We recently returned from a terrific ski week in the French Alps — Les Arcs, to be specific. It’s an enormous ski area — in the photo below, can you see the chairlift in the center of the photo? It’s hard to see, but that just gives you a sense of the huge scale. And this is just one small section of Les Arcs.
This was our first trip with the Ski Club of Washington, D.C., and it was a very friendly group of 46. Ski conditions were very good — we even had a bluebird powder day after a day of snowfall.
Our group stayed at the all-inclusive Club Med Arcs Extreme, situated mid-mountain. For my taste/preference, I favor the smaller, family-run inns … vs. a large resort, such as this. I also prefer being situated in a historic town … and this hotel is in a modern resort area. From our hotel, we had an excellent view of nearby Mont Blanc, where we have skied twice before.
Check out Bob’s short video of this ski adventure:
And, of course, it’s France, so the food is amazing. The hot chocolate and croissant was one of my mid-morning treats. And let me tell you, that croissant was the real deal. By the way, ski week = guilt-free eating! One of the specialities of the Savoyard region is raclette, and I enjoyed it very much.
Here are some pics from some of our bluebird days on the mountain. In the larger photo, you can see Mont Blanc has an unusual halo cloud atop it!
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And here’s a panorama photo, in which I tried to capture the vast area. And this is just one little piece of it!
Update Feb. 2018: This story was published in the February 2018 issue of Comanche Flyer magazine, the official magazine of the International Comanche Society. See the PDF of the article.
When the temps drop, we hunker down. EXCEPT when we decided, spur-of-the-moment (mostly), to jump into our Piper Twin Comanche (N8475Y) and escape to Florida. Snowbirds! Full story posted below this short video:
Bob was looking out for a good-weather window of opportunity, and spotted one in early December. So I did have some advance warning, along the lines of, “we might leave with short notice, so get ready.” One night he said, “OK — we’re leaving tomorrow morning.” Scramble, scramble, to quickly pack — but not too much weight.
We left Manassas, VA on a lovely, clear day, and flew down to central Florida, to visit Bob’s sister Julie and her husband Mike. Total flight time was around 4.5 hours — we broke it up with two stops. First fuel stop was in Darlington, SC, where a beautiful kitty was “working” in the terminal; as the manager cheerfully explained to me, “Oh, that’s our TSA agent.”
Next stop was at McKinnon Airport (St. Simons Island, GA), where we took on fuel for N8475Y and ourselves … we enjoyed a delicious meal at Southern Soul Barbeque. Now THAT is real, melt-in-your-mouth southern BBQ.
Bob had chosen the Orlando Apopka Airport, one of the closest to his sister’s home. It turns out to be quite unusual — it’s a privately-owned, 100% “condo” airport. All the hangars are privately owned, and the owners’ association manages the airport. They were friendly and helpful, but the airport has no tie-downs, which I’d never seen before. We were told they can normally offer hangar space, at $35/night, but there was “no room at the inn.” We chocked 75Y and Bob’s sister Julie picked us up for the drive home.
We spent several days visiting with Mike and Julie and enjoying the warm temperatures. Julie went to Embry-Riddle University and also has her private pilot’s license. Brother and sister had not ever flown together before, so a highlight of our visit was a flight to Vero Beach. A pleasant surprise — Vero Beach is the home of the Piper factory, so we realized that we had, in essence, brought 75Y back to her birthplace. Alas, we didn’t have time on this visit for a factory visit. This part of Florida is criss-crossed with lakes, so the flights were most picturesque.
We hopped back into 75Y for an uneventful flight down to Key West. The Key West Airport is very close to the nearby Naval Air Station Key West — so it’s important to pay attention and land at the correct airport! The folks at Signature FBO were friendly and helpful — it’s clearly a popular airport. I sat in the lobby for a few minutes and used the free wifi to visit a few apps (Trip Advisor, Hotel Tonight, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Trivago) to find a reasonable hotel for a few nights. We scored an excellent booking at the Key Lime Inn, a charming collection of small cottages, within walking distance to main historic area. We took a quick Uber ride into town.
