We’re on the move!!!…Final expenses for 89 days living in The Villages, Florida!!!…

As I walked through the gardens, the bees swarmed around me.

Note: Today”s photos are from a post on this date in 2013, while we lived in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy, for three months in a 300-year-old stone house. For more, please click here.

We’re packed! All we have left to do is fold and pack the few items in the laundry when dry, the digital equipment, and the zillions of cords, adapters, and chargers. We had a lot of stuff here after this extended stay in the US, but we managed to eat almost all the food we’d purchased except for a few items left for the housekeeper.

The honey bees love the lavender, still in its full glory.

We tidied the house but didn’t clean since a final cleaning is included in our rent, which is always the case. As requested, we removed the bedding and placed it in the basket in the laundry room. We put back everything we’d moved to accommodate our needs. We didn’t break a thing, not a glass or plate, although we’d paid for the required breakage insurance policy along with the rent.

Now, between writing here and posting photos, I am making breakfast using ten eggs and one pound of bacon we had left, which we’ll eat in part soon, and save the rest for snacking later in the day. Most likely, we won’t have dinner at the airport until around 8:00 pm when we get checked in and go through immigration and security.

We always feel relaxed once we get through the check-in process and get close to our gate. Lately, we’ve seen horrific queues at airports in the US, with many cancellations and flight changes. We’re hoping this is less likely to occur with an international flight, but one never knows. Fortunately, our ship doesn’t sail until August 1, so we should make it despite delays.

The shade of the overhanging vines creates a pleasant patio area in the garden.

We just finished the huge breakfast, and finally, I can sit here and finish today’s post. In about 24 hours, we’ll be in Scotland and hope to upload at least a short post confirming we have arrived and are at our hotel. Hopefully, they will allow us an early check-in, a VIP status feature on Expedia, where we arranged the booking.

Last night, we both slept well, which is unusual for us. We usually don’t sleep well the night before we depart a location. But, magically, last night, we both slept through the night, feeling alert and awake today. I can’t say we’ll feel so good tomorrow morning after being awake most of the night on the plane, but we’ll undoubtedly be relieved the long journey is over, and we can recuperate and catch up after the next good night’s sleep.

How do we feel about leaving? No doubt, we’ve enjoyed the ease of living in The Villages with so little required of us other than to shop for and cook our meals five nights a week, do a little cleaning, take care of financial matters and future bookings, and prepare and upload a new post each day.

A good soaking rain would bring all of the vegetation back to life. It rains a few times a week but not enough during the summer heat in the 90s each of the past several days.

As our long-term readers know, quiet times like this made writing new posts challenging, but somehow we all got through it; me writing it and YOU reading it. We thank all of you for your readership and dedication! Hopefully, soon, we’ll have new photos and stories to share.

This will be our first time on an Azamara cruise. Tom has been communicating back and forth with their customer service department to ensure they provide us with credit for priority points for all the cruises we had booked with them that THEY CANCELED. It was a total of seven cruises!

After several email messages and some prodding from Tom, finally, yesterday, they confirmed they are giving us the full credit in rewards points for those canceled cruises.

We often post expenses for the time we spent in a location. For expediency, I am listing our major costs, taken directly from our spreadsheet since we arrived here three months ago:

  • Rent:              $9,072
  • Groceries:      $2,926
  • Dining Out:     $2,106
  • Fuel:               $     33
  • Total  $14,137*
  • Cost per day: (89 days) $159
  • Cost per month (average): $4,836
  • *These expenses do not include personal product purchases we made while here.

We are pleasantly surprised by how affordable it was to live here, even with us going out twice a week for dinner (Including drinks, taxes, and tips).

Well, folks, off we go. Keep an eye out for us sometime in the next 36 hours or so. If we’re too tired to write, we upload a short post, letting you know we’ve safely arrived.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 28, 2013:

With the midsummer heat, few flowers remain in the gardens. For more photos, please click here.

One day and counting…Packing is almost done…

A Great White Heron stood in the water at Sunset Dam in Kruger National Park.

Note: Today’s photos are from a post on this date in 2018. For the post, please click here.

As of now, noon on Thursday, and we have a good handle on the packing. I just finished folding Tom’s shirts into a neat stack he’s putting into his suitcase. He is currently in the bedroom packing his clothes, shoes, and miscellaneous items.

Tomorrow morning after I do our last load of laundry, we’ll add the remaining items, including the clothes we are wearing now. By early afternoon, we should be completely packed and ready to go for the arrival of the shuttle company between 5:05 and 5:50 pm.

This was our friend Tusker. He was the sweetest guy who visits several times daily, particularly after 1600 hours (4:00 pm). He was so comfortable that he often took a short nap.

Once we get settled at the airport, we’ll have dinner at one of the restaurants (not fast food) and relax until our red-eye boards around 9:30 pm for our 10:30 pm flight. I checked online, and Virgin Airlines has a slew of movies we haven’t seen, with few repeats from United and Delta, on which we’ve flown several times in the past few years.

