The Often Bumpy Road To Retirement

The road to retirement often has detours and bumps ahead.

About a year ago I retired from nearly twenty five years of teaching.  I loved the job and the kids but I believe every good teacher knows when it’s time to leave.  I was lucky enough to be able to retire financially, but mentally I was still a teacher, longing for my kids and the joy that I felt from teaching.

I am spontaneous and a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, but that was not working for me as a retired woman.  My husband had an eighteen month head start on his retirement.  He had a routine, a schedule, a cool hobby and his day planned out.  At first I felt like I was floundering.  Lack of planning was not really working for me.  Where did my day go?  At the end of each day I felt like I accomplished nothing, nada.

I needed to expand my world.  I started by substitute teaching for some other teachers.  I enjoyed it, but I always needed to remember that I was the visitor.  This was NOT my classroom.  I enjoyed spending time with the kids but it was not enough.

Slowly, things have changed.  My days no longer feel wasted and unproductive. I have come to a place of contentment and satisfaction. Retirement, to me feels like a great pair of jeans you have picked out long ago, saved for and finally just went out and bought. Initially, they were uncomfortable and foreign, maybe a bit too tight and restrictive, they did not feel “comfortable.”  After “wearing” my retirement for a while (nearly a year)  I now feel more at home with it.  It’s a much better fit than it was initially, and I like the way I feel at the end of my day. I have settled into my retirement.

When I first retired we traveled so much I really didn’t get a chance to manage my time at home.  I value every day and I realize that we may never know when it is our last day on this earth, so I need to make all my days count.

Slowly, I began to build my week. At the recommendation of a friend, I started with an outdoor fitness class three times a week.  I had always enjoyed working out and had recently left my long time workout group.  I don’t like change, who does?  But I was exhilarated with the new group.  I was modifying my workouts and felt great afterwards.  Unfortunately I hit a detour.  My doctor said no more working out while my foot fracture was still healing.  I was wearing the ortho boot but apparently my foot was not ready for the extra stress.

I was instantly deflated. I NEEDED to workout.  Swimming came immediately to mind and I signed up for water aerobics at a local community center.  I arrived early to the large facility, complete with a gym, rock climbing wall and multiple swimming pools.  Very quickly I was greeted by “the ladies”.  These nine ladies have been part of the morning water aerobics class for years.  They ranged in age from sixties to eighties.   I was the young one in the group.  I was also the third Nancie, so they referred to me as “Nancie number 3.”   I removed my boot and stepped intrepidly into the warm water.  After sixty minutes I was beat!  This was going to be fun!

In addition, I started a watercolor class.  For several hours each week I would learn some new techniques and meet new people.  Most of the people in my class were obviously very talented.  I don’t consider myself talented necessary, but I am motivated and driven.  I set up my casita with painting supplies and most days I will spend several hours painting and enjoying the solitude.  I have not yet completed a painting that I’m going to frame, but I’m getting closer.

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My hummingbird, a work in progress
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Free form tulips
I make time to see my family and friends.  My schedule is flexible so I love it when I can enjoy a leisurely lunch or activity with a good friend.  My photography interest have expanded and I do try to find opportunities to take interesting photographs.  I now control the hours in my days, and that is a very good feeling.  I am now back at my outdoor fitness class and water aerobics, it feels great.  I have also located a charity that I may volunteer at, my dance card is filling up.

We continue to plan more travel and I have been researching some of the places that we plan on visiting this year.  They include:  Chicago, Annapolis, Miami, Key West, the Caribbean, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Madeira , and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  That will keep us kind of busy, and I really do enjoy having the freedom to be as busy as I want.

This blog began about a year ago.  I love reading other blogs and hearing from people that take the time to read my blog.  Thank you for reading my thoughts.  I would love to hear from some readers about their retirement journeys.

Day Trippin’ In Arizona

Why you need to take a road trip in Arizona

Some days you just want to get out and get moving.  Recently I had one of those days.  I said to my husband, “Let’s take a road trip on the Apache Trail.”

