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.)

Viking Ocean Cruise; ocean cruises; Greece; Israel; Viking Star; boomer travel; post 50 travel

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.

Viking Ocean Cruise; ocean cruises; Viking Star; boomer travel; post 50 travell

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.)

Viking Ocean Cruise; ocean cruises; Viking Star; boomer travel; post 50 travel

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.

Portland; pdx; travelportland;Oregon; boomer travel

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.
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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.

Maggie's Buns; The Tualatin Valley; Oregon wine country; Forest Grove; boomer travel; travel

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

My First Visit To Greece: Sea-Worthy Adventures in Santorini

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

 

My first trip to Greece with my sister N and daughter A would soon be coming to an end. Thankfully, we saved our sea-worthy adventures in Santorini for the later part of the week, including a trip to the Perissa black beach and a sunset catamaran cruise around the island.

Santorini, Oia, Greece

I went to Greece with my daughter A (center) and sister N (right).

Breakfast and a Visit to the Black Beach
On Thursday, we headed out for breakfast at Passaggio, a cute spot on the edge of Oia’s town center. Passaggio is a small bistro where you can takeout or eat in. We each ordered coffee and yogurt and fruit bowls. They also make homemade smoothies which looked yummy. We decided to sit on the terrace where there is a beautiful island view. Passaggio’s breakfast bowl was the creamiest  Greek yogurt I’ve ever eaten and the honey on the bottom thin and light with just the right sweetness. It was so good, so good, so good.

Passaggio bites and drinks

Passaggio is a cute place for breakfast with a view.

Passaggio bistro in Oia; Oia restaurants; Santorini restaurants

A lovely view from the Passaggio terrace.

Knowing it would be a long trip to the beach, we were glad our tummies were satisfied. We boarded the local bus to Fira (the capital of Santorini) and from there took another packed bus to the beach all the way on the other side of the island. It took about 90 minutes one-way for the trip. (Note: Originally we had planned to rent a car. However, after seeing the rugged roads we decided against driving in Santorini – which was a wise decision. That’s why I’m still here to tell you all about my travels.)

Santorini black beach, Perissa black beach; Santorini, Greece

The black beach in Santorini has pebbles for sand.

While it was a hot and long journey, once we arrived at the black beach, it was very relaxing. The “sun beds” and thatched umbrellas are free as long as you buy drinks or food from the beach’s restaurant. There are also bathrooms in the restaurant should you need to change into or out of your bathing suit. Continue reading

My First Visit To Greece: Enjoying A Wine and Food Tour In Santorini

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50Are you ready to hear about my culinary explorations and libations in Santorini? While a few months have passed since returning from my first-ever trip to Greece with my daughter A and sister N, I so love reminiscing about our travels.

A Fabulous Wine and Food Tour in Santorini
It was mid-week in Santorini and A and I were looking forward to learning more about the food and wine culture of the region with Santorini Wine Trails. We had registered in advance for the “Foodie Tour,” which includes visiting a family-owned farm, walking in an 80-year-old vineyard, and sampling local wines and beer. (Note: N didn’t join us for the tour. She wanted to rest after our previous day’s strenuous hike from Fira to Oia.)

Prickly Pears; Santorini; Greece; Santorini Wine Trails Foodie Tour; travel; boomer travel

Prickly Pears grow on the family-owned farm in Santorini.

Iliana, our guide, picked us up at the Oia Post Office around mid-morning. Three other women who were vacationing from Chicago joined our group at the next pickup.

Iliana was filled with history about the island. We told her we were enjoying the beauty of Oia and our lodging at Nicoletta’s Loukia Cave House. She shared details about how Santorini and Oia have changed over the years.

“Everything that has happened here – roads, businesses – has happened in the last 20-25 years,” said Iliana. “After the 1956 earthquake, people were scared and left the island. In the 1980s, more investment happened and people started to return.”

Santorini; Greece; travel; boomer travel

The Santorini countryside has changed a lot since roads have been built.

