Day #122 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Seven years ago, a fun recipe…Our bread-free submarine sandwich recipe…

It’s essential to wash the dirt off of lettuce. If it is organic, careful rinsing removes dirt and tiny green worms we found on the organic produce in Italy, where we were at the time of these photos. If it’s not organic, careful, repeated rinsing in cold water may remove some pesticides. Usually, we dry it with a clean white kitchen towel or paper towels, wrap the leftover lettuce in the white towel, and place it in the fridge in the towel, which will keep it fresh for days. For the recipe below, wash and dry eight large romaine lettuce leaves. Usually, the giant leaves are closest to the outside of the bunch.

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Today’s photos are from July 23, 2013, while in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. See the link here for more photos.

Slice fresh tomatoes, purple (or yellow) onions as you prep for making the sandwich.

When I noticed the post from seven years ago today, while living high in the mountains of Tuscany, I couldn’t help but smile when we saw it consisted of the step-by-step instructions for making one of our favorite meals, the bread-free submarine sandwich.

This sliced Emmental cheese or sliced Provolone cheese seems to add the most flavor to the sandwich. Try to avoid using overly processed American or cheddar cheese. There is no yellow/orange cheddar cheese in Italy since they don’t use dye to color it.

With only two or three grams of carbohydrates per sandwich, this is an ideal meal along with low-carb coleslaw or green salad for a fun dinner, almost feeling like a delightful carry-out or a takeaway meal for movie night.

Place the meats on a plate in preparation for assembling the sandwich. This mayonnaise was the best mayo we’d ever used, with no chemicals, few ingredients. 

Seeing the process of making this bread-free sandwich makes our mouths water. Wouldn’t we love one of these for tonight’s dinner, along with a big bowl of fresh, crunchy low-carb coleslaw?

On the days we made the sandwiches, we usually had bacon and eggs for breakfast, made extra bacon for the sandwiches, refrigerated until we assembled the sandwiches.

One may ask, this looks easy enough to make. Why couldn’t we put it together in our hotel room, when we have a small refrigerator? Most likely, we’d have trouble finding the meats, cheeses, and parchment paper online. Then there would be the concern over using undrinkable water to wash the lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Too much trouble at this point.

Parchment paper is readily available at any grocery store. We used it almost every day to cover the bottom of any pan going into the oven (don’t use it on top of the stove) to reduce the cleanup and ease in getting the food, such as pizza, out of the pan. It’s excellent for baking, but one must not use it over 375 degrees, or it may burn. Do not use it when broiling. If you eat potatoes or sweet potatoes, parchment is ideal for making oven fries. Toss pre-cut potatoes with olive oil and salt and place in a preheated oven to (190C), 375F, baking for 30 minutes or until brown, tossing every so often. Best fries ever. For this sandwich recipe, we cut two pieces of about (75 cm) 30 inches each to wrap the ingredients as one would wrap a tortilla.

We haven’t prepared a meal in six months. Also, we have no space to put it all together. It’s simply not practical at this time. We’ll wait until we’re situated in a holiday home somewhere in the world and can make the process fun, as will be the case when we finally have the opportunity to prepare some of our other favorite meals.

To begin making the sandwich, lay two large romaine lettuce leaves, overlapping, end to end, centered in the parchment paper, the long way. Be sure the lettuce is dry to avoid a soggy mess later.

Tom is chomping at the bit for some beef and pork (although we can order bacon), which has not been on my mind quite as much as his. More so, I’ve been thinking about fish, salads, and delicious one-pot dishes we’ve loved over the years. A glass of wine would be nice, too.

Place the turkey or chicken slices atop the lettuce, cover with tomatoes. It’s OK to add more if you’d like.  We prefer this smaller amount.

This recipe isn’t only for those avoiding bread, carbs, or starches. It’s so tasty. It would appeal to any family members or singles who enjoy eating a wrap, in this case, a pseudo-wrap.

Place the cheese atop the tomatoes adding the mayonnaise using the spatula or broad knife.

Also, if one prefers, they can use the simple ingredients inside a jumbo tortilla wrap of any other type of round or oval sandwich wrap. Two critical elements are the bacon, cooked well, and a good quality mayonnaise, slathered on as shown in today’s photos.

Ham slices in Italy are different than deli ham slices in other countries, more fatty with no nitrates, but less flavorful than ham slices in the US. One can add or delete any items in this sandwich. But, the most essential things for maximum flavor are bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise. Sliced roast beef also works well when available. We would have purchased roast beef in Italy but, it was INR 3139, US $42 a pound, so we were content with the ham and sliced chicken.

A few of our readers wrote last time we posted this recipe was, “Can these “subway sandwiches” be made in advance, and will they keep overnight?”

Layer the cooked bacon and onion slices.

As with any sandwich, they aren’t as great the next day. But, if you leave out the tomato and lettuce, they’ll keep for three days. Unfortunately, the sandwich will have to be fully unwrapped to add the tomato and lettuce a few days later, but wrapping the parchment paper is easy if wrapped tightly. Unwrap, add the tomatoes and lettuce, and then re-wrap the parchment using the same parchment paper.

After layering all the ingredients, lay two more dry pieces of the romaine lettuce atop, matching up the length of the sandwich to avoid a lot of overlap on the ends.

Is the parchment paper a must? Can you use waxed paper or tin foil? Preferably not since the waxed paper doesn’t hold it together, and tin foil is OK only if used to additionally wrap a parchment-wrapped sandwich for added insulation.

Please fold the paper over the sandwich on edge closest to you, beginning to roll it tightly. Re-wrap it if it’s not tight enough. After a few times, you’ll get the hang of it.

As mentioned in the previous post on this date in 2013, we started making these after visiting a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop before we left the US and were delighted to eat their version of the bread-free sandwich, the “Unwich.” 

