Day #290 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…2 days and counting…Covid-19 tests done!…

The wonderful staff serving us at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport. They couldn’t be more attentive and concerned about our needs and those of the other stranded foreign nationals staying at the hotel during this difficult time. Thank you, dear staff members, for taking such good care of us, including taking everyone’s temperature this morning.

Today’s few photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 30, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

When I review past posts from 2020, searching for photos to post here today, I ran across the post from March 30, 2020, with a heading that read: “Please unfriend me, if…Social media during the lockdown.” After uploading that post I referred to it on my Facebook page asking any “friends” that felt compelled to post negative comments during the lockdown to feel free to unfriend me. Only one such “friend” did so. None of us needed to see toxic vitriol during this challenging time.

Overall, other than political jokes and some negative comments here and there, my Facebook page has been friendly and uplifting since that time. Of course, advertising has been annoying, as I’m sure they’ve been for all FB users. It’s not that I spend much time on Facebook but, at night, when sleep is elusive, I scroll through zillions of posts, mainly from “groups” I’ve chosen to follow,  geared toward the masses as opposed to me specifically. That works for me.

From time to time, when I encounter an offensive (to me) post, I simply click to “hide this post” to remove it from my view and those who may be following me. There may be one of these every other day. I’ve yet to begin using Twitter and Instagram, due to the fact I already spend enough time on my phone and laptop.

During the lockdown in India, the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport has created this heart image as a show of supports using lights in various hotel rooms.

This may change at some point, but lately, there really hasn’t been much to say or share based on these 10 months in lockdown. I didn’t want to be wracking my brain every day, trying to find something noteworthy to post on either of these. Tom and I are good at sharing our views with one another and seldom feel a need to express them elsewhere.

Now, as our departure time nears, we’re wrapping up a few tasks. This morning we sent our proof of health insurance and both of our Indian visa extensions to the front desk ton print. Finally, last night, my extension approval came through which was a huge relief. Without a proper extension, there’s a possible fine of US $500, INR 36,690, per person for an “overstay.” Also, not having an extension could result in delays which may result in missing a flight.

This morning, a rep/phlebotomist, well masked and wearing protective (PPI) gear, from a certified diagnostic lab in Mumbai, arrived at our room for our Covid-19 PCR test, and the antigen test which we may have done needlessly.  When we became ill with an awful virus on our last cruise which ended on November 8, 2019, we both had horrific coughs that lingered for two months, I had to seek medical care and inhalation therapy in order to be able to breathe. We both had the most dreadful coughs of our lives.

Although unlikely, that it was Covid at that early date, we’ve always wondered if it was possible. The antigen test will put those thoughts to rest. The PCR test is required by the airlines and the countries we’ll be entering during the upcoming flights. The cost of the two tests for both of us was US $41.77, INR 3060, done right here right at the hotel outside of our room door.

After we’d read how uncomfortable the test was for so many people, we were surprised to discover it was no big deal whatsoever. For the antigen test, a blood draw was required, here again, quick and painless. We’ll have the results in our email within 24 hours, perfect for our departure on Monday morning. We’ll print several copies of each.

Right now, as I write this, in 48 hours we’ll be landing in Dubai. It’s hard to imagine we’ll be on our way. Please stay with us as we wrap up these last few days.

Stay safe and healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, January 9, 2020:

 A dazzle of zebras in an open field, from a two year ago post. For the year-ago post, when we included the cost of our 55-day tour of India, eventually cut short, please click here.

Day #221 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Kenya anniversary holiday, seven years ago…

A morning view of our tucked away ocean cottage at The Sands at Nomad in Diani Beach, Kenya.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya when we embarked on a mini-vacation to celebrate our one-year anniversary of world travel. Tomorrow is our eight-year anniversary of embarking on our world journey. For more from this date, please click here.

The restaurant has opened in the hotel. If we so chose we may now dine there. As we’ve settled into a comfortable routine, sitting in our comfy chairs in our hotel room, with trays on our laps, I doubt we’ll change our routine. I think this may be the case for the duration, for however long that may be.

Finally, we were able to take photos of the elusive Colobus Monkey. Note the long sideburns. 

Today’s photos bring back many pleasant memories, which during this challenging time, brings a smile to our faces. What a fantastic three-night stay at The Sands at Nomad Resort! They treated us like royalty knowing we’d be documenting our experiences which was entirely unnecessary.

Many times we ask for special pricing for several reasons:

  1. We’ll be promoting the business, not only while we’re on the premises, but also for years to come via our website
  2. In most cases, we’ll be staying longer than most guests
  3. We have acquired a five-star rating as renters from past property owners and property managers
Another Colobus with the long swatches of hair. Not all of them had these particular markings.

As in the case of this above aforementioned short three-night stay, our special pricing included a discount of 30% off the regular room rates. We were happy with that at the time. But, now after researching online, their prices have increased by 40%. Today, their room rates range from a low of US $329, INR 24551, to a high of US $418, INR 31192, per night. Such prices would be beyond our reach if we could return to Kenya anytime soon.

We had such a good time during that three day period and during our three months in Kenya, other than the apprehension we felt for our safety while due to high crime risks, Our favorite restaurant, Sails, which we visited many Saturday nights, was bombed by terrorists a month after we’d left.

After returning from the pool where the umbrellas provided too much shade, Tom did a quick 20 minutes in the sun on one of the chaise lounges in our front yard.