Most likely, neither of us will sleep much on the flight, so we’ll spend most of the time playing games on our phones and watching movies, hopefully dozing occasionally.

We never tire of seeing these wondrous animals in Kruger and Marloth Parks.

This morning I made breakfast and got everything ready for tonight’s dinner of burgers, salad, and rice for Tom. We cooked bacon to top the burgers and sliced red onion. Tom will cook the burgers on the grill, and we’ll enjoy our final evening in this lovely property.

Last night, I received a message from the hotel in Edinburgh asking for payment. We had booked the reservation through Expedia on the premise that we’d pay for the hotel after we arrived. We’d never had this happen when the booking stated, “Pay at the hotel.” We didn’t want to spend time or effort disputing this, so I went ahead and paid for it.

A bloat of hippos at Sunset Dam.

I suppose they may have had a lot of cancellations in the past, especially during the pandemic and after, that prompted them to require this advance payment. They even stated in the email that they’d cancel our reservation if we didn’t pay now. Weird. But many things have been different since the pandemic, as we’ve witnessed repeatedly.

Tonight, Tom will check us in for our flight once we reach the 24 hours before. Apparently, Virgin Airlines doesn’t require prepayment for excess luggage until we check in at the airport, nor do they increase the fees if doing so at the airport. That’s one less thing to do now.

Crocs on the bank of Sunset Dam in Kruger National Park.

What do we have left to do? We’ll have to pack the toiletries we’ll be using in the morning while getting ready; Pack my pillow and a few items from the laundry we’ll do in the morning; Tidy up around the house, take the bedding off the bed, and toss towels in the laundry basket, and pack the cords (including the HDMI), chargers, and adapters from various spots in the house.

A few days ago, I signed up for travel insurance for both of us through United Health Care’s SafeTrip for a policy only lasting until we return to the US on August 31. The insurance doesn’t cover us while we’re in the US. We’re on our own until we leave again around October 12.

We’ll be back with one more post for tomorrow, and then, you may not hear from us until we arrive in Scotland on July 29th or 30th. Once we arrive, sleep will be most important, and getting ourselves into a regular schedule. Once we do so,  we’ll post right away.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 27, 2013:

Lisa, the owner. stapled most of the edges of this “mosquito” netting as screens for the windows. This kitchen window attracted many flies and bees, with frequent cooking going on each day. We will monitor it to ensure no gaps leave an opening for insects to enter. We removed the Ziplock bag to keep flies at bay, moving it to another screen-less window we often keep open. For more photos, please click here.

Two days and counting…How’s my head?…Last trip to the store…

This giraffe was having a “bad hair day!” The hair on the female giraffe’s ossicones is usually short and straight up. From this post

Today’s photos are from a post on this date in 2018. Please click here for the story.

With only a few hours until my pedicure appointment, I’m debating whether to get back to packing or do as much of today’s post as possible before we head out the door. My inclination is to work on this post so that when we return, I can focus entirely on packing.

Cape buffaloes on the Sabie River in Kruger.

I’ve organized but haven’t started loading items into my single clothing suitcase. I’ve packed most of the supplies into the big yellow bag that will contain my Tempur-Pedic pillow, our shoes, hoodies, and various jackets, which we’ll undoubtedly need in the cold weather we’ll surely experience in Norway, Greenland, and Iceland and other ports of call along the way on the upcoming two cruises.

Mom and baby hippos on the bank of the Sabie River.

My primary focus this past few weeks has been doing everything possible to reduce my left forehead and face pain. Regardless of whether it is an inflamed nerve, trigeminal neuralgia, or occipital neuralgia, the home care for these conditions is very similar.

A dazzle of zebras hanging out near the road in Kruger.

My small heating pad arrived, and it’s been helpful. Four or five times a day, I focus the heat on my cheek and then on my forehead. It seems I get the most improvement with the heat on my cheek which leads me to believe it might be trigeminal neuralgia, not occipital neuralgia, or in the worst case, a combination of both conditions, precipitated by my awful bout with Omicrom in April 2022.

The pain began on the day I tested positive for Covid-19, and it never went away except for short periods when I took Prednisone or a few days here and there for no apparent reason.

A crocodile was lounging on the bank of Sunset Dam.

Sometimes, I think the pain is sinus-related, but beginning last week, I noticed improvement when I started using a prescription steroid nasal spray Doc Theo gave me months ago, which hadn’t helped at the time. I still do the sinus rinse treatment twice daily, but now I add the nasal spray after that, and I am experiencing some relief.

On top of that, I have been doing several head and neck acupressure procedures at least twice a day, never missing a day. I am better between all of these processes, the heat, the meds, and the acupressure. The trick will be to take the time on the cruises to continue all of this. I won’t have any problem doing the acupressure treatments since I do it first thing in the morning and before bed.

Yellow-billed storks and other birds are not easily identifiable due to the distance when taking this photo across the lake at Sunset Dam.

