A stormy, stormy night…Date night that is…

 

The puffs of clouds surrounding us this morning were a delight to behold.

When a couple is together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (I never liked that expression, 24/7) we find it’s important to designate certain periods of time as “date nights.”

Sure, it’s pretending. But then, isn’t romantic in itself a pretense of sorts, making special times out of “normal” times?  Some may believe this is not important in a strong loving relationship.  For some, it may not be important, or so they think.

Sadly, power lines always seem to obstruct the view in the remote areas we’ve visited.

But, spend an evening freshly showered, wearing an attractive outfit (need not be fancy), preparing a carefully planned and executed quiet dinner, finishing off the evening with a movie befitting the taste of both parties and a romantic evening can be had. 

For the budget-minded, the cost is no more than any other evening at home. For the extravagant, the experience is as rich and fulfilling as a lavish night on the town with the end result being the same;  feeling loved, cherished, and fulfilled.

Last night was “date night” appropriately a Saturday night that even us retired folks still perceive as the time for extra fun (along with Friday nights). 

Beginning at 5:00 pm, our evening began when the bells from the church out our window began ringing prompting me to once again attempt to take a video, once again to do a poor job but I’m working on it. Taking still photos has been tough enough for me, as my family so well knows.

The church across the road with the bells only ringing on Saturday nights.

The delight we felt during the six minutes as the bells joyfully clanged began the tone of the evening. It was uphill from there. Since neither of us felt like eating all day (a phenomenon that occurs when one eats low carb-loss of appetite), by 6:00 pm, we were ready for dinner.

Planned as taco salad night (minus the bowl), I had chopped and diced all the accompaniments well in advance and had only to cook the grass-fed ground beef seasoning it accordingly. 

By 6:00 pm, an hour earlier than usual, we were dining at the kitchen table digging into our massive salads filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables from the garden especially those plump red tomatoes gifted to us by Santina on Friday.

More puffs of clouds.  As the morning wore on, the puffs dissipated as the sun struggled to appear.  The thick heaviness of humidity remained with the cool temperature making it tolerable.

Some may say watching TV shows or movies is not romantic. For us, it is.  Tom tends to chatter on incessantly during the show, something I’ve found charming. The laughter and conversation continue as we watch. 

Our show of choice last night during dinner, one that invites comments and observations, was “America’s Got Talent,” a mindless TV series that easily incites laughter and smiles.  Without commercials, the episode ended about the time we’d finished dinner.  I tackled putting away the leftovers (repeat tonight!) while Tom as always, washed the dishes.

It almost looks as if its smoke, rather than clouds.

By 7:15, part two of our evening began, spending time on the veranda overlooking the mountains, listening to the birds, and swatting off a few flying insects.  Once again, I put on the Africa pants to avoid being stung as a couple of flies buzzed around my head. Each time I wear the pants I’m surprised by how well they keep the bugs from biting.  I’ve yet to be stung once while wearing them, even without my arms or feet protected. 

As we often do, we moved my laptop to the coffee table in the living room, positioning ourselves in the uncomfortable 100-year-old sofa, and proceeded to watch a few more episodes of our favorite downloaded shows from Graboid:  season 3, episode 5 of The Killing, and season 1, episode 2 of The White Queen (excellent shows worth watching).

After the first show, we rousted up the big dishwashing bowl for the shells for the pistachios and peanuts, more out of fun than hunger. By 9:00 pm our shows ended, leaving only a few minutes of battery time on my laptop.  

From experience, we knew that by charging it for 45 minutes we’d regain enough of charge to watch a movie in bed. We busied ourselves in the kitchen as it recharged, Tom, checking email, and Facebook, while I read my latest book.

By 9:45 we meandered to our room, setting up a wooden tray to support the laptop on the bed (it’s a dangerous fire hazard to place a laptop directly on top of the bed) and crawled under the comfy covers to watch the movie, Linda Lovelace, (bringing back lots of memories of the ’70s) that we found disappointing. But for us, with Tom’s chatter, I was thoroughly entertained.

Once again, this bell tower is a focal point in our photos.  Most villages in Italy have such a tower, visible as one travels through the winding mountain roads.

By 12:30 am with the mosquito netted window wide open as a cool breeze wafting our way, we drifted off within minutes of each other with smiles on our faces.  Indeed, it was a delightful evening.

An hour later, deep in sleep, we both were alarmed by as an outrageous bolt of thunder and lightening permeating the area as the rain pelted the tile roofs.

