House Sitting in The Country ~

I am currently enjoying the best house sitting assignment ever – on a vineyard overlooking a beautiful valley right in the heart of Oregon wine (and farm) country.  On a clear day, you truly can see forever.

For ten days of chicken wrangling, bird feeding, garden watering and loving-up a grey-haired-handsome-boy-kitty named Winston, I am living la pura vida in the hills of Dundee.  I am also learning the ins and outs of rural living.  And, in case you were wondering, life is pretty good out here in the country.  And just a little bit different than this city gal is used to. Not a Starbucks in sight, but the wine is top notch!

The only downside so far?  The Green Acres theme song keeps playing in my head.

And now you are humming it too.  You’re welcome!

I don’t know if the country life is the life for me, but I am savoring every moment of my country adventure.  Here are a few snaps I took the other day.

You know you are in the country when…

Fashion takes on a whole new meaning.

Fashion takes on a whole new meaning.

Maybe they make shoes to go with the outfit?

Maybe they make shoes to go with the outfit?

Making hay while the sun shines.  You've gotta be quick in Oregon

Making hay while the sun shines. You’ve gotta be quick in Oregon


So, a gnome wanders into a vineyard...

So, a gnome wanders into a vineyard…

Never seen this in the city.

Never seen this in the city.


Call now before the sign is covered in weeds.

Yes indeed!

Yes indeed!

And my personal favorite ~

Farmer humor

Farmer humor

Stay tuned for more adventures.


Enter To Win ~ Another cheap retirement travel idea

Just so you know.  I’ve never been a person who wins things.  I’m usually the person standing next to the person holding the winning ticket.  I always buy a ticket (or 5) if it’s for a good cause.  But then the story always goes something like this … a moment or two of hopeful anticipation when the drum rolls and the hand goes deep into the pile of ticket stubs.  Pick mine!  Pick mine!  Nope.  Not this time.

Yet somehow I’ve managed to remain hopeful.  I figure that by now, the odds must be in my favor.  Someday soon my ship, or plane or train will come in.

Travel Channel Contest looks great!

Travel Channel Contest – A Trip to Prague.

I just discovered  that there are literally hundreds of online travel contests offering a chance to win everything from deluxe hotel stays, to Eurorail passes, to airline tickets, and luxury spa weekends.  I felt like I had found a gold mine of possibility.  Cheap travel?  Sure, but why not try my hand at winning some free travel!  What the Hell?  I’m way beyond over-due for a big win.  This could be the ticket to even more adventure.  What have I got to lose?  Well, maybe a little internet privacy, but since I already spend so much time crawling the web, joining groups on Facebook and twittering sparkling bons mots and tiny brilliant thoughts in the Twittersphere, I figure I’ll pick up my skirt and wade a little deeper into the pond.

Entering all of these contests could become a full time job so I decided to test the water and start with a few from well-known sources like Travel & Leisure,  Travel Sweepstakes Blogger, and Travel Onion, where they review and aggregate lots of very interesting contests on one reliable web site.   You click through to the contest site and sign-up.  These contests are sponsored by hotels, airlines, and various cities and countries promoting their business, but what I found interesting was the number of contests sponsored by companies like Burts Bees, Victoria’s Secret and Pottery Barn.  They get my email address and I (along with about a bazillion of my closest friends) get the chance to be WINNERS.  So, I set up a new travel contest only email account and I’m entering one or two a day that look interesting and don’t require purchase or multiple entries.

Heck, somebody has to win.  It might just be me.

Here are a few European Travel Contests currently listed on Travel Onion ~

Burtsbees – Spot Lotto Sweepstakes & IWG – Enter by May 27th, 2014
Location: Stockholm, Sweden ( 18 or older ) – Win one of two prizes of a 5-night trip for two to Stockholm, Sweden and more, valued at $6,750. There are also Instant Win prizes of one of fifteen $250 spa gift certificates, or one of twenty-five bouquets of daisies, or one of 100 Burt’s Bees Brightening dark spot corrector, or one of 25,000 samples.

