Humm…Post or nap…Guess what I chose?…

Both of us were excited to be on our way to the palace and Lake Pichola in Udaipur.

Udaipur, also spelled Udaypur, is a city in southern Rajasthan state, located in northwestern India was one of the fascinating cities we were anxious to explore after doing some research on the country many months ago.

Today, the Maharajas Express train made its way to the Udaipur train station. We disembarked to make our way to one of two comfortable air-conditioned buses owned by the train company to be transported to Lake Pichola, where a fantastic day of sightseeing and dining ensued.
We returned to the train close to 4:00 pm, and I was faced with a difficulty, either rush through the hundreds of photos we’d taken to get somewhat of a post uploaded before the 6:00 pm happy hour or take a much-needed nap.
Sorry folks. I chose the nap. It’s now 5:40 pm, and we must get dressed for the evening of lively conversations, food, and wine with some of the beautiful people we’ve met in the past 30 hours.
Tomorrow after breakfast will be a  perfect time to put everything we’ve discovered, sort through the photos, and share the wonders we experienced on this rich and fulfilling day. 
Please check back for some gorgeous surprises.  Need I say, we adore India, just like we thought.
Have a lovely day/evening. We’ll see you soon!

The cost of our upcoming 55 day private tour in India…

A dazzle of zebras in an open field, from one year ago post. For more, please click here.
Yesterday, we paid the balance of India’s upcoming 55-night private tour, which begins in Delhi immediately after the six-night tour on the Maharajas Express. This luxury train travels from Mumbai to Dehli.

Of course, the cost of this tour is daunting, along with the cost of the train excursion. We thought long and hard deciding if these decisions made sense considering our budget.

But, one thing we knew for sure. We had 55 days to spend in India until the cruise from Mumbai to London on April 3, 2020. There was no way it made sense to attempt to book this extended period when we knew nothing about the country.

Having a professional, highly experienced company making arrangements for all the hotel reservations, flights, and tour guides, made all the sense in the world. 

We specified what we wanted to see and do. The tour was arranged, including all those requests, such a staying in the beautiful lake town of Udaipur and embarking on a few tiger safaris in different national parks. 

We realize the possibility of actually seeing a tiger is relatively slim when there are only 3000 tigers in the entire country. But, we were willing to take that chance. Perhaps safari luck will prevail. Besides, there is other wildlife we’ll see in the national parks such as:

“Indian safaris are anything but tame. Elephants, rhinos, reptiles, bears, and wild dogs roam the lush rainforests, while snow leopards make lonely footprints in the Himalayan snow. Of course, the holy grail of any safari is in seeing the big cats, and in India, that means the elusive wild tiger.”

No doubt, we’ll be posting many photos along the way, not only of wildlife but also the sites we tour; the culture; the architecture; historic and significant buildings; exquisite scenery; local food, and of course, its people.

The magnitude of this tour is daunting. We never imagined being on a private tour for so many days and nights, staying in many hotels, flying on many flights to get from place to place. We’ll undoubtedly be busy and hopefully treasuring every moment.
Subsequently, the cost of the 55-nights tour is as follows:
US Dollars $9,765 Per Person US Dollars $19,530
Total US Dollars $19,530
Amount Paid US Dollars $9,765
Balance due 10 January 2020 US Dollars $9,765 (we paid this balance yesterday)
The average daily cost is $355.09, $121.75 more per day than what we usually spend to travel each month, not including cruises. Keep in mind; this also included being picked up at the Mumbai Airport when we arrived, a hotel two nights before the train, and transportation.
Most dinners, cocktails, and tips are not included. Breakfasts are included at all of the hotels. We don’t know what the cost of dinners will be and the tips will be paid based on performance.

In all, these expenses could result in an additional $4,000 to $5,000 for the entire period, which we’ll pay as we go. We have already paid in full for the train and will only incur additional tips and drinks.

We realize this is expensive, but, in essence, it’s no more costly than a typical cruise and, in many cases, less. It’s all relative. After the trials of this past year, we decided to take advantage of as many opportunities that appeal to us that we can afford. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Yes, we’ve said this before, the “once in a lifetime” thing. But, then again, our entire lives are a “once in a lifetime experience.” We are grateful, more than words can express, and humbled by the world and its people, places, and wildlife.

In a mere 20 days, the journey continues. Stay with us as you have during this quiet time. The adventure is soon to begin again.

May your day be purposeful and fulfilling!

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

A hippo on a bit of island in the Crocodile River. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…St. Petersburg, Russia…A city to remember…Peterhof Fountain Park and Gardens…

Due to a poor WiFi signal, I am unable to add captions to today’s photos.  All photos included here today were taken at Peterhof Fountain Park and Gardens in St. Petersburg. Please see this link for historical data.

Once we arrived in St. Petersburg on Friday, we’d anticipated that there would be a lot of walking.  Little did we know how much there would be, far more than any walking I’d done in a long time.