He was silent for a few minutes, because he is a planner and a thinker but he asked me how quickly I could get ready and thirty minutes later we were on the road.  My husband is the driver for two reasons:

  1.  He is the constant line leader.
  2.  I am a lousy driver.
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My husband, an excellent driver

 

Even though we’ve  lived in Arizona for over thirty years we have never visited the Apache Trail.   The scenic road is named after the Apache Indian tribe that originally used the trail.  We begin our road trip catching AZ 88 in Apache Junction through Tonto National Forrest.

President Theodore Rosevelt compared the beauty of the Apache Trail to the Alps, The Grand Canyon and The Rockies.  “To me it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.”  He was right.

Slowly we drove along the  steep, narrow and winding road, with saguaro covered hills that runs for roughly forty miles.  Along the way we passed several single lane bridges.  There is an aspect of trust you need to have to get on one of these bridges.  You have to trust that the guy on the other side will wait for you to cross.  Luckily for us the route was not busy

.  This is not a drive for the timid motorist.  Often the road was very narrow with hairpin curves and dropped steeply down to canyons.  I’m not going to lie, when I get scared, imagining a fall down the rocky crevasses I simply close my eyes and think about being somewhere else.  Yet another reason why I am not the driver.

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View of the colors along the Apache Trail

An hour into our journey we happened upon Canyon Lake, a man made reservoir with stunning views of cliffs and bright green and yellow colored desert plants.  So many boaters and campers were out enjoying the idyllic weather.

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Canyon Lake
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Another photographer pointed out this lone bright orange poppy

We drove for about five hours past the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town, Canyon Lake and the tiny tourist town of Tortilla Flat, but did not complete the trail.  Towards the end of the drive the road turns to gravel.  We stopped often along the way to take pictures and appreciate the beauty around us.  In our hectic and busy lives we often ignore what is in our own backyard.  I know we will return again to enjoy the splendor of the desert.

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An ocotillo ready to bloom with the colors of the desert in the background
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Superstition Mountains in the background
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Even though we couldn’t alway pull the car over, we still enjoyed the view
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Century plants, ocotillos, brittle bushes and prickly pears along the way

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Older, Apparently it’s Unavoidable

Getting older is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Age is a sticky subject for me.  I don’t like to admit that I’m getting older but the reality of life is that getting older is better than the alternative.

I guess when you admit that you are getting older you also become more accepting of the reality of your own mortality.  And that is something I’m not ready for.

Maybe one of the positive things about age and maturity is that your perspective changes.  Now I don’t worry about what people think about me.  Gone are the days of insecurity.  You can like me if you want, but it’s not something that I crave any longer.  I am not afraid to give people my honest opinion.

Knowing that life is precious and fleeting, I really want to experience everything I can.  I do try to live my dreams.  Going to Australia and seeing the Great Barrier Reef last month was something I wanted to do since I was a kid.   I fell in love with the spectacular pictures of the Great Barrier Reef, and the idea of visiting a far away place.  My brother Neal, who keeps EVERYTHING  from our childhood (and archives it  )recently sent me the National Geographic School Bulletin from 1968.  This was the magazine that ignited my desire to to see Australia.   On the cover was Australia’s Barrier Reef.   As a nine year old,  I saw those pictures and knew I had to go there.   It was on my Bucket List.   It may have taken me almost fifty years, but I got there.  It no longer looks like it did in 1968, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

 

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Captivating article about Great Barrier Reef “one of the most awesome spots on earth.”

I was finding Nemo inside the magazine in ’68, thirty five years  before Pixar even dreamed of the movie.

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Clownfish from 1968 magazine

Right now I’m dealing with the realization that my body doesn’t always do what I want it to.   I fractured my foot a couple of weeks ago, climbing the stairs.  No, it didn’t happen when I bungee jumped off a building, or when I was snorkeling , or hiking or riding a speed boat.  It happened when I was just climbing the stairs!

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My new “boot”

I’m in a walking boot now  and it is very uncomfortable to walk in.  When I went to the store yesterday I sat in a cart scooter, acknowledging my disability .  I drove around Costco and knocked over a couple of displays, but no people.  Those things are really slow, and loud when you back up.  It took me twice as long to shop as it usually does.  I felt vulnerable and old.  Two things I wish to avoid.

I may accept the realization that my body isn’t as strong as it once was, but I am not giving up.  I realize this is my new reality. It’s probably time to give away my roller blades.  But I refuse to let it slow me down.                                                                                Age is only a number.

