Seniors Tour Costa Rica

Costa Rica has many sites well worth a visit that include without saying the rain forests.  Senior travelers, let’s go on a short tour around the country starting in San José and then exploring  some of the most popular sites along our route.

San José, the capital city, has a population of about 5 million… quite large, however Costa Rica is a small country located just south of Guatemala and north of Panama. You probably knew that already.  Lonely Planet notes that Costa Rica is sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America” because of its comfortable lifestyle, peaceful democracy and overwhelming natural beauty.

A classic tourist route includes Costa Rica’s popular highlights like Arenal’s Active Volcano, unique fauna and adrenaline filled excursions most often surrounded by exotic vegetation. So lets “wander around” a bit and enjoy some of the “must see and do” sites.

Costa Rica encompasses just 0.03% of the world’s land mass. With over 500,000 plant and animal species this makes it one of the planets most biologically dense countries. According to Costa Rica’s National Biodiversity Institute (INBio), the biodiversity in Costa Rica represents close to 4% of the total species on Earth.

The  top destinations offer seniors a wide range of activities and accommodations that have attracted folks  from all over the world. Costa Rica will captivate senior visitors with its unique natural landscape and habitat. Parts have a rain forest, other areas are tropical, and some have volcanoes, and always a wide variety of captivating scenery.

Many tourists arrive in San José but only stay in the city long enough to catch a shuttle bus out for some classical sightseeing. Those visitors who stick around will find the bustling city is full of life and activity, such as Mercado Central, an open-air market where handmade merchandise is sold by local vendors.

A Complete Senior Citizen Vacation

Senior travelers can enjoy tropical beaches, adventures into the wild, the wonders of nature, and a local culture that all make up the components of an ideal vacation. It’s no wonder that thousands have made Costa Rica a top travel destination.

Tourism in Costa Rica is one of the fastest growing economic sectors of the country and by 1995 became the largest foreign exchange earner. Since 1999, tourism earns more foreign exchange than bananas, pineapples and coffee exports combined.

Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s most famous destinations, offering world-class beaches, a fantastic national park with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. There are dozens of local and international dining options and a wide range of accommodations – everything from 5-star luxury suites to simple budget hotels. A trip to Costa Rica is on my wife’s bucket list.  jeb


Seniors Drop In On Bangor

Bangor, your gateway to more of Maine, is another one of those nice size towns (33,000) where the locals are pleased that it remains the third largest city in the state. Forbes notes that Bangor is “One of the Best Places to Retire” in the country. There are fantastic higher learning facilities nearby, which offer plenty of classes for seniors.

Bangor is a community that offers residents and senior visitors alike the best of both worlds: a friendly city that’s filled with excitement, opportunity and activity, and a gateway to the natural beauty of this great region. Bangor’s quality of life has earned Bangor a place at the top of many national “best places” lists.

 Residents and senior visitors enjoy the arts, shopping, outdoor recreation, sightseeing, and dining in Bangor. It is located along the shores of the Penobscot River, close to the geographic center of the state and just 50 miles from Bar Harbor. Bangor is perhaps most well known as the setting for many of Stephen King’s stories, a reputation that has led to the nickname Transylmainia and his home is there.

Seniors Discover Historical City

Incorporated in 1791, Bangor is named for an Irish hymn entitled “Bangor,” said to be a favorite of pastor Seth Noble who traveled to Boston with the initial intention of naming the town Sunbury. Until recently, it was generally believed that the earliest record of European exploration was found in the journals of French explorer Samuel de Champlain.

Fishing and fur trading drew early settlers to the coast of Maine. In the 19th century, Bangor prospered as a lumber port, and began to call itself “the lumber capital of the world”. Most of the local sawmills (as many as 300 to 400) were actually upriver in neighboring towns. Sailors and loggers gave the city a widespread reputation for roughness; their stomping grounds were known as the “Devil’s Half Acre”.

