Countries we’ve visited…Working on new website…Photos from this date in 2013 from Ephesus, Turkey…

Us in front of one of the most interesting ruins of Ephesus Jordan on this date in 2013.
Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word, “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site in a few months, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 
Today’s photos are from June 13, 2013, while in Ephesus, Turkey. See the link here for more details.
We are often asked how many countries we’ve visited. In a request for topics for future posts, a few days ago at this post here, a suggestion that recurred in many messages was, “How many countries have we visited since we began our world journey on October 31, 2012?”

Considering the fact we often stay for extended periods in any particular country, often visiting several states, cities, and areas, we haven’t been to as many countries as one may think after almost 8 years of world travel. 

Of course, we’ve visited all seven continents, finally accomplished when we sailed to Antarctica in February 2018.
As our long walk began with a series of similar ruins.
With a total of 195 countries in the world, we certainly have many more to visit if, in fact, our goal had been to visit as many countries as possible. That particular objective has never been on our radar.

Instead, we’ve visited countries, some on cruises, that appealed to us for a longer stay considering sites/countries we’ve been attracted to and the scenery and in many cases, the opportunity to see abundant wildlife.

Now. I’m busy working with our new web developer for our new and updated site which will include easy viewing for smartphones eliminating the necessity of the above instructions as to how to view our archives on a phone.
We never miss a photo op at the ruins.
In the process of assisting our web developer, Kate, who by coincidence is located in India with some of the smartest tech people in the world, enables us to easily talk on the phone as needed as we work our way through this comprehensive and complicated process.

I must admit, I am not in a head-space right now to be overly creative so I’m working on my part of the project into bite-sized pieces over many days. For some reason, being in lockdown seems to make it more difficult for me to come up with creative ideas. But, I’m doing my best.

We’re making it especially easy for our readers to see the daily posts, recent past posts, photos, archives, and links, our single most important goal in this process. At this point, I only have one more morning to work on my part of the development while the rest will be left up to the developer, each day sending us new mock-ups to review. It’s going quite smoothly so far.
Ornate rock.
However, in the process, Kate suggested we include a link with each country we’ve visited on a simple numbered list. This morning, before beginning today’s post, Tom reviewed our travel map on the right side of the home page, reading off each country we’ve visited while I typed the following list, both for today’s post and for our new site.

 Here are all the countries we’ve visited since the onset of our travels:
  1. Mexico
  2. Guatemala
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Panama
  5. Columbia
  6. Grand Cayman
  7. Belize
  8. Honduras
  9. Bahamas
  10. Grand Turks & Caicos
  11. Portugal
  12. Spain
  13. France
  14. Egypt
  15. Jordan
  16. United Arab Emirates
  17. Italy
  18. Greece
  19. Turkey
  20. Croatia
  21. Kenya
  22. Tanzania
  23. South Africa
  24. Morocco
  25. England
  26. Ireland
  27. Faroe Islands
  28. Iceland
  29. Canada
  30. Moorea, French Polynesia
  31. Papeete
  32. Bora Bora
  33. Fiji
  34. Australia (plus Tasmania)
  35. New Zealand
  36. Malaysia
  37. Singapore
  38. Indonesia
  39. Cambodia
  40. Vietnam
  41. Thailand
  42. New Caledonia
  43. Vanuatu
  44. Nicaragua
  45. Ecuador
  46. Peru
  47. Chili
  48. Argentina
  49. Uruguay
  50. Falkland Islands
  51. Antarctica
  52. Mozambique
  53. Zambia
  54. Zimbabwe
  55. Botswana
  56. Germany
  57. Netherlands
  58. Denmark
  59. Estonia
  60. Russia
  61. Finland
  62. Sweden
  63. Wales
  64. Bermuda
  65. India
We could imagine a leader standing atop this structure speaking to his people.
In a similar note, there are a number of countries we’ll never visit such as these listed below by Forbes Magazine as being the most dangerous countries in the world.

