Part 1…Internet solutions…Photos of our neighborhood…

In

Here we are in Africa, hot and sweaty as we embark on our first walk outside the gated complex, onto the main road, definitely a daytime event only.

I know. We’re always discussing Internet issues.  For those of you with little interest in Internet issues, I apologize. We realize that many users pay little to no attention to the means by which they are connected. They send and read email, Facebook, a few blogs and occasionally search for information. This constitutes the “average” user.

The dirt road in our gated community.
As we began our walk within the gated complex, we saw and heard many local workers working on the house that had been destroyed by a fire in 2009. Hans told us that the insurance companies didn’t want to pay fair claims for the losses so many homeowners haverebuilt, piece by piece over this extended period.

Then, there are Internet devotees such as us, who use the Internet as their connection to the world, not only to family and friends, but for resources to enhance their everyday lives. In a typical day, when staying “home,” we may each easily spend five or six hours online, downloading, reading, watching shows, managing banking and financial, searching for our future travels.

This wall was on our right as we walked along the dirt road within the gated community.  Most houses were tucked away behind large stone walls making it difficult to see the homes in the neighborhood.

Suddenly, a few days ago we’re cut off at the knees by XCOM Global warning us that we’re using too much data based on regulations over which they have no control. With restricted data use, we were faced with a tough decision.

An entrance to a neighboring home.

Do we find a local provider? Nice idea. But there are no home wireless providers in Kenya.  ToDo we rent another MiFi for another $395 a month?  Too costly.Or, worst of all, do we change our habits? You may say, “Get a grip! Find something else to do!” 

This statue was in the entryway of the neighboring home.

Yes, we get that.  But consider this…we have no car, no stuff of our own other than our now meager amount of clothing and supplies. We have no house to fix or maintain, no trips to Home Depot, no health club and no family and friends to visit. We have no TV, no radio, no sports news, no recipe books to peruse for making dinner. With Hesborn’s daily help, the only housework we do is wash our dishes (Tom does this) after a meal and to pick up after ourselves.

This massive home was burned out, sold and yet to be repaired, now almost 4 years later.

Take all those aspects of daily life away for a moment, what would one do? We can’t go sightseeing everyday. We didn’t do that in our old lives. Do you sightsee every week? Hardly. If one has young children, they may embark on sightseeing type adventures each weekend. But, we don’t have young children. We don’t have a dog to take for a walk.

Another angle of the above burned out home, yet to be rebuilt. Eighteen homes were destroyed in the fire that swept through the community in minutes.  The thatched roof and high winds caused the almost instantaneous burn.

In Kenya, one doesn’t just walk on the streets, along the beach, to and from their favorite activities especially at night. There are safety concerns in the numbers. We’re not foolish.

The water tower belonging to the above  burned out private residence.

Thus, the Internet is not only our mode of entertainment but our source of information.  (Soon, we’ll get out to visit a local travel agency recommended by Hans with the hope of booking a safari since we can’t currently do it online with the limited use of the MiFi).

The dense thatched rooftops, typical in Africa, can easily be seen as a fire hazard.
These would never be allowed in the US or many other countries.

Soon, we’ll start dining out once or twice a week to the local restaurants, of which there are many for a short cab ride. Soon, we’ll visit a shopping mall to get the flavor of products sold in the area.

Yesterday, with Hans’ help we solved our Internet issues. He went to the Safaricom store in town and purchased an 8 gigabyte SIM card for us, loaning us his portable Hot Spot. It takes 1/2 of 1 gig to download an hour long TV show. We’ll be able to get approximately 16 shows on one SIM card at the cost of US $45 for the entire card. Each show we download and watch will cost us approximately US $2.81. 

Our two devices, a Hot Spot, loaned to us by Hans and our XCOM Global MiFi. Most likely we’ll be purchasing one of these Hot Spots (under $100) plus SIM cards while we’re in Africa, as an adjunct to our XCOM Global device.  Both of these provide us with  an ample  amount of data to be able to conduct our days and download shows for evening.

SIM cards such as these, may be reloaded by purchasing a “scratch off” card for the desired amount with the PIN code beneath the scratch off. Loading it is a little tricky. Hans will help us the first time as he did yesterday. We’ll be fine from there. Another US $180 per month added to our already US $395 a month for XCOM Global for a grand total of US $575 a month. 

With spring yet to arrive, the flowers will only increase, especially with some much desired rains.  Based on reviewing online weather sites ,it appears the heat won’t increase each day as the spring season is upon us.  Today at a high of 84F, the humidity is high at 62%, creating a sweaty but not unbearable environment.

In our old lives we paid US $235 a month for all channel Hi Def cable TV and wireless Internet plus another US $200 a month for our two cell phones.  Now, with the US $575 we’ll be paying, it is necessary to adjust our budget accordingly, a task I’ll soon accomplish as we fine tune our usage over the next several days.

At first glance, this water tower appeared to be a lookout.

With the combined use of the Hot Spot and  the MiFi, we now have access to enough data to do almost as much aswe please online. With an app we downloaded on each of our laptops, for each of the devices, we can freely monitor our usage, checking frequently. First we’ll use the MiFi’s 150 megs, then we’ll roll over to the Hot Spot. It makes sense to us. If there are any other suggestions out there, please comment.

Oh, this looks refreshing.  We’ll have our own pool in the next house in South Africa, where we’ll be in 3 months.

Oh, we live and learn. Unexpected expenses, conditions and challenges. But so far, there nothing that we can’t handle. As long as we are healthy and safe and have Internet access, we’re content. In this case, we’re back to our smiley selves again after a 24 -hour period of wondering what to do to solve the issue.

A wall hanging in the shape of the continent of Africa.

This morning, I refilled our vitamin and pill cases (mostly used by us seniors), a time consuming task.But, once done, it need not be repeated until 2 more weeks. Previously, we had ample cases to fill to last us each a month but we tossed the extras when attempting to reduce our load.

Interesting views of the thatched rooftops of various homes in the area.
When we left Tuscany, I left my newer Easy Spirit workout shoes behind, hoping Lisa would find someone who wanted them if she didn’t. Now I have none. Even so, we ended up paying an extra Euros $1000, US $1350 (approx.) for our overweight bags. 
This is the security gate from the street side. Tomorrow, we’ll share photos of our walk along the road.
This hanging plants produces these long burgundy stringy things.  I’ll research these and other unusual plants while we’re here.
These plants flourish in the hot humid weather requiring little water.  Hans explained that some of the vegetation such as this have their own “bladders” in which to store water.

This morning as I gathered all the vitamin pill bottles and bags, I placed them in the duffle bag for use over the next three months, noticing the heaviness of the bag. We’ll be leaving them behind this time. We’re finally accepting the reality. 

