We made a booking error!…Final hotel expenses…Tonight’s the night!…We’re off to Sydney on the red eye…

The hotel chef made a special spicy sauce to go with my skewers.

Gee, this week whizzed by considering how little we did hanging out in our hotel room for days, content as we could be in air conditioned comfort with nary a fly in sight. 

As a matter of fact having meals without having to bat off the flies was rather pleasant for a change. But, we know this cool comfort and fly free zone won’t last forever. 

Once the 33 night cruise ends on December 3rd, we’ll spend a total of three months in two locations in Tasmania which is rife with wildlife and insects of all sorts, a fact that attracted us to this Australian island. 

Tom had another bowl of fries not shown in this photo.

Luckily, we’re become accustomed to the creepy crawlies we’ve encountered otherwise we wouldn’t have chosen to visit Costa Rica, South America and again Africa in the future.

As for our stay here at the Hilton Garden Inn Ngurah Rai Airport a most peculiar thing happened yesterday…we discovered we’d made an error when booking this hotel.  Here how it went:

1.  First, we’d booked the hotel for Saturday, October 29th to Sunday, October 30th, although we’re checking out tonight at 9:45 pm when it will still be October 29th.  With this late flight we preferred not to spend hours waiting at the airport so we booked the hotel for the one night with the very early checkout.  With the low rate of US $50, IDR 652,874 it was better than the alternative.
2.  When we decided to leave the villa early due to the poor Wi-Fi signal, we created an additional booking at the same hotel from Monday, October 24th to Friday, October 28th.

Is my booking error obvious? 

Each morning Tom had a few of the doughnuts shown on the right.

Based on how I booked this we’d be without a room between Friday and Saturday.  I should have booked the added nights from Monday, October 24th through Saturday, October 29th and then…our extra night would kick in. 

Yesterday at noon, staff at the front desk called our room (we were wondering why our room hadn’t been cleaned) kindly explaining we needed to clear out of the room (duh) and return today for the 2:00 pm check in time.  That would have been some predicament!

We wondered what the huge red pot contained.  Was it decorative or a buffet item?

Well, safari luck kicked in, we rebooked yesterday’s one night at Hotels.com on our site for which rates, last minute had escalated but the hotel was able to let us stay in the same room.  Thank goodness.

We apologized profusely for our error, had our Wi-Fi and key cards updated and continued on with our day.  We finished and packed our clean laundry and once again I worked out.  Later we closed and weighed our bags to see if we’d be charged for overweight luggage. 

The gym was nicely chilled and spacious.  This guy of the left was the only person I’d seen in the gym in five days.

Virgin Australia charges per piece for economy (that’s us) and also for overweight fees.  Each of our two clothing bags are within a kilo and of the 23 kg max with our third bags well under without an extra inch of space to stuff the slight overages.  We’ll see how it goes.  On this particular international flight paying online in advance for baggage isn’t allowed.

After a good breakfast, by dinnertime, we both felt hungry and decided to head down to the restaurant for a meal.  The menu was tricky with many items that wouldn’t work for me. 

I ended up ordering a specially prepared satay dish without sugary peanut sauce which consisted of two small skewer of chicken, one small skewer of beef and a skewered medium sized prawn.  Knowing this would be ultra small, I also ordered two fried eggs and a half of avocado.  It all worked for me.

It felt good to get on the cardio equipment.  Over the six days I improved my endurance more than expected.

Tom, prepping for his “cruise diet,” ordered a bacon cheeseburger (with bun) with fries and extra fries.  Here he goes!  He’ll be dining to his hearts content while I’ve promised (as usual on cruises) not to say “boo” about what he eats until we’re settled in our next vacation home when I’ll start cooking again.

We’ll forego dinner tonight and grab a little something at the airport if we’re hungry or we may use our remaining IDRs to purchase nuts for the flight.  After all, we’ll be awake all night, a little munching might be in order.

As for the hotel bill for these six nights including meals, tips and taxes:

Room rate for six nights:   IDR 4,989,658,  US $382
Meals not included:           IDR    806,242,  US $ 62
Total for six nights:        IDR  5,795,900, US $444
Average cost per night:      IDR    965,983   US $ 74



Flower blooming on a tree by the pool.

Wow!  This was reasonable, less than our average cost per night when living in vacation homes.  Sure, we forfeited six nights at the villa but we’d already factored those costs into our budget and certainly received our money’s worth.

Tomorrow, as mentioned, we’ll be in Sydney staying overnight in the hotel.  Our post may be late if we didn’t sleep on the plane.  If we were able to get some sleep on the plane and feeling alert in the morning, we’ll post at our usual time.

These are interesting flowers blooming on a tree by the pool..
See you from Sydney, one of our favorite cities in the world!  Bear with us once again, since we’ll be posting photos of the amazing scenery of the Sydney Harbour.


Happy day!

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Photo from one year ago today, October 29, 2015:

We could only imagine how beautiful our photos would have been in Fiji had it been a sunny day when we went sightseeing.  That’s life in the tropics!  For more details, please click here.

Busy days…Some costs for life on this exquisite island…An open house with a view!



Yesterday we visited an open house for which we’ve included several photos today.  This is this fabulous view from the lanai of the house of Hanalei Bay.

Yesterday, when we visited an open house in Princeville, we were reminded of hoe expense living in the Hawaiian Islands can be.  Sure, we’ve wondered what it would be like to live in Kauai permanently.  Almost every visitor may ask themselves the same question.  Who wouldn’t want to live in paradise permanently?

As we ‘ve described many times in our posts, we have no interest in settling down now or in the near future, not even on this glorious island.  But, as many tourists consider their options for the possibility of living in Kauai they must also consider the high cost of living in the Hawaiian Islands.


The view of the yard and pool of the open house we visited yesterday.

Today, we’ll share a few costs with you and will continue to do so as we continue during our extensive stay with 101 days remaining until departure.  Its hard to believe that by this Sunday, we’ll have been here an entire month. 

Luckily, long ago we’d paid our entire rent for the four months in this wonderful condo which we couldn’t be more thrilled to have pinned down for this extended period.  Although small, with only four rooms, we’re content with the space that works well for the short term for the two of us. 


In each direction, the view keeps on giving.

In reality, this is all the space we’d ever need except, and I stress “except,” if this was a year round permanent home.  We’d eventually feel cramped.  But, for many living on fixed incomes, a small space is all that is affordable and…the price one pays to live in paradise. 

With the rent paid in full, our only other expenses are the rental car, fuel, groceries and entertainment (including dining out).  With the rental car under $700 a month, fuel under $75, groceries to be determined, an occasional tour and dining out, we expected we’d be spending an additional $2500 a month at most for the four months (excluding rent already paid).

The living room is long and somewhat narrow.

Little did we anticipate we’d spend so much on groceries keeping in mind that we eat only one major meal a day plus Tom’s occasional breakfast to hold him over. 

