New road trip photos...Departure in 7 days...A year ago...anticipating nine months in Africa...

Purple flowers, blue sea.  Lovely.
Since purchasing the HP laptop in South Africa I've had trouble with the keyboard.  The letter "T" continues to stick although I've learned to press hard. to get it to work. 

There's a substantial Catholic population on the island.  Its not unusual to spot a shrine of the Virgin Mary in public areas such as this.
A new problem started a few days ago.  When I write a word with the letter "P" in it, the "P" moves to another position in the word such as this:  "hpoto" instead of "photo."  Now I have to be conscientious of every word  that I type that has a "P" in it.  Go figure. 

A small fishing boar anchored to a buoy.
We'll both need new laptops when we arrive in Boston in September. At that point my laptop will only be seven months old. I guess it's the price of doing business. 

View from a road at a high elevation to the village below showing the boat in the above photo.
I know that many think that a tablet will work for us but unless there's a new model with a large enough monitor to satisfy us both, we'll end up buying two more laptops.  Tom's two year old laptop has a broken monitor he's been dealing with for months.  There goes another US $2000, EU $1485.26.

These old stone tunnels are common throughout Madeira.
This morning I had an awful time logging on when I ended up having to use the onscreen keyboard to enter my password. I'm totally convinced that a quality laptop suitable for travel is yet to be designed.  I've seen a few "rugged" styles but they are very heavy. Oxymoron.

Many areas neighborhoods consist of large homes, often owned by foreigners and expats.
Today, when Judite arrives for the final time, we're heading out for our last grocery shopping trip needing only a few items to get us through this next six dinners.  Today, we didn't buy produce from the truck when we heard it drive past when all we need is lettuce, cabbage and carrots which we'll buy at the supermarket.

As we drove through a village, this bell tower warranted a stop.
In the past several days, I've done some clearing and cleaning of items in my smaller of the two bags, which contains medical supplies, a few camera supplies, toiletries and cosmetic items, lightening the load by a few pounds. Tom is down to bare bones unable to lighten his large bag.  The second smaller bag holds our heavy boots and all of our shoes. 

There are few sandy beaches on the island.  Most are rocky such as this.
I'm considering getting rid of my large handbag which I only use on travel days.  The bag itself is heavy.  If I'm able to fit the vital items to the carry on duffel bag, we'd be down to the following carry on:  one duffel, one laptop bag and the cloth bag of prescriptions (in case our luggage is lost).  We shall see if I can pull this off once we start packing.

Tom got a kick out of this sign for an Irish Sports Bar with a photo of a camel on the sign.  We couldn't quite grasp the significance of the camel and Irish.  There aren't any camels in Ireland, are there?
Today, we're sharing photos from another road trip.  Driving around this magical island always offers us new and interesting scenery that we're always excited to share with our readers.

This village was decorated for the upcoming banana festival which occurred over this past weekend.
We both have a tendency to temper our enthusiasm as time to leave nears, knowing that we have a full travel day ahead of us.  We'll be especially relieved when this upcoming travel day is over with all of the political unrest in the world.

Have a wonderful day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 24, 2013:

A borrowed photo of Diani Beach, Kenya as we wrote about our fears and apprehension of living in Africa for nine months which at that point one year ago today, was only six weeks away.  Now, looking back some of our fears were warranted such as cobras on the veranda, horrifying insects and living with only an outdoor living room.  In any case, worrying certainly provided little insight to that which we experienced. For details of that date, please click here.

How much will we spend dining out in Paris and London... A year ago...Link to photos with step by step instructions for making a gluten free, low carb bread free sandwich...

Midday clouds create a pretty sky.
With only eight days remaining in Madeira we realized that we won't be cooking another meal until October 16th when we arrive in Maui, Hawaii for our six week stay. 

From July 31st, our departure date until arriving in Maui when we'll make our way to a grocery store, it will be no less than 77 days without cooking a single meal. This is even longer than the 75 days we spent in Morocco when we either dined out or dined at home with lovely Madame Zahra making our meals.