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with Part 2 of our first outing onto the road beyond the gates where we found a wonderful surprise.

Today we met Nancy, one of the daytime support staff at our guarded gate.  She was so sweet, holding my hand the entire time we chatted with her.  She kindly took the photo of Tom and I.  We’re loving being able to talk to the locals.

Internet’s been down all day until now…MiFi not working here…Cold, rainy day…

Our own hotspot. On the right is our MiFi that we’ve rented from XCom Global providing us with high speed Internet connection worldwide.  Unfortunately, due to our current location in the mountains of Tuscany, we’re unable to get a good signal.

What a day!  When the wireless broadband went down last night we were worried. Our MiFi, unable to pick up a signal since we arrived in Boveglio, for which we continue to pay monthly rental fees, recently has been a source of frustration.

Sending it back to the company for the $79.00 shipping fees each way made no sense. We’ll need it again in 60 days plus, when we venture out from Boveglio and… if we get low enough in the mountains, we do receive a signal for use with our smartphones. This enables us full access to Google Maps while driving  and the Internet for points of interest and information on the areas we’re visiting. 

Most likely , we’ll be needing it again when we arrive in Kenya (where we’ll have a better connection. It’s the mountains impeding the signal in Tuscany). 

To further clarify for new readers, there are two ways we can connect to the Internet while living in our vacation homes worldwide:

1.  Through wireless broadband available at the property (a criteria for us in our travels) similar to what you are using to access the Internet from your home or office.

2.  Utilizing a MiFi, a wireless portable wireless credit card-sized device that we rent monthly.  We cannot purchase the unit due to the unique contracts that XCOM GLOBAL has arranged with Internet providers all over the world (in most countries) that provide the device with the signal, once we’ve charged it and turned it on to connect wirelessly with our laptops, smart phones, and other wireless devices.  It’s battery lasts approximately three hours and then must be charged again for another three hours.  We are able to use it while charging.

As we drove higher and higher into the mountains of Tuscany on June 16, 2013, we’d hoped we’d continue to receive a signal all the way up on the winding mountain roads.  About 25 minutes before arriving in Boveglio, we lost the signal, never to return. 

Thus, we’ve became dependent upon the wireless broadband available in our temporary home which the owners, Lisa and Luca. assured us would provide a good signal 24/7 during our stay.  Unfortunately, they have no control on outages experienced by the local provider in the region.

Apparently, last night around 11:00 PM, service to the general area experienced an outage. Awaking this morning we were disappointed to discover that there still was no service.  

Of course, we became worried, concerned that it could be a week or more until it was restored, as had been the case when the cable TV service went out just before we arrived leaving us with no TV until about a week ago.  There are only two English speaking programs available, Bloomberg TV and MSNBC, both news channels.  \With these two news channels we are able to be aware of what is transpiring in the US and worldwide, important as we travel to some high risk areas. 

We had no expectations of watching regular US programming while in many countries. For entertainment purposes, which we all need from time to time, when we want to wind down and relax, we’d downloaded a few hundred shows and movies on our “MY PASSPORT,” a two terabyte external hard drive, its shows to be saved for days like today…rainy, cold, windy, and no connection.

Some have asked, “Why do we need to be online so much of the time?”  There are several reasons for us:

1.  To be able to write and post this blog.
2.  To be able to maintain contact with family and friends via email and Skype at all times.
3.  To be able to maintain financial matters, all of which are available online:  banking, investing, credit cards, payments for future rentals and transportation, etc.
4.  To be able to receive and view our online “snail mail” from our mailing service.
5.  To be able to investigate further locations we hope to visit in the future.
6.  To book hotels and transportation getting us from place to place.
7.  Organizing and arranging maps and points of interest for our weekly excursions away from our temporary home.
8.  Look up medical questions, instructions, recipes and language translation.
9.  Download books to read.  (Once downloaded, no Internet connection is required).
10. Book reservations for restaurants.  Had we not done this for dining out last Saturday, we’d have been turned away at the restaurant, as we observed happening to other “walk-in” diners.
11.  Staying in touch with the property owners of upcoming rentals, asking questions, making future payments.
12. Entertainment.  When all else is said and done, playing with our computers is enjoyable: games, streaming radio and TV shows, watching movies, staying in touch  with family and friends via Facebook or, simply reading the wealth of information at our fingertips, keeping our brains active and hungering for more knowledge.

Yes, we prefer to be outdoors as much as possible on a warm days experiencing our surroundings.  But days like today, remind us how much we utilize this amazing tool,  the Internet, that honestly, without it we’d have had a lot less enthusiasm or interest in traveling the world. 

We often speak of how difficult and cumbersome arranging long term travel was for our ancestors.  How they ever managed is beyond us. 

Some travelers use travel agencies which are quickly becoming obsolete with the advent of the Internet growing worldwide. With the complexity of our travels, we definitely prefer to take responsibility for making our own arrangements, connecting all the dots along the way. (Although, we’ve used Joaquin at Vacations to Go for all of our cruises and will continue to do so). 

Also, travel agents don’t often handle the single family vacation homes we’ve been able to find and subsequently rent for our preferred periods of time.

How did we entertain ourselves today while “out of touch?”  We washed more laundry, finding covered spots in which to dry it considering the inclement weather.

We made a great breakfast of scrambled eggs with sautéed onions and Crimini mushrooms with Emmenthuler cheese and a side of Italian sausage and regular bacon which we were surprised to find at the grocery store in Pescia. Together, we chopped vegetables for tonight’s dinner.

We found a deck of cards and played “Gin” for several hours for the first time in many years. We’d forgotten the rules, playing anyway and it all came back to us.  We weren’t able to look up the rules online! I won.Tom forgot that he always won years ago. I’m a lousy loser.He’s worse.

Feeling frustrated for a lack of entertainment for Saturday night and not wanting to drive the winding roads that had many warning signs, “Slippery when wet,” we’d decided to stay in tonight. Preferring to save our downloaded books in the event it could be a long period without Internet, we hesitated to spend the entire evening reading.

For the first time since we left Scottsdale, Arizona at the end of December 2012, I plugged in My Passport, external hard drive, browsing to determine which shows and movies we might watch tonight. 

Actually, with no TV at all in Kenya, we’d hope to save all the downloaded videos to watch during the almost three months we’ll be living there. Ah, what the heck! Tonight would be the perfect night to watch a few!

Moments after plugging the device into my computer, I heard the familiar little sound of an arriving email.  “We’re back on!” I yelled out to Tom, causing him to be startled. Yes, we were back on.

