Day 2…Norway Cruise…Bad WiFi…Sorry for late post…

Note: Due to the poor WiFi signal aboard the ship, I am unable to add a single photo today. Once we arrive in Nevada in early September. we’ll be able to post our photos from  Edinburgh and this cruise. Of course, we’ll continue to try to add photos each day! We are sorry for the inconvenience. Perhaps, when this cruise ends, we’ll be able to start posting photos while on the upcoming Celebrity cruise in 16 days. We’ll continue to take photos and write text each day, if possible.

We felt bad we couldn’t post when we boarded the ship yesterday afternoon, although we’d signed up for the $319 unlimited internet package for one device. We usually can get a package for two devices, but on this particular cruise line, they didn’t have more reasonably priced packages for two, and we didn’t want to spend another $319 for a second device.

Besides, the signal is so weak that spending more on another device makes no sense. As a result, we’re switching back and forth between our laptops and phones as needed. This morning was the first time I got a sufficient signal to get online on my laptop when I couldn’t get into the editing site for our blog on my phone.

As a result of these difficulties, I may not be able to post when we arrive at some ports of call when the signal is always at its worst. If you don’t see a post, please do not be alarmed. It simply means we aren’t able to post. Please know we will post as soon as we are able.

Once, we left the Bay Hotel in Burntisland with our excellent driver Mo, accompanied by his lovely wife, Shaziia Hassen, our tour guide. At the same time, MO manuevered many narrow and winding roads in the center of Edinburgh; we felt excited to finally see some of the highlights of the stunning city of Edinburgh, rich in history and culture.

Mo proved to be a fantastic driver, thoughtful of our wishes as to what we wanted to see, and, along with Shazia, made our few-hour experience a pure delight. If and when you ever come to Edinburgh, we highly recommend him. He can be reached at, phone: 00447931772188.

Mo stated he’d be happy to arrange regular transportation and, if desired, tours of the fantastic city of Edinburgh and its surrounding areas. He explained how he has embarked on a few day-long trips with tourists who wanted to travel far from Edinburgh.

The conversation flowed easily with Mo and Shazia, and by the time we were at the pier, they invited us to stay with them at their home in Edinburgh the next time we came to Scotland. Also, they have a home in Pakistan, and they offered this to us as well. What wonderful people. Who knew we’d connect so well with our Uber driver and his lovely wife?

Our dear friend Don in Hawaii, whom we met along with his beloved wife and my precious friend Kathy in Marloth Park in 2013, has been ill for some time. Don had mentioned he attended Fettes College in his youth, located in the heart of Edinburgh, and we thought it would be fun to drive by there and send photos to him.

Unfortunately, the college was closed, and we weren’t able to enter the gates, but we took a few exterior photos and sent them to him and Kathy yesterday afternoon when we had a signal for a few minutes. Also, they suggested we visit Edinburgh Castle, but we never ventured into the castle. We had a schedule to follow to get to the port of Leith on time to board the ship at our designated time.

Also, the venues in Edinburgh were packed with tourists since there were two festivals upcoming in the next few days, and Edinburgh was more packed than ever with worldwide tourists and visitors from throughout the UK. The quaint and narrow streets were filled with people shopping, browsing, eating, and drinking at endless shops, restaurants, and pubs. What a delight to behold!

We could see a lot more from the car than we would have had been on foot. Also, with my difficulty walking long distances, this was a perfect solution for us with limited time to get to the pier. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Once we arrived at the port of Leith, we exchanged warm hugs and goodbyes with Mo and Shazia. Moments later, our bags were whisked away, and we could check-in for the cruise in minutes. We were handed two glasses of sparking wine, which we never drank when it was too sweet for me, and Tom doesn’t like anyway.

In a matter of less than an hour, our bags were at our cabin. We had a few drinks by the pool and ran into the lovely couple we met at the hotel, Cheryl and John, and ultimately had an enjoyable dinner with them last night in the main dining room.

Finally, by about 10:00 pm, we returned to our cabin. We’d unpacked earlier in the day and were thrilled to be all set and organized. The cabin is small, with the tiniest bathroom and shower we’ve ever seen, but we are okay. I will take photos of the ship and share them here in the next few days. Today and tomorrow, we’ll focus on posting the photos from our time in Edinburgh.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, August 2, 2013:

Concerned about maintaining good dental health, we have always used these Brushpicks, which have been instrumental in reducing tooth decay and gum disease. They can be purchased at some pharmacies and also on Amazon. For more, please click here.

It’s different in the park during the holiday season…New video…

Note: Due to the lack of wildlife visitors during the holiday season, other than these in the above video, we are seriously lacking in photos. After the first of the year, when most tourists depart the park, we’ll have plenty of new images to share.

Last night, on our way back to Jabula for our regular Saturday night dinner, there were numerous vehicles on the road, more than we’d seen in a long time. Walking into the bar, we noticed a couple occupying our usual seats. Instead, we sat to their right at two empty barstools.  We started talking to them in no time, and the conversation was ensured throughout the evening.

We had a nice dinner again, seated at the bar close to one of the air-con units which was turned on when load shedding ended. Dawn was ultra-busy with the countless guests, but everything ran smoothly with her hard work supplemented by her competent and friendly staff. As always, it was delightful to chat with Dawn and Leon.

Load shedding is quite a challenge for restaurants and businesses. Constant attention to generators running, food preservation, and patron satisfaction creates a lot of stress for owners and managers. Often, customers are from South Africa and are used to load shedding since few areas in the country are exempt from the ongoing shut-offs. But still, when people come here for a much-needed and often barely affordable holiday in this magical place, they become frustrated with the inconveniences.

When paying for a vacation/holiday, guests often expect perfection, and rightfully so. But the ideal scenario is not to be had when visitors come here. Unbearable heat, much hotter than in the big cities, humidity, rain this time of year, insects, snakes, and a possible 11½ hours a day without power can result in complaints.

Also, every few weeks, there seems to be an issue with the reservoir due to load shedding, which only exacerbates the frustration expressed by visitors. Plus, with all the extra people here, the animals often go into hiding. This further frustrates tourists when they come for a long weekend and hardly see wild animals, inspiring them to visit here in the first place.

Since it’s so hot now, we decided to make a cold dinner for tonight, our favorite bread-free subway sandwiches, which we call “unwiches,” like the popular takeaway restaurant in the US, Jimmy John’s, where we first discovered these breadless sandwiches and copied the concept for our use, modifying them to our taste.

This morning I prepped the tomatoes, purple onions, cheese slices, bacon, and lettuce and made a salad to go with the unwiches. It’s a perfect hot-weather day meal. We have enough deli meats, cheese, and vegetables to last for three dinners. Each day, I’ll cut up more fresh vegetables, cook a new batch of bacon and make another coleslaw salad.

Today is a lazy day. The heat and humidity have taken their toll. With few animals visiting, we’re spending some time in our bedroom, staying cool with the powerful fan turned on with an occasional burst of cool air by turning on the air con when we have power for a few minutes. This will probably be our fate over the next few weeks while we wait for the holiday season to end and for things to return to normal.

Last night, after returning from Jabula, we watched the Minnesota Vikings game on Tom’s streaming app, NFL Game Pass. It was quite a shocking game, considered the biggest-ever NFL “comeback.” It was fun to see the turnaround in the second half and subsequent overtime.

Have a fantastic day, and be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 18, 2021:

Fluffy was the king of Lionspruit, the game reserve within Marloth Park. In the past year, he passed away. Not our photo. For more, please click here.