With my way of eating I rarely feel hungry during the day and I’m not one to eat when not hungry.  The human body is masterful at informing us when we need food.  I pay careful attention to those signals responding accordingly when necessary. 


Most often, houses sold in Princeville include furnishings.  In this case, the house was relatively empty.

As a result, one would think our grocery bill would be considerably less than others who may prepare something to eat three or four times a day.  However, the difference for us is the higher cost of grass fed meat, free range organic chicken and eggs, mostly organic vegetables and cheeses. 

We’ve already spent $1927 for groceries in the first month (including non-edible groceries) and $212 for dining out, adding more to that total tonight when we’re meeting more new friends at a local dining establishment.  The total thus far is $2139, which is high for two.


Den or dining room.  Tom’s shoulder in the photo.

Sure, included in that total is enough toilet paper, paper towels, zip lock bags and laundry soap to last us the entire four months (due to an initial Costco run). 


View from the large lanai on the second floor.

At this rate, we anticipate we’ll  spend close to $8000 for our entire period in Kauai which is $2000 over our budget of $6000.  What was I thinking to anticipate only $1500 a month for groceries and dining out?

The en suite master bath.

You may ask why I don’t simply take four times what we’ve spent thus far to estimate the grand total?  The reason; our first grocery trip in any new location requires an additional expenditure to stock up on the basics including the above mentioned paper products and other household supplies.  Once, those are purchased the monthly expenditure is reduced accordingly.


Bedroom on second floor.

At the new estimate of $8000, we anticipate to be spending $1954 each of the three remaining months in Kauai.  Of course, this includes dining out once every other week.  We can’t do so more often, a): Its not worth it with my way of eating and b): Its not worth it.

Second bath.  Oh, you can see me in the mirror!

For the average retiree this type of expenditure for groceries isn’t practical or affordable. Although, there’s no question that the way we eat is more costly with my requirement of grass fed meat and organic foods, increasing the cost by as much as 30%.

Most homes in Kauai use little air conditioning with the trade winds providing considerable comfort.  Another bedroom on upper level.

Then again, many vacation destinations aren’t practical for year round living and beautiful Hawaii is no exception unless one can readily afford the higher cost of living. 


The kitchen hadn’t been renovated in many years as indicated with the ceramic tiled countertops, common in the 1980’s.

This is not intended to discourage those who long to live in this “heaven on earth.”  With the proper funds, careful planning and some good luck, many have found a way to make it work for them for the long haul.  Many spend less on food and dining out.  As for housing, that becomes the bigger challenge.


Here again, views of the dated kitchen.  The space was acceptable for remodeling.

Yesterday, when we visited this shown open house offered by a lovely agent, Jacque Shockley at Ocean Front Realty we particularly enjoyed the views.  Today, we’ve included the photos as we toured from room to room.  Undoubtedly, it’s a “fixer upper” needing a considerable amount of renovation.  The detailed listing information can be found here.


The pool, although not huge, appeared to be in good condition but, it too, may require renovation as does the remainder of the house.

The price at $2,495,000 was surprising but, we have limited knowledge of prices as yet having seen only a few open houses.  But, the view made this situation ideal for the only one buyer it takes to make a sale.  Surely, at some point it will sell when that right buyer makes the right offer to satisfy the seller.


One last shot of the view of Hanalei Bay before we exited the open house.  Several other couples stopped by to look while we were there.

As we say, the cost of living in Kauai, as well as on the other Hawaiian Islands is higher than most of us can afford for the long haul.  However, in the interim in our remaining time here in Princeville we’re enjoying every moment; the views, our cozy condo, a bit of wildlife, the quality food we’re able to buy and attempt to afford, and of course, the friendly people we meet everywhere we go.  That, above all, is the greatest treasure.

We continue on…
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Photo from one year ago today, February 11, 2014:

The table was set at African Reunion house for a company breakfast we’d planned.  We loved being in the third of the three houses in which we lived while in South Africa, all within the same area of Marloth Park.  For details from that date, please click here.

Are we back in Belize or Kenya? What’s going on?

In between some of the souks, there are outdoor areas where many locals may be offering their wares.  We’ve seen boxes of products arriving from Bangladesh and China.  Shopping tourists often assume that all of the offered products are made locally. Some are, but not all.

When we arrived in Belize over a year ago, our first week spent in the little cottage on the beach, (until we moved out a week later), I suffered with over 100 bites from what is referred to as “no-see-ums” commonly known as sand flies. 

Once we moved to the fabulous LaruBeya we’d only have to go indoors at dusk to avoid being bit and wear repellent when outside at night.  Later, in Italy, with no screens on the windows or AC, the flies dined on me day and night, eventually requiring me to wear the BugsAway clothing, leaving me hot as I was overly dressed in the heat of summer.

Shop owners and workers often play with their smart phones as they await the next customer.

In Kenya, it was mosquitoes, making it necessary for me to wear insect repellent 24 hours a day.  In South Africa, it was mosquitoes, referred to as “mozzies,” again requiring me to wear repellent at all times that buzzed around my head but not nearly as badly as they had in Kenya.

When we arrived in Morocco two months ago, it was cool, mostly in the 60’s during the day, cooler at night.  Without a bug in sight, I thought that for awhile I was home free with no biting insects.  I was kidding myself.

As spring arrived this past month, almost on queue with the weather warming more and more each day, I awoke 10 days ago with no less than 25 bites on my right arm and hand.

This appears to be an abandoned construction site.

I sleep on my left side with my right arm draped over an extra pillow placed perpendicular to my body. This pillow provides relief for my bad right shoulder. As a result my right arm is outside the covers most of the night.  I didn’t see a single insect fly by the screen of my phone as I’d read a book each night.  What was biting me?

Itching like crazy with neither repellent or itch relief on hand from when we’d lightened our load, I searched online for the source of my dismay…the lowly sand fly, aka “no-see-ums” commonly called the phlebotomine sand flies.  Nasty little invisible buggers!

These are no simple bites.  These are viscous bites leaving raised hot, red, swollen nodules that itch beyond belief, eventually to ooze if rubbed or scratched even in the slightest.  Oh, good grief.  Here we go again as I wondered, why me and not Tom? 

Hundreds of years of wear and tear is evident in certain areas.

In finding this article from the Smithsonian Institute, the answer is clear.  I am a Type 0 blood type, twice as likely as Tom’s Type A.  Plus, I must have a genetic factor.  My two sisters suffer with the same tendency to be bitten.

After reading through the above article I feel confident the answer to the dilemma lies therein explaining my propensity to being bit in general, let alone attracting biters away from Tom.  He often explains that when I leave the room, they flock around him in my absence until I return.

Unable to find repellent at the pharmacy we tried in the Medina, I’ve resorted to being totally covered in clothing around the clock.  Sand flies, invisible to the eye are too small to bite through clothing or blankets.  As a result, I’ve been wearing one of Tom’s white long sleeved BugsAway shirts to bed at night with my arms well covered and during the day wearing my own BugsAway shirt, jeans and socks.

