It takes a few days to adapt…What are the adaptations?…

John, the fish guy with Tom.  John will stop by once a week.  Last night I had the haddock which was fabulous without a single bone and the fresh crabmeat.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 
“Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, this is because of its lush greenery and rolling hills. The country receives a lot of rain each year, which keeps the grass green and the plants blooming.”

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Regardless of how well equipped a holiday home may be, there are certain nuances to which we must adjust each time we move to a different country and subsequently, begin living in an unfamiliar holiday home.

No holiday home is perfect.  For us, the primary factors when we book a house is its location, price, views, Wi-Fi and other amenities.  A good kitchen is a must along with laundry facilities, at the least a washer.  (We gave up interest in clothes dryers shortly after we began traveling).

Neither of us cares to live in an apartment unless it’s absolutely necessary such as in big cities where private homes are either too costly or too far from the hubbub of the city which we may explore on foot.

Hotels are another matter.  Location is key for access to sightseeing, along with price, breakfast and free Wi-Fi, included if possible.  We do not book hotels where we must pay for Wi-Fi.

Freshly caught fish in John’s truck.  He may have different options each week.  The crabmeat was delicious when I sauteed it in a little bit of Kerry Gold butter.

This morning Tom booked a hotel for August 9 to August 11, 2019, when we’ll have two nights to spend in Amsterdam before the upcoming Baltic Cruise.  Location was particularly important especially for walking and accessibility to the port.

Amsterdam is very expensive.  Using our accumulated credits for past bookings on Hotels.com here on our site, the cost was still Euro 364, US $408 for the two nights at a conveniently located and highly rated hotel.  We selected a canal view when the scenery in Amsterdam is important to us.

However, holiday homes and hotels always seem to have some type of issues that impact our stay and require us to adapt to the nuances.  This home in Connemara, Ireland is no exception.

The most substantial issue is the fact that the three bedrooms, including the master, are located upstairs, requiring climbing an open wooden spiral staircase.  Not only are the steps a bit slippery with the finely finished wood but they are steep.

As mentioned earlier, Tom and I agreed I won’t go up and down the spiral staircase other than once per day.  He placed a plastic bin at the top and bottom of the steps to allow me to add items to go up or down, which he’ll handle.

Fishing boats in the bay.

When we booked this house, this wasn’t an issue for me but since the surgery to my legs, I’m unstable until I build up my strength and balance.  I’m working on both of these each day, by walking no less than 6000 steps per day or more some days.  After all, I only starting walking about 10 days ago, after lying down with my legs up for months.  Slowly my strength is building.

Another issue with this house in the double bed in the master bedroom, with no larger bed in the other two bedrooms.  Normally, this would work for us but with the necessity of me finding a comfortable position for my leg, the first few nights, I’ve slept in the twin bed also in the bedroom.  This is unusual for us. 

Tonight, we’ll try to sleep together again and if a problem, we’ll have no choice but to sleep separately during the balance of our 90-day stay in Ireland.  If the bed was a queen, such as we had in Marloth Park, there would be no issue.

Another concern is the tiny below counter refrigerator in the kitchen without a freezer. Another refrigerator is located in the laundry room with a very tiny freezer, enough for our ice cube trays, a bag of ice and a few packages of meat or chicken.

When the fish guy comes weekly, I’ll eat the fish a days in a row due to lack of freezer space, as I did last night making a fantastic salad with haddock, crabmeat and tons of vegetable.  Tom had a taco salad.  Running back and forth to the two refrigerators is good exercise for me but annoying. 

Shopping for groceries is challenging when we can only purchase enough to fit into the tiny freezer.  Nor can we make larger quantities of our favorite dishes to freeze and have for dinner on the days we’ve been out sightseeing.  The refrigerator space between the two is sufficient to handle our cold products.

Closer view of boat hauling fishing equipment.

Otherwise, the kitchen has every conceivable pot, pan, gadget, small appliance, dinnerware and flatware and spices that we can use.  The knives are wonderfully sharp.  There are plenty of dish towels and a newer dishwasher.  There’s even food in the cupboard (very few items we’ll use) and condiments in the little fridge.

As for the pluses, the views from almost every window are stunning, overlooking a bay surrounded by mountains.  The Wi-Fi signal is superb, the flat screen TV set up with satellite and many channels (we only watch the news) and there’s an upright piano.

No longer will we need to watch our favorite shows on my laptop.  We hooked up our HDMI cord and can watch our shows from the living room.  We could have done this in Marloth Park but it was always too hot to do so comfortably.

The furniture in the living areas is in excellent condition and exceedingly comfortable.  We have two areas when we can lounge and work on our laptops.  It would be nice if there was an ottoman on which I could put my feet in the evenings but the big comfy chairs do not have this nor have we been able to find a comfortable alternative.

The TV is located at the end of the living room preventing us from seeing it if sitting on the sofa.  We may ask the owner if we can move the furniture around so I can put my feet up at night.

Other than midges (small biting insects) at sunrise and sunset, there are few annoying insects here. Of course, as we often experience throughout the world there are no screens on the windows.  If we want fresh air, we must take the risk of flies and/or midges entering the house.

The lot on which the house is located, although full of vegetation, is impossible to use with uneven land, bushes, and wild plants.  There is a picnic table on the side of the house which we’ll seldom use when it fairly cool outdoors. 

Down the road, if I start drinking a little red wine, as recommended by the doctors, we may sit at that table at happy hour.  For now, neither of us is drinking any alcohol since Tom never drinks alone nor does he miss it.

Overall, we are content and look forward to beginning to research Tom’s ancestry which was a motivator in our coming to Ireland.  We’re quite a distance from some of the areas we’ll research but some others are within an hour’s drive.  Once we get a little more settled, we begin the process.