 Bangor claims to be both the birthplace of the lumber industry, and of Paul Bunyan. A titan of a statue (31 feet tall) in the city reminds Bangorians of their connection to this mythic character.

Today, Bangor remains the commercial and social center of Northern, Central, and Eastern Maine. It has become the region’s largest center of retail and service businesses, and a center for government, education, and employment.

Bangor has a mostly 19th-century cityscape, and sections of the city are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A fire in 1911 destroyed much of the downtown, but the rebuilt area is a national historic landmark.

If you are looking to get up-close and personal with the great outdoors, senior walkers will find a multitude of walking and hiking trails, both in and out of the city. Fall foliage is a big draw around Bangor. It looks like a great place to stop when you’re in the area. jeb


Seniors Ask, “Is It Holland, Dutch, Netherlands?

The Netherlands, officially called the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is in English often referred to as “Holland” and the people are often referred to as “Dutch.” What senior travelers probably remember most, like me, is that much of it is below sea level.

The Netherlands is a geographically very low-lying country, with about 20% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, and 50% of its land lying less than one meter above sea level.

Who in their right mind would live in such an environment anyhow?  Well, let’s check it out and see why seniors find the  Netherlands attractive and fun but first we need to clarify the difference between Holland and The Netherlands. The country is just kinda hanging up there lynch pinned between Belgium and Germany with the North Sea coming in from all sides.

Holland is actually a region and former province located on the western coast of the Netherlands. The term Holland is also frequently used to refer to the whole of the country of the Netherlands. Confusing huh?

Oh yes, The Hague is the seat of government and the chief of state: Queen Beatrix, since 30 April 1980. If you spend much time in this country you will learn that The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy, which depends heavily on foreign trade.


The Unusual Terrain

The terrain is mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land called ‘polders.’  Those polders produce lots of grains, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits and vegetables. Its name literally means “Low Countries”.

And Dutch cheese: Gouda, Edam, Leerdammer, Leyden cheese, Maasdam, Parrano and Vlaskaas. And water water water everywhere with the country is located at mouths of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde).

Sixteen million folks crowd into this small area that has hundreds of windmills and millions of colorful, bright, inviting tulips. Both Dutch and Frisian are the official languages and the Euro is the local currency. Look for lots of tall blond folks wearing orange. Orange is related to the Dutch Royal Family and represents the national identity of the Netherlands.

 Seniors Are Drawn to Amsterdam

The Netherlands consists of twelve provinces  and three Dutch-speaking islands in the Caribbean, Aruba, Sint Maarten and Curaçao. Amsterdam is one main reason that seniors are drawn to the Netherlands. It’s a totally awesome city.

My brother Steve traveled extensively all over Europe and Amsterdam always remained his favorite city. Steve, a botanist, was always enthralled with the acres upon acres of tulips that are grown in the country.

Going Dutch

I stumbled upon an article by Russell Shorto in the NY Times called ‘Going Dutch.”  It’s interesting and informative, a personal testimony about what it’s like to live in Amsterdam as an American.

 So ‘hebben een mooie tocht’…that’s Dutch for Bon Voyage. jeb


Seniors Discover Antwerp

Antwerp is a city and municipality in Belgium and the capital of the Antwerp province of Flanders. Antwerp’s total population is 512,000, making it the largest municipality in both Flanders and Belgium. Often referred to as “Belgium’s Best Known Secret”, Antwerp is a major senior destination. Known for its magnificent harbor,   the second largest in Europe, the city owes its very existence and prosperity to the water.

The overwhelming friendliness of the people of Antwerp and their innate penchant for good food and good living, combined with their low stress lifestyle, makes it a desirable and relaxing place for a senior visit.

The city is known for many reason and diamonds are #1. It’s called the European Capital of Sport 2013 with thousands of residents running, cycling and swimming all year round.

This year, Antwerp will be raising the bar another few notches as it will be hosting world championships, European championships, Belgian championships and numerous huge sporting events.

