Flight and rental car booked for Australia…Great deals! Sharing the best prices we’ve found for car rentals…

Taro root, growing in this field, is a popular item used in Hawaiian cooking.

As many of our long term readers are well aware, often our photos don’t match our stories. We continue to search for new and hopefully interesting photo ops in our explorations of any area in which we’re living at any given time. This is the case today, as is often the case, with the exception of the car photo listed below.

The Hawaiian Coot, most often found near water. It was our first sighting of this bird.

We commence with today’s story:

We booked all of our airfare through the Expedia link on our website. As a listed advertiser for us, we get a tiny commission for using it although the pricing is no better or worse than through Expedia directly. 

If our readers click on any of our advertiser links, we receive more tiny commissions, none of which will make us rich but help offset some of the costs of maintaining our site. Please feel free to use them as needed. 

The Hanalei Wildlife Refuse provides a lush habitat for a considerable number of birds in Kauai.

There’s no pressure from us to use these links. Our site is “free” to our worldwide readers. But, if you’re going to shop at any of these sites, please consider doing so through us. We appreciate it!

However, when shopping for flights and car rentals, the best pricing is always our first consideration. For airline tickets, we’ve had considerable luck with Expedia. 

We were surprised it had taken us so long to travel this particular road.  We were glad we did.

However, with car rentals, especially for our extended periods, we’ve had to perform extended searches for the best possible pricing. Over these past 30 months, we’ve spent hundreds of hours researching off and on as to where to get the best pricing on car rentals.

So far, for us, the best bet has been at this link for rentalcars.com. Once we enter dates and times, their site searches all providers allowing us to choose the best cars for the best prices. Here’s what we locked up a few days ago:

The Okolehao Trail begins here, leading up a steep incline using ropes to assist experienced hikers only up a two to three-hour hike up the mountains. Not quite suitable for us. Click here for details.

Car Group: Hyundai i20 or similar
Supplier: Europcar

Pick-up details:
Country: Australia
City: Cairns
Location: Cairns Airport
Date: 11 Jun 2015 10:00

Drop-off details:
Location: Cairns Airport
Date: 8 Sep 2015 10:00

Total Cost: US$1709.50
Flight number:

That’s US $1709.50 for 89 days! That total at $19.21 per day, not too bad or an average of $576 24 per month.  Here in Kauai, we paid a little more at $677 per month, still an excellent deal.

Sure, a Hyundai 120 is a small car. See photo below:

This Hyundai i20 is ideal for our needs with excellent gas mileage and, we can easily fit all of our luggage between the hatchback and back seat, our first consideration when renting a car.

Often, once we arrive at the desk of the provider at the airport, they often try to up-sell us a larger car. We rarely consider an upgrade. What’s the purpose? However, when we lived in Madeira almost a year ago, we chose a larger car with a more powerful engine in order to navigate the many steep hills. 

The difference, if I recall correctly, was about $50 more a month and well worth the expense under those special circumstances. Those steep winding hills with Tom driving a stick shift were tough enough in our upgrade.

It’s good to know that cattle are no longer branded, instead, wearing tags (in this case orange tags) on their ears as shown in this photo.

Our next expenditure a few days ago was to purchase airline tickets from Sydney, Australia to Cairns, Australia when we arrive by ship on June 11th. Careful planning, considering the time of day the ship reaches the dock, the time it will take to disembark 2000 passengers, and how long it will take to get a taxi to the airport in Sydney.

The ship will dock in Sydney at 6:00 am and be ready for passengers to disembark by 8:00 am. However, based on past experience it can take several hours to get our luggage, go through customs and immigration, and to wait in line for a taxi.

A lone horse, tied to a rope looked our way as we stopped for this photo.

With only a few nonstop flights to Cairns each day (pronounced Cannes, like the French city), we chose the afternoon flight, leaving us almost about five hours to run through the entire process. 

We often set up our transportation from cruises in this same manner, leaving lots of time for the process. We lay back on getting off the ship, staying in our cabin until they kick us out. It’s either, wait on the ship or wait at the airport, neither of which makes any difference to us.

The Hanalei River continues for 15 miles.

Why didn’t we chose an earlier flight?  As it says in our tag line or motto: “Wafting Through Our World Wide Travels with Ease, Joy and Simplicity,” we always attempt to take the less stress-invoking means of arriving at our next location.

What if there were a customs or immigration delay at the ship?  We don’t want to be rushing and worrying. A day of travel is a day of travel. The things we control we plan to be easy and hopefully seamless. The things we have no control over…we plan for extra time to accommodate them.

Driving down a road we hadn’t traveled, we followed the shore of the Hanalei River.

The cost of this nonstop one-way flight for both of us, from Sydney to Cairns, is as follows:

Qantas Price Summary

  •     $235.40
    • Flight          $218.00
    • Taxes & Fees $17.40
  •     $235.40
    • Flight           $218.00
    • Taxes & Fees  $17.40
    • Total:          $470.80

Based on the fact we’re able to fly Qantas Airline, one of the highest-rated airlines in the world, we’re pleased with this booking.
We’ll pick up the rental car and be on our way on the relatively short drive from the airport to Trinity Beach, the location of our next 89-day rental. The estimated drive time is 22 minutes or 12.18 miles, 19.6 kilometers.
Nene birds, the Hawaiian state bird are often found near water as in this case as we drove along the Hanalei River.

Hopefully, by 6 pm, we’ll arrive at our new home, get settled, and head out to dinner. These days, unpacking only requires about 30 minutes. The following day we’ll find a grocery store and familiarize ourselves with the area. 

With these two bookings out of the way, we have peace of mind, a valued commodity in our lifestyle. Low stress…good for health…good for life. 

Have a wild and wonderful Wednesday!

                                              Photo from one year ago today, April 22, 2014:

Our photo from this January while we visited the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre in Hoedspruit, South Africa, a day we’ll always remember. For more photos, from this date, one year ago, please click here.

Transportation issues..Llttle pink car is no more…A driving video…Scroll down for the first posting of an elephant video we took in Kruer National Park…

A segment of our return drive from Blyde River Canyon on our way back to Marloth Park.

Renting a car for a one, two-week, or even a 30 day holiday is no big deal. Trying to rent a car for over 30 days is difficult unless one is willing to pay considerably more disproportionately. We’re not.

Wildflowers growing at the overlook on the Crocodile River.

