My Viking Journey: The Secrets of the Ancient City of Acre

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

It was Friday, our final day in Israel. After visiting Jerusalem and Haifa earlier in the week, our excursion would take us to the ancient city of Acre. For sure, my Viking journey on the luxurious Viking Star ocean liner to the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land was exceeding expectations. My boyfriend L and I were traveling courtesy of Viking Cruises.* 

 

Viking Ocean Cruises; Israel; Ancient City of Acre; luxury cruises; Viking Star

My boyfriend L and I traveled to Israel with Viking Ocean Cruises.

“Tomorrow will be Shabbat, so we say ‘Shabbat Shalom’ because it is the Sabbath,” said our tour guide Simon. “Acre’s markets will be crowded as people shop for food before sundown.”

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Fishmongers sell fresh fish on Market Street.

A City Above and A City Below
“Acre is a 2000 year old city,” Simon said. “Acre was the main port in the north of the country during the 19th century. Then the port of Haifa was built and became the main port.”

Viking Ocean Cruises; Israel; Ancient City of Acre; luxury cruises; Viking Star; Acre port

The port of Acre is home to sailboats and fishermen.

The Old City of Akko (Akko means Acre) is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an historic walled port-city with continuous settlement from the Phoenician period. As we walked, we learned more about its secrets. According to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, “Only in the Old City of Akko will you discover a perfectly preserved Crusader city being unearthed and brought back to life, located directly under the city built above it. Continue reading

My Viking Journey: Sightseeing In The Beautiful City Of Haifa

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50The snow may be piled up from our fourth nor’easter, but I’m going to take myself back to the beautiful city of Haifa. Come join me for a sightseeing tour of some of Israel’s spectacular natural beauty including the Baha’i Gardens at Bahji in Acres and Rosh Hanikra National Park, the only point in Israel where the sea meets the cliff.

We’ll also make a stop at the Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, which was part of our optional excursion during my Viking journey on the luxurious Viking Star ocean liner to the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land. My boyfriend L and I were traveling courtesy of Viking Cruises.* 

Port of Haifa; Israel; Haifa; Viking Ocean Cruises

The sun was shining as we pulled into the Port of Haifa.

It was my first-ever visit to Israel and after a memorable day in Old Jerusalem, I couldn’t wait to see our next city. According to the Viking Daily, “Haifa is one of Israel’s most important and beautiful cities.” It’s stunning because it is built on the slopes of Mount Carmel and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

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The view of Haifa from Mt. Carmel is stunning.

An Introduction to Haifa
“Good morning. Welcome to Haifa,” said our tour guide Abby. “This is an awesome tour. There’s never a dull moment.” We hopped on the bus and drove up Ben Guerion Street which is the German colony of Haifa. Supposedly World War II changed things. Many Holocaust survivors came to Haifa after the war and restored the houses around this area. Continue reading

My Viking Journey: A Day To Remember In Old Jerusalem

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50It was the seventh day of my Viking journey on the luxurious Viking Star ocean liner to the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land. We docked early morning in the port of Ashdod, Israel. My boyfriend L and I were traveling courtesy of Viking Cruises.I had been happily anticipating this part of the trip and my first-ever visit to Israel. It would be a day to remember in Old Jerusalem.

“Welcome to Israel,” said our guide Isaac. “How many of you have been to Israel before?” he asked. Only one out of 35 guests in our group raised a hand. “We’ve been waiting for you for 70 years. Better late than never,” he added.

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We arrived in Israel at the Ashdod port.

A Tiny But Mighty Country
I was amazed at how tiny Israel is. Isaac said the country is about the size of New Jersey, 350 miles north to south and 50 miles east to west. Wow-o-wow! “We are the only non-Muslim country in the region. We are surrounded by Muslim countries. That’s why we have such issues,” he said. Despite the ongoing friction around the edges, I felt safe during our excursion.

Isaac was quite an accomplished Israeli guide. “In the east we have a long border with Jordan and we have a peace treaty. In the southwest is the border with Egypt and we have a peace treaty with Egypt. The northeast border is Syria and we don’t have a peace treaty with them,” he explained.

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On our way to Jerusalem.

Isaac told us about the population of Israel. “We have 8.5 million inhabitants. Eighty percent are Jewish. A majority of the remaining 20 percent are Arabic.”

