Barcelona – City of Spires, Mosaics and Gaudi

It was late August and we expected sunshine and humidity, but as we navigated through the airport to get to Terminal 2 to catch the train to our hotel, we were very glad for the free shuttle. It was pouring rain and didn’t show any signs of letting up. Terminal 2 seemed miles away from Terminal 1. Once there it was easy to find the train station. We knew to purchase the T10 ticket which gave us 10 train trips and the ticket could be shared, but we didn’t know which train to take. It didn’t help to purchase the ticket from a live person….he just shrugged his shoulders as if to say “you stupid American, why don’t you learn our language or do further research. Luckily, a custodian was more willing to help us and pointed us in the right direction.

We could have wandered through the maze of rail, bus, and trams and got delivered to our hotel doorstep but not without a great amount of stress. In the rain and with luggage it was easier just to take a taxi from Sants (the main train terminal) to our hotel…less than 10 Euro,

Our hotel was noted as a 5 star by Hotwire and while it was modern and had all the amenities I would have preferred the 4 star we had originally booked right on the Ramblas! Our hotel name was Melia Sarria. The staff were helpful and the area was secure. We only had a few blocks to walk to Starbucks and to reach our stop for either the Blue or Red route of the Barcelona Bus Turistic (hop on hop off tour bus). We paid about 28 Euro each for a two day pass. It turned out to be a great decision!

After dealing with jetlag the first night, we were wide awake at 4:30 AM. Our hotel room was facing east. From the 16th floor we could see a bright strip of coral between the Mediterranean Sea and the skyline. Minutes later we could see a gigantic orange ball appear, but it quickly hid behind the still rain-laden clouds. We were up and ready to go by 8AM! We decided to take our first bus tour on the red line which took us to many of the central sites, but we decided to catch the blue line mid way and reconnect with the red later. The blue line took us past Barcelona’s most famous site the Sagrada Familia, a church conceived and started by Gaudi, which is still under construction today. From the looks of the model it will not be finished in my lifetime nor that of my grandchildren. But what is finished is magnificent. The detail is overwhelming and it would be easy to kill several hours just studying it without even going inside…so we put that on our “to-do later” list. The northern blue route also took us past Park Guell, also another famous Gaudi effort, but you could not see it from the bus. The football complex and stadium grounds was also very impressive. It seemed the 2012 Olympics really changed the face of the city and left its mark!

We were able to complete the Red Line and the Green Line, hop off at the beach for a look-see, and then get back on the red line in time to wander up and down the Ramblas looking at the sites and scouting a place for a late lunch or early dinner.

What we found first was an outdoor cafe in the center of the Ramblas who claimed to have the “Best Sangria”, and in our opinion it was pretty darn good. They should have charged admission for people watching, because that was half the fun!!! Finding food that George would eat was not quite as easy, but we did find a spot near the harbor that had steak and chicken, perfect considering we had not eaten a good solid meal in two days! Even the Margaritas were good (different but good)! We caught nearly the last bus back to our hotel and were in our bed by 10PM. Of course, we woke up at midnight; back to sleep and up again at 2:00 PM and similarly to the previous evening got about 5 good solid hours of sleep.





Niagara Falls Up Close and Personal

The Hornblower Excursion

The Hornblower Excursion

Niagara from the US

Niagara from the US

Large tree along our walk

Large tree along our walk

The old Niagara power company along our walk

The old Niagara power company along our walk

First of all if you ever decide to go for yourself, study the options. There is a movie (cartoonish) explaining the history, the Hornblower Cruise (boat ride), Behind the Falls Tour (takes you through the tunnels and to the base of the Falls and behind the Falls), plus many more options like the White Water Walk, the Floral Showhouse, the Whirlpool Aero Car, the Butterfly Conservatory, and the WEGO bus. You can purchase an Adventure Pass for $49.95 Adults or $36.95 children which includes the Hornblower Niagara Cruise and several other options PLUs the WEGO bus. We chose to pay just for the movie and the Behind the Falls tour separately and spent almost that much for just two options.

What we did right; however, is parking at the city park about 2 1/2 miles up river and walking the pathway along the river to the Falls. This gave us a much better idea of how the water moves along its journey from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The Pathway actually extends 35 miles from Lake to Lake and would be a great bike ride. But the roundtrip 5 mile walk was plenty for one day.

