Antarctica: My most recent trip fulfilled my goal of traveling to all 7 continents. And what a continent it is! The icebergs are fascinating, each unique and beautiful in its own way. The plentiful penguins were such fun to watch, including the youngsters and hatchlings. We also saw a few whales, seals, sea lions, porpoises and various birds. Another highlight for me was a calving glacier wall. I traveled with Tauck Tours on the Ponant ship Le Soleal which was very comfortable and served impossible to resist fresh French bread at all meals. Extraordinary trip and a destination you should certainly consider visiting.
Africa: This year I concentrated on wildlife safaris. First I visited the impressive Victoria Falls on my way to Botswana, ending in Cape Town, South Africa. The topography of Botswana is quite varied and allows for very unique game viewing experiences - I arrived just after the Okavango Delta was beginning to fill with water and then spent some time in the arid Kalahari Desert. My second trip was to Tanzania for a traditional east Africa safari. At the end I took a short flight to Rwanda and spent a day in the mountains with the gorillas. All wonderful “bucket list” experiences!
Eastern Europe: When you’re rolling down the Danube River in Europe on a river cruise with Uniworld, you visit 5 countries on the “Highlights of Eastern Europe” itinerary. You start in Budapest, Hungary, to Croatia, to Serbia, to Bulgaria and end in Bucharest, Romania. This was a step back in time to investigate the history and legends along the Danube with many off-the-beaten path destinations. I love river cruising and really enjoyed the uniqueness of this one. We cruised an 83 mile long stretch of scenic gorges through the Iron Gates. We visited historic sites dating from WWII to the present day. Highlights were the Belogradchik rock formations which are over 200 million years old, the Royal Palace in the capital of Serbia and the historic hill towns, home to six amazing 17thcentury stone churches decorated with intricate frescoes and murals.
Iceland: In August, I had the privilege of escorting a small group to visit Iceland. The country is full of surprises – for one, it isn’t covered in ice! It’s a stunning mix of green plains, volcanic scenery, beautiful coasts and lakes, spouting geysers, hot springs, mud pools and sophisticated cities. One of the highlights for me was the experience of visiting the Blue Lagoon. It is a lake of warm-mineral rich geothermal water known for its healing prowess and beneficial effect on the skin. Visitors come from all over the world in search of health, relaxation and an exotic experience. We all left feeling renewed and ready for our trip back to our hotel in Reykjavik.
Portland OR: In August I enjoyed a weeklong cruise on the Columbia and Snake rivers with Uncruise on the S. S. Legacy doing the itinerary Exploring Rivers of Wine. We set sail from Portland, the City of Roses, along the mighty Columbia River following the Lewis & Clark expedition route. We stopped to visit Multnomah and Palouse Falls, and along the way we visited 13 wineries, touring and tastings in five Washington and Oregon AVAs, where experts shared the methods of their winemaking. One special afternoon we had lunch at Terra Blanca Winery with a tour of the estate - what a beautiful place. The food and staff on the S.S. Legacy was so unique; I can’t wait to take another Uncruise - it was that remarkable!
Cuba: A “bucket list” trip was fulfilled this April when I traveled to Cuba on a one week cruise with Celestyal Cruise Line. I loved the beautiful scenery of the island, with its cobbled streets and colorful, weathered buildings, and the historic center of Havana which is a step back in time. Visiting the Museum of Revolution was an eye opening excursion that is unmissable for anyone with an interest in Cuba's recent history. Set in the former Presidential palace, the building still has bullet holes from revolutionary movements and it houses everything from Fidel Castro's t-shirts to 'Che' Guevara's camera. The Square in Cienfuegos is the nicest in Cuba, it is flanked by renovated colonial buildings, the opera house, the main church, the house of culture and the civic office building. In the center is a small area with trees and benches and a statue of Marti. It is a lovely place to watch the world go by. Taking a vintage car ride and having a mojito where Hemingway enjoyed his drink, topped off my best day in Havana. The cruise, which sails round trip from Montego Bay, Jamaica, is a great way to experience Cuba. I was able to visit several different areas and then go back to my “floating hotel.” It is also very affordable compared to the land tours that are offered. I highly recommend it!
Iberian Peninsula: In March I traveled with Insight Vacations to Spain and Portugal. Madrid is a historic city with a vibrant night life. The Prado Museum
was a favorite of mine. With a stop for the day in Toledo to learn about the ancient art of crafting swords, I was on my way to a stay in Granada at the Alhambra Palace. Built in the 13th century by the Moors the Palace has beautiful gardens and fountains. Then it was on to Seville to see the 15th century Cathedral with the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. In Cordoba I visited the Mezquita, an 8th century Mosque with a Christian church built inside it. Very beautiful and was my favorite visit on the whole trip. The drive to Lisbon was interesting because of all the Olive trees! The trees were everywhere. Our final stay was in Lisbon with a visit to the Belem Quarter where I ate the famous ‘Pasteis de Belem” and saw the ancient Belem Tower. This was a wonderful trip with a fun tour director.