Using online booking sites, including the major rental car company’s sites, while searching for the best rates we’ve found that any requested rental over 30 days, dramatically changes everything. 

Creek on the Panorama Route.

The rental car companies posted rates for under 30 days are fair. However, they have no interest in renting cars for those same great rates for longer than 30 days which presents an issue for us. The rate jumps exponentially once the 30 day period is over, often doubling.

We rented the little pink car for 30 days for US $519, ZAR $5526. To extend that rate was unappealing.  Extending the rental period resulted in daily rates in excess of US $30, ZAR $319. Many days, we don’t go out.

This Hyena peeked out of his den to check us out at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Hyenas chew on the bones of animals distributing small shreds to their offspring for the nutrients. When he went back inside we could easily hear the unnerving sounds of bone-crunching.

Our plan was to return the pink car last Saturday to Budget at the Mpumalanga/Nelspruit Airport on our return trip from Blyde River Canyon. We intended to pick up another car that we’d booked at another company also located at the airport, paying roughly US $1100, ZAR $11,713 for our remaining 41 days  (at that time) in Marloth Park. 

While heading out to dinner around 7:00 pm on Saturday after returning from Blyde River Canyon, Okee Dokee spotted this baby giraffe and mother.Notice the size differential in the mom on the right and the baby. The photo was taken in the dark resulting in the lack of clarity.

The original daily rate for the pink car was US $17.50, ZAR $186.34. The remaining 41-day contract for which we paid online was US $26.83, ZAR $285.68 per day. By paying this 65% increase we could avoid having to make another long trip back and forth to the airport when 30 additional days had passed. We’d decided to bite the bullet and pay it.

On Friday evening after dinner, our last night at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we received an email informing us that, although we’d already paid the entire balance in full, they were canceling our contract and refunding our money. They didn’t want the car “out that long.” Actually, they didn’t want the car “out that long at that price.” 

This close up is of a baby Warthog, less than two months old, illustrating how the warts have already grown on the face. Males have four warts on the face, females have two.  Notice the extra set of warts near his eyes indicating that this is a male.

There we were leaving in the morning for the long drive to the airport returning the pink car and receiving a message that we had no car for the return trip to Marloth Park from the airport, an hour and a half drive.

This young male, less than two months old, has already grown his tucks.

With our intention to stay calm, while figuring out solutions for any problems that arise, we tossed around a few options:

1. Re-rent the pink car at almost double the rate we’d originally paid keeping it until we returned to the airport to depart on February 28th.
2. Re-rent another car for another 30 days and pay the fees to extend it at the higher rates for the remaining 11 days.
3.  Re-rent another car for 30 days, returning it to the airport, get our past driver, Okee Dokee, to pick us up at the airport and drive us back to Marloth Park with no rental car for the remaining 11 days
4.  Don’t re-rent any car and have Okee Dokee pick us up at the airport, driving us several times a week for all of our outings over our remaining time in this area.

This young female has grown these feelers bristles to aid in burrowing into holes that warthogs use for protection by stealing holes from other animals.  The baby warthogs enter the holes head first.  A mature warthog, including moms with babies, enter the hole butt first allowing them to be prepared to attack if any potential predators try to enter.

The answer was readily available in the “math.” We calculated the cost of the driver three to four times a week, based on mileage rates and it proved to be 50% of what we’d pay for the rental car. For us, it was a no-brainer.

Do we feel trapped without a car?  Not at all. We can go anywhere we’d like easily contacting Okee Dokee by text. As a lifelong resident of this area, she too loves wildlife, readily stopping for photos. Plus, we thoroughly enjoy her companionship.

Tree frog hanging on the edge of the pool checking us out.  Look at those functional toes! Could this be a baby from the nests hanging over the pool?

She suggested we keep track of our outings and pay her in one fell swoop, at the end. I created a nifty page in Excel with her rates, dates, and locations that we choose to visit keeping track of the accumulating balance.  We’ll generously tip her excellent service at the end.

This car rental challenge would not be an issue if the rental facilities were nearby. We’d simply rent three cars for three 30-day periods at the best possible rates, dropping off the car and picking up another. That would have been easy.

The “Three Little Pigs” are getting big. Mom is standing off to the side while they all wait for us to throw out a few pellets. Of course, we complied. 

There was no way that we were interested in going back and forth to the airport many times when its a three-hour round trip, including the time it takes to process the rental. That’s three half days wasted. With the pleasure we experience daily, surrounded by wildlife while sitting on the veranda at our vacation home, every single day is precious.

With only 36 days remaining of our time in Marloth Park, we’re content with our decision. On February 28th, Okee Dokee will drive us to the Mpumalanga airport to begin the lengthy flight to Morocco. Last night, she dropped us off for dinner at the Serene Oasis restaurant located on the Crocodile River, picking us up a few hours later. With her, there’s no pressure to hurry, and no sense of feeling rushed.

The “Three Little Pigs” chased off this shy male warthog.  He decided to hide by the pool until they left to see if there would be any pellets left for him. He looked very worried.  Yes, we tossed him a batch once the “family” had departed.

Shortly, she’ll pick us up at noon to take us to Komatipoort for grocery shopping and Tom’s 12:30 haircut appointment while she patiently waits for us. Tom hasn’t had a haircut in three months which was halfway through our 89-day stay in Diani Beach, Kenya. 

This won’t be the first time we’ve been without “wheels” and surely won’t be the last. With special arrangements we’ve made with excellent drivers in Belize, Dubai, Kenya, South Africa, and more, we’ve managed to function well paying reasonable rates.

With the money we’ll have saved on car rentals in South Africa, factoring in our costs for a driver, it more than paid the entire cost of the three days we spent in Blyde River Canyon last week. 

  To see the detailed past story of this lone elephant that we encountered in Kruger Park last Wednesday, please click here.

It’s all in the planning, the adaptation, and the acceptance that our lives aren’t always as convenient as in our old lives. But, the adventure, the joy, and the fulfillment make it all worthwhile.

Holiday postings update…Please stop back by tomorrow…Something very strange occurred while writing today…

Of nine members of this warthog family, there are two moms; one with four babies and the other with three babies. From watching this family almost daily over a period of 18 days, we believe the mom shown above is the mom of the three babies, which if you look closely are all nursing. (It’s hard to see the third). Thus, the baby on which she is resting her chin belongs to the other mom who is nearby and seems comfortable with this situation. We couldn’t have laughed more when the fourth baby, whether hers or not provided this neck resting spot.

