I love lists! When it’s the end of the year and the magazines, newspapers, websites are all featuring best of lists, I am in hog heaven. Which brings me to this page where I will post my lists. I will also add them as posts on the Home page but you will always be able to find them right here.
Places we have been together
This list is a personal one…countries that Kathleen and I have visited. To get on this list, we have to visited this country on the ground (that means changing planes doesn’t count) and together.
- USA (of course, we were born here)
- Canada (Our home away from home. We have so many friends there.)
- Italy (Our first overseas trip to find my heritage)
- Vatican City (kind of a cheat, but it counts)
- England (Part of our second major trip in 2005)
- Scotland (Part of our second major trip in 2005–finding Kathleen’s heritage)
- France (Part of our second major trip in 2005)
- Aruba (Our first real cruise through the Panama Canal on Celebrity’s Infinity)
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic (One of our few Caribbean cruises on Celebrity’s Infinity)
- Greece (Part of an amazing “Exotic Mediterranean” cruise on Celebrity’s Galaxy)
- Spain (Part of a wonderful Western Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity’s Century)
- British Virgin Islands (One of our few Caribbean cruises on Celebrity’s Solstice)
- St. Maarten
- Singapore (Maybe my favorite cruise ever on Azamara’s Quest)
- China (Hong Kong)
- New Zealand (Part of a wonderful cruise on Celebrity’s Century)
- Belgium (Visited on our Baltic cruise on Celebrity’s Eclipse)
- Guatemala (Our second trip through the Panama Canal on Celebrity’s Infinity)
- The Netherlands (Almost a week here before our British Isles cruise on Celebrity’s Silhouette)
- St. Kitts & Nevis
And of course we have been back to a bunch of these places numerous times. And there are many we would like to visit again (like New Zealand, Italy and Spain).
Best small cities in the USA (from Conde Nast magazine)
This isn’t my list but one I grabbed from Conde Nast (a pretty great travel magazine). I liked the list so much I decided to publish it and make comments below it because amazingly, we have been to all but four of them.
15. Santa Barbara, California
14. Newport, Rhode Island
13. Palm Springs, California
12. Napa, California
11. Portland, Maine
10. Key West, Florida
9. Greenville, South Carolina
8. Asheville, North Carolina
7. Monterey, California
6. Sedona, Arizona
5. Sarasota, Florida
4. Alexandria, Virginia
3. Savannah, Georgia
2. Sante Fe, New Mexico
1. Charleston, South Carolina
I see a lot of these lists. I don’t think I have ever seen one I agree with as much as this one. We have been to a number of these small cities and loved them all. I will make some notes about those. In the meantime I need to add the ones we haven’t been to yet, to our list of future places to go. So far we have not visited Alexandria, VA (other than a quick stop on the outskirts while visiting Washington, DC), Asheville, NC, Greenville, SC and Newport, RI. I have been to Sarasota (and loved it) but Kathleen hasn’t so I never count a place as visited unless we both go.
Some thoughts on the other small cities:
Number 15–Santa Barbara, CA and Number 7–Monterey, CA. We haven’t been to either of these places in years. They were both part of our Mom-to-Mom tour we took years ago. We flew into Oakland and visited Kathleen’s mom in San Leandro (near Oakland) and then drove all the way down the coast (staying in both these towns) to visit my Mom in Number 13–Palm Springs, CA. We loved them all but we haven’t been back to Monterey or Santa Barbara in years. Maybe it’s time.
Number 13–Palm Springs, CA. If you know me, you know this is where I grew up. Lived here from the time I was four years old until I graduated from high school (Palm Springs High Class of 1971) and went off to college and then moved back for a couple of years after college to teach school in nearby Coachella. My parents lived there until they passed away a few years ago so we have spent a LOT of time there over the last 20 years since I met Kathleen, visiting them. I suppose I see Palm Springs from an entirely different point of view than I would as just a place to visit. We were last there in March of last year when our Toronto buddies, Tim and Perry were visiting for some sunshine so we went to meet them.