Tuck one end over as if you were gift-wrapping a package.

If you live near a Jimmy John’s store, you can avoid the fuss and buy from them. But, our version is much heartier, more filling, and tastier than the fast-food version. 

While in the US, we purchased the meats from Costco since they sell gluten-free, sugar-free, and nitrate-free meats. Surprisingly, we’ve had no trouble finding such meats in other parts of the world. 

Continue to roll it tightly, tucking in both ends, leaving one end loose for unwrapping it as it is eaten. Using a few well-placed wide rubber bands helps those who may have difficulty pulling the paper down neatly.

If sliced, good-quality deli meats aren’t available in your area, you can use leftover thinly sliced roast beef, chicken breast, and lean ham, removing all fat from the edges of the slices. 

The only countries we haven’t been able to get bacon have been those that don’t sell pork due to religious beliefs. We didn’t make these sandwiches in those countries since bacon is such a vital ingredient for the superb flavor.

The final product, tightly wrapped, ready to chill, and enjoy with a side salad.

Here’s the list of ingredients (for two to three sandwiches):

Jess & Tom’s Unwich Sandwiches
One large ripe tomato, sliced medium thickness
One large purple onion, thinly sliced 
8-12 large washed and thoroughly dried romaine lettuce leaves
Four slices Provolone cheese (or other preferred sliced cheese)
6 ounces sliced deli ham
6 ounces sliced deli turkey or chicken
6 ounces sliced roast beef or other preferred sliced meat
Six slices of cooked bacon
Mayonnaise (Tom doesn’t like mayo but in this sandwich, he does. Give it a try or use another sandwich spread you prefer).
Parchment paper, cut into two 30′ long pieces.

If two sandwiches are made from this list of ingredients, they will be huge. I often eat half of one for dinner and the second half the next day, not minding the somewhat soggy tomato and lettuce.

For us, we prepare sufficiently sized meals to last three dinners, enabling us to cook less often. In those cases, we triple these ingredients and make up a fresh sandwich each evening. We place all the meats in a Tupperware-type container with a lid, and they easily keep for three days.

We can’t wait to prepare our meals again!


Photo from one year ago today, July 23, 2019:

Cattle along the driveway from our house in Connemara, Ireland, could have been a mom, dad, and calves. For more photos, please click here.

Day #120 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Confusing India visa extension…

We stopped along a beach to enjoy the views in Madeira, Portugal.

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Today’s photos are from July 21, 2014, while in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal. See the link here for more photos.

I don’t know where to begin. It’s all so confusing. I wrote to India’s visa department, explicitly asking the following question in an email:

We are US citizens that arrived in India on January 31, 2020, for a two-month tour of the country.

Close up of flower at the beach.
Since lockdown started, we’ve been in a hotel in Mumbai near the airport, observing all safety requirements.
Our India visa stamp states November 19, 2020. Does this date apply to us, or will our visas expire on July 28, 2020, 180 days after entry?
Do we apply now for an extension, or do we wait until the international airport fully opens?
Most beaches are rocky in Madeira. Wooden planks are provided for sunbathers to avoid sitting on the rocks. On many beaches, these thatched umbrellas are also provided. 
We will not be returning to the US and will fly to some other country once the international flights are fully open and…when a country will accept us with US passports with recent time spent in India.”
Several hours later, I received the following form response, exactly as written:
“Hello Dear,
Thank you for your email. All foreign visitors can extend their visas through the FRRO/FRO services website / Mobile app. It is an entirely online process, and you don’t need to visit FRRO/FRO office unless you get a call from FRRO/FRO for some specific reason. For more information, please see here
Many roads along the cliffs were wet from water running down the mountains.
None of this answered our specific questions, leaving us totally in the dark. This morning after 9:00 am, I called no less than five phone numbers indicated on their site, none of which had an answer or voice mail message.
Suppose we apply for an extension, a complicated and time-consuming process, including attaching numerous documents. In that case, it’s only suitable for 30 days to fly by in a flash, and still, international flights won’t be available. Will we have to continue with the laborious process every 30 days until we finally leave?
From what we could determine, this small one-lane rock tunnel was ancient.
Fortunately, there are no fees to file based on COVID-19. There are no specific references on any of their sites as to how to handle this situation. This morning, after the phoning efforts, we both started the process when even the registration process to file was a confusing and cumbersome operation.
We kept receiving messages that the process didn’t accept the one-time OPT (one-time password) we received by email, nor did it take the “captcha” letters and numbers we tried to enter, doing it carefully each time. 
A bridge over a ravine.
Finally, I was registered, but Tom’s registration seemed impossible. With years of online experience, usually, a process like this would be a piece of cake. Oh, not now. We’ll try again later after I complete my application after uploading this post.
In the middle of all this, I had to do my walking, which I’ve beefed up further to 8500 steps a day. Also, I had to go downstairs to pay our bill, which we do every 11 days since we cannot book the hotel for more than 11 days at a time. We tried booking for 14, 21, 25, 28 days, etc., to no avail. 
A fast-running small creek in the ravine.
Thus, we have to go downstairs every 11 days to pay the bill (and for meals), which is annoying when there may be more germs in the elevators and down there. I scrubbed everything, including myself, upon return. Thank goodness I’ve already taken care of this today.
Amid all of this, I kept thinking that my mind would be more at ease if I uploaded today’s post. As a result, I am rushing through with this visa thing on my mind.
A fountain in the center of a round-about.
Yes, even in lockdown with few obligations, we can still get caught up in the responsibilities of daily life. And yes, we feel frustrated and annoyed at times due to such responsibilities, especially when we run into difficulties, as has transpired today.
May your day be safe and uncomplicated!

Photo from one year ago today, July 21, 2019:

Clouds reflecting on a body of water in Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.

Day #119 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…More dreadful travel news…

We handed off the camera to a kind gentleman to take this blurry photo in the square when we were invited to a party in Boveglio.

