Part 1, A day in Normandy..Profoundly moving experience...


The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
Tom has always been the war buff in this family.  His knowledge  of wars astounds me at times.  Having never taken a particular interest in past wars, other than feeling pride and compassion for our loyal soldiers, I didn't expect I'd find the 10 hour day exploring Normandy interesting.

The region of Normandy is rich in history and charming for its appealing French architecture of century's past.
Not only did we both find visiting Normandy interesting but, our hearts were embraced by the way France and the US have maintained a peaceful and respectful tribute to our fallen soldiers from World War II.

Of course, we're anxious to share some of the many photos taken throughout the day.  Unfortunately, we just returned from our small group of eight chartered tour and...time is short. 

The fog rolled into the Normandy region as shown in our early morning two hour drive
It's almost 7:45 pm Monday evening and our dinner reservation is at 8 pm tonight leaving little time to complete today's post with photos before getting changed and ready for dinner.  Most likely, we'll return to our cabin after 10 pm tonight with another early morning chartered tour. Sleep will be the first concern.

As in many other areas of Europe many of the homes and buildings are attached, each with its own definitive front.
This Thursday will be our first "sea day" and Friday, our second, during which I'll finally have time to complete Parts 2 for today's, Tuesdays and Wednesdays tours.  As a result, over the next few days, there will be a short post each day with only a few photos with more following upon completion, each of which will be clearly marked as to the event and part number.

Once these are posted, we'll be back to our normal daily schedule with many sea days as we sail across the Atlantic Ocean sharing information as to the ship, the wonderful people we've met, the activities and of course, many food photos.

The area is filled with tourists from all over the world.
Please check back tomorrow at about this same time for the Part 1 of the short post regarding Tuesday's chartered tour to the Stonehenge in England.  By far, this will be the busiest cruise we've ever experienced and look forward to sharing details with our readers.

Be well.
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Photo from one year ago today, September 1, 2013:
The final goodbye to the house in Boveglio as we began the drive to Venice to spend the night and begin the 22 hour flight to Kenya.  For details of that date, please click here.

Arrived on the ship…Excited to sail away…

 

This afternoon's view from our balcony.  Its good to see the ocean once again.
It’s hard to believe we’re finally aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas for a 14 day cruise from Harwich, UK to Boston.  Earlier today, we posted the ship’s itinerary. 



On our way through London to Harwich we spotted a number of popular attractions including this church.
As I write this, its 3:30 pm and soon we’ll be called for the muster drill which, for those of our readers who’ve never been on a cruise, is a mandatory safety procedures drill during which names are taken.
Buckingham Palace.
Several cruises ago, we missed the drill when we were told we didn’t have to attend when we were on a “back to back” cruise. The next day we were required to attend a private session for others like us who hadn’t attended.

Big Ben was to the right in this shot but I had no way to get the photo in traffic.



Another Ferris Wheel referred to as the "Eye."
After the muster drill, we’re headed to a party for CruiseCritic participants.  Tom is an avid follower and made many new friends on the site, many of whom we’re joining on several private tours.  That will be fun, thanks to my socially engaged hubby.  
A fast shot of the Tower of London.
Embarking on this cruise feels as if we’re we’re embarking on an entirely new leg of our years long journey.  We’ve had an unbelievable number of experiences in these past almost two years.  And, with the next two years almost completely booked, we’re looking forward to the future as well as living every moment as it comes.

Not sure as to the name of this memorial as we zoomed past.
The drive from the hotel in London to the pier in Harwich flew by as we chatted with our driver Tony who was delightful and charming.  As soon as we met, he welcomed me with a kiss on the cheek, a common greeting in the UK. 
A memorial near Buckingham Palace. With WiFi restrictions, we're unable to look up the names of these monuments.
Whoever said Brits are stuffy hasn’t been to the UK in awhile.  They are warm and kindly people with big hearts and a great sense of humor.  We loved that fact about London more than anything.