Seniors Enjoy Trendy City

Due to its long and culturally rich history, the city of Antwerp houses many interesting historical buildings from different historical periods, as well as a lot of interesting museums. Recently it has become a trendy city, attracting Flemish and foreign artists, writers, intellectuals, and actors.

TripAdvisor will fix you up with a fashionable vacation and notes that Central Station is the #1 tourist attraction in the city. The city is known for its diamonds, but senior visitors will also find fashion and the home of Flemish artists such as Rubens and van Dyck, whose many works can be admired in the local museums.

And senior visitors, one of the many titles that Antwerp proudly used in the 16th century was de “triomfelycke coopstad”, which roughly translates as “the city renowned for shopping”. Today the title is still accurate, so bring a heavy purse and some big shopping bags.

A visit to Antwerp should include the new museum MAS, the world famous Cathedral of Our Lady and Rubens’ House, the home of Antwerp’s most famous ambassador.

The city has a sophisticated charm and a metropolitan feel with a predominant seaside resort flair. A plethora of patios, the yacht marina and the river Scheldt make even the locals feel like they are on vacation.

You’ll get your chocolate fix in Belgium, famous for its chocolate, waffles and culture. Senior visitors will be enthralled with all the structures, artists, museums, food, and the diamond trade. I invite you to take in all of Belgium. jeb


 Seniors, How’s Your Geography?

Let’s start off with a few good questions from the National Geographic Magazine for you well traveled senior citizens. # 1: The Northern Sporades are a group of islands that belong to what country? #2: Rabat, Morocco’s capital is the second largest city in that country. What is the largest city?  #3: What is the most populated country in Africa? #4: Name the largest desert the covers parts of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa? and #5: The South Sea borders both Macau and what other former European colony that is now part of China? I only got two right myself.

Let’s check out the answers.  First of all the Sporades are an archipelago along the east coast of Greece, northeast of the island of Euboea, in the Aegean Sea. It consists of 24 islands, four of which are permanently inhabited. So the correct response would be Greece.  I didn’t answer that one correctly either.  Never heard of it .

Secondly, that largest city is Casablanca. I had an opportunity to travel with a former university colleague to Morocco but hesitated since that country has not been all that friendly to “outside visitors.”  My friend Larbi is Moroccan and  he asked me to consider going back next summer, which I just might do.

It’s an introductory indoctrination for university professors on the country and provides some basic Arabic classes while there. That would be fun for me. The city is large with over 3.5 million people and counting the metropolitan area, nearly 5 million. Many of us seniors will remember the movie ‘Casablanca’, a 1942 romantic drama with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

This Senior Finally Got One Right

Third: I got this one right. Nigeria with a population of just over 170 million with over 389 ethnic groups that give the country a great cultural diversity. Nigeria, known as “the Giant of Africa” is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Oh yes, the capital city is Abuja and the president is Goodluck Johathan. No kidding.

Fourth: That Magnificent Desert, the Kalahari. The desert is a large semi-arid sandy savannah in southern Africa. The Kalahari Desert has been estimated at some 360,000 square miles.

And the former colony that is now part of China. I got the Fifth one correct too. It’s Hong Kong only because I knew that it went back to China but the other part about the South Sea and Macau did not help me at all. It has over 7 million inhabitants and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

 An academic study has concluded that Hong Kong and Singapore have the highest average IQ Scores among the 108 countries examined. It is known for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbor. They say that Hong Kong is where the “East Meets West” and it’s true.

So I hope that you enjoyed this little geography lesson. Geography was one of my favorite subjects.  jeb

Filed under : Editors Choice


Seniors Stop in Pocatello

Pocatello, Idaho is another one of those towns that rate up there with the best.  Forbes rated it (#6) as one of the best places to live cheaply in the country. It has events going on all year long. Not only can you ski and go snowmobiling and play golf, but birding, fishing, biking and just strolling though the park keep seniors wanting to come back again and again.