Pottery Barn – Passport to Paris – Enter by June 8th, 2014
Location: Paris, France – Win a 4-night trip for two to Paris, France and a $1,000 gift card, valued at $10,000.

Win A Trip To The Tour de France – Enter by June 20th, 2014
Location: France – Win a trip for two to the Tour de France! This prize includes round trip airfare for two to Paris, three nights in the city of Paris, two nights in the French countryside, and more! Other lucky winners will receive a Bianchi Intenso 105 Compact Road Bike, Team Belkin branded apparel, a Bell “Gage” helmet, and more.

Wine-Soak Up the Essence of Italy Sweepstakes – Enter by June 30th, 2014
Location: Venice, Italy – (21 or older – No AK or HI) – Win a trip for two to Venice, Italy, including a Cooking with Chef Anna cooking vacation, valued at $8,000, or one of nine $100 Dean & Deluca gift cards.

Win A Trip For Two To Ireland – Enter by December 31st, 2014
Location: Ireland – Win a trip for two to Ireland. This vacation includes round trip airfare to Dublin, a five night stay in a hotel, and $500 spending money. Other prizes include copies of Once on Blu-ray disc and a CD copy of Once The Musical.

See you on the road.




Creating Your Roving Retirement ~ Part 3: Use this money-saving tips

A Few More Money Saving Tips

-Make sure your credit card has mileage benefits.  Use it wisely, but use it.  Those points add up and will save you thousands on airfare.

-Airline prices fluctuate daily, but in general the best deals go to those who are patient and diligent.   Travel pros suggest that statistically those who book early in the morning or late at night, especially on Saturdays and Wednesdays, find the best deals.

-Lower price guarantee.  Most US airlines (but not all) have a guaranteed airfare clause buried in the fine print that says if you purchase a ticket and the price drops, they will refund the difference.  Sites like can track airline fares and notify you if a price drops.

-Travel off-season.  You will save on both airfare and hotel.   When the tourists leave and properties or air seats are empty, prices drop.  It’s the law of supply and demand.  This applies to home rentals as well.  Many off-season prices are negotiable.  They would rather rent their apartment to you for 30% off than leave it vacant.  Never hesitate to ask.

-Take the road less traveled.  Going just a little bit off the beaten path can save you a lot of money.  I’ve found that if you stay in that lovely small town just outside of the big city, the prices for both food and lodging will usually drop dramatically.

Creating Your Roving Retirement ~ Part 4: 5 Action Steps



Start with your travel dream board and wish list.  These two exercises will set the stage for a constant flow of ideas and inspiration that will continue to propel you forward.


Everyone travels for a reason.  It can be a simple as finally having the chance to sip an umbrella drink in a beach chair or finally having the opportunity to use your skills as a volunteer.  Once you’ve identified the where on your travel wish list, spend some time with the why, which in turn will often lead you to the how.   For example, you might volunteer with an organization such as (        ) teaching English or building schools, and then plan a few months of additional travel.


You will want to learn everything you can about your travel destinations and explore all of the options for traveling on a budget.  The internet is a great place to start.  A few simple google searches will provide hours of online reading.   Become a regular at your library.   Find travel blogs that you relate to and sign up to receive their posts.  Ask questions.  Make connections.  Share your dream.  When you start telling people about your dream of retirement travel, you will be surprised how many like-minded people you will meet and the information and opportunities that will be provided.  Set the wheels of adventure in motion now.


You may not be ready to sell the house and everything in it and head out to see the world quite yet, but you can start flexing your adventure muscle with mini trips.  If walking the Camino de Santiago is on your bucket list, start by exploring your city on foot.   Sign up for a 3 hour walking tour or create your own.  Life, and your city, look very different when you slow down to 3mph.   Do you dream of traveling across Europe with your Eurail pass and your backpack?   Start with Amtrak, your backpack and a quick weekend getaway a couple of hours from home.


