Friday, October 12, 2018

3-DAY STOPOVER IN AMSTERDAM

And we're off! After many months of waiting, planning, and anticipating, we are finally off on our first Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) trip. Because our final destination in Tanzania is such a long trip, we chose to take advantage of OAT's 3-day stopover in Amsterdam. It would break up the long flight to Africa and allow us to acclimate to the big time change.

In anticipation, I pre-planned our days in Amsterdam with several city walking tours and museum visits. Now as I write this sitting in the airport waiting to fly to Kilimanjaro, I realize I may have overdone our scheduling a bit. But honestly, I also don't know what I would eliminate. Here are a few highlights. I would have more, but I am still figuring out how to transfer photos to this blog. Bear with me.

The Barbizon Palace, the hotel booked for us by OAT as part of the stopover, is located right across from Central Station. It is a prime location to get to the old, medieval part of the city which includes the Red Light District along with an abundance of history, restaurants, shops and people watching. This city center is the orange/rust color section on the map below. As the city grew, layers were added much like an onion, making rings around the original section. 


Upon our arrival to the city after traveling more than 15 hours and losing half a day, we were tired but ready to see the sights. I had arranged for a private walking tour which turned out great because it gave us the lay of the land, so to speak. That said, because we were tired (an old), Marielle, our guide, adapted the tour to fit our needs and desires which worked our perfectly. I can't say enough for these private tours because they are very flexible unlike a large group that must stick to the published itinerary.

If one picture could capture the feeling of Amsterdam, this is it. The houses line the canals and narrow streets like soldiers standing at attention. Being that the city is built on clay and sand, houses are built on wooden stilts. Hence, they are not always perfectly plumb. But their regularity and orderly window placement fascinates my artistic and photographic eye.


In addition to canals, the city is also known for its bicycles. And we learned quickly to be both aware and wary of them as they are everywhere. 

As a cyclist myself, I enjoyed seeing all of the different sizes and shapes of bikes, most of which are different than my road bike at home. Here, most cyclists ride fat-tired bikes with upright seats and handlebars. And because the city is basically flat, they sure can go fast. 


Apparently, cyclists have the right of way over all other traffic including cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians. As a result we learned to look both ways not once, not twice, but multiple times before walking anywhere. And then, when you think you are good to go, commit and move quickly. As can be seen by this photo, they ride close and fast and it's the pedestrian's duty to get out of their way.


Friday, September 28, 2018

10 DAYS TO GO

I get ideas about what's essential when packing my suitcase. 
-Diane von Furstenberg

She who would travel happily must travel light.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Packing cubes keep everything organized and prevent shifting of the contents to the bottom of the duffel bag.

A place for everything and everything in its place, I hope.

Deciding what's essential and packing light is an oxymoron. At least to me. 

That's because a quick look at the map makes it obvious that October weather in the Netherlands in northern Europe requires totally different clothing than a Serengeti Safari just south of the equator. Add to that the 33# weight limit for my one checked bag, and suddenly packing light and deciding what's essential is at odds.

I have been piling and sorting clothes for both locations for weeks. Add a skirt to the Amsterdam pile and take away a t-shirt from the Africa pile. Can this one lightweight camel-colored sweater be worn in both places? Packing cubes are my organizational lifesaver since I became a convert several trips ago. So I sorted everything from the piles on the guest bed into various sized cubes with one each for Tops, Bottoms, Skirts & Dresses, Underwear, Socks, Bathing Suit and shoes, all for the Africa portion of my trip, and another single large red cube for my Amsterdam clothes. Ta-dah! Packed in my official OAT duffel, it all weighs in at 25#. 

But what about all the other stuff that's as essential (or even more so) than clothes? That's when small packing cubes and plastic zippered envelops come to the rescue! Prescription meds go in one, and all the "what if" meds--those over-the-counter remedies for a possible cold, sore throat, traveler's diarrhea, bug bites, dry dusty eyes, cut fingers, chapped hands, or sunburned ears--go in another. Other than the envelope of the RX meds which will stay with me in my 11# backpack, everything else will go into my checked duffel.

And finally there's all the electronic/electrical/tech related miscellany: charging cords for my iPhone, iPad, and laptop; power banks for recharging my iPhone (camera) while out in the field; electric plug adapters and a powerstrip to connect to local electricity in camp; extra batteries, chargers, and Sandisks for my Canon; and my mini tripod and selfie stick. I sorted all of this stuff into small cubes related to purpose and where I'd be using each item, and they will go into my backpack that stays with me.