Clouds rolling in at the end of the day.
First, we'll be arriving in Honolulu on October 5th by way of cruise ship when we'll spend 11 nights in Waikiki in a vacation rental fully equipped with cooking facilities.  However, as we mentioned earlier, we've decided to mostly dine out while in Waikiki rather than purchase an the required inventory of basic cooking items in order to prepare our meals.

As a result, currently, we're making some of our favorite meals, knowing full well, it will be a long time until we can do so again.  Each time we move to a new location, its at this point before departure that we take stock of all the  remaining food stuffs, making our meals utilizing everything we have on hand.

Some flowers continue to bloom over the summer months.
Here's our menu for the next eight dinners: all low carb, gluten, starch and sugar free:
7/23  Taco salad (no shell), side of roasted vegetables
7/24  Pork chops with sautéed mushrooms, side of roasted vegetables, steamed green beans, small side of tuna salad on a bed of lettuce, green salad
7/25  Same as above in order to finish off pork chops in freezer
7/26  Filet mignon with sautéed mushrooms and onions, steamed green beans, side of roasted vegetables, side of coleslaw
7/27  Italian meatballs in sugar free pasta sauce, topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, side of green beans (only veggie Tom will eat), side of roasted vegetables, side salad
7/28 Portuguese sausage omelet (using remaining fresh eggs) with onions, mushrooms and leftover cheeses, side salad using all leftover vegetables
7/29  Dine out
7/30  Dine out
7/31  Fly from Madeira to Paris, leaving in the morning

These low clouds have wafted in over the last few days.

By following this menu, we'll use all of the remaining foods except for some basic inventory items (olive oil, butter, seasonings, etc.) which we always leave behind for the next occupants.

While in Madeira, we've dined out only a total of five times, mainly due to the cost.  As we booked more and more vacation rentals far into the future, all requiring deposits (some as much as 50% of the rent) and, with our upcoming "Family Vacation" in Hawaii in December and, with the necessity of dining out over the upcoming 77 days, we decided to tighten our belts.

This is one of the kids that have grown over the summer.  They're fairly far into the yard next door which with our camera, we can't get a clearer shot.  The markings on her head are amazing with the white ears and black markings on her face.  When I yell out "baah" to her while I'm standing at the railing, she looks up at me and "baahs" back.  It's not quite as fun as talking to a Warthog but, is fun none the less.
As a result of our frugality, we'll have saved over US $1200, EU $891, on the food budget for our 75 days in Madeira.  This savings will offset some of the high cost of dining out in Paris for the 16 days we'll be living in a hotel. We budgeted US $1600, EU $1188 for those meals a relatively small amount for Paris. 

Tom is always spotting interesting cloud formations.  In this case at dusk, he spotted a seahorse in these cloud.  Do you see it?
With the savings we'll have incurred in Madeira which we'll split between Paris and London (budgeted US $1500, EU $1114, for 15 days) our combined total dining budget total for Paris and London is US $3100, EU $2302. 

By splitting the above budgetary savings in Madeira of US $1200, EU $891 between the two cities over 31 days we're left with a total of US $138.71, EU $103 per day. 

Ominous looking cloud at dusk from our veranda.
Although this amount won't get us into the finest of restaurants every night, if we choose casual dining every other night, spending under US $50, EU $37 we'll be left with US $227.42, EU $169 to spend on the alternate night's dinner in nicer restaurants.

Gladiolas growing in a pot on our veranda.
Since I don't drink alcohol and Tom doesn't drink wine, usually ordering only a few cocktails and, we don't order desserts, we'll have enough to otherwise spend on a menu.  Of course, there are restaurants in Paris where a couple can easily spend US $800, EU $594 for dinner in a fine dining restaurant.  That won't be us. 

A dog looking down at us as we stood on the road.
Traveling the world as we do requires careful and diligent budgeting and planning.  Both of us have learned to avoid a "laissez faire" attitude when researching our options as to what appeals to us.  We have learned to utilize a strong sense of self control which is necessary for us to continue on, enjoying our lives without worrying about finances.

There are plenty of other aspects of travel one can worry about, if they so choose.

Photo from one year ago today, July 23, 2013:

One year ago to the date we shared the making of our bread-free gluten free, low carb sandwich including step-by-step instructions with photos.  For the remaining details, please click here.

