Day #161 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Mad about this…Are you, too?

Arrived on the ship…Excited to sail away…


This afternoon’s view from our balcony. It’s good to see the ocean once again.

It’s hard to believe we’re finally aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas for a 14-day cruise from Harwich, England to Boston. Earlier today, we posted the ship’s itinerary. 

On our way through London to Harwich, we spotted a number of popular attractions including this church.

As I write this, it’s 3:30 pm and soon we’ll be called for the muster drill, which for those of our readers who’ve never been on a cruise, is a mandatory safety procedures drill during which names are taken to ensure each passenger has attended this drill.

Buckingham Palace.

Several cruises ago, we missed the drill when we were told we didn’t have to attend when we were on a “back to back” cruise. The next day we were required to attend a private session for others like us who hadn’t attended.

Big Ben was to the right in this shot, but I had no way to get the photo in traffic.
Another Ferris Wheel referred to as the “Eye.”

After the muster drill, we’re headed to a party for CruiseCritic participants. Tom is an avid follower and made many new friends on the site, many of whom we’re joining on several private tours. That will be fun, thanks to my socially engaged hubby. 

A fast shot of the Tower of London.

Embarking on this cruise feels as if we’re we’re embarking on an entirely new leg of our years-long journey.  We’ve had an unbelievable number of experiences in these past almost two years. And, with the next two years almost completely booked, we’re looking forward to the future as well as living every moment as it comes.

Not sure as to the name of this memorial as we zoomed past.

The drive from the hotel in London to the pier in Harwich flew by as we chatted with our driver Tony who was delightful and charming. As soon as we met, he welcomed me with a kiss on the cheek, a common greeting in the UK. 

A memorial near Buckingham Palace. With WiFi restrictions, we’re unable to look up the names of these monuments.

Whoever said Brits are stuffy hasn’t been to the UK in a while. They are warm and kind people with big hearts and a great sense of humor. We loved that fact about London more than anything.

At last our ship, Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.

After the party at 4:45, we’ll return to our cabin to change for dinner, and mosey our way to the main dining room for what we expect will be an enjoyable evening sharing a table with six or more passengers.

We always appreciate having a sofa in the cabin as opposed to lying on the bed when relaxing.

Tomorrow morning at 8:00 am, we’re off on our first tour to Le Havre/Normandy, France for an all-day excursion to see WWII Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, and American Cemeteries. As mentioned earlier, we’ll post a short update with photos as soon as possible upon our return to our cabin, prior to heading for dinner. 

Our balcony cabin.  The queen-sized bed seems comfortable.

Our MiFi device is working. The ship’s WiFi is working. We’ll alternate between the two sources depending upon our location; out to sea, we’ll use the ship’s WiFi; in port, we’ll use the MiFi. 

Tiny cabin bathroom.

Unfortunately, we both had to spring for the ship’s WiFi service at US $399 each. However, we have several onboard credits we can use toward the final bill which we’ll post as the cruise nears the end.

A roomy safe is also appreciated.

Happy Labor Day tomorrow to our family and friends in the US and thanks to all for joining us as we head out to sea for our second Transatlantic crossing, our first westward.

                                               Photo from one year ago today, August 31, 2013:

There was no post on this date one year ago as we headed to Venice to spend the night in a hotel to prepare for the next day’s very long flight to Kenya.

Leaving London…Heading to Harwich to the pier…We’ll be posting later today…Cruise itinerary here today…

Our usual photo post for today will be online 6 to 8 hours later than usual, which will contain photos of our ship and our cabin. If we spot anything special on the 2.5-hour drive to the pier, we’ll certainly include those photos as well.

We both look forward to sharing our exciting adventures on our upcoming transatlantic cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas over 14 nights.

Over the next several mornings we’ll be leaving the ship on private tours to the following locations with more to follow:

1.  Monday: Normandy, France – American beaches and cemeteries from World War II.
2. Tuesday: Portland, England – Stonehenge
3. Wednesday: Cork, Ireland – Blarney Castle

On these three days, we’ll make every effort to post late in the day when we return with photos from the tours. On each of these three days, we’ll be leaving the ship at 8:00 am, not returning until 6:00 or 7:00 pm with a mad rush to the dining room for dinner. 

In the worst case, we’ll upload a short post explaining when we’ll be back with full posts on each of these experiences, including photos of our upcoming tour in Iceland to see the Northern Lights. We’ll be out to sea for several days and we’ll have plenty of time to upload complete posts of these experiences.

Here’s the actual ship’s itinerary:

Sun Aug 31 London (Harwich), England 5:00pm
Mon Sep 1 Paris (Le Havre), France 7:00am 9:00pm
Tue Sep 2 Portland, England 7:00am 4:00pm
Wed Sep 3 Cork (Cobh), Ireland 10:00am 4:30pm
Thu Sep 4 At Sea
Fri Sep 5 Klaksvik, Faroe Islands 9:00am 6:00pm
Sat Sep 6 At Sea
Sun Sep 7 Reykjavik, Iceland Noon
Mon Sep 8 Reykjavik, Iceland 5:00pm
Tue Sep 9 At Sea
Wed Sep 10 At Sea
Thu Sep 11 At Sea
Fri Sep 12 At Sea
Sat Sep 13 At Sea
Sun Sep 14 Boston, MA 6:00am

If for any reason, we don’t have a post later today, it will be due to WiFi connectivity issues. We’ll have access to both the ship’s signal and XCOM Global’s MiFi. Hopefully, we won’t have issues with either.

We look forward to sharing our experiences with you in these exciting locations. Thank you to each and every one of our readers worldwide. We always feel as if you are traveling along with us.

There was no post from one year ago on this date:

Day #160 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…The frightening reality…

Total expenses for 15 nights in London…Leaving tomorrow morning for long drive to cruise pier in Harwich….Cheerio, London…Hello world…

Its a beautiful area with most of the buildings well maintained in black and white.

Tomorrow morning at 10:00 am, the private shuttle we’d arranged long ago, picks us up from the hotel for the two and a half hour drive to Harwich, the cruise ship pier in England.  

Yesterday, we walked down this road toward Bobo’s Bubbles to do our final two loads of laundry. 

It will be wonderful to see the ocean once again after leaving Madeira a month ago. While in both Paris and London we came to the decision that no matter how appealing big cities may be to many travelers, they are not for us. We’re loving the country, the bush, the ocean and anywhere far from the hustle and bustle of city life.

There are numerous old hotels in the Kensington area.

This gave us a new perspective in our travels, that we won’t want to spend a week or two in Sydney or any other big city in Australia or any other parts of the world. We’re certain they are filled with much to see and do.  But, that life is not for us. Plain and simple.

Many street lamps and building fronts are decorated with colorful flowers.
Occasionally, we spotted a brick building mixed among the white buildings.

We have three big cities ahead of us soon, one in Boston on September 14th for three nights; two in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 17th for six nights; and lastly, in Waikiki/Honolulu on October 5th, Hawaii for 11 nights. Boston will be a breeze when we’re busy with family. Vancouver is a relatively short stay until we board the ship to Hawaii and Waikiki. Well, it is Hawaii after all.

