Travel Quotes

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou

....................."One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it is worth watching." Unknown..................

I would like to welcome new readers to my travel blog. If you are reading this for the first time, then I suggest you first read my introduction which I wrote last November when I started this. It explains why I am writing this and it gives you a little about my background. And most importantly it explains about my list and how it works. To go to that post, click on the following link -

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Cuba is such a beautiful country, and everywhere you go, there's music
and people dancing - especially in Havana." 
Julia Sawalha

My Visit to Cuba

I recently visited Cuba.  It had been on my list for a long time.  When my friend called me and asked if I would go on a cruise with her, which stopped in Cuba, I jumped at the chance.  We only had 2 days in Cuba, so it was a quick visit, but it gave me a preview, for I hope, a future trip.

Cuba had been closed to U.S. citizens for many years. That is not to say that Americans did not go there, many did, but they had to go through Canada or Mexico or other places first.  And they had to go without our government knowing they went.  You had to be careful that you didn't have your passport stamped in Cuba.  During those years Cuba still had tourists from other countries throughout the world.  During President Obama's term in office he opened up Cuba for American tourists.  There are restrictions though.  If you go, you are required to take a "People to People" tour.  I have never been a big advocate of tours, so I was never that excited about going there and being confined to a tour.  However, even on the cruise, we were required to do the tour.  

We arrived in Havana and we took our tour.  It took us to a senior center which was really quite a nice surprise.  We were greeted by a group of 5 women, all in their late 70's and 80's.  They performed a Cuban rap song for us, which we really enjoyed.  We toured the center, and met some of the people who worked there.  It was fun to meet the Cuban people and talk to them.  We also toured the neighborhood where the center was.  We had lunch in town and visited the old fort.  We got to walk through the Old Town section.  At the end of the tour we were free to go out and explore on our own.

And explore we did.  And yes, the old cars were everywhere.  We even took an hour ride in a pink 1953 Ford convertible.  The ride cost us $30.  The driver was a young Cuban male and he was accompanied that night by his wife, who was riding along with him.  They had a young baby at home and this was a chance for the young couple to spend some time with each other, while her mother babysat.  We found out that the owners of these cars can make more money giving tourists rides than a doctor in Cuba makes.  We enjoyed the ride.  They took us all over the city, even into residential areas that we wouldn't of seen otherwise.  They chatted with us, and we learned a little about their lives.  They were a delightful couple.

The couple who took us for our drive around the city
An example of a crumbling
We also spent several hours wandering the streets of Old Havana.  Checking out shops and taking pictures.  There were many beautiful old building, but many in sad shape.  There infrastructure is crumbling.  As one person said to us - "Castro had a plan for the present, but he didn't have a plan for the future."  And of course, now the future is here and they haven't done anything with the infrastructure for years.  There is a lot of building going on now, so things will probably improve for the Cuban people, but in order to improve, a lot of the old buildings will probably be torn down, many are past saving.  I am glad I was able to see Havana while it still has a lot of its history.  I fear it may become very modern and sterile, but I hope not.

Our ship pulled into Havana at 7AM and did not leave until the next morning at 2AM, so we did have a full day to explore Havana.  The ship then went around Cuba to the other side and we pulled into Cienfuegos, and we had a day to explore that city. 

We were again required to book a "People to People" tour.  It was a much shorter tour, and again it took us to an area that I found quite interesting.  We went to a community within the city that is full of artists, poets, musicians, and performers.  They put on a short show for us and we toured the artists showroom.  All of the housed had paintings on the outside, and the whole community was there to meet us.  We only spent about an hour there, but it was quite enjoyable. 

We then took a short drive that showed us some of the nicer houses in a residential area, and then to the town square, which was Jose Marti Square.  The Parliament House was in the square, as was the Tomas Terry Theatre, and church.  There were also shops and an outdoor craft market area.  We were able to explore on our own from there.