We were ill-advised about renting a car while in Kenya even in the more upscale area of Diani Beach, due to the high risk of carjackings. Instead, our landlord provided us with the name of a reliable local man who drove us everywhere. Based on these facts we didn’t go sightseeing as much as we have in other countries.

Even at the grocery store, the taxi was searched by military staff carrying rifles, and we were searched upon entering the market or the phone store where we purchased data. Military personnel were stationed at every ATM. It was while we were in Kenya that the horrific attack transpired at a shopping mall in Nairobi.

The chaise lounges at our ocean cottage where fresh towels are delivered each day.

Our family members and many friends/readers contacted us to ensure we were ok. But, Diani Beach is an almost 10-hour drive from Nairobi. The fact our house and the owner’s house next door were guarded by two guards in two 12-hour shifts seven days a week provided us with a modicum of peace of mind, especially at night.

We had a red emergency button next to our bed and the windows throughout the house had steel bars on all windows. At night, we had to close the windows due to the mosquitos and other insects when there were no screens on the windows. The house became a hotbox during the night with only a slow-moving ceiling fan over the bed.

Early this morning as we left our cottage for breakfast in the main restaurant.

Why did we go to Kenya? To be able to visit the Maasai Mara for our first safari experiences. But, we are grateful for the time we had in Kenya, which toughened us up. The wonderful local people we met, who were warm and kind, and the rich cultural experiences were presented to us in one way or another, day after day.

Kenya is now open for tourists and occasionally, there are a few odd flights out of Mumbai right now. But, based on the above scenarios, neither of us feels it makes sense to return at this time. We long for the freedom of movement, driving, shopping, and dining out, all of which will be possible when and if we can return to Marloth Park, South Africa.

A sunny view from our veranda to the sea.

Don’t get me wrong, Johannesburg and other cities in South Africa have very high crime rates as shown here:

Countries with the Highest Crime Rates (from this site)

The countries with the ten highest crime rates in the world are:

  1. Venezuela (84.36)
  2. Papua New Guinea (80.04)
  3. South Africa (77.29)
  4. Afghanistan (76.97)
  5. Honduras (76.65)
  6. Trinidad and Tobago (72.43)
  7. Brazil (68.31)
  8. Guyana (68.15)
  9. El Salvador (67.84)
  10. Syria (67.42)

Marloth Park, in itself, a five-hour drive from Johannesburg, has its own share of crime from time to time, mainly burglaries of the bush homes, occupied by both locals or tourists. Let’s face it, many cities in the US are not safe right now either.

This adorable cat came to visit daily as we sat on the veranda of our beach cottage.

The bottom line, “you can run but you can’t hide.” Of course, now with COVID-19, that becomes another consideration for us, as to which countries will accept us and their subsequent restrictions for US citizens and those arriving from India. In time, it will all come to fruition, won’t it?

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 30, 2019:

Bartenders performing tricks at the Ice Bar on the ship. For more photos, please click here.

Day #219 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Living large, living small, living in the moment…

We could only imagine how beautiful our photos would have been on a sunny day, which had started sunny and clear, turning to rain shortly after we left. That’s life in the tropics. We still had a fabulous day!

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2015 while living in Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji. For more from this date, please click here.

Today’s heading above, “Living large, living small, living in the moment” from this date in 2015 prompted me to use it once again, five years later. Could it ever be more appropriate than now?

Our then home in Savusavu was located approximately 1/3 of the way in from the point in this photo. 

In that post, so long ago, I wrote:

“We try to live in the moment. Overall, we’re good at it. Today, a bright, sunny day with clear blue skies makes it nearly impossible to do otherwise. We’re in Fiji, a place we discussed many times as we planned our travels when tropical island holidays came to mind.

In this large life, in the large world, each day we strive to live “small,” wrapped up in the trivialities of our everyday, appreciating the call of a mating bird, a determined crowing rooster, an annoyed mooing cow, or the stuttered baa we often hear from a lonely kid goat.

The point, close to the home in Savusavu, from across the bay.

We watch the cruise ships, large and small, waft by each day in our magnificent ocean view. Often at night with their lights bright, we easily imagine the festivities and lively banter occurring on deck, knowing in a little over two months, we’ll be doing the same.

When we think of the future, it’s hard not to speculate, anticipate, and become outrageously excited knowing full well what lies ahead of us. Even after we’ll have visited each continent, there will be so much left to see: the Northern Lights from Norway, a Baltic cruise, the Black Sea, more river cruises, the USA and Canada, and countries throughout the world we’ll have yet to see.”

We passed several small villages while sightseeing.

And now, while here during this ongoing lockdown in Mumbai, India, certainly not as scenic and culturally interesting as Fiji, and yet, there still are moments we find ourselves stopping to treasure a small thing; a bird alighting on our window sill and singing a song; the fireworks on the eve of a Hindu holiday celebration; the kindness of a staff member; and often, the caring and thoughtful messages from our readers from all over the world.

If any of us stopped relishing “living in the moment,” life would have little meaning. As for “living large,” this is just not that time. Perhaps in years to come (if we are so blessed), telling this peculiar story to strangers on a cruise ship, or that we meet somewhere along the way, will find us feeling grateful for this life experience and how it may have changed or enriched us in one way or another.

Cows are always curious and we laughed when this grazing cow picked up her head to check us out.

Each and every day, I stop my mind from spinning to appreciate that as hard as this may be, I am alive, where had I not had emergency open-heart surgery 20 months ago, I may not be here today to tell this story. If at the time, I was offered a choice of life, living in a hotel room for a year with my love and companion Tom or, death, most certainly I’d have chosen the hotel room. There is much to be grateful for.

