Out With the Old, In With the New

by Gray Cargill on January 7, 2015

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As you may have noticed from reading this blog, 2014 wasn’t the busiest travel year ever for me. I had to scale back on my travel this past year to save money for a 2-year roofing assessment at my condo complex and a very expensive 2015 European cruise I plan to take. On the bright side, though, I spent a lot more time with family and friends (even reconnecting with relatives I haven’t seen in 30 years!) and appreciating my home in Vermont all the more. I took my first “staycation“. I got a promotion at work. And I’ve created a better work-life balance, which I highly recommend to all you workaholics out there.

Even though I didn’t travel a lot during 2014, I had great trips and I managed to do them on the cheap, thanks to air miles. While New England was hunkered down against the uber-cold “polar vortex” last January, I was in shorts and flip-flops on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. This was my second trip to Hawaii, and I loved it even more than the first.

Whale Tail

A whale off Oahu

On this trip, I met with friends new and old; took a Circle Island tour that showed me even more of Oahu’s natural beauty; spent a day at the Bishop Museum learning about the history and culture of Hawaii; and saw whales up close, closer than I ever thought I’d see them in the wild. Spending time in Hawaii reminds me how to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life, like an ocean breeze and a beautiful sunset. Hawaii is a special place, one I would be happy to return to again and again.

My June trip to Las Vegas could have been better (I spent most of the week sick with a head cold), but I still managed to do most of what I wanted to do, including seeing Billy Joel in concert (squee!), feeding sea turtles at the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, and a long overdue visit to the Atomic Testing Museum. And my October trip to Washington, DC re-introduced me to our nation’s capitol, with its superlative museums and monuments and mouth-watering restaurants. I can’t wait to return here and explore it some more, hopefully sometime in the next few years.

But as they say, “out with the old, in with the new”. 2014 is over and now it’s time to look ahead to my 2015 travel. I love looking ahead at a new year. It’s like a huge, blank canvas, just waiting for me to splash some color onto it and create a picture. The possibilities aren’t endless, but it’s always so exciting to consider all the options. As the picture starts to take shape, I can say that 2015 is going to be a much bigger travel year for me.

January

Bellagio

Vegas, baby!

I will be headed back to Las Vegas the last week of January. I need to get out of Vermont in January, because six solid months of winter is enough to drive a person stir-crazy. But I knew whatever trip I took this winter needed to be cheap. I researched a lot of destinations, but nothing is as cheap as hotel prices in Las Vegas in late January.

I used air miles for my flights, so this will be a very affordable winter escape for me. Granted, I won’t be wearing shorts and flip-flops in Vegas in January like I was in Hawaii last year, but I’m hopeful it will be at least a few degrees warmer than Vermont. And there’s always a lot to do in Las Vegas, no matter what time of year it is.

May

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/bcnbits/3595903890/in/photolist-6tKWWW-5A9zr4-5xZGtC-d4biEh-bwd3yx-bqs6rX-bmzo5r-aCCXZH-dfu2UV-ar8tbZ-7yYWY4-6gU24J-5xGVaP-5wak2R-4w6JzP-PRtqM-5r1ydC-oJYU1j-o9FrB8-nQ9n1z-nq8jxH-nC9mfV-mudQnz-kZGqCM-k7aQzp-j8Weq6-imaNRs-hDrxUL-hBgHVj-hp2j8t-heg7Gp-gXUs83-gGWdri-gxQehH-fMJuPz-fyKDmH-5xsYg4-byPTJR-g73ngw-eP9Rry-eAJq1L-eqcwcm-d4eokL-cySt4q-c4zUFj-c1cVo9-bZ3YSW-bXrLbm-bV2xXf-bTjCta"></a>

Venice – Rio di San Barnaba – Dorsoduro – Creative Commons license by MorBCN

In early May, I’m headed off on my most exciting and most expensive trip ever: a cruise on Norwegian Jade out of Venice, Italy. I repeat: VENICE, ITALY. Sigh. I have been dreaming of visiting Venice my whole life. Well, at least since I read “The Merchant of Venice” in high school.

Sadly, the Jade is not one of Norwegian’s ships that has the cabins for solo travelers, so I am getting nailed with a hefty single supplement. (Boo, hiss!) My US Air flights weren’t cheap, either (flying out of Burlington is never cheap). I didn’t use air miles on this trip, because I needed flights with just one layover between here and Venice, and United doesn’t offer any. (I know I’ll be awake all night because I can’t sleep on overnight flights; navigating Venice while groggy will be tricky enough without adding in an extra country in which to change planes.) Add in hotel costs before and after the cruise, shore excursions, and other miscellaneous expenses associated with cruises, and let’s just say this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. . . because I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford anything like it again.