We knew we ran the risk of having to cancel all or part of the prepaid two-day tour. As it turned out, as mentioned in a prior post, I made it through Day 1 but knew another such day would be impossible. We bowed out of Day 2 and lost the amount we’d paid for the second half of the tour. There was nothing we could do.

We spoke to several passengers who stated that Day 1 was more significant in the sites visited, but more walking was on Day 2. We did the right thing. We thoroughly enjoyed the sites we did manage to see during the entire day’s tour. 

Today we’re sharing photos from Peterhof Fountain Park and Garden, our second stop for the day, here again requiring lots of walking. We managed to stay up with the group except for one short segment with many stairs to climb.  We waited until they returned a short time later and continued with the group.

It was odd, but in St. Petersburg, there were few benches and places to rest. Most likely, with the massive crowds at these venues, they wanted to keep the public on the move rather than languishing on benches.

An important aspect of visiting Russia is that no one is allowed to enter the country without a planned tour and the documentation to prove it.  

The tour company’s provided itinerary and proof of payment allow ship passengers to enter the country. However, we still had to go through immigration both entering and to depart the ship, each time showing the tour documents along with our passports.

Otherwise, visitors must obtain an expensive visa with certain limitations. If we had not booked the tours, we would have needed a prepaid visa for Russia to board the ship (although the cruise line wasn’t very diligent in verifying this).

Our experiences in Russia were interesting and enjoyable. I doubt we’ll return since most likely we wouldn’t care to stay for an extended period. But, we’re grateful we had the opportunity to experience it on this Baltic Cruise on Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

Today is a sea day and tonight is another formal night. Fortunately, I’d purchased three somewhat simple dresses that are floor-length, which arrived in the shipment from the US while we were in South Africa.  

I’d purchased the dresses long before the surgery, but much to my delight, they have round necklines and completely cover all of the scars on my legs and chest.  Tom has black pants and a white dress shirt. That’s the extent of our formal night attire.

For some odd reason, I thought this cruise would be ending in Amsterdam on Thursday when it will be Friday. We still have one more port of call, but in the interim, I will be trying to catch up on posts for other countries we’ve visited thus far with many accumulated photos. On this particular cruise, we’ve visited every port of call in countries all new to us.

This afternoon, besides socializing as always, we plan to see yet another movie in the theatre. We love going to the movies since we never do so in other countries, often due to a language barrier. Neither of us cares to watch movies with subtitles.

Have a fantastic Tuesday filled with wonder.

Photo from one year ago today, August 20, 2018:

A bazaar in Zambia.  We looked but didn’t buy. For more photos, please click here.

Back to posting one day earlier than expected…Why?…Tallinn, Estonia…

View over Tallinn, Estonia, from a scenic overlook.

Yesterday was a day we’ll never forget, not only for the exquisite sites we visited in St. Petersburg, Russia but for the challenging experience of my attempt to navigate over 12,000 steps in one day with my lingering painful legs situation.

The town well.

No doubt, a month ago, I couldn’t have conceived I’d make it through such a day as this but somehow, with Tom’s unrelenting help and emotional support, overall we’d stayed up with the group of 15 passengers in our group, only avoiding a few less critical additional walking sidelines during the entire day, beginning at 8:30 am and ending at 6:00 pm.

It wasn’t easy. It was painful. But I knew I wasn’t hurting anything by forging ahead. Ultimately, maybe my legs would become stronger after this cruise with all its walking while attempting to recover after over six months of pure hell.

The remains of a historic castle tower.

I’ve “sugar-coated” it long enough to be tough, resilient, and strong. Yes, attitude is a big part of recovery, and I credit myself for remaining upbeat and hopeful.  But, at times, I have felt hopeless and fearful that I’d never recover.

There is stunning artwork on the many churches within Old Town.

In the next several days, we’ll be posting, time allowing, the fantastic photos we were able to take while on yesterday’s St. Petersburg tour. However, last night we decided we would not be going on Day 2 of the prepaid tour since I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend another day like yesterday.

We are disappointed to lose the non-refundable fees we paid for Day 2, but this decision had to be made. And now, as we sit comfortably in the Park Cafe on deck 5, we’ve totally at peace with our decision.  

We didn’t enter the churches due to the many steps and long queues.

Yes, today we’ll miss a few choice locations popular with tourists to the magnificent city, but yesterday provided us with considerable information regarding St. Petersburg’s rich history and culture.

The winding streets of the walled city of Tallinn, Estonia.

To follow a sequential course for our posts as ports of call as they occurred, today we’re sharing photos of Tallinn, Estonia, which we visited two days ago. We hadn’t booked a tour for this city and decided to “wing it.”

Instead, we were planning to use the shuttle bus to get us into town, and from there, we’d figure out how we’d get around, fearful that being on foot may be too much for me when the more extensive tour lay ahead following day in St. Petersburg.

Here we are on the motorized bike.

