An Unexpected Day at Sea on the Viking Star

Having the right travel mindset is crucial to enjoying travel when things don’t go as planned.  Today, for instance, I’m on the Viking Star, and I expected to be photographing the beautiful ruins of Selunite on the island of Sicily.  Instead, I am sitting enjoying some cappuncino and planning some cha cha lessons with my husband for later this afternoon.


View from the Viking Star as we pass the Sicily area

Last night we left the port of Civitavecchia (about 2 hours outside Rome) to travel to the port of Trapani on Sicily.  We had rough seas; I’ve got a cast iron sea stomach (as does everyone in my party) but we definitely were doing zig-zag walking all over the boat. We woke to seas that were still rough; rough enough to close the therapy pool in the spa (which we had planned to use when the spa opened at 8). We (my husband and I) instead used the steam room and snow grotto (yep, real snow!) and saunas.  We did have the place to ourselves.

After a fine buffet breakfast and two Viking talks in the main theater on the ports of Tunis and Cagliari, we were heading back to our room to get ready for our stop in Sicily, when the captain came over the loud speaker.  The news was not good…due to high Continue reading

Lobsters, Lighthouses and Lupines: A Love of Lists for Maine Travel

Marshall Point Lighthouse

Marshall Point Lighthouse

Early on my month-long trip to Maine, you might have caught a glimpse of me coming out of Sherman’s Books in Boothbay Harbor, my arms loaded down with books on Birds of Maine Field Guide,  The Lighthouse Handbook New England, and Forest Trees of Maine.  I love nature; and walking, hiking and photography takes me into the beautiful outdoors quite often, so when I travel, I like to keep track of the flora and fauna I see. And in Maine, I also keep track  of Lobster Shacks and Lighthouses that I have visited.  How do I do this? By keeping travel lists!

I’m pretty sure this all stems from my collector personality. I’ve been collecting various things since childhood; I started with seashells and rocks and then stamps for awhile, and as an adult vintage and antique dolls. As a traveler, I suppose my photography gives me an automatic collection of photos of the places I’ve been (I’ve never been one for physical souvenirs).

Seagulls in Wicasset

Seagulls in Wicasset

Keeping lists as I travel might be seen as another sort of collection. I can’t physically bring home birds I’ve seen and lighthouses I’ve visited, but there is definitely a thrill every time I can add another one to my list. For me, it’s similar to the thrill of the hunt every time you add an item to a collection. Also, I learn quite a bit in the process of identifying the birds or trees I see or finding new lighthouses and lobster shacks to visit. And, if you want to get into the list game for yourself while traveling, it is free fun (yes, I tend to buy books, but information, identification help and lists can be found for free online on most topics). Books, however, take it to the next level both for identification help and then facts about everything you add to your list.

Maine is tailor-made for travel lists! My favorite ones right now are my Maine Birds and Maine Lighthouse Lists, but here are all the travel lists I’m currently keeping and what I’m using to keep them:

Maine Birds: I’m not an official bird watcher, but I adore birds and like to keep track of the ones I see. I am using Birds of Maine Field Guide, Field Guide to identify the birds; besides checking off the birds in that book I’m using the online app Lifebirds Journal to keep a list (cost of app was $3.99). Lifebirds Journal is not Maine specific and is more for a life-long bird list.  I also take along a pair of Nikon 10×42 Binoculars when I’m looking for birds; they are indispensible (and Nikon Binoculars come in many price points if you are looking for field binoculars).

Maine Lighthouses: You can get a free list of all the lighthouses in Maine at the Chamber of Commerce//Lighthouse Continue reading

My Maine Food Travel Adventure Continues: Lobster Rolls at Red’s and a Local Coffee House

Red's Eats, home of the world's best lobster roll

Red’s Eat’s Wicasset

One of the things I have to do at least once every time I’m in Maine is eat a lobster roll. Well, if you are going to have a lobster roll, you should get a good one. A little research showed that Red’s Eat’s in Wicasset has very highly thought of lobster rolls (some say the best in all of Maine!). So, after a wonderful visit on Saturday to the Maine Coastal Botanical Garden, we went down Highway 1 and stoped at Red’s.