So, perhaps, this time is all about “living small,” knowing that tonight after eating dinner on our laps, we’ll watch three more episodes of The Walking Dead (we’re now wrapping up season five). Last night, we laughed out loud saying how grateful we are to be stuck in this room and not fighting zombies, due to that type of pandemic.

It was raining when we stopped to take photos of these fish ponds.

A cup of coffee or tea, a meal prepared exactly as expected, a hearty chuckle from a podcast, or the glint in our eyes when we look at one another, knowing full well, someday, this small existence will change and once again we’ll have the opportunity to “live large.”

Stay healthy, dear readers, as we all look forward to the future, while we continue to strive to “live in the moment.”

Photo from one year ago today, October 28, 2019:

The digital 3D presentation on our table and plates at Qsine Restaurant aboard the ship. What a delightful experience. The tabletop is a plain white blank canvas, making such colorful presentations possible. For more photos, please click here.

One of our favorite sites in India…The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel…

As only a small section of Ravla Khempur, also known as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, for the 2012 movie filmed on site.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click “View web version” under the word, “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site in a few months, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you.
When we originally booked an extra tour of Udaipur it was due to the fact that we were greatly interested in staying in one of the luxurious historic hotels overlooking one of the gorgeous man-made lakes in the area.

We were delighted to see the curly ears of the Marwari horses at the hotel. 

We visited Udaipur during one of the excursions on the Maharajas Express Train on day 3, and posted the story and photos on day 4, as shown at this link. After reviewing our 55-night tour of the balance of India, it appeared we’d be repeating a number of venues we’d already visited in Udaipur, on the train’s various excursions.

Each area of the property was artfully designed. From this site: “Ravla Khempur was chosen as the site or the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; it is an equestrian hotel that was originally the palace of a tribal chieftain, located about an hour and a half outside of Udaipur in the village of Khempur. Madden considered the building to have a magical quality and unmistakable charm, remarking that it had “something special that could ultimately draw the characters in. It had these wonderful cool, dark interiors, with glimpses of saturated light and the teeming life outside its walls. Production designer Alan MacDonald, who won Best Art Direction in a Contemporary Film from the Art Directors Guild for his work, was brought in to embellish the interiors, intentionally making it clash with “interesting furniture inspired by colonial India, mismatched local textiles, all mixed together with modern plastic bits and pieces, with everything distressed and weather-beaten. Footage was also shot at the Lake Palace Hotel at Lake Pichola.” (where we are now in Udaipur).

The concept of visiting previously seen venues didn’t appeal to us and thus, we contacted Rajiv at Tailormade Journeys and he canceled the repeats, replacing them with other tours we’re doing now that we’re back in Udaipur.

Although the property is well-worn over its 400 years, it is amazingly well-preserved and maintained.


Had we known our hotel would be more modest than anticipated, we may not have wanted to return to Udaipur at all. However, after yesterday’s “replacement” tour to a place we’d found online, we are so happy we returned regardless of the less than perfect hotel.

We loved this sign, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, for the Elderly & Beautiful.”


Yesterday, after an 90-minute car ride with our thoughtful driver and tour guide, Vishnu (named after one of the most revered Indian gods), we embarked on a journey to the village of Khempur, about 48 km, 30 miles, northwest of Udaipur (yes, it takes 90-minutes to travel 48 km, 30 miles in the dense traffic getting out of the city).

The pool was added after the filming of the movies. This ivy and flower-covered wall were stunning in person.

We felt the 16-hour long travel day on Sunday from Nagpur Airport proved to be well worth it as we drove up to the closed iron gates of the famous hotel from the US/British made movie, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring some of the finest senior actors in the business with stellar performances that grab at your heartstrings.

Nothing was spared in adding to the beauty of the property over the years.


Vishnu got out of the car to open the closed but not locked gates. At that point, we both were thinking the hotel had since been abandoned until a kind young man approached and welcomed us. Even that experience was comparable to that which one would see in a movie.

Each entrance has a unique and charming design.


Our mouths were agape as to what lay before our eyes in sheer wonder, curious to see what would happen next. As we followed the young man, who spoke snippets of English we were then greeted by the manager, a kindly young man who spoke fluent English and offered to show us around. We gladly accepted.

A gorgeous Marwari female horse checking out who’s come to call, specifically us.


He suggested we stop at the hotel dining room for coffee/tea after the tour, which once again we joyfully accepted. How amazing it was to sit in the beautifully appointed historic hotel used in the making of the 2012 movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and later followed up with the sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 2015.

The horses were curious as to our visit.


Much to our surprise, the hotel is still operational and beautifully so, creating an ambiance like none other. As we toured through the massive property with our host, we were entranced by its charm and historical appeal.

A handsome male, one of two stallions on the property.

Had we known it was still operational prior to booking the lengthy plans for India, nothing would have pleased me more than to have stayed there for a few weeks. What we found most surprising was the fact that there are 17 of the unique-to-India Marwari horses residing on the property described as follows below:

From this site
“The Marwari or Malani is a rare breed of horse from the Marwar (or Jodhpur) region of India. Known for its inward-turning, ear tips, it comes in all equine colors, although piebald and skewbald patterns tend to be the most popular with buyers and breeders. It is known for its hardiness and is quite similar to the Kathiawari, another Indian breed from the Kathiawar region southwest of Marwar. Many breed members exhibit a natural ambling gait. The Marwari horses are descended from native Indian ponies crossed with Arabian horses, possibly with some Mongolian influence.
The historic property was originally dated back to 1620 AD.

