We have a plan…Two days and counting, on the move…

Yummy-looking treats were left in our cabin during the cruise. Of course, I didn’t eat them, but surprisingly neither did Tom.

It’s exhausting whatever we do right now: bending over to pick up and put on my shoes, going downstairs to order our dinner, or waiting in the lobby while the housekeeper cleans our room. This morning we both hand-washed some of our clothes while taking a shower. It took everything we had to wring out the wet items and hang them up.

Sure, we could use the laundry service, but my pair of pajamas that I hand washed would have cost the following for the two pieces: GBP 12.00, US $15.26. I think I paid less than that amount for those PJs when Old Navy had a sale years ago. A single tee-shirt is GBP 5.95, US $7.57. Again, we didn’t pay a lot more for our tee shirts.

Recently, I purchased about ten tee shirts of excellent quality from Amazon for US $17.99 each that most likely will last me for years. It makes no sense to have them laundered and dried in a too-hot clothes dryer by the hotel’s laundry service. We rarely dry our clothes in a dryer as we travel the world. Hanging them makes them last twice as long.

It reminded us of those ten long months we spent in lockdown in India when we hand-washed our clothes. We each only wore three outfits and recycled them over and over again. It was a wise decision at the time, and we’re finding it to be a smart one now.

In the past 24 hours, we devised a plan to allow us to see family as planned and avoid losing much on booked airfare and hotels. With this plan, the only fight we’ll lose is the one we booked from New York to Minneapolis when the Queen Mary 2, the sailing we missed due to having Covid, disembarks on May 1.

We have researched how long after testing positive and being sick with Covid, we might expect a negative test. It can be as little as five days or as long as months. Instead, we will book a flight out of Gatwick directly to Minneapolis once we test negative.

If we can’t get a negative test after we’ve recovered, the airlines will accept a doctor’s letter stating we are no longer contagious and are safe to travel. This letter will be in lieu of a negative test. Of course, we don’t want to be stuck in England for weeks or months if one or both of us can’t produce a negative test, which can happen.

That being said, we are hopeful we’ll both test negative by May 1, a mere five days from today. Are we still sick? Yep. Coughing and exhaustion are the significant symptoms right now. But, a lot can happen in five days. Five days ago, we were isolated on the ship, first testing positive and feeling awful. We’re greatly improved from that point.

This Thursday, a driver will pick us up at this hotel at 11:00 am and transport us from Southampton to London to a Courtyard by Marriott near the Gatwick airport. It’s a 90-minute drive. The cost of this private transport is GBP 200, UD $254.31, pricey by any standards. But, based on how we were feeling, the thought of going by train and dealing with our bags was unbearable. We’d rather spend money on this than on laundry.

We hoped to arrive in Minneapolis on May 1, but a few days longer won’t be a problem. This weekend is a “bank holiday” in England, and the airport could be chaotic. We won’t book a flight until we both test negative or get a doctor’s letter. Of course, neither of us cares to fly until we feel a little better, so staying a few days longer won’t be an issue.

The only time constraint facing us during this period in the US is our booked flight and hotel to Las Vegas/Henderson on May 15. Surely, we’ll make that fight and our booked fight back to South Africa on May 22. One way or another, it will all work out.

There it is, folks, a solution to our current dilemma, albeit with a few twists and turns along the way.

Your comments and best wishes mean the world to us! Thanks to so many of our readers who wrote with tips for Covid and suggestions on making this exit work for us. We figured out a solution that works for us in due time in our usual way.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 26, 2021:

This is our boy, Torn Ear. Enlarge the photo to see his left ear is torn. For more photos, please click here.

Day #290 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…2 days and counting…Covid-19 tests done!…

The excellent staff served us at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport. They couldn’t be more attentive and concerned about our needs and those of the other stranded foreign nationals staying at the hotel during this difficult time. Thank you, dear staff members, for taking such good care of us, including taking everyone’s temperature this morning.

Today’s few photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case, on March 30, 2020. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to depart on January 11, 2021, hopefully. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

When I reviewed past posts from 2020, searching for photos to post here today, I ran across the post from March 30, 2020, with a heading that read: “Please unfriend me, if…Social media during the lockdown.” After uploading that post, I referred to it on my Facebook page, asking any “friends” that felt compelled to post negative comments during the lockdown to feel free to unfriend me. Only one such “friend” did so. None of us needed to see toxic vitriol during this challenging time.

Overall, other than political jokes and some negative comments here and there, my Facebook page has been friendly and uplifting since that time. Of course, advertising has been annoying, as I’m sure they’ve been for all FB users. It’s not that I spend much time on Facebook but, at night, when sleep is elusive, I scroll through zillions of posts, mainly from “groups” I’ve chosen to follow,  geared toward the masses as opposed to me specifically. That works for me.

From time to time, when I encounter an offensive (to me) post, I click to “hide this post” to remove it from my view and those who may be following me. There may be one of these every other day. I’ve yet to begin using Twitter and Instagram because I already spend enough time on my phone and laptop.

During the lockdown in India, the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport has created this heart image as a show of supports using lights in various hotel rooms.

This may change at some point, but lately, there hasn’t been much to say or share based on these ten months in lockdown. I didn’t want to be wracking my brain every day, trying to find something noteworthy to post on either of these. Tom and I are good at sharing our views and seldom feel a need to express them elsewhere.

Now, as our departure time nears, we’re wrapping up a few tasks. This morning we sent our proof of health insurance and both of our Indian visa extensions to the front desk to print. Finally, last night, my extension approval came through, which was a huge relief. Without proper stretching, there’s a possible fine of US $500, INR 36,690, per person for an “overstay.” Also, not having an extension could result in delays which may result in missing a flight.

