Monthly Archives: August 2015

Was it a Dream?

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Jet lag is a bummer. I’ve not been able to put two sentences together the past two days. I’m finally feeling like myself again.

I slept for 11 hours Sunday night. When I woke up Monday morning (thank goodness I had taken the day off), I felt like I was waking up from a dream. Had I really been in Croatia? Was my much-anticipated trip already over? Unfortunately, yes.

So, where did I leave off? Oh yes… so our last day in Dubrovnik, we caught a ferry out to Lopud Island, where we were promised some beach time. The ferry ride was about 45 minutes and we came into a quaint little port with shops. There was a beach there, but evidently there was a better beach on the other side… so just a short hike!

We made it. This beach on Lopud is special because it is a sandy beach. Most beaches in Croatia are pebbles and rocks in small coves. They don’t have the huge expanse of sand beaches like we do. It was a relaxing site with boats mooring in the cove; umbrellas and lounge chairs waiting for us. There was a café and bar on the beach too. That was very nice! It felt so good to just relax in the beautiful waters of the Adriatic Sea. We even got some napping in on the beach. Much needed after nonstop activity through the week. More importantly, I got to rest and soak my feet. When it was time to leave, some of us rebelled and caught one of the trams back to the port. Who wants to mess up a relaxing afternoon with another hike? We had time for gelato!

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During our last group dinner, there was a frenzy of Facebook and email exchanges. It was a terrific group to be with in Croatia. Many have done extensive traveling. Several of our traveling companions were teachers and took anywhere from 2-6 weeks at a time to travel!  Obviously they aren’t from the U.S., especially North Carolina. They’d never be able to afford to do that!  They have greatly inspired me to stop talking and start doing. It is true that people are what make a place special. I look forward to seeing pictures from their future travels.  Zivjeli to you all!

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To top of our trip, Linda and I had a night layover in Munich.  Trying to make sure we had the right train, Linda asked a man at the platform.  He spoke little English, asked if we spoke German or French…. Nope.  (It seems everyone in Europe speaks at least two languages, which is awesome.)  Come to find out, he was actually from Morocco. Once on the train, we met a father and son traveling from Texas. The dad was ex military and had been stationed in Germany at one time. Amazing the things you find out if you take time to talk to each other.

We made it to Marienplatz, a central square in the city center which is home to the Neus Rathaus (New City Hall). The atmosphere was so different from Croatia. We exited the train to boisterous crowds in the square. We had just missed the Glockenspiel show (located in the tower of the New City Hall, it chimes at 12:00 and 5:00 when life-size figures re-enact two stores from the 16th century), but still seeing the magnificent architecture in the area was wonderful.

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It was a must to have a beer at the famous Hofbrauhaus, which was founded in 1589. It is one of Munich’s oldest beer halls. It’s huge! And we only made it to the first floor where the Oompah Band was playing. It was just one big festive atmosphere. There was a constant stream of people in and out. We met a German couple whom we had our first beer with and proceeded to meet more people as the night went on. Our Texas friends from the train wandered in and we all shared some beers as we watched waiters carry 15 HUGE mugs of beer at a time, a table full of young guys swing them down and some German men in traditional attire singing and enjoying. Yes, had to have a picture with them. We just stayed. It was a blast and a perfect ending to our adventuresome vacation!

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The last picture definitely sums up our night in Munich.  Prost!

I know there is so much I’ve left out. Several people have asked me what my favorite thing was on the trip. I can’t name just one. It was all wonderful. Would I take another “active” itinerary trip again?? Not sure. My hiking shoes would definitely come along!  I enjoyed the biking and kayaking and we would not have seen some of the magnificent scenery had we not done some hiking however, it would be nice to slow down and explore the city a little more and take in the scenery instead of it zipping by or having my eyes focused on my feet so I wouldn’t fall while hiking. The scenery was beautiful. There were olive trees, pomegranate trees, fig trees and of course, grapes every where.  The food was fresh and full of flavor. It is a place steeped in history and beauty.  I would definitely go back to Croatia.imageI will post more pictures in the gallery, but truly, pictures do not do justice to Dubrovnik or Munich for that matter.

