Fabulous day out and about...Unreal photos from one year ago ....Burj Khalfa, tallest building in the world...A building anomoly...

The view of the ocean as we explored the area and dined.
It was definitely time to get out after two weeks with few outings due to my recent illness.  Although not yet 100%, the fresh sea air and sunshine were exactly what we both needed to freshen our enthusiasm and usually joyful spirits.

As summer approaches we expect this area to be jammed with tourists.
Starting the day with our first walk in the neighborhood, we were enthralled with the sights and sounds as we made our way up the very steep hill.  I was surprised how easily we tackled it after weeks of lying low.  For me, this will become a daily occurrence as I rebuild my health stamina.  Let's see if I can get Tom to join me most days.

The Don Luis Restaurant is located on the right with many tables outdoors and inside. 
Later in the day we easily found our way to the boardwalk in Ribeira Brava and after parking the car in the modern ramp, we were enthused to stroll along the shops and narrow streets lined with a variety of vendors selling local wares.

The outdoor area of the restaurant, a popular tourist spot.
We felt liberated when it suddenly dawned on us how this beautiful island and lovely home made us feel comfortable and free of constraints and unfamiliar customs.  We freely held hands and took photos with nary a vendor's opposition.  Our perusing presented no pressure to purchase.

We chose a table closest to the ocean under a bright red umbrella, casting a red glow on all of our photos.
It was interesting to see new merchandise as opposed to the common items we walked passed day after day in Morocco.  Without a doubt, Morocco had its charm and unique persona.  Madeira is more relaxed, moves at a slower pace and provides the expanse of fresh cool ocean air, so appealing to our senses. 

Tom was more relaxed than I'd seen him in months.

It felts so wonderful to be out in the fresh ocean air.
During the later fabulous dinner at Don Luis which we easily found in the area, we discussed the possibility of returning to Madeira someday.  Similar to South Africa, in the warmth of its people and magical surroundings we've easily embraced our surroundings in no time at all, feeling as if we belong.

My prawn and squid skewer.  Delicious! I haven't had squid since we were in Kenya
Our house overlooking the sea feels like home with its views, spaciousness and clean lines.  Everything is comfortable from the L shaped leather sectional to the leather bound dining rooms chairs to the fluffy down comforter on the bed (to which we've adjusted, sleeping well), to the easy to use modern kitchen, to the huge soaking tub I use every morning. 

Tom's mixed grill with a side of chips (they call fries "chips" here, too).
Dining last night was divine as shown in these photos.  The price for our meal including one large beer for Tom, two bottles of sparkling water for me, a side salad and our entrees came to a total of US $63.39, EU $46.50, similar to the cost of our dinner out a week ago at Muralha. 

A side dish of steamed veggies was seasoned to perfection with garlic butter and spices.
Based on our budget of US $1200, EU $880, for restaurant dining, we plan to dine out no more than twice every 10 days or so, choosing the nicer establishments.  Most less expensive restaurants have few suitable options for my way of eating when many items include gluten and starch.
Had I realized the extra cost for this small salad I would have passed on it.  It was US $6.82, EU $5, not worth it.  From what we've observed, salads aren't served with salad dressings outside the US unless specifically requested which I don't bother.

The service at Don Luis was superb and to our delight both of our wait staff spoke excellent English.  At the end of dinner, they poured us each a shot of banana liqueur. I handed mine over to Tom as usual.  He chugged them both down with a scowl of his face.  He's not a "shot" kind of guy.
Ice cream cones and other ice cream bars are often seen in these freezer carts outside of restaurants and shops.
Last night when Gina stopped by she suggested we try two of the local less expensive restaurants here in Campanario.  She pointed us in the direction of the restaurants. The trick is finding them on these maze-like mountains.

GPS doesn't help  in these mountains and turn by turn directions are confusing when many streets aren't clearly marked.  Today, we may try to find them when we head out to the nearby local market.

View as we were leaving Ribeira Brava at 7:00 pm.
We had a wonderful afternoon and evening, settling in for the evening after dark with a few new shows to watch, hunkering down on the comfy sofa with a blanket on our laps and content to be "home."  Life is good.