This morning, a rep/phlebotomist, well masked and wearing protective (PPI) gear from a certified diagnostic lab in Mumbai, arrived at our room for our Covid-19 PCR test and the antigen test which we may have done needlessly.  When we became ill with an awful virus on our last cruise, which ended on November 8, 2019, we both had horrific coughs that lingered for two months. I had to seek medical care and inhalation therapy to be able to breathe. We both had the most dreadful coughs of our lives.

Although unlikely that it was Covid at that early date, we’ve always wondered if it was possible. The antigen test will put those thoughts to rest. The PCR test is required by the airlines and the countries we’ll be entering during the upcoming flights. The cost of the two tests for both of us was US $41.77, INR 3060, done right here, right at the hotel outside of our room door.

After we’d read how uncomfortable the test was for so many people, we were surprised to discover it was no big deal whatsoever. For the antigen test, a blood draw was required, here again, quick and painless. We’ll have the results in our email within 24 hours, perfect for our departure on Monday morning. We’ll print several copies of each.

Right now, as I write this, in 48 hours, we’ll be landing in Dubai. It’s hard to imagine we’ll be on our way. Please stay with us as we wrap up these last few days.

Stay safe and healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, January 9, 2020:

 A dazzle of zebras in an open field from a two-year-old post. For the year-ago post, when we included the cost of our 55-day tour of India, eventually cut short, please click here.

Day #252 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Time for some “whinging” (British for complaining)…

Big Daddy Kudu by candlelight as darkness fell. Soon, we’ll be there once again.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2018 while living in the bush in Marloth Park, South Africa. For more on the story, please click here.

We see this same gecko almost every day on this same tree area in front of the veranda.  It appears to change colors from time to time.

The glow from booking plans to return to Marloth Park, South Africa, departing India on January 12, 2021, hasn’t diminished for me as I count down the days (Tom prefers not to count down). Right now, it’s 43 days until we depart in the middle of the night for the airport. May I say this with tongue in cheek?

  • 3,715,200 seconds
  • 61,920 minutes
  • 1032 hours
  • 43 days
  • Six weeks and one day
    Giraffe in the neighborhood. We never tire of seeing these beautiful animals.

Whew! It can’t go fast enough for either of us. There are few times in our eight years of world travel that we’ve wished for time to fly quickly. After all, when one gets to a “certain age,” we certainly want time to move slowly, but somehow it does not. Wishing or not, we seem to have no control over our perception of the creeping of time.

Besides the obvious, why are we so impatient after over eight months so far? There are a few reasons which we’ll share here today. I need to whine, whinge, complain a little, so please bear with me. If someone had told us that we had to spend even 43 days in a hotel room, with a worldwide pandemic raging around us, unable to risk going outdoors, literally stuck in an average-sized hotel room, only able to order room service and walk the corridors, I would have said, “No way!”

A determined walk along the fence by the Crocodile River.

But, here we are, and those 43 days loom over us like a very long time, especially right now, after eight months of doing this. Part of what has made the concept of these extremely challenging the next 43 days is that Indians have planned weddings for this period when COVID-19 lockdown restrictions impact the usual March through October season.

Subsequently, this hotel is packed with careless wedding guests with nary concerns about wearing face masks, social distancing, taking any other COVID-19 sensible precautions, and who smoke in the stairwell and their rooms in this non-smoking hotel. In reality, Tom and I should stop walking in the corridors now and not begin walking again until we arrive in South Africa.

The Crocodile River after sunset.

However, after working so diligently at my 5 miles, 8 km, in the corridors, each day, for all this time. If I stop now, I will lose all my vital conditioning in the next 43 days. I don’t walk to entertain myself. I walk to improve my cardiovascular health and avoid sitting in a chair for 16 hours a day.

It baffles me. When guests check-in here, they are explicitly informed there is a strict mask-wearing, other than when inside their rooms and the mandatory social distancing policy in this hotel, to protect themselves and other guests and the staff. Imagine how hard it has been for all employees who have slept here every night for many months, unable to leave the hotel to avoid infecting others from going out into the city or to their homes.

A beam of light reflected off the camera at sunset on the river.

Every half hour when I leave the room to walk, I encounter no less than six guests not wearing masks, often coming face to face with me when they storm outside their rooms without a mask. The staff has become very conscientious in wearing their masks properly, although we had to remind several of them to cover their noses early on.

We don’t allow the room service person in our room. The cleaner has to put on clean gloves before entering our space and keep a mask on while cleaning our room. Our cups and glasses must be washed before cleaning anything in our room. Previously, they’d wash the glasses after scrubbing the bathroom wearing the same gloves. We had to squawk about all of these for them to get it right.

Mom and four piglets stop by several times a time.

We’re tired of all of this. We’re tired of telling no less than 25 guests a day to put on a mask when we see them barging out of their rooms, often without even a mask in hand or heading to the elevators without a mask. I’m tired of complaining to the hotel managers. They, too, are frustrated. People don’t care.

We’re tired of guests staying in the room next to ours, never turning off their phone’s ring or vibration during the night, often waking us every 10 minutes. The two room’s beds back up to one another, and the walls aren’t soundproofed. We can hear everything.

Bushbuck baby, maybe dad and mom often stopped by at the bottom of the steps for their pellets.

We’re tired of the room on the other side of us with their door slamming all night long when the guests head to the stairwell to smoke at 2:00 am, 3:00 am, 4:00 am. We’re tired of the noisy wedding night where the entire hotel seems to vibrate from the loud music often until 4:30 am.

Gosh, please give me the sounds of the noisy hadeda birds (listen here) flying overhead at dusk, the exciting roar of a lion in the middle of the night, the insistent chirping of a hornbill pecking at the window for more seeds, or the hysterical sounds of warthogs snorting in the garden.