During the day, I can always return to the cabin for 15 minutes a few times daily to use the heating pad. Hopefully, it will continue on this path of improvement. I can’t tell you how much better I feel when my head and face don’t hurt for periods. I am like a new person. As I am sitting here right now, typing on my laptop, I don’t have any pain.

With a thick pillow under my laptop, I don’t have to look down or have my head in an uncomfortable position. Good posture and avoiding bending over to use my laptop or phone also help significantly.

Several giraffes were attempting to drink at the Vurhami Dam.

Soon, we’ll head out the door. Tom will drop me off at the nail salon, run errands, and pick me up when I’m done. After that, we’ll head to the Publix market for a few items since we found we need meat of some sort for one more night, or we’d have to dine out. Being preoccupied with getting ready to go, neither of us feels like going to dinner.

We surmised this elephant might have been ancient because of its size and bright white tusks. Scientists can better gauge the age of an elephant by its teeth, as described on this site.

Two more days? It’s hard to believe. The three months here passed quickly, and we’re ready to be on the move again.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 26, 2013:

Santina cleaned our house this morning, bringing this fabulous plate of “torte” she’d made. How thoughtful she is! With the pie crusts made with flour,  I won’t be able to taste them, but Tom will try all three of these. There’s no doubt they are delicious. I will savor them via my eyes, otherwise known as being a “food voyeur.” For more, please click here.

Five days and counting…A food favorite once again…What?…Ironing clothes?…

Making the layers of the bread-free subway sandwich while in Italy in 2013. More details are below in other photos

Note: Today’s photos are from a post on this date in 2013. Please click here.

Yes, I know. We’ve written about these bread-free sandwiches, over and over again, which we call an “unwhich,” as they do at Jimmy John’s restaurants in the US. But here we are, bringing it up again today with preparation instructions in photos with captions. We frequently have new readers and thought they might enjoy seeing the photos. Sorry about that to our long-term readers.

Slice fresh tomatoes, purple (or yellow) onions, and washed and dried romaine lettuce as you prepare the sandwich.

It came up again when I researched the “ten-year-ago photo” at the end of today’s post. Lacking any new photos, I decided to post the details of how to make these bread-free sandwiches based on our positive feedback over the years. Most countries have bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, mayo, and deli meat of one sort or another.

This sliced Emmental cheese or sliced Provolone cheese seems to add more flavor to the sandwich. Try to avoid using overly processed American or cheddar cheese. Italy has no orange-colored cheddar cheese due to the dyes used to color it. That’s impressive!

However, during our most recent 2½ years in South Africa, we never found full-leaf romaine lettuce, only small pieces of the lettuce in ready-to-use bags. Instead, we used head lettuce, carefully removing, washing, and drying the large exterior leaves to make the sandwiches. That worked ok for us.

Place the meats on a plate in preparation for assembling the sandwich. This mayonnaise is the best mayo we’ve ever used, with no chemicals and few ingredients.

As for deli meats which may not be available in some countries, we used thinly sliced, cooked chicken breasts and sliced cooked roast beef without a bone. In some countries, the ingredients in deli meat may be less than desirable for the health conscience, so it was essential for us to read all the ingredients when buying deli meats, even in the US.

Italy has the best bacon we’ve had anywhere in the world.

Although there isn’t a nearby Costco store with excellent quality deli meat without fillers, wheat, or gluten, we could purchase quality deli meats from Kroger delivery. As a result, when we made these “unwiches” last week, we were pleased with the quality of the ingredients. But, we do not buy highly processed meats such as Oscar Meyer, etc., often sold at low prices with dozens of ingredients on the label.

Place the turkey or chicken slices atop the lettuce, and cover with tomatoes, onion, bacon, and mayo. Then add other preferred meats and cheeses.

It has been a busy day so far today. As I write here, it’s almost 2:00 pm, and I’ve been running around the house doing more laundry and ironing some of Tom’s shirts. Most of his short sleeve button-up shirts are wash and wear, but he has three Tommy Hilfiger shirts that require ironing, regardless of how I washed and dried them.

Tom set up the iron and ironing board from the laundry room, and I proceeded to iron and attempt to neatly fold the three shirts, placing each shirt in a large Ziplock bag. Hopefully, they’ll stay wrinkle-free after being packed for the cruises. As for the remainder of his shirts, which are pretty much wrinkle-free, I will neatly fold them without too much fuss, and then he’ll do the rest of his packing.

Place the cheese atop the tomatoes, adding the mayonnaise using a spatula or wide knife.

I hadn’t ironed anything in years and wasn’t as good at it as I once was. While I was at it, I ironed one of my shirts which I set aside for when we’re at the upcoming hotel in Edinburgh or on the cruise, and hopefully, they’ll have one of those little sewing kits.

One of my favorites; it has a hole in the side seam. I had one of those little sewing kits, but it didn’t have the right thread color to make the repair. I am not much of a seamstress and never have been. Occasionally, I’ve repaired a few of our clothing items. Last month, Tom lost a button on his favorite shorts. After finding it, he asked if I could sew it back on. I did, and it’s holding so far.

