Lone Star Blog!
I’m back! I just spent the past week in London and had the most amazing time! I covered all the rounds- from Buckingham Palace to the London Eye, toured St. Paul’s Cathedral where Diana and Charles were wed, shopped at Harrods (well looked around) and took in the sites from Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly Circus. I really enjoyed a river cruise with commentary on the River Thames at night (best time to go in my opinion) and made one of the Queen’s guards smile! I rode the tube about 10 times, attempted to do a London accent (and failed), laughed endlessly and took a gazillion photos!
ABU DHABI & DUBAI -
Amazing journey to both of these locations which should not be missed during the same trip since it is only about 1 hour drive from each city part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). We have all seen photos of Dubai and yes it is an amazing feat to build this city on reclaimed sand. This place is to marvel over the construction of the Khalifa Towers, but it is really a shopping mecca. The most beautiful malls I have seen with original art, sculptures, indoor aquariums and water fountains that put the Bellagio to shame. YES…they DO have an indoor place to ski , and YES I tried it, see me at the top of the hill. If you want to experience more of the authentic mid east and culture, then head to Abu Dhabi then on to the LIWA DESERT! The photo you see is of me sitting in the desert with the resort behind me. This has to top my list of the most extraordinary places I have visited. You literally drive for MILES in the empty quarters of the desert passing herds of camels, goats, Bedouins then this magnificent resort called QASR AL SARAB opens up before you, just as you were to say: “Open Sesame”!
Three times to this wonderful middle eastern country and always a different adventure. Petra, the Rose City always memorizes me with the stories of the 3 peoples who ruled over this sacred land from the Nabataean and the Greco-Roman to the Arab Bedouins who still live nearby. The people outside the city of Amman are truly kind people who want to share their country and history with you. Ask a Bedouin for directions and you find yourself in his tent sipping sweet hot tea and desserts before you embark on your journey.
Most people want to just run to the islands of Greece, which is fine for possibly a 2nd visit to Greece, but go ALL the way around the world to see water and rocky islands?? You can get that almost anywhere and much closer to the USA. Greek cruises are a wonderful way to experience the islands and a little bit of the main land specifically Athens, but if you are a history buff as I am, exploring the country is a must. I DO recommend doing this with an escorted guided tour, that way you will see everything and have all entrance fees and local guides waiting for you at every stop which is really the best way to enjoy this fabulous country RICH in history.
Example of one itinerary:
Picturesque fishing villages to ancient historic ruins are a classic trip to Greece. In Athens, where you will visit the Acropolis, in ancient Corinth, Mycenae and Epidaurus to Olympia and Delphi with a special visit to the Archaeological Museum, spectacular ancient history will unfold. Special highlights are a cooking demonstration to learn how to make the traditional Greek tzatziki appetizer in Olympia and a dance lesson in Delphi to learn the steps of the sirtaki, made famous in the movie Zorba the Greek. Enjoy a whole afternoon in the unreal, fantastic landscape of Meteora with its 24 rock-top monasteries. Visit Varlaam Monastery, famous for its frescoes, and St. Stephen’s, featuring a unique collection of icons and an incredible panoramic view. Next is Thermopylae, the site of the heroic battle of Leonidas’ 300 doomed Spartans against Xerxes’ huge Persian army. Drive past Thebes and Marathon before returning to Athens for more site seeing and SHOPPING before heading back home. Most meals are included with local wines or Ouzo, all accommodations are selected for you and ALL tours are included even entry into the sites. Also, FREE WI FI on the coach so you can share your pictures or check FB to see what your friends are doing back home.
I really did not have much of a plan for this trip other than plane tickets and train tickets which are a MUST before travelling to this country (meaning the train tickets!). Please make sure your passport is valid 6 months PAST your travel dates of you will be turned away at the airport. Each country has different rules but all of Europe is the same.
