Be Back Whenever

Mark and Susan wander the world

2/2024 – Plan B

This trip needs a prologue! Way back in July 2023, Mark asked Susan what she wants to do for her 70th birthday. This first idea was a cruise through the Panama Canal from end to end, not into the middle and back out. When we couldn’t find one that operated during the birthday, the next idea was to see the Northern Lights. After all, if I have a winter birthday, why not just go from cold to colder?
We found one on Hurtigruten, the Norwegian company that Per and Lise told us about. We booked a cruise leaving from Amsterdam to Bergen and up the coast of Norway to the Arctic Circle and back again. It was on the MS Maud. I even signed up for the various Facebook pages for Hurtigruten trips. This becomes important about December 22!
We start preparing for the trip – plane flights, hotels, etc. We found an excellent price on a Singapore Air flight from JFK-FRA Business Class which we booked, adding a weekend in NY and tickets to see “Book of Mormon” on Broadway. Mark bought us some North Face coats so we are all ready to be cold in Norway and see the Northern Lights!
The drama begins as Christmas approaches. A serious storm hits the North Sea on December 22. The MS Maud sees this coming and changes a port stop so they can beat the storm across the North Sea to get back to Tilbury, UK in time for their Christmas cruise. The ship doesn’t make it! The MS Maud is hit by a rogue wave, breaking the bridge windows. The ship cannot navigate; calls for help. The passengers put on their water rescue suits and spend 8 hours at the muster stations in wild weather. Finally, 3 ships arrive from Norway and Denmark, the Maud gets some power back, and everyone heads to Bremerhaven, Germany. You can Google to read the whole story.
I know all of this thanks to Facebook! At this point, Mark and I start betting our cruise will be a no-go. However, Hurtigruten trades out the Maud for the Spitsbergen. Once again, we learn about this from Facebook. We finally get an email from Hurtigruten about the trade off and the Spitsbergen being a smaller ship – no room for us! We’re offered a refund, rebooking, or a voucher. We chose the refund and actually received it in just a few days. Since we have flights and NYC and hotels, Plan B is the next option.
That’s where the trip starts – Plan B!

We flew to NYC for a long weekend.

We did a tour of the hospital on Ellis Island. It’s very interesting. This is the view the immigrants had from the hospital beds.
We visited the Museum of Modern Art. Once in a while, we need some culture.
The “Book of Mormon” is one of the best musicals we’ve ever seen. We laughed our way through the entire production.

After NYC, we flew to Frankfurt and on to Amsterdam. Mark didn’t want to take Deutsche Bahn to Amsterdam which was a good decision since DB had a strike the day we flew to Amsterdam. The original trip had us spending a few days in Amsterdam before we took the tram and bus to Ijmuiden, where the ship sailed from. Jutta, a German friend, was meeting us there for the day. Rather than undo all of that, we went to Ijmuiden for the night.

Fun brewery on a chilly Sunday afternoon in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam wants to make sure everyone understands the rules.
Ristafel dinner – Indonesian food. It’s yummy! The waitress asked if we had any food allergy. We said “no” and she told us “Boomers never have allergies”. Guess it pays be older.
Ijmuiden, Netherlands has spectacular beaches along the North Sea. In January, the wind howls, making it a hot spot for wind surfing and kiteboarding.
The MS Spitsbergen – the ship we were supposed to be on.

2/2024 – Brussels

We took the Eurostar to Brussels – only 2 hours. We’ve been to Brussels several times; just spent the day walking around the city. Stopped at Mannekin Pis, 2 churches, renovated Bourse that houses the Beer World Museum (We skipped that.).

The obligatory visit to the Mannekin Pis. If you get to Brussels, find the city museum where all of his costumes are displayed. He wears various clothes to celebrate different holidays.
Waffles that look like frites decorated with candy. We did NOT try them.
The Corne beer was pretty good even if Susan wasn’t too sure how to drink from the glass.
La Villette has yummy food and beer to go with each one. They are beer experts rather than wine sommeliers.
There’s a proper glass to accompany every Belgian beer. This was the recommended beer for my filet.

We woke up to rain and more wind. After breakfast, we took an Uber to the Centraal Station to catch the train to Bruges.

2/2024 – Birthday in Bruges

February is a great time to visit Bruges without crowds but the weather is a bit iffy. Rain was the theme of our 6 days in Bruges. All activities occurred between rain showers! We wandered in and out of the streets and along the canals, stopping at various breweries (Half Moon, Bourgogne de Flandres, Le Garre) to get out of the rain. Mark has a favorite chocolate shop from our first visit to Bruges in 1990. It was not where we thought it was, resulting in a multi-day hunt. It moved but is still owned by the same family. The granddaughter runs it.
We continued the art theme and visited the St. Jan Hospital Museum where they have a Hans Memling exhibit of paintings owned by the convent. They clearly were not poor nuns!

