Happy Holidays 2022 | Travel Blog


Published: December 12th 2022

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Happy Winter HolidaysHappy Winter HolidaysHappy Winter Holidays

For all who celebrate a winter holiday, may yours be filled with friendship, harmony, family, love and laughter – to name but a few of the wonderful things we hope are in store for you and yours this holiday season and into the new year.


As you have probably figured out, these travel blogs are a way for Bernard and me to keep track of our adventures. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve referred to one of our over 80 travel blogs looking for various details, maps, dates, etc. That said, feel free to enjoy the photos and just skim or ignore the text.


December 12, 2022

December 2021 we were in Albania taking part in the international humanitarian law competition, Pictet, that we’ve been part of: me (administrative) since 2012 and Bernie

Albania, GjrokastraAlbania, GjrokastraAlbania, Gjrokastra

This was near the end of our 2-wk tour in Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania. We had just gotten over horrible colds (Covid?). It was COLD the entire tour, but spectacularly beautiful too.

(judge/juror) since 2009.

For the full travel blog on that trip you can click on: http://www.travelblog.org/fred.php?id=1064016 – Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo Nov. – Dec. 2021.

In Durrës, Albania the week-long competition went off without a hitch – no Covid cases; we had a Health Officer who was checking, testing, etc., the entire time.

After the competition, which was held at a hotel in a beautiful beach area outside of Durrës, Bernardo and I were picked by the guide we hired for a 2-week tour: Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania.

We’d been perfectly healthy until then, but a day into our tour we both got really bad colds. This was before people had ready access to home test kits, so we weren’t traveling with any. We don’t know if it was Covid, but suspect it was. Albania had almost no Covid safeguards in place – few masks were worn – so their infection rate was high. Fortunately we were symptom-free for a week before we had to get an official Covid test to fly back to the states. Remember when we had to do that – at 50 Euros per

Gem and Mineral Show, Tucson, AZGem and Mineral Show, Tucson, AZGem and Mineral Show, Tucson, AZ

Every February one of the world’s largest gem and mineral shows takes place in Tucson – over 4,000 vendors and nearly 50 venues!! JJ has made it an annual MUST – she likes to be out of Alaska in February (her birthday) and the Gem Show is in town . . . need I say more?

test? Soooo glad that is gone.

We got back from Albania on Christmas night to find not a single taxi cab or ride share available. The one friend who lives nearby and can drive at night wasn’t in town (Susan); all others live too far away to impose upon or don’t dare get behind the wheel at night. Holy carp getting old sucks! But kinda funny too. The airport was deserted – truly – even the traffic people who make sure you don’t ‘loiter’ when picking up or dropping off, were GONE. Eventually we found a very nice gentleman who was waiting for the crew of the last flight of the night, but it was late, so he agreed to take us home. As you might imagine, he got a HUGE tip.

In February JJ came, as she is wont to do as she likes to spend her birthday outside Alaska. Doesn’t hurt that the Gem and Mineral Show takes place in February – such a fun thing to do – and the weather is superb at that time. In Feb. B had a quick trip to Colorado Springs to lecture at the Air

Pictet 37 in Cuernavaca, MexicoPictet 37 in Cuernavaca, MexicoPictet 37 in Cuernavaca, Mexico

Another successful International Humanitarian Law competition at a lovely resort in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Here we are with other staff members after the closing ceremony

Force Academy – always super cold in CO at that time of year, so I didn’t accompany him.

March had us at yet another Pictet International Humanitarian Law competition, this time in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The resort had so many outdoor venues, which was great as Covid was still raging everywhere. We had a staff member and his family test positive before the competition began and they left the venue to find a beach resort with larger accommodations in which their family of 5 could quarantine in more comfortably. I don’t believe there were any other cases during the week of competition.

Later in March Bernardo was back in Albania for yet ANOTHER Pictet competition. Having been to Albania only months before, I decided not to go. This time there were some Covid cases and indeed at the end of the competition, just before leaving, Bernie tested positive. That turned into a nightmare as he couldn’t fly until he tested negative. Pictet put him up in a hotel in Tirana and friends Sebastian and Alexandra looked after him. On my end I was scurrying to cancel Bernie’s flight home and get

Tirana, AlbaniaTirana, AlbaniaTirana, Albania

Just before leaving Durrës, B tested positive for Covid (there had been a few cases at the competition) and so couldn’t fly home. Pictet put him in a hotel in the capital city of Tirana. Sebastian and Alexandra, who live in Tirana, took care of B for the few days it took for him to test negative (he was never sick) and arrange (me) a flight home.

him rebook. I will not go into details here, but at one point I had British Airways on my cell, Bernie on a voice call on my computer, and I was chatting with Expedia on my laptop. When British Airways needed Bernie’s permission to talk to me, I put my cell up to my computer for them to talk. It worked! Turned out we needed to book him a completely new ticket/flight, but in the end he got home only 2 days later than expected.

