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Reykjavik, Iceland Trip

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We were just in Reykjavik, Iceland, enjoying our 4 day trip, I wrote a lot of this post from the airport awaiting our flight to JFK New York airport.

Since we had the hardest time figuring out how to pronounce Reykjavik, /ˈrā-kyə-ˌvik, -ˌvēk/  (Ray-clay-vick).  We heard about 4 different pronunciations prior to arriving but only one when there in Iceland.

There was a lot of expected and unexpected adventure.  The expected that came true:

  • It was raining, sleeting, snowing, overcast everyday.
  • The outside in January 2017 was as cold as in Detroit, MI.  30-40degrees each day.
  • The seafood was very fresh and tasty. So we ate as much as possible.
  • There was so much to see and do the 4 days was not enough.  The Golden circle tour was overwhelming beautiful.
  • We loved every minute of it & would go again for longer, but after we travel many other places first.
  • Our tour group thru Gate One was Great, we heard from others they do a wonderful Peru trip as well.

The unexpected and what we saw:

  • The inside of all buildings were very warm/hot – this was due to the almost free geothermic (Volcanic) heat on the island.  We were told the average household could be heated and provided  as much hot water as they want for only $100 per month, so they crank the heat. So bring layers so you can take them off to prevent you from overheating inside.
  • Our dream trip to the Blue Lagoon was a fail, it was booked everyday we were there until after 7pm/dark (booking ahead would have been smart). So we didn’t give up and instead traveled  to the secret lagoon.  The secret lagoon, was much smaller with only about 25people visitors during our visit.  We booked  our tour for ~$90 US/person the night before in our hotel lobby, the next morning a van picked us up from our hotel and they drove thru sleet, 1hr 20mins to the lagoon, for a 2hr dip.  We loved this, and could have gone everyday, if it were closer.  The lagoon water was so hot near the edges it felt like we were starting to cook, but in the middle it was extremely relaxing.  We loved the apple and pear alcoholic beverages, we recommend buying these before changing.  David walked the pathway surrounding the lagoon, he said it was very slick so I stayed put.  We cannot compare this to the Blue Lagoon, but everyone in our Gate One travel group did say they thought it sounded better, and the Blue Lagoon was super touristy.

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  • While we did read the food was very expensive, it was still way over what we were expecting.  A small bag of chips from the local market was $5 US, a single soda was $5 US, a bowl of soup was $10 US, and  a sit down dinner anywhere with one alcoholic beverage each was at least $200 US.  Alcohol was about $7-22 US per drink, with most single drinks or a glass of house wine in the $11 US range. We wish we would have stopped at duty free and got a single bottle of liquor, and drank before we went out.  You can purchase an entire bottle at duty free for the price of a single drink in town.   We did pack snacks and ate them on the excursions, we were glad to have them.  We did have a Hot Dog House, plain hot dog for $4.70 US, which was extremely tasty.

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  • We stayed at Hotel Klettur in downtown.  It was clean, respectful, nice, with small minimal rooms – but who cared, we were out all day, and slept at night.  They had all the amenities we needed and a free breakfast buffet.  It did take us about 10mins to figure out how to turn work the room lights.  Turns out you have stick you room key (or other ccard) in the slot next to the door above the light switch.  Also if you take this out when you leave, your left behind electronics will not charge.

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  • We did see the Northern lights, but they were not spectacular, in fact it just looked like a green smoke cloud and we only saw them for maybe 1-5minutes.  We were told when booking the package that you might not see the Northern lights so we felt lucky to get one good photo below.  We drove from site to site for over 5 hrs at this first site below, we visited a church (in the pouring rain of course), and I took these pictures, because we saw no northern lights at this location, but thought it was pretty.

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  • NOTE***  You will never get a picture of the northern lights with your cell phone, you need a higher end camera with a 30second time set, and a stand.  Your in a field in the dark, there will be no where to prop your camera, you need the stand.
  • We visited an Icelandic Horse Farm Tour. It had a short presentation with time to pet the horses.  I really enjoyed this, especially since it was POURING sleet outside, and we were inside. We learned the Vikings brought over the best horses they had and to this day any new horses are forbidden to be imported to Iceland to preserve the purity of this breed.   David thought it was OK, he was more interested in the landscape viewing, which was still to come.

