Category Archives: Travel List

Places we hope to visit in the future

Planning for Spring in Italy

Today Rick Steves, ” A Pocket Guide to Florence” arrived in the mail.

Last year we visited Rome ahead of a Seabourn cruise of the Greek Islands. The cruise landed in Venice, where we met our friends, Markus and Alexandra, before moving on to Florence for four days. We absolutely loved the Greek Islands and Italy. We vowed to return to Italy for an extended stay. We also hope to do some island hopping in Greece, but on another trip. For us, a return trip to Italy came first.

Today, thinking back on our last Italian sojourn, Florence stands out as the place to stay for an extended time. Rome and Venice are outstanding. We had a wonderful time learning how to live in both cities; walking the streets seeing the piazzas, seeing world renound art in museums and discovering lesser known ones. We both enjoy taking chances on trattorias with an occasional forgettable experience. Rome and Venice are perhaps the most stunning cities in the world. In spite of all that, for us, Florence felt like home.

I remembered vividly two Florentine restaurants where we had lunch.Unfortunately I did not remember their names and couldn’t locate them on a detailed map. But… looking back over our Florence blog, I found one is “Il Barroccio”. I remember that the other is closer to the Giardino della Gherardesca and the Four Seasons Hotel. There it was in our blog: Trattoria Cibreo. Many other restaurants were memorable for service or for their location. These two restaurants were unassuming and served the most wonderful dishes.

This trip first lands us in Palermo, Sicily where we rent a car and drive the north shore of Sicily to Messina. From Messina we take a ferry and train to Salerno. From Salerno we self-tour Capri, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello before renting a car for a month at Salerno. From Salerno we drive the coast visiting Paestum, Pompeii, Torre del Greco, Erculo, Bacoli, Gaeta, and Sperlonga before turning inland toward Tivoli. We will visit some of the castle towns of Velletri, Genzano, Ariccia, Albano, Laziale, Castel Gandolfo, or Frascati then stop in Tivoli. The road from Tivoli to Orvieto runs near Calcata and Bagnoregio. From Orvieto we drive to Florence. All our lodging for this eighteen day trip as well as our six weeks in Florence is now booked and confirmed.

Booking accommodations was amusing if sometimes frustrating. I used,,, and Often a listing was common to all with different prices. Sometimes one site would have a listing the others did not. Where prices differed, some included the taxes and fees in the price, some included just fees or just taxes, some included neither. The least expensive listing often was acutally the most expensive after fees and taxes. We booked six stays through, four through, three through TripAdvisor, and two through We booked our stay at the Villa Igiea, Palermo directly.

We would book our connections now, but it is not possible to do so online. Train tickets can only be booked 120 days in advance and the 2017 ferry schedules are not yet avaiable online. Then too, it may be better not to book ahead to avoid missing a connection.

What a marvelous adventure awaits.

Here are some stock photos that present the scope of our travels from Palermo to Florence.


Lavenzo Island


Lorenzo petroglyphs

Petryglyphs on Levanzo Island

villa igiea 2 villa igiea 1

Villa Igiea, Palermo





Capri BlueGrotto capri

Capri and the Blue Grotto





AmalfiCoast amalfi

Amalfi Coast and Amalfi







sperlonga 2 Sperlonga




arricia ariccia(1)


 albano laziale

Albano Laziale

Calcata italy




tivoli 1 Tivoli 2


orvieto orvieto 2



IMG 4980 cropped










Past Post Categories

I’ve significantly changed the categories widgets and applied them in a regular way to my posts.
This makes access to all posts associated one click away. For example clicking on “Past Posts/Past Travel/Italy/Venezia” will bring up all our posts about Venice. Sometime in the future I’ll be adding tags for more granularity to access specific sites mentioned in our posts.

We will make it a point to add more photos to our posts.

We’re now researching the best way to get from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Cusco, Peru; the stepping off point for excursions to Machu Picchu and Manu.
Flights typically take multiple hops: Guayaquil-Quito-Lima-Cusco, can take more than 24 hours, and cost upwards of $500 per person. An Ormeno bus from Guayaquil to Lima stopping at the border at Tumbes costs $33 per person and takes about the same amount of time as a flight. I’ve read not so glowing reviews of Ormeno bus lines. Another option is a direct bus, Cruz Del Sur which has better reviews. A direct bus runs $99/111 (std/vip) and takes 26 hours. There is a bus that stops in Mancora for half that price, but it has no arrival time nor estimated travel time.