Many Americans assume that everyone speaks English.  This is often the case in the big cities, but you will have a very different experience if you have at least a basic understanding of the language.  The ability to say good morning and engage in a simple conversation truly enhances your “live like a local” experience.  Check out continuing education classes at your community college for classes in Spanish, French, German, or Japanese.  Join a local inter-cambio group through Meet Up or your library.  Generally these groups meet weekly and half of the conversation is in English and half is in the language you are learning.  You will meet native speakers and learn about customs and culture while you are improving your speaking skills.

If you missed that GAP year of travel in your 20‘s, here is your second chance to pack up your backpack and head out to explore the world.  With retirement travel you have the luxury of time all over again. Take as long as you like and enjoy every minute.  You’ve earned it.

See you on the road!

On the road again ~ Oh the places we’d go!

The hubs has been bringing up his dream of driving across the U.S. again.  And again.  It’s not my dream, never has been.  Two hours in the car and I take on the personality of that most annoying child “Are we there yet?”  “I have to go to the bathroom…now!”  “I’m hungry.”  and the never ending “I’m so bored I’m taking selfies with my phone and posting them on FB so I won’t resort to poking sticks under my thumbnails for entertainment.”

I'm really sure this would NOT be the one.

I’m really sure this would NOT be the one.

But, lately I’ve been watching friends who are packing up their mini trailers and campervans, heading out on the open road, and loving (almost) every minute of it.  Let’s just say I’m curious. And the trailer door is open, just an inch or two on the possibility. I’m thinking it’s finally time for a trial run weekend.  Just sayin’.  No commitment.

Here’s a post from the blog archives that made me smile all over again at the possibilities the future holds.

Oh The Places We’ll Go – originally posted 4/2012

So, if (and it is a BIG IF right now) we were to take to the open road in an RV or maybe one of those cute Airstream trailers, where might that road lead?  Visit friends and family – check, find rivers and stop for fly fishing – hubby big check, me “Ok, I’ll give you a few”, all those must see monuments, parks, historic sites that every tourist wannabe has on their list – sure, we’ll do those too.  But, I recently stumbled on a few places that really sparked my interest.  Now these towns might be worth barreling down the highway in an oversize toaster on wheels!  Kinda makes me want to say “Road Trip!”

Knowing us, we’d have to start with the names of dubious character ~ Intercourse, PA, Assawoman, VA, Blue Ball, OH, French Lick, IN (ooh la la!) or Buttzville, NJ and then ease on down the road to the tiny town of Slaughterville, Oklahoma which, so the story goes, was once the subject of a PETA protest.  PETA asked the town (I’m not making this up, I got it right from the Travel Channel) to change its name to Veggieville with the promise of donating $20,000 in veggie burgers to the school district if they did.  From there we could cruise into such hot spots as Hell, MI, or Fertile, NM.   And, when hunger strikes, we’ll head on over to Pie, WV.  If we’re feeling adventurous, we’ll surely make a stop at Surprise, NY and round out our road trip at Deadman Crossing, OH, or maybe Jerkwater, PA, or Idiotville, OR.  Idiotville? How can we live in Oregon and not have heard of Idiotville?  That sounds like a weekend getaway on it’s own.

Maybe something cute like this teardrop…only bigger and with windows?




Happy trails and roll up the damn window, the breeze is messing up my hair!


Retiring to the Tropical Good Life in Belize

Way back in 1996, I spent two glorious weeks in Belize.  The second week a group of us, mostly scuba divers (and me) lived it up in a rundown motel right at the end of the pier where the ferries docked.   It was also directly across from the local liquor store.  If you owned stock in Belikin Beer that week, your stock rose significantly.

Each morning we wandered down the beach to a tiny outdoor cafe where we sat for a very long time sipping our tea and watching the world meander by.  Every now and then, someone would ask, “I wonder how long it would take until we got tired of this?”  No one could even guess at the answer as we all had to be back in the corporate grind before the next week began.   We were staying on Ambergris Caye which at the time was the only developed (and I’m using that term loosely here) island of the bunch. There were no cars allowed, only a small number of golf carts for transportation, the streets were sand and sometimes the sand went right into the shops and restaurants.  This was before cell phones and the one public pay phone was out of order.  That trip still ranks up there as one of the best vacations of my life (so far).

