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Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan with Prayer Flags

Today, I am thinking of our hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan. While pondering where to take Angel, our rescue dog for her walk, Jonathan and I started reminiscing about some of the walks that we have taken together – the Camino de Santiago, climbing Mount Batur in Bali to watch sunrise, the Tiger Leaping Gorge in China but one that stands out is the hike up to Tigers Nest Monastery in Bhutan.

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is one of Bhutan’s most recognised sites and a must-see and a must-do for everyone visiting this country. Also known as Paro Takstang, this sacred Buddhist site consists of four temples plus accommodation for its resident monks. Yes, it’s still an active monastery.

Located near Paro, it was built in 1692. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan was brought here from Tibet on the back of a tigress, to subdue a demon and then meditated here for three months or three years, depending on which version of the legend you read, hence the name ‘Tiger’s Nest.’

When we arrived at the site and saw the monastery perched 10000 feet high up on the mountainside, peeking out through the mist, I was worried about being able to do the hike. Our guide Norbu laughed, ‘It’s not so hard, but you can always go up by a mule.’

The mules cost about $20 and take about two hours to go up the mountain but not all the way. You would still have to walk the final path to the temple. The thought of riding a mule seemed more scary than walking, so off we set by foot and you know what, it wasn’t as hard as it looked. Anyone with a reasonable amount of fitness could easily do the hike; some guidebooks say to allow 3-4 hours to do the climb. We made it easily in two.

Horses and Mules are Available to Get To Tiger’s Nest

The hike starts at the base of the mountain which is located at 7000 feet. Don’t worry, as almost every tourist visiting will be part of a tour, this hike takes place on one of the last days of your trip, so you will already be acclimatised.

As you walk up the wide mountain path, there is Tibetan Buddhist paraphernalia everywhere. Tibetan flags are flapping in the wind, and the shrines and stupas we pass are stunning. Despite being uphill the whole way, it’s not overly steep, and there are plenty of places to stop and just admire the view.

We Made It This High, but We Still Have to Cross the Gorge

There is a cafe serving refreshments and a vegetarian lunch half way up the mountain, offering great views of the monastery and for many people, this is as far as they go. From here, the path narrows as it snakes its way around the mountain to the monastery. Even for someone like myself, who freaks out at heights and narrow paths, it wasn’t scary and to come this far and not visit the monastery, well that would be daft; although Jon does make me nervous as he always stands far too close to the edge for that perfect photo!

We spent an hour exploring the temples; our guide Norbu was very knowledgeable. Every room was very ornate and filled with Buddhist deities and offerings of fruit and money. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the temple.

From here, it’s all downhill in a good way. On the way down, we took a welcome break at the cafe before heading back via the many trinket stalls to where our driver was waiting.

Top Tips for Hiking Tiger’s Nest Monastery

1) Wear comfy shoes
2) Anyone with an average level of fitness will be able to manage the hike
3) It’s not a race, take your time
4) Bring water and a snack
5) Don’t forget your camera
6) There are clean toilets/ restrooms at the cafe
7) If you want to take a mule up, it’s best to book in advance. Let your guide know.

We Made it to the Top of Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

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Life Part 2 | Retirement Travel Adventur.. by Jonathan Look And Sarah Wilson - 1w ago

Beautiful Positano

This stunning coastal drive along the Amalfi Coast makes for a great day trip from Naples, particularly out of season when the traffic is lighter, as it’s a full day. If you get the chance to stay overnight somewhere along the way, then even better. The road is well-known for its hairpin bends, incredible cliff top views, and general scariness. I admit I’m a complete wus and had my eyes shut a lot, especially when buses come towards you, they slow down for no-one, fortunately, Jon who did the driving on the Amalfi Coast did not. However, there were plenty of places where you could pull over and just admire the scenery. Yes, even in the middle of January, we were rewarded with blue skies and incredible views.