At last our ship, Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas.
After the party at 4:45, we’ll return to our cabin to change for dinner and mosey our way to the main dining room for what we expect will be an enjoyable evening sharing a table with six or more passengers.

We always appreciate having a sofa in the cabin as opposed to lying on the bed when relaxing.
Tomorrow morning at 8 am, we’re off on our first tour to Le Havre/Normandy, France for an all day excursion to see WWII Omaha Beach, Utah Beach and American Cemeteries.   As mentioned earlier, we’ll post a short update with photos as soon as possible upon our return to our cabin, prior to heading for dinner. 

Our balcony cabin.  The queen sized bed seems comfortable.
Our MiFi device is working.  The ship’s WiFi is working.  We’ll alternate between the two sources depending upon our location; out to sea, we’ll use the ship’s WiFi; in port, we’ll use the MiFi. 

Tiny cabin bathroom.
Unfortunately, we both had to spring for the ship’s WiFi service at US $399 each.  However, we have several on board credits we can use toward the final bill which we’ll post as the cruise nears the end.

A roomy safe is also appreciated.
Happy Labor Day tomorrow to our family and friends in the US and thanks to all for joining us as we head out to sea for our second Transatlantic crossing, our first westward.
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Photo from one year ago today, August 31, 2013:
There was no post on this date one year ago as we headed to Venice to spend the night in a hotel to prepare for the next day's very long flight to Kenya.

Leaving London...Heading to Harwich to the pier...We'll be posting later today...Cruise itinerary here today...

Our usual photo post for today will be online 6 to 8 hours later than usual which will contain photos of our the ship and our cabin.  If, we spot anything special on the 2.5 hour drive to the pier, we'll certainly include those photos as well.

We both look forward to sharing our exciting adventures on our upcoming transatlantic cruise on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas over 14 nights.

Over the next several morning we'll be leaving the ship on private tours to the following locations with more to follow:

1.  Monday: Normandy, France - American beaches and cemeteries from World War II.
2. Tuesday:  Portland, England - Stonehenge
3. Wednesday:  Cork, Ireland - Blarney Castle

On these three days, we'll make every effort to post late in the day when we return with photos from the tours. On each of these three days, we'll be leaving the ship at 8 am, not returning until 6 or 7 pm with a mad rush to the dining room for dinner. 

In the worst case, we'll upload a short post explaining when we'll be back with  full posts on each of these experiences, including photos of our upcoming tour in Iceland to see the Northern Lights.  We'll be out to sea for several days and we'll have plenty of time to upload complete posts of these experiences.

Here's the actual ship's itinerary:

DAYDATEPORTARRIVE  DEPART
SunAug31London (Harwich), England5:00pm
MonSep1Paris (Le Havre), France7:00am9:00pm
TueSep2Portland, England7:00am4:00pm
WedSep3Cork (Cobh), Ireland10:00am4:30pm
ThuSep4At Sea
FriSep5Klaksvik, Faroe Islands9:00am6:00pm
SatSep6At Sea
SunSep7Reykjavik, IcelandNoon
MonSep8Reykjavik, Iceland5:00pm
TueSep9At Sea
WedSep10At Sea
ThuSep11At Sea
FriSep12At Sea
SatSep13At Sea
SunSep14Boston, MA6:00am

If for any reason, we don't have a post later today, it will be due to WiFi connectivity issues.  We'll have access to both the ship's signal and XCOM Global's MiFi.  Hopefully, we won't have issues with either.

 We look forward to sharing our experiences with you in these exciting locations.
Thank you to each and every one of our readers worldwide.  We always feel as if you are traveling along with us.

Total expenses for 15 nights in London...Leaving tomorrow morning for long drive to cruise pier in Harwich....Cheerio London...Hello world...


Its a beautiful area with most of the buildings well maintained in black and white.
Tomorrow morning at 10 am, the private shuttle we arranged long ago, picks us up from the hotel for the two and a half hour drive to Harwich, the cruise ship pier in England.  

