Day #280 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Visa extensions done!…12 days and counting…

 

Tom’s burger in a restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, with ham, eggs, cheese, and beef plus, fried potatoes.

Today’s photos are from this date, December 30, 2017, while staying in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina over the holidays in a boutique hotel, awaiting our upcoming cruise to Antarctica, sailing on January 24, 2018. For more on the post, please click here.

It was only three years ago, we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Tom’s birthday, December 23, 2017, to begin the one-month wait to fly to Ushuaia, Argentina to board our upcoming 18-day cruise on Ponant’s Le Boreal. We’d booked that particular cruise after searching for weeks to find a cruise meeting our major criteria; being able to disembark the ship while in Antarctica to board the 10-person Zodiac boats to fully embrace the true Antarctica experience, up close and personal.

This is where we dined one night, San Serrano Deli & Drinks.

The cost was outrageous for our budget, over US $36,000, INR 2,637,995 but as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, we felt it was worth it. We paid it off over many months, so by the time we sailed, it was paid in full and the only other expenses were those on our cabin bill. WiFi, all meals, drinks, and tours were included in the cruise fare, resulting in few expenses subsequent to sailing.

However, that one-month in the tiny boutique hotel in Buenos Aires presented some challenges of its own, none of which we couldn’t handle with ease. An included continental breakfast consisting of boiled eggs, deli meats, cheese, fruit, pastries, coffee, and tea got us through the day. With no restaurant in the hotel, each evening, we headed out on foot to find yet another spot for dinner.

Guest started filtering in when it was hot outdoors, although many patrons dined at tables near the busy street.

Due to the fact we prefer to dine by 7:00 pm, our restaurant choices were limited to a degree. Many restaurants didn’t open until 9:00 pm or later. We prefer not to dine so late, especially as early risers having the small breakfast to hold us through the day since we prefer not to eat lunch, resulting in way too much food. With our low carb/keto way of eating, we’re never hungry until the early evening.

That month in the hotel was challenging in some ways, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s. Most restaurants were closed on Christmas Eve and day and also on New Year’s Day. We diligently searched for dinner options for us for those three evenings, but there were none. We weren’t willing to walk the streets at night in the dark which didn’t seem safe or sensible.

We stretched our necks to read this menu on the wall. After a while, a server brought us menus.

Subsequently, we ended up purchasing a wide array of deli meats, canned tuna, and a variety of cheeses to eat at the little table and chairs in the Jacuzzi area in our hotel room. In the end, it all worked out well. We enjoyed a few drinks at the hotel bar (no food available) as we laughed over the irony. We were the only guests in the hotel at Christmas!

We made it through the holidays, looking forward to the upcoming cruise, often laughing over our peculiar situation. That was one long month. But, it was nothing compared to the 10 months we’ll have spent in this hotel. At least there, we were able to go out each day and evening to explore the interesting area, often walking for many miles.

You couldn’t pay me to eat this grilled chicken salad with grilled tomatoes. I need some beef!

As for today, we’re settled down, hoping our new flight will continue to stay in place as it has in the past 48 hours. With only 12 days until we depart, now on January 11th, we’re getting all of “our ducks in a row.” The hotel manager has booked a different lab for our Covid-19 tests on January 10th when the company we’d booked didn’t respond to email inquiries or answer their phone. I sent an email canceling the first company and feel comfortable that the second company booked by the hotel will suit our needs.

Yesterday, after uploading our hurried post, we began the painstaking process of filing for an extension of our now-expired  Indian visas. Whew! What a cumbersome process! The website stated it would take approximately 14 days for approval. Our applications were posted on the 13th day.

Sullivan’s Irish Pub, on a corner in the neighborhood.

If by the time we’re ready to leave, we don’t have the extensions, we’ll have the hotel print the documents and email verification that we did in fact apply. Hopefully, the immigration department at the airport will accept those records at the airport as we depart.

What are our odds of actually being able to leave for South Africa? At this point, it feels as if 50% is fair speculation. We have made a decision that we will not stay in India if we are turned away at the airport. We’ll find another flight to some other country while at the airport and head out. Since everything changes day by day, at this point, we can’t commit as to where this will be.

One of many historic buildings we’d see each time we headed down Gorriti road.

Today, I will start going through luggage to see how I can lighten the load. Tom doesn’t usually care to pack his bag until a day or two before we depart. That’s fine with me.

May you have a good day as we all wind down this dreadful year. Be well.

Photo from one year ago on December 30, 2019:

Painting on the wall outside a sushi restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina on this date in 2017. For the year-ago post, please click here

 

 

 

Day #278 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…15 days and counting…

We’d been warned against purchasing locally caught fish in Fiji when it was often caught close to the shore where bacteria is heavy in the waters from sewage disposal.  As a result, we never purchased any fish during the past four months. I was looking forward to cooking fish once we arrived in New Zealand, our next stop in our journey.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2015 while staying in Pacific Harbour, on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji when visiting the local farmer’s market. For more details on this post, please click here.

It almost feels like yesterday, when we spent the holidays in Fiji five years ago, living on two islands; four months on the smaller island of Vanua Levu and one month on the main island of Viti Levu. In each case, we had exceptional experiences, even during the holiday season.

Dried leaves used for weaving rugs and other items.

Having little opportunity to interact with others, on either island when tourists quickly came and went, every aspect of our experiences was on our own with one or two exceptions; Sewak, a neighbor in Savusavu, and a lovely newlywed couple while in Pacific Harbour with whom we dined out before they left to return to the US.

A particular delight in Fiji was the friendly nature of the local shopkeepers, household helpers, and people we encountered along the way. Some property owners and managers of holiday homes, we’ve rented have made a concerted effort to socialize with us while others are kind and friendly but standoffish to a degree.

Pineapple is a commonly grown fruit in Fiji, often available for the taking in many areas. At the farmer’s market, they mostly sell to visitors, not as many locals.

