Tag Archives: travel

A Gem in St. Kitts

Gallery Cafe

While exploring the heart of St. Kitts, the hubs and I were fortunate to discover this little beauty.  Always attracted by the pastel colors of the Caribbean buildings, add the two words “gallery” and “cafe”, and I’m so there.

Anyone who allows the street dog to snooze in the middle of the gallery floor is alright in my book. And Leah Cameron-Blake is just that type of person, and her Gallery Cafe is oh, so special. Open Mon. – Saturday, 10:00 – 4:00, the sign says:  Sometimes a bit earlier, sometimes a bit later. (What’s not to love about that!) The lovely art offerings left me trying to figure out how to get them into my suitcase or ship some home.  But when we ventured a little deeper inside, we discovered a cozy cafe counter, and a cool inviting outdoor seating area.

Gallery Cafe 2

On top of that was our freshly made caramelized onion and goat cheese quiche, the pastry crust of which was so flaky and tender, it crumbled under my fork.  And when Ms. Cameron-Blake brought out about a half dozen grapefruits and freshly squeezed them, hubs was in heaven, and, it was then that we knew this place was one of those hidden gems we seek when we travel.

Gallery Cafe Yummies

I asked her permission to link to her Facebook page, but no one paid me for this endorsement.  I just like to share the discoveries that delight us!

Adventures from the Camino

I recently posted this over on Encore Wanderings, but as I read through it again, felt how strongly it applies to the Encore Voyage and retirement in general…or, well, meaningful living in general!

A while ago, I had lunch with a good friend who recently returned from completing the nearly 500-mile pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.  In the course of the afternoon she shared her many experiences from the Camino.  She told of blisters and pouring rain, of sleeping in rooms filled with snoring strangers, of not speaking the language yet learning how to order a beer.  She told us about carrying stones from home, representing her burdens, and her opportunity to lay down those burdens at a cross along the way.  She shared the struggle of a middle aged woman walking 8-12 miles per day, up and down hills, over the Pyrenees Mountains.  She shared photos of centuries old churches, of stunning scenery and of quaint villages.
My friend was walking on behalf of those with autoimmune diseases, and carried with her a list of prayers which she burned at Finisterre (The ‘End of the World’). She started out with a true purpose in her heart – that she would walk the entire Way of St. James as a spiritual pilgrimage.
But what she learned along the way, and shared with the rest of us, struck a particularly meaningful chord:

  1.  The Camino will provide– This saying is frequently heard on the Camino de Santiago. Along the trail, pilgrims find they always have enough. The true blessing is in discovering how little is really needed.  When you carry everything you own on your back for six weeks, you quickly figure out what’s important.  It’s not all of the “stuff” we accumulate in our normal daily lives. So how much “stuff” are we carrying that we truly don’t need?
  2.  The relationships are the important thing – Along the Camino, my friend met travelers from all around the world.  They shared meals and wine, stories and hardships.  What she learned is that we are all the same – people everywhere work hard, play hard, have health issues, daily struggles, and families they love…and she will forever treasure those relationships formed in their commonality. Perhaps we should all pay more attention to investing in those soul-enhancing relationships!
  3. The sense of accomplishment –Once you have walked nearly 500 miles in all types of weather and terrain, there is very little you can’t do!  I found myself thinking about the things in my life that give me that sense of accomplishment.  Maybe the message is that we should all have something to strive for, something that challenges us in some way.  It doesn’t have to be a trek through a foreign country.  But the world is full of new things to create, do and try and we owe it to ourselves to stretch our potential!
  4. The strength of the human body –I asked my friend how she felt walking up the steps at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  She told me that she felt complete joy, and was amazed with what her body could do!  She started the first day of her journey gasping for air as she climbed steep hills.  She finished the Camino feeling more fit than ever before. The human body and spirit have incredible resiliency when tested.
  5.  “One Day, One Adventure” –As she neared the end of her journey, a fellow pilgrim shared this motto with my friend.  It could mean that we should live in the present, not wishing for the future or pining for the past.  It could be the acknowledgment that we have limited time on this earth, and that we should make every moment count.

Camino 4

As our afternoon drew to a close, I found that I was deeply touched by how my friend’s insights from the Camino apply to our Encore Voyage.  Our longings for a minimalist way of life were proven valid by the few items she carried in her pack.  Her accomplishment of that 500-mile journey, with its resulting fitness and friendships, confirms for me the things that are truly important in our retirement.  One Day…One Adventure for me means living

A Wanderer’s Digital Packing Tricks

Digital Packing List

Whenever you travel out of country, you start to read about all the precautions you need to take (or at least I did) regarding personal information and documents.  Be sure to take this, pack that, make extra copies of this or that and keep them with you, or not with you, in your checked luggage, or not….