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Today’s photos are from July 20, 2013, while in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. See the link here for more photos.

As of yet, the prospects for the future aren’t looking good for us leaving India anytime soon. With India now in the #3 spot in the world with South Africa, having moved into the #5 spot, with the most cases of COVID-19, our hopes to travel from Mumbai to Marloth Park are rapidly declining.

The interior of the “theatre” in the square, our mouths were agape as we viewed each photo with our new friends encouraging us along, telling stories mainly in Italian, so proud to share their history with us. It was a night we’ll never forget.

Once the international flights open in Mumbai, we’ll have 30 days to fly out of India based on our visa and current restrictions. I wrote to the immigration department asking for more details impacting us if no country will accept us. What will we be able to do based on India’s visa requirements? 

Will we be able to get a visa extension beyond the 30-day mandate from the time international flights resume? Their offices are closed, but they are accepting email inquiries. Hopefully, we’ll receive a response soon.

Many of us have old photos such as these of our relatives, deceased and living, bringing us a warm sense of our roots and family history.

Our visa stamp indicates we’re allowed to stay until November 19, 2020, but in tiny print below, it states no foreigners may last longer than 180 days in a single stay. By July 28, we’ll have been in India for 180 days.

In the interim, we’ll continue to follow online updates on their visa website. This is a bit unclear and confusing at this point, and we’re hoping for further clarification by email.

None of the photos were dated, but the clothing may indicate the early 1900’s.

As for South Africa, we doubt they’ll allow US citizens to enter the country well into 2021. Subsequently, we have to put our hopes to return to Marloth Park on hold for an extended period.

Now, as we continue to stay updated on flights and borders opening up, we may have to consider some options that are not as desirable as we’d like. Will shopping in local markets be safe in more crowded populations in many countries? Also, will we stay in another hotel somewhere or rent a holiday home?

Based on the clothing, this wedding procession appears it could have been in the 1950s on a now-paved road in the neighborhood.

Europe is out of the question when US citizens aren’t allowed to enter. Some Caribbean islands with low numbers of the virus accept US citizens, which we may consider when flights open out of India. A few countries in Africa will accept us at this point.
Still, the uncertainty remains, which above all, is the most challenging aspect of this unusual situation. As planners, not knowing what is next is frustrating and can easily monopolize our thoughts.

This is the unpaved road closest to the street near the church that leads to Bar Ferrari. We walked up this road while in Boveglio.

In the worst-case, we can always return to the US for some time, but our realities still cloud this possibility: 1. Too many cases of the virus and the necessities of stops at many airports required to get anywhere we may be willing to wait it out and, 2. Our insurance only pays outside the USA, not while we’re visiting the US, a risky scenario in light of the risk of COVID-19 and the added exposure in the US. 

If we convert to Medicare, we’re stuck paying at least INR 89912, US $1200 a month for life for both of us for Medicare Part B and necessary supplements, which is irreversible once instituted. 

There was no road to our 300-year-old vacation home beside the walking path for residents and animals in this photo. 

If we continue our world travels, this Medicare will do us little good outside the US). Right now, we’re paying about INR 31844, US $425 a month (for both of us) with excellent coverage and low co-pays, anywhere in the world except the US.

What a dilemma! In the interim, we strive to remain optimistic as we stick to our comforting routines to maintain our health and our sanity.

Stay healthy. Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, July 20, 2019:

Note the different sizes of her horns as seen in Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.

Day #118 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Recalling beautiful artwork in Madeira, Portugal in 2014…

It’s hard to believe this is needlepoint. This piece was hanging above the sofa, taking up a huge portion of the wall.  Gina’s mama is quite skilled, although no longer able to do this work. 

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 shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from July 19, 2018, while in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal. See the link here for more photos.
A smaller sidewall held this stunning piece.
While in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal, in 2014, we were faced with the reality of living in a highly cultural neighborhood where few spoke English, not even our landlord, the lovely Gina, with whom we’re still in touch on Facebook today.
Gina spoke a few English words and continues to learn more as the years have passed to facilitate the needs of her customers from all over the world who are (were before COVID) renting her beautiful properties on the magical island off the coast of Africa. 
This piece was huge, filling a substantial wall space.  
Portuguese is the language spoken in Madeira, which in many ways is similar to Spanish and Italian. We could decipher most written words, menus, and road signs, but speaking and understanding the spoken language was another issue.
Somehow, during the 2½ months, we spent on the island, we got along quite well. No doubt, we missed engaging in general conversations with others, but we had many cruises ahead of us where we’d have an opportunity to socialize.
We can only imagine the effort that went into the preparation for the design and colors.
Gina included us in many local activities and aspects of cultural life on the island. We were blessed with a plethora of delightful experiences, which may be found in our archives in the second half of May, all of June, and July 2014.
One of the many memorable experiences Gina shared with us was a tour of her and her husband Carlo’s home that Carlo had built. The extended family is in the home building business and combined. They have several holiday homes.
The detail in the art is breathtaking.
We noticed the amazing needlework on the walls that Gina’s mother had crafted over 60 years during the tour. Today’s photos include some of those exquisite works of art we so enjoyed during the time, prompting us to take pictures which we share again today.
As for the moment, I just spent the past 90 minutes on the phone with my sister Julie and niece Kely who have spent 11 days in Nevada attending to my sister Susan’s end-of-life affairs. 
Typically, we’ve seen patterns such as this in needlepoint.
They shared the details with me to ensure I felt a part of the process. The time is near, but one never knows how long a beloved family member may linger while in hospice care. At this point, she has no quality of life, and indeed, when she’s ready, she’ll let go. 
As much as we try to prepare ourselves when a loved one’s time is near, there is no way to avoid the sorrow when the time comes. During these times of COVID-19, it becomes all the more sorrowful when unable to be at the side of our loved ones.
Be safe. Be well.
Photo from one year ago today, July 19, 2019:
Don’t be fooled by this tiny building. It’s a powerhouse of flavor in Carna, Connemara, Ireland.  This tiny building offers outstanding fresh-caught seafood, fish, and chips, the finest takeaway in Connemara or perhaps even in Ireland. And many other items. For more, please click here.