I suppose it was no different when either of us owned and managed rental properties in our old lives. We maintained a level of aloofness in the event something went wrong and as the owner/manager, we’d have to remain “professional” in the event of any potential issues. We get this.

Of course, those that made the effort, have since become lifelong friends such as Louise and Danie in South Africa. The fact they’ll manage our holiday rental is relevant, as we totally respect and honor the integrity of the business-side of our relationship. The rest is pure friendship and fluff.

Pineapple leaves stripped from the pineapples are used for weaving and decorations.

Louise and Danie will be the first people we’ll see when we arrive and the last people we see when we depart with many more times in between for pure socialization and fun. We can’t wait to see them and all of our other many special friends in Marloth Park, providing all goes well in 15 days.

And now? How is it going? We’re doing OK, relatively cheerful, entrenched in our usual routines, and anticipating beginning to go through our luggage in order to lighten the load when it will soon be time to pack. I am totally prepared to once again, “say goodbye” to many of my clothing items in order to accomplish this daunting task.

Rows upon rows of pineapples for sale for one third the cost as in Hawaii.

Fortunately, unloading a number of clothing items will be easy when many of them were purchased a year ago in Arizona when I was 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, heavier. I won’t be saving any of those in the event of a future weight gain, which I’ve promised myself won’t happen again. With strict luggage weight restrictions, we can’t afford such a scenario as keeping clothing we don’t wear.

While in this hotel, I’ve washed and worn the same two pairs of black stretchy pants that still fit and three shirts that are very baggy. During this entire almost 10 months I haven’t worn a bra (TMI) and dread having to do so going forward. It’s still uncomfortable on my chest from the open heart surgery and may remain so indefinitely.

The look on this kid’s face is priceless as he checks out the big slices of locally grown watermelon at the farmer’s market in Suva. Hope his dad made a purchase.

But, on travel day, I’ll need to bite the bullet to be “appropriately dressed” in public. The only notice anyone took of me while walking in the corridors was as this masked “mean” woman telling everyone to put a mask on, or cover their nose with their mask. I still don’t get why people don’t cover their nose!

That’s it for today, folks. We hope you have a pleasant day as we wind down this dreadful year toward the New Year.

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

With no new photos, one year ago we posted this photo on this date in 2013 giving a perspective of the small size of this island, somehow appealing to her for its varied vegetation. For the story posted, one year ago, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #270 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Replay of fabulous food photos from cruise…

This window box display was a part of the “Favorites” choice on the menu at Qsine on the Celebrity Infinity in 2017.

Today’s photos are from our post on this date in 2017 while sailing on the Celebrity Infinity along the coast of South America, and dining in the fantastic specialty restaurant, Qsine. For more photos not shown here today, please click here.

Sharing these food photos for the second time, under our current situation, is certainly going to be a mouth-watering experience. To think in less than a month, we’ll be preparing and dining our own meals, one of the many highlights of getting out of here.

Tom dined on one of these “Lava Crab” dishes which I avoided due to the flour content. He described it as outstanding.

As we are reminded of the exceptional dinner we had on that cruise in 2017 and how much fun specialty restaurants are on cruises, we wonder when we’ll ever be able to cruise again. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine may be influential in re-starting cruises in some countries, but many poor countries won’t offer such a luxury.

If any of the cruise lines with whom we have five booked cruises into 2022, requires evidence of a vaccine, we may be out of luck. Africa will be one of the last continents to have access to the vaccine. We’ll see how that rolls out in time. If we were to fly to another continent at some point to receive the vaccine, we’d have to stay three weeks for the second dose.

Tom was holding his menu tablet while deciding what to order at the Qsine specialty restaurant while at sea on Celebrity Infinity. There were nine Celebrity ships offering this exceptional dining experience.

Perhaps in time, they’ll come up with a single dose vaccine that will make it easier for those in similar situations to ours. If we decide to continue on our world travels for considerably longer, we’ll have no choice but to return to the US to receive the vaccine. Maybe we can do so next time we visit family, which we’ll do once the virus settles down in the US.

From this report, updated daily, the USA has 23% of the world’s cases and 19% of the deaths. Considering that statistics are being recorded in 220 countries and territories, this is an outrageous number. As we’ve mentioned many times in past posts, returning to the US at any time in the near future is entirely out of the question.

From the “Sushi ” choice were these “lollipops.” Although we didn’t order this option, we loved this gorgeous presentation.

As for today’s photos, our topic returns to food. Yesterday, while I was working on the errors in past posts, of which I’m only one-third of the way through the over 3000 posts, I encountered comments I’d made about a reader commenting that they were sick and tired of my food comments and recipes. Hum, isn’t traveling in part about dining in one way or another?

When most of us travel, one of the first things on the agenda is checking out the local cuisine, booking reservations from highly rated TripAdvisor reviews, visiting local food trucks, cafes, and diners, and also the possibility of the safety of eating street food? How many of us while dining out during a holiday/vacation has entered a grocery store to check out the cultural differences in food, pricing, and at times, to purchase snacks, liquor, or treats?

Many items from the “Soup & Souffle” menu were served “tapas” style, small servings such as these two souffle chefs Chantal prepared for me.

That’s a big part of the enjoyment of traveling. And even me, with my limited options due to my way of eating, it’s still quite enjoyable to dine out, purchase groceries, and to prepare our own meals while living in holiday homes. Oh, well, that was only one reader and I’m sure by now, they no longer read our posts at all, especially after our boring content over the past nine months.

If they thought “food” was boring, how about our frequent comments, whining, and observations about living under these most peculiar circumstances? As our long-term and new readers know, we strive to “tell it like it is” and not pander to those who may prefer a more “fluffy version” of our lives.

The “Taco Royale” presentation could easily have been a full meal for me with its make-your-own guacamole and beef taco salad.

