Saturday, April 29, 2017

Spring Welcome Back Vlog

I warned you all that I would be testing the waters on this "vlogging thing" and stepping out of my social media comfort zone, so I am starting to Vlog for Savvy Traveler followers.

This also gets me a chance to get more subscribers to my YouTube channel, where I am posting more pics/ vids from my travel.

Han on tight, I am certain this is going to be a bumpy ride as I get used to the video concept, but I'm on-board if you are.

Savvy Traveler VLOG

Feel free to check out the past YouTube videos which should be attached to some of the latest blogs below, as well as a sneak peek of Cuba - the pics are coming along, even if the words aren't perfect on the screen yet.

Thanks again for all the support!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sweet, Simple Sanibel Island

I have had an ongoing argument with my peers about the best beaches in the U.S.
East vs. west, the bougie vs. the laid back, but to me it's always been about the sand and the sun. The sunset after-party is just as important as the beach itself but only in your twenties and thirties. Once you have kids, the party is over, so it goes back to the sun and the sand. At my age, I want to know where the live music is at Happy Hour. The end. Breakfast. Sun. Happy Hour.



I personally believe the west coast beaches are the best; the cleanest, the best sand, nicer crowds. I have found east coast beaches to be rocky, dirty and over crowded with tourists. To be honest, the locals are not that friendly either - seemingly agitated at the tourism income their town brings in.




Not until I visited Waikiki Beach had I ever witnessed the same kind of over population and crowds that I see on the east coast beaches consistently. Now, Sanibel island was a beautiful, long awaited surprise.





The sea shells of Sanibel
Sanibel has all my favorite things; white, clean sand, beautiful shells everywhere, and the tourists seem more mature - actually respectful of the small island and it's charm. The locals were laid back and simply, nice people. Most were happy to have the business from people they know are their bread and butter.The restaurants were very traveler friendly, and there is no weirdness between locals and tourists (that I witnessed).

The locals are very aware of their footprint and you will find signs at the beaches that read, "Leave nothing but your footprints on the beach". This should be a worldwide notice. Stop trashing our world!



Then there is the lighthouse - the sweet Sanibel lighthouse that looks like four guys in overalls built it by hand. It exemplifies everything sweet, good and hand made on the island. Respect. History.
There is a small plaque beneath the base of the lighthouse that explores why it took so long to be built but no real history of the people of Sanibel or how the island came to be populated. I would love to read the history of the secrets of Sanibel Island and find out how it stayed so exclusive and remote.




Sanibel is a sweet island reminiscent of all the good things of the past. It delivers a sense of family and friendship, of good, clean living. There are all the assets of resort living, with the small town feel of restaurants, shops, and people biking instead of driving. It is quaint and wonderful.



"Do not leave anything on the beach except for your footsteps"

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Copenhagen!

The first thing I want to say about Copenhagen is, it is the kind of city where strangers (locals) stop you in the street, or on the train, or in the middle of whatever you are doing, to ask, "what are you looking for", "where are you going"? They want to help strangers, and do so freely. It is an innate and powerful kindness. I had it happen numerous times, and kindly, warmly because it is the right thing to do. My type of city.


Nyhavn
Copenhagen was everything I wanted it to be. All my expectations were exceeded. The people are genuine and friendly. Open and easy going, in the most relevant sense. The city has an ease of living about it which is hard to explain, but easy to sense. Walk-able and livable. Copenhagen is the definition of modern living with traditional values and comfort. They are proud to be eco friendly - aware of the earths resources - this transcends law in the most human factor. They really do care, and you feel that in every aspect of the city itself.
 The primary reason I initially wanted to travel to Copenhagen was to see the Little Mermaid statue, and visit the home of Hans Christian Anderson. My grandmothers, who both influenced my life greatly, were educators and avid readers. They not only introduced me to travel and appreciation of culture and world views - they showed me authors and artists from all over the world from a young age. H C Anderson was one that I always remembered. Like I learned on my guided tour of the city - his stories were (and still are) relevant to society and impact how we treat each other as a human race. The Little Mermaid, may be the most famous, but The Emperors New Clothes and The Ugly Duckling were just as powerful and still show how we as a society judge each other, and are impacted by others perceptions.
Hans Christian Anderson's, The Little Mermaid