Day #117 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…See below for photo of last night’s dinner…

By the time I walked down the steep steps to the produce truck, it was surrounded by no less than ten residents, anxious to buy their weekly supply of fruits and veggies.
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 shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 
Today’s photos are from July 18, 2018, while in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. See the link here for more details.
Recently, we’ve been including past photos from the three months we spent in the summer of 2013 in a small village, high in the mountains of Tuscany, Italy. It seems so long ago, yet the memories of Boveglio remain fresh in our minds as if it was yesterday.
It was early on in our travels when we arrived in Italy, only eight months after we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012, the date we consider as when we first began our travels. 
A misconception about our travel dates may revolve around the fact that we didn’t leave the US until January 3, 2013, when we embarked on our first cruise from San Diego, California, to Miami, Florida, during which our ship transited through the Panama Canal, sailed to the Caribbean and disembarked in Miami, Florida.
It felt awkward taking photos, so I did so discretely. I was the only tourist in the bunch as I heard the locals chatting endlessly in Italian. I did my usual smiling and head nodding, hiding my camera under my shirt.
From there, we stayed with friend Carol for three nights in Boca Raton, Florida, while awaiting our next cruise. From there, we sailed on another cruise disembarking in Belize. We rented a property on a peninsula, Placencia, far from the chaotic capital of Belize, City.
In April, we sailed on a few more cruises, including a transatlantic cruise, a Meditteranean cruise, another cruise through the Suez Canal and the Middle East, a two-week stay in Dubai, later flying to Barcelona, from which we cruised to Venice. Once in Venice, we toured along the canals and exquisite city, eventually traveling to Boveglio, a 4½ hour drive, until we reached the 300-year-old stone house we’d rented for three months.
The GPS on our phones wasn’t working while high in the mountains of Tuscany, but somehow we managed to find the property, hauling our then excess amount of luggage up steep stone steps to the property.
Once situated in our third holiday home outside the US (Belize, Dubai, and Italy) at that time, we had an opportunity to relax and enjoy our time in the gorgeous setting in a pristine historic village.
More fruit than vegetables, I was unable to replenish our supply of cauliflower but purchased other vegetables.
Of course, we had to make significant adaptations, as we’d done in Belize and Dubai. It was summer and very hot with no air-con or fans, not even in the bedroom. Nor were no screens on the windows. At night, sleeping was intermittent, with mosquitoes buzzing around our heads.
During the day, we were bombarded by giant flies, sometimes horseflies, and other flying insects when we had to leave the windows open for airflow. While preparing meals and dining in the typical Italian kitchen, which we loved, the flies were relentless.
At one point, we asked the owners for suggestions. They came with cheesecloth and a staple gun to fashion some form of screens, but the makeshift screens flew out the windows on the first windy day. We didn’t bother them again. We swatted the flies and mosquitoes.
As typical in a 300-year-old stone house, the beams and door frames were shallow. Frequently, in the beginning, we both banged our heads several times a day. We eventually learned to keep our heads down when we moved from room to room.
Here’s what I purchased today for a total of Euro $4.09, US $5.33. Prices were better at the grocery store, but the freshness and convenience made it worth paying more.
The access to the veranda to hang laundry required a dangerous climb from the indoor stone stairway to an opening halfway up the stairs. We proceeded with caution when we often went out to the veranda to pick the fresh vegetables the owners had planted for us in various pots. We cautioned each time and thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and spices.
The most challenging issue was that no one in the area, including our landlords, spoke any English. For three months, we dined in restaurants, shopped at the local markets, and somehow communicated with the neighbors, the landlords, the cleaner, and the pharmacist, learning a few words as we went along.
The WiFi signal was so bad that we could only get an adequate signal to prepare our posts and conduct research for future travels near an open window or on the tiny veranda accessed through one of the bedrooms. 
We couldn’t watch the old-style tiny TV when everything was in Italian, nor could we download and stream movies or TV series with the weak signal. Fortunately, previously, we’d downloaded lots of books on our phones and spent most evenings reading while we swatted the persistent mozzies off our screens.
Hesitantly, I handed the vendor a single bill for Euro $50 (US $65.10), concerned she’d refuse the larger bill. No problemo! She had a fanny pack filled with money!
Amid all of this, we wouldn’t trade the experience of those three months for anything in the world. It was there in Tuscany, Italy, in the tiny village of Boveglio, that we learned how vital adaptation would be as we continued on our world travels.
No, it wouldn’t always be easy, and most often, in one way or another, it wasn’t. Perhaps, as we sit here today on day 117 in lockdown in a standard hotel room in Mumbai, India, unable to go outdoors, have a cocktail, eat a variety of meals, socialize, wash our clothes in a washer, hear birds singing, pick a flower from a garden or see any of Mother Nature’s wonders, we’re somehow managing just fine. 
Was the past almost eight years of adaptation instrumental in making this experience tolerable? Most likely, yes. We’re grateful for what we’ve learned and the gift of tolerance we’ve gleaned in the process.
Tom describes my chicken curry (on a bed of steamed cabbage) as looking like cat puke. I dismiss his observation and thoroughly have enjoyed this spicy, delicious meal.
Hopefully, in time we’ll be able to continue. Be well. 
Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2019:
A wedding gown of the era, shown in a room at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.
Day #116 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Messages from readers make our days special!…Negative comments from readers?…

Day #116 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Messages from readers make our days special!…Negative comments from readers?…

Check out how many kudus we had in the garden on this date in 2018!