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We also visited the Hallgrímskirkja  a Lutheran parish and largest church on the hill in Reykjavik, Iceland.  The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrimur Petursson (1614-1674).   My boss said I had to go, because he had been to Iceland twice and both times it was under construction and he could not see it – it was part of our Gate One downtown tour, but I took these pictures for my boss, Ray Carlson.   It reminded me of a smaller version of Gaudi’s church in Barcelona, Spain – BUT, all while no color.

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My favorite part of the trip, other than getting David to myself for fours days was the Golden Circle stop at the Volcano, Kerio.  It was POURING sleet and so windy I was cautious not to fall down into the volcano.   I am more of an inside type of girl, but I just loved this, I wish we could have walked down the stairs to the crater, but we only have a 15min window.  I read in the summer you can swim in this crater, and it looked so beautiful I pictured myself summer swimming even in this ice storm.

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Because I could go on for more than any one person would want to read.  I included a few more pictures with captions to explain the beauty and awesome of Iceland.  So we would recommend you visiting for sure.  I did want to note, to visit most of the best of nature – you will have to first take a long bus ride, then walk – up hills, down stairs, often longer distances and in the extreme Iceland weather.  Many of our tour group decided to skip most of the tour – they were not interested in walking, or leaving the vehicle, for anything other than a quick looksee, then straight to the food area of the stop.  Therefore I recommend you go to Iceland before you cannot, why fly so far for a bus ride to a periphery view.    Another reason we are sure 52years old is our goal to retire.

 

Next Travel – David’s close friend is getting married in India in March, still not sure of those details, but we are going – that should be fun.  Then spring break with our 20 year old twins in Cancun Mexico at an Eco friendly resort – Sandos Caracol Eco Resort

 

 

Featured post

Holland America – Veendam

 

20180404_140619The Veendam – with Holland America is a small older ship.  But we got a real deal of two people for 7days, airfare to Fort Lauderdale, the hotel the nite before and the entire cruise for under $2,000.     We dont travel to see the best of the best, we travel for the experience.

The average age of the cruise population is about 65-70.  We are fine with that as well, it is better than a cruise ship filled with 25 year olds, running up and down the hallways all nite, and well, we are 50, so we are closer to 65 than 25 anyhow.  I have noticed the conversations with these cruisers are different, mostly about retirement and grandchildren and what the entertainment will be.

We found the entertainment…. well vanilla, but did enjoy the magician.  The rest was not exciting at all, but did notice all our fellow cruisers were very happy with the entertainment, and I bet my 84 and 88 year old parents would love it.

The ship is older, but redone and quite honestly I thought it was lovely.  I mentioned it was small, and too small for David, he needs constant entertainment, and at sea days left him with little to do, so he became bored, but I was fine.   I am so busy at home, I could just sit and be happy, in fact I could sleep for 3 days before I was bored.  So a bigger ship would not offend me, and would please David, so the next cruise will be a bigger ship – we can both be happy.

These are some wonderful pictures of the ship itself. The one below shows our tiny ship next to a bigger celebrity ship.

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The Luminescent Veendam docked at nite.

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Some of the fine décor on ship below includes incredible exotic flowers and heavenly statue holding a globe.

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At the crows nest, where they had nightly buy one get one free drink specials and wonderful group of people who we would call friends if we got to hang out with them long enough.

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The food was really tasty, superior to the Celebrity X Cruise we were one, but did not change much from day to day.  I typically enjoy dining in the dining room and sitting with strangers, I like to ask questions, but honestly most of the passengers were into grandchildren and retired with not much going on, they had very little to say, and I like to chat with new interesting people.

 

The casino was too small for David, but if they had Pai Gow Poker – he would have been happy.

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The Hallways and ship was wide enough that I never felt cramped or tight, and the art was a joy for me (the ship art), the park west gallery art shows are fun too, but of course as always we do not buy anything, just go for the show.

 

 

Overall I would recommend any cruise, and you know what your getting with the smaller ship.  If you want extreme experience cruising, this is not it, but then again we did not pay for that experience and I believe we got more than what we paid for, a wonderful time and lovely vacation!

 

 

 

Love the Speer Smith Family!