We had heard that the wait in summer can be over an hour; we thought that we could avoid any long lines by going to lunch a little late (1:45). Not so, the wait to order the lobster rolls was 40 minutes! This could have been a drag on our day (we were well on the way to hangry) but the weather was beautifully

Lobster Rolls at Red's Eats

Lobster Rolls at Red’s Eats

sunny, the people on line were fun to talk to, and Red’s kept it fun by giving out a free lobster roll to the first person

from New Hampshire in line and we also got some free iced teas for the long wait. Also hanging out in Wicasset isn’t too bad; it call’s itself the “prettiest town in Maine.” Half way through the wait I decided to save my group a picnic table down by the river; I had my camera with me and got some great sea gull photos.

Once obtained, the lobster rolls were truly perfect. Tasty bread and warm butter on the side. I’d love to report back on the mayonnaise used but my Continue reading

I’m Enjoying Exploring the Fresh Foods Available in Maine in May

Classic Lobster Dinner

Thanks to my gourmet cook of a husband, I’m quite the foodie. Although food is not the main focus of my blog or photography, food is one of my main pleasures while traveling, and I am a fan of many Foodie Instagram accounts. You can also read about some of my ongoing food adventures at The Tiny Travelholic Facebook page.

Maine in summer is nirvana for Foodies with the new shell lobsters and fresh produce at Farmer’s Markets. Spring has fewer choices in fresh produce, but lobsters still abound as does other fresh fish, and shellfish. There are also fabulous local cheeses, local greens and my new favorite spring delicacy, fiddlehead ferns.

As for lobster, I’ve been here 12 days and I’ve had lobster three times. I actually feel I’m a bit behind there!  I definitely have noticed that the lobster shells are harder this time of year, since my husband has had to help me crack two of

Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster

them.  They have been delicious (although many say they are even more savory when they have their new shells in Summer). One distressing fact: lobster prices have been climbing, not because of a lack of lobsters, but because of an overabundance of them. Several years ago the lobster harvest was huge and prices were at an all-time low, so lobstermen went out and found new markets, many of them in Asia. That has been so successful that in spite of high lobster harvests, prices have risen and according to a local news report this week, are at or near all-time highs. That said,  I’ve had a huge 1.5 pound lobster dinner for $29.99 (at the wonderful Dolphin Marina restaurant at the tip of South Harpswell) and today a lobster shack lobster for about $15, so it still seems pretty good to me from a California perspective.

Another one of my favorite seafoods are local clams, fried with crumb batter. My favorite place to get these are at the Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster lobster shack in Freeport, Maine. I think my obsessive love with this type of delicious soft-belly clam comes Continue reading

Travel Blogging: Stage Fright After Attending TBEX

Me at TBEX in Jerusalem

So two months ago I attended TBEX, a travel blogging convention for travel bloggers and other travel media professionals. This was a wonderful conference; I learned so much and made many contacts in the travel field . And I got a head full of ideas on how to build a travel blog and a travel bloggers business. This was all fine and good and useful, but all the ideas started pulling me in too many directions. There was much advice from people who had already built successful travel blogs!  Some experts said you needed to focus on one main theme. Some said never to discuss the business or mechanics of blogging. Some said you had to have video! And on and on and on….

I decided I needed to let all the advice settle, and focus on one thing.  I decided to focus on first growing my Instagram account, TheTinyTravelholic, through daily photos and micro-blogging. This has been very successful; I’ve grown that account to almost 5000 followers and I’m getting between 200 and 400 likes on most posts. This is a substantial jump from 2 months ago, and since I’ve grown the account by hand without any automation or follow/unfollow hijinks since its inception in September 2016, I’m very happy with it.

