Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Warmth of Phoenix

I haven't been to Phoenix in years but I always enjoy my time there.  It's such a nice winter break from the cold in Colorado.  With so much going on for the holidays I wanted just a short, easy little getaway and this was the perfect choice.

It was one of the best, most relaxing trips I have had in a very long time.  I could have been 5,000 miles away and not unwound more quickly.  I flew in and the shuttle was there to greet me, like my own personal valet.  I stayed at the Phoenix Airport Marriott and the entire staff could not have been more welcoming.  For the entire stay, I felt pampered and catered to in a way that I was not expecting.  3 days was not enough so I will return very soon because it's not just the weather that is warm in Phoenix.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Freedom

I know I've been at home a little too long when I start to get "cabin fever".  That sense that I am trapped in a very small environment and can't get out.  During meetings at work, I daydream about all of the incredible places I have been or want to go to and I can feel my spirits lift.

The only cure for what ails me is to plan some new adventure.  Whether it's near or far, somewhere new or an old favorite, it doesn't matter.  It makes me feel like I have escaped and gained my freedom.




Monday, August 25, 2014

Cobh

Cobh, Ireland is the most reverent place I have ever been.  When I first arrived I was taken by the somber almost subdued tone of the town.  As I walked down to the waterfront, I stood at the statue of Annie and her brothers and said a prayer for all that left their homeland in search of a better life.  Later, a lovely man sitting near me at the JFK park told me the sad tale of the "American Wakes", Irish families sending their loved ones off to a new country, knowing they would never see them again. 

The water at the coast has a palpable energy - the memorials to the emigrants, Titanic and Lusitania are living reminders of all the souls that passed through and from there.  May you all rest in peace. 


 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Gentle Journey

There is something very serene about traveling by train.  It takes me back to another place and time when things moved a little slower and the journey was just as important as the destination. 

When I was growing up, we would take the train to go to visit our family in Iowa.  It was a long trip but it felt very peaceful to me, staring out of the window watching the endless rows of corn rush by was almost hypnotizing. 

Mom had her avocado green makeup/curler bag with little treats for the trip, usually lemon drop candies that my brother and I loved and a deck of playing cards to help pass the time.  What I remember most was just being able to relax and feel the rhythmic motion of the train as we passed through the countryside.  No expectations, just a lovely and gentle journey.

Monday, May 26, 2014

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What I Learn from Travel

It is so amazing to me that no matter where I go, near or far, I learn something new everytime I step outside of my door.  I used to think that I had to go far away to have a big experience and now I realize that it can happen in my own neighborhood as easily as on the other side of the world.

What is important for me is to stay open to my surroundings.  When I'm out and about, I make a point of not burying myself in a book or my phone.  I like to look around and notice the little things that are going on and always love to chat with people I meet along the way.

In many ways I feel like a child, full of wonder and awe and I am so grateful for each and every lesson on this incredible journey.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Que Sera Sera

As I stepped off the bus in Clarenbridge, a tiny town on the West Coast of Ireland, I could almost taste the fresh oysters.  I was early and most people had not arrived yet so I was able to walk through and see how everything was situated.  I get a little nervous and very excited when I go somewhere new and I feel more comfortable if I can check things out like where to get food and drinks and where the bathrooms are. 

The event center was a big open room with a gorgeous garden out back, the toilets were outside under a huge white tent, very clean and typically Irish.  I have never been anywhere that public facilities were so nice, it was that way everywhere in the country and it always impressed me.

The bar and tables, brimming with food, were arranged against the walls with a large stage at the front of the room and a big dance floor surrounded by stand-up two tier tables.  I watched as people went up for their food and drinks.  I don’t like to stand out as a tourist so I try to do what the locals do and blend in as much as possible.  It’s almost a game for me to see how well I can observe and mimic the behavior of people around me.  Most of the time I think I do fairly well but of course I’m found out as soon as I speak and they comment on my “American” accent.