It was no less than two hours, there was a relentless storm that hovered in this mountainous valley as loud and as bright as any fast-moving storm we’d experienced in Minnesota.  The difference here was the time it hovered as if it was caught in this valley with no way in which to escape. 

Although neither of us is fearful of the storms, we were entranced by its intensity, eventually forced to close the window as the wind whipped in its direction, pouring torrents of water into the bedroom at the moment it took for me to jump out of bed to hurriedly shut it. 

Tom had fallen back to sleep. I lay awake comforted by the fact that this 300-year-old house has most certainly survived centuries of such storms and was nonetheless still intact. Reading my book, an enticing Irish novel, until almost 4:00 am, I finally drifted off tucking my phone under my pillow.

As always, 6:55 am forced my bleary eyes open, only seconds before the 7 clangs of the clock tower next door to us. It’s funny how it never awakens us during the night. Not wanting to awaken Tom, I lingered in bed until he awoke at 7:56 am, moments later to hear the 8 clangs, as we both offered a groggy, “Hi, sweetie.” As always, upon arising together we made the bed, a habit we started years ago when arising at the same time.

Tom called out to me as I was getting ready to shower, beaconing me to the patio to look out at the mountains. These are the photos we took this morning, thrilled to see the clouds so low, lingering in puffs throughout the valley.  What a sight!

Date night turned into “date morning” as we were entranced by the view as if it was a parting gift from Boveglio for the 2½ months were lived in its midst (no pun intended).  Thank you, Boveglio. 

 

Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 14th…Petra Jordan excursion….Gone all day…

We’ll be back on Wednesday with photos and the story of our 10 hour expedition to Petra in Aqaba, Jordan.  Please check back for details.

“Lost City” of Petra Still Has Secrets to Reveal

A person standing in the doorway of the Monastery at Petra, Jordan, shows the enormity of the ancient building’s entrance. Carved into the sandstone hill by the Nabataeans in the second century A.D., this towering structure, called El-Deir, may have been used as a church or monastery by later societies, but likely began as a temple.

 

 

It’s 11:25 pm…At this moment we’re cruising through the Strait of Gibraltar…

Turning off all the lights in our cabin, we’re enthralled as our ship sails through the 13 miles wide channels of the Strait of Gibraltar with Casablanca, Morocco on the starboard side and the Rock of Gibraltar to the port side.

Bright lights are flickering on the African continent as our hearts beat wildly with excitement knowing that on March 1, 2014, a mere 10 months away we’ll be living in Morocco for almost three months after similar periods after living in Kenya and South Africa.

We wish we could take photos but the shore is too far away to get a decent shot at night.Tomorrow, we’ll write again with updates as we sail to Barcelona.

Hopefully, soon, we’ll temper our enthusiasm and get some sleep. In Belize right now, it would have been 3:15 pm. I can’t imagine falling asleep soon!

Sleep well, my friends! .

 

Challenges of crossing the ocean…

 

Towel pet on our bed last night.  The eyes are inverted coffee creamers.  Too cute.

Challenge #1:  Time changes

Since leaving Belize on April 9, we’ve experienced a number of time changes. Although a small amount in terms of world travel, it has affected us. We had wrongfully assumed that the gradual time differences occurring while crossing the ocean would be insignificant.  With Belize not observing Daylight Savings Time resulting in a two hour difference in Miami, at this point, the four hour difference has hit us.
Since boarding the Norwegian Epic on April 20th, we’ve had two time changes with another coming tonight. Why I thought we’d be invincible to these changes escapes me.

The almost full moon taken from our veranda last night.

Each of the past four mornings, we’ve awakened around 9:00 am. I can’t recall a time in the past 20 years that I awoke this late. Tom with his prior work schedule occasionally slept a little later. I’ve always felt that half my day was over by noon upon awakening most days between 5:30 and 6:00 am.

It appears that the only way to adjust as we venture toward Europe is to start getting up earlier. At this point, still on Belize time, when we awaken at 6:00 am, it’s still 2:00 am to our bodies.  This morning, we committed to getting up by 7:00 am going forward, starting tomorrow morning. We’ll set the alarm.

Doing so, and following this concept as we traverse through time zones in our travels, will allow us to adapt more quickly. Also, leaving the drapes open at night to allow morning light to awaken us along with eating our two daily meals at regular intervals, for us, within an hour of awakening and five hours before going to bed, should get us on track in no time.