With the holidays imminent, we imagine that most of our readers are busy with preparations and events, leaving little time for our daily musings and photos. We will continue to post each day presenting an abbreviated version that can easily be perused and caught up after the holidays if you so choose. 

The “three little pigs” quit nursing and took off following the other mom as she’d had enough of us for one day.

However, tomorrow we’ll pick up our rental car, and with that, begin exploring, offering what hopefully will be exciting new content as we venture out beyond Marloth Park. Also, we’ll commence on our own game drives in the area, including Kruger Park (which we’ll visit after the holidays).

Notice the size of the anthill behind Tom, located in our yard where there are several.

The thought of entering Kruger Park in a tiny, economical vehicle is a little intimidating when we’ve seen photos of elephants knocking cars on their sides. But, we certainly won’t antagonize any of the wildlife which is often a precipitating factor in any angry animal behavior.

On our way out to dinner on Tuesday night, these wildebeest were hanging out in the front yard of a house.

We’ve heard that Kruger has increased the vehicle limits over the holidays due to the increased number of tourists in the area from 500 per each of the 11 entrance gates to 700 per gate. Over the holidays, vehicles will be backed up on the narrow roads inside the park. We prefer to wait to visit Kruger until after the first of the New Year.

The fees for “internationals” to enter Kruger Park are ZAR $248, US $24.31 per person, per day.

One of the first things we’d like to do shortly is to return to the Crocodile River overlook. Alcoholic beverages are allowed and Tom can enjoy a cocktail while I sip on my ice tea for a delightful “happy hour,” as often as we’d like. There is no fee to enter the overlook area.

Why all these zebra butts were facing the wildebeests escaped us.

The prospect of freedom of driving ourselves is refreshing. After we pick up the rental car, run a few necessary errands in the larger city of Nelspruit, we’ll dine at the popular Hamilton’s located in the cozy town of Malelane (pronounced mal-e-lawn). The distance from Hamilton’s back to Marloth Park is 42 km, 26 miles.

Nothing is close to Marloth Park. Okee Dokee is driving us to Nelspruit from Marloth Park tomorrow at 12:30 pm at a distance of 95 km, 59 miles. Stopping for wildlife sightings certainly lengthens the normal 75 minute driving time.

Tomorrow will be a busy day of driving, which we don’t mind at all. With our newfound ability to stop and take photos along the way at our leisure, we’re both looking forward to being out.

More wildebeests gathered around the clump on the ground.  There was harmony with the zebras.

This past almost three weeks of waiting and watching for visitors has been glorious. Now, with Marloth Park jammed with holiday tourists, we’ve noticed a decline in the visitors over the past four days.

Danie explained that the animals roam from spot to spot foraging along the way. As the rains come (it’s rainy season now as summer begins on December 21st) and more vegetation grows, they move on to the next prolific location, returning to past locations in a period of time.  

This makes sense to us, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all the extra cars driving on the roads and people at the resorts and vacation homes could certainly have a bearing on the wildlife moving about as freely, considering how cautious they are around us, humans.

It appeared that the zebras and wildebeests were sharing some tasty morsel on the ground.
Over these past few days, the warthog family of nine continues to visit, playful, and funny as ever, while an occasional duiker stands ground, staring at us or a baboon skitters by checking out the status of food on the veranda. The birds, including the three Helmeted Guinea-fowls, make a daily appearance. 

Again this week, we got a glimpse of the elusive monitor lizards whose home is near the pool, as they slither in and out of their holes, much too quickly for another photo. 

Tomorrow morning, before taking off for Nelspruit, we have an exciting story to share of an anomaly we found in our yard this morning after writing today’s post, with photos, of course. Please stop back later!

On Saturday, we’ll be sharing photos of our travels outside of Marloth Park, our first big trip to a grocery store, the much-anticipated purchase of socks and the dinner at the popular Hamilton’s. Our course, we’ll include all of the costs, including the car rental.

Enjoy the holiday festivities!

What?…Rental car issues!…Classic European cars guessing game…Please help…

#1 Is this an MG?  Year?  Notice at a distance, the red Ferrari or Lamborghini.

This morning as we sat on the veranda Tom pointed out a procession of classic-type European cars coming up the winding road, fast approaching our area.  Were they on their way to a car show?  Running in my bare feet to take photos, I grabbed the camera and dashed down the stone steps, unlocked the front door (which is tricky), and headed outside, barely in time to take these shots as the cars buzzed by.

There is only one road leading in and out of Boveglio, one heading north, the other south, requiring anyone driving the general area, travel this option, directly passing our house.

Standing on rocky steps, I did my best shooting these photos as the cars whizzed by at surprisingly fast speeds for such a narrow village road. 

Tom’s expertise is in American cars, not foreign cars.  He’s identified these the best he can.

Can you identify any of these cars for us? The make.The model? The year? Correct us if we’re wrong! Please comment using the assigned #’s for each car, at the end of this post. We’ll make corrections based on your comments.

#2 Is this a Mercedes?  If so, which model, year?
#3 Is this a Porsche?  Model?  Year?
#4 Is this a Porsche?  Model?  Year?
#5 Is this an MG?  Model? Year?
#6 Is this a Mercedes?  Model?  Year?
#7 Is this a Triumph? Spider?  Year?

Please read below for the ongoing unbelievable rental car situation!

Without an actual phone number with us, with access to Skype, only my sister had offered that we use her cell phone number when a number was required such as for a car rental, airline reservation, etc. If she received a call for us, she’d only need to email us the name and number to return the call and we’d make the call via Skype.

On Thursday, she received such a call from Budget Car Rental at Marco Polo Airport in Venice. They called to inform us that our rental car was sold and to immediately return it to Venice, a five hour drive each way. 

Are you kidding me????

Prepaid until September 2, 2013, do they expect us to drive for 10 hours, stand in line for another two hours to get a different car, pay for gas at US $7.50 a gallon, tolls along the drive, meals, la la la???

Only a week ago, after an excruciating week of trying to reach someone who spoke English, they sent us a new extended contract, charged our credit card US $1356 to extend to our desired date when we’ll return the car to Marco Polo Airport in Venice when its time to fly to Kenya.