We had another nice lunch at Edgewaters Restaurant, which included the bonus of “people watching” with the cascading Falls in the background. The Behind the Falls experience was well worth the cost. The movie and Niagra’s Fury excursion was designed for kids, so while it gives a basic understanding of how the Falls came to be, we found it a bit hoaky and a waste of tine and money. I am certain the Hornblower Cruise would be a highlight, but we were already wet enough for one day.

San Diego – USS Midway

Question: How long does it take to tour the USS Midway? Well the brochures recommend about 3 hours max. But if your husband is retired Air Force, who has worked on B52 bonmbers most of his career and loves anything mechanical…you might want to give him a head start and show up later! I have to admit it was fascinating and I was never bored. But watching him look into every nook and cranny for 5 1/2 hours was even more fascinating!

The Midway is a 1,001 foot long, 69,000 ton aircraft carrier that was decommissioned in 1992 and turned into a museum. The self-guided audio tour included in the price of admission was very well done and easy to follow. The retired US Navy docents who volunteer their time had great stories to tell and were very helpful.

There are 3 decks that housed the 4,500 men/women who sailed the Midway, and those decks included living quarters, the kitchen, the laundry, medical facility, post office and everything else that is required in a floating city. The hangar deck and the roof or flight deck displayed the many aircraft that flew on and off the carrier. There were many demonstrations, movies and interactive displays to keep your interest, no matter what your age. We even toured the Brig, the engine room, and the Captain’s bridge.

The Midway was truly an engineering marvel! It gives you a whole new respect for the sailers and the living conditions they endured. And it is incredible that so much activity can be carried on all at once on the flight deck. It is no wonder that the USS Midway is the number one tourist attraction in San Diego.

Parking is only $10 for 12 hours. As retired military, our tickets were only $10 and active duty military can tour for free.


San Diego – A Day at the Beach

As seen on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives

Isabel’s Cantina, as featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives


Great beach for walking, biking, or swimming

Great beach for walking, biking, or swimming

Today began with breakfast at Isabel’s Cantina, which had been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Their specialty is breakfast and they are known for their French Toast. Luckily we had the address and a GPS, because signage is not visible from the road. We lucked out with a free parking spot and obviously we weren’t the only ones who knew about this place. Apparently it is a well known locals hangout…so why would they need signage??   They had so many breakfast items it was hard to choose just one…like coconut, banana strawberry French Toast! George opted for the Raisin Cinnamon Swirl French Toast and I chose a Carnitas/Potato mixture without the eggs, and even got an ample size glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. Yum!

While we were parking the car, we noticed a beach up ahead and decided to walk to it to see if it would be a good place to camp out for the day. We didn’t want to haul chairs, towels, a cooler, and our books, etc. And we certainly didn’t want to lose our free parking space. It was only about 6 blocks away. There it was, the “perfect” beach! It had a boardwalk, lots of sand, bike rentals, shops and restaurants and plenty of area to plant ourselves for the day. We had discovered Pacific Beach!! We love to walk on the beach, so we began walking, and walking, and walking. It was so fun and the crashing waves were so beautiful! We walked all the way to Mission Beach, which was about a mile down the coast and then a mile back.

Even though we had hats and sunscreen, we decided that maybe we had enough sun for one day. But we vowed to come back! So we headed back to the hotel for a dip in the pool and then to the lounge to listen to the band and take advantage of happy hour drinks and appetizers.

San Diego Day 2 – Segway Day!

Great addition to the San Diego skyline

Great addition to the San Diego skyline

Anniversary brunch in San Diego

Anniversary brunch in San Diego

Segway Day!!! It was our anniversary and we had planned some adult activities, since this was our first time to San Diego without kids. So we began with brunch on the patio at Red Sails Inn Restaurant. It had been recommended to us by our California friends and did not disappoint us. The view of the harbor was spectacular and the weather was perfect! They serve breakfast until 2PM, which allowed George to order French Toast. I opted for the Crab Louie…superb! The salad was piled so high with crab that most people couldn’t finish it, but I managed! The leisurely brunch was the perfect start to our Anniversary Day.

We had many hours to kill before our 6PM Segway Tour, so we explored the Embarcadero area and then settled in at the Elephant & Castle Pub to watch the USA/Portugal World Cup soccer match. The atmosphere was electric with excitement since USA was ahead and we were thankful to get to stay to the end despite the fact that Portugal scored a goal in the last 30 seconds to tie the game. Fortunately, the USA would not be eliminated and we would be watching again on Thursday.