What’s a girl to do????  Sorta freaked me out a bit.

So I wanted to share a few tricks I’ve learned which involve some technology:

  1. The digital boarding pass is our friend. Downloading the app for whatever airline you are flying provides lots of information, right along with the digital boarding pass.  Handy, handy, handy, and some airlines have better apps than others.
  2. Once you check in and have your digital boarding pass, take a screen shot of it on your phone. If you don’t know how to do that, Google your model of phone. Your boarding pass then becomes part of your photo gallery.  It has happened us that the app for an airline has suddenly gone down, and we were so happy to have a screenshot.
  3. I use a cloud based Notebook to store lots of things. (I use One Note, other people use Evernote, or some similar app.)  The beauty here is that you can access this information from any device.  Should you lose your phone, you still have access to those files.  Trust me here, I have experience!  I lost Our List when I upgraded my old phone!  Dang!  This way, if you need to log on from a hotel computer, or a tablet, you can do so.  On One Note, I keep:
  • My packing list
  • A scanned copy of our passports
  • A copy of airline, hotel or rental car confirmation numbers and information
  • The emergency contact phone numbers for each of our credit cards. These numbers can be found on the back of the card.  Having that information in One Note is insurance in case your card is lost or stolen while traveling.
  • A list of the prescriptions we are taking, along with physician contact information.
  • Our rewards program membership numbers
  • Our vehicle license plate numbers (I know, others just memorize theirs!)
  • If traveling out of the country, you may want to consider including consulate contact information

4. I have a page in One Note called, “When We Go.” That page contains a list of all the things I need to remember to do prior to our leaving, like arrange for mail pickup, stop the paper, pay the bills, vet requirements if the dog is going to the kennel, etc. Makes a quick getaway possible!

5. After I finish packing (or as I pack), I use my phone to photograph the contents of each bag, checked or carry-on. That way, if anything gets lost, I have a record for insurance purposes. I know that’s a little anal – but someday it’s going to save us!

6. Inside the checked luggage, put your contact information. We put a business card on top.   Even better is the recommendation from fellow bloggers, Tim and JoAnne over at A Note From Abroad. They say to put a copy of your complete itinerary inside your luggage – That way it has some chance of catching up to where you are!  Brilliant!

I do not put actual credit card numbers or any financial information into any cloud based documents.  Perhaps I’m paranoid, but that’s just me.  I’m also sure to take portable chargers with me, so I can keep everything up and running.

So there you have it.  That’s how this voyager uses her digital tricks.  If you have other technology travel packing tips that I haven’t thought of, please be sure to let me know in the comments!  Anything to make wandering easier!

Lynn

 

Just Book It! Seven Steps Toward Adventure

You ever look around and notice that it seems as if everyone else is doing more exciting things than you are? I have friends who have been on 4 or 5 cruises. Another couple has been to Italy, and yet another friend of mine just spent several weeks in Asia! My Facebook News Feed is loaded with my friends’ check-ins from places far and wide. Seems like this one is headed for Disney World with the kids, and that one is on a bicycle, riding through the Redwoods of California. I find myself thinking, “How are they doing that??

I don’t like to believe that this is just the green-eyed monster rearing her ugly head (and I really do have green eyes, just sayin’). I’m genuinely happy for all my friends’ adventures. But I sometimes find myself thinking, “How do they find the money?”, “How do they get away from work?”, “How are they able to do that with xxx going on?”

Jeremy and I have always had Our List, but until recently, we haven’t made a whole lot of progress in crossing the items off. I think that’s because, up until now, we have always seemed to approach the list with an attitude of “someday, we’ll…”

Well, DUH!!! It’s taken us almost four decades, but I think we’ve finally figured it out. In our effort to live with more intention, we have finally learned that meaningful living does not just happen by accident. If we wait for “someday”, it will never come. We have learned that if we want a rich, fulfilling lifestyle, then we need to

Just Book It!

Here are some of the things we’ve learned on the Voyage:

1)  Negotiate the next big thing – Pour yourself a couple glasses of wine and have the discussion about what you want to do next.  Sometimes it’s his “thing”, sometimes it’s mine. Every time will involve compromises.  We figure out ways to make certain that each of us will enjoy the journey.  (For example, while we went to Chicago to explore its architecture, yours truly had a blast doing so on a Segway.  I loved swimming with the stingrays – him, not so much!)

2)  Mix it up – Not every pursuit needs to be a two-week vacation.  We have started looking for little things that will enrich our day to day lives.  In the past month, we have been to our local museum and to our local science center.  We have a couple of picnics planned where we will put the dog and some munchies in the pickup, and head into our state’s beautiful mountains to explore roads we have not yet traveled. Big adventure or small day trip – both deserve to be planned.