Challenge #2:
Rough waters at sea

We were warned by our captain a few days ago. When nothing major occurred, I dismissed it as a stroke of luck, again making a wrongful assumption, that this crossing of the Atlantic Ocean would be “smooth sailing.” Ha! 

As I write this, we are sitting in our favorite booth (coincidentally available, three mornings in a row) in the Garden Cafe, after a satisfying few cups of coffee and breakfast, watching the horizon rise and fall through the walls of glass surrounding us. For the past 20 minutes, I contemplated getting up and getting a cup of tea, wondering how I’ll carry it the short distance from the beverage area back to the booth.

The magic of moon appeals to all of us, wherever we may be. (The orange line in the upper left corner is the overhang on our balcony.  To avoid including it, I would have had to hang over the railing.  No thank you!)

Alas, I made my tea, while practically trotting to and fro as the rolling waves attempted to catapult me across the room.  Tom, of course, after 42 years of rocking and rolling on the railroad, experiences no such sensation.

Thank goodness, at this point, I don’t feel seasick. Why, not?  I don’t know. The captain made an
announcement about the rough seas over the loudspeaker a few minutes ago, but people wouldn’t shut up long enough to be able to hear what he was saying.

Perhaps it is better that way. Ignorance is bliss. Bouncing and rolling, not so much. Will it get worse? I imagine so. We’ve heard stories since boarding this ship, of rough waters resulting in order that passengers stay in their cabins, taking everything off of the shelves. 

We have our zillions of bottles of vitamins on a shelf in our cabin which I expect will be all over the floor when we return.  Tom just went to the window here in the Garden Cafe to look out, in awe of the waves, coming back with a big smile, loving the adventure of it all. 

As long as we don’t get seasick, I’m OK.  This surprises me.  During the first few nights on our first cruise on the smaller Celebrity Century, I was unable to sleep as the ship rolled from side to side. Now, on our 5th cruise since January 3, 2013, I am at ease, although well aware of the sensations.

How quickly we adapt, we humans. Ironically, I think we are designed for change by possessing the emotional and physical where-with-all to grow, to learn and to adjust to a new environment, a new way of life and ultimately of a new way of observing the world around us. For this, my friends, we are grateful.

Ship taking a detour today…Sick passenger being dropped off in Bermuda, plus rough seas…

Our ship, the Norwegian Epic is taking a detour today to drop off an ill passenger in Bermuda. 

This morning, the captain made this announcement as well as warning us we will be approaching rough waters today. He said, “Hang on, folks. You paid for this in your ticket.” Oh.

Plus, our Internet connection is really awful. We will write here with updates but will be unable to post any photos today for this reason.

The weather is very windy and cool. It doesn’t appear we’ll be enjoying any poolside lounging as we sail across the ocean. 

Last night, we had a one hour time change and will experience several more the closer we get to Europe.

Back in touch with updates throughout the day.

Be well.

 

 

We made it to Placencia Belize, bumpy road and all…

 

The “tenders” that took excursion passengers from the Celebrity Equinox and other ships that were anchored in the bay due to shallow waters at the pier.  We took this photo from our tender which was much larger with a double deck and steep steps to the 2nd level where we sat during the 30 minute ride.

 

One of six single lane bridges we encountered on the Hummingbird Highway, the almost four hour drive from Belize City to Placencia, a narrow peninsula on the Caribbean Sea
The beach at our cottage on the Caribbean Sea.

 

A banana plantation along the Hummingbird Highway.  The blue plastic bags are used to protect the banana from insects instead of pesticides.

A few years ago, I had trouble going to a Minnesota Twins ballgame, the ride in the car, sitting in the bleachers, the stairs up and down.  I was falling apart.  Now, less than two years later, I’m hauling my share of carry on bags, up the steep steps to the second level of the tender for a 30 minute bouncy boat ride in choppy waters from where the Celebrity Equinox anchored out at sea, too large to dock at the pier.

Thank goodness for discovering that food played a huge role in my chronic pain syndrome, now all but gone, making it possible for me to be a participating partner in our upcoming years of world travel.  For this, I am very grateful.

However, my newer state of being doesn’t diminish my persistence in getting things done and getting them done right.  This morning, still on the Equinox, with all of our bags packed and ready to go down to deck two to await our departure on a tender, we waited to hear from the Celebrity’s Immigration Officer, Jennie.

