Exciting new location!…An exquisite private villa, exclusively for our pleasure!…Welcome to Post #700!..

This is a view of the pool and the sea at the exquisite private home, we’ll be renting in 2016.

It’s hard for us to believe that today’s post is #700.  In some ways, it seems as if this should be #7000. We’ve experienced so much since our first post on March 14, 2012.  Click here to read, post #1 which is one of our favorites.

In the early days, we posted a few photos when we’d yet to own a good camera or know how to take a post-worthy photo. As time marched on after we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012, and later left the US on January 3, 2013, gradually we came to realize that photos were a vital part of this form of communication.

View of the house from the water.

It took a while for us to finally post each day and to include at least a few photos in each post. Now, we never miss a day or a day with photos unless it’s a travel day without Internet access, a rarity in this world.

The infinity pool.  Note the cabanas at the far side of the pool.  Perfect for after-sun relaxing.

Speaking of photos, today we’re excited to share the photos of our latest booking which may prove to be the last booking for a while when we’re set for the upcoming almost two years. 

Facing the house from the lawn. We’re unable to see the pool in this photo due to its infinity edge.

We’re going to Bali! We’ve rented a four-bedroom, four and a half bath villa, obviously more room than we’ll need but, without a doubt, we’ll treasure every moment while we’re there.

The only people I’ve ever known who have gone to Bali are ambitious newlyweds, young people with the patience and stamina for the long trip from the US, the costly airfare averaging at US $2000 per person, EU $1465.31, taking from 27 to 42 hours with two to four layovers, plus the cost of a hotel, meals, tips, rental car, and incidentals. 

There are multiple areas for lounging by the pool.

However, we’ll already be in Perth, Australia at the end of our cruise on April 28, 2016, and the round trip cost for us will be US $463 per person at three hours and 40 minutes, non-stop. How could we not go to Bali? When will it ever be this easily accessible?

The challenge was in finding an affordable place to live. In addition, we had to face the reality of getting a visa for Bali which is tricky. At most, we can get 60 days at immigration at the airport. However, if we hire a visa agent in advance, we may be able to get a retiree’s visa for a longer period. It’s too soon to apply for that now so we’ll wait until we’re closer to the time of our visit. 

Each day, we’ll have to decide where we’d like to lounge with many options by the pool.

Bali is an island in Indonesia with strict immigration laws. There’s no way we’d be interested in flying to Jakarta to extend our visas. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia is overcrowded with some of the worst traffic in the world.  No thanks.

The dining table set for eight with beautiful dinnerware.

Unsure about being able to extend our visas at this point, we booked the Bali house shown here today for 59 days. If we’d known that we could have stayed longer, we’d have booked it for many more nights. 

The main floor lounge, one of two living rooms in the villa.

The glorious property, owned by a lovely couple who don’t permanently live in Bali, was one of those that kept me awake at night anxious to hear back if our rental terms were acceptable. When the owner didn’t receive my message accepting the terms, we thought all was lost when we didn’t hear back with a request for a deposit through PayPal. 

The main floor living room.

(Here’s the link to the Bali house listing from which we “borrowed” today’s photos).

One of three master bedrooms, all with king-sized beds, en suite bathrooms, and air conditioning.

Almost a day passed with no word. In my persistence, I wrote back again to later discover she never received the message. We were experiencing Internet issues as Portugal’s part in the World Cup was in full bloom with locals most likely online more frequently.

Bedroom two with another king bed.

Finally, we settled on mutually satisfactory terms. We were giddy. Once again, we’ll have a full household staff as we did in Morocco. However, we’ll be able to cook our own meals with the staff helping with all of the chopping and dicing if we so choose. Tom won’t have to do the dishes!

Bedroom three with another king bed. How will we decide which one we’ll choose? Here again, I’ll have a separate bedroom for showering and dressing so I don’t awaken Tom on the rare occasion he sleeps in.

However, in Bali with the pool and ocean at our door, we won’t feel trapped inside as we did in Morocco, unable to leave the riad unless we were ready to tackle the crowds in the souks. This will be very different. Walks on the beach, dining poolside, or at a cozy beachside bistro, shopping in quaint farmer’s markets will be the order of the day.  We couldn’t be more thrilled.