Tomorrow, I’ll work on the documents to apply for the waiver from our status as “undesirables” in South Africa, hopefully enabling us to return in 2021 as opposed to the five-year ban we received from immigration at the Johannesburg airport last Saturday.

This morning a cleaner will come to clean the house.  We were surprised at the high rates charged by cleaners at Euro 20, US $22.41 per hour.  That is more than we’ve ever paid for a house cleaner although these may be the current rates in the US and other areas of the world.  We’d considered having her clean the house twice a week but instead, we decided on three hours once a week.

After she’s done cleaning, we’re taking off to check out Carna another quaint town which has a few shops.  Its only five kilometers from here and may prove to be handy for odds and ends we may need between shopping trips to the distant Clifden (which requires a 90-minute round trip) but has a fantastic SuperValu market.  We plan to shop in Clifden once a week.

That’s all for today folks!  We’ll continue to get out to take photos as often as possible.  For today, we didn’t have many photos to share but will be heading out after a while and see what we can roust up on this cloudy day.

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, May 16, 2018:

A small but substantially packed ferry arriving in Zambia from Botswana while we waited.  This reminded us of the ferry boat when we arrive in Mombasa, Kenya in September 2013.  Click here for that post.  For more photos from the above Chobe visit, please click here.

Settling in…Photos of this lush green island…A new feature to our site…

 
Finally, after waiting patiently we got a good shot of this pair of cows, most likely a mom and baby.

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland”

 
“Ireland is a beautiful green country located in northwest Europe. It is
an island that is separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea. The island is
considered the 20th largest island in the world and encompasses 84,421
kilometers squared of land. It is home to 6.4 million people, and the capital
city of Dublin has a population of 1.273 million people. The island has hilly
geography with numerous plains and rivers cutting through the land. Its
currency is the Euro. The country’s official language is both English and
Irish. Most people speak a dialect of English, however, many families who have
lived in Ireland for generations understand and speak Irish. Ireland does not
have an official religion, but the primary religion that is followed in the
country is Christianity. Its flag is a horizontal flag with green, white, and
orange vertical stripes.”
The pleasant drive from the house to Clifden, although long, presents some stunning views.

There will be plenty of photos of Ireland as we get out more and more each week.  Since we’ll no longer be posting “Sighting of the Day in the Bush” we’ve changed the feature to be befitting for our time in Ireland to “Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland.”  We look forward to learning about this country as we share these facts with all of you.

Maumturk  Mountains in the background often referred to as the “Twelve Bens.”  From this site:  
The Twelve Bens or Twelve Pins (Irish: Na Beanna Beola; the peaks of Beola)] is a mountain range of sharp-peaked quartzite summits and ridges located in the Connemara National Park[d] in County Galway, in the west of Ireland. Topographically, the range is partnered with the Maumturks range on the other side of the Glen Inagh valley (a Western Way route). The highest point is Benbaun at 729 meters (2,392 ft). The range is popular with hill walkersrock climbers,[2] and fell runners. The 15–kilometer “Glencoaghan Horseshoe” (Irish: Gleann Chóchan) is noted as providing some of the “most exhilarating mountaineering in Ireland”, and “a true classic.” A more serious undertaking is the 28–kilometer “Twelve Bens Challenge”, climbing all bens in a single day. The Twelve Bens was known as “Slime Head” or “Slin Head” throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and possibly before — a corruption of the original Irish name (Irish: Ceann Léime).  It was one of the four “principal heads” or mountain peaks that mariners used as navigational landmarks on the Atlantic coast of Ireland.”

As I continue to recover with the left leg still an issue, I find I am beginning to be able to move around much more.  After all, I only began walking on my own and able to sit up for a little over a week.  

From African wildlife to barnyard animals, we’ve found a degree of contentment especially when they are as cute as these two cows, huddled together to stay warm on a chilly morning.

It takes time to regain muscle strength, stability, and mobility but right now the daily progress is clearly visible.  Today, for the first time in three months, I am making dinner, chopping vegetables, standing on my feet and actually made the bed this morning.  I am very hopeful.

Cows are very curious.  They often stopped grazing to check out who’s driving by.

As for Ireland, it’s not surprisingly beautiful when we both had been here in years passed.  This is Tom’s fourth time in the country (twice before I was on the scene) and once for both of us as a port of call while on a cruise in September 2014 when we visited the port city of Cobh, the last port of call for the Titanic.


The people of Ireland?  Outrageously friendly.  Yesterday, the “fish guy” John O’Flannery stopped by with his refrigerated truck to see if we were interested in buying some fresh fish.  I couldn’t have been more excited to see a fish guy but we didn’t have any cash to pay him.  

We’ve seen these three burros.  “The only real difference between a donkey and a burro is their domestication status. A donkey is domesticated, a burro is wild. Other than that, there is no difference — burro is just the Spanish word for donkey. There is no physical or genetic difference between a burro or a donkey otherwise.”

The package from the US only arrived yesterday, containing our two new ATM cards.  When John stopped by around 1600 hours, (4:00 pm), we’d yet to take the 45-minute drive to the next biggest town, Clifden where we could finally go to an ATM for cash.

After we purchase the SIM cards at the post office, we walked along the boulevard in Clifden, enjoying the wide array of shops, pubs, and restaurants.

But, John, friendly and trusting encouraged us to take our choice of fish and we could pay him next week when he stops by.  We purchased a container of fresh crabmeat and a kilo of haddock, fresh from the sea, for a total of Euro 14.00, US $15.66, a sufficient amount for three meals.  