Quickly, I sat down in this not-so-comfy kitchen chair and began typing away, anxious to let our readers that we’re still here. Some readers, who hadn’t received the automatic emails (which is now working again) assumed that we’d either fallen off the steep road while driving or we’d quit writing. 

I’ll promise this, dear readers… If we don’t write a word for two or more days, either we’re traveling (it takes two calendar days to arrive in Kenya), the Internet is down or something unfortunate has happened to us. In every case, we will post at the first opportunity, sharing the story and photos describing our absence.

“Consistency” is our middle name or, if you’d prefer the less braggadocios version…we’re rampant creatures of habit. We don’t expect that traveling the world will ever change that!

Part 1…We’re back to booking future travels!!!…Building a new itinerary…

Yesterday, we not only booked the cruise on the Black Sea but also booked the “back-to-back” (the next cruise, on the day of arrival), which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post. Tomorrow is a travel day for us as we make our way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to see Tom’s sister, Sister Beth, where we’ll spend two days in a hotel.

I will certainly use the workout facility.

As for the itinerary for this ship, see below:

Azamara

11 Nights – Azamara (Istanbul – Round Trip)

Cruise Line: Azamara

Ship Name: Azamara Onward Not Yet Rated

Cruise Length: 11 Nights

Departure Date: 06/29/2022

Embarkation Port: Istanbul, Turkey

Return Date: 07/10/2022

Disembarkation Port: Istanbul, Turkey

Sailing Itinerary

Date Port of Call Arrival Departure

06/29/2022 Istanbul 06:00 PM

06/30/2022 Varna/Bulgaria 08:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/01/2022 Burgas 08:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/02/2022 Constanta 07:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/03/2022 Odessa/Ukraine 09:30 AM

07/04/2022 Odessa/Ukraine 08:00 PM

07/05/2022 Cruising

07/06/2022 Sochi 08:00 AM 09:00 PM

07/07/2022 Batumi 08:00 AM 05:00 PM

07/08/2022 Cruising

07/09/2022 Istanbul 08:00 AM

07/10/2022 Istanbul

Once we arrive back in Istanbul, Turkey, we’ll move to another cabin on the same deck but on the opposite side of the ship for better viewing for the upcoming itinerary on this ship’s next leg for another ten days, July 10 to July 20, 2022, ending in Athens, Greece. We’ll include our costs for the balcony cabins for both cruises and the second leg’s itinerary in tomorrow’s post.

The theatre for nightly shows.

As for today, our last family day in Minnesota, Tom will be joining his family for the Thursday barbecue at his sister Mary’s home, while tonight, I’m going to a movie with Greg’s family. At 11:00 am this morning, we’re heading to visit our dear friend Sue, former neighbor and widow of our beloved, since deceased friend Chip, who passed away five months before we left in 2012. We hadn’t seen Sue since we were here in 2017 since she spends the winters in Florida. It will be wonderful to see her again.

This morning, Tom took our vaccination certificates to Office Max and had them make copies to be laminated and kept the originals to be amended for boosters in the future if required. Oddly, Office Max didn’t charge to do this. Go figure.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more tomorrow, perhaps later in the day, completed after arriving at our hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 15, 2020:

Some flowers are continuing to bloom through the summer season, as is the case in this Alstroemeria. For more photos, please click here.

No power…No WiFi…It was a long, hot night…

This is a monitor lizard that Tom spotted while driving. It happened so quickly, I had to take the photo through the windshield.

Although the inverter in the house allows a fan to work in our bedroom, it was a hot night and we had little sleep. There had been a short moderate-intensity rain storm around 10:00 pm (2200 hours). It doesn’t take much for the power to go out here. The WiFi towers revert to their battery power to keep the WiFi signal going, but after an hour or so, that too will run out of juice leaving all of us without internet access.

According to a message Louise got from Eskom, supposedly all will be restored sometime this morning, which could be in the next two hours as I write offline waiting for it to return. If that’s the case, we’ll have been without power or Wifi for 12 or 14 hours. In the realm of things, that’s not too long. But, in the middle of the night when the heat and humidity are high and sleep is elusive, it seems like an eternity.

Right now, at 10:30 am, it’s hot and humid on the veranda. I can feel my clothes sticking to me. I stay more covered than most to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. I usually wear Capri-length jeans, heavy-duty white socks, and a closely fitted tee-shirt, all of which prevents me from any bites other than on the exposed skin on my arms, face, and neck. I use Tabard DEET repellent around the clock on any exposed skin.

Playful zebras on the side of the road.

Last night, with no air-con due to the power outage, a few mosquitoes were buzzing around me all night. I was bitten no less than 10 times when I was unwilling to cover myself with a sheet due to the heat. I usually wear one of Tom’s tee shirts to bed since I don’t have any summer-type pajamas.

I ordered a few such items that will arrive in the package we’ll have sent to us on Monday. I know. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t order stuff from the US and have it shipped to us, but we had a few replacement credit cards (due to fraud) at our mailing service and decided we may as well order whatever else we needed. My Fitbit band broke a few days ago and I’ve since ordered a new Fitbit with even more features.

A zebra crossing the road.

This morning at 8:00, Tom headed to the little market in Marloth Park to purchase four bags of ice for our perishables until the power returned. Wouldn’t you know, we grocery shopped yesterday and the refrigerator was stocked full of items? I don’t know yet if anything was spoiled, but will be extra careful when restocking the refrigerator from the cool box where we placed the food and two bags of ice. We placed two more bags of ice in a metal bowl in the refrigerator, which cooled it down considerably while we waited.

Ironically, as I write here now, the power has been restored and moments later, so has the WiFi. Whew! What a relief. Tom turned on the fan on the veranda and aimed it directly at me. The breeze helps substantially. While Vusi was busy washing floors, we made our way to the bedroom with the air-con on, hoping to cool off for a bit. Another much-appreciated relief!!

We don’t have many zebras visit us. Seeing them when out and about is a treat.

Before Vusi arrived, I’d decided to make a pan of our favorite egg casserole with cheese and bacon and get it into the oven to bake before it gets even hotter during the day. It’s odd, but electric ovens here cook more slowly than in some other countries. We always have to plan ahead when baking anything in the oven.

Tonight, Tom will have pork chops on the braai while I have two small chicken breasts. Tom will have his chops with white rice and we’ll both have some of the delicious egg casserole as a side dish. Neither of us cared for any breakfast this morning after the fitful night so a nice Friday night dinner on the veranda will be enjoyed. Later, this afternoon it will cool down and we’ll be fine sitting outdoors, watching our wildlife friends stop by for a visit.

A male impala posed for a photo. Such handsome animals.