A fun surprise — on our first night there, the town held its annual Christmas parade … on the street right in front of our hotel! Parade folks tossed out tons of candy to the kids. We weren’t trying to grab any, but so much fell on us, that we ended up with candy anyway.
This was our first real visit to Key West … years ago, we had stopped here on a cruise ship. (We had enjoyed it, but let’s face it, from a cruise ship you can only see so much in a few hours on shore.)
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit. We loved the architecture — all the gingerbread homes — the food, the culture, the atmosphere, the laid-back vibe, the friendly locals. There was a lot to see and do, and we poked around to our heart’s content. We got a kick out of all the contented polydactyl cats on the Hemingway property … one kitty was fast asleep on Papa Ernest’s bed.
After a few days, Bob saw that a huge weather front was moving across country, and was headed toward the East Coast. We considered flying partway — perhaps up to Savannah or Charleston — to wait out the storm, but ended up deciding to make a run for it. We left bright and early the next day.
Flying conditions on the way back were pretty good. Flying over the Everglades was interesting — it’s gigantic! It must be so full of wildlife — made me want to traverse it by airboat. For the entire trip, our altitude ranged from 6,500′-7,500′, so we were able to get in plenty of good sightseeing.
We did encounter some clouds, but just flew above them. We made a pit stop at Jacksonville Executive (Craig) Airport (FL). For our second fuel stop, we landed at Moore County, NC, right in the heart of golf country. No stopping for lunch! We were hoping to get to our home airport of Manassas, VA ahead of the front. We made great time — at one point, with a stiff tailwind, our ground speed topped out at 210 knots!
We landed safely at Manassas, just as it was beginning to drizzle. 75Y is back in her hangar, safe and snug. What a wonderful adventure! — Diana
Wow! What a memorable experience. We were fortunate to be able to fly to the path of totality to experience the total eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.
Bob’s short video of our eclipse adventure:
We planned to fly there in our Piper Twin Comanche, N8475Y. Bob did quite a bit of planning for this trip. As a pilot, he’s a first-rate planner, and he bought eclipse-viewing glasses for all of us quite early — no problem. Weather was a big factor, of course, as we wanted to avoid any areas that had storms in the forecast. As we got closer to the day, it was obvious that all hotel rooms in the path of totality were either totally booked up, or were now priced at $1000-2000 per room, per night. Yowzer!
Another factor was the airports. Bob called many regional airports in the path, and was told that no reservations were possible; it’s first-come-first-served. Eek!
Our dear friends Tom & June were adventurous enough to come along on this, um, flexible journey, as we weren’t 100% sure of anything.
We decided to fly down to a point close to the path of totality, and we selected Hickory, NC. What a great choice! We flew down Sunday, the day before, and were delighted with the warm and friendly atmosphere at the Hickory Regional Airport. “Southern hospitality” is alive and well and on full display at this terrific airport. The restaurant there gets great reviews, but alas, it’s not open on Sundays.
The airport folks loaned us a crew car, and we enjoyed a lovely day in Hickory. We particularly liked the aviation museum on the field at Hickory Airport. It’s free, and we were more than happy to make a donation, as the museum is currently working on getting a hangar for its collection of aircraft from an F-4 to an A-6. Tom had flown A-6s while in the Navy, and it was fun to see one at the museum.
We overnighted in Hickory, at the very reasonably-priced Days Inn, close to the airport. Up early the next morning — to the airplane, and up in the air to cross over to South Carolina, about a 30-minute flight (100 miles) to the path of totality.
We first contacted the airport at Clemson — and were shocked to hear that all the spots are reserved (after having been told that it didn’t accept reservations!). Next target, Pickens — sorry, no room on the ramp. We weren’t panicked yet, but it’s not looking good. Next, we went to “Plan C” — Bob contacted Anderson Regional Airport and got a green light, yay! We landed at Anderson, which was totally ready for an onslaught of traffic. Marshals on the ground pointed the way, and we followed a truck with a huge sign, “Follow Me.” We did.