So, I started in Barcelona and took the hop on hop off bus tour, I don’t really recommend this, seemed overpriced and not as informative as others I have taken in England and Hong Kong. Familia Sagrada is a gothic basilica semi built in 1882 by Gaudi and truly something to see! Reminds me of a sand castle where the sand dripped down on the towers. Still under construction if you can believe that!
Las Ramblas is the place to be! We had wonderful Tapas, Paella and SANGRIA in an outside cafe, truly wonderful experience. Don’t miss the magnificent statue of Christopher Columbus near the waterfront!
Then we headed to Cordoba in the Andalusia region, all I can say is WOW! This was a 4 hour train ride through the most beautiful countryside I have seen in a long while. Visiting the medieval town and walking around the square and visiting Mezquita de Cordoba, amazing structure built 786 AD.
Next stop, Cadiz and the beaches of Spain had to check them out to compare and contrast with the Caribbean and Mexico! Of course, water is dark blue vs. Caribbean Blue, but still beautiful. White sandy beaches but with no shade, you have to rent umbrellas and chairs or bring your own. Also gorgeous architecture to explore in this coastal town.
Vejer de la Frontera – The white village up high in the mountainside. A MUST if you find yourself in the Andalusia area of Spain. There are 15 white villages in Spain and this one seems to be the most beautiful with rich history. We did rent a car for 2 days while in this area to just drive around and explore. I did make reservations (highly recommend) at El Jardin del Califa and was not disappointed. Housed in an ancient Mosque from the 12th century serving Moroccan cuisine. Seems untouched as if someone from that time era would have no problem finding his way around this quaint village in the 21st century.
Final stop, Madrid, LOVED this city! So alive, vibrant and YOUNG! So, I am in my 50’s, average age out at night is around 20-30 something, but still so much fun. What really amazed me was Retiro Park in the center of the city, so unexpected. Boating lake with row boats or paddle boats (5.80 euros for 45 minutes) statues galore, flowers, benches and romantic spots all around. We walked around this park for at least one hour and still did not see it all. Pedestrian safe, only maintenance and police vehicles allowed. Of course Madrid is known for the MANY museums of fine art, so much to see!
MAYAN RIVIERA, MEXICO
Ok, hands down my favorite beach destination with top of the line all inclusive resorts and the best service and cuisine. I have been to most of the Caribbean Islands, but what people don’t realize, you pay MORE mainly for airfare to those destinations and the sand, trees and turquoise water is the same as the Riviera Maya but MORE $$$! Why pay more because a hotel chain or island has more marketing dollars to show you their version of the beach when you can get the same for way less money? Europeans take 2-3 week vacations a year and guess where they go? Yes, the Mayan Riviera of Mexico! Now, just because they go does not mean we MUST go, but they know the value of this area as I do and why not save $$$ and spend the savings on excursions or a house payment! Look at my pictures below and tell me if I blindfolded you and dropped you at one of those beaches, you would know the difference?
LIVE AQUA, CANCUN
Live Aqua in Cancun. I have a whole new respect for Cancun, I was pleasantly surprised of the quality of this adult only all inclusive resort recently renovated from head to toe! This concept concentrates on the 5 senses to make your stay calm and to refresh ones inner being. Adults only and totally all inclusive with no reservations for ala carte dining every night! No nightly entertainment because you are only a .70 ride to the clubs but they do have a Friday Night Beach party with buffet and live entertainment on the beach. It is located right across the street from a very pretty shopping center with canals, bridges and boutique to high end shops.
Just back from 12 site inspections in Punta Cana which is in the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean Sea. Beaches were spectacular! Favorite adult only resorts have to be new NEW Hyatt Zilara, Secrets Cap Cana, SOON to open LIVE AQUA and the Iberostar Grand Bavaro, Favorite family resorts was Now Onyx, Majestic Elegance and of course the amazing, MASSIVE Hard Rock Resort and Spa.
Just back from QATAR in the middle east, just a short 40 minute flight from Dubai. Although just a short flight, WORLDS APART! Stick with Dubai, not worth the trek to Qatar, although the richest country in the world, absolutely nothing to do there.