We learned about Israel’s vibrant agriculture with olive trees, fresh fruits and vegetables. He especially encouraged us to try Israeli peppers and eggplants.

We learned about the country’s terrain: to the west is the coast of the country, in the middle the mountains of Judea and the Negev, the Jordan Valley to the east, the Sea of Galilee in the north and Dead Sea in the south. (I didn’t get a chance to swim in the Dead Sea, which is 34 percent salt! Definitely have to plan another visit to Israel.)

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A panorama view leading into the Holy City.

Learning The History of The Holy City
After our scenic drive across Israel’s lowlands and into the Judea mountains, we entered the Holy City. It was an amazing feeling to walk around in the Old City of Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world and a pilgrimage site for major world religions. Continue reading

Where Do You Want To Travel In 2018?

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50As we chatted during our girlfriends’ dinner a few weeks ago, our talk was all about travel. My friend J was getting ready to take a winter vacation to Sarasota, Florida and planning a springtime trip to London. My friend N was debating where to take her husband for his milestone birthday. No talk of kids or health ailments, it was all about getting away and exploring the world during life after 60 (we are all now post 60).

Travel Is A Popular Pastime 
A month earlier, I had been to media day at The New York Times Travel Show. The Travel Show takes place annually at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. It’s a fun event to attend. This year marked the 15th anniversary of the show, setting new records with more than 600 companies representing over 176 countries and 32,398 participants—the highest in the Show’s history.  The New York Times Travel Show is the largest travel industry show in North America.

The New York Times Travel Show

The New York Times Travel Show is held annually in NYC.

“Each year, more and more travel professionals and enthusiasts attend The New York Times Travel Show and for good reason,” says Maggie Kiselick, vice president of advertising and managing director, The New York Times Magazine. “People rely on the Show to provide both exceptional travel offerings and helpful information to help them plan their trips to see the world.

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Have you traveled to Australia yet? It’s a hot destination for 2018.

Where Do You Want To Travel In 2018?
I always like to see what places The New York Times Travel recommends each year. On the list of 52 for 2018, I’ve been to New Orleans, Cincinnati, Glasgow (Scotland), Baltimore, Germany’s Western States, Seattle and Denver. That’s only 17 spots. Looks like I have much more traveling to do. Continue reading

My Viking Journey: A Visit To The Beautiful Island of Mykonos

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50It’s so cold outside that I’m going to click my slippers three times and see if they will take me back to the beautiful Greek island of Mykonos. Join me as I reminisce about the luxurious Viking Star ocean liner and my Viking journey to the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land. My boyfriend L and I traveled courtesy of Viking Cruises.*

A Tour and Taste of Mykonos
Are you ready? We just docked in sun-drenched Mykonos, the smallest of the Greek islands. Can you feel the warmth on your face? The island boasts white-washed houses, centuries-old windmills, and stunning landscapes over the blue waters of the Aegean Sea.

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Mykonos is one of the most famous islands in the world.

We’re going on a tour called The Tastes of Mykonos, which includes a walking tour through a labyrinth of narrow streets, a stop at the old bakery of Gioras, and a tasting at a private organic farm and vineyard.

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The owner of Vioma Organic Farm plays classical music in the vineyards and has a pet sheep.

A Famous Island For Famous People
Our tour guide Amaryllis likes to share the history of the island: Continue reading

My Viking Journey: A World of Ancient Treasures in Athens

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It was day two on the luxurious Viking Star ocean liner on my Viking journey to the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land. My boyfriend L and I were traveling courtesy of Viking Cruises.Our first port of call was Piraeus, one of the biggest ports in Europe and the third largest in the world.

After a delicious buffet breakfast at World Cafe, one of the Viking Star restaurants, we boarded the coach destined for Greece’s Capital. We would have a panoramic tour of Athens and then visit the National Archaeological Museum, which travel writer Rick Steves says, “is far and away the top ancient Greek art collection anywhere…and is a great way to begin or finish off your sightseeing through Greece.”

Port Piraeus; Greece; Viking Ocean Cruise; luxury travel; boomer travel

Port Piraeus in Greece is one of the largest in the world.

A Lesson in Greek Philosophy and Mythology
Our leader Vessia was a professionally trained guide of the country and told us about the special school she went to in Greece to become a tour guide. She had an incredible knowledge of Greek history, language, culture and philosophy and was eager to share.