Some of the Most Dangerous Countries (in no specific order) from this site:
  1. Libya
  2. Syria
  3. Iraq
  4. Yemen
  5. Somalia
  6. South Sudan
  7. Central African Republic
  8. Part of the Congo (DRC)
  9. Part of eastern Ukraine
  10. Mali
  11. Parts of Pakistan
  12. Afghanistan
  13. Part of Egypt
But, this still leaves us with over 100 countries we haven’t visited, some of which hold little interest for us. After all, this adventure has been all about what appeals to us the most, not what others think we should do. It’s all a part of the sense of freedom we’ve felt along the way.
Varying stones were used to avoid a slippery surface.
Now in lockdown in India, we don’t necessarily feel a sense of freedom being stuck in this hotel room, day after day, month after month. But, we’re committed, going forward, to only travel to a country with open borders (once the Mumbai International Airport re-opens) that appeals to us. 

We’re not considering visiting any countries simply due to the fact their borders are open. We’re dedicated to waiting it out until we can travel to a location that we’ll find enjoyable and a true continuation of our world travels. 

Thank you, dear readers, for all the ongoing input and support you provide on a daily basis. Please bear with us if a few days pass before I reply. With my inbox jammed with messages, it may take a few days.

Stay safe. 
______________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, June 13, 2019:
We stopped by the pier on a sunny day in Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.

How do we decide where to go and holiday homes…Most frequently asked suggestions……

After returning from Kruger on a Sunday we headed to Amaazing River View, Serene Oasis, to watch the sunset and wildlife on the Crocodile River. This waterbuck was busily grazing on the vegetation as we captured his reflection in the river.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word, “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site in a few months, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from June 12, 2018, while in Marloth Park, South Africa. See the link here for more.



As we reviewed the plethora of comments when we requested input from our readers at this “Foraging for fodder” post” the most common responses we received were, “How do we decide on where we’ll travel next and how do we find holiday homes in those locations?”


Over the years we’ve posted snippets in various posts as to the resources we’ve used to find holiday homes once we’ve decided on a location.  Let’s start with “deciding on a location.”

This elephant with only one tusk was standing at the Verhami Dam in Kruger leisurely tossing dirt over herself. 

Please bear in mind, these responses are based on normal times, not times of Covid-19 when everything is different, especially in regard to where we’ll go when that decision won’t be entirely up to us. 


Instead, it will be predicated entirely as to which countries will be opening their borders to both US citizens and those coming from India, a double whammy for us since immigration at airports won’t take the time or effort to review our itinerary over the past several months. 


If US citizens are banned, we won’t be allowed entry. If those coming from India are banned, we won’t be allowed entry. That is why we anticipate it being a long time until we can travel to another country.

It was fascinating watching her from our close vantage point.

In normal times, we chose a country based on the following factors in order of preference:


1. Which areas/countries have we yet to visit that piques our interest?
2. When and where will our next cruise sail that a particular country will provide us with the best proximity without us having to fly long distances, if possible?
3. What is the cost of living in a particular country, allowing a one or two-month stay or longer, befitting our budget and expectations? What is the cost of potential holiday homes?
4. Where are we most likely to attain a high degree of pleasure as a result of excellent views, wildlife, or unique and interesting nearby areas to visit?
5. Can we rent a holiday home in a less busy area, away from a big city?
6. Is the location safe based on crime rates, current political unrest, or potential civil unrest?
7. Which properties include the features most important to us such as location, cleanliness, and appeal, including WiFi, air-con, full kitchen with oven, comfortable seating areas and bedroom, dining table, towels, bedding, and utilities included, proximity to grocery shopping, a convenient parking area, and a cleaner either provided by the property owner or one which we can pay?

She devoured some vegetation while we waited patiently for her next move.

As we peruse various holiday/vacation home websites, we search for the above criteria to discover what ultimately will serve us best. There are numerous websites online, many owned by Expedia, which include: 
1. HomeAway
2. Vacation Home Rentals
3. VRBO
4. Stayz 
There are numerous holiday rental sites online. To search, type in; holiday rentals, and the name of the country you’d like to visit. You’ll find dozens of sites. Please be cautious with smaller sites and with each individual listing. 