Sure, this meal we’re sharing today in photos, looks stupendous, and we’d love to be able to savor such a meal now. But, we can’t. Instead, we focus on the fact that soon enough, we’ll be preparing big juicy rare/medium-rare steaks on the braai with a cocktail or glass of wine in hand, sweating up a storm on the veranda, batting off the flies and mozzies, and smiling from ear to ear. Hopefully, in a little over 25 days, when we depart India for South Africa.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 18, 2019:

From this site: “The famous fountain in Fountain Hills, Arizona: Built-in 1970 by Robert McCulloch the fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world! The fountain sprays water for 15 minutes every hour at the top of the hour. The fountain uses 7,000 gallons per minute and at its full height, it can reach 560 feet in the air. The plume rises from a concrete water-lily sculpture in the center of a man-made lake. At its full height of 560 feet, the fountain in the center of Fountain Hills is higher than the Washington Monument. It is 10 feet taller than Notre Dame Cathedral, 110 feet higher than the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt and three times as high as Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. The white plume of the world-famous fountain is visible far beyond Fountain Hills. It can be seen from as far away as the Superstition Mountains, Carefree and even from aircraft. The fountain is the focal point for community celebrations and the pride of its residents. If you happen to visit during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, you’ll see the fountain transform to emerald green. The Fountain is extended to its full height on special occasions, for every day viewing the Fountain reaches a height of 330 feet! The World Famous Fountain runs every hour on the hour for 15 minutes from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. every day of the week! This fountain is a celebration of life and water where it is most appreciated – in the middle of the desert.” For more from the year-ago post, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Day #260 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…The time can’t come soon enough…

 

We were with friends Lisa and Barry, enjoying one last night together on the ship in a private sitting in the wine room.

Today’s photos are from a South American cruise in 2017, again with friends Lisa and Barry, as we shared an exquisite evening dining in the “wine room” as their guests. For more on the post, please click here. The food and wine were “over the top.”

No doubt, we have a little apprehension about traveling for almost two days when we depart India on January 12th. At this point, we have no idea how comprehensive the precautions will be at the Mumbai airport in the middle of the night, the four-hour layover in Dubai, the airport, hotel, and taxi in Johannesburg, and the fight on the smaller plane for the arrival in Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger airport, eventually picking up the rental car, for the hour-long drive to Marloth Park.

The wine room was filled with rows and rows of exceptional wines.

We can only hope and pray we arrive in Marloth Park on the 13th without having contracted Covid-19. It’s a little scary. With the first two flights on Emirates Airlines, we’ve read they have been taking extra precautions, but we still have to deal with everything in between.

On our own, we’ll be taking several precautions, wearing masks, face shields, rubber gloves, and using hand sanitizer. We may decide we won’t eat on the flights to avoid touching the trays. We’ll change our gloves frequently. Also, we don’t plan to drink many, if any, liquids during the flight to avoid using the bathroom. I’m sure over the next few weeks, we’ll come up with more precautions as we continue to research.

That night, Tom was having a great time, dining in the private “wine room” in the Tuscan Grill with Lisa and Barry.

As for the time between now and January 12th? Hum… challenging. This morning there was a note slipped under our door notifying us of a big party at the hotel tonight and to be prepared for noise until midnight. Also, with the party imminent, our entire floor appears to be totally booked.

While walking this morning we encountered no less than a dozen guests, half wearing face masks and the others, not. In each case, as soon as I could see a guest without a mask, I stopped dead in my tracks to stare at them. If they don’t put on a mask or return to their room to do so, I shout out, every single time, “Please put on a face mask!” Most comply. If they don’t, I turn around and head the other way.

An antipasto board was served to each couple.

At times, I’ve returned to our room when a dozen guests or more are waiting for the lifts, half or more of whom aren’t wearing masks and are yelling and talking loudly. No way will either of us get close to such individuals or groups. Often, guests are leaving their rooms to visit a guest in another room. Even, in those cases, I tell them to put on a mask.

At this point, I don’t care what people “think” of this crazy woman walking the corridors all day, telling people to wear masks. The hotel has told each and every guest that masks must be worn when outside their rooms. When we report a lack of compliance to the managers, they also are frustrated and don’t know what more they can do when they’ve explained the mandatory mask policy to every guest at check-in, including providing them with a printed notice of COVID-19 precautions and requirements.

One of the great wines we enjoyed last night.

We wonder if, after a party like tonight, the staff will become infected when guests refuse to wear masks at parties, weddings, and celebrations. At this point, we no longer go downstairs to pay the bill. We ask them to bring the bill and portable credit card machine to us.

We wear a mask and gloves when processing the bill outside our room door, don’t touch anything but the printed copy, and our credit card, along with two new plastic room keys which we sanitize after we’re done. When food is brought to our room twice a day, we don’t allow the server to enter the room. Tom handles the one tray and stainless steel covered plates of food. We wash our hands again after touching the steel covers and tray.

Tom’s minestrone soup.

This morning, somehow the kitchen forgot to bring our breakfast order. An hour and a half later, they called and asked why we hadn’t ordered. We had. Finally, 90 minutes later our breakfast arrived. We don’t know how this happened, other than the fact that so many guests are here and dining in the dining room and the staff was busy.

The room next door to us has a phone’s notification vibration occurring every 10 to 15 minutes. Hopefully, by tonight the guest(s) will be considerate enough to turn off the notifications on their phones. At least 25 times after 11:00 pm, we’ve had to call the front desk asking them to tell the guest to turn off the notifications. It wakes us up each time it goes off. The walls are paper-thin. Right now, after 1:00 pm, we can hear people yelling in the corridors. I hesitate to go out for my next scheduled walk. Oh, dear.

My filet mignon, cooked rare, was exceptional.

Thanks for listening to me whine again. The time can’t come soon enough. I keep reminding myself, day after day, how much time is left, which as of today is 36 days. I can’t wait for a big steak, a glass of dry red wine, a big bag of pellets, and the blissful companionship of our human and animal friends.

