Bookings for England completed…Monmouthshire, Wales…Lowest rent of the four properties…

Street view of the Monmouthshire, Wales, holiday home.  We’ll be staying there from October 11, 2019, to October 22, 2019, for a total of 11 nights.  The total cost for this period is Euro 664.30, US $749.41 averaging at Euro 60.39, US $68.13.  It was the excellent cost of this fine, little house that enabled us to book a few more expensive properties, balancing our budget.  For more details on this list, please click here.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
Ireland
is one of the best countries in the world for gender equality. They have had
two female presidents.”

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This morning, we drove to Clifden to shop.  We needed to purchase wine for our guests arriving tomorrow, both red wine enthusiasts.  Whatever is left won’t be lost on me.  


Lisa and Barry will be staying in a nearby holiday home, no more than 10 minutes from us when driving on the winding roads.  We’ll spend two days and two evenings together.  
The design is pleasing to the eye with its excellent affordability.


We’d offered to have them stay with us in this three bedroom house but they insisted they wanted their visit to be easy for me, knowing how much fussing I could do.  Instead, we’ll make lunch when they arrive.

We met them on a cruise in November 2017 and have stayed in close touch since that time.  After meeting in the Rendezvous Bar for the Captain’s Club complimentary cocktails between 1700 and 1900 hours, 5:00 and 7:00 pm, we spent most days and nights together.  We had such fun together and built quite a bond.

Tom and I and Lisa and Barry, friends we look forward to seeing tomorrow at noon.  For the link from the day this photo was taken, please click here.

We feel so fortunate to have met such lovely people in our travels.  The excitement we feel about seeing our friends again is indescribable.  While in South Africa we had the most opportunity to see old friends than anywhere else in the world.  


But, here in Ireland, we didn’t expect to see anyone.  In this remote location, it’s not easy to make new friends, especially when we haven’t been out much due to my recovery and the recent inclement weather.  


Also, a 90 day period in a remote location doesn’t really allow enough time to build relationships, although South Africa was a rare location.

We’ll only stay at this property for 11 nights and thus, the smaller size is fine for us for this short period.


We’ve arranged with Ann, our wonderful cleaner whom we ran into at the grocery store today with her husband Michael, to come tomorrow at 8:30 am instead of the usual 9:00 pm.  By noon she’ll be done and the house will look spotless and ready for guests.


It will be so enjoyable to catch up with Lisa and Barry.  A lot has happened for both couples in the past few years and no doubt, we’ll have plenty of stories to tell.  They, too, are avid travelers.  Barry is an airline pilot which provides them with plenty of opportunities to fly all over the world.  


They are 20 years younger than me (not so much Tom who is five years younger than I am) which is often the case with friends we’ve made.  But, those 20 years are negligible and unnoticed in conversation and interactions.

In many properties we’ve booked, the bedrooms are located upstairs.

Today’s photos of the property in Monmouthshire Wales is the last of the four-holiday homes we booked for the 62-nights upcoming in the UK beginning on August 23, 2019, and ending on October 24, 2019, when we’ll board Celebrity Silouhette in Southhampton for a 15-night transatlantic cruise, ending in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

John, the fish guy stopped by yesterday with his truckful of freshly caught fish.  We purchased Euro $50, US $56.47 of a variety of fish including two types of smoked fish, both of which need to be reheated.  

Tom’s not much of a fan of eating fish, except for lobster or fish and chips, so I’ll be eating this on my own for several meals.  We had to freeze multiple portions which I’ll have at a later date since we’ll be dining out with Lisa and Barry both Thursday and Friday evening.



That’s it for today, folks.  Thank you for all of your readership and for all of the kind and caring messages we’ve received for my health and recovery.  It’s meant the world to me.


Cheers!
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Photo from one year ago today, June 5, 2018:

One of two barn owls in an outdoor cage. Deidre from Wild & free, released this own into the wild last night.  Here is the video from the release.  For more details, please click here.

Bookings for England completed…Falmouth, on the south coast of Cornwall with fantastic views…

A gorgeous view from the front door of the house. We booked this property from August 23, 2019, to September 6, 2019.  The cost for 14 nights is Euro 2125, US $2395.96 which averages to Euro 151.75, US $171.14. This amount is higher than we’d usually pay but we’ve balanced the budget by choosing varying prices on all four properties.  For the listing on this cottage, please click here.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”

“The
average family size in Ireland is four, two kids with two adults.”

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When booking holiday rentals throughout the world, particularly in or near busy cities, it’s often difficult to find houses or cottages.  Generally, the most affordable properties are apartments, condos, and townhouses.


As we perused available countryside properties in England, we found many were a part of a grouping of converted buildings including houses, barns, and other outbuildings.  We have no problem with these types of properties.

The living room/lounge in the Falmouth cottage.