Ham slices in Italy are different than deli ham slices in other countries, fattier, have no nitrates, and are less flavorful than ham slices in the US. In our sandwiches, we don’t use Italian salami. It was too fatty for our taste buds and greasy on the tongue. One can add or delete any items in this sandwich. But the most important for maximum flavor is bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise. Sliced roast beef also works well when available. We would have purchased it yesterday, but it was US $42 a pound, so we were content with the ham and sliced chicken.

It sounds as if we have very distinct gender roles in our lives. But, we both decided long ago we’ll each perform tasks we find we have the most ability and experience. I cook. Tom does the dishes. Tom does all the heavy lifting, and I do the laundry. Neither of us feels the tasks aren’t divided equitably, nor do we hesitate to ask if we need help with one of our regular tasks.

Also, today, I cooked and diced a huge bag of frozen chicken breasts and diced onions and celery for tomorrow’s dinner of chicken salad, to which we’ll add a big mixed greens salad on the side. Soon the boiled eggs will be cooled enough, and Tom will peel all the eggs, which he always does to help. Tomorrow, I’ll make the dressings for both salads, tossing them right before dinner, and we’ll be good to go for the next few nights.

Cover everything with large romaine lettuce leaves and wrap tightly with parchment paper. We have been wrapping the sandwiches in heavy-duty tin foil, which seems easier to handle and stay together while eating.

Tomorrow, the packing begins, so we can ship the extra bag to Minnesota. We’ll have plenty of clothes and supplies for when we leave Minnesota and head to South America in October. All is good.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 23, 2013:

The final product is tightly wrapped, ready to chill and enjoy with a side salad and steamed vegetables. For more, please click here.

Seven days and counting…

Sports cars drove through the winding and narrow roads of Bovegio, Tuscany, Italy. This is an MG, year and model unknown.

Today’s photos are from a post on this date in 2013. For more, please click here.

It’s noon on Friday. We just finished a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs and will dine out tonight at Brownwood Paddock Square. We plan to arrive after 5:00 pm when the outdoor karaoke has ended, and most likely, we’ll be able to get two seats at the bar. As usual, we’ll stay about an hour and then head to Cody’s Original Roadhouse for yet another hopefully good dinner.

A Porsche, year and model unknown.

This will be our last Friday night out in The Villages since we arrived almost three months ago. We accomplished what we came here for…renewing our ten-year passports and, in the process, seeing several of our friends who live in Florida. We didn’t have an opportunity to see all of our “snowbird” friends who come to Florida in the winter to escape the cold weather up north.

By the time we arrived at the end of April, some of our friends had already left for cooler climates during the summer months. Once we’re in Minnesota for a month in September and part of October, we’re hoping to see some of those friends, those who may not have left yet for the upcoming winter.

Another Porsche, year and model unknown.

This will be our most extended stay in Minnesota since we began our travels in 2012 which will give us lots of valuable time with our family, including our grown kids and grandkids. Plus, Tom has many family members in Minnesota, including. His sisters spend the summer and early fall in Minnesota before they head to Arizona for the winter to get away from Minnesota, the frozen tundra.

Today is easy with two loads of laundry washing and drying and with little else to do. Soon the Salvation Army will pick up my eight pounds of clothes. After sending Tom’s suits and my dresses yesterday, we’ve lightened our load by about 14 pounds, 6.35 kg.

This is a Mercedes, year and model unknown.

When we begin packing on Monday, we’ll have a better idea of our baggage weight and can make any adjustments we may need before departure. We’ve added some new items while we’ve been here, but nothing of any substantial weight. The heaviest was my white jeans for “white night” on the Azamara cruise, coming up first.

On the Azamara cruise, guests can use laundry facilities for a fee. On the next cruise, Celebrity, we have a high enough rating for their Captain’s Club to each get one complimentary bag of laundry and two dry-cleaned items, and one pressed item each.

This morning, I tried something new for my head, a freezer hot and cold pack. I’d tried cold, and it helped, but nowhere near as much as the heat helped. As a result, I ordered a neck and head heating pad from Amazon that heats using a UBS plug. Thus, I can use it on the plane and in our hotels and cabins without needing a microwave to heat the gel packet. Also, it will work plugged into my portable charger.

This must be a Triumph.

I’m continuing to do acupressure exercises and particular movements to improve the condition, which is about 50% better than weeks ago. I hope the improvements will continue over time.

That’s it for today, folks.

Be well.

..Photo from ten years ago today, July 21, 2013:

Is this an MG? Year? Notice, at a distance, the red Ferrari or Lamborghini. A car show, per se, driving through the winding roads of Boveglio. For more, please click here.

Eight days and counting…Making last minute decisions..