3)  Put it on your calendar – Ever notice how you never miss a dentist appointment or a haircut because it’s scheduled on your calendar or planner?  We’ve learned that our adventures deserve the same amount of respect and planning.  Next Saturday, we will head downtown to explore our local farmers’ market.  It’s on the calendar – If it were not, I’m pretty sure laundry could get in the way.

4)  Figure out how to budget – For some adventures, a little financial planning is in order. The point is to not adopt the notion of, “I’ll go when I can afford it.”  If you do that, you’ll never, ever go.  There will always be some other use for your money.  That being said, you also don’t want travel to leave you in the poor house.  You need to figure out some way to finance the adventure you have planned.  Maybe it’s a dedicated travel fund to which you contribute regularly.  Maybe it’s planning the trip enough in advance that you can save for it before you leave.  For us, we booked the cruise and airline tickets enough in advance that they were paid for before we left, and had saved up for other expenses prior to our departure.

5)  Do some research – The interwebs are our friends. Google your destination to find experiences that will add depth to the adventure.  Remember how I mentioned above, SEGWAYS!!!  Soooo much fun and something that would never have occurred to me had I not found them on-line.  Which cruise to take was based on my research about the islands I wanted to visit.

6)  Leave some time in the plan – This one is still quite difficult for me, as I like to go, go, go, go, go.  What I have learned is that if you kill off your husband with the adventure, he is less likely to want to travel with you…(remember that compromise thing, well this is it.)  And it’s not such a terrible idea.  We found that leaving unplanned time allows for serendipitous discoveries, reading, writing, reflecting, or even just a plain old nap!  Fight the urge to try to see everything and do everything.  Be intentional about how you spend your vagabond moments.

7) Just book it – At the end of the day, the really important step is to commit to the journey. Put it on the calendar.  Purchase the airline ticket.  Book the hotel room.  Whatever.  If the adventure is somehow “booked”, with commitment and a plan, we will figure out how to work around it.  We’ll take those vacation days.  We’ll arrange other appointments around our plans.  We’ll make it happen!

So starting right now, we’re busy deciding what NEXT adventure will be. Perhaps even the next couple of adventures! How about you? Are you planning your next wander? Then just pull the trigger and book it!

                  Lynn

St. Lucia, The Jungle, and Me!

IMG_8129

One of the things on Our List was to go on a zip line.  Now, being the picky wife that I am, I told the hubs that I did NOT want him to take me 20 miles north of town, to one of our small local zip-lines which has been set up in conjunction with the ski area.  NOPE – NOT ME!

I wanted to zip-line somewhere exotic!  Somewhere where there was the possibility of seeing parrots or monkeys!  We found the right place at Treetop Adventure Park in St. Lucia!

I do not know whether it was the 12 lines cut through the top of the lush forest canopy, the speed, the height, or the ridiculously fun demeanor of the guides – but I’m pretty sure this was my favorite part of our 10-day trip!  The guides at TreeTop made even me, a confirmed chicken, soar through the trees like a hawk.  (Our guide Melvin gave our group the nickname, “The Chicken Hawks!”) After the first line, there was nothing scary about it.  See for yourself:

Nobody paid me to write this post.  I just wanted to share one of the most stinkin’ fun things we did on our wandering!

 

It’s Not a Bucket List

 

Our List

I am a list maker.  Always have been.  When I was teaching, I would keep a stenographer’s notebook with lists of tasks which needed to be done. Then I would artfully use a variety of colored pens to color out the tasks as they were finished.  A rainbow of accomplishment!  Now I use an app on my phone, tablet and laptop which syncs together so many lists that they are categorized in folders and assigned to different days.  Overall, my lists are so long that I will most likely never finish many of the tasks before they become unimportant – which is also OK.  My lists are living, evolving things.
But there is one list which is near and dear to my heart.  We keep it in the Notes section on my phone, and it is entitled simply,

Our List

Our List has evolved through many bottles of wine, over dinners, while taking walks, and even while driving along in the car.  The rules for the list are quite simple:  It is the place for storing our dreams that begin with, “I wanna…”

  1. It is about activities that we wish to experience, not about accumulating things.
  2. Either of us can add a desire to the list.
  3. There is no veto power.
  4. No dream is too big, or too small.

Our list is now a couple of pages long, and ranges from the silly to the sublime.  It includes things like “eat in every not-yucky restaurant in our town” to “zip-line somewhere where there are monkeys or parrots.” Everything from “jet-boat through Hells Canyon” to “The Guggenheim Museum.”