Roadside Market Stall on the Amalfi Coast of Italy

On our way, we passed several little market stalls selling the juiciest oranges and the hugest lemons we had ever seen. Our first stop was Positano, one of the most famous cities on the Amalfi Coast, where we pulled in for a coffee and a snack. Positano is extremely picturesque, especially looking up from the beach at all the summer houses and small hotels clinging to the cliff sides. The charming town is filled with chic boutique stores and expensive restaurants and very steep streets. No need for a gym, if staying here, just walking back to your room would be exercise enough. However, even in January, finding somewhere to park was difficult, in the end, we found a small car park for €5 an hour!! Yep, Positano is the most expensive place on the Amalfi Coast.

View of the Stunning Amalfi Coast

From Positano, it’s about a half hour drive to Amalfi, but we stopped a lot on the way for photos and Jon wanted me to see the views. (My eyes weren’t just closed, I was hiding underneath my jacket! I can’t swim and I’m nervous of heights, so not a great combination lol!) Amalfi was a lovely little town and much flatter than Positano. With many seafood restaurants, piazzas and a large Moorish style cathedral, it was a delightful place to explore. Unfortunately, we were too late for lunch, many places stop serving lunch at 3 PM and yes that’s the church bells chiming 3’0clock, but there was a fabulous deli nearby. So we ended up, like two old dears, munching away on delicious paninis filled with cheese, salamis and roasted veggies, sitting on a bench staring out to sea.

Enjoying our Panini of in Amalfi

But the sun sets earlier in January and we still had one more place to visit before heading home over the mountain back to Naples. Just a 15 minute drive away, our final stop of the day, Ravello. Now we loved Positano, liked Amalfi even more but fell in love with Ravello. Yep, if we ever get the chance to stay on the Amalfi Coast, this is where we would base ourselves. It’s a beautiful mountain village, with panoramic views of the sea, medieval churches, piazzas and ancient stone alleyways. Jon and I looked at each other, umm maybe we could live here for ten months and rent the villa out for the summer months!

But the sun was starting to set, it was time to return to our base in Naples.

View of the Mediterranean Sea from Ravello, Italy

How to get to the Amalfi Coast

Nearest airport: Naples
Self-drive: Not for the faint-hearted but an experience.
Buses: Bus company SITA runs buses along the coast.
Ferries: Ferries connect the main resorts along the coast and can be much quicker than the buses. Note: many of the ferry routes only operate during the summer months. For example, from Positano, the first ferry of the season started end of March.

Top tips for exploring the Amalfi Coast

Start early, there’s a lot to see in just one day.
If possible, stay an extra day or more.
If you are driving, make sure your hotel or guest house has a car park. Parking can be difficult.
Bring a camera.
Buy oranges along the way.
Stop often to savour the view.

Jonathan and Sarah Selfie on the Amalfi Coast

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Retirement Should be an Adventure

In 2011, when I took early retirement and sold everything I owned to travel the world, I was in many ways flying blind. Because I had health care, savings, and even a pension; I had few money worries, but ultimately, finances aren’t the things that make a happy retirement. I have talked with a lot of happy retirees and while everyone is different, here is a non-scientific sampling of non-financial stuff you can do to enjoy your retirement.

Have a Happy Retirement Plan:

I can’t imagine anything worse than going home after your last day of work and having nothing to look forward to. Plan on starting something new with the start date the same as your retirement date. Be imaginative. If you want to travel book, your tickets well in advance. If you want to go back to school, sign up for classes at the same time as your “work hours.” Discover your passions and run with them. If your plan isn’t as fun as you thought, do something else. There is a whole universe of things to try.

Let Go of Your Old Job:

There is nothing sadder than someone whose entire sense of self is wrapped up in something they no longer do. Sure, be proud of your past accomplishments, but don’t make them the focus of your present life. Everyone likes to tell a “war story” every now and again, but if you find yourself repeating the same things over and over again, it is time to have a few more adventures and create some new material. Be more interested in your future than you are of days gone by.

