How To Prepare for an International Trip

The most important aspect of travelling abroad is being fully prepared. Before you decide to jet off to a distant land, make sure you cover these vital to-dos. Following our checklist will ensure that you are financially ready and that you are well-packed prior to your trip.

Ensure Your Visa and Passport is Up-To-Date

Most countries will require your passport to be valid for at least six months after you return from your holiday. We recommend updating your passport at least nine months before it expires. It’s crucial that you check your passport before planning your trip. Should you need to renew it, simply search for the closest passport facility and get it done and dusted. It usually takes up to 6 weeks to receive a renewed passport, so keep that in mind as well.

Keep An Eye Out for Travel Advisories and Warnings

Prior to your trip, ensure that you find out if there are any travel warnings. This is especially needed for countries where issues can create a risky environment for new travellers. Most travel insurance policies do not cover countries that fall under travel warnings. Make sure that you follow the news on your planned destination or speak to a travel agency to find out more.

Fill Prescriptions and Get Vaccinations

There are loads of websites you can use to find out the necessary vaccination requirements and health information for your planned destination. To ensure you receive maximum protection, get the necessary shots at least six weeks before you depart. Should you want to travel to a certain destination where disease is rampant, discuss it with a travel medicine professional. If you are taking prescribed medicine, make sure its always in your carry-on bag with your prescriptions.

Register Your Trip

Should you decide to travel to a remote area or outside an industrial country, it’s beneficial to register online and provide your itinerary. If there’s an emergency, your government will know exactly where you are and how to contact you. You can also leave all your details with friends and family to ensure they can get a hold of you while you are away.

Stock Your Wallet

You will need to select one or two debit/credit cards to take with you on your vacation, and you will need to contact your bank to inform them that you’ll be travelling abroad. Inform them where you are going and ensure your credit/debit card is unlocked for international use. If you avoid this step, your cards might decline while you’re on vacation and that’s the last thing you want. Also, ensure that you have the bank’s contact details if your card goes missing.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Don’t be surprised when your health insurance refuses to cover you while you are abroad. Therefore, you will need to consider getting emergency medical insurance and medical evacuation. In addition, if your vacation requires a sizeable down payment in advance, cancellation insurance and trip interruption insurance is ideal for the unexpected.

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Top Five Travel Destinations for 2018

Every year there are new travel destinations that are hot and on top of many peoples list of must-see places. The year 2018 is no difference, and many of the areas offer unique and different cultures that will enlighten its guests. Whether it is a journey into the heart of Dublin or an adventure to Morocco, the list of must-see places will leave lasting impressions for sure.

Here is this year’s top 5 travel destinations. Get ready to sit back and journey into a world of interesting geographical stops.

1. Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland will certainly expand your horizons into the life and times of the Irish. While top European destinations may include London and Paris, Dublin offers a wealth of history and sights to see. The city is a historical bluffs dream filled with friendly and welcoming people. There is a large number of cathedrals, castles and historical pubs that one can visit for a pint of beer. Yet, it is outside the city where you will find wonderful panoramic landscapes, rolling hills lakes and forests to explore. One of its nicest is the Ashford Castle in Cong County, so consider adding a trip to this castle if visiting the Dublin area.

2. Morocco

Those with a penchant for the different are not strangers to Morocco. The city belies a certain level of mystique that not many others can, and with hotel rooms being affordable, it is the ideal place to experience a culture rich in heritage and history. Morocco has some great sights well-worth seeing such as recently opened Louis Vuitton Museum and its many cultural hot spots that serve spicy dishes only Moroccans know how to make. A top destination for the experienced traveller, but best to go with tour groups for those less traveled.

3. Sevilla, Spain

There are many reasons to choose Sevilla, Spain this year. This year is the cities 400th anniversary and a perfect time to experience all it has to offer. The timeless architecture and culturally rich people offer so many interesting things to do. From its many festivals to the visual beauty that defies this city simply can’t be beaten, and it is one of the reasons it was chosen as the set for the Game of Thrones television series.

4. Tallin, Estonia

It is rare to share in the experience of a city celebrating a century of independence, but that is exactly what you will find when visiting Tallin, Estonia this year. There are many celebrations throughout the year in different towns and cities, so finding a culturally rich experience will not be a challenge. Add this one to your list!

5. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina has much to offer. From great outdoor adventures to unique cuisine, Argentina is one place that never gets dull or lacks entertainment and things to do. The Tierra del Fuego national park is high on the list of must-see things to do while there as is the city of Buenos Aires and its many restaurants and shopping districts.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Roberta writes:

Flat Ruthie likes reflections too! Here she is propped on a pillow below a mirror, because photographing her next to the fireplace would have burned her up.

La Bella Matina B&B Berkeley Springs W Va March 2014.