The morphology of the banana plant...Observed and photographed on walks up the steep hill...

This was our first photo taken over two months ago on our first walk up the steep hill.  We were fascinated by this peculiar looking pod which is called the inflorescence.
In a perfect world I would have learned all of the intrinsic factors on the growth of banana trees in Madeira, Portugal, and also in many other countries where we've observed banana plants/trees flourishing.

When we first spotted the tree, these bananas already growing referred to as the bunch.  This photo was taken in May, 2014.
A commonly exported crop we'd often observed growing in Africa and Belize, we were fascinated by the massive banana plantations on this island where the weather is cooler than in most countries where they're typically grown as a vital part of the agricultural economy.
The inflorescence continued to grow changing before our eyes.
Shortly after we arrived and settled in our home in Campanario, Madeira over the past almost two and a half months, I began walking up the extremely steep hill outside our door. My intent was first, for the exercise and secondly, to take photos of flowers, vegetation and local scenery.

"The inflorescence is a complex structure that includes the flowers that will develop into fruits."  The hanging pink and yellowish protrusions are the flowers.
Please click here for the scientific explanation of the morphology of the banana tree, described in beautiful detail.

As days turned into weeks, the inflorescence changed dramatically.
On the first walk which Tom shared with me, we were immediately taken aback by a peculiar pod-like structure hanging from a banana tree in the yard of the house next door.

"The rachis is the stalk of the inflorescence from the first fruit to the male bud. It can be bare or covered with persistent bracts. The scars on the rachis indicate where the bracts were attached. They are called nodes."
Immediately, I started taking photos mesmerized by the odd hanging pod, especially as it progressed over a period of time as I continued the walks on my own.

When driving on the island we spotted another banana tree that had a much different looking progression of the inflorescence, perhaps at an earlier point that we'd missed occurring before our arrival mid May.
As the pod morphed, the bananas grew to a hearty bunch and Antonio, Gina's dad, cut them down.  We saw him driving away with the huge bunch of bananas in the trunk of his car.

Back to our inflorescence, morphing as days passed.
In a way, I was sad to see them go.  Where he took them, we'll never know.  He speaks no English.  Perhaps, there is a place where property owners bring their bananas to sell for a Euro or two.  Or, he may take them to a relative or friend that uses them to make banana bread.  Who knows? 

It rained for a few days and I didn't walk.  When  I began walking again on the next sunny day, more flowers appeared as the leaf lifts to bring in the sunlight.
The steep walks up the hill became a frequent activity for me as I watched a smaller unripe batch as it continued to grow.  First thing this morning, I bolted out the door camera in hand, knowing my last banana tree photo was imminent to be posted here today.

The bunch continued to flourish. And then, one day, the bulk of them were gone, riding away in Antonio's car, leaving a smaller unripe bunch behind.
In a funny way, I feel a sense of loss, the same loss I've felt when the roses ceased to bloom in their regal manner as the many other flowers of spring and early summer no longer presented their exquisite buds stretching for the sun and occasional droplets of water. 

The inflorescence looked as if its purpose was coming to an end.

And then, a few more days passed and there were flowers again.

This morning I noticed that the stalk, the rachis, had dropped partially out of view behind a withering leaf.

The small bunch remains as its nourished from the remainder of the tree and its amazing elements.  Not a horticulturist or biologist, I don't understand it all.  But, its easy to revel in how complex and interesting Life is all around us.
Life.  In any form, its magical.  How blessed we are to live on a planet rich in life forms from the most infinitesimal microbe in a petri dish, to the plankton in the sea for the sustenance for many oceanic life forms, to an animal in the wild, to the human on two legs walking the earth and to the banana tree in Madeira, Portugal...where we have lived these past months...enjoying Life.


Photo from one year ago today, July 22, 2013:
No photos were posted on this date one year ago.  Instead we wrote about the problems were experiencing with biting flies and insects.  With no screens on any of the windows, no AC in the heat of summer in Italy, we had no choice but to leave the windows open, inviting many flying and biting insects indoors.  For details of the story from that date, please click here.

New photos from road trips...Annoying flight changes....Why?... A year cars driving up the hills...