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/agelakis/4993813555/in/photolist-77uGJn-Au5Kp-y3ao5-dGvzbh-bXekN3-33YrQu-2bxRwj-4b3V9C-5jgyE-FA9h-2k8TxH-9MGT5s-pZLHTw-cWv8B-bCzxM-cWv3s-7XAgy-8BhAMH-7viGhS-FBn5q-7XAgw-3Yt4Lp-cWv5r-atFSAr-3Mx171-cK1jE-fF2Buw-e8F7aT-3bopvR-4Kvvp5-4oCPUq-rsiz2-7SGyQ8-7de2Ga-9fyrjG-5rwTrR-o52n3V-oF3BUo-9KiTNu-fcTmv4-GWsS3-7D7s7j-iDNuTz-iFXhEQ-5fu6Md-bPo5Pe-5XHKcp-7XVnAB-d4Adp-j9FViM"></a>

Parthenon (South East Side) – Creative Commons license by Dimitris Agelakis

But I’m willing to pay the price in this case because the itinerary is fantastic! I’ll be able to spend time in Venice, as well as Athens, Greece; Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia; and Ephesus, Turkey. In a little over one week, I’ll be able to hit five destinations that are at or near the top of my travel “to do” list. Since I can only usually take 1-2 weeks off at a time from my job, this is pretty much the most efficient way to do that.

I’m a huge lover of ancient ruins, so I cannot wait to visit Athens and Ephesus. I may be the only person in the world who swoons at the thought of The Parthenon and The Library of Celsus. (I swear, I must have been an archaeologist in another life.)

And I’ve heard such great things about the beauty of Croatia in recent years that it has been steadily climbing up my travel list. It would have been hard for me to choose between Dubrovnik and Split, so I’m glad I don’t have to. As is always the case with cruises, I won’t be able to do more than “sample” the highlights of each place, but I’ll be happy to see whatever I can of them.

July

New Orleans

New Orleans

It looks as though I’ll get a chance to return to the Big Easy (New Orleans) in July for a work conference. I fell in love with New Orleans (and its food, music, history and diverse culture) back in 2008 and have been hoping for a return in the near future. I wouldn’t have chosen July to do it (at the peak of the year’s heat and humidity), but since I have the opportunity, I won’t say no to it, either.

Fall 2015

This one’s a big question mark for me. August through early October is my busiest time at work, so immediately after that is typically a good time to take a break for a week of travel. This will probably be a domestic trip, and there are two U.S. cities I’ve been itching to get to: San Francisco and Seattle. Which to choose, which to choose. Should I flip a coin? Or do you have an opinion? I have friends who live in or near both cities, so it’s kind of a toss-up for me. Clearly, I need to do more research about things to see and do in each city.

Outside of those trips, you never know. I may have an opportunity to do some weekend getaways. For instance, I’m sad I never made it to Montreal this year. So I’d really like to do that in 2015. And if I could afford another weekend in DC or NYC, I’d be game for that, too.

Where are you headed in 2015? Do you have some travel plans you’re excited about?

 

Photo credits: Venice – Rio di San Barnaba – Dorsoduro under Creative Commons license by MorBCN; Parthenon (SouthEast Side) under Creative Commons license by Dimitris Agelakis

Rae Morgan January 10, 2015 at 11:18 pm

Wow! what a fantastic itinerary. I can see why you’d say the big one is once-in-a-lifetime. I can’t imagine what you are paying. As much as I’d love to visit New Orleans (I just went to Vegas), I’m also saving up for a Europe trip (not until 2017) and can’t afford to go anywhere that isn’t in Japan. This is sure to be a boring year for me!

Gray Cargill January 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Hi, Rae! Yeah, you don’t want to know what I’m paying. Trust me. The “saving up for a big trip” times are always hard to get through, I understand. Maybe you can go on some day trip adventures closer to home that don’t cost anything (or don’t cost very much)? It might help make the time pass more quickly.

Shelly January 8, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Hi Gray – Dubrovnik is a lovely city but it can get a bit crowded when the cruise ships come in, but you can always head away from the main piazza where all the tourists are, up one of the many lanes (with lots of steps) and explore and look at where the people live and managed to rebuilt their city – and get exercise! If you have time I’d recommend a walk around the town wall – a photo op at every turn – and if you can get up the cable car, the view from up the top is stunning!
I loved Venice – yes is a bit touristy – but I still loved it. Do you know about Italian Monastery stays? They are really good for single women, inexpensive and safe. I stayed in one not far from St Mark’s square – nothing fancy, but I would highly recommend it. If you are keen on modern art, the Biennale starts there 9 May – it is good to see, even for the fact that you get to go up the canal a bit out of touristy Venice to the park where it is held is nice to see. I’d put Burano on my to see list too. I’m planning to go back to Venice again this year – four days there a few years ago after my cruise just wasn’t long enough!