I was super lucky to get to witness the
Changing of the guard at the Queen's Palace
changing of the guards TWICE. Once I happened to be walking the area between the palace and the city center and saw the soldiers making their way towards the Queen's Palace, and the second day, I was on a tour bus which alerted us to get off and go onto the Palace grounds to witness the changing ceremony...SO I DID! It was a beautiful tradition and showed so much respect to the city and the Queen. I felt in awe, simply being allowed to watch. And another moment where a local, grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me to the front of the crowd so that I could get a better photograph as he sang along to the national song. It brought tears to my eyes.



bike lanes are serious business, not just a concept
 One of the things I appreciated about the city was their conscious awareness of their footprint. It was obvious - saving the earth is not just a slogan, it is a lifestyle. The city is proactive in every portion of their living. There are more bike lanes than car lanes. Bikes are lined up everywhere, outside work spaces, outside the metro, in front of apartment buildings, schools, and eateries. Biking and walking are a way of life. I walked and took the metro everywhere I went, but loved the ownership of the bikes.
It just exists as such - freely and lovely. A simple life dedicated to keeping their city clean and easy. I understand that most people own more than one bike - it's like having cars in the U.S.
Even residents from other countries who happen to live there now, also fall right in, walking and biking, living a lifestyle that says, I care about this earth we inhabit; I care about you, my neighbor.


beautiful natural framing of Danish life
The beauty of the city extended far beyond the architecture and esoteric values visible to the naked eye. The beauty of Copenhagen is a feeling as well. A knowledge of something eccentrically good among the people, and the land, and the forward thinking of the society itself. I felt safe and welcome. In todays world, this is unique and sacred and I valued my time here.
I wish goodness everlasting for Copenhagen, its inhabitants, and the visitors so blessed to experience this wonderful city.
The kind of town you want to send a "thank you gift" to, after visiting.

For additional photos, please visit my youtube channel Copenhagen Youtube

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hawai'i, How I love thee

One of my favorite destinations on the planet. I have been to Hawai'i many times now. Maui hands down, is my favorite island. I was lucky enough this winter to get to share this island with my children in a family vacation.
I do not blog much on family vacations, because I travel solo most of the time. I also have older children, so I do not consider myself an expert on childrens, "things to do". I am well past that. It is a pleasure to share my experiences with my children and to find things to do that teens, young adults and grown folks all enjoy. How can you fail in Hawai'i?

Kihei

There is so much to see and do. I am a planner, so it was easy to mark the agenda with outdoor activities. Snorkeling, boating, beach hopping and typical tourist activities were abundant and accessible. We secured a condo in Kihei and drove up and down the coast in search of activities. The road to Hana, Paia, Lahaina, Kapalua, Napili - I think we hit all the hot spots on our 10 day vacation.




The famous Front Street in Lahaina provided entertainment for a couple days, as well as wonderful food and shopping. We tried three different restaurants on Front Street, and of course, the famous shaved ice. The seafood is amazing and the rooftop seating is worth the price of the menu. Be sure to enjoy the calamari at Captain Jacks Bar across the street from the Banyan tree. Almost all the bars offer cocktails with local POG juice. Yum. Add rum. Shake. Serve.

We secured a weeklong pass to the Maui Ocean Center and utilized the facility for bored afternoons when it was raining, or we were tired of our beach days. The aquarium has a wonderful shark tank as well as turtle ponds, and other local fish pools. A wonderful activity for families with small children. A bargain if you get the week pass (same price for one day).

Pride of Maui Snorkel/ Snuba tour
Oluwalu Point
We took a snorkel trip to Olowalu point where the tour company we chose (Pride of Maui) offered snorkel and snuba. A brilliant way to spend a half day. Morning tours as well as afternoon tours offered. Lunch and drinks provided. We were hoping to travel to Molokini Crater, which is where all the tour companies advertise, but the tour company decides where the boat sails dependent upon weather. Slightly disappointing,  but still a great day.