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My rollerblades, not for sale……. yet

 

 

 

 

Exploring Down Under

Taking in the sights, sounds and flavors or Sydney and Auckland

When our cruise ship arrived in Sydney at sunrise I was awed by the absolute beauty of the city.  The Sydney Opera House, Harbor Bridge and gorgeous downtown were all so spectacular.

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Harbor Bridge, Sydney
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Downtown Sydney at sunrise

We had only one day to spend in Sydney before we headed to Auckland, New Zealand so we wanted to make the best of it.  We checked  into our hotel and because it was a Sunday we headed over to the Market at The Rocks.  The Rocks are located on the site of Sydney’s historic city center.  We shopped some of the stalls of hand made and recently imported items then ate a terrific lunch along the way at playfair cafe.  They offered sandwiches and salads but we also decided to order the berry crumble, which was the better than you could ever imagine.  The owner, Sean told us it was worth the wait and was going to change our lives.  It was and it did.  We ate it so quickly I forgot to take a photo of it in all of it’s deliciousness.

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Home of the life changing “crumble”

We walked along the ferry terminal to the  Opera House.  It is spectacular up close as well .  I had no idea that the surface was covered with tiles.

 

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A bit of a different view of the Sydney Opera House

We have some friends from Phoenix who now live in Sydney so after our shopping we met them for dinner at Ripples.  It is located outside a community pool and has a beautiful view of both the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.  The food and wine were so delicious and it was so very nice to spend time with our expat friends.  After dinner they suggested we walk the bridge.  It was a short walk and the evening views did not disappoint.  It was also free, not the  $250 charged by the company that escorts walkers slowly across the highest point of bridge.

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Seafood salad from Ripples

 

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My friend Brooks and I outside Ripples Restaurant in Sydney

 

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Beautiful bridge architecture
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View of the Sydney Opera House from the bridge

The next morning we were at the airport headed to Auckland, New Zealand for a few days.  We arrived in Auckland and recognized the SkyTower before we even hit downtown.  We checked into our Airbnb in the center of town and were ready to explore the city.  Since we only had four days in New Zealand, we decided to explore Auckland and the surrounding area by foot and by ferry.

We went to the ferry terminal and took Fuller’s  Harbor tour, which provided us with a nice narrated cruise with view of Auckland’s downtown from the water, Bean Rock Lighthouse, the Auckland Harbor bridge and stops in Rangitoto, an island created by volcanic rock, and Davenport.

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Downtown Auckland from the harbor
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Bean Rock Lighthouse
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A seagull perched on top of a roof in Rangitoto

I may get scared easily, but ultimately I am an adrenaline junkie.  I like to be scared.  As soon as I saw people bungee jumping off of the Sky Tower, I knew I had to do it.  A thrill, with very little risk in my estimation.  After you sign your life away, participants are weighed, placed in jumpsuits and harnesses and sent up to the top of the tower to free fall for about twelve seconds.  It was terrifying and exhilarating. I screamed the entire way down and loved it.

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Freefalling from the 630 foot Auckland Sky Tower

We celebrated after the jump by enjoying a New Zealand delicacy, Green Lipped mussels.  They were gigantic and fabulous.

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Green lipped mussels, order the small portion

For our final day in Auckland we booked a day long wine tasting tour with Waiheke Island Wine Tours. We were met by our driver Wayne, a life long resident of this picturesque island, who explained the history of winemaking on the island as well as information about native Maori culture.  We visited three wineries and finished with a gourmet lunch at The Shed at Dunleavy Vineyards.

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A view of the small marina from Waiheke Island
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One of the many vineyard in Waiheke Island
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Wine tasting at Miro Winery
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Luggage for the trip home

The next morning we woke up early for a very long travel day back to America.  We were able to keep our baggage down to two suitcases and two backpacks. For our return We did check our luggage since they were now heavy and expanded to maximum capacity, also we needed to put our wine somewhere..

We have completed our journey of thirty one days visiting the other side of the world.  We tried new foods, met new friends and experienced things that we will never forget.  There is no one else in this world that I enjoy traveling with more than my husband.  As we waited for our Uber to arrive a bus passed us by and on that bus was the message of our travel.

