Phuket, Thailand-May 2016

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When I finally decided to move to Australia, I booked into some temporary housing. I figured that I would find a more permanent place when I got settled, so I only booked into the end of May. Mid May was fast approaching and I was about to be homeless. Since I only had a few weeks, I figured why not go earn some hotel points. A quick check of where my frequent flies miles could take me and well, Hello Phuket!

June is the raining season in Phuket, so I was able to find a fantastic rate at the Hyatt Regency Phuket. The sun did happen to make an appearance every now and then, though.

I was pretty lazy in Phuket, it helped that it was rainy must days. I was able to catch up on lots of stuff that I been putting off.

I did make trip to closet little town, with the swimming beach.  But the ocean just looked angry.

I opted to people watch instead. I guess it’s tourist thing to do, hire photographer to take honeymoon/wedding pictures. I guess I am just missing the romantic side of these streets.

Phuket was exactly what I needed. A few days of downtime and relaxation. There is something to be said about just watching the rain.

Happy Travels!

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Where will I go next? July, 2015

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As most of you already know, I am on the quest for 50 before 40. I have not doubt in my ability to hit 50, but I am wondering where to next?

According my calculations, I am on 47. So where will 48, 49 and 50 be?

I just booked a ticket to return to Australia. I realized that I am not helping my quest with returning the same places. But stay tuned, fun news about Australia to follow soon.

So after locking down a few appointments, I realized I have some extra days available on this trip to just relax for a few days. I know Flo, Vacation, Relax, don’t normally fit into the same sentence.

My flight from the States (long haul) lands me in Sydney. I will be heading to Brisbane for a few days, but I don’t need to head there immediately. So I figured it would be best to catch a flight from Sydney to somewhere. Off to Google Flights I go. If you are not familiar with Google flights, I apologize now. If you are like me, you will spend hours just playing on it looking at flights, you will probably never take.

*** Side note: Google Flights is great for looking at flight possibilities. If you know your Departure City, you can leave the Arrival City blank.  You can also choose from the various drop downs. I always choose first class, even though I am flying economy, because you just never know,and that economy ticket looks like a bargain compared to first class.

So I entered my departure city as Sydney and only parameter, non-stop. And GO.

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Loads of options!

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Since I am trying to add to my country count, I decided to check out the islands. Well did you know, most of them over “owned” by someone? How much fun it must have been back in the day, sailing the world, finding an island, and saying oh I think I’ll claim this for France or Spain or Portugal.

I am going off the United Nations list of countries for my count. So I am using their map to track. I’ve highlighted the countries I’ve been to in yellow.

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Looks like I need to study up on some South Pacific Islands. Any suggestions on where I should go?

Stay tuned for how this adventure unfolds……

45 down 5 more to go……….

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Last year I mentioned that I would like to visit 50 countries before I turn 40. Which given my love of travel should be easy…..

WELL….. I keep going to the same places! So it’s proving to be much harder then I thought.

Upcoming travels include a quick stop in Paris to visit with friends. Drinks, dinner, lunch, sure why not stop in Paris? Meeting up with my friend John, who will be there for work. And Bruce and Will who are heading over for the French Open. Funny enough dates/times got lost in translation so instead of 2 days, it’s just going to be an afternoon. But for those of you who know Bruce, you know it was not me that messed up the dates……. (Still looking forward to seeing you Pal………)

So after my quick jaunt to Paris, I am heading over to Italy. To help with my country quest, I am planning on visiting San Marino. Officially the Republic of San Marino. It’s completely enclosed by Italy.  It’s one of the smallest countries in the world. Should be interesting to visit.

Next trip is to Nice, France for my birthday, including a side trip to Monaco. Oh…. I just smell the lavender now…..

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So that just leaves me with 3 countries to go………

Seychelles? Hungary? Poland? Maldives? Malaysia? Vietnam? Cambodia? Luxembourg? Columbia? Burma? Costa Rica?

Well at least I am inching closer. My travel plans are all over the map, literally, so who knows where 48, 49, and 50 might just be. While I hope to make 50 before 40, if it does not happen that would be okay. Because I am sure I’ll have great memories of revisiting the same places for whatever reason that drew me back there. Like a possible visit to the European Christmas Markets in December (Yes, Sheila, that would be with you).

But I know this, I am sure I’ll have a blast researching and trying to figure it out……..

Where would you go?

A little history, a little sand and a little shopping

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I love visiting Christmas Markets in Europe. It’s not even about the shopping, honestly I don’t believe I’ve ever actually purchased something at the markets. It’s more about the electricity and excitement of the upcoming holidays, about spending time with family and friends.

Since I am on my quest to visit 50 before 40, I was originally planning on trying to go to Poland and Hungary in November/December.  But then I got a bee in my bonnet…..

I’ve been stockpiling my airlines miles and hotel points for some fantasy trip that I’ve been planning to take. I’ve now amassed enough points to bring a family of 4 with me on this trip, so maybe it’s time to start burning them?

Unfortunately, one of the bloggers I follow, Nomadic Matt, has been posting on pictures from his trip to Vienna on his instagram page.  He’s been making me hungry.  So I really wanted to go to Vienna for schnitzel.

So I started playing on United’s website……….

First off, I am willing to fly coach on United because of the economy plus, but I draw the line on partner flights. So ideally I was hoping to redeem my miles for a Business class ticket.  Second. I was only willing do a saver award, because I did not “need” to go anywhere, so I did not want to spend miles unnecessarily. So after a few hours searching around and 2 calls into United, this is what I came up with.

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I fly to Vienna,Austria where I spend a day so I get my schnitzel on. Overnight flight to Addis Ababa, Ethophia, connecting on to Mahe, Seychelles. 6 days of relaxation before I head to Istanbul,Turkey for a day of shopping. Then I catch an evening flight to Brussels, where I will spend 2 nights, getting my chocolate and family fix! And then home.