The Tomas Terry Theatre was quite pretty.  We were able to go inside.  Caruso used to perform there, as well as many other performers.  We were not allowed inside the Parliament house, but we enjoyed the craft market and wandering around the park, where there were street performers and local people who were quite friendly.
Tomas Terry Theatre


Street Performer

Too soon our visit to Cuba was over and our shipped sailed off to other destinations in the Caribbean.  I was glad we had the chance to see a little bit of Cuba, and it made me want to see more.  I urge people to go now, before Cuba becomes too commercial and touristy.  Right now, things are just starting to really open up, and it is not overrun with tourists. That probably won't last.  The Cuban people were wonderful, very friendly, and happy to have us there.  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Our Icelandic Adventure

We just returned from another trip.  We went to Iceland on a Northern Lights tour.  My list of places to see included a trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, but the weather did not cooperate and we didn't see them.  Regardless, we had a great time.  I'm not always a big fan of taking a tour, but this one was great.  Yes, we were on a big bus, and we had limited time at places, but in this instance it worked.  We were only there for 8 nights, and our main goal was to see the lights and to see some of the island, the geysirs, the glaciers and the town of Reykjavik.  We did see all those things, and with a limited time and the cold weather, the tour was a good way to go.  And we had a great group of people.  Usually there are a few in a tour group that you just aren't crazy about, but I liked everyone in this group, so that helped. Anyway, as in the past, George wrote home emails about what we were doing, and I took those emails and made them into a trip report with pictures.  All our trip reports are listed in the side column under the heading Trip Reports - the last one on the list is our trip to Iceland, so if you are interested in reading our latest adventure, it is there.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas Ornaments From Around the World
An Update

I wrote an article for the blog back in 2011 about the ornaments I collect when I travel.  I bought my first foreign ornaments when we were stationed in the Philippines back in 1980.  And since then I have made it a point to collect an ornament for the tree wherever we travel.  I updated the article in 2016.  Since we took several trips this year and I have purchased more ornaments, I  thought I would do just a quick update.  If you would like to read the original article and the update you can click on this link.

Here are the ornaments from this years travels.

In March we traveled to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.  In Vietnam I bought this hat ornament, which is also a bell.

While in Cambodia, we were in a car driving up to Kulen Mountain near Angor Wat.  We stopped at a gas station and about 6 children surrounded the car wanting us to buy paper origami birds.  When I saw the red and green one I immediately thought - Christmas Ornament.  The little girl I bought it from was quite happy.

This little green elephant was my ornament from Laos.  While in Luang Probang, Laos, we visited an elephant sanctuary.  We were able to feed, wash and ride the elephants that day.  I knew that when I found an ornament for the tree, it had to be an elephant.

In September we traveled to Italy to celebrate our 50th anniversary.  We started in the north and worked our way south all the way to Sicily.  I bought quite a few ornaments along the way.  Here are my Italian ornaments

The ceramic tree on the left is from Varenna, on Lake Como.

The glass ball with the hearts on the right is from Murano, Italy.  Murano is famous for its glass blowing.

The ceramic ball below is from Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast.  We stayed in Sorrento and took a drive down the coast returning by boat.

The mouse-above on the left-is from the island of Capri.  It is also a bell.  The 3 legged woman is the symbol of Sicily.  We bought her in Taormina, Italy.  Her 3 legs represent the 3 islands that make up Sicily.

Our travels in 2018 will bring us more ornaments for our tree.  Merry Christmas, and Happy Travels to everyone in 2018!

An Update on our Lives

I haven't posted anything for awhile.  We returned from Italy in late September and I did post the trip report from that trip.  Now it is Christmas and it occurred to me that my blog is a bit out of date.  I need to at least make an effort to get things current, even though I am no longer sure that anyone is actually reading this.  Still, if someone were to stumble across the blog and decide to view it, things should be up to date, shouldn't they?

So, with that in mind, I plan to post an update to my Christmas decorations and add pictures of the ones I have bought since that posting, and that will be coming.