The Rathores, the traditional rulers of the Marwar region of western India, were the first to breed the Marwari. Beginning in the 12th century, they espoused strict breeding that promoted purity and hardiness. Used throughout history as a cavalry horse by the people of the Marwar region, the Marwari was noted for its loyalty and bravery in battle. 

This is the room where actor Judi Dench stayed during the filming of the movie.


The breed deteriorated in the 1930s, when poor management practices resulted in a reduction of the breeding stock, but today has regained some of its popularity. The Marwari is used for light draught and agricultural work, as well as riding and packing. In 1995, a breed society was formed for the Marwari horse in India. 

Breathttakiing.


The exportation of Marwari horses was banned for decades, but between 2000 and 2006, a small number of exports were allowed. Since 2008, visas allowing temporary travel of Marwari horses outside India have been available in small numbers. Though they are rare they are becoming more popular outside of India due to their unique looks.”

Can you imagine lounging in this window seat with a cup of tea/coffee or wine?
We’re delighted to have been able to see the stunning and unique creatures up close and took more photos than we can possibly use here. Their curly ears are quite the sight to see in person. 
We couldn’t stop smiling, not only due to the horses, but in seeing this hotel, reeking with character and history after having seen the movie several years ago. 
This man spends time with this dog guarding the property.
Every room and its innovative design and,  every outdoor space, was indeed a treasure to behold; including the abundance of interesting curved archways and doorways to the endless number of daybeds and window seats.
The dinnerware in the hotel’s dining room is made of brass and depicts the Marwari horse’s head on the knives and hooves on the balance of the artful pieces.

After we completed the tour, our generous host offered us tea/coffee and sweet biscuits (cookies). Tom ate the cookies with his cup of dark roasted coffee while I sipped on a fine cup of black tea.

The horse theme is carried out through the property as shown in these bridle buckles used in the design of the dining chairs.
As we sat in the gorgeous room, admiring everything around us, as shown in the photos below, I couldn’t help but wonder how magnificent it would be to stay in the hotel. No doubt, we were enamored. 
We had coffee/tea in this exquisite room with the Marwari horses looking in the windows at us from time to time. What a special experience it was indeed!

To contact the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, also known as Ravla Khempur and for information on their horses, dining and hotel bookings, please contact them at this link or by phone at +91 294 561773, or by email at this link.

A Marwari horse standing at the window as we sipped on our beverages.
Finally, to our disappointment it was time to go. We’d considered we’d overstayed our welcome although our host seemed overjoyed to share his wonderful hotel.
Us, in an old vehicle referred to as a Willy/Jeep.

Last night, after a pleasant dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, located across the street, we had a pleasant dinner, especially enjoying the scenes over Sagar Lake at night with the sounds of fireworks in the distance, birds singing in the night and the smells of incense and Indian spices wafting through the air.

The marigold.


We headed back to our room, where we purchased the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and started watching the delightful story. In a few days, we’ll download the sequel and once again revel in the familiar rooms of this magnificent property.


India… It’s magical.


Note: A special thank you to the wonderful owner of Ajanta Photo, Level 5, Century Plaza Lake Palace Rd, Old City, near, Kalaji Goraji, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001, phone 982 808 3294 for delivering the much-needed SD card reader to our hotel today on very short notice when Amazon India refused to leave our order for this item at the hotel desk in our absence. Subsequently, we are now able to download photos from our camera to my new HP Chromebook, which didn’t have a slot for an SD card (go figure). 

_______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, March 3, 2019:

Tom tossed some seeds to Frank and The Mrs. For more photos, please click here.

Arrival in India…Long travel day…We survived with flying colors!…New month…New life…

Typical scene on busy street in Mumbai.

It’s really nice. The hotel, the service, the views of the Arabian Sea, and the smell of fresh flowers everywhere is breathtaking. As most of our long term readers are well aware, this isn’t how we usually travel.


We often live among the locals, frequenting their shops, cooking with their local ingredients and dining in their favorite restaurants while living in fairly remote locations. 
An endless array of shops littered the sidewalks.

Although we will visit many remote locations while in India, we anticipate to see life as it is in this unique and highly cultural country. 


However, we’ll exist in relative comfort and luxury both while on the upcoming train, the Maharajahs Express, which we’ll board tomorrow, and the subsequent hotels and restaurants where we’ll stay and dine in the next two months, all four and five stars.


Despite living finely during our travels in India, doing so won’t necessarily provide us with the perspective we always strive to attain. Instead, we’ll be observers rather than the usual participants. 
These little vehicles for hire, referred to as tuk-tuks in many countries are known as rickshaws here in India.

We can live with this since the path we’ve chosen will be safer and more convenient during this leg of our worldwide journey, blissfully continuing after somewhat of a hiatus as I recovered from cardiac bypass surgery.


The 33-hour travel day was a true test of my newly found endurance. I managed well, able to sleep a little on the two night flights while we both entertained ourselves well during the over eight-hour layover in London Heathrow Airport.
Rickshaws are ready and waiting for weary passengers.

During the second flight from London to Mumbai, I sat next to a lovely woman born in India, now living in London. She was on her way to visit friends and family. Daisy’s intellect and usual dry British-influenced sense of humor made the last flight more tolerable.