Look After Your Health:

With retirement, you finally have time to live your dreams; make sure you are healthy enough to enjoy them. Schedule time for exercise and do it. Get regular checkups. Go to the dentist. Get an eye exam. Eat well, get adequate rest, maybe even try yoga and meditation. The important thing is to keep yourself in tune, so you have the energy to try all of those new things you have always wanted to do.

Cultivate a Routine:

Get Up. Make your bed. Have breakfast. Being retired doesn’t mean being lazy. Join a hiking club and walk once or twice a week. Join an aerobics class. Studies show that people who live the longest develop some amount of routine in their lives. Schedule weekly dinners with family or friends. Well designed routines keep us engaged, happy and productive.

Look At Things From a Different Perspective:

Don’t become a grumpy old fart. Empathize with others. Try to appreciate different genres of music and other forms of entertainment. Buy unfamiliar things at the grocery store and try them out. Listen to different viewpoints and try to understand them.

Be Social:

Talk to people outside of your peer group. Try some hobbies that require interaction with other people; language classes, karate lessons, theatre, Toastmasters. Screw up the courage to ask new people to lunch or coffee. Be interested. Be interesting.

Give Back:

Studies show that spending money on others gives us more joy than spending money on our selves. Even if finances don’t allow, the same studies show that volunteering and giving the gift of time can have more benefit than giving money. Find a few organizations that you believe in and find ways to help them out.

Don’t Forget:

Healthy finances are only a small part of what it means to have a happy retirement. Retirement is a perfect opportunity for new beginnings and new adventures. You didn’t retire to sit on the couch and watch life pass you by. A happy retirement requires planning and maybe some experimentation, but if you approach it the right way and with a learners mind, it can be the brightest time of your life.

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Life Part 2 | Retirement Travel Adventur.. by Words By Sarah Wilson - Photos By J.. - 2w ago

One of the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world and the largest city in Southern Italy, Naples is a fascinating, chaotic place to visit.

If you have only one day to visit, we have put together a list of top things to do in Naples. So start with a cup of strong coffee, make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes (Naples is best explored on foot!) and get ready to embrace the madness that is Naples.

National Archaeological Museum

Museum buffs will be spoilt for choice in Naples, but if you only have time for one, then we recommend the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Located in an impressive 17th-century house in the heart of the city. Here you will find what’s considered the world’s best ancient Greco-Roman artifacts. There’s some cool Pompeii frescoes and mosaics. And don’t forget to visit the secret room, if you want to see some ancient erotica from Pompeii.

Some of the Tamer Erotic Art in the “Gabinetto Segreto” at National Archaeological Museum of Naples

From here, it’s just a short walk to Via San Gregorio Armeno. This narrow cobbled street is filled with artisan workshops producing nativity scenes. Yes, it’s Christmas every day on this street and not surprisingly gets really busy in December. It was pretty busy when we were there too. There were also some unusual tourist gifts too – would you like toilet paper with your ‘favourite’ politician’s face on it or some lucky chili pepper?

Nativity Scenes Along Via San Gregorio Armeno

Naples Cathedral

A ten-minute walk will bring you to Naples Cathedral. Inside the church is a small vial of blood from the city’s patron saint, Saint Gennaro. His blood is brought out twice a year on the first Saturday of May and on his saint day, the 19th September, when the ‘miracle of the blood’ occurs, and the dried blood liquefies. Legend has it that if the blood fails to liquefy, then disaster will befall Naples!

The Ceiling of Naples Cathedral

Spaccanapoli

Just five minutes from the Cathedral is Spaccanoli. This narrow cobbled street which stretches for two kilometers through the heart of the old city is filled with cute shops, cafes and small eateries. It’s a fabulous place for people watching, and exploring the side streets. Be sure to try the local pizza, you know it’s great when you see massive queues of locals waiting outside. Or we can recommend a hole in the wall, pasta and seafood place, Pescheria Azzurra, if you are getting burnt out on pizza.

