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Detailed Plans or Open to Adventure?

When you go on a trip, do you pre-plan every detail in advance, or do you leave the schedule wide-open and make it up as you go?

We’ve tried it both ways, and have actually settled on more of a blended approach!

We nearly missed out completely on getting to tour the Vatican when we were in Rome because, it turned out, most of the best tours were actually booked up weeks in advance. (Cue slight moment of pending disappointment…) But, it worked out in the end! A little extra digging, and we discovered there was a well-reviewed early-morning tour by the same outfit that had two openings on the day after we arrived in Rome. It wasn’t the first one we would have picked since it started at 7 am, and we aren’t early birds, but we were SO glad once we got started! Getting in an hour before it opened to all visitors turned out to be amazing. So much room, and not too hot…yet! By noon, when the tour ended, the crowds were crushing, and the heat was oppressive. So, that one worked out really well!

01-Early Morning Vatican 02-Vatican Before the Crowds 03-So Much Space in the Vatican 04-And Now the Crowds Join Us 05-Vatican was Packed 06-Vatican Crowds Were Amazing
Nobody here but us and the pigeons! Vatican at 6:30 am.
An empty stairway just outside the Sistine Chapel, early in the morning.
Another quiet hallway, with only our small tour group there to look around.
Vatican now intensely crowded!
A big open space in the Vatican that is now filled with people!
St. Peter's Cathedral filled with visitors!

Another tour we wanted to do didn’t turn out so well. In fact, it didn’t happen at all. I have always had a fascination with Pompeii, and really wanted to make a day trip out of Rome to go down and visit it. We even booked it with one outfit online, but something went very awry with it, and it never actually got set up. We had to apply to get a refund on our credit card, even…which we did get, thankfully. In the end, we had a wonderful time in Rome for the week, but never made it to Pompeii.

Guess what? I’m now campaigning for a return to Italy, only to focus more on the Naples/Pompeii/Amalfi Coast area! That would be quite alright. 🙂

Our recent trip to Maui? We didn’t plan a single thing other than our condo, car rental, and our first night’s dinner out. And, you know, it turned out well. We rested. We watched the thunderstorms (two days of them!). We went for long walks on the beach. We went to the Sugar Museum on one of the really stormy days. We walked all over Old Lahaina and had lunch on the beach on one of the nice days. We left without going whale watching other than from the shore (yes, we saw them, several times!), or trying stand-up paddling (on my bucket list), or snorkelling, or driving to Hana (still haven’t done that, even after four trips to Maui, go figure) — all things we imagined we’d do this trip but didn’t arrange in advance, so they didn’t happen. But we rested. Which we needed.

Our next trip, to South Carolina and Florida? We’re going to go see my brother and my nephew, whom I have not seen in many, many years! And Jeff found a seriously cool event with one of the now-retired guys in charge of countless spaceship launches, so we’ve already got tickets for that event at the Kennedy Space Centre. I can’t wait!

But now I’m wondering: should we pre-plan the rest of our time there, or leave the rest open? Want to get the maximum mileage out of our trip as it’s intended to be a discovery trip versus a rest-and-recovery trip, but sometimes the best discoveries happen at the last minute, and we’ve learned there’s a lot to be said for flexibility. On the other hand, doing it that way sometimes means missing out altogether…

What would you do?

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Food First: What to do upon arrival

Farmers Market Maui and Deli in Kaanapali, Maui, HawaiiOne of the most critical travel lessons we have learned over the years is to plan our trip to have enough time upon arrival to a) get our car if we’re getting one (see our earlier post about how to skip the queue and get away quickly), and b) go grocery shopping at once, even before going to our accommodations.

Especially when we are staying in a self-sufficient unit with a proper kitchen.

We nearly got ourselves into trouble in France before cementing this lesson into place. We’d arrived in town late on Saturday, about 9:30 pm, only to discover the only grocery store still open (most closed at 8 pm) closed at 10 pm, and they all would then be closed for both Sunday AND Monday since Monday was a stat holiday! Not only that, but the restaurants were all set to be closed, too. (Uh oh…). We barely got enough provisions to get us through to Tuesday before we were getting shushed out the door. Lesson learned.

Now, I scope out the grocery stores before we leave, and choose the one or maybe two we will go to first carefully because we both have food issues, and that makes it all go much quicker than it would otherwise. We usually get local reusable grocery bags, preferably with the place name stamped all over it so they have souvenir value, and stock up royally, including a good starter kit on the wine and liquor.

Then, we don’t berate ourselves too badly when we realize the next day that we still missed getting something fundamental, despite our best efforts to “think of everything,” and we make a secondary quick trip to a suitable local store.

On this trip to Maui, we hit up Whole Foods near the airport as our first stop, and then checked out a local vegetarian market just down the street from us the next day. The food shopping part of it has turned into a major part of the adventure, in fact, because we usually find new treats we’ve never seen before. Makes it fun!

Chatting with other folks in our current building, which we learned from them is actually a timeshare and they are regulars here, we discovered their first stop of choice is Costco, which actually seems like a good idea. At least for meat.

We’ll look for Costco on our next trip. Whole Foods and other natural-type markets will always be number one for us because of our tricky food issues, but Costco would make a terrific second stop!

I love not being restricted to restaurant food for every single meal the whole trip, and this strategy of stocking up even before we go to our unit is working really well for us now!

Photo: Our next-day grocery stop was the local (Kaanapali, Maui) vegetarian food store, Farmers Market Maui and Deli. Lots of wonderful finds in there! But definitely no bacon. Ha! That we found at Times Supermarket, just down the street. All is well.

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So where are YOU spending Thanksgiving?

As for me, I’m off to Dallas to see my brother!

Jeff is already in Dallas for his annual corporate conference, and now I’m heading down to join him and to spend the weekend with my brother Russ and his family.

We’re even going to have a go at celebrating the Canadian Thanksgiving together while we’re there!

In fact, I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving at all. (Pumpkin was a strange thing to consider eating, and especially pumpkin in a pie? Isn’t that what apples are for?) My parents were British, and Thanksgiving is a decidedly North American celebration.

Once I reached an age of influence in my home, thinking I was probably 17 or 18 by then, we decided to give Thanksgiving dinner a go, and we found we rather liked it. So, most years since then, it’s become part of my world, too.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure what Russ’s experience with it is, or how often he has celebrated it in October since relocating to Dallas, his wife Cari’s home. I’ll have to ask him. (We were 28 and 29 when we first met, and it’s amazing how many little details there are to catch up in your sibling’s life when you spent so many years apart.)

Probably the bigger story is that this will be our very first Thanksgiving together! Only took 50/51 years.

I’m pretty stoked.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Love your families, whatever the makeup of the little band of people you consider most near and dear (blood, adoption, marriage, friends…). They’re all pretty special.

Yup, Happy Thanksgiving, indeed! 🍗

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Fading Light at Crescent Beach

Photos of sunsets over Crescent Beach, Surrey, BC, November 2013 (iPhone 4)

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Home now for as long as we were away!

Time flies and you're the pilot

CREDIT: lovethispic.com

My goodness, how does time fly so fast?

As of today, we’ve been back home for as long as we were away.

Once the rainy season starts, we’re looking forward to going through all our photos, videos, and notes, and enjoying the chance to relive the adventure all over again.