Every so often, we pull out the list, talk through the items, and prioritize what we should try to do next.  That’s when we sometimes negotiate, adding and deleting from the list as our wishes change.  (I, for example, no longer feel the need to mountain bike down our local ski hill!)  There has never been any pressure about trying to complete the list in any given amount of time.  And we most certainly are not considering “kicking” anything!  It’s just a way for us to record all of our ambitious and sometimes stupid ideas!

The beautiful thing about our list is our commitment to it.  It’s not really a bucket list, but rather our shared journey list.  In the bigger picture, it is about our desire to fulfill each other’s dreams, to voyage through life together, and to share our experiences.  A little sappy, I know…But we are committed to spending the rest of our lives trying to cross things off Our List!

                                                                                                      Lynn

Adventures of Caribbean Cruise Newbies

Cruise coffee on balcony

Jeremy and I just returned from a 10-day Southern Caribbean cruise.  Now don’t go getting all judgey on me – I recognize that there are some, for lack of a better term “travel snob” bloggers who don’t consider cruising to be “real travel.”  But we had never been on a cruise before, so out of a sense of obligation, we just really needed to check it out for ourselves!  You’re welcome.  Here’s the scoop:

Cruising, at least of the 10-day variety, could be considered expensive – Until you look at it as separate hotel accommodations, travel cost, food, entertainment, touring…all rolled into one.  If you were to try to do this on your own, and calculate it on a per day basis, it would be much more expensive, especially if you take advantage of the on board activities.

We saved up –   We paid for the cruise on our credit card, a year in advance, and by the time the cruise arrived, it was, for the most part, paid for.  Same for the airfare to Ft. Lauderdale.  And we were considering this our trip to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary – Kind of a big, damn deal!

I did lots of research in advance –  I first started with a list of all of the cruise lines leaving the US.  Then I decided when we wanted to go.  I quickly learned that there were still waaaayyyy too many options.  So I started researching the different islands in the Caribbean.  I made a list of places that intrigued me, and whose cultures I was curious about.  THEN…I figured out which cruise lines had a ship going where I wanted to go.  Since we were probably not going to do this again any time soon, better get it right.

Different cruise lines have different cultures – I chose the Royal Princess for us.  Very, very, few children or teenagers.  On board ambiance included string quartets and bands playing “older” music.  For a minute, we thought, “Dang – We’re the youngest ones on this ship” …and then we considered the alternative.  Also important, once you decide on a ship, a YouTube search will usually yield a video tour that someone has posted, so that you can look around. The Royal Princess is a huge ship, and while she holds a gazillion passengers, we never ever felt crowded.  Well maybe a little in the scramble for deck chairs on sea days.

You can choose shore excursions…or not – We chose to do some excursions, because, as I said, we are newbies.   Folks on a shore excursion will never get left behind.  The tour guides, while locals, provided lots of information and history about each place.  That said, in each port were locals who were offering the same types of services for a bit less.  We hired a private tour in Barbados, and were given a delightful tour of the island, by a local in a taxi.

How you dine is not as much an issue as I thought it would be – We chose “Anytime Dining” because I thought it would be a pain to be told when we had to be to dinner, and I didn’t want to have to make idle chitchat with a shoe salesman from Poughkeepsie. (No offense, Poughkeepsie shoe sellers!)  Turns out, each day you are back on the ship in plenty of time to shower and change for dinner, no matter when or how you choose to eat.  It really is not that big a deal, and many people say they’ve made lifelong friends of dining companions.

Getting a stateroom with a balcony was worth it – At least for a first time cruiser.  We completely enjoyed both waking up early in the morning to watch as the ship came in to port, as well as stepping out to look at the full moon and feel the Caribbean air.  Many people say that they choose inside (less expensive) staterooms because you don’t spend that much time in your room – but I LOVED having my coffee and breakfast delivered to me so that I could enjoy it on the balcony.

Cashless Cruising – The cruise card = How the ship makes money!  Someone told me, “You can tell how much you enjoyed the cruise if you end up getting off with a $2000 bar bill!  Ours was not that bad, but I could see how it could happen.  Just hand them your cruise card, and it goes on your bill.  You’ve. Been. Warned.

The cruise lines have got embarking and disembarking down to a science – Yes, they know how to get you and your luggage on, off, through customs, and on your way in a ridiculously efficient manner.  You don’t really need to worry about how much stuff you have.  They handle it all with ease.

But the best part of it all:

The floating motel moves from one destination to the next, while you enjoy exploring the people and their culture in the places you’re visiting.  We saw and did so many amazing things.  Too long to share in this post, but I’ll keep writing.  I’ll also post them at our companion travel blog Encore Wanderings.  Look for it.  We did some CRAZY FUN STUFF!  Can’t wait to share with you guys!

Lynn