Tropicana Club, Cuba

We only had two days in Havana, Cuba – so we made the most of it – a day of everything, then an evening trip to the Tropicana Club.  I would describe it as an outdoor larger version of the “I Love Lucy” Show’s – Ricky Ricardo’s Club – which was also originally called Tropicana – then renamed Club Babalu.  David and I saw the Las Vegas review – Jubilee, and this show is superior, the dancers have a fire, the music is the over the top and beats Jubilee for me.

We took a bus on a 20min drive to the Tropicana, which had a huge entrance first with a Billboard show casing the Tropicana Club name and a dancing ballerina (club icon), then we drive down a tropical foliage filled drive to the entrance.

We stood in line a long line, but only for 5 mins to walk thru a lobby,  where a Tropicana show girl hands out a cigar to each man and a flower to each women.  There is a sign posted  – all must pay to take pictures inside the club, which we did (hence our photos and videos), but we saw no one else pay and no one was stopped from taking photos, so if you skipped this fee, I don’t believe there would be any trouble for you.  We then huddle into what we assumed would be an indoor theater, but instead we were walked outside to a lush outdoor garden amphitheater style venue, with elaborate overhead lighting.

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This picture does this location no justice.  It is a 180 degree theatre, with a waterfall dancing stage to our far left, a main stage for singers directly ahead, a mini dance bridge in between.  To our right was a three level tower of dancers and in between the main stage and this tower was a hidden full orchestra.

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This picture also does this club a small justice there is stages to the left and right.

The girls and the costumes are incredible.  There were tall statues of art with about 12  costume changes that each were more over the top than the previous, we saw bikini (no nudity) wearing model ladies, with fruit baskets 3 feet tall on their head, they wore chandeliers on their heads, they danced in the 80 degree night heat like it was nothing.

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There were acrobats and singers and non stop Mambo, cha cha cha rhythms action for the entire 1 hour 45 min show.

You get an entire bottle of rum (and a big bottle, larger than a fifth) to split with four people at your table, each person gets a tiny glass bottle of Coca-cola along with a bucket of ice.  So of course we drank most of it in the flaming heat, which made our bus drive home a boisterous spectacle to our bus mates, we laughed so hard, I think we had everyone else laughing too.  I highly recommend the Tropicana Club for the Havana experience!  We sat at the back, and I would have paid the extra $30/ dollars for a middle closer seat, but the front section is not necessary – all views are amazing.20180409_213746

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Cars of Cuba

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20180409_16195920180409_16183320180409_16175520180409_16173320180409_100935Cigars, Castro, Rum, Heat, Colorful Buildings and Cars from the 1940s and 1950s are the things we think about when we think – Cuba.  This post is about the cars of Cuba!

While I know practically nothing about classic cars.  I do know these are beautiful and I love the vibrant colors.   I could look at these all day long.  Havana is a moving car museum and makes all those fields I have walked thru looking at sitting classic cars seem like a museum of the dead.  Havana is a living moving classic car show.

These are a source of pride to the Cubans.  These classic automobiles are held together with bubble gum and blender motors (a quote from our tour guide).  He said Cubans have suffered and had so little, due to the 1961 US Embargo, for so long – but they make due, they fix and they mend, and they preserve regardless of the limits that are set on them  – and that makes they proud not angry.  A great lessen in life.

 

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These mini cabs are so adorable.

First day on Vacation

Short post.  We flew into Fort Lauderdale, Fla the night before our cruise, and we spent the night at the Link hotel, about 12 minutes from the airport, $100.00/nite with breakfast, small rooms, but clean and free transportation to the airport, but it only runs until 8 pm and we missed the ride to the hotel from the airport.  We woke up around 7:30am, ate breakfast and shuttled over to the airport again, where we took another shuttle to the cruise ship yard.

A day a sea, and then we will be in Grand Cayman.  Looking forward to posting next.