We flew on British Airways on both flights. The first was on a newer plane with many fine amenities, although we’d booked economy class. The second flight was on an older plane with an outdated video screen, no USB pugs-in for digital equipment and poorly tasting food. But, at least we were fed a few times during our over 20 hours of flight time.
This red car, which delivered the bride was decorated with fresh flowers.

Yes, we were exhausted but we both made a point of doing everything we could to keep our blood flowing; walking about the cabin every few hours, wearing compression stockings, drinking plenty of fluids and sleeping whenever possible amid the crying babies and toddlers. 


As meticulously planned by our travel agent Rajiv, a rep and a driver were awaiting us at the t the massive and beautiful Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport exit holding up a sign with our names on it, 

Yesterday afternoon, the hotel was prepping for a wedding held last night. We were able to watch the festivities from our hotel room window. It was a gorgeous and colorful Indian wedding, a sight to behold.

Immigration went smoothly. Tom had to have his fingerprints taken while I did not.
The officer explained, “Visitors of your advance age do not have to leave their
fingerprints.” Oh.


The drive from the airport to the hotel was not nearly as hectic as we’d anticipated. 
It certainly wasn’t any busier than the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, Bangkok, Thailand
or in Denpasar, Bali. There were lots of close calls, honking and motorbikes darting 
in and out of traffic, but this was normal for us to see and we weren’t taken aback or
shocked by this, as some travelers may have been.

During the wedding ceremony…

Last night, in an attempt to avert jet lag, we didn’t eat dinner. To us, it was nighttime and neither of us was hungry. Instead, we went to bed early (after 
a short afternoon nap and shower) although we both awoke several times 
during the night, overall we both slept well. This morning we were refreshed and 
ready to continue on.


The included breakfast in the hotel was delicious with many Indian favorites some
of which I tried when the chef explained what I could and couldn’t eat. They had 
the best tasting, and spiciest chicken curry I’ve ever had along with poached eggs, 
chicken sausages and streaky bacon. Tom had eggs Benedict (minus the sauce),
bacon, and a donut. He was content.

We zoomed in for a better view of the wedding nuptials.


Now, as we wait for our room to be cleaned, we’re sitting in the lounge in the lobby.
Once our room is cleaned we’ll go through all of our stuff and decide if we can 
lighten our load sufficiently to comply with weight restrictions for the four 
upcoming domestic flights ahead of us during the 55-night private tour of India.


Tomorrow morning at 8:00 am, we’ll be transported from our hotel to a luxury
hotel/palace where the group of passengers for the upcoming Maharajahs Express
will meet for an introduction as to what’s ahead for our week-long train journey.


Most likely, tomorrow, I’ll upload a short post with some photos of the train 
and our cabin and begin the process of sharing the many wonders along 
the way.


Please check back. We can’t wait to share all of this with our reader/friends.

Happy day!

_________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, February 1, 2019:

This gentle little soul is “Little’s Friend.”  He stops by each day without Little to see what’s going on.  He’s easy to spot with his extra tiny tusks, much smaller than Little’s from which he derived his name. For more photos, please click here.

Busy weekend…India plans are set…

In Marloth Park on this day in 2013. This male zebra stood under the carport for quite some time, watching over the other males. For more photos, please click here.

It’s Sunday morning. Richard and Tom are watching the Minnesota Vikings football game using Tom’s NFL Gamepass app. The game wasn’t broadcast here in Nevada.


In a few minutes, I’ll make a breakfast of scrambled eggs with sauteed onions, bacon, and sausage and we’ll eat in front of the big flat screen watching the game.


When the game ends, we’ll bundle up in warm clothing for the hockey arena and head to the Las Vegas Strip to the T-Mobile Arena to watch the Vegas Golden Knights play today’s 4:00 pm game. The temperature in the arena is about 60F (15.6C). We’ll dress accordingly.


Yesterday, after I’d made the two pies in the early morning, I packed a container with broccoli salad and the fresh-from-the-oven pie in the rental car, carefully placing them on the floor in the front seat. 


On the way to Susan’s house, I stopped at Chipotle and purchased two burritos for her and her ex-husband Tom who’s been helping her these past few years.


She had married the boy next door when we were growing up in Long Beach California many moons ago. I’ve known Tom since I was in early grade school. The fact that he’s been helping Susan is very special when they’ve been divorced for over 40 years.


On Friday evening, we wrapped up the 55-day private tour through the country of India beginning on February 8th, immediately after the end of the Maharajas Express Train ride from Mumbai to Dehli.


It will be a whirlwind of activity, but it’s the best way for us to tour India when we know so little about the country. Also, the fact this is a private tour means we’ll be able to go at our own pace, in the event changes need to be made in the itinerary to accommodate our needs.


Originally, when we considered this option, there were simply too many activities to suit our needs. We didn’t want to be on the go non-stop for 55 days, especially when we’d want to carve out time to prepare and upload our posts and, if time allows,  relax a little.


Subsequently, we asked the rep to cut down on the number of activities. Most tourists don’t book such long tours. Based on the length of our tour, it was practical to leave us with some downtime. We don’t want to be run ragged, although we will be very busy during this period.


Now that I’ve been given the OK to tour at this pace, we feel more at ease and are excited about this unusually lengthy tour of India. Of course, there will be obstacles along the way, most likely regarding the food.