Haleakala National Park














The Road to Hana may be a bit overrated. We are not "car trip" people. So, six hours in the car on a dangerous windy road, shared with other tourists, who are not the best drivers, and locals who are driving exceptionally fast, was not our idea of a great day. It was exhausting at best. Once we reached Haleakala National Park, we found out the Seven Sacred Pools were not open for swimming due to rough water. Tough day. There were other similar areas (in regards to overlooks, rock formations and ocean access) which were closer to our condo and just as beautiful. I wish we had known beforehand. That might be a trip we avoided. Alternate destinations include, La Perouse as one example, south of Kihei. Blow Hole is another example, north of Kapalua Bay. Amazing locations, far less crowded and just as beautiful.

We took a quick day trip to Paia, where the local shops and brewery were a relief from the congested area on the west side of the island. Laid back and far more chill than Lahaina. Perhaps a bit too mellow to stay here for more than a  day or two, it was a quiet getaway from all the tourist shenanigans in the more congested areas. Mama's seafood is also in Paia, which is one of the best restaurants on the island.


Beach wise, it's hard to go wrong anywhere on the island. I am a fan of Kapalua Bay, simply because the water is calm and it is less congested(by tourists). Located in a  high end area, I find it soothing and comforting for a quiet beach day. My 21 year old daughter preferred Napili Bay which is a great family beach. Also, calm waters, but it is so crowded I find it appalling. If you are looking to socialize and aren't bothered the incessant sound of screaming children, you will not have issue with this beach. Both are on the west side of Maui. My son liked the beaches at Paia. Typical surf beaches. Great waves and lots of young people. The beaches at Kihei were beautiful and perfect compliment to the calm area.





 The sunsets were the icing on the cake. Every evening, undeniable. Hard to forget where you were...a beautiful end to every day in paradise. Hawai'i gorgeous and peaceful.


Sunset Kihei






Sunday, August 21, 2016

OH Canada!! Victoria, B.C.


Victoria B.C.
 
Victoria, BC is a lovely island slightly north of Seattle. You can travel there easily via air, or ferry. My first impressions were, “clean, friendly and easy to navigate”. The people were genuine and helpful, without appearing to patronize travelers. Victoria is a distinct tourist town. There are cruisers, snow birds and young international tourists milling around the small city. The city has so many statues, fountains and totem poles, it is surprising this isn't a well noted fact in the tourism paraphernalia that is distributed about the city sights. Victoria respects it's Native history and that is one of the beautiul points I noticed in the city no matter where we traveled.
sightseeing tour bus
   The downtown is extremely busy with a heavy tourist industry. Double-decker sightseeing buses and horse-driven carriages regularly make the rounds around the central port/ wharf area. It is common to see people walking around with their suitcases as they come to and from the ferry drop off areas.
University of Victoria
There is also a University in the area which attracts a number of international students and other visitors. The campus is spacious and encompassed by a natural, wooded setting, and plenty of deer and nature framing the campus. The University of Victoria is probably one of the more beautiful campuses I have visited, based purely on serenity and scenic beauty, accented with totems and fountains in homage to the local residents and tradition.



We stayed at the Marriott, right on the waterfront for the first couple of nights, enjoying the sights and easily walkable route to downtown and all the restaurants and bars centrally located. A brisk 10 minute walk over the bridge into downtown afforded us plenty of time to peruse the shops and experience a variety of eating opportunities. There is outdoor dining available, including rooftop bars, and seafood patios. We moved to the Capital City Center hotel for a couple days to get a better idea of a different part of the city and take in other artistic options closer to Chinatown. The entire experience gave us a full view of what Victoria has to offer; A beautiful city with many options for locals and tourists alike.


Local breweries and fine restaurants were as unique as the festivals and daily events which seemed abundant (CityVibe). We caught a farmers market which had an art and music aspect which seemed universal but had many nuances common to Canada. There were so many galleries and museums, we couldn’t visit them all. We did visit the Robert Bateman museum which is a small dedication to the local artist himself. We received a complimentary ticket to that gallery with our ticket purchase for the Big Bus. We also found renting bikes, scooters and cycles were easy and affordable and quite convenient. We rode from downtown Victoria to the University and all around the island, including a detour to Craigdarroch Castle.

You can get around easily with the help of the locals, maps, and accessible bike lanes. A fantastic and enjoyable option more cities should utilize. Maps were available everywhere we went, and appreciated.

