Because we travel so frequently and digital photography generates so many images, we don't write lengthy trip descriptions and we definitely don't name or label the location for all our photos. Our typical multi-week trip generates a couple of thousand Camera RAW images when we are using both our cameras (Canon Rebel XSi and Canon G12). Using Adobe Lightroom, we can optimize them fairly quickly and select the best for a slideshow.
If you click on the photo beside the short trip description for a trip, you will be taken to that trip's photo gallery. If you click any one of the gallery photos you will start a slideshow for all the photos. You can leave the slideshow by clicking the x-box in the top right corner.
Portugal & Spain - Sept-Oct 2017
September in Portugal may have been hot for most in our group but it was a welcome break from Arizona’s summer climate. We initially joined an O.A.T. adventure staying at intimate Portuguese pousadas and Spanish paradores, restored historic inns in castles, convents, manor homes and monasteries. Portugal and Spain progressed from being Roman colonies, through centuries of Moorish rule to Catholic aristocracy, more recently from dictatorships to democratic nations. Both countries are extraordinarily beautiful and rich with the history of their tumultuous past. Highlights of the trip included touring a Portuguese vineyard and wine estate, taking active roles in a Portuguese cooking lesson, sharing a home cooked meal with a Spanish couple, and touring a family-owned olive grove and olive oil factory. We especially enjoyed learning about the history of bullfighting at a bull-raising ranch outside of Ronda, a medieval town perched high above a plunging gorge. Our group adventure started in Lisbon and ended in Madrid, where we broke away, traveling south by bus to Granada to see the highlight of Moorish rule, the Alhambra. As we watched person after person being turned away at the gate, we were glad that we had reserved tickets online. Traveling between cities and working out the bus schedules was at times a trial but we eventually reached our next hotel in Los Barrios, within easy local bus distance from Gibraltar. We spent an entire day there seeing the sights, climbing “the Rock” and cautiously avoiding the Barbary Macaques who live on the rock’s upper reaches. We visited Lisbon for a couple more nights before flying home, using the time to take a more in depth look at cathedrals and castles that we had visited briefly with OAT.
India - Nov-Dec 2016
Most travelers want to go to India during the Northern Hemisphere winter months to avoid the crushing summer heat. Though temperatures in northern India are relatively mild at that time, 70-80’s in the daytime and 60’s at night, there is a downside. That is also the time of maximum fog and inversions trapping pollutants generated by coal-fired generating stations and rapidly expanding numbers of vehicles. We observed little infrastructure for trash removal and expect it can be found almost everywhere in all seasons. Additional hurdles are land mines (sacred cow pies) and reportedly only 60% of the population having access to bathrooms, so you can imagine how that works out. Putting all that aside there is the culture and that is what we came to experience . . . . Read More . . .
Italy - May 2016
Neither of us had been to Italy and Bob wanted to see the Greek and Roman ruins, walk the streets of the Roman Forum, climb Palantine Hill, and visit the Coliseum. Upon arrival we immediately took trains from the airport to Salerno. We visited the Greek ruins at Pasteum, an hour or so south of Salerno and then spent several days on the Amalfi Coast. Next was a visit to Pompeii and Herculenium, both frozen in time by the Vesuvius eruption around the era of Christ. After spending a few days in Rome (Roma to Italians), we traveled north to Pisa and its leaning tower, followed by the world famous Cinque Terre. At the latter, we spent three days hiking all of the trails that were open and one high trail around a closed section. Next was three days in Florence, followed by another three days in Rome. Of course what would any trip to Rome be without a visit to Saint Peter's Cathedral and the Vatican Museum? All travel was done on trains and buses. We found both to offer excellent service. Buses were a bit slower but they were first class, comfortable with bathrooms, not very full, and very inexpensive. Trains were usually 30% quicker but very crowded if using lowest class service. They were pretty expensive and uncrowded when using premium service. Surprisingly, gang style graffiti was everywhere in the subways and train stations. We arranged hotels for every night online, primarily using Hotels.com.
Turkey - June 2014
Our O.A.T. trip to explore Turkey was fabulous. We flew to Istanbul, met the rest of the group and spent a couple of days meandering around the city taking in the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, and many other notable sites. A cruise on the Bosporus Strait gave us the opportunity to see the city from a different perspective. We then flew to Cappadocia, where cities, rooms, and churches have been carved into soft volcanic tuff, some many stories below ground. We visited the open air museum of Göreme to see cave churches, many dating back to 3rd century AD. During our free time, we explored cave dwellings, some of which are still in use. Our overland journey to Antalya included a stop at an ancient Hittite fountain and a quick look at flowering opium poppies. At Antalya, we boarded a private gulet-style yacht to cruise the crystal-clear waters of the Turquoise Coast for four days. Using it as our base camp we visited Byzantine monasteries and Cleopatra’s Baths. Another trip highlight was our visit to the ancient Greco-Roman site of Ephesus. Turkey is awash in history and we were fortunate to even scratch the surface of its many millennia of culture.