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 shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from July 17, 2018, while in Marloth Park, South Africa. See the link here for more details.

Today’s post is, by no means, intended to “toot our own horn.” Instead, it’s about the kindness of people, of our readers, so many of whom have taken the time to write to us to provide support and encouragement.

That morning’s 17 kudus in the garden. See the above video for details.

I don’t often share the actual email messages we receive, but somehow the following message that arrived in my inbox yesterday (who’s name and email I’ve excluded, protecting her privacy) left us reeling with appreciation.

How well this reader understands our love for Marloth Park and the reasons we can’t wait to return someday when COVID-19 settles down. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to meet this couple in Marloth Park sometime in the future?

Wildebeest Willie and friends stopped by another night.

In her message, as shown below, she writes,” Thank you for the encouragement you bring to my life.” Our response is, “Thank you for the encouragement you bring to our lives.” Ironic.

Although not all are shown in this photo, we had six bushbucks in the garden at one time for the first time.

Here’s her message received in yesterday’s email:                                                                                                   
“Good morning Jessica

I have been following you for quite a while and today feel prompted to make contact.
I am so in awe of how well you are coping!!
My husband and I have lived in Cape Town all our lives and retired to Knysna for ten lovely years.

We decided to put stuff into storage a few years ago and explore South Africa after selling our home. It has been wonderful, and we discovered Marloth in our travels!! We spent several months there last year.

Giraffes came through the parklands next to us. On foot, we rushed to see them up close to take photos. But, dad wasn’t too happy with us with his young calf nearby.  We carefully backed away.
It truly is just the most amazing place. We found a passion which we share.
We had to come to Cape Town due to health reasons in Dec last year… with every intention of returning there. BUT by the time things got sorted, we went into lockdown, and we were stuck in Cape Town.
We are staying in a lovely home with all we could need but are just longing to get back to Marloth!!
Some days I feel so frustrated at the limits on our lives..especially socially and the boredom of every day, and then I read one of your posts and realize how blessed we are. Thank you for the encouragement you bring to my life.
Keep well. God bless you both.
Hope to meet you one day in Marloth.”
We knew better than to get too close.

Wow! This message couldn’t have meant more to us. I will write back to her today, asking her and her husband to read today’s post, so they see how much their message meant to us.

It was nearly dark when they visited.

In the future, especially during this quiet time of COVID-19 lockdown, we will be posting more comments we receive from our readers. We welcome any of you to write as well.

You may ask, do we receive negative comments? Much to our surprise and delight, we do not. It’s a rarity for a “hater” to write to us. I suppose if haters don’t like us or our site, they certainly have the option not to read the posts. 

A young zebra in the garden of a house on the river road.

We are working hard at staying positive under these difficult circumstances, and engaging in heated discussions is not conducive to our mental wellbeing at this time. Neither of us finds such discussions uplifting in any manner, especially when there is nothing we can say to change their minds or ours.

This must have been the above baby’s mom resting nearby.

On another note, I tried a different dinner option in the past few days after speaking with the head chef. He now prepares a delicious, spicy chicken curry for me, made without starch (potatoes, peas, etc.), sugar, or flour, and it is such a welcome change. 

Tom says the curry looks like cat puke, but it doesn’t bother me. I have no idea what cat puke tastes like, but this version of curry sure tastes good to me. Tonight, I will take a photo and share it tomorrow.

We spotted two rangers on the road with rifles. We assumed it had something to do with poachers.

“They” are saying if everyone wore a face mask, socially distanced, and washed their hands, in two months, the virus could be over. Let’s all strive for this goal! Please pass this post on to others, and hopefully, they will get on board with those of us making this commitment!

Be well.

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

The view across Lough Pollaacapull is seen from the castle’s veranda at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.
Day #115 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Is the “head in the sand” premise the best response during these times?…

Day #115 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Is the “head in the sand” premise the best response during these times?…

These are the locked iron gates closing off easy access to the church across from our 300-year-old stone villa in Boveglio, Italy, 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 shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from July 16, 2014, while in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. See the link here for more details.
This separate detached building on the church grounds may have been the original church based on the inscription near the entryway.

We shake our heads in wonder as to why we’re holding up so well emotionally. Is it a concerted daily effort, or is it a by-product of our long-term goal of attempting to remain upbeat since the onset of our travels, during even the toughest of times?

A part of the entrance to the larger church.

For me, being in lockdown in this hotel room in India is a piece of cake compared to having emergency open-heart surgery in February 2019 and the horrific long recovery with complications. 

This gate was locked, preventing us from getting inside the church.

So what if we can’t go outside. So what if we mostly eat the same meals over and over again. So what if we hand wash all of our clothing which, on occasion, smells moldy when dry due to the air-con in the room and how long they take to dry. So what if we have no social interactions outside of this room. So what if we don’t have the freedom to live in a more appealing environment.

You are overlooking the iron railing around the cemetery.

Are our “heads in the sand” in denial of what may prove to be a year-long-hotel-room-confinement in Mumbai, India? We stayed in a self-imposed lockdown for a few weeks, even before the official lockdown began in India on March 24th, the day we moved into this hotel.

Another view of the cemetery from the iron railing. A gate was also locked to the main entrance, but we could enter through an unlocked side gate.

In total, we’ve been in lockdown since March 12th, the day we discovered our planned upcoming cruise scheduled for April 3rd, from Mumbai to Greenwich, UK, was canceled when we chose to end our 55-day private tour of India with three more weeks remaining until completion. This results in a total of 137 days since we’ve been confined. So what?

These steps were much steeper than they appear here, more so than many of the steps on the walk to Bar Ferrari in our neighborhood. We found an unlocked gate allowing us to enter at the bottom of these steps.

