Five days until departure…Remembering “staycations”…No dreaded Wednesdays…A year ago, thoughtful slices…

Nothing like a view from the veranda at dusk.

Last night, as we have every night, we took a few minutes to embrace our surroundings while on the veranda.  Soon, this view will be lost to us replaced by other views I’m sure we’ll find appealing. 

A summer rose.

It’s ironic how we become attached to our surroundings for these relatively short periods of two to three months. Even Marrakech, Morocco, although not our favorite place to live, had its charm and appeal. I think of it often remembering every minute detail, especially the household staff.

Low lying clouds are a common occurrence on the island of Madeira.

We’re both grateful that we have these posts to aid us in retaining the memory of places we’ve lived and the experiences we’ve had. For me, writing them imprints them into my memory in a way no other experiences have been remembered in my past.

A local man we encountered on the road explained that these are fishing nets. He spoke no English, but we were able to decipher a little of what he was saying.

Add the constant awareness of photo-taking opportunities and my memory acuity astounds me. Oddly, we can almost recount day after day from as far back as to our first foray into living outside the US in Belize so long ago. 

An unusual plant we spotted on a drive.

When in doubt of an occurrence that may have escaped us, we need only search the archives to have the story retold in words and photos bringing every thought and feeling to the forefront to become more thoroughly locked in place than ever.

I wonder how I ever traveled in my old life without documenting my experiences. I only recall snippets of days and nights with memories of a few poorly taken photos now tucked away in a plastic tote at son Richard’s home in Las Vegas, along with a zillion other photos of a life lived long ago.

Lush greenery, blue skies, and the sea create a colorful scene.

Tom and I took a few vacations in our old lives, one to Aruba with friends, a few business-related trips, a weekend here and there. So content were we with our lives at the lake home that we had no sense of wanderlust, no desire to pack, to fly, to feel cramped in a hotel room. 

The clouds rolling in over an older neighborhood.

Most of our vacations were now referred to as “staycations” where people stay home for a week or two leaving work behind, ultimately ending up working at home on maintenance-related tasks interspersed with entertaining friends and family. 

In reality, “staycations” were often exhausting, although rewarding and fun and we didn’t mind going back to work when it was over. Not the same dread one feels when “going away” on a vacation with the thought of soon having to return home.

Another reason we didn’t like to travel was directly related to the dread of the vacation soon being over which usually occurred in a big way by about the Wednesday before departure.

Rooftops, power lines, and terraced hills are a common sight.

Years ago, I recall telling Tom, long before we decided to travel the world, that I wonder what it would be like to go somewhere never having the dread of leaving. And, I wondered, what would that “look” like? Would one go to an island resort and stay forever? It was an impossible scenario warranting little further thought.

And now, here we are, doing exactly what I’d imagined was impossible…never dreading a Wednesday, knowing that we never had to go home to unpack, never having to sort through the piles of mail from the overstuffed mailbox, never having to plow snow piled high in the driveway and never having spoiled food in the refrigerator. 

Banana leaves along the road.

No, we don’t jump for joy each day of our lives on this seeming perpetual vacation. In a very short time, we came to realize that these are the “days of our lives,” at times quiet and uneventful, at times filled with tasks and responsibility.

At other times, it’s filled with awe and wonder as to how in the world did we ever manage to “get here” and get past all of the painful tasks of unloading our lives of stuff and saying goodbye to those we love, who never believed we’d actually do it, nor expect we’d stay “out there” as long as we have. 

With few homes having clothes dryers, railings on verandas become clotheslines.

The passion to continue on, continues on, surprising even us at times. Last night as we stood on the veranda, in awe of the view, arms wrapped around one another, we knew that wherever we may be, there will always be a view.

And, although we’ll always remember this particular view, a new one will soon appear in its place, and once again, dear readers, we’ll be home.

Photo from one year ago today, July 26, 2013:

Santina, our lovely cleaning person in Boveglio, had brought us a plate of these three delicious looking pie pieces. Tom, with his picky taste buds, didn’t find them to be as delicious as they looked. I know I would have loved them if I’d been able to eat them. The remainder of our post on that day was describing how we purchase refills for our few prescriptions from a reputable A+ rated by Better Business Bureau, an online pharmacy. Check out the post here for more details.

We’re leaving on “The Marrakesh Express,” flight that is!…Goodbye Morocco!…

The day we arrived at Dar Aicha we were amazed to see a lemon tree growing inside the riad. Two lemons were growing. Yesterday, for the first time one of the lemons fell to the floor making a loud thump. I picked it up, bringing it in the kitchen to Madame Zahra. We both chuckled. Perhaps she used it in making our dinner last night.

We’re leaving today to return to Europe, flying at 4:30 pm to Lisbon, Portugal, and then on to the island of Madeira, Portugal, a resort island where we’ll live in a vacation home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean for the next two and a half months, leaving on August 1, 2014.