Tom doesn’t like spicy, heavily seasoned food. Hopefully, the restaurants in the hotels will have other options for him. Based on the fact the hotels are all 4 stars or higher, most likely their restaurants will offer more international cuisine, not necessarily limited to the strong flavors of Indian food.


The challenge for me will revolve around being able to order foods without starch or grains. But, we’re confident somehow we’ll make it all work. They consume lots of chicken in India, which added to a portion of vegetables made without starch will work for me. I’m sure once we’re there we’ll figure out several suitable options for both of us.


As the time nears, we’ll share more details on our itinerary and of course, be writing and posting photos each day during the upcoming train excursion. Our new phones may be used as hotspots, allowing us an adequate signal from most locations.


That’s it for today folks. May your Sunday be rewarding and fulfilling.

_________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 8, 2018:

This bushbuck family comes to visit daily.  They always stand at the foot of the veranda steps to be away from other wildlife that “steal” their pellets and veg. For more photos, please click here.

Boarded the ship today and soon we’ll begin sailing across the Atlantic to the USA!…

Our cabin, nice and tidy before our luggage arrives.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Southampton, England:From this site:

“Archaeological finds suggest that the area has been inhabited since the stone age.[15] Following the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43 and the conquering of the local Britons in AD 70, the fortress settlement of Clausentum was established. It was an important trading port and defensive outpost of Winchester, at the site of modern Bitterne Manor. Clausentum was defended by a wall and two ditches and is thought to have contained a bathhouse. Clausentum was not abandoned until around 410. The Anglo-Saxons formed a new, larger, settlement across the Itchen centred on what is now the St Mary’s area of the city. The settlement was known as Hamwic, which evolved into Hamtun and then Hampton. Archaeological excavations of this site have uncovered one of the best collections of Saxon artifacts in Europe. It is from this town that the county of Hampshire gets its name. Viking raids from 840 onwards contributed to the decline of Hamwic in the 9th century, and by the 10th century a fortified settlement, which became medieval Southampton, had been established.”
__________________________________________
After a light breakfast in the hotel’s dining room, we returned to our room to close the bags and be ready to head out the door.  We ordered a taxi to take us to the cruise terminal at 10:45 am which is a little early but we’ve gone to the terminal this early in the past and it’s always worked out.
Alternate view of our balcony cabin.  We’re always fine with the small space since we only sleep here.


This is our first-time sailing from Southampton and we had no idea what to expect. As I write this from our hotel room we’re hoping the Wi-Fi on the ship will be active at the time of boarding enabling us to complete today’s post including a few photos of the ship, Celebrity Silhouette.


With approximately 2900 passengers booked for this cruise. check-in may be slow but nothing compared to the bigger ships with several thousand more passengers. We have avoided those huge ships.  


However, with our Elite(priority) status, we are able to get into a faster-moving queue which speeds up the process considerably.  The porters take all of our bags away at check-in, leaving us to carry only a computer bag which we don’t want out of our sight and the blue cloth bag containing a camera and a few other essentials.

Another cloudy rainy day in Southampton harbour.


After boarding, most often, we head to the cafeteria or Cafe al Bacio for beverages. This is when the socializing begins. Aboard ship, we don’t dine as early as we usually do when preparing our own meals.  We strive to be seated at a shared table by 7:30 or 8:00 pm, depending on how much fun we’re having elsewhere.


Generally, we won’t receive our luggage to our cabin until close to dinner or thereafter.  Thus, we’re wearing clothing suitable for tonight’s dinner in the main dining room, not dressy but less casual than we might wear on any day. 


The muster drill transpires today at 3:15 pm when emergency instructions are delivered by ship staff.  Each cabin has its own designated muster drill area which may be outside on the deck, in a restaurant or at the theatre.

Lounge area on the same level as our cabin.  It’s unlikely we’ll ever sit here.


Once the muster drill is over which usually requires about 40 minutes we are free for the remainder of the evening when the fun picks up where we left off, mid-day.


The check-in process was seamless with no hitches whatsoever. Within minutes of arriving at the cruise terminal, our bags were whisked away, we check-in for the cruise and boarded the ship.


Tom went to the internet cafe and set up both of our accounts and now with a good signal, we were able to finish today’s post.  Thanks for your patience in the late posting.


We’ll be back each day with more photos and updates on the cruise and the ports of call we visit.


Back at you soon.  Have a fantastic weekend!

_________________________________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, October 24, 2018:
Last night’s full moon over Marloth Park.  For more photos, please click here.

Southampton, England…A great hotel for two nights…

Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
The Leonardo Southampton Royal Grand Harbour hotel. (Not our photos).
Fascinating Fact of the Day About Southampton, England:

From this site:

“Southampton is a port city on England’s south coast. It’s home to the SeaCity Museum, with an interactive model of the Titanic, which departed from Southampton in 1912. Nearby, Southampton City Art Gallery specializes in modern British art. Solent Sky Museum features vintage aircraft like the iconic Spitfire. Tudor House & Garden displays artifacts covering over 800 years of history, including a penny-farthing bike.”
__________________________________________
The hotel we selected in Southampton for two nights is the Leonardo Royal  Southampton Grand Harbour is located only minutes to the cruise terminal. For these dates, the nightly rate is GBP 180, US $231.  
Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
The hotel at night.

We used accumulated points in Expedia and only paid GBP 145.50, US $187.06 for both nights in a king room with breakfast included which we prepaid at the time of booking.



