Tricky transportation from Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia…Photos from a walk in the park…

Bob donated this park bench to his beloved companion Ron who passed away in 2010 after their 50 years together.

It had been nagging at us that it was time to book a means of transportation for May 15th when our ship arrives in Seattle.  The next cruise after arriving in North America sails two days later to Alaska from Vancouver, British Columbia.

MSW means Manly Scenic Walk to the Spit, a local bridge.

Our choices were clear; either spend the two days in Seattle and figure out how to quickly make the 230 km, 143 mile drive to Vancouver to board the ship or figure a way to get to Vancouver as soon as the ship arrives in Seattle.

Rocky shoreline.

It made no sense to spend one night in each location so we decided to head directly as possible to Vancouver.  This is our second sailing from this port when we sailed to Hawaii in September, 2014. Last time we flew into Vancouver and didn’t have these transportation concerns.

While walking on the Manly Scenic Walk we enjoyed an excellent view of boats in North Harbour Reef Bay.

We easily recall the long waiting period to board the ship in 2014 and hope we don’t encounter the same delays.  We’re hoping this time with the priority boarding we receive as Diamond Club members, the boarding process will be less time consuming and cumbersome.  We shall see.

An exceptional home on North Harbour Reef Bay owned by a successful business owner.

In searching online, we found a plethora of suggestions from travelers on how to make the four hour drive.  Firstly, rental cars aren’t allowed to enter Canada from the US to be dropped off at a facility.  So, that idea was out.

Historical plaque.

Our only remaining options were as follows:
1. Fly –  A flight from Seattle to Vancouver which would have required the usual international flight commotion, getting to the airport two hours early, paying taxi fares on both ends, paying baggage fees and considerable waiting time for the short flight. (Continued below).


Many homes were originally one story but later renovated to include a second level.

2. Bus – Seemed like an easy option but it wasn’t for us when we’d read about having to get to the bus which may or may not arrive at the port when the ship arrived, handling our luggage, and paying taxi fares upon arriving in Vancouver. Plus, at the border of the US and Canada, we’d have had to remove all of our luggage from the bus’s luggage compartment and reload the luggage after inspected by customs and unload the luggage on our own when we arrived in Vancouver. Some buses charge check baggage fees. Too much commotion.
3. Train – Taxi fares to and from the train station. Trains only traveled this route twice a day, with multiple stops, too early in the morning for disembarking the ship or too late in the evening.  (Continued below).


Interesting older home with character located on the bay.  Lots are small in most city and suburban areas.

4.  Group shuttle – We didn’t like the idea of having to find other people with whom we could split the fare and wait for the shuttle to pick up and drop off others at various locations on either end.
5.  Private shuttle – These options were few.  A regular sized taxi doesn’t work with our three checked bags and two carry on bags.  Instead, we could pay a little more, have a private luxury SUV pick us up at the port on May 15th to drive us the 230 km, 143 mile ride from Seattle to Vancouver dropping us directly to our pre-booked hotel in Vancouver.  It was a no-brainer.

Can you determine what this is?  If you carefully check the above photo, it will reveal this is a close up of the tile roof.


Surprisingly, we didn’t flinch over the AU $732.92, US $550 cost knowing how stress reducing #5 above would be.  After all, we strive to always maintain our goal as stated at the top of our webpage:  “Wafting Through Our Worldwide Travels with Ease, Joy and Simplicity.”

More boats moored in the bay.

It’s this philosophy we’ve diligently maintained that have kept us treasuring the quality of our lives inspiring us to continue on for years to come.  If one only chose the least costly option each and every time it could become easy to lose interest and find the moving about tiresome and monotonous.

Buds growing on Moreton Fig Tree.

As we’ve mentioned over these past several weeks in the Sydney area we’ve happily used low cost and at times “free” public transportation.  However, we’ve enjoyed the process finding it easy and convenient.

Historical marker at the park.
In our travels we’re constantly making decisions often with cost at the top of the list for consideration.  From time to time, we throw caution to the wind, sacrificing something else to accommodate the added cost in making alternate decisions.  Its all a part of the ebb and flo of this peculiar life we live.



Tom and Bob as they began the walkway to North Harbor Reserve park.

Having paid the deposit for the cost of the trip (after reading many positive reveiws), our minds are at ease.  Today, we paid the balance of the special hotel rate we negotiated for our upcoming six week stay in Minnesota.  

For the moment, we have no large expenditures on the immediate horizon until mid summer.  


Hope you find your mind at ease, today and always!

______________________________________



Photo from one year ago today, April 11, 2016:

Most afternoons many of the alpacas rested in the shade at the side of our house.  It was delightful when they’d watch me through the window while I prepared meals, pressing their noses on the glass.  For more photos, please click here.

A visit to Circular Quay and ride on The Manly Ferry…A Sydney Harbour tradition and popular means of local transportation…

 
The esplanade, a walkway along the shore in Circular Quay.

Traveling from Manly Beach to Sydney couldn’t be easier.  The Manly Fast Ferry offers five location stops; Circular Quay; Darling Harbour; North Sydney; Pyrmont Bay: and weekend sightseeing ferry between Manly, Watsons Bay and Rose Bay. For details for the Manly Fast Ferry, please click here.

While in Sydney a few days ago, Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas was in port.  We’d sailed on this ship April 16, 2016 from Sydney to Singapore.

The slower ferry route taking about 30 minutes is the Manly Ferry, in operation since 1855, from the wharf in Manly to Circular Quay, the popular wharf. There are shops, a news stand and electronic machines from which to purchase more money for the Opal card used for Sydney transportation. 

Video during ferry ride to Circular Quay in Sydney.

In addition there’s an array of restaurants and fast food shops at the Wharf.  Bob showed us a “drool worthy” candy kiosk where candy lovers can find many of their favorites, if they so chose.


Entertainment at the Wharf in Circular Quay in Sydney.


Circular Quay is a harbour in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on the northern edge of the Sydney central business district on Sydney Cove, between Bennelong Point and The Rocks. It is part of the local government area of the City of Sydney.  For information on this ferry, please click here.


Ferries ready to be boarded.

For our purposes the slower Manly Ferry will serve our needs.  Tomorrow night, when we’ll attend the opera at the Sydney Opera House, we’ll use the slower ferry for the round trip as we did when meeting friends Linda and Ken in the Rocks area of Sydney a few days ago.

The ride is easy and pleasant with breathtaking scenery with many popular points of interest greeting us along the way.  Getting on and off the ferry is seamless especially with its frequent departures every 30 minutes.  There are multiple decks, both outdoor and indoor seating and restrooms on board. 

Between the launch area to a view of the cruise ship.