This shop sells attractive tiles sinks and basins.

Now, completely covered they’ve resorted to biting my hands during the day and again during the night.  A few days ago Adil brought a plug in device for the bedroom that continually emits a repellent.  We keep the drapes covering the doorway to the bedroom closed at all times, as I’ve instructed Madame and Oumaima to do the same each day after cleaning our bedroom. 

These combined measures appear to have improved the situation.  But, I’m still getting bites on my hands and fingers.  Nothing is more itchy and annoying than bites on one’s knuckles or between the fingers.  As I sit here in the salon at this moment, I can’t see them but they surely hover around me avoiding my bug repellent shirt instead feasting on my hands.  I no longer scratch after reading that scratching exacerbates the length of time the bites remain “active.”  I knew this.  I needed to be reminded.

After 10 days, the original bites continue to itch and the newer ones are revving up for days to come.  In reading information about these nasty critters, the itching may last for weeks or months. 

Off the beaten path, second hand items are offered for sale on the ground as the local seller hunches on the ground, hoping for a sale.

Today, if necessary we’ll stop at every pharmacy in the Medina to find repellent and anti itch cream.  If we find the repellent I’ll wear it around the clock, reloading it on my hands each time I wash.  Perhaps, if the repellent works well I’ll be able to stop wearing hot, bulky clothing as the weather is now into the scorching 90F degrees (32.3C) almost every day.

In the realm of things…no big deal!  But, for those prone to being bit, one must be prepared when traveling.  How did we end up unprepared?  When packing to leave South Africa, my tube of Cortisone cream was almost empty and expired so I tossed it, thinking I could easily buy another.  When I used the last drop of repellent on the last day, again, I thought replacing it would be no issue.

Also, after reading about insects in Marrakech nothing was mentioned about these pesky critters.  Once we arrived, not seeing a fly or bee anyway in the riad with the center courtyard open to the sky, I thought there would be no issue.  Little did I know.

A few nights ago, my entire right arm was hot and swollen from all the bites.  Using antibiotic ointment, I dabbed at each of the bites before putting on Tom’s shirt for bed.  In the morning it was better.  These types of bites may become infected making it important stay mindful as to their condition.  Initially scratching them, even gently over my clothing, proved to result in further damage.

Caught up in the discomfort of itching results in losing valuable time better spent enjoying our surroundings and time together. I’ve learned my lesson to always have anti-itch cream and repellent on hand wherever we may be.

Is it any wonder that there would be sand flies in the desert…duh…the sand.  Good thing I didn’t ride a camel on the desert sands as originally planned!  Our change of plans turned out better than we’d expected!

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Photo from one year ago today, April 30, 2013. With no photos taken that particular day, following is a photo from the prior day:

A tourist boat made to look like an old pirate ship passed by our ship, the Norwegian Epic as we watched from our balcony.  For details of the story posted on April 30, 2013, please click here.


 

A treacherous but breathtaking drive through the High Atlas Mountains…Motion sickness got me!

This is a video (not ours) of the mountainous road we traveled yesterday whilereturning to Marrakech. The winding roads continued for over six hours.
 
Yesterday, on the return trip from the Atlas Mountains back to Marrakech, I was seated in the back seat on the right, preferring to have the advantage of better shots of the scenery. In Morocco, a former French colony, drivers are situated on the left and they drive on the right side of the road, comparable to the US and Canada.
Kasbah along the mountain drive.


The architecture was interesting and seemingly designed and constructed in the familiar manner of Morocco.
With nothing and no one blocking my view, I’d intended to take a video and many photos on the long way down the mountain.  My good intentions were foiled when no more than 30 minutes into the seven hours into the drive from the hotel, for the first time in our travels I developed motion sickness, unlike any case I’ve ever had in my life.
The greenery against the clay rocks is breathtaking.
We were curious as to the lives of the Berber people living in many of small villages in the mountains.
After eight cruises in 2013, the unbelievable 50 foot, 15.23 meters waves for three days on the Norwegian Epic while crossing the Atlantic Ocean beginning on April 20th, neither of us ever had a tinge of motion sickness. Never once did I get sick while driving through the mountainous roads we in Tuscany, Italy last summer.
 A reception area near the entrance to a kasbah.
If Italy’s roads were winding, the roads in the Atlas Mountains were that much worse, especially with the length of the drive.  It Italy, we drove a short 25  minutes each way in order to do errands.  Never once did I get motion sickness in our travels until yesterday.
A housing area in a village along the road.
Not the case yesterday, when I made an awful mistake.  During the beginning of the less scenic part of the winding roads, I read a chapter in a book on the Kindle app on my phone.  Big mistake.  It was with this cocky attitude of being invincible that I ate raw vegetables when first arriving in Morocco, ending up sick for weeks. 
Along a modern highway in Ouirzazate.  Actually, all the highway road were modern and maintained in most of the towns and villages along the long drive.
Yesterday, with that same laissez faire attitude that, in a short time I put down the phone, in a state of self disdain, knowing I’d crossed the motion sickness barrier and most likely, would be ill for the remainder of the hours long drive down the mountains.  So true it was!
At times, we were surprised to see the modern buildings.
For over five full hours, every hairpin turn, every winding curve, every passing maneuver, exacerbated my desire to tell Mohamed to stop the vehicle so I could puke on the side of the road.  I tried everything: sitting up straight, looking forward as opposed to the side of the road, leaning my seat back, all to no avail.
Many of the older buildings in Ouizazate were relatively maintained.  In all construction
we’ve seen, nothing appears to vary greatly from the traditional Moroccan architecture.
I knew that once my equilibrium was gone, the only way to recover was to get out of the mountains onto straight roads.  I kept asking Tom the time. It crawled, as compared to the competent fast pace Mohamed navigated the treacherous roads.
These are the walls of a double wall protected ClubMed in Ouizazate.
At one point Tom said, “Don’t start that!”  What???  I wasn’t “starting this on purpose!”  My state of motion sickness wasn’t something I could turn off.  It wasn’t psychological!  I quickly reminded him, “This is like when you get an intestinal response from eating bread.  You can’t will it away”  But, I wasn’t about to be angry.  I needed to focus on keeping from puking in the car, my only mission on the rest of the way down.
An entrance to a kasbar.
How badly I wanted to take more photos.  In a few spots I managed to take a few shots quickly looking forward to regain my focus.
These are not unlike apartments and condos that may line any highway in any country
 with only a few design differences.
After the first hour, I realized another possible contributing factor; I had eaten breakfast at the hotel; a two egg omelet and three triangles of Laughing Cow cheese since I was still hungry from the previous night’s sparse dinner of tough meat and overcooked zucchini and carrots. Surely, a full stomach contributed to my awful state of dizziness and nausea.
We wondered if all of this housing development had stopped due to economic conditions.
The time slowly ticked by.  When we finally reached level roads, I straightened in my seat, looking ahead. During the last 30 minutes into Marrakech I began to recover.
We also wondered as to the expenses and the sources of income for the people living in these developments.
Adil met us at the drop off point outside the Medina which Mohamed had arranged.  He was delighted to help us with our bags.  At that point, I wasn’t capable of carrying my handbag, let alone anything else for the long walk back to Dar Aicha.  
The colors in the terrain and the structures blended so well that at times it was easy
to miss the structures.
My legs were stiff after sitting in one spot in my seat in the SUV without stopping for a bathroom break during the last six hours which neither of us needed (I was too sick to even take a sip of water during the entire drive). The return walk to Dar Aicha further helped alleviate the remnants of the motion sickness.
One of few photos I took as we navigated the winding mountain roads on the return drive to Marrakech.
By the time we reached our riad, I was fast on my way to feeling well, especially when we saw the smiling faces of Madame Zahra and Oumaima happy to see us, as we were them. 
These exquisite rock formations appeared as if they’d been carved by hand.  Only Mother Nature and millions of years contributed to this amazing scenery.
Neither of us felt like traveling in a petite taxi to go to out to dinner, and without giving ample notice to Madame and Oumaima to shop and prepare dinner, we both agreed we’d forgo dinner to snack on nuts and cheese.  Food was the last thing on my mind.
There was one picturesque scene after another.
By 6:00 pm we were unpacked and ready for a relaxing evening.  I finished yesterday’s post, uploaded it by 7:00 pm and we were psyched to watch what proved to be an excellent movie that we’d previously downloaded on Graboid,  “August: Osage County.”
From time to time, a small hotel popped up on the mountain drive
With many more photos from our short trip yet to post, we’re staying in today.  Spring Break, in many countries, started yesterday and the souks will be packed today and tomorrow, mostly likely continuing over the next week.  We’ll attempt an outing evening.
On a few occasions, we saw motor homes navigating the mountain roads.
Have a wonderful weekend as spring attempts to peek out from an awful winter for many of our worldwide readers.  Stay tuned for more.
 