Yesterday, taking our time on the drive and stopping for a light lunch we arrived at the hotel later than expected. Subsequently, we dined in the hotel’s restaurant.  Unfortunately, the lovely couple, Kim and Keith, whom we’d planned to meet for dinner, canceled due to Kim’s bad cold. They didn’t want us to catch it which we really appreciated. There are plenty of germs on cruises as it is.
Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
One of the many seating areas in the hotel.

As typical for hotels, the meal in the restaurant was good, not great, with prices commensurate with what we’ve observed in the UK these past few months.  Tonight, we may go out or dine in the bar which has a great menu for my way of eating.  


Food is not so important to us these few days when we have the cruise ahead of us where they’ll make everything befitting my restricted diet. In any case, we don’t make cruising about the food.  
Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
A king room.

For us, it’s the opportunity to socialize with other travelers from all over the world that make cruising special. Now, situated in the hotel bar preparing today’s post at a table close to an electric outlet without much social interaction. We’ll make up for it soon enough. 


My fast dying laptop (almost five years old) requires I work with it plugged in with the battery also on its last leg. On the upcoming cruise, we’ll have to find a spot close to an outlet. 
Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
Typical English breakfast served buffet-style in the main dining room.


We’ve been able to find a good place to sit near an outlet on the past several cruises. Cruising on this particular ship, Celebrity Silhouette is new to us and we’re hopeful we’ll find a spot close to all the action. 


We prefer not to be isolated when working on the post especially when other passengers stop by to chat. It may take six or seven hours for me to complete one post with all the interruptions but we love the interactions with other passengers and, from time to time, crew members.

Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
Cruise ships are often waiting in this harbour for enthusiastic cruise passengers.

It’s funny how passengers will say when they see us working on our laptops, “Couldn’t you have left the work at home?”  


We laugh and often say, “This is “home” at the moment.”


Yes, we continue with our daily tasks, handling photos, the posts, financial matters, banking and so forth wherever we may be at any given time. Its the nature of our peculiar lifestyle.


I don’t have anything in the way of photos today. It’s raining and we don’t care to walk in the rain nor do we want to pay a taxi to take us around when we’ve already returned the rental car.  

Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
This is where we’re seated now as we prepare today’s post.

Yesterday, when we arrived and couldn’t get a signal on the phone and thus we drove around Southampton (population 253,651) and had a good look.  It’s a very nice city but with too much traffic and commotion for us after these quiet months in the English (and Wales) countryside.

The cruise will be the perfect segue back to a crowded environment when afterward we’ll be on Minnesota highways with plenty of traffic, horn honking, and impatient drivers, typical for any large city.

Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
Map of our hotel and its close proximity to the harbour. Regardless of the weather, we’ll still have to take a taxi to the cruise terminal.

We always say the most courteous drivers in the world are in South Africa. The slower vehicles always move to the shoulder to let others pass on both highways and on dirt roads. We’ve never ceased to be amazed by this phenomenon.  


(Yeah, I know…I miss it, and every day I wonder if immigration will allow us to return and if we can rent the Orange house again…and then if “you know who” will return to see me.)

Well, folks, tomorrow is another “day-in-the-life” of these two nomads as we board yet another cruise, this time a transatlantic crossing. 

Happy hump day to all the working people and happy any-day to the retirees!
_________________________________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, October 23, 2018:
Single file, from matriarch to baby.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Our year in review…Photos of us…Busy preparing new itinerary, ready for tomorrow’s post…

In July, we had a great evening at The Elephant Bar in Henderson, Nevada with friends that live in Las Vegas.

New Year’s Day proved to be another good holiday. We stayed busy posting until later than usual and then spent the rest of the afternoon making future travel plans.

Why do we plan so far ahead?  With our lifestyle, it gives us  tremendous piece-of-mind knowing what’s coming down the road.  Also, it gives us an opportunity for good prices for upcoming venues.

Tom standing next to the Giant Bamboo tree to gain a perspective of its massive size.  The vegetation at Zoo Ave in Costa Rica was almost as interesting as the wildlife.

Although we’ll post the itinerary tomorrow, we’ve yet to book all of the vacation homes for the upcoming visits to various countries but the cruises are already booked. Over the next few months, once we’re in Africa, we start booking vacation/holiday homes in these various locations.


As we’ve mentioned in the past, cruises are a driving force in our decisions to visit certain countries, although as shown we don’t hesitate to fly when necessary.

I used repellent while at Zoo Ave in Costa Rica but still got a few mosquito bites.

Planning is a daunting task and today, we’ll continue with the preparations for tomorrow’s post.  We’re happy we’d made the commitment to post the itinerary. It motivated us to “get the show on the road” and finally make some decisions for the future.  

By no means, our failure to get this done wasn’t due to any lack of enthusiasm on our part.  Instead, it was based on the simple fact that we’ve been rather busy this past month with the cruise and socializing. 

We set up the tripod to take this photo of us in Costa Rica on October 31, 2017, the five year anniversary of our world travels

All along our intent has been to post a new itinerary around the first of the new year.  By tomorrow, we’ll have this accomplished as we joyfully share it with all of our worldwide readers.

As for yesterday, New Year’s night, we ate the remainder of the food purchases we’d we made to share with Margaret and Con.  By 7:30 pm, once again we gathered in a big booth in the Prodeo Hotel’s dining room with a food which included roasted chickens, coleslaw salad which I made in our room, olives, cheese, meat, and nuts.  It was another fine evening.

On formal night aboard Celebrity Infinity only weeks ago.  My teeth were purple from the glass of red wine I’d just finished.

