Memories come to mind…Readers, thank you for the inspiration!

We often encounter unknown flower varieties when we walk in the neighborhood.

When we recall our first foray outside the US on January 3, 2013, when we embarked on the classic old-style Celebrity Century, the first cruise for both of us, the level of anticipation and excitement was indescribable.

At the time I was a little fearful of heading out to sea on such a big ship. The first few nights I lay awake from the creaking and rolling, wondering if something was wrong with the ship. 

By the time the Century made its way through the Panama Canal with the new locks being built beside it, I felt like an old ship’s hand, comfortable and at ease.

The pebbly road we walk in the neighborhood.

After 11 cruises all fear had long since dissipated as I embraced the wild seas, the rocking and rolling and what became familiar ship sounds both during the day and at night. 

When we sailed on our first Atlantic crossing in April 2013 to experience our roughest seas ever, 50 foot (15 meters) waves on the Norwegian Epic, we both wandered about the ship excited and amazed by the rough seas with nary a hint of seasickness while most passengers were tucked away in their cabins on medications and patches for seasickness.

The infirmary was packed with ill passengers while we visited with others like us, who enjoyed the excitement and for whatever reasons, don’t suffer from seasickness. 

Many homes are tucked away in the neighborhood, down long driveways, difficult to see beyond the dense vegetation.

For three days, the same few of us wandered about the ship thoroughly relishing in the unique experience while the remaining staff members who hadn’t become ill helped carry our coffee and beverages to a table. The pools were closed, as were many of the activity areas and some restaurants. 

We all managed to stay busy for the three rough days and nights at sea, watching movies in the rolling theatre, playing cards slipping and sliding on the outdoor tables, and dining in the main dining room as our plates and drinks slid across the table if we didn’t hang onto them. 

When it was finally over, the passengers began to quietly exit their cabins, all a little pale from being unable to eat and drink for three days. Within a day of smooth sailing the flurry of activities including drinking, eating, and socializing was once again in full force.

A wide array of plants and flowers are found in the neighborhood.

We treasure these memories, especially when we can look back at our over 1000 archives not only to refresh our memories in our telling of the stories but in seeing those memories in our photos. What a treasure to have this journey documented to this degree! 

We never stop appreciating our readers for being the catalyst and the inspiration to continue posting day after day. Had it just been a personal travel journal with a collection of photos, we may have made excuses day after day not to write the experiences, both big and small. 

In our old lives, I seldom wrote anything on the back of a photo describing who, what and where the photos were taken. Now, an entire story and multiple photos accompany every memorable experience.

The river winds through the area.

Knowing 1000’s of our readers throughout the world has spurred us on, day after day is life-changing. Those bringing up our site day after day to see what’s happening, at times finding only our mindless drivel or gentle ramblings over a sometimes simple life and at other times, finding an exciting memorable experience. 

No excuses are needed here to avoid posting. The only potential reasons we don’t post are due to a total lack of available WiFi service or during long travel days. Even on those days, we attempt to get something uploaded.  We’ve continued to post on sick days even if only to whine about being under the weather.

Last night, as we watched Episode 3 of Season 6, the final season of Downton Abbey, tears came to my eyes, not over a sad episode but due to the fact that we’d visited Highclere Castle in August 2014, home of the filming of this fine BBC series and its series end upcoming at Episode 9. 

Our photo. We held our breath as we approached Highclare Castle, home of the famed BBC Downton Abbey TV series. No interior photos were allowed.  Please click here for interior photos of the house

With only six more episodes to watch, for us, it’s the end of an era. Having walked the grounds and the familiar rooms of the castle, we became entrenched in its rich history and exceptional design and the very way it fit into the exceptional series.

Please click here for the first of two days of photos and stories from our visit to Highclere Castle, the filming site for Downton Abbey.

Please click here for the second of two day’s photos and story of the village of Bampton.

Last night’s episode showed several scenes in the village. The sleepy town of Bampton, England was used in the filming of the series including the interior of the church and a few other buildings. Having been inside that church, in that village, the memories brought huge smiles across our faces and for me, tears to my eyes, tears of joy for having had the experience.

This is the altar inside the church where the Mary and Matthew of Downton Abbey were married. To be able to visit this village, take this and other photos inside of this church and village, shown many times on the series, including last night’s episode (spoiler alert), was a memory we’ll always treasure, among others in our journey.

