Sunday, April 5, 2020

Little Things Make a Big Difference

I had a wonderful conversation with a man on my flight to Europe recently.  We started talking about where we were going and of course as you talk with fellow travelers the discussion almost always turns to where you have been and what you have encountered along the way.

The experience doesn't have to be extreme for you to develop an overall impression of the place you are visiting.  It reminds me of the old adage - you only get one chance to make a good first impression.  That is certainly true for the international travel and hospitality industry. 

This man had traveled from Germany to the US to give a lecture at a medical conference that was being held at the hotel where he was staying.  After arriving very late at night from his international flight he called room service to have a beer delivered to his room and was told he would have to wait over an hour. 

After almost 2 hours and still no drink he went downstairs and collected it himself.  Just that one small request was all it took for this to be an unpleasant experience for him, so much so that he does not stay with that particular hotel brand when he travels and always shares that experience with other people he talks to. 

Anyone who travels on a regular basis knows that it is the little things that can really make a difference - for me it is having food and drink available at off hours.  There isn't anything better than arriving after a long flight and checking into my room to find 2 bottles of water with a lovely assortment of candy, nuts and sometimes even cheese and fruit.  If there is a mini bar or drinks available that is fantastic.  It really sets the tone for my trip be it business or pleasure.

While I understand and truly appreciate getting "special" treatment for being a member of loyalty programs it is even more important to see what effort you make when I am just the average paying customer.  If I can get something to drink and a snack before I go to sleep chances are I'll stay with you again and again. 

Luxurious Langoustine

Last night I watched a cooking program where the chef prepared a lovely langoustine dish.  I have only had this delicate crustacean once and it was on my trip to New Zealand.

I had taken the Coastal Pacific rail from Picton to Christchurch, the journey through the countryside and along the coast was so beautiful.  It was late when I checked into my hotel and I went downstairs for a bite to eat.  There were 2 restaurants, one casual and bustling with people.  The other, elegant with a peaceful atmosphere, that was the one for me.

As I looked over the menu, I realized that this would be beyond my meager budget but I wanted to stay so I ordered a starter and thought that would be sufficient.  I ordered the langoustine with cream sauce and a nice glass of local red wine.  I'm not sure if it was the food, the atmosphere or just the entire experience but it felt so luxurious and tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten.   

For me, that is one of the great joys of traveling.  I can savor those precious moments and relive them again and again, just like they were yesterday.

Monday, March 2, 2020

What I didn't know about Ireland



As an Irish American, I grew up thinking that I knew certain things to be true about Ireland.   Of course, I had always heard how beautiful it was and how friendly the people were but I was surprised to discover that there are so many things that as Americans we don't really know about Ireland.

Here are just some of the things that surprised and delighted me during my travels to the lovely green isle.

Top o' the Mornin - I've never heard an Irish person say this in over 15 years of traveling there.

Corned Beef and Cabbage is not the national dish.

The most common or traditional meal I found all through the country is boiled back bacon (pork), potatoes, cabbage and a lovely parsley cream sauce, it's just like the country boiled dinner my grandmother made when I was growing up.  I found out that the corned beef and cabbage tradition was developed in America due to the cost of food and immigrants living in the same communities with some who did not eat pork.  


Irish Bacon is not the same as Canadian Bacon - it a gorgeous slice of pork loin that I adore!

St. Patrick's Day began as a religious holiday to honor their patron Saint.
Until 1970 pubs were required by law to close for the day.  Irish immigrants in America began celebrating in remembrance of their homeland and it has evolved into the green madness we know today. 

The Republic of Ireland (South) and Northern Ireland (UK) are different countries. 

Pubs in Ireland are truly Public Houses - a place to meet, gather and conduct business.  You are as likely to find a hardware store or linen shop in the same establishment.  Yes, there are many that have become more of a bar but you'll still find many true pubs throughout the country.

To say that the Irish are heavy drinkers, is not a fair reflection of the culture.  Drinking is much more of a social activity and many prefer soft drinks over alcohol when they are out.  My favorite was black currant juice mixed with water, very refreshing.

Having said that, there is a very healthy respect for the black stuff.  Many times I saw Guinness mini vans driving through the country to inspect and service the tiny pubs in the towns and villages.  As a woman you are more likely to be offered a glass instead of a pint when you order a beer, just tell them you want a pint and you'll get a smile and a wink.

We've all heard of Irish Wakes but I was very moved to hear the story about families having American Wakes for their loved ones who were emigrating to the US - they knew they would probably never see them again.  