They parked us in an area that looked like an unused runway — plenty of room, and the planes kept arriving. I asked the marshal when was the last time they had so many aircraft expected, and he said, “Never.” It truly was a historic day, and we were glad to be part of it.
The Hickory Airport that day was hosting an event for a Cirrus pilots’ club — COPA — and we were surrounded by enthusiastic pilots, friends and family. What a great, collegial atmosphere. We set up our camp chairs, brought out a picnic lunch, and sat in the shade in a roomy hangar, as it was plenty hot that day. A pair of scientists with professional-looking telescopes and cameras were set up near us; they were very generous with their equipment and knowledge and shared both with us.
As the moon began to move over the sun, excitement built. We walked out to look up (with our special glasses) at the sun. As the moon covered more and more of the sun, the temperature dropped and the light became somewhat strange. I said, “The light looks like that moment in the horror film when the people first realize something terrible is about to happen.” The scientists looked amused.
As it got really, truly dark, we saw that streetlights had come on, and the airport beacon had come on. Temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees; it was quite comfortable. Alas, a big cloud covered the sun just at the wrong moment … but I WAS able to glimpse the “diamond ring.” You can see it in Bob’s short video of our eclipse adventure. The totality lasted about 2+ minutes — most memorable.
Just as quickly as it had darkened, the skies brightened. A group of skydivers had jumped during totality and were floating back down to land at the airport. Private aircraft began moving out; we enjoyed the “parade” of various types of airplanes — Cirrus (of course), Mooney, Navion, Cessna, Beech, Piper, and several small jets.
We returned to Hickory for another overnight. Bob (looking at our onboard GPS) was amused to see a large number of aircraft headed back up north. We were glad we were in the air and not on the ground, stuck in traffic!
Many thanks to the wonderful folks at both Hickory Airport and Anderson Airport — they were all amazingly warm, friendly, and helpful. We had such a great adventure … we are contemplating destinations for the next total eclipse in 2024.
I am finally recovered from the jet lag hangover of our last trip — five weeks from Dubai to Singapore.
We left hot-and-sweaty Singapore, flew 22 hours (flight time) back home, and landed in 14-degree temperature. That is 14 degrees Fahrenheit! It was a SHOCK. I was somewhat prepared for the frigid weather; Bob, not so much. We recovered from that as soon as we got into our warm home … but it took me two or three weeks to recover from jet lag. I have no great tips for this, but I will say that regular exercise helps.
Friends have asked what it’s like taking such a long trip, and if we were ready to come home. It was a wonderful trip — so many interesting things to see and experience — and Seabourn took excellent care of us. So it was the opposite of a hardship! But by the end of five weeks, I was ready to come home.
I find so many things interesting, wherever we are. For example, even the grocery stores are interesting — with different products and different presentations.
Preparing for a big trip is a lot of work … and coming home is a lot of work, too! Just working through the mountain of mail and laundry took us a couple of days. But, being retired, we aren’t worried about work email or work projects awaiting us. So that removes quite a bit of stress.
The advantage of traveling by cruise ship is that your hotel room travels with you. So unlike our Spain|Portugal|Morocco trip — where we were unpacking/packing every 1-2 days — we unpacked/packed only once. Not to mention that our floating hotel was awesome, with great service and dining.
But everything has pros and cons, and I would say that one “con” is that, on a cruise, you are only skimming the surface of the countries you are visiting. We landed at each port and spent maybe 8-10 hours at each one — only enough time to see a few highlights. Let me give one example. Several years ago, we spent one week touring Sri Lanka — which was amazing. So much history, culture and natural beauty! Yet we only had a very tiny glimpse of this at the port of Colombo.
But seeing even a little bit is better than not seeing it at all! As is the case with Bob’s short video of this trip, which merely skims the surface of all that we saw.
We are getting ready for a ski trip to Mammoth Mountain, California, where they have received more than 20 FEET of snow just in 2017 alone. The base is an incredible 300″ and they just got about 20″ last night. Powder, here we come! — Diana
We have had a fun and busy schedule! About 2 weeks after my last day at work, we set off for a terrific trip to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. I had visited Portugal when I was 13, but aside from that long-ago trip, neither of us had been to any of these places. It was about time!