So now I need something else to countdown too …

Grumpy old men, kayaking, biking, wine and stairs…..

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I’m not even sure where to start with yesterday.   It was quite a full one.

Yesterday was kayaking day. We were “greeted” at our start point by one very grumpy Croatian man. It was obvious he did not like tourist. He was angry with us because we were taking up his space on a public beach … Let me reiterate.. Public beach.  And this is where the kayaking tour starts. Well, one thing led to another.  One of our New Yorkers asked why he was being such an asshole.  Our kayaking guide high-fived her.  I thought to myself, great, we were going to start an international incident. The grumpy guy and his mother, whom one of our group referred to as his wife and really set him off, was even worse. Our wonderful guide, Oliver, pretty much got into a chest bumping match with this man.  It was all quite funny. Oliver was a little irritated but I think mostly embarrassed that people from there were acting like that.  I think we all understand there are assholes everywhere.  Superman Oliver saved the day.

We kayaked around Lokrum Island. We got some interesting sites as we passed cliffs with nude sunbathers.  They definitely aren’t shy.  Our guide took us into a cave in the cliffs called the Blue Cave. The water just sparkled and it was very tempting to get in and swim there, but that was just a rest stop. We circled on around the island to a cove where lots of people were swimming.  We had time to explore the island which was once inhabited by Byzantine Monks. The monastery is still there and they say the island is cursed.  The locals will not spend the night there.

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When we returned, Linda and I walked the wall around the Old City. We really should have counted the number of stairs we went up and down just yesterday. Stairs are everywhere here … Along with cats.  We also went to the fort outside the city walls. This is where a lot of interior scenes where shot for Game of Thrones , and yes, tons more steps.

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We sniffed out some awesome pizza for dinner. The smell of fresh baked pizza just waffes through the town. I could eat it every day. Then we walked some more….and had delicious gelato… Walked some more.  It took us 30 minutes to find Buza Bar, which is on the cliffs outside the city wall.  Nite cap

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Our bus ride back to the hotel on an overly packed bus was entertaining. The driver kept letting people on, but it was so crowded, people couldn’t even pay. We missed our stop cause we couldn’t see a thing. The bus driver just shook his head but laughed. That was a relief.

This morning I had to go buy more band aides. After two days of hiking and one kayaking, my body was talking to me, and not nicely.  My feet were throbbing … And I thought I was in decent shape before this trip.  Luckily, it was biking day in the Konalve valley.  I did ok once I got the gears figured out, but our cycling trip was cut short due to mud. I really was ok with that; more time at the winery!

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Flavored brandy is hot in Croatia. We sampled several, ate wonderful dried figs and cheese and sampled some of the winery’s wine.  The cats were very friendly with us  one kitten made itself at home in a lap.  The cats are so tiny here.  I showed one of the guides a picture of my cat and he couldn’t believe how big he is!

Relaxation was needed after all that and I got a much-needed nap by the waterfront while Linda continued to walk.  I was fine letting her go on.

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The night ended with another wonderful meal with the group. I am truly inspired by them.

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I am so tired now… Need to hit the sack before more walking tomorrow.

Lots of Hiking

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Could really use those hiking shoes that are in my closet at home.

It’s been two very busy days in Croatia. What started out as a rainy day yesterday trying to tour some of the Old City of Dubrovnik, ended up being a beautiful.

 

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We hiked the hills above the city.  Along the way, we made friends with a local donkey on the way up. We saw beautiful views of the city below and look down on the Adriatic Sea and to the mountains of Bosnia and Montenegro. Sites were beautiful.. Worth the one blister I had from my walking shoes that I thought would suffice for the trip … We ate dinner at a wonderful restaurant al fresco with some wonderful white wine and my FRESH sea bass was yummy. Everyone was pretty tired from the hike, but being that Linda and I are still on US Eastern time, we decided to have a nite cap.  In the process, we meet a gentleman from Belgium and made friends with the hotel bartender.  We stayed up til 1:00 am discussing world politics and economy.