Tom doesn’t eat fish unless it battered and fried so I’m on my own with everything we’ll purchase from John in the three months we’ll be here. Before too long, the “vegetable lady” will stop by with fresh organic produce from her nearby farm.  We love country living with these types of perks.

The strips of shops made it easy to get around the downtown area.

As mentioned above and in yesterday’s post, our package from the US finally arrived.  The local DHL tried to deliver the prior day but had called our property owner Eileen to tell her we’d yet to pay the Euro 259, US $290 customs fee assessed on the package.  

Plants for sale at a local garden store. The owner came out to greet us.  The Irish are very friendly.

I spoke to the DHL driver and gave him the payment verification number, proving we’d paid when we received an email requesting payment several days ago.  At this point, he was too far away to deliver the box and didn’t bring it out until yesterday after he received notice from the company that we had, in fact, paid the customs fees.  


Contained in the box were our two new debit cards which had expired at the end of March. We had virtually not a single Euro in our possession.  We desperately needed some cash.  

The Clifden town square.

Plus, we’d tried to purchase SIM cards in Clifden on Monday for airtime, text, and data from the post office only to discover it couldn’t be accomplished without a debit card and/or cash, of which we had neither on Monday.  All we had in our possession was our various credit cards, none of which could be used for this purpose.  We returned to Clifden today with both cash and debit cards and now our phones have working calling, data, and text.

St. Joseph Catholic Church located in downtown Clifden.

Whew!  We’ve certainly had our fair share of complications lately but somehow, one by one, we’ve knocked them off.  In the next few days, we’ll get to work on the waiver for the request to return to South Africa after we were banned as “undesirables” for the next five years when we overstayed our visas by 90 days as a result of the four surgeries in Nelspruit.

The island we encountered during the drive to Clifden.

For now, we’re settled in. For days (if not months) we’ve been reeling with handling many important and at times frightening issues.  We’ve always known we ran the risk of dealing with such issues and as each of the situations, one by one, is resolved, we realize we can handle the most difficult of challenges.

Sheep are marked with paint as described here:  “Farmers “paint” their sheep for identification.  Frequently, you’ll notice large pastures blanketed in green grass and dotted with sheep.  Typically, these pastures are enclosed by stone walls or wire fences and are shared by multiple farmers.  When it comes time to claim ownership of the animals roaming around hundreds of acres, a customized painted sheep is easy to identify. Also, during the mating season, the male ram will be fitted with a bag of dye around its neck and chest.  When mating, the ram mounts the ewe and a bit of dye is deposited on the ewe’s upper back.  This way, the farmer knows which ewes have been impregnated and moves them on to another field away from the ram.”

A most peculiar aspect to living in Ireland is the fact it doesn’t get fully dark until around 2300 hours, 11:00 pm and it’s fully light around 5:00 am.  So far, we’re succeeding at sleeping through the night and possibly getting six hours of sleep each night, more than either of us have had over the past months.


Awakening to the divinely cool mornings and spectacular views of the sea is therapeutic and enriching.   We look forward to many more mornings, days and nights in this majestic environment as we “lick our wounds” and strive for a full recovery in this peaceful place.

A ram with curved horns painted in red.

Have a fantastic evening and thanks again to all of our worldwide readers for staying at our side during these difficult times.

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Photo from one year ago today, May 15, 2018:

None of the six of us or our guide Alfred could believe our eyes as we watched this male elephant build his mud pool in Chobe National Park.  We’ve seen a lot of elephants in Africa but this was a rare sighting for us. For more photos of this elephant and others, please click here.

The travel day post…

I took this photo from inside the house due to the high winds outdoors.  Many more and better quality photos will follow.  To the left is organic salmon fishing which is common in Ireland.

There are no photos today other than the above main photo. It’s  May 14th.  Tuesday and Tom just returned from Dublin, a seven hour roundtrip after accidentally leaving the duffle bag behind when we picked up the rental car on Sunday morning.  The cameras were in the bag.

Travel day consisted of 25 hours from airport in South Africa to the house in Connemara  and then, requiring him to drive back to Dublin to pick up the forgotten bag, a seven hour turnaround.  We’d tried to have it shipped to us but at a cost of Euro 401.46, US $450 for an express delivery, Tom decided to make the drive.

The duffle contained our laptop power cords, two cameras and their equipment, my sheepskin, my small pillow and blanket and more.  We needed the items promptly.  I felt badly he had to go but now, this afternoon, after leaving at 6:00 am, he has returned and that’s behind us.  Stuff happens.

I’d written part of the post below on my phone but had yet to post it while on the last of the three flights on Sunday.  Subsequently, here it is.  Many of our readers have written to us asking about the long travel day and its described in detail below.

Tomorrow, we’ll return to our old schedule with photos and our usual format.  We’ll be heading to the town of Clifden tomorrow to buy SIM cards for our phone and get cash from the ATM.  On our way, we’ll take photos which we’ll include in tomorrow’s post late in the day, as this one is now.

Now, that Tom has returned my laptop is plugged in and charging and thus I am able to do today’s post.  See below for the travel day post.  And, of course, thanks for your patience while we been dealing with these issues.

“I almost don’t know where to begin.  I’m seated alone on a row of three in business class on the last of three flights from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga to Johannesburg to Dublin. We left Marloth Park 19 hours ago and have the remaining two hours of this last leg and a three to four hour drive ahead us after we pick up the rental car in Dublin.

We expect to arrive at our new home for the next three months around 2:00 pm.  It will have been a long 25 hours.

Surprisingly, I held up better than I expected.  Business class on the luxury 747B, two story Lufthansa aircraft was superb especially when my seat fully reclined to a flat position.  The pillows and blankets we’re of excellent quality and large enough to stay fully covered in the chilly aircraft.  I was disappointed when Tom told me he never slept at all when I’d managed four hours, albeit intermittently due to a lot of turbulence as we flew over the continent of Africa to Frankfurt, Germany.