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Photo from one year ago today, April 12, 2013:
Blurry photo of us taken by a table mate on the Carnival Liberty as we were having dinner at a “sharing” table in the main dining area.  For details of that date, please click here.
 
 

Potential car rental nightmare…

While in Dubai from May 21, 2013 to June 4, 2013 the time had arrived to arrange the rental of a car for the summer in Italy.   Our objective was to pick up the car at the Marco Polo Airport once we arrived in Venice, Italy by cruise ship.  Once in our possession, we’d drive the five hour journey to our awaiting home for the summer in Boveglio.

Although we weren’t particularly concerned about renting a car, we had several factors to consider:

  1. When it was time to leave Italy on September 2, 2013 to fly to Mombasa Kenya, which airport would provide us with the best fares, best flights along easy access to return the car? 
  2. Which car rental companies would we feel most comfortable after reading reviews as to renting a car in Italy?
  3. The total cost for the lengthy period from June 16 to September 2, 2013, any potential “hidden” costs. (Renting a car for two and a half months isn’t typical. This is a totally different scenario that the usual one or two week rental while on vacation).
  4. Which types of available cars that would allow enough room for our over sized luggage?
  5. Which cars were most economical in regards to gasoline usage, priced at roughly US $8.50 per gallon in the Tuscan region of Italy?
  6. With us no longer owning a car with it subsequent insurance that typically provides coverage for rental cars, what would we do when the average cost for the “extra” insurance is US $10 per day.
  7. The time of day we’d pick up the car and reserve it to ensure we didn’t have to pay extra fees for a late drop-off or in some case, an entire extra day.

Shopping online at several familiar sites, comparing prices, reading  reviews and conditions of the rental agreements, it proved to take a lot longer than we’d expected.  Since quite ill while in Dubai, I left most of the research up to Tom.  He went at it with gusto.

While conducting this research, we also had to shop for the best airline prices to get us from Italy to Mombasa, Kenya from the several options in Italy which proved to be a huge factor in determining where we’d drop off the car in the end.   Would it be Venice, Rome, or Florence, all within a five hour drive of our summer home in Boveglio?

It took several days of reviewing all of these factors until, until we found the best overall conditions, considering the above factors. 

We ultimately decided that we’d pick up the car in Venice at the Marco Polo Airport with the goal of eventually flying out of the Marco Polo Airport to Mombasa, Kenya on September 2, 2013. 

Of course, with the five hour drive from Boveglio, we’d have no alternative but to spend one night in a hotel in Venice close to the airport.  (A week later we booked a nearby hotel, offering free shuttle service to the airport, allowing us to drop off the car a day early, if we so chose, to reduce the stress at the airport on our flight day).  Good plan.  

As we continued on in the booking process from RentalCars.com, a site more user friendly for Italy, we discovered a fact that threw us for a loop:

Based on the lengthy period of time for the contract, the rental car company, in this case, Budget, would require two and a half times the cost of the long term rental, to be held on our credit card for the entire duration. 

Upon realizing this fact, we jumped to other rental companies to discover that these circumstances were common, especially in well known rental car companies, such as Budget, Avis and Hertz.  We’d decided that under no circumstances, would we use a small local company after we’d read many negative reviews describing nightmarish circumstances for long term rentals.  The more well-known companies were definitely the way to go but, as it turned out, all of them required this credit card “hold.”

At the rate of US $830.00 per month over the summer in Italy, our total rental would be roughly US $2075.  None our credit cards charge an exchange rate for paying in Euros and, they offered “free” insurance when using the card to pay for the rental, which in itself saved us a small fortune.

However, there was nothing the credit card company could do to avert the necessity of the Budget (which had the best pricing) “holding” two and a half times of the funds for the entire rental period which would total US $5187.50!   

We weren’t thrilled with the concept of Budget “holding” funds against one of our cards in this amount for this extended period.  Although we use several credit cards for our travels, with future expenses, hotels, flights and rentals required to pay in advance, we were against any of our cards being tied up for this amount for almost three months.

Our only option was clear to both of us:  Rent the car for one month allowing them to “hold” over $2000 which appeared to be their concern over two factors for any long term rentals; one the credit card may become maxed out during an extended period resulting in insufficient funds to pay at the end of the rental period and two, to cover the cost in the event of damage to the vehicle not covered by insurance.  This is a sensible policy from their perspective, protecting their interests only.  For us, quite annoying.

On June 16th, we rented the car at the Marco Polo airport for one month until July 15, 2013 which ends this upcoming Monday, with the plan to contact them on July 8, a week earlier to extend it. 

At Budget rental office, we inquired as to the procedure to extend the rental with assurance that the process was simple;  either call or process the extension online within 24 hours of the end of the rental period.

Here’s how it went beginning this past Monday, one week before the car was to be returned:

  • Sent an email to Budget confirming the procedure to extend the rental when we couldn’t find a place on their international website to extend it
  • They sent an email back, after they charged us $2 for the online inquiry, informing us we’d have to call the Budget desk at the Marco Polo Airport where we got the car.  This had to be done over the phone.
  • Called the number for Budget at Marco Polo Airport, asking to speak to an English speaking representative.  After being on hold, while paying for the call (no toll-free number to the location), for no less than 10 minutes, someone came back on the line, saying “No English” and hung up on me.