This was the shortest (height) car either of us has ever seen. I can only imagine that getting out of it would require rolling out the door onto the street and then standing up. 
South Kensington consists of one pretty street after another, parking always at a premium.

Today, as I write here, I’ll be flipping back and forth to our comprehensive Excel workbook to finalize our expenses for the 15 nights in London. As we share these expenses, one may assume these totals are realistic for any traveler to London, on a budget.

Tom’s haircut was only US $16.60, 10 pounds including the tip.  Not bad.
When we stopped at the market for a few items Tom decided on a haircut before the cruise.

We must admit that our total expenses may be misleading for the following reasons especially when dining out for all meals.  Here’s why:
1.  We only eat once a day due to our commitment to intermittent fasting for our health (two meals per day while on cruises).  A typical tourist dines in restaurants two to three meals each day, as we would have in years past.  Please take that into consideration when reviewing the totals. Also, we don’t order starters or desserts which I can’t have, and Tom doesn’t want, never liking the available options.
2.  Another factor in regard to restaurant dining:  Tom ordered one beer on four separate occasions.  Since I don’t drink alcohol I usually have tap water (when its safe to drink) such as in London and Paris.  By not adding cocktails and other beverages to our restaurant bill, we’re usually saving as much, if not more, than 40% on the bill. Tom rarely drinks alcohol when we’re dining in making this no sacrifice to him.  On the cruises, he’ll enjoy cocktails at the table during dinners (at an additional cost).
3.  No extra charges were added to  the hotel bill:  In the case at the Regency Hotel, Queen’s Gate, they’ve waived our entire WiFi bill upon my request this morning based on the daily issues getting online.  We don’t order room service, have spa treatments, order cocktails, coffee or tea.  We use the complimentary coffee and tea in the room. 
4.  We save money by walking as opposed to taking taxis when the distances are manageable, using public transportation when possible.
5.  Keeping the cost of sightseeing and tours expenses to the budgeted amount.
6.  We’re willing  to pay a little more for better hotels with at least a four star rating which are in good neighborhoods, such as in South Kensington.  The hotel becomes our “home” for a period of time with comfort and convenience most important to us.

The street corner where last night’s restaurant is located.

Here are our expenses for the 15 nights in London:

Hotel:              US $3,312.26, 1,995.40 pounds
Transportation:          455.29,    274.28
Tours:                       451.81,    272.18
Groceries:                 240.34,    144.79
Restaurants:              850.46,    512.34

Grand Total:     US $5,310.16, 3,198.99 pounds
Daily Rate:         US $354.01, 213.27 pounds

In London, there are no large trash bins for residents in which to place their garbage.  Instead, they put the bags on the sidewalk or street where they’re picked up a few times a week from what we’ve seen. 

In this particular case, we’re under budget by 7%.  Having a budget helps us to curtail spending.  Although, we frequently commented as to how expensive dining out is in London, the only reason our daily average was this low was due to the facts above; no beverages, no starters and no desserts.  

Last night, we tried a new restaurant, Wildwood several blocks from our hotel.
Wildwood had a comfortable ambiance but, the food and service was mediocre.

Without a doubt, once we’re on the two upcoming cruises, we’ll be having breakfast and Tom will order starters and desserts (few starters will work for me). After all, our meals with multiple courses are included in the cost of the cruises (the actual costs hidden from our view).  We’re free to dine as we so choose, (cocktails are extra), although we’ll only do so twice a day, breakfast and dinner. 

Tom order Beef Bolognaise which he said was good.
I ordered this chicken Caesar salad, minus crouton adding avocado.  The chicken was fatty, poorly trimmed and hard to cut.  Had it contained boneless, skinless chicken breasts this would have been a great salad.

Now that our laundry is done at US $33, 20 pounds, to wash and dry two loads, we’ll be packing our bags as soon as we’re done posting.  We’ve reconfirmed with our driver for tomorrow’s 10 am pickup.  Our hotel bill is completed.  Tonight we’ll dine at Byron, one last time (included tonight’s dinner in totals above).

This was the lowest dinner bill we had in London at US $32, 19.30 pounds, plus tip for a total US $35.36, 21.20 pounds

Sunday’s post with new and exciting photos will be available late in the day after we’re checked in and we’re situated on the cruise. 

And tomorrow, we’ll be on our way.  Once again.

Photo from one year ago today, August 30, 2013:

This pile contained all the clothing I owned one year ago.  Now, the pile is one half this size.
This photo was on the last few days we were in Italy preparing to depart on September 1, 2013 for Kenya.  For details from that date, please click here.

The cost of booking rental cars in Hawaii for almost 7 months…Two days until we “sail away”…

This is a Pangolin, one of the most elusive animals on the planet, seen by very few.  Perhaps, someday when we return to Africa, we’ll have a chance to see one. These animals are poached for their scales believed by certain cultures in Asia to have medicinal properties which, after intense scientific research, do not provide any benefit to health. And yet poachers kill these interesting animals in the anteater family for-profits compared to the senseless slaughter of rhinos and elephants for their tusks. It’s heartbreaking. Soon, they, too, will become extinct.

When we first began planning our worldwide travels, we flinched over the cost of rental cars with all of the pumped-up fees, charges, and taxes. At the time, we anticipated it would feel weird not owning a car.  Now, it’s second nature. 

The Dodo bird, extinct for over 350 years.  Sadly, what’s next?

The points we consider for each specific location, each time we book a rental car are simple:
1. Is taxi fare reasonably priced and is it readily available making renting a car unneccesary?
2.  Will we feel trapped in a remote location without a car?
3.  Are there many places we’d like to visit in a specific area making a rental car worthwhile?
4.  Is the car large enough to fit our four suitcases, one duffel bag, one rolling cart, one laptop bag, and handbag?
5.  How safe is driving (in regard to crime, not road conditions) in a specific country?

This is the largest seed in the world from Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

For example, in Kenya, was safer to travel in affordable taxis than it was to drive on our own with the high rate of carjacking and theft, than in many other parts of the world. 

We saw live insects of this size while in Africa. 

In Belize, we used taxis. On an occasion, we rented a golf cart for a week, taking taxis the remainder of the time. The cost of a rental car for 30 days was more than US $3000,1809 pounds per month. The cost of a taxi to a grocery store or restaurant was US $5, 3 pounds each way. It was a no brainer for the two and a half months we spent in Placencia.

Over 100 scientists work full time at London’s Natural History Museum. 

In Morocco, we could walk to most locations. The grocery shopping and cooking were done by Madame Zahra (I think of her often) and the few times we dined outside of the Medina and the souks, the cab fare was fairly reasonable. Also, there was no available parking where we lived in the souk.

A scientist at work in the research area of the museum.  What a fascinating field.

In the remote Tuscan location of Boveglio, Italy we had no choice but to rent a car for the two and a half months we spent in the mountains.

In the Charles Darwin wing of the Natural History Museum, there were many interesting displays of insects, butterflies, and small creatures.

In South Africa, we had a rental car for a month, with Okee Dokee driving us everywhere for the remaining two months. No rental car could possibly replace the pleasure and laughter of riding with her day after day.

Photos through the glass are less vivid.

In that particular case, we chose to forgo the rental car simply since we loved being with Okee Dokee, constantly laughing as we bounced around on the bumpy roads in Marloth Park. It was an emotional decision when none of the above points fell into play.