A lonely street in the evening. Bruges is pretty much deserted in February after the work day is finished. Very few tourists wandering around.
Men have it so easy. These urinals are at the Saturday market. Women have to search for a bathroom!
We had the laundromat to ourselves until 3 American teenage guys came in. They were in Bruges with a group of soccer players and needed to wash their sweaty clothes. They had no idea how to use a Belgian laundry. We came to their rescue after watching them for a few minutes – sent them to the store up the street to get change, showed them which detergent to buy from the machine and even gave them a 10 cent piece since the laundry detergent machine only took exact change. We left them waiting for the washing machine to finish and figured they could figure out the dryer on their own!
Chocolate shoes!
Yes, this is a chocolate purse dyed to look green.
One of the many canals in Bruges.
Le Garre brewery. This place is TINY. We’ve tried 3 times to have a beer here – one time it was closed, another time it was SO smoky we didn’t even go in. Third time’s a charm – open, 2 chairs and it’s non-smoking now.
Happy Birthday champagne!
Mussels for birthday dinner.

One day we spent on a WWI tour with a great tour guide – Lucas. He picked us up at 9 AM and we visited Passendale, Hill60, Tynecot Commonwealth Cemetery, Dr. John McRae memorial, Ypres Salient, a farm with ammunition collection, Yorkshire Bunker in the middle of an industrial park, and a German Cemetery.

Ypres was demolished by WWI and completely rebuilt in the medieval style.
A bomb hole from WWI
Tynecote Commonwealth Cemetery. British bodies weren’t repatriated but buried in Belgium or France where they died.

2/2024 – Ghent

We camped in Ghent on our first Europe trip in 1990. Since it’s close to Bruges, we spent 3 days here to see what we missed. 80,000 college students and the Ghent Altar Piece make Ghent a fun city – lots of places to eat, beer to drink, canals, art history. It’s been added to our Favorite Place list, despite the rain.

The castle is the only thing we remember seeing 30 years ago!
Reflections on the canal in Ghent
Yes, this was another laundromat.
Even the iced tea has a proper glass.

The Nazis hid the Ghent Altarpiece in a salt mine with other looted works, and it was saved from destruction by the Monuments Men and others. It’s now in St. Bavos Cathedral in Ghent, being restored. This art made the whole visit to Ghent worthwhile. We highly recommend a visit; winter is perfect! We were the only people in the room with it and walked all around it – no crowds and no tour groups.

The Ghent Altar Piece in St. Bavos Cathedral. The bottom panels have been completely restored. The top ones are place holders while the originals are being restored in the museum. We visited that, too, to watch the restoration.
In St. Bavos – the Bishop’s confessional. You started in the Priest’s Confessional. If your sins were too serious, you were sent to the Bishop for Confession.
Babies in the wash tub??

2/2024 – Haarlem, Netherlands

The French rail conductors went on strike but our Eurostar train wasn’t affected, thank heavens. The rain theme continued in Haarlem. We had a lovely time with Michelle and a few of her colleagues – a brewery visit, walk through red light district, checked out the market.

An ex-jail De Koepel in Haarlem. It houses offices, a small uni, a theater, coffee shop, student dorms. Very innovative way to repurpose a building.
Flowers in the market – very inexpensive!
The urinal has a TV on it. Wouldn’t want to miss any of the match when you need to use the toilet!

After we dinner, we had our first trip disruption from a strike! Sunday night, Lufthansa texted to tell us our flight on Tuesday to Frankfurt from Amsterdam was cancelled because of a Lufthansa ground staff strike. We both immediately got on our phones and computers to talk to their chatbot to get a rebooking. Mark finally got thru first and we were put on a KLM flight. The reservation showed up on the KLM site so we felt pretty good.

2/2024 – FRA, NYC and home!

KLM did have our reservation and flew us to Frankfurt. Thank heavens, we planned to spend the night in Frankfurt anyway; the strike ended the next day at 7:15 AM.

Frankfurt airport when the ground crew is on strike. It’s like a ghost town.
So many cancelled flights!

We spent a day in New York City before flying back to Denver.

The Lego store!
QR codes for everything at St. Patrick’s in NYC
All types of credit cards accepted at St. Patrick’s

10/2023 Last stop in Nepal – Bandipur

Driving Day from Hell #2! The roads are explained on the next post so hold your breath.