Add to that, the rental agreement itself was all in Italian.  Using Google Translate we became further frustrated in an effort to translate the many numbers, codes and notations that could or couldn’t be our reservation number, customer number, booking number and contract number.  It was nearly impossible to decipher which was which.

Hoping if we waited a day to call back, they may have an English speaking representative on duty. 

  • Again, called the Budget desk at the Marco Polo Airport.  A woman spoke poor English asking me for the reservation number.  There were four numbers on the “written in Italian” form.  I read all of them to her. They were lengthy, numbers and letters.  I spoke clearly.  She kept getting them wrong.  I explained our goal to extend the contract.  She said we’d get a confirmation email before the end of the day.
  • Two days later, no response, no email, no confirmation.  Called again. Again, no one spoke English. The representative yelled at me and hung up.
  • Looking online for Budget’s International Customer Service, we found a number in the UK.  We called, speaking to a nice guy.  He couldn’t do anything since he didn’t have access to the files for Italy, suggesting we try calling the Marco Polo location once again.  I did.  Again, no one spoke English. Our frustration factor continued to grow as each day passed adding a certain amount of worry to the mix.

Need I say this process continued over five days?  Calling back the UK office on Thursday, we were given a private email address for the Marco Polo location. Sending an email to this “unpublished” email address, copying the international corporate headquarters, within hours we received an email that stated, “We extended the contract for you.”

Of course, I immediately stored the response into the “Car Rental Italy 2013” folder in Outlook for future reference.  As of this date, they’ve yet to bill us for the remaining six and a half weeks.  Hopefully, they’ll prorate the balance based on the original cost and not some arbitrary amount.  I’ll keep checking the balance on the credit card, knowing whatever amount they’ll charge will include the “holding” amount for the remainder of the period. 

I wish I could say that we’ve learned something from this annoying experience.  Is it “shut up and pay?” Possibly.  On the other hand, it may well be a by-product of the nature of our lives…to expect these types of situations to occur from time to time.

Surely, the language barrier played a role in preventing us from easily accomplishing an otherwise simple objective.  

Long ago while still in the US, I recall spending hours and eventually days, on the phone, in English, with our past cable company in an attempt to resolve an issue with the operation of our service which ultimately wasn’t resolved for over a year.  With no other options available in the area, we were a captive audience, as in this case…in possession of Budget’s little navy blue Fiat, not interested in driving back to Venice in a few days to stand in line for two more hours, only to turn around and drive the five hours back to Boveglio.  

Now this issue behind us, we’re back to the freedom of spirit and peace of mind in which we strive to languish each and everyday.  Tonight’s “taco salad night,” minus the chips, minus the shell “bowl” but with all the fixins’ will be a treat, even in Italy. Add a downloaded movie and we’re content as we could be!

A trip to the barbiere (barber)…A new haircut plan in new place…More lessons learned…

 

Driving around, we yelled to two gentlemen sitting outside, “Uomo Barbiere?”  They kindly pointed us in the direction of this salon, serving the needs of women (donna) and men (uomo)

Yesterday, while driving around Pescia, Italy, searching for a barbershop, it dawned on us that most likely Tom will need a haircut in each country in which we’ll live for a period of two to three months.

Leaving the US last January, we’ve since lived in two countries for approximately three months, Belize and now Italy, (we were in the United Arab Emirates for only two weeks). By next July, we’ll have added four more countries in which we’ve lived, a mere pittance based on the number of countries in the world.

Prior to leaving Scottsdale, Arizona where we resided for two months, he’d had his final US haircut for a very long time.  So far, his favorite was the haircut in Belize with Joel McKenzie, under the tree on the plastic chair atop the cement blocks.  If you haven’t seen these photos, look for the post in the archives from March 13, 2013.

Most guys have a regular barber they see at certain intervals. For some, the quality of the cut is less important than others.  For Tom, with his full head of thick, almost white hair, it matters. It matters to me as well, more that he’s happy with it than my having to look at him all day and night.

Luckily, I am able to take care of my own hair, manicures, and pedicures.  I learned this years ago when I found myself squirming impatiently in a beauty salon, anxious for it to be over.  This is quite helpful now as we travel.  Plus, it saves tons of money better spent on other more important aspects of our daily lives.

Tom, relaxing and ready for his haircut with Barbara.

The Euro $20 (US $26.06) he paid for his haircut included a 30% tip, although he wasn’t thrilled with the cut, definitely no fault of the stylist.  Most certainly, it was a result of the language barrier.  We learned a valuable lesson yesterday:  translate what one would like done in advance, showing it to the barber or stylist before they begin cutting, if possible, including photos.

Fortunately, the upcoming haircuts he’ll need will be in Kenya and South Africa  where English is spoken freely.  In Morocco, we’ll have staff that will translate for us. 

After Morocco, we’ll be in Madeira, Portugal for almost three months where Portuguese is spoken. We’ll translate instructions at that time. So far, we know one Portuguese word, “obrigada” which translates to “thank you.”  We’d better start working on a few more words.

Smiling and hopeful for an easy summer “do” Tom was at ease.

Between us, we’ve learned enough hand signals and Italian words that enabled us to carry-on somewhat of a conversation with “Barbara” pronounced bar-ber-a) yesterday as she cut Tom’s hair.  She told us in Italian that she grew up in Pescia, has three children, 8, 13, and 16, a husband, and has been a stylist for both men and women for 20 years. While at the salon, we met her 13 years old “bambini” hoping she spoke English.  No such luck. 

Barbara asked us, about us, where we were from, where we were going. Dumbfounded, Tom and I looked at each other wondering how to explain. Somehow, we managed to convey that we are living in Boveglio for the summer, are traveling to Africa soon, have four adult children and six grandchildren. 

Hand signals conveyed the grandchildren’s part. I had yet to hear the word for grandchildren which I’ve since researched in Google Translate. It’s “nipoti.”  Some words make sense in translation, reminding us of a word in another language; English, French, or Spanish.  This one, I couldn’t get for the life of me.

 

Lots of Tom’s gray hair on the floor.

Apparently, our communication methods didn’t serve us well enough. As Barbara neared the end of Tom’s haircut, the top standing straight up, she asked if he’s like some “butch wax” while holding up the container. He cringed shaking his head an emphatic “no” all the while with a forced smile on his face. 

Later, in the car, he said, “I didn’t want to look like Bob’s Big Boy. She was going in that direction!”

I agreed that was true, based on the photo he’d shown her.  When packing for our flight from Dubai to Barcelona in June, we’d tossed an 8-ounce tube of hair gel. Bringing it along would have cost another $5 in excess luggage fees. Thus, we’d have had no way to maintain Bob, had he liked that look.