At each location a wheelchair was awaiting our arrival but the worst and most confusing pickup occurred in Frankfurt when the attendant couldn’t figure out how to seamlessly get us to the final gate.

I must have got in and out of the chair five times when the attendant needed to leave us waiting in chairs while she ran and helped someone else.  We finally made it to the gate and were rushed aboard with little time remaining until takeoff.

But, this was relatively  insignificant  in the realm of things. We had three big concerns awaiting us in Johannesburg, listed below in order of importance:
1.  Expired visas for South Africa by almost three months when the bypass surgery kept us from leaving the country as planned   Tom had applied for the extensions while I was in the hospital but we never received an answer.  It was always in a pending status.  At this point we were considered “undesirables” when we landed in Johannesburg and could be charged outrageous fees and be detained long enough to miss our flight 90 minutes later.  We had letters from the doctors for all four surgeries and copies of statements clearly stating the relevant dates and procedures. We also had a copy of the prepaid flight to Kenya for February 15th which we never used which was the last day of a prior visa extension.

Another more competent wheelchair attendant rolled me up to the immigration agent’s kiosk as Tom stood waited practically holding his breath  After checking our passports it was evident they had two “undesirables” on their hands.

We were whisked away to an office to meet with “the boss” an intimidating burly guy with a plastered-on stern look on his face.  The you-know-what was about to hit the fan!  And then, safari luck kicked in.  Not only did he not ask to see the papers, but we weren’t fined the possible ZAR $8000, US $563.25, we easily could have been charged

However, we were banned from South Africa for five years, unless we apply for a waiver by filling out forms and providing copies of the medical records.  Since I couldn’t use my computer I wasn’t able to get to work on this. 

We have 10 business days to get it completed (eight remaining), which we’ll do for sure before this week end.  We have a fantastic western Africa cruise booked to return to South Africa in 2021 with a non-refundable deposit.  Plus, we’ll want to get back to Marloth by then.  We already miss the wildlife and humankind.

2.  Excess baggage fees – We were worried we have to pay for overweight luggage.  My bags were OK since I was flying Business Class.  But Tom’s bag was overweight.  Well, safari luck once again…no overweight fees.

3. Short layovers with high risk of missing the second and third flights – Amazingly, we made it to the plane in Johannesburg even with the immigration delay.  Being in the wheelchair, although slow moving in the huge airports, got us priority placement in the queues for security, immigration, and boarding.  We barely made both the flight in Johannesburg and also in Frankfurt…safari luck prevailed once again.”

We easily found the distant and remote house in Connemara and once inside we realized we’d forgotten that access to the bedrooms was via an open wood spiral staircase.  We’d booked and paid for this house, long before my surgery.  Walking upstairs is still difficult with my bad left leg and…based on the fact I hadn’t been walking until about a week ago, my strength and stability are marginal at best.

Tom insisted I am not to go up the steps until bedtime, thus making one trip up and down per day.  He placed a plastic bin at either end if there are items to go up or down, such as dirty or clean laundry, my mug, etc. which he carries for me on either trip.  This is working well so far.

As of this morning everything is unpacked and put away. With the duffle bag here and unpacked, and the grocery shopping done (more on that tomorrow) we are totally settled in.  More tomorrow on the house, the location, the market and the arrival of our package with a mix-up which finally arrived today.

Hope all is well your way.

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Photo from one year ago today, May 14, 2018:

The Victoria Falls Bridge crossing the Zambezi River from Zambia to Zimbabwe.  We drove across this bridge and were mesmerized by its beauty.  For more photos, please click here.

Photos!…Pricing!…Exciting new booking…House in Connemara, Ireland for three months…

What a view from our upcoming Connemara, Ireland vacation/holiday rental for 89 nights.

We still have dozens of sightseeing photos we’ve yet to post but today we are so excited to share a new booking we secured yesterday, we decided to put those photos on hold for another day.  We couldn’t be more thrilled with this new booking!

As we peruse our itinerary there were a few occasions on which we felt the time was near to secure a booking for Ireland, from 5/12/19 to 8/9/2019, in a mere 16 months.  

This may seem to be a long time from now but the best of the vacation/holiday homes in Ireland get snapped up quickly especially during the warmer summer months. 

In researching HomeAway on our site without entering dates, we found at least half of the properties were already booked during our dates.  Once we filtered for our dates, with no other criteria, we found few with ocean views in good locations for our planned upcoming research of Tom’s ancestry. 

This kitchen with three sinks, a center island, a dishwasher and that fantastic stove will certainly fit the bill for our home cooking!

We decided that renting a property located close to the middle line of the country, north to south on the west coast which will allow us to drive to any of the cities we’ll research within two or three hours. 

Over the past few days, after we began entering data on our Excel spreadsheets and Cozi calendar for the new itinerary, we spent a few hours each day looking for the perfect property to fulfill our objectives in Ireland.  After location, the next important consideration for us, views. 

We longed for an ocean view which invariably has a profound impact on the price.  We tossed out a few low ball offers on properties more expensive than we’d prefer to pay with no success. 

Property owners in Ireland know the desirability of their properties in the warmer summer months.  The responses we received indicated they felt they will get higher prices in the summer and prefer to book one week at a time.  Long-term, lower-priced renters like us would considerably impact their annual rental income.  We certainly understood. 

Weather permitting we may dine outdoors but won’t mind dining at this table. 

We continued the search fearful we’d run out of options in no time or have to settle for a less desirable property, perhaps without an ocean view and the amenities we so much desire that make long-term stays comfortable and fulfilling for our lifestyle.