Bandipur is a historic, restored town (Think Williamsburg, Virginia) and no cars are allowed in the center. After winding up the mountain past the National Goat Research Center, we were dropped off and hotel staff came to get the luggage while we walked to the hotel. The hotel is a historical building with tons of steps, no shower curtain in the bathroom and questionable hot water. Great view of the mountains from here.

Morning view of the mountains and fog in the valley
View from our room window in the morning

Mark and Jutta left at 7 AM for a hike with Bhaskar to Ramcot village. Mark and Jutta walked up to Thani Mai – lots of steps. Off they went to Ramcot – beautiful scenery, lunch at a local woman’s house of hot soup. Mark got a 200 rps. discount for keeping the chickens out of the house while she cooked.

Mark after surviving the 7 hour hike to Ramcot and back.

Having Bhaskar as our tour guide for 2 weeks was great since we let him order food during dinner/lunch that we never would have tried. Spicy peanut salad and chili paneer were 2 of our favorites. He even hunted down some local beer for us to try.

11/2023 Rome and Home

Nepal is exactly halfway around the world from CO (12 time zones) so we could go east or west to get home. We found a repositioning cruise from Rome to NYC for cheap; that made the decision. We finished the Nepal tour and headed to Rome for 5 days before boarding the cruise and setting sail for NYC with planned stops in Naples, Livorno, Cannes, Barcelona, Cadiz, Lisbon, the Azores, Bermuda before finally disembarking in NYC.

We awoke to news of an earthquake in western Nepal around midnight. Mark and Susan slept thru it but Jutta felt it, heard the building creaking, and couldn’t go back to sleep. We headed out at 7 AM to beat the early morning Kathmandu traffic. Kathmandu International Terminal might win for the most chaotic airport we’ve been in.

The airport – where to begin?? Bhaskar dropped the three of us off and we couldn’t even figure out where the lines were to get thru security to get into the terminal building to check-in. We finally found the screen to tell us we needed the B line but Jutta needed to go to the A line. The line was huge! We figured it would take forever but only took 15 minutes. The one long B line broke into 2 security lines just to get into the terminal. After we showed our tickets to prove we were flying, we went through security. The mass chaos is partly caused by people seeing their friends off at the terminal.

After #1 security line, we were in the terminal and had to find the correct Qatar line – flight 649 or flight 653? Thank heavens Mark is tall enough to see signs over everyone’s head! We found the correct Business class line, checked in, got boarding passes, wound our way through the other lines and gaggles of people following the “Immigration” signs and rode our first escalator in 2 weeks after showing our boarding pass at the bottom of the escalator. The disorganized Immigration line at the top of the escalator took 13 minutes.

No gate yet but we went to security #2 which took 16 minutes in a very illogical set up. This one was belts and shoes off, computers, etc. After we cleared security #2 and put our shoes back on, we had our boarding pass stamped to prove we’d been through security #2 and then showed it to some guy 10 feet away in order to get into the gate area. Full employment! 4 people in front of us missed the stamp and had to return to the stamp guy.

Still no gate. We hung out by the TV monitor and met an American woman who was also looking for the gate. She’s from Fort Collins – Police department in Homeless Intervention. She’d done a trek to Everest base camp for 14 days.

We finally had a gate right where we were standing. When the boarding process began (no microphones, just loud voices that were not loud enough), no busses showed up to take us to the plane. We finally got to the plane and even that wasn’t organized. Told us all to line up at the steps at the back door but when we got to the bottom of the steps, that guy saw our Business Class seat and sent us to the front door. Then the flight left about an hour late because of heavy traffic. Huh?? Only one runway at this airport made for a short taxi to takeoff.

The flight landed at Doha about 45 minutes late. We went through security again to move from the A gates to the C gates but only belts taken off. They didn’t care about computers or phones. BTW … there is no one in Doha airport at 2 PM in the afternoon. Rome … here we come in search of a laundromat!

What did we do in Rome? Visited 8 different churches, ate gelato at least 5 times, bought Mark new tennis shoes after he tore the soles on the Nepal hike (Finding large sizes is hard.), did the laundry, bought toothpaste and visited the Italian version of the dollar store. John O and Sue from FC joined us in Rome before we all set sail on the Norwegian Cruise Line Breakaway.

We had perfect weather for the port visits until we got to the Azores. The wind was too bad for the ship to dock. This resulted in 6 sea days in a row from Lisbon to Bermuda.

