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Gold lanterns light the way in one of Nara Park's many shrines.

Gold lanterns light the way in one of Nara Park’s many shrines.

Eighth in a Series

Just an hour by train from Kyoto, Nara is a sometimes-overlooked jewel of a city that has played a key role in the historical and cultural life of Japan.

Often visited on day trips from Kyoto — certainly possible if you get an early start — Nara is well worth an overnight stay to keep from being too rushed. We stayed two nights and didn’t regret it, even though we had to change hotels after one night due to a booking error.

If you have more time, Nara is also a convenient base for exploring the surrounding countryside and villages filled with history, hot springs, and, in  season, cherry blossoms.

Nara Park and World Heritage Sites

Japan’s first permanent capital during the 8th century AD before the imperial base was moved to Kyoto,… Continue reading

Paris night at the Arc de Triomphe. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Paris night at the Arc de Triomphe. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

In my last post, Where to Go in 2018 (and Beyond), I presented what I consider to be the essential destinations in the U.S. (primarily cities and national parks), the essential European countries, and the essential counties in the rest of the world.

By essential, I mean those which any dedicated traveler should seek out to establish their “travel literacy,” if you will. They are not necessarily my favorite countries and destinations, but those that offer some unique quality that makes them stand out among all others.

For example, I love both the Mediterranean island countries of Malta and Cyprus — and strongly recommend seeing them — but not (necessarily) before visiting France or Spain.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to skip over U.S. cities: New York, San Francisco and the rest, on the assumption… Continue reading

Here’s part 4 of Myles Stone’s Viet Nam Diary.– a day exploring the former imperial capital of Hue, which combines both ancient and modern history, including stark reminders of the Viet Nam War.

For those who missed Myles’ previous three posts, he’s a Tucson physician who recently spent two months in Hoi An, Viet Nam, with his wife, Aimee, and baby daughter, Mimi. They were joined for part of their stay by my son, Grael, his wife, Nona, and baby son, Conrad.

How did two toddlers do in Viet Nam? Just fine.

The Vietnamese dote on babies. When you’re in restaurants, for instance, and your young children get restless, the owners will often happily insist on looking after them, perhaps even taking them outside.  (At the end of the meal, the conversation may go something like this: “May we have our check, please? And our two babies — please?”)… Continue reading
Where in Asia would you find this location of Nathan's Famous hot dogs? Answer: Malaysia. Photo from Nathan's Famous.

Where in Asia would you find this location of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs? Answer: Malaysia. Photo from Nathan’s Famous.

Here are the answers to the How Much Do You Know About Independence Day? quiz from my previous post. (If you haven’t taken the quiz yet and want to, I’d suggest returning there first.) Some of these questions were tricky, others merely difficult, and a few were relatively easy, especially with True or False questions offering just two choices. The multiple choice questions seemed to give people the most trouble, based on feedback I received. Thanks for joining in, whether Baby Boomers or younger!

1. True or false: As one of the 13 original colonies, Vermont was the only one that refused to ratify the Declaration of Independence.

Answer: False. Vermont was not one of the original 13 colonies.

2. Which U.S. president was born on the Fourth… Continue reading

Where in Asia would you find this location of Nathan's Famous hot dogs? Photo from Nathan's Famous.

Where in Asia would you find this location of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs? Photo from Nathan’s Famous.

Americans all know about fireworks, barbecues, hot dogs, parades and the other modern-day manifestations of the July 4 holiday, but how much do you really know about Independence Day, especially as it relates to travel or travel destinations?

Take this quiz and find out. (Baby boomers, how well do you remember your history?)

1. True or false: As one of the 13 original colonies, Vermont was the only one that refused to ratify the Declaration of Independence.

2. Which U.S. president was born on the Fourth of July in Plymouth Notch, Vermont?

3. Name two Asian countries where you can now buy a Nathan’s Famous New York hot dog, similar to those gobbled up in the annual hot dog eating contest at New York’s Coney Island:

a. Indonesia and Japan

b.… Continue reading

Mont-Saint-Michel is a remarkable sight as you approach. Photo from Normandy Tourist Board.