We’re packed except for our laptops and cords. We’re dressed and ready for Samir & Adil to pick us up at 2:00 pm along with the guy with the old fashioned hand cart for the long walk to Mohamed’s awaiting SUV.

Today, we’ll walk through the Big Square in the Medina for the final time on our way with the guy with the cart, Samir and Adil to Mohamed’s awaiting SUV to take us to the airport.

Last night, I was overheated wearing Tom’s heavy long-sleeve BugsAway shirt. I considered taking it off but the thought of leaving Morocco covered in new sandfly bites held little appeal.

Yesterday, the packing took less than a total of two hours which was especially easy for me when Tom decided to suck the air out of the Space Bags with the little vacuum without my help while I took care of last-minute details online.

Was that ever easier! Tom has a tendency to become snappy and grumpy when sucking the air from the bags, especially in yesterday’s 108F, 42C heat. My absence totally prevented this. Who gets mad when they don’t have an audience?

Our final dinner made by Madame Zahra, clockwise from the carrots, sautéed cabbage, sautéed zucchini, salad with peeled tomatoes and cucumbers, fresh green beans, and in the center Tagine Kefta which is meatballs in a seasoned tomato sauce, topped with hard-boiled eggs.  Of course, Tom’s bread and fries.

My old theory of not being in the presence of a grumpy person was further proven to a new level. The packing was done in no time leaving us both cheerful and ready to enjoy our last evening in Dar Aicha. Madame Zahra prepared another fabulous nourishing meal and later we watched a mediocre movie and another great episode of the entertaining TV series, The Vikings.

From this point on in our travels, we feel comfortable not packing until the day before we leave. Of course, our lessor number of bags is highly instrumental in the reduction of considerable stress.

When we first arrived in Marrakech, we’d planned to ride a horse and buggy to dine outside the Medina. After seeing the bloodied neck on a horse pulling a buggy, we lost interest.

With only two large suitcases, each filled with clothing; one smaller bag filled entirely with our combined shoes and boots; another smaller bag filled with supplies; one duffel bag for cords, the little vacuum and electrical supplies; two laptop bags; and my handbag and the pill bag, our load s relatively light.

Hopefully today, we’ll check everything except the two laptop bags, my handbag, and the pill bag with TAP Airline’s easier weight restrictions. The two flights are under two hours each with a two-plus hour layover in Lisbon during which time we’ll find a restaurant in the airport for a bite to eat.

Two doors next to one another. A common sight in the souks.

Hopefully, we’ll have access to a WiFi signal at the Lisbon airport, where if so, we’ll touch in with an additional post as to our progress.  In either case, if we aren’t able to get a signal, we’ll be posting tomorrow morning upon awakening in our new home, of course with photos.

Madame Zahra and Ouimaima arrived a few moments ago. Several times yesterday, we looked at one another with our hands placed over our hearts (a precious gesture of love) which after here a month, she began to do upon saying hello and goodbye. I easily picked up this special gesture as it became a common expression between us. We hugged several times during the day, kissing twice, once on each cheek and back again.

The scene above the doorway to Dar Aicha.
A moment ago, Madame came to see me in the salon while Tom was upstairs showering. Hand over heart, she smiled at me, tilting her head in a token of emotion. I stood wrapping my arms around her, feeling a rush of emotion so powerful that tears welled up in my eyes. Kissing each cheek, we parted still holding hands. No words were spoken when she speaks only Arabic.  Words haven’t been necessary as our relationship grew over these past months.
She will remain as my most treasured memory of Morocco, a people kind and generous, filled with love, warmth, and compassion.

Goodbye Morocco.  We continue on…

Photo from one year ago today, May 15, 2013:

Tom, as we walked the three-hour trek to and from the Lost City of Petra. Although not visible in the photo, we walked downhill on the way and uphill on the return in temperatures over 104F, 40C. Without a doubt, this was the most difficult walk we’ve made in our travels. Without a doubt, it was well worth it. For details, please click here.

Tally of our expenses for 75 days in Marrakech, Morocco…A year ago…A once in a lifetime experience…Check out the photo!

This creative display is so Morocco, brilliant colors, beautifully presented.

With our massive spreadsheet opened, this morning I entered the final numbers for our expenses while living at Dar Aicha in Marrakech, Morocco for the past 2.5 months up to and including when we board the plane tomorrow.

These wristbands are marked “Lovely Price 20 dirhams,” which is only US $2.44.
The grand total including virtually every possible outlay came to a whopping US $14,028.63, MAD 15,0018.84, Euro 10277.11, GBP 8322.63. This averages to US $187.05 per day or US $5611.45 per month, within our monthly budget.
These little pots are often a tourist takeaway.