Mount Vesuvius looming over Naples
Italian vineyards in the Fall
Sue H. and Mark in the hill town
Cafe lattes are a great way to use a cafe toilet and get a caffeine fix at the same time.
Cannes was ready for Christmas
Cadiz, Spain waterfront. I was enjoying the sun on our walk.
Another spot to enjoy the sun.
Monkfish! I have no idea how to cook one.
Cadiz fish market shrimp
More fish in Cadiz
On our stop in Lisbon we took the city bus to Belem just to buy Pasteis de Belem – custard tarts. The cafe has redecorated and gotten way more organized since 2002.
La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia might be completed by 2030.
Watching the port activity was almost as much fun as seeing the cities. This crane pulled up containers about every 3 minutes.
Port tasting in Lisbon. We didn’t know we enjoyed good port until we lived in Potugal for 3 months.

Our port of disembarkation was New York City. We crawled out of bed at 3:50 AM after the captain said we’d sail past the Statue of Liberty about 4 and joined other passengers whose cabins were also on the wrong side of the ship. It was COLD and WINDY!

First, the ship passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York harbor at 4:30 AM.
Lady Liberty at 4:45 AM. We can only imagine what immigrants felt when they finally saw her after a long, uncomfortable trip.
New York City

Everyone asks – How was the cruise? Our answer: This was the first large ship we’ve sailed on (4000 passengers) and it is the last large ship we’ll sail on, voluntarily. Too many people, not enough space to find a quiet place. This particular sailing for NCL was understaffed, food was average at best, the buffet coffee was undrinkable, but it was cheap for 16 days at sea with unlimited drinks (part of the package through Costco). The port stop in Barcelona was long enough to figure out we want to return for a week or so, we tasted port in Lisbon, and we arrived back in the U.S. safely. One of the day tours reminded us that we really don’t enjoy touring with groups of people.

Summary – great 2.5 month trip with only 1 severely delayed flight, good friends, fun places, and a few stories to tell.

10/2023 Nepal – Chitwan NP and the “bumpy jumpy” roads

After we left Lumbini, we had good roads for a bit before we got to the Mahendra Highway over the mountains with the abysmal conditions. (More on the roads later.)

The tiny bar owned by owner of the chicken that the snake wanted for a meal.
Bhaskar got us to go see a python! He was attacking a chicken at the Little House; lady yelled and they got a sack to scoop him into; brought him over to the NP buffer zone to release him. He wanted to go in the direction of our rooms.
One of the elephants needed a snack during our walk.

We walked with the elephants in the afternoon to the river for drinks at sunset.

Happy elephant after a walk and a bath before we had a gin and tonic along the river at sunset
Mark and Susan with the elephants after our walk.

The highlight of the Chitwan NP safari was seeing rhinos up close and personal.

Rhinoceros staring at us

Now about the roads … abysmal is an inadequate description for them. The government goal is to widen and improve the Mahendra Highway, major east/west highway connecting India with Kathmandu. Great idea BUT their execution leaves a lot to be desired. It appears that they cut a new lane on each side of the entire highway, building retaining walls along the way, have put in some of the concrete supports for the needed bridges along the entire way or are working on it. BUT as they did this, the existing road has been destroyed – holes, no pavement, dust, dirt, it’s a disaster and no section is complete, The construction has been going on for 5 years with nothing complete. Even the village roads are damaged. Some of the bridge pieces that are “stored” in the towns next to the roads have trees growing out of them. We average maybe 20 miles an hour.

We don’t know who is managing or paying for this but I’m sure I’ll be dead before any of this road is done. Given the amount of traffic, I’m not sure why they even need to widen the road.

We started keeping track of who uses the highway. Here’s the list.

• People walking
• Cows, goats, dogs in the road
• Monkeys on occasion
• Bicycles with and without loads and carts
• Tuk-tuks
• Children in street
• Motorcycles with and without passengers and loads (passenger carrying bicycle with training wheels)
• Scooters
• Ox carts
• Busses that stop wherever
• Trucks
• Overcrowded tourist vans
• Private cars
• Farm equipment
• Calming devices and police checkpoints for licenses, taxes, registration

10/2023 Try #4 for Nepal was a charm

This was Try #4 for a visit to Nepal with a German friend, Jutta. She suggested this trip back in 2019, we think. We agreed, it was booked, COVID came along to cancel the trip in 2020 and 2021. Then chemo reeked havoc with the 2022 plans. 2023 it is! We flew from Bangkok to Kathmandu.

Everest from plane window. We were on the wrong side of the plane to see Everest so a nice guy from Arkansas used our phone and took the pictures for us.