Pocatello is known as the “Gateway to the Northwest” (or “Gate City” by the locals). Pioneers, gold miners and settlers who traveled the Oregon Trail passed through these gates. Stage and freight lines and the railroad soon followed, turning the community into the trade center and transportation junction it is today.

At one time the city boasted the largest rail yard west of the Mississippi River. Incidentally there is a law that goes back to 1948 that makes it illegal to frown or grimace within the city limits. As a result, the town is now known as the U.S. Smile Capital and is famous for its hospitality. The local philosophy is to make every visitor’s stay memorable and fun whether you’re staying the night, a few days or a few weeks.

Pocatello was named after a Chief of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes who donated land the city now occupies to the Railroad. Pronouncing the name is easier than you think; try poke-uh-tello. Pocatello has a population of approximately 54,000 and Chubbuck which is separated only by a city limits sign, has a population of approximately 14,000.

Hiking Biking Trails Invite Seniors

The Portneuf River joins the more famous Snake River at American Falls reservoir just north of  the city. Unlike most rivers in the United States, the Portneuf flows to the north. The Portneuf Greenway has nature filled trails at either end of the community and islands of green for pedestrians in the Historic Old Town area. It includes 13+ miles of walking and biking paths along the river. It is open to bikers with a courtesy eye out for runners and walkers.

Above all, Pocatello is famous for its pristine wilderness and numerous snow/winter activities. Pocatello hosts Benny the Bengal who is the mascot for Idaho State University with its 15,500 students.

Pocatello and Southeast Idaho have a story to tell. It is a story of one of the most thrilling periods of American history, when a young nation full of adventure and wanting new lands began the trek Westward, first in trickles, then in swarms, growing into the greatest, voluntary migration that any nation had known.

The Fort Hall Replica visit is to enter the 19th Century world of explorers, trappers, fur traders, Native Americans, pioneers, gold seekers, historic figures, and common folk; all of whom visited the place called Fort Hall on the banks of the Snake River in what is now Southeast Idaho.

Pocatello seems to have it all together and is just waiting for your visit. jeb


Seniors Enjoy Dijon’s Mustard and Wine

Dijon, a city in eastern France, began as a Roman settlement called Divio and is located on the road from Paris to Lyon. With a population of just over 150,000, it’s big enough and small enough for senior travelers to take in on one full day visit.

I’ve been there a couple of times and found it to be an exciting place. Right in the heart of Burgundy, the surface of the vines is about 29,500 hectares for a production of about 200 million bottles sold.

As the ancient capital of the Burgundy province, Dijon is an architecturally rich city offering senior travelers far more than mustard. In its restored medieval core, you’ll discover one of France’s oldest museums, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, as well as the elegant Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, that I remember best of all. Dijon has one of the best preserved medieval centers in France.

Dijon Mustard Yes, But the White Wines Reign

I recall many fields of yellow mustard as well as vineyards as far as the eye could see. It’s a great area for seniors travelers to spend one, two or three days for a great vacation. Lonely Planet notes that Dijon is one of France’s most appealing cities and I agree.

Filled with elegant medieval and Renaissance buildings, the lively historic center is a great place for strolling. Maybe take the self guided walk in the city, called Parcours de la chouette (the way of the owl, shown by easy to follow owl arrows and numbered owl plates in the ground).

I learned on one of my Food and Wine Tours of France as a Tour Group Leader with Elderhostel that La Bourgogne is better known for it’s white wines. 384 separate villages produce a white wine with the label ‘Bourgogne.’  I always figured it was the reds.

And for your information, the Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all of the region’s white Grand Cru wines are in the Côte de Beaune. Even a Riesling lover like me will readily concede that the greatest white wines in the world are white Burgundies.

Seniors Will Like a “Kir”

Dijon is well known for cassis, a sweet black current liqueur that is a bright reddish-purple in color. I really like cassis and a traditional Dijonnaise cocktail is called a “Kir”, a blend of cassis and a local white wine (traditionally “Aligoté”) – you can also order it made with champagne for a tasty and festive “Kir Royale”. So what the heck, shoot the works  and have the Royale! A Kir makes for a great apéritif in late afternoon.