Tom’s ribeye steak was also cooked to perfection.

 

Tom’s dessert of homemade doughnuts, cherries, and vanilla ice cream.

We hope all of you are holding up well amid the ongoing madness of COVID-19. When will it all end?

Photo from one year ago today, December 8, 2019:

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

 

 

 

 

Day #248 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Happy Thanksgiving to family, friends and readers in the US….

Thanksgiving Images (2020): Download Free Pictures

No photos from a previous post are included today, other than the “year-ago” photo below.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American family, friends, and readers who are celebrating this special day of thanks. For our non-American readers/friends, here’s what Thanksgiving is all about:

From this site: Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia, and the sub-national entities LeidenNorfolk Island, and the inhabited territories of the United States. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Similarly named festival holidays to occur in Germany and Japan. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and Brazil, and around the same part of the year in other places. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.

Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times. The Thanksgiving holiday’s history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurs well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated.

In the English tradition, days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services became important during the English Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII and in reaction to a large number of religious holidays on the Catholic calendar. Before 1536 there were 95 Church holidays, plus 52 Sundays when people were required to attend church and forego work and sometimes pay for expensive celebrations. The 1536 reforms reduced the number of Church holidays to 27, but some Puritans wished to completely eliminate all Church holidays, including Christmas and Easter. The holidays were to be replaced by specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving, in response to events that the Puritans viewed as acts of special providence. Unexpected disasters or threats of judgment from on high called for Days of Fasting. Special blessings, viewed as coming from God, called for Days of Thanksgiving. For example, Days of Fasting were called on account of drought in 1611, floods in 1613, and plagues in 1604 and 1622. Days of Thanksgiving were called following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 and following the deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705. An unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and developed into Guy Fawkes Day on November 5.”

In our old lives, this holiday had always been the second most important holiday we celebrated each year, with Christmas being the first. The days of loved ones gathered around our big table are long gone. But, we’ll never forget the love, warmth and good food on this special holiday.

I’d cook for days, making enough pumpkin pies and “leftovers” for each couple or attendee to return home with at least one enough food for another meal and a full pie as a reminder of our Thanksgiving celebration.

But, today, with COVID-19 rampant throughout the US and the world, this year’s holidays will be very different. With tremendous controversy over how many should attend a private home celebration, with restaurants closed and many observing COVID-19 precautions or not, this is a difficult time for all.

In touching base with our family and friends, we feel comfortable everyone will be practicing safe standards in their homes and outside their homes. Nothing would be sadder than to discover more family members who have contracted the virus during the holiday season or, at any time in the future. We pray for our family members and friends as well as for yours, to come through the holiday season unscathed.

And for us? Many have inquired as to what we’ll do today, which is already midday Thursday, November 26th in India. Not to sound as if we are feeling sorry for ourselves, we are doing nothing. Turkey is not served here. No special foods are being prepared and if they were, I doubt many would be befitting my way of eating.

I must diligently continue with my recent reduction in carbs to nearly zero each day, which has allowed several major health improvements over the past month. Thus, if a special dinner was offered, I would only eat the turkey. Plus, Indian cooks wouldn’t be familiar with preparing the typical American dishes, even if we chose to eat such a meal.

Tom is still working on reducing the weight he gained in the first several months of lockdown and continues to eat only one meal a day, a big breakfast which holds him through the day. So, a special meal, unless we’d been able to prepare it ourselves, means little to us at this point.

Instead, we’ll focus on what we are thankful for on this day, as we often do during this challenging time in a hotel room.

We are thankful for:

  • The safety and health of our loved ones and for us, while we maintain the status quo in this confinement now, eight months in the making.
  • Being together to provide love, comfort, and entertainment for each other, every single day.
  • Our health during this lockdown. We were concerned if one of us became ill and had to seek medical care outside the hotel, with COVID-19 raging in Mumbai, it would have been an awful scenario.
  • Ways in which to entertain ourselves with streaming shows, with good WiFi and thanks to a VPN (a virtual private network) that allows us to use Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Being able to mentally escape from the current reality has been exceedingly important during this extended period.
  • Financially, being able to afford to live in this nice hotel for the past 248 days.
  • That this hotel has stayed open during numerous lockdowns.
  • Due to Amazon India, we are able to purchase any supplies we need. Without this, we’d have no choice but to head outdoors where there are massive crowds in the streets.
  • Reordering my few prescriptions. The front desk will call and order any refills for medications we may need and it is delivered within 24 hours, without a prescription.
  • Posting each day and all the amazing concern and support of our family/friends/readers. Thank you all!
  • Laughter, our saving grace…

Please have a safe and meaningful Thanksgiving for those who celebrate and may each and every one of our readers experience love and thankfulness on this day and always, wherever you may be.

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

With no new photos posted one year ago, here is a photo we posted from a walk on the beach at the Indian Ocean in Kenya in 2013. For more, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #246 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Ten reasons to avoid test cruises…

 

Tom’s hair was blowing with his back to the wind at Sails Restaurant in Diani Beach, Kenya. The cool ocean breeze was heavenly.

Today’s photos are from dining out at our favorite restaurant, during the final few days we spent in Diani Beach, Kenya in 2013. For more details, please here.

Each day when I walk the corridors, I listen to podcasts on various topics. Recently, on a mission to further improve my health I listened to podcasts from Dr, Ken Berry, Dr. Ali Nadir (cardiologist), Dr. Shawn Baker, Dr. Jason Fung, and Dr. Paul Saladino, and more, all of whom advocate a very low/zero carb way of eating, which with their advice, I’ve been able to lower my blood sugar and blood pressure dramatically as described in this post from a few days ago.

I equally enjoyed the cool ocean breeze at Sails. It was so hot that night, we were sweating. 