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A Great Cruise: What Azamara Cruiseline Does Right

Review of Azamara Journey cruise

We enjoy cruising.  Really, what’s not to like?  You are provided with food, lodging, maid service, entertainment and alcohol and get to visit beautiful spots in the world.

When my children were very young we embarked on several low cost cruises that allowed the five of us stay in the same 120 square foot room.  What the heck were we thinking?  What parent doesn’t want to get into a closet size room with their spouse and three active children?  My kids loved cruising because there was 24 hour pizza, ice cream and a family vacation all rolled into one.  But once we went to bed,  NO ONE could get up, unless everybody got up.  Since there were bunks on top of bunks, I’m pretty sure at least one of my three kids needed to step on another to get in or out of bed.

Things have changed.  We’re retired now and our adult children don’t usually cruise with us.  When we choose a cruise we look for great itineraries .  We found a fabulous itinerary on the Azamara Journey eighteen nights from Singapore to Sydney with stops in Bali, Komodo Northern Australia and The Great Barrier Reef.  We had never heard of Azamara before but after some researching, we decided to try this cruiseline owned by Celebrity.  Customer ratings were positive so we booked our cruise.

Things Azamara does differently

1. The food was exceptional.  Because the kitchen staff is only preparing meals for 600 or so passengers the quality and preparation of the food was spot on.  At every meal you can eat at either the Windows Cafe or Discovery dining room.  There is not assigned, fixed seating so you have an opportunity to either enjoy your meal as a couple or ask to be placed at a group table.

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Lobster tail from specialty restaurant

2.  The entertainment was diverse.  Guests can enjoy dance lessons, card games, painting, trivia, destination lecturers as well as small and larger scale musical shows.  One interesting note about the entertainment was that the Cruise Director, Eric was also an amazing performer. He sang, danced, skated, told jokes and performed in drag on our eighteen day cruise. There is really nothing quite like watching a six foot six performer skate, sing and dance in drag.

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Cruise director Eric with my friend Pat

3.  On every cruise Azamara hosts a White Party where guests and employees alike all dress in white and enjoy a sumptuous lobster barbecue on the deck, complete with drinks, entertainment, line dancing and also a few people in the pool at the end of the night (myself included). The night was a brilliant seventy degrees with clear skies and a full moon.

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Enjoying White Party with new friends Jeff, Jennifer, Gail and Marilyn
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The ladies decided to take a dip in the pool at The White Party
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Dancing in the pool at the end of the White Party

4.  The people that work at Azamara are friendly.  Not the fake smile and nod friendly, they are really friendly.  From the room steward to the captain everyone greets you on the ship and they will engage you in a conversation.  You can’t fake that.

5.   Azamara also hosts an AZAMAZING EVENING at one of the ports where locals provide a night of culture and entertainment for the guest. On our night in Cairns we were treated to  face painting, dance and music as we learned more of the natives aboriginal culture.

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Face paint courtesy of the performers

6.  Azamara has only two ships, each hold approximately 600 passengers. They are often able to get into much smaller ports than the mega ships. The ships were refurbished recently and are decorated in warm gray hues. They change the itineraries frequently and often stay at a port late or remain overnight. This really allows the opportunity for passengers to spend time enjoying the destinations. For my husband and I, really IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DESTINATIONS.

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Bali 

7.  I may be new to Azamara but we are not new to cruising. Azamara does things differently.  They use technology throughout their ship, from the USB plugs by the bed lamp to photos from the ship’s photographer that can be viewed on your stateroom television.  The same was true for your bill.

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A nightly treat with our fresh fruit and flowers

8.   Azamara Includes the price of your basic alcohol and tipping with the price of your cruise. It makes it so much easier to budget cruise costs this way. You do have the option to buy premium alcohol packages, internet packages as well as dining in the two specialty restaurants.
9.  We usually choose an inside stateroom.  Basically we would rather spend our travel dollar on more travel rather than on a more expensive cabin.  We also were very pleased with our room, the comfortable bedding, linens and the fruit and fresh flowers in our state room daily. Who else does that?  Especially for an inside stateroom.  Azamara has some terrific common space that made it easier to spend time getting to know new friends.