The interior of the “theatre” in the square, where, with mouths agape, we viewed each photo with our new friends encouraging us along, telling stories mainly in Italian, so proud to share their history with us. It was a night we’ll never forget. Yesterday, we said thank you to Michela, the owner of Not Only Pinocchio B & B; she suggested we walk down to the Bar Ferrari in the “square” around 9:00 pm when the locals mingle on Friday night (actually other nights also from what we heard). She offered to meet us to “make the presentation” of us, as she said in her easy-to-understand broken English.

Note: Today’s photos are from a post on this date, ten years ago, while living in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy, for three months. See the post here.

This morning, Tom drove the golf cart to Colony Square to get a haircut while I stayed behind to work on today’s post. Also, he stopped at Publix Market for a few last-minute items. He wasn’t thrilled with his haircut since the barber left it too long on the top, but after he showers soon, he’ll know more. I suggested he return for more of a trim, but you know, most guys don’t like to return anything, let alone a haircut.

None of the photos were dated, but the clothing may indicate the early 1900s.

Last night, we had an idea to ship the suit Tom purchased for the later canceled Queen Mary 2 cruise (due to Covid-19), along with my dressy dresses, to our mailing service to be held, until sometime in the distant future when we may need them. None of our upcoming cruises have dress-up nights, so we do not need those items. It costs $25 to ship them the slowest way, but it will give us lots more room in our bags.

On Monday, we’ll pack the bag to be shipped to Minnesota, and then everything left will be packed in the bags we’re taking with us to Scotland and the following cruise, back to Boston, onward to Henderson, and then on to Minneapolis. It should all work out.

Based on the clothing, this wedding procession appears it could have been in the 1950s. This was the unpaved road leading to the church and cemetery we highlighted in the post-dated July 16, 2013.

Now, we’re finishing off all of the food in the freezer and refrigerator and are doing better than ever. If we have any unused items, we’ll leave them here for the housekeeper or the next guests that stay at this house.

This morning we received a Whatsapp message from a couple who will be sailing on our first cruise with us with their cabin on the same deck and down the corridor from us. They asked if we wanted to meet for dinner in Edinburgh. But, as it turned out, our hotel was far from the restaurants they suggested, but convenient for us to go from the airport to the port of Leith a few days later.

These are the inner workings of the clock tower that clangs four times an hour, often irregularly, located next door to us. We laughed when the locals mentioned how close we were to the sound of the clock, using the typical head and hands signal one uses to indicate sleep, as they inquired about our ability to sleep through the noise.

We’d have loved to meet with them for dinner on one of the three nights we’ll be there, but it doesn’t look like it will work out. Instead, we will get together for dinner on one of the nights on the cruise, which is always fun. One of the main reasons we enjoy cruising is the easy socialization with other passengers.

Now that Tom has returned from his outing, we’re staying in today. As is the case all over the US and other parts of the world, the high heat will keep us indoors in air-conditioned comfort. The dew point this afternoon will be 85, will temperatures around 97F, 36C; way too hot to be sitting outdoors right now.

The construction of the road to our 300-year-old stone house. It’s hard to conceive of the degree of manual labor required to build the steep roads in this area in this era.

In any case, tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be heading out to Brownwood Paddock Square for the evening, spending most of our time indoors to avoid the equally hot weather. But, surely, the ride in the open golf cart will be hot. We’re experiencing heat here in Florida, even more uncomfortable than in South Africa in the worst of summer.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more tomorrow and look forward to having more “meaty” information to post.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 20, 2013:

Blurry photo. We were invited to a party in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. Handing off the camera to a kind gentleman to take our picture, He must have accidentally changed the settings to “out of focus background,” which I overlooked until this morning. After our fabulous night, I couldn’t resist posting photos, although they were all out of focus. Daniela is in the photo with us at my left and Armenia at her left, sitting on the steps. For more, please click here.

Questions from a long time reader…

Old-fashioned community washing pool, where locals gathered to do their laundry in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. The larger pool is for washing. The smaller sink is for rinsing. Of course, they’d bring their laundry home to dry outside their windows. For more photos, please click here.

Today’s photo is from our three-month stay in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. See the post here.

Yesterday, I received the following message from a long-time reader, Pam,  as follows:

“Dear Jess & Tom,

My husband and I are 70, and I’m beginning to think that cruising may be our best travel option as our mobility is becoming more limited. The research and planning are also mostly done by me, which can be a bit exhausting. We flew to Vegas in April and rented a car for an 8-day road trip to Bryce, Zion, Monument Valley, and Grand Canyon. We saw some amazingly beautiful sights, but walking even short distances was very difficult for me, especially in the higher altitudes. We spent much time just touring from the car and the tour buses. So I think that cruising may be easier for us. We have only cruised twice. The first time was 1999 (eek!!! Really that long ago?) Western Caribbean, which we aren’t interested in doing again. The second was in 2012 (wow, time flies!) to Alaska, which was wonderful. Both on NCL. We aren’t fancy and kind of like their freestyle cruising.