We enjoyed all three, which were completely different, even though they are relatively close to one another. I learned a lot about the history of the region — the Spanish Inquisition and the eviction/persecution of Jews and Muslims made me think, “can’t we all just get along?!” The Moorish history made for some gorgeous architecture and design.
I learned that Moorish gardens always have three elements — fragrance (flowers), water, and edibles (fruit). These elements, combined with beautiful tilework, etc., are gorgeous. Check out the trip page for some of my favorite photos. I thought the Real Alcazar (royal palace) of Sevilla was one of the highlights of the trip, as was the Alhambra in Granada. I also loved Obidos, Portugal, a charming old walled city.
The ancient Moroccan medinas in Fes and Marrakech were fascinating. Mostly (to me) because they are there — not for tourists — but for regular, everyday business. And have been doing business like that for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Throughout, we had great weather, and very yummy food. The famous Iberian ham is absolutely delicious and I ate it as often as possible. (See postscript below if you’re interested in my “secret” method of avoiding traveler’s stomach.)
About 2 weeks after we got back from this big touring trip, we packed up again and flew to Grenada, West Indies for a week of scuba diving at Sandals La Source. Very relaxing and it was nice to be able to laze around in a beautiful setting.
We’re back home now. I’m joking about having to get my own meals now, but it really is great to be home. We love traveling, and we love coming home.
P.S. OK, so here’s the deal about me & traveler’s tummy. Until I discovered this “secret” method, I got traveler’s tummy 100% of the time. Every time I left the country. So in the last 20 years that I’ve been using this method, I have been TOTALLY FINE. And I’ve been in Egypt, India, China, Mexico, Turkey, Morocco … where other travelers have had tummy troubles.
So what’s the big secret? It’s so simple and it works for me. Every night that I am on the trip, I take a dose of Pepto Bismol — even if I am feeling totally fine. If I feel like my tummy’s going in the wrong direction, I pop another dose. Now that Pepto Bismol (actually I take a generic) is made in tablets and pills, it’s super easy. When I started this method, I had to take the yucky pink liquid.
That’s it. Super simple. And if you have a delicate tummy, it is TOTALLY worth trying. What do you have to lose? Not to be indelicate, but I will tell you that this method will stop you up a bit for the first few days … but it sorts itself out, and in my opinion, it’s way better than the alternative. Good luck!
Thanks for visiting our refreshed website! We started it years ago so we could share photos and videos of our travels — intended mostly for friends … but if we can inspire anyone to explore our world, that’s great! We got our domain name through Network Solutions years ago, and they recently told us that we were one of the early registrants. How about that — we are pioneers!
If you’re interested, you can read a little bit About Us and our families.
We have just now turned to a new chapter in our life adventure — I retired! Yesterday was my last day at work. My teammates gave me the warmest multi-phase send-off EVER. I just hope that I helped them feel even a fraction as good as they made me feel.
So I’m only a few hours into not having working-schedule constraints. I can’t say that I have truly internalized that, but so far it feels pretty good. Next week, we’re leaving for a trip to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco — pretty excited about that! Neither of us has been to Spain or Morocco, and I was in Portugal when I was 11 … I’m sure my experience/perspective will be very different.
Just as we did for the recent trip to Russia, we will travel with one carry-on bag each. My strategy is that every single clothing item has to go with everything else … or it doesn’t go. I do write lists, and I always try on all the items — not only to make sure everything goes with everything else, but also to see what items I can leave home. 🙂
One of my “secrets” is a garment that I can wear many different ways. I’ve long been intrigued with “convertible” garments, only to be disappointed. But this garment — HipKnoTies (pronounced “hip-no-TIZE”) — is the real deal (not sponsored! I just love this product). At another time, I’ll share more tips about this, but here are some customer photos; you can see all the fun ways you can wear the garment (I’m in a number of these pics). I always have one with me on the airplane — super comfy if it gets chilly.