When I need a break from health podcasts, I often listen to travel-related podcasts relevant to today’s COVID-19 situation in hopes of learning something useful for our future travels. By accident, I came across Tony’s podcast site, La Lido Loca, and was fascinated to listen to his take on why it makes little sense to accept such an invitation. To listen to Tony’s excellent podcast on this topic, please click here.

Here are his 10 reasons why not to embark on a free test cruise:

  1. A cruise line is required to have the “free” passenger sign a document accepting the potential risks of participating. In other words, if you get the virus during or after the test cruise you will not have legal recourse against the cruise line.
  2. There is an expectation that test cruise passengers must have a doctor’s letter confirming they don’t have any pre-existing comorbidities that may result in severe cases of COVID-19 or even death.
  3. You will be virus tested at the port upon embarkation, upon disembarkation, and possibly many more times during the cruise.
  4. This is not normal cruising with all the fluff and activities cruisers may be used to. Passengers will be directed to activities during the cruise and subject to the guidelines and requirements that reduce the risks of becoming infected.
  5. Restrictive port experiences unlike those typically offered by the cruise line. You will not be able to wander on your own if any ports of call are visited, nor will you be able to choose a multitude of experiences.
    Tom’s crab au gratin was as delicious as usual.
  6. What happens if you or others get the virus, either in reality or in a simulation, which may require even those without the virus to lockdown in their cabin? Cabin selection is up to the cruise line. One may end up in an inside cabin when normally they book a balcony cabin. If there is a lockdown during a simulation, this could result in days in a windowless cabin when you aren’t even sick.
  7. Disruptive cruise – You may be in the middle of enjoying a meal or a drink or an activity, required to stop immediately for health checks and other protocols.
  8. A cruise may be cut short if too many passengers become infected with COVID-19. This could happen after paying round-trip airfares to reach the cruise embarkation point, at your own expense, only to have the cruise cut short after 24 to 48 hours when passengers are reported to have contracted the virus resulting in the cruise ending early.
  9. Waiting around – For test results, for new procedures, for activities, and a variety of protocols which are entirely unfamiliar, passengers may spend hours each day, waiting for the next activity or event.
  10. Very strict adherence to the CDC’s virus protocols; masking, social distancing, hand washing, and more. The usual socialization most cruisers enjoy will be obliterated.
    My dinner at Sails was too heavy on the oil, very different from the first time I’d ordered this entrée.

Are you still interested? Probably, not. If so, contact your favorite cruise line and see if options are available for you to participate. Most cruise lines contacted their authorized cruise resellers with invitations to participate. It will be interesting to see how these cruises roll out.

We’ll be watching for those results and will report back here for details.

As for us cruising in the future, hum, we’ll see what happens. Our next booked cruise is scheduled for November 30, 2021. We’ll see if that actually transpires and if we decide it’s safe to go if it does.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, November 24, 2019:

Drool-worthy! Tom’s Reuben sandwich with jumbo onion rings when out for bingo at a restaurant with friends Karen and Rich, one year ago. Click here for Tom’s win.

 

Day #240 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…2018 Thanksgiving menu and photos…

Thanksgiving dinner on the veranda with friends.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2018 while living in the bush in Marloth Park and celebrating Thanksgiving at our holiday home. See our menu below and photos of some of the dishes. For more, please click here.

When we decided to host the US holiday, Thanksgiving, on this date in 2018, we insisted that none of the guests bring food, instead only bringing their favorite wine or beverages which is typical in South Africa when visiting friends. Our big table was set for the 12 of us, on the veranda overlooking the garden with hopefully visiting wildlife, .

From left to right around the table: Kathy, Janet, Steve, Don, Louise, Danie, Leon, Dawn, Uschi, Evan while Tom and I shared the end of the table.  Total in attendance: 12.

Here is the menu from that day:

Menu

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Bush

Sundowners with Light Snacks

Roasted chickens

Stuffing with Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions

Mashed Potatoes with Creamy Gravy

Buttery Mashed Cauliflower

Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Pineapple and Cinnamon

Broccoli Salad with Crunchy Almonds and Sultanas

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onion Rings

Cranberry Sauce

Homemade dinner rolls

Pumpkin Pies

Whipped Cream Topping, if desired

It was outrageously hot as high as 40C, 104F on the previous day when I was attempting to make eight pumpkin pies. The heat and humidity were so high, I had the worst time ever in my life rolling the dough for the crusts, a task I usually accomplished with ease.

On the right, Evan, Uschi, Dawn, and Leon.

The end result was tasty pumpkin pies, but they weren’t as pretty as I would have liked. In our usual manner, we sent every couple home with their own pumpkin pie, serving the extra pie we’d made for that meal’s dessert. For the dinner, since turkeys of any size aren’t available in South Africa, we included one stuffed chicken per couple.

Dawn and Leon brought styrofoam, to-go containers from their wonderful restaurant, Jabula Lodge & Restaurant enabling us each couple to take home their leftover chicken and portions of the accompanying traditional side dishes, some of which are shown in the photos.

Each couple got their own roast stuffed chicken. We were having such fun, I left these three chickens in the oven a little too long, burning the bottom of the pan but the chickens were moist and delicious. We’d make three extra chickens, just in case, and kept these for us.

In our old lives, we’d always done this on Thanksgiving, sending family and friends home with a whole pie and leftovers, knowing part of the fun of this particular holiday includes savoring the traditional leftovers. Of course, that night we saved a container for ourselves, which we enjoyed over the next few dinners, as well.

Besides the food, the company was some of our closest friends in Marloth Park, all of whom we hope to see again when we return sometime in the future,  When that day will come is still a total mystery to us as we continue to read and watch news reports daily.

On the left, a pan of extra stuffing, in the center, sweet potatoes (they are light-colored in South Africa, not orange).

With Diwali winding down, the noisy group next door to our room, keeping us awake until 5:00 am with their loud voices and drawer banging, has finally checked out. Yesterday, while heading out on our walk, we were appalled to see their hotel room door open to one of the biggest messes we’ve ever seen in a hotel room. There was trash everywhere.