Avoiding apartments prevents or reduces being subject to the sounds of loud footsteps, doors opening, and closing, and cabinets being slammed shut.  Also, we avoid the noise of parties, loud talking and a general lack of privacy.


Then, you may ask…why in the world would we like cruising when it feels as if we’re staying in a floating apartment?  For us, cruising is a multi-faceted experience resulting in spending little time in the cabin.  


Some passengers order room service and spend a portion of their day in their cabin.  Not us.  As soon as we’re up and showered, we are out the door, only returning if we require a short nap, or when getting ready for dinner.  The social life we enjoy aboard a ship is outstanding!

The kitchen appears to be modern and fully equipped.

In most cases, on cruises, we spend the majority of our days, (when not on tours) in the barista/coffee area, comingling with other guests, working on our posts handling any business or financial matters on hand.


Why would we work on the financial details of our lives while on a cruise?  Based on the fact we don’t have a home or apartment anywhere in the world, these important “business-type” details must be handled wherever we may be.  
It’s a short walk to the town of Falmouth for shopping and restaurants.


With a great VPN (a virtual private network) such as ExpressVPN, we can avoid other Wi-Fi users having access to any of our details and information.  We feel entirely safe and protected logging in to any of our financial accounts and bank.

When off the ocean or river, we always prefer to live in houses where we can enjoy privacy and our own routine, unencumbered by the needs of others.  


While searching in England recently we encountered a few properties but that included a shared laundry.  This is highly undesirable for us.  With our small inventory of clothing, we often wash every second or third day.  

Fantastic view from the cottage’s veranda.  

We don’t want the hassle of waiting for an available washing machine and/or hanging clothing outside in a busy area. As we read details on the properties we selected, for which we paid a deposit, we fully avoided these scenarios.

We’re comfortably situated here in Ireland in a lovely private home, a distance from the owner’s home, with gorgeous green vegetation and the ocean views, we’re reminded how important a private environment means to us.



As our regular readers well know, we love having friends visit, either staying with us or dropping by for a short visit.  We’re enthusiastically looking forward to Thursday this week when friends Lisa and Barry will come for a day’s visit at 1300 hours (1:00 pm) for the afternoon and evening when we’ll head out to a pub/restaurant for drinks and dinner.


Soon, we’re on our way to Carna for a few items we need for tonight’s dinner and then tomorrow, we’ll do our big grocery shopping in and a visit to the pharmacy for more bandages for my leg.


Have a pleasant day and evening. 

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Photo from one year ago today, June 4, 2018:

Soon, there were nine until the tenth arrived.  At this point, the three warthogs were on the scene; a mom, an auntie and a tiny baby.  For more photos, please click here.

Bookings for England completed…Devon property…Our cup of tea…

A glowing nighttime photo of the Devon, England property we rented.  Full details may be found here.  We booked this house from September 20, 2019, to October 11, 2019, for three weeks.  The total cost including fees and taxes is Euro 2102.55, US $2348.95, which averages to Euro 101.12,  US $111.85.  We felt this property is reasonably priced, fitting well into our budget.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”

“Ireland
has been inhabited for approximately 7,000 years.”
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When we asked friends Linda and Ken for a great place to stay in England, their home country, they suggested Devon.  After searching online for several hours, we couldn’t find anything suitable for our needs and budget.


A few days later, on Saturday, we decided to try the search for Devon one more time.  Whether the house suddenly became available for our dates or we missed it the first time we search was of little relevance.  

We may not use the pool due to the cool weather in England October.

What mattered to us is that we found it and, after reading through all the details at this link, we went ahead and booked it.  Summer is short in England with inclement weather on both ends.   Based on September/October dates as listed above under the main photo, we are thrilled, to say the least.


This was a tie with another property we found to be ideal is listed in yesterday’s post, as you can see from those photos.  The two properties are only 90 minutes apart but possess the opportunity to see entirely different villages and sightseeing venues in each area.

The comfortable living room/lounge.

Of course, both properties are situated on farmland and each has a number of adorable animals in residence.  It always was a dream of mine to stay in the English countryside and here, once again, a travel dream will be fulfilled.


With these short term bookings, we didn’t ask for special pricing.  We don’t hesitate to make offers on properties where we’ll stay for two or three months. Over the past years, we’ve been able to negotiate some excellent prices on our long term rentals.

The kitchen looks perfect for our needs.

But, the owners of short term rentals from one to three weeks aren’t willing to negotiate when they’ve learned if they wait, during their busy season, they’ll eventually rent their property for their preferred listed prices.


How does the cost compare when renting these four properties and the hotel near the port, for the two nights in Southampton?  Due to the above without discounts, we’ve been able to stay within the parameters of our monthly budget.

What an adorable Poll Dorset lamb on the property!