Sorry for the mundane post. I’m too hot and tired to be creative today. But, thanks for stopping by anyway!

Have a peaceful day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 19, 2020:

View of the city from the palace in Udaipur. For more photos, please click here.

Day #208 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…A review of an exquisite first safari experience…Firsts!…

It was hard to say goodbye to the staff at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat after the extraordinary stay and safari.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

The lodge was an invited place for us to sit, sip beverages and post our photos and stories. With no Internet access in the tents but available at no charge in the lodge, we spent most of our limited spare time in here.

Seven years ago today, we wrote a comprehensive review of Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat in the Maasai Mara in Kenya where we had the privilege to experience our first safari in Africa, forever emblazoned in our hearts and minds.

The dining room’s ambiance was easy going and welcoming.

There’s a lot to be said for “firsts” and without a doubt in our minds, that particular first left us reeling with sheer wonder and delight. Throughout our world travels, over and over again, we’ve had the opportunity to experience a wide array of firsts, that above all, stand out in our minds years later.

One evening, as we were busy posting after dinner, the staff and guests began dancing around the lodge to celebrate a couple’s anniversary. It was an intimate group with no more than 16 guests on-site while we were there. (The camp holds a maximum of 28 guests). With a little prodding from the staff, we joined in the line.

Whether it was our first transiting of the Panama Canal, the first in-person view of the Eiffel Tower, the first sighting of The Treasury in the hidden city of Petra, the first visit from a warthog in our garden in Marloth Park or our first cruise, they all hold special meaning with us.

 Windblown, with hat hair, at dinner each evening we wore our daytime safari clothes, feeling too tired to change. Also, arriving from safari between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, food was more important than fresh clothing.

Frequently coming up in conversations between us and others, firsts litter our itinerary, year after year, combined with the easy memories of the events surrounding such events. Isn’t it ironic how we all remember such times as our first date, our first kiss, our first airplane ride, our first bicycle, our first car, our first pet, and our first job?

The gift shop had a wide array of souvenirs and gifts, none of which we purchased with no room in our bags as we continue on our world travels.

Traveling the world the past has provided us, old-timers, with a wealth of firsts we never imagined in our dreams, and yet, here we are, universally, worldwide, all experiencing our first pandemic, our first months in lockdown and our first times wearing face masks, as non-medical professionals.

On the second night at camp as we were finishing up yet another safari, Anderson took what appeared to be a new route back over unpaved bush areas.  Bouncing about, we all giggled over the new route wondering why we were taking this route. With the gates to the reserve locking at 6:30 pm, we were late getting out. We’d assumed this new route was a way around going through the gates. Instead, suddenly we saw this campfire, to be surprised by everyone at camp, all guests and most staff were awaiting our arrival that tonight was the ritual “dinner in the bush” was a total surprise for the six of us.

Firsts are not always pleasant, as in the case of COVID-19, and many of us may prefer to have this event excised from our minds, which does nothing more than elicit painful thoughts and memories we wish had never happened. In our attempts at positivity, many of us strive to find meaning in even the most sorrowful of experiences to guide us through our lives, adding to our purpose and depth of character. 

The Maasai villagers were in attendance to sing and dance before or dinner as we all sat in a half-moon of comfortable chairs, enjoying appetizers and beverages, sharing our various safari stories. 

This period of COVID-19 still leaves me wondering what we’re supposed to learn from this. Each day, during the past seven months, as I walk the corridors, earbuds in my ears, listening to some informational podcasts, my mind wanders away from the voices I’m listening to that same question. “What am I supposed to learn from this “first?”

Look at my plate at the “bush dinner!” It was exciting to know that most of the meat and vegetables were within my dietary constraints, all prepared to perfection, seasoned with local spices. Once again, great job Chef Ambrose!

Was it resilience? Patience? Tolerance? We both already feel we’ve had these bases covered after living without a home for the past almost eight years, amid many stressful and challenging situations. We’ve often mentioned the need and commitment we’ve made to adaptability as, scenario after scenario, we were tested as to our ability to adapt. We not only managed but most often, somehow, we thrived.

After the bush dinner, we posed for a photo, although after a day on safari, I hardly felt photo-ready. Tom’s face was sunburned from the almost 8 hours we spent on safari that day, exposed to the elements, loving every minute. We couldn’t wait to put our clothing in the dirty laundry hamper to be washed, dried, and folded to perfection that was returned to our tent that same evening. This service was included in the all-inclusive pricing.

I suppose time will tell. Perhaps this query to ourselves on this topic will present itself somewhere in the times to come, once we’re blissfully removed from this confinement-type existence, purely predicated by an invisible toxin wafting through the world at a ravaging pace.

Ah, the naysayers who espouse this virus is a hoax! Those who have lost loved ones, young or old, don’t call this a hoax. 

On the first night, we both had the same entrée, a grilled sirloin steak atop a medley of sautéed vegetables. Tender, cooked exactly as requested, this steak required only a butter knife to cut it. Neither of us had appetizers or dessert that evening after having had lunch earlier in the day upon arrival.

As for today’s photos, they are a pleasant reminder of a “first” that we can easily determine its purpose, in its impact on our lives, the changes we’ve made, the adaptation we’ve embraced and the awe and appreciation we gleaned from such a glorious and memorable experience.

My nightly dessert of fine cheese and Kenya is grown cashews and macadamia nuts. The night of the “bush dinner” Chef Ambrose had remembered to bring these items for my dessert, as the only guest in camp unable to eat the traditional desserts. Wow!

Enjoy these photos with us, knowing our comments from the past event, seven years ago today, were heartfelt and passionate.

Enjoy your day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2019:

Coat of arms on shields at the entrance gate to Chepstow Castle in Wales. For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…New bookings…A new country…A new lease on life!…More tomorrow…

In 2013 we sailed on a similar itinerary but this 29-night Viking cruise offers additional ports of call which appeal to us.  Also, other than Antarctica this was my favorite itinerary, sailing through the Middle East and the Gulf of Aden.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“In
2007, Ireland saw 40 straight days of rain.”

                   ____________________________________________


To ensure we’d get the full flavor of the country of India we decided to spend about 60 days traveling to several locations and staying a few weeks at each.  As mentioned in a prior post, we’ll attempt to spend little time in the cities with the most population, commotion, and traffic.


In India, the massive population in the big cities is one of its attractions bringing tourists from all over the world.  Certainly, we won’t miss out on this fascinating opportunity.  

Indoor pool.

Our days of staying in one location for many months, other than a few here and there, are over.  After my recent heart surgery, we felt we needed to take advantage of each and every day.  Staying in one holiday home for long periods, wouldn’t provide us with the quality of experiences we’re seeking at this point. 