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Our group leader, Oliver, is quite the mother hen; constantly counting his chicks and making sure we have everything we need. He informed us that Tuesday’s hike would be much tougher on the island of Kolecep. Great.

We took a ferry to Kolecep Island, which was a about a 40 min ride. Since I did not bring afore-mentioned hiking shoes, I tried my “rugged” water-resistant shoes. Started off pretty good. Then we started hiking … Up a lot of rocky hills. This chic was huffing and puffing. But we had the promise of a 2 hour respite at a beach at the end.

The scenery along the way was gorgeous and we snacked on figs from fig trees growing along the way. Can’t get much fresher than that. By the time we got to the beach, I had horrible blisters on the side of both feet and on both heels. I think I even had a blister under a blister. I was so relived to change into a swim suit and dive into that gorgeous water.  It is so clear you can’t even really tell how deep it is. You see straight down. It was amazing.

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Another amazingly fresh dinner tonight.  There are little restaurants and cafes tucked in every nook and cranny.  Be careful getting to them though, drivers here are a little nutty, especially all of the scooters.

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Oh, I forgot to mention, our group consists of 3 New Yorkers, 3 Canadians, 2 Brits, 1 Polish that now lives in England and 1 from Switzerland.  Half of the group (1 couple) came with some one, the others came on their own.  I am very inspired by them.  Many take 2-3 weeks off to travel on their own.  Obviously, other countries offer more vacation time …and there were several teachers. I don’t know how on earth I could take that much time off at one time  ???

Kayaking is on the schedule for tomorrow. Thank goodness I can be off my poor blistered feet. I feel like I’m running again. I will never second guess bringing my hiking shoes again.

Unexpected Lessons

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After a few beers Friday night in Charleston, I thought to myself, “I’m here with 3 people I didn’t know last year, watching a band from my past (Hootie and the Blowfish – always a great time), and having a blast.” I felt good (no, I wasn’t drunk…). It was a satisfied feeling.  I thought about that feeling as I took a break last night from packing for my awesome trip to CROATIA in 4 DAYS (just a little excited)!

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This time last year, I would never have dreamed I would be preparing for a trip to Croatia.  I was in the throes of the dating world; well, trying to date anyway. It was just one crappy situation after another. When I made the decision to take a dating hiatus as part of my New Year’s Resolution, it was out of sheer irritation, annoyance and frustration…with the guys and me.  There was never the thought of “I should take some time to ‘find myself’.”  I was just done.  But life has a way of teaching you lessons you don’t expect.

My stress level decreased tremendously once I stopped the online dating circus. I didn’t realize how much it did stress me until I was done with it. Then I just relaxed and started thinking about things that truly make me happy.  I started taking action: Instead of browsing for men, I started browsing for exciting trips; in the spring it was the Dominican Republic.  I focused on making new friends, trying new classes at the gym – barre is a KILLER – starting this blog, and just getting out and about; essentially, taking care of myself, mentally and physically. I stopped focusing on finding someone and turned my sights on doing things and for the first time in a very long time, I feel comfortable in my own skin.  And I’ve had tons of fun without all of the drama!  That makes me happy… and when you are happy, people want to be around you. Funny how that works.

I cherish the friends I’ve had for years and am so fortune they are still in my life.  It has been a lifesaver reconnecting with old friends, but lives change. I thought it would be very hard to make new friends. And it does get harder as we get older, but I’ve managed to make some terrific new friends who are in the same place in their lives. I have new adventure buddies! None of which I would have met if I had continued with life as is – miserable.  There have been so many changes in my life over the past 5 years: separation and divorce,  losing my father, selling my home and a multitude of bad dating situations.  Regardless though, life doesn’t end with divorce or when you lose someone and it certainly doesn’t end in your 40’s! I think my true life is just beginning.