Holiday makers arriving in the park starting today…Noisy weekend in the bush?…

Big Daddy is such a handsome animal.

We are located on the borders of Lionspruit, the wildlife conservancy within a wildlife conservancy. From our front yard or back garden, we cannot see another house. The only human noise we hear from time to time is the sound of children laughing while in a splash pool, which we can easily handle, the distant sound of a generator when the power is out and the occasional sound of trucks passing with supplies for a house being built in the area.

Other than those sounds, the only sounds we hear consistently is the blissful sounds of wildlife; whether it birds, mongoose making their chittering sounds, warthogs snorting and grunting, impalas barking like a dog, various chirping insects and frogs, the lion’s roar, and the difficult to describe occasional sounds made by kudus, zebra, and wildebeest. It’s all music to our ears.

Big Daddy was posing for a photo.

One of our favorite sounds is made by Frank and The Misses, a loud bird call like none other, at sunrise and sunset, and occasionally during the day, and the gentle chirp when they happily eat their seeds and drink water from the little containers, both of which we refill several times a day.

Otherwise, the quiet is profound. No traffic sounds, no loud music, with no yelling and loud voices. When we lived at the Orange House in 2018/2019, the human sounds were deafening at times. We could easily see three or four-holiday homes from the garden and hear the rambunctious sounds of holidaymakers during the endless stream of holidays in South Africa.

Marloth Park has distinct rules available to every visitor in regards to noise. This is a place to come to unwind, relax and revel in the wonders of nature and wildlife. Loud noise is prohibited and may result in steep fines. But, many tourists pay little attention to the rules.

He stood quietly for a few hours, watching the action around him with many other animals in the garden.

Not only did we hear screaming, yelling, and “drunk talk,” but loud music permeated the air. It wasn’t unusual to hear swearing and name-calling from that location. Here, nothing. At most, we’ll listen to the children’s sounds and an occasional car driving past. This house is set back far from the road, making passing vehicle noises barely detectable.

Upcoming this weekend is yet another South Africa holiday, called a “school holiday,” which may be found at this link. For the regular government holidays, please click here.

This upcoming school holiday, of course, meaning kids are out of school, impacts tourism in Marloth Park beginning on April 23 and continues until May 3 for a total of 10 days. During these several long stretches throughout the year, Marloth Park is rife with tourists, with considerable fast driving on the paved road Olifant and all the dirt roads, which often results in the killing of many animals.

Big Daddy is in the background with two females ready for more pellets.

As mentioned over Easter weekend, seven of our beloved animals were killed by hit-and-run drivers, some of which were killed instantly and others who had to be euthanized. Each time we don’t see some of our favorites in the garden over days, we end up wondering if they were one of the victims of these ruthless drivers, until once again they grace us with their presence, filling us with a sense of relief.

Likely, we won’t see much wildlife during the ten days when often, they are hiding in the bush away from the commotion or being fed inappropriate foods that they, like humans, can’t help but like. During these periods, we seldom see many of our wildlife friends. In actuality, that has already begun when, this morning, we only saw a few warthogs, bushbucks, and of course, Frank and The Misses, who we’ll continue to see since Francolins are territorial. It’s doubtful they leave the property.

Also, beginning this weekend, it’s necessary to make an appointment to enter Kruger National Park. Visitors may use this site to book their appointments. Due to the crowds in Kruger, we won’t be visiting any time during the holiday period. Also, our usual drives in search of photo ops in Marloth Park will cease during this period.

Young Mr. Bushbuck is hoping for some pellets when the warthogs take over. We always find a way to get some to him and the other gentle bushbucks.

We hope we’ll continue to have good photos during the next ten days for our daily posts. We’ll do our best to ensure we can post new photos. Fortunately, we have enough groceries and bags of pellets to avoid the necessity of driving to Komatipoort to shop, where it will also be hectic.

Oops, I spoke too soon! Nine kudus just arrived in the garden, including some youngsters and Big Daddy. The camera is clicking non-stop! A grouping of kudus like this is called a forkl.

Little, in the side garden, searching for any leftover pellets we’d tossed to the bushbucks.

May your days and nights be pleasant and fulfilling.

Photo from one year ago today, April 22, 2020:

A distant elephant across the Crocodile River. For more from the year-ago post, please click here.

Attention guests and visitors, like us, to Marloth Park….

Yesterday, as we drove along the Crocodile River in Marloth Park, we spotted this parade of nearly 30 elephants enjoying their time in the river. Notice the littlest one!

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Our resident francolin, aptly named Frank, stopped by the pond contemplating taking a drink.
Moments later, he bent down and took a long drink. We love Frank and the Mrs. who spend their days and nights in our garden, loudly squawking at sunrise and sunset,

We are visitors, renters, tourists, or whatever you’d like to call us to this magical place, Marloth Park, South Africa. We have no specific rights or privileges beyond what our rental agreement provided to us through the landlord, property manager, or owner. 

We pay an agreed-upon rate, and with it comes specific amenities, often including the use of household goods, utilities, cable TV, Internet, appliances, and in many cases, housekeeping services in varying degrees.

It is a privilege for us to be here. It never does one day pass without us realizing and appreciating the opportunity to partake of this unique, enriching, and charming environment.
It’s always enjoyable watching the young calves playing in the water, discovering the wonders of their trunks.

Over these past few days, the summer holidays (it’s winter here now) for visitors from the northern hemisphere have begun, and we see an influx of visitors and cars in astounding numbers.

As we drove through the park yesterday afternoon on our usual almost daily drive to spot wildlife, we saw more walkers, bikers, and vehicles near the Crocodile River than we’ve ever seen in the total of over seven months we’ve spent in Marloth Park in the past four-plus years.

One can easily look online to read the “rules of Marloth Park” at several websites, some that apply to all occupants, whether owners or holidaymakers and many that specifically apply to ownership of property in Marloth Park.

We felt so fortunate to see this, which only enhances our love of Marloth Park.

However, today, we won’t list those rules, and if you’d like, you can look for them here at this link. Instead, we’d like to post our perspective from a “renters point of view” as to the responsibility we all have in maintaining the integrity of what this outstanding conservancy is all about, a harmonious and thrilling environment where wild animals freely roam the gardens of houses, parklands, and roads throughout the area.

It’s truly a privilege to be here. As we’ve traveled the world over these almost past six years: homeless, no car, no storage, and with minimal possessions in our few pieces of luggage, we’ve never heard of nor seen anyplace in the world like Marloth Park, nor do we ever expect to do so.

Back to yesterday afternoon, as we drove on Seekoei Street that runs along the Crocodile River, we encountered dozens of tourists walking, jogging, and riding bicycles. In one instance, we were shocked to see a man riding a bike while his two young children were riding bikes at a distance behind him.  

We couldn’t take our eyes off of them as they basked in the river.

He seemed oblivious of cars coming up behind them or the fact that there’s a lioness loose in the park. Only months ago, we wrote the story of Jonas, who was attacked by a lion while riding a bike (see that story here) here in Marloth Park.

Often, people feel they are invincible. It simply won’t “happen to them.”  But one only needs to spend a few minutes watching videos on YouTube to see lions in Kruger National Park attacking tourists “in their vehicle” while their windows were open to taking photos. These are wild animals, and unpredictably is a part of their demeanor.

