Day 211 of the Nowhere To Be Project completely escaped me. I guess I’ve been too focused on indulging in all the yummy offers during Vail’s restaurant week. With that, Day 212 began with an amazing sunrise in the mountains. As the colors illuminated the sky, I sipped my coffee and munched on my vegan scrambled eggs on sourdough. Mornings like this make the 6am wake up call from the dog a bit easier to swallow. Did you find beauty n your day today?
On day 208 of the Nowhere To Be Project I dined alone as I so often do. In my mind, there are very few dinner companions as alluring as a good book. As I sat in bliss, eating and reading, the conversations of those around me seeped into my awareness. Some were bantering on about recent events in what sounded like a catch-up chat. Others whispered with gossip-filled glee. One elderly woman was happily spewing word after word and sentence after sentence, so much so that I wondered how she was managing to squeeze in bites of her meal. She just sounded so thrilled to be in the presence of others. A conversation like that would have completely exhausted me today. I guess that’s another benefit of retirement, I no longer have to speak for my dinner.
As a professor, I lectured for a living. I had to be wordy, funny, engaging, energetic and affable. If I failed, my students failed by zoning out and missing key content. I was paid to be an extrovert. Over time, this was incredibly draining because my natural inclination is toward introversion. I would come home after a day of lecturing for eight hours and stare at the television, not really watching it, but needing its drone to unwind my brain. After today’s solo meal I stumbled over the most wondrous blue pumpkins. They were sort of hidden and I’d no doubt have missed them if I’d been with another, embroiled in conversation. Not to be hyperbolic, but these pumpkins were the most beautiful shade of grey-blue-lavender that I’ve ever seen! Their seductive color not only reminded me of the beauty of silence, but reinforced the value of solitude. There’s just so much to see in the world, so many blue pumpkins, and I’d hate to miss a thing.
Day 195 of the Nowhere To Be Project was spent at the lovely Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This wonderful year-round treat is nestled within the mountains and costs just $15 per person to enjoy for a full day’s access (cash or check only). The ornate property has a rustic spa feel with a natural stone tri-level spring fed pool. The pool is surrounded by ample lounging space and there are massages available on site as well. The Strawberry Park Hot Springs complex offers changing rooms, rest rooms and even tiny houses for rent!
It was breathtaking to feel the hot spring (very, very hot directly at the source) water on my skin as I gazed up at the ever-changing color of the rustling aspen leaves. This experience left me feeling refreshed and renewed and I can only imagine how that would be amplified after a long day of skiing. Be sure to treat yourself to a natural hot spring sometime if you haven’t already. You will not be sorry!
Day 189 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought even more lovely pre-autumn color to my town. Vail is bursting with color and its beauty speaks for itself. That’s all!
Today, day 179 of the Nowhere To Be Project, brought me cooler air and my first official pumpkin sighting of the season. Unlike nearly everywhere else in the United States, the temperatures in the Vail Valley hovered in the mid 60s today. Despite the rampant Labor Day celebrations in town, the cooler air helped to put everyone in sweater-mode. As I drove through the mountains, spotting the first tinge of yellow on the leaves of the Aspen trees, I was inspired to plan a few trips. The goal for my fall travel is singular, to witness the awe-inspiring colors of mother nature as she shuts the door on summer. Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year and even though it has not officially started, its hypnotic lure is beckoning as witnessed in the yummy vegan Pumpkin Cakies with Brown Sugar Mascarpone Frosting that I created this afternoon (recipe to follow tomorrow).
Day 167 of the Nowhere To Be Project had me pondering the concept of travel loyalty. What I mean by this is loyalty to a particular hotel chain, airline, cruise company and so on. We were just on the Viking Sky for two weeks, having arrived home only two days ago. While on board we learned that 75% of the passengers were previous Viking guests. I found that to be an amazing number, so the company is surely doing something right.