Will I enter the dating world again? I’m sure I will. Let’s be honest, it can be very entertaining (especially for blogging…) and it is human nature to seek companionship. However, there is a big difference in being alone vs. being lonely. I’m not lonely and I haven’t missed dating. My life feels satisfying now. I value my independence.  When I decide to date again, I will have a new perspective, a new set of rules and high expectations for myself and the other person. I won’t let that world drive me to near craziness again.

 

For the Love of Spaghetti Squash

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A few months ago, my nutritionist suggested some changes in my diet. I was feeling sluggish, tired, not sleeping and just, in general, not feeling well. The Paleo Diet was my challenge.

I love to cook…I love food.. I love to eat… Specifically, I love pizza, pasta, cheese…. None of which are allowed on the Paleo diet. To succeed, alternatives had to be found.  And ones with lots of flavor. Some of the recipes I found on-line or in books where just blah… So, I started getting creative in the kitchen.

I was craving pasta tonight. My alternative: spaghetti squash. Before this adventure, spaghetti squash had never been on my menu.  Now, I love this stuff.  So after a splurge in Charleston this weekend..NEVER had a bad meal there… I decided it was going to be Healthy Eating Saturday night.

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On the menu: Spaghetti squash with a sauce of ground turkey, zucchini, Roma tomatoes and lots of garlic! The only salt I use these days is sea salt; the oil is always olive oil. It was hardy, tasty and best of all, leftovers for tomorrow!

 

And yes, I have seen some improvements. I’ve lost a few pounds, I’m down 1.5% in body fat – without feeling hungry or deprived – and yep, I feel better! I can do this.

9 Days…Croatia

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9 Days…

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In 9 days I will be in Croatia. Still can’t quite believe it. The mind is starting to race now and I can’t stop Googling things about Dubrovnik. Needless to say, not getting much else done.

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. This whole money exchange deal… and how much should we take? And no, Croatia is not on the euro; they are on the Kuna. We’ve had some people tell us to take euros. But then I read we should take the local currency as many mom and pop places and the market, taxis etc. may not take euros or a credit card. Some have said we should exchange before we leave; but I’ve read lots of people just get money at ATM’s when they arrive and that the exchange rate it pretty good…although, we should check with our banks to check on fees… Ok… so we should take dollars and exchange for Kuna when we get there?… but what about when we’re in Munich? Ugh… obviously I’ve never traveled overseas. Everywhere I’ve traveled, they’ve been more than happy to take the dollar. I suppose it’s part of the adventure.

Then there’s packing. I’ve started gathering things together.  I’ve read dozens of articles about packing for a week in a carry-on or a backpack. I don’t see that happening. I don’t really see myself rinsing underwear in the bathroom sink so I can save space… and I don’t think Linda would appreciate that either. So, I went out and bought a new rolling duffel, because, of course, I read somewhere that was a good choice. I need to stop reading travel posts.

What to pack? How many bathing suits should I take? Beach towel? Those take up a lot of room. Power adaptor; must make sure I can charge the Iphone. But the huge question, what shoes?? I don’t want to look like the typical American running around in sneakers, but we’ll be doing some active things so I need to be prepared. I have some cute sandals, but I really like my wedges. Hmmm.. Do they dress up a lot there? I’ve heard in places like Italy everyone always looks great. (Mediterranean women are beautiful anyway). I have to admit, we’ve gotten very lazy in appearance in the US. When did it become acceptable to wear jeans, flip-flops and a tank to a fine dining restaurant or to the theater?

Do men have these issues?

One tip I did read that made huge sense – if you haven’t worn it in 4 months, don’t put it in your bag!

Checklist for duffel:
Power adaptor
Shorts… dresses…. Tops…. Capris… Jacket???
Sandals – tan, grey; wedges… sneakers?
Bathing suit(s)
Underwear….
Yoga mat towel.. instead of beach towel. Not bulky, dries fast. Pat on back for that one…
Dry pouch for Iphone – supposed to be waterproof up to 30 meters… not that I will test it
Toiletries

List still in progress…

How many times will I pack something and take it out, then put it back in?  Who knows.  I found in the past I don’t wear half of what I take.  I need to remember that.

