Contentment in our new home…One year ago today…Adventures at high seas….

The view of the Atlantic Ocean from our veranda. (Borrowed photo. Hazy today).
In our last post, I’d planned to tell the rental car story. Not enough for a full post, I’ll include the story in tomorrow’s post with photos of the car, all the fees, and more house photos. 

Where do we begin? We’re living in a beautiful house in the Campanario area of Ribeira Brava, Madeira, Portugal about 30 minutes from the pier and the airport. The house is overlooking the Atlantic ocean with every modern convenience; a microwave, high-speed Internet, a soaking tub (heavenly), a dishwasher, and oh my, a newer front loading washer (our first load is on now).

This is where we’re sitting now as I write this. We covered the glass coffee table with a black throw enabling us to put our feet up with our shoes on.  The sofa and pillows are very comfortable much to our delight.

There’s no clothes dryer, but instead one of those racks we used in Dubai and Italy. I can’t wait to hang the clothes outside on the veranda using colorful clothespins. Ah, how we’ve come to appreciate the simple things in life. 

Still tired today after yesterday’s exhausting unpacking, grocery shopping and totally settling in, today, I’m still a bit sluggish and slow-moving even after sleeping seven hours last night, not quite enough. 

Last night’s dinner wasn’t the feast we’d anticipated when we were too pooped to make anything other than cheese and sautéed onion scrambled eggs topped with Greek yogurt with a side of Portuguese sausage. That’s all we could muster. Tonight will be better.

Our new clothes dryer. At 70F, 21C it was pleasant hanging our first load of wash outdoors. The darks are in the washer now. I left room on the rack for the second load soon to be hung. 

Later in the evening, I had a plate of small bites of some of the finest cheeses Portugal has to offer, reminiscent of the cheeses in Italy. What a treat! Tom had microwave popcorn and this morning donuts with his coffee. (Darn, my guy won’t give up the junk food)! He hasn’t had a donut in a year. 

The view from the floor to ceiling glass windows and doors is breathtaking. Unfortunately, it’s been a bit hazy these past two mornings and I haven’t been able to get any clear shots of the ocean. As soon as it clears, you’ll see them here. 

See Tom’s donuts on the right in our new kitchen. Ugh!

I borrowed the above veranda photo from Gina, who visited this morning and will answer all of our questions via email. We met her a year ago when our ship docked at the pier in Funchal for the day. She picked us up from the pier showing us the island and the house. We adored her, the house, and the island.

Granite countertops, microwave, dishwasher, great gas stove and oven, and views of the mountains and the ocean when washing dishes. Once the haze lifts we’ll include more photos of views from inside the house.

Yesterday’s grocery shopping was a challenge which we’ll explain further in the days to come. Surely, in time, we’ll figure it all out. It’s all about the layout of the store, the unfamiliarity of products, reading labels, and the fact that they don’t carry some items we use. We did find unsweetened coconut flour, but not coconut oil or avocados. We’ll keep looking.

My view into the dining room while sitting on the sofa in the living room.

The bed isn’t as comfortable as the bed at Dar Aicha. It’s a reality we must accept living in other people’s houses. In time, we’ll adapt to the thinner harder mattress. 

The wood-burning fireplace in the living room. Its cool here now and warming up each day I doubt we’ll use it.

Otherwise, the house is comfortable including the leather sofa in the living room with plenty of soft and fluffy throw pillows and a coffee table which we moved closer to the sofa for our feet when lounging. 

The second living room upstairs holds less appeal for us when we love the views on the main floor. There are TVs in each living room with a few English speaking channels, mostly news. That’s fine.

The dining room where we’ll have all of our meals. Tom reset the table this morning after emptying the dishwasher.

Last night we dined at the dining room table; placemats, nice flatware, and plates. For the first time in two and a half months, we watched the show Shark Tank on my laptop while we dined. It was delightful to be back to some of our familiar routines.

We’ve made a list of errands we’ll tackle next week; a trip to a computer store (Tom needs a special screw for his laptop), a store where we can purchase a needle and thread, (Tom ripped his Travel Smith shirt pocket when we were at the airport. With the right color of thread, I can easily sew it).  

Also, we need to find a health food store and a health club for me. It appears all of this may be possible in Madeira. There are numerous shopping malls.

In time, we’ll visit some of the popular tourist spots; the farmer’s market, the shops along the sea, the mountains, mainly revolving around amazing scenery. 