Gray Cargill January 8, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Shelly – Thanks for the tips! I had both the cable car and walking the walls on my list at first, but I’m not sure I’ll really have enough time in port to do both. If I do, I’d like to. I do know about the monastery stays, thanks. I looked at some and they didn’t work out. I had trouble with most Venice properties not allowing me to book for just one night on the weekend, so I’m going to be staying in Mestre instead. Burano is on my list, but I’m not sure I’ll have time on this trip.

lee January 8, 2015 at 6:53 pm

i have some info on monasterys tays.com…….that will help you if you send me a private message…
i have stayed with them since maybe 2007…..and i have stayed at the location mentioned above.
Mestre has less expensive properties but you are NOT in venice.
and unless they changed the port, the ships dock at a central location reached by a very convenient metro or maybe it is a monorail that you hop on at the parking lot for the bus station just down from the train station. my contact Monica may be able to help with a hotel also

Gray Cargill January 8, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Yeah, I know it’s not in Venice, Lee. But I’m right near the train station, so it should be easy enough to get to Venice and back. I would have liked to have stayed in Venice, but they really won’t budge when it comes to booking just one night on a weekend. From what I can tell, I’m getting more bang for my buck at the Mestre hotel, anyway. It’s all good.

Shelly January 9, 2015 at 7:15 am

Just a thought/suggestion that my cruise offered to transfer my luggage to my hotel (well monastery), and I’m pretty sure they would deliver up to Mestre. If you would be happy parting with your bag for a day .. assuming your cruise gets in in the morning, you could make the most your day and head straight into Venice from the Port with your day pack, and just head back to the hotel later that night. It also saves you lugging your bag on the monorail and train. Sounds a good deal actually staying in Mestre – as you say, cheaper and only a 10 min train ride to the main station .. and it is a lovely walk from Venezia Santa Lucia station to the more central part of Venice – only takes 30 mins leasurely stroll. Enjoy!

Gray Cargill January 9, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Oh my God, I never would’ve thought of having the ship transfer my luggage to the hotel, Shelly! That would save me a ton of time if I could do that. Thanks for the tip!

Tracy Antonioli January 8, 2015 at 12:40 pm

I am so jealous of your cruise! I seriously considered booking one for myself out of Barcelona, since ‘I’m going to be there anyway’. But no. I chose to be an adult about it and take the same flight home with my husband. Sigh.

Also: Seattle or San Francisco? That is a tough one. I love both cities. But I think I’d return to San Francisco (for the…third time? Fourth?) before returning to Seattle for a second time. There’s just so much to do. And while lodging it expensive, a lot of the attractions are free. And then there’s Napa.

Truth be told, I came to stalk this post to find out when you are going to Las Vegas. Because I need to get out of the northeast, too. And I know I’ll have a few days in between work and work this month. I want to do either Disneyland or Vegas. You know–somewhere fake.

Gray Cargill January 8, 2015 at 6:41 pm

You have nothing to be jealous about, Tracy – you’re going to Spain! That’s pretty awesome, too, believe me. Well, let me know if you decide to go to the same fake city as me. We’ll have to fake meet up for fake drinks. 😉

RMcGr84 January 8, 2015 at 11:14 am

I’m going on my first cruise this May. I’m flying to Ft. Lauderdale, FL and taking the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Sea cruise. The three ports we will visit are: Nassau, Bahamas; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Not only is this my first cruise, but it’s also my first time out of the country!

Gray Cargill January 8, 2015 at 6:39 pm

That sounds good, RMcGr84! I haven’t been there, but I’m definitely curious about St. Maarten. Got your passport yet?

Barb Chambers January 9, 2015 at 12:41 am

My favorite with these two islands is St. Maarten’s… St. Thomas is so crowded when all the cruise ships hit on the same day.

Barb Chambers January 8, 2015 at 12:56 am

I pick Seattle over SF… I love Pike’s Market and riding the ferries to Victoria and in general everything about Seattle area. SF is okay – been to both more than once but prefer Seattle.

Gray Cargill January 8, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Oh yeah, I’ve heard about the ferries to Victoria. That kind of makes Seattle/Victoria a twofer, doesn’t it, Barb? 🙂

Barb Chambers January 9, 2015 at 12:33 am

Just don’t forget your passport… LOL

Dianne January 8, 2015 at 12:11 am

Gray ~ I’ve been rereading your Oahu blogs, as I’ll be visiting in May of this year. The last time I was on Oahu was fall of 2002, so I’m really excited to be going back! I know so much has changed since my last visit. Then in Feb 2016, I’ll be again visiting my beloved Maui for about the 15th time.

Love your blogs, as I most often travel solo!

Gray Cargill January 8, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Hi, Dianne – I’m glad you’re getting a chance to return to Oahu. Thirteen years is a long time, I’m sure a lot has changed (you know what they’re doing to the International Marketplace, right?). So much to do on Oahu, it’s a good time. If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to hear from another solo traveler!