All the animals in Marloth Park are wild and generally are safe “at a distance.”  But, unintentionally (or otherwise), a male kudu with massive antlers can easily injure or permanently maim an unsuspecting tourist attempting to hand feed these gigantic animals. A mere nod of his head can poke out an eye or cause a fatal injury.

Not all of the elephants nearby are shown in these photos.  We counted almost 30.

Some of the animals in Marloth Park carry diseases such as Bovine Tuberculosis (not necessarily transmittable to humans) and rabies. Why hand feed when it’s so easy to drop the “approved” pellets onto the ground? These animals are used to “eating dirt” and also dead plant matter when they forage. They don’t mind eating off the ground.

Also, we don’t use any trough or large containers to feed the animals.  Diseases such as TB are transmitted through their saliva dropping by the use of such containers. Would you want to eat from the same bowl others from which others had eaten (who possibly have a disease)?

Sure, it’s fun for kids to hand feed an animal. But, it’s common to see a wild animal in the park licking their own behinds or the behinds of their young to make one not so interested in hand feeding. Fecal matter can contain salmonella and an endless array of medical conditions, many of which may be life-threatening. 

With the electric fence between Kruger and Marloth Park, taking photos requires carefully getting the shots between the barbed wire strands in the fence.

Simply telling a child to “go wash your hands” after hand feeding is almost pointless. Have you ever watched your child wash their hands, especially when they’re anxious to get back outside and see the animals? Even adults can be lax in this area.

As for the wildlife feeding, we’ve heard stories of tourists (and some locals) feeding the wildlife potato chips, corn (which can be fatal), popcorn, leftover bread, sweets, and their leftovers from the restaurants or home-cooked meals. Most wildlife cannot digest these types of foods, and feeding them may result in illness or death.

Most of the animals in Marloth Park are either omnivores (plants and small animals) or herbivores (plants only), where they consume the leaves of plants, trees, and some roots (warthogs) and a variety of creatures such as insects and rodents. The few carnivores in the park may include mongooses, civets, genets, wild dogs, birds of prey, and more.

They stood in this same area for quite some time.

These carnivores (meat eaters) don’t need to eat (and shouldn’t eat) our leftover cooked, sauce-covered, seasoned braai chicken, pork, or beef. It is not natural for wildlife to eat cooked or spiced foods.

The two types of monkeys most prevalent in Marloth Park are the Vervet monkeys and baboons. These monkeys are very destructive and will do anything for food. They even eat the birdseed from our birdfeeder. We have to make a special effort to ensure no food is left on the ground or elsewhere for them when feeding other wildlife.

A few weeks ago, I left the door to the house open while I was cutting apples and carrots. A Vervet monkey ran inside onto the kitchen counter and grabbed a whole apple, and ran. I learned my lesson…keep the door shut when monkeys are around and never leave the door open unattended.

Well, some may think this is cute, but a monkey (or baboon) or more can wreak havoc in a house tearing everything apart while defecating everywhere while inside or even outside on the veranda. We never leave food on any plates or bowls anywhere which the monkeys may be able to access.

Often, when we experience such a sighting, a few people are observing along with us. Yesterday, there were dozens of holidaymakers taking photos as well.

A rule that has been disrespected by some has been bringing pets or other animals into the park. The animals in this special place can easily be contaminated by diseases carried by non-indigenous animals. 

Speaking of non-indigenous, one of the most prevalent concerns in Marloth Park right now is alien invasive plants, some from natural occurring means and others brought in by homeowners or visitors “decorating” the house or gardens.  

These plants are destroying the natural food sources for wildlife which ultimately could result in the loss of life for the precious animals we so love. Its imperative no visitors, owners, or renters bring any plants into the park. This is a “wild” habitat. Decorative plants defy the true meaning of the “bush.”

Also, a significant area of concern is the alien invasive plants presenting a substantial risk of fire. Invasive trees and plants can burn hotter, higher, and faster than any native vegetation. 

Care must be exercised in making and putting out fires for the braai.  We heard recently that a tragic fire could have destroyed Marloth Park when hot embers from a braai were dumped into a dry side garden. This place could incinerate in a matter of minutes, not hours, with all the dry brush and invasive plants and trees.

In the past week, it has been reported that several wild animals have been killed on the road by fast-moving vehicles. Yes, it’s possible a driver following the speed limit could accidentally hit an animal that darts out onto the road at night. Visibility is lacking on the tar and dirt roads throughout the park.

But, we all must take the responsibility of driving as if a child could dart out into the road at any moment, slowly and with the utmost of caution. Plus, driving slowly both during the day and at night is an excellent opportunity to spot more wildlife. Nothing is more exciting than stopping for a “traffic jam” of several giraffes (or other animals) crossing the road.

The wildlife is more likely to visit when noise is kept at a minimum. We make every effort to speak in normal tones and avoid loud bursts of sound to prevent frightening the wildlife. Of course, loud music or loud partying is prohibited in the park.

Please forgive us if we sound as if we’re “preaching.” That’s not our intent.  Instead, we want to ensure Marloth Park is as excellent in the future as it is today. We plan to make regular visits in years to come as we continue in our world journey.

Marloth Park is the only place in the world we’ve returned to visit in all these years of world travel. In many ways visiting this magical place has shaped us, changed us, and made us grow in our desire and passion for protecting and preserving wildlife and our surroundings wherever we may go.

Please join us in this mission while you visit, along with us, cherishing the gift Mother Nature has bestowed upon us humans…the joy and beauty of wildlife and our surroundings.

Enjoy your holiday time, as we will, in this extraordinary place.

Photo from one year ago today, June 25, 2017:

Margie, Tom’s sister, with one of her two birthday cakes. This photo was taken by nephew Joe’s wife Donna before our arrival around 4:30 pm. The party had started at 2:00 pm, and by the time we arrived the cake was cut.  Thanks for the excellent photo, Donna!  For more photos, please click here.

Top 30 places to travel, according to whom?… Where do we recommend when asked?…

Tom’s burger and fries at Donde Bocha Antogeria in Atenas. I ate the little side cup of guacamole.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

This morning’s visitor, a large centipede. It doesn’t appear to be venomous. Tom scooped it up and put it outdoors in the garden.

After posting our story on September 25th, about the top 20 most dangerous countries in the world to vacation, (click here for our story) we received a few email messages inquiring on the more positive side; what do we consider the top countries in the world to visit?

Such an article was recently posted online by US News & World Report listing the following 30 best places in the world to visit. They used the following to compile this list:  “…U.S. News (click here for their article) used expert opinions, user votes, and current trends to compile this list.” 

Charlie ordered this plate of beef nachos. There was a bottom layer of tortilla chips. I could have had this without the chips and dressing which would have been meat and lettuce which wasn’t very appealing to me.

Their list follows below (those marked in red indicate those we’ve visited and/or lived in these locations during our past almost five years of world travels): 

  1. Rome 
  2. Sydney
  3. Porto (Portugal)
  4. London
  5. Paris
  6. New York City
  7. Florence
  8. Prague
  9. Barcelona
  10. Dubai
  11. Amalfi Coast
  12. Santorini
  13. Oahu, Hawaii
  14. Grand Canyon
  15. Bali
  16. Serengeti National Park
  17. Vancouver
  18. Breckenridge
  19. Phuket
  20. San Sebastian
  21. Tahiti
  22. Yosemite
  23. Costa Rica
  24. The British Virgin Islands
  25. Park City, Utah
  26. Great Barrier Reef
  27. Machu Picchu
  28. Banff
  29. Jackson Hole
  30. St. Lucia

People we meet and our readers often ask our opinions on favorite places to visit in the world based on our travels thus far. We’ve even had an opportunity to speak to some of our readers on Skype when they are contemplating a vacation/holiday and aren’t sure where to go. We would like feedback from us on the topic.