We walked a couple blocks and checked in for our Segway Tour, which I had purchased through Groupon at half price. As the time approached I began to feel the nervousness build. George had done this before in Lake Havasu, but I was a novice. We watched the training video showing all the things that COULD happen and signed the obligatory waivers. By the time our tour guide introduced us to our mode of transportation for the next two hours, I was feeling very wary. However, he was very patient and in 10 or 15 minutes I was circling trees, doing figure 8’s and reversing direction….albeit very, very slowly. It was now tine to learn to do an emergency stop! The instructor set up a row of orange cones, which I promptly mowed down several tines. Finally, I got the hang of it and we were on our way! During the first hour, I was concentrating so hard that I missed most of what the tour guide was telling us. But we covered a lot of territory! We passed the USS Midway, the statue of The Kiss, maneuvered through parks, past the convention center and to Gaslamp Quarter. We were both very grateful for the break after an hour, which allowed us to put on jackets and rest our feet. The second hour was much better and I could now keep up, cross railroad tracks and even pay attention to the tour! Unfortunately the tour guide was more interested in talking about his drunken escapades of sneaking into hotels, climbing monuments, etc. Considering his youth and dreadlocks, I guess this was to be expected. He didn’t seem to know much about the history of the area, but we had a blast! This should definitely be a MUST on everyone’s list.

We were both very hungry when we finished and stopped by Pizza Nova on the way back for pizza and wine. It was a great day and a great way to celebrate our 30 years together!

San Diego Day 1

San Diego is about a 5 hour drive down I-15, but we like to stretch along the way. So a stop at In-n-Out near Barstow was in order. It has to be the busiest location in the world and still we were IN AND OUT in 20 minutes. We also stopped briefly in Escondido to say hello to some friends that live just off the highway. We would be staying at Humphrey’s Half Moon Bay on Shelter Island. Since we were using an RCI travel certificate, we had no expectations other than a week together near the ocean in temps under 100 degrees.

Check-in went well and our room was on the 2nd floor. It was small but clean and our view was overlooking the parking lot and street, but directly across the street was a harbor filled with the masts of hundreds of sail boats.

The bad news was that parking in the hotel lot would cost $25/day. The good news was that bikes could be rented for free and that the Backstage Live restaurant had 1/2 price drinks and appetizers from 5-7 pm and live music every night. We decided to scout out the pool and other facilities and go for happy hour just before it ended. The house was packed with locals who apparently started at 4pm. The band was good and the clientele were middle-aged singles who loved dancing with various partners. We luckily got a great waitress who took our order within 10 minutes of happy hour ending! The food and drinks were great, but when the band stopped the place cleared out quickly. So the lively atmosphere changed abruptly. A new band would start at 9pm but we were anxious to walk the harbor. The temps had dropped significantly and we were glad to have jackets! There were lots of fishermen on the pier and Bon Fires along the Beach…even an AA on the Bay gathering. We were bummed to see signs restricting bicycles on the harbor walkway. That meant we would be riding on the street, but not much traffic, so doable. There were many joggers, lovers, and homeless people enjoying the weather and views along with us!


We are not Irish; we had no intention of kissing the Blarney Stone, and Ireland had not even made it to our bucket list of places we wanted to see after retirement.  So why Ireland?   Well, first of all we love adventure and what I love even more than adventure is a good deal!

I regularly perused Travelzoo’s weekly e-newsletter and would often drool over the vacation packages, but since I had a fairly demanding job and limited vacation which always needed to be prescheduled, I was rarely able to take advantage of the deals.  But when I read “Ireland Five Star Castle Tour including airfare” and the price was only $799 per person…they had my attention.  Before I even drilled into the details and fine print, I casually asked George how he felt about going to Ireland.  His response was not an unequivocal NO, but a bit lackluster at best.  But I read on anyway.  The tour included a rental car with GPS, several breakfasts, entrance to Cliffs of Mohr and the Guinness Factory. There were several dates available that were after our scheduled retirement, which was still months away.  The drawback was that we would need to go in January or February when the weather in Ireland is less than ideal, but it was IRELAND!  It didn’t take a day before George had caught my enthusiasm and we booked the trip!  Now the hardest part was waiting until it was time to leave (or so I thought)!