Seniors, jump the high speed TGV train from Paris to Dijon. It’s worth the trip just for the escargot in melted garlic butter, coq au vin, boeuf bourgignon and parslied ham, all washed down with a fine Burgundy, of course.

Enjoy your stay in Dijon. jeb


Senior Cheese Lovers Head For Gruyères

Gruyères (French pronunciation: [gru-i-air]) is a town in the district of Gruyère in Switzerland just south of Bern. Its German name is Greyerz. Many seniors who enjoy good cheese know the high quality of Gruyere, it is one of the world’s best-known cheeses.

It’s near the top for me and my wife and I have enjoyed many classy French cheeses. Charles DeGaulle once said “How do you expect me to govern a country that has over 365 different kinds of cheeses and over a hundred ways to prepare an omelette?”  He was right you know. He also said “the world’s cemeteries are full of irreplaceable people.” That’s true too.


Cheese Fondue Tempts Senior Visitors

The medieval town of 2,000 inhabitants is an important tourist location in the upper valley of the Saane River, and gives its name to Gruyère cheese. Senior travelers simply must try the fondue, from the French word “fondre” which translated means to melt.

The traditional lunch in Gruyères includes Raclette, a Swiss dish based on heating a huge round cheese and scraping off (racler) the melted part. Senior visitors add it to sliced steamed potatoes or a variety of thin “charcuteries.” Miam Miam.

To make an “official fondue” it is a full meal, which consists of Gruyère AOP cheese and wine melted together in a pan. Break apart a nice baguette into smaller pieces, take the specially designed fondue long-stemmed forks and dip into the hot melted cheese. Yum.

The French say that whoever loses their first piece of bread into the melted cheese pays for the meal. So if you are a novice, better wait till someone else loses their bread. Several restaurants in town serve Gruyère specialities and desserts made with delicious Gruyère double cream.

There is also a chocolate fondue made of chocolate melted with milk or cream for dipping a variety of fruits. Cheese-making can be watched first-hand at the modern dairy in Gruyères or the traditional alp dairy at Moléson village.

Medieval Town Beacons Senior Visitors

The town is tiny with a handful of alleys and only one that can be called a street, but filled with things to see and do. At the far end of town is the castle of Gruyères which is open to the public for a nominal fee. The castle, which dates back to the 13th century, is today a museum depicting 800 years of regional architecture, history and culture.

The ramparts around the town, date to the 12th century. The counts of Gruyères lived in the castle from the 12th to the 16th century. The Maison du Gruyere is right alongside the train station in Gruyere.

Since three different languages are spoken depending on the region, senior visitors would say  “Danke” for “Thank you” in German, ” Merci” in French and “Grazie” in Italian. So make plans for a stop in the town of Gruyères, Switzerland. jeb




Seniors Time For a Rail Trip

There are several train trips across the US and Canada that many senior tourists have enjoyed over the years. Here’s your opportunity to join unique rail trips like the Denali Star which runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Love that train whistle, don’t you too?

The train departs each city at 8:15 am and stops along the way in Talkeetna and Denali Park. On both the Northbound and Southbound trains there are three main types of train service available; Standard (also known as Adventure Class), Private Dome (privately operated), and GoldStar Dome. All three are attached to the same train or locomotive, but the amenities and cost will vary depending on what type railcar service you choose.

Great Way For Seniors to See Alaska

We have friends who have taken the Inlet Passage along the coast of Alaska and loved that cruise.  Now seniors are invited to go inland and travel by train through some of the most captivating scenery in the northern hemisphere.    An important part of Alaska’s rich heritage, the Alaska Railroad stretches 470 miles from Seward on the south central Kenai Peninsula, to the northern golden heart city of Fairbanks.

