A two-part post…A unique church in Chennai…Photos from Ideal Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram…

St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica in Chennai, India.

Today’s post will be our last from tours in Chennai. In the second part of this post, we’re sharing photos of the Ideal Beach Resort located in Mahabalipuram. Yesterday’s tour in this village will be posted tomorrow when once again, we’ll be on the move to our next location, the French colony of Pondicherry.


Visiting this church was of particular interest to Tom, whose patron Saint is St. Thomas, aka “Doubting Thomas.” Humm, that’s so true.


From this site: “San Thome Church, also known as St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Thomas is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Santhome, in the city of Chennai (Madras), India. It was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, over the tomb of Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. 


In 1893, it was rebuilt as a church with the status of a cathedral by the British. The British version still stands today. It was designed in Neo-Gothic style, favored by British architects in the late 19th century. This church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus, the other two being St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain.

Image result for tomb of St. Thomas Chennai India
No photos were allowed inside the church. This is a photo of the crypt of St. Thomas found online.
According to legend, Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, arrived at Muziris in present-day Kerala state in India from the Roman province of Judea in A.D. 52 and preached between A.D. 52 and A.D 72, when he was martyred on St. Thomas Mount.
It is claimed that St Thomas’ apostolic ministry in India took place specifically at Cranganore along the Malabar coast from 52 A.D to 68 A.D. His journey through Kerala is said to have resulted in numerous conversions. After spending 10 years on the Malabar coast. He is said to have traveled Eastwards across the Deccan Plateau, arriving in Mylapore in 68 A.D. 
The cave at little mount is claimed to be his favorite preaching spot. A 2000 year old never drying, a miraculous stream of water on a rock face are said to be examples of the apostle’s divine exploits. A church atop St. Thomas mount was built by the Portuguese in 1547 to mark the spot. It was on this St. Thomas Mount that the apostle was said to be killed by a lance which pierced through his back.
It was tricky getting good photos of the exterior with the traffic and crowds on the street.
His mortal remains were believed to be buried in the location over which the present day Santhomes Cathedral Basilica stands. Sometime in the 10th century A.D a group of Nestorian Christians from Persia founded the Christian village of San Thomes and proceeded to build a church over the burial site of St. Thomas. This structure fell to ruins between 14th and 15th century. In 1522 the Portuguese moved the apostle’s remains to a new tomb and church which attained the status of Cathedral in 1606.

Pope Pius XII honored the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore raising it to the rank of Minor Basilica by apostolic brief dated 16 March 1956. Massive followings and the immense devotion of people to a very ancient image of the Blessed Virgin also known as “Our Lady of Mylapore” was among the motives that prompted the Pope to bestow this honor.”

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Sundowners on the beach last night.

Gosh, this is fun and it’s a bit easier to say after a few great meals and for Tom, with bacon with his eggs the past two mornings. My guy sure is a picky eater and is much more content where there is something on the menu he can tolerate. 


Let’s face it, for many travelers, including Tom, good food is a part of the experience. For me, it’s of little importance as long as I comply with my special diet and am not starving, although I do especially enjoy meals when we’re cooking for ourselves.

The pretty beach scene at Ideal Beach Resort.

Once we arrive in the UK, we’ll be cooking again, which is almost two months from now. In the interim, we’re managing better in India, figuring out what works for both of us, with our expectations in check.


This hotel, the Ideal Beach Resort, a four-star facility, is quite nice. Although its not a luxury hotel, it has everything we need. Since Indian people don’t necessarily consume alcohol (some do) the bars are seriously lacking in many hotels in India as is the case here, a closed room with a few bar stools.


Last night, we sat at a table on the beach at a tiny outdoor beach hut. It was still very hot and windy, but it was good to be outdoors, watching tourists play ball on the sand.

Swimming in the Bay of Bengal is not recommended due to severe undercurrent.

The moon was full and we were able to take a few photos. After an hour, we headed to the dining room, ordering the exact same meals from the prior night, knowing they worked well for each of us.


This hotel has not been a very social experience when there’s no particular spot where guests go to mingle. We had some wonderful interactions with other tourists in hotels along the way. But, soon enough, we’ll be on a ship where socializing is the name of the game.


Some of our readers have inquired about how we’re feeling, in light of the coronavirus about going on a cruise on April 3rd, only 25 days from today. Of course, we have concerns. 

Last night’s full moon.

The cruise line contacted all passengers, offering us a full price voucher if we choose to cancel but not a cash refund. If we canceled, we’d have to find a place to stay for 30 days, paying for hotel/holiday home and flight, most likely to the UK, leaving us with an expensive Viking Cruise Line voucher which could eventually be worthless if the cruise industry crashes.