Bedroom four with twin beds.

No, we’re certainly not young newlyweds reveling in an exquisite South Pacific experience. But, us old-timers, may just settle back and pretend for a while that we are, from April 28, 2016, to June 26, 2016, in Bali, Indonesia.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, July 10, 2013:

Whether it’s mountains, hills, lakes, or sea, we love to have a great view from the veranda of our vacation homes, as was the case in Boveglio, Italy one year ago today. For details for 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!

Back to back cruise change day…April 13, 2013…

Today, Saturday, we’ll be getting off the Carnival Liberty in Miami to go to UPS to drop off our luggage to be shipped to my sister in Los Angeles, pick up a box of shipped supplies including our awaiting MiFi device, and run a few errands (by cab).

The ship’s Internet service will be shut down from 6:00 am until 4:00 PM eastern time, as it prepares for the next cruise on which we are booked.

Once we return to the ship by 1:00 PM, we’ll load our Xcom Global MiFi device and will be back online in a matter of minutes.  At that point, we’ll share with you the process of taking our bags to be shipped through customs. Hopefully, this process will go seamlessly.

We’ll be in touch later today with details of our outing, including the full itinerary of our upcoming cruise beginning at 4:00 PM today.

See you soon!

Party Time in Placencia, Belize…

Gunter, the chef, baker and purveyor of fine foods at Mathieu’s deli.

Who knew that less than one week after moving into our ocean front villa at Laru Beya that we’d be going to a local party?  Yep, that’s us, social butterflies. 

An element of our ability to travel the world is wrapped up in our combined enjoyment of meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, ultimately making new friends.

After our first friends, Kari and Stu from Canada left Friday morning off to visit another island and then head home, we’d planned dinner Friday night with our favorite newlywed couple, Pam and Jerry, who’d invited us to join us.  

Last night was their last night in Placencia and they too were heading off to another resort in Belize for the remainder of their honeymoon.

The marina at Habanero’s/Mathieu’s.

Early in the afternoon Pam, a long time resident of Belize and a US citizen, came dashing over to our veranda as we lounged after a long walk on the beach.  Her enthusiasm along with the bounce in her step, led us to anticipate she had something exciting to tell us. 

“We’re invited to a party!”  she blurted. 

“We?”  I questioned hoping that the invitation did indeed include us.

“Yes,” she babbled, “all of us are invited to a wine and cheese party across the street at Mathieu, a quaint bakery attached to Habanero, our close and favorite Tuesday night Mexican buffet spot.

“Its at 4:00 pm. Would you like to go with us?”  she questioned with eyebrows raised.

More boats at the marina.

Tom and I looked at each other for a moment reverting to our “old selves” thinking of a reason “why not?”  But our “new selves” chimed in simultaneously,
“Yes, we’d love to!  We’ll look for you there at 4:00 pm sharp!”

Pam smiled wide.  We’re going to a party!

Planning to attend the party for a few hours returning to our respective villas to get ready for the evening and drive the five mile distance to De Tatch, a local eatery consisting of multiple little huts on the beach and one large thatch hut, known for its traditional Belizean food and juicy imported steaks (I prefer the local grass fed meat).

Arriving promptly at 3:55, we grabbed a rattan table for four with comfy padded chairs, seeing few people.  Tom and I looked at each other surely thinking the same thing, “Where are all the guests?  Not much of a party.”  No wine, no cheese was in sight.

Nice catamaran!

Within minutes, we found Pam and Jerry, happy to find us.  We all reveled in how thoughtful promptness is, as we gathered around the table, looking around the sparse area. 

In a flurry of activity, the Belizean way, the area filled with locals, expats, tourists and us, leaving us feeling excited and included in what proved to be a delightful experience as you can see from the attached photos.

Cheese being served at the party. Ian Anderson, the cheese maker, manufacturing cheese made in Belize, is the gentleman serving cheese. 

Frosty lasses of fresh squeezed pineapple juice was poured all around. (None for me.  No sugar here.  No problem.) The imported red and white wine flowed freely and the food…much more than cheese. 