It has also been awhile since we visited Napa, CA (Number 12) and Key West, Florida (Number 10) but when we did we had a super time. If I had to choose which one to go back to first, I would pick Key West. Our visit was only three days/two nights but we really had a great time. But then we were visiting with our buddies Bob and Jude so that may have been it.
Lastly in the last two years we have done some major touring in all of the top three. We did a week long trip to New Mexico which included Sante Fe (Number 2) and also got to see Albuquerque as well…during the Balloon Festival…which was incredible and if you ever get a chance to attend—do it! Plus we have friends in New Mexico (Hi Mary and John) who took us so many places and made so many great recommendations. If you ever go to Sante Fe, make sure you go to Meow Wolf. I wish I could describe it but the morning we spent there was nothing less than surreal…and fun. Check out their website with that link.
Lastly, just a few short months ago (it seems like a few but it was May 2017) we spent a week touring the Low Country and visiting Savannah, GA (Number 3) and Charlestown (Number 1) and would go back in a minute. Loved both places a bunch. Click the Low Country link and see what we did while there. We can highly recommend just about every single place we went while we were there and we loved the food.
I just realized that I skipped Portland, ME (Number 11). I think that because we were really only there for about half a day on our New England cruise last October and it was hot, humid and horrid. Kathleen almost wound up with heat stroke. Who would have guessed that it would be almost 90 degrees in Portland, Maine in October? We need to give the place another chance. Just not sure when.
So, what small cities have you been to that you loved? What would you go back to? What would you have skipped? Where is the next small city you wan to visit? Let me know in the comments.
Our favorite shore excursions
- Touring Amalfi with Marcello in 2006
- Touring Bangkok with Tong in 2010
- Touring Inverness with Ian in 2016
- Touring Nice, Monaco and Eze with Sylvie in 2007
- Touring the Panama Canal control room with Roberto in 2014
- Touring Akaroa, NZ on our own in 2012 including a visit to a working sheep ranch
- Harv & Marv whale watching in Juneau, Alaska in 2007
- Jet boating in Acapulco in 2004 on a Celebrity shore excursion
Travel Apps I love (that I discussed with Seth Wayne on Adventures Await, September 22, 2019)
- Packing Pro/Click here to get it
- Why I love it and have been using it for 10 years+
- Let’s you keep lists you have made for one trip and reuse them
- Synchs to different devices (phone and tablet)
- Suggests items in categories
- Splits by trip and individuals
- My favorite thing…lists more than the things you will take but also the things you need to do before you go.
- Buy tickets, stop mail, take out garbage, turn off water to washing machines, e-mail neighbors, etc.
- Why I love it and have been using it for 10 years+
- Tripcase/Click here to see Tripcase
- The best app for being on the road—ever!
- Keeps track of every move you will make
- Flights—once you enter the info, it tracks the flight
- Restaurant reservations
- Anything else you want to keep track of
- Everything is in one place
- You don’t have to look up things in e-mails or anywhere else—it’s all in one place
- It moves along as the days go by. When you open it up, it’s on the day and time that’s current
- You can enter the info on your phone, your tablet or any computer that’s online but you don’t need to be online to use it.
- I wouldn’t travel without this app
- It’s FREE!
- CityMaps2Go/Click here to get it
- More than maps…maps you download before you go and can use without cell service or WiFi.
- Maps for just about every country, region and city in the world.
- Currency (that’s the name of the app)—if you go outside the USA, this is a must. Constant updates of the best exchange rate. Put prices of items you might be buying in to the app and find out your investment.
- Flight tracker—great to see where your flight is if they are running late.
- Can send you alerts if things change about your flight, like delays.
- Transport Apps
- Uber, Lyft and in Europe, MyTaxi for countries where ride-sharing is not allowed like Ireland.
- Government Apps
- My TSA/Has wait times for all USA airports.
- Mobile Passport (gets you back into the USA faster).
- CBP Roam (currently testing—would eliminate your Customs stop at airports and cruise ports by allowing FaceTime/Skype interviews with off-site Customs agents.
- Translation Apps
- Google Translate (needs cell or WiFi) or any equivalent application.