The total cost for the four rentals including the two nights at the hotel (for which we used some accrued points from our account at Expedia.com) is Euro 7412.68, US $8381.40 for the 62 nights averaging Euro 121.00, US $135.18 per night.


Add in the cost of the rental cars (pricy in Europe) plus groceries, dining out, and sightseeing, we’re still within the bounds of our monthly budget.  It was through careful research and planning we arrived at these numbers and conclusions. 

More Poll Dorset sheep on the farm.

The last property, which is booked for 11 nights is the least expensive of the four but appears to be surprisingly lovely considering the low price.  Tomorrow, we’ll share those photos and financial details.


We’re counting down the days until our friends Lisa and Barry visit on Thursday for the day and evening. 

Geese on a walk on the grounds.

Happy day!

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Photo from one year ago today, June 3, 2018:

While at the fence between Kruger National Park and Marloth Park, we counted 30 to 35 elephants.  For more photos, please click here.

Bookings for England completed…Cornwall property…Four exciting properties over 60 days…Sharing photos over the next few days…

There are a few different cottages on the property.  Of course, our favorite was the most expensive but we couldn’t resist. It’s located in Cornwall, near Port Isaac, where Doc Martin, one of our favorite shows was filmed! We selected this property from September 6 to September 20, 2019.  Our cost for the two weeks is Euro 2498.51, US $2707.94 an average daily rate of Euro 172.72, US $193.42 which is much higher than we typically pay.  To compensate for this higher rent, we’ve selected other properties at lower prices in order to balance the budget.  To see details on the listing, please click here.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“Leprechauns
are a huge part of Irish tradition. In Irish folklore, they are tiny men who
can fit on top of your shoulder. They are completely harmless and are believed
to have buried numerous pots of gold throughout Ireland.”

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It’s been a busy morning and I got a late start on today’s post. This morning we were busy with our continuing bookings for England for 62 nights upcoming on August 23, 2019.  


Also, this morning Tom made his favorite coconut banana bread recipe while I made my favorite low carb coffee cake which I’ll wait to savor until after dinner tonight with tea. Tom’s already dug into his banana bread.


With the date coming up quickly we knew we’d better get the show on the road.  Yes, we did book four different properties, two for two weeks and one for three weeks (our favorite, of course) and another for 11 nights and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

This lounge/living room looks very comfortable with nice furnishing and fireplace.  It’ almost summer here in Ireland and we’ve used the fireplace.  It’s possible it will be cool in England while we’re there and we’ll use this fireplace.

In the interim, now that we knew we’ll be flying into Exeter, England from Amsterdam instead of Southhampton as originally planned, we had to cancel and re-do our rental cars.  There are no cancellation fees for rentalcars.com.


We booked a rental car for 30 days and then another for the additional 30 days in order to receive the benefit of insurance coverage provided by our credit cards but only if rented for a maximum of 31 days.  


Thus, we’ll return to Exeter one month later and get another car, or we may be able to renew it over the phone.  We’ll play that by ear.  We’ll spend the last two nights of the 62 nights in a hotel in Southampton which we’ve already booked.


Booking the four separate properties and getting the dates to be exactly sequential was tricky and time-consuming.  We love the idea of moving every two to three weeks in order to experience new areas of Cornwall and the English countryside.  

This roomy kitchen will be ideal for our needs, especially with what appears to be a refrigerator and freezer.

However, it took way more time than we usually spend in arranging bookings.  Many properties were already booked for some of our dates so we had to figure out how each of the four would work.  We did it and have paid deposits for each property.


Today, I’ll enter all the information on our spreadsheet and in our free online Cozi calendar.  As soon as I enter the bookings Tom can immediately see the bookings on his phone or laptop.  This app has been extremely helpful for us over the past few years since we began using it.


Originally, we downloaded this app for the time we spent in Minnesota visiting our kids and grandkids in order for them to be able to see when we were available.  

We can already see ourselves sitting on this outdoor furniture enjoying coffee and tea in the morning and cocktails and wine in the evenings.

We gave them our user name and password and they could enter information at their leisure.  We’d then receive an email being notified a new entry had been made and the general information about the booking.


Alas, they seldom used the app, if at all, calling or texting to see when we were available. It was the first time in Tom’s life he used texting when he wasn’t allowed to use it while working on the railroad.


Once we left Minnesota to travel the world we found we could only text using Facebook Messenger which is free.  Any other means was costly.  I stay in touch with friends and family through Messenger, more than by Skype or phone.

We’ll have an opportunity to engage with pygmy goats and other barnyard animals on the farm.  To watch these little goats jumping around is hysterical.  We can’t wait to share videos of their funny antics. 

Here we are now, “old timers” and we prefer to use technology instead of phones.  Of course, once we arrive in the US in November we’ll purchase US SIM cards from such providers as Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T which will enable the kids to contact us by text.  It will be during that period, we’ll need to pay more attention to our phones than we do now.