The stay in Morocco has been the highest cost per day for any two to three month period while living in a vacation home. The bulk of the reason for this increased amount is not due to our general expenses while here.  It’s a result of the higher cost of the rental, more than we’ve usually paid, at slightly more than US $8100, averaging at US $3240 per month.

Handbags, backpacks, and luggage and boots are often appealing to tourists at low prices.

We realize that some locations result in higher expenses. Dar Aicha’s rental rate included the expenses for a staff of four to which we added a 10% tip prorated to each staff member paid in two installments, based on the amount of work they’ve done for us. 

Morocco is known for its spices with Certified Spices a must!
Madame Zahra and Oumaima received higher amounts of the tips while Adil and Samir the lesser amounts. We paid the second half today again receiving warm hugs and kisses of appreciation. Ouch, it’s hard to say goodbye.
Chess, checkers, and Parcheesi sets are commonly offered for sale in the souks.
The costs for meals including dining out, the few snacks we purchased at the grocery store, bottled water, and dining out (including tips in restaurants) came to a grand total of US $2583.13 which is 18% of the total expenses, averaging at US $34.44 per day. 
Bangles and a variety of bracelets are a huge draw for tourists.

This amount is no more than our average monthly cost for groceries (which included paper products and cleaning supplies) in the US when we rarely dined out. In this case, we dined out 33 times with Madame Zahra cooking all the remaining meals. Dining out often cost close twice as much as dining in.

Silver-plated trays are affordable but bulky to pack.

None of these numbers are surprising to us. Overall, we were US $500 under budget. Wow! Budgeting certainly helps keep the expenses in perspective. There is no way one could travel as we do without a documented handle on expenses. It’s that budget that drives our expenditures, our luxury spending, and the occasional unexpected extras leaving us with peace of mind.

These scarfs were for sale for MAD 20, again only US $2.44.
It is that peace of mind that enables us to forge ahead, plan and look to the future with excitement and anticipation knowing full well that our journey can and will continue, health providing, long into the future.
Burberry knockoffs are a commonly offered item in the souks.
Tomorrow, with a plan in place to leave Dar Aicha at 2:00 pm to head to the airport we’ll again post as we wrap up the packing and say our goodbyes to the staff.  We will continue to post tomorrow before departure and again while on the two-hour layover in Lisbon, Portugal if we can find a WiFi signal. At least this is less than desirable laptop holds a charge long enough to last during the layover.
Yes, Marrakech had antique vendors with most items open for negotiation at reasonable prices. 

I get a lump in my throat over saying goodbye to Madame Zahra and Ouimaima who have graced us with their presence each day. We are grateful.

Very grateful.

Photo from one year ago today, May 14, 2013:
Based on the fact that the trip to Petra was a 12-hour expedition, we didn’t post on May 14th, the day of the actual excursion. Instead, we posted over the next few days as we will here as well.

This was our view as we made our way through the narrow passageways in Petra. The three-hour walk to the Treasury in the Lost City of Petra, Jordan was long and arduous, downhill on the way in and uphill on the way back. This journey was definitely not for the faint-hearted. Visiting Petra was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives, contrary to our usual lack of interest in historical buildings. This was a once in a lifetime “must-see” that will remain with us forever. More photos will follow over the next few days. For details, please click this link.

Hot! Hot! Hot!…108F, 42.2C… Hardly suitable for a long trek!…A year ago..Security guard with something in his back pocket…

This bloom appeared to be a future flower. Upon close inspection Tom determined it wasn’t a flower but a leaf growing to maturity.

Yesterday,  another trip to the ATM was necessary to gather enough cash to pay the four person staff of Dar Aicha the second half of the tips as we prepare to leave in two days. With local ATMs kicking out a maximum of MAD 2000, US $245.11 per customer more than one trip was required. We had MAD 2000 on hand from a trip a few days ago.

As we prepare to leave we make a special effort to ensure that we don’t have leftover dirhams making careful calculations important. We had yet to pay for five dinners prepared by Madame Zahra, including today and tomorrow, bottled water, tips and transportation to the airport.

To accommodate all of these expenses, we needed a total of MAD 5300, US $649.54, leaving us enough for tips for the porters at the Marrakech Airport.

This area was to my left as we dined at Le Jardin. The open courtyard with many birds flying about required we sit at a table with an umbrella to avoid getting bird poop on us or in our food.

Of course, with the crowded souks we’ve always planned to have dinner and get cash on the same outing, although the restaurants and ATMs are not located in the same vicinity. This was especially the case yesterday when we were well aware of the hot weather.

Adding the fact that I continue to wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants and socks, venturing outdoors in hot weather can be challenging. We decided to head out at 4:00 pm when I was suddenly feeling a need to eat when we hadn’t had a morsel since dinner the previous night.

The tasteful displays in Le Jardin are appealing.