Trying to reach an English speaking person at Marco Polo by phone was fruitless. The thought of beginning that painstaking process again made my stomach hurt. Thus, I began an email campaign, sending no less than two messages a day requesting management respond to address this issue.

Finally today, Sunday, a manager returned the message saying they will either bring us another car to Boveglio in the next few days or they will require, we bring the car to a closer location such as Florence, which is still a two hour drive each way.  The manager said he will work on it and get back to us.

With a hotel reservation booked for our upcoming road trip on Tuesday, we had no alternative but to change our plans, leaving us and the car-free to respond to their decision. 

Immediately upon receiving this message this morning, with a 48-hour cancellation policy on our hotel reservation, I knew I’d better get to work to cancel the reservation. That in itself was not as painless as one may think.

Our reservation check-in time is 1:00 PM Tuesday, giving us more than 24 hours to cancel.  Ha!  Inexperienced traveler such as I in staying in hotels booked online (with little travel over the prior 15 years while living in the US) didn’t think that the 48-hour cutoff began at midnight last night, as opposed to check-in time on Tuesday.  Our 48-hour window no longer applied.

Having booked the reservation with Hotels.com I immediately logged into their website in a pointless attempt to cancel, leaving me no alternative but to call using Skype. After a half-hour on the call, our reservation was canceled at no charge, freeing us up to deal with the car. 

Now, we’ll wait to hear back from Budget as to how we’ll get the replacement car.  I can’t imagine how this is not going to cost us something, gas, expenses, or arbitrary charges. We had read reviews of potential issues when renting a car in Italy. 

Reminding myself to take a deep breath, I know this is a part of the experience, perhaps a price one pays, literally and figuratively, for having the opportunity to travel the world, as unencumbered as possible. So it goes. 

I settle myself down having vented here, realizing in the realm of things, its really a small inconvenience. We have our health, we have each other, the weather is beautiful, we have “our people” who love and miss us as we do them, and the future is open and bright for us two homeless wanderers.

With our road trip now on hold, pending the car situation, we settle back into our routine, playing a little Gin, lounging on our chaise lounges in the sun for an hour every other day, walking the hills in the neighborhood, taking a trip to Pescia for groceries tomorrow and enjoying a fabulous dinner we’re preparing for tonight.

Hope to hear back from you car aficionados!

Boveglio, Lucca. Tuscany, Italy…Visit to Collodi, home of Pinocchio…

Tom in the doorway that walks out to the garden.
Only a portion of the gardens in the yard.

Remove the running water, the electricity, and the wireless Internet, we’d feel as if it were the were now living in the 1800’s on a hillside in an old stone farmhouse in Boveglio, Lucca, built in the 17th century.

View of the road near our new home.

The gardens, prepared for an early harvest and the flowers blooming in the warmth of the sun, await our awe inspiring picking to enjoy their full beauty in our hands. 

Sign in the yard.

Many of the neighborhood roads are narrow, befitting a horse and buggy, never a modern day automobile. The main roads, also narrow and winding, are not for the faint of heart as one hairpin turn appears after another, as each guardrail- free curve suddenly looms before us.

The back of the property.

At night, the darkness is almost startling with nary a light in view in these vast mountains and rolling hills. In the morning, the melodic sounds of birds, new to our ears ,wafts through the fresh, clean air, inviting us to awaken early to partake in yet another blissful day of Mother Nature’s bounty.

Play and outdoor dining area.
Flowers are planted everywhere for our enjoyment while here.
Can you picture this table filled with friends drinking wine, talking loudly and dining on homemade Italian food?

Four times each hour, at odd intervals, we hear the clanging sounds of a clock tower, only steps for our door.  Within hours of falling asleep on the first night, we quickly adapted to the comforting sounds, allowing us to sleep deeply without disturbance. And yet, throughout the day, we stop each time we hear the clang, giggling over its peculiar patterns, ringing one and three minutes before the hour and one and three minutes before the half hour.

This is the clock tower that chimes at odd times, next door to our home.

Our screen-less shuttered windows freely opened to the day and night, invite an array of flying insects that mostly and oddly find their way back outside before we turn in for the night, often buzzing around our heads during the day, an annoyance we are quickly becoming accustomed to.

As we walked in the yard, we encountered many trees unfamiliar to us. 

With no working television, service lost some time ago to a storm, with no microwave or electric coffee pot, we rummaged through the Tuscan style few cabinets to find alternatives. Alas, an old fashioned stove top percolator, caught our eye with a smaller version to boil water for tea. Without a single small electric kitchen appliance in sight, we are fast learning to do it the “old way” whatever that may be. Without complaint.

Continuation of the walk on the property where there are other homes.

And again, a small front loading washing machine with no clothes dryer, directions in Italian, and again, a folding rack as we used in Dubai. 

An old wishing well in the yard.  No bucket.
Of course, there’s no dishwasher other than Tom and no garbage disposal. I’ll do all the cooking with a simple but clean newer “old fashioned” gas stove. The refrigerator is clean, small and antiquated with a tiny freezer with one ice cube tray. I dumped my earrings into a soup bowl using the ice cube tray I’d brought along to hold them.
Another fountain in the yard.

Not surprisingly, there are many utensils available for making and serving pasta, bread and wine which unfortunately, we won’t be enjoying while here, other than for Tom when dining out. We’d purchased a peeler and sharp knife in Dubai that luckily wasn’t confiscated in our checked luggage, although they took two of our power strips. Go figure.

The road outside our new home.

In order to get a decent WiFi signal we have no alternative but to sit on the upper level veranda. Our own MiFi doesn’t work here with the altitude and the three foot thick rock walls. Here is our view as we write each day.

Yes, we fit all of our luggage in this tiny Fiat we’ve rented for the summer.

Inspired by the calm of our surroundings after many months on the move, we both are finding the quiet and serenity of this magical place to have as profound an effect as any place we may have visited in our journey thus far. 

The  outdoor dining area of the house next door.

After a trip partially down the mountain yesterday to stop at Vivienne’s tiny market in Benabbio, five kilometers away, for enough food to last us for a few nights, she extended “credit” to us, as did Alessandro at his restaurant Sunday night, until we are ready to make the longer drive to a bank to get Euros. 

The spaces between the houses are too narrow for cars, but were suitable for horses and buggies many years ago.  Photos of our walks in the area will continue as we explore.