By 11:00 pm, we were sleeping and although intermittently, I feel hangover free and refreshed today, ready to tackle a new day in Buenos Aires.  In a short time, once we’ll upload today’s post and we’ll head to a local barbershop for Tom’s haircut which opens after 12:00 pm.

He hasn’t had a haircut since October.  He’s facing “hat hair” on the upcoming Antarctica cruise when we’ll both be wearing hats for several hours each day.  This is less of an issue for me when a few swipes with the flat iron and I’m back to normal. 

Us, with our wonderful new friends, Lisa and Barry whom we’ll see in June in South Africa.

But for him, his hair has a tendency to be spikey when either too short or too long.  He’s thumbing through past posts right now to see how short he wants it cut today.  We’ll post photos soon.

Tonight, we’ll walk to Serrano Plaza, our favorite area for dinner. There are many restaurants we’ve yet to try.  After eating in these past few nights we’re looking forward to getting out again.  Now that the holiday season is over, we expect to find more dining options.

On the ship’s deck as we sailed through the Chilean Fiords on the most recent cruise.

May your new year begin and end with considerable contentment and joy in all of your endeavors, whatever they may be.  Happy day to all 

________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, January 2, 2017:

Green/spring onions were being processed for wholesale distribution at a Penguin, Tasmania vegetable processing farm.  For more details, please click here.

A visit to a local outdoor market in Palermo…Feria de Plaza Serrano…Culture galore…

The Feria de Plaza Serrano outdoor market is open weekends and holidays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.

The area of Palermo couldn’t have been a better choice for us during this extended stay in Buenos Aires.  It’s safe to walk the streets day and night as long as one exercises a mindful watch and scrutinous eye for possible pickpockets and uneven pavement.

Tourists and locals visit the market.

There’s a lot to see and do.  Once the holidays are over, we’ll begin making a plan for sightseeing venues, that will be less busy once the holidays have ended.  In the interim, we content to walk the many streets surrounding our hotel offering a wide and expansive perspective of Argentinian culture.

Little English is spoken here and our choppy Spanish has served us well thus far.  Thank goodness we spent the 113 days in Atenas, Costa Rica where learning some Spanish words was vital to our existence. 

Many of the kiosks are offering locally handmade goods.

By no means are we adept at speaking Spanish but we are able to get a message across to some extent and will learn more during this month-long stay in Argentina. 

I’ve considered an online Spanish language course but hesitate when I realize how much time I spend online as it is.  I can’t picture myself sitting at my laptop an hour more each day. 

The displays were pretty and appealing.

Besides, my brain doesn’t seem to relish the thought of even more learning when each and every day consists of researching and educating ourselves in our travels.  We must save time for relaxation and of course, pleasure.

Speaking of pleasure, yesterday, Christmas Day proved to be a very good day after all.  We spent the entire day in the hotel lobby until it was time to mosey on up to our room for another “cheesy and meaty” dinner in the bathtub room.  By this point, we took the peculiar meal and location in our stride.  How quickly we adapt!

Only about four long blocks from our hotel, we’ll return to try the various restaurants.

After uploading the day’s post, Tom watched the remainder of the four Vikings football games he missed watching while on the cruise when he was unable to stream with the ship’s slow Wi-Fi signal. 

He used his earbuds listening to the games on his laptop while I busily and most happily spoke to family members on Skype while he occasionally interjected Christmas greetings and expressions of love.  We spoke to my three grandchildren; Maisie, Miles, and Madighan; son Greg and his dear wife, Camille. 

After a lengthy chat, I spoke to son Richard in Henderson, Nevada, and sister Julie in Los Angeles, California.  A few days earlier I’d spoken to my other sister Susan to wish Merry Christmas, as well.

There’s Tom on the right carrying the yellow Costco bag.

Once I was off Skype Tom spoke to son TJ and family and;  daughter Tammy and grandson Vincent while I interjected love and warm wishes when he was done.  It was a perfect day and we were left reeling with warm fuzzies over spending the afternoon speaking with everyone.

By 6:00 pm we were back in our hotel room preparing our plates for the final peculiar dinner.  After dinner, we spent time responding to many email messages from our readers, family and friends and holiday wishes on Facebook.  

There’s plenty of dining establishments in the “feria.”

By 7:30, we were ready to hunker down for the night and get lost in mindless drivel…watching one of our favorite shows, season four of “Peaky Blinders.” Tonight, we’ll finish the season and find something else to entertain us over the next several nights, after returning from dinner.

Tonight, we’ll head out and find a restaurant for dinner and hopefully come up with a plan for New Year’s Eve in the process.  There are endless options in the neighborhood for that holiday as opposed to few options for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

We visited the outdoor market on Christmas Eve in the late afternoon so it may not have been as busy as it is on a typical weekend day.

Finding a place for dinner on New Year’s Day may be tricky but we’ll figure it out this week. Toward the end of the week, we plan to head to a large market nearby to purchase a few items for my turmeric tea, now a favorite morning beverage along with a possible backup meal for New Year’s day. 

That’s it, folks.  We want to thank all of our readers for staying with us and continuing to read our daily posts.  We’re often astounded by the number of readers who visit us each day, often well into the thousands.  Go figure.  Your participation is truly a gift we unwrap and savor each and every day.  Thank you with all of our hearts.

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, December 26, 2017:

One year ago in Penguin, Tasmania, this was our favorite photo of the day, a huge Billy Goat with quite the beard and defined facial markings.  For more details, please click here.