While I’m not sure full time tropical living is what hubs and I are looking for, it was great fun to read the informative article below by Ann Kuffner that was published in a recent copy of International Living Magazine.   If sunny skies, beautiful blue water, and tropical breezes are calling you, either for a vacation or a retirement option, English speaking Belize might be worth a look.  Reading the article makes me want to visit again even though it sounds like the gringos have moved in and changed things a bit.

Belize’s 3 Best Beach Towns by Ann Kuffner

Most expats who consider moving to Belize dream of living near the Caribbean Sea on a beach. Fortunately for them, Belize offers several beach lifestyle options. Right now, the three most popular beach areas expats settle are Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Placencia Peninsula.

Here’s a quick peek at each of these popular beach retreats…

Ambergris Caye: The World’s #1 Island on the Caribbean Sea

Ambergris Caye is the island that I’ve called home for the past six years—and I’m not the only one who has discovered its charms. For two years running Trip Advisor members have voted Ambergris Caye their favorite vacation island. But what’s it like to live full time in this hip, happening, tourist haven?

Few expats tire of the aquamarine Caribbean seascape, the vibrant marine life, and the protective barrier reef that’s a half-mile offshore.

But San Pedro Town can be frenetic. This colorful, active little town is definitely evolving and there are pros and cons related to Ambergris Caye’s growth. But you need only live two miles out of town to find a peaceful environment.

Ambergris Caye is a good-size island. It’s 25 miles long and has almost 20,000 residents. That translates to more options. Expats who settle here can expect a comfortable lifestyle with a surprising number of amenities. You’ll find quality fresh fish, chicken, meat, diverse produce, fine wines, fresh coffee beans, and specialty items not available in most of Belize.

There are plenty of options for activities. In addition to outdoor water sports, there are multiple yoga studios, gyms, massage spas, sailing clubs, live music scenes, karaoke competitions, and festivals…and many options for volunteer organizations and churches.

The majority of expats live in an established condo community. That allows them to lock up and take off.

Beach houses tend to be pricey (though they’re still much more affordable than on other Caribbean vacation hotspots). Prices for certain goods are steep here when compared to prices on the mainland, due to the transport cost. But a couple can get by on $1,650 per month (including rent), if they’re careful. And, on the positive side, a golf cart is much less expensive than a car—to buy and maintain.

Caye Caulker: The Ultimate Laid-Back Island Lifestyle

Caye Caulker is blessed with the same gorgeous Caribbean seascape as Ambergris Caye. The two cayes are close. The water taxi between them takes only 20 minutes or so and both cayes are only a half-mile from the barrier reef. But there is a world of difference between these sibling islands, in terms of lifestyle…

Caye Caulker is small. It’s only five miles long and has 1,300 residents. Its colorful, charming village has a relaxed, artistic vibe. It reminds me of California’s 1970s hippie communities.

The streets are still sand: no cobblestone or concrete streets here. The residents get around on foot, or a bike. Golf carts are an option, but not a necessity…

The entire island has an aura of peace and tranquility. Whether Caye Caulker is the place for you depends on your interests in life. If you need the stimulation and excitement of a busier place, you’ll be bored after a few days. But if you favor a quiet and tranquil vibe, this will feel like heaven on earth, particularly if you’re the artistic type. So if you’ve been putting off writing that novel, this might be the perfect spot to settle in…

Expats eat out often here, especially since the restaurant fare is decent and reasonably priced. But be advised: there aren’t many options in terms of grocery or specialty food stores.

Thecost of living on Caye Caulker is lower than on Ambergris Caye. A number of expats I’ve spoken to tell me that they spend less than $1,000 a month, exclusive of rent. Rents as low as $400 a month can still be found here.

Placencia: An Irresistible Beach Community

Placencia is a haven for beach connoisseurs. Kick off your flip flops and you can walk for miles along the wide sand beach.

The peninsula is 16 miles long, with the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Placencia lagoon to the west. The Maya mountains provide a gorgeous backdrop for the tranquil lagoon. But the peninsula is also close to all the diverse activities that the mainland offers. You’ll easily be able to reach them with a car.