As we walked outdoors, the heat gripped us. It felt as if we walked into an oven.Thoughts flashed through my mind of the day we spent in Abu Dhabi a year ago this month while I was dreadfully ill and we’d visited the White Mosque. 

Entering the mosque required us to don appropriate clothing; for me, a heavy silky black abaya and for Tom a cool white thobe. The long walk that day from the parking lot to the mosque was the most scorching experience of either of our lives.

Yesterday’s walk was much further than the walk in Abu Dhabi but the temperature matched that day’s unbearable heat. It was 108F, 42.2C! With low humidity in the desert, the heat was slightly more bearable than humid heat would have been at such temperatures.

Another pretty self display in Le Jardin, where we’ve dined on many occasions while in Marrakech.
Had we been able to stay within the confines of the souks, the long walk wouldn’t have been as unbearable.  But, the closed ATM was still not working leaving us with no option but to walk toward the entrance of the Medina where the other ATM was located, part of which requires a fairly long distance walking in the direct sunlight.

I don’t recall ever going for an hour long round trip walk, much of which was in the sun, wearing heavy fully covering clothing when it was 108F, 42.2C. I’m sure some of you may have done so when it was necessary under certain conditions. I commend you. Tom was wearing shorts and a lightweight cotton short sleeve shirt.  It was brutal.

A shelf was lined with various olives, a popular food item in Morocco.

Once we arrive near the further ATM, Tom left me sitting across the road on a short stone wall under a bit of shade. During the five minutes he was gone, a vendor pestered me nonstop trying to entice me into buying a straw hat. Saying “no” didn’t send him on his way. Not wanting to be rude I ignored him. 

Tom returned, shooing him away as we commenced the long walk ahead of us to the restaurant. We trudged along. Upon entering Le Jardin for our final visit, there was no server or hostess in sight.We needed water and we needed it fast. There is no AC in any of the restaurants in the souk and although not as hot as in the sun, it was very warm.

The heat in this sunny area of the Medina was a scorcher and has been so for the past few days as summer approaches.

Finally, we spotted a server who scrambled to quickly bring our large bottle of “still” water. We both ordered filet Mignon this time specifying that I wanted the “monsieur’s” size, not the women’s usual “petite” size. Plus, we explained that each time we’d ordered steaks in their restaurant they were overcooked. 

This time, we also stressed to the broken-English-speaking server that my steak was to be bloody rare and Tom’s pink at medium rare. We were thrilled when our mutually large steaks arrived 10 minutes later, cooked to perfection.

We can’t imagine that tourists would visit during the peak of summer, due to the heat.

With our bellies full, we felt more prepared to tackle the return walk which based on our current location, only required a short distance directly in the heat of the sun. Returning by 6:30 pm, we were happy to be back in the riad in the salon sitting next to the fan with an icy mug of iced tea at our side.

A short time later, my two sisters and niece together for a visit, called on Skype. Much to my delight, Skype was finally able to connect with a stronger signal for a fabulous chat. The signal was poor the previous night making it impossible to speak to my son and his family for more than a few minutes when they repeatedly tried calling to wish me Happy Mother’s Day.

This is the peculiar small door at Le Jardin. We had to not only duck our heads when entering or exiting but also step over a raised threshold. When exiting its imperative to check for speeding motorbikes and bicycles.

Two days and counting until we leave Morocco. Most of my clothing is folded on the bed in my “dressing room” ready to be placed into the Space Bags after our last load of laundry is completed.  

Tomorrow, we’ll post our total expenses for the two and a half months that we’ve spent in Marrakech, Morocco.  Stop back for the tally!

Photo from one year ago, May 13, 2013:

Not our photo. Tomorrow we’ll share our amazing photos of Petra, the Lost City in Aqaba, Jordan. A person standing in the doorway of the Monastery at Petra, Jordan, shows the enormity of the ancient building’s entrance. Carved into the sandstone hill by the Nabataeans in the second century A.D., this towering structure, called El-Deir, may have been used as a church or monastery by later societies, but likely began as a temple. We did not post a story that day since we were attending classes on the history of the Lost City.

It’s been how long since we’ve done what???…Three days until departure…A museum visit a year ago,,

 The prices on the jewelry was very reasonable.

Last night during Madame Zahra’s delicious homemade dinner we talked and giggled over things we hadn’t done in a long time as we’ve continued to travel the world, living in other people’s houses. 

The earrings at MAD 20, were only US $2.45.