The Neapolitans Love Their PIzza and WIll Wait in Line For It

Top tips for exploring Naples

1) Wear comfy shoes – Naples is a city best explored on foot but don’t worry, they do have a metro system.

2) Be careful when crossing the streets, the driving here is crazy, watch out especially for the motorbikes.

3) Keep an eye on your belongings at all time, there are pickpockets but don’t be paranoid.

4) Enjoy

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Life Part 2 | Retirement Travel Adventur.. by Words By Sarah Wilson - Photos By J.. - 2w ago

Altare della Patria in (a.k.a. “The Typewriter” in Rome

What can I say? Rome is our current favourite city. Yes, I know our favourite cities change pretty regularly, but Rome offers so much history, so much good food, what’s not to love. It’s a city best explored on foot because while walking in Rome you will see that the city is bursting with sights to see on literally every corner. But don’t worry, the public transportation system is good and will deliver you close to the major sites if need be. We were lucky enough to spend a week there, but for most visitors, three days seems to the average time to visit, so with so much to see and limited time to see it all, we have put together a three-day itinerary which includes the major highlights and tips we learnt during our stay.

Saint Peter’s Basilica from the Tiber River in Rome

Day One – Visit Vatican City

Want to see the Sistine Chapel? The chapel is located inside the Vatican Museums. Most people visiting the museum just want to visit the Sistine Chapel, but there’s a lot more to see here than just the chapel. If time is limited, then simply follow the shortcut signs that will take you straight to the Sistine Chapel but if not, then allow at least two to three hours to explore the museums and admire the artwork and sculptures. Although, they say if you spend a minute admiring each painting, it will take you four years to see it all. Yes, the museum is that huge. Our favourite room was the incredible Gallery of the Geographical Maps, absolutely stunning.

Gallery of the Geographical Maps in the Vatican

You are allowed to take photos everywhere in the museum but not in the Sistine Chapel itself, which gets extremely crowded even in the off-season, but there are seats around the edge of the chapel. So you can take a well-deserved rest and simply soak in the artworks of Michaelangelo and listen to the guards shouting ‘Silêncio’ to all the visitors.

After visiting the museums, it’s definitely time for a coffee or lunch. Plenty of restaurants nearby. Head to the end of this blog for our list of favourite restaurants.

Feeling energised again, walk around to St Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro in Italian). The square is one of the largest in the world and is located at the foot of St Peter’s Basilica. The square was built between 1656 and 1667 and can hold more than 300,000 people. On large columns that surround the square are 140 statues of various saints. It’s pretty impressive. It feels just like you’re in the movie set of Angels and Demons.

Statues in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican

Now it’s time to visit the Basilica itself, and yes, you do have to join that long queue but don’t worry it moves pretty quickly and it’s for the security check. There is no charge to enter the Basilica, and it’s most definitely worth queuing for, it’s stunning inside.

Interesting fact: St Peter’s Basilica is not the largest church in the world, contrary to what some of the touts will tell you. That honour goes to the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro on the Ivory Coast.

You can climb to the top of the Basilica Dome. There is a charge for this, slightly more expensive to take the elevator than walk up the 551 steps. The entrance to the dome is just by the main entrance to the Basilica. (As at January 2018, elevator €10, walk €8.)

Still, have some energy left? Head down towards the river and visit the Castle Sant’Angelo. You can’t miss it, just follow the music, there were some incredible street musicians just in front. The best part of the castle is the view from the top, head there for sunset. There’s also a nice bar in the castle walls offering great views too.

Ok, that’s definitely enough for one day, time to relax now and enjoy some Roman food.

Castle Sant’ Angelo

How to get to Vatican City

Nearest Metro: Cipro-Musei Vaticani, then just follow the crowds.
Bus: No 49 drops you off outside the entrance to the museums
Join a tour.
Or do what we did and walk. Admittedly our guest house was just ten minutes away.

Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel Opening Hours

Open Monday through Saturday 9 AM to 6 PM. Last entry 4 PM.
Last Sunday of the month 9 AM to 2 PM. Last entry 12.30 PM.

Cost

Adult €17 (Prices valid as at January 2018)

Top Tips for visiting Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel

Wear comfy shoes.
If you plan to spend a few hours exploring the museum, bring water and snacks.
Ignore the touts outside that say you can’t enter without booking a tour, or that the museum/ Basilica is closed unless you go with them.
If you are going in the summer, consider pre-booking tickets online to skip the queue.

Day 2- Visit The Colosseum / Roman Forum / Palatine Hill

Interior Photo of the Colosseum in Rome

No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Colosseum. It was built almost 2,000 years ago to host violent gladiator games. It has a fascinating, yet gory, history. Thousands of men and wild animals fought for their lives here, providing entertainment for the locals. It’s really worth getting a guide here or an audio-guide to learn and understand more about the history of the place. Guided tours are available inside the Colosseum for just €5 per person. Tours last about 45minutes to an hour though you should allow at least one to two hours here, just to soak up the history.

For an extra charge (€9 as at January 2018), it is possible to visit the hypogeum. This is the underground complex where the animals and sets were stored before being winched up on stage. Although you do get a great view of this from the first floor of the arena.

From here, grab a snack or enjoy a break at one of the nearby cafes before heading into the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum was once the marketplace for Rome, and later on, it was where gladiatorial matches and triumphal processions took place. Today, it is a mass of ruins, but you can easily still identify the temples, the main squares and streets. It’s an interesting place to explore, but not particularly well signposted. A good guidebook or an audio-guide would be handy.

A short climb takes you up Palatine Hill, the most famous of the seven hills in Rome. From here, you have great views of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and the city. In Ancient Rome, this was considered the best neighbourhood of the city to live in. Clean air and away from the peasants. It is also believed to be where Romulus and Remus were found in a cave by a she-wolf.

View of The Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

We didn’t expect to spend more than an hour exploring the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill but the site is huge and the more you explore, the more you find to explore, so you really need a good half day to see it all. At the very top of the hill, there is a small self-service snack bar, if like us, you didn’t heed your own advice and bring water. Toilets are available in the museum.

If you feel like this is too many Roman ruins for one day, your entrance ticket does allow you to visit one site and the other on two consecutive days.

Now it’s time to relax and enjoy some good Roman food.

How to get to the Colosseum/ Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

Best Way is on foot, then you get to see a whole lot more of Rome.
Nearest Metro: Colosseo
Bus: 40, 46, 62, 63, 64, 70, 87, 119, 271, 280.

Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill Opening Hours

08.30 AM until one hour before sunset. Closed Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Cost to Visit The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Adults €12 also includes admission to the Royal Forum and Palatine Hill. Ticket valid for two consecutive days. Only one entry permitted into either area.

Top Tips for Visiting The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Wear comfy shoes.
Bring snacks and water.
Avoid the touts. They will offer to be your guide and help you skip the line. They will really overcharge you.
We suggest you buy your ticket at the nearby Roman Forum or Palatine Hill as the queue is considerably smaller and allows you to enter the Colosseum.
If you want a guide, you can join one of the tours offered at the Colosseum for €5 per person or rent an audio guide.
Also, avoid the men dressed as Gladiators, fun for photos, but there are stories of them demanding €20 to have your photo taken with them.
Stop and listen to the street musicians.
Admire the street painters.

Street Painter in Rome

Day 3 – Roam in Rome

This is our favourite way to explore any city. It really is an incredible city to explore on foot. Our walk took us through many of the city’s beautiful piazzas, always a great place to enjoy coffee and people watch.

A Flower Market in Rome

Explore the local fresh food markets, offering not only fruits but fresh pasta, chillies and flowers.