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The “Living Room” offered a place to enjoy conversation, drinks and tapas with friends

9.  Timing is everything. Our ship, The Journey arrived at our final port of Sydney at sunrise.  Passengers were all informed that we would be sailing by the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge as the sun was rising.  We were met on the top deck to greet the new day in beautiful Sydney with mimossas and pastries.

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Sydney’s iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House at sunrise

 

We know that we will sail with Azamara again.  They are not the cheapest, the largest, the newest, but for our money they are the best.  They are a cruiseline with heart.

Singapore: (Where Today is Tomorrow and I Have No Idea What Happened to Yesterday)

Why you need to visit Singapore

We had been traveling for over twenty nine hours to get from LA to Singapore.  But all of the Ubers, taxis, TSA security pat downs and planes were completely worth the effort to get here.  Singapore simply put, is spectacular.  It is a beautiful clean, metropolitan city that honors its history and diverse cultures.

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Singapore at night

The journey was relatively painless on Qatar Airlines. We left LA on a Wednesday and arrived Friday morning.  Somehow we lost a day but no worries.  We’ve never flown with Qatar before but would happily fly them again.  The courteous staff, tasty food and extras such as socks, headphones and entertainment system made for a comfortable journey.   We flew coach but had isle seats, a quiet plane and no annoying captain announcements about where we were flying over.  On the second leg of our flight I was sitting with a mom, her five year old and the most adorable six month old.  I held the little one to help her out and they were the best behaved children anyone could ask for.  I slept well on both flights.

By the time we arrived in Singapore I was well rested and ready to explore this beautiful city.  My poor husband had not slept but after a brief nap in our AirBnB he was ready to go out and show me the city.  The weather reminds me of Florida, hot and muggy with frequent afternoon rains.  We bought an umbrella that doubles as a walking stick.

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Chinese New Year The Year of the Rooster

We arrived on the eve of Chinese New Year.  We explored Chinatown did some shopping and had some delicious food from the hawker stands.  The area was packed with people anxious to celebrate the new year.  Stands were selling Chinese herbs, mandarin oranges, decorations and many items to celebrate The Year of The Rooster.  The streets were brightly decorated with colorful orchid lights, lanterns and giant roosters.  On the stage there was music, dancing and at midnight fireworks.  When visiting family and friends the Chinese custom is to bring an even number of mandarin oranges to wish one another an auspicious new year.  At the visitors center we were given oranges and welcomed.

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Streets in Chinatown decorated for the new year

We had some delicious dinner at the hawker stands, but chose not to have the dishes that included live frogs since we are not really adventurous eaters.  We left Chinatown at about two in the morning and the streets were still bustling.  As we walked back to our flat from Chinatown, we noticed even at this hour men were cleaning the streets from the celebration making Singapore a very clean city.

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City view from the marina

This week we have visited Orchard Road, where high end shopping is at its finest. Because we love to travel I spend my money more on experiences than on things.  We did stop for some snacks and drinks.  Apparently its a good idea to check prices before you order or you end up paying $20 for a glass of pear cider.  But it WAS really good cider.

We had the opportunity to enjoy a neighborhood dragon parade.  All of the kids had a chance to try on the costume and witness the dragon dance.  The best part of the parade was when they handed out confetti rocket launchers to everybody, including the three year olds.  Nothing says celebration better than an explosive in the hands of the three year old.  The neighbors were so friendly we really felt like we were part of the community.

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Dancing dragons and children playing with explosives, so much fun to celebrate
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Who doesn’t love a confetti rocket launcher?
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Colorful confetti exploded all around
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The best part of any parade is how much the children enjoy it

Must Do Activities

We went to the Gardens by the Bay and enjoyed the beautiful flowers and visited the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Shopping Plaza and the Float at Marina Bay.  There was a carnival like atmosphere.  Lots of families waiting for fireworks, and enjoying various “Fair Foods” like deep fried Oreo cookies, ice cream and squid on a stick.

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View of the Maria Sands Hotel

 

We love Chinatown for its food, shopping and overall active vibe.  They offer a Fish Spa treatment, where you place your feet in a tank and a bunch of fishies nibble on your skin.  The experience is worth the $30 and feels pretty good.