As we continued into our discussion, we laughed over the many items that we had taken for granted in our old lives, some of which include:

  • 16.5 months since we’ve used a dishwasher
  • 2.5 months since we’ve cooked a meal, grocery shopped for meals
  • 13 months since we’ve watched US TV programming
  • 8.5 months since we’ve done our own laundry
  • 2.5 months since we’ve made the bed
  • 24 months since we’ve been to a movie theatre
  • 19.5 months since we’ve seen most of our family, 17 months since we’ve seen others in our family
  • 11 months since we’ve been on a cruise
  • 17.5 months since either of us have been to a doctor
  • 17.5 months since either of us have been to a dentist (continued below)
Many of the items were very appealing, again priced at whatever a shopper may be willing to pay.
  • In the past 16.5 months, we’ve only had a car for 3.5 months
  • 11 months since we’ve had access to American type meals
  • 2.5 months since we’ve raided the refrigerator at night to look for a snack
  • 8.5 months since we’ve been able to drink and brush our teeth using tap water
  • 2.5 months since we’ve had an ongoing relationship with English speaking people. (We did have one short conversation six weeks ago at Le Jardin restaurant with a couple at the next table )
  • 2.5 months since Tom had a beer or cocktail at home (only twice in restaurants)
  • 2.5 months since eating: our favorite coleslaw, LC homemade pizza, our bread-less sandwich wraps, a veggies stuffed omelet, ketchup with Tom’s fries, lettuce, a slice of raw onion, a steak cooked properly, a pork chop, Italian sausage and most of all, bacon (No pork is available in Islamic countries)
  • 1.5 months since I’ve been able to wear a tee shirt and shorts (once the sand flies arrived as the temperature warmed, now in the 100F’s)
This shop had all types of souvenirs and trinkets.

What do we miss the most (obviously, besides family and friends)? Tom misses knowing that there’s a car in the driveway giving us the freedom to come and go as we please. I suppose I miss doing laundry the most. The feel, the smell and the sense of accomplishment of washing, drying and folding our clothes is a ritual that I’ve always found pleasing. For both of us, we miss eating our favorite foods.

Photo taken while walking when I noticed the vendor was not inside his tiny shop.

The thought that in only three day, we’ll arrive at a new home where will be able to begin some of the above, is exciting. Long ago, I would never have given a second thought to any of the above items. How freely we adapt, ultimately changing our expectations and subsequently, changing our needs.

A well fed cat at ease living in the souk.

The plans are set for the 2:00 pm pickup on Thursday here at Dar Aicha. The man with the little cart will arrive with Adil or Samir to wheel our luggage to Mohamed’s awaiting SUV. Tomorrow, the final loads of our laundry will be handled by Madame Zahra and Oumainma, neatly folded, ready to pack. Wednesday morning we’ll pack, sucking the air out of the Space Bags as always.

Without a doubt, we’ll be ready for the next leg of our many year’s long journey.

Photo from one year ago today, May 12, 2013:
Today is the last day we’re catching up from my posting error resulting in photos being posted from the incorrect dates one year ago. I apologize for the inconvenience. But, here is one more photo from May 12, 2013 and once again, the link for our readers who many have missed it over the past few days. Some of our most exciting year ago photos are coming up in the remaining days in May. Please stay tuned.

At the Cairo Museum, on May 12, 2013 we saw this statue of King Ramses II that was lying down inside a specially constructed building. Apparently, it was too heavy to stand.  For detail of that date, please click here.

To all the Mums…Happy Mother’s Day…100 year anniversary of Mother’s Day today…

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms all over the world. This flower was blooming on the rooftop restaurant where we dined.

For me, a Skype call, email or Facebook message will fill my heart with all it needs. As world travelers we can’t receive cards and gifts, leaving us content with a simple acknowledgement. How we’ve changed.

Years ago, I’d await the arrival of the loved ones to make the day special. Even Tom fell prey to the expectation of purchasing flowers along with a well written card with lacy pink decorations to be sitting on the kitchen counter when I awoke, espousing the perfect phrase, magically applying to us. Yeah, for Hallmark!

Since he’d already been responsible for doing the dishes, I’d busy myself making a special meal ensuring whatever it was he’d also like. Tricky. Over many years the kids and grandkids would come to call. But in later years, as they created their own traditions, a card and or gift arrived another day. But the phone call always came. That’s how life is. We all make our own place in this world, doing what works best for us, for our family.

So, today, another Mother’s Day arrives and I have no regrets, no sorrow, just contentment. My son and daughter-in-law posted adorable photos for us on Facebook from grandson Miles’ 6th birthday party yesterday, a darling Lego theme that was so befitting his recent passion. Also, included was a video of our first of two granddaughters Maisie, singing and dancing on her first YouTube video. So sweet.

As the day awakens in that side of the world, I’m sure we’ll see more photos and wishes from my two stepchildren and three more grandchildren. That’s all I want or need. My  eldest son in Las Vegas, Nevada never fails to observe a special day with a Skype call or email. Expectations are minimal in this life we live. We appreciate the simplest acknowledgement.

Perhaps, it’s easier this way. Father’s Day will be no different as are all of the celebratory days of the year. A few words of acknowledgement, a token of love is all that is required for us in this vagabond life we live.