Many listings may be scams. It’s imperative to read reviews and if possible, speak to the owner before booking and ask for references. Ask as many leading questions as possible. Proceed with caution if it’s a new listing with no reviews.

Suddenly, she lifted the end of her trunk and scratched her right eye.

Many ask us if we use Airbnb. We do not. We’ve found their payment policy of requiring full payment at the time of booking along with many poor reviews a deterrent. Also, many of their listings are unsuitable for our needs, including “shared,” rental, hostels, and various forms of group housing which doesn’t meet our objectives.


Sites such as booking.com and hotels.com and TripAdvisor.com offer numerous quality listings. Look for guarantees offered by the providers.


Also, keep in mind that property managers, such as our dear friend Louise in Marloth Park, have their own site with several listings as indicated here. In this case, we can confidently provide her link, but again, if the manager is unknown to you, proceed with caution.


What are the risks of encountering a scam holiday home listing?
1. The property address doesn’t exist when you arrive
2. The photos are not as represented in the listing
3. The property belongs to someone other than whom you placed the booking and paid the funds
4. The property is in poor condition, hidden in photos listed


Urgent Note: Do not use a bank transfer of funds coming directly from your bank account unless you know the party personally, or someone who can attest to their integrity and reliability. Verify cancellation policies.

Over a period of several minutes, she reached up, scratching her eye again.

If a credit card is used for payment, you’ll have recourse if you run into difficulties. If you do a direct bank transfer, YOU’LL HAVE NO RECOURSE to recover your funds. 


Most reliable holiday home sites have a money processing app that handles the payment via a credit card. Check online for reviews on these services. For example, we’ll use such sites as PayPal and Google Pay without hesitation. Plus, such sites as HomeAway have their own reliable payment processing feature. But still, in doing so, it could be a scam which some arbitrary company has set it up with fraudulent intentions.

Back at the house, Tom’s favorite, Ms. Bushbuck, and her friend were to his right while my favorite, Ms. Kudu was standing to his left.

Of course, with Covid-19, all of this may be different going forward. As we continue to book locations in the future, we’ll certainly keep you updated on the situations we encounter along the way.

We hope today’s information has provided you with answers to some of your questions. If we’ve missed anything, please don’t hesitate to inquire further.


Have a pleasant day.

_________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, June 12, 2019:

We stopped at the Glinsce pier to check out the boats in Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.

Finally, we booked 32 nights in Buenos Aires…The details for making this cost effective booking transpire…

Pool view at the Prodeo Hotel.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Cows resting in the pasture as seen from the veranda.

Note:  Today, many of our photos are of a smaller size in an attempt to avoid blurring when I borrowed them from various sites.
Whenever we need to book a hotel, we use the link here on our site for Hotels.com.  We receive a tiny commission using our own links (and we hope you will too). 

The commissions we earn are never enough to cover the cost of managing our site but every little bit helps.  If you can, please use our links which have identical pricing and features as if you went directly to the same sites from your choice of browser.  We so much appreciate it!

Lounge at Prodeo Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Whenever a traveler desires a 30-night or more booking, the inquiry from the Hotels.com link on our site will take you directly to “corporate rates.”  If you choose, a representative will contact you by email after you’ve decided on the criteria for such an extended stay.

Within a day or so, you’ll start receiving lists of possible hotels that will accommodate your criteria including pricing, location, and amenities.  We’ve used this feature only on two occasions since in most cases we stay in vacation/holiday homes. 

Staying in hotels for 30 nights or more isn’t our first choice of accommodation.  However, most recently we stayed in the Minnesota at a hotel for 42-nights and will need to do so upcoming from December 23, 2017, to January 23, 2018, and again one more night after the Antarctica cruise on February 8, 2018.

Overlooking tub area in bath.

Finding a hotel that would accommodate both dates, 31-nights in December/January plus the one night in February with one good price would be the ideal scenario.  In doing so, most importantly, we’re able to store our luggage for no additional cost while we’re off on the Antarctica cruise, the entire reason we chose a hotel as opposed to a vacation home.