Considered one of the top ten sights to see in Sydney at many tourist sites, the ferries themselves are a popular attractions.  Plus, it makes no sense to pay the high taxi fares when it’s much more economical and faster to use the ferry. 

Sales area for Captain Cook Cruises, a tourist company.

We paid AU $100, US $77 for the round trip taxi fare from Manly to Sydney whereby its only AU $28, US $21.50 for the round trip ferry for both of us.  Its a no brainer when we can easily visit the beautiful city as often as we’d like during our remaining time (yet unknown due to immigration) in Fairlight/Manly.

Tom on the Manly Ferry which was clean and well organized.

Taking the ferry requires a ride on a bus to return to the holiday rental but the Hop, Skip, Jump bus is free and arrives at the stop outside the Manly Wharf every half hour or less, stopping within a few blocks of where we’re living.

The cruise ship, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a small ferry boat.

Typically in our world travels, we haven’t used a lot of public transportation when we’ve lived in more remote areas of the world where public trasnport schedules were erratic and stops too distant from our location at the time.  Instead, we’ve either had a rental car or used a taxi.  Neither of these options were necessary in this area.

From almost any point in the area, its easy to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Ken asked if we were going to do the bridge walk.  Maybe not.

The weather has been rainy, windy and cloudy since our arrival on Monday.  We’ve only been able to wash clothes once with the high humidity.  It took three days for the clothing to dry indoors on the rack.  As a result of inclement weather we haven’t had much of an opportunity to walk the neighborhood, although we’ve been out and about on several occasions.

Soon, we’ll visit The Museum of Contemporary Art located near the wharf.

Yesterday late afternoon, our kindly landlord Bob took us to a local mall with dozens of shops and restaurants, Stockland Balgowlah, where we rounded out our grocery shopping at Cole’s Market, visited a pharmacy and stopped at the local health food store. 

We had to walk to find the pub where we were meeting Linda and Ken.

We’re hoping the weather will improve by tomorrow’s ferry ride to Circular Quay especially considering the long walk to the Opera House from the Wharf but it doesn’t look hopeful.  Rain or shine, we’ll be on our way for what surely will be a fabulous performance at the world famous venue.

Have a fabulous day!

_______________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, March 17, 2016:


Two bottles of New Zealand wine we’d purchased and savored in New Zealand.  We seldom purchase wine for “home” use but have done so twice in the past year.  No wine for me recently with this medical issue, yet to be fully resolved.  For more details, please click here.

Off we go to the ship…Long drive through the Cambodian countryside…Mode of transportation

Local danger and musicians greeted us with a ceremonial dance as we entered the hotel.
In Cambodia, US dollars are tendered for most purchases, receiving Cambodian money, the reil for change which can be confusing especially when one US dollar is KHR 40,973.50. The cost for the drive back to our hotel was US $3. The driver was so grateful when we gave him a US $5 bill. Tipping isn’t expected in Cambodia but greatly appreciated based on low wages.
Fountain in the lake at the hotel, taken last night in the dark.

As much as long drives in cars, vans and buses are not our favorite mode of transportation, I’m looking forward to the almost five hour drive through the Cambodian countryside as we make our way to the awaiting boat on the Mekong River.

As we approached the entrance to the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra in Siem Reap, Cambodia, another five star hotel.

These past tour portions of this cruise/tour have been rich in history and highly entertaining including the extra three days we spent on our own in advance of the cruise in Hanoi when we arrived from Singapore over a week ago. I did my best to keep up, only missing a few days of touring, having participated in the remainder.

The first night in the hotel in Cambodia we were entertained by local dancers performing in the dining room.

Last night, the final night at the Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap, Cambodia it dawned on me that we’d yet share any photos of this five star hotel and its surroundings. It’s been a glorious hotel stay once again, with the past two Sofitel Hotels providing the utmost in both ambiance, amenities and service.

Upon entering our beautifully decorated hotel room with a full veranda overlooking the river, the table was set with fresh flowers, complimentary linen napkins as a gift to keep, baby bananas and cookies (all of which Tom consumed).

I’d never paid much attention to Sofitel Hotels other than occasionally dining (in my old life) at the hotel’s restaurant in Bloomington, Minnesota for business type lunches. 

It was a long walk from the lobby to our hotel room down several long bridges such as this over the lake on the hotel property.
Each walkway to the various buildings provided a lovely view of the hotel’s massive grounds.

Now that we’re signed up as members, we’ll certainly pay the Accor hotel chains a little more attention when we’re wondering where to stay for a night or two on occasion.

A portion of the hotel’s lake.

We had the opportunity to chat with one of the hotel’s managers, Sam Sorn who, along with the remaining staff have provided exemplary service and attention to detail. 

This sign is posted along one of the walkways in the hotel.

From the complimentary handmade linen napkins left in our room as a gift from the hotel, to the baby bananas, fresh flowers and chef’s perfection in seeing my menu, the hotel nor the other two restaurants where we dined in Siem Reap, left a stone unturned. 

Its unfortunate the mosquitos are so bad and the heat and humidity uncomfortable or many guests would have spent more time outdoors.  Instead, everyone stayed inside the air conditioned comfort. 

From the gentle-hands-clasped-bow elicited by each Cambodian we encounter, whether it was the pool man or the tuk tuk driver, each individual made us feel supremely invited as guests into their country. I could easily return here for an extended stay, although, practically speaking, it may not be possible with so much world left to see.

A bicycle rickshaw on display.

Last night’s dinner for 54 guests at Malis Restaurant, ranked #4 of 622 in TripAdvisor, excelled beyond most restaurants when they prepared entirely different meals for me than those offered on the menu. They went as far as making a totally sugar free mousse/flan dessert than surprisingly was quite delicious without any form of sweetener.

These gorgeous flowers are commonly seen on display in hotels and restaurants in Cambodia.

Of course, the conversation was indescribably delightful as we’ve continued to get to know one couple after another, never disappointed, always enlightened by the stories of others as they freely ask question after question about our peculiar lifestyle. I suppose if it was the other way around, we’d be curious as well.

One of several seating areas in the hotel’s lobby.

We try to temper our enthusiasm and ask about their lives. Most of the participants on this type of cruise are well traveled with equally fascinating stories to tell. Most of the passengers are within our age range with a few much younger and equal number, a bit older. 

A shrine in the hotel lobby.  Most Cambodians are Buddhists.

Age seems to be no barrier in keeping these adventurous folks from continuing to travel well into their 70’s and 80’s. Some have obvious disabilities and yet forge ahead with the excitement of 20 year old, seeking to fill their lives with new experiences. 

This talented young man played peaceful music in the lobby.