No more than a few seconds after we exited the shuttle bus, we were approached by a clean-cut looking young man in his 20’s who had a motorized bicycle with a cart attached, perfect for the two of us.  

It was pricey for one hour at Euro 153, US $170, which we’d already negotiated down from Euro 189, US $210, but after about 70 minutes, we couldn’t have been more thrilled after seeing most of the highlights of Old Town.

Historic churches and buildings lined the streets.

About Tallinn, Estonia from this site: “Tallinn (/ˈtɑːlɪn, ˈtælɪn/; Estonian: [ˈtɑlʲˑinˑ]; names in other languages) is the capital, primate and the most populous city of Estonia. Located in the northern part of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea, it has 434,562. A part of Harju maakond (county), Tallinn is Estonia’s major financial, industrial, cultural, educational, and research center. Tallinn is located 80 kilometers (50 mi) south of Helsinki, Finland, 320 kilometers (200 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, Russia, and 380 kilometers (240 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden. It has close historical ties with these three cities. From the 13th century until the first half of the 20th century, Tallinn was known by its historical German name Reval.”

Many churches with architecturally interesting steeples filled the rooftops.

The cobblestone and brick roads were bumpy but didn’t cause a problem for either of us. And this young man knew his way around quickly maneuvering between crowds and other vehicles to take advantage of every moment.

When our bike tour ended, he dropped us back at the shuttle bus, and minutes later, the bus arrived at the pier as we tackled the long back to the ship with a smile on our faces for a day well spent.

We crossed a red-painted wooden bridge.

As for the remainder of the cruise, we continue to meet more and more passengers with great stories to tell. At night, we tend to stay out late enjoying the music and entertainment in various venues throughout the ship. It’s been such fun to be out and about after all this time.
Tomorrow, we have another port of call and hope to post when we return later in the day.

Thanks to all of our readers who continue to “look for us” online and send endless good wishes and encouragement. We so appreciate every one of you!

Photo from one year ago today, August 17, 2018:
While back in Zambia for another “visa run, “Tom was busy reading the extensive menu at Café Zambezi, trying to decide what to order. It was nice to be back. For more details, please click here.

Part 2, Matsamo Culural Village Tour on the border of South Africa and Swaziland…

The Matsamo village consists of many huts made by the men using straw, wood, vines, and cow dung. They are very well constructed.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Tom and Lois have particularly enjoyed the bushbaby’s nightly visit to the cup of yogurt on the little stand.

Whether or not the villagers of Matsamo live the primitive life they described as customary in these modern times, it was interesting to learn about their history and culture.

There are various boma-type structures to round up the cattle at night or conduct meetings among the tribesmen.

The young man who provided us with a private tour of the village was enthusiastic and dedicated to the customs of his heritage, many of which we assume continue today to some degree.

The chief, our tour guide’s father, was in a meeting with another tribesman.

It was evident by his detailed descriptions that the male members of the tribe supersede the females of the tribe in many ways, except the grandmother, who is held in the highest esteem, even above that of the chief.

The baskets hanging on the side of the boma fence are for nesting chickens.

Women are married at very young ages, and many men take two wives. The first wife will have children, cook, clean, and care for the family and continues to do so until the man decides to take a second wife.

The largest hut was for the grandmother, where all the teenage girls sleep once past seven or eight years old.

At this point, the first wife is “promoted,” and she moves to another hut without a cooking area. The new wife is then responsible for all household tasks while the first wife languishes more leisurely. Interesting, eh?

Note the quality construction of the huts.

There is no limit to the number of children the wives may bear regardless of their status in the family unit. It’s a lifestyle demanding for most of us to imagine, so far removed from our reality.  

The chief’s son, the youngest of his 25 children from two wives respectively, two wives, the first with 15 children, and the second with ten children.

After the tour ended, we made our way back to the car and proceeded to drive back to Marloth Park via the proper roads, avoiding the potholed roads. By early afternoon we were back on the veranda waiting for visitors while Lois and I prepared a lovely dinner for the evening.

This low entrance to the huts is intended to keep invaders out and present a humble entrance for those welcomed.  A large stick is kept by the entrance in the event an unwelcomed visitor intrudes.

Some things never change, especially in our generation of retired seniors, women doing most of the cooking and men taking on other household tasks. For us, traveling the world over these past six years has led us to fall into specific roles and functions based on our skills and interest, more minor on gender identity roles of decades past.

Decorative items to be worn during festivities and when young women are presented to the chief as potential new wives for himself and others.

I prefer to cook. Tom likes to do the cleanup and the dishes. He does the heavy lifting of the 40 kg (88 pounds) pellets while I put away the groceries. I wash the laundry, and if helpers aren’t available, he hangs it on the clothesline.

The husband and wife sleep separately on mats, the man on the right, the woman on the left.  As we entered the hut, we had to comply with this left/right ritual, man always on the right. Hmmm…or did he mean “man is always right?”