Placencia is 20 miles from the reef, so it takes an hour or so to reach the reef via boat. But it also has much deeper waters than that of the cayes, which means that you’ll find deeper marinas and diverse boating options on the peninsula. It’s a great place for those committed to boating.

The three primary villages include Maya Beach, Seine Bight, and Placencia Village, and you’ll find a good mix of expats in those places. We’ve met several Europeans who’ve opened restaurants and businesses, as well as Americans and Canadians.

The peninsula has experienced fast-paced growth, especially since the road was paved in 2010. Still, there are currently only about 3,500 residents within the three main towns, so the peninsula has plenty of room to expand. More businesses are opening as expats flock to this area, which means Placencia is amenity-rich. You’ll find yoga studios, beauty spas, massage studios, and even a bowling alley!

On the Placencia peninsula you’ll also have your choice of hip restaurants, trendy bars, and cafes.

A couple can live comfortably on $1,550 a month here, if they find a reasonably priced rental and are not too extravagant. Spend $500 a month more and you could live very well.

Thanks International Living and Ann Kuffner, for your great reporting!

Time for a piña colada!



Create Your Roving Retirement – Part 2: Cheap Sleeps

Retirement travel doesn’t have to mean package tours, luxury cruises or high dollar hotels.  In fact, it’s my experience that if you live more like a local and less like a tourist, you can save a lot of money and have a much richer experience.  Here are a few great ways to stretch your travel dollar that I’ve mentioned before and are worth exploring.

Live Like a Local – Sleep Here

Somewhere in Spain...Nancy Slept Here

Somewhere in Spain…Nancy Slept Here

Housing will probably be your biggest travel expense.  These unique options will not only save a lot of money, but allow you to really connect with a location:

WWOOFING –   World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  Volunteers trade farm duties for room and board. Accommodations are simple and the work can be hard at times, but if the chance to harvest grapes in Italy, learn how to make goat cheese in France, or get your hands dirty on an organic herb garden in New Zealand appeals to you, then WWOOFING is the way to go.   A surprising number of people in their 50’s, 60‘s, and beyond are signing up.

Chicken hard can it be?

Chicken wrangling…how hard can it be?


Hosteling –  If you were that backpacking twenty-something, you probably remember hostels as cheap, dorm-style rooms with bunk beds and rented sheets, a bath down the hall and a party-hardy crowd.  Not a gray hair in sight.  They weren’t called youth hostels for nothing.   Much has changed.  Today more than 15% of hostelers are over 50 and the number is growing.  Now offering private rooms with baths, online booking, fresh and free linens and more, today’s hostels are catering to the mature traveler on a budget. Two things about hosteling have not changed – they are still inexpensive and a wonderful way to meet other travelers.

Workamping –  For some folks, hitting the road in a motorhome is at the top of their retirement wish list.  But, it’s not as cheap as you might think.  When you budget for gas and campground fees, you could pay more to park you RV than you would for a moderately priced hotel room.   One unique and fun way to make your RV travel more affordable is by becoming a workamper.  Through online sites like Workamper ( and Camp Host (, travelers can find and apply for thousands of seasonal and year round jobs.  Many RVers work during the summer season as camp hosts, collecting  fees from campers, directing them to available sites, answering questions and watching for problems.  In return they receive a free campsite and often a small stipend.

House Sitting – Short and long time house sitting opportunities are available worldwide through online sites like House Carers ( and Trusted House Sitters (  Most house sitting jobs involve some form of pet care and modest home maintenance like watering the plants and bringing in the mail.  Homeowners feel secure that their home is occupied and taken care of in their absence.  You get a great place to stay for free and the chance to live like a local.  Win-Win.

Remember, your first gig doesn’t have to be half way around the world.  Dip your toes into the shallow water before you make the plunge by starting closer to home.   If “Green Acres is the place for you”, why not spend a weekend getting dirt under your fingernails and sore muscles on a local farm?  If you think professional house sitting might be the way to travel, then offer your services to friends and family in the U.S.   You’ll gain valuable references and get a chance to see how comfortable you really are sleeping in a strange bed and picking up Fido’s poop.