Yesterday, we walked down this road toward Bobo's Bubbles to do our final two loads of laundry. 
It'll be wonderful to see the ocean once again after leaving Madeira a month ago.  We're not city people.  While in both Paris and London we came to the decision that no matter how appealing big cities may be to many travelers, they are not for us.  We're love the country, the bush, the ocean and anywhere far from the hustle and bustle of city life.

There are numerous old hotels in the Kensington area.
This gave us a new perspective in our travels, that we won't want to spend a week or two in Sydney or any other big city in Australia or any other parts of the world.  We're certain they are filled with much to see and do.  But, that life is not for us.  Plain and simple.

Many street lamps and building fronts are decorated with colorful flowers.
 


Occasionally, we spotted a brick building mixed among the white buildings.
We have three big cities ahead of us soon, one in Boston on September 14th for three nights; two in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 17th for six nights; and lastly, in Waikiki/Honolulu, Hawaii for 11 nights.  Boston will be a breeze when we're busy with family, Vancouver is a relatively short stay until we board the ship to Hawaii and Waikiki...well, it is Hawaii after all.

This was the shortest (height) car either of us has ever seen.  I can only imagine that getting out of it would require rolling out the door onto the street and then standing up. 


South Kensington consists of one pretty street after another, parking always at a premium.
Today, as I write here, I'll be flipping back and forth to our massive Excel workbook to finalize our expenses for the 15 nights in London.  As we share these expenses, one may assume these totals are realistic for any traveler to London, on a budget.

Tom's haircut was only US $16.60, 10 pounds including the tip.  Not bad.



When we stopped at the market for a few items Tom decided on a haircut before the cruise.
We must admit our expenses may be misleading for the following reasons especially when dining out for all meals.  Here's why:
1.  We only eat once a day due to our commitment to intermittent Fasting for our health(two meals a day on cruises).  A typical tourist dines in restaurants two to three meals each day, as we would have in years past.  Please take that into consideration when reviewing the totals. Plus, we don't order starters or desserts which I can't have, and Tom doesn't want, never liking the available options.
2.  Another factor in regard to restaurant dining:  Tom ordered one beer on four separate occasions.  I don't drink alcohol usually ordering tap water (when its safe to drink) such as in London and Paris.  By not adding cocktails and other beverages to our restaurant bill, we're usually saving as much, if not more, than 40%. Tom rarely drinks alcohol when we're dining in making this is no sacrifice to him.  On the cruises, he'll enjoy cocktails at the table during dinners (which is an added cost).
3.  No extra charges were added to  the hotel bill:  In the case at the Regency Hotel, Queen's Gate, they've waived our entire WiFi bill upon my request this morning based on the daily issues getting online.  We don't order room service, have spa treatments, order cocktails, coffee or tea.  We use the complimentary coffee and tea in the room. 
4.  We save money by walking as opposed to taxis when the distances are manageable, using public transportation when necessary.
5.  Keeping the cost of sightseeing and tours expenses to the budgeted amount.
6.  We're willing  to pay a little more for better hotels with at least a four star rating which are in good neighborhoods, such as in South Kensington.  The hotel becomes our "home" for a period of time with comfort and convenience most important to us.

The street corner where last night's restaurant is located.
Here are our expenses for the 15 nights in London:

Hotel:              US $3,312.26, 1,995.40 pounds
Transportation:          455.29,    274.28
Tours:                       451.81,    272.18
Groceries:                 240.34,    144.79
Restaurants:              850.46,    512.34

Grand Total:     US $5,310.16, 3,198.99 pounds
Daily Rate:         US $354.01, 213.27 pounds

In London, there are no large trash bins for residents to place their garbage.  Instead, they place them on the street where they're picked up a few times a week from what we can tell. 
In this particular case, we're under budget by 7%.  Having a budget helps us to curtail spending.  Although, we frequently commented as to how expensive dining out is in London, the only reason our daily average was this low was due to the facts above; no beverages, no starters and no desserts.  