So, if any world travelers have any tips for a wannabe world traveler, please leave a comment!

Tonight, I will pack for a quick jaunt to Charleston tomorrow.  Not much thought process there….sandals, bathing suit, shorts and sunscreen.

Mom and the iPhone

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Well, my 83-year-old mother got an iPhone Friday….I really don’t know why. She is not computer savvy at all… In fact, there isn’t a computer in her house and she’s never used one. She calls my iPhone that “thing” I’m always on. She used to have a simple cell phone (a little more elaborate than a Jitter Bug, but simple). She would never have it with her, much less on. She might call you from it, but if you didn’t pick up, she would turn it off, so of course you couldn’t call her back on it. She lost it and so just canceled the service. That’s been about a year ago. All of a sudden she decided she needed a cell phone again. This time I was thinking about the Jitter Bug, but no, “I want one I can text and get pictures on,” she said.

A little background. Mom and dad both had cell phones. Dad was always adamant about turning them off and charging them. They just didn’t get the concept that they had to be on to receive calls. Mom about had an anxiety attack when she found out I cancelled my landline.

“How will I get in touch with you?”
“Mom,” I said, “just call my cell phone.”
“What if you don’t have it on?”
“Mom, it’s always on.”

Her face screwed up like she had just sucked a lemon.

Mom is in great health and gets around fine.  And let me tell you, she has no qualms about saying what’s on her mind anymore. “I’m old, I can say what I want.”  She started getting irritated that she was always the last to know anything because we were all texting and emailing each other. Mention Facebook to her and she just shakes her head…”oh that face thing.”

So I got the bright idea two Christmas’ ago to get her a tablet. My brother, sister and I went in on it together. Let’s just say, I wish I had a picture of her when she opened it. We got the lemon-pucker face again and she said, “What is this?” That’s as about as far as it went. I tried to teach her how to use it. Thought it would be relatively easy since it was touch screen. When I told her to put her cursor in the box, her reply was, “My what?” That’s when I knew this was not going to be good. She really had no concept of the internet or how to use it. I said she could download and read books on it. She said, “I will not, I like my books.” (I have to agree with her on that). And no way was she going to put her credit card number in there. She couldn’t remember how to get into the email, and I won’t even go into the whole password thing. So, the tablet collects dust on a shelf under an end table.

So here we are. Mom with an iPhone. I tried to call her on it Saturday. No answer. I called the landline. Yes, she had heard the phone and had tried to answer it but apparently didn’t push the right thing. Here we go… “Just be patient with me. It’s a lot for me to learn.” Yes, it is mom. But she seemed calm. Maybe she will stick with this time.  We have to be patient too.

I got a text from her today:

“I’m practicing”
“Very good! Did you get the picture I sent?” I replied immediately.
“Yes”
“See, I can send you more when I’m on my trip.”

I’m thinking she’s done this on her own. Good for you mom! Then I get a text from my sister. Mom was with her.

“This phone is about to give her a nervous breakdown. She said she played with it last night and went to bed with an anxiety attack. She has to get used to it. She said this was it for her as far as technology is concerned.”

“Why the anxiety?” I asked.

“She’s just not used to it and her patience is not there. She has to persevere.”

“I’m afraid it will be tablet all over again. I’ll send her pictures when I’m on my trip and maybe that will entice her to use it.” My wishful-thinking anyway.

I called her iPhone on my way home from work. She answered!!!

“So you’re figuring this out now,” I said.

“Well, no not really.  Whatever.” (She likes using that word a lot). “It gave me an anxiety attack last night.”

“Why?”

“I just get frustrated with it. I just went to bed. Whatever.”

“Well mom, don’t give up. You’ll catch on.”

“Really? Whatever you say,” she replied.

Mom wrote off technology before, but like the rest of us, she wants to be included.  I hope she does persevere.  I think it would give her a huge boost of confidence.  More importantly though, she would feel more relevant and apart of this world we now live in. Like it or not mom!  Besides, I can only imagine some of the texts I might get … With auto correct fully engaged…