The view from the opposite side of the dining room toward the sea.

The island is breathtaking with us situated at a prime location to enjoy the views. Although not isolated, we are within 30 minutes of anything we’d like to see, restaurants and shopping. The people are friendly and oddly, the communication is not as difficult as I’d thought it might be. The Portuguese language has similarities to Spanish which I understand well enough to manage. 

The problem I experienced at the grocery store yesterday as tired as I was, I kept saying “grazie” (Italian), “merci” (French) and “obrigada” (for thank you, one of few words I know so far in Portuguese) with a little English throw in.  It was confusing when my brain wasn’t working well anyway due to the exhaustion. 

Tom’s view from his spot on the sectional sofa. Once it warms up a little, we’ll surely spend time sitting on these lawn chairs.

It takes time to fully embrace a new country and find our way around especially when Gina told us not to bother to use “navigation.” It doesn’t work well on the island of Madeira as we’ve already observed when Google maps aren’t able to readily pinpoint locations. We’ll figure it out. We always do with Tom’s amazing sense of direction.

Over the upcoming 75 days, we’ll continue to post daily with more house photos (today we’ve included the main floor only) and many photos of our exploration of this lovely island. Stay tuned.

Photo from one year ago today, May 17, 2013:

As the mercenaries boarded the ship one year ago today carrying the “package” in order to protect us in the event that pirates attempted to board.  Over a period of days, we had several “pirate drills” to prepare passengers in case of an “event.” Last year a movie with Tom Hanks, Captain Philips, was a true story of just such an incident in the Gulf of Aden.  Pirating in this area has continued as recently as January 2014. Many passengers said they wouldn’t have gone on the cruise had they known of the risk. For us, it added to the experience and we felt safe. Miles out at sea, we were surrounded and protected by several military ships escorting us through the dangerous Gulf of Aden.For details of the story, please click here.

Two days ago, on May 15, 2014, the US State Department issued a warning to US citizens and others not to travel to Kenya, mentioning Diani Beach, the area in which we lived for three months, from September 2, 2013 to November 30, 2013. We chose to live in Kenya for the opportunity to go to the Maasai Mara on safari which was number one on my bucket list. 

Thank God, mission accomplished, as the most treasured experience in our travels, along with the next three months we spent living in Marloth Park, South Africa. 

Thursday, we left Africa after living in three countries for almost nine months: Kenya, South Africa, and Morocco. We are grateful for the experiences and for our continued safety during the entire period. When traveling to high-risk countries, one must seriously weigh the benefits and the risks and carefully consider and ensure that security measures will be implemented during the entire visit. 

We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve had and wouldn’t change a thing, even our most recent time in Marrakech, all of which round out our continually growing collection of amazing experiences.

One week and counting…A year ago today, pirate drills commenced aboard our ship…Adventures of a lifetime…

A pleasing display inside of a restaurant we frequent, Le Jardin.

Each morning as I begin to work on the post of the day, the first thing I do is look back to one year ago to the date, to see where we were at that time, saving a photo, copying the link to post, and rereading our story.

Of course, it frustrates me when I see errors but overall, it is as exciting to us now as it was at the time. Over the next several days we’ll share photos and stories from a year ago when we’ll have experienced the most stunning adventures of our lives on the cruise of a lifetime through the Middle East.

The post of one year ago depicts the concern and precautions that Royal Caribbean cruise line exercised as we were about to sail through the Gulf of Aden, some of the most dangerous waters in the world. At first, we read the letter with a bit of trepidation. Later, we felt safe and at ease. More will be posted in the next few days at the end of each day’s “year ago” section at the end of the daily posting.

Our ship had sailed from Barcelona, Spain to Dubai, UAE during which time we sailed through the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea. Sailing on we traveled through Egypt, the Gulf of Aqaba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Jordan, Yemen, Oman, Iran, Somalia. As one can see by these locations, it wasn’t surprising that the ship took special precautions to ensure the safety of passengers. We stopped in many countries along the way.  Stories of the experiences we had in some of these countries will be mentioned at the bottom of each post over the next several days.

It is these types of experiences that make our travels exciting. It’s not the massive historical buildings that accomplish this for us. It’s the opportunities to be a part of experiences that shape who’ve we continue to become as we strive to stretch ourselves, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and at times, physically. 