Here it is, the haircut. Maybe in a few days, it will take shape. I’ve offered to reduce the length of the top for him. He declined my offer.

 

“Give it a few days,” I said.

Having perused a substantial book of men’s haircuts while he sat in the chair, we observed all youngish chisel faced models in their 20’s. There was nary a cut befitting a mature adult male. The one he ultimately chose, had the sides cut as he’d prefer, but the top was definitely in the Bob category. Trying to explain this to Barbara was fruitless. We couldn’t come up with anything other than a “scissors snipping” hand signal to take more off of the top
.
We take full responsibility for the cut. Barbara is surely a very fine stylist. My well-intended interference and our lack of communication skills inspired the end result.  He’ll live with it and see what happens in three months from now in Kenya. 

Living in the world is a never-ending lesson. Some experienced travelers we’ve met over the years talk as if they have it all figured out. We’ll never figure it all out. Each area, each country has its own unique customs, modes of living, and nuances that one can only become privy to over a long period of time. 

Two to three months in any country will never be long enough to learn the language and those nuances, that in the end, for us, make it all the more enjoyable.

 

On April 9th we board a Carnival ship…Should we be worried?…

 

This is the Carnival Liberty, the ship  on which we’ll embark on April 9th.

With the influx of news regarding the horrifying nightmare for over 4000 passengers on the Carnival Triumph, we watched intently, wondering what we should do.

The likelihood of another such incident on the two back to back Carnival Liberty Cruises we’ve booked is unlikely.  We’ll be staying in the same cabin on both cruises, sailing from April 9, 2013 until April 20, 2013.  Upon disembarking the Liberty around 10:00 am, we’ll change ships at the same pier, on the same day, to board the Norwegian Epic at 4:00 PM to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to Barcelona on our first transatlantic cruise.

For the heck of it, we contacted our cruise guy, Joaquin at Vacations to Go inquiring as to what options are available, if and only if, a passenger wants to “jump ship” to another cruise line.  (Keeping in mind we’re cruising as a means of transportation as much as possible. Plus we love it as opposed to flying). 

Not to our surprise, Carnival is not offering refunds for future cruise passengers on other ships.  This would bankrupt them.  Based on the fact that we can’t get a full refund within 90 days of a cruise departure, diminishing on a scale the closer it gets as taken directly from our Cruise Confirmation documents.

Cancellation Charges If you cancel, the following charges will be assessed by the cruise line (per guest):

Cruise Length Days Prior To Sailing Cancellation Charge
2, 3, 4 & 5 nights 61 days or more

60 to 46 days
45 to 30 days
29 to 15 days
14 days or less

None (except for Early Saver, Easy Saver* and
Super Saver fares**)
Entire deposit
50% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
75% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
100% of total fare
6 nights and longer (including Alaska & Hawaii) 76 days or more

75 to 56 days
55 to 30 days
29 to 15 days
14 days or less

None (except for Early Saver, Easy Saver*
and Super Saver fares**)
Entire deposit
50% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
75% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
100% of total fare
Europe, Panama Canal and Transpacific sailings 7, 9 & 12, 14 and 17 nights in length 91 days or more

90 to 56 days
55 to 30 days
29 to 15 days
14 days or less

None (except for Early Saver, Easy Saver*
and Super Saver fares**)
Entire deposit
50% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
75% of total fare or deposit, whichever is greater
100% of total fare
All cruises purchased under the Instant Saver Fare Any time after booking 100% of total fare

Timetables and rates are subject to change, and exceptions may apply for holiday sailings. *Early Saver & Easy Saver fares: The deposit on bookings made using the Early Saver & Easy Saver Fares program is non-refundable/non-transferable. No name changes will be permitted. There is a $50 service fee per person applicable on ship and/or sail date changes outside standard penalties.**Super Saver fares: The deposit is non-refundable.

With 51 days until we sail, we’d lose our deposits, in these cases, over $1000.  Thus, the question posed:  Are we willing to lose $1000 in deposits to cancel these cruises?  Secondly, there are no specific dates that coincide with our planned dates of departure which would result in losing money leaving here early and paying for hotels and meals on the other end.  it makes no sense monetarily.

Does it make sense emotionally?  Not really.  When we decided to travel the world we knew there would be risks and bumps along the way.  Here we are, almost five months since leaving Minnesota and without a doubt, we’ve already had a few bumps.

1.  Our luggage going on the wrong van when we arrived in Belize City on January 29, 2013, to be recovered an hour later, after a lot of foot stomping after we had specifically stated several times that they ensure the luggage goes on the tender boat with us, not ahead of us.
2.  The ineptness of guest services on the Celebrity Equinox when they only arranged a one week visa for our stay in Belize when we needed 30 days (to be renewed soon when we have to go by boat to immigration in Mango Creek).  It was straightened out but again, only with observation of the error and persistence in getting it resolved.  Had I not checked our passports when the on board immigration officer handed them back to us, we’d have been forced to go to Mango Creek while we were living in that unsanitary water-free zone only 12 days ago.
3.  The water-free house down the road, Little Cottage, with an occasional dribble of cold running water, cold dribbling showers and a mostly non flushable toilet resulting in a horrible unsanitary situation.  Hot water and soap is a great sanitizer.  We had soap but no hot water.  We boiled it as often as we could accumulate it at a dribble’s pace in a huge pot on the dangerous gas smelling stove.  (Oh, listen to me go on!).

Yes, we are uninjured.  Yes, we are now safe from disease.  We ask ourselves, what have we learned? 
From comments above in order:
1.  Incompetency prevails
2.  Incompetency prevails
3.  Don’t rent a marginal house with only two reviews on the website, both of which were outdated and one of which referred to another property the owner rented.  I should have been more suspicious when booking the property.  Lesson learned.  (Bless Tom’s heart.  He never blamed me!)

None the less, we are grateful we found LaruBeya by a fluke.   We are grateful to have water and to be in a sanitary environment.  We are grateful that we are able to walk to or be driven to (for only a tip) to a total of five restaurant in our area.  Yes, we are grateful that Estevan picks us up every Wednesday to go to the grocery store for a $10 round trip (plus tip).  In addition, we are grateful that we find food we can eat, although the selection is limited and the fact that its grass fed, free range and organic.

As for the upcoming cruises, we’ll continue on as planned on the Carnival Liberty.  If something does go wrong, we have our portable solar charger that is powerful enough to fully charge our phones.  With our phones charged we’ll be able to use the Blogger app to continue to keep our readers informed.  As for Internet connection (which was not fully functioning on the Carnival Triumph, we’ll have our XCOM Global MiFi with us which works independently of the ship’s data when close to land). 

See…there may be a use for all the gadgets we’ve packed which are consuming space in our bags!

Lightening the load…All moved in…More photos!

I took this photo this morning while standing in front of our veranda.  Gee, maybe there’s hope for me in the picture taking department!