I think that the high level of service Viking provides may be the key to their astronomical levels of customer loyalty. For example, by day two on our voyage every staff member we had encountered on the first day greeted us by name (cabin stewards, guest service, bar and restaurant staff, spa staff). I have no idea how they do it, but it really means a lot because you feel as if you truly matter.
Beyond the exceptional service that is provided by Viking Cruises, the incentives to return are appealing. Past guest discounts make booking future travel seem like a no brainer. The company also provides lucrative offers to encourage passengers to book future travel while still onboard. We took advantage of this when we booked an Elbe river cruise just days into the cruise. We were given a deep discount, free economy airfare, onboard credit (for the cruise we were on and for the future cruise), a reduced deposit and a penalty-free cancellation policy. We were already considering several river cruises and these offers made booking while onboard too good to pass up!
What does a company need to do to earn your travel loyalty?
On Day 163 of the Nowhere To Be Project we arrived in Bergen, Norway. Norway is known for cold air and abundant rain and today was no different. Travel tip: pack a hooded raincoat when visiting Norway. I did not and was soaked to the bone by what the locals call “Norwegian Sunshine” (rain…over 80 inches each year)! Umbrellas are pretty useless here as the wind can get fierce.
Bergen itself is a busy port city filled with seafood, boats and tourists. The colorful wooden row houses are the signature of this former capital city. Travel tip two: bring a very fat wallet for a visit to Norway because prices are at least double what one might pay in the U.S. for the same item. A pint is $15 and an average glass of wine around $25. The ever-popular Norwegian sweaters range from $200 to $600. A casual dinner for two can easily cost several hundred dollars. We kept (most of) our money and enjoyed the free scenery instead, haha. It is very easy to whittle away the hours just watching the boats come and go and we did that very thing with great pleasure.
Day 161 of the Nowhere To Be Project places us eleven days into our two week British Isles Explorer voyage aboard the Viking Sky. We docked in Invergorden and joined an optional tour to visit the battlefield of Culloden. The drive through the lush heather-covered rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands was so peaceful that the horror of what happened at Culloden on 16 April 1746 nearly escaped us. That is, until we stepped foot on it. Tombstones etched with clan names dot the grounds to mark the mass burial sites. We were told that after the battle, wives and mothers came to identify and bury their kinfolk only to be raped by the loyalists who had defeated the Jacobites so fiercely. Sadly, the humiliation didn’t end there. Following the battle, clans were no longer allowed to dress in their tartans and were not permitted to speak in their native tongue, Scots Gaelic. So many men died which wiped out many Highlanders clans. The Fraser clan was so depleted that men from outside the clan were offered twenty pounds to change their names to Fraser! Today’s visit was so moving, rivaling the time I spent on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Both are tricks of the mind…so much natural beauty, yet so incredibly tainted by the ignorance of war.
Day 153 of the Nowhere To Be Project marked my 47th year of life and the fourth day of our British Isles Explorer voyage onboard the Viking Sky. The morning was spent at the spa as we cruised the English Channel. A deep-tissue massage followed by a few minutes in the hydrotherapy pool gave me a lot of time for reflection. I am so grateful for the life I’ve had, especially for the many low points. It is easy to wish away bad days, but without those I probably wouldn’t be as profoundly appreciative of the good ones. Speaking of good days, my husband and I raised a glass to at least 47 more years as we floated in the infinity pool and watched the world go by. Can life possibly get any better?
We spent day 152 of the Nowhere To Be Project in the charming seaside town of Dover, England. Our first stop upon arrival was to Dover Castle which was rebuilt by my 20th Great Grandfather, King Henry II, during his reign. Henry is widely regarded as one of the most successful rulers in England’s history and the sprawling castle is surely evidence of this. Walking in the actual footsteps of my ancestors is one of the reasons why travel is so important to me. The view I enjoyed from a window in the tower of the castle today probably wasn’t all that different from the one my grandparents, Henry and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, had in the 12th century (well, except for the fact that mine included my current home away from home, the Viking Sky). It just proves that we all leave a legacy for those who follow us whether we intend to or not. I’d like mine to include the importance of wanderlust.