This is a tough question to answer. It’s comparable to asking a person what books they prefer to read, their favorite movies and which foods they prefer to eat. It’s highly subjective. 

Our personal preferences for choosing travel locations and bookings are varied based on affordability, personal interests, and long-held beliefs and desires to see certain parts of the world.

This is the outdoor restaurant, Donde Bocha Antogeria, we visited with neighbor Charlie for lunch.

Also, there’s a vast difference in staying in a hotel or resort for a two-week vacation as opposed to “living” in a country for an extended period. Even if the property is exceptional, living as if we were locals is entirely different from tourists’ attention and amenities at a hotel or resort.

We’re basically “on our own,” fending for ourselves for transportation, meals, and entertainment.  In a resort or hotel, a typically readily available concierge or front desk staff usually takes care of everything, if one so chooses.

Tom liked Imperial beer made in Costa Rica.

During a one or two-week vacation in a country, the traveler’s perspective may be entirely different from what we experience over three months. Their goal is generally to pack in as many tours, shopping and dining experiences as possible. 

Often tourists bring along an extra empty piece of luggage to contain their purchases. We often see this on cruises where many focus their attention on shopping and dining at each port of call.  This surely must be fun for those who find it enhances their experiences.

For us, such an objective is far removed from our reality. Although we may wander through shopping areas in certain ports of call, we rarely make any purchases more for photo ops and sharing the experience with our readers than to purchase anything. 

After lunch, when Charlie took off to shop, we visited the Central Market in downtown Atenas.

As for dining out during ports of call or in countries in which we’re living, it’s a two-pronged consideration; one, frequent dining out is costly and two, most mid-range restaurants can’t accommodate my way of eating. 

People often ask how we can possibly enjoy ourselves without dining and shopping in many countries. Here again, our objectives aren’t the same as most travelers.  

One of our major interests is in shopping for quality food to create healthful and suitable homemade meals at our temporary home utilizing the flavor and availability of locally grown produce and sources of protein. In essence, this has become a hobby for us as we’ve traveled the world. 

Inside the Central Market, there are many casual dining spots.

Although we’ve dined out regularly in many countries s we will upcoming in Buenos Aires where we’ll be living in a hotel for a month and then beginning February in South Africa; we’ll dine out frequently since most of the food is organic and centers around delicious roasted meats and vegetables.

Here in Costa Rica, dining out isn’t a priority when most meals include tremendous amounts of starch. Believe me, if I didn’t have to eat as I do for health, I’d be all over the tortillas and flour/corn-based products.  Tom, a picky eater, doesn’t care much for ethnic foods, tortillas or even guacamole.

Recently as shown in today’s photos, we went to lunch with our neighbor Charlie who lives a few doors from us. We visited a traditional Costa Rica restaurant in Atenas. After carefully perusing the menu, the only items I could eat was the guacamole with nothing to dip into it and the pico de gallo, not necessarily meal worthy. 

Produce is for sale all week in this market as opposed to the Friday Feria Market where we prefer to make our selections.  It appeared many items were imported.

I didn’t order a thing except for a glass of water, especially when the language barrier prevented me from inquiring if their kitchen is technically “gluten-free” meaning separate prep and cooking areas free from any contamination from grains, starches, and sugar. That’s not possible here in Costa Rica unless one is dining at a pricey high-end establishment of which there are none in Atenas.

Surely in San Jose, a 40-minute drive, there are possibilities but it just hasn’t been worth making the long drive to eat an overpriced meal. When we head to Managua, Nicaragua in 28 days, we’ll dine in upscale restaurants and hotels which can usually accommodate my requirements.

Thus, it’s easy to see how our preferences for “where are the best places in the world to travel,” are considerably different from that which the average traveler may find appealing. None the less, it’s fascinating to hear about the preferences of others.

A larger produce seller in the Central Market.

We’re always happy to share our perceptions of top places to visit in the world but encourage those inquiring that our preferences may vary considerably from that which appeals to them.

Most of us prefer a location of beauty, great scenery, good weather and reasonable prices with interesting culture and possibly wildlife. Many have virtually no interest in wildlife which has greatly influenced our choices.

That’s it for today, folks! Have a fabulous weekend wherever you may be!

Photo from one year ago today, September 30, 2016:

Tom spotted this local woman carrying straw on her head moments after we returned to Sumbersari after the five-day visa extension process in Lovina Bali. It felt good to be back “home” for the final leg of our stay in Indonesia. Click here for more details.

Interesting article on the most dangerous countries in the world… How many have we visited?

A turtle we spotted in a pond in Zarcera, Costa Rica.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Bottlebrush flowers blooming in the yard.

Business Insider online magazine/newspaper published an article this past June listing the 20 most dangerous countries for tourists in the world. I hadn’t stumbled across this story until this morning while reading the news on my phone when I awakened way too early to get up.

Information of this type is of considerable interest to us, and I was surprised we missed this particular article. Both of us are often on the lookout for information related to travel.

In May 2013, this boat came alongside our ship in the Gulf of Aden when two mercenaries boarded the vessel with “black boxes” and stayed on board for three days and nights protecting our ship from pirates. Here’s the link to that story with more photos.

Here’s the list of Business Insider 20 most dangerous countries from the least dangerous (#20) to the most dangerous (#1). We’ve been to those marked in red. More details may be found in the actual article listed here.
20.  The Republic of Congo
19.  Thailand (6 weeks)
18.  Jamaica
17.  South Africa (3 months)
16.  Guatemala
15.  Chad
14.  Bangladesh
13.  Mali
12.  Lebanon
11. the Philippines
10.  Ukraine
 9.   Honduras (cruise tour)
 8.   Kenya (3 months)
 7.   Egypt (cruise tour)
 6.   Venezuela
 5.   Nigeria
 4.   Pakistan
 3.   El Salvador
 2.   Yemen
 1.   Columbia (cruise tour)

The chaos in the streets in Egypt was comparable to what we’ve seen in movies. Often these types of areas are targets of attacks.

Although cruise tours may seem safer, and in many ways, they may be, we’ve often read stories of cruise passengers under attack at shopping centers, restaurants, public transportation, and on tour buses. 

As for the above listed six out of 20 which we visited and lived in, there is only one, South Africa, which we’ll visit (in this case a second time), where we’ll be living for many months beginning in February 2018. 

Not all areas of South Africa and these other countries are dangerous. Many remote locations have lower incidences of crime and terrorism. But, most tourists, generally staying only a short period, tend to prefer to visit the larger cities, where most crimes occur.

The stone wall at the property in Kenya not only inspired the goats to stop by to say hello but had broken bottle glass set into the mortar at the top of the wall to keep intruders out.  Here’s the link for this photo.

With primarily non-English speaking news on TV where we’ve lived over these past years, we can easily miss such an article as the above. However, whenever we begin research for future travels, we first investigate the political climate and crime rates and search the US Department of State Travel warnings.

Many of our readers have contacted us stating that they are in the process of changing their lives to travel the world and often ask us for advice and suggestions, which we’re always happy to provide. 

In many ways, our site is intended to be of assistance to both short and long-term travelers and those who’ve traveled in the past and dream of traveling in the future. 