Maybe we do have our heads in the sand. So what? It’s helping us get through. But, most of all, the fact that we are safe and unlikely to contract COVID-19 makes this confinement all the more tolerable.

These were the first gravesites we spotted as we entered the cemetery.

Sure, it would be great to be able to have a glass of wine or cocktail now and then. Sure, it would be great to have social interactions, shop at a grocery store, cook a meal, use a washing machine, hang up clothes on an outdoor clothesline, or feed visiting wildlife at the edge of a veranda. Sure, it would all be nice.

Tom, obsessed, was fascinated with the stories revealed by the many headstones, names, dates, and photos.

Hopefully, someday in the future, all of this will transpire. But, at the growing rate of infection in many countries that we’d consider visiting, we patiently remain in a state of limbo, not with our heads-in-the-sand, but instead, a safe state of acceptance and reverence for this awful disease that we avoid at all costs.

Some of the headstones were quite impressive, both old and new.

There’s no easy answer. We walk with vigor. We talk with vigor. We laugh with vigor, especially on those mornings when Tom asks as he did today, “What’s on the agenda for today?”

We don’t have to clean, make the bed, do dishes, or sweep the floor! We get to go for a walk several times! And, I answer, “Guess what? We get to “order room service twice!” We get to “go to the movies!”

But, most of all, one more time, we get to write to all of you!

Photo from one year ago today, July 16, 2019:

This is the over-the-top Kylemore Abbey, a former home, castle and grounds of a wealthy family in the 1800s. We visited this site, taking photos, while in Connemara, Ireland, one year ago. Please click here for more photos.

Our hotel is full!…Realities of the current worldwide situation impacts our lives…

This was the first bridge we drove across to arrive in the center of the town of Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany.

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 shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from June 25, 2013 (Yesterday, in error, I posted June 26, 2013 photos, so today, I am posting the 25th) while in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. See the link here for more details.
When I headed downstairs to reception to pick up a package from Amazon India (a new battery-operated toothbrush after mine died, even after trying several new sets of batteries), I asked the staff how many rooms were occupied in the hotel.
As we approached Bagni di Lucca, the view was not the same town as Lucca itself, which we also visited a short time later.

Much to our shock, they stated their rooms were filled with workers soon departing to resume work on the oil platforms out at sea. With 334 rooms, this was astounding. Once they leave in a few days, I’ll ask again as to how many of us remain. 

Will it still be a small group of 10 or 20 guests since the onset of the lockdown began in March? We’ll report here soon.

Notice the “no honking” sign. 

It’s no wonder it’s taken almost an hour for us to receive our room service dinners in the past few days, although breakfasts have been arriving in the typical 30 minutes from when we’ve placed the call.

We don’t see any of these other guests. They, too, are locked away on different floors as we have been on the fourth floor for the past three-plus months. It’s a rarity to see any of the guests on this floor when they, too, are staying in place in their respective rooms.

The vegetation was so thick as we drove along the Lima River while entering Bagni di Lucca. This was the best shot we could get until we arrived closer to the town.

Today, we made our online booking for the hotel from July 1 to August 2, 2020. But, we have no delusions of getting out of here by that date. Based on information coming down the pike from countries worldwide, no US passport holders will be allowed into the majority of countries.

Today, a notice came to my phone that Europe won’t allow US citizens to enter any time in the future, which may prove to be well into 2021. 

The last portion of the road as we began the descent into Bagni di Lucca.

As we review options for other parts of the world and potential upcoming flights out of India, we won’t be allowed to enter the majority of the countries on the borders-opening list. How long we’ve been in India is irrelevant since Indians are also on the refusal lists.

Tom, at the park by the river. One of our readers commented that his white tennis shoes are a dead ringer for a tourist. Apparently, Europeans wear darker colored shoes. Although, we’re not ashamed to be tourists, spending money and savoring every moment in the current country in our journey.

At this point, we have no interest, or are we welcomed to travel anywhere in such locations as Asia, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and, as we’ve mentioned many times in the past, in returning to the US.

The street was so narrow it only allowed for one-way traffic at a time at the upcoming “T.” As a result, we sat at this light for no less than 7 minutes.

At this point, we’ve begun to know people in the US with the virus when fe didn’t personally know of a single case. for so long. We pray for their recovery and future well being. 

The footbridge leads to historical points of interest behind me, where we wandered around.

With over 2.5 million cases in the US, it’s pointless for us to return any time shortly. We still await information for a variety of island nations that may eventually accept us and, of course, various countries in Africa, hoping someday to be allowed to enter South Africa.

Many of these buildings appear newer, although less attractive from the exterior. But many of them are hundreds of years old, built to last with the simple exterior design, common at different times.

National news consists of conflicting information on which countries will allow US citizens to enter. Each day, we conduct new research to see what our options may be down the road. 

Building a park around a historical structure is common from what we’ve seen of the world thus far. Hard to read signs prevented us from determining the origin of this structure.

However disappointing for us, the reality remains that even when India’s borders open for incoming and outgoing international flights, where we will be allowed to enter, it may still be in question. There are dozens of possibilities we watch daily to see when US citizens will be allowed to enter.

Historic ruins along the banks of the river remain a part of the properties (circa the 1900s) built over the centuries.

Also, we have to consider the risk of spending hours in airports and on airplanes. Perhaps, ultimately, we may have to stay here for many months to come to reduce those risks.

Danita Delimont Bridge was built in the 1700s. Walking across we were impressed by its strength and stability. 

In the interim, we are fine. Tom is now walking the corridors and doing the stairs, and I continue to walk the corridors ten times a day. Although repetitious and boring, we’re eating fresh, healthy food, sleeping well, and our spirits are as good as can be expected, obviously impacted by family members’ health and well-being.

Outdoor cafes never cease to delight us, a novelty from whence we came in bitter cold Minnesota.