In many cultures, established roles and tasks are distributed by a couple, regardless of gender, in a similar manner, based on expertise, ability, and interest. This method works well for us and never, do either of us feel we are locked into a specific gender obligation.

Various baskets were used for collecting water by the young women from the local river.

Yesterday, Saturday, we embarked on the Crocodile River drive in Marloth Park and once again have some spectacular sightings we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.  

The village was designed to generate revenue for the villagers, and many areas were modern and tourist-friendly.

As always, last night’s dinner at Jabula was fantastic, along with the fun the four of us had sitting at the bar yakking with Leon, the owner. Dawn, his significant other, and co-owner were out of town visiting family, and we kept him entertained as he did us!

For an additional sum, we could have stayed for lunch.  But when reviewing the online menu, we opted out on this when many of the items were wheat, corn, starch-based, and deep-fried.

Soon, we’re off to another bush braai in Lionspruit, the game reserve within a game reserve where we’ll spend the better part of the day at Frikkie’s Dam with Louise, Danie, and friends. It will be a pleasure to share this delightful event with Tom and Lois as their time here is quickly winding down.  In a mere four days, they’ll depart to return to the US.

Several areas were set up for dining, and many tourists were dining as we walked through the dining area.

Have a fantastic day, yourselves! We’ll be thinking of all of you as we take photos while embracing today’s fun event.

Photo from one year ago today, October 28, 2017:

Exterior photo of the hotel, the Real InterContinental Managua at Metrocentro Mall, where we stayed for two nights, to renew our Costa Rica visas. For more pictures and details, please click here.

Part 1, Matsamo Cultural Village Tour on the border of South Africa and Swaziland…

We arrived at the Swaziland border where Matsamo Cultural Village is located, just as the show began.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A zebra was climbing the steps of the veranda for more pellets as we headed to the car to go to Swaziland.

When Lois expressed an interest in attending a traditional African tribal dance, we asked Louise and Danie what they’d recommend. They didn’t hesitate when they suggested the Matsamo Cultural Village Tour located on the South Africa side of Swaziland, a bordering country.

The Swazi performers are very talented in both singing and dancing.

Here’s a map showing how Swaziland, a different country, and how it is situated next to South Africa and bordering Mozambique on the east:

Map of Swaziland.

Had this tour been located in Swaziland, we wouldn’t have been able to attend. While attempting to be granted a visa extension, we were warned not to leave the country, resulting in any stamps in our passports.

Tree stumps were used as seats during the performance.

The website for Matsamo was a little unclear as to whether we’d need to be part of a tour group or if we could show up on our own. We tried calling the contact number to no avail and finally decided to take a chance on the over one-hour drive from Marloth Park.

The men performed a traditional dance.

In looking at a map, Tom and Tom mapped out directions and by 10:00 am, we were on the road, hoping to arrive in time for the posted 11:30 am performance. As it turned out, we barely made it on time when we mistakenly took a shortcut which proved to be the second-worst potholed road we’ve experienced in our lives.

The women also performed a traditional dance and song.

Months ago, we’d made a similar mistake by taking a shortcut and ended up with what is described as the worst pothole road on the planet. Yesterday’s route wasn’t as wrong as our prior experience, but awful. It was quite the adventure for Tom & Lois!

Performing for tourists provides the village with income. The cost of the performance and tour is ZAR 200 (US $13.70) per person.

Finally, we arrived at the village and proceeded to make our way to the activities with the help of a member of the village who directed us down a path to the performance, which was starting at any moment.

Their agility and ability are spectacular.

We found seats in the back row when all the best seats were taken by that arrived earlier than us, but we got good enough seats to take photos and enjoy the 45-minute show with a bit of maneuvering.

The colorful dress of the Matsamo people was bright and appealing.

Their voices and dancing skills were exceptional, and the four of us were mesmerized during the entire performance. After the performance ended, one of the leading performers, a skilled and attractive young man, and the chief’s youngest son, approached us and offered a personalized tour of the village and its customs.

We were thrilled to have him show us around and explain the details of their fascinating culture, all of which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

At one point, audience members joined in the dance while we took photos.

Here’s an overview from the Matsamo Tribe’s website located here:

“Matsamo Customs and Traditional Centre Co-operative is a traditional village near Swaziland and a must for visitors looking to experience authentic Swazi culture, which is well preserved in this. It is named after Chief Matsamo, a prominent Shongwe chief and contemporary of King Mswati II. 

As a reward for his loyalty in defending the territory against invaders from the north, Mswati II allowed Chief Matsamo to remain in charge of the region as an eminent member of Swazi royalty. He was the first Swazi chief to reside permanently in the area. Today the part is still under the control of the Matsamo Tribal Authority.

Our tour guide walked down this pretty trail with Lois as both Toms, and I followed behind as we made our way toward the village for the tour. Tomorrow we’ll continue with Part 2 and photos of how the Matsamo people live.