Credit cards are not used in this area. They only accept cash and credit accounts only. Today, we’ll venture out to the town of Collodi, a half hour drive to a larger grocery store. (Vivienne’s store was the size of a small bedroom with but a few items we need to cook our meals. 

View from our veranda and the best spot to get a signal.

Although we appreciate her setting up an account for us, we must go to a larger grocer. This Saturday we’ll go out to dinner again, hoping to make some new friends and to pay both our restaurant and grocery bills with our new stash of Euros.

The view to a part of our yard from the veranda.

In Collodi, the home of the Carlo Lorenzini (November 24, 1826 – October 26, 1890), better known by the pen name Carlo Collodi, was an Italian children’s writer known for the world-renowned fairy tale novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio, we’ll head to the bank to get Euros, buy groceries, fill the tiny tank in the Fiat and hopefully find more contact lens solution, my nemesis. There’s no pharmacy nearby. 

For Euros $23, US $30, we purchased enough food for a few days: four pork chops, one bag jumbo shrimp, four pieces swordfish, one pound of sliced ham, two heads of Bibb lettuce, one pound of carrots, eighteen eggs and one tube of mayonnaise (yellow box on the right).  The villa has seasonings, olive oil red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar.

Tomorrow, we’ll post photos of the interior of our new home and our visit to Collidi which hopefully will fulfill today’s errands. If not, tomorrow’s another day. We have all the time in the world.

Planning for arrival in Tuscany begins. .Also, tomorrow’s a big day…

Tomorrow, we’ll be gone the entire day visiting many exciting places of interest in Dubai. Of course, the cameras will be clicking hopefully getting great shots of the sights this unique area has to offer.  Please check back on Tuesday when we’ll post the story and photos of our private day trip with our cab driver Umer, as we travel in air conditioned comfort in a newer SUV.

How far ahead we plan our means of transportation from ships and airports to vacation homes is determined by several factors; the availability of transportation to our final destination, the accessibility to the location, the likelihood of a string of cabs ready to transport passengers, the time of day of our arrival and, the urgency of our desire for peace of mind.

In our case, peace of mind is at the top of the list.  Tom, worrier than he can be, finds comfort in planning well in advance with directions and a map in hand. I’m perfectly comfortable planning a few weeks in advance, rationalizing that “last minute deals” might be the way to go.  However, my ultimate goal is to keep Tom from worrying and get us to our location with the least amount of stress. 

Our plans are set to get us to the airport in Dubai next Monday for our flight to Barcelona, where again we’ll stay for one night at the Hotel Grums. The next morning, we’ll grab a cab to  take us to the port of Barcelona to board our eighth cruise since January 3, 2013 on a 12 day trip through the Mediterranean with almost daily stops in amazing ports.  (This will be our last cruise in 2013, with our next cruises scheduled in 2014 as we work our way to Hawaii to meet up with our kids for the holidays).

On June 16th, we’ll disembark the Norwegian Spirit (hope we like it!) in Venice, Italy, where we’ll have spent two days perusing this romantic city. 

The challenge: finding our way from Venice to our renovated 17th century stone farmhouse in Tuscany, where we’ll spend the summer, a three plus hour car ride.  After the summer in Tuscany, we’ll be flying to Mombasa, Kenya, a long flight away.

Over a year ago when planning this leg of our journey, we accepted the reality that a rental car for the entire two and a half months is vital, allowing us to take day excursions to visit other parts of Italy from this convenient location. 

With no nearby grocery stores and only a few restaurants there is no way we are willing to feel trapped for the entire summer.  The cost of renting a car, however small or economic, is outrageous.  People have said “Oh, I went to Italy and rented a car for $350 a week.”  Well, let’s do the math.  We’ll be there for 10 weeks.  We budgeted this expense, having checked on the pricing over a year ago.

Contemplating numerous options, we’ve come to the most stress free solution to accomplish our goals:  When our ship disembarks at the port in Venice, we’ll take a cab to Marco Polo Airport, a mere four miles, to pick up our awaiting rental car and drive ourselves to our awaiting property in Tuscany.

When we’re ready to fly to Kenya, we’ll drive the rental car back to Venice (it appears most flights to Mombasa depart later in the day), drop it off at the airport and off we go to our awaiting flight.

Other options we’d considered; take a train to Tuscany from Venice to eventually rent a car in Florence but then we’d have to get to a bigger airport to fly to Kenya.  Driving back to Venice is our easiest, least costly, stress reducing option.

Today, we rented the car.  We’ve heard horrible stories about renting cars in Italy.  Good grief.  If you go online you can find horrible stories about everything we’ve done so far.  Refusing to spoil our experiences with needless speculation about “what ifs, would haves and could haves” is pointless sucking the life out of a potentially great opportunity.

As we know, things do go wrong.  After all, I’m still sitting here with major sinus problems left over from that annoying ship borne illness.  After all, we’re practically trapped in our condo from construction at every turn, making walking outdoors nearly impossible. 

After all is said and done, it’s all going to be OK, as we continue to have the times of our lives, living on the roads, the seas, the skies, the mountains, the valleys, the canals, the deserts, and on and on.

Languishing in Paradise…Making a new to-do list…

There’s no free lunch.  No matter where we go, how untangled we strive to be, Life is filled with responsibility. 

Many years ago, my eldest son Richard and I discussed the merits of “living under a palm tree in a tropical climate, weaving baskets.”  At the time, it sounded like an uncomplicated analogy of how simple life could be if one so chose, escaping from the constraints of our everyday living.

Tom and I have had no delusions that traveling the world would be a far cry from escaping responsibility.  With banking, bills to pay, investments to oversee, health and personal property insurance, ongoing tax liabilities, and the time-consuming process of managing one’s household on the road, there was little opportunity to allow one mind’s freedom of letting it all go. 

On top of it all is the time-consuming process of continually planning the next step: airline reservations, hotel bookings, cruise bookings, finding health clubs, arranging transportation, locating Fed Ex offices, and on and on.

Beginning our travels on October 31, 2012, after 10 months of planning, we knew the flow of responsibility would follow us no matter how much we thought we’d prepared in advance. The 10 months were only the tip of the iceberg.

Today, comfortably ensconced at our new location at Laru Beya Resort for the next two-plus months anticipating the move on Sunday into our own condo/villa, reality slaps us in the face that our days of bemoaning our waterless situation are behind us and, it’s time to get back to that which we want and must do.