I know that you have recommended Vacations To Go in the past, so just wondering if you still do. Also would welcome your thoughts on Costco Travel, United Cruises, or just booking directly with the cruise line. I also recall that Tom has a website that alerts him when prices go down, but I can’t remember which one. Could you kindly remind me? We would love to cruise the Med, but I read a comment on a YouTube video that said if you have any mobility issues, it may be difficult.

Just wondered if you would be willing to share your thoughts. Any suggestions are appreciated.

Happy sailing!


Thank you, Pam, for writing! It’s lovely to hear from you, and we’re thrilled to hear you are considering cruising again. I am relisting your questions below (for ease of reading), and we will answer them individually.

  1. I know that you have recommended Vacations To Go in the past, so just wondering if you still do. Also would welcome your thoughts on Costco Travel, United Cruises, or just booking directly with the cruise line.

Answer: We prefer using Costco to book cruises and car rentals. (Annual membership is required). Their prices and perks for cruises are the same as most other cruise booking agencies. However, through Costco, you will receive gift cards (shop cards) each time you book a cruise, which motivated us to use them. Unfortunately, reaching them by phone to book a cruise or ask questions subsequently is awful. You can wait on the phone for an hour or more; contacting them by email is sketchy at best. This fact alone prompted us to return to Vacations to Go, which we’ve used for years. Our rep is Heather. She can be reached here:

“Heather Thompson
Master Cruise Counselor, Luxury and Multi-Cabin Specialist
Vacations To Go (16 Years)
My office hours: Mon-Fri: 11 am-8 pm (US Central Time)
US and Canada: 1-800-338-4962 ext. 7317
For toll-free numbers from other countries, click here.”

With us booking cruises while out of the country with huge time zone differences at times, having easy access to our booking company is important to us. Heather is very responsive and quickly responds to emails and phone calls. Please tell her we sent you. We don’t receive any remuneration for referring you to her, but we love sharing good service with our readers.

We’ve never used United Cruises and rarely have booked directly through a cruise line. They are also hard to reach and don’t have better pricing or service.

2. I also recall that Tom has a website that alerts him when prices go down, but I can’t remember which one. Could you kindly remind me?

Answer: Mainly, Tom has used Cruisecritic.com at this link that takes you directly to their cruise roll call, where you can enter the cruise you’ll be taking and see if there have been price drops. If there is a price drop (only applicable to passengers from the US and Canada), only prior to the final payment, you can find the information there and then contact your cruise booking company and ask them to lower your price. This has saved us thousands of dollars over the years. But you must carefully analyze if the price drop is beneficial for you since you may lose some perks if you take the price drop. Your booking agent will provide you with this information

(You must sign up for a free account at Cruise Critic here to see the roll call for each cruise. It’s straightforward to do so).

3. .We would love to cruise the Med, but I read a comment on a YouTube video that said if you have any mobility issues, it may be difficult.

Answer: We sailed in the Mediterranean on three occasions. At many ports of call, walking can be long and up and down hills at times. However, many easy-access “Hop On Hop Off” buses are available at the various ports, taxis, and vans you can arrange to take you to see the highlights. It’s essential to negotiate a price for taxis before you embark on such private means of transportation. “Hop On, Hop Off” buses have a fixed price for passengers, which is usually reasonable. In these cases, you can decide if you want to get off the bus or taxi and walk around or not. You will still see plenty.

We hope these answers help you decide what may work for you. Please feel free to contact us at any time with more questions. We’re always happy to help!

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 19, 2013:

The flowers of Tuscany never ceased to amaze us. The colors, the smells, and the varied designs make them appear more artistically rendered than real life itself. For more photos, please click here.

Fun night out on the town!…Only two more weekend nights to go…

These are the locked iron gates closing off easy access to the church. We’d have to walk through dense weeds to get closer to the church tower. Knowing there were many ticks in the grass, we drove to the other side without getting closer to the church.

Note: Today’s photos are from this date in 2013, when we spent three months in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy, as shown in this post.

It’s a lovely Sunday! We’re watching the weekly news series “Sunday Morning”; the bedding is in the washer, and we’re looking forward to enjoying a quiet day at the house on yet another cloudy and stormy day. Tonight’s dinner is already made and ready to go into the oven later, and all I have to make is a salad to go along with it.

This unattached separate building on the church grounds may have been the original church.

We love easy days like this and never feel bored having no specific plans. If we feel like it, we may stream a movie, a perfect thing to do on a rainy Sunday. We still have another week until we have to start packing and deciding on what items we’ll ship in the suitcase heading to Minnesota before our arrival on September 9, to be held for us by the hotel where we’ll stay.

A part of the entrance to the larger church.

Since I am feeling better, I’m not dreading packing. When Karen and Rich were here on Friday for dinner, I loaded up all our excess food for them to take home, items we wouldn’t be able to use by the time we depart. Also, with the good storage in this house, with plenty of space in the walk-in closet and drawers in the bedrooms, the packing will be easier than usual.