What’s your favorite way to travel on the cheap?  We’d love to share your ideas and experiences right here on the blog. Leave us a comment.

See you on the road!



Create Your Roving Retirement … Five Fun Ways to Kickstart Your Dream

“Listen to the Musn’t’s child, Listen to the Don’t’s. Listen to the Shouldn’t’s, the Impossibles, the Won’t’s. Listen to the Never Haves, then Listen close to me. ANYthing can happen, child, ANYthing can Be.”
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999);Poet, Songwriter, Musician

Maybe you were one of those 20 year old free spirits who stuffed everything they could into an over-sized backpack and set out to see the world before you settled down.  Or maybe, like most of us, you only dreamed about that kind of travel and then stepped straight onto the well-worn path already laid out for you – work, marriage, kids.   Your travel dream was put on the shelf and after a few years, the backpack went to the Goodwill.  A big trip became a week at Disney World.   It’s funny how that happens.

But those dreams never fully go away do they?  Like long lost friends, they lurk quietly in the back of our minds only to pop up as fanciful daydreams while we’re slogging through a mind-numbing day in the office or waiting in the carpool line.

What I know for sure is that for many of us, somewhere around 50 is when those old dreams start to re-surface in earnest.  Gone for a while, but not forgotten.  That travel gypsy is still alive and well.  A little older, a lot wiser, and eager to explore the world.

Don’t worry, there’s still time.

A growing number of people are becoming vagabond retirees.  People in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s are packing up their new, high-tech backpacks and heading out to become citizens of the world.

Want to join them?  It’s easy.  And it doesn’t have to blow your hard-earned retirement nest egg either.

Traveling on a retiree budget does require thinking outside the box, lots of research, some advance planning, a sense of adventure and a willingness to be flexible.

Don’t wait until you are officially retired to set your travel dreams in motion.  Include them in your planning now.  Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

1.  Create a Travel Dream Board.  It might sound hokey, but it’s fun, it’s easy and it works!  Buy a large piece of posterboard, gather up lots of magazines, travel brochures, old photos, scissors and a glue stick.  It’s as simple as cutting out pictures and pasting them onto the board.  Don’t over-think this.  Cut out everything that catches your eye – beach sunsets, different cultures, village life, bustling cities, historical settings or mountain views.  Can you see yourself in the picture?  Then it belongs on your board.  I call this visual goal setting.

2.  Make a Wish List.   Use the images on your Dream Board to create a Wish List.  Here’s where you get more specific.  What are your must haves for a travel or retirement living destination?  Sleepy village or bustling city?  Beach or mountains?  Easy access or remote?  The options are endless, but honing this list to your top 5 or 6 must haves will give you a great jumping off point for your initial research.

3.  Do Your Research.  Whether you need resources for small hotels or hostels while backpacking through Central America, house swaps in France, or which visas are required for a trek across Tibet, it’s all available on the internet.  Find out where the best airports are, what ground transportation is cheap and easy, who speaks English, what the local currency is.

4.  Become an Arm Chair Traveler.  Read and use the country and city travel guides from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet.  Check out books from your local library.  Reading about the adventures of buying and fixing up a run down farm in Portugal, living the gypsy life on a boat in the Caribbean, or women walking all 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, is very inspiring and educational.

5.  Get Connected.   Find and connect with the folks who are blazing the trail ahead of you.  Ask questions and get the scoop from people who have been there, done that.  It’s helpful to know the good, the bad, and the “never again” about a place before you go.  Start reading travel blogs.  Many are filled with first hand information, great personal stories and links to more resources.

I hope these ideas give you a good starting point.  I have LOTS more information and some great ideas and resources that I’ve learned from all my research that I’ll be sharing in future posts so stay tuned.  There is so much inspiration and adventure to be found in the planning process.  Let’s get going! bridge

See you on the road,


And The Oscar Goes To ~

After months of hype, buzz, and blatant self-promotion… the 86th annual festival of who’s wearing who, who’s with whom, who said what, and who the hell really cares? also known as The Oscars, also known as three hours of your life that you will never get back, aired last night.

