December 2016 ~ At home in Southern California
Whew, I feel like I am sliding into home plate after a ninth inning Grand Slam. Our year was once again filled to the brim with exciting travel and memorable moments. We managed to squeeze in trips that involved 15 countries on five different continents!
Here is a breakdown of our trips for 2016:
NORTH AMERICA – Hawaii (USA) and Mexico
We started our year off with a cruise out of Los Angeles to HAWAII. It was relaxing and allowed us to simply spend some quality time together without any of the hustle and bustle that often comes with trying to figure out when and where to be at any certain time.
Just FYI, you can click on “Hawaii” or any underlined text on this post to see all of the blog write-ups about that particular destination if you are curious to see more of what we did or experienced there.
A stop over for the day in Ensenada, Mexico completed our cruise.
SOUTHEAST ASIA – Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam
With some last-minute changes, we headed off to Singapore in March.
Loved Singapore! What a clean, beautiful city/country.
And then a little bit of a shock to the system to hop on another jet and head for CAMBODIA, struggling to lift itself out of third world status. Their recent violent history has left an open, sometimes festering wound.
Our 14-day “Best of Cambodia” with Intrepid Tours caught us by surprise. Since it was a last-minute add-on/replacement trip for our cancelled Princess Cruise, we were ill prepared and had done little-to-no research ahead of time. In all honesty, the times and logistics fit our needs, but we were not expecting much.
With great enthusiasm though I can say that we were VERY pleasantly surprised by how much we ended up enjoying both the itinerary and the country. Our visit to Angkor Wat was of course a highlight worth mentioning.
A few favorite shots from Cambodia:
Back to Phnom Penh to meet up with our next tour with Gate 1, 15-day Cambodia and Vietnam. The first few days were a little duplicated with some additional time spent back at Angkor Wat.
It would have been a much better destination if not for the abundance of MSG in their food. Tim had a difficult time and far too often ended up having allergic reactions which definitely put a damper on him enjoying the trip. Still we learned a lot, especially about the Vietnam/American War where many of my classmates were called to serve. A difficult time for both of our countries.
Standout moments include the town of Hue, a visit with the black teeth woman, Halong Bay, the Imperial Palace, green rice fields being planted by women wearing conical hats, men casting fishing nets, and friendly people.
AFRICA – MOROCCO
Our next continent was Africa with a couple of weeks spent in MOROCCO. This was another Gate 1 trip called Moroccan Allure.
From Fez to Marrakesh to the Sahara Desert to Casablanca and many places in between, what a colorful and magical country. I loved every moment there, but a couple of the highlights were riding camels and staying in a tent camp in the desert, plus wandering the marketplaces and winding, narrow alleyways of the old walled cities. The coastal artist community of Essaouira especially captured our hearts.
EUROPE – Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands
Time for a return to Europe where we spent a few days on our own relaxing in a small Airbnb and exploring in Porto before joining another Gate 1 tour.
As is often the case on guided tours, there is one highlight, UNESCO World Heritage Site, or gigantic cathedral after another and this was certainly no exception.
A few of the notable events on this tour included visits to the Stock Exchange, the Coimbra University Library, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima, the Convent of Christ in Tomar, the unique Ossuary Chapel in Evora, the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon and the Church and Monastery of Santa Maria.
SPAIN was next on our agenda to meet up with dear friends, Dick and Karen. Karen had just completed walking the 500 mile Camino which ends in Santiago de Compostela.
A train trip to Madrid followed where we spent a week and we did absolutely nothing but a visit to the Prado Museum and hibernate. Then home in Southern California for about six weeks before we once again packed our suitcases and headed back to Europe.
SWITZERLAND (and cutting across a corner of Italy)
We had been discussing and dreaming about a train trip in Europe for some time.
An opportunity came up for us to join friends on another Uniworld River Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam, and we jumped at it. So, since we would be embarking on the river boat in Switzerland, we decided it was the perfect chance to go early and take two weeks to travel the country by train.
There is just no way I can use enough superlatives in describing Switzerland. It is clean, safe, efficient, excellent transportation system, politically neutral, kind helpful people, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. The only drawback is that it is expensive by US standards.
Next up was our Uniworld River Cruise – Legendary Rhine and Moselle
Departing out or Basel on the River Queen, we were pampered, spoiled and fed gourmet food for the next two weeks. One of the many perks of taking river cruises is everything is already included from lodging, transportation, tours, food and drinks, enrichment lectures and entertainment.
SOUTH AMERICA ~ Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands
Our travel year culminated with a trip to our 5th continent, South America. I was especially excited to see the animals on the Galapagos Islands and get up into the rain forest in Ecuador. Well, I got half of my wish anyway. The islands were amazing and a “once in a lifetime” type of experience.
Unfortunately Tim once again had problems with the local food having MSG and other Free Glutamic Acid ingredients, which kicked up his allergies and forced us to return home early. So, we did get to see Guayaquil on the mainland, as well as all the areas on the blue portion of the Galapagos Islands map. The rest of Ecuador will just have to wait.
But, and that is a mighty big “BUT”, we enjoyed what we did see immensely!
Our year ended with us picking up our newest baby, a small 24 foot RV which we plan on getting to know as we explore more of the US and Canada in 2017, especially our National Parks.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for this amazing, exciting, sometimes exhausting, wonderful adventure that I am so blessed to share with my husband. With the incredible advancements in technology, we are able to welcome our family, and both old and new friends, to follow along with us. Your warm comments, encouraging notes, and sometimes filling in the blanks or answering questions or making recommendations along the way, make this all the more rewarding.
As we wind down a year that has been one unlike any other, filled with many highs and a couple of low moments, we look forward to welcoming in 2017.
“Our wish for all mankind is that your dreams become reality, you are young enough to still get excited by little things, old enough to appreciate each new morning, and wise enough to look in the eyes of your loved ones and recognize just how blessed you truly are.” ~ Tim and Joanne Joseph, 2016