The SIM cards will work anywhere we travel in the US since once we leave Minnesota, we’ll be on our way to Nevada and Arizona for several more weeks.  We plan to purchase two new phones to have them waiting for us at our hotel in Minnesota.  The next day, we’ll head to a phone store to buy the SIM cards.  No contract is required when using SIM cards for calling, text, and data.


This morning, Tom booked our flight from Amsterdam to Exeter on August 23, 2019. We’ll pick up the first of the two rental cars and drive to the first of our four-holiday homes.

Port Isaac which we’ve loved seeing in the TV series, Doc Martin.  It’s a short drive from the holiday home.

Over the next few days, we’ll post photos of the upcoming properties in England, one per day to avoid confusion.  This helps us during this inclement weather to avoid the necessity of going out sightseeing.  Once the weather settles down, we’ll be heading out. We have several venues in mind we’ll be sharing here.


Tomorrow, we’ll be back with another of the four-holiday homes in England, not in any particular order including pricing as we’ve shown here today.  

Also, this morning we got some exciting news from friends, Lisa and Barry, whom we met on a cruise in November 2017.  We’ll all be going out to dinner this coming Thursday.  We are so excited to see them once again!



Happy day!

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Photo from one year ago today, June 2, 2018:

What could be more fun than stopping on the way to dinner to let these magnificent beasts cross the road?  Most likely this was a mom and growing youngster.  For more photos, please click here.

Rental car hell…Disconcerting rules, regulations and conditions…

Cows…they are cute.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”
“Sports are huge in Ireland. Irish people take their sports seriously and get very into soccer, hurling, camogie, and handball.”

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We’re running out of photos and need to get out to take more.  With the cold and rainy days this week, continuing today and possibly into Sunday as well, any photos we have remaining are at a premium.  


Today, we’re working on the various holiday houses we’ve selected for the 62 nights in England beginning on August 23, 2019, where we’ll stay while we awaiting a transatlantic cruise to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ending on November 8, 2019.  


We’ll spend some time in the US visiting family and friends.  During this period, we’ll head to Nevada where we’ll see son Richard and sister Susan, who live an hour apart and take care of some “business.”


We’ll need to renew our driver’s licenses and also our passports which will expire in 2021.  It makes sense to renew our passports while already in the US which requires us mailing in our current passports while the renewals are processed.  

Donkeys are highly regarded as rescue animals in Ireland.

We don’t want to send in our passports to the US Department of State while we’re in another country.  It’s unsafe to be without our passports in hand and based on our history, we cannot depend on the mail getting to us in a timely fashion.


A few nights ago, we rented a car for our time in England.  Prices, similar to those in Ireland are higher than we’ve paid anywhere in the world over the past almost seven years.  


As we often do, we use the website, Rentalcars.com to book rental cars since we’ve found their prices to be the most reasonable. Also, we’re able to select a vehicle from the many providers they work with including Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar (our favorite) and others.


When we recently booked the rental car from Rentalcars.com with a company with which we weren’t familiar Easirent.  In error, we failed to read the terms and conditions of their car rentals.


When we arrived in Dublin, Ireland almost three weeks ago, we discovered a few disconcerting shocks; one, the Easirent pick-up location was far from the airport and when we called for the shuttle, they explained their shuttle was “down” and we’d have to take a taxi, paying out of our pocket.  

Shearing sheep is a popular business in Connemara.

This was ridiculous.  I was determined not to let this fact slide.  I spoke to a manager at Easirent and insisted they send someone to pick us up or we were going to cancel our three months rental.  We waited outside for about 30 minutes for the arrival of a driver.


Once we arrived at the Easirent office, we were shocked once again. No doubt, it was our error by not reading the terms and conditions in advance of making the booking.   Little did we know that this company charged an addition Euro 2800, US $3135.57 for the excess, a fee to cover costs in the event of an accident which were actually charged to our credit card, not just “held.”


After we paid all the fees (not including insurance) Euro 4826, US $5404.37 including a “fuel fee” (Euro 95, US $106.39) we were frustrated we’d had to have this entire amount charged on our credit card and…that it would take three weeks after returning the car for the excess to be returned to our card.


The actual cost for the car was Euro 1471, US $1647.29.  What a ripoff!  As we perused rental car options a few evenings ago, we bypassed every Easirent offering knowing full well it wouldn’t be acceptable. 

Europcar only charged a refundable security deposit Pound Sterling 250, US $316 and Pounds Sterling 1200, US $1517 for the “excess” (on a credit card hold on that portion of the credit card used) and fully released from the card a few days after returning the car.

Here again, the little horns are growing.  Here’s a link on why some sheep have horns and others do not.

As a result of the differences and procedures for Easirent and Europcar (and Avis, Alamo, and Hertz), we will never book a car through Easirent again.  The prices for the actual rental car itself is similar amongst all the cars, depending on value and style selected. 