A few stayed behind like us on the more difficult excursions over the past few days while others returned exhausted and hobbling with aching joints, hips and knees commensurate with older age. 

Fresh flowers are frequently replenished.  This humid climate in Cambodia is a perfect environment for growing flowers.

As for my continuing recovery, its still a work in progress. In reviewing the calendar we tried to recall the exact date of the injury and we believe it was around June 1st. Most likely it’s been almost six weeks. If I blew out a disc (or two)  or whatever, it could be several more weeks until I’m pain free once again. 

A humidor with a variety of cigars for sale including Cuban.

My only fear is that the pain won’t go away and this will be my lot in life, not unlike my life before I started this way of eating. I will no longer be pain free as I’d been two months ago. Could I continue on at this level of discomfort? I think so. 

Elaborate desserts such as these are offered in the buffet as well as at “high tea” in the bar where we worked on the posts. Tom was only interested in the doughnuts on the bottom right.

As we mentioned in the post on July 11th, “In the past two weeks we moved into four different hotels in four different countries, flown on three international flights, taken over 1000 photos and posted each and every day.

We sat at the left corner of this banquette in the bar each day while posting.

As you’ve seen, we’ve been able to continue on. If we were living a “fixed” lifestyle and this injury occurred, I’d still have the discomfort and life would go on. It’s not a whole lot different now other than the hours of moving from one location to another which generally isn’t quite as often as its been lately.

Sam Sorn, the hotel’s second in command, worked his “way up” after 16 years of employment at the hotel, originally working in maintenance. His kindly demeanor and interest in each guest is delightful.

However, we both remain hopeful that soon I’ll be back to my “old” self once again, able to walk longer distances and manage more steps and rough terrain. I remind myself how grateful we are that it wasn’t totally debilitating where I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get out at all. Sheer will and determination have kept me moving. 

With rain each day, we never took advantage of the hotel’s enormous pool.  We have plenty of pool time upcoming over the net several months.

As soon as we upload this post, we’ll head back to our hotel room to leave the already-packed and ready-to-go three checked bags outside our hotel room door to be picked up by staff and delivered to the two buses for both Group A and B (we’re A) and off we’ll go at 11:30 am for the long journey to the ship awaiting us in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. 

Last night on our way to dinner on the bus, we tried to take a few photos through the glass.

Once we’re all onboard and checked in, we’ll be offered complimentary welcome aboard cocktails (along with cocktails included  at no charge at both lunch and dinner) and be introduced to the ship’s captain, other officers and support staff. Then, we’ll set sail.

Siem Reap is filled with a multitude of shopping options from expensive galleria type malls to strips centers such as this.
Many building copy the design of the Angkor Wat temple.

We’re as excited as always to be back on the water, this time on our first river cruise which so far the land portion, has proven to excel our expectations. Back at you tomorrow with photos and updates! Stay tuned!

The entrance to last night’s restaurant, Malis. It was absolutely exquisite for me although Tom found some of the unfamiliar spices less appealing to his taste buds.

Have a glorious day!

Bob and Tom having a great time, sitting across from Tina and I We arrived at the restaurant at 5:45 while it was still light.  At 8 pm, some of the group were headed to a local circus with bleacher-type seating.  , there was no way I could sit on bleachers for any length of time. Instead, we had a fabulous time returning to the hotel in a local tuk-tuk.

Photo from one year ago today, July 13, 2015:

Holloways Beach, near Cairns Australia. For more details and photos, please click here.

Transportation…Another long day without power…VPN tip…Five days until departure…

There are many sailboats in the islands, a choice location for avid sailors.

Three months is a long time in one location without a car. Oh, I’m not complaining. We’re thrilled with the savings. Not paying upwards of USD $1500, FJD $3239 per month (as an example in Fiji), USD $4500, FJD $9719 for three months of a rental car plus fuel as opposed to the under USD $300, FJD $648 total we’ll have spent for a driver for the full three months in Fiji provides a huge savings on an annualized basis.

This amount of savings by not renting a car in Fiji was enough to pay for our upcoming cruise in January for both of us, selecting a balcony cabin (as always). Each time we opt for a driver as opposed to a rental car the savings are generally in this range ultimately paying for most upcoming cruises. 

In 2016, we’ve scheduled five cruises; four ocean going, one river cruise. With our love of cruising and the ability to see so much at one time, choosing a driver over a rental car is a small sacrifice for us.

In other countries such as upcoming New Zealand in January, a rental car is a must with our intentions to tour the two islands. We’ve found the cost in NZ is much more affordable than in Fiji as is the case in more populated countries.

A sandy beach along the quiet road we traveled.

As we move to the next island of Fiji for 28 days again we’ll use a driver. The company that we’ve arranged to pick us up at the Suva Airport will also serve as our drivers once we arrive in Pacific Harbour, an hour’s drive from the airport. 

In the new location, we’ll have the freedom (and luxury) of walking to nearby shops and restaurants according to the owner. I can hardly wait to be able to walk when there. Although lovely overall in Savusavu, it’s been impossible to go for a walk on the steep dirt road up the mountain. 

We can barely maneuver getting into Rasnesh’s vehicle, the incline is so steep. Invariably, the car door is so heavy on the incline, that in itself, it’s a challenge to close once inside, the incline creating a darned weird obstacle, dangerous and unwieldy. Level ground at this point is rather appealing.

Living in Savusavu hasn’t been easy in some ways, certainly not anyone’s fault. Mario has been the perfect host in a relatively perfect little house overlooking the sea. The support staff has been ideal; Junior, Usi and Vika, all of whom we adore. 

We highly recommend this resort if the ability to prepare one’s food and the desire to be away from the hotel environment in a more private location is on one’s radar.  In many ways, it’s been ideal for us.

As for the ants, that’s only been a result of our constant need to cook. Had we only been preparing light meals as most, shorter-term travelers do, we may not have had so many ants. It was certainly a result of the constant preparation of food that attracted them no matter how well we cleaned up after we were done. 

A canopy of trees crossed over the road creates a pretty scene.

The refrigerator handle fell prey to the ants if a smidgeon of food was on my hand when I opened the door. The next day we’d have ants on the handle and the door. In time, I learned my lesson, washing my hands every time I opened a cupboard or appliance including the microwave, portable oven, the coffee or tea pots or even the kitchen sponge which I sterilized with a minute in the microwave each day. And still, they came…just less of them for a day or two. 

I have no doubt we’ve eaten some ants regardless of how hard we’ve tried not to. Then again, there are populations throughout the world that eat ants and other insects so I guess we fit in. Not necessarily by design.