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Flat Ruthie Travels to Portugal and Sees the Chapel of Bones

Glenda sends word from her blog Passion Fruit Garden, that Flat Ruthie accompanied her to Portugal.  What a great trip! Thanks Glenda

(reposted from Passion Fruit Garden)

Flat Ruthie goes to Portugal

Flat Ruthie (a little battle-scarred from her travels) is standing next to The Rooster.  The Roster is the major purchase from our holiday.  One can’t go to Portugal without coming home with a rooster in some form or another.  The Rooster was made by Maria da Conceição (aka Conceição Sapateiro) from Barcelos.

Here is some more of her work that we spotted on display in a shop in Guimarães.

We love The Rooster and so does Flat Ruthie. We are watching to ensure she doesn’t put him in her suitcase when she finally goes home.

I know we should have given The Rooster a fancier name but I said, so many times, whilst we were away, “Be careful of The Rooster.”  The name stuck.

We went to Portugal primarily to visit our friend, Gerlinde, at her beach house.  Gerlinde is a teacher in Berlin but spends her holidays with her husband, Alex, in Porto Covo.  As it turned out, we didn’t end up spending much time in Porto Covo.  Gerlinde was a fantastic tour guide.  We cannot thank her enough.  We saw an amazing amount of Portugal in the short time we were there (my feet still haven’t recovered).

Our first stop was Evora.  In this shot, Flat Ruthie is in the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones).  The Chapel was created in the 17th century from the bones of 5,000 monks.  Ruth is pictured with two mummified corpses hanging from a chain, one is of a small child. Lovely! The placard at the entrance (translated) reads: “We bones that are here  await yours.” Mmmm.

On our travels, we saw acres and acres of cork trees.  They are skinned of their bark every 10 years or so.  The trees are painted with a number indicating when they were last stripped so the farmers know when they can be stripped again.

I wonder about the future of the industry now that so many wineries are using screw tops.  It was interesting to see many products (including hand bags) made of cork – maybe they are diversifying.

These megaliths were not far from Evora.  They have been dated 4000-2000 BC.  Their symbolism remains a mystery but is believed to have religious significance.  Ruthie is surveying the scene from the top of the megalith on the right.

Here is Ruthie at the Convento de Cristo in Tomar.  The monastery was founded in 1160 by the Grand Master of the Templar.  It is amazing.  Architects were engaged to express the Orders power and royal patronage in stone and they certainly took their brief to heart.  The place is over the top in every conceivable way.  No doubting, these guys were important.

This window frame on the western side of the Chapter House is Manueline extravagance at its most amazing.  It was very hard to get a full frontal of it but, let me assure, it is spectacular.  It boasts ‘a Medusa tangle of snaking ropes, seaweed and cork boats, on top of which floats the Cross of the Order of Christ and the royal arms and armillary sphere of Dom Manuel’.  There is an equivalent window on the southern side but it is almost obscured.

The window is covered in lichen but it does appear that the window is being cleaned (see the blonde bits).  It will look all the more spectacular cleaned up.

Here is a photo of a nearby pillar which I just love.  It is decorated with a belt and buckle.  What an idea!

Manueline is a uniquely Portuguese style of late Gothic architecture. It coincided, roughly, with the reign of Dom Manuel 1 (r1495-1521).

Here is Flat Ruthie at Monsanto.  Monsanto is famous for winning a national competition in 1938 as the country’s most Portuguese village.  The village is perched on a granite hillside.  It is built on top of, and squeezed in between, large granite boulders.  Everything, its cobbled lanes and houses, even dog bowls, are made of the grey rock.

Here is Flat Ruthie in the dining room of the Paço dos Duques de Bragança in Guimarães.  The place was built in 1401 by Afonso, the first Duke of Bragança and restored as a presidential residence for 20th Century dictator, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

I just love this table.  The next time I get flustered cooking for a large dinner party, I will consider the poor cooks who prepared the banquets served at this huge table.

Here is a shot of Porto.  Flat Ruthie didn’t make it into this shot (Maus wouldn’t jump into the river so I could take a shot of them both.  It is hard to get good help …)

Here is Flat Ruthie in Porto.  The sign above her indicates two great pilgrimage destinations.  For a while, I thought Flat Ruthie might consider taking off on a pilgrimage but she happily jumped into my bag when we moved on.

Not quite Venice but a nice little town, anyway.  Aveiro was a great stop on our way back south.  It was bloody hot the day we were there so we didn’t ride on one of these boats.  Instead, we took the more civilised option of coffee inside the Museu Arte Nova.  We had an amazing number of coffees in Portugal.  It appears to be a national pastime.

This fabulous beach is Zambujeira do Mar.  It was one of many beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast that we visited.  Again, there is no photo of Ruthie because Maus refused to jump off the cliff holding Ruthie above her head for the sake of the photo.  I don’t know where her spirit was!!!