Enjoy a delicious gelato by the Spanish Steps.

Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain. (There are two superstitious legends about the Trevi Fountain. 1) If you throw a coin with your right hand backwards over your left shoulder, you will definitely return to Rome or 2) throw three coins into the fountain. The first coin guarantees your return, the second for a new romance and the third will lead to marriage.) Yikes, glad I only threw one!!
The money is collected from the fountain every night and donated to charity.

Throw a Coin in the Trevi Fountain

Admire the dome in the Pantheon.

Pop into local churches, they are beautiful.

Marvel at the old buildings that have stood for centuries.

And, of course, eat lots of pasta and pizza.

Here’s a list of some our favourite restaurants we discovered while in Rome.

Our absolute favourite was the Taverna Lucifero on Via del Pellegrino. So good, we broke our cardinal rule on our travels and visited twice. And next time, we are in Rome, it will be our first port of call. Yes, it’s that good. Think truffles, fondues, pasta. Good idea to make a reservation, and you can book on Facebook messenger.

Other suggestions for places to eat in Rome, in no particular order, are :

Sorpasso, close to the Vatican. Great for big healthy salads, and plates of pasta.
Veloavevodetto, also close to the Vatican. Traditional Italian restaurant. Get here early or make reservations.
Coromandel, good coffee and breakfast stop. Best Eggs Benedict in Rome. Popular on Sunday mornings.
We were also recommended to visit Frashetta for pizza. Unfortunately, it was closed while it was there, but the reviews for this place were good.
Good gelato, everywhere.
For good sandwiches, slices of pizza, try some of the many delicatessens.

Carry small change, as waiters tend to think you have just given them a large tip and don’t return your change.

We hope you enjoyed our guide. If there’s something we have missed or if you have any questions, we will be delighted to hear from you.

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The Ruins of Herculaneum Next to Naples, Italy

When Jon and I agreed to housesit for two daft dogs and a cat in Naples, we couldn’t wait to visit nearby Pompeii, which had been on my personal bucket list for years. But as soon as we mentioned this to others, nearly everyone said, “If you like Pompeii, you should visit Herculaneum!” Herculaneum, I’d never heard of it. Some travellers, we are!

So once again, we embraced the chaotic, not for the faint-hearted drive on Naples roads and headed to Herculaneum or Ercolano as the road signs say, just to confuse us! And yes, we loved it. Much smaller than Pompeii, far less crowded and easier to see it all in one day. This city was once a Roman seaside town and port with some rather wealthy inhabitants.

Living Area at a House in Herculaneum is not Much DIfferent than it was in 79 A.D.

Herculaneum vs Pompeii

There is a big difference between Pompeii and Herculaneum. Most of Herculaneum is actually far better preserved than Pompeii (which was covered by ash and pumice) as Herculaneum was destroyed by hot gasses from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. This left the city buried under 20-25 metres of mud and rock. Apparently, when archaeologists started digging they found completely preserved furnishings; beds, wine racks, wooden lofts but no bodies, so it was assumed for a while that the inhabitants had managed to escape. But during excavations in the 1980’s, sheltered in vaults near the ancient beach were 300 skeletons. Most of the skeletons hidden in the arches were women and children, many of the bones still preserved in-situ. And that is your first sight as you enter the ancient town.

It was once thought the residents of Herculaneum escaped before Mt. Vesuvius blew, but excavations discovered many skeletons in boat houses near the beach

Once inside the town, the streets are on a grid system, it’s quite well signposted, so it’s easy to get around. We opted to rent an audio guide, to get a better idea of what we were seeing. But as many of the buildings were so well preserved, it was actually easy to imagine and appreciate life in Roman times and how strange that in some ways, we haven’t changed at all. A bed still looks like a bed, pots remain as pots, a bar still looks like a bar. Unbelievably, remains of frescoes still remained on the walls and I just love the mosaics.