Of course, we’d yet to research other companies such as VRBO, TripAdvisor, and others.  In most cases, we prefer HomeAway for many reasons including our familiarity of the site but also their ability to arrange partial payment deposits rather than requiring the entire rental amount being paid in full at time of the booking.

It makes no financial sense to us to pay an entire three month’s rental a year or more in advance, leaving our money tied up for so long. Can you imagine paying your rent or house payment one or two years in advance?  For what?   However, we have no problem paying one-third of the entire rental amount to hold it for an extended period and the balance closer to the onset of the rental period.


Whether it was serendipity or “safari luck” yesterday, after a few hours of painstaking searching I stumbled across today’s shown spectacular home in the Connemara area with views of the Twelve Bens mountain range and magnificent Bertraghboy Bay.  The sunsets will be outstanding!

There are no big trees on the property but the views make up for it.  Plenty of photos will follow once we arrive in Connemara, Ireland.

The house was perfect for us except for the fact it doesn’t have Wi-Fi. The owner has agreed to provide us with unlimited Wi-Fi which wasn’t listed as available for this property.  Without this, it just wouldn’t work for us.  Using a hotspot or dongle is very expensive.

Then, to top it off, the price is so reasonable, we didn’t ask for a discount for our long-term stay.  The total price is US $7,368.49 (ARS 140,325) for the 89 nights which includes taxes, fees and security deposit for which we paid one-third down with the balance closer to the rental period.

This averages at US $82.79 (ARS 1,577) per night over the listed US $77 (ARS 1,466) per night, and also at US $2,518 (ARS 47,953) per month.  Based on the fact that we often book wonderful properties for even less than this amount it works out over the year to remain within our budgetary goals.

The property owner, Eileen, couldn’t have been more thoughtful and delightful to work with us in facilitating the booking process and we have no doubt, she’ll be equally kind and responsive based on all of the five-star reviews on the listing.

This house so well fits our perception of our goal of a “home in Ireland in the countryside with an ocean view” we couldn’t be happier to have found this home.  Once we’re situated in Africa,  we’ll go back to researching other vacation/holiday homes/hotels we’ll need to wrap up for our newly posted itinerary.  In case you missed it, the itinerary may be found here.

For today, we’re staying busy updating the budget with all of these changes and later head out for a walk and our nightly search for a good restaurant, which isn’t hard to accomplish in Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires.

Happy day to all!

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Photo from one year ago today, January 9, 2017:

Regardless of the roads we took to explore the area, we were never disappointed in Penguin, Tasmania.  This scene reminded us of what one may find in a painting.  For more Penguin photos as we began to countdown to move on, please click here.

Blarney Castle…We visited the Titanic’s last port of call…

DSC03534
A better view of Cobh, Ireland, and St. Coleman’s Cathedral.

As it turns out with our limited ability to get online, there will only be one post for the Blarney Castle and visits to the towns of Cork and Cobh, Ireland.

The private tour for eight of us left the ship around 10:30 am on Wednesday, with an expected return time of 3:30. The ship was scheduled to leave the port of Cobh, Ireland at 4:30. 

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Us, in front of the Blarney Castle.
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The Blarney Castle.

Many ship’s staff warns cruisers not to take private tours. If an unforeseen incident occurs and the driver doesn’t get the passengers back to the ship on time, the ship won’t wait. 

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We entered caves on the property walking to the end, requiring we turn around, going back the same way we entered.

If passengers decide on a ship-arranged tour, the ship’s departure will be dependent upon the return of all passengers. We’ve heard nightmarish stories about passengers not making it back in time who’d ventured out on private tours and the ship left without them when they ran into unexpected delays.

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Alternate view of the Blarney Castle.

With only five hours for the Blarney Castle and surrounding area tour, we all kept a watchful eye on the clock during the last few hours to ensure we’d depart on time when we’d stopped for lunch and beer in the quaint village of Cobh (pronounced Cove).

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As we entered the castle, it was so packed with tourists, our group decided to back out when the narrow rock walkways offered no room to maneuver.

As many are aware, the sinking of the Titanic occurred with a tragic loss of 1500 passengers on April 15, 1912.  The Titanic’s last port of call was Queenstown, to be later renamed Cobh. 

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One would have to climb to the top of the castle, lay on their back, and hyperextend their neck to kiss the Blarney Stone. After the stories we heard, we decided to forgo this event.

Having anchored briefly at the entrance of Cork Harbor to transfer passengers and mail to and from Cobh, the Titanic, a huge ship couldn’t fit in the pier. Passengers were “tendered” on smaller boats to enjoy the charming Irish village.

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We wandered through this cute chocolate store but Tom didn’t buy a thing.

The last 123 passengers to board the ship for the intended journey to New York boarded in Queenstown, (Cobh) which we visited on Wednesday. Of those 123 passengers, only 44 survived when the Titanic sank. 

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Tom had visited the Blarney Castle on two separate trips to Ireland. He was excited to visit the woolen mills store to see the Irish sweaters, one of which he’d purchased years ago. He didn’t bring it with him in his suitcase.
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This wool sweater is similar to Tom’s old sweater. I always told him looked like an old man wearing this. Now it was priced at US $189, EU $139. He paid approximately US $49, EU $36 back in the late 1980’s.

Today, the original buildings, streets, and piers of a century ago are still standing with respect and reverence for the tragic story with a museum containing artifacts and memorabilia. 

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Irish mailbox.

With little time, we had to forgo the museum to ensure we’d return to the ship on time. As we sailed away on the narrow passageway, hundreds of local people waved to us as we watched from our balcony, joyfully returning the enthusiastic waves.

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Irish pub.