We also purchased a two day pass on the Big Bus of Victoria which toured us all over the island and allowed us to hop on/ hop off at various designated stops. This allowed us to hear a colorful history of Victoria and some of the interesting stories we may have missed on our own. We also saw much more real estate, and all of the shore line.
Fisherman's Wharf Residences
We found many attractions to spend more time in the next few days, such as Fisherman’s Wharf, the Oak Bay Marina, and the historic Victoria Golf Club. The residential housing on the water at Fisherman's Wharf is fascinating, but there are local shops and lots of delicious, fresh seafood in this area as well.


Centennial SQ


Once we were at the Capital City Center Hotel, closer to Chinatown, it was easier to walk the Olde Town area and stumble upon smaller festivals in the Centennial
and Bastion Square areas. There is the same dedication to community art, totem and statues in these squares as there is in the downtown, wharf area.
We were excited to stumble upon a Flamenco Festival at the Centennial Square during our visit and not only see fun dancing, but listen to local music and nosh on food from local food trucks which were servicing the festival.




Pariament
The Parliament area is also the center of all touristy things to do and directly across the street from the Empress Hotel which is a popular hi-end hotel directly across the street from Inner Harbour. 
We found the entire island walk-able, bike-able and so accessible I would say it was one of the easiest destinations to get around I have ever visited. Canada is fantastic and although my tourism had been limited to Niagara Falls in the past, Victoria is the cherry on top.







Monday, July 4, 2016

ROAD TRIPPIN'

Summer time is the time for road trips, visiting family and friends, and taking long car trips across the country. I hate road trips. I hate driving, therefore a road trip is not on my agenda, BUT I respect the idea. I have done it before. We all grew up on family road trips and seeing the country from the back seat.
As an adult, I realize it is so much more.
This summer, I got the opportunity to take a couple road trips. One with my hubby, and one with my 20 year old, college aged daughter. Both trips were very important to me, simple because I was looking forward to spending the time together with people I rarely get to spend that amount of quality time with. Even in a car, I wanted it.
As much as I despise being in a car for more than 15-20 minutes, I couldn't wait to trek a few hours, or a few days with my family. I realized, these moments define what, and how, we remember summers with our loved ones.
My husband and I drove from Denver, to South Dakota. In search of Mount Rushmore, we headed out on a trek to seek the holy grail, so to speak. How could I have reached age 48 and not seen Mt. Rushmore? Who knows, but we decided it was the perfect destination for this trip.
Then we arrived...
Mt Rushmore
The fog had dropped and we could no more see George Washington from the viewing deck in South Dakota than we could see him (and his three compadres) from Denver. It was a wash. I hate to say it but, "That's why I hate road trips". What was the point?

So, we drove on, and towards our final goal of Washington D.C., found ourselves at Notre Dame.
A landmark to both of us. We love football. Anyone who loves football has some respect for Notre Dame and their football program. So, we stopped here, toured the campus, re-lived our college weekends in a campus pub, and moved on emotionally from the disappointment of Mt Rushmore.
We woke up the next day and decided to just haul ass to our destination. The fun was over. We were 50/50 at road trip satisfaction and now adjusting our age and stamina to our actual desire to be in a car/ truck even one minute longer, much less one more day, we put the peddle to the medal, and pushed towards the east coast.
Then, I woke up...
One sign. A miracle I even saw it. The dedication and memorial to United flight 93 which downed in Stoystown, Pennsylvania. 9-11. We were passing it. And, although 100 miles out of our way, I knew immediately, this is why we'd come.
Those moments of serendipity...kismet....when you realize why you are where you are, and how you got there no longer matters. Sometimes, it is exactly about the journey.
We'd found what we'd been looking for.
My entire career was based on one day of terror. A day I resigned myself to stand up for those who were still terrorized. Those that stood before me. Those that dedicated their life to flying free, and flying American.
We veered off course to our destiny.
My destiny.


I cannot explain in words the emotion that overtook me as we walked the grounds, viewed the crash site, listened to the audio from that fateful day. We were able to see all the names, some video, and the stories of the passengers, the flight crew, and even the unborn passenger whose mom's name is now etched in permanence in a memorial to all who flew that day and gave their lives.
I posted a note on the message board in honor of my peers and fellow Americans, "We will never forget. SWA FA S. S. K."
I fly now, for you.