We stopped along a beach to enjoy the views.
So far we've booked 12 round trip flights from Minneapolis to Hawaii for our family members while waiting for dates that work for eldest son Richard in Las Vegas/Henderson, Nevada.  He's a successful real estate agent experiencing the busiest time in his 20+ year career.  Getting away is not so easy for him.  We're confident, he'll figure it out soon.

Close up of flower in above beach photo.
After booking the remaining 12 tickets, we sat back comfortable that the booking aspect of our upcoming family vacation in December was complete.
How foolish we were to make such assumptions when dealing with the airlines!

Most beaches are rocky in Madeira.  Wooden planks are provided for sunbathers to avoid sitting on the rocks.  On many beaches, these thatched umbrellas are also provided. 
Speaking of airlines, a week ago, we mentioned the possibility of going to Malaysia in between our two stays in Bali in 2016.  After the tragic downing of yet another Malaysian Airline plane, we've rethought our decision to visit Malaysia and will find another country in the South Pacific to visit for the 60 days we've yet to fill.

This morning, as I sat down at my computer to begin writing today's post, I noticed an email from informing us that there's been changes from our flight from Boston to Vancouver on September 17th.  Not huge changes but changes none the less.  In this case, there was nothing required of us.

There were many roads along the steep cliffs that were wet from water running down the mountains.
Over the past few there's been no less than four notifications of flight changes for son TJ and his family of four with changes on departure times, layovers and arrival times.  In their most recent notification, it required selecting new seats when the actual plane was changed. 

When the airlines toll-free number was blocked to Skype, we were unable to speak to a rep to make the new seating arrangement. (This was the first time that we experienced the blocking of a toll-free number via Skype).  At the airlines website, it stated that one couldn't change the seats online and would be required to call. 

From what we could determine, this small one lane rock tunnel was very old.
We contacted TJ explaining that they'd have to book their seats for that leg of the flight, especially important when traveling with two grandsons, Jayden and Nik.

Also, in the past few months, we received another two flight changes for daughter-n-law Camille and granddaughter Madighan who are flying on different dates than son Greg, granddaughter Maisie and grandson Miles.  As in the past, we forward these notifications to our kids, reminding them of the importance of noting these changes.

A bridge over a ravine.
Fortunately, the airlines haven't changed any departure and arrival dates, only the times.  In most cases, the time changes aren't substantial.  What's the deal?  We have to book early to ensure we secure the flights and yet, they keep changing the times.

With many flights in our future travel plans, this is annoying.  However, once we fly to Paris in 10 days, and then fly from Boston to Vancouver in September our only flights will be from island to island in Hawaii when we'll be living on four different islands over a period of months.

A fast running small creek in the ravine.
Travel days?  We don't like them.  Its the only part of our travels that leave us feeling a sense of angst and uncertainty.  Will we be charged for overweight baggage?  Will our flights change or be cancelled at the last minute?  Will our bags get lost or the contents stolen?  Will we have problems at immigration? And most importantly, will we arrive safely?

As for long layovers, we've learned to accept this as a reality of our world travels.  If the airport has WiFi and a recharging center, we're at ease.  More and more airports are providing these services, which we surprisingly found available in some airports in Africa. 

A natural rock formation.
We're content to read books during layovers on our phones as we do each day.  Our older smart phones don't have the extended battery life as some of the newer phones.  If no recharging stations are available we may be out of luck during a long layover.  Why not read a hard copy book?  Simple answer.  We can't carry any extra weight reading hard copies of books.

Corn grows wild in many areas of Madeira.
With the new rules in the US that all digital equipment be charged enough to turn on when going through security, this presents a whole new problem for travelers. When we depart on a flight, all of our equipment is fully charged.  But, in the case of a layover, we may run out of juice.  We'll worry about this later, definitely keeping it in mind. 

A fountain in the center of a round-about.
Oh, enough whining about flying.  I'm sure our regular readers have heard all of this many times in past posts.  I apologize for the redundancy.  Please comment if you've had similar experiences.  We love hearing from our readers.

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

We stood outside of our 300 year old stone house in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy while a parade of old sports cars drove past perhaps on their way to a car show.  For more car photos, please click here for the link from that day.S

A road trip turning into an unexpected adventure...More photos follow tomorrow...A year ago...a neighborhood party...