After many car rental experiences, we’d yet to book rental cars for three of the four islands on which we’ll be living in Hawaii over a total period of seven months. 

This is an actual bee and its size as shown.

Excluding the necessity of a car in Waikiki (Honolulu) for the first 11 days when everything is within walking distance, we knew we’d need cars in Maui for six weeks, the Big Island for six-plus weeks, and Kauai for four months.

Insect displays in the Charles Darwin research area of the museum.

Having budgeted for each of the three islands where we’ll need a rental car, both of us were worried that the actual cost would far exceed the amounts we budgeted. Yesterday, we finalized the bookings for each of the three islands, expecting the cost to average at approximately US $2000, 1206 pounds a month. 

Hawaii is often considered one of the most expensive places to visit in the world when everything other than the fruits and nuts grown in the islands, must be imported as is the case on other islands throughout the world.

Flying insects.

After reviewing many online sites for the best rates in Hawaii (which we’d browsed many times over the past few years), we were able to confirm rates for each of the islands as follows:

6 weeks  Maui          US $1,124, 678 pounds (economy car)
6 weeks  Big Island  US $1,526, 920 pounds (full-sized car)
17 weeks Kauai        US $2,886, 1741 pounds (economy car)
Grand total –          US $5,536, 3339 pounds
(over a period of 120 days at the US $46, 28 pounds, per day). 

There were numerous paintings of animals from artists throughout the world.

We’re thrilled with these prices, expecting to spend thousands more, and relieved to have this piece out of the way at long last. Our flights between the four islands are the only items we’ve yet to book for Hawaii. With frequent flights between islands each day, we can easily wait to book the flights a month before departure in each case.

Had it been 10 months from now, when we’ll be in Australia, we’d already have seen kangaroos!  We can hardly wait!

As soon as we upload today’s post, we’ll be heading out for our final trip to Bobo’s Bubbles to do the laundry. It will be a full two weeks until we can do our laundry again in Boston. In Madeira, I purchased what appears to be a bar of soap which in fact is a bar of laundry soap, used for handwashing. Surely, that will come in handy on the two cruises in September.

In 10 months when we’ll be in Australia, we hope to see koala bears.

Last night, we returned to Byron, a burger restaurant we’ve found to be good with reasonable portions. Although it was over US $50, 30 pounds for a burger and fries for Tom and a salad for me, the salad portion is ample leaving me feeling as if I’ve actually had a meal. 

This is a Genet which we saw in South Africa in the bush.

When we see the price for a burger and fries is US $25, 15 pound, and a Cobb salad is also at US $25, 15 pounds, one can easily understand why we’re “chomping at the bit” to get on board the cruise and dine at our leisure without the added expense of having eaten out every meal for a month.

The fossils from prehistoric times were interesting.  But, we expected these as shown above were also manmade.

It’s hard to believe we’re only two days from sail day. In many ways, it seems as if those past eight cruises were so long ago when the last cruise ended on June 16, 2013. Here we go, another transatlantic crossing. How exciting!

In a way, it left us cold, seeing the manmade animals when we’d seen so many in the wild.

Have a lovely weekend as summer winds down in the northern hemisphere and winter winds crank up in the southern hemisphere. 

The museum itself was worthy of note in its exquisite design.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, August 29, 2013:

As we busied ourselves getting ready to depart for Kenya and with ongoing WiFi issues in Boveglio Italy, we didn’t post on this date. However, we did a post on the following date. Please check back tomorrow.

Day #158 in lockdown in Mumbai, India Hotel…Cleaning up old posts…

Winding down London…Three days and counting…Post #750 today!…Food photos from last night’s dinner at Daquise…

Various ferns look like marine life.

We’re done sightseeing in London. With the crowds, the daily rain, the waiting in queues (“lines” per British speak), we’ve basically made a decision to stop. Yes, we’re here and yes, we could easily get to other points of interest.  

Prehistoric creature.

However, as we’ve often mentioned, we do exactly that which “trips our trigger” and fits our budget, as opposed to doing that which might be “expected” of a traveler in a big city. That’s the nature of our lives. That’s why we’re happily living life as we choose.

Man-made replica.

There’s a price to pay for living life on our terms. We gladly pay it. We pay it in the knowledge that others may be annoyed or disgruntled by our choices. Where are the photos of Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and on and on? We never intend to disappoint. 

Various reptiles.

But, the difference in our travel writing as opposed to what others may write, is simple, we tell it like it is. This life we live is not a honeymoon or a two-week vacation. This is our day to day lives and the greatest joy we find is when we’re living on our terms.

Prehistoric creature.

With two cruises and several small group (8 to 10 travelers) tours scheduled, we’ll have many exciting photos to share in the next few weeks on the first cruise, including Normandy, Stonehenge, Cork, Ireland (Blarney Castle), Klaksvik, Faroe Islands, and Reykjavik, Iceland. Our readers will be bombarded with photos. Sit tight, dear followers. More will come.

We’d seen a few of these snakes on the road in Africa and one on our veranda in South Africa, the Mozambique Spitting Cobra.

As for London, we’re done spending money other than for the three remaining dinners and the long drive to Harwich to the pier.  The cost of everything is at least 70% more than one would expect to pay. With our family coming to Hawaii for Christmas (14 arriving in December), the cost of two houses, airfare, food and incidentals we need to continue to carefully monitor our budget.

A prehistoric Amphibian.

Months ago, we paid for all of the above upcoming tours, the cruises, the hotel in Boston, the flight and hotel in Vancouver. We’ve prepaid in full, the first two months in Hawaii, on Oahu and Maui and also the four months on the island of Kauai. 

Fish from lakes and streams.

Soon, we’ll pay the balances on the two houses on the Big Island and the more substantial chunks will be out of the way though May 15, 2015. But, the small stuff when traveling can cut deep into one’s planned budget if not careful. 

This is referred to as a Football Fish.

Are we hypocrites when we don’t like crowds and yet we love cruising? I suppose we may appear to be. Sunday’s upcoming cruise holds 2501 passengers. 

More fish from rivers, lakes, and streams.

How do we tolerate those crowds? We avoid lines. We find cozy, quiet spots where we feel as if we’re in our own little world. If the theatre at night is booked at the 8 pm show, we’ll choose the 10 pm show. 

Fish found in the ocean.

After eight cruises in the past 2o months, we feel we have it fairly well figured out. We love the sea, making new friends at dinners for eight or ten, the gentle rocking of the ship. We even found the storm at sea on the Norwegian Epic commencing on April 20, 2013, to be an adventure.  

More ocean fish.

We wandered about the ship for those three stormy days with nary a moment of seasickness with swells as high as 50 feet, 15.24 meters, when many passengers and crew were hunkered down in their cabins for days. We’ve loved it all.

A Lizard that puffs up the frill around the neck to scare off predators. This could be intimidating, to say the least.

In essence, we may contradict ourselves at times. We can avoid a 300 person deep line at a venue and then stand in line 300 deep line to get off the ship for a tour. All of us love what we love whether it’s the award-winning rose in full bloom or the lowly dandelion spewing pollen into the air. One may not be connected to the other.