Mont-Saint-Michel is a remarkable sight as you approach. Photo from Normandy Tourist Board.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a soft spot for off-the-beaten-track destinations.

Yes, I love Paris and Venice and London, but I also like to explore the lesser-known out-of-the-wsy places that many travelers never reach.

Once years ago, I  set off by train from Paris to visit Mont-Saint-Michel, a medieval abbey off the coast of Normandy that I had read about in college in the Henry Adams’ book, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres.

The trip took two full days because the train connections were awful, but I made it, and didn’t regret it. It’s a dramatically situated Gothic masterpiece, rising atop a rocky island with a maze of narrow streets surrounding it.

Traditionally, Mont-Saint-Michel has only been reachable by land when the tides are out, via squishy mud flats. When the tides come in,… Continue reading

A dramatically perched fortress tops Mount Titano. Photo by Catharine Norton.

A dramatically perched fortress tops Mount Titano. Photo by Catharine Norton.

In a recent post, I noted that the tiny Republic of San Marino, which is entirely surrounded by Italy, was number one on my personal bucket list.

The main reason was that it was the only country in Western Europe that I hadn’t visited, and that since I would be visiting Italy soon, I could then cross it off my list. Of course, I also wanted to go for all the reasons I want to go anywhere — seeing what there is to see and, I hope, enjoying it — but I admit the list thing was the top consideration.

As it happens, I did visit Italy shortly after the post appeared, and I did make it to San Marino — whose irresistible full name is The Most Serene Republic of San Marino.

And — as a… Continue reading

0b4623e5-a51d-46e8-8c66-a40b164f4a3fI recently came across a clever ad that I love. It’s from a North Carolina- and Italy-based tour agency called Italian Journeys, and the ad is called “Italy Aptitude Exam.

It features a number of “exam” questions that, in a humorous way,  are designed to get you thinking about whether you’d rather spend this January in Italy — on their 10-day tour of Rome and Naples called “Fundamental Italy” — or back home in the U.S. in the dead of winter.

Illustrated with photos old and new, the exam asks you to choose between, among other things, shoveling snow or standing in the sunshine overlooking Rome’s Tiber River; having a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or a cappuccino; eating American fast food or Italian pasta; and viewing a smoggy American city or what looks to be a dreamy photo of the Isle of… Continue reading

Punakha monastery, Bhutan Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Punakha monastery, Bhutan Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

In our last two posts, we took a look at some of the most popular travel-related bucket list destinations and activities based on a survey of 1,000 travelers by the website TotallyMoney.com. You can view those results, and my comments, by clicking here and here.

While my own experiences with a few of the items — such as gambling in Las Vegas — were on the margins (in the case of Vegas, dropping a few quarters into slot machines), I had pretty much done all those on the list.

My own bucket list tends to be a little quirkier than most. Places that end up on my list are pretty far-flung, represent something I’ve missed in past trips, or are just items that fulfill my admittedly peculiar travel obsessions. (I suspect that a lot of baby boomer frequent travelers’ lists are… Continue reading

Nuremberg's medieval city has been carefully reconstructed following Allied bombing in WWII.

Nuremberg’s medieval city has been carefully reconstructed following Allied bombing in WWII. Photo by Clark Norton

I might never have visited Nuremberg, Germany, if it hadn’t been the starting point for a Danube River cruise last fall.

My wife, Catharine, and I arrived in Nuremberg several days early, intending to use it as a base for exploring the surrounding area, a region of Bavaria known for its charming medieval towns, rolling hills, and Autumn beer festivals.

But we ended up being so enamored of Nuremberg that we never left the city during our four-day stay there.

We were entranced by pathways leading intriguingly along ancient city walls, covered footbridges that crossed bucolic rivers and canals, flower-filled  parks that attracted residents out for Sunday strolls, winding streets that unveiled  tempting little restaurants and taverns, and  half-timbered houses lining picturesque squares.

One square is anchored by the former home… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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