The trick will be remembering which cube/envelope/bag holds what, so maybe I'll add small ID tags to each. I still have 10 days until we leave.

Both bags, my carry-on backpack and my checked duffel, are packed and ready to go. The last thing will be to add the colorful luggage straps recommended for two reasons: to hold the duffel together through the perils of baggage handling, and to quickly identify my duffel in a sea of look alike duffels on the Africa portion of our trip.




Tuesday, September 18, 2018

I'M GETTING SO EXCITED!

The anticipation of discovering new possibilities becomes my greatest joy.
--Jerry Uelsmann

Yesterday we received our final documents packet from OAT including our Final Document BOOKLET. This individualized booklet includes our specific itinerary for our two stopovers in Amsterdam, our OAT pre-trip and post-trips, as well as the actual 12-day Safari Serengeti itself. In addition, it lists all of our flights, all of the places we will be staying including emergency contact numbers, and a list of the other 14 travelers on our trip. And of course, there is a detailed description of the sights and activities planned for each day of the pre-trip, main trip, and post-trip.

And if that wasn't enough to get me excited, we also received an email from our Trip Leader who lives in Tanzania. Apparently this is a common OAT practice for the trip leaders to introduce themselves before the actual tour. Furthermore, he encourages us to email him any questions we might have before we leave for our trip.



So far, I am very impressed with the attention to detail OAT has in place to communicate with its travelers. 
I'm so excited. Yippee!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

23 DAYS OUT & COUNTING



With just a little over three weeks until our October 8 departure, I took the last of four typhoid vaccination pills last Tuesday. It's one of the recommended vaccinations by the CDC for people traveling to Tanzania. I will also begin taking daily anti-malaria pills one day before arriving in Tanzania and continuing for one week after leaving the country. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

And while I'm on the topic, I am also packing both prescription and over-the-counter meds for all the possible ailments that can besiege a traveler in a foreign country including an anti-biotic and Immodium for travelers' diarrhea, cold meds in case I contract a dreaded cold, Tylenol and Aleve for those aches and pains that come with being of a certain age, along with various creams and ointments for this and that. You get my drift. 

Typically, when traveling abroad most of the over-the-counter stuff could be purchased locally as needed, but traveling on a safari to the Serengeti is not your typical destination, so it's advised to come prepared. I am.

These pills are a live Typhoid vaccine and are taken as one pill every other day.


Because of our post Serengeti Safari trip to Zanzibar, Doug and I are limited to 33# for one checked bag and 11# for one carry-on for each of us. With that weight limit in mind, last week I began laying out my clothes in the guest bedroom. Look who finds it her new favorite place to sleep. Do you suppose our 7-month-old puppy Scout knows that we'll be leaving her behind?



Another view of my travel wardrobe, sans Scout, shows a mostly monochromatic look, not my usual travelin' style. With the exception of the black and red pile in the upper left, which are my Amsterdam clothes, the rest is 'safari drab' as I call it. (Okay, I threw in a bright yellow-orange t-shirt in, just because. And the bottom orange/white shirt has since been eliminated.) Also, what may be of interest is that most items I found at my local Goodwill store over the last eight months since we signed up for this trip. (I told you I love the anticipation.)

(Note here: brown, beige, and green are not my usual or favorite colors,
but I'm a rule follower . . . most of the time. See below.) 

The reason for the 'safari drab' is practical, not fashionable. According to OAT guidelines, the colors black and bright blue attract the Tsetse fly; hence, don't wear those colors. Also, bright colors may distract certain animals, so avoid wearing those colors especially during the game viewing drives. In addition, previous travelers have discouraged wearing white since the red dirt tends to discolor it. Point well taken. 

During our visit, the temperatures can be hot, 80-90 degrees F., so light colored and weight fabrics are best. Also, they can easily be washed and dried in a day. So, everything is in the color range known as khaki, except, of course, the bright yellow shirt which I'll wear when visiting the school or the village.