Since I’m not yet 100% of my former self, how often we move about will be based on how I’m feeling down the road.  It’s difficult to determine right now.  In several months, we’ll know more and be able to plan accordingly.

Lounge area on the main deck.

When we knew we’d be in India, Tom got to work trying to find a cruise to and from Mumbai.  This is a preferred departure point by many but most cruises are outrageously expensive and beyond our reach.


His continued research resulted in him finding the cruise we’re describing here today, which we’ve booked with a bit of hesitation due to the cost but with considerable excitement over the ship and its luxury feel, its amenities, and the fact its a 29-and day journey.

One of two outdoor pools.

With many amenities included in the cost, such as unlimited high-speed WiFi, only 930 passengers, free specialty restaurants, complimentary self serve laundry (soap included) and no children under the age of 18 allowed.  


Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy children but on cruises, the running in the halls and public areas and the seeming constant screaming distracts from the otherwise adult experience.  Relaxation is the key along with adult conversations and activities.

This is the type of cabin we booked.  All cabins on the Viking Sun have a veranda.

The ship offers many educational sessions in the theatre as we approach port after port.  Since we’ve already visited a portion of the ports of call, we’ll venture out to see the more obscure locations or, if we’d like, stay aboard the ship when there are no tours befitting our preferences.

Comfortable theatre.

At each port, one tour is included in the cost.  Most certainly, we’ll take advantage of these, even if it is a bus tour of the city.  We’d already visited Petra in 2013 and making that long hot trek (45C, 113F or more) once again isn’t necessary.  It was a fabulous once-in-a-lifetime experience.  


To see our posts and amazing photos from Petra, of which there are several, please start at this link.

The Chef’s Table, a special dinner made for a small group in a kitchen on the ship, included in price.  It will be tough to get a reservation for this but we’ll try.  Also, we may be concerned if the special meal will work for me.

Today, we’re busy getting ready for two guests for dinner.  We’re doing it easy upon their insistence and based on my current limitations.  Thus, I won’t have to spend the entire day in the kitchen standing on my feet.


Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more to include the pricing on today’s cruise along with some peculiarities Viking Cruise Line insists upon with passengers during the booking process.

There are many lounge areas throughout the ship.

Please check back tomorrow.  For the ship’s list of amenities, please scroll to the bottom of today’s post.


Have a fantastic Saturday, wherever you are, whatever you do.  Thank you for stopping by!

VacationsToGo.com

Viking Sun

Ship Rating:
Expand your horizons on the 930-passenger Viking Sun. This ship features all veranda staterooms and a unique onboard experience, from the peaceful Wintergarden area around the main pool, perfect for a calming cup of tea; to The Spa, a sanctuary of wellness; to the Explorer’s Lounge, where passengers can share their latest adventures. Also included are inspiring onboard talks that help you understand every destination in depth. The Viking Sun was built with understated comfort and elegance in mind and ensures you will explore every destination in comfort.

Viking Sun is dedicated to adults and therefore does not carry children or teenagers under the age of 18.

Viking Sun
Ship Statistics
Year Built 2017
Tonnage 47,800 tons
Registry Malta
Length 745 feet
Beam 95 feet
Passenger Capacity 930
Crew Size 465
Total Inside Cabins 0
Total Outside Cabins 465
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 465
Suites 47
Maximum Occupancy per room 2
Age Restrictions All must be 18-20 or one must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings 1
Seating Assignments
in Main Dining Room
Open
Dining Hours 6:30 PM
Dining Room Dress Code Dining
Tipping Expected? Yes
Tipping Guidelines
Viking recommends $15.00 per day, per guest. These amounts may be given to the onboard staff in cash, or you may charge them to your credit card at the end of the cruise. Bar gratuities should be made at the time of purchase.
Onboard Currency US Dollar
   
Services & Amenities
Bars/Lounges Yes
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Casino No
Chapel No
Disco/Dancing No
Elevators Yes
Hot Tub Yes
Cell Phone Service No
Internet Center No
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Laundromats (self service) Yes
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Movie Theatre Yes
Outdoor Movie Screen Yes
Onboard Weddings No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Spa Yes
Video Arcade No
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court No
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator No
Ice Skating Rink No
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course No
Rock Climbing Wall No
Swimming Pool 2
Tennis Court No
Water Slide No
Water Sports Platform No
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting No
Children’s Playroom No
Kiddie Pool No
Supervised Youth Program No
Teen Center No
Water Playground/Splash Park No
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
     (private connecting doors)
No
Kosher Meals No
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins 2

__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, June 29, 2018:
The sunset changed second by second, each scene more beautiful than the last while at Aamazing River View Restaurant last night.  For more photos, please click here.

Ratcheting up the research…Holidaymakers moving in…Piglets in the pond!…

Mom and the piglet are enjoying the cement pond on a hot day.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This is “Little” on his usual mission of getting our attention to come outside and give him some pellets. If we don’t respond, he enters the house. Very funny!

Our one year in Marloth Park is rapidly coming to a close. We’ve decided to spend one night, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, in Nelspruit to avoid early morning traffic on the 15th, the day we must exit South Africa. It’s hard to believe in 71 days, and we’ll be leaving Marloth Park to drive to Nelspruit for the flight to Nairobi, Kenya, departing early the following morning.

If you missed our story as to why we must leave on the 15th as opposed to the planned February 20th initially, please click here for yesterday’s post. It’s all clearly explained there.

As it turns out, we won’t have to travel on my birthday after all and will spend it doing something exceptional while in Kenya. Details will follow once we get everything booked.

Mom warthog gets into the cement pond to cool off.  Now, the piglets follow her.

Speaking of bookings, we need to get to work now that we have a definitive answer on our immigration status. We’d left many loose ends in the itinerary, and the time has come to get these items booked.

With the ongoing power outages, spending time online is tricky. By the time we manage photos and prepare and upload the day’s post, the power goes out again, usually for 2½ hours. During these periods, we have no internet access.

According to the Eskom load shedding schedule, the power should be out about 7½ hours every 24 hours. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, the schedule isn’t precise, and often a time slot for an outage is ignored, and we have full power and WiFi. Go figure.  

Piglets were climbing out of the cement pond.

We’re managing to work around it, as are other residents throughout this country, not just here in Marloth Park. With the continuing heat and humidity, it’s even more uncomfortable when we can’t use a fan, especially when our surroundings are still and windless, resulting in a long 2½ hours.

But this is Africa, and we’re making the best of it, planning social events, cooking our meals, dining out with friends (tonight with Uschi and Evan, tomorrow with Rita and Gerhard), and attempting to ignore the inconveniences.