The long time span between series seasons was due to the show’s producers wanting to give the owners of the castle and the villagers time to recover from the last disruption of filming which sends their lives into total upheaval. 

The notoriety of this series has brought new revenue streams to both the villagers and castle owners along with the commotion which they seem to have appreciated and enjoyed.

Now, as we countdown to departing Fiji in five days with more upcoming memorable treasures behind us and more awaiting us, we’ve kept the TV tuned to a combination of BBC news and Fiji’s own channel 18 for Nat Geo Wild with one episode after another of places we’ve been, the wildlife we’ve seen up close and personal and of course, places we’ve yet to visit.

The river is lined with houses many with docks and boats, able to head out to sea from this waterway.

All we have is the moment in which to live.  In another moment, it becomes but a memory. It’s those moments and memories we treasure whether it’s a face-to-face encounter with a crocodile, a visit to a world-renowned castle, or a warm and unspoken wide grin to one another… it’s all worthy of a memory!

We carry on, hopefully with humility, grace, and ease…May you continue to do so along with us.

Photo from one year ago today, December 30, 2014:

From left to right; Sarah, TJ, me, Tom, (front) Vincent, Jayden, Nik, Tracy, and Tammy, a photo we took yesterday of our remaining family members.  Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent remained in Pahoa for four more days while the others had headed home. For more details, please click here.

Thanks to many heartfelt responses from our readers via comments and email…

Parasitic plants growing on trees are a fascinating way nature provides for a plant that must “borrow” nutrients from thriving trees of many varieties.

What a pleasing response we had yesterday after our post concerning some negative comments from a reader.  We hope the many responses we received in the past 24 hours indicate a general consensus among our readers.

This is where we park the little red rental car.  The door to enter our property is slight to the right of the red car. Since we’re on ground level we have a full wall of windows overlooking the Coral Sea and the beauty of Trinity beach. Andy and Sylvie have two cars, one of which is their sports car shown here.  The open stairway to the right is access to their property above us.  (For security purposes I edited the photo removing the license plates).

If you’d like to read some of those comments, please check the end of yesterday’s post by scrolling down this page, bearing in mind that many readers prefer to remain more anonymous, preferring to send an email.  Either method of communicating with us is appreciated. 

Each day more and more of the leaves on these leaves turns orange. Although it’s winter now, the weather in Queensland is never cold enough for a feeling of a full fall season.

If at any time, you’d like to express an opinion or comment and prefer to do so privately, our email links are listed above the feature photo of the two of us at right top of the page. You can count on a response within 12 hours with the exception of our travel days.

In the US, we had houseplants of this type called Pothos, which were hearty plants that did well without much sunlight and only occasional watering.

Speaking of travel days, a few more are rapidly approaching. In a mere 17 days, we’ll be departing our comfy cocoon here in Trinity Beach to head for an overnight in Sydney, although we’ll be arriving in and out in the dark at 8 or 9 pm and flying out at 6 am with no time to revel in the beautiful city as we did when we arrived on June 11th.  Click here to see our photos of Sydney.

We aren’t disappointed to be unable to spend time in Sydney this time since, over the next 20 months, we’ll be back in Sydney seven more times! Surely, we’ll be able to see the city in more detail during a few of those between-cruises-overnight visits. Sydney is quite an exciting city and although we aren’t big city enthusiasts for the long term, it’s fun to see a big city in shorter stops.

Another tree similar to a houseplant growing on the trunk of a large tree, although the tree itself is of a different variety.

When our ship arrived in the Sydney Harbour early that morning of our arrival, we couldn’t get outside quickly enough. It was a breathtaking experience and most certainly, we won’t be able to resist posting more photos each of these upcoming seven times, the exception being this extra short eighth visit in a few weeks.

We weren’t able to get a direct flight to Vanua Levu, Fiji without waiting for many hours at a tiny airport on the mainland of Fiji.  Instead, we chose the overnight, albeit short, stay in a hotel in Sydney, located at the airport. We’ve found it less stressful and exhausting to try to sleep for a few hours in a hotel than try to sleep in a chair at the airport.