Then, of course, we have those loyal readers who don’t necessarily care about traveling but enjoy seeing our photos and reading about what life is like “living in the world.” (We appreciate all of you, regardless of your motivation to visit us here).

We can’t stress more the importance of doing your research for those travelers considering future travel. And, as we all so well know, there isn’t any country in the world that is entirely safe, including our homeland, wherever that may be.

If seeing the Pyramids in Egypt is on your “bucket list,” you may decide to trade that dream for another, safer location. When we visited the Pyramids in 2013, even then, it was listed as unsafe and has become more so over the years. Without a doubt, we realized the risk when booking the cruise, which was further confirmed when we had a security guard on our bus with an Uzi in a holster beneath his black Hugo Boss suit coat.

Mohamed, our security guard, stayed with us the entire time we toured the pyramids. Here’s the link to that story with more photos.

Once we arrived at the pyramids, we felt fortunate when the above security guard, Mohamed, had taken a liking to us and suggested we stay close to him during the trek to the pyramids and back. 

We’d heard stories of horrifying tourist experiences at the pyramids but felt safer going on the cruise ship’s arranged tour, which many cruise passengers have experienced. Although, as mentioned above, these tours still may pose a serious risk.  

It was scorching and dusty. We wore our breathable and insect-resistant Africa clothing during this tour and others.  Here’s the link to this photo.

Please be careful when arranging private tours through local tour companies in any of the above countries. Reading reviews and doing extensive research is a must. Failure to do so may greatly increase the likelihood of danger, with many unscrupulous operators taking advantage of tourists.

We continue to strive to be safe and realize that we’ve taken certain risks in some cases. As the world becomes more and more dangerous, we’re seriously thinking twice before planning to visit many countries throughout the world. 

Our continuing goal to stay in more remote locations continues to provide us with a layer of safety that generally provides us with peace of mind. Only you can decide how much you’re willing to risk your safety to “step outside the box” in your world travels.

In each of our lives, wherever we may live or visit, we all have the opportunity to reach for our interpretation of “stepping outside the box,” whether it’s reading a book of a genre we’re never tried, tasting a new food we’ve previously avoided or in making the first step to meet someone new.

May your day present you with opportunities to try something new!

Photo from one year ago, September 25, 2016:

Private outdoor massage area at neighbor’s Piia and Thomas’ home in Sumbersari Bali, often used when a massage therapist visits the house several times a week. For more photos of this beautiful home, please click here.

What’s Kuhio Road all about?…Touring the island continue to please our visitor…

Apparently, a visitor was killed on this beach at the end of Anina Beach, a desirable beach only 15 minutes from Princeville. This was sad to see.

Kauai doesn’t have many highways and certainly nothing that remotely appears to be a freeway. Once we exit the planned community of Princeville, we have the option of heading to the right on Kuhio Highway, which continues past Hanalei until the road ends at Ke’e Beach on the Napali Coast where we spotted the Hawaiian monk sea

Tom and I had seen this “wet cave” as we neared the end of the road in the Napali Coast. Swimmers aren’t allowed to enter this cave.

Or, if we turn to the left at Kuhio Highway, we can continue on to Lihue where the airport is located and then on to one of a few highways that continue through Poipu at the southern tip on the map, ultimately heading to the west where again, the road ends.

Of course, there are many side roads entering residential areas, farms, ranches with much of the island consisting of undeveloped areas, including beaches, mountains, valleys, and hills.

The rip currents in many of the beaches are dangerous resulting in the death of a tourist almost every day, based on news reports.

If one were to drive from the top north, west of Princeville to the far southwest, it may take less than three hours providing road construction and traffic is at a minimum. That’s how small this island really is. 

The huge waves also pose a risk for swimmers who may not be familiar with navigating the currents. Even experienced swimmers and surfers fall prey to these risks.

Reality dictates that driving through many of the small towns along the way results in numerous delays, especially in the resort towns. Let’s face it, with the gorgeous beaches on this island, most towns along the coast are in fact resort towns.

It was overcast and cloudy when Julie and I visited this beach.

In yesterday’s post, we described mine and Julie’s visit to the town of Kapaa as shown on the map on the east coast near the center. It took 30 minutes to get to Kapaa. Had we driven further south for another 15 minutes, we have made it to Lihue.

There are hundreds of varieties of trees on the island.

After Tom and I traveled almost the full perimeter of the island on February 19th, we both agree that we’ve especially enjoyed the north and east coasts of the island, as opposed to the south beyond Poipu. 

The cliffs at Tunnels Beach on the way to the Napali Coast.

Although the southern area of the island has numerous attractions suitable for adventure-minded visitors and those seeking beautiful scenery, there’s hardly a spot on the island that isn’t scenic. Even on the interior of the island, exquisite scenery is available at every turn.

We stopped at a local Farmer’s Market on the way to Kapaa a few days ago. We purchased a root of turmeric, a huge bunch of Swiss chard, two huge bunches of green beans, and an enormous avocado, all organic and non-GMO.

By the time we depart Kauai in a little over two months, without a doubt, we feel we’ll have seen most of which is suitable for our type of exploration, excluding what remains of the exceedingly rough terrain desired by adept and experienced hikers, which doesn’t include us.

We always try to buy from local farmers as much as possible.  A few days ago we went to the local Princeville gas station where on the inside they sell grass-fed beef at excellent prices from the Princeville Ranch. On Friday, we’re touring the ranch with the owner, hoping the share photos and the story of farming grass-fed beef in  Kauai.

We’ve definitely experienced some rough terrain but, with our desire to avoid injuries, we’ve kept those types of treks to a minimum. With nightly reports on the news, almost every night we hear of tourists succumbing to serious injury or death on many of the dangerous trails being swept away into the ocean at various points of interest, such as at the Queen’s Bath which we recently visited.

As for Julie and me, we continue to scour the north and east side of the island easily keeping us busy each day.  She loves the beaches and has also taken off a few times on her own to explore and lounge on a beach to relax and read a book while I’ve stayed behind take care of household tasks, grocery shop, prepare meals, workout and work on photos and the next day’s post. 

Many popular beaches are in a covered area, providing some protection for the swimmers.

Today, we’re off to Kilauea to finally visit the lighthouse. On several occasions Tom and I have stopped by, yet to actually take the tour when the lines were too long. Julie and I are determined to wait it out until we get in. Hopefully, we’ll return tomorrow with photos from the actual tour.

Tonight, we’re dinner guests of our new friends Bev and Sam whose property we toured on “movie night” a few weeks ago, posting many photos of their amazing property a day later. They’ve since invited the three of us for an evening at their home. We’re looking forward to a wonderful evening!

Have a fulfilling “hump day.”

                                            Photo from one year ago today, March 18, 2014:

The tourists usually arrive on Thursdays and Fridays to spend the weekend shopping in the souks and dining in the Big Square (the Medina). For details from that date, please click here.

Wow!…A pier at Hanalei Beach Park…Scenery beyond description…See for yourself! Three little what???

It was so exciting to stumble upon this pier at Hanalei Bay.  Notice the “beach closed” sign on the left, which obviously no one observed, including us.

Yesterday, after our time at the “club,” (Listen to me. I sound like a snob. Don’t mean to), once again we took off in a westerly direction on the main highway toward the tourist dense Hanalei Bay.

We hadn’t been on a pier such as this since our time in Belize, two years ago.