As for yesterday’s unannounced power outage, I suppose not knowing saved us a bit of anticipation, although we weren’t prepared with lots of ice on hand as we had the week earlier with advance notice. Two of out the past eight days, we’ve had no power, and a third day the refrigerator didn’t work for 24 hours. 

My biggest concern is always the food in the refrigerator. The freezer seems to stay cold for eight or nine hours without defrosting providing we don’t open the door. Yesterday’s power outage beginning at 9:17 am was a total surprise. 

Waiting 30 minutes after the power went off, I called the power company when this time the Internet still worked enabling me to look up their number online. I was told it was a result of another day’s tree trimming near the power lines as hurricane season approaches. They estimated we’d have power by 4:30 pm.

Aside from many rocky beaches, there are many sandy beaches in Fiji.

We had a decision to make; do we open the freezer, empty all four of our ice cubes trays into a container to place in the refrigerator or do we avoid opening either door?  We opted to quickly open both doors, remove the ice, fill the plastic container and our mugs with ice placing the plastic container on top of the pan of the uncooked Italian meatballs I planned to cook for dinner. 

We were concerned about meatballs made with beef and pork mince going bad in the refrigerator in seven or more hours. But our plan worked. When the power came back on at 5:30 pm, the ice was hardly melted in the fridge, the contents were cold and the meatballs were as cold as they would have been with power. 

We had a lovely dinner with the meatballs slathered in homemade red pasta sauce topped with hand-grated mozzarella cheese, a side of mushroom casserole (which stayed frozen in the freezer during the outage) and fresh steamed veggies.

The next challenge of the day was Tom’s ability to watch the Minnesota Vikings football game on his laptop.  He’s a member of NFL Game Pass, an app only available to viewers outside the US for an annual fee of USD $130, FJD $281 when Tom only watches the Vikings games. The fees are higher for full access to all games, playoff and Super Bowl games which he can add on later, if the Vikings are in the playoffs and Super Bowl. 

The games are available live with commercials or a few hours later without commercials reducing the view time to less than two hours. For some odd reason, last night, when the Internet signal was appeared strong enough to watch, Tom wasn’t able to download the game no matter how hard he tried. He’d been able to watch prior games while in Fiji. We had no idea as to the problem.

We can easily envision a life at sea, definitely not a lifestyle that would appeal to us for years.

Frustrated for him, I made what sounded like a hair-brained suggestion that he use the VPN on my computer, Hotspot Shield, to show our entry to the Internet wasn’t Fiji but another country we could select in the app. We couldn’t use the US as the selection with the Game Pass app unavailable for use while in the US.

I started the app, selected the UK as our entry point and he opened to the program for success. Immediately, the game popped up on the screen of my laptop. 

Not much of a football fan, plus with his preference of keeping the laptop on his lap during the game, I decided to head to bed at 9 pm to continue reading a good mystery novel instead of attempting to watch along with him.

By 10:30, I nodded off, loud game and all, managing eight hours of sleep, a first in many moons, only awakening a few times to the sound of pounding rain on the roof, a nightly occurrence of late.

The sun is shining at the moment. The ants are under control. I’m feeling especially good after a full night’s rest.  Tom’s still grinning from ear to ear over the Vikings win. Life is good.


Photo from one year ago today, December 1, 2014:

On our final day in Maui before heading to the Big Island for the upcoming family visit, we boarded a whale watching boat in Maalaea Bay, the harbor with some of the roughest seas in the world. (Yes, it was! rough)! We never saw a whale and once again, we were disappointed on yet another unfulfilling whale watching outing. Safari luck only seems to prevail on land.  For more details and photos of the scenery, please click here.

At long last, we have sunshine…Transportation…Safety…All new photos…

This morning’s sunny day.

Yesterday, we called Ratnesh to pick us up tomorrow at 11 am for a dual purpose; sightseeing earlier in the day, shopping after sightseeing. We’re excited to be getting out.

We’d hoped to get out on Tuesday, but on Monday, he called and canceled when he had a long-distance fare to Labasa, where another airport is located, a two hour drive each way from Savusavu.

When we first arrived, we offered to request his services for specific dates, and at times when it was most convenient for him with our schedule wide open. If he has a fare where he’ll make more than with us to various sites and the villages, we’ve encouraged him to take it.

View from our veranda to the three-unit vacation home as a part of this four-unit resort. The lawn guy is here today, mowing and trimming.

We hadn’t negotiated special rates with him when we arrived when the amounts he charges for trips to the village or for an hourly rate for sightseeing is so reasonable. As we’ve mentioned in the past, here are the costs of his services:

  • FJD $20, USD $9.39: Round trip to the village for shopping, dropping us off and picking us up when we call.  We add an additional FJD $10, USD $4.70 when he helps us carry our purchases to the house.
  • FJD $30, USD $14.09: Cost per hour for sightseeing. 

We’ve noticed when we do both, sightseeing and shopping on the same day, we’re charging for the trip to the village, plus the hourly travel rate. Ah, who’s to complain at these reasonable prices? If we’re gone for four hours at FJD $120, USD $56.35, it’s a very fair fare (no pun intended)!

When we recall paying for taxi fare in London in August 2014, when we visited the highly rated pub (Andover Arms) on two occasions, the round trip taxi fare was USD $50, GBP $32, FJD $106. In Fiji, that amount would give us almost four hours on the road!  

Colorful ocean view from our area.

Although four hours on the roads in Vanua Levu may sound exciting, on this remote island, it would be four hours of bumpy roads, dense greenery, and occasional ocean views, all of which we love and easily experience on shorter trips to specific destinations. We prefer aimlessly driving when we have a rental car, stopping as often as we’d like for photos and restroom breaks.

With the sun shining, we’re excited to get out more often, subject to the availability of the only driver in this village willing to tackle the steep road in this resort area. It would be impossible for us to walk down the long mountainous road. For mountain climbers and seriously fit hikers, it may not be a problem.

How easily we could feel trapped. But, long ago we decided, after realizing we’d need drivers in various countries, we accepted that there would be days we’d want to get out and weren’t able to do so, based on our driver’s availability. Sticking to the same driver or their designated co-driver has been important to us, particularly when safety has been an issue in several countries.

The bright blue of the bay is breathtaking from this elevation.

Upcoming in 46 days, when we fly to the next Fijian Island of Viti Levi, the larger main island, where we’ll stay for one more month, we’ll be renting a car at the Nadi Airport and driving two hours to our new location, again a private house. 

With high crime rates in the downtown Nadi area, when we booked Fiji long ago, we’d decided to stay in another more, remote location where the likelihood of crime is greatly reduced.