Along the way, the train travels through some of the most scenic and rugged territory in Alaska, including Denali National Park, Denali State Park, and Chugach National Forest. The Alaska Railroad runs two primary passenger services during the summer season. On the rail north of Anchorage, the Denali Star operates daily between Fairbanks, Denali, Talkeetna and Anchorage. To the south, the Coastal Classic operates daily between Anchorage and Seward.

Train Features Meet Seniors Needs

Alaska Railroad trains feature large picture windows, comfortable seating, on board hosts, dining options, restrooms, and luggage cars. Two pieces of luggage are allowed, with extra luggage subject to a fee. The railroad is accessible to wheelchairs, with special ramps at the depots and provisions on the coaches for occupied wheel chairs.

Senior travelers, you will know from the very moment you climb aboard the Alaska Railroad that you’re riding some the best trains in the world. Maybe even get a group of your friends to join with you as many seniors do on cruises.

The Alaska Railroad is a natural fit for groups. Their trains provide the perfect environment for groups to relax and interact with each other. Group Planners love how easy it is to keep groups together, while still allowing for space to enjoy the trip –  as passengers are encouraged to move through the train during the ride.

Sounds like fun to me and my wife. We may even see you on one of those trips.  Enjoy the rail!  jeb




Seniors Adventurers Explore Chiapas

Seniors, do you know where Chiapas is located? In south Mexico, boarding Guatemala to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Chiapas is unique and it’s on my “travel bucket list.” Senior explorers are discovering that Mexico’s southernmost state is a  fascinating visit. 

The city of San Cristóbal de las Casas is a natural base — not only an endlessly appealing city with everything from centuries-old churches to hip wine bars, but perfectly located for exploring the rest of the state. The capital of Chiapas, Tuxtla Gutierrez, has a population of approximately half a million inhabitants.

Why Would Seniors Travel to Chiapas?

The state is a compact area that packs in plenty for the adventure loving senior traveler, from pristine lakes, rivers and national parks, to fascinating and friendly Mexican pueblos.  Chiapas is home to several famous ancient Mayan ruins: Palenque, Yaxchilán, Bonampak, Chinkultic, and Toniná. Getting around the state is fast and hassle-free with places of interest conveniently close to each other.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palenque is the state’s most important archeological attraction with buildings from the Classic Mayan time, hosting the famous Inscriptions Temple. Originally called La Kam Ha (the place of much water) before the Spanish renamed it Palenque “The Palace”, it is one of the largest and most beautiful buildings in Mayan architecture.

Seniors Encounter a Colonial Domain

San Cristóbal de las Casas is a colonial city with narrow streets and colorful one-story houses with tiled roofs that enclose lovely courtyards. It offers senior visitors not only a journey back in time with its many churches and museums but also a contemporary bohemian ambiance of art galleries, bars and sophisticated restaurants catering to an international crowd of travelers and expats.

Relatively isolated until tourism began to influence its economy in the 1970′s, visitors find San Cristóbal to be one of the most attractive towns in Chiapas. A stronghold of Mayan culture, San Cristóbal contrasts with the surrounding villages, which remain home to a wide array of Mayan-descendant Indians.

The State of Chiapas is one with the most biodiversity in the country, hosting part of the Lacandona Jungle with more than 20% of the Mexican fauna. Chiapas is a state of extremes: stunning colonial cities, important archaeological sites, scenic beaches, tropical rainforest, lakes and high mountains with an active volcano as well as a large indigenous population where no fewer than 10 different dialects are spoken.

Seniors Explore Palenque Up Close

Palenque is a “must.”  The site is famous for the ruins of a Mayan city dating from 600 AD to 800 AD, containing  some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and bas-relief carvings the Maya produced. Set amidst thick trees, Palenque still evokes some of the wonder that the early Spanish visitors must have felt when they first came across the ruins.

So you may have visited Mexico; now come and see “The Real Mexico” in Chiapas. jeb

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