We understand why the tourists flock to Hanalei. When one thinks about it, tourists do know where the action is and what is worth seeing. It almost becomes a matter of “follow the crowd.”

A few times while we lingered on the pier, a sea spray came up and over the sides of the pier. There had been high surf warnings the past few days which were diminishing as of yesterday.

Sadly, that’s the way it is in most places we’ve visited. The beauty of the best spots is often shrouded by the density of the people clamoring to see what it’s all about.

Since we arrived in Kauai, Tom has been following my way of eating and is losing weight.  He grumbles a little until he gets on the travel scale. 
A tsunami monitor on the pier.

Sure, there is extremely rough terrain to navigate in order to visit sights that are less accessible to the masses, resulting in quiet and serene viewing.  But, let’s face it, our days for extreme hiking and other such activities are long behind us. Too often, we’ve encountered seniors with walkers, wheelchairs, and cane who have been injured while traveling.

An artist was painting a beach scene while in the shade of these trees at the beach.

We proceed with caution and, so do many tourists of all ages, at their own levels of fitness. Speaking of fitness, the working out is going great. I’ll be back to my “old” self (or shall I say “new” self) a lot quicker than anticipated. Most likely, in three weeks I’ll be able to match where I left off some time ago, anxious to move forward.

The views from each side of the pier are impressive. But, as shown in other photos here, the mountains add an indescribable element.

Back to Hanalei Bay…Tom had heard that if one drives down any side street from the main road toward the beach in the charming town of Hanalei, getting past all the vehicles lining the streets, a world of wonder awaits at the end of the road.

There was a heavy mist in the mountains.

Thinking it would be one more beautiful beach, I sat back with my camera in hand while Tom drove anticipating a few shots requiring I step outside the car. Little did either of us know what treasures lay at the end of those side streets.

We visited this spot after we’d already spent our time in the sun. Surely, we’ll return another day with our lawn chairs.

Suddenly, we were parked in an almost completely full lot, anxious to get out of the car to walk the pier and the beach ahead of us for some of the most exquisite scenery we’ve seen in the world.

Little ones were giggling over the surf as parents held on tight.

For those of you who have followed us from the beginning of our travels, you’ve seen many of the beaches and tropical islands that took our breath away including the dozens of beaches we’ve seen on our past 10 cruises in the over past two-plus years. 

The roaring surf. What a sight!

But, dear readers, nothing and I mean nothing, we’ve seen to date compares to Kauai. The combination of sand, surf, greenery, and mountains is hard to beat and to clearly define in our amateur attempt at photos. 

Sure, the scenery of this pristine beach would have been more enticing without all the crowds. But, it’s the revenue generated by tourism to Hawaii that makes the maintenance of these public areas possible. 

In addition, yesterday, we had an opportunity to see the Hanalei River which flows north from the eastern slopes of Mount Wai’ale’ale for 15.7 miles until it reaches the Pacific Ocean at Hanalei Bay as an estuary

What a sight!  What a day!

“Mount Wai’ale’ale, Kauai”
Taking sunny pictures of Mount Wai’ale’ale (see more photos) proves to be difficult. This mountain and especially its summit is almost always concealed in moisture-laden clouds. In fact, it is one of the wettest locations on Earth, receiving about 450 inches (11,430 mm) of rain each year. The rainiest year on record so far was 1982 with 683 inches (17,300 mm).

Many sources (including the local tourist industry) say that Mt. Wai’ale’ale is the wettest spot on Earth, however, the 38-year average at Mawsynram (India) is higher at 467.4 inches (11,870 mm), according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Located in the center of Kauai, Mt. Wai’ale’ale rises 5,148 feet (1,569 m), making it the second-highest peak on the island, after Kawaikini at 5,243 feet (1,598 m). In the Hawaiian language, Wai’ale’ale means “rippling water” or “overflowing water.”

The clear sky only added to the beauty of the setting.

This is intriguing enough to make us determined to explore this river further at some point in these upcoming four months. As a matter of fact, it appears there are more sights to see in Kauai that are favorable for our level of exploration than on the other three islands we visited over these past three months we’ve spent in Hawaii.

Beachgoers exploring the shoreline.

As for today, yet another beautiful sunny day so far, of which there are many on this island, it doesn’t appear the expected 60% chance of rain today will actually transpire. If it does rain we certainly won’t complain. It’s been sunny every day this week and we’ve taken advantage of every moment.

The homeowners of these properties that line the beach could easily tire of the constant flow of surf and sunbathers. But, they need only look beyond the crowds for views of a lifetime.

Have a fabulous Friday and weekend to come. We’ll be baaaaaaaaaack!

 Photo from one year ago today, January 23, 2014:

I’ve made an effort not to bore our readers with too many one-year-ago photos of warthogs, my favorite animals in the bush. But, this shot of “three little pigs” made me smile and I just couldn’t resist sharing it one more time. For more photos from this date, please click here.

Further reducing the checked baggage load…Sightseeing in Maui…A wonderful afternoon…

Tom got a kick out of this old Ford “woody” that was on display at the Maui Tropical Plantation.

On Saturday, while at Costco, we purchased a 23″ semi hard-sided, lightweight expandable piece of luggage.  With the hope of further reducing the number of checked bags to three instead of four.

Tom at the entrance to the General Store on the premises.

Doing so reduces the extra $35 cost on three more flights in the Hawaiian Island; one, to the Big Island; another to Kauai; the third back to Honolulu for the cruise to Australia in May. 

Complimentary Hawaiian coffee was served in a shop.

With a combined savings of $105 and the price, we paid for the bag at $72, more than pays for itself while in Hawaii, and more on future flights throughout the world.

Our new 23″ lightweight bag that allowed us to dispose of two smaller bags.

Besides, the two smaller orange wheeling bags had begun to show serious signs of wear and tear, especially when the zippers had become corroded due to the humidity in Kenya over a year ago

The main building and entrance to the Maui Tropical Plantation.

We choose the blue color for easy spotting and the semi-hard sided for hopefully a little less wear and tear.  Yet at $72, who’s going to complain if it only lasts a year or two, as have all of our bags, now handling and weather-beaten? Not us.

This handmade log house was located by the entrance to the main building at the Maui Tropical Plantation.

We’ve come to the conclusion that the quality of luggage has a lot less of an effect on its ability to last for long periods, than the number of times it goes through typical baggage handling at airports and on cruises. Replacing bags from time to time doesn’t concern us a bit, especially when we can always find something durable enough to last for a while.

A display of antique hand-cranked coffee grinders.

Once we returned home from Costco on Saturday, I was anxious to empty the two smaller bags to see if the new 23″ bag would in fact hold their entire contents. With the careful arrangement, it was a breeze. 

A handmade cruise ship was on display.  The cruise ship industry has a substantial effect on the economy of Hawaii when thousands of tourists flock to its various attractions.

The next step was to determine its weight using our portable scale. At 45 pounds,  we were pleased knowing we won’t be charged for overweight baggage when most airlines accept 50 pounds, some 60.

An old fashioned coffee mill.

This leaves us with three bags, each weighing under 50 pounds, plus one duffel bag, one laptop bag, my handbag, and the pill bag as carry-on luggage. We can easily manage these without an airport cart, especially since we still have the luggage cart that will easily handle the new 23″ bag and all the carryon luggage, while one of us wheels the two large bags. 

A smaller version of a modern coffee mill.

When we start packing again in 12 days, I imagine at this point, we can be done in less than 30 minutes. Yeah!