On this day, I was feeling very emotional as I knew I would be returning to the US in a few weeks.  Unable to secure a work permit I could not stay in the country.  I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving this beautiful place and my heart was breaking.  Before I left I wanted to go to one of the Oyster Festivals so I decided on Clarenbridge, it was just an hour or so from where I was living in Shannon and perfect for a day trip.  Much like my mood, it was a cloudy, misty September day and the weather was changing.  No bother for the Irish, celebrations go on rain or shine. 

As I waited for my Guinness I looked around the room to see where would be a good place to stand.  There were several small open tables near the stage.  That would be perfect so I could watch the band.  I didn’t know there was music and dancing but I wasn’t surprised, it goes on everywhere with all kinds of music - Traditional Irish, Country Western, Rock & Roll, Oldies and always a happy, festive atmosphere. 

The food was fantastic, fresh oysters, so sweet and tender they melted in my mouth, excellent chowder and fresh baked brown bread.  That and a great pint, what else could a girl want – I was very happy.  As the crowd began to arrive the band started to play.  They were very good local musicians playing a great mix of American and Irish classics.  Most of the songs were old fashioned, sentimental favorites that everyone could dance or sing along to.  I was very grateful that my girlfriends had tried to teach me to waltz and jive, I wasn’t great but could manage to follow with a good partner.  I drank, ate and danced all afternoon and had such a wonderful time.

As I stood there soaking up as much of this amazing experience as I could, the band began to plan “Que Sera Sera” an old favorite of mine by Doris Day!  I was stunned not only because this was an all-male band playing this song but because it was what I had been saying to myself about having to go back home and I couldn’t help myself as tears came to my eyes.  It was as if the universe was telling me that everything would be fine and it was one of the most touching moments of my entire 6 months in Ireland.  I smiled as the guitar player nodded gently to me as if he understood.

Even now it seems like a lovely dream and I knew that day that my heart and life would never be the same.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hotel Safety

This is a subject that I cannot write enough about.  It seems as though there are always new situations that arise to help me learn about being safe away from home, either alone or with others.

Last week while traveling for work I stayed in a very nice hotel in a good part of town with several people from the office and that always makes me feel more comfortable but I was quickly reminded to never let my guard down.  After having dinner with a co-worker downstairs at the hotel restaurant we headed back up to our rooms, we were on different floors - hers was key access only.  Just before the doors closed a man jumped on and when we asked what floor he simply nodded and never said where he was going. 

When the elevator stopped on my floor, he got off behind me and immediately I felt very uncomfortable.  I thought about what happened recently to my daughter and the blog post I wrote about her experience.  I decided to wait by the elevator to see if I could hear him going into a room before I went to mine.  When I didn't hear anything, I peeked around the corner only to see him looking up and down the hallway.  I quickly pushed the down button on the elevator to go back to the lobby.  When he came back around the corner, he was startled to see me standing there and I told him I had forgotten something downstairs.  He pushed the up button and just stared at me.  I was beginning to panic when his elevator came I waited until it closed and quickly ran to my room.  After alerting my friend and notifying the front desk I thought about how I could have handled that in a much safer way.

First, I would not have gotten off on my own floor.  I would have stayed on with her and called someone from the front desk to meet us.  I also would not have stayed by the elevators, I should have immediately gone back down to the lobby and asked for someone to go back up with me as there was a strange man wandering the hall.

Granted what I did do was better than just casually going to my room and let him see where I was staying but I did not go far enough to protect myself.  He may have just been lost but there is never a good reason to stay around to find out.  She and I both had a bad feeling when he got on the elevator but we were too busy chatting and because we were together we felt a false sense of security.  This was a great experience for me to heighten my personal awareness about staying safe no matter where I am or who I am with.





 

1 year on

It has been one year since I started this blog.  It has been a fantastic way for me to share my experiences with others in the international travel community.  Women's Independent Travel was born out of my love of all things travel and this blog has been a perfect forum to connect with like minded people and organizations which is something I truly miss as a solo traveler.  Now I feel as if I have an extended family around the world and I am very grateful for all the encouragement and support everywhere I go. 