Yesterday, we moved to our new home, an ocean view villa in LaruBeya. Today, I’m unpacking all seven of our large orange and two carry-on Antler suitcases with this plan in mind as mentioned in part in a past post:

1.  Unpack every item in all bags.
2.  While in the process, pack three of the bags to go into storage in Miami, sealing the items in three large space bags per large suitcase. 
3.  Place all the clothes that we’ll keep with us in our continuing travels over the next year, only two large bags and one carry-on each, sorting and hanging items with wrinkles (they’ll look ironed after a few days of the humidity in Belize).

I took this photo while standing on our veranda. This is what we wake up to each morning. No kidding, it’s about 20 feet to the sea. Hope there’s no tsunami!

The end result: We’ll ditch three large suitcases and two duffel bags into the storage facility in Miami for $15 a month and we’ll be able to fly without any additional charges.  Having a travel scale with us, we’ll weigh the bags when we repack in April, ensuring none are over the limit.

On April 9th, we begin a series of cruises taking us all the way to Dubai on May 21st where we’ll stay for two weeks, flying back to Barcelona to board another cruise on June 4, 2013.  With the lighter load, everything will be easier.

Our veranda.  Last night we enjoyed dinner at this table.  This morning we had our coffee while sitting in those lounge chairs.

We’ve had to learn this on our own.  Many people were aghast at the amount of our luggage. We were as well!  Now, almost four months since we left Minnesota, we know exactly which items we won’t need at this time.  When down the road, we go to Antarctica and other colder climate (on our list of places to see), we’ll access our bags containing warmer clothes.

If along the way we encounter cold weather, we’ll each have our two Scottevest multiple pockets jackets, one, a windbreaker with a hood and the other, a warmer jacket.

Another view of our veranda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a perfect world, we’d send these excess bags back to a family member or friend to store for us.  But, we understand that space is limited in everyone’s homes. Storing three large filled suitcases requires a fair amount of indoor space since we wouldn’t want them sitting in a garage or a potentially damp basement. So, we’re good with our plan.

As for our new “digs” we couldn’t be happier. As it turned out, they gave us a different unit than we originally toured.  At first, I was disappointed tempted to squawk.  But, after talking to other guests staying here to discover that they were paying over $300 a night for the same villa, our $2500 a month was too good a deal to complain.

Our new living room. 

After rearranging the furniture, putting away our food supplies, and finding a working ice maker in the refrigerator, we were content. Good grief, how dare we complain with this view!

Unfortunately, there is no way to wash our clothes.  The resort provides laundry service (for a fee), twice a week maid service (included), towels, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, soap, and much to our surprise, Belizean (amazing!) coffee, creamer, and sugar. 

Our new kitchen was missing a mixing bowl and vegetable peeler.  The restaurant staff here proudly provided them for our two-month stay.

As I unpacked yesterday, I hand-washed a few items hanging them discretely outside on a chair on the veranda which dried in only a few hours. The remainder, we placed in the provided laundry bag having filled out the form listing the items. The total cost of the laundry for a week’s clothing will be $12.50 US. We can manage that.

Last night, after a busy day with Tom still feeling under the weather, I cooked breakfast for dinner, using ingredients we’d managed to keet refrigerated in our hotel room these past five days. 

Dining on the veranda after dark with a cooling ocean breeze we dined on organic free-range scrambled eggs with cheese and Belizean sausage made with grass-fed meat. To top it off, I made our favorite GF low carb coconut flour pancakes using the sugar-free syrup and coconut oil we’d packed for this special treat.

Tom is feeling well again today, enjoying some leisure time getting caught up on email and reading the Minneapolis St. Paul newspaper which he downloads each morning.  Our cab driver will take us grocery shopping every Wednesday morning.  It looks like we’ll be cooking breakfast again tonight which is all we have on hand; sausage sautéed onion, and cheese omelets. 

Tomorrow night, we’ll go across the road to Habanero, the Mexican Buffet owned by Robert’s Grove, the resort next door.  By Wednesday afternoon, our refrigerator and freezer will be stocked for a week until Estevan returns to take us shopping the following Wednesday.

Now, feeling settled and content, we’ll be able to sign up for a few sightseeing expeditions offered by our resort for which we won’t need transportation.  Most certainly, we’ll share photos and details on these as they occur.  Stay tuned.

 

Oh, no!…Tom’s clothes don’t fit…

The risk was real.  Tom was losing weight while I packed for our 5-10 years on the road, traveling the world.  Some suggested we bring one duffel bag each. If we were going for a weekend, that would have made sense. 

We have no home to go back to and repack.  We have no place to go and do laundry and get ready for another round.  Dirty clothes, travel with us.  So, we packed big.  When we arrive at our various vacation homes, we’ll wash clothes.  On ships, we’ll place them in a cloth laundry bag to haul to our next location.

We are OK with this. It’s been discussed at length. So we each have three bags, a carry-on, a computer bag, a purse and, two 250 pound capacity wheeling carts that hold it all.  Once we go to Africa and return to Europe, we’ll mail our big boots and Africa clothes back to Nevada in order to lighten the load (thanks again, son Richard).

We had decided that toward the end of our time in Scottsdale that we would repack, suctioning the air out of our Space Bags, sorting cruise suitcases from the others. This way we’d only have to open one or two bags each during the cruise.  This idea came to us only after the bags were already packed months ago.

When I shopped for Tom last summer, he was down about 30 pounds.  The weight loss had slowed to a snail’s pace and honesty, I didn’t think for a moment that he’d lose another 20 pounds.  We were enjoying our way of eating (low carb, grain-free, sugar-free, starch-free) and he was losing about one pound a month at that point.  Who knew?

When he started eating this way 16 months ago, he wore size 44 pants, mainly due to his belly, certainly not the rest.  When I purchased his new clothes, I purchased size 38 pants and XL shirts figuring at the very most he’d lose another three or four pounds until we left the US, thus not affecting the fit. 

Since shortly before we left Minnesota, he’s since lost another 20 pounds now down a total of almost 50.  Wow!

Who cares about clothes?  My man is healthy and slim! His health had a complete turnaround.  He’s now a size 34.  Yesterday, we unpacked all of his clothes.  There are 18 (yes, 18) pairs of a combination of shorts, casual khaki pants, dress khaki pants, jeans, and dress/suit pants (for formal nights on cruises) that would fall off him if he wore them. And I mean falling off! They look ridiculous! 

We can salvage the swimsuits. They have the string ties in the waistbands. OK. Guys wear baggy swimwear, don’t they? But the pants have to go! 

Today we are taking everything to an alterations shop in Old Town with the thought that we’ll only have the dress pants altered.  We’re bringing along the other 15 items.  Maybe, just maybe, the tailor will be willing to give us a deal on the lot of them, getting them done in less than three weeks  Unlikely.  It will probably cost less to start over.

If the tailor is not cooperative, we’ll go shopping this week in Scottsdale to replace everything.  There’s no time to shop online with only a week until we leave for Henderson, Nevada for eight days for Christmas with family.  We’ll have no time while we’re there.  Plus sales tax is higher in NV as opposed to AZ.

