinerary, and I can only hope it’s within walking distance to shrimp tacos.
While this week in Playa del Carmen is coming to an end, we have reinforced how much we prefer the Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen to the craziness of Cancun or the Pacific side of Mexico. While ANY side of Mexico is a TREAT, as long as a beach can be appreciated, we know we’ll be back here within the next two years to do it all over again. Now if we could only maintain our tans that long. Ahhhhh…
Thursday, May 7, 2009
If you’ve never been to an eco-park in the Yucatan, imagine part beach, part jungle, part zoo. If you’ve been to Xel-Ha, just imagine a larger version of the park with animals in their habitats EVERYWHERE.
After entering the park, we strolled along several of the walkways to view howler monkeys, spider monkeys, a pig-like swine thingy, iguanas, parrots, manta rays, pumas, bats, flamingos, manatees, a shark, dolphins, turtles, ducks, and a kitty cat…yes, a sweet and loving kitty who obviously had made a home at the park. The cool thing is that the animals were not kept in cages. Instead, they lived in habitats that were separated by lagoons. The lagoons were a simple way to keep the animals from drifting over to the people population, though dumb tourists could easily have hopped into the lagoons to get into the animal areas. Oh how refreshing it is to be in an eco-park void of railings and walls to keep people from falling into water tanks or in with the animals. It just makes for a more natural environment.
Xcaret is built around a series of underwater rivers, and we took advantage of our extra buoyancy this week (yes, we have really enjoyed the cocktails and tacos the last few days) by floating down the 1/3 mile river, partially in the sun, partially underground in the caves. While we have been accustomed to 80 degree Caribbean water, the cave water temperature was a refreshing 75…still nothing to snivel about. It was a refreshing and relaxing boost to the day. Following the river float, we found some beachfront palapas and, you guessed it, we plopped ourselves down for the next 4 hours – Alex in the shade, me in the sun – with an occasional dip in the water to simultaneously view the dolphin show about 100 feet away. Upon our exit from the park, I spotted a pyramid of Coronas. Having consumed mostly Dos Equis the past few days meant I was yearning for the pure taste of that freshly cut lime wedged into the top of a Corona. Quench my thirst it did.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Supposedly the temperature today hit 95 degrees, though the beaches have been quite breezy so we haven’t really felt it. That being said, we are looking a tad redder than we’d like, so we’ll need to stock up on more sunscreen before venturing out tomorrow to Xcaret to relax even more.