Yesterday, we embarked on our final sightseeing stint by visiting London’s Natural History Museum. Having avoided hour(s) long queues both mornings or midday, we chose to enter around 4 pm. There was no line at all, although it was fairly crowded inside. 

Komodo Dragons are found on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, and Flores. We’ll be spending four months in Bali, Indonesia in 2016, where tourists have spotted Komodo Dragons on occasion. Komodo Dragons are of the species of Monitor Lizards, two of which lived in our yard in Marloth Park, South Africa. Please see this link to see our photos when they made a rare appearance by the pool. 

Little did we think how odd it would be for us to see animals in either a state of taxidermy or man-made to look lifelike. Having seen most of today’s animals alive while on safari in Kenya or surrounding our home in Marloth Park, seeing them in these lifelike forms held little interest to us, except when we spotted a Warthog.

More marine life.

We took many photos focusing on the thousands of replications of the live animals that we’ve yet to encounter in our travels. For those that may never see a live lion other than in a zoo, this museum and those like it are an alternative. 


After our two hour tour of the museum, we wandered off to try a new restaurant, the popular Polish restaurant, Daquise. My portion of meat consisted of five tiny bites with a side of green beans and a few boiled vegetables. 

We saw a smaller version of similar crabs at the beach in Kenya, which is on the eastern coast of Africa. They moved so quickly, we couldn’t get a photo.

Tom’s dinner of veal schnitzel with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and, bread was satisfactory for him. Had I been able to have starch and gluten, I would have enjoyed the food. 

Many of us lobster enthusiasts would appreciate a lobster of this size on a platter.

The staff was stumped as to what would work for me so I chose the meal they suggested based on a recommendation by their chef. We’ll write a positive review on TripAdvisor later today. Our dinner with tax and gratuity, without beverages, sides, or desserts was a total of US $66, 40 pounds.

After many visits by Zebras in our yard in South Africa, seeing this lifelike rendition made me miss them. Click this link to see Zebras that visited us in South Africa.

Today, we’ll be working on financial matters, booking vehicles in Hawaii, and taking a walk later in the day if it’s not raining. 

Some of the displays of Rhino were taxidermy. There was a sign stating that the horns had been removed and replaced with man-made materials. We saw Rhinos in the wild in Kenya. Please click here for a few of our Rhino photos from Kenya.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the balance of the museum photos and take the long hike to do our final loads of laundry. 

This is the actual fossil of a boar as shown.

On Saturday, we’ll wrap up our total expenses for London sharing the details and breakdown of the costs for the 15 nights we spent in this fine area of South Kensington, London.

We weren’t certain if these are actual fossils or man-made representations.

On Sunday, departure day, we’ll post later in the day after we arrive on the ship sharing photos from our 2½ hour drive through the English countryside along with the ship’s boarding process including photos of the ship and our cabin.

These Elephant tusks are the real deal.

Each time we board a ship early in the day, most often the cabins aren’t immediately available. Usually, there’s a few hours wait. As is the case with most passengers waiting to gain access to their cabin, everyone heads to the restaurant for a late lunch, the first inclusive meal. 

Ah, my heart did a flip flop when Tom spotted this warthog. The first time either of us had ever seen a warthog was last October in the Masai Mara, Kenya while on safari. Of course, later in South Africa, we joyfully saw them each day. Click here for the first time we saw a live warthog (scroll down the page).

It is during this period, that I’ll upload and prepare Saturday’s post with photos (barring any WiFi issues), which most likely will be available approximately five hours later than usual. 

The view from our table last night at Daquise.
The pleasant place setting at Daquise.
Tom’s Veal Schnitzel topped with an egg, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots. He didn’t eat the egg. He doesn’t eat egg and meat together unless it’s bacon or sausage. He has lots of “food rules.”
Those thin pieces of beef hardly filled me up. The cream sauce was made without flour.

Have a happy day!

                                     Photo from one year ago today, August 28, 2013:

On this date a year ago, as we busily prepared to further lighten our load, we packed and made a pizza for ease of eating leftovers on the remaining nights, which we now find easy to do at the end of a two or three-month stay in a vacation home.  Also, I wrote about the benefits of eating nuts in moderation.  While in Paris and London, with small portions at restaurants, nuts have been a much-needed lifesaver for me when I’ve been hungry after a tiny meal.

No photos were posted on that date. Instead, I posted this nutritional chart on various types of nuts. For more on the story, please click here.

Carbohydrates and Fats in Nuts and Seeds (1 Ounce Unshelled)

Cal Tot. Carb Fiber Net Carb Sat. Fat Mono Fat ω-3 Fat ω-6 Fat
Almonds 161 6.1 3.4 2.7 1 8.6 0.2 3.4
Brazil Nuts 184 3.4 2.1 1.3 4.2 6.9 0.05 5.8
Cashews 155 9.2 0.9 8.1 2.2 6.7 0.2 2.2
Chestnuts 60 12.8 2.3 10.5 0.1 0.2 0.03 0.22
Chia Seeds 137 12.3 10.6 1.7 0.9 0.6 4.9 1.6
Coconut* 185 6.6 4.6 2 16 0.8 0 0.2
Flax Seeds 150 8.1 7.6 .5 1 2.1 6.3 1.7
Hazelnuts 176 4.7 2.7 2 1.3 12.8 0.24 2.2
Macadamia Nuts 201 4 2.4 1.6 3.4 16.5 0.06 .36
Peanuts 159 4.5 2.4 2.1 1.9 6.8 0 4.4
Pecans 193 3.9 2.7 1.2 1.7 11.4 0.28 5.8
Pine Nuts 188 3.7 1 2.7 1.4 5.3 0.31 9.4
Pistachios 156 7.8 2.9 5.8 1.5 6.5 0.71 3.7
Pumpkin Seeds 151 5 1.1 3.9 2.4 4 0.51 5.8
Sesame Seeds 160 6.6 3.3 3.3 1.9 5.3 0.11 6
Sunflower Seeds 164 5.6 2.4 3.2 1.2 5.2 0.21 6.5
Walnuts 183 3.8 1.9 1.9 1.7 2.5 2.5 10.7
Day #157 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…A lovely meeting in London in 2014…Terror in our favorite place in the world…

An online friend visits us in London!…What a wonderful day!…

Tom took this blurry photo of Liz and me. Sometimes he gets it right and others, not so much.

Over the past years, we’d received several comments from one of our readers, Liz. She wrote beautifully, posing interesting comments and questions that I’d upload at the end of the particular post. 

Those of our readers who have signed up to receive the daily posts receive the questions/comments and our replies to the email, the only email received through our site other than each new daily post. Those readers who don’t sign up must look at the end of each post to see if there are any comments and replies.

My lunch salad in the hotel dining room on a very small plate was US $10.77, 6.50 pounds.

Tom and I both share in the replies, enjoying the opportunity to “speak” to our readers. On occasion, we may receive comments from “haters.” We don’t bother to respond to such types. Our site is not intended as an arena for angry and hateful protestations. 

However, we always welcome expression of views regarding travel or life in general that may be contrary to our own. Lively banter makes the “world go round.” Hatefulness does not, in our view.

Liz’s vegetarian lunch in the hotel dining room.