It’s all of these other charges that made a huge difference, along with the inconveniences we faced when we arrived in Dublin, exhausted from the long flights from South Africa and dealing with immigration in South Africa.


Today, as we book the multiple holiday homes in the UK we’ll be mapping the various locations for the most convenient options.  Once booked and approved by the owners, we’ll share some photos and details.


Once again, we’re reminded of the importance of reviewing the terms and conditions for all travel venues, whether rentals, cars, cruises, hotels, and flights.  


This was the first time we’d failed to review the terms and conditions of a contract but we’ve learned our lesson and won’t avoid doing so in the future. I can only excuse us for being a bit distracted when we booked the car only a few weeks before we left South Africa for Ireland.


Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll have pinned down our time in England and have news to share.  


Have a fantastic weekend!

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Photo from one year ago today, June 1, 2018:

Frank, our resident Francolin, who’s decided to make our yard his permanent residence.  Francolins are highly territorial and extremely noisy when other francolins invade his space, except of course, for Mrs. Frank.  They’ve been building a nest.  Francolins are monogamous and mate for life.  They nest in grass-lined low lying shallows.  The incubation period is from 18 to 21 days carried out by the female.  Once the eggs hatch both parents tend to the chicks until their first winter.  We’re looking forward to Frank’s and the Mrs.’ chicks.  For more photos, please click here.

 

Figuring out where to stay in England at the end of the summer…

A portion of the Twelve Bens mountains.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”

“Funerals are sad occasions in
Ireland, but they are very seldom a sad event. Family members use funerals to speak about the deceased life and share memories. Funerals are held in churches and often include food and drinks. Many churches tried to ban alcohol years
ago, but failed in doing so, and now allow alcohol at each funeral and
wedding.”
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This morning we lit the fireplace using some of the plentiful supplies left for us by our thoughtful property owner, Eileen.  There’s firewood, peat, and the equivalent of Duraflame logs.  It was easy for Tom to start the fire.  

It’s 14C, 57F, and yet after 15 months in the heat and humidity of South Africa, we’re really feeling the cold.  There’s a unique solar system for the house which includes a range that is used for cooking and warming the house.  Here’s a photo of the range, which we’ve seen now and then in photos of potential rental properties throughout the world.

This is  a Rayburn range used for heating the house, cooking and the water.

This is our first experience operating this type of system and Eileen stopped by this morning to make sure it was providing enough heat to keep us comfortable.  She’d explained how to use it the day we arrived but we were so exhausted after an overnight flight, neither of us remembered how to use it except for the oven.

There’s a well-prepared loose leaf binder here with instructions for literally everything in the house.  But neither of refer to these instruction booklets unless there’s an emergency after we’ve usually read it within days after our arrival.

Ireland is certainly known for being green and aptly named “The Emerald Island” with its cool rainy weather.

Now, with her instructions, we have heat in the house, certainly, enough to take the chill out the air and the fire burning in the what appears to be an “insert” type of fireplace rather than an open hearth.

Yesterday, we continued the tedious task of trying to find where we’ll stay in England for 62 days beginning on August 23rd, ending on October 24th.  This hasn’t been an easy task.  

Connemara ponies as described here:  From this site:  “The Connemara’s origins are shrouded in mystery. Some believe that they are descendants of horses brought over by Vikings and others that they are descendants of the Irish Hobby, which was once hugely popular but is now extinct. There is also a legend that Andalucian horses found their way ashore after the destruction of the Spanish Armada and bred with the local ponies. It is known that many of the ships which survived the initial attack subsequently were wrecked off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland (partly due to severe storms) and so it is at least feasible that some horses (and humans) would have made their escape to shore. This may be why Connemaras are notably finer than most native breeds, although there was also extensive cross-breeding in the 18th century, particularly with Arabs and also Thoroughbreds and Hackneys.”
Prices are high in the UK and with our requirement of including unlimited WiFi and preferring a house, cottage, townhouse or condo, rather than an apartment, the challenges are escalated.

Yesterday, Tom had an ingenious idea (to us anyway) that rather than book one property for the entire 62 days, we should book three or four properties in different areas for sequential dates.  At first, I hedged over his suggestion when thinking about packing and unpacking every two weeks or so.

But, after careful consideration, I agreed this was an interesting idea.  Now the challenge is finding the right properties in four distinct areas with dates matching accordingly.  
Gorgeous views of the countryside.

Over the next few days, we’ll continue the research, mainly using the HomeAway link on our website that will take us to the thousands of listings in England.  In the past few years, HomeAway purchased a number of vacation/holiday home websites leaving them number two next to Airbnb as follows:  

“A major vacation rental website is HomeAway, and it is one of the main competitors to Airbnb. The company is now owned by Expedia (as are Vrbo and VacationRentals.com).”