We felt bad for the housekeeper who had to clean up that mess, but as always, the kind worker went about her work with a smile on her face, as is common among the staff here. Well, I couldn’t exactly see the smile on her face with her mask on, but I could tell she was smiling from the crinkle around her eyes.

Low carb mashed cauliflower.

Isn’t that something? With those of us wearing face masks, it’s hard to tell who is smiling and who is frowning. But, it’s better to wear a mask than to be able to see the expression on a person’s face during these challenging times.

In any case, Thanksgiving will be celebrated on November 26th this year. The actual date of Thanksgiving may change from year to year, but it’s always on the last Thursday in November, resulting in a four-day weekend for many workers. It was during that weekend in our old lives, that I always decorated the house for Christmas, spending the full remaining three days getting it accomplished.

Traditional green bean casserole. Kathy brought the fried onions back from the US! Thanks, Kathy!

Those days are long gone. Oh well, this year, Thanksgiving, will be chicken, of course here in India. As always, but there will be no celebrations, no pie for Tom, no cooking, and no gathering of family and friends. From what we’re seeing on the news, this may be the case for many Americans this year, due to COVID-19 and its government-mandated limitations on numbers allowed to gather to celebrate.

Today? The usual. The usual. And, more of the usual!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 18, 2019:

One year ago, this 5-year-old photo was posted on this date. Tom got a kick out of this old Ford “woody” that was on display at the Maui Tropical Plantation. For more of the story, one year ago, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Day #224 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Hesitating to mention, a frustrating situation…

I love this look on Tom’s face as he’s learning how to handle the python. Like an infant, the python’s head must be held up to avoid injuring it.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya during Tom’s first of two, snake-handling experiences. See the link here.

The purpose of today’s post is not to complain (well, maybe a little) as much as it is intended to alert those who may have dietary restrictions of varying types and can never be too careful. We haven’t been able to get it right after 224 days.

This African Chameleon, variety unknown, is winking her/his left eye for the photo! Neither of us hesitated to handle this non-poisonous creature. Check out the funny little mouth!

During these 224 days and nights, we’ve been ordering breakfast and dinner for that many days. They still don’t have it right! I’d also like to preface this post with this: the staff at this hotel are very kind, with the best intentions. Regardless of how frustrated we may become and how graciously or less graciously we express ourselves to them, there is a language barrier that will supersede today’s frustrated comments.

Although, I have been very clear and specific with the restaurant manager, chefs, and cook, as to what I can eat to maintain my health which is as follows:

  1. No sugar, starches, or grains
  2. No vegetable oils, no olive oil, only butter
  3. No fruit or fruit juices
  4. No rice, no beans, no lentils, no flour, no fillers, no potatoes, no bread

To further simplify this, I remind them of this:

“I can eat any animal products, fish or chicken, butter, cheese, eggs, salt, and mustard”

We were both at ease handling this harmless reptile, fascinated with its pre-historic appeal. 

Lately, I stopped eating vegetables when I was trying to figure out why my stomach hurt all the time, which continued after I left out the vegetables a few weeks ago. Also, at times, some restaurants, from what we’ve discovered in our travels, cook their vegetables in the same pot of boiling water as the pasta they cook throughout the day. I’m just not going to risk eating vegetables and will avoid them for the remainder of our time here. I am extremely gluten intolerant.

My restrictions are posted in the kitchen for all cooks and staff to clearly see. I’ve been eating this way for 11 years and no doubt, I’ve struggled with this even on cruise ships where I felt ok eating vegetables when their cooks have a better understanding of gluten intolerance and didn’t cook vegetables in the pasta water.

Chameleon on my leg. Its legs were sticky grasping at the fabric of my pants.

But, here in Mumbai, where 90% of what the Indian people consume contains starches, grains, and sugars (including fruit and juices). Delicious? Yes! Suitable for me? No!

Over the past week when I quit the vegetables, I began eating a “plain” (as requested) ground chicken patty, topped with a butter-fried egg, Emmental cheese, and bacon, It was delicious. I was thrilled with my new option to have “mixed it up” a bit from my usual grilled boneless, skinless chicken parts (I don’t like chicken breasts since they are often too dry unless cooked on the bone with the skin which I can’t get here).

This is a grass snake, non-poisonous, slithering on Tom’s arm. 

In a post on October 27, 2020 (found here), I mentioned I’d experienced an 80% improvement in the pain in my legs while walking, which I’ve had since open-heart surgery in 2019 in South Africa. Somehow, I couldn’t get past that 80% improvement when I’d greatly reduced my carb load after I stopped eating those red sauces in Indian chicken curry and Makhani dishes in September.

Tomatoes and tomato sauces can have many carbs from the natural and added sugars in the sauce. I’d been a fool to eat those but did so in sheer desperation. I’d hoped by dropping these red sauces in early September, it would help reduce the inflammation in my legs, after the two separate leg surgeries I had six weeks after cardiac bypass surgery when both of my legs became seriously infected. Good grief. What a mess I am!

This semi-poisonous snake paralyzes its prey. If they bite a human, the area of the bite will feel numb for a few hours but poses no systemic risk.  We were told to keep the head away from us while handling it. This is me holding it, as Tom took the photo. In 2018, in South Africa, we both went to snake handling school with Tom doing more handling than me.

So, by eliminating the red sauces, I started experiencing improvement in the pain in my legs up to about 80% until I started eating the chicken burger (no bun) dinner. I knew I had no problem with any of the items on the plate. I’d spoken directly to the head chef asking him the ingredients in the chicken patty, He said, “Chicken, onions, garlic, and salt.”