Yes, we would definitely recommend a visit to Herculaneum.

These panels in a living room, now carbonized, show how well preserved Herculaneum is.

Top tips for visiting Herculaneum

1) Wear comfy shoes or low heels. The streets are cobbled.
2) Bring water and snacks. There is a small snack bar with vending machines but not much on offer. But there are plenty of eateries, just outside the main entrance.
3) Grab a free map as you enter or consider renting an audio guide. €8 for one or €6.50 if more than one rented. We shared one. (Prices as at January 2018) NB: You will need to leave a passport or driving license as a deposit.
4) Go early or late to avoid the tour buses that arrive between 11-2pm.
5) Visit out of high season

How to get to Herculaneum:

Naples to Herculaneum by train: take the circumvesuviana Napoli-Sorrento/ Poggiomarino/ Torre Annunziata
Get off at the Ercolano Scavi. It is about a 15-minute walk from the Herculaneum train station to the site itself.

To Herculaneum by car – take motorway A3 Napoli – Salerno exit Ercolano. Follow the signs; easier said than done though. Parking at €2 an hour is available close to the site.

Herculaneum Opening Hours

April-October 08.30- 19.30 Last entrance 18.00
November-March 08.30- 17.00 Last entrance 15.30
Closed 1st January, 1st May and Christmas Day.

Herculaneum Tickets Cost (as at January 2018)

One day adult ticket €11.00
One day children ticket € 5.50

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Modern Giant Bronze Sculpture of Apollo by Igor Mitoraj Overlooks Modern Pompeii from the Ruins of the Old

If you are staying near Naples, Italy, a visit to Pompeii is a must see and makes for a great day trip. The site is an incredible memorial to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which took place on 24 August, AD 79. The city was once a major Roman port town complete with taverns, brothels, sailors hotels and public baths. Its Antiteatro is the oldest known Roman amphitheater in existence. It’s now mostly covered in grass, but at one time, it could hold 20,000 spectators. A bit weird, but in the corridors that circle the arena is now an exhibition dedicated to Pink Floyd, not sure if that’s a permanent exhibit or not though.

Visit Pompeii in the off-season and you may be lucky to have the streets to yourself

Just off the main piazza, where you will also find the Basilica and the Temple of Jupiter, is one of Pompeii’s saddest sites, the Forum Granary, once the city’s main grain store. At first glance, it looks like it’s just full of old vases and pottery and other artifacts, but when you get close, there are some casts of human remains, and the famous Pompeii dog is here as well.

It Wasn’t Just Humans that Were KIlled in the Eruption as this Photo of the Famous Pompeii Dog Shows

Away from the main square, it’s fun to just lose yourself and wander the streets. We couldn’t believe how well preserved the city was; it was so easy to picture in your mind what Roman life was like as you strolled along the cobbled streets, passing by homes of both rich and poor, the many tavernas, shop fronts and public baths. Much of the Pompeii art is well preserved, and you be amazed at the detail in the murals. The site is huge, (44 acres) and they are still excavating and finding more. It’s impossible to see everything in one day. It does get crowded, we were surprised how many there were on a rainy day in January, but it’s large enough to escape the crowds.

Some of the Restaurants in Pompeii Look Like they Are About Ready to Take Customers

Top Tips for a Pompeii Visit:

You can get to Pompeii from Naples by train, and it is easily accessible by car or bus. The train station is located right outside one of the main Pompeii entrances.

We drove, (driving in Naples is definitely not for the faint-hearted) and there are plenty of car parks nearby. We parked close to the main entrance, probably there were cheaper places to park, but it worked out at €3 an hour. Be careful when driving the last 100 meters to the site, it’s very easy to end up back on the motorway again – we know from experience!