Here’s what’s on the agenda for the remainder of the month:
1.  Complete our excel spreadsheet with deductions and tax information for our accountant.  We’re almost done when yesterday our tax documents finally arrived via our mail service in Nevada, MailLinkPlus who will snail mail the actual documents to him.

2.  Complete the review and application for my new health insurance policy and both of our Emergency Evacuation policies.  Pay the annual premiums for all of the policies. (Tom still has insurance until age 65).

3.  Apply for visa extension for Belize. We have to take a boat to get to the immigration office on the mainland after finding our way to the boat launch area in Placencia Village.  (I mistakenly thought it was on an island as mentioned in a prior post. Excuse my error).

4.  Arrange for storage of our excess luggage in Miami for one year, while we’re in Europe and Africa.  On April 9th we’ll embark on a cruise from Belize City (midway through the cruise) sailing to Miami, arriving on April 13th at 8:00 am.

We’ll be staying on the same ship, the Carnival Liberty, in order to embark on yet another cruise later in the day.  We’ll disembark the ship in the morning with only our passports and our excess luggage grabbing a cab to go to a Self Storage 3.5 miles from the pier. They will store our bags for $15 a month plus a one time $22 service fee, in a climate-controlled space.

Once we drop off the excess luggage, we’ll have the cab driver take us to a Fed Ex office .6 miles from the storage facility to pick up our XCom Global device. While on this cab ride, we’ll stop at a drugstore to restock a few toiletries and a grocery store to restock our favorite Crystal Lite Iced Tea and our favorite sugar-free chocolate (unheard of here in Belize).

Normally, in the US a six package container of Crystal Lite iced Tea sells for around $3.49. Yesterday, we purchased nine containers priced at $7.75 US each. The owner gave us a discount of 3% for wiping out her entire inventory. Our final cost in Belize was $67.66 US as opposed to $31.41 in the US. 

5.  Order XCom Global MiFi device to take with us over the number of upcoming cruises, having them ship it to the Fed Ex Office near the pier in Miami so we can pick it up the same day we drop off the excess luggage at storage on April 13th, as indicated above.

6.  Apply for visas for Turkey, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan from a different online company from the company we had previously used for our second passports (they don’t do visas for the Middle East), using the services of a company suggested by our cruise agent.  Yet to research.

7. Search for cruises to get us from South Africa back to Europe in March 2014, from Europe to Hawaii to meet up with our kids and grandkids in December 2014. The best route we’ve found thus far is from Barcelona to Miami when we’ll pick up our excess bags from storage and then possibly head out on another cruise from Miami to Los Angeles.  

Here’s the deal on the cruise from Barcelona to Miami.  What a great price!  We’ll book this cruise within 24 hours in order to receive the $100 onboard credit offered below.

14 nights departing October 26, 2014 on
Norwegian’s Norwegian Epic
Brochure Inside $899
Our Inside $599
You Save 33%
Brochure Oceanview $1,299
Our Oceanview $829
You Save 36%
Brochure Balcony $1,299
Our Balcony $829
You Save 36%
Brochure Suite $1,699
Our Suite $1,099
You Save 35%
$$$ Two-Day Sale! Book by February 8, 2013 and receive a FREE US$100 per cabin onboard credit on select categories.
Promotions may not be combinable with all fares.
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
Sun Oct 26 Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Mon Oct 27 At Sea
Tue Oct 28 At Sea
Wed Oct 29 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 9:00am 6:00pm
Thu Oct 30 At Sea
Fri Oct 31 At Sea
Sat Nov 1 At Sea
Sun Nov 2 At Sea
Mon Nov 3 At Sea
Tue Nov 4 At Sea
Wed Nov 5 St. Maarten 8:00am 6:00pm
Thu Nov 6 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 8:00am 4:00pm
Fri Nov 7 At Sea
Sat Nov 8 At Sea
Sun Nov 9 Miami, FL 8:00am

Once we arrive in Miami, we’ll stay on the Norwegian Epic as it commences another cruise on November 9th, in order to “kill” another week.  Invariably, cruising with the meals included is a lower cost than staying in a hotel and dining out every night plus, its our means of transportation ultimately getting us to the next destination, enjoying each day in the process.

On November 17, 2014, upon completion of the second round on the Epic, we’ll find our way from Miami to Hawaii either by another cruise or by air.  It’s a toss-up:  airfare and where to stay for an extra month in Hawaii which is pricey or cruise and pay more overall saving on the daily rate.  Time will tell.

We’ll post the 2nd cruise which we’re working on right now with our cruise guy, Joaquin at Vacations to Go, embarking on November 9, 2014, once we book it in the next 24 hours. 

Today, we’ll drive the golf cart to Placencia Village to return it, taking a cab back. The cost of the cab is estimated at $10 US.  With no wheels for the next two months, we’re considering what would be the most cost-effective options. We’ll keep you informed.

Also, we found some local adventures we’ll partake in once we get situated in our new home, the LaruBeya villa, and complete some of the above tasks on our new to-do list.  There’s definitely no “free lunch.”

Our costs for 2 1/2 months in Belize….Plus photos…Plus a new mission…

The beach outside our door.

Renting a golf cart is the best thing we could have done!  After the rain stopped yesterday, we decided to go check out some local restaurants for our date night. Although it only goes about 10 miles an hour, we can explore this general area quite easily.  There’s not another town for about 53 miles so we’re best to stay within the approximate eight-mile distance of the peninsula of Placencia.

Around noon, we took off for Robert’s Grove Resort to check out their health club and three restaurants.  Not a golfer, the golf cart reminded me of the motorized cars at Disneyland that I so much loved to drive as a kid maneuvering between the high rubber bumper curbs. The putt putt sound made the ride all the more entertaining.

Wandering into Robert’s Grove, for a moment I wished we were staying there for the entire 2 1/2 months.  Almost a year ago, I checked their prices to discover that they were already entirely booked. Also, at $200 a night plus meals at another $150 a day (we checked their menus), the cost would have been $24,150 plus tips, plus laundry, plus transportation. 

The total to stay at Robert’s Grove would have been around $30,000. Our total cost for the 2 1/2 months in Belize including rent, golf cart rental, groceries, and dining out will be approximately $6800 total! 

After the inspection visit at Robert’s Grove Resort, we made reservations for dinner for their Saturday night buffet. Much to our surprise, they offered to pick us up at our little beach house at 6:45 and bring us back at no charge. We described how to find us as best as we could and planned to be standing on the road at 6:45 promptly. 

