I recently overheard a lady in my local bookstore describing a monastery in southern Arizona that she had visited. I googled St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ. This oasis in the desert is about 72 miles southeast of Phoenix.
This sanctuary is a true garden of Eden- flowering bushes, fountains, fruit and olive orchards, with scattered small chapels.
First thing, when you stop at the gift shop entrance a nice lady provides a map and lets you know that you are free to roam the gardens and chapels at no charge (a donation is good). Photos are OK, just don’t take any of the monks. And most important you must be dressed appropriately. Since is was 90 degrees that day we visited we were wearing short sleeves and shorts. Baskets of long sleeve shirts and long pants and skirts were provided to put on over your existing clothes. Women need to wear a headscarf.
The day that we were there, we saw no other visitors walking the grounds. We did however see a few monks. The gift shop was more busy, probably because they sell fresh baked breads, fruit preserves, olive oils, and baked goods like baklava. Of course, we did buy an armload.
Visiting the South Seas of French Polynesia was not at the top of my bucket list, but since I’m always looking for a good deal we planned this trip kind of last-minute. As a fan of the TV show Survivor, I couldn’t imagine swimming in water so blue and clear.
In my research for flights I found that non-stop Air Tahiti out of Los Angeles was reasonably priced, and so were non-stops from San Francisco. From San Francisco I found an airline called French Bee and the air was $650 pp round-trip. Since we live in Arizona it was a short flight to SFO to catch the French Bee flight. Plus, when I found out these nonstop flights to Tahiti were 7-8 hours long, I was sold! This is less flying time than going to the Caribbean for us.
French Bee is a
low-cost carrier originating in France. For the price I was happy with what we
got. There was headrest entertainment with movies and music. You pay extra for
meals and drinks. Soda was not complimentary, only water. It was very
We arrived in
Papeete, Tahiti, around 5:30 am, not great when you can’t board the ship until
after 3 pm and you are dead-tired from the overnight flight. We discovered that
a small hotel across from the airport would rent a day room for about $80. We
were allowed to have the room from 8 am to 2 pm.
The Paul Gaugin
cruise started and ended in Papeete, Tahiti; the islands we visited were
Huahine, Taha’a, Bora Bora, and Moorea.
I have to say Taha’a (or also know as Motu Mahana) was my favorite day. This is Paul Gaugin’s private island. A whole island of beach chairs, snorkeling, BBQ lunch, and open bar. It was pure heaven.
This type of trip is
all about the water. This is a divers, snorkelers, swimmers, and wave runners
paradise. There wasn’t much to do on the islands themselves. One day we tried
the Aqua Safari Helmet excursion. You put on an 80 lb. helmet, sink to the bottom
of the ocean and walk around with the fish and stingrays. It was scary, pretty
cool, and we were proud of ourselves for trying something new.
I feel like this was
one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever had. It seems that all I can remember is reading,
snorkeling, floating in the warm water, taking lots of naps, and eating the
We went in Feb and this is considered low season/ rainy season. There would be some afternoon showers on several days but they didn’t last long. And the warm rain storms just added to the tropical habitat.