- Specialty Destination Apps
- Cruise line apps:
- Most cruise lines have FREE apps
- They often act as your boarding pass
- Some act as room keys
- They have the Daily Planner for the ship.
- Allow non-internet texting between passengers. A great way to communicate while onboard.
- They have full deck plans.
- You can use them to reserve shows/shore excursions/activities.
- Airline apps:
- Almost all airlines have electronic boarding passes. Great for checking in when you are on the road and don’t have access to a printer.
- Many of the airline apps will text you flight delays.
- Ticket Apps:
- Find tickets for excursions/Broadway/East End
- Many do electronic tickets
- Touring apps: If you are going to tour, see if there is an app for your tour.
- Rick Steves Walking Tours are WONDERFUL.
- Big Bus Tours in many cities have their own apps.
- Airport Apps:
- Heathrow, SeaTac and many others give you lots of info about the airport.
- They can help you find your gate.
- They can help you find food and shopping.
- Heathrow, SeaTac and many others give you lots of info about the airport.
- Rental Car Apps
- Most of the major companies have them.
- Biggest advantage is quick check in.
- Use to book cars when things are busy. Helps avoid standing in line.
- Hotel Apps
- Some using apps for keys.
- Some apps give you discounts.
- Can get you hotel restaurant reservations.
- Cruise line apps:
Cities I love–part 1
Cities I love in North America
For my purposes today, I am going to just list our favorites in North America (I’ll be back soon with the rest of the world). We have been to many of America’s great cities, big and small. We have liked all of them but the ones on this list are ones we have either been to more than once or would like to go back to someday. I am going to list them, not in the order of how much we like the city but in distance from home which means we start with…
Yes, I know we live here but it is a city we love. A little less than I did a few years back but I still love the place. We live about 15 miles east and before Kathleen retired she worked right downtown (for most of her career) about two blocks from the Space Needle. At that time, one of us was in the city almost daily. We did theater, concerts, spent the night at hotels after those concerts and above all went in for some amazing food. Seattle has so many incredible restaurants and we love trying them. I should point out (as I have posted here not long ago) the city is no longer as safe as it once was and we think twice about when and where we go in the city. That’s sad, but I still love Seattle. I even have a completely separate website (My Seattle) that I created for friends coming here.
Vancouver, British Columbia
After Seattle, the city we have spent the most time in since we started traveling together is Vancouver, BC. We made our first trip back in 1998 when Kathleen took me there for a wonderful birthday weekend. Since that time we have been back more than 50 times. We have gone less since 2005 when we met our best friends Bob and Judy who live in Chilliwack, BC, about 120 km east of the city. Before we met them, we probably went to Vancouver three or four times a year, but since then, maybe only once a year. But every time we go, we love it. I LOVE taking photos there. Many of my favorite photos in the last few years were taken in YVR (the airport designation for Vancouver and a common nickname). We will go back many times in the future and I encourage you—if you have never been there—go! Stanley Park, Vancouver Theater Sports, Granville Island, Gastown, Robson Street are all things we love and that you should not miss. Oops! I almost missed our favorite Italian restaurant—CinCin. We went there for our 20th anniversary last August and have eaten there at least 10 times. A great restaurant.
San Diego, California
Growing up in Southern California I spent a lot of time in the LA area (heck, I was born there—in Lynwood–near Compton) and Kathleen is from the Bay Area, right across from San Francisco but for some reason it turned out that our favorite California city is San Diego. I think the first time we went there together was for a business meeting I had to attend. We loved it. It’s a big city that’s really a bunch of small towns. From the Gaslamp District to Old Town, from Coronado Island to downtown, we love the whole place. Even losing our friends who live there…we still love it and look forward to going back. Great restaurants, nice hotels (even though we got kicked out of our room the last time because the Secretary of Homeland Security wanted three whole floors) and we have had pretty good luck with AirBnBs as well. Of course there is the world famous zoo and wonderful Balboa Park that surrounds it. One of my favorite things about San Diego is its waterfront. We have sailed into and out of San Diego harbor a number of times and it’s a great place to start or end a cruise. Besides as everyone knows, the weather is always perfect.