Christianity/Paganism/Spirituality - As I trekked up the Hill of Tara I was excited to see the shrine to St. Patrick.  I was very surprised that all of their history and traditions were honored there.  That is something I found so fascinating that wherever you go there is great respect and reverence for what was.  Just because they accepted Christianity doesn't mean that they disregard their pagan past.  You'll see monuments and sacred symbols all over the country.

That is something very unique in Ireland - they don't remove something just because it is old or seems out of date.  A lovely caretaker I met at the Kylemore Abbey gardens explained to me that anything that thrives there stays there. 

Taxi drivers are more like professional tour operators - they will give you great information about the local area.  It will also be the most interesting conversation you will ever have.  The Irish are very well informed about news and world events and love to chat with travelers about all of it.

How lovely and social they are is not a myth - if they ask you about yourself, this isn't simply being polite - they really want to know.  I was told early on, when you go out to allow extra time to chat with the people you meet and it was a true pleasure.

The Irish have an incredible, irrepressible, independent spirit that is perfectly displayed on the Painted Doors of Dublin and at the same time have deep love and loyalty to their country, like singing the national anthem at the end of a night of drinking and dancing.  Try that at an American bar on a Saturday night.

They are the warmest and kindest people I have ever met and the countryside is absolutely stunning.  If you've been there then you know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't, then you must see it for yourself to understand the true beauty of this very special place.

To say I was charmed by Ireland would be a tremendous understatement.  It's not only the home of my ancestors but has become the homeplace of my heart. 







Friday, February 7, 2020

Finding the Path with a Heart

As we age, it becomes apparent that we must create new lives.  Will we change careers, begin retirement, travel, downsize or stay where we are?  What often comes with that are the fears associated with making those choices.  We begin to worry about money, our family, our health, where we should live, should we settle down or roam the world.   

When we were raising our families, those decisions seemed to be made for us - we must keep a job, take care of the children with all of the responsibility that entails.  There was very little free time and what there was usually consisted of weekends or once a year family vacation and then back to the routine.

Now, in our 60s we have to make a conscious choice about what we want in our lives.

Our work is not to make something happen but to learn how to let it reveal itself.  It is that time in our lives when we have the opportunity to allow the soft flowing of events to become clear to us and then follow the path that has the most meaning in our lives.

It can be very easy to remain in our old patterns, letting familiar circumstances drive our daily lives.  If we look more closely, we realize that we are entering a brand-new chapter and are being given a tremendous gift.  The possibility, maybe for the first time, to do something just for ourselves. 

For many of us, as this realization sinks in, we employ the same principles of how to get things done – we take action.  What is really ironic about this concept, is that the harder we try to make anything happen the less likely it is to turn out in a way that is pleasing to us.

If we can learn to let go we will discover things that we never thought possible.

Letting go is much easier said than done.  We are taught our entire lives that we must work and struggle in order to get things accomplished.  That hard work is the only way to achieve the results we desire.  Always trying to control external circumstances is exhausting and in the end never really possible.  We cannot control anything outside of our own self so that is where the work must be done.

That is why so many spiritual teachers advocate practices like Meditation, Mindfulness, Yoga, Prayer and Journaling.  Anything that allows our conscious mind to relax and release resistance will provide benefits in all areas of our lives.  Just like any other skill, we must learn to develop techniques that work for us.  This is not a one-size fits all solution so we must do what feels right for us personally.

It doesn’t matter where you start, you just have to begin.

Like everything else, it is very easy to approach this as something else to manage or control.  Trying to unlearn that is the most difficult thing I will ever do in my life.  Even now, after many years of practicing many aspects of letting go or allowing, I find myself slipping back into my old habits.  It is important for me to do something each day, even for just a few minutes, to reclaim my balance and continue forward. 

What works best for me is to keep it simple and find those things that bring me joy.  Sometimes it is writing in my journal or going for a walk.  Other days it is playing with my grandchildren or planning a trip to some faraway place.  It really doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is that you find ways to release the anxiety and tension so that you can learn to experience the peace that comes from just being in the world.

With that peace comes an unfolding of events that we never could have planned.  Bringing to us those very things we thought we had to chase after.  It is ultimately more satisfying to have everything we desire come to us in the perfect way and at the perfect time than to try to manipulate or coerce it.

For me, appreciation is a key factor in everything I do.  I am grateful for what I already have in my life and look forward to whatever new surprise is on the horizon.  I always trust that something wonderful is about to happen and my only job is to relax and enjoy it.





Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 Year in Review


I have had some incredible years of travel but this has been one of the best ever.  I visited places new and old and had some of the most memorable experiences of my life.