In order to drive to Robert’s Grove, we must go through a very poor rough looking town, not unlike North Minneapolis, 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. The thought of a ride in the dark, unlit street in a van, as opposed to a golf cart, was very appealing making the prospect of dinner all the more exciting. We had newfound hope that soon we’d start enjoying ourselves. 

Determined to find more restaurants, we decided to eat out most days while we had either a ride or transportation during the times we’d have the golf cart. At over $900 a month for the cart, we thought we might get it every other week, grocery shopping for the long week stranded in between. Maybe, if dinner at Robert’s Grove was good, we’d have them pick us up a few times in the weeks we were without wheels. This was a plan we could live with.

Deciding against the $39 a month for workout facility at Robert’s Grove due to it not having the equipment I use, we were on our way, tootling down the road to see what else we could find.

Suddenly, a sign appeared, “Luxury Condos for Sale, Coco Plum Villas” as we looked at each other, nodding yes at each other at exactly the same moment. “Let’s check it out.” Of course, we had no intention of buying a home in Belize but thought it would be fun as vacationers often do, in order to get a better feel for an area, to do a bit of house hunting. We wanted to see the more luxurious side of Placencia as well.

Below are photos of the exquisite grounds of Coco Plum Villas.

A man-made lake was the central focus of the development.

A friendly guard waved us through at the gate pointing us to the model, a short distance down the road.  We were in another world.  At considerable cost and design, they utilized the Placencia peninsula on the lagoon side, to build a massive amount of waterways surrounding by nature’s bounty of the area, a variety of palm trees, flowering plants, and trees of unknown origin. Birds were singing and although a cloudy, humid day, it was beautiful.

Another view of the lake.

To see a photo gallery of the area, click this link:

Another friendly young man welcomed us in the model home. It was interesting seeing the model condo, designed and decorated to utilize the space and views of the sea. Priced at $369,000, not unlike a price one we find in any ocean town so close to the water. Fantasizing for a moment, we asked each other, “Could we live here?” as we walked out the breathtaking grounds, the cabana bars, the long dock with a built-in bar at the end, overlooking expansive views of the Caribbean Sea.

Much of the land around the lake was undeveloped.

Tom answered, “The condo, yes, it’s great. The general location, no.” 

I agreed, “There isn’t a grocery store anywhere in the area that would fulfill our needs with the way we eat.”  One would have to have food products flown in and the cost would be prohibitive.  Eating out every meal would become tiresome and costly. For vacationers, for a week or two, it would be ideal.  But not for us down the road.

It then dawned on us that we needed to “reframe our thinking” a phrase used by Tony Robbins, a renowned life coach and motivational speaker whom my eldest son Richard and I made a point of seeing as often as we could, many years ago. His teachings had a profound effect on both of our careers in real estate, with me, retiring over three years ago after over 25 years and Richard still active in Las Vegas/Henderson, Nevada with an illustrious career, still booming in this distressed market. 

A dock to the ocean.

Did we reframe our thinking? How did we do that? We talked.

As we drove away from the condo villas, smiles on our faces, we now realized a greater mission than we previously had dreamed of traveling the world.  At some point, we’ll need to settle down, due to health or tiring from being on the move. 

Where we will live is totally up in the air.  In our year’s long journey, somehow, somewhere, we will find a place that spells “home” deciding to spend whatever time we have left in this world in a beautiful setting (with a good grocery store) whereby our family can visit and feel they are on vacation.  We may do this someday.

With a new mission naturally falling into place, we are rejuvenated, our enthusiasm has been given a burst and we can be at peace wherever we may be.  Thus, as we choose, we can explore real estate at the numerous upcoming ports of call, arranging for a real estate agent to pick us up the pier and show us a few properties for sale.  As a former agent/broker for many years, I often showed homes to prospective buyers, knowing full well that they hadn’t yet locked in an area.  That is what agents do.

Last night at 6:45, we both outside on the dark road as directed waiting for the Robert’s Grove marked van to appear to pick us up.  We figured they’d find us since the Little Cottage was located on their map of Placencia and we gave them the milepost numbers.

Standing in the dark was scary.  Lots of pickup trucks drove by with the bed filled with people sitting on the edges, honking and making noise.  Each time we saw a vehicle go by we had to stand close to the road enabling the driver to see us.  By 7:00 pm and no driver, we had to make a decision. 

Do we go back inside the humid little house and call it a night with nothing defrosted for dinner.  Or, do we take a chance and drive the golf cart in the pitch dark the three miles through the scary town?

As we sat in the driveway in the golf cart contemplating our move, we noticed a golf cart go by with what looked like tourists. We opted to follow them.  There’s strength in numbers.  Driving as fast as he could, Tom reassured me we’d be safe.  My heart was racing.

Along the road, there were about six speed bumps that were raised pedestrian crossings. To cross them, one had to slow down to a snail’s pace. It’s during that time that a potential attacker could have easy access to golf cart occupants. As we sped up after crossing each of the speed bumps we sighed a sigh of relief to again be on our way.

Finally, we arrived at Robert’s Grove Habener Restaurant, the smell of unfamiliar spices filling the air while live reggae music pulsated through the restaurant. Immediately, we alerted the restaurant staff that the driver never arrived by 7:00 pm resulting in our driving on our own. We were pleased to know we hadn’t missed him since she explained he was running late, as much as 1/2 hour. We’d only waited 15 minutes. She called him to tell him we were there since he had yet to arrive to pick us up.

Seated at our cozy white linen-covered table and chairs, we finally relaxed ordering a drink. Tom was anxious to get to the buffet. We’d hardly eaten in days with the problematic tiny stove, the running water issues, the tiny refrigerator with little room to stock fresh foods befitting our diet. 

After a few sips of our drinks, we sauntered to the buffet delighted with what we found:  huge lobster tails, Belizean roast chicken, fried conch (which I couldn’t eat due to the breading), piles of fresh large unpeeled shrimp on a bed of ice, and a whole roasted pig cooked to perfection. Various rice concoctions, salads, fresh fruit, bread, and rolls, completed the buffet along with a full table of what appeared to be delectable desserts. 