More photos of our trip to the village will follow tomorrow. 

Yes, even a pigeon holds our interest fluffed up and standing on one foot, in this relatively wildlife sparse area.

Hummm...the pigeon pair that hung around us as we dined managed a little action of their own while they too, enjoyed the romantic setting.

Photo from one year ago today, May 31, 2013:
 Tom took this photo from the 124th floor observation deck of the tallest building
in the world, the Burj Khalifa, with a total 163 stories.


Oh. Here's the most intentionally crooked skyscraper in the world in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the Capital Gate, built at a full 18 degree angle.

A weather phenomenon in Madeira that we followed by the hour....A year ago...the most amazing ATM in the world!

We took this video on Wednesday as the low lying clouds rolled in. It was awe inspiring.

We've been in Madeira for two weeks as of today, all of which I've spent being ill with an awful virus.  Several days ago I reported that I was feeling better only to have the illness return later in the day.  Its still hovering in my sinuses slowly getting a little better each day.  Tom continues to have signs of the virus lingering almost a month later.

As a gust of wind came in from the sea, the density of the cloud escalated.
It was a picturesque setting.
Leaving the house requires driving on mountainous roads with many hairpins turns enough to make the toughest passenger's stomach lurch and head spin.  Add Tom's somewhat jerky five speed driving, none the less highly competent and safe, and one can easily become queasy when already sick with a dizzying sinus infection.

Every which way we turned, the view was beautiful.
As a result, we've stayed in except for a few short outings.  We've dined out only once.  Tonight we'll try again heading to the village of Ribeira Brava to a different restaurant, a 15 minute drive through mountains, tunnels and many turns. If that goes well, soon we'll begin getting out more frequently.

Those who live close to the sea may have an opportunity to witness a day such as this.  But, for us, formerly from the US Midwest, far from the sea and mountains, it was a new experience.
After researching what's to do in Madeira we've discovered most of it revolves around hiking, horseback riding and scenery overlooking the sea, much of it high in the mountains and others out to sea. 

At this point, we could barely see the ocean.

For a short period, there was an opening making it possible to see the ocean.
The "out to sea" adventures appeals to us most especially when the weather warms over the next month.  We'll play it by ear.

We took the photos are various times of the day when it was like this for the entire day.

This hill is directly across from us.

We love being home with the ever changing views overlooking the valley and the ocean.  It was two days ago that we witnessed an entire day of changing weather, clouds and sky that that literally took our breath away, a low cloud cover morphing into one amazing view after another. 

At times, the clouds moved close to us, wafting away a short while later.

Unquestionably, the close proximity to the ocean had an effect on the clouds.
The above video was taken on Wednesday as were all of the included photos.  Perhaps some of them appear repetitious but, being amid this scenario was  exciting as we were drawn to its magic, that we spent most of the day on the veranda.

When we lived in the mountains of Tuscany last summer, we had a few days of low lying clouds which we'd posted at the time.

It was fascinating how quickly the scenery changed.
Last summer we watched an episode of the Bachelorette where one of the "dates" consisted of visiting the top of a mountain in Madeira, the Pico do Arieiro, one of the highest peaks in Madeira where the same cloud cover occurred during the filming of the show.

We imagine that the locals are used to this.  For us, it was a rare treat.

An opening gave us a peek at the sun setting behind the mountain. With only a gentle breeze, the clouds moved quickly.
When we watched that episode, knowing at the time that we were coming to Madeira, we were amazed by the low clouds wafting around Desiree and her date.  Wednesday, here at our home, we had a similar experience, much to our delight.

We were amazed as it inched closer to us.

Looking over the veranda at the house below us.
Visiting that particular mountaintop requires a 2 to 3 hour hike each way, something that I don't believe we are up to at this point.  But, when the experience came to us here at home, we began to wonder if "safari luck" may have in fact followed us to Madeira, minus the wildlife.

As darkness fell, our veranda became cloudy as well.
As I write this today, I see the hilltops begin to become shrouded in more fluffy clouds.  Ah, Mother Nature, she certainly knows how to give!