Her objectives, after my careful instructions were to accomplish a few things:
1.  Acquire visas for us for at least the one month Belize offers with the availability of applying for the remainder of our stay.
2.  Get us and our bags safely off the ship on time to meet our private shuttle driver Abraham at our prearranged 12:30 PM at ship terminal #2 who’d be waiting for us holding a sign with our name, to begin the four hour drive to Placencia to our awaiting little beach house.
3.  Avoid us standing in a lengthy line behind all the passengers who were going on excursions in Belize City and avoid all the passengers waiting for us to get our luggage loaded on the tender.  Passengers didn’t have luggage, just purses and bags to carry the loot they’ll purchase on shore. 

We each had heavy computer bags, Tom’s two-liter duty free bottles of booze, bottles of water for the road trip, my overloaded handbag and a heavy bag with all of our prescriptions and preventive medicines that I always keep in my possession.

While I was at the guest services awaiting our stamped passports Tom was upstairs in our cabin on Deck 10 lining up the luggage for the soon-to-arrive porter with a cart to take it to the tender boarding area.

If timing went as we’d planned, we’d be at Terminal 2 in Belize City to meet driver Abraham promptly at 12:30, head directly to the Fed Ex office to return the XCOM Global MiFi to San Diego and begin the long drive to Placencia.

At 11:30,  Jennie frantically arrived at the desk to tell me our passports were approved by the Belizean Immigration Officer who had come aboard at 10:30 and we were set to go.  She handed over our two passports, wished us well and dashed off. 

Still standing at the desk, I knew I’d better check the passports. The visas in both of our passports read:  6/2/2013.  In US speak that means, June 2, 2013. In Belizean speak that means, February 6, 2013. He’d only approved one week!!! Now what? I took a deep breath.  Stay calm, I hollered at myself in my head.  Summoning a guest service rep to go find Jennie again, I waited impatiently another 10 minutes. 

Showing her the dates on the passports, she became embarrassed and flustered, mumbling something about the Belizean Immigration Officer having gone to eat at the ship’s buffet.  In a firm but diplomatic voice, I asked her to please go interrupt his breakfast kindly asking him to extend the visa to 30 days, giving us ample time to apply for an extension by mail while in Placencia. 

Aware of the clock ticking, Tom appeared at my side, ready to head down to Deck 2 to our awaiting bags and to board the tender.  Moments later, Jennie appeared again with the passports in hand, showing us that she had in fact, interrupted his breakfast as he gave us the 30-days visas.  Off we went down to the gangplank and boarding area to about 100 passengers in line waiting to board the next boat. 

Asking Tom to get out our two “Priority Tender Passes” only to discover moments later that most passengers in line also had a “Priority Tender Pass.”  Oh, how I had thought we were special!  Ha!

By now, it was noon. Surprisingly, the line moved quickly as passengers swiped their “SeaPass” ID cards into the slot.  As we moved up the line, I started asking staff personnel about our luggage. “Where did they put our luggage?”  No one answered until we reached the point of swiping our cards in the machine. 

A loud siren started blaring as soon as my card was read.  The same happened to Tom.  We were immediately whisked aside to curious onlookers who were trying to assess our “crime” only to discover that they were being alerted to the fact that we were getting off the ship and not coming back.  Steps away from boarding the tender we were approved to depart after a phone call was made.  

I continued to ask about our luggage.  “Where is it?”  I harped again trying to sound friendly.  Tom had already reminded me about my persistent manner to avoid coming across as “the ugly American” making endless demands.

A uniformed man appearing to be a police officer for the ship stated with raised brows, “Your luggage went on an earlier tender.  Its at the pier waiting for you.
“Is someone watching it?” I asked.

“Yes, madame, it’s in the hands of Celebrity personnel.” he reassured us.  We boarded the tender hauling our multiple carry on bags to that second story when we barely found two seats next to one another. 

Squeezed between several passengers, a lively conversation ensued with the passengers around us, fascinated that we were getting off the ship to stay in Belize for over two months.  I appreciated their enthusiasm but my mind was on the luggage.

Finally I relaxed to enjoy a lovely woman sitting next to me, a world traveler from Germany, an archaeologist.  The 30 minute ride flew by, wind and sea spray splashing around us in the open air boat as we chatted on about science, paleontology and the caveman.  Quite interesting!  I could easily have spent hours with her. 