Matsamo Cultural Village offers old folk songs, rhythmic dance performances, including the famous Rain Dance, authentic African instruments, and traditional Swazi cuisine. Visitors can also wander on tour through the village with its many huts and spaces, interacting with the villagers as they go about their daily activities, cultivating their crops, preparing traditional food, and fashioning beautiful craftworks.

Matsamo Cultural Village is near Kruger National Park. It first opened its doors in 2014 and enjoyed tremendous support from the broader community.”

As soon as today’s post is uploaded, we’ll be heading out on a drive through Marloth Park to see what’s happening today on the Crocodile River. Tonight, we’re dining once again at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant, which no doubt will be another excellent evening.

Have an enjoyable and fruitful day!

                                          Photo from one year ago today, October 27, 2017:

Hoffman’s Woodpeckers often stopped by for nectar from the African Tulip Tree in Costa Rica and proceeded to sing. For more photos, please click here.

A tour of the visually enticing and historic city of Livingstone, Zambia…Twenty years from now?…Is it possible?…

A craftsman at work encouraged us to take the photo.

“Sighting of the Day in Zambia”

Everywhere we travel in Africa and other parts of the world, we see women, not men, carrying heavy baskets atop their heads.

We prepared today’s post yesterday after uploading the post for August 19th.  With a plan to leave the hotel in Livingstone with Steve from Chris Tours picking us up at 7:00 am, we realized there would be no time to prepare a new post for today.

Our driver dropped us off at this outdoor arts and crafts market in the center of town.

Luckily, the editing site in blogger allows us to select a time and date we’d like a particular post to be automatically uploaded. This has proven to be invaluable for our commitment to post a new story with photos each and every day.

We encountered some of the most “assertive” vendors we’ve seen anywhere in the world, comparable to those in the souks in Marrakesh, Morocco.

No doubt, this commitment we made to our worldwide readers many years ago has kept us on our toes when we have activities planned that impinge upon the hours of the day we reserve for doing our posts.

Only one vendor refuses to allow us to take photos. (Not necessarily this one).  We respected his wishes.

Yes, I know. Some of our kindly readers have written saying, “No worries, miss a post or two from time to time.” Thanks to all of you for your support!  However, if we miss one or two posts here and there, suddenly we may find ourselves missing four or five or ten or twelve.  

The items offered for sale consisted of inexpensive jewelry, Africa-themed arts and crafts, fabrics, clothing, toys, and such.

We all know how this goes. Change a consistent habit or process and suddenly it gets away from us. It’s kind of like being on a diet, only one piece of cake and then I’ll go back to my diet.  

Often tourists can’t resist buying items for their homes.

Well, we know what happens then, a leftover piece of cake beacons us sitting in the fridge in the morning calling our name and once again we re-commit to the diet after we’re done eating this “one last piece.”

With no intention of making purchases, we wandered through the busy area stopping to appreciate some of the items.

Writing these daily posts is one diet we want to stick to, as long as we continue to travel the world and perhaps even after when we can’t continue any longer due to health as we age. As long as I still have my wits about me, I can’t imagine ever stopping.

Colorful dolls with handmade detail.

Imagine, we had to stop traveling due to health concerns or merely old age and we were thrown into the reality of staying put. How we handled this may be of some interest to others for both retirees and working folks.  

It appeared many shoppers could easily be locals shopping for themselves and for gifts.

At this point, neither of us can conceive of living out our lives without this magical way we approach each day. But, most likely, someday, it will happen.  When I think that in 20 years, God willing, I’ll be 90 years old, it’s hard to imagine doing what we’re doing today, riding on bumpy dirt roads on safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana.

There are numerous banks and financial businesses in town.

I’m sure some travelers out there have done this at 90 years of age. Please point them out to me. I’d love some inspiration that it’s indeed possible, if not likely.  Tom will be a measly 85 years ago…quite the youngster.

A typical day in the city of Livingstone.

When I think of how fast the past 20 years flew by, it makes me realize how quickly the next 20 will come. So, missing a day’s post is not in my wheelhouse.  Each day counts. Each moment counts and our intent is to continue to live each one to the fullest, sharing our story with all of you.

We waited for our driver to pick us up while people watching on the busy street.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with a short post since we’ll be on safari all day once again. However, we’ll upload a few photos from today’s safari and a few snippets of this return experience to Botswana.

May each moment of your day be special.

Photo from one year ago today, August 20, 2017:

Lavender bougainvillea on the grounds of La Perla, villa in Atenas, Costa Rica. For more photos, please click here.

Exciting photos!…Under the otherwise perfect weather in Hawaii…A year ago photo of a lion is a pecular spot…

We waited for this sailboat to cross this sunset in Waikiki Beach before taking this shot.

It’s frustrating to be sick. We both started coughing a few days ago. With the window AC blowing non-stop in this studio condo in Waikiki, being unsure how often the filter is cleaned, it was inevitable a cold or cough could kick in.