I asked the waiter if the water was purified and he assured us it was which is typical for hotels not wanting sick, angry guests stuck in their rooms with the “revenge” unable to spend more money and, in this day and age, writing derogatory reviews.  We felt safe to finally enjoy some ice in our water.

There were numerous items of which I couldn’t partake, but more that I could and I piled my plate twice as high as Tom’s.  The lobster was sweet and tender, the chicken, seasoned the Belizean way was falling off the bone, the sausage was spicy and moist and the pig. Well, I “pigged out.” It was a feast. Tom went back for another lobster tail. I had taken two to start and didn’t go back for seconds after eating my entire plate of food. 

The music was so loud we could barely speak instead of preoccupying ourselves with our food, the ambiance, and the good feeling of enjoying “being out.” The bill for everything, including our drinks and a generous tip for the attentive waiter, was $78 US, a deal by our standards. We’ll definitely go back again soon. 

The drive back was less scary and uneventful. We now felt comfortable driving the golf cart at night and of course, we’d be as mindful as possible. We can’t spend our world travels being suspicious of every corner, but we can and will be as cautious as is practical and possible.

This morning, I swept the piles of sand off the tile floor in the little house and on the patio, boiled more water, washed off the tabletops and kitchen counters with rags dipped in cold soapy (there’s literally NO HOT WATER in the little house!) hoping the soap would somehow sanitize everything.

At noon, an hour from now, we’ll hop into our golf cart driving in the opposite direction as yesterday, find a restaurant for tonight, and hopefully discover more interesting areas to explore.  We’ll take more photos. 

Today, I received a comment from a reader kindly requesting me to post photos of the distressed areas as well.  Next time we go to Placencia Village, in the next few days, we will definitely take photos and post them.  Thanks, Anonymous.  We’re happy to comply.

We recovered from the virus/cold, we got on the ship. We’re getting used to the heat, my 25 bites are becoming less itchy, the sun is shining, its 80 degrees and we’re good.  Yep, for the moment, we’re good.

We rented a golf cart…

Without a doubt, we knew that living in certain foreign lands would be different from the opulence and abundance we all so well know in the US, Europe, and many other modern-day worlds. 

After all, we sit here with our personal devices, our routers and modems quietly humming in the background, providing us with what truly is a miracle, wireless Internet.

Removed from the reality of the life that may be seen in underdeveloped countries, while we lived in our taken-for-granted existence, makes it easy for us to come to Belize, a country of considerable poverty.  We cringe for the sparse existence of many of the locals.

We may ask, “Why are we here?” We had envisioned a cozy beachside community of one resort after another filled with happy vacationers, basking in the familiar amenities and the warm sunny days. It’s far from that.

It rained each of the past three days, wildly overnight last night with clouds still looming today.  The humidity is constantly high and many properties have no air conditioning such as ours, as the cost is prohibitive and the service unreliable.

The water from the government-owned system only flows occasionally, leaving us pouring water into the toilet to get it to flush, saving buckets of boiled water to do dishes, wash our hands and faces.

The people: lots of seemingly happy ex-pats escaping the demands of what may have been an intolerable life in their home country or simply choosing the adventure of a new life, such as us.  The locals, a mix of many ethnicities, each have their own purported perhaps stereotyped demeanor that others easily assume from what they hear or perceive from a random encounter. 

In any case, they all seem friendly, if not a façade for their desire to sell their wares for desperately needed and deserved income to feed their families. It’s heartbreaking. 

No, we don’t fit in.  We never will.  We’re on the move.  A mere few months doesn’t give one time to embrace their lifestyle, their customs, their limitations. For a second, we wanted to leave entirely to go on in our journey to a more familiar existence, aboard a ship or to yet another country to fill the time until April 9th when we have six cruises booked almost back to back, a luxurious and easy existence we’ve come to love.

The cost to rent a car is over $800 a week and gas is close to $6 a gallon, hardly a feasible expenditure with our budget.  We knew this going in, planning we’d rent a vehicle a few days a week so we could experience the area, grocery shop, and go out to dinner.  We had thought this little beach house was more accessible to the main town of Placencia. Not the case. It’s eight miles. Not exactly a short walk as we’d hoped.

Yesterday, the owner on her way to town kindly offered to drop us off downtown Placencia at Captain Jax’s Resort so we could rent a golf cart.  Deciding to take it for a week, knowing we’d have to take a rickety bus back when we returned it, in order to get back to the little house, seemed to make more sense than taking it for a few days.  Maybe we’ll do it every other week, staying put in between.  It cost $350 US for the week.  I cringed a little, handing over my credit card to be charged in Belizean dollars, a two to one conversion, thus $700.

We rode up and down the peninsula, surprised when it came to the end, all the while expected “the resort feel.”  It never came.  The little town was not unlike a poor town one might find off the beaten path in Mexico, one old colorfully painted building after another, often dilapidated, a few charming properties interspersed.  A handful of restaurants, a few vegetable stands, and two grocery stores, line the main road. 
Delighted to finally have a means of getting around, we explored the area, ending up at the local grocery store, Tom was pushing the cart, while I was scurrying about trying the find the items I had entered into my grocery store app on my phone. Would they have Italian sausage as good as the breakfast sausage we’d found last Tuesday and since devoured? Would they have free-range eggs? 

Would we be able to find the ingredients to make our favorite comfort foods, so much desired right now, gluten-free cheese crust pizza with sausage, onions, mushrooms, green olives using a bottle of low carb pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese? 

We found everything except the mushrooms, not fresh or canned, the parchment paper or no-stick foil that keeps the crust from sticking to the pan.  I’ll use my treasured bottle of coconut oil to grease the foil using the large rectangle pan I found tucked away in the broiler drawer of the tiny oven. 

We froze the meat in the tiny freezer, uncertain if the temperature was cold enough in the little fridge. We had to make a decision, make more ice, or freeze the meat. We froze the meat. 

Our goal today is to drive the golf cart about two miles to Robert’s Grove, a resort hotel that has three restaurants and a health club. Having contacted them months ago, their return email indicated I could sign up to use their exercise room for $39 a month. We’ll check our their menu and I’ll work out while Tom waits for me. 

If only it would stop raining so hard so we could leave.

Its raining sideways, monsoon type rain, too much to ride in the golf cart.  Hopefully, by tonight, the rain will subside and we can go out on a “date” for dinner.  Tom has already lost the weight he gained on the two cruises and we’re looking forward to a hearty meal, prepared by someone else!