We hope all of our readers continue to exercise safety procedures to remain healthy as the world begins to open up many shops, restaurants, and businesses.
Take nothing for granted.

Photo from one year ago today, June 26, 2019:

This is a stream in Oughterard Shrubbery near Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.

Mumbai is no longer COVID-19 #1 hotspot…Dehli is the new hotspot…Vaccination?…

This hill in the neighborhood in Boveglio, Tuscany, was much steeper in person than it appears here.

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 shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from June 26, 2013 (I am one day off here due to an error) while in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. See the link here for more details.

With the numbers of cases of COVID-19 rapidly escalating daily, it doesn’t look hopeful for international flights commencing soon.

It appeared that this house might be occupied, one of few dilapidated entrances in the area.

This news story came out only a few hours ago from this site:

“Over 16,000 COVID-19 Cases In 24 Hours For 1st Time; 4.73 Lakh (473,000) 

Total CasesNew Delhi: 
India recorded its most significant surge in coronavirus cases in 24 hours for a second consecutive day with 16,922 new patients, taking the total to 4.73 lakh cases (473,000), the Union Health Ministry said this morning.This is the first time that more than 16,000 new infections have been reported in a single day. The government on Wednesday said a single-day high of 15,968 new conditions.
Lisa and Luca, property owners in Boveglio, presented us with this basket of cherries from the tree growing in the garden after they’d seen us admiring the tree. Lisa, speaking no English and us, no Italian, it was impossible to explain my restrictive diet that forbids any fruit sugars. Tom, fortunately, ate a few each day, while I’ve merely enjoyed their beauty. We thanked them profusely, impressed by the thoughtfulness they had shown each day since we’d arrived.  For more information on Lisa and Luca and their properties, visit their Facebook page:
Of the total cases, 2,71,697 patients have recovered; 14,894 have died so far. In the last 24 hours, 418 deaths linked to the highly infectious illness were registered. The recovery rate stood at 57.42 percent this morning.”
With these numbers, it’s doubtful India will open its borders anytime soon. I also anticipate the lockdown stages will be raised to the initial higher and more restrictive levels soon. 
Many individual houses are attached, a common occurrence we’ve observed in some regions of the world, such as Dubrovnik and Mykonos.

The lockdown has had little benefit with this level of increasing daily cases hitting an already economically devastated health system. It’s easy to see why the cases are increasing in India and other parts of the world. People are not strictly adhering to guidelines instituted by local and federal governments in many parts of the world.

India is not unique in its increasing cases. Yesterday, in the US, statistics indicate there were 38,383 new cases, the majority of which were in California, Texas, Florida. See these stats for the US here.
Rushing by this flowering plant to avoid the hovering bees, I caught a whiff of pure heaven.
For stats for other countries throughout the world, including India, please click here. India is still in the #4 position in the world statistics with the US #1, Brazil #2, Russia #3. 
As previously mentioned, these stats could easily be lower than the actual numbers when equal numbers or more aren’t being recorded. How many stricken cases aren’t going to doctors and hospitals? More than we can imagine.
No cars fit between these narrow pathways to the houses. It’s no wonder that the Italian people appeared slim and fit.  The parking area, as for us, is a bit of a hike from the house. Add the hills to the walk, and it becomes pretty a workout regularly.
Some of our readers may ask, “Why do we keep posting these dreadful numbers?” We certainly don’t do so to terrify our readers. For us, these stats are vital regarding our current situation in lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India, after over three months.
Secondly, many of our readers are travelers, and for those considering future travel, these stats, although low from reality, can be used as a guide to determine where and when they may consider traveling in the future.
More blooming flowers.  In a few days, the many lavender bushes in our garden begin to bloom. I’d wished we could have done online “scratch and sniff” for the sweet smells in Tuscany.
Of course, once international flights commence in India, we’ll be reviewing these stats for countries we may consider traveling to. What point would there be in leaving this hotel in lockdown for another hotel in lockdown in another city? 
We’d just as soon stay put here until it’s safe to leave and to commence a somewhat average quality of life in another country, staying in a fully equipped holiday home and being able to be outdoors providing we observe social distancing, wear masks, and exercise proper hand washing, and crowd avoidance.
Ah, a flat stretch where I can catch my breath.
At this point, we realize cruising is out of the question for some time to come. We have no cruises booked until November 2021, 17 months from now. Also, cruising was all about transportation from one part of the world to another and for socialization which may be entirely different on cruises in the future. 
We can’t imagine table sharing and socializing in small groups will be possible on cruises. How will everyone stand in line to leave the ship at various ports of call? The group gatherings and activities, and shows will no longer be possible.
What will be the point of cruising? We’ll have to wait and see what transpires.
We’d have added a couple of chaise lounges to this veranda we spotted, but then again, we didn’t see any Italians sunning.
When and if a vaccine is discovered, I imagine being vaccinated may be a requirement for international travel. As much as many oppose a vaccine, it may be a reality we travelers will have to abide by. 
After all, before we traveled to Africa in 2013, it was required by several countries we visited that we had proof of yellow fever vaccination to enter. The requirements for this have lightened up in many parts of the world over the past several years, with fewer cases of that virus as indicated here:
This was the steepest hill in the area.
“Yellow fever is common in sub-Saharan Africa (where it is endemic), countries in South America, and a few other parts of the world. Many countries that do not require yellow fever vaccination for entry do require proof of the yellow fever vaccine if coming from an infected region.”
Most likely, this will be the case (but even more stringent) in years to come, possibly as soon as 2021, when most likely a vaccine for COVID-19 will become available. 
Maintaining sure footing on this walk was more important than the exercise factor.  The stone walkways were rugged and uneven, inspiring me to keep my eyes down as much as possible.
If a vaccine is required for us to continue to travel, we will get it. We don’t want to allow this virus to prevent our future travels any more than it has already. Our goal is to continue, with or without cruising, with or without the opportunity to visit public venues for sightseeing purposes, or with or without 14-day quarantine requirements.
We shall see.