The shelves were lined with locally made food products.

Yesterday at noon, with daily tasks and time outdoors under our belts we hopped in the car and took off for the Maui Tropical Plantation.  

After leaving the shop, we wandered into the grounds, excited to see the various farm animals and vegetation.

With our extra tight budget in place for the upcoming family visit, we’ve hesitated to pay for sightseeing and are excited to have a few events planned that don’t require expensive entrance fees and tour charges. 

Although the fall season is less noticeable in Hawaii by changing colors of vegetation, there were plants that had changed to typical fall colors.

We didn’t see entrance fees posted on their website and were expecting a $20 per person entrance fee which would have been in the budget.

A shaded building for viewing the expanse of the plantation.

Much to our surprise, there was no fee for entrance to the exquisite plantation. Instead, there were several lovely shops with locally made merchandise as an inducement for visitors to shop, shop, shop.

We stopped to watch the glassblower at work.

Had we been candidates for shopping, I could easily have gone nuts since there were many beautiful items on display in each of the venues. Although not disappointed that we’re unable to shop (Tom especially), we enjoyed wandering through the shops savoring their tempting displays ranging from local nuts, candies, and coffee to housewares, jewelry, homemade soaps, and locally made garments.

There were numerous pools throughout the plantation.

On a few occasions, I found myself checking prices and touching a few items noticing the fine quality and ingenuity. I still wasn’t tempted to make any purchases instead, content with our lighter load of bags.

Another symmetrical Bird of Paradise.

Then, we wandered throughout the unique and varied grounds of the plantation, spotting numerous photo-worthy scenarios many of which we’ll share over the next few days. With Tom’s good sense of direction, we never missed a single area of the grounds available to exploration.

Here is a map of the plantation:

Easy-to-print map HERE.
We borrowed this map from the Maui Tropical Plantation’s website.

With mixed reviews online at after some cruise passengers claimed that visiting the plantation was “underwhelming,” we could understand their comments as less than five stars when they paid upwards of $89 per person for the bus ride, the tour, and a light lunch arranged through the ship’s excursions.

Gears for the sugar cane plantation.

For us, driving on our own, wandering at our own pace, and with no interest in dining on the premises, it was easy to give it a good rating if not an excellent rating, especially for the tourists with several children or a group desiring a low-cost outing. The Maui Tropical Plantation appeals to all ages.

Hand-carved whale tail.

In addition, for adventure seekers, the largest zip line facility is located on the property. We saw several 20 something’s (all male) gearing up for the zip line. With our bad right shoulders, we realized long ago that ziplining is not for us or, for that matter, for seniors  (or others) with any mobility or medical concerns.

The artist was on the premises explaining various pieces to the shoppers.

Of course, a huge attraction for this amateur photographer was the ducks, geese, and especially the chicken which, for some odd reason, I’m always attracted to. Go figure. 

We loved this sea turtle.

Enough “words” for today. Sit back and enjoy our photos knowing that we thoroughly enjoyed every step along the way at the Maui Tropical Plantation, a simple but delightful experience

Please stop back tomorrow for more plantation photos with some close-ups of farm animal shots.

                                           Photo from one year ago today, November 18, 2013:

We’ve made an effort to watch a movie made purposely for the country or continent we’re visiting at any time as was the case, one year ago on this date, that we posted photos and a story of watching the movie, “Out of Africa.” With many more months in Hawaii, we’ve yet to watch a movie but we surely will when we get to Kauai. For details from that date one year ago, please click here.

Part 1, Rainy day road trip to the walled city of Lucca…

Lucca aerial view in the “borrowed” photo.  The remainder of the photos are all ours, some blurred due to the pouring rain.

After commenting in Sunday’s post regarding the recent lack of soaking rain, we took off on Monday morning amid an ominous looking sky. Would our long-awaited road trip to Lucca be spoiled by rain?

We were driving around the walled city of Lucca in the pouring rain looking for a parking spot.
As we made our way around the exterior of the walled city of Lucca, we traveled under this canopy of trees.

Halfway down the mountains, we realized that we should have brought the umbrella in the stand by the front door. Do we turn back calling it a day or forge ahead risking getting soaked?

As we waited our turn to enter the one-way road to gain access inside the walled city. We’d waited long enough for the rain to stop and the sun came out.  We were anxious to get inside before it started again.
The walled city piqued our interest to the point that we were determined to find a decent parking spot close to the entrance. The rain was pelting the windshield and we didn’t want to walk any further than we had to without an umbrella.
I took a photo of this street sign near where we first parked outside the walled city of Lucca in the event we had trouble finding the car later.  This is the general location that Tom perused looking for a place to get change for the required parking sticker.

With the unpredictability of the weather changes in these hills, we hadn’t bothered to check the weather report having found it be relatively inaccurate when doing so. 

Once inside the walled city, we encountered several dead-end one-way roads requiring that we back up long distances. Cars were only allowed in specific areas with no signs indicating dead-end roads. Patience prevailed.

Sunday was by far the hottest day and night we’ve experienced since arriving in Boveglio six weeks ago. The night was steamy. The fan and opened windows offered little relief as we tossed and turned most of the night.  Monday morning, as we prepared to take off on our road trip the heat and humidity were unbearable. 

Would the rain ever stop and would we find a place to park?

The more we drove around, the more the rain picked up.

Hoping to leave around 10:30 am, we decided to leave early if only to get into the air-conditioned car. I can honestly say I don’t recall being that hot and uncomfortable since the day we visited the White Mosque in Abu Dhabi while I was sick with that awful virus and required to wear the long black abaya while the temperature was well over 100 degrees. 

Having poorly planned for the rainy day, our frustration level grew as we drove around looking for a place to stop.  Surprisingly, we both stayed calm and cheerful.  Gosh, that helps in these situations, doesn’t it?
As we maneuvered our way down the mountains through the usual hairpin turns Tom was mindful of the numerous signs warning “roads slippery when wet.” As the rain began to fall on the windshield in giant drops, we looked at each other wondering if we should have postponed our trip after all.
It was raining too hard to open the door or the window of the car to take a photo. Instead, once we were parked in this free parking spot by this church, we were within running distance to the restaurant where we had lunch while waiting again for the rain to stop which eventually it did, although not entirely.

“Ah,” Tom said, “we’re already committed. Let’s continue on.”

I agreed. Less than an hour later we arrived in the walled city of Lucca, rain pelting so hard, my attempts at photos taking were considerably hindered. Then the fun began!

Many of the old buildings were homes for local residents.  We wondered where they were able to park their cars.  We never encountered any hotels within the walls of the city although they may have existed. Outside the walls, the remainder of the city was hustling and bustling with tourists, restaurants, and lots of traffic.

Finding a parking spot in Lucca was an adventure in itself.  Keep in mind that Tom is not the most patient guy on the planet.  His frustration level exacerbates, minute by minute when he can’t find a spot causing him to drive too fast to be able to grab a suddenly available spot. 

As you can see, Tom was not thrilled with the Italian menu and lack of options befitting his picky taste buds. Too many items included many vegetables and an abundance of squiggly seafood, none to his liking. On the ships, he was more adventuresome eating escargot and Oysters Rockefeller. What happened?  He cringed when he saw the octopus tentacles on my warmed seafood salad.
This restaurant had an extensive menu, most in Italian.  All Tom wanted was a pizza with sausage, mushrooms, onions, and olives. When his pizza arrived it was uncut with a crispy thin crust making it difficult to cut. The sausages looked like rounds of hot dogs. To say the least, he wasn’t thrilled with the pizza, only eating a small amount.  My meal was extraordinary, full of seafood, perfectly cooked, and seasoned.