Photo from approximately one year ago today, May 30, 2013:
A pure gold dispensing ATM at the Emirates Palace Hotel which we toured a year ago., one of the most expensive hotels in the world.  Insert a credit or debit card, select your desired amount of gold and out pops the gold from the machine.  Wow!  We couldn't believe it when we saw this.  For the rest of the day's activities, please click here.

Cruise to Australia details...Itinerary, cost, details, deck plan and how we chose a cabin...

No matter how busy we may become in planning for the future we never fail to stop and notice the beauty surrounding us at the time whether its a simple flower on our veranda or an expansive view.
Following is the information about the cruise we've booked to Sydney, Australia on May 24, 2015.   Once we arrive in Sydney, we'll stay for a few days to see the beautiful city and then take off for the first of several vacation homes in which we'll live on various parts of the continent.

One of our top priorities will be to go on a wildlife photography safari which we'll arrange to occur between vacation homes to avoid added costs.  Australia has a wealth of wildlife and scenery we can hardly wait to see. 

When we leave Australia we'll then move on to New Zealand where we'll also live for a yet to be determined period of time taking advantage of what treasures this island will also have in store for us.

Once again we booked our cruise with Vacations to Go although we're now working with a new rep when Joaquin our former rep is no longer employed.  With a little work we've found a new rep and so far we're pleased with her assistance.  Anna Urban can be reached by email at: aurban@vacationstogo.com

Here's the cruise to Australia that not only provides us with transportation to Australia but also interesting ports of call along the way.  Scroll further down the page for the cruise itinerary.

Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas

One of Royal Caribbean’s Vision-class ships, the Legend of the Seas is well-equipped with many of the line’s signature features. The multilevel Centrum, an open atrium with gliding glass elevators, palm trees, panoramic windows and gleaming brass, is the center of all the action and an ideal spot to gather for a pre-dinner cocktail and listen to live music. Other popular hot spots include the convivial Schooner Bar, the sophisticated Champagne Bar and the Viking Lounge, which is an observation point by day and a pulsating dance club at night. There’s also a glitzy casino, a show lounge and Solarium with glass-enclosed pool area and retractable roof. Go for a seaside jog on the top deck, spend a few hours being pampered or work out with a view at the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center. Kids will love the 18-hole miniature golf course and Adventure Ocean youth facilities located on the top deck. The Windjammer CafĂ© is a casual alternative to the formal, two-level Romeo & Juliet Dining Room. Staterooms amenities include private bath, vanity area and sofa, as well as mini-bar, hairdryer, TV and phone.Legend of the Seas
 Ship Statistics 
Year Built1995
Last Refurbished2013
Tonnage70,000 tons
Length867 feet
Beam105 feet
Passenger Capacity2,076
Crew Size720
Total Inside Cabins327
Total Outside Cabins575
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas231
Maximum Occupancy per room7
Age RestrictionsOne person must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings2
Seating Assignments 
in Main Dining Room
Dining Hours6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Dining Room Dress CodeDining
Tipping Recommended?Yes
Tipping GuidelinesRoyal Caribbean will automatically add a $12.00 USD gratuity ($14.25 USD for Suite guests) to each guest’s onboard SeaPass® account on a daily basis. 15% tip included on beverage orders.
Onboard CurrencyUS Dollar
Services & Amenities
Beauty Salon/Barber ShopYes
Note: The casino does not operate when sailing within the Hawaiian Islands.
Hot Tub4
Cell Phone ServiceYes
Internet CenterYes
Wireless Internet AccessYes
Note: Available in certain areas
Laundry/Dry CleaningYes
Movie TheatreNo
Outdoor Movie ScreenYes
Onboard WeddingsYes
Self Serve LaundromatsNo
Video ArcadeYes
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball CourtNo
Fitness CenterYes
Golf Driving NetNo
Golf SimulatorNo
Ice Skating RinkNo
Jogging TrackYes
Mini-Golf CourseYes
Rock Climbing WallYes
Swimming Pool2
Note: 1 Heated
Tennis CourtNo
Water SlideNo
Water Sports PlatformNo
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room ServiceYes
Hair DryerYes
Kids Facilities
Children's PlayroomYes
Kiddie PoolYes
Supervised Youth ProgramYes
Teen CenterYes
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
     (private connecting doors)
Kosher MealsYes
Single Occupancy CabinsNo
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins17
Single Share ProgramNo