Exchanging business cards, we promised to stay in touch via email as she was very interested in reading our blog as I was interested in hearing more about her family winery in Bordeaux, France.  As she dashed away, she threw her head back to shout to me, “Come to visit us at our winery in Bordeaux.”  Whether said flippantly or sincerely, I momentarily relished in the prospect of spending time at her family owned winery.

Moments later, we were being herded off the tender all the while looking for our multiple orange bags.  After a lengthy walk on the dock, we discovered a Celebrity “tent” with cups of water accompanying the goodbyes from the uniformed staff.  Our luggage was no where to be found.  The Celebrity staff member who was dressed in a uniform was apparently a police officer who led the way for us to follow him. 

Madly searching for our bags in the crowded terminal, we also had an eye out for Abraham and his sign with our name.  There he was.  No luggage.  A row of van drivers were desperately trying to move through traffic and get their loaded vehicles on their way. 

In what was a wild flurry of activity, as Abraham joined us in the search for our bags, there were two vans in front of ours, all blocking traffic.  Suddenly, we saw ORANGE!!!  Our bags were in a van we had not requested, not Abraham’s van!  The doors were being shut and it was ready to drive away.  We both yelled, “Stop!! Those are our bags!”  Stop that van!  The van stopped and minutes later, a load of about 25 bags in the rear of a huge van were being unloaded to get to our bags which of course were on the bottom of the pile.

The other awaiting van in front of the van with our bags took off with passengers and luggage, on their way to the airport. After unloading the “wrong van” we discovered were missing three large bags, two orange, one black and they were on their way to the airport.

It was sunny, humid and 90 degrees.  Pushy, pushy, pushy.  But, nice, nice, nice.  We managed to convinced the other van driver to contact the airport van to turn around in crazy traffic and road construction and come back with our three bags.  Yes, our bags ended up in two separate vans, neither of which we had requested or desired.

After what seemed like an eternity, we had all of our bags in Abraham’s van and we were on our way to FED EX, arriving a good 20 minutes after leaving the ship terminal through bumpy dusty unpaved roads in some of the poorest areas of Belize City.  Oh, oh, FED EX had moved.  They are now within a block of the ship terminal.  We’d have to turn around and go back. 

“Oh, no,” I persisted, “is there a UPS or any other shipping company near us now?” 

Abraham quickly answers, “Yes!  How about DHL?” 

“Yes!” I chimed in, “DHL it is!”  Minutes later we were standing at the DHL desk watching the rep look up rates in an old fashioned book as opposed to a computer.  Thirty minutes and $72 US later, we were out the door, insuring the package for $800.

And so began the almost four hour drive down the Hummingbird Highway.  We went through six, yes six, one car width bridges.  We encountered washed out roads, cracked broken pavement, scary single lane passing, slow semi trucks up the steep winding hills, slow drivers, crazy drivers, winding and mountainous roads.

We encountered cows in the road, cows in the pasture eating real grass, roaming free, chickens wandering in fields, pecking at natures little tidbits, soft billowy clouds over the sea, endless rows of banana trees and more orange groves than I’d ever seen growing up in California.  Endless coconut trees lined the hills and valleys, a lush forest of Mother Nature’s untarnished bounty of its fruits of the land.

Shortly before we arrived at the cottage, we asked Abraham to stop at a grocery store to get us through the first few days until we figure out transportation.  He gladly obliged while we dashed into the little store.  Shocked by the prices and knowing there was another bigger grocer a mile from the cottage, we opted to purchase bare necessities, food for breakfast and dinner.

Much to my delight, the steaks were local grass fed, from the farm where I had observed the cows grazing, the brown eggs were organic, free range and cage free at $2 a dozen.  The produce, although limited in its selection was fresh and had that “just picked from the field” look. 

When the cashier rung up our groceries, it totaled $114.  I was sadly disappointed this small amount had cost so much.  Tom nudged me when he saw the look on my face, ‘That’s Belizean dollars.  Its actually about half of that!”

At 5 pm, we arrived a the Little Cottage with the good directions provided by the owner. We were tired, hungry and anxious to see the beach house and get situated. 

We weren’t disappointed.   The house, situated on the owner’s property only requires walking the length of the small ocean front lot to the Caribbean Sea. 

Today, we’ll do laundry, in piles from the most recent eight day cruise which must be dried on a clothes line (no dryer), unpack only what we need, figure out transportation and spend as much time outside enjoying the ocean breezes, the breathtaking scenery and the unfamiliar sounds from birds of unknown origin.