Tom had visited the Blarney Castle twice on two separate trips to Ireland, the home of his ancestors, once when he took his mother to Ireland and to see the Pope and another with an ex-girlfriend. I appreciated that he was happy for a  third visit with me.

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The Old Oak pub where our group of eight stopped for lunch and beer.

We didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone which Tom had done on his prior visits. One, it required hyperextending one’s neck which held little appeal to me and, we’d heard stories about certain people entering the castle at night and urinating on the stone. 

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Here are the boys!

Whether this was a fable or not, with rampant illnesses aboard ships, we opted out entirely. From those who did partake, they said the stone was cleaned with disinfectant from time to time. Surely, not often enough to our liking.

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Here are the girls!

Tom is 99% Irish which was recently confirmed by a DNA test he’d ordered through Ancestry.com. As we walked along the streets of Cork, Tom spotted a homeless man begging for money with a liter of beer tucked inside his jacket. 

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Tom’s peculiar lunch called “tacos.” Actually, it was ground meat and melted cheese atop a bed of fries. He said it was good. I cringed.

Tom reached down and handed him a few dollars, afterward turning to me and saying, “For all I know, he’s a relative of mine.” I chuckled and squeezed his hand as we returned to the awaiting van and our driver.

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Tom’s Irish beer.

In no time at all, we returned to the ship, through security, and back to our cabin. With ongoing WiFi problems while out to sea, I hadn’t uploaded a post yesterday other than a short blurb and photo of us at the Blarney Castle.  

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St. Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Ireland.

Today, with the ship docked in the Faroe Islands we finally have a good connection and the time to post since we’re able to use the rented MiFi. The ship’s WiFi won’t work for my computer when we’re out to sea. Figuring out a major workaround, we’ll be able to post for the remaining time on the ship until we arrive in Boston where we’ll have WiFi in the hotel, continuing to post each day. No post will be missed over the upcoming days.

Actually, we’re having a blast on this ship. We’ve met more fabulous people than we’d ever imagined possible.  Tom’s frequent visits to CruiseCritic has provided us with an opportunity to meet many passengers from the site with whom he’s communicated back and forth over the past 18 months. 

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The ladies of Cobh dress in clothing typical of the days of the Titanic.

With several activities scheduled with CruiseCritic followers orchestrated in advance of the cruise, we found ourselves with a busy schedule, loving every minute of meeting new people every day. 

Tonight, we’re trying one of the specialty restaurants with a lovely couple Tom met on CruiseCritic who kindly spent time looking for us at the party.

To review the past few days, we’ve been on tours of the following:

  1. Monday: Normandy, France to the US military cemetery and both Omaha and Utah beaches.
  2. Tuesday: Stonehenge, UK to visit the mysterious rock formation, ending the day in Salisbury, UK to see a charming village on the 13th-century church, the Salisbury Cathedral.
  3. Wednesday: Cork, Ireland, and the Blarney Castle and exquisite ground which photos I’m sharing with you today in Part 1.
  4. Thursday: Sea Day, Meet and Mingle for CruiseCritic, a Cabin Crawl (groups of eight visiting varying classes of cabins), and a Poker Run (receiving a playing card at five of the cabins, the best hand winning at the end of the event). We didn’t win but, had a great time interacting with our group of eight. Tom was the designated leader of our group and did an excellent job of navigating through the ship. As the youngest of 11, Tom said, “I’ve never been at the head of any line. I’ve always been at the tail end.”
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Gorgeous flowers on the grounds of the Blarney Castle.

Also, for the remaining days on the cruise, I’d like to review the topics of our future posts at sea:  

  1. September 5 – Part 1, Cork and Cobh, Ireland and Blarney Castle
  2. September 6 – Part 2, Normandy, France
  3. September 7 – Part 2, Stonehenge, UK
  4. September 8 – Activities  and how we spend time aboard the ship
  5. September 9 – Reykjavik, Iceland and Northern Lights Tour
  6. September 10–Reykjavik, Iceland tour
  7. September 11-Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas photos and review of amenities
  8. September 12-Dining aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas including specialty restaurants and adaptations made for my special diet
  9. September 13-Benefits of booking future cruises while onboard the ship as opposed to later and our total expenses for the cruise
  10. September 14-Disembark the cruise starting at 8 am, our arrival in Boston on US soil for the first time in almost 18 months, picking up a rental car and checking in to the hotel for a three-night stay in Boston. Once we’re checked into our room with WiFi up and running, we’ll post in the afternoon on eastern time prior to 6:00 pm when we’ll excitedly meet my dear cousin for dinner.
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Row houses in Cobh, Ireland.  (Photo was taken from the van).

While in Boston, we have several activities planned including necessary shopping for the first time on US soil, a trip to the cemetery where my father is buried, visits with my 95-year-old uncle, and hopefully, if time allows, seeing a few historical sites in the area.

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View as we drove away from Cork, Ireland.

On September 17th, we’ll fly to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we’ll spend six nights in a hotel with ample time to check out a few sites most of which are readily accessible by the nearby train.

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Gorgeous fern in the gardens.

We’re busy, loving every moment as we continue on this exciting leg of our travels.  Our only issues are the WiFi problems that continue.

Photo from one year ago today, September 5, 2013:

Hesborn, our wonderful houseman at the house in Diani Beach, Kenya. We couldn’t have appreciated him more during the three months we spent in Kenya. For details from that date, please click here.

No post today…Booked with activities all day…Photo of us…

Here we are in front of the Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland.  We had an amazing day with new friends exploring several areas in and around Cork.  We’ll share more photos in tomorrow’s post.

Dear Readers,


We’ll be back tomorrow and on all the following days of the cruise.  We are having too much fun to allow me time to write a full post.  We’ve met some wonderful people and have planned activities that will keep us going all day today.