Tom took this early morning photo of a wound on yet another warthog which appears to be healing. Warthogs are sturdy and hardy animals that often survive serious injury without any intervention by humans.

Forty-three more days, forty-three more days…

Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2019:

Chase, Susan’s adorable Yorkie. One year ago today, I saw my dear sister Susan, who’s since passed away. For more, please click here.

Day #221 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Kenya anniversary holiday, seven years ago…

A morning view of our tucked-away ocean cottage at The Sands at Nomad in Diani Beach, Kenya.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya, when we embarked on a mini-vacation to celebrate our first anniversary of world travel. Tomorrow is our eighth anniversary of embarking on our world journey. For more from this date, please click here.

The restaurant has opened in the hotel. If we so chose, we may now dine there. As we’ve settled into a comfortable routine, sitting in our comfy chairs in our hotel room, with trays on our laps, I doubt we’ll change our routine. I think this may be the case for the duration, for however long that may be.

Finally, we were able to take photos of the elusive Colobus Monkey. Note the long sideburns. 

What a fantastic three-night stay at The Sands at Nomad Resort! They treated us like royalty, knowing we’d be documenting our entirely unnecessary experiences. Today’s photos bring back many pleasant memories, which bring a smile to our faces during this challenging time.

Many times we ask for special pricing for several reasons:

  1. We’ll be promoting the business, not only while we’re on the premises, but also for years to come via our website
  2. In most cases, we’ll be staying longer than most guests
  3. We have acquired a five-star rating as renters from past property owners and property managers
Another Colobus with the long swatches of hair. Not all of them had these particular markings.

As in the case of those mentioned above short three-night stay, our special pricing included a discount of 30% off the regular room rates. We were happy with that at the time. But, now, after researching online, their prices have increased by 40%. Today, their room rates range from a low of US $329, INR 24551, to a high of US $418, INR 31192, per night. Such prices would be beyond our reach if we could return to Kenya anytime soon.

We had such a good time during those three days. During our three months in Kenya, other than the apprehension we felt for our safety due to high crime risks, Our favorite restaurant, Sails, which we visited many Saturday nights, was bombed by terrorists a month after leaving.

After returning from the pool where the umbrellas provided too much shade, Tom did a quick 20 minutes in the sun on one of the chaise lounges in our front yard.

We were ill-advised about renting a car while in Kenya, even in the more upscale area of Diani Beach, due to the high risk of carjackings. Instead, our landlord provided us with the name of a reliable local man who drove us everywhere. Based on these facts we didn’t go sightseeing as much as we have in other countries.

It was while we were in Kenya that the horrific attack transpired at a shopping mall in Nairobi. Even at the grocery store, the taxi was searched by military staff carrying rifles, and we were searched upon entering the market or the phone store where we purchased data. Military personnel was stationed at every ATM.

The chaise lounges at our ocean cottage, where fresh towels are delivered each day.

Our family members and many friends/readers contacted us to ensure we were ok. But, Diani Beach is an almost 10-hour drive from Nairobi. The fact our house and the owner’s house next door were guarded by two guards in two 12-hour shifts seven days a week provided us with a modicum of peace of mind, especially at night.

We had a red emergency button next to our bed, and the windows throughout the house had steel bars on all windows. At night, we had to close the windows due to the mosquitos and other insects when there were no screens on the windows. The house became a hotbox during the night with only a slow-moving ceiling fan over the bed.

Early this morning as we left our cottage for breakfast in the main restaurant.

Why did we go to Kenya? To be able to visit the Maasai Mara for our first safari experiences. But, we are grateful for the time we had in Kenya, which toughened us up. The fantastic local people we met, who were warm and kind, and the rich cultural experiences were presented to us in one way or another, day after day.

Kenya is now open for tourists, and occasionally, there are a few odd flights out of Mumbai. But, based on the above scenarios, neither of us feels it makes sense to return at this time. We long for the freedom of movement, driving, shopping, and dining out, all of which will be possible when and if we can return to Marloth Park, South Africa.

A sunny view from our veranda to the sea.

Don’t get me wrong, Johannesburg and other cities in South Africa have very high crime rates, as shown here:

Countries with the Highest Crime Rates (from this site)

The countries with the ten highest crime rates in the world are:

  1. Venezuela (84.36)
  2. Papua New Guinea (80.04)
  3. South Africa (77.29)
  4. Afghanistan (76.97)
  5. Honduras (76.65)
  6. Trinidad and Tobago (72.43)
  7. Brazil (68.31)
  8. Guyana (68.15)
  9. El Salvador (67.84)
  10. Syria (67.42)

Marloth Park, in itself, a five-hour drive from Johannesburg, has its share of crime from time to time, mainly burglaries of the bush homes, occupied by both locals or tourists. Let’s face it, many cities in the US are not safe right now either.

This adorable cat came to visit daily as we sat on the veranda of our beach cottage.

The bottom line is, “you can run, but you can’t hide.” Of course, with COVID-19, that becomes another consideration for which countries will accept us and their subsequent restrictions for US citizens and those arriving from India. In time, it will all come to fruition, won’t it?

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 30, 2019:

Bartenders are performing tricks at the Ice Bar on the ship. For more photos, please click here.

Day #219 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Living large, living small, living in the moment…

We could only imagine how beautiful our photos would have been on a sunny day, which had started bright and clear, turning to rain shortly after we left. We still had a fabulous day! That’s life in the tropics.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2015 while living in Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji. For more from this date, please click here.

Today’s heading above, “Living large, living small, living in the moment” from this date in 2015, prompted me to use it once again, five years later. Could it ever be more appropriate than now?

Our then home in Savusavu was located approximately 1/3 of the way in from the point in this photo. 