“Which Is Bigger: HomeAway or Airbnb? HomeAway and its companies (such as VRBO and VacationRentals.com) have over one million listings in 190 countries. However, with 2.3 million listings worldwide, from 640,000 hosts across 191 countries, Airbnb is the clear winner of the size competition.”


Why don’t we use the larger company AirBnB?  We have used it a few times.  But, overall we prefer HomeAway based on the fact they have a more liberal deposit program as opposed to paying 100% of the cost for the rental at the time of the booking.

Sunset view from our house.

Occasionally, we may book a property a year or more in advance.  We do not want to lay out the entire amount for a two or three-month rental so far in advance.  Plus AirBnB has a huge amount of shared housing situations, none of which appeal to us.


So, back to the drawing board today as we continue our search.  We hope that by the end of the weekend, we’ll have this wrapped up.


Tomorrow, we’ll share a frustrating car rental situation.  Please check back then.


Enjoy your day, your weekend and everything you do.

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Photo from one year ago today, May 31, 2018:

Excellent nightime viewing. Kudus seem to be intimated by zebras due to their powerful kicks and thus, won’t join in on the snacks.  For more photos, please click here.

The real estate market for vacation homes…How does it impact our travels …A sad horse photo….

This photo was taken after the sun had fully set on Friday night, not shown in yesterday’s post. Witnessing this coloration in the sky was breathtaking.

The riad in which we’re living, Dar Aicha, is for sale. There was a showing yesterday for which we were giving several days advance notice. It was over in 15 minutes and we were only disturbed for a few minutes, none the worse for the wear.

For the link to the real estate listing for Dar Aicha, please click here.

We weren’t surprised since that was also the case for the house we’d rented in Kenya, which had two showings while we were there.

As we’re all aware, economic conditions have resulted in the devaluation of many homes worldwide, prompting many vacation rental owners to decide to liquidate before the market declines further.

Friday, late afternoon, the tourists arrived for the weekend, filling the Medina and the souk.

In some areas property values have begun to rise once again, currently motivating property owners to sell, taking advantage of what may prove to be a temporary rise in value. Who knows how long this will last or when prices will change? I spent 25 years as a broker and company owner and I don’t have a clue nor do any of the predictors out there in the marketplace and on the news.

As we move from vacation home to vacation home, we discover that some of the homes we’re renting may be on the market. In reality, it’s none of our business if they’re for sale except for two following factors:

1  We aren’t inconvenienced with showings.
2. We don’t have to move out early if the property sells and closes escrow prior to our moving out. Of course, we have signed rental agreements in each case protecting our rental period, but, we all know contracts can be broken in desperate times. (In neither of the above two cases have we thought there was any risk of being asked to leave early due to the integrity of the owners, more than the executed document).

The school bus arrives in the Big Square around 6:00 pm, dropping off the children.

For us, the distressed market has made our travels all the more affordable for these reasons:

1.  Many vacation homes were previously listed for sale that didn’t sell, inspiring the owners to rent them as a vacation home, enabling them to use it themselves from time to time between renters.
2.  Many homeowners of more expensive homes have either lost their jobs or retired and can no longer afford to live in their homes. They move to less expensive or senior housing either managing the vacation rental themselves or leaving the management of their homes in the hands of family members or agencies that typically handle vacation homes.
3.  During the better times in the market, enthusiastic investors purchased homes with the hope of a great future investment. Now, unable to rent the homes full time to cover their expenses, they rent the houses at daily or weekly rates with the hope that the house will be rented consistently which is rarely the case, except for in a few markets, such as Hawaii.

Workers and vendors begin setting up their wares to be marketed in the Big Square in the evening as the tourist crowd arrives, prepared to “shop til they drop.”

When property owners find themselves unable to rent their vacation homes for the prices they ask, at times, they are willing to negotiate for better pricing for us due to our long term commitments. You know, a bird in the hand.

Then, of course, there are the prime vacation rentals, managed by whomever the owner so chooses, that rent for premium prices that don’t budge for long term renter such as us. We can spot these in a minute when observing that the nightly rate is comparable to that which we’d be willing to pay monthly. We avoid even making an attempt to negotiate these in most cases, as mostly a waste of their time and ours.

Had we been able to travel the world in 2003, it wouldn’t have been affordable. The travel market was booming (although it’s now on the rebound) and fewer vacation homes were available.  Plus, the vacation home rental sites such as listed here as one of our advertisers, weren’t as prevalent as they are now. We use all of the major players, many of which are owned by the same company as in the case of HomeAway.com who owns four or five websites.

I always feel bad for the horses pulling the buggies. Some flail around seeming uncomfortable with their bit or harnesses.

