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?
Day 149 of the Nowhere To Be Project was a “getting there” day. Living in the mountains is great except when it’s time to get to the airport. We rely on a shuttle service, Colorado Mountain Express, to transport us on the two-plus hour trek to the airport. Today’s shuttle was jam-packed and smelled of wet dog due to the fact that everyone (and their luggage) had gotten soaked on the first rainy day we’ve had in Vail this summer. The good news is we’re heading to London. The bad news is the rain is following us from Vail to Denver so we may end up with delays. Oh well, just an opportunity for an extended pre-flight happy hour, I guess!
Day 148 of the Nowhere To Be Project was an absolute frenzy as my husband and I prepared for our British Isles Explorer ocean voyage on the Viking Sky. If you’re anything like me, the time you set aside for pre-travel preparation and packing never seems to be enough. This is always the case no matter if we’re preparing our RV for a lengthy voyage, or cramming two weeks worth of necessary items into a suitcase as we are now.
Our dog, who is a almost as well traveled as we are, was not happy when the suitcase came out. Somehow he knows that he will not be accompanying us on this trip. Initially he tried the block move where he presents himself as a barrier between me and the suitcase. Next was the attention-getting scheme where he feigns illness to distract me from packing. Despite a bath, a brush, and extra love, he remained miserable, finally retreating to his chair for a nap leaving me with a heavy dose of travel guilt.
For the past few days I’ve been reviewing my previous voyages with Viking River Cruises. Today, on day 147 of the Nowhere To Be Project, I thought I’d explain why I’ve taken four river cruises with Viking in the past few years and why I am gearing up to hop on board the Viking Sky for my first ocean cruise with them this Saturday. There are three very simple reasons why the Viking way works for me:
1. VALUE: Many people assume that Viking, an upscale cruise line, is out of their price range. I am here to tell you that cruising with Viking, a line that is consistently voted a favorite by cruisers from all walks of life, is a value. First of all, the price you pay includes pretty much everything (food, wine and beer with meals, excursions, and lodging). Sometimes airfare is included as well. I occasionally purchase optional excursions, but only if there is something special that I’d like to see or do. The only expense I’ve found necessary aside from the cruise fare is the onboard tipping of staff (well deserved). For example, I paid around $5000 for my family of four to cruise the Danube at Christmastime. We flew from the U.S. to Europe, were picked up at the airport, had two cabins, went on eight excursions (one for each day of the voyage), ate and drank to our heart’s delight, and were positively pampered for eight days by Viking staff who then transferred us back to the airport for our return flight to the U.S. Simple math tells me that this peak season vacation cost $156.25 per person per day. To me, that is an incredible value!
2. REFINEMENT: When my kids were young we took a lot of ocean cruises. Living in Florida, we found it so easy to hop on a megaship for a few days of fun. We have cruised on Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival and Disney cruise lines. Over time we tired of what I call the “drunk culture” where all activities seem to revolve around getting wasted by the pool or on the beach. Not to say that we didn’t enjoy these trips, but they got old after awhile and we were seeking something more. Viking ended up being a great alternative for us because it provides a nice balance of relaxation, fun and culture. The ships are elegant yet simple. The service is attentive yet nonintrusive. More simply stated, we’ve found it to be a more refined approach to cruising.
3. CULTURAL IMMERSION: I’ve always believed that travel is the highest form of education. Walking in the steps of historical figures, touching stones that were laid centuries ago and gazing upon storied lands are the staples of Viking voyages. Each itinerary is respectfully built around the region in which it occurs in regard to food, language, excursions, music and even cultural norms. I’ve learned amazing things about languages, history, art, politics, food, culture, religion, and people in the 39 days I’ve spent as a Viking guest. As a former educator, I know that this level of comprehension cannot be taught. Rather, it must be experienced! There is just no replacement for cultural immersion and that is something that Viking excels at.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments. As always, these are my opinions and I am never compensated in any way for my travel reviews.
On day 142 of the Nowhere To Be Project I began an anticipatory mental countdown. In just seven days our British Isles Explorer adventure begins aboard the Viking Sky. We have taken oodles of ocean cruises (Holland America, Princess, Disney, Celebrity, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Carnival), but this will be our first time at sea with Viking. We have a bit of addiction to their river cruises though and figured that we could not go wrong in choosing them for a high seas voyage. Over the past three years, we’ve spent 39 days cruising rivers with Viking and this just does not feel like enough. So, to help get in the mood for the upcoming voyage I’m going to spend the next week on the blog reviewing each of the four Viking river cruises we’ve enjoyed. I’ll cover our experiences on the following itineraries/ships, one by one:
*Danube Waltz aboard the Viking Lif
*Paris & the Heart of Normandy aboard the Viking Spirit
*Switzerland to the North Sea aboard the Viking Lofn
*Waterways of the Tsars aboard the Viking Truvor
I will follow this up with a daily blogpalooza featuring a blow-by-blow of our time aboard the Viking Sky. That amounts to three weeks of Viking-centric blogging! I sincerely hope that you’ll follow along with me as a Viking virtual cruiser!
As always, the opinions and experiences are my own and I am never compensated.