Last night, we tried a new restaurant, Wildwood several blocks from our hotel.



Wildwood had a comfortable ambiance but, the food and service was mediocre.
Without a doubt, once we're on the two upcoming cruises, we'll be having breakfast and Tom will order starters and desserts (few starters will work for me). After all, our meals with multiple courses are included in the cost of the cruises (the actual costs hidden from our view).  We're free to dine as we so choose, (cocktails are extra), although we'll only do so twice a day, breakfast and dinner. 

Tom order Beef Bolognaise which he said was good.


I ordered this chicken Caesar salad, minus crouton adding avocado.  The chicken was fatty, poorly trimmed and hard to cut.  Had it contained boneless, skinless chicken breasts this would have been a great salad.
Now that our laundry is done at US $33, 20 pounds, to wash and dry two loads, we'll be packing our bags as soon as we're done posting.  We've reconfirmed with our driver for tomorrow's 10 am pickup.  Our hotel bill is completed.  Tonight we'll dine at Byron, one last time (included tonight's dinner in totals above).

This was the lowest dinner bill we had in London at US $32, 19.30 pounds, plus tip for a total US $35.36, 21.20 pounds
Sunday's post with new and exciting photos will be available late in the day after we're checked in and we're situated on the cruise. 

And tomorrow, we'll be on our way.  Once again.
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Photo from one year ago today, August 30, 2013:


This pile contained all the clothing I owned one year ago.  Now, the pile is one half this size.
This photo was on the last few days we were in Italy preparing to depart on September 1, 2013 for Kenya.  For details from that date, please click here.

The cost of booking rental cars in Hawaii for almost 7 months...Two days until we "sail away"...

 
This is a Pangolin, one of the most elusive animals on the planet, seen by very few.  Perhaps, someday when we return to Africa, we'll have a chance to see one.  These animals are poached for their scales believed by certain cultures in Asia to have medicinal properties which after intense scientific research do not provide any benefit to health.  And yet poachers kill these interesting animals in the anteater family for profits, comparable to the senseless slaughter of Rhinos and Elephants for their tusks.  Its heartbreaking.  Soon, they too, will become extinct.
When we first began planning our worldwide travels, we flinched over the cost of rental cars with all of the pumped up fees, charges and taxes.  At the time, we anticipated it would feel weird not owning a car.   Now, its second nature. 

The Dodo bird, extinct for over 350 years.  Sadly, what's next?
The points we consider for each specific location, each time we book a rental car are simple:
1. Is taxi fare reasonably priced and is it readily available making renting a car unneccesary?
2.  Will we feel trapped in a remote location without a car?
3.  Are there many places we'd like to visit in a specific area making a rental car worthwhile?
4.  Is the car large enough to fit our four suitcases, one duffel bag, one rolling cart, one laptop bag and handbag?
5.  How safe is driving (in regard to crime, not road conditions) in a specific country?

This is the largest seed in the world from the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
For example, in Kenya, is was safer to travel in affordable taxis than it was to drive on our own with the high rate of carjacking and theft than in many other parts of the world. 

We saw live insects of this size while in Africa. 
In Belize, we used taxis.  On an occasion, we rented a golf cart for week, taking taxis the remainder of the time.  The cost of a rental car for 30 days was more than US $3000,, 1809 pounds per month.  The cost of a taxi to a grocery store or restaurant was US $5, 3 pounds each way.  It was a no brainer for the two and a half months we spent in Placencia.

Over 100 scientists work full time at London's Natural History Museum. 
In Morocco, we could walk to most locations.  The grocery shopping and cooking were done by Madame Zahra (I think of her often) and the few times we dined outside of the Medina and the souks, the cab fare was fairlyreasonable.  Plus, there was no available parking where we lived in the souk.

A scientist at work in the research area of the museum.  What a fascinating field.
In the remote Tuscan location of Boveglio, Italy we had no choice but to rent a car for the two and a half months we spent in the mountains.