Austria, Seychelles, Turkey and Belgium in 11 days! At least I was savvy enough to leave the shopping for the tail end of the trip!

I was able to book this entire flight in Business Class using 160,000 frequent flier miles and $151.70. I will be raiding my Hilton points to cover the hotel stay.  And again,thanks to the various travel blogs, I follow, I was able to build in a stopover to be able to see my family in Brussels!

Now I need to research what the heck am I going to do in Seychelles, by myself for 6 days?????

 

What’s next?

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So now that the Europe trips posts are all done, what’s next? I could write about previous trips. But I am not sure how far back I should go. Any suggestions?

What’s coming up next in Flo’s travel world? Lots of domestic travel,

Savannah, Georgia.
Los Angeles, California
Denver, Colorado
Honolulu, Hawaii
Kona, Hawaii
Orlando, Florida

And that’s just thru November. I am working on heading to Europe in late November, for the Christmas Markets, of course. 

I am booked for South Africa in February, 2015. Maybe India in March, 2015 for a Holi festival. I hear there is one town where the women beat the man the day before? Sound intriguing. 

And well you know about my challenge 50 before 40. I am now at 42, so I need to get cracking on the next 8………

Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France

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5 countries in one day………

After a nice cool rest by the Lake in Lindau, we set off on the driving portion of the trip. Prior to heading into Austria and Switzerland, we stopped to purchase the required Vignettes, toll passes, needed for each country.   So off we go, hitting roundabout after roundabout.

**Apparently the Europeans do not like stop signs as they are disruptive to traffic, so they have roundabouts. I’ve been to Europe more times then I can count and I’ve never noticed them before.  Now? I saw them on the plane during our approach to Frankfurt.**

The beauty of the Schengen Agreement, allows you to pass thru the different countries without border controls.  So we breezed out of Germany into Austria and onto Liechtenstein, without even realizing it.

First stop, Vaduz Liechtenstein. Vaduz is the capital of this small land locked country. I must admit the reason for the stop was so I could get my passport stamp to showed I had been there.  The city center is very compact and after a few stops to pick up some postcards, it was time to move on.  And no, I did not get my passport stamped. Liechtenstein uses the Swiss Franc for their currency and I had spent all of mine on postcards and postage stamps.

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About 5 minutes later, we were in Switzerland. A road trip would not be a true road trip without a stop for some munchies. A little embarrassed to admit, but yes we stopped at McDonald’s. Best darn French Fries I’ve had in a while.  We took the scenic route along Lake Zurich. It was picturesque.  Sorry I was driving so no photos to share.

The original plan had been to stop in Basel, but it was crowded and the streets were confusing with the trams, so we continued on to France.

Now in France, you have to be careful driving because they have speed cameras. But oddly enough the GPS will warn you when you are entering an area with the cameras.  Also the roads were not nearly as pretty as Switzerland or as nice as Germany.

We stopped in Colmar, which is located along the Route Du Vin in the Alsace region in France. For years the German and French had fought over the region, so while it’s technically France, it has a very strong German feel.

The town is amazing. Almost like out of Disney story. We had a nice lunch and walked around.

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When we had arrived in town, there was plenty of open parking spots. It appeared you just paid at the meter and put the slip on the car, or so we thought. We paid for 2 hours and upon our return, I noticed a large suv parking near my car. It was odd because you don’t tend to see large cars like that in Europe. The driver sees us approach signals to me as to say is that your car, I nodded and went about getting in my car.  So we start to fiddle with the GPS, and I hear honking. I noticed the other car had pulled out and was honking at me to move, I put up my hand and ignored her. Oops.  Next thing I know, she’s parked her car, comes around to my car door, opens it and starts screaming at me, in what I think was German. It was not French, I can say that much.  Now I would like to think that I would have behaved differently given the situation, but I just sat there with my mouth open, wondering did she just scratch my car with her ugly purse? I did say back, I don’t understand. But by then, she had run away in a angry huff.  So be careful how you park in France,  just saying, you’ve been warned.

So off we head to our hotel in Strasbourg.  According to the printed map, it was 20 minutes,  but the car GPS was saying more like 50.  We really only had a problem with time/distance in France.

50 before 40

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I’ve given myself a travel challenge, to visit 50 countries before I turn 40. So while I am open to suggestions of where to go, it might be helpful to know where I’ve been.

While trying to compose the list of countries,  I had to learn what is considered a “country”.  The United Nations acknowledges 193 countries. The US State Department recognizes 195. Other sources site 196.  Given that it’s not possible to get a straight answer on what is considered an actual countries vs territory, I am a little unclear how many I’ve actually visited.

For the sake of my challenge, I am going with 196, in hopes that it put me that much closer to 50.

So here is my list, in alphabetical order.

1 Argentina
2 Australia
3 Austria
4 Belgium
5 Bosnia and Herzegovina
6 Canada
7 Chile
8 China
9 Croatia
10 Czech Republic
11 Dominican Republic
12 France
13 Germany
14 Haiti
15 India
16 Indonesia
17 Ireland
18 Italy
19 Jamaica
20 Japan
21 Kenya
22 Korea, North (If the DMZ tour counts)
23 Korea, South
24 Mexico
25 Montenegro
26 Netherlands
27 New Zealand
28 Panama
29 Singapore
30 South Africa
31 Spain
32 Switzerland
33 Tanzania
34 Thailand
35 Turkey
36 United Arab Emirates
37 United Kingdom
38 United States
39 Vatican City

I am looking forward to discovering 11 countries before I hit the big 40. I am even more intrigue, however, to discover what those 11 countries might be.