Photo from one year ago today, June 25, 2019:

As in most areas of Ireland, there is a tremendous number of rocky regions, streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. For more photos, please click here.

Earthquakes and aftershocks in Italy…Heartbreaking loss of life…Our own earthquake memories from the mountains in Italy…

BBC news photo of earthquake rubble as rescuers search for victims of this week’s 6.2 earthquake. See details below.

Some of our readers may assume we’re so far away from civilization at times that we don’t hear what’s happening in other parts of the world. Without a TV in many locations, we’re still easily aware of world news from online announcements we receive and when reading online news and watching videos each day.

In most cases, we’re aware of news as readily as those in the more populated regions of the world with news available 24/7. The Internet also provided live video news feeds and broadcasts from around the world. Many who only watch news on TV may have never utilized online news. 

It’s as detailed and up-to-date as any broadcast news, keeping us well informed. However, local news feeds here in Phuket are behind some of the international reporting services throughout the world, as we’ve seen with the recent bombings.

The 300-year-old building we lived in during three months in Boveglio is near the clock tower in the top right in this photo. Certainly, none of these homes were earthquake proofed.

We were shocked and saddened to hear of the earthquakes in Italy that occurred on Wednesday (Thursday here) reported again this morning on BBC news, a source we often use:

“The 6.2-magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Wednesday, 100km (65 miles) northeast of Rome in mountainous central Italy.

The worst affected towns – Amatrice, Arquata, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto – are usually sparsely populated, but have been swelled by tourists visiting in summer, making estimates for the precise number missing difficult.

More than 200 people died in Amatrice alone, Ansa news agency reported.”

View from the living room window of other historic homes where we lived in Boveglio, Italy in the summer of 2013 where, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake without significant damage.

For today’s ongoing story of the earthquakes and aftershocks in Italy, including photos and videos, please click here.

We send our heartfelt sympathy and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors and tourists for those who lost their lives, for the rescue and healing of those injured and, for those hundreds, if not thousands of citizens who lost their homes, their livelihood and their sense of history and heritage as many historic buildings crumbled to the ground. 

Also, we pray for safety for the many rescuers who risk their own lives in the process. Many have traveled from around the globe to assist local rescue services.

In summer of 2013, we lived in a very similar village in Italy, in Boveglio, high in the mountains of Tuscany in a 300 year old stone house as shown in a few of today’s photos.

A short walk in the neighborhood where every building was old and most likely not earthquake proof.

Only four days after we arrived in Boveglio, Italy, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake in the region described as follows on our site with seismology statistics we’d discovered at the time Please click here for details.

For our story of the experience, please click here for our post of June 21, 2013.  For Tom, it was the first time he’d felt an earthquake described in that post:

Halfway through writing our blog today, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake as we sat on the veranda.  Having grown up in southern California, this was a familiar sensation for me, although  it was Tom’s first experience.  We reminded ourselves as we ran for cover, that we are in an over 300-year-old stone house, most likely the safest place to be. Wow! The adventures never cease to amaze us!”

Little did we realize at the time that the 300-year-old building didn’t provide us with a safe place to be during an earthquake described in the above BBC news story. Apparently, many of the historic buildings provided no safety for the residents and tourists of the above listed villages devastated in this week’s 6.2 quake. 

Apparently, many are angry and frustrated that building codes didn’t require “earthquake proofing” of the old buildings. Sadly, for many of the owners, had such requirements been imposed by regulatory agencies, they’d have been unable to afford the costly upgrades.

It was required, we walk up this steep set of stone steps to gain access to the living quarters of the 300 year old stone house in which we lived for three months.  To hang laundry we had to maneuver these steps to the ledge shown on the left to get on the veranda, a very tricky and dangerous proposition.  Can you imagine trying to escape during an earthquake?  Most likely, many of those trapped under the rubble were faced with similar scenarios.

This is sad news. Should one wonder if further investigation isn’t necessary when staying for long periods in historic buildings or in living in high risk areas where crime is rampant or with a high risk of many types of natural disasters?

Good grief, we could go nuts trying to avoid what appears to be transpiring throughout the world. No place on the planet is exempt from some sort of risk or another. Undoubtedly, risks may be higher in certain areas which we attempt to avoid. But many seemingly safe regions present their own versions of risk.

We can only continue to book venues and locations considering many aspects of safety. Honestly, other than avoiding high risk areas of civil and political unrest, we continue researching our next leg of our itinerary. 

At this point, booked through March 18, 2018, we’ve decided to wait to add onto our itinerary until we arrive in Tasmania in December, 2016.  While there for three months, we’ll have a good WiFi signal and be able to concentrate on the future. It is during this research period that we’ll have an opportunity to study a variety of risks for each new location.

From the road below in the mountainous area, we took this photo of neighboring houses.

As an aside: As we prepare today’s post, for the sake of our Minnesota readers, Tom is listening to Garage Logic on KSTP 1500 radio, broadcasting from the Minnesota State Fair which opened yesterday. Over the remaining five days in Phuket with a good WiFi signal, we’ll be listening to the two-hour show (which is on live weekdays only, but can be listened to at any time via saved podcasts on the website) including another few hours of Sports Talk.

For our readers who aren’t able to attend their local, state fairs, most states and counties broadcast information and stories on similar radio shows that can be found online and listened to via a podcast. If you need help finding such a broadcast for your state fair, please write to us and we’ll try to help you find the link.

Enjoy the day and be well.

Photo from one year ago today, August 25, 2015:

We were shocked to see the reasonable price on this exquisite flower arrangement at only AUD 20, USD $14.20 at the farmers market in Cairns, Australia.  For more photos, please click here.