In May we flew to Princeton, New Jersey for the delayed graduation ceremony for niece McKayla (aka Mac) – who’d graduated in 2020, but hadn’t ‘walked,’ which finally happened two years later. Denise, Mac’s mother, also threw a graduation party the day before the graduation ceremony in Princeton. Both Mac’s best friend, Maya, and her boyfriend, Eli, were walking with her. In the two years between graduation and the actual ceremony, Eli had gotten a master’s degree and Mac had found her dream job as head of social media content for the New York Nicks – go to Instagram and follow ‘nynicks’ to see her work; pretty impressive.

Mac Grad PrincetonMac Grad PrincetonMac Grad Princeton

The ceremony at Princeton was fabulous – couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. McKayla w/boyfriend Eli and best friend Maya – all 2020 Princeton grads who didn’t get to ‘walk’ until 2022.

June and July found us in South Africa with daughter JJ and boyfriend Bill, sister MaryJean and husband Buzz, their son Matt, his girlfriend Sinead (sha nād), Sinead’s twin Niamh (nēv) and husband Tom, Sinead’s brother Cormac and their father Jim.

After a week in Kruger with everyone, we went our separate way. JJ, Bill, MaryJean, Buzz, Bernard and I to Graskop, Pretoria, Pilanesberg Nat’l Park. JJ & Bill then flew to Cape Town from Jo’burg and MJ, Buzz, B and I headed to: Golden Gate Highlands Nat’l Park, Port Edward, Morgan Bay, St. Francis Bay, Addo Elephant Nat’l Park, Tsitsikamma Nat’l Park, Stellenbosch/Cape Town. We drove 2,541 miles, but that figure doesn’t include side trips and days and days of driving in Kruger.

For the full travelblog click on: http://www.travelblog.org/fred.php?id=1069134 – South Africa June – July, 2022

In September we had a super vice visit to Jerome area and some national monuments in the area. Jerome is higher than Tucson, so a lovely place to visit when hot farther south. We’d not been to several national monuments featuring ancient ancient puebloan cultures – Tuzigoot and

Susan & Kathy in the Chiricahua MountainsSusan & Kathy in the Chiricahua MountainsSusan & Kathy in the Chiricahua Mountains

We had planned to camp, but it was super windy and a hike was even difficult, but fun and spectacular all the same.

Palatki – and found them fascinating.

In October we had attempted to take friend Susan for her first camping trip, in this case to the Chiricahua Mountain National Monument only several hours out of Tucson. We choose the worst weekend of the month – cold, windy and with snow forecast for one of the nights we were supposed to be there. Instead we turned it into a day trip: to Kirchner Caverns, lunch, hike in Chiricahua Mountains, back via Apple Annie’s Orchard for some of their famous ‘mile high apple pie.’ All in all a VERY nice day, but Susan has yet to go camping.

We typically go to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico once a year and this year we, along with friend Susan, did it over Halloween. We stayed at a lovely penthouse condo overlooking the beach, fall to sleep to the sound of the waves, ate too much, shopped waaaaay too much and generally chilled for a long weekend.

November also found us at Bernie’s sister Claudia’s surprise 80th birthday party in New Jersey. Her seven children put together a wonderful celebration and friends

Claudia's 80th Birthday PartyClaudia's 80th Birthday PartyClaudia’s 80th Birthday Party

Claudia was blown away by the celebration her children had planned for her. One of the biggest surprises was the presence of grandson Thomas who lives in England. Back: Charlie, Thomas, Christopher. Front: Jonna, McKayla and Grandma Claudia

and relatives came from all over. Claudia still maintains that she knew absolutely nothing about the party until she walked into the restaurant and saw all five of her grandchildren waiting to greet her. She still didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the celebration until well into it – looked around in amazement and started to cry.

The only downside to the celebration was that days before the party, daughter Colleen (who had done a tremendous amount of the planning) from North Carolina started experiencing severe, incapacitating back pain – she was scheduled for surgery within days, so she didn’t make it to the party. There was a scramble to get daughter Jonna on a flight with her uncle who was also flying from NC. Dean, Colleen’s husband, stayed in NC to take care of her; they were both sorely missed. For most of the party and *after-party someone had Colleen on FaceTime and walked her around the restaurant showing her things and letting her interact. Technology is great!!

*After the luncheon at the beachside restaurant (owned by a family friend), we all went back to Claudia’s condo building where they’d rented the penthouse venue

Thanksgiving 2022Thanksgiving 2022Thanksgiving 2022

Back: Friends Susan and Suellen, sister Donna, newlyweds Elizabeth and Michael (Donna & Larry’s grandson), Kathy. Seated: Larry w/Shadow, JJ, Bernie

(AMAZING views of NYC) and continued celebrating.

Nov. 20 – 30 JJ was in Arizona, ostensibly for Thanksgiving, but she had arranged for dental work in Nogales, Mexico, which is less than two hours from Tucson. She managed to get everything done on this visit, although she needs to have some follow-up work in Alaska and then again when she comes back in February. She (and we) were extremely pleased with the professionalism, high-tech modernity of the facility, service and results. In addition, it cost JJ about 1/3 of what she’d have paid in Alaska.

