"" Writer's Wanderings

Friday, July 22, 2016

Picking Your Cruise

All cruises are not created equal. They are not even equal within a specific cruise line. If you are not a seasoned cruiser I have a few things you may want to consider as you choose your next cruise.

First, is age important to you? Longer cruises and those farther away than the Caribbean will attract the over fifty crowd more likely than not. They have the time and the money for those longer more expensive cruises and can go at a shoulder season (the months just before and after summer vacations). Younger folks will take shorter cruises and more likely cruise during the summer months when kids are on vacation from school

Speaking of kids, are you planning to travel with them? Some cruise lines are a little more attractive to kids than others. Of course Disney is the obvious but that can get a bit pricey. Here's where a good travel agent can help you out. A good TA should be able to steer you to a line that is catering more to kids and has a really good program for them. A good kids' program gives you some free time to enjoy and relax as you cruise.

This year we did something a bit spontaneous and booked a four day cruise in the Caribbean. We did so knowing that this retired couple would likely be mixing with a ship full of twenty-somethings since it was spring break time. Sure enough there was a party going on at the pool 24/7, or 24/4 as the case was. We weren't interested in hanging out at the pool anyway and enjoyed our cruise mostly because we expected there would be scores of kids and energy and yes, drinking. Had we gone with the expectation of a quiet cruise ship (not that there weren't quiet areas we found) we would have been disappointed.

Again, a good TA will help you with timing, destination and the type of cruise line that will suit your expectations. Start your cruising experience by booking through an agent. Then if you want to explore options on your own, you'll have some experience and a better idea of what you like.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Authors And The Places They Write About

Midnight On The Mississippi by Mary Ellis was one of my most recent reads. It was fun to read and imagine her exploring New Orleans to gather her information for her setting. I know Mary and remember her talking about her trip. As I read, I remembered the trips we've made to the places she mentioned. A good author does her/his research for the setting of the story and the best research is done first hand when possible. Now is that an excuse to travel or not?

Our book club is meeting in a few days and we will be reporting on the travel done through the books we read for this session's assignment. (Readers had to find a book with a setting outside the USA.) I am eager to see where my friends have traveled through their reading.

If you are considering a trip somewhere out of the country, you might consider a little internet searching to discover a new-to-you author from that area or an author who has set their story in the place you are visiting.

But even if you are staying within the borders, you can find all sorts of books from authors around the country. Pick a spot. Any spot. Then travel through the pages and enjoy the scenery. A good book will do that for you and you won't even have to pack a bag!


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Happy Countries!

Each year the United Nations publishes a report of the ten happiest countries in the world. I figured it was a good bet that the US didn't make it into the top ten. So I searched around until I found a list that showed the top 50 rankings. We came in at 13. So how do they determine who's happy and who's not?

It's simple. They ask people if they are happy. Then they factor in GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption. Some of the countries that are in the top ten I expected, among them Australia, New Zealand and Canada. What surprised me is Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. Relatively cold countries at least in my imagination. Maybe struggling to stay warm takes your mind off of petty issues and puts it on survival.

In a few weeks we are off to Japan which ranked 53 followed by a trip to Iceland, the third happiest country in the world. I guess it will all be balanced by a trip to Italy (50) and Spain (37).  By the time we return election results will be in for the US. Wonder how we'll rank in 2017?


Monday, July 18, 2016

Laundry On The Road

Getting clothes cleaned while traveling can often be a challenge, a pain, or one of the fun things you do on the road. We've visited laundromats in foreign countries and had lots of fun figuring things out often with the help of the locals who I am sure we entertained. If you are planning on more than a week of travel, chances are you will want to schedule some time to wash a few items. It makes for a lighter suitcase if you don't pack clean clothes for every single day.

If you aren't up for the challenge of a local foreign laundromat, you may opt for hand washing in the sink in which case you need to plan for a couple of days in one spot so that your clothes will dry. Pack lighter weight fabrics and plan to layer if the weather is cool. The lighter fabrics will dry faster for you but still you will need a good twenty-four hours to be sure they get dry hanging in the bathroom or a closet. Be sure to pack one of those flat rubber stoppers to place over the drain. If you don't want to pack a little detergent, you can always use some shampoo if you are just trying to refresh your things and not get out mud or grease.