Over time, the public has become less suspicious of sending prepayments to property owners they don’t know all over the world. With many sites offering insurance to avoid the risk of scams, many vacation renters freely send payments through PayPal and via credit card without giving it a second thought. 

I can’t say we don’t give it a second thought since based on our being constantly on the move, the insurance would become a prohibitive expense. Paying by credit card or PayPal gives us some assurance. 

But, in the long haul, we’ve prepared ourselves and budgeted accordingly that someday we may pull up to an address and no house it there, just an empty lot, or that the photos were all fakes and the house is a dump.  Yep, this could happen.

We were shocked to see this horse’s bloodied neck obviously from wearing the usual bulky harnesses as shown in the above photo. Thank goodness the owner had put on a lighter weight harness. But it still looked as if it must continue to irritate the poor horse. This was heartbreaking to see.

The likelihood is relatively slim that this will happen, especially when we communicate with each owner or manager through dozens of emails, research the owner’s name online and through Facebook, and read every review at our disposal. 

If and when our instincts send up a red flag, we pull away before sending any money. If suspicious, we’ve called the company that hosts the owners listing asking if there have been any issues.

So far all of our experiences have been good except the first house in Belize where we had no regularly running water. We moved out in a week, losing our first month’s rent which the owner refused to refund.
Oddly, this first experience didn’t deter us and we carried on, determined, and full of hope, having had nothing but great experiences since that time.

Another ice cream truck trying to find a good spot to park for attracting the most business. After a few minutes, a policeman told him to move to another location.

With the time from May 15, 2015, yet to be booked as we research the world deciding where we’d like to travel from that point on, we feel comfortable that we won’t have any problem finding desirable homes in fabulous locations.

We continue on, looking forward to leaving this coming Thursday for a three day/two night trip to the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. Will we ride a camel in the desert? You’ll find out right here!

                                                _____________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 6, 2013.

This little table and chairs were on our veranda in Belize. We weren’t kidding when we’ve said we were steps to the beach. Waking up to this view every morning was pure pleasure. There were two padded lounge chairs on the veranda where we lounged every afternoon after pool time. It was heavenly. In 39 days, we’ll have views of the ocean from our veranda once again although much further from the water.  For the story and remaining photos from that date, please click here.

 

Dar Aicha…A small palace…A big lifestyle…Photos of the “riad”…

Looking up at the sky, day and night, is a rare treat, from inside the riad, defined as traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard.

The water pressure and the consistency of the hot water makes taking a shower a pleasant experience.  The lack of insects, snakes and centipedes allows fearless roaming at night in the dark. It’s no longer necessary to lather from head to toe in insect repellent several times a day. 

Link to the listing on Homeaway.com

The sunlight in the courtyard provides a welcoming warmth as we acclimate to the cooler weather.

 

Morocco is known for its traditional design, architecture befitting the lifestyle of its people for many centuries. Our bedroom is through these white drapes.  On the interior, there are heavier drapes for added privacy. So far, we’ve been up and dressed before staff arrives between 8:30 and 9:00 am, staying until after dinner is served and dishes washed.

The cool temperatures from a low of 50F, 10C to a high of 75F, 24C prevents us from the necessity of wearing the least amount of clothing possible while maintaining a certain level of modesty as we did over the past many months. Sleeping is easier and more comfortable with a fluffy comforter we don’t need to kick off during the night. I wore socks to bed these past three nights. Nice.

The one end of the salon, comparable to a living room, is where we’ll spend most of our free time when not out.

 

The opposite end of the salon as shown above. We’re delighted to have discovered the BBC, an English speaking news channel, allowing us to stay current in world affairs.

After nine months of hot weather, beginning in Tuscany during Italy’s heat of summer, with no AC;  then on to Kenya’s humid heat with no AC; later on to South Africa’s heat of summer with AC in the bedroom, it’s taking time for us to acclimate to the cooler, albeit pleasant, weather of Marrakesh (may also be spelled, Marrakech, still pronounced with the “esh” sound).

The dining room where our meals are served each night we choose to dine in with Madame Zahra cooking. One of the conditions of staying in Dar Aicha is to have all of our dining-in meals, prepared, served, and cleared by Madame Zahra and other staff. Employed as a full-time chef, we stay out of the simple kitchen other than to get our beverages, which we prefer to do on our own. Soon, we’ll head to a grocery store for snacks and cheese, also which we will be able to serve ourselves. However, we may not cook at all during the two and a half month stay.

This morning I’m wearing a long dress, long socks, and a hot pink fluffy robe provided in our room and I’m also covered with a blanket. Gee, what will we do in Iceland in September?

This is the entrance to the artist’s studio.  The owner of the riad is a renowned artist currently living in England. On occasion, she spends time at Dar Aicha when it isn’t rented. The staff gave us a gracious card from the owner with a thoughtful handwritten note, welcoming and thanking us for visiting Dar Aicha, a touch we greatly appreciated.