The road trip I resisted so much had meaning, and every summer, I have new found respect for those who gather their families for the memories, and the trips... the adventures that will mean so much, some day, to those who take them.

We will never forget.

Part TWO:
My daughter and I took a short road trip (in theory) from Denver to St Louis. We only made it to Goodland before my car gave out. Kaput!
We spent 2.5 days together in Goodland KS, wondering, what do people do here?
Needless to say, we got an education in smalltownology. We also got an opportunity to spend some one on one, quality time together. Time we had not gotten since my daughter's senior year of high school, 3 years prior. I soaked it in.
I won't bore you with details of mom-daughter relationships, or boring small-town eatery woes, but I will say, again, I was blessed with an opportunity. A reminder to live in the moment. To embrace these times with your children. With your loved ones. With your small slice of life. Embrace it. And screw broken cars, and strange people and self-absorbtion. Be 100% with yourself and with your family all the time. It's all you have. Especially while road trippin'.
Peace~

Bill's shootin' shop

World's largest Van Gogh



Goodland, KS

Monday, June 20, 2016

Bali, Indonesia...so much more than Eat, Pray, Love

Indonesia is far...in distance and concept.


Aqua Bali Villa resort
One of the things I feared most in planning this adventure was the length of the trip itself. Two hours flying to San Francisco, where I connected to a fourteen hour flight to Hong Kong, where I stayed a couple days, because I was genuinely afraid my body could not take another five hour flight to Denpasar, Indonesia. It's far.


When I arrived, the tropical heat did not surprise me. Nor did the masses of drivers waiting fares at the exit of the airport.
What surprised me was the gentle manner in which the people, even in their crowded state, addressed the exiting passengers. There was an unnatural (to me) sense of calm within the chaos, which I took for granted. I noticed it, and I felt the anxiety I always feel when entering a  new country where, immediately, the masses are trying to sell you something - trying to get the tourist dollars. It is understood.
This was different. The one constant I noticed about the Bali locals was, they never lost their sense of calm, or dignity as they worked. Yes, it is important to feed their families, and yes, tourism is a vital industry, but they never begged. They never shamed. They never lost their humanity when seeking work. I have never admired a group culture so much. I also did not see one homeless person. And I looked...I had a conversation with a taxi driver about homelessness, and the word itself was unfamiliar.

My plan was to see all the typical tourist attractions, the temples, the monkey forest, some waterfalls, and perhaps a sunset or two. The hotel sent a local driver to fetch me from the airport, and he agreed to drive me around the island a few days later to act as my private tour guide.

Not only did I get to see all the sites I was aware of on my little list, I was given a history lesson, taken to a cultural center for dance, escorted to the off the beaten path shopping areas, and even stopped at a  lovely butterfly park.
My driver was working not solely for my fare, but also on a commission for the places he introduced me and sales were made. Interesting concept for me, but how else would some of these businesses get the traffic they see? I was grateful for the private tour.



The other days I spent in Bali, I chose to seek out the local beaches, watch the surfers and meditate. Although, every birthday I like to recharge and re-position my state of mind for the upcoming birth year, this was a wonderful opportunity to really downsize internally. Lose some baggage, release myself of expectation and re-secure life's purpose.
Seminyak Beach













And I ate...Nasi garung was my favorite meal and I tried to eat it every day. Skewers of meat, with fried rice, crawfish, vegetables and different sauces which tasted of a combination of Indian and Chinese foods I am accustomed to in the states, but so much better. Hints of peanut and coconut, creamy delights to my taste buds. I thoroughly enjoyed every meal I had.

The shopping was another treat. I am not a big shopper, but finding dresses at a third the price, and jewelry unique to the island was like finding hidden treasures. I felt like a thief in the night and I cherished every piece I found.

The temples were exquisitely beautiful. Thinking that people built these intense sculptures was only overshadowed by the tributes and offerings that the local people gifted the sites daily. The burning incense in the street was common, as was the small offerings in front of local homes and businesses. Life and prosperity is a gift...and this culture is thankful and gracious, every day.


 Bali is a wonderfully, magical place. I can absolutely understand why so many people want to visit and soak in the culture. It is a mindful experience which everyone could use to help realign themselves and learn to just be.







more video! Savvy Traveler Bali Youtube