Viking Ocean Cruise; Athens; luxury travel; boomer travel

Our guide Vessia had special training in all facets of ancient and present day Greece.

She explained how different words stem from the Greek language. “You are speaking Greek but you don’t realize it,” Vessia said. “For example, Acropolis means the highest point or extremity. Acrophobia means an extreme phobia. That’s why you say ‘it’s all Greek to me!'” Continue reading

My First-Ever Ocean Cruise On The Luxurious “Viking Star”

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50Are you ready? It’s time to embark, as I share highlights from my journey aboard my first-ever ocean cruise on the luxurious Viking Star. It was a “star-studded” 15-days traveling courtesy of Viking Cruises.* My lucky, lucky boyfriend L was my companion for the trip.

Our voyage on the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land took us to Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Italy. During the two weeks, we spent time exploring the cities of Athens, Mykonos, Rhodes, Limassol, Naples, Rome and visiting the holy land in Jerusalem. (Note: We missed visiting Crete due to weather conditions.)

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Our Viking Ocean Cruise took us to Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy.

An Elegant Vessel For Ocean Cruising
Having been on two previous Viking River Cruises — on the Douro in Portugal and on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland — I was familiar with Viking Longships. With its Ocean Cruises, as they say, Viking has taken “that same small ship, destination-focus experience to the seas with an elegant fleet of vessels setting sail in Scandinavia and Baltic, the Mediterranean, North America and the Caribbean.” The ocean itineraries have been carefully designed to access the best destinations up close, with more time in the port than other cruise lines.

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Viking Star is an elegant ocean liner designed for small ship destination cruising.

Accolades Galore For Viking Star
With Viking, I knew our ship, the Viking Star, was going to be special. Viking was named a #1 Ocean Cruise Line by Travel + Leisure readers in the World’s Best Awards 2017 and 2016. Plus, Cruise Critic editors honored Viking Ocean Cruises with two awards in 2016: “Best Luxury Cruise Line for Value” and “Best Luxury Cruise Line Spa,” (Ooh, ooh, ooh, wait until I tell you about my treatments at the spa. I had to try a massage and facial. It was part of my duties as a blogger. Did I say I love my life? I do. I do.)

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The spa has a relaxing warm water pool with jets.

Cruise Critic editors also selected Viking Star as the “Best New Ocean Ship” of 2015, noting “the ship is so beautifully designed—with terrific al fresco restaurants, a beautiful pool area, a superb spa and the two-level Explorers’ observation lounge—that you’ll be hard-pressed to go ashore.”  (We spent three days at sea and it was so relaxing to walk around the deck and sit on lounges looking out over the Aegean Sea.) Continue reading

A Glorious Day Exploring Popular Places In Portland

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50I promised I would tell you more about my trip to Portland, Oregon and I’m staying true to my word. If you read my previous post about the 10 reasons you need to visit hip and cool Portland, you know how much I loved my recent visit. As I share my first day exploring below, I think you’ll see why this city is so great.

I met up with two longtime friends, S, who has lived in Portland for 35+ years, and her sister B, from Brooklyn, who was visiting while I was there. They are both big foodies, so our plans for Day 1 included sampling several Portland specialities — coffee, chocolate, donuts, and eating street food from a food cart.

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Longtime friends B (pictured left) and S (pictured right) were my fellow adventurers in Portland.

Navigating My Way To Downtown Portland
Since I knew we would be doing a lot of eating, I skipped breakfast at the Inn at Northrup Station Hotel where I was staying, grabbed a city map and free pass for the Portland Streetcar from the front desk, and made my way to the North South line to take the Streetcar into downtown. It was a 20 minute ride from the Northwest part of town. (If you are visiting download the PDX Total Transit app for all your transportation needs.)

Portland Streetcars; Portland, Oregon; alternative transportation

Portland Streetcars are a convenient form of transportation in the city.

The team from Travel Portland Tourism* had arranged for me to have a Walking Tour Of Portland, which is an educational way to learn about the historic sites and culture of the city. S and B joined me for the two hour tour and enjoyed it as well.

Downtown Portland; Portland; pdx; Portland art; Oregon

There is so much artwork all over the downtown.

Time To Eat The Donuts
Having walked for two hours around the city, the three of us were ready to go scouting on our own. “Where would you like to go now?” S asked. “I think it’s time to eat the donuts,” I replied. Portland is known for its gourmet donuts. Blue Star Donuts didn’t disappoint.