But now I’m ready to jump back into my blog. Here’s what I decided: I’m going to stay uniquely me. That is really what the travel blogs I most enjoy have: a unique voice from a traveler that I like.  I’m also going to blog about travel photography (I’ve been involved in travel photography for 30 years) since I have so much to share on that topic. I’ll also  blog about the mechanics of blogging (like today) and social media since I think this is of interest to my audience, especially older travel bloggers and new writers  (by older, I’m thinking post-Millennial,  since the Millennials seem to have been born with smart phones in their hands). I’m going to continue to discuss travel for empty-nesters, as well as disability travel.

I obviously love Instagram

Yep; love that Instagram!

If you stick with me, you’ll get my unique spin on all that, and much more on travel (of course). I’m a wide-eyed traveler; I am in awe of the natural world and the myriad of peoples in it. I find joy in the beauty of people, places and things. I can’t understand all the fighting and war on our planet; God gave us this amazing place and short lives and that is how people want to spend their limited time? Uh, OK. It’s beyond me. I’ll spend my time traveling and meeting people, marveling at wildlife, and tasting the bounty of the earth. I’m also pretty fond of sand between my feet, the sea, and mountian air. And cities amaze me in their own way.

Again, thank you for joining me, the Tiny Travelholic! As always, I micro-blog daily on Instagram (you can just click on my most recent posts on the right-side of this blog). Pleasse sign up  with your e-mail to get alerts on new blog posts. Currently I’m in Maine for the whole month of May. After Maine, I’ll be mostly in California and Nevada, with a trip or two to New York (I’m going to be closer to home for a few months because I’m assistant directing a production of Spamalot at Chico Theater Company); I’m intending to explore some closer-to-home locations during that time, including Lassen National Park, the northern coast of California, Mount Shasta and the Shakespeare Festival in Oregon. Plus, when I’m work-bound at home, I’ll be talking about other locations I’ve been to this year and in the past, plus travel photography, traavel planning, Instagram, and much more.

Thanks, TBEX; looks like you really did focus where I wanted to go with my travel blog after all!

One Week in Jerusalem: Seeing Jerusalem with Wondrous Eyes


Crowd Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Crowd Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

I just returned from my one-week trip to Jerusalem, and I was sitting jet-lagged in church on Sunday when the priest at my Episcopal church was talking about how we choose to see the world. In the sermon, he talked about seeing the world with “wondrous eyes.” This phrase has stuck with me, since it is with wondrous eyes that I see all of the places I travel to, but especially how I saw Jerusalem and Israel.

First of all, one week is hardly enough to see Jerusalem, Israel, and the Holy Land, but it IS enough if that is all the time you have. I went to Israel for a conference (the TBEX Jerusalem conference for travel bloggers), and so my time was particularly short. Not only did I have just one week, but I had a 2-day conference smack in the middle of my week. Nevertheless, I managed to see the Old City of Jerusalem (including the Church of the Holy Seplecure, the Wailing Wall and the Via Dolorosa), the City of David, the Israeli Museum, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum and memorial), the Mahane Yehuda marketplace, Bethlehem, Jericho and Masada.

View of the Jerusalem Hills from the City of David

View of the Hills of Jerusalem

For anyone from the three major Abrahamic faiths, Jerusalem and Israel is a place of wonder and amazement. For me, as a life-long Christian, I could hardly believe that I was standing at and seeing the actual places from the Old and New Testament in the Bible. My emotions overwhelmed me several times; at the Wailing Wall while praying, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the early morning during services and at the Unction Stone, at St. Annes while a youth group sang Amazing Grace, and at Bethlehem, both in the cave and when my guide sang Our Father in the language of Jesus. I was very glad to not be with a large tour group for my visit since my husband and I could visit these places at our own pace, pausing were our spiritual needs and desires led us.

Besides the religious places we visited, we were also in awe and filled with wonder at several archeological sites–Masada, the City of David, Jericho and the Israeli Museum with its Dead Sea Scrolls, world’s oldest Bible and much more.