Santa Fe (and Albuquerque), New Mexico
Once we leave the west coast, our next stop is New Mexico. Yes, we know we skipped Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas but even though we seem to visit them regularly, if you told me I could never go back, I would neither cry or die. If you ask me where I want to go between coasts in the USA, the first place that comes to mind is Santa Fe. We have only been to New Mexico twice but both trips were favorites. The last trip was the best! Besides Santa Fe, we also got to see the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta (worth the entire trip) with good friends and then spend four days in Santa Fe. If you have followed my posts for awhile you know we love food and we have done food tours and cooking classes with the Santa Fe School of Cooking while there and loved them. Lastly, if you visit, DO NOT MISS Meow Wolf. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that’s beyond crazy and a lot of fun.
One thing I pondered when I added Toronto to this list was this—do we really love the city or am I just listing it because we get to see our friends Tim & Perry when we are there? No, we love the city and Tim and Perry are just a big bonus. We have visited three times and loved all of them. I love walking in the Beaches area where Tim and Perry live (on the shores of Lake Ontario), they have amazing food all over the city (especially when you have two foodies to take you to find that food), a super art festival called Nuit Blanche that we got to attend and some beautiful places to see within a short distance (Niagara Falls, Port Hope, the Thousand Islands). We have even flown out of the coolest airport in the world (Billy Bishop International Airport) on the coolest airline in the world (Porter Airlines). You should try both. Billy Bishop is on an island right in downtown Toronto and Porter Air is a HUGE throwback to the 1960s and gold age of air travel. The flight attendants still wear pillbox hats and they serve you actual food.
Charleston, South Carolina (and Savannah, Georgia)
Even though these two cities are in different states, they is only about a two hour drive between them through some really cool country. And both of these cities exude Southern Charm. Why we even saw a performance by “the Southern Charmer” in Charleston. The entire area is known as the “Low Country” and when we visited we found that their reputation as amazing food towns was well deserved. There are also lots of things to see (old plantations, giant oak trees, Fort Sumter, Hilton Head beaches) and do besides eating…but I liked the eating best. That and the awesome photos I got on my early morning photowalks. I would go back to both cities in a minute but if I had to pick one thing to go back for, it would be the chicken and waffles at The Early Bird Diner just outside Charleston on the road to Savannah. They were absolutely amazing. I can still taste them in my mind. You can read about our trip to the Low Country on our website.
New York, New York
I debated about adding NYC but we have so many memories there and I would go back at the drop of a hat that I just couldn’t leave it out. We have been three times and I may be getting too old for the craziness but when last we were there in the fall of 2018 I did have some great experiences. New York is not a place I need to tell people about. Either you already know or you don’t care. I will mention some of my favorite spots and memories which include walking The Highline at dawn, taking an old yacht on an architectural tour around the island of Manhattan, doing a tour of the area around Ground Zero, taking a food tour of Greenwich Village and of course theater. We have seen so many great plays on Broadway that it is hard to remember them all. And the food…don’t get me started. Too much variety, if that’s possible. New York is not a city I can’t wait to go back to but I would be really sad if you told me I couldn’t go back there.
Cities I love–part 2
I thought I would come back to talk about cities I love internationally. There aren’t as many as in North America but there are a few. If you didn’t see the first list then I will tell you that these are cities that we love, cities that we have either been to more than once or want to go back to again. They aren’t all the places we love. We have other places we love but they aren’t cities. For instance, we LOVED New Zealand and can’t wait to go back but we weren’t as impressed by Auckland or any other city there as we were with the rest of the country. We really want to go back but that’s a really long flight 😀. Another good example might be the Yorkshire area of England. We loved visiting there and spending time with our friends but even though Leeds and York were lovely, they aren’t a city we yearn to go back to. Going back to Yorkshire is another story—we can’t wait.