Here’s the scoop on these donuts: “Our donuts are made from a classic brioche recipe that originated in the south of France. The dough takes 18 hours to make and is made by hand every day; we start with a high quality bread flour, add cage-free eggs, whole hormone-free milk, and then fold in a European-style butter.”

Blue Star Donuts; Gourmet Donuts; Artisan Donuts; Portland foodie; Oregon; boomer travel

Portland people love to eat donuts.

How good are these donuts? We tried Blueberry Bourbon and Orange Olive Oil. They were so good, so good, so good.
Continue reading

A Beautiful Cycling Adventure on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

It was my last day in The Tualatin Valley of Oregon, courtesy of The Washington County Visitors Association (WCVA),* and I was looking forward to a cycling adventure on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. The Banks-Vernonia State Trail is one of Oregon’s Regional Trails and runs 21 miles through open glades of green, pine-scented forests and babbling streams.

 

Banks-Vernonia State Trail; bicycling; Oregon; The Tualatin Valley

The Banks-Vernonia State Trail is 21 miles.

Breakfast At The Trailhead Cafe
“We’re having breakfast at the Trailhead Café,” Jackie, a member of the WCVA team, said. “It’s a perfect place for fueling up before a ride or relaxing after one.” It was a short drive from my lodging at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove. We met Ariel, her colleague, who would be my riding companion.

Trailhead Cafe; Oregon; The Tualatin Valley; Banks-Vernonia State Trail; boomer travel

We stopped for breakfast at the Trailhead Cafe before going cycling.

The Trailhead Café is a cute eatery near the trail. It specializes in made-to-order wraps, salads and panninis for lunch and boasts a selection of pastries, eggs and coffees for breakfast. My egg sandwich was quite yummy.  Continue reading

Enjoying A Day of Tasting and Touring In The Tualatin Valley

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50The sun was shining for day two in The Tualatin Valley, during my visit to Oregon’s Wine Country last month. My trip was courtesy of The Washington County Visitors Association (WCVA).*

Jackie, a member of the WCVA team, picked me up early at my lodging at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, to begin a full sunrise-to-sunset of tasting and touring around the area.

The Tualatin Valley; The Willamette Valley; Oregon Wine Country; Oregon

The Tualatin Valley is situated in the northern Willamette Valley wine region.

Breakfast At Maggie’s Buns
Maggie’s Buns, known for its baked goods, is a fun, quirky cafe with delicious, homemade food,” said Jackie. It was a perfect place to go for breakfast. The cafe, located right by Pacific University, one of the oldest universities in Oregon, was packed with students.

Good thing I left my gluten-free diet at home. The pastry case was filled with freshly baked  buns, muffins and scones. Ooh, ooh, ooh, the smell of cinnamon filled the air, as did pots of Stumptown coffee, a favorite beverage of Oregonians.

Maggie's Buns; The Tualatin Valley; Forest Grove; Oregon

Maggie, pictured left, and her team enjoy serving homemade baked goods.

We sat at one of the mixed matched tables and chairs and poured two large mugs of coffee. Then Maggie and her team came out all smiles holding a tray of assorted baked goods. It was so good, so good, so good.

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Maggie’s Buns baked goods were scrumptious.

I could have lingered all morning, but we had to leave to make it to the town of Sherwood for our tasting at Ponzi Winery.

A Progressive Wine Tasting
I was eager to see what the Ponzi Winery had to offer, especially since The Tualatin Valley is situated in the northern Willamette Valley (WV) wine region, which was named by Wine Enthusiasts as 2016 Wine Region of the Year.” Ponzi Vineyards is internationally acclaimed for producing some of the world’s finest, limited production Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, White Riesling, Arneis and Dolcetto.

Ponzi Winery; Ponzi Vineyards; The Tualatin Valley; Williamette Wine Region; Oregon wineries; boomer travel

Ponzi WInery has been producing wines since 1970.

The Ponzi Winery, founded in 1970, is a family affair. Our guide Jake shared the story of owners David and Nancy Ponzi, who went to Italy to find their original grapes. “They brought back clippings in suitcases to start their winery,” said Jake. “Ponzi is one of six founding wineries in The Tualatin Valley. They share a lot of knowledge with other winemakers in the community. It strengthens the region.” Continue reading