The immigration hall in Kathmandu is chaos for figuring out where to go – DO you have a visa? Yes, we did (printed out) but we had to go pay for it. We had US dollar cash as stated on the website so we were pretty fast but the guy next to us tried to use a credit card. We finished before we ever found out how he paid.

We took the stamped sheets of pages to the immigration booth; he put a shiny visa stamp in our passports. Then we had to go thru security to get into the country before we could pick up our bags. Yes, they sent our backpack through xray. We probably should write down all the different security rules we’ve run into – take of/out -or not – belts, shoes, phones, Kindles, computers, liquids. Who knows what the rules are?? We just look for signs and follow what the person in front of us does.

We found a toilet before we headed to the luggage carousel. Took forever for Mark’s bag to show up. Walked thru Customs with our bags but they were too busy opening locals’ luggage to care what we brought.

The hotel didn’t have shampoo so we went for a walk to buy shampoo at Best Store.

Need Nepalese rupees? Just go to a money changer. They all have the same rate. Make sure you have unwrinkled dollar bills; the larger the bill, the better the rate. ATM’s worked, too.

Dashain was in full swing. It’s biggest festival in Nepal – 11 days of no work, pretty much. Anytime something doesn‘t happen “It’s Festival”.
400,000 people left Kathmandu Valley for the festival for their homes. Very little traffic, most shops and restaurants closed except for a few tourist shops. We even crossed the street with no traffic.
Jutta showed up the next day but missing her suitcase. It’s too long of a story for here but she did get it back the next day, no thanks to Air India.

The three of us had a tour guide and a driver for the next 12 days. Bhaskar and Gaya took great care of us and we saw lots! The trip spent 3 days in Kathmandu, flew to Nepalgunji and drove to Bardia NP, Lumbini, Chitwan NP, Bandipur and back to Kathmandu.

The food shops were open because eating is a big part of the holiday.

We flew from Kathmandu to Nepalgunji in the south. This is where the driving fun began! Bardia National Park was the first destination.

That’s an alligator in Bardia NP.
A few water buffalo crossing the river. These are domesticated.
Mark enjoyed a gin and topic along the river for sunset while we looked for “wild” animals.
Tea time during one of our safaris in Bardia National Park

Lumbini, birthplace of Budha and a center of Buddhism, was our next stop. Just a hint about the roads here. It took 6.5 hours to drive about 180 miles on the main east/west highway in the country. A little arithmetic and you realize we averaged less than 30 mph.

Countries are all building temples in the Lumbini Development Area – Germany, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand. The whole complex looks like Epcot! Then we walked to the canal, along the canal , over the bridge, past Cambodia temple to Myanmar temple where they had lovely western toilets in one row and hole in the ground in the other row. Even had soap!

Lumbini stupa
Buddha in Lumbini

10/23 Back to Thailand

We flew from Siem Reap to Bangkok, spent 15 hours in the Novotel at the airport, and flew to Ao Nang the next morning. 8:30 AM flights always sound like a good idea until the alarm sounds at 4:45AM for a quick shower, breakfast, check-in, security and a bus to the plane, of course! I’m trying to figure out if airlines pay less for their gates if they don’t get a jetway and just park the plane on the runway.

Now that we know how the Bangkok Airways bag drop works, it didn’t take long to drop our bags, print out a boarding pass and head to the gate at the domestic terminal.  We showed our boarding pass to get to the gate area (no security) and THEN we showed our ID and boarding pass and went through security to actually get to the gate. Our gate was across the aisle from the Coral Lounge (Priority Pass). They have a lovely massage lady who walked around and offered neck and shoulder massages to waiting passengers.  I took her up on her offer.

Ao Nang beach bar. Expensive beer at $2 each since they had a great location for watching sunset
Ao Nang beach at sunset

FAQ for us – What do we do at the beach? Not much but here’s a rundown of the week:

  • Eat breakfast and wonder why Thai restaurants never have big napkins
  • Catch up on the diary, photos, and the website IF the wifi is good enough
  • Drop off and pick up laundry
  • Hang out at the pool or more often in the pool to escape the heat.
  • Watch people at the pool. British guy by us had a bad sunburn, complete with blisters.
  • Get massages – about $30 for one hour
  • Check out the 7-11 and Watson stores. They are everywhere and have interesting snacks
  • With the time difference, we watched college football games on the phone by the pool. Watched Stanford beat CU in 2 OT
  • Watch the rain downpour some days
  • Had to scoop up a little gecko climbing on my suitcase and deposit him by the pool.