In that post, so long ago, I wrote:

“We try to live in the moment. Overall, we’re good at it. Today, a bright, sunny day with clear blue skies makes it nearly impossible to do otherwise. We’re in Fiji, which we discussed many times as we planned our travels when tropical island holidays came to mind.

In this meaningful life, in the big world, each day, we strive to live “small,” wrapped up in the trivialities of our every day. We appreciate the call of a mating bird, a determined crowing rooster, an annoyed mooing cow, or the stuttered baa we often hear from a lonely kid goat.

The point, close to the home in Savusavu, from across the bay.

We watch the cruise ships, large and small, waft by each day in our magnificent ocean view. Often at night, with their lights bright, we easily imagine the festivities and lively banter occurring on deck, knowing in a little over two months, we’ll be doing the same.

When we think of the future, it’s hard not to speculate, anticipate, and become outrageously excited, knowing full well what lies ahead of us. Even after we’ve visited each continent, there will be so much left to see: the Northern Lights from Norway, a Baltic cruise, the Black Sea, more river cruises, the USA and Canada, and countries throughout the world we’ll have yet to see.”

We passed several small villages while sightseeing.

And now, while here during this ongoing lockdown in Mumbai, India, certainly not as scenic and culturally interesting as Fiji, and yet, there still are moments we find ourselves stopping to treasure a small thing; a bird alighting on our window sill and singing a song; the fireworks on the eve of a Hindu holiday celebration; the kindness of a staff member; and often, the caring and thoughtful messages from our readers from all over the world.

As for “living large,” this is not that time. If any of us stopped relishing “living in the moment,” life would have little meaning. Perhaps in years to come (if we are so blessed), telling this peculiar story to strangers on a cruise ship, or that we meet somewhere along the way, will find us feeling grateful for this life experience and how it may have changed or enriched us in one way or another.

Cows are always curious, and we laughed when this grazing cow picked up her head to check us out.

Every day, I stop my mind from spinning to appreciate that as hard as this may be, I am alive; where had I not had emergency open-heart surgery 20 months ago, I may not be here today to tell this story. If, at the time, I was offered a choice of life, living in a hotel room for a year with my love and companion Tom or, death, most certainly, I’d have chosen the hotel room. There is much to be grateful for.

So, perhaps, this time is all about “living small,” knowing that tonight, after eating dinner on our laps, we’ll watch three more episodes of The Walking Dead (we’re now wrapping up season five). Last night, we laughed out loud, saying how grateful we are to be stuck in this room and not fighting zombies due to that type of pandemic.

It was raining when we stopped to take photos of these fish ponds.

A cup of coffee or tea, a meal prepared exactly as expected, a hearty chuckle from a podcast, or the glint in our eyes when we look at one another, knowing full well, someday, this small existence will change and once again we’ll have the opportunity to “live largely.”

Stay healthy, dear readers, as we all look forward to the future while we continue to strive to “live in the moment.”

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

The digital 3D presentation on our table and plates at Qsine Restaurant aboard the ship. What a delightful experience. The tabletop is a plain white blank canvas, making such colorful presentations possible. For more photos, please click here.

Day #214 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Fun story about us in a Minnesota podcast…Listen up, folks!…

On this date in 2013, we finally spotted a bushbaby eating a banana next to us at dinner as we dined outdoors at the Leopard Beach Resort. A small platform was set up for the bushbabies loaded with bananas to encourage them to visit the guests while eating.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2014 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya. For more from this date, please click here.

In 1993, Tom started listening to a radio show, most often on his way to work entitled, Garage Logic, often commenting to me how much he enjoyed listening to the show. When we began our journey in 2012, he could still listen to the shows via the internet.

Often, I’d listen to the shows in the background while I prepared each day’s post, chuckling from time to time, easily understanding why he enjoyed it so much. In a way, it kept him in touch with his lifelong history of living in Minneapolis, Minnesota (except for these past eight years).

Although extremely shy, bushbabies aren’t tame and are very cautious around scary-looking humans. Their bulgy eyes cause the flash to reflect off their eyeballs, presenting this eerie look. When we selected our table close to the trees, little did we know that we’d be as close as we could get to their natural habitat?

In 2018, the sports-related radio station dropped the show. With a vast and enthusiastic following in Minnesota and throughout the country, the show moved to broadcast via podcast, which may be found at this link. Once they began podcasting, Tom continued to listen regularly, sometimes the latest day’s episode (always one day late for us), or multiple episodes during the times we were out sightseeing, had a poor WiFi connection, or were on the move.

Tom, also multitasks on other websites while listening more intently than I do. The show has become a staple for me while posting each day, listening in and out as I work diligently to get each new day’s story and photos uploaded. At times, I am so engrossed in the details of the daily post. I miss an entire show.

On and off over the years, Tom sent Joe Soucheray, the head podcaster, various articles about Minnesota from This Day in Minnesota History. Occasionally, he’d mention Tom’s name as having sent in the information they’d include over the air. Joe would sometimes say, “Tom Lyman from Marloth Park, South Africa,” or “Tom Lyman from Bali, Indonesia” and such.

Ordering the seafood platter for two resulted in a fabulous meal we enjoyed, each receiving our huge platter. That sure looks especially good now!.

Early on, we noticed Joe stating, “Only, because they come from Mumbai, India, (with a huge emphasis on these words), our friend, Tom Lyman…” Once we became “stuck” in lockdown in Mumbai, India, in March 2020, Tom started sending in an email each day of the five days the show is a podcast. And then, he’d proceed to share the story about Minnesota that Tom had sent in.

Each of those five weekdays, we’d laugh out loud as Joe mentioned the above statement, and in our boredom during this lockdown, we particularly enjoyed hearing him say “Tom Lyman.” For us, it became a highlight of those five days a week.