This morning after settling in on my seat on the uncomfortable sofa in the salon, onto which we’d added bed pillows long ago to soften the load, I looked at Tom and said, “Well, we’re waiting.” (A favorite line of my sons from their favorite movie as kids, Caddy Shack).

He looked at me in amazement wondering what I could possibly be “expecting.” Several minutes passed and finally I saved him from his bewilderment, “Say, Happy Mother’s Day,” I muttered. We both chuckled.

Roses grown in Morocco are beautiful in the spring. (Previously posted).

He said, “Oh, yeah, Happy Mother’s Day, Sweetie!” I know every year he’d think that I’m not his mother (rest her dear soul) and such wishes were unnecessary. In our old lives, he fell prey to my expectations. Not so much now. It no longer bothers me.

Why would it bother me? In a mere four days I’m going to the resort island of Madeira for two and a half months and then off for two weeks in Paris, then two weeks in London, then two weeks on a cruise to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.  Who’s complaining? Not I.

Yes, life s good. The itchy bites, the annoyances, the 5:00 am chirping birds, cooing pigeons, crowing rooster and the Islam Call-to-Prayer have been a part of our daily lives these past two months. As we move along, other such unique morsels will step in their place, like the ringing of the clock tower next door to the house in Italy last summer and the baahs of the goats in Kenya.

We continue on with love, hope and prayers for the future for all our loved ones, friends and readers from all over the world.  Happy Mother’s Day but more so, Happy Every Day!

Photo from one year ago today, May 11, 2013:

OK, over the past few day I mistakenly posted the wrong dates photos and links from one year ago. Sorry for the inconvenience. So today is catch up day. The following photo is in its place from May 11, 2013.

For some odd reason, Mohammed, our security guy in black in this photo, with the UZI in his back pocket, took a liking to us and stayed at our side the entire time we visited the site of the Great Pyramids. For details of that date, please click here.

Winding down our time in Marrakech.. Sexist steaks in Morocco?…A year ago treasure of the ancient world…

The ATM is near the entrance to the Medina.

Last night, we headed out to the souk to make our way to one of the few ATMs in the Medina, one closer to the souk and another close to the exit to the Medina, quite a walk.

We’re not intimated with long walks. With the continuing necessity for me staying covered up to avoid being bitten by sandflies, the walk in the sun at 93F, 34.4C was challenging. The small bottle of relatively ineffective insect repellent has proved of little value, now with the bottle almost empty. At US $25 there’s no sense in purchasing another bottle. 

Exiting the souk to an outdoor area in the Medina.

It has worked to keep my hands from being bit further but there wasn’t enough in the tiny bottle to cover my entire body every day. Thus, the necessity of wearing jeans, a long-sleeved BugAway shirt, and heavy socks are my mode of dress through our remaining time in Morocco. Tomorrow, the temperature will be 104F, 40C. 

Last night, I wore a long cotton dress to bed topped with a long sleeve shirt. The two bites I got on Thursday kept me awake most of the night with my knee and thigh both swollen, red, hot, and pulsating.

At the entrance to another souk.

I tried everything we had on hand including a jar of prescription cortisone cream that I found in the prescription bag. Nothing helped. I didn’t scratch having learned weeks ago that it merely prolongs the discomfort. One might think, “Get a grip. It’s just a sandfly bite!”

But, these are no little bites. I can only compare these bites to the types of discomfort from getting a horsefly bite years ago on my hand which swelled to the size of a baseball mitt, painful and itching for weeks.

We took advantage of walking in any shaded areas.  Friday, which is the Islamic holy day, the souks and Medina are less crowded.

Enough about that. We continued our walk to the closer ATM only to discover it was “closed.” Our only alternative was the walk through the Big Square in the sun to the other ATM. 

We have yet to pay the household staff for the second portion of their tips before departing, requiring a few ATM visits. The machines only dispense MAD 2000 per visit (US $249.99) certainly not enough for tips for all four staff members, the cart guy to bring our luggage to the road, and the taxi fare and tip for the ride to the airport.

Undercover at the ATM where there are multiple machines.

We always attempt to be left with no local cash when leaving each country with the outrageous exchange rates once outside the country in which the money was issued. Monday, we’ll go out again for more cash and dinner since we plan to stay in today and tomorrow due to the extreme heat.

With only two remaining dining options in the souk, we headed back to Café Arabe, where I’d found the noodle in my food last week. This time, I ordered a plain grilled steak and a side of butter sautéed vegetables, not cooked in the reused pasta water. Our usual waiter hadn’t forgotten last week’s faux pas agreeing to cook the vegetables himself.

The ATM stations are not guarded as they were in Kenya and South Africa.  Surprisingly, the Medina and souks are safe during the day with guards at various locations. Of course, one must take the usual precautions against pickpockets.