Here is Maus (at last she was cooperating) with Ruthie at Cabo São Vicente (Cape St Vincent) mainland Europe’s most south-western point.  At the end of the Cape is a wind whipped lighthouse which has a 95km range (the most powerful in Europe).  The cape is described as windblown and it is certainly true.  Check out Maus’ hair.  It was so windy, I could barely hold the camera.  Maus has two hands on Ruthie in case she ended up in the Atlantic.  The cliffs behind Maus are 60 metres high and pretty fabulous.

Here are a couple of shots of the beautiful Lagos, Algarve.  Again, no Flat Ruthie in the shots due to Maureen’s uncooperative spirit.  Clearly, they could have jumped in off these cliffs.  There are people swimming in the water, so it must be safe.

This last shot was taken from a small dinghy with an outboard motor in which we (Gerlinde, Maus, Flat Ruthie and I) did a tour of the grottoes.  Flat Ruthie was safe in my bag. I didn’t want to risk any water damage to her complexion so she didn’t come out but she wasthere.  I guess Ruthie could have jumped overboard for the sake of the photo but that seemed a little extreme.  I don’t know whether she can swim.

As you can see from this small sample of photos, Portugal is a very beautiful country, full of unexpected delights.

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Flat Ruthie Travels to Lebanon

Glenda from Passion Fruit Garden blog writes about an adventure with Flat Ruthie

Last spring (that is, southern hemisphere “spring”), I offered to host Flat Ruthie.  I promised her great things: kangaroos, koalas, a visit to Perth, Fremantle, Kings Park, and lots, lots more but, alas, all Flat Ruthie got to see was Bridgetown.

So, when Maus and I set off on our adventures, to Lebanon, Dubai and Portugal I asked our visitor whether she would like to come along in my suitcase.  She sure would!!  At last, I was able to show Flat Ruthie a good time.  This post is of Flat Ruthie’s travels to Lebanon.  Travel shots of Dubai and Portugal will follow.  Flat Ruthie may even get to see a little of Western Australia.

BTW, the shot above is Flat Ruthie amongst Kangaroo Paws last spring, just to prove that she did make it to Western Australia.

Here is Flat Ruthie at Byblos fishing harbour.  It was a photo of this harbour that made me want to go to Lebanon.  Many years ago, we used to go to a little Lebanese restaurant in East Victoria Park.  The owners had a poster of the Byblos harbour on their wall.  Of course, we got talking and I asked them where the photo was taken because it reminded me of Greece.  I thought it would be wonderful to see the Mediterranean from a whole new perspective and experience the life represented in the poster.   The word bible is derived from Byblos.  Byblos is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.  It is the birthplace of the Phoenician alphabet and lots of other great things.

Alas, the harbour was tiny and a big disappointment (the poster must have been Photoshopped) but Byblos was lovely.  It is a favourite destination for Beirutis on the weekend.  If you look closely along the horizon, you can see Beirut.

Here is another shot of the harbour, for good measure.

Here is Flat Ruthie (on the left) at the Roman ruins at Baalbeck.  They were not a disappointment!  The temples are massive, well preserved and arguably outshine anything in Italy.  Normally, the site would be crawling with tourists but Baalbeck is Hezobollah territory and because of this, its proximity to Syria and the fragility of Lebanon at the moment, we were the only tourists there (as we were at every other site we visited).

The temple in the photo is the temple of Bacchus which, as you can see, is still extremely well preserved.

The site includes a Temple of Jupiter which was built on massive foundations over 90 metres long and incorporating some of the largest building blocks ever used.

I have to admit I am not sure what Flat Ruthie (again on the left) is looking at here.  It was at this stage that we heard machine gun fire (not too far away) and were a wee bit keen to move on.  It was such a pity.  The site was fantastic but we only were able to stay about one hour.  In the circumstances, we were extremely lucky to find someone willing to take us there but the driver would only wait that hour

This is a photo of our site guide, Ferme, and Flat Ruthie at the Temple of Bacchus.  The photo shows ceiling detail with the bust of a Nymph.

Here is Flat Ruthie (and Maus) at Anjar (another town in the Bekaa Valley). This time, the ruins are of an entire Islamic city dating back to the Omayyad period.  The city was built by Caliph Walid 1 (705-715).  It had a very brief life because it ended with the extinction of the Omayyad dynasty in 749.  Anjar was completed with residential quarters, markets, baths, religious buildings and palaces.  Behind Maus is a colonnade along which residents would walk.  Behind the colonnade were hundreds of shops.  Maus is standing in the street which is yet to be excavated.  In the middle of the street is a drainage hole, part of the original drainage for the city.