Sure, we would have preferred a vacation home, able to cook our meals, having more space to maneuver, along with a greater sense of freedom and mobility.  But, this particular instance, not unlike in Minnesota, provided us with features and amenities that make it all worthwhile.

Once we received the list of hotels, all of which included offers for better-than-average-pricing (and there were dozens), we narrowed it down to our top two based on price, location, and amenities, finally deciding on the Prodeo Hotel and Lounge after contacting both hotel managers.

Free breakfast is included in the nightly rate which, after inquiring, it was explained it includes eggs, cheese and meats which works for us when pastries and bread products don’t.

The staff at Hotels.com suggested that once we find hotels we find suitable to contact them directly via a link of the listing to make inquiries for any additional questions we may have.  In our case, we asked the following questions:

Our few questions prior to booking this 31-plus-one-night stay:
  1. Does the complimentary breakfast include any eggs or meats?  I am gluten free and cannot eat pastries or fruit.
  1. Can you store our luggage for 17 nights while we travel to Ushuaia for an Antarctica cruise?  We’ll return on February 8th and stay one additional night.
  1. Do you have free Wi-Fi in the rooms?  We are world travel writers and need to upload a story each day with photos using both mine and my husband’s laptops.  This is very important.  We will be providing free press during our stay during the 32-night period.
  1. Do you have self-service laundry on site or is there a laundromat nearby?
  1. What is the total rate with taxes?  How much is the deposit to hold it?  When is the balance due?
Dining room located in Prodeo Hotel.
Within an hour I received the following answers to my questions:

“Dear Jess,


Thank you very much for your interest in Prodeo Hotel + Lounge.
In order to address your concerns:
1. Our complementary breakfast includes ham, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. We can also provide you with gluten free bread.
2. We can store your luggage in our deposit for free for the time required
3. We offer property wide free wi-fi, thus you will be able to work from your room and from every common space of the hotel
4. Prodeo offers a laundry service for 10 USD per bag. There are also several laundries just at few blocks from the hotel
5. The final rate is US $80, (CRC 46,121) per night. The final price for 32 nights will be US $2,560, (CRC 1,475,878).  Since you are not Argentinian citizens no any other tax or fee will be charged. The deposit is 20% of the total price, while the total balance will be due at the check-in
If you have any other question or concern, please, do not hesitate to contact me.
Best regards
Alessandro
Operations Manager
alessandro@prodeohotels.com

Pool area located in the hotel including an outdoor bar.
Firstly, I was impressed with Alessandro’s mastery of the English language, especially in writing.  Secondly, we were thrilled with his answers, all of which made this particular hotel work for us in every way.  Also, in a later email, based on our long term stay, he included a free shuttle to the airport.
During our multiple email messages over the next few hours, we finalized the 20% deposit.  Doing so required that Alessandro and I speak on the phone (We used our Skype account with a clear connection at around two cents a minute). We never send credit card information via an email (not secure).
We paid the US $512, (CRC 295,176) and received an online receipt and booking confirmation.  We couldn’t have been more thrilled to not only have this task accomplished but to have done so with this great pricing and terms. 
Sure, in Buenos Aires there are hotels priced slightly lower.  However, we were searching for a relatively well-rated property (4 stars), a good location and the above-stated amenities.   It couldn’t be more ideal for us.
A typical room in the hotel.
We don’t consider such an extended stay in this and other hotels as a “vacation/holiday.”  For us, this is a stopping point along the way in our continuing world travels.  The fact that we’ll have an opportunity to explore Buenos Aires; its sights, sound, smells, and tastes, is purely a bonus.

During the 42-night stay in Minneapolis, our goal was to spend time with family, as was the case during the 25-night stay at son Richard’s home in Henderson Nevada.  Sightseeing wasn’t on our radar.

Now, here in Atenas Costa Rica, I’m chomping at the bit to get out but we’ve found the cost of taxi service higher than in some other parts of the world.  For instance, when we stopped at the health food store and MaxiPali for groceries for a total turnaround time of 75 minutes for taxi fare of US $15, (CRC 8648) and discovered the cost to go to Walmart in San Jose (35-minutes each way) at US $35, (CRC 20,178) plus tip, we decided we’ll rent a car every so often.

