On your mark, get set…

“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go” –Peter, Paul and Mary

Contest Time!
We’ll start with a packing question. The trip will be thirteen days long, and we are limited to 44 pounds.  I’ll be bringing along some treasures from past trips. Which of the following will I NOT be bringing?

  1. A seasickness patch left over from the Antarctica voyage
  2. Coca tea bags from the Peru trip, to help avoid altitude sickness
  3. My long underwear (also from Antarctica)
  4. My windbreaker from my bike trip
  5. My flotation belt from my water aerobics class
  6. My teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini (from my adolescence)
  7. Wine glasses and bottle armor for “trip wine”

Hint:  I’m bringing 5 of the 7 items.

Next question will be about the trip activities. Which ones do you think will be offered?

  1. Blow gun contest
  2. Snorkeling
  3. Chicha (beer) making lesson
  4. Raft making
  5. Floating on the raft that we made
  6. Piranha fishing
  7. Piranha cooking and eating
  8. A day trip to a spa
  9. Shopping for contest prizes

Another hint.  We are doing 7 of the 9.  You get one point for every one that you correctly pick and lose one point for picking something we aren’t going to be doing.

So, let the contest begin!  Contest closes Monday afternoon, and the answers will be posted then.

Road Scholar – one of my favorite things

A recent Huffington Post by Doris Gallan described what us oldies but goodies look for in a travel experience:  “The chance to learn something new, have genuine experiences with locals, and get value for money”.  That’s exactly why we travel with Road Scholar.  Our upcoming trip to Ecuador will be our fourth trip with them.  And yes, this post is yet another attempt for me to hone my word press blogging skills, before I hit the road.

Our first trip, to Costa Rica in 2007, definitely gave us value for our money.  All Road Scholars trips include lectures about the country, supplemented with visits to points of interest that we might have missed had we been traveling on our own.  At Cafe Britt, we learned about the history of coffee, its cultivation, harvesting and roasting.  The gift shop shipped our purchases home for us, which was greatly appreciated.

At our visit to the Dole plantation, we learned that banana plants are actually herbs.  That was only one of a multitude of interesting facts.  Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the rest of them.   Hey, it’s been 5 years!

Costa Rica has no military force.  Instead, they spend their resources on education and on preserving the beauty of their country.  As they say in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida”.
INBio Park’s exhibit pinpointed the locations of Costa Rica’s abundant national parks.

Our trip also had an active component.  That’s me, front left seat,  with Mike right behind me (although it is hard to tell) white water rafting on the Sarapiqui River.

Our school visit qualified as a  “genuine experiences with the locals”.    The children were so cute. They performed for us, then practiced speaking English while they gave us a tour of the school.

We visited TWO of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes.  Poaz Volcano is just outside of San Jose.  That is not a reflection of the sky; it is actual steam rising up from the center of the crater.

Our hotel was close enough to  Volcan Arenal to allow us to see it erupting at night.  This obviously isn’t a great shot, but you get the idea.  Trust me, it was much more impressive in person!

Here’s the afternoon view, from our hotel.

One of the nice things about Road Scholars is you are not visiting sites with hoards of others.  Frequently we were all by ourselves, enjoying the view.

We hiked to the top of a neighboring peak, and were rewarded with a wonderful view of Lake Arenal.

This Capuchin monkey’s job was to distract us so that his confederates could get into our backpacks.  We were supposed to leave them unattended while we photographed him!

He was one of the main attractions at Manuel Antonio Park.  The other attraction was the beautiful beach, with the comfortably, warm water.

Costa Rica is justifiably renown for its diversity of plant and animal life.  Take a look at just a smidgen of what we saw during our trip.

2011, a long goodbye

I’m still getting the hang of posting from my “i” stuff. Posting from an iPhone is different from an iPad, and both are different from posting from a desktop. So, my 2011 goodbye got published before I was finished with my fond farewell.

Here are more Antarctica shots
Lunch time

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Following the penguin trail to the top of the hill

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Our ship looked like a toy when viewed from the top of the hill.  Maybe it was a little higher than it looked.  We slid all the way back to the bottom on our bottoms

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My traveling companions, Greg

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and Mike

Disembarking at dawn in Ushuaia, Argentina, the end of the earth.

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Back home by way of Santiago, Chile

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And Lima, Peru

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Dinner at La Rosa Nautica, on the Pacific Ocean, before heading to the airport

Goodbye, 2011

Only one more day in 2011. For me, 2011 was a wonderful year. Our extended family grew through marriage and the arrival of a baby, our son started his MBA at the University of Virginia, we achieved a level of financial independence that allowed me to join Mike in retirement, and we were able to spend time with people that are important to us.

We started the year traveling to Antarctica with Lindblad and National Geographic. We boarded the ship in Ushuaia, Argentina, after a short cruise on a catamaran through the Beagle Channel.

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Here is the Antarctica welcoming committee.

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Travel, the gift that keeps on giving

I love traveling.  I love phase one: thinking about places to visit, planning the trip, learning the history and culture, and deluding myself into thinking that I might actually learn a little of the language.

I love phase two: experiencing the actual adventure, which is frequently different from what I had envisioned…not better, not worse, just different.

And I love phase three:  creating the photo book or slide show (or both) of the trip, so that I can relive the experiences over and over, whenever I want. If I’m lucky, in addition to the memories, I end the trip with some new friends

The VBT (Vermont Bike trip) was particularly noteworthy because our entire group was so  very compatible.  And I have been VERY lucky, because that trip was the beginning of several new friendships.

Recently Jim alerted us that Damjan, one of our guides, was in New York City.  Jim’s daughter not only showed Damjan around, but also lent him a bike.  As luck would have it, Diane was up from Boston visiting her daughter, so I made the trip from New Jersey and we all gathered for drinks at the Waldorf=Astoria (No, that is not a typo.  That’s the official name.  Don’t ask me why.)

Here we are, standing in front of the very famous clock, in the lobby.  Notice the white shawl I am carrying.  Before the night was over, I managed to spill a full glass of red wine on it, but that’s another story for another time.

The plaque on the base (quoted below) provides almost everything you need to know about the clock:

“The Waldorf Astoria Clock was executed by the Goldsmith Company of London for exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It was purchased by the Waldorf Astoria and was the focal point outside the Rose Room of the original hotel at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. This clock weighs approximately two tons and stands nine feet tall. Around the eight sides of the base are likenesses of Cleveland, Harrison, Washington, Grant, Lincoln, Franklin, Jackson and Queen Victoria. Under these are bronze plaques depicting various sports and scenes. Westminster chimes ring on the quarter hour.”

It doesn’t mention what WE observed to be the most important feature.  But don’t worry, we captured it.

Tribute to bikers

After drinks,  we went to Tutuma social club, a restaurant with Peruvian-African jazz.  In keeping with our VBT tradition, I photographed the food, which every bit as good as it looked.

We ended the night with fond farewells to Damjan, who was wrapping up his whirlwind tour of the USA and heading to Paris for a VBT meeting with the other tour guides.

Our next VBT trip will be to Italy, next June.  So far, Diane, Karen, Sally and I have all signed up and Phase One for that trip is currently under way.