Many tourists stay in the Nadi area in resorts and hotels, generally insulated from criminal activities when on site. The risks for tourists escalates when out on the streets in the busy city, as we’ve been warned by the locals here who often travel to Nadi to visit family. Muggings, pickpocketing, and carjacking are not unusual.

Another ocean view from our area.

With our preferred choice of vacation homes as opposed to staying in hotels, we usually don’t have the safety net of on-site security as is often available in most hotels. Generally, one can feel relatively safe from crime in a hotel, although there are isolated exceptions.

Currently, we’re living in a resort but, in the only stand, alone vacation rental house on the property. Further up the hill behind us is a separate building with three apartments, including one penthouse type upscale unit on the top floor. Mario and Tayana’s private residence is off to the side as shown.

When Ratnesh picks us up, he pulls into the driveway of the three-unit building in this resort. The driveway near the steps down to our house below is too steep for stopping the vehicle, making getting in and out nearly impossible.

Junior is around during the day and Mario is on-site in his separate house to our left as we face the ocean. We feel totally safe and protected in this ideal location.

Criminal activity on this island of Vanua Levu is almost non-existent. When we’ve driven by the courthouse on several occasions, located on the edge of town, there are no cars in the parking lot. Most likely, they only open when they have a case. From what we hear, it’s a rare occasion.

Oceanfront view of Mario and Tatyana’s house, much larger than it appears in the photos.  We took this photo from the steep road.

The fact that we prefer living in smaller towns and villages in our travels has more to do with our lack of interest in crowds and the fact that we don’t shop other than for food and supplies as needed. We love the quaint charm and nature of small villages and the friendly, less harried lifestyle of their people. 

For the average tourist, staying in a more populous area in most countries provides endless opportunities to find that special item to bring back home, for oneself, and for gifts for family and friends. Also, easy access to restaurants is an important factor for tourists whereas, for us, it’s irrelevant.

Side view of Mario and Tatyana’s recently built house.

We don’t send our grandchildren trinkets from all over the world. Instead, we send gift cards or gifts that they’d like, not what we think they’d like from a foreign country. If we did, at this point, their bedrooms would be filled with useless touristy type items, eventually to be tossed away. 

Maybe we’re too practical in the minds of others. Then again, how practical is having no home, no stuff other than what fits into three suitcases, a duffel bag and a laptop bag and, changing countries and homes every few months or less?

Have a beautiful and meaningful day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 21, 2014:

We were entranced by this colorful Gold Dust Day Gecko, commonly seen in the Hawaiian Islands, particularly in Maui where we were living one year ago.  This gecko was located on the wall by the pool but, from time to time, we spotted them inside the condo, certainly no big deal. Generally, geckos are harmless if not annoying, leaving droplets of white poop and making peculiar noises. In Fiji, we see new gecko poop in the house every few days. For more details, please click here.

Transportation issues..Llttle pink car is no more…A driving video…Scroll down for the first posting of an elephant video we took in Kruer National Park…

A segment of our return drive from Blyde River Canyon on our way back to Marloth Park.

Renting a car for a one, two-week, or even a 30 day holiday is no big deal. Trying to rent a car for over 30 days is difficult unless one is willing to pay considerably more disproportionately. We’re not.

Wildflowers growing at the overlook on the Crocodile River.

Using online booking sites, including the major rental car company’s sites, while searching for the best rates we’ve found that any requested rental over 30 days, dramatically changes everything. 

Creek on the Panorama Route.

The rental car companies posted rates for under 30 days are fair. However, they have no interest in renting cars for those same great rates for longer than 30 days which presents an issue for us. The rate jumps exponentially once the 30 day period is over, often doubling.

We rented the little pink car for 30 days for US $519, ZAR $5526. To extend that rate was unappealing.  Extending the rental period resulted in daily rates in excess of US $30, ZAR $319. Many days, we don’t go out.

This Hyena peeked out of his den to check us out at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Hyenas chew on the bones of animals distributing small shreds to their offspring for the nutrients. When he went back inside we could easily hear the unnerving sounds of bone-crunching.

Our plan was to return the pink car last Saturday to Budget at the Mpumalanga/Nelspruit Airport on our return trip from Blyde River Canyon. We intended to pick up another car that we’d booked at another company also located at the airport, paying roughly US $1100, ZAR $11,713 for our remaining 41 days  (at that time) in Marloth Park. 

While heading out to dinner around 7:00 pm on Saturday after returning from Blyde River Canyon, Okee Dokee spotted this baby giraffe and mother.Notice the size differential in the mom on the right and the baby. The photo was taken in the dark resulting in the lack of clarity.

The original daily rate for the pink car was US $17.50, ZAR $186.34. The remaining 41-day contract for which we paid online was US $26.83, ZAR $285.68 per day. By paying this 65% increase we could avoid having to make another long trip back and forth to the airport when 30 additional days had passed. We’d decided to bite the bullet and pay it.

On Friday evening after dinner, our last night at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we received an email informing us that, although we’d already paid the entire balance in full, they were canceling our contract and refunding our money. They didn’t want the car “out that long.” Actually, they didn’t want the car “out that long at that price.” 

This close up is of a baby Warthog, less than two months old, illustrating how the warts have already grown on the face. Males have four warts on the face, females have two.  Notice the extra set of warts near his eyes indicating that this is a male.

There we were leaving in the morning for the long drive to the airport returning the pink car and receiving a message that we had no car for the return trip to Marloth Park from the airport, an hour and a half drive.

This young male, less than two months old, has already grown his tucks.

With our intention to stay calm, while figuring out solutions for any problems that arise, we tossed around a few options:

1. Re-rent the pink car at almost double the rate we’d originally paid keeping it until we returned to the airport to depart on February 28th.
2. Re-rent another car for another 30 days and pay the fees to extend it at the higher rates for the remaining 11 days.
3.  Re-rent another car for 30 days, returning it to the airport, get our past driver, Okee Dokee, to pick us up at the airport and drive us back to Marloth Park with no rental car for the remaining 11 days
4.  Don’t re-rent any car and have Okee Dokee pick us up at the airport, driving us several times a week for all of our outings over our remaining time in this area.

This young female has grown these feelers bristles to aid in burrowing into holes that warthogs use for protection by stealing holes from other animals.  The baby warthogs enter the holes head first.  A mature warthog, including moms with babies, enter the hole butt first allowing them to be prepared to attack if any potential predators try to enter.

The answer was readily available in the “math.” We calculated the cost of the driver three to four times a week, based on mileage rates and it proved to be 50% of what we’d pay for the rental car. For us, it was a no-brainer.