It was on the return drive that Tom prompted me to make a video of driving under the waterfall, a necessary feat in order to continue on the road.  Excuse my verbal flubs on the video.  We were having so much fun I could hardly speak coherently.
On Thursday at noon, we decided on a road trip with the intent of getting out the way of Judite, as she cleaned our house.  There are plenty of places to drive on this island.  If one so chose, they can drive the perimeter of the island to the east or west (right or left) on the highway or into the core of the island

As we approached the waterfall we were astounded as we watched this van drive under it.
Since we'd already made a long drive to Sao Vincente a few weeks ago by driving through the core of the island to the opposite side and, we'd driven to to airport on a few occasions, our logical choice was to head west to an area we hadn't seen.

The van stopped as we'd also done, to enjoy to downpour on the vehicle.  Fun!
There's no where on this island whether following the shoreline or driving through villages, where one doesn't drive on narrow winding roads with hairpin turns. The major highway around the island often veers into the villages for part of the way to create the challenge of finding one's way back to the highway.  On the map it looks as if its a clear shot.  Driving it is another matter.

Of course, its hard to see running water in a photo, so please check out the above video for the full view.
As we worked our way past the familiar Ribeira Brava, the closest larger village where we shop for groceries, we knew we were on new terrain, as unfamiliar scenery came into view. 

Our windshield as we drove under the waterfall.  There was no other way to continue on the road than to drive directly under the flow of water.
We had no fear of getting lost when all we'd need to do is look for the ocean which seems to magically appear regardless of the direction we travel.  After all, the island of Madeira is only 309 square miles, 801 km, 35 miles, 57 km long from east to west, 14 miles, 22 km from north to south.

We traveled through many tunnels, long and short, the longest on Thursday was the Ponta do Sol.  See this link for details.  It's the third on the list at 8858 feet, 2700 meters long.
Driving the 35 mile, 57 km length of the island is a day long outing based on the winding hilly roads.

A quaint village along the shore.
On Thursday our goal was not unlike other outings, not a competition to see if we could drive around the entire island but, instead an opportunity to seek out interesting scenery we'd yet to see.  Madeira is a wealth of such scenery, never to disappoint, as was the case on Thursday as shown in our photos.

We'd stopped the car to check out where this set of step led to.  When we got closer, we noticed that the steps were small, rocky, not level and "rounded" creating a possible "tripping hazard" making it not worth the risk of a fall. 
We'd have stayed out longer than we did but, decided to return when droplets of rain fell on the windshield.  It was another cloudy day of which there have been many in the past 30 days.  Gina recently explained that the sun usually shines most days in the summer.  Other than clouds impeding the quality of our photos, the clouds didn't bother us.

A restaurant overlooking the sea on a craggy cliff.
However, it makes no sense to be driving on these roads in the rain if we didn't have to.  We'd returned home by 4 pm, satisfied that we'd have another worthwhile outing as we whittle down our time on the lush island of Madeira.

Almost every home or hotel on the island takes advantage of the exquisite views of the ocean.
Of course, the highlight of our day was the waterfall that we drove under.  We had no idea we'd encounter this although we'd heard about such a waterfall on the island.  We experienced it both coming and going along our drive making is all the more fun the second time.

Many hotels and condo complexes lined the roads along the shoreline.
Today, we're staying home for a relatively quiet Sunday except for the sound of the goats baaing, the roosters crowing, the birds singing, the church bells ringing and an occasional horn honking as drivers maneuver their way around a hairpin turn.

We stopped in the villages we past through on our drive, often finding tourists on the rocky beaches sitting on provided wood planks.
We're cooking a Sunday dinner of low carb, gluten free coconut chicken tenders, grilled veggies and a giant salad.  With 11 days remaining until we're on our way to Paris, we're content and grateful as we enjoy every last moment on the beautiful island of Madeira, Portugal.

Photo from one year ago today, July 20, 2013:

Every Friday night, in the village of Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy, there was a gathering of locals at the Bar Ferrari, a bar that had been in the area for generations.  For more photos and details of the local history, please click here.