But, we’ll be back tomorrow as always and each day through the remainder of the cruise.  We have some amazing photos we’re excited to share.


Warmest regards to all,

Jess & Tom
__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, November 4, 2013:

No photo was posted on this date.

Leaving London…Heading to Harwich to the pier…We’ll be posting later today…Cruise itinerary here today…

Our usual photo post for today will be online 6 to 8 hours later than usual, which will contain photos of our ship and our cabin. If we spot anything special on the 2.5-hour drive to the pier, we’ll certainly include those photos as well.

We both look forward to sharing our exciting adventures on our upcoming transatlantic cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas over 14 nights.

Over the next several mornings we’ll be leaving the ship on private tours to the following locations with more to follow:

1.  Monday: Normandy, France – American beaches and cemeteries from World War II.
2. Tuesday: Portland, England – Stonehenge
3. Wednesday: Cork, Ireland – Blarney Castle

On these three days, we’ll make every effort to post late in the day when we return with photos from the tours. On each of these three days, we’ll be leaving the ship at 8:00 am, not returning until 6:00 or 7:00 pm with a mad rush to the dining room for dinner. 

In the worst case, we’ll upload a short post explaining when we’ll be back with full posts on each of these experiences, including photos of our upcoming tour in Iceland to see the Northern Lights. We’ll be out to sea for several days and we’ll have plenty of time to upload complete posts of these experiences.

Here’s the actual ship’s itinerary:

DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sun Aug 31 London (Harwich), England 5:00pm
Mon Sep 1 Paris (Le Havre), France 7:00am 9:00pm
Tue Sep 2 Portland, England 7:00am 4:00pm
Wed Sep 3 Cork (Cobh), Ireland 10:00am 4:30pm
Thu Sep 4 At Sea
Fri Sep 5 Klaksvik, Faroe Islands 9:00am 6:00pm
Sat Sep 6 At Sea
Sun Sep 7 Reykjavik, Iceland Noon
Mon Sep 8 Reykjavik, Iceland 5:00pm
Tue Sep 9 At Sea
Wed Sep 10 At Sea
Thu Sep 11 At Sea
Fri Sep 12 At Sea
Sat Sep 13 At Sea
Sun Sep 14 Boston, MA 6:00am

If for any reason, we don’t have a post later today, it will be due to WiFi connectivity issues. We’ll have access to both the ship’s signal and XCOM Global’s MiFi. Hopefully, we won’t have issues with either.

We look forward to sharing our experiences with you in these exciting locations. Thank you to each and every one of our readers worldwide. We always feel as if you are traveling along with us.

There was no post from one year ago on this date:

Part 1, The journey continues…Itinerary additions…

Please see below for details of itinerary changes as we’ve filled in a four month gap in our planning.  Part 2 continues tomorrow.


Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas


Ship Rating: 

This ship will satisfy vacationers with the most active of interests as well as those who just want to relax and take it easy. Sports-minded passengers will love the two uppermost decks, which feature a putting green, a rock-climbing wall, a multi-purpose sports court and the ShipShape fitness center. At the Indian-themed solarium, relax in the whirlpool or take a swim while three 16-foot stone elephants stand guard. After being pampered at the full-service spa, head to the Pacifica Theatre for a star-studded show. Enjoy a variety of meals on board the Brilliance, served in the Minstrel main dining room, Chops Grille and the open-air Windjammer Cafe. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read and grab a cup o’ joe at the ship’s coffeehouse and bookstore, Books, Books and Coffee. In the Colony Club, you’ll find four theme clubs in one: The Bombay Billiard Club, Jakarta Lounge, Singapore Sling’s and the Calcutta Card Club. Brilliance of the Seas
 Ship Statistics 
Year Built 2002
Last Refurbished 2008
Tonnage 90,090 tons
Registry Bahamas
Length 962 feet
Beam 106 feet
Passenger Capacity 2,501
Crew Size 859
Total Inside Cabins 237
Total Outside Cabins 813
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 577
Suites 64
Maximum Occupancy per room 8
Age Restrictions One person must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings 2
Seating Assignments 
in Main Dining Room
Assigned
Dining Hours 6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Dining Room Dress Code Dining
Tipping Recommended? Yes
Tipping Guidelines Royal Caribbean will automatically add a $12.00 USD gratuity ($14.25 USD for Suite guests) to each guest’s onboard SeaPass® account on a daily basis. 15% tip included on beverage orders.
Onboard Currency US Dollar
   
Services & Amenities
Bars/Lounges 10
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Casino Yes
Chapel Yes
Disco/Dancing Yes
Elevators Yes
Hot Tub 3
Cell Phone Service Yes
Internet Center Yes
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Note: Available in certain areas
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Movie Theatre Yes
Outdoor Movie Screen No
Onboard Weddings Yes
Self Serve Laundromats No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Spa Yes
Video Arcade Yes
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court Yes
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator Yes
Ice Skating Rink No
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course Yes
Rock Climbing Wall Yes
Swimming Pool 2
Note: 1 Heated
Tennis Court No
Water Sports Platform No
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting Yes
Children’s Playroom Yes
Kiddie Pool Yes
Supervised Youth Program Yes
Teen Center Yes
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
     (private connecting doors)
Yes
Kosher Meals Yes
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins 15

 

14 nights departing August 31, 2014 on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. Older ships typically have a lower star rating when in fact we’ve often found them to be come of favorites with the old Hollywood décor and ambiance.

As you can see, the cost for cruises increases substantially when adding taxes and tips. Plus, we’ll have additional charges for Internet access, alcohol and non included beverages (of which we have few). Iced tea, coffee, and hot tea are free.