I’ll have separate articles and photos (many already on my Instagram with micro-blogging) on many of the places we visited, some guide services and short tours that we used, and our accommodations. Continue reading

Twisted into a Pretzel at 39,000 Feet, On My Way to Jerusalem!

On the way to SFO

I am 6 hours in on a 13 hour flight in Economy Plus on United Airlines on my way to Jerusalem. My body still hasn’t fully recovered from my trip to Japan, so this should be an interesting trip. I did want to push myself to see if I could do two international trips back to back, and also to see how I can handle a long-haul flight in Economy. I’ve been very lucky the past few years to do nearly all my long-haul flights in Business Class thanks to a combination of upgrades and cheap business class fares (yes, yes, I do see those tiny violins you are playing for me…I’ve just been lucky and the luck has run out). The business class fare for this direct San Francisco to Tel Aviv flight was quite expensive ($8,000) and upgrades were just not happening (even as a 1K; evidently lots of full fare and Global Service and 1Ks flying from Silicon Valley to Silicon Wadi) so here I am.

I’ll have a full review of the flight later, lets just say I’m on a Dreamliner which is a pretty plane, but whoever made the decision to shove 9 seats across on this 787-8 should be tortured throughout eternity for the torture of all the passengers having to sit in these seats for long flights. My goodness, I’m a small person and I fill the seat completely; no wiggle-room in this 17.3″ across seat. And as for sleep, well the seats sort of slide and don’t recline and even with a neck pillow I keep pitching forward. So I’m writing instead.

I’m on my way to Jerusalem. The Holy Land! This is exciting. I’m actually going to a Travel Blogging conference called TBEX, but also spending a couple of days as a tourist with Mr. Travelholic and my niece Claire who is flying in from Continue reading

Watching Kyoto Wake Up

Kyoto Arcade, Early Morning

Just Me and the Pigeons, Kyoto

I’m not a morning person. I mean, I am really not a morning person. With a long history as a thespian starting back in high school, my idea of a great schedule is going to sleep at 2 am and waking up 9 am at the earliest.

That said, I rarely keep such late hours when I’m traveling. I often wake up to catch the morning light for photography. And, when I’m in a city, I like to watch the city wake up.  My husband, who is a morning person, taught me this long ago on a trip to Venice.  Our first trip there was way back in the late 1980s, and, as usual, Venice was overcrowded with tourists. My husband liked to get up early each morning of our stay to walk the deserted streets and watch Venice come to life.  He exorted me to join him one morning to see how it was for myself.  Sick of all the throngs of tourists, I joined him, and it was a wonderful, eye-opening experience.

Ever since, I like to wake up early when traveling and walk the streets of a town or city as it wipes the sleep off and wakes up. I did just that in Kyoto this morning (second morning that I’ve done it this trip; I’m with a small group of lovely people, but walking alone to “get coffee” is my me-time). I enjoyed watching merchants opening their shops, people rushing to work, and bike ladies (and gentlemen) whizzing by with purpose on their bikes. The beginning and end of my walk was the Royal Park Hotel in Central Kyoto, near the Teramachi shopping mall.

Doutor Coffee Shop Kyoto

Doutor Coffee Kyoto

I actually do get coffee on these walks as well. Japanese hotel buffet machine-coffee is just OK, and why settle for just OK coffee when traveling?  My go-to chain coffee shops in Japan are Dotour and Tully’s.  Dotour opens pretty early, and that is where I got a lovely cappucino on my first walk. This morning, I wanted to try the local Ogawa coffee shop that my guide had recommended.  I arrived at 8am, only to find that it wasn’t open until 9am!  Who opens a coffee shop so late? Evidently the Japanese do, since they seem to enjoy tea in the morning and then coffee later in the day.

I can pretty much confirm this hypothesis (about coffee being a later-thing in Japan) since I then went to the Kyoto Starbucks by the Kamo River and the Sanjo Bridge.  If you’ve Continue reading

Lovely Kyoto in Winter

Crowds in Kyoto

Crowds in Kyoto

I have been to Kyoto previously in Summer, Fall and Spring. This is my first time here in the Winter; the weather is high 30s to high 50s, which with a good coat is not bad at all. I greatly prefer it to the damp and muggy Kyoto Summers.