During this period, many listeners to Garage Logic have written to Tom commenting on how much they enjoy hearing his name mentioned on the podcast while we’ve lived under these unusual circumstances. As a matter of fact, at the end of yesterday’s post (found here), a reader commented, “And because you come to us daily in your posts to the GL Podcast, it seems I have yet another vehicle at my disposal with which to chase the Covid Blues away. You two take care, you hear? Good Luck.”

Tom’s platter included white rice. He ate everything on his plate, except he moved the calamari, cauliflower, and broccoli to my plate.

We can’t help but chuckle, all the while appreciating such comments. Funnily, it connects us to the world and Tom, notably his birthplace, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Every contact with the outside world means so much to us, now more than ever.

Joe mentions us on the October 21st podcast, wondering why we’re still in Mumbai, India. We wrote back, and he read our response over the air on the October 22nd podcast for over three minutes, found here at the point where it was 1 hour, 10 minutes, and 53 seconds (01:10:53) into the podcast (in the event you prefer not to listen to the entire podcast) where Joe tells our story.

This put big smiles on our faces, brightening yet another relatively repetitive and boring day in lockdown. Feel free to share those smiles with us by listening to our mention on Garage Logic.

While at the bar, we noticed this cigar menu. Tom had hoped to order a Cuban cigar to enjoy in our outdoor living room, but for whatever reason, they were out. Not a cigar aficionado, he had no clue as to an alternative, so he passed.  (KES $1000 = US $11.76).

Have a great day!

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

Image result for leonardo royal southampton grand harbour
The Leonardo Southampton, Royal Grand Harbour hotel, stayed for two nights one year ago while awaiting a cruise to the US to see family. (Not our photos). For more photos, please click here.
Day #159 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Using hotel rewards…

Day #159 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Using hotel rewards…

Note: We’re experiencing duplicate main photos in old posts, which our developers are working on resolving. Hopefully, soon this will be changed. Thank you so much for being patient as we muddle our way through “new site” challenges.

Today’s photos are from the National History Museum in South Kensington, London, England, on this date in 2014. Please see that link here.

The time to venture downstairs to the reception desk to pay our bill seems to come more quickly each month. Although we’re affording the costs of living in a hotel, we still cringe over the nightly rates for the room and evening meals. Breakfast is included. Taxes are 28% on top of the room rate. The tax for our meals is 18%.

This is an actual bee, and its size is shown.

No, we don’t have the expense of a rental car, entertainment (duh!),  or wine and spirits, all by-products of being in lockdown now for over five months. The “rent” itself is higher than we usually pay for a holiday home, but in those cases, we must add the costs for a rental car, groceries, entertainment, and wine and spirits.

In essence, we’re paying less per month than we would have paid living in a holiday home. Of course, the perks are considerably less, if not non-existent. As we’ve mentioned repeatedly, we cannot access any of the hotel’s usual facilities, not the health club, the restaurant, the bar, the daily newspaper, and sadly no access to the pool or outdoors.

Photos through the glass are less vivid.

Subsequently, paying the monthly hotel bill (including dinners) at approximately US $4,000, INR 292514, is hardly a sum we relish in delivering. However, with the utmost gratitude, we’ve had a clean and safe environment during the trying times of COVID-19 while trapped in India. On top of the above sum, we pay for insurance, prescriptions, vitamins, website charges, streaming services (more now than usual), cloud storage fees, and a variety of odds and ends, mainly toiletries.

As members of Hotels.com, we’ve accumulated several “free” nights using the link on our site. The amounts determined by the value of the free nights are solely based on our average room rate for the nights we’ve recently used and paid, plus a nightly fee of US $10, INR 731.

Insect displays in the Charles Darwin research area of the museum.

We booked three free nights using Tom’s account from August 29 to August 31, 2020. Then we booked the first 12 nights in September using 12 free nights. All 15 nights reflect a shortage since the room rates and taxes were higher than the value we’d accumulated for each night. Thus, we paid US $481.08, INR 35181, for the 12-nights, including taxes, but not our meals for this period.

The room prices online vary nightly by quite a significant amount. We attempt to check pricing several times a day to ensure that we get the best possible price when we’re ready to book again. We’ve observed the nightly rates increasing and more and more time passes since the onset of the lockdown as more and more in-country flights become available and more in-country business travelers frequent this hotel.

Flying insects.

We have to accept the reality that we could be living here for many more months. There is nothing on the horizon on any news sources in India that international flights will be resumed any time soon. As of yesterday, India, in the number three position in the world, has more new cases and deaths from COVID-19 than the US or Brazil, both in the number one and two positions, respectively.

There were numerous paintings of animals from artists throughout the world.

These facts don’t bode well for India, allowing incoming and outgoing international flights. There are a few flights to the US, UK, and Dubai but, we aren’t interested in flying to any of these locations with the high incidence of the virus.

Nonetheless,  we don’t forget for a minute that we are safe, in a clean and hygienic space, and have little responsibility other than to care for our personal needs, laundry, exercise while continuing to manage our site. I am working one hour a day on the edits on the past almost 3,000 posts, and although it’s cut into my much-needed free time, I’m getting through it day by day.

Stay safe and healthy. God bless.

Photo from one year ago today, August 29, 2019:

Ruins at the shoreline at an overlook in Falmouth, England. For more photos, please click here.

Day #155 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Yesterday marked 5 full months in this hotel…

Note: Our site is still coming together. There’s a huge white space being addressed in the bottom portion of the homepage, which we hope to have tightened up soon. This has been a work in progress which we’ll continue to fine-tune over time. In the interim, there will be a new post each day on our homepage in the upper left-hand corner below the headings. Feel free to comment on any posts. We are receiving many at this time. Thank you for your patience and for staying with us during this period, both during the upgrade and, of course, during this seemingly never-ending lockdown.