I threw on my favorite traveling uniform on Day 138 of the Nowhere To Be Project. This outfit is my first choice for the “getting there” and “getting home” parts of travel…long haul flights, road trips, cruises, or literally any other type of travel. As a young woman, fashion was always the primary focus of my travel wardrobe. Back then, I didn’t care about function or comfort, and was frequently hobbling around on heels no matter where I was heading. With age comes experience and eventually wisdom (if we’re lucky), right? While I’m still suffering from the fashionista bug, I now demand comfort and function from my travel clothing. The stiletto-induced throbbing feet and stomach aches from too tight pants are out and the track suits are in. Yes, you heard me correctly. My go to travel uniform is a track suit! They are designed for versatility, extreme conditions and physical challenges (sounds like a long-haul flight, lol) which, in my mind, makes them the ideal travel uniform.
Track suits have gone way beyond the Rocky-style sweatpants of the 1980s with stylish high quality fabrics and trendy designs. Track suits offer the trifecta for travel: highly fashionable, functional and built for endurance. I seek out those made with lightweight performance fabrics (dries quickly and makes on-the-go hand-washing and stain-removal a snap), an elastic or draw-string waist and zippered pockets. I avoid anything with buttons and belts like the plague because I do not wish to slow down the security line or fight with a buckle in a microscopic airplane restroom. I finish it off with a favorite mix and match t-shirt (long-sleeved in cold climates and a tank in hot climates).
I have two current favorite travel uniforms (the green in photo above and the white below), both made by American designer Tory Burch, and they are with me for the long-haul. What is your favorite travel uniform?
On day 135 of the Nowhere To Be Project, Vail, Colorado (my chosen hometown) was bestowed with the elusive title of “sustainable destination”. This is quite an honor considering that no other mountain resorts in the world have the right to carry the moniker. Exciting, I know, but what does it really mean?
We’ve all seen the signs in hotels asking us to reuse towels to save water, but true sustainability goes way beyond that. A sustainable destination is one that focuses on environmental, cultural and economic preservation. In other words, formal procedures must be in place to protect and preserve nature, wildlife, regional history and customs, and to contribute to and support the local economy.
In Vail, plastic bags were banned quite some time ago and every public waste receptacle provides an education on items that can be recycled versus those that will end up in a landfill. There is also a profound focus on the restoration and preservation of natural resources and wildlife. Citizens benefit not only from an outstanding quality of life here in the mountains, but from a fabulous public transportation system and a push toward environmentally responsible affordable housing. All of these things (and many more) helped contribute to the title of sustainable destination.
All of the hoopla made me wonder how many travelers really consider sustainability when choosing a destination. According to recent research, that number hovers at just over half! As a frequent camper, the practice of “leave no trace” is a personal mantra, but I had no idea that so many other travelers prioritized it as well. It demonstrates that a zero footprint approach to travel should not end when the tent is packed away and the fact that one of the most popular resort towns in the world sees this is very encouraging.
As a constant traveler, I understand the assumptions and misconceptions that people have about the jet-set lifestyle. This flawed thinking literally robs people of travel…”I can’t afford it”, “I’m too busy” and so on. Therefore, the focus of day 133 of the Nowhere To Be Project is the notion that travel is accessible to everyone, all the time.
People assume that travel is only for the wealthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth because travel comes in all shapes, sizes and price points. It is what you make it. I’ve splurged a few times on what might be considered luxury trips. More frequently though, I’ve camped for free with just a book and a backpack full of homemade treats. I’ve also hopped on last minute cruises where one all-inclusive week at sea can cost much less than one on land. Low cost travel is a real possibility for the diligent and prepared. For some things it pays to plan well in advance, while others require the ability to get up and go on a moment’s notice. Some think that frequent travel is limited to the very young and very old. TRAVEL IS NOT JUST FOR COLLEGE KIDS AND OLD CRONIES!!! While constant travel has become easier since my retirement, I never let life get in the way of my wanderlust. For example, my kids are very well-traveled because I never saw them as a barrier to travel. Some people think that it is too much of a pain to pack up the kids (and the diaper bag, playpen, toys, etc.), but I always viewed their presence as a bonus. I strived to use travel as a learning tool because I believe that it teaches us much more than any textbook ever could. The time crunch of working full time and accommodating busy schedules can certainly make long trips more fleeting, but day or weekend getaways are always a possibility. It could be as simple as a Saturday visit to a state park in an adjacent county, or a house swap weekend with a family in a bordering state. There are those who think that travel is self-indulgent and that any extra money should be squirreled away for a rainy day. I am all about living beneath my means. What I mean by this is that the spending choices we make each day can profoundly impact our financial bottom line. Over time, a frugal approach really adds up and opens the door to travel. For instance, I’d rather make my own coffee each morning (whether at home or on the road) and take trips. I refuse to spend $10 a day at Starbucks not only because I like my coffee better, but because over time it would rob me of travel opportunities. Case in point, I flew to Paris round trip last year for $300. I just can’t imagine who’d choose thirty days of prepared coffee over Paris!
What excuses do you use to rob yourself of travel?