And to update you on some of our upcoming trips.  Our next trip will be in February when we will fly to Iceland for 8 nights, with the hope of seeing the northern lights.  If you check my current list, you will see that is on the list.  Of course, there is no guarantee that we will actually see the lights, there is a chance that we will not see them, they are illusive, or so I have been told.  If we don't,
then we will have to try again, maybe in Norway next time, who knows.  

Then in March I will be going on an 11 night cruise with a friend.  George is staying home for this trip.  We will be stopping in several places in the Caribbean with the highlight being 2 stops in Cuba, Havana and Cienfuegos.  Checking off another destination on my list. And adding 3 new countries to my list - Cuba, Jamaica and the Grand Caymans.

In May, George and I will fly to St. Petersburg, Russia and do a 14 day river cruise to Moscow.  From there we will fly to Warsaw, Poland and meet up with our Scottish friends, Myra and Malcolm.  We will spend 2 weeks exploring Poland with them.  So checking off Russia on my list and adding 2 more countries.  

And we also plan to do a Panama Canal trip in the fall, although that is not yet booked.

One of the reasons we are doing so many trips so close together is that this year we lost both of our dogs.  Sadie came down with cancer in February, just before our trip to Vietnam.  We lost her fairly quickly after the diagnosis, she wasn't getting better and we could tell she was in pain.  Baxter missed her, as did we.  Baxter was diabetic, mostly blind and mostly deaf.  But he still got around and was enjoying going for walks.  He was almost 14 years old and we knew we wouldn't have him long. We had a trip planned for Italy in September, and I worried about leaving him.  The trip was to celebrate our 50th anniversary, something we planned ahead for and didn't feel we could change. A neighbor took good care of him, and he was doing good when we got home.  But in October he all of a sudden couldn't walk and so we had to say good-bye.  Loving our animals as we do, that is always the hard part, saying good-bye.  We have decided to wait awhile before getting another dog.  So without any animals we have decided to get some big trips taken care of.  Then next October we plan to get another dog.  I can't imagine my life without one.  Right now though, we are still grieving for Baxter and Sadie.  They were the best!

So, life goes on.  We look forward to the holidays.  Our tree is up and our house is decorated.  Then we look forward to the travels we have planned.  To anyone who is reading this, Happy Holidays and I hope 2018 is a good year for you.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

We  just got home from Italy

While I don't post as often as I used to, we are still traveling.  We just took a 24 day trip through Italy, starting in the north at Lake Como and working our way all the way to Sicily.  If you would like to read about our adventures and look at the pictures, go to the side panel - Trip Reports and you will find the Italy trip at the bottom of the list.  Or you can click the link below and it will take you there. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Trip

We just returned home from a 24 day trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.  It was a great trip.  As usual, my husband wrote Trip Reports home to family and friends.  I always take those reports and put them together into one long report, add pictures, and post them under the heading on the side of this blog - Trip Reports of Trips We Have Taken.   If you go to the link below you can read all about our latest adventure.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas Ornaments From Around the World

The red sphere is from Las Vegas
The embroidered fish
from China
A few years ago I did a post about my Christmas ornaments.  Whenever we travel I purchase at least one Christmas ornament from each destination.  Those are my favorite souvenirs.  I only see them once a year when the tree is up.  But when we are putting them on the tree I remember where I bought it and I remember the trip.  I originally wrote the article in 2012.  Since then we have traveled to many more places and I have added to the decorations.  I have to say that my tree is running out of room for many more.  It is a 10 1/2 ft. tree, but it is getting very full.  The decorations are not all from my travels.  Over the years friends have given me ornaments and I have some that I made.  I also put glass balls on the tree because they reflect the light and fill in spaces.  But my favorite decorations are always from places I have visited.

Below is the posting I did in 2011.  Then below that is a new posting from this year with pictures of some of the ornaments I have collected since then. 

Christmas ornaments are one of the best ways to express the cheer and meaning of the holidays in one of the simplest ways. The different themes and feelings can be conveyed merely through Christmas ornaments. A history of love and connections spoken in ornaments, hanging upon the boughs of pine-scented greenery.