 

Bon Voyage

We are headed out to our 7 day Cuban Explorer with Holland America Cruise, on the Veendam.  We started in Fort Lauderdale, Florida then to Georgetown, Grand Cayman, to Cozumel, Quntana Roo Mexico, then Havana Cuba, back to Ft Lauderdale.   We choose this cruise specifically for the Cuba Experience and we are really are very excited to step foot in Cuba.   We did read in our paperwork, we had to book an excursion or we will not be allowed off the ship, and that is a recent change to the US requirements.   So we booked an 8hr – Best of Havana, and a night trip to the Tropicana Club.  While many might not ever even consider visiting Cuba, for us something about seeing what has been forbidden is a thrill.  This might be a short window of opportunity that we never get to experience again, but if we enjoy Cuba, and it is still possible a longer trip might be in our future as well.

This is our third cruise together as a couple, but Davids ~10th, I only started cruising when I met David, so my third cruise.   This is our second with Holland, where the population is significantly older, but then again our cruise with Celebrity was also an older group.  I guess most can afford to cruise when they are older and finally have the time, so the ships population is filled with motorized scooters, canes and stories of grand children.

When I checked online reviews of the Veendam, I see Excellent reviews, and that it is a small ship with a max capacity of 1350.  We will report back on what we experienced upon return.  I am sure I will drink a few Cuba Libras (Rum and Coke) during this trip, so I will try and report back daily on our adventure, or might forget a fact or two.

Suze Orman Your Wrong! (long)

Suze Orman is noted as a financial advisor,  author, motivational speaker, and television host.   The Suze Orman Show had a show on  CNBC, has a wonderful finance website, and she has written several books on the topic of personal finance.  She sells financial self help products on infomercials and online. 

Recently she announced “Seventy is the new retirement age,”  and “Not a month or year before.”  She knows this advice if very unaccepted, because she then says  “Don’t ‘Oh, Suze’ me just yet. Please hear me out.”

Well, when I heard this I was thinking maybe she joking, because I know she is recently retired, and she is only age 67, why would she tell us to do what she had not.  My father calls that “do as I say, not as I do advice.” 

I really admire Suze Orman and would always immediately turn to her finance advice in my Costco magazine.  I loved to watch her on the Oprah Winfrey Show.    In my list of celebrities whom I admire, Suze Orman is in the top 10.  I love Suze’s advice, she helped teach me to be the Master of my Financial Destiny.  When I was in my previous marriage and struggling every month with finances and even when I could not pay the electricity bill, I started using her guidance to help me figure out how to Master my Finances.   I also read many other financial guru advice (rich Dad, poor Dad; Dave Ramsey, reading every single Money magazine I could get my hands on). 

I needed as much advice as I could gather.  In my previous marriage, there was never real financial planning – heck there was never any money left over to plan with, it was spent by my ex with abandonment.  If we made $1000/month, he spent $1500.  I would work more side jobs, or night work to help balance the budge and bring us up to $2000/month, he spent $3000.  I could never catch up – I was a loosing battle.  I eventually had to take strict control of the finances and set up allowances and a tight budget, I put money to the side from extra jobs I took on in consulting and saved every single penny to pay off the debt.  I did eventually catch up, paid off the huge credit card debt my husband had ran up.  In another story of the future, I will write in more detail of how I found out how my ex- husband was stealing regularly from the family.  At the lowest financial point, when I was beyond fed up with the mayhem we separated out our finances, I realized even with what I thought was strict control he was stealing $1000/month.  Now, that was 5 years ago and I have since saved every single penny, including taking on extra work, and saving this money for retirement.  I have a lifetime of saving every penny, but really only about 5 years of acquiring money toward my goals.  I am still 3 years away from retirement and saving non stop.  Budget is key to my success.

Despite this setback of savings, I am ready to retire in 3 years, when I will be 53years old.  Suze, I love you,  but your 70 year age for retirement reasoning is wrong and here is why:

  • While no one knows what the future holds, and maybe one day in the future we will all live to 90 years old, but current data shows the average lifespan of an American is 79.3 years old.  “World Health Statistics 2016: Monitoring health for the SDGs Annex B: tables of health statistics by country, WHO region and globally”. World Health Organization. 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2016
  • 90-79.3 = Gives most of us 10.7 years of retirement.  Wow, that seems kind of unfair Suze.   I am planning my retirement at 53, so 26.3 years of retirement fun for David and myself if we are blessed.   Now, if the average American retires at 65, that leaves them 14.3 years of retirement, which sounds way better than 10.7 years.
  • At 70 everyday things are harder- such as traveling in an aged body, or living their dream of the bucket list.  So you might have money at age 70, but you don’t have the physical stamina.  Who wants to spend their finally achieved retirement to sit at home, spending the money but not on their dreams.
  • Suze your rich, its easy to give advice to work longer, when you don’t have to, in fact you are retired, so nice giving advice you are not following yourself (yep pointed this out twice).
  • Most people give every last ounce of energy to their jobs and are completely unappreciated or even recognized for their entire career.  Most people can not wait to retire and the idea of working another 5 years sounds like a death sentence.  While both David and I love our jobs, how often do you hear someone say they love their job.  I know for sure when I say it, those listening are surprised and do not answer back with the same attitude.
  • Many jobs DO NOT ALLOW you to work past 65.   You will be forced out, forced to retire whether you want to or not.  Good luck finding another career starting at the age of 65.  Heck some people are forced out way before age 65, what makes you think everyone has a choice.
  • I know in my life, I have given to my career, to my ex husband, to my children and I would like to have a chance to finally make it about me and David before my time here on this Earth is over.  Giving, giving, giving to others, and finally now I am in the window of opportunity to give to myself.  Do what I want, with my new husband.  I know I am not alone in this situation, and for you to tell anyone they should put off this pleasure even longer, at the end of their lives.  Well, your wrong Suze.

An early retirement, a retirement at 65, or even at 70 – is really about budgeting.  Budgeting earlier in life to save for the future, and budgeting while retired so what you do have goes all the way to the end.  Suze tell people to budget like crazy to live for the future and within their means, not to delay their happiness until for so many it will be too late.

Suze your wrong.

 

 

Long and short (Short)

Reading up on what Blog sites are most successful, I have found they have WAY to much writing for me to follow.  I get bored so easy and skip over wording if I see way too much.  I figure I read a lifetime amount when I was in school and it REALLY has to capture me to keep me going, but these successful blogs are long.  I also read I would have to guest blog to acquire readers.  So I am going to start two versions of my blog a short and then a long version, I will indicate which is which in the title.  So if you like me and can not stand reading long text, you can just review the short writes and look over the pictures.    My next post is Suze Orman is Wrong, don’t retire at 70.

What is a Fixed Annuity

Well the short answer is a guaranteed rate of return over time with tax deferral.  In terms I can understand – It is an insurance product.  You give the Insurance company your money, over time they give you some back at a promised rate of return, so if the market goes up, so does your money.  If the market goes down, it will stay flat and there is a guaranteed amount return – such as 5%.   This sounds awesome for sure, and works for a lot of people.  Also with a fixed annuity, you can withdraw certain amounts over time (after 55yrs old I believe), but you have to be careful there are tricks such as if you die it can go to the Insurance company if you do not indicate to leave it to a spouse or family member, and I am assuming that adding requirement gives you less money.  I also believe the spouse or family member only get a smaller portion of the withdraw, not the entire amount.   It kind of reminds me of a 401k, or even more so a reverse mortgage (because you loose it after your dead).    Different products are important for different reasons to different people, but after researching a fixed annuity, we have decided this is not for us.  I do like diversification, but at this point in our lives, we will stick with our 403b and 401k products thru work that we have.  Something in my head keeps saying – what if the insurance company went out of business, it is small – your work is huge and all pensions are protected by the state we live in – Michigan.  Also, The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, commonly known as ERISA, requires employers to meet certain requirements designed to protect your pension plan.   You also are entitled to all of the money you invested in your pension.   So a guarantee like that is hard to beat.

Glad to learn of this information, but No Fixed annuity at this time for us.

Cruise to Cuba

After weeks of looking for a trip that we could take together (no kids) during the time our youngest would be on spring break (and could go to his mothers) we finally found a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico – Grand Cayman  – and two days in Havana, Cuba.  It is a Holland America Cruise, smaller older ship.  But the cost total for seven days and a day before stay in Fort Lauderdale is under $2100.  We searched Travelzoo, Travelocity, Groupon, Cruise.com and finally found a trip that meets all our criteria.  Whew, a lot and I mean a lot of looking (months of looking) our deal was on Cruise.com, but cheaper directly thru the Holland America site (like $150 each cheaper).    Now just to dream and figure out excursions, hopefully loose a few pounds and buy a nice outfit.

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