Do we feel trapped without a car?  Not at all. We can go anywhere we’d like easily contacting Okee Dokee by text. As a lifelong resident of this area, she too loves wildlife, readily stopping for photos. Plus, we thoroughly enjoy her companionship.

Tree frog hanging on the edge of the pool checking us out.  Look at those functional toes! Could this be a baby from the nests hanging over the pool?

She suggested we keep track of our outings and pay her in one fell swoop, at the end. I created a nifty page in Excel with her rates, dates, and locations that we choose to visit keeping track of the accumulating balance.  We’ll generously tip her excellent service at the end.

This car rental challenge would not be an issue if the rental facilities were nearby. We’d simply rent three cars for three 30-day periods at the best possible rates, dropping off the car and picking up another. That would have been easy.

The “Three Little Pigs” are getting big. Mom is standing off to the side while they all wait for us to throw out a few pellets. Of course, we complied. 

There was no way that we were interested in going back and forth to the airport many times when its a three-hour round trip, including the time it takes to process the rental. That’s three half days wasted. With the pleasure we experience daily, surrounded by wildlife while sitting on the veranda at our vacation home, every single day is precious.

With only 36 days remaining of our time in Marloth Park, we’re content with our decision. On February 28th, Okee Dokee will drive us to the Mpumalanga airport to begin the lengthy flight to Morocco. Last night, she dropped us off for dinner at the Serene Oasis restaurant located on the Crocodile River, picking us up a few hours later. With her, there’s no pressure to hurry, and no sense of feeling rushed.

The “Three Little Pigs” chased off this shy male warthog.  He decided to hide by the pool until they left to see if there would be any pellets left for him. He looked very worried.  Yes, we tossed him a batch once the “family” had departed.

Shortly, she’ll pick us up at noon to take us to Komatipoort for grocery shopping and Tom’s 12:30 haircut appointment while she patiently waits for us. Tom hasn’t had a haircut in three months which was halfway through our 89-day stay in Diani Beach, Kenya. 

This won’t be the first time we’ve been without “wheels” and surely won’t be the last. With special arrangements we’ve made with excellent drivers in Belize, Dubai, Kenya, South Africa, and more, we’ve managed to function well paying reasonable rates.

With the money we’ll have saved on car rentals in South Africa, factoring in our costs for a driver, it more than paid the entire cost of the three days we spent in Blyde River Canyon last week. 

  To see the detailed past story of this lone elephant that we encountered in Kruger Park last Wednesday, please click here.

It’s all in the planning, the adaptation, and the acceptance that our lives aren’t always as convenient as in our old lives. But, the adventure, the joy, and the fulfillment make it all worthwhile.

We’ve got transportation plus booked two more cruises!

Yesterday morning, we returned the golf cart to Captain Jak’s Resort in Placencia Village. At a cost of $1200 a month after doling out $5000 US for the next two months to live in the fabulous Laru Beya Resort, there is no way we’d consider paying $1200 a month for a golf cart rental. Cars are much more. 

We choked to pay the $350 for the week we had it. However, in essence, we never would’ve found this place without it. It proved to serve us well.

The golf cart rentals at our resort are $35 US for 12 hours and of course, $70 for 24 hours (no deal here).  This morning I asked if they’d give us a special rate for four hours once a week enabling us to go to the grocery store and out to eat.  The lack of enthusiasm indicated it was an unlikely option. 

Compared to our past experiences traveling to Mexico, it appears that “negotiating” is less likely in Belize. As we continue our travels we’ll surely discover that each country has its own demeanor as to dealing with “tourists” in their continued efforts to “make a deal.”

Dropping off the golf cart left us five miles south of our resort.  We could walk around the little town for two hours to catch the next bus at 2:30 for $1 US each or grab a cab for a total of $10 US (for both of us). 

Finding our way to the famed long sidewalk along the beach, we walked its entire length.  See quote below:

“Aside from the beach, the main attraction in Placencia is the world-renowned main-street sidewalk, cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s most narrow street.” It’s 24 inches wide in spots and runs north–south through the sand for over a mile. Homes, hotels, Guatemalan goods shops, craft makers, and tour guide offices line both sides.”

An hour later, after the long enjoyable walk along the sidewalk in almost 90 degrees and a massive amount of humidity, we decided it made sense to grab a cab back to Laru Beya, rather than ride the bus.  It was time to build a relationship with a cab driver.  We lucked out (so we think thus far) when Estevan responded to our taxi hail.  

Along the ride, it took no time for me to chime in and ask him how much he’d charge for a once-a-week trip to the grocery store in Seine Bight, which would include: picking us up at the resort, driving to the store, waiting for us while we shopped (we promised not more than 20-30 minutes), then driving us back to the resort. 

Estevan hesitated to give us a price.  He asked us to suggest what we’d pay.  No problem.  We offered him $10 US for the round trip, including the wait.  He agreed without hesitation.  Beginning this Wednesday at 9:00 am, continuing every Wednesday for the next two months, Estevan will arrive to take us grocery shopping, out to breakfast or lunch, or any other outings we may desire during his daytime shift!  We’re relieved.

There are four restaurants within walking distance.  We’ll alternate these from time to time preferring to cook our own meals in our upcoming (as of Sunday) well-appointed granite kitchen, dining at our own table, and chairs on our outdoor veranda about 20-30 feet from the ocean.  

We can’t wait to cook our own meals  The restaurants, all loaded with ambiance, offering well-prepared local flavors, serve tiny portions.  Neither Tom nor I snack between meals and enjoy hearty portions when we do dine.  Each night after dinner, we find ourselves still hungry, wishing we had access to something we can eat.  It’s not easy here in Belize with limited foodstuffs in the minuscule grocery stores, most of which are more like a 7-11 than an actual grocery store.

Today, we spent the entire afternoon by the pool. The sky was clear, the humidity down and the temperature was a paltry 82. Perfect! We met a lively Canadian couple by the pool, yakked up a storm, and are meeting up with them to go to Robert’s Grove buffet tonight.  

On the cruise ships, we enjoyed meeting couple after couple.  With our past tumultuous week, we hardly felt like socializing. Now, as we get ready to move to our villa tomorrow morning, we’re feeling all the more relaxed and at ease. 

We officially booked the two cruises for October and November 2014.  The details on the first of the two is on yesterday’s post. 