Or if you are really into washing your clothes you could try a new gadget I happened across called the Scrubba. It's advertised as the smallest traveling washing machine. It's a reusable pouch that has a rough texture inside (think wash board). You fill it with water and detergent, work the air out, seal it and knead it back and forth until the clothes get clean. It costs between $45-50 USD at Amazon. While it has some good reviews, I can do a lot of laundry by hand or even at the local laundromat for that much money. Plus I'd have to pack it even if it is small.


Friday, July 15, 2016

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Ocean City, MD

The early years of our marriage found us in Laurel, Maryland, a beautiful town half way between Baltimore and Washington, DC. Supposedly it was the favorite place for George Washington to stop overnight on his trips between the two cities. Our twins were born while we were there and when they were six and our younger son was three we decided to take a vacation that included a trip back to visit friends in Laurel and our favorite beach in Ocean City.

While in Laurel our friends treated us to a crab feast. In Maryland, you cover the table with newspaper, dump several dozen steamed spicy crabs in the middle and let everyone have at it. Our kids loved it and to my surprise, loved the taste of crab.

While in Ocean City, we visited our favorite seaside restaurant and ordered kids meals for the boys and lobster for ourselves. Of course the boys wanted to taste the lobster. Big mistake in letting them. They all decided they liked it. While trying to expand their culinary experience we created expensive new cravings--crab and lobster. We never ordered lobster in front of them again.


It was one of those memorable vacations and partly because of the curly haired blonde guy in the picture. He had soft big curls of almost white blonde hair and it was irresistible for passersby. Many reached out and patted his head. We joked that if we had a quarter for each pat, we'd have paid for our vacation or at least for lobster for the kids. He never would have stood for it though. He learned to scowl at anyone who reached a hand out. I couldn't blame him. It wasn't long after our trip he had a haircut that ended the curls and as he grew his hair color darkened.

Ah, a trip down memory lane. Again.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hmmmm. What To Wear? What To Wear?

It is always interesting to return from a trip and unpack and discover how much you took along that wasn't really necessary. This last trip had us coming home with several pieces of clean clothing that we never needed. A dive trip is casual to the extreme but I hate to go to dinner in a sweaty shirt. This year though we didn't do much outside that required more than a bathing suit or dive skin so we both took too many shirts with us even though I had planned to do laundry.

So what sorts of things should you consider when you are planning what to wear as you travel? Again it boils down to homework. Find out what types of dress codes you might encounter at your destination. If you are going to Europe and plan to visit historic churches, you will find that sleeveless shirts and dresses are frowned upon. You will be asked to cover your shoulders at least. In the Middle East you will find very conservative dress codes in places even like shopping malls and of course if you visit a mosque, ladies will be asked to cover their heads with a shawl.

More times than I would like to count we have seen inappropriate shoe wear for the type of trails, sidewalks and nature walks that are part of tours and may be on your itinerary. Flip flops and sandals may be great for the beach but they provide no support and often no tread for rocky sloped terrain. And absolutely refrain from spiky heels on cobblestone streets and walks that are usually found in European historic places. An ace bandage or worse, a cast on an ankle is not your best fashion statement or a great way to travel. Avoid that with sensible shoes.

Love bright colors? Save them for the Caribbean. If you are traveling most anywhere else, stick to more subdued colors. Unless of course you want to stand out in a crowd and be easily recognizable to those who prey on tourists like pickpockets and scammers.

And while we're on the pickpocket thought, don't carry valuables in an open bag. A cross strap purse that zips is safer.

Expensive jewelry is an invitation to thievery. Opt for some nice costume jewelry if you must be adorned and if you have rings with large stones, you may want to turn them around to your palm when you are out and about. I turn my around when I'm diving too. Barracudas are attracted to shiny things whether they swim in the ocean or walk the streets of Paris.

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