Safe and happy travels to you all!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sentimental Journey

After a very strange and stressful week at work I was finally heading to the airport to go home.  When I arrived it was buzzing with activity, mostly sports fans and students on spring break so it was very loud and hectic.  I found the most quiet location possible and tried to focus on what would make my flight more pleasant so I decided to think about where I wanted to sit on the plane.  This airline does not assign seats which can be a blessing or a curse and with today's crowd I thought I better put all of my energy toward the positive so I could try to relax on my way home.  My request was simple - a seat on the aisle with room for my small bag overhead and a pleasant seatmate preferably between rows 5 - 20 on the plane.  I know it's silly but it can make all the difference between a easy and comfortable flight and an uncomfortable one.

Boarding the plane it was already more than half full and as I moved back I scoured the rows for my seat.  Finally, row 17 on the aisle, with plenty of overhead space - great!  As I sat down I realized it was 2 women with a small baby and that may have been why the seat was available.  I was thrilled, after becoming a grandmother almost 4 years ago it makes me very happy to be around young children. 

It was a young mother with her grandmother and 6 month old daughter.  I immediately began to relax and knew this would be a wonderful flight.  I chatted briefly with the women and played with the beautiful little girl until she fell asleep in her great-grandmothers arms.  Then it occurred to me - that could be me someday!  A tidal wave of emotion came over me as I thought about my grandchildren having children of their own and that we might take a trip together just like this lovely family and I could have my own great-grandchild sleeping in my arms.  What a beautiful and sentimental journey and one of the best trips I have ever had.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Slow Travel


As I think about planning my late winter holiday I've realized that my travel style has changed a great deal in recent years.  I'm no longer interested in the high octane, thrill seeking adventures as I once was.  Even going to extreme and exotic locations is just not high on my list anymore.  Now I am craving that journey that is sweet and slow, something peaceful and beautiful to rest my soul.      

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Umami of Travel

Umami is a food term for delicious - that combination of savory, sweet, sour, bitter and salty that excites our palates and so it is with travel.  Everything that makes each trip so memorable touches our spirit and becomes a part of us forever. 

For those of us who love the journey it is a divine delight of the senses.  Just like sitting down to a large buffet - every sight, sound, taste, touch and aroma fills us with wonder and excitement.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Short and Sweet

Sometimes the best getaways are those that are short and sweet.  So many people are so busy that they live for that precious once a year vacation.  Usually it's during the summer when the kids are out of school or over the holidays when everyone in the world is traveling and you come home more exhausted than when you left.  My solution is a decadent little weekend trip that makes me feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

I'm a big fan of being a tourist in your own city.  It's great fun to plan an activity or meet friends for a night out but stay in a hotel instead of at home.  Even one night makes me feel like I've had a nice break and doesn't take much time or planning at all. 

Most hotels offer weekend or package specials so it is an easy and affordable getaway right in your own home town.
   

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Birthday Trip

Every year at this time I begin planning my birthday trip.  It is the perfect time for a getaway and a special way for me to celebrate the occasion.  The tradition began many, many years ago when I decided to go to Mexico for my birthday.  It was the first trip I had ever taken out of the country and what a grand adventure that was.  I spoke very little Spanish, I did not know or understand border customs, foreign currency exchange or much about getting around in a strange place.  I was terrified and exhilarated all at the same time.

I began by purchasing a holiday package that included most of my arrangements and that helped a great deal.  I found when I arrived that although most of the basics were covered I still had to manage quite a bit on my own.  What I discovered was that it was so much fun and easier than I expected. 

I met so many wonderful people both locals and other tourists, ate incredible food, had fantastic excursions and even had a little holiday romance, it was truly enchanting.  Ever since then it has been an annual event and I can't wait to see what fantastic journey awaits!