Here are the details on the second cruise:


FastDeal
25425
7 nights departing November 9, 2014 on
Norwegian’s Norwegian Epic
Brochure Inside $1,799
Our Inside $599
You Save 67%
Brochure Oceanview $2,399
Our Oceanview $829
You Save 65%
Brochure Balcony $2,399
Our Balcony $829
You Save 65%
Brochure Suite $2,699
Our Suite $979
You Save 64%
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
ITINERARY
 
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sun Nov 9 Miami, FL 4:00pm
Mon Nov 10 At Sea
Tue Nov 11 At Sea
Wed Nov 12 Ocho Rios, Jamaica 8:00am 5:00pm
Thu Nov 13 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands 8:00am 4:00pm
Fri Nov 14 Cozumel, Mexico 10:00am 6:00pm
Sat Nov 15 At Sea
Sun Nov 16 Miami, FL 8:00am

We upgraded to the Mini-Suite for both of these cruises, giving us a sofa, a desk in about 20 more square feet.  In a cabin, 20 square feet makes a substantial difference.  The additional cost to upgrade was $75 per person per cruise, well worth it for the total 21 days at sea.  We’ll stay on the same ship, in the same cabin enjoying extra amenities which we will share with you as they occur.

(We love cruising. The little cabins don’t bother us at all, easily maneuvering around each other. I’m not afraid t of rolling seas and noises anymore. Tom never was. We love the food, meeting new people every night, the entertainment, the classes, the movie theatres, and the pools. I love the health clubs and health orientated classes. We love it that neither of us had a moment of seasickness, even in rough waters. We love cruising together.)

It’s possible that the prices on these two cruises along with our remaining six cruises could drop over the next 21 months. If that occurs up to 90 days before we sail, we’ll receive the reduced prices. 

However, it’s our responsibility to check to see if the prices have gone down informing our cruise guy, Joaquin, who will immediately give us a credit emailing us a new “cruise confirmation” indicating the new pricing.  We’ve saved $1400 so far by watching the prices! 

Time to get ready for our “double date” tonight.  This couple is one floor above our new (as of tomorrow morning) villa.  We’ll be neighbors for the remaining five days of their trip.  They’ve rented a fishing boat for a day and invited us to join them. Our luck, we’ll catch a sailfish and have no wall on which to hang it.

Ah, the joys of being homeless.

It’s been a long and hard year for all of us…

The mongoose went on a frenzy taking the whole eggs out of the pan, cracking them on rocks, and eating the contents.

It’s easy to sit here in relative bliss in the bush, reveling in the endless treasures Mother Nature doles out day after day, combined with a pleasing social life, financial stability, and hopefully, improving good health. Tom takes no prescription medication and I’m down to two little tablets a day plus a baby aspirin and a small handful of supplements recommended as useful during the pandemic.

There’s little reason for us to worry or feel stressed. Sure, we’re concerned about the safety of leaving for Kenya in a mere 13 days and if we’ll be able to continue to avoid contracting Covid during the upcoming travel days and proximity to others on game drives.

Sure, we’re thinking about how we’ll be able to be vaccinated when more and more travel venues are requiring vaccinations to be able to cruise, fly, and use other means of transportation. But, this type of concern is no different from the concerns of many who are anxious to get back out there and travel once again. It’s been a hard year for all of us.

This morning’s mongoose mania in the garden. Tiny is in the background. He wasn’t thrilled to see the mongoose and headed out into the bush and waited for them to eventually leave.

When we look back at the past year, which is hard to avoid, my heart is heavy over the loss of my dear sister Susan in August 2020, with whom I shared a lifetime bond that was precious and meaningful. Through all these years of world travel, we spoke frequently, often every week, sharing stories, laughing, and dreaming for the future. I miss her.

Three other family members contracted Covid-19 and their recovery was frightening and worrisome. My other sister Julie still suffers from “long-haul” Covid symptoms. No doubt, many of you have lost loved ones and friends during the pandemic, leaving each of us saddened and heartbroken over the ravages of this relentless virus.

During that 10 months in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, it was easy to let my mind play tricks on me when even the slightest pain or discomfort made me concerned about how I’d be able to see a doctor with the poor conditions in India. It wasn’t safe to go out when doctors weren’t seeing patients, other than those with Covid in special facilities, often in a makeshift parking lot or tented areas.

The mongooses also like to drink out of the birdbath’s lower section. It’s comforting to be providing clean water for our visitors.

Most heart surgery patients are particularly sensitive about a moment of chest pain, breathlessness, or other potential heart attack or stroke symptoms. I’m no exception. It only takes a slight case of indigestion to make us worry it’s something more. Even at times, when Tom had an ache or pain, we wondered what we’d do, if seeing a doctor was necessary. Need I say, these situations were stressful.

The thought that I had an abscessed tooth weighed heavily on me during that period, wondering how serious it could get if left untreated for too long. As it turned out, as mentioned in a prior post, it wasn’t an abscess. It was a sinus infection or allergy as determined by a recent visit to a well-regarded oral surgeon in Malelane.

Then, there was the worry during the first five or six months that the hotel would close and we’d have nowhere to go. When our supplies ran low, we ordered a package of items from the US, which we couldn’t buy in India, only to spend months attempting to get the package delivered to us at the hotel, via FedEx.

The mongoose quickly gathered around the pan of whole eggs Tom placed on the ground. Also, we give them scraps of meat and fat since they are omnivores.

It was a nightmare when India had endless requirements with complicated forms and documents to complete in order to receive a package. It was a source of worry for months and especially, more so when we had to pay almost US $300, ZAR 4499, in customs fees.

Without a doubt, the circumstances could have been much worse. However, we humans may think that a situation could be more challenging, but find ourselves caught up in the situation at hand. It doesn’t help a person who’s broken their leg to say, “Well, you could have lost your leg.” It’s no different if someone said to me, “Get over the bites that itch all night long and keep you awake. You could have been bitten by a snake.” Everything is relative.

When we think of all the people who’ve lost their jobs, their businesses, their financial security, their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, we are saddened. None of us have been untouched by this in one way or another. These are difficult times.

This Mr. Bushbuck has longer horns than some males.

Today, not necessarily a special day, we reflect on the past year and celebrate the abundance and fulfillment we’re experiencing now. But, we’ll never forget this past year, nor should we. It’s a frame of reference that will always remind us to be grateful for what we have and how we’ve come out on the other side.

No, it’s not over yet, and the future is uncertain and frightening at times, but we carry on with hope in our hearts and optimism for the future.

Be well. Be safe.

Photo from one year ago today, March 26, 2020:

When I originally took this photo of Tom’s dinner a few weeks earlier, he said, “Don’t post that. It looks disgusting.” Later, in lockdown in Mumbai, it starting to look appetizing to both of us. For more, please click here.

Day #250 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Our 2013 hotel criteria…Has it changed?…

Out for a drive in Maui, we stopped to walk along the beach.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2014 while we were staying at Maalaea Beach, Maui. For more photos and details, please click here.