When we receive a comment or question from a reader we enthusiastically reply online posting both at the earliest possible opportunity, often within 12 hours. Posing comments may be done so anonymously if one so chooses. We aren’t able to determine the writer’s email address or name.

Anyway, back to Liz. After awhile, we began to write privately via email and a genuine friendship came to fruition. As many of us are aware, non-romantic relationship are often born out of the Internet and has escalated over the years as more and more become entrenched in online communication.

How thoughtful of Liz to give me this useful set of organic products to prevent and treat insect bites, always my nemesis.

Liz and I had previously discussed many topics online. I always smile when there’s a message from her as is the case for many other readers with whom we’ve come to know online. For Liz, Pat and all the others, we are eternally grateful.

The fact that Liz lives in a charming village a 90 minute train ride from London, was a perfect opportunity for us to meet. Yesterday, she arrived on what was yet another rainy day, meeting Tom and I in the hotel lobby where we excitedly awaited her arrival.

Precisely on time, not surprising for Brits, I was thrilled to see her lovely face yesterday at 12:35 pm. The plan was for a “girl time” lunch, taking as long as we wanted and then she’d head back to the nearby South Kensington Station for the return train to her home.

Everything fit into the tiny bags except these two larger items which I can easily fit into our toiletries suitcase.

After warm hugs with both of us, a short chat with Tom, Liz and I decided on lunch in the hotel’s restaurant With it still raining and Liz’s walk from the station staying indoors made sense. Quiet during the day, the hotel’s restaurant was the perfect venue for conversation with few interruptions for our shared candid chatter on our lives, our views and our varied experiences.

We were seated in the quiet dining room, eventually ordering a light lunch. The seeming endless conversations began. Liz and I have a lot in common. My birthday is one day after hers on February 19th and 20th. But, the similarity of our views, values and lifestyles are concurrent in many ways.

Liz’s husband Dave sent along this bottle of beer for Tom.  Tonight, we’ll chill it on ice and he’ll drink a toast to Liz and Dave for their thoughtfulness.

It had been a long time since I’d had any “girl time.” It was toward the end of our three months in South Africa, close to my birthday, that friends Kathy and Linda took me to a birthday/goodbye luncheon at a gorgeous resort in South Africa. That was six months ago.

In my old life, I had a number of treasured girlfriends, some who knew one another and some who did not. Often, we’d gather for lunch which ultimately turned into hours of robust conversation and laughter. I’ve missed that these past almost two years since we left Minnesota.

Tom’s calzone last night at Bella Italia.

To have that experience again yesterday, meant the world to me. To have that experience with vibrant, also “overly bubbly” Liz only added to my pleasure.

I don’t know how it happened so quickly but suddenly it was 5:30 pm. We were shocked that so much time had flown by. We wandered up to our hotel room to inform Tom that the three of us were going to dinner after which we’d walk her to the station to catch the 8:30 pm train.

Once in the room, she took a bag of gifts out of her handbag, handing it to me to open with gifts for both of us.  Neither of us had received an actual gift to open in almost two years.

My dinner at Bella Italia of two small chicken breasts in a pot of red sauce with a side of grilled vegetables. 

Included here are photos of the gifts for me and the other for Tom. How thoughtful of her especially when she learned what we’d need and want based on reading our past posts. 

With no restaurants that we love in the area, we felt it was safe to go to Bella Italia, where there’d be options for her vegetarian way of eating, my restrictions and Tom’s picky taste buds. It worked out well. Tom had a beer, Liz had a glass of wine and I had a cup of tea. Our dinners were “good but not great” but again, the conversation was lively and animated. 

Liz’s dinner of vegetarian cannelloni and a side salad.

Again, the time passed quickly and it was time to go. We had a wonderful day spending almost eight hours together. Saying goodbye was bittersweet as we hugged in the rain outside the station with a deep sense of friendship and appreciation for a day well spent.

Thank you, dear Liz. Your kindness, friendship and thoughtfulness will stay with us as we soon leave London in a mere four day as we’ll commence on our worldwide journey with more wonderful memories in tow. Gosh, how lucky could we be?

                                            Photo from one year ago today, August 27, 2013:

The weather had begun to cool in Boveglio, Italy after a hot and humid summer. With only four days until we were leaving for an overnight in Venice awaiting our next day flight to Kenya, we were busy packing and preparing to leave. For details from that date, please click here.
Day #156 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…A special thank you to our web developers in India…

Pouring rain in London…cancelled tour…Regency Hotel, Queen’s Gate review…issues…Five days until the cruise…One year ago,…easy recipe…

You can see Tom’s head through the flowers where we sit each morning as I write the daily post. Sitting here gives the maid service time to clean our room which we’ve requested be done by noon each day when our laptop batteries die. We go back to the room to leave the laptops charging when we go out to explore for the afternoon.

The thought of going out in the pouring rain on Monday, getting on and off a bus, walking long distances for hours, and ending the day on a boat ride held little appeal for either of us. We’ll take the tube as soon as there’s a clear day to the area near Buckingham Palace. Today, Tuesday it’s still raining.

The rain had been predicted over the past several days for early this week. As weather reporting goes, we’d hoped it would be comparable to many other days in London where it rained for a few hours and then stop. Not the case

The staff at the reception desk are helpful and friendly maintaining their cool when disgruntled guests complain about the WiFi charges.

After the horrible rainy day in Versailles a few weeks ago, spending hours outside in the wind and rain is hardly our idea of a good time. 

Yesterday at noon, we took the hotel’s (London Regency, Queen’s Gate)provided an umbrella for a trek to a pharmacy for a few items we needed for the upcoming cruises. With the umbrella covering us the entire distance, and our hooded jackets pulled tightly around our faces, we still returned soaked. 

Although our room is larger than a ship cabin, it’s small as shown in this photo.

Deciding to stay indoors at the hotel would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the Hotel’s WiFi was down Monday morning as it has been at least once each day since arriving ten days ago. How can a hotel that caters to both tourists and business travelers, not have working WiFi for often as much as half of each day? We’re baffled.

Almost with gritted teeth, yesterday morning at 7:30 am, I informed the front desk that they’d need to credit us the entire WiFi fees of US $13.25, 8 pounds per day for our entire 15 days at this hotel. Sheepishly, they agreed. Their usual daily rate is US $16.56, 10 pounds. (Oddly, they quoted us $16.69 per day, when we checked in).

The lobby lounges are pleasant and comfortable.

They’d given us the WiFi corporate discount at US $3.31, 2 pounds less per night when their website indicated WiFi was included. As far as we’re concerned, it’s trickery. With our room rate at US $220, 133 pounds per day, one would think the WiFi could be included.

As we’ve sat in the lobby writing here each day, we’ve heard one guest after another while checking in, totally disgruntled when they discover there’s a fee for the WiFi. When there are no less costly nearby hotels they, like us, they have no alternative but to agree to the fees. Trickery.

The hotel’s exit to the street.

As a result, we’ll be posting a less than favorable review in regard to their promise of WiFi on their website which appeared to be complimentary and, above all, working!

In a way I blame myself. There were several reviews in TripAdvisor (click the link to read reviews for this hotel) mentioning  the problematic WiFi, but I wrongfully assumed the issues would be resolved by the time of our arrival. Not the case. Apparently, this has been a long term issue.