More will follow over the next few days, including the most amazing adventure of our lives, up until that point, the visit to Petra, Jordan to see the Lost City and the Treasury.  Amazing. 

For those of you who have faithfully followed along with us from long ago (we started posting in March 2012), we apologize for the redundancy. For our newer readers of one year or less, this may all be new to you.

For us, it all rolls into one extraordinary ongoing experience, the journey of a lifetime, stepping outside the box to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zone to attain new heights, beyond our wildest dreams.

Of course, over this last week in Marrakech, Morocco we’ll continue to venture out, taking photos to share with you each day over the upcoming seven days until we depart on May 15th to travel to Madeira, Portugal.

Yes, there are many days where our lives are mundane and uneventful, staying in, living a simple daily life.  But for us, beating each other at a game of Gin producing a tirade of whoops, hollers and an occasional rash of swear words is exciting in itself.  Tom has beaten me in three countries.  If I can maintain my current lead, I may finally win in Morocco!

Photo from one year ago today, May 8, 2013:

After dinner on May 7, 2013, this letter was sitting on our bed when we returned to our cabin. Taking a photo of the letter, we posted it the next day and the pirate drills began. For details of that story, please click here.

Security loaded on the ship while out to sea…Gulf of Aden, here we come…

Tonight we enter the Gulf of Aden.

Yesterday morning as we were reminded of yet another time change to be effective at 11:30 am, our Captain Fleming announced that a boat would be coming to ship around 4:00 PM to drop off “security equipment” for our upcoming remaining three days through the Gulf of Aden.

Tom was determined to see this event occur as was I.  Watching the clock throughout the day, we were pleased when the Captain’s voice sounded over the loudspeaker as he explained that the boat would be arriving soon and the ship would be slowed down accordingly.

It’s helpful for worried passengers to be alerted to such events.  Captain Fleming has been conscientious about making such announcements in an effort to diminish fear and its resulting rumors.  For us, we wanted to see this firsthand in order to take photos. 

Our view at the bow of the ship as the “security boat: approached.

Unsure which side of the ship the “security boat” would deliver the “security equipment” we headed for the bow of the ship where there is row of viewing windows to the bridge. If we watched the officers in the command area, we’d be able to see which direction they were looking through their binoculars.

Peering into the bridge, we had a clear view of the blue radar screens, noting three objects, one on the port side forward, and two on the starboard side forward.  Wondering which would be the delivering boat, we waited patiently while Tom, using his trusty Swarovski binoculars kept a lookout.

Around 3:30 PM, we saw the delivery boat approaching our ship approaching dead ahead, to finally veer to the port side.  We were on the move!  We wanted to get as close as possible and yet not so close that we couldn’t get a good shot.

Each of us had a camera, old and new, in our hands.  Much to my frustration and unbeknown to me, one of the settings on the new camera we had changed in error, preventing me from getting any good shots.  Luckily, Tom had the old camera and was able to take the photos we’ve posted today.

As crew members hung onto the “security boat,” two uniformed soldiers got on board our ship, each carrying two large black cases as shown in the photos. Captain Fleming had referred to these black rectangular boxes as “security supplies.”  Duh?

When asking an officer about the contents of these black boxes, it was obvious to us that his response was rehearsed, “Oh, those are night goggles, binoculars and such.”  Why wouldn’t a large ship such as ours, Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas, keep night goggles on board along with all their other such equipment?  Why were two soldiers dropped off?  To use night goggles?  Hardly.

The “security boat” as he approached our ship.

We’re assuming that the ship staff, in an attempt to avoid fear and panic, have been instructed to report the contents of the black cases contained “security equipment.”  We understand their reasons to lie to us and in essence, respect it. 

After a hysterical time at dinner last night at a table for eight with non-stop laughing, we meandered back to our cabin, smiles on our faces from yet another enjoyable evening at a “shared” table.  One couple was from Australia, another from England and a third from Florida, whom we’ve made plans to meet up with again tonight.

When we returned to our cabin around 10:30 pm, our room darkened as instructed, drapes tightly pulled, we settled into bed.  Minutes after dosing off, I awakened to a sensation of a bright light filtering through the crack in the drapes.

As the boat took off, after unloading the two security personnel and the black boxes.
Awakening Tom, he bolted out of bed, running to the window to peek out. Seeing the light, he cautiously opened the balcony door only to discover that the cabin next to us had not followed security protocol by having their drapes wide open and lights turned on.