We have been to Edinburgh three times. The first time way back in 2003, again in 2016 and then again a year ago this month. Each time we have stayed longer. We just love Edinburgh. I like it so much, I could live there. It is a wonderful mix of history and modern. There are miles of places for me to walk. Great restaurants and just a super small city. I want to go back again and again. Maybe part of the reason we love it is that Kathleen is of Scottish descent. Or that we love Outlander so much. We have just had a great time every time we have visited Scotland.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
We have only been to Amsterdam once but WOW! We were there for almost a week before we sailed on our British Isles cruise in 2016 and we loved it. At least I know I did. A lot. Amsterdam is downright gorgeous to me. Walking the canals and really any part of the city is a great way to spend time. It is also a photographer’s dream. There are great photo opportunities in every direction. Good food, great people (who all speak fluent English) and we got to stay at the best hotel we have EVER stayed in, The Banks Mansion. I would go back in a minute and when we look at European trips, if the cruise or the trip takes us near Amsterdam, you can be sure we will.
Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
Like Amsterdam we have only been in Barcelona once but we were there (pre-cruise) for almost a week and it truly made an impression on us. I always tell people that Barcelona is like a city at a party—24/7. Again, great food, great people (who treat you wonderfully), a lot to do and so much to photograph. From the crowds on Las Ramblas to the incredible market, La Boqueria, to the free concerts in front of the cathedral on Sunday it rocks. When we talk to friends and clients about traveling in Europe I tell them the perfect vacation would be to spend a week in Barcelona and then take a cruise to our next favorite city and spend a week there. You would have a week of partying followed by a cruise to lots of Mediterranean ports and a week of peace in…
One of the people that most affected my life was my Uncle Jack. He traveled (not as much as we do) and he always told me that Venice was the least favorite city he had ever been to. So when we went to Italy for the first (and only) time in 2002 I was prepared to be unimpressed. But instead, I fell in love with this amazing place. When we returned I told him that I had loved it and he couldn’t understand why. Took me a few years (and talking to others who either loved or hated Venice) to figure out why so many people had this love/hate relationship with Venice. It all comes down to WHEN you visit this city. My uncle had gone in the middle of July, the HEIGHT of the tourist season. The place is jammed with people slammed together just about everywhere. Long waits at restaurants, higher prices, packed markets and the canals that smell from the summer heat.
We on the other hand, visited in early November. The weather was still great (they had gallons of rain the week after we left) and there were no crowds. None. We walked the Piazza San Marco almost alone. No lines to go to the top of the Campanille. It was a city totally at peace breathing a huge sigh of relief at the absence of visitors. But we were welcomed everywhere in restaurants and shops that were still hungry to serve visitors. We had an amazing time and would go back (at the right time of the year) at the drop of the hat. One reason I can’t wait to go back is that I had not gotten as involved with photography and early morning photo walks then and I really want to walk the streets of Venice with my Nikon. What pictures I could take!
This is the city I refer to as the most photogenic city in the world. Everywhere you look there is a something amazing to shoot. And the Opera House seems to be in all of them. It’s amazing how many of my shots of Sydney it is in. As you can see in the picture above, the cruise ship we were on (not the one in the photo) docked right next to that Opera House so you get to start shooting it as soon as you get there. We were there for four days post cruise in 2012 and it is a fantastic place. Again, great food, incredibly welcoming people and just plain fun, not to mention the best zoo we have ever been to (yes, better than San Diego). We had flown to Auckland for three days pre-cruise, sailed all along the southern coast of New Zealand visiting small cities and towns and then crossed the Tasman Sea to Melbourne and finally Sydney. We would love to go back.
Hong Kong, China
We spent three days here after our 2010 South East Asia cruise on the wonderful Azamara Quest (I think this was probably my favorite cruise of our more than 25 cruises). This is the only city I really loved that I probably will never get back to nor do I now have any desire to go. When we visited it was just following the transition from English rule to Chinese and the place was a wonderful, bustling, interesting, photographer friendly city. Nothing like the demonstrations you see from there today. We were able to get around and felt totally safe all the time. Stayed at the second best hotel we have ever stayed in, The Langham. Rode to the top of Victoria Peak (where the photo above was taken) and had lunch at a truly authentic Asian restaurant, Bubba Gump’s Shrimp 😜. Maybe someday it will be safe to go back to this amazing city. We hope so.