This way, when we have the rental car, we can do the longer sightseeing trips, go to the dentist and explore on our own.  We’ve scheduled a car for five days for the week of August 21st, Monday through Friday, which will be delivered to our door. 

In the interim, we’ll continue to work on our taxes, financial and business stuff and hopefully, have that out of the way by the time we receive the car.  We’re just like you…at times we have business related tasks that simply take priority over pleasure. 

Instead, we spend our days working on the veranda, reveling in the sights and sounds of Atenas with the roosters crowing, the cows mooing, the birds singing and myriad other sounds we can’t quite determine as yet.  A stop for a bit of sun and pool time is usually on the agenda as well.

The evenings?  Purely delightful!  We enjoy a fabulous meal with a few choice shows to watch on the huge HD TV in the comfortable and spacious screening room, all the while chatting, laughing and treasuring this life we live.

May you treasure your today and always!

________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, August 10, 2016:

This style of Buddhist statue is commonly seen in Thailand which was located in the vacation home we’d rented in Rawai, Phuket Thailand one year ago.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…New destinations and travel arrangement booked!…Exciting planning for the future as we fill in gaps in the itinerary…

Private home overlooking the sea on the drive on the beach road.

When two people start clicking on their laptops simultaneously to research the same thing, it’s a sight to see. When we decide to research a location, we do so simultaneously. 

Tom reads every word and all of the reviews. I breeze through looking for the highlights. Together, it’s a perfect match. That’s not to say that lively conversation doesn’t ensue.

Nor does it say that we may totally agree during the process, although it’s never an argument, only a discussion, among two stubborn and headstrong individuals who ultimately adore one another valuing love and harmony above all else.

Somehow along the way, often over a period of hours, as we banter back and forth, we finally meet in the middle and coalesce to each other’s wants and desires. An agreement is born.

Private pier at the Cousteau Resort.

Exhausted from the process, we sit back, high from the experience, gratified with the result, with a smile on our faces that seems to carry us into the night satisfied over a hard and successful day’s work.

When we began this journey after I’d spent 10 months sitting in a comfy chair in Minnesota four years ago, planning for 12 hours a day, while Tom worked the tail end of his 42-year job, we had no delusions that the “work” aspect of planning our travels would be an ongoing process from which we’d never be able to take a total break.

Sure, we’ll have short stretches of time here and there that require little to no bookings, payments for future rentals, flights, and cruises. It’s during those times, we totally free our minds from the responsibility which oddly, once we start up again, we totally seem to enjoy.

When I owned and ran a business most of my adult life I’d do a budget/business plan for the upcoming year. In anticipation of this time-consuming painstaking task, I suffered angst and worry for days, even dreaming about it. Once I began, I kept at it as a fire in my belly took over until completion. I’d actually end up enjoying the process.

A short area of a sandy beach.
It’s the same here. Although Tom never had to do business plans for his job, he’s wrapped his brain around this process with a passion I admire more than he’ll ever know. He’s better at certain aspects than I am with date recall, map skills, geography, and finances that is astounding. Add my odd jumble of interests and a few skills here and there and we’re a match made in heaven, able to make magic happen once we begin.

So was the case yesterday afternoon. The post was done. It was raining once again. I’d tried sitting outside for 30 minutes of sunshine, but had to come back inside after 10 when the sunny sky turned black and the rains came in buckets as has been the case every day lately. It wasn’t as if we’d planned to spend the day booking future travel.

On the calendar app on my laptop, I had marked November 30th to contact the river cruise rep we’d used at Vacations to Go to book the upcoming cruise to Vietnam in July 2016. With the cruise booked and paid, we needed to know which hotel Viking Cruise Line had booked for the on-land portion of the cruise. We planned to arrive a few days earlier than the cruise booking and didn’t want to have to change hotels.

When we originally booked the cruise, the location of the hotel portion wasn’t “cast in concrete.” Thus, we decided to wait until November 30th, the date they’d have it confirmed. The first order of business, book that hotel!