View from our lanai.

In reading this article, it’s easy to imagine how we both occasionally fall prey to colds, coughs, respiratory infections, and intestinal disorders. Since leaving Madeira, Portugal two and a half months ago, we’ve been on the move in close proximity with others, at times in unsanitary conditions.

With the arrival of the trade winds, the surf picked up.

Although we frequently wash our hands and run from anyone coughing or sneezing, we still fall prey to illness every six months or so. The last time we were sick was in Morocco from March 1 to May 15, 2014, during which time Tom was ill with a respiratory virus and I became ill with both a respiratory virus and an intestinal virus, one month apart.

Then, the surf picked up.

We were exposed to a hotbed of germs in Morocco when we walked through the souk most days, dining out two or three times per week. I got the intestinal bug from dining in a restaurant the first day we arrived, foolishly eating a seafood salad in a restaurant. I knew better. Lesson learned, no raw veggies or seafood in many countries.

Vendors selling their locally inspired wares along Kalakaua Avenue at night in Waikiki.

We aren’t certain that we picked up this recent virus from the air conditioning or if when out and about in crowds and dining out. Dining out every night adds to the risk of picking up germs and getting sick.

We didn’t know whether to laugh or be sad when we saw this cute guinea pig holding this Aloha sign as we walked along Kalakaua Avenue at night. Tom dropped a $1 in the vendor’s bucket. What a way to make a living!

Fortunately, Tom has quickly recovered, left with an occasional bout of horrible sounding coughing. Often, I’ll end up with a sinus infection after a virus and a lasting cough, that may continue for weeks. My voice sounds like Minnie Mouse and the bouts of dry coughing leave me exhausted.

A fountain display at the beach.

Last night, I decided to go out to dinner, although Tom offered to get carryout from our favorite restaurant.  Needing to get out in an effort to try to feel better, I wanted to see how I’ll do walking around in preparation for tomorrow’s Pearl Harbor tour.

Plumerias are used in the making of leis.

On Sunday as I prepared today’s post, I’m still unsure if I’ll be able to join him for the tour at 6:55 am. I’m planning on it as long as I have no fever. After four days I’m no longer contagious.

Not Tom’s burger. At Cheeseburger in Paradise, there’s this $30 burger on the menu which is free if eaten in its entirety within 20 minutes. Last night, a guy behind us ordered this but was unable to eat it in the designated time. The manager told us that approximately 20 diners each week try to eat it but usually only one is successful.

If I’m not well enough to go, Tom will go without me, taking the old smaller camera with him. I’ll be disappointed if I can’t go on the tour but, if I’ve had a good night’s sleep I may be feeling well enough to go.

Wrapping up yet another exquisite sunset on the beach.

It was two years ago this month on October 27, 2012, that we had Tom’s retirement party. We were four days away from leaving Minnesota to begin our journey, spending two months in Scottsdale, Arizona finishing up our legal, accounting, and digital requirements in order to leave the US.

It was during that retirement party that I struggled to talk to our family and friends while then too I’d lost my voice from a similar virus, again sounding like Minnie Mouse. Here’s the link to the day of Tom’s retirement party in 2012.

Hopefully, in the next few days, we’ll both be on the mend and ready to tackle the next leg of our travels. Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos of Pearl Harbor.  

Please stay tuned.

                                           Photo from one year ago today, October 13, 2013:

In the Maasai Mara, Lions seldom climb trees. Anderson, our guide, spotted this lion sleeping n a tree with his keen eye and binoculars. Driving over rough terrain, we were able to get close enough to get several great shots. To see more, please click here.

Part 1…Downton Abbey Tour, Secret Garden, exquisite grounds…More tomorrow…

We held our breath as we approached Highclare Castle, home of the famed BBC Downton Abbey TV series. No interior photos were allowed. Please click here for interior photos of the house

When we planned the 10-hour tour which included a trip to the castle where the popular BBC TV series, Downton Abbey is filmed, we discovered the “real” name of the castle is actually Highclere Castle, which long before the show was a popular tourist attraction.

Please click here to enjoy the beautiful music from Downton Abbey while perusing today’s photos.

With the production and popularity of the show, Downton Abbey, the increased tourism to the castle has been instrumental in its owners and occupants of the house, Earl and Lady Carnarvon to commence extensive much-needed renovation.

The exquisite grounds were as equally appealing as the castle.

Earl and Lady Carnarvon stay out of sight during tours, often away at their summer home, although at times they have made an appearance during the 60 to 70 days a year the castle is open to the public. 

For the details and history of Highclere Castle, please click here

Tom was looking at the exterior condition of Highclere Castle as we wandered about the grounds.

Rather than retell the history and general facts regarding the castle with considerable information already online, we’ll share our photos and experiences of the 13-hour outing, over a period of two days in Parts 1 and 2.

There’s hardly a totally clear day in the UK including during our time at the castle.