An additional lounge area in the lobby.

In my desperation to find a decently priced hotel in an upscale area, I chose the Regency Hotel, Queen’s Gate.  If WiFi wasn’t an issue I’d give it a four-star. It’s elegant in its décor, staff demeanor, cleanliness and amenities. 

Although the rooms are small, ours is larger than the room we had in Paris, having the common amenities; comfortable bed and linens, robes, flat screen TV, plug in center (burned out three of our plug ins), quality maid service, and adequate furnishings and storage.

The lower level dining room in the hotel where we’ve yet to dine.

In a way, I feel sorry for the front desk with the constant complaints the staff receives in regard to the WiFi fees and the fact that it was seldom working. 

And yet, now, as I sit in the lobby writing when today, the WiFi is working, I hear new guests checking in one after another obligated to the usual US $16.56, 10 pounds per day required to be online. It’s hard to keep my mouth shut and not warn them. But, I don’t say a word.

The bar and lounge area adjacent to the dining room appears comfortable and inviting. The bar and restaurant staff have been kind and helpful in providing us with ice as we requested.

What I write here will surely reach our few hundred thousand readers worldwide and millions of reader when I write a review on TripAdvisor before we depart.

No, we haven’t complained about the fact that it takes a 600 pound weight lifter to flush the toilet, or there’s no ice machine anywhere in the hotel other than downstairs in the bar several times each day to get it from the staff or, the lack of bar soap with only stinky smelling pump soap. 

Luckily, guests can enter through the front of the building as the work is being done.

What about the fact that the bottom of the tub is so slippery one must put a towel down to keep from falling?  What about the dangerous faucets that make it very easy to get scalded when the on and off system is confusing and unpredictable? What about the fact that the fire alarm system went off Sunday when Tom was naked after a shower and hurriedly dressed to get out the door? (False alarm).

What about the fact that the entire exterior of the hotel is being renovated and one must walk under scaffolding to gain access? We wouldn’t care if the noise wasn’t associated with the work, beginning early in the morning continuing until the end of the day.

You can see workmen in this photo taken today, waiting for the rain to stop to continue their work.

The restaurant has a pleasing ambiance but, a simple breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, and pastries is no less than US $30, 18 pounds, or more. The dinner a la carte menu is no less US $36, 22 pounds per person excluding beverages, appetizers, side salad, or dessert, although that is not unlike many restaurants in the area.

At this point, we haven’t added a single cup of coffee or tea to our bill. With both available in the guest rooms at no charge (usual procedure at most hotels), I find myself running back to the room to make a fresh mug of hot tea. I refuse to pay US $6.63, 4 pounds for one tea bag with a small pot of hot water. 

The scaffolding on the exterior of the hotel close to the entrance. The sight of this doesn’t bother us nor does the noise. But, we heard guests complaining about the noise during daylight hours.

I supposed when all is said and done, our biggest complaint is regarding the WiFi issues. The rest we could easily manage with no complaint. Had that not been a problem we may not have paid much attention to the remainder.

Once a hotel has an established good décor, a high level of cleanliness and, and an attentive staff, it’s the small things that determine the final review. Don’t we all recall a hotel where the small things were over the top, as an extraordinary memory? 

The lobby is decorated with exquisite flower arrangements, kept fresh daily.

Years ago, long before I met Tom, I visited Bangkok, Thailand for several days before heading to the island of Phuket.  I stayed in the Le Meridian Hotel, at that time (1980’s) one of the most highly-rated hotels in the world. 

One day, after lunch by the pool I discretely reached into my mouth to pick at something stuck in a tooth, probably lemon grass. Within 30 seconds a kindly hotel employee dressed in a black suit (in the heat), handed me a pouch containing several flat wooden dental picks. The pouch was leather embossed with the hotel’s logo.

The busy street in front of the hotel is easy to cross at the crosswalk with push buttons command for the pedestrian green light. These are at every corner.  Arrows are painted on the pavement to alert pedestrians as to which direction the traffic flows. This is helpful when driving is on the left side in the UK. Steering wheels are on the right side of vehicles.

Goodness, I thought, was he watching each person at the pool looking for an opportunity to give them whatever they could possibly need or want? Certainly, there was an expectation of a tip which I freely handed to him.  That experience is memorable 30 years later.

With hotels, we tend to recall the great experiences while the less positive seem to waft away. As for Regency Hotel, Queen’s Gate, I doubt our poor WiFi experience will easily be forgotten, especially with this modern age of technology and review writing, where one is so easily able to document their experiences that will remain online forever.

Level one in the hotel is marked as level 12 in the elevator. Go figure.

In any case, the location has been superb. South Kensington is a fabulous upscale location that is safe, friendly and easy to explore. As of today, Tuesday, August 26th, we’ll be staying here another five nights.

If you don’t see a post in any of the upcoming five days I assure you, it’s entirely due to the fact that we’re unable to get online. Posting yesterday morning was a fluke when I was able to get online for a few minutes, long enough to get publish the post.

London in the much expected rain. Yesterday, we went out in the rain for s short while. Returning an hour later we were soaked although we’d worn our hooded jackets and used the hotel’s umbrella.

Long ago, we stated, in our naivety as travel newbies, that we’d try to avoid posting negative reviews. As we’ve become more experienced, we realize we owe it to our worldwide readers and others to be candid about our experiences.

Seldom, do we write details here of specific negative dining experiences, other than on TripAdvisor? As we find ourselves reading the reviews daily as we search for restaurants, we now feel we must also take the responsibility, as others have done, in posting good and bad reviews. 

As we stood inside a mall area, we waited for the rain to lighten up until we hit the street again.

That’s enough whining for today. Hopefully, the rain will stop enabling us to get out to further explore London. 

Happy Tuesday to everyone. Be well.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, August 26, 2013:

There was no post of this date one year ago as we busily prepared to leave Tuscany to travel to Kenya.  However, here’s a photo we posted on August 27 of dinner I’d prepared Italian style, using local ingredients and produce from the garden.

These tomatoes and basil were grown in the little garden on the veranda. After drizzling olive oil over this, adding salt, pepper, and garlic, I baked it in the oven for 35 minutes. Delicious!

Everyday life in London…Laundry…Dining…Local Farmer’s Market…Oh, oh…What’s happening in Iceland? We’re scheduled for Iceland on September 7th!

With the high cost of driving in London, most of the cars we see other than taxis are high end vehicles, such as this Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, and Maserati.

We don’t dread doing laundry, not the waiting on the uncomfortable chairs, nor watching the sudsy wash go round and round in the front loading washers, nor the 90 minutes we spend doing nothing. 

There’s row after row of ornate white apartments in South Kensington.

We people watch, chat, and discuss when the wash will be done with Tom keeping tabs on me to keep me from opening the dryer until the cycle is done. I’m impatient, worrying that his few shirts will be wrinkled. All of my clothing is wash and wear. 

A church we spotted on the walk to the laundry.

Tom hauls the heavy wheeled duffel bag both ways preferring to carry it when the wheels are wobbly on uneven pavement.  In London, it’s a two-mile round trip. We ran into a guy we met at our hotel also doing his laundry. What a coincidence. We chatted with him while we waited. The time went quickly.

We had no trouble finding the distant Laundromat, Bobo’s Bubbles.

On the return walk, we stopped at every restaurant along the walk reading their outdoor menu, hoping to find a great restaurant suitable for both of us. Many were Moroccan, Middle Eastern, or Indian restaurants, none of which Tom will eat. Some were Asian with dishes made with batter-fried meats and flour laden sauces, unsuitable for me. We asked at a few of the Asian restaurants if they could stir fry or steam a few dishes for me without sauce. Their response was a firm “no.”

The two loads of washing and drying, not including soap, was US $28, 17 pounds. 

Tourists seem more interested in ethnic dining and London, a city which may have formerly been filled with pubs is less so now instead appealing to the desires of the general tourist population.

The boulevard outside the Laundromat.

Often Italian restaurants work well for both of us. I can always order a dinner salad with chicken, seafood, or grilled beef with lots of vegetables. Last night, we returned to Bella Italia to see if they had avocado on hand for the chicken avocado salad. They did. Tom had the pork ribs platter. The food was good, not great.

The Royal British Society of Sculptors.

Each day, we have the challenge of figuring out where to dine. The restaurants that work for me are all non-fast-food types which are more expensive at around than US $30, 18 pounds per entrée. 

On a walk on Saturday, we stumbled across a Farmer’s Market open from 9 am to 2 pm on weekends.  The smells were amazing.

Fortunately, we’ve been able to stay within the budget for the 77 days without being able to cook, 26 days of which we’ll be on two cruises with meals included. Dining out has never been a novelty to us.  In our old lives, we seldom dined in restaurants, as little as two or three times a year.

If we could’ve cooked our meals in London, we’d have purchased some of the items for sale at this Farmers Market.

Prior to undertaking this strict way of eating, I was always watching my weight making dining out less interesting. Now that its been three years since the onset of this strict regime, I’ve found it challenging at times to figure out how to get enough food to prevent me from losing weight. 

The produce looked too perfect to be organic. 

Basically, with this low carb, grain, starch, and sugar-free diet, I can eat as much as I need to feel satisfied, never gaining an ounce. Munching on raw nuts (when available) after dinner has helped maintain my weight with relative ease when seldom getting enough to eat in a restaurant.

It was around 1 pm when we arrived. We wondered if these chickens been sitting outside for the prior four hours.

It’s easy to see how dining out is not always easy for us especially with Tom’s picky taste buds thrown into the mix. However, we’re grateful that I’m healthy now, able to travel, that we consider the challenge a part of our travels that we attack with enthusiasm and determination. Neither of us ever complains to the other about the challenges taking all of it in stride.

It wasn’t crowded at the outdoor market.

In 53 days (or 42 days if we decide to cook during the 11 days on Oahu where we’ll have a kitchen) we’ll be able to cook again, do our laundry without hiking to a Laundromat, and spending each day discovering and sharing the wonders of living on four different islands in Hawaii: Oahu, Maui, Big Island, and Kauai. 

Vegetables and herbs.  Those tomatoes on the right were the same variety we’d often purchased in Italy.

As for WiFi, here we go again, one week away from the first of two upcoming cruises with their pricey, slow Internet.  A few days ago, we placed an order from XCOM Global and much to our surprise it arrived yesterday here at the hotel. We’ll be able to use the device when we’re close to land on the ship reducing our overall WiFi costs.

These baked goods looked good!

Each time we’ve booked a cruise we’ve budgeted for WiFi expenses including the cost of the device. At this point, we have five future cruises booked; two upcoming soon, one in 2015, and two in 2016.

Fruit, vegetables, and bottled drinks.

When we’re out to sea, we’ll use the ship’s wifi. Overall, with the combined cost of XCOM Global’s Mifi and the ship’s WiFi, we’ll be able to save between US $200 to $300, 121 pounds to 181 pounds, after the shipping costs.  

The larger bread was priced at US $8.12, 4.90 pounds.

We’ll post the total costs for the cruise, including the combined WiFi fees at the end of each cruise also including extra fees for events and alcoholic drinks for Tom (averaging at US $10, 6 pounds, each). I always drink complimentary sugar-free ice tea or our own ice tea. 

Beef from the farm.

We don’t gamble in the casino, book spa treatments, or buy “stuff” aboard the ship. The total bill at the end of each cruise consists only of tours, WiFi charges, and cocktails. In most cases, it’s approximately US $1000, 603 pounds.

Small roses for US $34, 20 pounds for three dozen, or is that for three???

After numerous calculations, we felt comfortable that ordering the MiFi was a worthwhile expenditure. A week from today, we’ll fire up the device, returning it back to the US on October 6th, the day after we arrive in Oahu, Hawaii.

It was good to see that the fish was on ice.

Once we board the ship next Sunday, we won’t be able to view any videos or large files. Tom won’t listen to his radio shows nor will we upload videos from Graboid. However, while on the ship every evening will be filled with socializing and watching live performance shows if we choose, leaving us no interest or time to watch our favorite shows.

The restaurant where we dined last night, Bella Italia, rated in the top 10% on TripAdvisor.

With the potential of a volcanic eruption in Iceland, at this point, we have no information if this will affect our scheduled 36 hours in Iceland on September 7th and 8th during which we’ve booked a nighttime tour to see the Northern Lights. 

Same shirt.

If the cruise continues on to Iceland and any eruptions have occurred between now and the scheduled arrival date, the tour may be canceled due to poor visibility. (This also could happen if it rained or if the sky was cloudy on the night of the tour). 

Tom’s platter of ribs, fries, corn, and three onion rings at US $29.75, 17.95 pounds.

If the ship doesn’t go on to Iceland, typically, the cruise line will choose an alternative port of call suitable for the itinerary. We may not know more until boarding the ship or several days later. 

My chicken and avocado salad, one of a few items on the menu that work for me, priced at US $18.15, 10.95 pounds. Many restaurants include a standard service fee although this restaurant does not. We paid a good tip for great service.

When we sailed in the eastern Mediterranean in June 2013, we were scheduled to dock in Athens, Greece for a day. With the then strife in Athens, the captain decided to avoid Athens entirely, instead of docking in the walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, an exquisite location we loved.

Advertising on the side of a truck. Very British. Shown in the reflection is Tom and the rolling duffel bag filled with our laundry.

Although we’ll be disappointed if we’re unable to see the Northern Lights, we may sometime in the future. With all the exciting plans ahead of us, we don’t worry or concern ourselves with these types of “blips on the radar.”As long as we and others are safe from harm, we’re content.

                                            Photo from one year ago today, August 25, 2013:

Finally, the Internet was back up.  This is a view from the veranda of the 300-year-old stone house in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy where we lived for two and a half months last summer. At this point, we were a week from leaving for Kenya. For details from that date, please click here.

Part 4 and the last photos of Oxford…Motivated by the right and left brain…

As we prepared to depart Oxford we got this final shot.

This may sound odd but, I think I like London more than Paris. My thoughts on this were precipitated by Tom sending me a “brain game” a few days ago that indicate we are both almost half, left and right-brained. Tom leaning to the left, me leaning to the right.

The sky in the UK is ever-changing.