We spotted these red plants in Hawaii on all four islands called Ti Plants. From our loyal reader, Annie: “Cordyline fruticosa probably was native originally to SE Asia and Papua New Guinea, but was carried throughout much of the Pacific by early Polynesians who used the starchy rhizomes for food. Today ti occurs in eastern Australia and on many of the larger islands in the tropical Pacific, including the Hawaiian Islands. They seem to thrive in tropical climates.”  Thanks, Annie for the update!

We recall our intentions in our travels:  ease, joy, and simplicity, a part of our logo which should have included “low stress.” With all the most organized of plans, events may occur beyond our control. If the areas over which we have control are seamless, the unforeseen event will be more manageable. 

With upcoming plans to live in Bali beginning on April 30, 2016, we’ve stayed apprised of the numerous issues regarding canceled flights to and from Bali as a result of the continually erupting volcano, Mount Raung. These frequent eruptions have grounded all flights on countless occasions. 

We don’t recognize this plant with leaves green on one side, burgundy on the back of the leaf.

Should this occur when we travel to Bali, rather than spending days waiting at the airport, we’d prefer to get a hotel room wherever we may be and wait it out enjoying our time until we can board a flight avoiding feelings of stress and worry. 

That’s a luxury we’ve afforded, not due to willingness to spend the money but, more of a desire for stress avoidance which for us becomes a vital aspect of our health and well-being. Sure, there’s a price to pay for that option but we’ve budgeted for such occasions and don’t flinch when the necessity arises.

These sparse trees will be in full bloom once winter is over.

As we continue the remaining time in Trinity Beach, we’ve decided we prefer to continue to visit local sites as opposed to expensive boat trips or overnight mountain excursions. To date, we’ve seen quite a bit of the general area and would like to save a few activities for the future return to Cairns by cruise, hopefully planning an outing with other cruisers we meet aboard the ship or on

It’s Friday here, Thursday for many parts of the world. Whatever day it is for you, may it be an excellent day that finds you well and content.

Photo from one year ago today, August 21, 2014:
Seeing this favorite photo again this morning made us smile when one year ago we visited Highclere Castle, the subject of the well-loved British TV series, Downton Abbey. Although no interior photos of the exterior were allowed with the owners still in occupancy, we took many photos of the gardens and exterior which can be found here. Tomorrow, in our one-year-ago photo, we’ll be sharing a photo and link of the quaint Bampton, the village where the in-town footage was filmed. Charming!

Part 1…Downton Abbey Tour, Secret Garden, exquisite grounds…More tomorrow…

We held our breath as we approached Highclare Castle, home of the famed BBC Downton Abbey TV series. No interior photos were allowed. Please click here for interior photos of the house

When we planned the 10-hour tour which included a trip to the castle where the popular BBC TV series, Downton Abbey is filmed, we discovered the “real” name of the castle is actually Highclere Castle, which long before the show was a popular tourist attraction.

Please click here to enjoy the beautiful music from Downton Abbey while perusing today’s photos.

With the production and popularity of the show, Downton Abbey, the increased tourism to the castle has been instrumental in its owners and occupants of the house, Earl and Lady Carnarvon to commence extensive much-needed renovation.

The exquisite grounds were as equally appealing as the castle.

Earl and Lady Carnarvon stay out of sight during tours, often away at their summer home, although at times they have made an appearance during the 60 to 70 days a year the castle is open to the public. 

For the details and history of Highclere Castle, please click here

Tom was looking at the exterior condition of Highclere Castle as we wandered about the grounds.

Rather than retell the history and general facts regarding the castle with considerable information already online, we’ll share our photos and experiences of the 13-hour outing, over a period of two days in Parts 1 and 2.

There’s hardly a totally clear day in the UK including during our time at the castle.

Tomorrow, we’ll share photos of the village of Bampton, Oxfordshire, where most of the village filming transpires. 

Standing at the back of the castle, this is the view of the carriage house.

For devotees of the popular British TV series produced by the profoundly talented Julian Fellows and his creative staff, today’s post may offer some appeal. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, we can only suggest giving it a try for a delightful escape to another time and place, historically accurate, and robustly produced.

The back view of Highclere Castle.

We’ve watched the series since its first episode began on September 21, 2010, now rolling into its fifth season.  Our lively and knowledgeable tour guide Paul explained that a week ago, he’d seen the show in production at the village of Bamptonshire. (“Shire” is included at the end of the names of villages and towns to indicate a division of land).