My sister Donna and husband Larry were with us for Thanksgiving also. They normally winter in their RV in Florida, but this year decided to stay in Arizona. They had been in the southeast in Louisiana at grandson Michael’s wedding just before Thanksgiving and came to Tucson about the same time Michael and his new bride, Elizabeth returned. Micheal & *Elizabeth have been living in Tucson for a year. Michael is a geologist working for a copper company in the area.

*Well, Michael has been living in Tucson, Elizabeth was in Thibodaux mostly getting ready for their November


You think he might spend too much time on his phone?

wedding. Micheal didn’t have much vacation time, so instead of a honeymoon they returned to Arizona for a bit – back to Louisiana for Christmas. They are a delightful couple and we’ve been enjoying them very much.

We were scheduled to return to Mexico in December to visit friends Stuart and Susan at their place in Rosarito (south of San Diego/south of Tijuana), but I got Covid over Thanksgiving. Well, my timeline doesn’t quit track, but I started coughing on Thanksgiving day and slowly got sicker and sicker as the week went by. I tested for Covid several times, but didn’t come up positive until the Thursday after Thanksgiving. I tested because on Friday we were to drive to Rosarito. During the pandemic Susan had some health issues and we didn’t want to expose her to Covid, hence the cancellation of that trip.

The holidays are upon us. We have a quiet Christmas planned – no visitors except my sister Donna and husband Larry who are in Tucson through the New Year. We’ll do some fun Christmas activities, already started: went with Michael & Elizabeth to the 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair yesterday, then


to dinner and capped it with the Enchanted Snowfall at a lovely, outdoor shopping center, La Encantada. And of course since there is a fabulous gelato shop, we enjoyed out sweets while sitting around one of the outdoor fireplaces at the center. We all agreed the temperature had dropped like a stone: at the fair it had been in the 70s and at the mall it was super cold, or so we thought. When we got back in the car and looked at the thermometer, it was reading 58˚ – have we all become weather wimps or what!!

Christina and Evan won’t be joining us for Christmas (JJ was just here) – Chris says she won’t have a day off (Home Depo) until Evan turns 18, which is Nov. 2023. Hopefully she is exaggerating, at least a LITTLE bit. I think we need to take a trip to them in Washington state soon.

Upcoming Events 2023:

January 2023 Bernardo will return to Colorado Springs to lecture at the Air Force Academy.

In February (23 – March 1) Bernie is participating in another Pictet International Humanitarian Law competition in, yes, Albania – AGAIN.

Elizabeth & Michael at La Encantada Shopping CenterElizabeth & Michael at La Encantada Shopping CenterElizabeth & Michael at La Encantada Shopping Center

On weekends in Dec. the Enchanted Snowfall happens twice a night and Santa is there for visits with the kids, or in our case, big kids.

Nope, I truly enjoyed my time in Albania last year, but once is enough, thank you very much.

In April (12 – 23) Bernie, me, friend Susan, sister MaryJean and husband Buzz are doing a bike and barge trip in Italy. We get on the barge in * Venice and end up in Mantova. MaryJean and Buzz have done several bike and barge trips and we’ve wanted very much to join them on one. They were kind enough to guide us through the process of finding the right trip (soooooo many to choose from) and getting the reservations coordinated, etc.

*We boat down the Po River; after breakfast we begin our guided tour, riding our bikes to a point for the barge to pick us up, seeing sites along the way, stopping for lunch. Sleep on the barge; repeat for seven days.

In July we are headed back to South Africa. I KNOW, we were there last year, and about 8 times before that! When we returned last July Bernie got the idea that he really wanted to have our next *exchange student/daughter (plus) reunion in South Africa – he felt strongly that the experience was special

Christmas HumorChristmas HumorChristmas Humor

and needed to be shared and before it was too late. If you guessed that Bernardo is working on his Bucket List, you are 100%!c(MISSING)orrect.

*There will be 20 of us this trip:

Bernard & Kathy

JJ – Alaska

Marcela, Tim & Cal – USA/Argentina

Victoria – Spain/Argentina

Camie w/4 kids – Brazil

Marysia & Maciek – Poland

Jaqueline & Mercedes – Guatemala

Denise & McKayla – niece and grandniece, New Jersey

Colleen & Jonna – niece and grandniece, New Jersey

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and/or whatever winter holiday you celebrate. We hope you, your family and friends have a stress-free and joyous holiday. May the new year brings good health and happiness to you all.

Sending love your way, Kathy & Bernie

For those of you curious about Kwanzaa, as I was, here is a little something:

Dr. Karenga created seven guiding principles to be discussed during the week of Kwanzaa. The seven principles represent seven values of African culture that help build and reinforce community among African-Americans. Each day a different principle is discussed, and

December 26, The First Day of KwanzaaDecember 26, The First Day of KwanzaaDecember 26, The First Day of Kwanzaa

each day a candle is lit on the kinara (candleholder).

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa:

1. Umoja (Unity) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race

2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)

3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)

4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)

5. Nia (Purpose)

6. Kuumba (Creativity)

7. Imani (Faith)



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