I have lots of places, events and experiences to share with everyone from this trip, but it is hard to find time to blog when you are with a group. It is a small group (17 including the tour operators and experts) but a group nonetheless, and it is very hard to get a moment alone to write. Or, really, to want to write, because there is so much to do and so many people to enjoy being with! Not to mention that we have truly had a busy and eventful trip with minimal down time!  I have had the time (and the WiFi thanks to my mobile WiFi unit) to post some Instagram photos and micro blogging while on the road (which has been great).

After my quiet moment in Wakayama, we attended the marvelous Hina Matsui (Girl’s Day) ceremony at the Awashima Jinja Temple.  This wonderful, unique temple ceremony involves filling and then floating three boats of dolls into the ocean in Kada. We then traveled to Kyoto where I am now. Kyoto, with it’s 1000 shrines ad temples, great shopping and endless restaurants has, as always, been marvelous. Sadly, Winter has not lessened the huge crowds of tourists. We were at Kiyomizu-dera temple yesterday and it was wall-to-wall people walking up to the gate area of the temple.  The throngs of tourists include groups of Chinese tourists all dressed up in Kimonos and Hakamas. We also visited the Kyoto National Museum and were very honored to later get a private showing of a Gosho Ningyo artisan’s home, collection and workshop. A Ningyo is a doll; my niche tour group are all avid antique doll experts and collectors.

After all this, I should mention the very fun conveyor belt sushi restaurant dinner (6 plates of sushi, a small beer and some green tea ice cream for under 2000 yen! Then talking to my roomate and dear friend Julie and falling into bed; so basically on the go from 8 in the morning to 11 at night.

Ok my bus leaves in 10 minutes…but you can read more about my time in Kyoto in my new blog post, Watching Kyoto Wake Up 

A Quiet Moment in Wakayama

My Japan trip so far has been a wonderful whirlwind! I am currently in Wakayama, which is a small city of about 396,000, in an area bordering Osaka Prefecture.

Mt. Fuji from the Shinkansen

Mt. Fuji from the Shinkansen

We are here for Hinamatsuri, the Girl’s Day Festival. Much more about this later. Today we are going to explore the Awashima Shrine before the crowds descend tomorrow. It’s a rainy day, and since I am with a small tour group of about 14 people, I have an unusual hour alone to blog. I have this hour alone because most of our group has already taken off for a train ride then a half hour walk to the shrine. As many of you know, I travel in spite of my Rheumatoid Arthritis. So, as I often have to do when traveling during an RA flare-up, I’m swallowing my pride and taking a taxi with a 91 year old woman and another disabled member of our group. That’s the thing about traveling with a disability…you really have to be honest with yourself and others. There is no point in putting on a brave face if you are going to slow the group down or slow yourself down by over-exertion in the middle of a long trip.

Me, at hotel in Wakayama

Me, at hotel in Wakayama

So here I at at the Hotel Granvia Wakayama, by way of the Shinkansen, a stop at an incredible antique Ningyo (antique doll) museum exhibit in Nagoya, and then a 4 hour bus ride. We are coming from the incredibly luxurious Capitol Hotel Tokyu in Tokyo; we are adjusting to our current more workman-like hotel, which is actually quite nice for a small Japanese city. Quiet, right at the train station (which I absolutely love; so many restaurants and places to shop at Japanese train stations!), clean and good water pressure in the shower. What more do you really need? Plus they served us a lovely kaiseki dinner last night and a very complete buffet breakfast this morning.

Ok, I am off to today’s adventure! Hope the rain isn’t too fierce, and I hope to bring you back some fabuous images of the Awashima shrine!

PS: I saw Mt. Fuji from the Shinkansen yesterday. I mean, really saw it; got some great pictures. Evidently this is only possible about 50 days per year so luck was with us!