We shared our story about our hike through the mountains from Fira, the capital of Santorini, to Oia. “Oia was always isolated from the rest of the island. The hike was the only way originally to get there. Not until the mid-90s when they started to build the roads could you get there by car,” said Iliana. Continue reading

A Fun Fashionista Day At The MET Costume Exhibition

life after 50, over 50, retirement, baby boomer women, baby boomersI know I promised my next post about my travels to Santorini. Don’t worry it’s coming soon. This week, I wanted to take a break from Greece to bring you highlights from my fun day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) Costume Exhibition.

Being a fashionista at heart (although I now wear yoga leggings most days), I so look forward to my yearly visit to the MET Costume Exhibition with my BFF J and BFF N. It is a high point of the summer. This year was no exception. The exhibition was a feast for the eyes and I can’t wait to share my photos.

Are you ready for a visual extravaganza?

The 2017 “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” exhibition features the Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, who designs under the label Comme des Garçons. Kawakubo is in her mid-70s today and is a true artist. The exhibition is mesmerizing with clothes artfully arranged atop and inside geometrically-arranged white display cases and cylinders.

Are you ready to be transformed by fashion as art?

“Her fashions not only stand apart from the genealogy of clothing but also resist definition and confound interpretation. They can be read as Zen koans or riddles devised to baffle, bemuse, and bewilder,” notes the printed guide. “At the center of her work are the koan mu (emptiness) and the related notion of ma (space), which coexist in the concept of the ‘in-between.'”

Are you ready to channel your inner fashionista?

We followed the map around the exhibition which led us on a path through nine expressions of Kawakubo’s ‘in-betweenness’:  Absence/Presence; Design/Not Design; Fashion/Antifashion; Model/Multiple; High/Low; Then/Now; Self/Other; Object/Subject; and Clothes/Not Clothes.

The duality of the designs reminded me of my yoga studies and the duality and equanimity we try to create with yoga poses. In fact, it was so Zen in the exhibition hall at times I wished I could have put down a mat and done yoga among the clothes. (Wonder if the MET would like to have me host a Kawakubo yoga session? Maybe I should ask them?)

Are you ready for my Insta-worthy Kawakubo photos?

Ooh, ahh, ooh, ahh! 

Drumroll please!

2017 MET Costume Exhibition; Rei Kawakubo; Metropolitan Museum of Art 2017 Costume Exhibition

1. Absence/Presence: “My clothes and the species they inhabit are inseparable – they are one and the same. They convey the same vision, the same message and the same sense of values.” says Kawakubo (2017)

Rei Kawakubo; Comme des Garcons; MET 2017 Costume Exhibition; 2017 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Exhibition

5.2 High/Low “There’s value in bad taste.” Rei Kawakubo (2008)

Continue reading

My First Visit To Greece: Climbing To The Top Of The Acropolis

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

It was day two of my first visit to Greece with my sister N and daughter A. As I mentioned in my previous post, “The Amazing Old World of Athens,” we were spending a weekend in Athens and then going for a week’s vacation on the island of Santorini.

It was a hot and sunny Saturday. We woke early and enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet, which was included in our stay at the Athens’ Electra Palace Hotel. There were eggs, fresh Greek yogurt, cereals, homemade waffles, fruit, croissants and more. With our tummies full, we were ready to climb to the top of the Acropolis, the most popular Greek landmark.

Athens; Greece; Acropolis

Touring The Acropolis
The Acropolis sits high up on a hill. We followed the signs and bought our tickets on site. It costs $20 euro for a ticket to the Acropolis and $30 euro if you want to see all of the monuments around the city. You can get your tickets in advance online or at the entrance. There was hardly any wait time on site. (Note: Wear sneakers and be careful under foot as it is not an easy climb. Plus pack plenty of water bottles to stay hydrated in the summer time.)

Athena, a local guide was offering tours for an additional $20 euro. We decided to join her and were very glad we did. There is so much to learn about ancient Greek culture and without a guide it would not be as interesting.