Our flight to Nepal was booked from Bangkok and we flew from Ao Nang to Bangkok, spending 5 days catching up on activities that a major city made easier. We used hotel points to stay at the Westin in the middle of Bangkok and spent a bit of time talking to the general manager and interns and restaurant manager. When you’re American and staying more than a night, we stand out. We learned a lot about the hotel and liviing in Bangkok as an ex-pat.

Some tasks we accomplished in Bangkok (other than trying potato chips):

  • Did a little shoe shopping for Nikes for Susan. Found a HUGE Adidas store, Skechers store and Nike store. A very nice guy helped me at Nike. I finally found a pair that fits. Size 8 is pretty popular! This took 12000 steps to accomplish!
  • KFC has green curry chicken rice bowls using fried chicken.
  • Cheesecake Factory is opening in December; Krispy Kreme, Tim Horton already in Bangkok along with dozens of Starbucks.
  • Applied for Visa on Arrival paperwork for Nepal and printed it out in the Business Center. One page says you’ll get a QR code – but it wasn’t on the page they tell us to bring in hard or soft copy. They need to hire me to work on their website!
  • Susan had a massage by the Robinsons grocery store – best one of the trip.
  • Changed our address so we can vote overseas for the November election. Colorado makes it so easy to vote wherever you happen to be.
  • Had our laundry done. I’m not going to want to go back to washing my own clothes.
  • Went shopping for necessities – Qtips, alcohol wipes, and wandered around the department store. I have never seen that many bras in one store. Of course, the biggest size is about 38 equivalent.
Finding a laundry is high on the list of things to do. This one was in an alley in Bangkok. Prices are by the kilo. Washed in cold water and hung in the alley to dry.
Bangkok traffic
Our favorite – Din Tai Fung

10/2023 A visit to Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We finished up in Europe and headed to Cambodia by way of Doha and Bangkok. The stop in Doha at midnight was to change planes with a 2 AM departure. The Doha airport is hopping at midnight! We checked out the Qatar Air lounge – nice! Then we flew to Bangkok to spend the day and night, not wanting to worry about making the connection to Siem Reap when we arrived or having to hang out for 6 hours in the airport after an overnight flight.

This bear is in the center of the Doha airport.

The next day we flew to Siem Reap’s very nice, clean, small, organized airport to start the Angkor Wat sightseeing. We got our Cambodian visa ahead of time online so no line at immigration.

Siem Reap is the hub for visiting Angkor Wat. We’ve been here before where we used a tour guide for 2 days of hearing about many kings and rulers and wars. This time we just hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us to various temples we wanted to see again. We started every day at 7 AM to TRY to hit the coolest part of the day. It was still REALLY hot and humid and we gave up on the temples by noon every day, retreating to our Temple Hotel in the middle of Siem Reap for A/C and a cool pool. Beer was only $1 so that helped, too.
Angkor Wat temple complex is HUGE with dozens of ruined temples. The main temple of Angkor Wat was the only temple that was crowded. We wandered around the others almost on our own. Quite clearly, tourism has not returned to pre-COVID levels here although it’s the tail end of the rainy season and should have been busier.

This guide was waiting for his group. This was an example of how unbusy the temples were.
Another temple to wander around at 7:30 AM alone.
The trees and moss grow everywhere.
We think this was the tree that is featured in the Angelina Jolie movie.
These carvings all tell a story of some battle or another.
They’ve added a “Visit” route for the temple but not much info about where you are going when you get to a “Opportunities for Visit” sign with arrows pointing 2 different ways. We didn’t see any pamphlets or even QR codes to guide the visit.
I’m not sure which goddess this is.
How hot was it? At one point the temperatures were in the high 80’s with 80 per cent humidity. My glasses fogged up in the air (not even the A/C) and we both had sweat rolling down our face, neck, head and a few other unmentionable places.

We saved Angkor Wat for the last day not knowing this was a Buddhist worship day for the ½ moon. The temple area was the most crowded of any temple so far with Asian tour groups and Cambodians coming to worship. Many were dressed in special clothing and carrying flowers. The top level of the temple was closed to everyone. We read that they use timed tickets to access that level now but even that was not going on today. The Korean tour groups were out in mass! The Japanese tour groups were so polite when they blocked the way – the others, not so much!
Drivers drop off people at foot of long walk up to the pools, turn right for ticket check, and then cross the pontoon bridge to get to Angkor Wat – all in the direct sun, of course! Mark walked up a few flights of steps that Susan passed on – too hot and no rails! We saw a NZ couple and he said “welcome to the sun” as we came out of the temple.