Tom despises shopping but I’m fast. He can wait in a try-on room while I’ll throw the pants at him. He can bring his phone and play Angry Birds while he’s waiting.  It will be OK.

Hum, 10 inches lost in the waist. Remarkable! Better health. Amazing! Perfect colonoscopy and endoscopy results.  Astounding!  No more IBS.  Impressive!

Able to carry bags without puffing and panting. Yeah! Who cares about buying new pants? No one.

Windows 8 pluses and minuses…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your day be filled with amazing food, animated conversation and an abundance of love. 

After 18 days as owners of two new lightweight Acer Windows 8, 15.6, 64 bit laptops we’ve had adequate time to determine its flaws and merits as typical, not expert, PC users. (Well, not quite the typical user, as far as time online is concerned in preparation for our upcoming travels).

Back in 1991, Tom and I each had our own over sized desktop computers when we both became obsessed with an online beta game called Netplay, one of the first of its kind at that time.  It took 8 hours to download the game via a phone modem.  Wow, times have changed!

Over the years, we’ve updated our computers every few years, intrigued by the latest software and technology, finding ourselves enjoying their use as a tool to enhance our lives, to learn, to entertain us, to shop, to read aloud to one another, maybe spending more time online than other users.

As we planned our travels, we knew that our two old workhorse Dell Inspiron 17.3″, 7.8 pound laptops, had their day.  Once Microsoft started promoting Windows 8, we decided we had to make the laptops last until the new laptops were available. 

It was a long wait.  My case broke and was held together by a huge plastic clamp.  Tom’s monitor’s light dimmed beyond repair (believe me, I tried) leaving us both chugging away waiting out Windows 8 release date.  Alas, it arrived on the market a week before we left Minnesota. 

We decided to wait to purchase the two new laptops until we arrived in Scottsdale avoiding any concern of a possible hotel room thief along the way.  One day after we arrived, we headed to the local Costco store, credit card in hand, chomping at the bit to get back to our temporary home to begin the process of transferring the data.  Ugh!

Mistake #1:  In order to get a “good deal” of $1658 (including 9.5% Arizona sales tax) buying at Costco, we short-changed ourselves in some ways.  Don’t get me wrong, we love Costco, always have.  

However, buying a computer from Costco resulted in zero in-person technical service, all precipitated by the desire to save a few hundred dollars.  Add a new operating system of which we had zero experience with limited information online, we were in a quandary.

Desperate, a few days later, we attended a free one hour course at the local Microsoft store.  Had we not had a few days to “play around with it” the course would have been way over our heads.  Fortunately, by that point we knew exactly which questions to ask, coming out of the class feeling more at ease.

Mistake #2:  Not purchasing a new data transfer software program or paying $69-$99 to have a professional do the transfers.  The software we brought with us for this task was obsolete for Windows 8.  Yes, we had transferred most of our data to the free 2 G DropBox before we left Minnesota, which we are now transferring to Microsoft’s own new cloud, SkyDrive with 25 G of free storage.

Fortunately, we had brought along the CDs for Microsoft Office and Outlook 2007, which miraculously, we were able to install. We didn’t want to buy Office 2010 when Office 2013 is coming out in February.

Fortunately, we brought along a zip drive, enabling us to transfer all of Outlook files which included all of our communication, rental agreements, receipts and instructions with the owners and managers of the many vacation homes we are renting all over the world.  (I had placed the actual leases in Dropbox).

If I were to say, we each spent about five days setting up our computers, it’s no exaggeration.  Finding support online was difficult with little consistent Windows 8 information available.  This will change quickly.  We were a few weeks ahead of the availability of reliable online guidance. 

Somehow, we figured it all out while swiping our fingers across our “touch screens” trying to maneuver those pesky little tiles.  Somehow, all of our data, contacts, pictures and settings are in place.  Somehow, we’ve learned the zillions of nuances one will only find in Windows 8.

The biggest issue we discovered, using Adobe Flash player, supposedly pre-installed into Internet Explorer 10.  Not the case, with error messages on many websites that require Flash. 

After hours of looking for solutions; patches from Microsoft or new versions of Windows 8, I stumbled across what proved to be a workable download, when several downloads didn’t solve the problem.  (Of course, I uninstalled the non-working version we had but even the uninstall feature had issues). Quickly, I repeated the exact same process that made it work on my laptop, onto Tom’s laptop and it didn’t work!  We had the exact same computers!

Days later, after downloading and re-installing several versions, I finally got Flash to work, enabling Tom to get into his historical documents in Ancestry.com, his favorite site.  At one point, I was so obsessed with finding a solution, I sat here in this not-so-comfy chair, palms sweating, until almost midnight, bound and determined to fix it. 

Lo and behold, a few days later, it stopped working!

The next day, I spent over an hour on the phone with Costco’s technical support in a conference call with a rep from Acer, neither of whom could resolve the issue.

Our laptops are quietly humming along loaded with our stuff, access to our travel files, filled with new apps, mine with little blocks of tiles, categorized by topic, each a single click to what I want to do.  I’m learning to love it, now that the worst is almost over with (the Flash issue remains).

Would we recommend Windows 8?  Yes, tentatively, provided one has professional assistance in transferring data from the old computer, getting Adobe Flash Player working correctly which we have yet to do, attending online or in-person training, and a willingness to spend considerable time learning its unfamiliar commands and hand gestures so unlike former Windows operating systems.

We both have found that the learning and the resulting mental stimulation from acquiring and getting up to speed on the latest technology may ultimately prove to be instrumental in keeping our brains working and perhaps, in keeping us young.  That would be nice. 

We have lots to do today, including going out to Thanksgiving dinner at The Wandering Horse Buffet at The Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale. 

After dinner, perhaps another hour long walk to walk off the meal, as we did yesterday perusing past the 100’s of art galleries in the art district in our neighborhood. I told you, “He’d walk!” 

Have a happy day!

P.S.  Since writing this post this morning, I have found a solution for Flash Player.  Actually Internet Explorer is supposed to be pre-installed with Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player.  In both of our computers, it was non-functioning.
1.  Download the patch at this Microsoft site:  http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2770041
2.  Open Internet Explorer on the DESKTOP, not the TILES START SCREEN. In the upper right hand corner is a little gear (settings), click on this and then click on Manage add-ons. 
3.  In the middle of the box that appears, click on Show and select ALL add-ons.  Scroll down the right inside of the box and find Shockwave Flash
4.  Double click on Shockwave until a box appears.  Check ALLOW ALL WEBSITES.  This should do it.

That fix worked on our Windows 8 computers.  We now both have working Adobe Flash Players  Hopefully, it will work for you.  If you have trouble, feel free to comment here or email me and I will gladly respond promptly.

I don’t profess to be a Windows 8 expert, but with the lack of “free” tech support that knew how to solve this problem, we had no choice than to figure it out on our own. 

Now have a happy Thanksgiving day!  With both of our computers in full function mode, we sure will!