Today’s photos are from August 25, 2014, while we visited South Kensington, England.

And so we begin today’s post…

First off, no words can express how appreciative we are for the warm and loving wishes and prayers from readers worldwide for the loss of my dear sister, Susan. The comforting words have meant the world to us as we work through this challenging period of grief.

With the high cost of driving in London, most cars we see other than taxis are high-end vehicles, such as Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, and Maserati.

Tom was also very close to Susan, and it was a big blow to him as well. Often, over the years, while she and I talked on the phone, he would participate in our lively conversation, yelling out humorous and enthusiastic morsels, often leaving the three of us in stitches. Our mutual love of travel, world affairs, philosophy, and ancestry kept conversations between the three of us quite entertaining. We will miss her, more than words can say.

There’s row after row of ornate white apartments in South Kensington.

And here we are, back to our routine of hotel living, definitely less stressful, now that most of the issues with our new site have been resolved and continue to be resolved. I’ve continued to walk approximately 30 miles, 48 km, each week through all this stress. Lately, it’s been a struggle, but I knew it was essential to continue.

We had no trouble finding the distant Laundromat, Bobo’s Bubbles.

Today’s photos are from this date, August 25, 2014, while we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves in South Kensington, England, staying in a beautiful hotel, The Regency, conveniently located to restaurants, museums, window shopping, and laundry, all of which we visited on foot. Taxi fare was expensive, and thus, we’d opted for this convenient location that never let us down.

The boulevard outside the Laundromat.

It was a long walk to the laundromat, but we filled an empty wheeling suitcase with dirty clothes. Tom wheeled while I navigated in and out of the streets to find the nearest facility. We sat in chairs while we waited for our clothes to wash and dry.  We folded everything on a big table and neatly placed them in the suitcase. Able to use several washers at once allowed us to be back out on the street in about 90 minutes.

The Royal British Society of Sculptors.

Nowadays, with COVID-19, I doubt we’d want to visit a laundromat. In the future, most likely we’ll only choose holiday homes with at least a washer, a dryer being of less importance. Wow! I could sure use a washer right now. Although our clothes smell fresh from handwashing, the items we aren’t wearing, still sitting in our luggage, smell musty. Once we get somewhere other than here, we’ll have to wash every item in our bags.

On a walk on a Saturday while in London, we stumbled across a Farmer’s Market open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm on weekends. The smells were amazing.

Ah, when will that be? It doesn’t appear international airports aren’t opening anytime soon, flying, at least not to any countries we’re interested in visiting. Yes, some flights to Dubai, the US, the UK, and a few other European countries. Still, they only allow Indian nationals to return to India or fly out for a specific reason, not including us. No flights are for general tourism at this point. South Africa is still in lockdown, and we can’t see flying there anytime soon.

If we could’ve cooked our meals in London, we’d have purchased some of the items for sale at this Farmers Market.

Friends we made on a cruise, who’d asked us for some advice when they began traveling the world over a year ago, have purchased a home in Florida and are busy outfitting a house they’ve bought with household goods and furniture. They had also sold everything they owned and now are starting all over. We are happy for them based on their enthusiasm to be settling back down.

The produce looked too perfect to be organic.

But, again, this is not us. We can not conceive of such a thing when we still, regardless of COVID-19, are hopeful for the future. We may not be able to cruise as often as we had in the past, nor will we visit any big cities where the virus is rampant. But, we still perceive many options will fuel the passion we both feel to see more of the world.

It was around 1:00 pm when we arrived.  We wondered if these chickens had been sitting outside for the last four hours.

As mentioned in our heading yesterday, it was five full months ago since we checked into this hotel on March 24, 2020. Indeed no cause for celebration. We’re reminded how grateful we are to have avoided contracting the virus. Hospitals here are packed and scary. The overfilled private hospitals, which we heard this morning, have been forced to take the overflow from the public (free) hospitals. Patients are lying on cots, 12 or more to a room. It isn’t very comforting.


These baked goods looked appetizing!

We are grateful. And although this past week or more had been horrible with the loss of my dear sister and the stress of getting this site up and running, we are now settling back into our routine with a little more ease and hope for the future.

The larger bread was priced at US $8.12, 4.90 pounds.

Stay safe. Wear masks. Be grateful.


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

There is an endless array of shops and restaurants in this delightful area of Falmouth, England, one year ago. For more photos from this date, please click here.

One of our favorite sites in India…The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel…

As only a tiny section of Ravla Khempur, also known as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, for the 2012 movie filmed on site.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click “View web version” under the word “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site in a few months, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you.When we originally booked an extra tour of Udaipur, we were greatly interested in staying in one of the luxurious historic hotels overlooking one of the gorgeous man-made lakes in the area.

We were delighted to see the curly ears of the Marwari horses at the hotel. 

We visited Udaipur during one of the excursions on the Maharajas Express Train on day three and posted the story and photos on day 4, as shown at this link. After reviewing our 55-night tour of the balance of India, it appeared we’d be repeating several venues we’d already visited in Udaipur on the train’s various excursions.

Each area of the property was artfully designed. From this site: “Ravla Khempur was chosen as the site or the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; it is an equestrian hotel that was originally the palace of a tribal chieftain, located about an hour and a half outside of Udaipur in the village of Khempur. Madden considered the building to have a magical quality and unmistakable charm, remarking that it had “something special that could ultimately draw the characters in. It had these wonderful cool, dark interiors, with glimpses of saturated light and the teeming life outside its walls. Production designer Alan MacDonald, who won Best Art Direction in a Contemporary Film from the Art Directors Guild for his work, was brought in to embellish the interiors, intentionally making it clash with “interesting furniture inspired by colonial India, mismatched local textiles, all mixed with modern plastic bits and pieces, with everything distressed and weather-beaten. The footage was also shot at the Lake Palace Hotel at Lake Pichola.” (where we are now in Udaipur).