Tomorrow, we’ll share photos of the village of Bampton, Oxfordshire, where most of the village filming transpires. 

Standing at the back of the castle, this is the view of the carriage house.

For devotees of the popular British TV series produced by the profoundly talented Julian Fellows and his creative staff, today’s post may offer some appeal. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, we can only suggest giving it a try for a delightful escape to another time and place, historically accurate, and robustly produced.

The back view of Highclere Castle.

We’ve watched the series since its first episode began on September 21, 2010, now rolling into its fifth season.  Our lively and knowledgeable tour guide Paul explained that a week ago, he’d seen the show in production at the village of Bamptonshire. (“Shire” is included at the end of the names of villages and towns to indicate a division of land).

There is a huge field of wildflowers on the grounds of Highclere Castle. We can only imagine how beautiful this would be in the spring in full bloom.

We had few expectations of yesterday’s lengthy outing beginning at 7:30 am when we walked across the street to the Kensington Hotel to be picked up in a luxury coach for the two-hour drive to Oxford which was the first leg of the tour. We didn’t actually arrive at Highclere Castle until 2:30 pm with a full two hours to explore on our own.

View of the castle as we walked along the path to the gardens.

We’re sharing the separate areas we visited out of sequence, wrapping up the balance tomorrow. We felt many of our readers were anxious to read about Downton Abbey first when we’d mentioned it several times over the last week.

I recall seeing this bench under a tree in a scene in the series.

With 60 passengers in tow on the luxury coach where we spent several hours on the road, we all held our breath as we approached the Highclere Castle.

The vast array of color in the gardens was exquisite.
We were delighted to find many flowers blooming in the Secret Garden at Highclere Castle.

As is the case in many of these tours, one must prepare themselves for a letdown, when the anticipation has lingered for days or weeks. But, disappointed? We were not! It was all we expected and more. 

Appears to be an above-ground radish?

The only disappointment was the fact that no photos are allowed anywhere inside the castle with respect for the privacy of Earl and Lady Carnaron since this is their personal home.

A simple white flowers amongst many.

In an odd way, once we entered the interior of the house, I was fine not focusing on taking photos, instead being able to pay attention to minute details, as we moved along the house’s many rooms.  Please click here for interior photos of the house.

Beautiful blooms!

Standing in the familiar rooms was exciting while our minds perused various episodes of the series. My favorite was the familiar dining room and Tom’s was the library. An on-site guide explained that there are approximately 200 rooms in the enormous castle with an estimated 120,000 square feet, 11,148 square meters.

A manicured path we followed in the Secret Garden.

Fortunately, we were allowed to take exterior photos which kept us busy during the second hour as we toured the extensive gardens. It wasn’t crowded as shown in our photos many of which we were able to take with tourists in view. The fact that we’d arrived in the afternoon appeared to have been a factor in the lessened crowds.

With the rose blooming season behind us, we enjoyed seeing this pink rose.

At 4:30, we again boarded the bus for the quaint village of Brampton where many of the village scenes are filmed. Apparently, the townspeople are opposed to their new found notoriety due to the series with increased business in their few shops and one pub in town. 

Bess and butterflies were everywhere partaking of the sweet nectar of many varieties of clowers.

When filming commences, autos, TV antennae, power lines, and trash bins must be removed.  In addition, the production crew fills the streets with dirt and gravel over the tarred roads to create an appearance of a time long ago.

Another butterfly alights a pretty white flower.

At the end of each season’s production, the company holds a party for the entire village as well as providing donations to the city, making all the hoopla worthwhile to its citizens. 

We sat on a bench contemplating these unusual trimmings.

At the beginning of the tour, I’d considered that Tom had tagged along for my benefit. However, as the day worn on, he was engaged and interested, particularly in the historical aspects of the castle and village.

Tom under a uniquely trimmed arch.

Having seen Highclere Castle, we’ll have an entirely new perspective when the new fifth season of Downton Abbey begins in January.

Although the greenhouse doors were locked, we took this shot through a tiny opening.

As the long day ended, the bus dropped us at the Kensington Station, a mere 15-minute walk back to our hotel.  Anxious to stop for dinner, we found a casual Italian restaurant on the way with good food which included a few items suitable for me.

The red in this flower close to the greenhouse stood out among many.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with our visit to Bampton where the village shots for Downton Abbey are filmed and, also the historic village of Oxford, reeking of history dating back to 912 AD. What an experience that was as well! One could easily book a hotel in the fascinating town, staying for weeks to experience its many treasures.

Me, at the main entrance to the castle.

No, we don’t love touring on a bus with 60 other tourists. However, this was the most affordable tours we could find at US $370, 223 pounds for both of us. It’s wise to book in advance if possible. 

One last peek before we departed Hghclere Castle, home of the Downton Abbey TV series.

We’ll be tomorrow with Part 2 and many more photos!