Typically, roads in this area aren’t paved other than in the village and are narrow, requiring a passing car to move to the shoulder.

Sofitel Legend Metropole” in Hanoi is the cruise line’s choice for its passengers.  See the information below:

“HOTEL METROPOLE HANOI LEGEND

The Hotel Metropole Hanoi is an award-winning French colonial-style hotel lying in the heart of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House. Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail, wood paneling, and a lush courtyard lawn, the hotel is one of the region’s few remaining hotels of its era.

Built in 1901 by two private French investors, the hotel quickly became the rendezvous point for colonial society in the first half of the century. Following Vietnamese independence in the 1950s, the new national government opted to maintain it as the official hotel for visiting VIPs. During and after the war years, it became a base for the press and diplomats.

Ninety years after it had risen so gloriously from the swamps of ancient Hanoi, the Thong Nhat Hotel was closed for the face-lift of the century. Under the first phase, the existing hotel was refurbished over an eighteen-month period and reopened in March 1992, again called Hotel Metropole. The second phase started in 1994 when work commenced on the 135-room Opera Wing, and the four-story Metropole Center office tower above it, both of which opened in late 1996. After the reconstruction of the new Club Rooms, replaced Metropole offices, the third phase will be fully finished end 2008. The Club Metropole Lounge and Imperial Suite, opened in May 2008, introduce an impressive new oasis of charm and luxury at Metropole Hanoi.

The hotel guest list over the past years has included the Presidents of the USA, of France, of Switzerland, the Prince of Monaco, of Denmark, of Sweden, the King of Malaysia, the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, the Prime Ministers from Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, France, Canada, Nigeria, Norway and Vietnam, and important business delegations such as the World Presidents Organization, the Asia Leaders Forum, the 5th Asia-Europe Meeting, the APEC 2006 Leaders Week, as well as famous people like Catherine Deneuve, Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, Stephen Hawking, Oliver Stone, Mick Jagger, Sir Roger Moore amongst others. It also includes a host of corporate heavyweights and to this day the hotel’s bars remain a haunt for international and local journalists wanting to pick up the latest business news.”

Many river cruises include a number of nights in hotels in order to allow the passengers time to tour the cities. This particular cruise will include only 7 nights out of 14 actually staying on the ship, the Viking Mekong, with only a total of only 60 passengers. This will be our first cruise on such a small ship and we look forward to the experience. 

Over the Thanksgiving (USA) holiday weekend, we received several email messages from the link on our site, Hotels.com which we always use when booking various hotel stays. The email messages offered a number of special Cyber sales offered over the holiday weekend.

Many of these rocky sites are ideal for snorkeling.

As planned, we contacted the rep at Vacations to Go explaining we needed an answer back right away in order to take advantage of the pricing. She confirmed the Sofitel Legend Metropole as the cruise line’s selection.  

After each of us checking available rooms, pricing, and dates, we were able to book the three additional nights (two night through the cruise) we’d be on our own at a reasonable USD $180, FJD $385 per night as opposed to the lowest prices we otherwise found at USD $207, FJD $443.

Although the savings weren’t huge, it will pay for one or two meals during our own three-night stay at the hotel while the remaining meals over the two nights paid for by the cruise line are included in the cruise fare.

Another aspect that greatly influences our booking at Hotels.com on our site is the “buy 10 nights, get one free.” Over these past three-plus years we accumulated and used 3 free nights in hotels as a result of this rewards program. After we complete a few upcoming hotel bookings, we’ll have a few more free nights accumulated. 

With this task handled, we continued on for the next few hours, as we booked another exciting location in Asia, one that had never really been on our radar. Big cities, here we come! One can’t travel the world and avoid them. Check back tomorrow for Part 2 with more new bookings.

Four days and counting.
                    
                                           Photo from one year ago today, December 2, 2014:

We took this last photo of the beach outside our condo in Maui the morning we flew to the Big Island. It was on this day’s post, that we included the total expenses for the six weeks we spent on that island. Please click here for the totals.