The concept of visiting previously seen venues didn’t appeal to us, and thus, we contacted Rajiv at Tailormade Journeys. He canceled the repeats, replacing them with other tours we’re doing now that we’re back in Udaipur.

Although the property is well-worn over its 400 years, it is amazingly well-preserved and maintained.

Had we known our hotel would be more modest than anticipated, we may not have wanted to return to Udaipur at all. However, after yesterday’s “replacement” tour to a place we’d found online, we are so happy we returned regardless of the less than perfect hotel.

We loved this sign, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, for the Elderly & Beautiful.”

Yesterday, after a 90-minute car ride with our thoughtful driver and tour guide, Vishnu (named after one of the most revered Indian gods), we embarked on a journey to the village of Khempur, about 48 km, 30 miles, northwest of Udaipur (yes, it takes 90-minutes to travel 48 km, 30 miles in the dense traffic getting out of the city).

The pool was added after the filming of the movies. This ivy and flower-covered wall were stunning in person.

We felt the 16-hour long travel day on Sunday from Nagpur Airport proved to be well worth it as we drove up to the closed iron gates of the famous hotel from the US/British made movie, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring some of the finest senior actors in the business with stellar performances that grab at your heartstrings.

Nothing was spared in adding to the beauty of the property over the years.

Vishnu got out of the car to open the closed but not locked gates. At that point, we both thought the hotel had since been abandoned until a kind young man approached and welcomed us. Even that experience was comparable to that which one would see in a movie.

Each entrance has a unique and charming design.

Our mouths were agape as to what lay before our eyes in sheer wonder, curious to see what would happen next. As we followed the young man, who spoke snippets of English, we were then greeted by the manager, a kindly young man who spoke fluent English and offered to show us around. We gladly accepted.

A gorgeous Marwari female horse was checking out who’s come to call, specifically us.

He suggested we stop at the hotel dining room for coffee/tea after the tour, which, once again, we joyfully accepted. How amazing it was to sit in the beautifully appointed historic hotel used to make the 2012 movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and later followed up with the sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 2015.

The horses were curious as to our visit.

Much to our surprise, the hotel is still operational and beautiful, creating an ambiance like none other. As we toured through the massive property with our host, we were entranced by its charm and historical appeal.

A handsome male, one of two stallions on the property.

Had we known it was still operational before booking the lengthy plans for India, nothing would have pleased me more than to have stayed there for a few weeks. What we found most surprising was the fact that there are 17 of the unique-to-India Marwari horses residing on the property described as follows below:

From this site
“The Marwari or Malani is a rare breed of horse from India’s Marwar (or Jodhpur) region. Known for its inward-turning ear tips, it comes in all equine colors, although piebald and skewbald patterns tend to be the most popular with buyers and breeders. It is known for its hardiness and is quite similar to the Kathiawari, another Indian breed from the Kathiawar region southwest of Marwar. Many breed members exhibit a natural ambling gait. The Marwari horses are descended from native Indian ponies crossed with Arabian horses, possibly with some Mongolian influence.
The historic property initially dated back to 1620 AD.

The Rathores, the traditional rulers of the Marwar region of western India, were the first to breed the Marwari. Beginning in the 12th century, they espoused strict breeding that promoted purity and hardiness. Used throughout history as a cavalry horse by the people of the Marwar region, the Marwari was noted for its loyalty and bravery in battle. 

This is the room where actor Judi Dench stayed during the filming of the movie.

The breed deteriorated in the 1930s when poor management practices reduced the breeding stock, but today has regained some of its popularity. The Marwari is used for light draught and agricultural work, as well as riding and packing. In 1995, a breed society was formed for the Marwari horse in India. 


The exportation of Marwari horses was banned for decades, but between 2000 and 2006, a small number of exports were allowed. Since 2008, visas allowing temporary travel of Marwari horses outside India have been available in small numbers. Though they are rare, they are becoming more popular outside of India due to their unique looks.”

Can you imagine lounging in this window seat with a cup of tea/coffee or wine?

We’re delighted to have seen the stunning and unique creatures up close and took more photos than we can use here. Their curly ears are quite the sight to see in person. 

We couldn’t stop smiling, not only due to the horses but in seeing this hotel, reeking with character and history after having seen the movie several years ago. 
This man spends time with this dog guarding the property.
Every room and its innovative design and outdoor space was indeed a treasure to behold, including the abundance of attractive curved archways and doorways to the endless number of daybeds and window seats.
The dinnerware in the hotel’s dining room is made of brass and depicts the Marwari horse’s head on the knives and hooves on the balance of the artful pieces.

After we completed the tour, our generous host offered us tea/coffee and sweet biscuits (cookies). Tom ate the cookies with his cup of dark roasted coffee while I sipped on a fine cup of black tea.

The horse theme is carried out through the property, as shown in these bridle buckles used in the design of the dining chairs.

As we sat in the gorgeous room, admiring everything around us, as shown in the photos below, I couldn’t help but wonder how magnificent it would be to stay in the hotel. No doubt, we were enamored. 

We had coffee/tea in this exquisite room with the Marwari horses looking in the windows at us from time to time. What a memorable experience it was indeed!

To contact the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, also known as Ravla Khempur, and for information on their horses, dining, and hotel bookings, don’t hesitate to contact them at this link or by phone at +91 294 561773, or by email at this link.

A Marwari horse was standing at the window as we sipped on our beverages.
Finally, to our disappointment, it was time to go. We’d considered we’d overstayed our welcome, although our host seemed ecstatic to share his excellent hotel.
We were in an old vehicle, referred to as a Willy/Jeep.