“Great,” I said, “I can eat those and continued to do so for the past week. Then, my legs were getting worse by the day. The past several mornings I could only walk at a snail’s pace. What was wrong? Frustrated and of course, worried, I decided to check my blood sugar using my glucometer, which I’d been told to use when I started this way of eating to determine if a particular food was causing inflammation. High blood sugar an hour or two after eating? This means that particular food I’d eaten was too high in carbs for me.

Tom wound it around his hands, keeping the mouth at a distance.

Last night after dinner my blood sugar was 40% higher than after eating a usually very low carb meal. I hadn’t checked it in several months, but this made me rethink what I’d eaten. It wasn’t the bacon, the cheese, or the egg. I’ve never had a problem with these. Also, I hadn’t had any “pasta water” vegetables.

Immediately, I called the head chef whom I’d spoken to previously, asking once again, the ingredients in the burger. He explained it had bread crumbs to hold the chicken together. I knew I tasted something in those supposed plain chicken burgers, similar to the smell and taste of a loaf of store-bought whole wheat bread. I should have known better. Had I not told them over and over again, no bread, no flour, no starch, no grains?

For a small snake, this snake has a large head.

I do not have celiac disease, but I have a huge gluten response known as gluten intolerance. In essence, an almost lifelong history of eating a very low-fat diet of products containing starch, flour, sugars, and grains contributed to my having cardiovascular disease. By the time I stopped eating gluten in 2011, the damage was done to my arteries combined with a strong genetic predisposition to heart disease, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes.

The cardiologist in South Africa explained I’d had these bad arteries for 30 or 40 years. There was nothing I could do to reverse it, but perhaps the continuation of a low-inflammation, low carb/keto diet, and lots of exercise, along with a healthy lifestyle could prevent it from getting much worse giving me a few more years of life.

At last! He’s got python handling figured out! He couldn’t have looked more pleased! 

No wonder I’ve been suffering while walking since I started eating those ground chicken patties a week ago. May I say, I was enraged? I composed myself during the phone call. Today, I sent a message to management to ensure they post my restrictions, once again, in the kitchen for all to see. After all, we’ve been here for 224 days.

Now, with the likelihood of gluten remaining in the body for weeks, if not months, I have to start all over again, hoping to get my legs to work better while walking. I will still push myself to walk 10,000 steps (5 miles, 8 km) a day. I will no longer take the risk of eating that otherwise delicious chicken patty that most likely contained an entire slice of whole wheat bread.

Close up of the python Tom handled.

In closing this post, I’d like to stress that no matter how much we request special dietary considerations in dining establishments throughout the world, one can never be assured the food they are serving is safe for us. In any case, it’s best to order food prepared as plainly as possible in restaurants and save the interesting dishes for our own safe home cooking.

Food for thought (no pun intended). Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 2, 2019:

This photo illustrates how the gangway was jammed into the ship. For details, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #223 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Flowers in Hawaii…A bad dining experience…

Plumeria is often used in making leis in Hawaii.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2014 while living in Maalaea Beach, Maui, Hawaii where we celebrated our two-year word travel anniversary at an Italian restaurant, sorely disappointed over the meal. See the link here.

No, I won’t get into the disappointment we felt over our second-year travel anniversary dinner in an Italian restaurant. Feel free to read the details in the above-mentioned link. In actuality, we’ve forgotten all about it, probably a few days after the event. Dining in TripAdvisor recommended restaurants worldwide is no guarantee the food will meet any diner’s particular needs like ours; me, with my dietary restrictions; and Tom, with his picky taste buds.

Kimi Pink Ginger.

The bottom line, if I can get a decent-sized serving of some type of animal protein, fish, or seafood along with a few vegetables, and if Tom can get beef, pork, or chicken with some type of potatoes or white rice, you’d think this would be an easy bill to fill. You’d be surprised how difficult this is to accomplish in many restaurants we’ve visited throughout the world.

Overall, we’ve had from good to excellent experiences. Every now and then, we’ve been disappointed, most often by the small portion of my protein, often only four ounces, .11 kg, simply not enough when I only eat once or twice a day. With prices so high at most locations, it makes no sense to place a double order for me when I can’t eat most of the accompanying side dishes.

I searched through no less than 500 photos of Hawaiian flowers, unable to find some of the names of those we’ve shown here today.

Instead, I’ll often eat Tom’s vegetables and I’ll give him my potatoes. When we return to our holiday home, I can always have a piece of cheese to tide me over until the next day. Most often, as we all know, “eat a small amount and 20-minutes later, you may be comfortably full.” This is often true.

We enjoy seeing a hearty portion on our plates when we prepare our own meals. I often refer to us as “piglets.” However, when cooking low carb/keto meals we can enjoy a portion sufficient to fill us to satiety, keeping in mind, we may only eat once or twice a day and generally don’t snack, unless we haven’t had breakfast. In those cases, by 3:00 pm, we both may have a piece of cheese to hold us over until dinner. We rarely eat anything after dinner.

A wilted variety of Plumeria, perhaps.

When we’ve been on cruises, we tilt our heads in wonder, observing most other passengers eating breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner, drinks, and dessert. We would blow up like balloons if we ate so much food. Based on stats, the average cruise passenger gains 1 pound, .45 kg a day.

After 27 cruises the past eight years, we’d have a big problem on our hands if we’d gained on all these cruises, much more than the challenge we’re facing now, dropping enough weight to fit in the clothes in our luggage. In my old life, I had the flexibility of different sized clothes in the attic to accommodate an occasional weight gain or loss.

This must have been pretty before it began to fade away.

But, that’s not the case now. We’d better fit in those jeans when we leave here, whenever that may go. I haven’t fit in those jeans since August 2019 after gaining back all the weight I’d lost from the open-heart surgery (in February 2019) when the drugs I was on made me sleepy, lethargic, and hungry all the time.

This becomes particularly important now when I recall checking out a few women’s clothing stores in Komatipoort, near Marloth Park. They either had large sizes or tiny, tiny, short length jeans suitable for whom, I couldn’t figure out. With my height and overly long legs, the only jeans I can wear are available in the US.