Servers passed trays of appetizers including many locally grown fruit, hand carved imported deli meats, Bruschetta made with locally grown tomatoes piled atop breads made right there at the Matthieu Deli plus a wide array of the most amazing cheeses actually made right here in Belize at the resort, owned by Ian Anderson, featured in the photo above.

Breads served a appetizer table.  Drool worthy.

The cheese making factory is located in Ian’s resort, Caves Branch in Cayo District. Its by far the best cheese we’ve ever eaten.  The proceeds from the sales goes to an organization for the betterment of Belizean children.  What an amazing operation.

Tom tried a few small slices of the amazing breads, as he has from time to time when we’ve dined out recently with no adverse effects, when eaten in moderation. None for me.  

Our newlywed friends, Pam and Jerry, as the area fills with party-goers.

Gunter, the chef, baker and cheese purveyor, a charming salt and pepper haired man from Germany was busy making platter after platter of his delectable delights.  The servers were darting in and out of the congested gatherings of party goers with platters in hand, serving generous portions. 

The cheese was to die for.  Immediately after tasting four or five of the cheeses, I dashed off to the counter in the deli, credit card in hand hoping to purchase a few of our favorites. 

Tom calls me a “food voyeur.”  So true!

Alas, in the Belizean way, they didn’t have any to sell.  This truly was a party!  It wasn’t a promotion to sell cheese.  I drilled Gunther, “When can we come back and buy some of these cheese?” 

“Come back tomorrow,” he proudly stated, “It should be here tomorrow.”

This morning when the maid arrived to clean our villa, (love having a maid twice a week), Tom and I walked over to the deli, hoping to find the cheeses in stock. 

With limited options at the grocery store, it will be a treat to snack on a variety of cheeses as dessert which I learned to enjoy after dinner aboard the Celebrity Century cruise ship.

Tom, wrapped up in lively animated conversation!

Alas, most of the cheeses we loved were available and we happily spent US $72.00 for a variety.  The blue cheese hadn’t arrived yet giving us a good excuse to meander to the deli (a seven minute walk) again in the next few days. 

While there this morning, we chatted with Gunter and Ian, both of whom were more than willing to visit with us.  Ian invited us to his cheese factory in Cayo District, an hour and a half hour drive from here.  This definitely is an option for the near future when we’ll rent a vehicle for a few days.

After the party, we headed back to our villa, changed for the evening and met Pam and Jerry by the pool for a 10 minute drive to the village for dinner.  Already full from cheese, I couldn’t imagine having dinner until I saw grilled conch on the menu.  Since arriving in Belize I’d longed for conch but, each time it appeared on a menu it was batter fried, not for me.

Tom ordered the imported rib eye steak, seasoned well but, thin and tough.  My conch, chewy as anticipated, was delicious.  Seated in the large thatched hut with literally no breeze, the no-see-ums were feasting on us.  Shortly after eating our long overdue dinners and many rounds of interesting conversation, we headed back to LaruBeya.

Saying goodbye to Pam and Jerry, knowing we won’t see them again, left us a little sad.  All of our new friends were gone.  But, today is another day.  The pool will start calling us in a few hours for our hour of sun and fun.  Without a doubt, in the next few days we’ll make new friends and begin once again. 

This, my friends, is the intended nature of our new lives “wafting through our world wide travels with ease, joy and simplicity.”

Splurging on dining out this past week plus the cost of the cheese, put us over on our budget by $30.  Thus, we’ve decided to dine in tonight and tomorrow roasting the two free range organic chickens we’d purchased on Wednesday. 

Right now the two chickens are marinating in the refrigerator.  With a small piece of cabbage left along with our ample supply if huge whole organic carrots, I’ll make a batch of coleslaw (sugar free, of course),  roasted garlic and roasted carrots to accompany our diinner. 

Homemade food sounds especially good right now.  For dessert, we’ll enjoy a platter of the Belizean made cheeses.  Thanks Ian.  Thanks Gunter.  We’ll surely see you again!

Be warm.  Be well wherever you may be.