Capiz Shell Angel from the PI
In a recent posting I talked about buying souvenirs.  I always tell myself I will not buy more stuff on my next trip, and inevitably I end up buying something.  My biggest weakness is Christmas ornaments, which I have collected for years, from every place I have ever visited.  It started in the Philippines when we lived there in 1979.  Up until that time my tree always just had lights and the standard balls hanging on the tree.  Then I discovered the capiz shell and hand-embroidered ornaments of the Philippines.  They were beautiful.  And my collection started.

Since then I have added to my collection.  I have a very eclectic assortment of ornaments.  I never buy something that says where it is from.  I don’t want a tree that screams tourist shop.  Even though the ornament doesn’t say anywhere on it where it is from, I can tell you where each came from.  It is part of my memories of my trip.

Silk Elephant from Thailand
The Celtic horn is from Ireland
It has sometimes been difficult to find an ornament to bring home.  Quite often we travel during the summer months, and most places do not have Christmas ornaments out in the middle of summer.  And then there are the countries where Christmas is not really celebrated.  For instance, I had a hard time finding a Christmas ornament in Thailand.  But I did find some small silk elephants in a shop, and they hang on the tree quite nicely.

Camel from Turkey
The feather ornament is a Dream Catcher from Alaska
In Turkey, last year, I was looking
for an ornament, and ended up buying a small camel which has an opening on his back, which can be a small compartment to hold something.  It is metal, and fairly heavy.  It does not have a hangar, but I was able to rig a ribbon through the magnetic opening on the back.

Nutcracker from
When we were in the Canary Islands in September 2003, I kept looking for an ornament.  The last week we were there I found a small frog with lights wrapped around him.  It also doesn’t have a hangar, but I wire him onto the branches. 

Quite a few of my ornaments are from our trip to the Christmas Markets of Germany, Austria, Hungary and The Czech Republic.  We did a cruise down the Danube, stopping at different Christmas Markets along the way.  I bought ornaments at every stop. 

Some of my favorite ornaments that I put on the tree each year are:

My angel from Rome, Italy
The pewter wreath from Athens, Greece

Straw Angel from Hong Kong
Straw angels from Hong Kong
Victorian girl on an old fashioned bicycle
     from London
The Cloisonné heart from Beijing, China
The fur clad bear paddling a canoe from Alaska
The alligator from New Orleans
Red glass bauble from Las Vegas
     (it's Las Vegas gaudy)
My pickle from Germany – it is a tradition
      in Germany that whoever finds the pickle
     on the tree first, gets to open a
     special present.

As I have said, my tree is very eclectic.  I also have glass balls, and lots of lights, and I have had friends give me ornaments over the years, so those are mixed in as well. 

Mozart Bear from Salzburg
Panda from China

The goat is from Slovenia

Frog from the Canary Islands, Pewter Wreath from Greece
Reindeer is from PI
In the 4 years since I wrote this article we have traveled many places.  And even though my tree is getting very full, I am still buying ornaments.  They are the best souvenirs of my trips.  Some places have been easy to find Christmas ornaments, others not so easy.  We were in Africa in April 2013.  We were on safari and not in any big cities, so I wasn't sure I would find anything. Then while visiting a village in the Masai Mara I found 2 very different ornaments for sell.  Here are those ornaments.

The ball is hand carved with animals.  The other is beads on wire. They were both made as Christmas decorations.

We visited Australia and New Zealand and had no problem finding decorations there.  I had to have a koala, since I was actually able to hold one while there.  And the bird is a galah bird which we saw many of while in Australia.  In New Zealand I had to have a Pukeko, which is a blue flightless bird, which we also saw many of.

In Costa Rica we saw so many butterflies that I decided my ornament had to have a butterfly on it.

And a few other places we visited in the past few years,  From Portugal - the seahorse, Barcelona - the mosaic lizard, Paris - at the Opera House I got the Mouse King and from Amsterdam, a small windmill.  

Next year we have trips planned to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Italy, so I am sure I will be adding to my collection in those places.  Merry Christmas, Happy Travels to everyone in 2017!