Athens; Greece; Acropolis

We ascended the rocky path to the Theater of Dionysos. “The first theater of the world was born in Greece. The Odeon was the auditorium. Theater means viewing things in Greek,” explained Athena. “The orchestra is in the middle. Actors are called hypocrites. Group therapy was the theater of psychotherapy. Soma means soul. The soul is the psyche. They improved the soul through the theater. ”

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My First Trip To Greece: The Amazing Old World of Athens

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

“Let’s plan a trip to Greece,” said my daughter A the day after we arrived home from our summer 2016 family vacation to Italy. “I want to go to Greece,” followed my sister N. They didn’t have to twist my arm for me to say “yes” or “ne” as they say in Greek. I love feta cheese, spanakopita, and baklava. I knew it would be a great vacation as we had traveled together to Spain a few years ago and all gotten along.

Baklava; Greek pastries; Greece; Santorini

By January 2017 our flights were booked for a June journey.  We would spend three days exploring the amazing old world of Athens and a week in Oia on the magnificent island of Santorini.

Greece; Athens; travel; Santoriini; Oia

I went to Greece with my daughter A (left) and my sister N (right).

It was a wonderful trip and now that I’m back I can’t wait to share the details. For sure, you’ll want to book a trip to Greece when you’re done reading about our travels.

A Smooth Flight to Athens
We left from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Taking the train to the plane from Manhattan was quite easy to navigate, even with luggage. I packed light, using my favorite Eagle Creek compression bags (highly recommend these bags for organizing clothes in your suitcase) and a 21-inch Samsonite. Delta was our airline of choice with a non-stop flight – on time, clean plane, lots of movies, good food. Eight hours later, we touched down in Athens. Continue reading

So Many Reasons To Fall In Love With Clearwater Beach

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

Glorious sunshine by day and picturesque sunsets at dusk, miles of pearly white sugar sand beaches, clear blue gulf waters, an abundance of restaurants with fresh fish and seafood, and luxurious resorts with gulf coast views — there are so many reasons to fall in love with Clearwater Beach.

It’s easy to see why this Florida spot has won multiple accolades in recent years, including #1 Best Beach in the US and #20 Best Beach in the world by TripAdvisor, plus “Best Beach” recognition from USA Today, Travel Channel, Condé Nast Traveler and Fodor’s Travel Publications.

Clearwater Beach; City of Clearwater; best beach; Florida

I had a chance to soak it all in courtesy of The City Of Clearwater and I’m back to share the details.* My lucky boyfriend L joined me for five fantastic days at the new Wyndham Grand Resort Clearwater Beach, the second biggest hotel on the beach with waterfront vistas and waterside bar and restaurant.

Wyndham Grand Clearwater Hotel; Clearwater Beach; City of Clearwater; best beach; Florida; Florida beaches; gulf coast; boomer travel

Wyndham Grand Clearwater Hotel; Clearwater Beach; City of Clearwater; best beaches; Florida; Florida beaches; boomer travel

It was nice to meet other writers on the FAM trip including Lisa Niver from WeSaidGoTravel.com and Jason Frye from TeaKettle Junction Productions, Inc. (Note: A familiarization trip, known as FAM Trip, is where media are invited to visit a city by the Tourism Board or Visitor Bureau or City Marketing Organization.)

Clearwater Beach; #1 best beach by Tripadvisor; Florida

My new FAM friends and travel mates.

Easy To Travel To
We flew into Tampa International Airport, which is about a 30 – 40 minute ride to Clearwater Beach. (Note there is also a Clearwater/St. Pete airport that services many cities.) There’s free local transportation with FloridaFreeRides.com, so we didn’t need to rent a car. You just call for a ride and tip the driver afterwards. It was very convenient. There is also Jolley Trolley that runs up and down the beach and coastal route 7 days a week. Plus Uber is available if you need a ride.

The Best Beaches
I had heard that there was something special about Clearwater Beach. The minute we stepped on the sand with our bare feet we smiled. “Ooh, aah, ooh, ahh! This is amazing sand,” I said to L. It felt so good to stroll along the soft sand. My Fitbit quickly hit 10,000 steps. We walked along the water’s edge, the water was warm. It was relaxing, shedding our worries and enjoying our time together.

Clearwater Beach; # 1 TripAdvisor Best Beach USA; Florida; boomer travel

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