We’ve noticed an oddity when we’ve both ordered filet Mignon in Moroccan restaurants. As a female, I always get the smaller steak, and each time we’ve ordered I’ve forgotten to ask for the man-size steak. Eyeballing Tom’s larger steak, he always cuts off a portion of his for me. 

When eating only a small steak and veggies, it’s hardly satisfying. He usually has chips (fries), and bread to fill him up. Plus, I prefer rare to his medium-rare.  His larger steak is usually rare to my small medium-rare.

The heat of the scorching sun will only increase over the next week.

Soon, we’ll cook our own steaks to perfection in Madeira on the grill on the veranda overlooking the ocean. Last night, contemplating the excitement of cooking for ourselves, I made a grocery list on the Grocery Tracker app on my phone, a nifty app I’ve used over the past several years.  Here’s the link to download this excellent free app.

As I write here now it 11:30 am, later than the usual earlier time of 10:00 am, Morocco time. Tom’s sitting beside me in the salon listening to his favorite radio show from Minnesota, US, Garage Logic Sports, an adjunct to his usual show, Garage Logic.  Here’s the link to the podcast.  At the moment their discussing the NFL draft picks for the Minnesota Vikings, the only sports team he follows. 

A garden shop in the Big Square.

Later I’ll continue to listen to Day Five of a free 12-day seminar with many of the speakers espousing the benefits of my life-changing diet for diabetics and for those with many other health conditions. If you or someone you know may be interested in this free three hour per day podcast, please click here

I should have mentioned this sooner since they’re already into Day Five but with seven more days remaining, much more valuable information is available. These are many of the top doctors and medical professionals in the world on the topic of inflammation, the source of most diseases.

That’s it for today, folks. Have a wonderful day as many of you ramp up to celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow.

Photo from one year ago today, May 10, 2014:

We were surprised as we stood looking a The Great Sphinx of Egypt one year ago today. It was much smaller than one might expect. I purposely left the tops of two tourist’s heads as a frame of reference for the size. For details from that date, please click here.

A leap of faith…Uncertainty prevails…More new and one year ago photos…

My friend Joan posted this on Facebook last night and it caught my eye this morning.  So true.

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” How more applicable could this be to our lives? An ongoing sense of uncertainly has become a part of our daily lives.

We have no home. We have no storage. We don’t own a sofa, a coffee pot, an end table, or a lamp. If one day we became tired of traveling, we wouldn’t know where to go. Most of our family, whom we dearly love, live in Minnesota but we don’t want to live in a cold climate. Florida and Arizona are not our cup of tea-too cold in the winter. 

These dried fruits create an interesting display that included a wide variety of dates and figs.

Hawaii may prove to be too costly, which we’ll discover after living on four different islands for a period of seven months beginning on October 5, 2014. We shall see. We’ll share the costs and details here, of course.

Although we have absolutely no desire to settle down anytime in the near future, from time to time one can’t help but discuss and wonder about what may be in store when the time comes that we can’t or don’t want to travel anymore. It’s human nature.

This small display is the only one we’ve seen in the souk selling women’s underwear.

For now, it’s a leap of faith. The world is at our fingertips with plans in the works for 2015, 2016, and 2017, not as far away now as it seemed over two years ago when our original planning began.

Uncertainty was not a sensation that I could accept only a few short years ago. As the proverbial planner always anticipating my next event, I was one to plan my next few hours let alone not know what was transpiring well into the future. 

Off on a side alley, we find used items for sale, most likely purchased by the locals.

If three years ago, someone told me we’d be in this spot, I’d have laughed aloud at such a preposterous thought. Now, I take it in stride, anxiety-free. 

Tom, never the planner, accepts the uncertainty without a thought or concern. In actuality, he’s been instrumental in assisting me in acquiring this level of ease with frequent reassurances that finally I’ve finally taken to heart. 

A vendor with his second-hand merchandise on the ground.

Uncertainty doesn’t require a sense of fear, apprehension, or angst. It’s simply a fact of our lives that each day we’ve grown to embrace. It’s not unlike how we no longer have anxiety about traveling from location to location. 

We do ponder, not worry, if our flights will be on time or if we’ll like the new location. We’ve experienced it all, good and not so good and somehow, we made our way through it all.

Our health and safety are our biggest concerns. And those we manage to the best of our ability with caution and diligence. The rest is definitely a leap of faith. 

More “odds and ends” second-hand merchandise offered for sale.

In six days, we embark on yet another leap of faith, the uncertainty of traveling, the uncertainty of a new location, and the obstacles of another language barrier. And yet as we’ve continued on we’ve grown to allow ourselves the privilege of expecting a good outcome, as long as we have each other and our health and safety intact.