In the Charles Darwin wing of the Natural History Museum, there were many interesting displays of insects, butterflies and small creatures.
Of course, in South Africa, we had  a rental car for a month and then Okee Dokee for the remaining two month. No rental car could possibility replace the pleasure and laughter of riding with her day after day.

Photos through the glass are less vivid.
In that particular case, we chose to forgo the rental car simply due to the fact that we loved being with Okee Dokee, constantly laughing as we bounced around on the bumpy roads in Marloth Park. It was an emotional decision when none of the above points fell into play.

After many car rental experiences, we'd yet to book rental cars for three of the four islands on which we'll be living in Hawaii over a total period of 7 months. 

This is an actual bee and its size as shown.
Excluding the necessity of a car in Waikiki (Honolulu) for the first 11 days when everything is within walking distance, we knew we'd need cars in Maui for six weeks, the Big Island for six plus weeks and Kauai for four months.

Insect displays in the Charles Darwin research area of the museum.
Having budgeted for each of the three islands where we'll need a rental car, both of us were worried that the actual cost would far exceed the amounts we budgeted.  Yesterday, we finalized the bookings for each of the three islands, expecting the cost to average at approximately US $2000, 1206 pounds a month. 

Hawaii is often considered one of the most expensive places to visit in the world when everything other than the fruits and nuts grown in the islands, must be imported as is the case on other islands throughout the world.

Flying insects.
After reviewing many online sites for the best rates in Hawaii (which we'd browsed many times over he past few years), we were able to confirm rates for each of the islands as follows:

6 weeks  Maui          US $1,124, 678 pounds (economy car)
6 weeks  Big Island  US $1,526, 920 pounds (full sized car)
17 weeks Kauai        US $2,886, 1741 pounds (economy car)
Grand total -          US $5,536, 3339 pounds
(over a period of120 days at US $46, 28 pounds, per day). 


There were numerous paintings of animals from artists throughout the world.
We're thrilled with these prices, expecting to spend thousands more and relieved to have this piece out of the way at long last.  Our flights between the four islands are the only items we've yet to book for Hawaii.  With frequent flights between islands each day, we can easily wait to book the flights a month before departure in each case.

Had it been 10 months from now, when we'll be in Australia, we'd already have seen Kangaroos!  We can hardly wait!
As soon as we upload today's post, we'll be heading out for our final trip to Bobo's Bubbles to do the laundry. It will be a full two weeks until we can do our laundry again in Boston.  In Madeira, I purchased what appears to be a bar of soap which in fact is a bar of laundry soap, used for hand washing.  Surely, that will come in handy on the two cruises in September.

Here again, in 10 months when we'll be in Australia, we hope to see Koala Bears.
Last night, we returned to Byron, a burger restaurant we've  found to be good with reasonable portions.  Although, its was over US $50, 30 pounds for a burger and fries for Tom and a salad for me, the salad portion is ample leaving me feeling as if I've actually had a meal. 

This is a Genet which we saw in South Africa in the bush.
When we see the price for a burger and fries is US $25, 15 pound, and a Cobb salad is also at US $25, 15 pounds, one can easily understand why we're "chomping at the bit" to get on board the cruise and dine at our leisure without added expense.

The fossils from prehistoric times were interesting.  But, we expected these as shown above were also mad made.
Its hard to believe we're only two days away from sea day.  In many ways, it seems as if those past eight cruises were so long ago when the last one ended on June 16, 2013.  Here we go, another transatlantic cruise.  How exciting!

In a way, it left us cold, seeing the manmade animals when we'd seen so many in the wild.
Have a lovely weekend as summer winds down in the northern hemisphere and winter winds down in the southern hemisphere. 

The museum itself was worthy of note in its exquisite design.
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Photo from one year ago today, August 29, 2013:
As we busied ourselves getting ready to depart for Kenya and with ongoing WiFi issues in Boveglio Italy, we didn't do a post on this date.  However, we did post of the following date.  Please check back tomorrow.