Angkor Wat in the haze.
The long approach to Angkor Wat and this was after a walk along a sunny road.
These women were cleaning plants out of the lake surrounding the temple.
He looked very grouchy and hissed at anyone who walked by.

10/2023 – On to Salzburg and Stuttgart

I love Salzburg and wanted to spend some time there. We took the train from Munich and hung out for 4 days. We first visited 32 years ago on our European camping trip – not much has changed. By dumb luck we hit the St. Rupert festival for their patron saint and founder. Surprise! It involves beer. At a nice market, I found some handcrafted jewlery to buy.

Hohensalzburg with the Mirabell Gardens, famous from the Sound of Music.
This little guy was in The Sound of Music, too. We did NOT do the tour.
My favorite place for a beer – Steigl – overlooking the rooftops of Salzburg.
The last time we visited Helbrun Palace was 32 years ago. The tours are now self-guided. We could spend as much time as we wanted looking at the water powered creatures built by one of the many Archbishop Princes of Salzburg.

The water holds up the little hat and changes its height.

These little guys spit at each other.

From Salzburg we took the train to Stuttgart, home to the 2nd largest “Oktoberfest” in Germany. It is officially called a Volksfestival – we assume that “Oktoberfest” is copyrighted. Deutchesbahn was actually on time!

The official name of the Stuttgart festival
The grounds open at noon during the week. Much less crowded than the counterpart in Munich first thing in the day.
We had 1/2 chicken and a beer for lunch in a very empty tent.
City Library in Stuttgart. It’s a tourist stop for architecture. Since it was right by our hotel, we had to wander in.

10/2023 Time for a new adventure

We’re off on another adventure and are hoping that try #4 will be successful for our trip to Nepal. The first three attempts were called off due to COVID and chemo but this attempt is looking better.
We’re not going on a trek or attempt to climb Everest or anything silly like that. This trip is to see Kathmandu and head south to the jungles to visit two national parks and look for animals. We’re meeting a German friend since this was all her idea 4 years ago!
Nepal is halfway around the world and we decided to come via Europe making stops in Munich, Salzburg, and Stuttgart AFTER we made a stop in Iowa City for a football game.

First stop was in Iowa City for a pretty dull football game although the weather was a perfect Fall day and we visited with some friends and the Hawkeyes won!

We flew to DC via Chicago from Cedar Rapids and were delayed about 5 hours. We were sitting on the fully boarded plane in Chicago when the pilot came on the speaker to tell us that a red indicator light wouldn’t go off so he was going to reboot the plane – no lie! This was a 777 so we guessed United needed it in DC, probably for a European flight that night. The reboot didn’t work. Next step – replace the motherboard and reinstall the software! Fortunately, we were in Chicago so a motherboard was at hand. We all got off the plane and hung out for 4 hours while the board was installed. The SW was corrupt so they had to install the SW one piece at a time – takes longer!

Best comment of the day – “Should I be worried that we have a United captain explaining motherboards and software to us?”. The captain did a great job keeping us updated.

I found 2 Business class seats to Munich for not many miles BUT it involved a 15 hour layover in London Heathrow which always sounds like a good idea until the actual day. We got a day room at an aiport hotel, had breakfast, napped and showered and back we went through immigration, security and on to Munich. Given how much of a mess Heathrow can be, it all went amazingly well.

Only glitch was luggage. When we checked in at Dulles with United we expected our bags to be checked all the way through to Munich. United said “no go”. The connection to Lufthansa was too long and we’d have to pick up our bags and recheck them. There’s not much arguing with an airline but we did check with Lufthansa at Dulles and they agreed.

When we had our bags in Heathrow at 5 AM, we immediately went to Lufthansa to recheck them. Nope! Can only be checked in 3 hours before the flight. We asked a superrvisor and she agreed – Lufthansa doesn’t have a room anymore in which to store the bags for 15 hours!

We finally made it to Munich, ready to start the Oktoberfest fun after some sleep.

Marstall tent at Oktoberfest in the afternoon. It wasn’t crowded at all.
We spent 2 afternoons with Josh and Sam Crowe, U. of Iowa friends.
If you need a toilet, look for cupid!
One day it rained. This made the tents more crowded since the outside seating wasn’t very desirable.
Yes, we do own some Bavarian dress.
The Munich firemen had to get a sick person down from the top of St. Peter’s Kirche. The stairway is too narrow for a stretched so they took him down the outside of the church using ropes.

Summer 2023 – Iowa and Las Vegas

A good friend retired as an airline pilot this summer and invited us along on his last flight. It was Las Vegas – Seattle – Las Vegas. Great time was had by all on the flight and in LV for the weekend. The only downside was the flight left LV at 6:00 AM. First time I’ve been in an airport before the Starbucks opened! We were back in Vegas before noon.