Later today, we’re walking to the Big Square to go to the ATM, a dinner out, and to take more photos. With a few new itchy and painful sandfly bites (it was hot last night and my right leg ended up outside the covers), I’m still at ease, feeling ready to tackle the world. Tom, still coughing a little from his recent illness, is his old self, also ready for our next adventure.

After all, it is a leap of faith…

Photo from one year ago today, May 9, 2013:
No photos were taken on this date although we did post a story, as our ship made the way toward Egypt. More tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we becoming seasoned travelers?…Soon to depart Morocco…A year ago…The cruse adventure of a lifetime began…

These beautiful photos of Moroccan women are offered for sale in the souk.

This morning the pigeons cooing, the rooster crowing, the birds chirping and the Islam Call-to-Prayer awoke me at 6:41 am. My first task of the day over these past few weeks has been to check for new sandfly bites.  Alas, another bite-less night! I bolted out of bed, ready to start the day, a smile on my face.

Tom was still sleeping, as I tiptoed to my “dressing room,” another bedroom I use to avoid awakening Tom which is around the corner, also overlooking the open courtyard. I was anxious to get ready for the day, get downstairs, make tea, check my email, glance at Facebook, and sit down to begin writing as I do each and every day.

Although many packaged candies and cookies have different names then the familiar brands, these products have similar packaging making it possible for tourists to choose what they like.

With only eight days until we leave Morocco, we’ve begun the mental process of winding down. As for the packing, it will occur closer to departure. A few days ago we made our final payment for the upcoming two and a half months in Madeira, Portugal. 

We wrote to Gina, the lovely owner of the house in Madeira, asking that bottled water, bar soap, a coffee pot, a WiFi password, and keys be left at the house for our midnight arrival. And also, we asked that a map with directions from the airport in Funchal to the house in Brava Ribeira be sent to us via email a few days before our arrival.

Dyed yarns hanging to dry in the souk.

No longer do we think about packing until a few days before we’re to depart. No longer do we feel anxious about the flight, security, long lines, immigration, layovers, and lost luggage. 

Finally, we’re beginning to feel like seasoned travelers. After all, we’ve been on the equivalent of 25 or so vacations in a row in the past over 18 months, some for one day, some for three months, and everything in between. 

Although this shop was closed last night, some products remain outdoors. It appears there is little risk of theft when the souk owners look out for one another and with armed guards in the Medina at all hours.

Of course, as we’ve said in the past, they’ve never felt like vacations. How could they? Vacations end.  Vacations have the anxiety of ending, midway through. Vacations are a break from daily life. This is our daily life.

A point that we’ve mentioned on occasion when talking to people we’ve met, is that we have no place to return to in order to repack, as many long term travelers do, to an apartment or condo somewhere in their home country or at the home of a family member with whom they live with for short periods. Nope, not us. This is it.

These colorful scarves are often low priced, often as little as US $2.47, MAD 20.

To repack, we merely go into the closet or cupboard where we currently live and take out the same stuff, albeit with a little wear and tear, placing it into the now worn luggage consisting of our combined two large bags, two small bags, and two computer bags. We’ve learned to travel lighter, physically, and mentally.

Becoming a seasoned traveler doesn’t make us exempt from learning. At every turn we learn, we adapt, we remain open to new ideas and experiences and we kick ourselves for those times when we “should have” known better. But, it’s all a part of the process.

More beautiful giant oranges. 

After all, in most people’s daily lives, they glean new knowledge and new experiences simply from living. The only difference for us, is the frequent change in our surroundings, offering new opportunities to stimulate our brains, our senses, all the while opening our hearts to new people, new ways of life, new cultures, and new scenery. 

Many of you have or have had these same opportunities while being rooted in the homes and towns to which you’ve become familiar. The difference for us is the familiarity part. We don’t have a familiarity to any great extent. Although, in certain locals, we’ve felt as if “we’re home” when returning from outings. I imagine that those of you who have closely followed us, know exactly where those places were.

I must admit that we look forward to that familiarity, even for short periods. It adds so much to the experience. Does that mean that we’re longing to be settled? Not at all. We love this vagabond lifestyle even though at times it’s not ideal. But, isn’t that life anyway?

Of course, we’d love to be able to take better photos in the souk, but the owners resist in most cases, resulting in taking photos without the ability to stop and focus.

Today, we’re staying in. Going out into the crowds and dining out has worn thin. We can easily depend on entertaining ourselves staying in while reading, writing, listening to podcasts, and chatting with each other.

We continue on, for now, and over the next several days, living in the moment, filled with hope and a tinge of anticipation for that which is yet to come.

Photo from one year ago today, May 7, 2013:

This was a portion of the glass floor in the casino on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Sea which we’d boarded the prior afternoon. This cruise was the most exciting, adventurous, and memorable cruise of the eight cruises on which we sailed in 2013. Check back here each day for more photos from that cruise and the exciting stories of our experiences. For details of the post on that date, please click here.