Thailand - December of 2013
During our first three days in Bangkok with O.A.T. we visited the Pakklong Talad floral market, the Grand Palace, numerous wats, and the renowned Emerald Buddha. After exploring a fascinating floating market, we traveled overland to Kanchanaburi to the River Kwai Bridge, the WWII era Hellfire Pass Museum, and the Memorial Cemetery. Many Allied prisoners of war, primarily Brits and Aussies, were forced to work and die on this Japanese railway to Burma. The next area of interest was Sukhothai, an ancient capital of the Kingdom of Siam from 1238 to 1438 with Thailand’s largest collection of historic ruins. Chiang Rai featured encounters with several of the hill tribes and a stop at the Golden Triangle, an ancient opium smuggling area and site of CIA covert operations during the Vietnam War. The Chiang Rai highlight was a visit to Wat Rong Khun, a startling white temple complex of Buddhist architecture, painting and sculpture that was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat. In Chiang Mai we walked around the bustling night bazaar, rode elephants at the Elephant Camp, and participated in a Thai cooking class. Returning to Bangkok, we wrapped up our trip with sojourns to Wat Timitr’s Golden Buddha, the world’s largest pure gold Buddha and Wat Po’s colossal statue of the reclining Buddha.
Australia - December of 2012
Realizing this vast continent would be difficult to see in a month’s time, we concentrated our efforts on southern Australia. We flew into Sydney where our Juicy rental camper van awaited us. Using our Samsung pad with downloaded maps, we navigated out of Sydney to Blue Mountains National Park beginning our tour west towards Adelaide. We enjoyed several nights near Mildura and the Murray River before reaching one of our favorite camping areas in the Grampions National Park, where kangaroos and wallabies entertained us at our campsites. The diversity of the landscapes along the Great Ocean Road was interesting though sometimes challenging for drivers. We camped in a Melbourne RV park for a few days while utilizing city buses to tour the downtown area and famous landmarks. We also visited Canberra, where the streets radiate outwards from the capital buildings like spokes on a wheel. Once familiar with the country and driving on the left side of the road, we returned to Sydney for a few days to see the Opera House, take the ferry to Manly, and walk the iconic Harbor Bridge. Christmas week also being summer vacation puts pressure on the campgrounds, so we would avoid scheduling a trip during that period. The Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, and Tasmania remain on our bucket list.
Galápagos - July of 2012
Half of our O.A.T. group was late arriving in Quito and missed our visit to the equator and the interactive Inti Nan Museum. After a home hosted lunch, we strolled the city’s historic plazas and a colorful outdoor Indian market. On our second day, we hopped a short flight to Coca where we boarded a long, motorized canoe to journey the Rio Napo, the most important tributary of the Amazon, to our jungle lodge, the Yachana. We spent three nights here enjoying the amazing biological diversity of a tropical rain forest. Bird watching and jungle exploring with our local guide were trip highlights as was our visit with the family of a local healer for a traditional healing ceremony. Returning to Quito for a brief night, we were back in the air headed to Galápagos Archipelago where we boarded the Archipel II. This 90’ catamaran would be our home for the next week allowing us to explore the crystal-clear waters that are home to marine species found nowhere else on our planet. It moved at night while we slept, delivering us to an amazing new adventure daily. We hiked, snorkeled, swam, photographed endless colonies of blue and red footed boobies, watched the ungainly Albatross in their rookeries, and visited tortoise sanctuaries. Equally worthy of mention was viewing land and sea iguanas, penguins, and tremendous numbers of sea lions on the beaches we visited.
Vietnam - February of 2011
After flying into Saigon and meeting our O.A.T. guide, we traversed the country from north to south using planes and buses. Our first day in Hanoi included a city tour aboard cyclo-rickshaws, a tour of the French-influenced Old Quarter and an entertaining water puppet show. While the rest of the group took a countryside tour the next day, we explored Hanoi on our own and were amazed to encounter no detectable anti-American sentiment. Cruising Halong Bay and spending the night aboard a traditional wooden junk was captivating. Hué, Vietnam’s former imperial capital includes an older section consisting of a moated, walled citadel surrounded by eleven stone gates that we found very interesting. Located near Hoi An, the My Son Sanctuary is Vietnam's most significant ruin from the Champa Kingdom, which prospered from the 2nd to the 15th centuries. We relaxed for several days at the idyllic seaside retreat of Nha Trang where basket boats abound. A number of our group ordered tailor-made clothing and massages were enjoyed by most if not all. Nestled in the mountains, the pastoral French-flavored community of Dalat was the site of the last emperor’s summer residence. The highlight of our time in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) was our visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels that stretched from the Laos border to the outskirts of Saigon during the Vietnam War. We also enjoyed our Mekong River trip and sampan ride along one of the village's scenic and peaceful canals.