More Plumeria.

Since we won’t be ordering any clothing from the US to be shipped to us in the future, after our recent package fiasco, I’d better fit into the items I have on hand now. I have two pairs of jeans and two pairs of shorts that almost fit. Tom’s elastic waist shorts fit, but his jeans are still tight. By the time we leave here, we both should be able to fit into the clothing in our bags.

Tom too is losing weight along with me, now that he only eats a big breakfast and no dinner, having given up the chicken pasta and roasted potatoes. I am eating a small breakfast of one boiled egg and one slice of bacon, and dinner is a good-sized chicken burger patty, topped with Emmental cheese, an egg, and bacon with mustard on the side. This is working for both of us right now.

Maui goose.

Every time I write about food, my mouth waters, not so much as a result of trying to lose weight, but from missing out on many items we’d love to savor which aren’t available here. Sorry, to so frequently mention food in our posts. It’s hard not to think about it during these peculiar circumstances.

Have a tasty day, enjoying something you love!

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

Clouds over the skyline in New York as we reached the USA. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #213 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Gentle musings on the simple things…

Tom’s gluten-free, low carb, starch, and sugar-free pizza with fresh mushrooms, green olives, onions, and Italian sausage, topped with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. This will last for three delicious nights. We never mind repeated dinners for three nights in a row. The crust is made with grated cheese and one egg. He’ll be drooling over this photo today.

Today’s food photos are from the post on this date in 2014 after grocery shopping in Maui, Hawaii. For more from this date, please click here.

When I checked out Kenya photos from this date in 2013, there were few photos worthy of posting today. Instead, I jumped forward to 2014 on this date, once again, while we were spending six weeks on the blissful island of Maui. We’d been out grocery shopping and were pleasantly surprised over our purchases in the nearby town of Kihei.

My pizza is made with free-range chicken sausage, anchovies, onions, olives, mushrooms, red and yellow bell peppers, organic zucchini, eggplant with mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. This crust is also made with cheese and egg and is low carb and gluten, sugar, and starch-free. Love it!

Ironically, for the first time in almost two years since the onset of our travels, I drove the rental car, finding my way to the Safeway supermarket, a 20 minute drive from our condo, and the largest market we’d seen in so long. It felt great to be driving again after so long.

Yesterday, Tom and I were chuckling over this time in Mumbai as the longest period he’s gone as an adult without driving a car. Continuing in our world travels, there were plenty of times I didn’t drive for extended periods when I don’t feel comfortable driving a manual transmission with the stick on the left side. My left hand is useless.

As I entered the store, my eyes darted everywhere in awe of all of the “stuff” for sale.

On top of that, I don’t possess the ability to retrain myself to drive while managing the stick shift, while on the opposite side of the road from which I learned in the US at 16 years old. I suppose it’s a lack of coordination. Under familiar circumstances, I know how to drive a stick shift. At one point, as an adult, I purchased a vehicle with manual transmission.

Upon returning to the condo, I used the Ziploc bags to individually wrap each of the three steaks which Tom will eat while I’ll have the rack of lamb.

Well, anyway, that day in Maui, I was thrilled to once again be driving and totally loved the time I could spend meandering around the huge supermarket with nary a thought of how slow I was going, inspecting countless products along the way. Most often, Tom had been with me while grocery shopping, and although I enjoyed his participation, I loved it when he waited in the car reading a book on his phone.

Having not purchased meat at this store on our visit the prior week, I was pleased to see the prices on meats were no more than we paid in our old lives.

If and when we return to Africa, I’ll be in this same spot with most rental cars having manual transmissions and all driving in the left lane as opposed to the familiar right lane. Tom will drive me everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, he gets tired of being my chauffeur, but he freely acknowledges that I am a terrible driver even with an automatic transmission and driving in the right lane, as in the US. Hey, we all have our flaws and I certainly have my fair share.

I’d purchased this 3.32-pound package of three New York Steaks for $26.93 at $8.98 a serving. That was an excellent price!

So, shopping in Maui during those six blissful weeks was a treat for me. If I wanted to peruse the other shops in the strip mall, before grocery shopping I could easily do so. If I wanted to read the labels on every product I could do so at my leisure. If I wanted to stop and chat with another customer or staff member, nothing held me back. It was indescribable fun.

Ziploc freezer bags in the half gallon size surprised me at only $4.49.

Wow! At this point, this sounds to me like a trip to Disneyland for a kid. It’s not surprising that the simplest tasks I may have taken for granted in the past now rise to the forefront as absolutely desirable and delightful. Then again, I think of how fun it will be to be sitting with good friends in Africa, sipping on a glass of red wine, enjoying the sounds of nature, the consistent flow of “visitors” and I literally swoon.

I cut this free-range Rack of Lamb into three portions which I’ll have when Tom has the above steaks. At $20.15 for the entire package, it is $6.72 per serving. We’ll cook the lamb and the steaks on the outdoor grill that overlooks the ocean, which we’re anxious to use.

I’ve kept asking myself what we’ll learn from being in this hotel, possibly for one year, (now at seven months), and perhaps it will be as simple as the heart-pounding enthusiasm I’m feeling putting these thoughts to “paper.” During these peculiar circumstances, it’s imperative to glom onto hope, knowing full-well at some point in the future, these memories won’t be so far removed from current-day reality.

The gorgeous Maui scenery on the return drive to Maalaea Beach.

Hum, I think I’ll feel equally enthused to machine wash our clothes, eat some of the above-shown pizza, smell the fresh air, set the table, see a sunset, and of course, spend time with humans and animals. No doubt, we’re grateful we’re safe and, we’re equally grateful knowing at some point, this will all change.

This receipt is not easy to read resulting in my listing the items above for details and clarification.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 22, 2019:

Friends Linda and Ken with us in front of the Raglan Castle in Wales. For more photos, please click here.