As for shoes, I am taking one pair. Yes, you read it right, ONE pair. OAT recommends a lightweight hiking shoe or comfortable athletic shoe that can easily be taken on and off. Apparently we are not only allowed but encouraged to stand on the seats of the safari vehicles to get a better view as long as we take our shoes off

With that in mind, along with the red dirt we'll be walking upon, I found what I consider the perfect shoe from my favorite shoe company, TOMS. And to make it even more perfect (is that even possible?) I added elastic laces to turn a supportive tie-up sneaker into an easy on, easy off slip-on. VOILA!


So for now, my travel wardrobe, including my Amsterdam clothes for our pre-pre-trip and post-post-trip layovers (more on that in another blog), fits neatly in the required OAT provided duffel bag. Yes, for safari-style trips these uniform, soft duffel bags make it easier to load the safari vehicles in which we will be riding. I've already begun personalizing my bag, as per recommendations by many, with bright pink handle covers. I will later add bright pink luggage straps to make my bag even more obvious among those of my fellow travelers. 



Friday, August 31, 2018

ANTICIPATION IS THE BEST THERAPY

Traveling to Tanzania, Africa with OAT

“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting” 
― Andy Warhol

Come this October, it will be 17 months since Doug's AAA surgery and stroke. And after taking a successful two-week Caribbean cruise last February, we are now counting down the days to our next adventure to Africa. We will be traveling with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) on their tour Safari Serengeti: Tanzania Lodge and Tented Safari. 

We have also included the OAT pre-trip to the Foothills of Kilimanjaro and a post-trip to Zanzibar. In addition, we are taking advantage of the 3-night stopover in Amsterdam on our way to Africa, and another 3-night stopover on our return to the States. We like to get the most out of the time and money it takes to travel so far, as well as take time to re-calibrate our aging bodies in between the long flying legs of our journey.

While I usually post my own photos on this blog, these photos are from the OAT guide book which show what exciting adventures are in store for us. Come along as we anticipate this trip of a lifetime.




This is the Wildebeest migration that I hope we'll get to see.


I loved the nine summers I spent as a child at sleep-away camp, so this looks right up my alley.
In fact, it's probably more luxurious than what I was used to as a kid.
Except there wasn't the possibility of lions and zebras wandering through the campground at night.



Friday, January 27, 2017

EVERYONE LOVES PENGUINS, RIGHT?

The Penguins of the Falkland Islands

It's been nearly a year since I traveled via a Holland America cruise to the Falkland Islands off the southeast coast of Argentina. 
Torn between which land excursion to take, King Penguin 4x4 Adventure or North Pond Penguin Colony, my partner and I chose the latter. 
As a result we were able to stroll among the colonies of Gentoo and Magellanic penguins that call this stretch of South Atlantic beach their home.

Penguins are found only in the Southern Hemisphere, but not exclusively in the ice and snow of Antarctica. 
In fact, the Falkland Islands is one of the world's great penguin capitals.


As many as a million penguins nest in the Falklands in the summer, representing five of the world's species -- 
Gentoo, Magellanic, King, Rockhopper, and Macaroni.



Gentoo Penguins are the world's third largest species, 
and the Falklands are the home to the largest population of Gentoo Penguins on earth. 



So what's the difference between Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins? 
Gentoo Penguins have reddish orange beaks, yellow feet, and a broad white chest.
They nest in colonies in above-ground nests.



Magellanic Penguins have black beaks and black feet. 
But the most distinguishing feature is the white striping 
around the eyes and above the white chest
They live in below-ground burrows. 



Since we were there in February which is nearing the end of summer, 
these juvenile Magellanic Penguins were in the last stages of molting 
hence the abundance of downy feathers on the ground.



This is a test: 
Gentoo or Magellanic?



Gentoo or Magellanic?





Sunday, January 8, 2017

IT IS SAID THAT CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN . . .

THEN SHOES MUST MAKE THE WOMAN



One of my favorite Facebook posts during my trip to Milan 
was this photo of a window display in a shoe shop 
in Milan's China Town neighborhood where we stayed. 
While Milan is known as a major fashion center 
throughout Europe and the world, 
I have a feeling these shoes are not the high-end fashion 
for which Milan is famous. 
But what fun I had asking my audience which pair seemed most like me. 


More shoe choices, though not nearly as much fun 
as the stacked and/or spiked heels.
But I know all women need several pairs 
of functional shoes in addition to the funky fashionable ones.


And as long as your at it, why not a colorful wig to match?