Here is a photo Flat Ruthie checking out the intersection of the two main roads.  In the intersection was a monumental tetrapylon.  It consisted of four large bases, each bearing a group of 4 columns.  Most of the columns and capitals used in the construction of Anjar were recycled from 2nd and 3rd century Roman buildings.  By recycling building material, they were able to erect the city much more quickly than starting from scratch.

Over the hill, 3.5 kilometres away, is Syria.

Below is Flat Ruthie (and Maus) at Tyre (Sour). They are standing on a Roman road which is 1.6 kilometres long.  You can even see chariot wheel indentations in the pavements.  The archway dates from the time of Emperor Hadrian (2nd Century AD).

At the site is the world’s largest and best preserved Roman hippodrome.  It was 480 metres long and had capacity for over 30,000 spectators.  The only other moving object at the site that day was a big black snake.

In this photo, you can see some of the hippodrome’s stadium in the background.  Above the seating were rows of shops.

If you look closely at the centre of this photo, you can see Maus and Flat Ruthie in the stadium waiting for the next chariot race.

Here is Flat Ruthie, at Sidon (Saida), in front of the Crusader Castle which stands on a small island about 80 metres off the coast.  It was built on top of the ruins of an ancient temple.

This photo shows Flat Ruithie in front of Beirut’s famous Pigeon Rocks.  The Rocks were extremely disappointing because the surrounding waters were littered with debris (mainly plastic water bottles). Yuk!!

One last shot of Flat Ruthie in Beirut.  The photo illustrates modern rebuilt Beirut and a reminder of the civil war.  In the background is the Holiday Inn.  It opened in 1975, just weeks before the civil war commenced and was a prime sniper position, resulting in its bullet-ridden appearance.  The building remains derelict, a painful reminder of the damage done during that protracted civil war.

Here is a close up.

Stay tuned for me more of Flat Ruthie’s travels.

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Flat Ruthie Visits a Ranch and Dinosaurs in Alberta

Check it out.  From Darlene Foster’s blog 
Darlene Foster writes 
Flat Ruthie came with me to Alberta and enjoyed helping me with research for my next book. She also met my family there. She fit right in!  

Flat Ruthie Visits a Ranch and Dinosaurs in Alberta


Flat Ruthie hitched a ride to Alberta where she visited the Bar U Ranch outside of Calgary. She enjoyed her chuckwagon ride and was careful not to fall off.

She went from the frying pan


To a little too close to the fire!

She also got close to some scary dinosaurs at The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller.

The dinosaurs outside the museum were not quite as scary.

Flat Ruthie looks so small beside this real dinosaur foot. If it stepped on her, she would be even flatter!!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

Last Sunday afternoon, in the heat of the day, Flat Ruthie and the family went Strawberry Picking at Jacquemin Farms. in Plain City Ohio. The berries were tiny and sweet with the most intense strawberry taste of any strawberry I’ve eaten this season.  Perfect

Seems a good fit for the challenge this week: companionable

Granddaughter Maura and Flat Ruthie were good companions.




Back at Aunt Lala’s, Maura and Penny were companionable


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

Last Sunday afternoon, in the heat of the day, Flat Ruthie and the family went Strawberry Picking at Jacquemin Farms. in Plain City Ohio. The berries were tiny and sweet with the most intense strawberry taste of any strawberry I’ve eaten this season.  Perfect

Seems a good fit for the challenge this week: companionable



Back at Aunt Lala’s, Maura and Penny were companionable


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Woodland Cemetery- Orville and Wilbur Wright, Erma Bombeck, Paul Laurence Dunbar in Dayton Ohio

Paul Laurence Dunbar first African American Poet “to gain national eminence.”


My son Mark, the History major,  sent some wonderful photos of Flat Ruthie’s Adventures in Woodland Cemetery, Dayton Ohio.

Erma Bombeck‘s Grave- a large rock from the Phoenix desert where she and her family lived

Part two tomorrow- The King and Queen of the Gypsies

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Val reports that Flat Ruthie got locked up in the car but it ends well……

Well, you won’t believe what happened on the  trip to Denver, FR got locked in the car at the farm, and got left behind.  She did manage to go to Priest River on the way to Spokane, but  there were no cameras around to film her.
But after her week long stay in the car, we decided that she should go to Kalispel, visit the Flathead lake area, the marina, and actually go to the cardiologist to get a checkup.   After she was given the excellent bill of health, we then went to Applebees for lunch where we had Sante Fe Chicken Salad, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  Following that, we visited a metaphysical store, called can you believe it,  The Metaphysical Store, where she played with the fairies,.  All of these were in Kalispel, Montana.
After a very busy day, we stopped in at the VFW in Plains, where Ruthie downed a very welcome beer!
Val C, Valia
Priest River FLAT RUTHIE 039
And then in Kalispel, Montana.
Flat Ruthie with the Fairies
Downing a beer at the VFW
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