We had poured over maps, searched the internet for information on weather, identified must-see attractions, and even talked our friends Elaine and Robert from the UK into meeting us in Dublin for the first few days.  The “included” airfare was from New York City, so we booked our flights from Las Vegas to New York and back and even planned an additional day in New York to buffer against any weather delays.  Finally it was time to pack!

One suitcase each under 50 lbs?  Check.  Raingear and warm gear?  Check.  Comfortable shoes? Check.  Passports?  Passports?  Yes, we had checked the expiration dates!  Yes, they were stored in a safe place!  But suddenly one was missing!!  Mine!  We were still one week away from departure, so my excitement came to a screeching halt. The only thing I could feel was sheer panic and determination to find it.  We searched  every nook and cranny for two days.  My friends and family from across the country were even suggesting places I might look.  It had vanished!  It was now 5 days until departure and I began to research getting a replacement.  I found a service on-line that guaranteed 24 hour turnaround (subject to anything they could not control)!  I paid them the initial $300 fee, then filled out the paperwork checking and rechecking that I had everything.  Luckily I had saved an old expired passport to send with my application.  I had it certified by the post office and paid another $150 to overnight it to San Francisco, and paid them to overnight it back to me.  YES, I know.  My great deal just cost another $500, but after waiting and anticipating the trip for so long, I just couldn’t play the TRIP CANCELLATION CARD!  So I dropped the package at FED EX and waited!!!

And waited, and waited!!!  I received a tracking notice that my package had been delivered.  But apparently the “carrier” assigned to hand carry my application was not big on returning phone calls.  Ok, granted, he is probably in line at the Passport Office!  And maybe he is not allowed to have his cell phone on!  I am trying to be positive. Then I began looking on the internet for reviews about the company I had selected.  All I could find were negative comments….about broken promises, terrible service, & false guaranties.  One man didn’t get his passport for 7 days!  I was doomed!  I should have researched further…instead of acting on desperation.  After 4PM passed and still no follow-up call or tracking information, I decided to call the contact for trip insurance cancellation.  They informed me I had until 5 PM tomorrow to cancel…NY time.

About 6PM I received the call from the courier in San Francisco.  He said the US Passport office was having technical issues and no passports had been issued that day and they didn’t know when the issue would be resolved.  All he could do is try again tomorrow.  Was he being truthful?  I began to further doubt the legitimacy of the company I had selected.  I had but one day left to get the new passport delivered before departure and now the threat of a huge snow storm in NY was adding further complication.  Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.  A massage.  A glass of wine.  But the bewitching hour came and I called to cancel.  The very nice man at the other end of the phone listened to my tale of woe and talked to his manager.  He said he would work late in the office and if I could call them back by 8PM (EST), they would still accept my cancellation.  I had prayer chains in action from the UK, from Dallas, Missouri, Ohio, California and more.  It was like one collective group of friends and family holding their breath with me.  At 4:45 PM (7:45 NY time), my phone rang!  I was given a tracking number and told that my new passport was on the Fed Ex truck!  I broadcast across FB.  I knelt in prayer.  And I think my sigh of relief was heard across Las Vegas!  We were going to Ireland!!!Image


IMG_0059George and I retired on December 31, 2014 and while many people were happy for us, a few were jealous, most were bewildered.  The common questions from almost everyone who knew of our retirement were:

  • What will you do every day??
  • How long will it take before you are bored?
  • Won’t you get tired of each other?

Well I am happy to report that from day 1 to day 160 I can enthusiastically say that we have not been bored for even one day, we love every minute together, and the “TO DO”  list that we began on day one just keeps getting longer and longer.

While we are not at all wealthy, we are fortunate that we regularly added money to our 401K and after talking with several investment advisors we think that if we are budget-conscious we can seek out at least one new adventure each month….some more elaborate then others.  And since planning and finding the deals is part of the fun…WE ARE GOIN4FUN!!

We have decided to start our own BLOG because so many people have wanted to know all about our adventures like our Ireland trip (especially after they learned the price), our upcoming European cruise, and just what we have been doing to stay busy and have fun, and what is our secret to being so happy.  So hopefully we will get a few followers and at least one of those followers will be inspired or learn something from our experiences.  If not, we will have a great time reading it ourselves when we are sitting in our rocking chairs!!