The D2 Balcony Cabin we chose was an upgrade from the prices listed below.  Plus, there was a sale in progress until May 31, 2014 much to our delight that resulted in a savings of US $1700, EU $1250.46.  Had this discount not been offered, we would not have chosen this cruise. It was only Tom's daily diligence in checking possible cruises that presented this opportunity. Below are the charges, after the discount:

Cruise (includes port charges) US $5,308.00, EU $3898.49

Government Taxes US $294.64, EU $216.73
Pre-Paid Gratuities US $408.00, EU $300.11
Total Sale US $6,010.64, EU $4421.22

Total Payments: Deposit Paid 5/27/2014, US$ 900.00, EU $662.01 Balance Due March 5, 2015, US $5,110.64, EU $3759.29

 Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas
 18 nights departing May 24, 2015

Cheapest Inside$1,762
Cheapest Oceanview$2,182

Cheapest Balcony$2,460
Cheapest Suite$3,165


SunMay24Honolulu, Oahu, HI11:00pm
MonMay25At Sea
TueMay26At Sea
WedMay27At Sea
ThuMay28At Sea
FriMay29At Sea
SatMay30Moorea, Society Islands8:00am5:00pm
SunMay31Papeete, Tahiti, Society Islands8:00am9:00pm
MonJun1Bora Bora, Society Islands8:00am5:00pm
TueJun2At Sea
WedJun3At Sea
ThuJun4At Sea
FriJun5Cross International Dateline
SatJun6Suva, Fiji9:00am5:00pm
SunJun7At Sea
MonJun8Ile des Pins, New Caledonia7:00am5:00pm
TueJun9At Sea
WedJun10At Sea
ThuJun11Sydney, Australia6:00am

Cabin Choice:

We chose the cabin based on several factors based on past experience:
1.  Avoid bars, restaurants or discos above or below the chosen cabin.
2.  Avoid cabin with the pool  directly above due to the noise from the crew cleaning and moving deck chairs during the night.
3.  Avoid being too close to the bow or the stern of the ship.  The center of the ship has more stability.
4.  Consider elevators, recreation areas and stairwells for possible noise.

The above listed prices for various cabins (before discounts) are based on the lowest prices, many of which may fall into the risks of our comments above.  We chose a D2 cabin as described below.  Each ship provides a deck plan from which to choose for example, as shown below, keeping in mind that each ship is unique:

Legend of the Seas Deck 7

Please scroll to the right for full view of the deck plan.
Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony
Category D1
Category D2
Category D3
Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, private balcony, sitting area with sofa bed, and a private bathroom. (190 sq. ft., balcony 37 sq. ft.)
Panoramic Ocean View Stateroom
Category PV
Floor to ceiling window. Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, sitting area with sofa, vanity area and a private bathroom. (220 sq. ft.)
Superior Interior Stateroom
Category J
Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, vanity area and a private bathroom. (142 sq. ft.)
Large Interior Stateroom
Category L
Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, vanity area and a private bathroom. (142 sq. ft.)
Interior Stateroom
Category N
Two twin beds that convert to a Royal King, measuring 72.5 inches wide by 82 inches long, vanity area, and a private bathroom. (132 sq. ft.)

Stateroom with sofa bed.
Stateroom has third Pullman bed available.
Stateroom has third and fourth Pullman bed available.
Connecting staterooms.
Indicates accessible staterooms.
Stateroom with sofa bed and third Pullman bed available.
Stateroom has four additional Pullman beds available.
 Deck 7 (starts 4-29-15)

This is enough info for one day.  We'll be back tomorrow with more on Madeira which will include photos of an interesting weather phenomenon that kept us outdoors most of the day on Wednesday, excited and in awe.

Happy day! 

Photo from one year ago today, May 29, 2013:
Umer, our taxi driver and tour guide, took this photo of us before we entered the White Mosque.  It was so hot!  Tomorrow, we'll be caught up on all the missing dates from the days we didn't post while we were in Dubai.  Watch for a great photo tomorrow! For the story and more photos from this date a year ago, please click here.