There is a huge field of wildflowers on the grounds of Highclere Castle. We can only imagine how beautiful this would be in the spring in full bloom.

We had few expectations of yesterday’s lengthy outing beginning at 7:30 am when we walked across the street to the Kensington Hotel to be picked up in a luxury coach for the two-hour drive to Oxford which was the first leg of the tour. We didn’t actually arrive at Highclere Castle until 2:30 pm with a full two hours to explore on our own.

View of the castle as we walked along the path to the gardens.

We’re sharing the separate areas we visited out of sequence, wrapping up the balance tomorrow. We felt many of our readers were anxious to read about Downton Abbey first when we’d mentioned it several times over the last week.

I recall seeing this bench under a tree in a scene in the series.

With 60 passengers in tow on the luxury coach where we spent several hours on the road, we all held our breath as we approached the Highclere Castle.

The vast array of color in the gardens was exquisite.
We were delighted to find many flowers blooming in the Secret Garden at Highclere Castle.

As is the case in many of these tours, one must prepare themselves for a letdown, when the anticipation has lingered for days or weeks. But, disappointed? We were not! It was all we expected and more. 

Appears to be an above-ground radish?

The only disappointment was the fact that no photos are allowed anywhere inside the castle with respect for the privacy of Earl and Lady Carnaron since this is their personal home.

A simple white flowers amongst many.

In an odd way, once we entered the interior of the house, I was fine not focusing on taking photos, instead being able to pay attention to minute details, as we moved along the house’s many rooms.  Please click here for interior photos of the house.

Beautiful blooms!

Standing in the familiar rooms was exciting while our minds perused various episodes of the series. My favorite was the familiar dining room and Tom’s was the library. An on-site guide explained that there are approximately 200 rooms in the enormous castle with an estimated 120,000 square feet, 11,148 square meters.

A manicured path we followed in the Secret Garden.

Fortunately, we were allowed to take exterior photos which kept us busy during the second hour as we toured the extensive gardens. It wasn’t crowded as shown in our photos many of which we were able to take with tourists in view. The fact that we’d arrived in the afternoon appeared to have been a factor in the lessened crowds.

With the rose blooming season behind us, we enjoyed seeing this pink rose.

At 4:30, we again boarded the bus for the quaint village of Brampton where many of the village scenes are filmed. Apparently, the townspeople are opposed to their new found notoriety due to the series with increased business in their few shops and one pub in town. 

Bess and butterflies were everywhere partaking of the sweet nectar of many varieties of clowers.

When filming commences, autos, TV antennae, power lines, and trash bins must be removed.  In addition, the production crew fills the streets with dirt and gravel over the tarred roads to create an appearance of a time long ago.

Another butterfly alights a pretty white flower.

At the end of each season’s production, the company holds a party for the entire village as well as providing donations to the city, making all the hoopla worthwhile to its citizens. 

We sat on a bench contemplating these unusual trimmings.

At the beginning of the tour, I’d considered that Tom had tagged along for my benefit. However, as the day worn on, he was engaged and interested, particularly in the historical aspects of the castle and village.

Tom under a uniquely trimmed arch.

Having seen Highclere Castle, we’ll have an entirely new perspective when the new fifth season of Downton Abbey begins in January.

Although the greenhouse doors were locked, we took this shot through a tiny opening.

As the long day ended, the bus dropped us at the Kensington Station, a mere 15-minute walk back to our hotel.  Anxious to stop for dinner, we found a casual Italian restaurant on the way with good food which included a few items suitable for me.

The red in this flower close to the greenhouse stood out among many.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with our visit to Bampton where the village shots for Downton Abbey are filmed and, also the historic village of Oxford, reeking of history dating back to 912 AD. What an experience that was as well! One could easily book a hotel in the fascinating town, staying for weeks to experience its many treasures.

Me, at the main entrance to the castle.

No, we don’t love touring on a bus with 60 other tourists. However, this was the most affordable tours we could find at US $370, 223 pounds for both of us. It’s wise to book in advance if possible. 

One last peek before we departed Hghclere Castle, home of the Downton Abbey TV series.

We’ll be tomorrow with Part 2 and many more photos!

                                            Photo from one year ago today, August 21, 2013:

Little did we know how many geckos we’d find in houses while in Africa, at this point a year ago with only 10 days until we’d depart Italy for Kenya. For details from that date. please click here