The holidaymakers are beginning to filter into the park now as we see more and more vehicles on the roads each day. Soon, every holiday rental and most bush homes will be filled, the noise will ensue, underage kids will be driving vehicles in this relatively un-policed area, and maniacs will be driving fast on Olifant Street (the paved road), killing the precious wildlife.

With the heat evaporating the water in the pond, between cleanings, Tom refills it for easy access for wildlife being able to reach for a drink.  So far, the only animals we’ve seen enter the pond are the warthogs.

No pun intended…it’s the nature of the beast. Not everyone who comes to stay in Marloth Park possesses the love and respect for this magical place, its rules, and its wildlife. This is so sad and disheartening.

Among the rest of us dedicated to this paradise, we’ll continue to respect the laws and treat the wildlife with dignity and respect. We’ve heard tales of humans feeding wildlife marshmallows, potato chips, and other human junk food. If it’s not good for us, why would we assume it’s good for them?

During this Christmas season, as in the past six years, we don’t have a tree, wrap gifts, bake cookies, or plan holiday parties, although we’ll attend a few. I’ll bake some treats to share at Christmas and make a few special items for Tom’s upcoming birthday on December 23rd.

Back onto the dirt, everyone is cooler and refreshed.

I’d considered a party or get-together for his birthday, but he reminded me how busy a time it is for everyone else with their usual holiday festivities. To burden others with a party the day before Christmas Eve was unfair. I relented, and we decided to make it a party for two.

This leaves us plenty of time in December to get to work booking the following for our upcoming travels:

  • Hotel in Kenya for seven nights, arriving February 15, 2019, and departing for the booked photography tour on February 22, 2019  (tour ended on March 7, 2019
  • Flight from Nairobi to Santiago, Chile on March 8, 2019
  • Transportation from Santiago, Chile to San Antonio, Chile (the location of the cruise port) 
  • Hotel in Santiago, Chile from March 8, 2019, to March 24, 2019, when our 15-night cruise departs from San Antonio, Chile, and sails to San Diego, California
  • Flight from San Diego, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota* on April 8, 2019
  • Rental car in Minnesota from April 8, 2019, to April 25, 2019
  • Flight from Minnesota to Fort Lauderdale to board the next cruise to Copenhagen on April 25, 2019, cruise departed on April 26, 2019
  • Flight from Copenhagen to Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2019
  • Rental car in Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2019, and drive to Connemara, Ireland, where we’ll stay in a holiday home until August 9, 2019 (booked and deposit paid)
    Two giraffes were walking along a dirt path in the park.

*The hotel in Minnesota is already booked and partially paid, with the balance due upon arrival.

This covers our booking needs for the next eight months. Once we’ve put all of this together, we’ll update and fine-tune our spreadsheet with all the new expenses.
 
I hope you have a spectacular Wednesday!


Photo from one year ago today, December 5, 2017:

In Pisco, Peru, this pelican was trained to entertain tourists as the man passed around a cup. For more photos, please click here.

Here we go again!…Booking and planning for the future…

Image result for azamara journey photo
Most of the cruise ships we’ve sailed in the past have a capacity from 264 to 4100, although some ships are larger and continue to be built for more and more capacity. The Azamara Journey, smaller than most cruise ships, has a maximum passenger capacity of 690.  Our recent Antarctica cruise on Ponant’s Soleal has a passenger capacity of 264 (only 200 or less allowed to sail in the Antarctic). We prefer smaller ships such as this.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Frank, our resident Francolin, who’s decided to make our yard his permanent residence. Francolins are highly territorial and extremely noisy when other francolins invade his space, except, of course, for Mrs. Frank. They’ve been building a nest. Francolins are monogamous and mate for life. They nest in grass-lined low-lying shallows.  The incubation period is from 18 to 21 days carried out by the female. Once the eggs hatch, both parents tend to the chicks until their first winter.  We’re looking forward to Frank’s and the Mrs.’ chicks.

Last night, after dinner, while sitting at the big table on the veranda, we called Vacations to Go on Skype and booked the furthest-out cruise we’ve booked to date. With reasonable new-listing pricing only available until June 3rd at midnight in the US, we knew if we wanted to sail on this particular cruise, we’d like the best book in now to ensure we could choose a good cabin.

The cruise embarks on November 10, 2020, almost 2½  years from now, a very long time away. But, in this life of world travel, with our desires for specific itineraries, on occasion, it makes sense to book a cruise, holiday home, or a tour well in advance to ensure a good spot and pricing.

This is the furthest out we’ve booked a cruise since we began booking cruises in early 2012, shortly after we decided to travel the world. We weren’t thrilled about the ZAR 13,874 (US $1,100) deposit required so far in advance, but we had no options if we wanted to secure our preferred cabin. 

This cruise was almost sold out after only being posted online for the past week. It’s a good thing Tom stays on top of what’s transpiring in the cruise world on almost a daily basis. He’s the “cruise booking” enthusiast in this family. I’m too impatient to spend the time researching cruises as Tom does so regularly.

Why was this cruise so important to us? It brings us back to Africa, 22 months after we leave the continent this upcoming February 2019. We’ve finally come to the reality and acceptance of the fact that we can’t get this continent out of our hearts and minds to stay away too long.

The cruise embarks from Lisbon and ends 22 days later in Cape Town, South Africa. Finally, we’ll see Cape Town after Louise and Danie have enthusiastically encouraged us that we “must” see the stunning city and surrounding areas. 

Finally, when the cruise ends, we’ll be able to spend a few days in the sprawling tourist-popular city. We’re planning to meet up with Louise’s parents, Estelle and Jonas, who live in a nearby suburb. We enjoyed meeting them here in Marloth Park during their recent visit and would love to see them again.

After a few days in Cape Town, we’ll fly to Nelspruit, rent a car and once again make our way to Marloth Park, but this time for only a 90-day visit. The visa requirement of leaving South Africa to a non-bordering country can get expensive, and again, we’ll have to consider our budget.

We selected this cruise to return to South Africa and allow us to visit many other countries on the west coast of Africa where fewer tourists are inclined to visit. We’ve never sailed on Azamara in the past.  Owned by the same corporation that owns Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, our loyalty program will carry over to this cruise, enabling us to partake of several perks we’ve enjoyed on past cruises.