Last night, after a pleasant dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, located across the street, we had a nice dinner, especially enjoying the scenes over Sagar Lake at night with the sounds of fireworks in the distance, birds singing in the night, and the smells of incense and Indian spices wafting through the air.

The marigold.

We headed back to our room, where we purchased the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and started watching the delightful story. In a few days, we’ll download the sequel and once again revel in the familiar rooms of this magnificent property.

India… It’s magical.

Note: A special thank you to the beautiful owner of Ajanta Photo, Level 5, Century Plaza Lake Palace Rd, Old City, near Kalaji Goraji, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001, phone 982 808 3294 for delivering the much-needed SD card reader to our hotel today on concise notice when Amazon India refused to leave our order for this item at the hotel desk in our absence. Subsequently, we can now download photos from our camera to my new HP Chromebook, which didn’t have a slot for an SD card (go figure). 

Photo from one year ago today, March 3, 2019:

Tom tossed some seeds to Frank and The Mrs. For more photos, please click here.

Arrival in India…Long travel day…We survived with flying colors!…New month…New life…

Typical scene on a busy street in Mumbai.

It’s nice. The hotel, the service, the views of the Arabian Sea, and the smell of fresh flowers everywhere are breathtaking. As most of our long-term readers are well aware, this isn’t how we usually travel.

We often live among the locals, frequenting their shops, cooking with their local ingredients, and dining in their favorite restaurants while living in pretty remote locations. 
An endless array of shops littered the sidewalks.

Although we will visit many remote locations while in India, we anticipate seeing life in this unique and highly cultural country. 

However, we’ll exist in relative comfort and luxury both while on the upcoming train, the Maharajahs Express, which we’ll board tomorrow, and the subsequent hotels and restaurants where we’ll stay and dine in the next two months, all four and five stars.

Despite living finely during our travels in India, doing so won’t necessarily provide us with the perspective we strive to attain. Instead, we’ll be observers rather than the usual participants. 
In many countries, these little vehicles for hire referred to as tuk-tuks, are known as rickshaws here in India.

We can live with this since the path we’ve chosen will be safer and more convenient during this leg of our worldwide journey, blissfully continuing after somewhat of a hiatus as I recovered from cardiac bypass surgery.

The 33-hour travel day was an actual test of my newly found endurance. I managed well, sleeping a little on the two-night flights while we both entertained ourselves well during the over eight-hour layover in London Heathrow Airport.
Rickshaws are ready and waiting for weary passengers.

During the second flight from London to Mumbai, I sat next to a lovely woman born in India, now living in London. She was on her way to visit friends and family. Daisy’s intellect and usual dry British-influenced sense of humor made the last flight more tolerable.

We flew on British Airways on both flights. The first was on a newer plane with many fine amenities, although we’d booked economy class. The second flight was on an older plane with an outdated video screen, no USB pugs-in for digital equipment and poorly tasting food. But, at least we were fed a few times during our over 20 hours of flight time.
This red car, which delivered the bride, was decorated with fresh flowers.

Yes, we were exhausted, but we both made a point of doing everything we could to keep our blood flowing; walking about the cabin every few hours, wearing compression stockings, drinking plenty of fluids, and sleeping whenever possible amid the crying babies and toddlers. 

As meticulously planned by our travel agent Rajiv, a rep and a driver were awaiting us at the massive and beautiful Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport exit holding up a sign with our names on it, 

Yesterday afternoon, the hotel was prepping for a wedding held last night. We were able to watch the festivities from our hotel room window. It was a gorgeous and colorful Indian wedding, a sight to behold.

Immigration went smoothly. Tom had to have his fingerprints taken while I did not. The officer explained, “Visitors of your advance age do not have to leave their fingerprints.” Oh.

The drive from the airport to the hotel was not nearly as hectic as we’d anticipated. It certainly wasn’t any busier than Hanoi, Vietnam, Bangkok, Thailand, or Denpasar, Bali. There were many close calls, honking, and motorbikes darting in and out of traffic, but this was normal for us to see, and we weren’t taken aback or shocked by this, as some travelers may have been.

During the wedding ceremony…

Last night, in an attempt to avert jet lag, we didn’t eat dinner. To us, it was night, and neither of us was hungry. Instead, we went to bed early (after a short afternoon nap and shower). Although we both awoke several times during the night, overall, we both slept well. This morning we were refreshed and ready to continue.

The included breakfast in the hotel was delicious with many Indian favorites, some of which I tried when the chef explained what I could and couldn’t eat. They had the best-tasting spiciest chicken I’d ever had, along with chicken sausages and streaky bacon. Tom had two eggs Benedict (minus the sauce) and bacon. He was content.

We zoomed in for a better view of the wedding nuptials.

Now, as we wait for our room to be cleaned, we’re sitting in the lounge in the lobby. Once our room is cleaned, we’ll go through all of our stuff to decide how we can lighten our load sufficiently to comply with weight restrictions for the four upcoming domestic flights ahead of us during the 55-night private tour,

Tomorrow at 8:00 am, we’ll be transported from our hotel to a luxury hotel palace where the group of passengers for the upcoming Maharajas Express will meet for an introduction as to what’s ahead for our week-long train journey.

Most likely, tomorrow, I will upload a short post with some photos of the train and our cabin and begin the wonders of sharing the many wonders we’ll experience along the way.

Please check back. We can’t wait to share all of this with our readers/friends.

Happy day!

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

This gentle little soul is “Little’s Friend.” He stops by each day without Little to see what’s going on. He’s easy to spot with his extra tiny tusks, much smaller than Little’s from which he derived his name. For more photos, please click here.