                                            Photo from one year ago today, August 21, 2013:

Little did we know how many geckos we’d find in houses while in Africa, at this point a year ago with only 10 days until we’d depart Italy for Kenya. For details from that date. please click here

Living in the moment when thinking of the future is unavoidable…Photos from walks in South Kensington…

We walked past Christie’s location, the world-famous auction house, that occupies almost the entire block.

Living in the moment is a vital aspect of the depth of our appreciation in traveling the world. Anticipating the future with diligent planning leaves our minds free to revel in the moment.

One can’t live in a perpetual state of anticipation with an occasional thought of the time and place of the moment. We’ve found that the opposite is true. Live in the moment with an occasional thought and warm fuzzy about the future.

Once in the heart of the area, the streets were jammed with cars and people.

At the moment, as much as we’re finding London to be enriching and interesting we must admit, we’re anticipating our upcoming two cruises, one on August 31st and the second on September 23rd with a flutter of excitement. 

An old church stands out among the crisp white buildings.

We haven’t been on a cruise ship since we toured the Mediterranean Sea cruise, ending in Venice, Italy on June 16, 2013. It seems so long ago. Now, as we mentally make every effort to free ourselves from those thoughts in order to embrace London while we’re here, it’s still hard to believe we’ll be on a cruise ship in 12 days.

There are several routes we’ve taken when walking the area, some less busy than others.

With only four months until we see our family in Hawaii, it’s tough not to let our minds wander to the joy of seeing all of them once again.

Look at this gorgeous display in this bakery. Yes, my food voyeur tendencies are in the full-on mode, in London. Tom scoffs at these yummy looking desserts, preferring a boring plain cake donut or a Bismarck topped with chocolate frosting with custard inside. Dull! (Not the guy. Just his taste buds).
We got a kick out of the name of this store, Odd Bins.

Yesterday, we took off on foot toward the three museums in the area, able to enter only one of three with the lines of thousands of waiting visitors. We’ll share our museum experience in tomorrow’s post which we’ll upload early in the morning.

The walkways and roads are beautifully maintained, making walking especially enjoyable.

Tomorrow, we have a 10-hour tour of Downton Abbey and Oxford University, leaving at 7:45 am from the hotel across the street. We’ll upload the post before we leave so we won’t miss a beat in our absence ad be back on Thursday with photos of the all-day tour.

There was an auto showroom along the busy street, open by appointment only, displaying this yellow Lamborghini.

As avid fans of the entertaining British TV show since its onset, it will be fascinating to see the grounds and the castle that has become firmly entrenched in our minds after never missing an episode over several seasons

There was one bakery after another in the busy area.

Today, as yesterday, we’ll walk around the beautiful South Kensington area trying another route. We couldn’t be more thrilled that we ended up in this superb location in this 4-star hotel, The Regency Hotel Queen’s Gate.

The entrance to Piccadilly line South Kensington was located in a small indoor mall.

We’ve worked out the kinks we encountered upon checking in including our blown plugins left us no alternative but to borrow the singular device they had available, suitable for US plugs which will only charge one computer at a time. 

A pub we entered to read the menu had meat for sale and also to serve to dining patrons. 

As for charging our phones and cameras, we have no option but to charge them via USB into the computer, one at a time, when one of our computers is plugged in. Timing this is cumbersome.

The historic building stands out in a lovely area.

As a result, we spend time in the morning in the lobby running off batteries, writing rather than sitting on the bed in the room. Once we’ve uploaded the daily post, we head back to the room and charge one computer while we go out and about. 

Another church steeple in South Kensington.

Later, when we return to shower and dress for dinner we’ll leave the other computer charging while away.  We repeat this process over and over. It’s annoying, to say the least. Also, paying US $13.31, 8 pounds per day for Wifi is ridiculous when there have been no such charges at any other hotels in which we’ve stayed. This wasn’t clear when we booked online months ago.

Architecturally interesting white buildings line many of the streets in South Kensington.

Otherwise, this hotel is lovely with excellent service, reasonable amenities, gorgeous décor, and a perfect location. Tonight, in an effort for an early evening, we’ll dine in the hotel’s beautiful restaurant. The inviting ambiance and comparable pricing to other dining establishments in the area make it a logical choice when we have an early start tomorrow morning.

We often take photos of nearby restaurants, later looking up reviews on TripAdvisor, such as in this case it rates #1572 of 17,134, making it in the top 9%, perhaps worthy of a visit. To see the review click here.

As indicated above, we’ll be posting tomorrow morning with photos of our visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum and then Thursday with the results of our 10-hour day tour on a bus with a bunch of “oldies” like us, all attempting to “live in the moment.”

                                              Photo from one year ago today, August 19, 2013:

While living in Boveglio, we order the upcoming year of prescriptions. When they arrived almost 60 days after ordering, we were worried when one box was missing. We had to reorder and have it sent to our mailing service who was sending us a package while we’d be living in Kenya. For details, please click here.