As the long days and nights continue in this long-term confinement, we tend to dream about places we’ve visited in the past and places we’d like to visit in the future. Have our criteria changed much over the years? From this post on November 11, 2013, we had outlined our criteria for staying in hotel rooms throughout the world.

Maui has one beautiful beach after another.

Now, on day #250 of living in a hotel room, we thought it would be interesting to see if our criteria have changed in the past seven years since we originally uploaded this post. Here they are:

  • Free WiFi
  • Laundry options in the room or in the building
  • A sofa in the room (it’s tough to sit on the bed typing on my laptop for hours posting photos and writing)
  • Convenient location: to our next destination (when possible), for sightseeing, (if time allows), and for local modes of transportation for dining out, grocery shopping, etc. (Not applicable now).
  • Kitchenette or full kitchen for longer stays (Not applicable now)
  • Reasonable cost (in most cities a decent hotel room will run from US $175, INR 12941, to US $200, 14790, per night or more with city taxes and fees. (Prices have increased in the past seven years from this original amount as mentioned)
  • Air conditioning (we seldom, if ever, will travel in cold climates)
  • A safe in the room
  • Good view. For us, this is important. If we’re to pay US $200 a night, we want a good, if not great view. (Not applicable now)
  • Great reviews from recent guests for a 4.0 rating or higher. Tom will read from 30 to 50 recent reviews to satisfy our objectives.
    Many beaches are left in a natural state with vegetation growing along the shoreline.

Newly added to this list based on our past and recent experiences include:

  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Complimentary coffee and tea
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Comfortable bed
  • Sufficient plug-ins for our equipment
    The colors in these hills look more like a painting than real life.

At this point, we feel we’ve had enough hotel experience to last us a lifetime but, not knowing when we can depart Mumbai, staying put in this hotel provides us with the fulfillment of most of the above criteria. Going forward, if and when we’re able to freely travel in the future, these same criteria will be applicable and to our standards.

For the time being, we have booked this hotel room until January 3, 2021, when by happenstance, we checked for future pricing and found, on our site at Hotels.com to discover this hotel was selling rooms for US $50, INR 3698 per night for the bulk of December and US $57, INR 4215 per night for the balance of December, all the way to January 3, 2021. We couldn’t get these prices booked quickly enough.

In a matter of minutes, the clouds began to disperse for a better view of the mountaintop. Notice the buildings at the top of the mountain.

Now, we continue to watch prices to extend our reservations further as needed as we wait this out. As always, especially lately, we’ll play it by ear.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2019:

Upon arrival in Mombasa on Thanksgiving Day in 2013, we took this photo from the ferry, as another ferry was taking off. Notice the crowds. For more photos from that day in 2013,  please click here. For more of the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #249 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…A great memory from 2016…A good Thanksgiving after all…

It had been a long time since I’d done a seminar, but in my career in my old life, I had done many.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2016 while sailing on Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas on the circumnavigation of the Australian continent when we were asked to do two seminars about our world travels. For more on that story, please click here.

Was it really four years ago that we were asked to conduct a seminar on world travel on a cruise ship? We did the first seminar on this date in 2016 and a few days later did a second seminar when asked by the ship activity director to do another when there were many requests from passengers who’d missed it.

Tom chimed in on several occasions and did a fabulous job. Fluffy hair, that day! Love him anyway!

Of course, we were pleased and flattered. We both enjoyed meeting all the people that flocked around us for the remainder of the cruise asking question after question. I have no doubt many of those participants are still following us now, four years later. We are so grateful for each and every one of you!

After we’d done the seminars, we spent some time inquiring as to the possibility of conducting such seminars on future cruises but the compensation offered was not worth it to us. Many speakers on cruises think they are getting quite a perk to speak on their favorite topic and return over and over again.

Note our talk scheduled at 11:15 am on the ship activities program.

For us, it wasn’t a worthwhile undertaking. The cruise line pays only for transportation to a specific port of call and the time spent on the ship. Once the “talks” are completed, the speaker(s) are dropped off at the next port of call to “fly away.” This didn’t work for us at all. It simply wasn’t worth it.

However, we thoroughly enjoyed those two experiences on that 33-night cruise, and of course, all the days and nights socializing with many Australians and a handful of Americans, including two couples with whom we spent most “happy hours” and many dinners. It was a fantastic cruise that we’ll always remember, among others.

I love the look on Tom’s face in this shot.

Now, with COVID-19 raging all over the world, the prospects of cruising again, anytime soon are limited. A few days ago, we posted a story about enthusiastic cruise passengers volunteering for “test” cruises to see how a cruise line will handle COVID-19 breakouts during a cruise. Here is the link to that post, entitled “Ten reasons to avoid test cruises.”

As for yesterday’s Thanksgiving, we made it through with ease and nary a moment of disappointment. We heard from so many family members, friends, and readers, it proved to be a busy day while we responded to everyone. We couldn’t have felt more loved with the many good wishes and concern for our well-being during our peculiar situation.

Tom managed the video presentation while I talked. We were (we are) a good team.

Did we miss the Thanksgiving dinner? Not at all. I had my usual chicken dinner (tonight is salmon night) and Tom had only breakfast and some bananas, he’d saved for later. We now refer to his daily bananas as “banana cream pie,” making our mouths water at the prospect of any type of pie at this point. Although, I’ve only eaten low carb/gluten-free pies in the past many years.

Now, with my drastically reduced carb regime and my lowest morning fasting blood sugar reading this morning of 82 mg/dl, 4.6 mmol/L, in 20 years, I continue to be ecstatic over my recent health improvements. This morning, for the first time in 20 years, I didn’t take any blood pressure medication. Of course, if it rises over time, I will revert back to small doses of the medication to keep it in check. Time will tell. In the interim, I will proceed with the utmost of caution, checking it several times a day.

There were over 100 people in attendance at our first seminar with many more at the second, a few days later.

Subsequently, in the future, I doubt I will be eating any of those “low carb” modified desserts that may raise blood sugar/blood pressure as I continue to strive to maintain these good numbers well into the future. Eliminating such sweet treats may literally add many good years to my life.

Today? Another low key day. In the evenings, we’ve been watching a fantastic show with many seasons and episodes, streaming on Hulu, ‘This is Us.” In the past, we’d considered streaming this popular show but never got to it until now. If you haven’t seen it, we highly recommend it. Any recommendations you may have for Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, please send them our way!

Happy day to all and again, thank you for all the warm and heartfelt wishes over the holiday!

Photo from one year ago today, November 27, 2019:

About 8 inches of snow fell in Eden Prairie, Minnesota where we were staying with friends Karen and Rich. For more photos, please click here.