This translates to: “the companionship SS V Del Rois,” which appears to be the name of someone of significance to these church grounds.

We must pack with this in mind with limited storage space on cruise ships. I like to unpack everything once we get into our cabin since there is no space to store an opened piece of luggage, as there often is in a hotel. After the cruises end, we won’t need to unpack at the resort when we get to Nevada since the enormous rooms have several luggage racks.

Ferrari family members from Boveglio.

Once we get to Minnesota, since we’re staying a month, we’ll need to unpack. When we get ready to leave Minnesota to go to Galapagos, we’ll have to purchase two cloth-sided duffle bags, which is all that is allowed on the small 16-passenger ship. We’ll leave the bulk of our luggage at the hotel where we started in Ecuador, which we’ll return after the cruise has ended, which is already booked through the cruise line and included in the cruise fare.

We were overlooking the iron railing around the cemetery.

Last night, we drove to City Fire to lounge at the bar for a while before we went to Cody’s Original Roadhouse for dinner. By 5:30 pm, we hopped in the golf cart, drove the short distance to the restaurant, found a good parking spot for the golf cart, and headed to their indoor bar, an excellent place for people-watching and chatting.

Tom, ancestry.com obsessed, was fascinated with the stories revealed by the many headstones, names, dates, and photos.

At a preferred booth by 6:00 pm, we perused the menu and chose our dinners; scallops and salad for me and ground sirloin with mashed potatoes and salad for Tom. As always, the food was excellent, and the service was equally good. Our bill was $52 before a generous tip to our waiter.

We were back at our holiday home by 8:30, streamed an episode of “The Good Doctor,” and got to bed by midnight for a good night’s sleep. This upcoming week will be easy with few plans while we ramp up for the following week when we depart on Friday.

Enjoy your Sunday, and be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 16, 2013:

It was surprising that many of the headstones in the cemetery in Boveglio weren’t older. The earliest date we saw was in the early 1800s. However, the oldest markers were embedded into the surrounding wall and were difficult to read due to age. For more photos, please click here.

Change in weekend plans…Getting things done…

A waterbuck on the riverbank with her calf.

Today’s photos are from five years ago today from this post

Our plans for this upcoming weekend have changed. Originally, we’d planned to have Karen pick us up on Friday for a weekend at their new home two hours from here and then drive us back to The Villages on Monday. The more we thought about this, the more it bothered us that with Karen still working, this was ridiculous to have her drive all this way and back.

We considered renting a car to drive ourselves to their home, but at the cost of about $100 per day, plus transportation costs to the Orlando Airport to get and return the car (one hour each way), plus dining out while we’re there, the cost was prohibitive for us right now. We are on a tight budget with all of the travel we have coming up and hadn’t planned on these additional expenses.

We have to maintain our budgetary goals as much as possible. We’ve allowed dining out twice a week and a generous amount for groceries and miscellaneous items, but we try very hard not to deviate from our plan.

We’ve rarely observed this many waterbucks lying down.

As it turns out, Karen and Rich had planned to visit her mother, Donna, who lives about 20 minutes from here, so instead of us going there, they will visit Donna and then come here Friday afternoon and stay for dinner. This works for us. I will make a gluten-free, low-carb chicken, mushroom, cauliflower, and sausage dish with a salad for an easy dinner.

Thus, we may go out on Thursday night and then again on Saturday as we wind down our time in The Villages. However, if it doesn’t storm on Wednesday, we’ll go out on Wednesday night to play bingo at 3:00 pm at City Fire. We’ve been trying to do this for weeks, but there have been wild storms every Wednesday for the past several weeks.

This morning, I sent everything off to the accountant for our taxes. We’d had him prepare an extension for us when we were getting ready to leave South Africa, which gave us until October 15 this year to get it done. Getting everything ready has been hanging over my head. Finally, after a few finishing touches, after working on it yesterday, this morning I emailed our accountant the tax prep spreadsheet and requested the tax documents be sent to him from our mailing service in Nevada.

What a relief to have this off my mind! I was anticipating doing it while we were in Nevada or Minnesota in September, and that would have created stress during this time when we want to spend time with family and friends.

From this site: “The waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) is a large antelope found widely in sub-Saharan Africa. It is placed in the genus Kobus of the family Bovidae. It was first described by Irish naturalist William Ogilby in 1833. The thirteen subspecies are grouped under two varieties: the common or Ellisprymnus waterbuck and the Defassa waterbuck. The head-and-body length is typically between 177–235 cm (70–93 in), and the average height is between 120 and 136 cm (47 and 54 in). A sexually dimorphic antelope, males are taller as well as heavier than females. Males reach approximately 127 cm (50 in) at the shoulder, while females reach 119 cm (47 in). Males typically weigh 198–262 kg (437–578 lb), and females 161–214 kg (355–472 lb). The coat color varies from brown to grey. The long, spiral horns, present only on males, curve backward, then forward and are 55–99 cm (22–39 in) long.”