Kirstin January 7, 2015 at 11:38 pm

I’ve been to Athens, Ephesus and Venice.

We didn’t have long in Athens and I can’t say I loved it. The Acropolis was amazing but other than that the people we came across were quite rude. We had a lot of difficulty getting a taxi – they seem to sit outside hotels and only seem to want to transport hotel guests and none of the drivers wanted to go to the airport.

My friends got engaged beside The Library of Celsus. He sent me down to take a photo and proposed to my best friend while my back was turned. I had injured my knee one week before our trip and all the walking just made it worse – it took me a long time to get down the steps and when I turned around she was beaming and holding up her hand to show off her engagement ring. It is a great place to take photos (don’t forget your polariser) and I really enjoyed it.

Some people complain that Venice is such a tourist trap in the summer – it is – but we had a fantastic time! I spent ages looking for a mask, there are thousands of masks to look at and trying to find the “perfect” one can take a while. I finally bought a gold one that was like a sun god crossed with a leaf. We visited Murano and I bought most of my friends glass pendants, there are hundreds of different shapes and colour combinations.

I haven’t been to Seattle but I have visited San Francisco about four times and I love it there. I stayed at Parc 55 last time and it only cost me about $NZD 150. It was probably the Top 3 of nice places I have stayed. I think I booked using Wotif.

Gray Cargill January 8, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Thank you for sharing your experiences in those places, Kirstin! I’m sure they’re ALL tourist traps, but I really don’t care. As long as I know that going into it, I can’t be disappointed, right?

lee January 7, 2015 at 6:19 pm

just found a moment to read the entire list….
if you find a few hrs in Venice, let me know. i have the one person you should meet to see Venice with a local…..it is a most unique place
and i will be posting a story on a new method to see venice via boat, soon.
LL

Gray Cargill January 7, 2015 at 7:36 pm

Definitely let me know, Lee. I have no firm plans for my time in Venice yet. Let’s stay in touch about your travel plans as well. If our paths cross, we should meet up.

lee January 7, 2015 at 8:12 pm

i should/hope to be in Italy end of march to beginning of May but the end of the trip will be in northern europe. i will be sure to let Monica know you are coming and see if her night tour and an event she does where you stop for the local ‘snacks’ and or wine (if you like) I missed that part and shall try again this year….. let me know the day (s) you are there and i will put it on my calendar, can send an email before i leave for Italy……………this year i hope to take a freighter….

Gray Cargill January 8, 2015 at 6:26 pm

I’ll email you, Lee, and get that info. Thanks!

Jason January 7, 2015 at 6:15 pm

Sounds like you’ve got a fun year ahead! I’ll look forward to the photos and stories. If you have to choose between SF and Seattle, go north. I liked Seattle a lot more than SF, for a bunch of reasons. I think you would, too.

Gray Cargill January 7, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Ooh, a little love for Seattle! Thanks, Jason.

Mitch January 7, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Can’t wait to to hear about your trip to New Orleans! I’ve been thinking of making that the destination of my next solo trip this coming fall and so I’ve been devouring any information I can find on it, this site included. I’m looking forward to reading all your new articles this year of course, but the NOLA-centric ones in particular. Looks like you’ve got an exciting 2015 planned, that’s for sure!

Gray Cargill January 7, 2015 at 7:41 pm

Thanks, Mitch! You are going to love New Orleans. There’s so much to do there and it’s got so much character.

Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren January 7, 2015 at 5:39 pm

I’m SO excited to hear all about your European cruise! It sounds like a dream. I’d pick San Francisco! It’s absolutely lovely in the fall (or anytime of the year!). There’s just so much to do and the food is… amazing! Seattle is a perfect weekend trip since there’s less to do (in my opinion) but if you have an entire week, I’d pick San Fran!

Happy travels 🙂

Gray Cargill January 7, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Thanks for the San Francisco vote, Lauren! That’s good to know about the weekend vs. the week. I’ll keep it in mind.

Rebecca January 7, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Just so you know, san Francisco summers run from Sep 1-October 15. The most popular weekend of the year to get married is the first one in October (due to weather) if that is any indication or way to sway you!

Sounds like a fun, comfortable year!!

Gray Cargill January 7, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Ooh, that sounds good to me! So it’ll still be reasonably warmish in mid-October? That might make a difference in my decision-making for sure, Rebecca!

Rebecca January 15, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Oh, totally, you should be totally fine in Mid-October. Cold for us is like maybe 50-60’s, and if it doesn’t rain (which you still should be okay in mid-October, the first hard rain we had this year was on Halloween), you will be good as gold.

Keep me posted!!

lee January 7, 2015 at 10:06 am

shall watch for your route on the 2015 cruise, i shall be doing (finally) a RTW trip before it is too late, and perhaps will cross your path

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