As always, we’ve booked the balcony cabin, receiving the Past-Guest Rate. Here are our actual costs including taxes and tips.


Charges

Cruise (includes port charges) 3,978.00
C&A Member Discount – 200.00
Government Taxes* 282.70
Pre-Paid Gratuities 336.00

Total Sale (US$) $ 4,396.70


*subject to change by the cruise line.

Payments

Paid To Type Amount



Royal Caribbean CC 900.00

Total Payments (US$) $ 900.00
Balance Due (US$) $ 3,496.70


Final payment due June 10, 2014.

Cheapest Inside $1,549
Past-Guest Rate $1,499
Cheapest Oceanview $1,739
Past-Guest Rate $1,639

Cheapest Balcony $1,989
Past-Guest Rate $1,889
Cheapest Suite $4,199


 ITINERARY

DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sun Aug 31 London (Harwich), England 5:00pm
Mon Sep 1 Paris (Le Havre), France 7:00am 9:00pm
Tue Sep 2 Portland, England 7:00am 4:00pm
Wed Sep 3 Cork (Cobh), Ireland 10:00am 4:30pm
Thu Sep 4 At Sea
Fri Sep 5 Klaksvik, Faroe Islands 9:00am 6:00pm
Sat Sep 6 At Sea
Sun Sep 7 Reykjavik, Iceland Noon
Mon Sep 8 Reykjavik, Iceland 5:00pm
Tue Sep 9 At Sea
Wed Sep 10 At Sea
Thu Sep 11 At Sea
Fri Sep 12 At Sea
Sat Sep 13 At Sea
Sun Sep 14 Boston, MA 6:00am

Filling in the gaps in our travels gives us an added sense of contentment and whole lot of peace of mind.  After all, isn’t that what all of us are striving to achieve in our lives whether we’re working or retired?

Some have said, “Wing it!” or “Wait until the last minute and see what deals you can get!”  Yea, try having no home, no car, no stuff other than what would fill a grocery cart and “WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE!!!” 

That might feel like being homeless with a bank account, thinking “Oh my, where am I going to stay tonight?”  For one of two nights that might work.  But, that’s not for us.

Besides, part of the fun in life is “anticipation,” the joy of plotting and planning, imagining the experience along with a sigh of relief when the event finally has begun to occur.  We love that part, too.  We love it all.

Shopping for “good deals” in advance becomes a vital element in the planning stages and later when the event is in process as we delight the good deals and time well spent.

As we’ve mentioned here in the past, we aren’t backpackers. Good for you brave souls out there who are! We don’t stay in hostels which usually works better for younger travelers.  We like creature comforts, many of which may be forfeited if waiting too long to book into the future. 

The gaps in our schedule:
Our time ending in Madeira, Portugal on August 1, 2014 to arrive in Hawaii on December 1, 2014, (where our kids will visit at Christmas), a gap of four full months.

Purposely, we’d left this time open, giving us the option to decide where we’d ultimately want to spend these four months while we’re still in Europe, hopefully ending in a transatlantic cruise as we’ll work our way back toward the US to Hawaii, a long haul.

How could we best expand our travel horizons while maneuvering our way toward Hawaii while seeing more of our amazing world in the process?  How could we make this leg of our journey meet our budgeting requirements?

We decided on one distinct fact:  We love to cruise as a means of transportation, giving us an opportunity to visit more ports of call.  Doing so, enables us to see more cities where eventually, we may chose to return for an extended visit. 

(I can’t get Mykonos, Greece or Dubrovnik, Croatia out of my mind after they were amazing ports of call.  For the reasons why, please type these city’s names, one at a time, into the “search” field on the right side of our main page and you’ll see our attraction to these cities when our posts and photos pop up).

After much discussion, along with Tom’s persistent online searches at Vacations to Go, with endless questions promptly answered by our loyal and knowledgeable rep, Joaquin, on Saturday we finally booked our 9th and 10th cruises since January 3, 2013.

As we’ll wind down our 2 1/2 month stay in the house overlooking the ocean on the island of Madeira from May 16, 2014 until August 1, 2014, here is a portion of our new plans:

  1. August 1, 2014:  Fly from Madeira Portugal to London, England (one way, under US $200 each!)
  2. August 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014: Stay in a vacation rental close to a train station away from the hustle and bustle of the city, preferably a house with character near the sea.  We’re searching for this now and will report back once we lock it in.
  3. August 31, 2014 to September 14, 2014:  Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas from London to Boston, MA, USA  (see cruise information at the top of this post: the route, pricing and cruise details)
  4. September 14, 2014:  Stay in a hotel in the Boston area for 3 nights close to where we have family members that we are anxious to visit, our beloved cousin Phyllis and almost 94 year old, Uncle Bernie.

Another aspect of this cruise from London to Boston is the opportunity to see Paris, although only for a day.  Most likely, we’ll participate in the ship’s planned excursion to Paris which is easier than planning this short period piece by piece.  Also, Iceland has a particular appeal for both of us. 

And of course, Cork, Ireland which has a particular appeal for my Irish guy, Tom, who prior to our meeting had traveled to Ireland on two separate occasions, once to take his beloved Mother in 1989, who passed in 2008, for an entire month to go to Rome to see the Pope and travel Ireland, prior to her going totally blind.  This fact alone was instrumental in my falling in love with him, over 22 years ago.  Any guy who’d take his Mother on a month’s vacation, was my kind of guy. Now, look at him dragging me all over the world, never to disappoint!

At the moment, the rain is pelting.  We’d hoped to walk to the vegetable stand today. As is typical here in Kenya, the rain will stop but the sun will return in a short time. Soon, we’ll be on our way.

Thanks for stopping by, once again.  Much more to follow.