The Viking Sun is a small ship carrying only 900 passengers. This particular cruise line has yet to have a single case of the virus on any of their ocean-going or river cruises. Our temperature will be taken before boarding and passports will be checked for recent countries visited.  Many countries are being excluded and passengers will be refused to board.


We have military-grade face masks we purchased months ago and if a single case is found on the ship, I assure you, we’ll be wearing them. I don’t know. It’s everywhere, including our own USA. Nowhere except Antarctica is free of the virus. Besides, we’re already traveled there. 

Tom’s dinner for three nights, a form of chicken Cordon Bleu with pasta and bread. He says it’s good.

Sure, we are more at risk traveling internationally than those staying housebound wherever they may live. But, if people so much as go to a market, a pharmacy, a school, a restaurant, or any public place in any part of the world, risks exist.


In the interim, we watch for and check for more information from Viking, should they decide to cancel the cruise. There’s nothing more we can do at this point. If we had to pick a place to “hide” from the virus, we don’t know where that would be. Does anyone know?


Instead, we continue with our India tour exercising good hygiene and considerable caution as much as possible. We may consider canceling any tours where there are vast numbers of tourists at any given time. We’ll research and make decisions as we go along.
That’s it for today, folks. Stay tuned.  Lots more is coming, as mentioned above, including yesterday’s interesting tours.

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Photo from one year ago today, March 9, 2019:

The Nyala seems to be following a small forkl of kudus consisting of two boys and their mom.  It appears he’s taking a liking to the mom. For more photos, please click here.

Visiting another town in Costa Rica…Naranjo…Chatting with friends on Skype…

 Basilica Nuestra Senora de las Piedades is one of the most beautiful Catholic temples in Costa Rica, unique in its Renaissance style, was built between 1924 and 1928.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Colorful flowers are blooming throughout the villa’s grounds.  Ulysses takes great care to ensure everything is perfectly groomed.

Naranjo is the capital city of the canton of Naranjo in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the district that includes the city. The district of Naranjo covers an area of 25.75 km² and has a population of 19,760.

We visited Naranjo last week when we had the rental car hoping to see this well-known Catholic church.  Upon arrival, we discovered the church was temporarily closed due to renovation.  Instead, we wandered around the center of town and the local park, observing yet another community filled with friendly people.

Many towns in Costa Rica have Central Parks such as this in Naranjo.

From this site
“The town of Naranjo, settled in 1830, was originally known as “Los Naranjos” (the Orange Groves) due to the abundance of orange trees in the surrounding area. Although the name has been shortened and the amount of orange trees lessened, this city of 35,000 has remained an important agricultural hub for Costa Rica.

Set at the base of the Espírito Santo Hills in Costa Rica’s gorgeous Central Valley, the area surrounding the town is stippled with farms growing all kinds of crops– plantains, corn, tapioca, coffee, rice, beans, sugar cane, tobacco, and beef, to name a few.

On a recent road trip, we visited the town of Naranjo to see this church, the Basilica de Naranjo.

The coffee plantations are perhaps the best represented, and plantation tours are becoming increasingly popular among tourists. This fertile area is drained by the Grande Colorado, Molino, Barranca, and El Espino rivers, and, at an elevation of 3,398 feet (1,036 meters), the temperature is a consistently cool 68° F (20° C).


Each year a large festival honoring of the Virgin de Lourdes brings in visitors from all over the country to Naranjo. Additionally, there is an attractive baroque-style church in town that is worth checking out.
Many local citizens travel on foot to get to around town when cars are expensive and bus service is limited.
Capital city of the canton Naranjo in the Alajuela province, Naranjo is 27 miles (44 km) from San José. The town of Sarchí, renowned for its abundance of fine handicrafts, is 3 miles (5 km) west. The road north leads to Ciudad Quesada and the Northern Lowlands, and is one of the country’s most picturesque drives. Other popular destinations, including Monteverde, Arenal, and Guanacaste, can be reached from here as well.”
The warmth and friendliness of the people of Costa Rica are evident wherever we may travel.  They often smile when walking past us and many often say, “hola or Buenos Dias”. 

Interesting architecture.
There’s no doubt in our minds that in many countries locals can determine that we’re Americans.  I’m not sure if there’s an “American look” but we must have it since even before we speak, it’s often presumed. 
Speaking of friendliness, after spending nine weeks in the USA this past summer and after seeing many of my girlfriends, I simply couldn’t go back to our lives of world travel without staying more closely in touch.
The clock is the correct time.

In these past two months since we left the US,  I’ve had the opportunity to speak with four of my long-time girlfriends on Skype.  No words can express how enjoyable this has been.  Yesterday, I spoke to my dear friend Colleen, who worked for me 35 years ago in real estate.