Now, I’m thinking in terms of what toiletries we’ll need to get us through the few months until we get to Minnesota on September 9, when we will have a car and can easily go to the store whenever we need something for the upcoming extended period we’ll spend in Ecuador.

When I go for my pedicure appointment on July 26, we’ll head to Walmart to fill up the fuel tank on the golf cart and go into the store to get the remaining items we’ll need, enough to last until September 9 when we arrive in Minnesota.

Today will be another quiet day for us. We’re making a great dinner and don’t have any household tasks we haven’t yet accomplished. The laundry is done, the floors are clean, and this morning, I cleaned the bathrooms. Before Karen and Rich arrive on Friday, we’ll do a thorough cleaning, but at the moment, everything is clean.

Yesterday, we put some slivered almonds on the lawn outside the lanai. There’s been a mating pair of cardinals hanging around the garden the past week, and this morning, we saw the female pecking on the nuts. That was our wildlife fix of the week. Hopefully, soon, we’ll see the more colorful male doing the same.

Elephants on the Crocodile River.

The sky looks ominous right now. It’s uncanny how hard it will rain, and then moments later, the clouds have moved on, and the sky is clear, very typical weather for Florida this time of year.

That’s it for today, folks. We hope you have a great week, and we’ll be back with you soon.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 10, 2013:

Never much of a gardener, I think these flowers in Tuscany were hydrangeas. For more photos, please click here.

Another fun night out on the town…

Tom, at the bar at Cody’s Original Roadhouse on Friday night.

After having such a good time on Friday night, I hesitated when Tom asked if I was OK about going out again on Saturday night. Considering staying in and ordering takeaway, and with the recent return of my awful face and forehead pain, I really didn’t feel like going out.

But I knew he wanted to go, so I didn’t mention the pain, and took two Tylenol, and off we went around 5:00 pm in the golf cart. It was sunny, hot, and humid, but the breeze in the open golf cart cooled us down. We chatted playfully on our way out on yet another “date night,” and in no time at all, I forgot all about my head and face pain.

Either the Tylenol kicked in, or the endorphins from having fun helped me through the bad spell. We sat at the bar at City Fire while I slowly sipped on one glass of cabernet sauvignon, and Tom had a beer. A lovely couple was seated next to us, and lively conversation ensued. Before we knew it, it was time to go to dinner.

We drove several blocks to the restaurant, found a close parking spot, and, after checking in, got a beeper for our requested booth and headed to the indoor bar in air conditioned comfort to await our table. The beeper went off in a matter of minutes, and we sat down to relax and enjoy a nice meal, as shown in today’s photos.

Tom’s dinner last night….pulled pork, mashed potatoes with gravy, and coleslaw. Also, we shared the delicious bottomless salad.

We love the food there. After trying several restaurants and with The Villages not necessarily known for great food at its many restaurants, we may just stick with Cody’s when we dine out only four more times until we depart on July 28, a Friday. The time came up quickly, and we’ll leave in a mere 19 days.

We’ll start packing on our last week to determine if we must ship a suitcase to Minnesota. After reading the instructions for sending luggage at Luggage Free, I placed the link under its name that goes directly to their FAQ, which is very good at answering our questions.

We’ve already contacted the GM, who gave us a reasonable price at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to ask him if we can stay until October 8 for the same price. He responded quickly, and we’re good to go. Once we know if we will ship a bag, we’ll tell him so he can store it until we arrive. This way, we won’t have to pay extra baggage fees for several flights, which we calculated would cost twice as much as shipping the extra bag.

Right now, we have everything we own with us except for the bins with sealed, non-perishable food products that Louise put into the storeroom for us until we return next June. In about 11 months, we’ll be back in Marloth Park. Our many friends stay in touch, and it will be fun to return and see everyone and our animal friends.

My dinner looked boring but was delicious…a half-roasted chicken, steamed broccoli, and shared bottomless salad.

Today, we’re having bun-less ground sirloin burgers topped with cheese, onions, bacon, fresh green beans, and salad. As usual, Tom will have rice. We are streaming several good shows now and will start watching after dinner for a quiet, restful evening.

Soon, the sheets will be dried, and we’ll remake the bed while I finish another load of laundry. Once we leave, we won’t be doing our own laundry until September 9, when we get to Minnesota. We won’t be cooking again until after the Galapagos cruise ends on October 24, and we get situated in a holiday home a few days later. That will be almost three months without cooking.

As much as I enjoy cooking, this will be a nice break, most likely with few challenges with my eating style since ships and restaurants can usually accommodate me. I may have to compromise sometimes, but I’m used to that and don’t mind figuring out something that works.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 9, 2013:

The rain in Tuscany, although often short-lived, could be torrential! While the sun still shone, Tom said, “I smell rain!”  I shrugged and dismissed his comment. Within 20 minutes, the sun was hidden behind the clouds while the rain poured down, and these puffy clouds appeared. For more photos, please click here.