Now here’s an option! Take a bus from Guayaquil to Tumbes, Peru than fly from Tumbes direct to Lima. A direct flight takes about two hours. The bus from Guayaquil to Tumbes takes six hours. Now I’m looking into a side trip from Guayaquil to Banos to visit Banos and Pailon del Diablo


Galapagos Spring 2016 Redux, adding Machu Picchu

We are headed to Machu Picchu from Guayaquil Ecuador after the Galapagos. Safari Experts has planned an 8 day extension that includes a trip to the Sacred Valley, Cusco and Machu Picchu. This will be *Big Fun* for us.

Ahead of our Galapagos trip, I intend to read a portion of Charles Darwin’s Journal of Researches which he wrote during the almost five year expidition abord HMS Beagle. Chapter 19. Galapagos Archipelago is of particular interest. Wow, there is a kindle copy of “The Voyage of HMS Beagle” available on Amazon for $0.99. Remarkable.

The “smart upload” below is a link to the Machu Picchu itinerary.

Click to access peru8daysampleitinerarywithhirambingham.pdf

Double click the above to select it, right click and select open.

Galapagos Spring 2016

Our good friends Cynthia and Jim forwarded information for a Galapagos trip spring of 2016. They were invited, but had other plans. The trip is on the National Geographic Ship Islander and limited to 48 people. Ellen said she was interested and we contacted Tim Lapage owner of Safari Experts Park City Utah,


We’ll see if this upload is as smart as BlogDesk implies in a moment!  Ok it’s not smart, but not cracked either.  You can double click on the phrase below (http:…pdf) to highlight it , right click on it, and goto. That will open the pdf in another tab.  Not dumb, but not very smart either.

Click to access galapagos.pdf

We went with a category 2 cabin and we will extend this trip to include Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lima Peru. I have friends from Mille Flores Lima Peru. It could be fun to visit. The two women who come to mind went skiing with us many years ago. I remember quite clearly reaching the top of the gondola in full regalia, the two women with their parkas and skiis looking quite the skiiers. Then the two said, “oh, you go along. We’ll wait here” They took a few photos of themselves from the top, then sashayed over to the bar for the rest of the day! Quite the avid skiiers were these two.

Alaska 2016

Our plans for 2015 are coming together quite well.

We will be whale watching in the Sea of Cortez next spring, Cruising the Greek Islands in early summer, and meandering through Tuscany in the early fall.

In mid 2015 we expect to purchase our first RV to tour the U.S. We will most likely purchase a Winnebago View or Itasca Navion 24J built on the Mercedes sprinter chassis with a diesel engine. To help with trip planning and to provide inspiration, I ordered “the most scenic drives in America” and “Off the Beaten Path”. Both are large format “picture” books with good information for trip planning.

My plan is to criss-cross the US running north to south, following the weather for a few months each year. Being on the west coast, it makes sense to start in Fairbanks and work down toward San Diego. Alaska is huge with a vast amount of near pristine wilderness to explore. With two months allotted for RVing each year, Alaska will consume all 2016’s RV time. We plan to drive from Fairbanks to Anchorage, drive/ferry to Juneau for an inland passage cruise, return to Anchorage and fly to the Privilof islands for a few days, then return to Anchorage and drive to Seattle. I will be driving from Seattle to Fairbanks, “delivering” the RV for our Alaska adventure. Ellen will join me in Fairbanks, arriving by air. She will have the option of driving back to Seattle with me, or flying.

We were thinking to go in late spring, but a birding tour that uses the ferry from Juneau to Whittier in the fall, is pushing me towards an early fall trip. Here is an overview of our fall Alaska trip

Zip up to Seattle
Ron ferries RV to Fairbanks
Ellen flies to Juneau
Drive George Parks Highway Fairbanks to Anchorage
Explore Kenai Peninsula
Store RV at Anchorage for a month
Drive to Haines and ferry to Juneau
Take inland passage cruise from Juneau
Two week parking @ Juneau necessary
Ferry Juneau to Whittier?
Drive Whittier to anchorage to pick up RV
Privilof Island “tour”, rt from Anchorage Optional
Drive Alaska Highway to Victoria/Vancouver

We’re allowing two weeks to drive the George Parks Highway visiting Denali National Park and other sights along the way and one week to tour the Kenai Peninsula, The insland passage tour may be 9 or 14 days.

These plans (overviews really) will be shelved for a while and fleshed out once we have an RV.

Logistic planning is fun, though a bit frustrating. The best time to take the inland tour may not be the best time for pelagic bird/whale watching on the ferry back to Anchorage. Should we plan for spring or fall migrations? When will the weather open up and/or close down? Is it more advantageous to work from north to south typically in late summer and early fall, or to work from south to north following spring? That probably depends. New England in the fall is spectacular. Spring in Alaska is probably amazing with wild flowers and wildlife everywhere, but spring accessibility varies year to year.

I would really like to visit all the states, though Hawaii is “right out”; it’s prohibitively expensive to ferry an RV round trip to Hawaii. (Ferrying the RV one way and selling it in Hawaii might just work.)

It looks like Alaska 2016; Washington & Oregon 2017; then what? Idaho & Utah; Arizona & New Mexico; Colorado, the Oklahoma panhandle, & Texas; Oklahoma, Arkansas, & Louisiana; “the south”; “eastern seaboard”; “North East”, Ohio Valley; mid west; Dakota’s.

That’s eleven years out!

Little by Little


Craving adventure, travelers seek out Asia’s ‘hot spots’

Taken from



Whether you want to feast on deep-fried scorpions, go “off the grid” in a spot untouched by tourists, spend your day watching green sea turtles or dance at a colorful festival, Asia beckons like never before.

Now, many travelers are also adding some of the more remote corners of the continent to their dream itineraries.

For the second year in a row, members of the United States Tour Operators Association have named Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, as the top emerging destination that will gain popularity in 2014. Vietnam and Cambodia tied for second, while India took third place in the annual survey released in December.

Travel agents say clients are eager to immerse themselves in another world.

“It always used to be that the travel was to Europe — that was the thing to do. And now, since global travel has expanded so much, they’ve all been to Europe. They’ve been there, done that,” said Catherine Heald, co-founder and CEO of Remote Lands, a New York travel agency that specializes in Asia.

“So then they’re looking for new pastures. And the culture in Asia is so fascinating, so completely different from our own culture here, that it’s just much more exotic for Americans.”


Myanmar may be most exotic of all right now, with the nation back on many itineraries after the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010. The move prompted her supporters to end a 15-year tourism boycott of the region, which in turn has inspired a travel boom.

Courtesy Remote Lands, Inc.
Women carry fruit on their heads at Ngapali Beach in Myanmar.
“Myanmar is definitely one of the global travel hot spots at this time,” said Nick Ray, author of several Southeast Asia guides for Lonely Planet.

“Everyone is drawn by the opportunity to see a country in transition politically and economically, as well as the chance to see a culture and society that has been relatively isolated from the Western world for nearly half a century.”

Heald recalled traveling to a village that was “completely off the grid,” where the locals had never seen a foreigner, much less one wearing sunglasses, and they marveled at her shades.

But it’s about to get more crowded. More than 1 million tourists visited Myanmar in 2012, according to the country’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, a 30 percent increase over 2011. There aren’t enough guesthouses or hotels to accommodate the surge of visitors so prices have skyrocketed, and it’s particularly hard to find a place to stay during the peak season travel months of November to March, Ray noted.

However, if you do snag a room, Ray said there are lots of spectacular places to visit, including the majestic temples of Bagan and beautiful Inle Lake.

Both Heald and Ray said they felt very safe in Myanmar. Tourists traveling to India, however, may need to take more precautions.

The country lures tourists with its exquisite architecture, formidable landscapes, amazing cuisine and vibrant festivals, said Sarina Singh, author of Lonely Planet’s guide to India.

“Many people go to India in pursuit of spiritual answers and return home reminded of the inimitable serenity found in life’s simple pleasures,” Singh said, calling India one of the world’s most enigmatic tourist destinations

But after several attacks on women last year, many people may be wondering whether it’s safe to go.

The U.S. Department of State cautions Americans, particularly women, not to travel alone in India. Singh said it’s sensible for female visitors to stay alert and avoid all public transport at night.

“Although crimes against women in India have increased over recent years, female travelers are more likely to experience sexual harassment — particularly in big cities and tourist towns in north India — than violent assault. Many women face no problems at all,” Singh said.

She advised visitors to dress conservatively — no sleeveless tops, shorts, miniskirts, or anything skimpy or tight. If you’re at a beach, consider wearing a T-shirt and long shorts over a bathing suit. Getting stared at is common, but sunglasses are a good way to deflect eye contact, Singh said.

Going for the first time? Travelers who have their hearts set on seeing the iconic Taj Mahal may enjoy the “Golden Triangle” itinerary, which incorporates Delhi; India’s capital city; Agra, site of the Taj Mahal; and Jaipur, dubbed the “Pink City,” which is the capital of Rajasthan (“Land of Kings”) and is “suitably speckled with glorious remnants of its royal past,” Singh said.

For visitors in search of India’s less frenetic side, she recommends the southern states — places such as Kerala, a tropical, easygoing wedge of India’s far southwest.

India has plenty of hotel choices for travelers, as do Vietnam and Cambodia, Heald said.

For beautiful beaches, head to Vietnam where the coastline is one of the big draws, with long stretches of prime seafront and thousands of small islands. A classic itinerary starts in the north in Hanoi, and should include Ha Long Bay, a World Heritage site; Hoi An, an ancient trading port; and Ho Chi Minh City, still known as Saigon, Ray said.

Cambodia, on the other side of the border, offers its own delights, he said, with the temples of Angkor and the lively capital of Phnom Penh at the top of the list.

Finally some travel news

Our friend, who is being priced out of living locally, is relocating to Thailand early next year. I suggested my wife join her in her search for that great place to live and perhaps tour the country before Alison settles in Chiang Mai. She has agreed and the two will be off to Thailand in February.

Chiang Mai is in the northern part of the country far from the Gulf of Thailand, which would more interest me. The cost of living in Chang Mai is low and accomodations appear to be very modern (if web photos are to be believed, more to follow). Studios can be had for around $7,500 THB (around $230 USD). A nicely furnished 1 br apartment can run around $450 USD.

Can you imagine living in Thailand for two months for $900? One night stay at the Intercontinental Hotel Bangkok is $200.

The two gals are planning a tour of the area which will include phuket; Angkor Wat, Cambodia; and stops in Viet Nam. I am a bit jealous and could join them, but they are old friends and having time alone together is a good thing. For me work still gets in the way…

I don’t really know how Alison chose Chiang Mai or if she will be happy once she gets there and stays for a few weeks or months. It will be very interesting to follow her adventure and visit from time to time. I wish her well and expect she will find what she is looking for… and who doesn’t like Thai cuisine?

Roatan, brief update’s+southern+shore&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=t649UrSyH4fu8QT_94GwBQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1307&bih=819&dpr=1#facrc=_&imgdii=_&

check out this set of images. They’re from a google image search. This set is particularly striking. It’s a collected set of images from a series of websites that google has strung together. Left/right arrow to select different web pictures, click on pictures to view. It’s as if it were a jalbum (the photo album organizer I’ve used for elderGypsies).


Roatan, Honduras

I had considered purchasing a home on the island of Roatan in Honduras. From time to time I would look through Caribbean properties for sale and kept coming back to Roatan. Some of the homes in the hillside with views over the ocean were spectacular and very reasonably priced when compared to California real estate. The combination of low housing costs and great island amenities is what drew me to invest in San Diego a decade ago and what nearly lured me to Roatan.

Roatan is a mostly residential, sleepy island. The western tip is a more active tourist destination with sandy beaches, restaurants, and dive shops. With a few exceptions the rest of the island has no resorts. There are residential developments much like a HOA.
Much of the island’s southern shore is rugged or mangrove swamp, the north shore is less so.

I recommend subscribing to Matt and Margo’s “Roatan’s Hot Sheet” and visiting their website (google matt and margot roatan). Other websites are OK, but they consistently seek out quality properties. It is fun to day dream.
I did read one article in the past year that mentioned Roatan, drug trafficing, and violence. One article is no big deal. I do not believe this is a problem on Roatan. Be warned though, Honduras law favors the worker (which I think is a good thing). One example: you have to give your employee paid vacation time, you cannot fire an employee without good reason, and you must provide severance pay! Imagine paying your gardener severance pay or providing paid vacations in the U.S. (yes we have a “blow and go” gardener)

Here’s why I will (probably) not purchase foreign property.

1. Travel.. If we own we would feel obliged to use the property when it is not rented.

2. Maintenance. A vacation rental has more wear and tear than a typical rental property. We also would have to hire a management company to help with booking and manage maintenance.

3. Absentee Landlord and Honduras’ Legal system. As a foreign investor in any dispute with a locall company or individual, we would be asssumed to be in the wrong.

4. My wife. She would much rather rent in various locations around the world without the hassle of a foreign rental.

After some years of discussion and researching vacation rentals, I have come to agree with my wife. Though the allure of owning a fabulous home on Roatan or in Belize is captivating and within reach, we could as easily find a long term rental on Roatan or Belize, enjoy life there for two months or so, then leave with no strings. We have found what appear to be reasonably priced, charming condos and homes for rent in exotic location. Finding a moderately priced long term rental in the heart of Rome or London is a challenge, less so further from the city center.