Congratulations to all the winners, the losers and the “I’m just happy to have been nominated in such august company” peeps.  Thanks for letting us share your moment in the spotlight.  Who got my vote?  Ellen and the pizza delivery guy.  It was definitely a night that young many will never forget.

I live in Portland OR where, quite honestly, right up until a week or so ago many folks didn’t even know for sure when the show was airing. But last week I was in L.A. and now I see what a sheltered life I live. The Sunday entertainment section of the LA Times (much heftier than the entire Oregonian these days) was packed with page after page of gigantic ads touting films, actors, directors, documentaries, shorts.  Every one was the biggest, the best and worthy of the statue.  It all felt so glamorous and important and kind of awesome in a wonderfully strange way.  I was visiting a dear friend who has seen every nominated film, animated short, and documentary nominee.  I think I’ve seen two…but I’m not sure.  We live in different worlds and glancing through that paper really brought it home.  Not better or worse, just very different.  And it was great fun to spend a little time in hers.

Whether you got your Oscar fix last night dressed to the nines at a fancy party or sitting solo on the couch in your jammies with a bowl of popcorn and a champagne toast, I hope your favorites won.  And, while the buzz from the Oscars is still humming in your ears, I thought you might enjoy this fun article highlighting some of Oscars Biggest Losers.

Not wanting to look like stalking paparazzi, I left my camera at home on our many walking adventures, but I did manage to snap a few iphone photos of the non-glittery side of Los Angeles, where the real beautiful people hang out.  The ones who watch the movies but are never in them.  You know who you are.

View from the tippy-top of Franklin Canyon.  The hike down was a thigh-buster.

View from the tippy-top of Franklin Canyon. The hike down was a thigh-buster.

Took a self-guided walking tour of the art & architecture of downtown LA

Took a self-guided walking tour of the art & architecture of downtown LA


Wandered into a wedding on the steps of the magnificent Disney Hall


Two tired old broads take a selfie on the lightrail ride back to the westside after many fun adventures in tinsel town.

Thanks for the memories my friend.  You will always be a star in my book.







Fabulous and Still Free ~ Attractions to Visit in America

vintage disney Remember the good old days, when people could set aside a few dollars and head out for trips of wonder and excitement?  It didn’t take a small loan or the sale of your firstborn to create memories that lasted a lifetime.  Set the wayback machine for 1971 when a mere $4.50 (adult) or $3.50 (child) bought you entry into the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland where you could wander from dawn to dusk.  It also bought you a book of ride tickets rated from A-E.  The “E” ticket was highly coveted as it took you on the best and biggest rides in the park.  Your $4.50 bought 1A ticket, 1B, 1C, 2D tickets and 2 E tickets.  As kids, we quickly learned about prioritizing and rationing!   One C ticket (or 50 cents if you wanted to go again) got you a ride in one of Davey Crockett’s canoes in Frontierland.  The E ticket took you on a gondola ride through It’s a Small World (don’t start humming the song or it’ll be in your head all day) or bought you a front row seat at The Mickey Mouse Review.

Fast forward to 2014 and What the Heck Happened?

A trip to the Magic Kingdom today will set you back a cool $92.00 (adult) and $86.00 (child).  Yikes!  You can ride any attraction you like as many times as you like, but only if you are willing to stand in line for 45 minutes.   Whoopie!   Universal Studios, another “must see” on so many vacation lists, costs $84.00 in Hollywood and $92.00 in Orlando.

A family of four or two retirees taking the grandkids on a vacation, might have to take out a second mortgage to have this kind of fun.  And pack a lunch.

Which got me thinking:  “Are there any great places to visit or attractions to see that are still free?”  Or at least cheap?

Turns out there are quite a few.  And a lot of folks are making a pilgrimage to these wonderful sites part of their vacation travels.   I’ve been to a few, but not nearly enough.  I see a road trip or two in my future.  What about you?

In order of absolutely no importance, every one of these attractions is worth a visit while the price is still right.