As always, we booked a balcony cabin with cabins above and below us to avoid noise from various venues on the ship.  Here are some details about the ship:

Azamara Journey

Ship Rating: 5
The Azamara Journey has all the modern conveniences that the discerning traveler demands. The Journey has an intimate atmosphere with only 690 passengers. With nearly 400 crew members, the staff is always there to offer a drink or a fresh towel. Azamara’s concept of Destination Immersion means that you’ll spend more time in ports, and when you’re on board, you’ll be able to sample the culinary classics of the ports you’re visiting. There’s plenty to do when you’re still on the ship as well, like gambling at the casino, enjoying live entertainment in the Cabaret Lounge, getting a work-out in at the fitness center, or kicking back in any of the ship’s many bars. When you’re ready for some well-deserved pampering, the spa is waiting with several signature treatments. You can visit your own private spa deck, indulge in Facial Glow services, get a massage or even relax in an all-day spa ritual. The cruise may not last forever, but the memories will last a lifetime. Azamara Journey
 Ship Statistics 
Year Built 2000
Refurbished 2016
Tonnage 30,277 tons
Registry Malta
Length 593 feet
Beam 84 feet
Passenger Capacity 690
Crew Size 408
Total Inside Cabins 26
Total Outside Cabins 320
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 247
Suites 42
Maximum Occupancy per room 4
Age Restrictions One person must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings 2
Seating Assignments
in Main Dining Room
Open
Dining Hours Dining
Dining Room Dress Code Dining
Tipping Expected? No
Tipping Guidelines Azamara includes the gratuities in your cruise fare.
Onboard Currency US Dollar
Services & Amenities
Spa Yes
Video Arcade No
Bars/Lounges Yes
Casino Yes
Elevators Yes
Cell Phone Service Yes
Laundromats (self-service) Yes
Movie Theatre No
Outdoor Movie Screen No
Onboard Weddings No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Chapel No
Disco/Dancing No
Hot Tub Yes
Internet Center Yes
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Note: Available throughout the ship
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court No
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator No
Ice Skating Rink No
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course No
Rock Climbing Wall No
Swimming Pool Yes
Tennis Court No
Water Slide No
Water Sports Platform No
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting No
Children’s Playroom No
Kiddie Pool No
Supervised Youth Program No
Teen Center No
Water Playground/Splash Park No
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
(private connecting doors)
Yes
Kosher Meals Yes
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins 6

For details on pricing for this 22-night cruise, please click here. Cruises around the African continent are always pricey.  With this much advance notice, we’ll have plenty of time to budget for this higher-priced cruise.

It’s a long way off, but we’re still excited knowing this cruise is on the horizon, along with all of the other plans we have for the future.  We haven’t posted a new itinerary since we were in Buenos Aires, which may be found here.  Please scroll to the bottom of this post to see the itinerary.

We still have many gaps in our schedule to fill in, and we may be changing some other cruises we have booked into the future. But this cruise we booked last night, bringing us back to Africa, will definitely stand in place.

Today, we’re updating our spreadsheets with this new booking, and tonight we’re heading out to dinner with friends Linda and Ken, who returned yesterday to Marloth Park. We’re making “pizza night” for Kathy, Don, Linda, and Ken for another great evening with friends tomorrow evening.

Have a great weekend! 

Photo from one year ago today, June 1, 2017:

Last year at this time, we were in Minnesota for six weeks visiting family. At this point, we continued to share more photos from Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, our last stop before departing Canada for the US. For more photos, please click here.

Time spent with Tom’s Sister Beth from Milwaukee and more family members…

Walking along the path at Butchart Gardens, we noticed this opening in the trees to this beautiful view.

It was 8:40 pm Tuesday. We had just returned from Tom’s sister Patty’s home, a good 40-minute drive back to our hotel. Today at 7:45 am, we’re driving in rush hour traffic to pick up Maisie for the day, and yesterday I’d yet to spend five minutes preparing today’s post as I’d hoped to do to free me up to spend time with her.

Too pooped to complete the post in its entirety last night, I decided to get a head start on it before bed and finish it this morning. By the time I am ready to head out the door to drive to St. Louis Park, this post was done and posted early today.

Apparently, as a part of the landscape, this opening provided an interesting view for visitors.

Now, I can spend the day with Maisie giving her my undivided attention. We have a busy day planned; buffet breakfast here at the hotel (the kids love this), shopping at the Albertville Outlet Mall, and if time allows, a movie she chooses, of course befitting her mature 10 years of age.

Yesterday was a flurry of activity. We were up, showered, and dressed by 7:00 am making our way downstairs for an early breakfast. By 8:30, we were seated in the hotel’s lounge while fast and furiously I banged away at the keyboard to ensure we’d be out the door no later than 11:40 am to pick up Betty (Sister Beth) at the airport for her 12:05 pm arriving flight.

A pond on the grounds.

Unfortunately, Tom didn’t have his phone on him (it was in the backseat of the SUV in the computer bag) and didn’t hear the ring when Betty called to let him know she’d arrived a little earlier than expected. We were waiting for her in the wrong spot on the baggage level, finally spotting her a while later.

Once the three of us were on our way, we decided to visit their brother (my brother-in-law) Jerome, who’d been taken to the hospital the previous night with acute back pain. Worried it was something serious, he was rushed to hospital by ambulance leaving us all concerned over his condition.

A stone temple statue at the side of a pond in the Japanese Garden.

Jerome is 88 years old, totally blind, and extremely hard of hearing but generally in good health. Lately, he hadn’t been feeling well and perhaps, this bout in the hospital might be just what he needed to determine what’s causing him pain. 

To date, a specific cause of Jerry’s pain is unknown other than the usual often painful conditions commensurate with aging.  He’s being treated with meds in hopes of making him more comfortable. After a short stint at a local nursing home where he’ll have physical therapy,  he’ll be able to return to his home.

We were surprised there weren’t a lot of birds in the ponds and man-made lakes.

We were sad to see him suffering but felt relieved there was no seeming underlying cause of major concern.  We’ll continue to visit him over our remaining month in Minnesota.

By 3:00 pm, we arrived at Patty’s home, dropped Betty off, and made our way to a local grocery store to purchase food for dinner at Patty’s. We purchased three roasted chickens, scalloped potatoes, sweet corn, veggie platter, and fixings for coleslaw which I made once we returned. We were all hungry, and by 4:15, the five of us, including Tom’s nephew Jim, were gathered around Patty’s kitchen table.

Early Spring is a perfect time to visit Butchart Gardens with flowers in full bloom.

A short time later, more family arrived and joined us in the meal and idle chatter, including Tom’s niece Kari (a big fan of our site and travels, bless her heart), sister Mary Ellen and husband Eugene, and sister Colleen and husband, Gene. 

Thank goodness we’d purchased enough to feed others. Everyone dug in and pulled up more chairs around the table. It was a typical Lyman gathering; food, drinks, and lively conversation. It couldn’t have been more fun!