For dinner one night we went to Mama Chong’s to enjoy a Singapore specialty, Chili Crabs.  They are a pricey item,  about 40 bucks a serving, but well worth it.  The local beer here is Tiger and it is delicious, a nice combination of a mild yet slightly sweet beer.

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Singapore’s specialty chili crab

We rode the Singapore Flyer, a giant enclosed ferris wheel.  The views of the city, the bay and the night sky were phenomenal.  It cost 33 bucks each but the pictures and experience were unforgettable.

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Inside view of the Singapore Flyer

Get a MRT Pass to ride the incredibly clean and efficient subways to almost anywhere in Singapore.  It is well laid out and all of the signs are also in English.

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The clean and comfortable Singapore subway system MRT

I can not leave out the body and foot massages we treated ourselves to.  I had a sixty minute body massage followed by a thirty minute foot massage at Joneling Chi Spa.  My Fred Flinstone feet always hurt, but following my foot massage they were feeling fine.  During the body massage I was pretty sure that the ninety pound girl was accompanied by a three hundred pound suma wrestler.  All I know was that at some point she was straddling me and somebody was doing handstands on my back!  I was being massaged by her hands AND her feet.  I consider a massage a wrestling match, where I am loathe to “tap out” no matter how uncomfortable I might feel.  When our massages were complete both Greg and I had smiles on our faces and said we had never experienced anything like that before.

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View from the Singapore Flyer

 

 

 

 

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Rambling Las Ramblas

A rambling account of our activities, tastes, sights and sounds of Barcelona

 

We arrived in Barcelona ready to walk Las Ramblas, (the  pedestrian center for shopping, sightseeing and people watching)  Barcelona is packed with visitors, shopping opportunities, restaurants and really interesting neighborhoods. On our first morning we took part in a walking tour of the old city.  We saw Roman ruins of the old wall that surrounded Barcelona, ancient churches and learned much of the history of Barcelona.  We have been warned by many about pickpockets and it is apparent that you must be aware and vigilant with your purse, wallet and cellphone.  But this is a spectacular city with so much to do and see.

This week we have had some wonderful experiences.  The weather has been fantastic.  We have loved walking and dining outside in the cafes along the plazas. Often  buskers (street musicians who rely on tips) surround the area with the lovely sound of their music. Barcelona is an extremely walkable city and we have walked nearly everywhere.  We visited the beach which turned out to be a crowded, urban beach. A young  guy was passed out  the sand in front of me for quite a while.  I thought he might be a bum, but later his friend came and gave his something to eat and drink.   He went into the ocean and didn’t even have a towel.  Apparently he and his buddy went to the beach from the last party. They were foreign exchange students from Australia.  When we left the beach I gave him my unused towel.  The guy was so sweet and grateful.

We also visited La Sagrada Familia, the famous unfinished basilica designed by architect Antoni Gaudi.  The inside was spectacular with changing colors as the sun moved in the sky.  We were relieved that the visitors were limited, which afforded us time in the church so we could appreciate it’s beauty and simplicity.  It is definitely a good idea to purchase tickets online to reserve a specific time so you don’t have to wait in line.

We went to Tibadado mountain up a funicular to see the view of Barcelona from the mountain to the sea.  At the top of the mountain is a beautiful church, Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  We climbed around a bit and had an early dinner at Mirablau, with a view of all of Barcelona.

It’s fun to visit several local markets.  I loved seeing all of the unique local fresh produce, fish and meats available. We both enjoy cooking and we love paella so we jumped at the chance to book Marta’s Private Paella Cooking Class which we found on TripAdvisor.  After a bit of a difficult time finding her building (we will blame Mapquest and not my husband) Marta warmly greeted us to her home.  We met six other people from around the globe who shared our interest in cooking. Marta, a former teacher explained the fundamentals of paella with patience and charm.  We learned about the importance of quality ingredients and the order in which they must be cooked.  Everyone took part in the preparation of the meats, fish and vegetables.  Marta has a large propane powered paella pan on her patio that easily held enough food for a dozen people. Within a few hours we learned all of the elements of paella typical of  Catalonia.  It was great fun to be part of this diverse group of people who worked together and produced a truly delicious meal! We sat down at the table toasted one another and enjoyed the best paella ever.  If you are interested in joining Marta’s class you can contact her at:ambtucuinem@gmail.com