Whenever I visit a new city I like to pick a photographic theme. Barcelona was easy, the view of street art was everywhere. There seems to be an unwritten rule about graffitii in Barcelona, it is mostly limited to the doors of shops. The artistry varies but it is always colorful. As we walked through the city you get a feel for the neighborhood and the people. When you look at the street art, you see the people and businesses that are the neighborhood.
I have tried to include a good variety of artwork and if nothing else, I hope to encourage others to look around and take notice of the art around us. Recognize the artistry along with the creative graffi. Often the doors advertise the business behind them. To catch much of the art you must get up early before the doors open and the artwork is hidden from view.
Remaining optimistic in spite of lots of unexpected changes
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I love a rainy day. We live in the desert, and when desert storms begin there is a sweet odor of desert plants like creosote bushes that fill the air. Following a desert rain plants bloom, washes turn to little streams and long silent desert color begin to blossom almost immediately. So of course I love rain. There is no raining on my parade.
We are getting ready for our first transatlantic cruise on Azamara Club Cruises. We’ve been looking forward to this cruise for a while because it was going to give us an opportunity to visit places we’ve never been and revisit some places we really loved. We will even be reconnecting with friends we made on a previous journey. Anyone who knows me knows I’m an optimist. But lately I’ve had to try harder to not be worried. Originally, the cruise itinerary planned to visit the islands of Saint Maarten and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Due to the devastation caused by two hurricanes the islands have been removed from the ship’s itinerary. I am sad for the people on the islands living in very difficult circumstances with broken infrastructure and still dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster. We loved visiting the magnificent beaches of Saint Maarten and delighted in exploring old town San Juan. I can only hope that the islands recover quickly and pray for the lovely people we met on our last trip.
I don’t lose any sleep thinking about terrorists. Being vigilant, aware of my surroundings and hopeful is basically all anyone can do. I will not stay home, I will not be dissuaded from travel. I love meeting new people and exploring new cultures.
Our transatlantic journey leaves from Barcelona and has stops at Madeira, Portugal, Gibraltar and Bermuda. We visited Barcelona last year and fell in love with the gothic city. The food and wine were fabulous. It is such a walkable city with so many more treasure waiting for us to discover. Unfortunately, Barcelona has been the victim of terrorist activity recently. Currently half a million protesters are in the streets of Barcelona marching for a separate state of Catalonia, apart from Spain. Hopefully the protests remain peaceful. I am certain this cruise is not cursed. The trip will be a wonderful experience. However, I did read that there is concern about a tsunami hitting Madeira. I will continue to be optimistic.
South Beach is bit like Las Vegas. Both have lots of alcohol-fueled partying with young men and women celebrating their youth while destroying their livers, live music and the obligatory minute millionaires driving their rent by the hour Lamborghini for everyone to notice. But South Beach is so much more than what you first notice. Take a longer look and you see and appreciate the diverse culture reflected in the eclectic food and music. There is a deep pride and respect for the past, instead of tearing down buildings, the Art Deco buildings are restored and the past is celebrated.
We chose to stay in a boutique hotel on Collins Avenue, right in the middle of South Beach. The Kimpton Beachcomber Hotel, a small three story boutique hotel. What is a boutique hotel you may ask? Most often they are small and have unique amenities. The lobby was unique and eclectic with live edge wood sculptures, bookcases, sofas and comfy chairs and lots of interesting art. This is not a homogenized hotel! As we are checking in we are offered wine at the complimentary happy hour. The hotel personnel are both friendly and genuinely helpful. The room is small yet beautiful. The beach is located behind the hotel pool area. The back area includes a bar, towel service and a variety of yard games, rocking chairs and sculptures of cows. I did say this place was eclectic.
The Kimpton offers seats on the beautiful sandy beach, as well as bar service. The bites and drinks were not exorbitantly priced, and who doesn’t enjoy a picnic lunch in the sand? There are several miles of beautifully manicured walking and biking paths just before the beach. We took advantage of the hotel’s free bike rentals and rode up and down the paths early one morning.
In South Beach you must try the diverse food offered. We were given the recommendation by a waitress to try a Peruvian restaurant called CHALAN ON THE BEACH. The uber fresh seafood was lightly seasoned and plentiful. We shared a sea bass ceviche which was nothing short of spectacular. The patrons were mostly locals ordering house specialities. We also enjoyed a seafood dish with rice, seasoned with Peruvian spices that seemed to sweeten the fish and rice.
When in South Beach trying some authentic Cuban food is mandatory. We visited HAVANA 1957 and ordered the daily specials of Cuban meatballs and rice. The dish was also served with soft, sweet plantain slices. The prices were very reasonable, except for the mojitos. At $15 and up they seemed pricy for lunch. No worries, we came back a couple of hours later and enjoyed delicious half priced mojitos at the bar inside
We also had chicken, lamb and steak kabobs as well as incredibly delicious deeply roasted Brussels sprouts at CLEO a Middle Eastern place. The bar was ornate and the restaurant was a cool respite from the Miami afternoon heat.
On our final night in Miami our hotel had a pig roast (but from the looks of the poor fellow I think he was deep fried). For only eight dollars we each enjoyed pork tacos, homemade tortillas, rice and beans. The beer was local and cold and soon the Latin band was playing music and everyone was dancing to the beat as the ocean breeze blew.
Jackie Gleason had a show many years ago that I watched as a child. He used to say how beautiful Miami Beach was as he began each show with the words “How sweet it is!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We celebrated after the jump by enjoying a New Zealand delicacy, Green Lipped mussels. They were gigantic and fabulous.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This has been an epic year for my husband Greg and I. I retired from a teaching job that I loved, learned to live with my husband full time, started blogging, traveled extensively and rekindled my passion for photography.
My husband and I have learned the dance of being retired together. He has his hobbies and interests and I am learning to take time to do the things that I love. First I had to figure out what those things were (writing, photography, crafts) but now we give each other space, so that later we want to spend time together. This year our European travels have included Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Amsterdam, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. My husband and I are very different people, he is quiet organized and cerebral and I am spontaneous, outgoing, and attention seeking. But the one thing that we agree upon is that we both passionately love to travel and meet new people from around the globe.
For this blog I decided to include some of my favorite photographs from the year. I hope you enjoy them.
This was a special gift we enjoyed nightly in Rome, our Airbnb was located in a fabulous area with shops, restaurants and so many sights to enjoy.
Sometimes you find you stumble upon a real gem of a restaurant, a family run place with homemade pasta and delicious specialities offered each night.
The location of our Airbnb in Florence was just steps from the Ponte Vecchio.
The sheer size and beauty of David was worth the trip to Florence.
We spent five days in the beautiful area known as Cinque Terre, where we enjoyed the spectacular scenery, hiking and seeing the beautiful cities clinging to the cliffs..
Following Cinque Terre we rented a car and explored Siena and Tuscany.
It was a great pleasure to turn in our car in Rome and board the Celebrity Equinox. No unpacking for a week and we were able to visit some great new places on the way to Barcelona.
After a week in Barcelona we took a flight to Geneva, Switzerland to visit friends and see much of the pristine beauty of Switzerland.
We left Switzerland and headed for a few days in Amsterdam, a city we loved because of its beauty, accessibility, friendliness and rich history.
Next, we flew to London for a few days before we boarded a cruise to the British Isles.
I hope you enjoy seeing some highlights of Europe 2016. I promise there is more travel to come in 2017. I wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy new year.