This gorgeous flower quickly caught our attention.

I’d hoped to work on today’s post while at Patty’s, but she doesn’t have Internet access in her home. She wasn’t even interested in learning to use a computer or smartphone, not unusual for those in their 80’s or older.

By 8:00 pm, while a few others began to say their goodbyes, I gave Tom “the look” that perhaps it was our time to head back to the hotel and get today’s post going. He fully understood, and we headed back to the hotel arriving at 8:40 pm. 

Statue of wild pig that many visitors consider good luck when rubbing its nose. 

By 9:30 pm, I couldn’t type one more word and closed the laptop for the night with a plan to finish the first thing in the morning. Awakening at 5:00 am, I finally dragged myself out of bed by 6:00 am knowing I had better “get the show on the road.” No doubt, today will be another fine day with lovely granddaughter Maisie.

We’ll be back at you tomorrow with more. Have a lovely day!

Photo from one year ago today, June 7, 2016:

In Bali, we spotted this friendly neighbor (no English) making bowls, as shown in her hands, used for offerings at the Hindu temples. For more photos, please click here.

Excitement over future US plans…An unexpected oops in the villa…Fabulous food photos

Yes, I ate this entire plate of spicy Balinese chicken atop a bed of stir-fried vegetables along with a salad. This is one of our favorite meals. Yes, this is an entirely sugar-free, grain-free, starch-free, gluten-free meal with under 10 grams of carbs (carbs coming from vegetables only). See Tom’s plate below.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

This group of cute Balinese kids stopped for a photo with their white horse who also wanted to get in the photo.

We’re thrilled to have worked out the details for our upcoming stay in the US in 11 months. As mentioned in a previous post, we ditched the RV plan for a hotel and have since negotiated the particulars with Country Inn and Suites in Plymouth, Minnesota from May 26 to July 7, 2017 for a 42 night stay.
 

Our link for Hotels.com here on our site led us to their corporate division for “group rates” when we entered the information for the extended stay. Although we’re hardly a group, the longer stay put us into the group pricing category enabling us to save almost US $100, IDR $1,333,750 per night.

A few mornings ago when Tom was opening the accordion doors as he does each mornings, suddenly wood and plaster fell to the floor.  Constant humidity certainly attributed to this occurrence in the four-year-old villa.

Over a period of the past week, the corporate site rep sent us numerous possibilities that would accept a corporate discount. We’d hoped to stay close to Highways 100 and 394 in Minneapolis that would accept a corporate discount. But the options were few, resulting in costs of at least 50% higher than other areas.

Also, an aspect we found especially exciting was the fact that we negotiated a price to include three children in our reservation. With our six grandchildren, if any would like to stay overnight, swim in the two huge pools while hanging out with us, there will be no questions asked.

Within an hour Ribud was on a ladder making temporary repairs allowing the doors to be fully operational until the plaster repair can transpire, most likely after we leave.


The hotel offers the following services and amenities:

  • 24-hour business center
  • 24-hour coffee, cookies and candy (complimentary)
  • Adjacent to Grizzly’s Grill & Bar (room service also provided)
  • Airport shuttle services for individuals and groups from SuperShuttle, based at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Transportation Level (fees apply)
  • Dry cleaning
  • Electronic room locks
  • Fax, copier and computer services
  • Fitness center
  • Forgotten items service
  • Free high-speed Internet access
  • Free weekday newspaper
  • Group rates available
  • Hot Be Our Guest Breakfast (complimentary)
  • On-site parking (complimentary)
  • Read It & Return Lending LibrarySM
  • TourStop® amenities for groups
  • Two laundry rooms, located in the hotel
  • Two indoor pools and whirlpool tubs
  • Weekday local area shuttle service within a five-mile radius (complimentary)
  • Weekend contracted shuttle services to designated venues; reserve with the Sales Department

When Country Inn and Suites offered us an upgraded King Suite with a living room, mini kitchen, and free wifi, all of which included a free hot breakfast for five, any given morning, and much more, it was hard to resist. 

In no time at all, Ribud had the door folding properly for our continued use during our remaining nine days in the villa.

Prices are high to stay in the US for six weeks. Rental cars, city and state taxes, dining out and groceries are much higher than we’re used to paying throughout the world. Currently, we’re researching the remainder of the other expenses although it’s
a little too soon to book our flight from Seattle to Minneapolis.

Within a few weeks, we’ll fall into the 330-day advance flight booking window. An interesting aspect of a long-term hotel stay we hadn’t considered earlier is that in the State of Minnesota, any hotel stays over 31 days are considered tax-exempt for a long-term rental/leased property.

Our meals are always hot, fresh, and delicious.

The corporate account manager at Country Inn & Suites explained in an email that we’ll be credited the full amount of the sales tax at the end of our stay to include the entire 42 nights at a savings of over 7.25% per day. For the purposes of illustration, we won’t include the sales tax in today’s total of US $4,494, IDR 59,938,725 for the 42 nights plus the cost of
incidentals.

Adding the ancillary costs for flights, rental car, fuel, meals (groceries and dining out), entertainment (activities with kids and grandkids), and whatever miscellaneous costs we may incur, we’re anticipating the total cost for the six weeks will be in the range of US $12,000, IDR 160,050,000.

Had we stuck with the original RV rental plan, we’d easily have incurred almost twice the above amount. Gee…we don’t like it always to have to be about money but, living this lifestyle or any lifestyle for that matter, requires one
to consider all the potential costs.

Tom seems to be able to tolerate eating white rice a few times per week while continuing to maintain his newly acquired 20 pound, 9 kg weight loss (since our arrival in Bali.

Since we pay off (in full) all of our credit cards every month, incurring no short or long-term debt, being frugal and sensible is the only way this life is possible.  If we “used up” all of our “available credit” on our cards, we’d be in deep trouble.

If we used all of our available credit on our cards how would we pay for the next three months for a vacation home or an upcoming cruise or flight?  We’ve found such tight budgetary diligence has made our travels as stress-free as possible barring any unforeseen events over which we have no control.

Over the past few days, it rained all afternoon forcing us indoors due to thunder and lightning.  Today, the sky is clear, the sea is blue, there’s the expected heat and humidity and…of course, there’s tons of flies and ants which seem to thrive after heavy rains. But, we’re as content as we can be, especially with these new US plans in place.

We hope your day brings you contentment as well.

Photo from one year ago today, June 18, 2015:

Our second kangaroo sighting of the day at a nearby field in Trinity Beach. The first, we saw in a flash while walking in the rain forest, unable to take a photo in time.  It was exciting to finally see kangaroos in the wild.  For more, please click here.