Morocco - November of 2010
Arriving in Morocco had the distinctive feel of times long past. Our first port of call was Rabat where we spent two nights and visited the archaeological museum, the Royal Palace, the 3rd century AD Roman ruins of Chellah, and the Barbary Coast. A special treat was our visit to the home of our O.A.T. guide, Asiz, where we were welcomed for a late afternoon tea by his wife, her female relatives and his children. It was an interesting peek into the lives of a middle class Moroccan family. Traveling overland to Fez, we stopped at the elaborate ancient Roman ruin site of Volubilis and toured Meknes, whose elaborate gardens and historic buildings are the Moroccan equivalent of Versailles. Fez was an adventure unto itself. Its medina boasts of 9000 alleyways and 850 dead ends. To describe it as colorful or exotic doesn’t do it justice. In a country the size of Texas, long rides are inevitable. Fortunately our long trip through Middle Atlas mountain villages was scenic and featured many stops. Erfoud is on the edge of the Sahara Desert and a great place to see the cutting and polishing of ammonites. We were scheduled to stay in a tent camp but with a sandstorm building were forced to make that a day trip. We were amazed by our off-road trip in the desert on roads with no signs or distinctive landmarks that we could ascertain. Turbaned against the sand, we rode camels on the flanks of Ergchaby (the world’s highest dune), and enjoyed a traditional cooking lesson of chicken, spices, and vegetables in a tagine. Our days in Tineghir awarded spectacular views of the High Atlas Mountains, which boast of the 2nd highest peak in Africa. The highway through these mountains was a breathtaking 80 km of switchbacks to one of the ancient crossroads, Marrakesh, famous for its medina and Moorish spice market. Back in Casablanca, we toured the city before saying our goodbyes.
Egypt - January of 2010
The birthplace of one of the world's first great civilizations, Egypt is a treasure trove of ancient wonders from the famous pyramids to the glittering pharaonic antiquities of Cairo’s impressive Egyptian Museum. Our O.A.T. group found it to be a wonderful place to spend half a day. After a quick flight from Cairo, we arrived in Luxor known as one of the world's greatest open air museums. In our two days there, we explored the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Luxor Temple at dusk, Karnak, and the Colossi of Memnon on the west bank of the Nile before boarding the Royal Orchid for our leisurely cruise down the Nile River. From the ship, we visited the impressive archaeological sites of Kom Ombo and the temple of Horus. The boat trip was topped off by a ride in a felucca sailing ship to an extensive, British-style botanical garden, a tour of the Aswan High Dam, and an evening visit to the lighted Temple of Philae. With our automatic-weapon toting guard, we caravanned with other busloads of tourists to visit Abu Simbel, the complex built for Ramses II and his queen Nefertiti, which was moved block by block to save it from rising waters behind the Aswan Dam. Of course no Egypt visit is complete without touring the phenomenal Pyramids of Giza and viewing the Sphinx, which we did upon our return to Cairo. Other trips made from Cairo were south of town to the Zoser step pyramid complex built in 27th century BC, the Coptic Hanging Church built on the gate of a roman ruin, and the huge Khan al-Khalili market.
China - May of 2009
Beijing is known as China’s greatest single repository of imperial era monuments and treasures. We began our exploration with a visit to famed Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the surrounding Imperial City. We hiked along a less visited area of the Great Wall. While others in our O.A.T group chose to experience a Chinese opera, we hopped on the subway and explored the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. A high speed overnight train delivered us to Xian where we toured the site of the terra cotta army. Discovered in 1974, this expansive 2000-year-old site still has much left to be excavated. Just outside of Chengdu, we toured a panda sanctuary that houses the world’s largest collection of giant pandas roaming freely in their natural environment. Both of us were suffering from head colds on arrival in Lhasa, Tibet. Between congestion, Bob’s recent knee replacement, and high altitude, even flat walking presented a challenge. Highlights of Lhasa included the Jokhang Temple, the Barkhor Bazaar, and the Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lamas. From Lhasa we flew to Chongqing to board the 120-passenger Victoria Rose for a three day cruise on the Yangtze River. We disembarked daily, venturing on smaller boats up the various gorges before reaching the locks of the Three Gorges Dam. Overland by bus to Wuhan showcased the poverty of rural China from which we had been insulated. From there we flew to Hong Kong, a fascinating city that is easy to navigate. We rode the world’s longest outdoor escalator and visited the city’s traditional Chinatown. On our own, we took the ferry to Lantau Island to visit the giant Buddha at Po Lin Monastery. Susan found the high suspension gondola ride back to the Kowloon quite exciting.