What’s with people?  It was a simple requirement, easy to follow, affecting the safety of everyone on board.  It’s the same mentality of guests who become ill while cruising and don’t bother to stay in their cabins during the infectious period, infecting everything they touch resulting in the illness of many others.

This morning at 8:00 am, after our good night’s sleep, Captain Fleming’s voice once again blared on the loudspeakers, thanking us all for our cooperation, reporting a safe uneventful night. 

After the boat departed, we found our way to an observation deck and shot this photo of the pool area, as it thinned out in the late afternoon.  (This shot was taken after I figured out the incorrect setting on the new camera.  Bear with us, as we learn to each use it properly).

Hopefully, expectantly and most likely, we’ll hear such announcements each morning as we continue on our journey to Dubai, to arrive next Tuesday.

We’ll keep you updated as we continue on and on, and on.

Current cruise itinerary…Gulf of Aden…pirates? Warning from Captain…see letter and map below…

After we go through the Suez Canal, we’ll enter the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden.  Of course, it will be a relief once we depart this area.
We aren’t going to worry. Right now, I’m more concerned about the upcoming three and a half hour walk across the desert to the Great Pyramids this Friday.
(Correction:  Yesterday I wrote that we visit the Pyramids on Thursday when it is actually on Friday. HiIt’s easy to lose tract of the days of the week lately.)
Bite sized pieces. That’s our lives, living one day at a time, taking in all that we care to, at our own pace, free of expectations and one adventure at a time, if at all possible.

Our Current Cruise Itinerary

May  6, 2013 to May 21, 2013

Royal Caribbean – Mariner of the Seas, departs 5/6/13, 15 nights

May 6 Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm

May 7 At Sea

May 8 At Sea

May 9 At Sea

May 10 Cairo / Giza (Alexandria), Egypt 7:00am

May 11 Cairo / Giza (Alexandria), Egypt 3:00pm

May 12 Suez Canal, Egypt (Cruising)

May 13 Luxor (Safaga), Egypt 7:00am 10:00pm

May 14 Petra (Aqaba), Jordan 9:00am 10:00pm

May 15 At Sea

May 16 At Sea

May 17 At Sea

May 18 At Sea

May 19 At Sea

May 20 At Sea

May 21 Dubai, United Arab Emirates 6:00am

Last night, after an enjoyable evening out to dinner with our new friends, a good meal, a great Broadway type show in the Savoy
Theatre, a stop in a Lotus Lounge and a leisurely stroll along the Promenade, we sauntered back to our cabin.
Early birds that we are, up by no later than 6:00 am most days, we try to get to sleep by 11:00 pm, not always an easy task. Our
body clocks are back into our regular schedule after struggling with the nine
hour time difference from Belize to Barcelona. It took us almost three weeks to adapt.

My earlier prediction that sailing across the seas slowly would make adapting easier was shot as the daily changes across the
ocean took us deeper and deeper in “biological clock” hell. 

At the end of last week, we lunged into a massive change by getting up at 6:00 am with much difficulty, falling on our faces by 11:0 pm that first night. In 24 hours, we were back on track.

Anyway, last night as we entered our room, we discover the usual next day’s program of activities and two other items:

One…this cute “towel per” elephant on our
“Towel Pet” wearing my sunglasses.

Secondly…this letter from Captain Flemming, Master, Marinerof the Seas, purposely placed in plain view next to the “towelp pet”

Letter awaiting us when we returned to our cabin after our evening out.

On the last ship, the Norwegian Epic, we had met a couple who had cruised this route a few years ago, telling us intimidated stories of guards with machine guns guarding the ships at night, frequent and
strict drills and a similar protocol as indicated in this letter.

We’d anticipated the likelihood of certain procedures being put into place, necessary for safe sailing through these high risk pirate laden waters. Perhaps, not to this extreme, until we talked to the couple on the Epic, whom we thought at the time, was
enjoying getting a reaction out of us.

Although, in essence, it may not have been intended to elicit fear any more than our recent telling of the 50 foot swells and 65 MPH winds we experienced for three days on the Atlantic crossing of the Epic.

Are we scarred?  No. This huge ship, has many security measures in place along with a very important drill coming up on May
15th at 10:30 am, a full day before we enter the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden