NEXT TO THE BEST TRIPS – PART I

Awhile back I itemized the very best trips we’ve ever had (blog 1/28/15 and 2/25/15). Here is the first part of a second list of outstanding trips. They weren’t the very best, but pretty darn close.
Here they are, in no particular order:

Panama Canal and Costa Rica

The excitement starts to build when you enter the lakes at the north end of the canal, which is the staging area for entry. After waiting your turn, you enter the canal and start the 48-mile journey. Going through the locks at either end is fascinating. You’re pulled through by tiny tugs on rails.

Close to one million vessels of every size and shape have gone through the canal.

Traveling on to Costa Rica is most enjoyable. Great beaches with manageable mountains, as well as jungles. One of the highlights is watching the volcano light up the night sky with sparks and flares.

Italy, anywhere

Every part of Italy is a treat. We’ve been on a great cruise down the west coast to see Sardinia, Corsica, Sorrento, Capri, Positano and the Amalfi coast. Our bike trip in the Po River Valley, the breadbasket of Italy, was terrific, followed by a few days in Pisa, Lucca and Puccini.

We had a delightful trip to the Lake Country and Cing Le Terra and another one from Milan to Florence, then to Assisi, Verona and on to Venice.

Seeing the Paleo colorful horse race in Sienna was a special treat, and even fun without the race. The hills and walled towns of Tuscany are not to be forgotten. San Gimigrano, Chianti, Vinci, Volterra. There are dozens of these charming small towns to visit and explore.

Of course, Rome is a great city with so much history. You could easily spend a week there.

The food is fabulous everywhere. Fresh produce and unbelievable pasta. The pizza is ordinary but everything else is outstanding.

Can’t forget Sicily, a delightful island filled with the history and well-preserved ruins and great sights. All definitely worth seeing.

Maui

All the sandwich isles offer a smog-free feast of delectable sights, temperatures and sensations. For me, Maui has always been the best. I’ve never been anywhere where I can be completely relaxed within an hour of arriving.
Yes, the traffic has gotten worse. There didn’t use to be any! But there’s still more to do there if you want to do anything and more variety of sights and colors than anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Maui offers golf, tennis, hiking, shopping, history, museums, sunsets, snorkeling, oceans, beaches, spectacular drives, great food, incomparable walks, movies, and a variety of topography that makes it the most sensual place on earth.

There are three somewhat distinct areas you can choose as your destination: Kapalua, Lahaina, Ka’anapali, and Wailea/Makenna. My personal preference is the last of the three, but I wouldn’t turn either of the other two down very quickly. The main winning ingredient for Wailea/Makenna is it has less rain and wind than the other two.
So you won’t go wrong in anyone of the three.

Oceania Cruises

They’re a mid-priced line with mid-size ships (480 or 1,200 people) with typical destinations. What makes them special is the cabins are adequate and comfortable, the food is top-drawer and the dining options, all at no extra cost, are outstanding.

We’ve taken them four times and will look to take them again.

On the other hand, we’ve taken pricier lines like Regent and Seabourn and found them highly over-rated. On river boats, we found Tauck outstanding and Viking somewhat wanting.
In the small boat category, Travel Dynamics (now Ponant) has offered some interesting and different destinations. National Geographic is terrific but at a price.

Scandinavia

An absolute delightful journey by land or sea, Copenhagen, Denmark, Stockholm, Sweden, St. Petersburg, Russia are great places to visit. The highlight of this trip is Norway. Spectacular scenery in the Fjords and the cities of Bergen and Oslo are great visits.

A bustling economy make for happy people and a positive attitude everywhere.

San Juan Islands

A short ferry ride a few miles north of Seattle was the beginning of our bike trip through the beautiful islands. We started in Oak Harbor, then ferried to conquer the big hill outside Anacortes. Then is was on to Lopez, Orcas and Friday Harbor. Delightful natural countryside and great accommodations. It’s a hidden gem of a place to visit.

Antartica

Departing from Usheria, Argentina, you cross the Drake Channel and make it to the northeast part of the big island. Without the wind, the temperature is quite manageable.
The sights are awesome; the great chunks of icebergs that form a gallery of ice sculptures, walking among hundreds of penguins, as well as a warm-water area to take a dip.
The sweets at four o’clock were outstanding and made up for the mediocre Russian food.

Savanah, Charleston and Washington, D.C.

Savanah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Caroline, are a reminder of the old south; charming, picturesque and great places to visit.
Savanah is laid out in perfect squares and streets. You can walk the whole town and every block is a treat. You can even sit on the bench with Forrest Gump. Charleston is different but nonetheless special. More to see with the spacious harbor and the citadel.

Both cities are brimming with history and good food.

If you go on to Washington, D.C. (and you should), there are many other great stops along the way—i.e., Hilton Head, South Carolina, Yorktown and Williamsburg in Virginia—are all enjoyable.
Washington, D.C. is an indescribable delight. The Smithsonian museums, the Capital, the monuments, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress (a hidden gem), the National Portrait Gallery, the National Cathedral, and, of course, the White House, FBI and Treasury Department. For kids, the Spy Museum.

You can spend a week here alone and come away with a new-found sense of patriotism.

Sedona

A wonderful place to visit, where they say the red rocks give off a special energy. There’s great hiking and a plethora of terrific galleries and restaurants.

Enchantment is a great hotel; there are plenty of motels and a few bed and breakfasts.

Sedona is just an hour and a half north of Phoenix and 3/4-hour south of Williams, where you can board the train to the Grand Canyon.

It’s a great weekend.

* * *

Part II will appear next month.

1 Comment

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One response to “NEXT TO THE BEST TRIPS – PART I

  1. gordon roberts

    Happy belated birthday, and many more to come.
    Gordon

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