Here’s the link to the 30-second test if you’d like to try it.

Romantic, creative, emotional on the right; practical, mathematical, factual on the left. That somewhat unscientific test may have been correct after all. I loved Paris as a “dream” of Paris. Once there, my practical left brain took over.

The varying colors of the row buildings created a charming feel in the village of Oxford.

For us, it was too commercialized, expensive, and unfriendly. Yes, the sights and history are breathtaking but, after 16 days, we’d formulated an opinion totally overrun by the practicality of the left brain.

For both the Bampton and Oxford photos I had to use the cheap camera in order to save the battery on the better camera for photos of Downton Abbey. As a result, these photos may not be as clear as those at the Highclere Castle. It proved to be a wise decision when the battery on the better camera was used entirely at the castle. Soon, we order a new camera, this time with two batteries.

London, on the other hand, is a more left-brain city. It just makes sense to us. People are more friendly and dignified, it’s easier to get around, the taxes aren’t as high, and most of all, we feel welcomed. 

St. Mary the Virgin, University Church.

It helps that we’ve been able to freely speak in the same language and that we’ve met many wonderful people since we arrived eight days ago, engaging in several enjoyable conversations.

The interior of St. Mary the Virgin, University Church.
More interior of St. Mary the Virgin, University Church.

Our practical sides enjoy the interactions with people we encounter along the way, from the ticket guy at the “tube” to the checkout person at the grocery store where we purchase snacks. Warm. Friendly. Approachable.

The alter at St. Mary the Virgin, University Church.

Don’t get me wrong. Paris is lovely. However, for us, three of four days would have been enough. As one stays longer, a location’s true essence begins to reveal itself as we’ve so well discovered living in countries from two to three months at a time. We either love them or we’re ambivalent after the long stay. There’s no in-between.

A walkway between college buildings.

Perhaps a small part of our lack of enthusiasm is due to the fact that we’re chomping at the bit to get back on another cruise which we’ll be boarding one week from today. 

We took this photo for Tom to send to a former co-worker with the same last name, minus the “e” at the end.

It’s easy for us to understand why we don’t spend almost everyday sightseeing. However, others may not. It’s this simple. When we’d spent all our lives living in Minnesota (over 40 years for me), we never went sightseeing. On occasion, we’d visit a local attraction with our family. But, never sightseeing

As long as there are shops and food the tourists will find it, even on the side streets.

We live in the world.  We have no home.  The world is our home as we move from location to location. It’s human nature to “settle in” finding joy and comfort in everyday activities, at times mundane, although none the less, pleasing to one’s desire for comfort and familiarity. That’s us. That’s our lives.

Hertford Bridge, the “Bridge of Sighs” in Oxford is similar to the “Bridge of Sighs” we saw while in Venice last summer.

And yes, we’ve loved what we’ve seen in Paris and now in London (more sightseeing tomorrow). But, we love looking out at the ocean, our surroundings, nature, learning culture, and lifestyle different from our own.

One more departing shot of the Radcliffe Camera (meaning “room”) building.

Somehow, for whatever time we may have been in a location, meeting people and making new friends, even those with whom we may not share the same language, make it more meaningful. 

A side street in Oxford of little interest to tourists.

Tomorrow at 7:30 am, we’ll walk to the Kensington station to take the “tube” to Victoria Station to hook up with our tour group for an all-day experience. Rain is predicted for the entire day.  We’ll upload the post for the day before we depart the hotel in the morning and be back on Tuesday with many new photos of our day-long tour of the city and the Thames River.

One can only imagine the merchandise for sale in this store 325 years ago.

We’ll take the hotel’s umbrella and wear our hooded jackets preparing to get soaked as we did in Versailles a few weeks ago. Our left brain says to be prepared. Our right brain says “go anyway, rain or shine!”

                                            Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2013
With the Internet finally working the following day, we had one more day without a post. Tomorrow, it will be easy going forward when we were able to post almost every day with photos with only a few days without service over the next year.

Part 3…Oxford…Home of 38 colleges in this famous village…

The front entrance to the Ashmolean Museum.

Commencing with our first stop on the 13 hour tour we stopped in Oxford, the world renowned university village for which we had the mistaken perception, as many do, that Oxford is a town of one expansive university. How wrong we were! 

Nude Egyptian statue we encountered upon entering the museum.

In fact, there are 38 colleges in the town of around 151,000 as of a 2011 census, although there is a high turnaround rate due to the comings and goings of a reported 20,000+ students from all over the world.

Ancient hand-beaded animal hide on display in the museum.

Our bus stopped across the road from yet another museum, the Ashmolean Museum, where we were scheduled to return two hours later to meet up with Paul, our guide, and board the bus to be on our way. 

Various coins from the ancient world.

We had the option to join Paul, our spunky guide, and the tour group or to wander about on our own. With Tom’s difficulty in hearing after 42 years on the railroad, it was pointless to join the group when he wouldn’t be able to hear what Paul saying.

This is the Martyr’s Memorial which we encountered on the walkthrough Oxford.

As a result, we walked the village of Oxfordshire keeping an eye out as to where the group was headed. That way, we could catch most of the highlights at our own pace which is always faster than in a large group.

There were a few streets where no cars were allowed, to make getting through the crowds easier.

We started at the Museum. After only a few minutes, we decided that perhaps we’ll have had our fill of museums by the time we get into the two closest to our hotel in Kensington. We wandered off to check out the colleges and historic buildings that contribute to Oxford’s enchanting appeal.

Tom purchased a slice of dark chocolate fudge in this fudge shop which he savored over a few days, taking tiny bites at a time.

The streets, restaurants, and shops were packed with tourists during the busy summer season drawing travelers from all over the world. The narrow roads, the locally mined limestone buildings, homes, and churches created an awe-inspiring scene that drew us in several directions.

The Museum of History and Science.

With a sense of certainty, we spotted college professors, female and male, scurrying about the village doing whatever they do as the new school year fast approaches.

This is the famous Radcliffe Camera building.  Camera is another word for “room.”

Our minds wandered to what it must have been like hundreds of years ago, so easy to envision in this step-back-in-time village.

Another museum or college building.

One could easily spend days exploring this village of vast worldwide influence dating back to the 9th century. Like many old buildings as we’ve seen in our travels, we experienced a renewed enthusiasm as we perused as much as we could in the allotted time. How quickly time flew!

The courtyard of the Bodleian Library.

In no time at all, we were on our way, a smile on our faces, happy to have seen something we’d never imagined would have been in reality, as has been so many of the places we’ve visited in our travels.

Exquisite entrance to the Bodleian Library.

Last night, as we returned to the hotel from yet another disappointing meal, we talked about how odd it is that we’ve been to Istanbul, Dubai, Marseilles, Cairo and so many cities around the world. As we examine the world map, we realize we’ve only just begun. There’s so much more to see.

Statue of William Hebert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Chancellor of Oxford University 1580-1630.

Note: We still have many excellent Oxford photos to share, which we’ll post tomorrow in Part 4, the final post in this series of our visit to Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) and the villages of Bampton and Oxford.

                                              Photo from one year ago today, August 23, 2013:
The Internet was still down in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy, not to be back up until August 25, 2013. We were frustrated, to say the least, unable to post for several days.