Desperately trying to bite my tongue and yet be of assistance as we drove around the walled city of Lucca in the pouring rain was challenging. 

Finally, after lunch, we began our three-hour walk through the walled city of Lucca.  Apparently, this building is a name according to Google Translate.

Gaining access to the walled city can be tricky when attempting to park outside the massive two-mile-long wall surrounding the entire city of churches, historic buildings, restaurants, and shops.  There were a limited number of access points requiring a substantial walk-in in most cases.

This is actually a stuffed pug in the window of a shop in the walled city. So cute!

Alas, we found a spot within a 15-minute walk. With the pouring rain and no umbrella, no hoodies, no plastic bags nor any hats we were stranded for a while. As we sat in the car, again Tom suggested we go back home and reschedule for another day. 

The side view of the Church of San Michele in San Michele Square.
The front view of the Church of San Michele in San Michele Square.
This statue is of Francesco Burlamacchi.
A more detailed view of the steeple on the Church of San Michele.

Mutually agreeing to wait in the car for the rain to let up, we thought we’d give it an hour. After all, we had come all this way. We watched other more ambitious tourists walked toward the walled city with their umbrellas, wildly flapping in the lofty breeze while getting soaked from the sideways rain.

This restaurant and outdoor café look appealing but we’d already had lunch.

After waiting 30-minutes, the rain let up enough that we exited the car to begin the walk to the city. Five minutes into the walk, Tom suddenly stopped at a ticketing type machine situated on a large post indicating (in Italian) that one must purchase a parking ticket before leaving their car unattended or they’d be towed. Oh, good grief! 

This may have been Piazza San Giusto.

Could we even imagine the nightmare of coming back to find the “sold” rental car towed away?  I thought it was weird that no other passersby were purchasing parking tickets at the machine.  The cost was Euro $1 an hour.  Estimating that we’d be in the walled city at least three hours, the cost would be US $3.96, not too bad after all.

The bigger problem was that we didn’t have a single Euro coin on us.  All the Euros coins we’d had were inside the plastic bags we’d hung on the windows and doors to scare off the flies. 

Tom handed me the car keys so I could go back to wait in the car to ensure we wouldn’t be ticketed or towed while he’d find a place to get change.  I began imagining that a cop would come by instructing me to move the stick shift car.  I hadn’t driven a stick shift vehicle in 25 years. 

This was my favorite statue in Lucca, Giacomo Puccini, famed composer of Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, and more. In the background are his house and a now-closed museum. His statue seemed to attract the most tourists, especially us opera lovers. Unfortunately, opera season is winter.  Otherwise, we would’ve seen a few, no matter how far we’d have had to drive.

And if I had to move the car after I made a fool of myself in Italian traffic, how would I tell Tom who was running around to find change? This was one of those times, a working cell phone would have been handy. But it was also the first time we’d be separated from each other in a public street. (Next country, we’ll be getting local SIM cards).

This mime painted white, as we’ve seen in other European cities attracted a considerable amount of attention, many tossing coins into his gold bucket on the ground.

I headed to the car. Tom took off across the street to find a place for change for a $5 Euro bill. While sitting in the car waiting I made a special point of watching to see if anyone, anyone at all, put money in the ticket machine to pull out a sticker to place on their parked car. Not a one! But that was the least of my problems.

The Pretorio Palace Clock.

When 20 minutes passed and Tom hadn’t returned, I started watching the only clock in my possession which was on the camera. When 30 minutes passed, I was looking at the Lucca map as to the closest police station.  What was taking so long???? What if something happened to him? What if two hours passed and he still hadn’t returned? A million possibilities ran through my mind.

We were in a busy commercial area of shops, bars, and restaurants.  I’d noticed a bank as we approached the parking area. Was he stuck in one of those “revolving bank tubes?” Was he kidnapped? Was he injured?

Matteo Civitali (1436-1502) was an Italian sculptor and architect.

The minutes dragged on. I promised myself to do nothing other than wait until a full hour passed.  hen I’d get into action, calmly and resourcefully.  My fear was for his well being, not for me being stranded without him. 

Overreacting would not be helpful. I’d made a plan that I’d leave a note on the inside of the windshield, stating that I’d gone to the police station a few blocks away and to look for me there. The clock ticked away. My heart thumped in my chest.

Finally, at 40 minutes, I saw Tom briskly walking in the returned rain down the long sidewalk, anxious to get into the shelter of the car. Sighing a sigh of relief, explaining my worry about him, he proceeded to tell me his awful experience at the bank across and down the street, a long convoluted story of waiting in line. 

He was behind a customer in line who appeared to be purchasing a home while a solitary teller was busy copying page after page of documents, one at a time, with the printer in another room, having the customer sign one page at a time. As time marched on and not wanting to give up, he waited impatiently, all the while waving his $5 bill, hoping someone would help him. I get it. I wasn’t mad, just worried.

As we woefully looked at each other, the rain now furiously pelting passersby, having not yet put the money in the machine, we decided to take our chances and drive inside the walled city, unsure if this was even possible or if there would be a place to park.

Finally, we were inside in one of the limited interior peripheral free parking spots with the rain still pouring down as indicated in some of our photos.  Within the running distance of an opened restaurant coupled with the original plan on having lunch in Lucca, we ran for it. 

The restaurant, overflowing with customers coming in from the rain, was a quaint red checkered tablecloth kind of eatery.  Within 10 minutes we were seated at a table busily figuring out the Italian menu. 

I loved my gluten -ree warm seafood salad with mussels, clams, calamari, and octopus on a bed of steamed vegetables.  Tom didn’t enjoy his pizza, a medium-thin crispy crust pizza arriving uncut with sparse toppings, a far cry from our homemade pizza.  With a few menu items he was willing to eat, mostly seafood, he varied from our strict GF diet (with no ill effect for this single occasion).

US $35 later, we were out the door, as the rain gave us a welcomed reprieve to begin our long walk through the walled city.  Our parking spot by the restaurant didn’t require payment with us free to park for the entire period of our self imposed excursion. 

With an excellent map of Lucca in hand, kindly given to us by our new friend Michela, we were able to peruse the majority of the walled city visiting most of the highlighted areas of interest.  The rain was off and on, the heat and humidity consistent but we were content to explore, take photos, and the time rushed by.

Three hours later, we’d seen everything we’d hoped and were anxious to get back into the air-conditioned comfort of the tiny stick shift car. 

In Europe, taking a leak is an issue. One cannot walk into an establishment to use their “WC.”  One must make a purchase and then may pee.  Tom and I have learned to plan accordingly, drinking only one cup of coffee this morning, peeing before we leave the house, drinking no hot or iced tea before leaving and bringing only one bottled water to share, taking small sips as necessary in the heat. 

If we weren’t careful, we’d have had to put “pee” expenses into our budget.  No, thank you.  Pee should be free. We have a receptacle suitable for either of us, that we keep in the little car in the event of an emergency, which, I should mention, has been utilized.  Enough said.

Lucca was an interesting city.  The history of the walled city is here. Rain or no rain we had a good day experiencing yet another aspect of the rich Italian history.

Stop back tomorrow for Part 2 with the remaining photos and commentary.  Thanks as always, for stopping by!