1.  The Smithsoniam Museums, Washington, D.C.  –  The National Zoo, National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum are the crown jewels of the 18 Smithsonian institutions in Washington D.C.   Where else can you see The Hope Diamond, Dorothy’s Red Slippers and the Spirit of St. Louis all in the same day and all for free?

2.  The National Mall and Washington D.C. Memorials –  The nation’s capital takes it’s “by the people for the people” ethos seriously (at least when it comes to buildings and monuments) and a surfeit of attractions honoring the country’s heritage cost nothing to tour – landmarks along the Mall, the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the moving memorials to the veterans of WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnman War should be on every American’s must see at least once bucket list.

3.  New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park – While most national parks were established to preserve and share nature, this one celebrates jazz in it’s birthplace, New Orleans.   You’ll enjoy live music in the French Quarter, a music workshop for kids at Preservation Hall every Saturday, free guided walks and video documentaries and a whole lot more.

4.  The Getty Center, Los Angeles – Admission is free.  Parking is $15.00 but it’s still a deal and you can take public transporation.   The Getty is a sprawling art complex that sits high on a hill with jaw dropping views and sunsets.  Browse their impressive collection of European and American art, stroll the fabulous gardens or take the young ones to enjoy the Family Room for interactive exhibits and an art treasure hunt.   I just checked and the cost of admission to our Portland Art Museum is $15.00 for an adult, so the Getty seems like a real deal.

5.  Staten Island Ferry, New York City –  There’s still something free in NYC.  Who would have guessed.  A thrill ride on the Staten Island commuter ferry will take you past the Statue of Liberty with a panoramic view of downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City.  Even better when the city lights up.  It’s free 24/7 so you can ride any time.

6.  Harley-Davidson Factory Tour, Kansas City, MO –  Here’s your chance to go behind the scenes to see how Harley’s are made.  Take the tour to learn how fenders and gas tanks are formed from raw materials, watch live welding, frame bending and sophisticated robot technology at work.  You can even sit on hogs currently in production.  Selfie time!  (Tours are also available in Menomonee Falls, WI and York, PA).  They offer more in-depth tours for a whopping $30.00 so stick with the freebie.

7.  Freedom Trail, Boston, MA –  Walking the red brick path as it winds through metropolitan Boston is a walk through colonial history:  Boston Commons, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s house and Bunker Hill Monument.  You can take this walk at your leisure (for free) or pony up for an official tour with a guide in period costume.

8.  Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota –  It’s free to take in this amazing feat of art and architecture.  Where else but in the good ole USofA would you find 60 foot tall heads of four American presidents (Jefferson, Roosevelt (Theodore), Washington and Lincoln) painstakingly chiseled into granite cliffs?  It does cost to park, but it’s still South Dakota’s most visited attraction.

9.  Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO – The Colorado Springs Center is one of three facilities in the U.S. where Olympic hopefuls put in long hours to prepare for their shot at the gold.  You can tour this facility, which mainly focuses on summer indoor sports like swimming and fencing.  Always wanted to sit in a bobsled?  Here’s your chance.

10.  Royal Hawaiian Center, Honolulu, HI –  Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture and history with a visit to this recently remodeled attraction.  Experiences include everything from traditional Hawaiian massage (lomilomi), lei making, Hawaiian quilting, hula dancing or a crash course in ukulele making.

Been there?  Done that?  Here are ten more.  Get there and enjoy the experience while they are still free.

11.  Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia

12.  Conservatory at Bellagio, Las Vegas

13.  National September 11 Memorial, NYC

14.  Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

15.  San Francisco Cable Car Museum

16.  Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco – Yes you can walk across, enjoy the spectacular views, eat in the restaurant

17.  Birmingham Botanical Gardens, AL

18.  Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA for some eerie Gothic charm or the Westminister Hall Cemetery in Baltimore, MD, the eternal resting place of Edgar Allen Poe.

19.  Houston Museum District, Houston – 19 museums within a 1.5 mile radius.  12 are free daily.

20.  Allagash Brewery Tour, Portland, ME – Make an advance reservation, wear closed toe shoes and start your tour with free samples.

Got a favorite free attraction that you want to share?  Please leave a comment!

See you on the road!