Finally, we’ve adapted to the two hour time difference between South Africa and Morocco with both of us awakening this morning at our usual times. I’m more rested today than a few nights before we left South Africa when fitful sleep plagued me over several nights while anxious over the upcoming long travel period. 

This second-floor lounge area was where we initially anticipated, we’d spent most of our free time. But, once we tried the lower level salon, as shown above, we found it to be a more ideal location for us, although at times we will use this area.

(By the way, we both have combated any future anxiety over lengthy flights and travel time. Although we were tired, we did very well, comfortable that we’ll easily manage any long trips in the future. Traveling to Morocco was our longest travel time thus far).

Most of the rooms surrounding the courtyard are long and narrow but, by no means feel cramped or small. This is where we sleep in this comfortable bed and covers. The colorful glass in the windows blocks out enough light to provide privacy and block out the light when sleeping.

We chose the “blue” room for its calming atmosphere. 

The Moroccan furnishings are interesting and well made. This chest is where Tom stores his clothing while I keep mine in another bedroom preventing me from awakening him when I awake about a half-hour before him each morning. He stays up later than I.

The first night, we both kept walking into the protrusion on the right side or this ornate bathroom door that is at shoulder level. With our bad, right shoulders, we quickly learned to avoid walking into this. On the right, is the last of our now worn large orange suitcase, used for Tom’s clothing.

The interior of the master en suite bath, all blue to match the room. The darkened colors on the walls are not water stained. It’s simply a variation in the color. The bathrooms, as well as the bedrooms, are fully equipped for all of our needs, soaps, toilet paper, and tissues, and a hand mirror. The sinks are all hammered brass, which hasn’t rusted as typical for brass near water. 

The colorful daybed is reflected in this antique mirror in our bedroom


This is the doorway from our bedroom to the sunny courtyard.  We can easily drop these drapes for more privacy, if we choose, which hasn’t yet been necessary.

All in all, we’re very comfortable. The food is manageable for my way of eating and for Tom’s taste buds, the people are warm and friendly and we feel safe, although continuing to maintain our usual level of caution.

I chose the pink bedroom for my clothing and for showering and dressing in the mornings. At first glance, these en suite bathroom doors appear to be a mirror, giving one the sense of “Alice in Wonderland,” walking through a mirror.

 

 This is the interior of my pink bathroom.
 This bathroom is cluttered with my stuff, illustrating why it’s best that Tom and I don’t share. In my old life, I had an entire cupboard filled with stuff. Now, I only have what is shown here, a bit messy, but all that I use.
 The interior of my pink shower. Great water pressure and fast hot water. After using water, the pipes make the most unusual sound, a “whoosh,” we’ve never heard before.
The window near the bed in the pink room.  I use the bed to keep one of the smaller orange bags for easy access to our supplies.

The riad is ideal for us, although for the less sure-footed, the one or two steps off of each room into the courtyard could be a tripping hazard. The bedrooms are all up a flight of stone steps with another flight to the rooftop which may be difficult for some. 

The smallest of the three bedrooms is the yellow room which we don’t use at all, ideal for children.

 

This doorway has an “Alice in Wonderland” l than any of the others, especially when entering its charming yellow en suite bathroom.
No photo can do justice to this playful and colorful en suite bathroom.

With our diminished activity level with no housecleaning, laundry, cooking, or dishes, other than walking in the Medina, and up and down the steps, we will make a concerted effort to keep moving around as much as possible.

Today, we share our photos of Dar Aicha and a link to the website where we originally discovered this lovely property. Although not officially a “palace” its style is commensurate with the layout of an open-air center courtyard, as typical in many homes in Marrakesh. 

Another blue sky view of the sky above the center courtyard.  At night, the stars are breathtaking from inside the riad.

This morning, as I stepped from our bedroom to my own “dressing” bedroom, I noticed three of the “tibbits,” (birds) flying in the house. No, it’s not as exciting as a warthog family of four or five or, a kudu with his white “got milk” mustache or, a giraffe thudding through the yard munching on treetops.

Last night’s vegetable course of Madame Zahra’s fine dining. We were so busy chatting I forgot to take a photo of the main course, a flavorful and spicy meatball dish made with cooked eggs on the top. We enjoyed it all.

But, it was exciting to see the little birds freely flying in the courtyard, their chirping music to our ears, and the sounds of other familiar birds of Africa flying over the house, creating a shadow in the courtyard, in the morning sunlight.

For now, we couldn’t be happier. Dar Aicha is our home.

Note:  This afternoon, we’re heading out to the Souk and Medina to find a good spot for dinner. The options are many! Our outing provides Madame Zahra a night off which we’ll happily do a few times each week.  We’ll report back tomorrow with more photos, of where we dined, what we ate, and more new areas of the Medina and the Souk that we’ve yet to explore.