Hours

Daily 9am-7.30pm, last entry 6pm, April – October
Until 5pm, last entry 3.30pm, November – March

Top tips for visiting Pompeii

1) Avoid queues and pre-book tickets online. (It’s also possible to buy tickets outside and jump the queue, these work out at two euros more per person. Probably a good idea at peak times.)
2) Allow at least 3 hours, preferably more.
3) You can easily spend a day in Pompeii, so wear comfy shoes.
4) Pick up a free map and information guide at the information desk located next to the ticket booth.
5) The site is open to the elements, and there is very little under cover. So avoid the middle of the day in summer, wear sunscreen, carry water. In winter months, wear warm clothes and be prepared to be rained on.
6) There is a cafe at Pompeii, but it’s nothing special, offering overpriced sad looking sandwiches, but the coffee is good and reasonably priced. So if you are planning to be there all day, bring your own food. Outside the main gates, there are many eateries.

Cost to Visit Pompeii in 2018

Adults €13 / Children £7.50 (Prices correct January 2018)

Some of the Houses at Pompeii Felt Not Far From Move-in Ready

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The Lighthouse at Nazare, Portugal

Since we are living in Portugal we thought it would be a good idea to recount our adventures in an occasional series we call Portugal Day Trips. We will be continually adding to this feature, so please check it out and if you have any suggestions for more out of the way places to visit in Portugal, please let us know.

When we first moved to Portugal, I didn’t think, “surf Portugal,” but they are crazy about it here on the Silver Coast. Surfers from all over the world flock to Portugal and the small town of Nazare, not far from where we moved to Portugal, to ride some of the biggest waves in the world. Nazare waves are renown for their size; in fact, the biggest wave ever surfed was right here in Nazare.

In the Sunset the Nazare Big Waves Take on an Otherworldly Quality

A few weeks ago we went out to photograph some of the famous Nazare waves. We didn’t find any of the record Nazare surfing waves, that well up deep in the Atlantic and surge through the deep ocean trench called Nazare canyon and crash on the shore, but the scenery was spectacular, and despite high winds, it was a great day to make photos of the Nazare big waves.

I Wasn’t the only Photographer Out Making Photos of the Nazare Waves

Below the Nazare Lighthouse is an Great Beach from which to Watch the Nazare Big Waves

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I don’t do a lot of product reviews, but when given an opportunity to try out a shirt that buttons up using magnets instead of traditional fasteners, I wanted to give it a try, principally because it just sounded cool. Also, later in life, my dad started suffering from neuropathy and would get frustrated when using regular buttons. He always worked through, although sometimes on bad days he needed Mom’s help, but, since he always prided himself on being independent, I could feel his frustration. I wanted to check it out and see if it would have been a good alternative for him.

Now, Dad would never have tolerated elderly clothing, or clothes that could have made him looked disabled in any way, and when I first saw the MagnaReady dress shirt, I know he would have approved. The magnets are sewn into the pleats of the shirt and hidden behind regular looking buttons.

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The fasteners feel secure, the shirt washes up nicely and, even after being stuffed into a backpack for a few days, it comes out looking better than many of my regular shirts. There is nothing about the appearance garment that makes it look like anything other than a high quality, conventional shirt. Nothing about the shirt says, adaptive clothing or senior clothing.” In fact, it is so nicely styled that I wear mine as part of my usual wardrobe and no one notices. Well, no one notices until I show it off a little bit by ripping my shirt open.

Even with these unique features, the MagnaReady shirts are priced in line with normal, high quality, dress shirts. I haven’t worn my MagnaReady through airport security yet, but after I do, I will let you know how it goes. I look forward to doing a demonstration for the screener! If you know anyone this could benefit, or if you are just looking for some nice looking shirts, check these out.

DIsclosure: MagnaReady did give me a free shirt, but the opinions are mine.

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Whether it is Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Terrific Tet, Blissful Bodhi, Rocking Ramadan, Gala Yuletide, Festive Festivus or whatever you celebrate this time of year, we wish you and yours Happy Holidays, Bon Natal (and all of the above) from Portugal!

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