January began with a great weekend trip to San Diego, California.  It was a peaceful and easy trip and reminded me how nice it is to just have a short little getaway.



February took me to Florida for my annual warm weather birthday trip.  I loved visiting Deerfield Beach for the 1st time and enjoyed Fort Lauderdale until I broke my ankle.  Time to hobble home and heal before moving on.





 After 2 months in a boot I was ready to be back on the road.  In April, my friends and I took a cruise  to the West Indies.  This was my first time cruising with anyone and on Windstar Cruises.  Both were fantastic!  Everything about this trip was perfect.  The islands (Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, and Grenada) were stunning and the cruise was amazing from beginning to end.  






Back home again, it was time to get ready for our big family trip to France in June.  We stayed in a lovely chateau outside of Paris.  Close to the city with beautiful gardens and a pool that the kids loved.  



Later that month took me back to California - this time to San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in the world.  





Then came time for my trip to Amsterdam in August.  I am always happy to go somewhere new but this was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.  I had never been to the Netherlands before and was just delighted by it all.  I stayed across the river at the Hilton DoubleTree NDSM Wharf and it was fantastic!  Taking the ferry was wonderful and I loved all the eclectic shops and restaurants.







That trip was incredibly hard to follow but by November I was ready to go again.  This time would take me to Dallas and San Antonio, Texas.  Part work, part pleasure but fun all the same! 



In December, I booked a last minute trip to Florida and the Bahamas.  I'd forgotten about some flight credits that were expiring and had hotel points for my stay, so off I went.  I don't usually travel so close to the holidays but this was a nice getaway to wrap up the year.






What an amazing year of travel it has been.  So many wonderful people and places, all with their special and unique qualities.  Every trip inspires me to take yet another incredible journey!

Happy Travels and Happy New Year!
















Sunday, December 1, 2019

New Adventures

This has been an incredible travel year and an unbelievable decade.  I remember very clearly where I was 10 years ago and the major shift that occurred for me.  2009 - 2019 were fantastic years and opened me up to so many new experiences I would never have believed it.

Both at home and abroad my life has expanded in so many ways and I'm very grateful.  Now, I'm looking forward to the future.  I'm so excited to see what the next 10 years may bring.

Happy Travels!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

How Travel Has Changed


Still basking in the afterglow of my recent trip to France, it reminds me of how I used to travel.  Rushing from place to place, trying to see and do everything I could possibly squeeze into whatever time I had.  Always thinking, I have to do this now because I will probably never come back again.  With my itinerary overflowing and a dizzying array of stops, I needed a vacation when I returned home. 

It was all very exciting and I had no desire to slow down.  I was also much younger and had enough energy to get me through even the busiest schedule.  Now, all of that has changed.  Slowly, over the years, I found that I wanted to take my time, do a little less and spend more time enjoying my new surroundings.

This trip was a perfect combination of activities and relaxation.  My family rented a lovely home in the countryside just outside of Paris.  Beautiful, peaceful gardens and close proximity to visit the city.  To be able to wake to the sounds of birds chirping and know that the only thing on my agenda was to sit and have coffee in the garden was divine.

Now, as I’m planning my travel, I keep the schedule very light and open.  I plan to have one or two activities that I would like to do but nothing set in stone.  Flexibility is the key; I want to be able to decide what I want to do and not be tied to a strict schedule. 

I also plan my transportation very carefully, allowing extra time for travel delays, recovery of jet lag and any others issues that inevitably arise from travel.  I’ve learned how my body reacts to long, overnight flights and now plan accordingly.  It is so much more pleasant to arrive knowing that I have a couple of days to rest and acclimate to my new environment before I have to move on. 

I love to book a nice, quiet hotel with a restaurant and room service so I don’t even have to leave my room if I’m so inclined.  Usually, after the first day, I’m ready to go out and explore a little.  Walking around where I’m staying always gives me a good sense of the local area and gets me energized for more activities. 

One of my favorite things to do in any area that I’m visiting is to go to the market.  Preferably outdoor, but any nearby shop will do.  Even if it is only to pick up a few light snacks to take back to my room, I love feeling like a local and not a tourist.  The absolute best is when I have a kitchen, which is why renting an apartment or house is fantastic.  I can cook and shop and it makes me feel right at home.  It is a wonderful way to experience a new place.

I do enjoy seeing the sights, just at a different pace.  For me, this type of travel gives me more pleasure and much less stress.  These are the experiences that I remember and enjoy long after the trip has ended. 

What is your travel style?  Have you changed how you travel over the years?  Do you like a full schedule or is it more relaxed?  Share you experiences and join the conversation!

Wishing you Happy Travels,

Lynn