We’ve stayed in close touch by email and Facebook these past years.  In 2013, while on a cruise in the Caribbean I was able to visit her in person when she lived on the island of St. Thomas for many years. 
The municipal building is located across the street from the Central Park in Naranjo.
I was always impressed how she’d left her life in Minnesota behind to live on the exotic island for decades, never knowing at the time, that we’d do something similar.  Over those many years, we easily stayed in touch by phone and later by email. 
We’d hope to see the interior of the church but it was closed due to renovations.  Mass is held outdoors on the grounds of the basilica.
However, we hadn’t talked since we visited St. Thomas on April 17, 2013, when St. Thomas was a planned port of call during the cruise.  Click here for our post from that date.  She’s since moved to Florida. 
We talked about the many hurricanes she experienced over the years in St. Thomas and the worry and concern she shared with other Floridians over the recent devastating hurricanes.  Fortunately, her current home weathered the storm well and all is fine and good for her.
This historic outdoor altar is where church services are held while the church is under construction.
Tom walked with me to the center of town where Colleen and I planned to meet and went back to the ship on his own.  Later in the day, he met me at a nearby fountain and walked back with me to the ship.  It was wonderful to see her then and equally wonderful to chat on the phone yesterday.
Typical roadside scene.

We promised to stay in touch by phone in the future providing we have a good enough Wi-Fi signal.  Recently, with other friends I’ve done the same, spending time every so often chatting on Skype or now, Facebook’s own free voice chat module. 

My sister Susan and I have been talking every week, Julie less often and other family members as their schedules allow.  In today’s world, we’ve found talking on the phone is less of a priority to younger generations when social media and texting play such a bigger role. 

Cattle near the road on a small farm.

Today, we’re staying in.  We haven’t been able to use the pool for many days due to heavy thunderstorms with lots of lightning throughout most of the day.  Of course, it’s still the rainy season (aka green season) which continues from May to November but we’re making the best of it, never letting the rainy days get us down. 

We’re content.  We hope you are too!

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Photo from one year ago today, September 27, 2016:

We lounged in this (one of many) cabanas overlooking the sea at Puri Bagus Lovina, in Bali with iced tea in hand and books to read on our phones as we continued the five-day process at the nearby immigration office to extend our visas.  For more details, please click here.

Visiting a friend in St. Thomas…Photos…

 

The view from the deck as we waited for clearance from immigration to leave the ship.

Thirty-three years ago I met my friend Colleen in Minnesota. She was a successful real estate agent working for me, then a broker foe an international real estate franchise. 

Becoming fast friends, we shared many common interests; philosophical viewpoints, health and fitness goals, a love of people, animals, and the environment around us.

The view from the pier as we walked to the nearby shopping area where Colleen and I met yesterday at 11:00 am at the Dockside Bookstore.

Eight years later, after many meaningful times spent together, she decided to make a dramatic life change; sell everything she owned, leave family and friends behind and move to the US Virgin Islands.  Sound familiar? 

Over the years, Colleen worked on charter boats, often out to sea for weeks at a time, later as a massage therapist, and eventually as a wedding planner for couples preparing to marry in the islands.  Single, with a gaggle of friends, she supported herself in modest comfort, never failing to appreciate the warmth of the sun, the balmy ocean breezes, and the freedom of a simple life.

 Colleen, my friend of 33 years, has lived in St. Thomas for the past 25 years

Staying in touch and, through her visits to the US, we imagined that someday I’d see where she lived.  Yesterday, at long last, I did.

The view from Colleen’s yard, although encumbered with satellite dishes offers a great view beyond the few obstructions.
It was a joy to see my long time friend. Tom walked me to the Dockside Bookstore in the crowded shopping area where passengers from several ships were shopping in a wide array of stores. He returned to the ship, leaving me with time alone with Colleen. 
  The view of the port of St. Thomas from our veranda.
When our visit ended, Colleen brought me back to the bookstore where I walked a short distance to meet Tom at a  nearby fountain. Hand and hand, we meandered through the jammed area, later returning to the ship.
  After my visit with Colleen, we walk back on the pier as we took this shot of our ship, The Carnival Liberty.  Our cabin is eight doors behind the “bridge” (on the right in this photo) on the port side.
Surprisingly there weren’t many photo ops in that area. Mostly, it consisted of relative modern stores, not of much interest to us. We saw a few locals, as Colleen explained. Locals don’t frequent the shops by the pier preferring their own shops and malls in other areas of the island.
 Many sailboats were anchored in the port area.
Goodbye, my dear friend. It was good to see you. Maybe somewhere down the road, our paths will cross again, if not in this life, perhaps in the next.
Loud reggae music was blaring from this party boat as it motored along beside the ship, as the party crowd whooped and hollered.
 The clouds rolled in and it began to rain shortly after we returned to the ship later in the day.