The 2 Marks at 5 AM
Mt. Ranier showed its head.
A water cannon greeted the plane when we arrived back in Las Vegas.

A few weeks later we headed to Iowa for the 4th of July and a visit with Mark’s family. Lila was celebrating her birthday, too. We did a little sightseeing in the area while we were there, checking out covered bridges, cornfields, and small towns.

This is the famous bridge in “Bridges of Madison County” in – you guessed it – Madison County, Iowa.
Another bridge. We drove all over the county hunting down four covered bridges.
Yes, this is John Wayne’s birthplace in Winterset, Iowa
Cumberland, Iowa – not Cumberland, MD.
Best bar name in Cumberland, IA
Sunday lunch was in Masena, IA for the 5th best pork tenderloin sandwich in Iowa last year. It’s an Iowa thing.
Lila’s Birthday cake for the party

4/2023 Egypt – Cairo and the Nile

From Amman we flew as a group to Cairo where UniWorld again met us, handled the passport control, led us thru customs, and on to the bus. The tour started the next day with a total of 36 people on the UniWorld cruise. After a day of visiting the Muhammed Ali Mosque and the Old Egyptian Museum (The NEW one is still under construction and several years late.), we flew to Luxor to start the cruise.

Doesn’t he look like he’s sitting on a toilet? He’s in the Egyptian Museum.
All public toilets in Egypt had an attendant handing out toilet paper in return for some change. However, the airport paid their toilet attendants so this sign was in those toilets. Our translation was “Don’t pay to pee.”

Our description of a Nile cruise is that it’s just like a bus tour – sail to a location, get off the boat, see a temple or two, get back on the boat, and sail to the next location – without having to pack and unpack every day. All the temples except Abu Simbel are very close to the Nile but driving between them is less comfortable than sailing between them.

The cruise was uneventful except for one good Norm story. Norm hit his head getting on the little boat for the bird watching trip AND he lost his wallet someplace that same day.  No one found it on the bird watching boat so Norm cancelled his credit cards. A day later or so, one of the cabin boys on the cruise boat found Norm’s wallet in Cabin 1; Norm and wife had switched cabins and the wallet fell somewhere in the old cabin.

Now for the pictures with just a little explanation.

Scenes from the bus

Abu Simbel

Susan in the 100F temps at Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel. This was moved inland in pieces when the Aswan High dam was built in the 1960’s. This was the most incredible temple we saw on the trip.
Ramses inside of Abu Simbel

Ramses shows up all over Egypt

Ramses at Karnak Temple
He’s at the Temple of Luxor. BTW … we gave up trying to keep all the dynasties and kings and pharoahs straight. I need a cheat sheet for that.
Temple of Hatshupset Temple.

All the styles of columns were Susan’s favorites.

Hathor temple
Inside Hathor Temple. Trajan and the Romans were involved with this one.
Temple of Esna on Easter morning

No trip to Egypt is complete without visiting the Valley of the Kings where King Tut was buried. We’d already visited his mummified body and the gems buried with him when we saw the OLD Egyptian Museum. Valley of the Kings just has the empty burial site along with a few dozen other tombs. One admission lets you choose 3 tombs to visit (Don’t lose your ticket!) but you need a separate ticket for Tut.

Valley of the Kings is very desolate and dry.

We finally headed back to Cairo via plane. In Egypt, as in India, men and women use separate security lines in the airport. All of the airports also had one security line at the entrance to the terminal for passengers and luggage. After passing this test, we could head to check-in, get our boarding passes, drop our bags, and head to the second security. The gates were not very good at using a microphone to board the bus to the plane. It was a “watch the gate and go when every one else does” kind of boarding.

We finally got to see the pyramids and the Sphinx. We had no idea that the Sphinx is pretty small and is right down the hill from the pyramids.

The pryamids are right outside of Cairo with a KFC and McDonald’s close by.
One side has orchards and a Marriott hotel at the entrance.
In front of the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx
Pyramids! They’re actually on a small hill so the big crowds are on the other side down the hill.
Riding a camel was a popular activity. We passed and just took pictures.

The Colorado foursome flew home via Frankfurt, spent the night in Frankfurt to avoid a 2 AM departure in Cairo. Mark and Susan headed to DC and Cumberland for the last stop on the trip – see Susan’s Mom.

3/2023 – Jordan

In 4th grade, Susan studied Egypt. Ever since that, the pyramids have been on the trip list and in January we booked a last minute trip on the Nile.  Since we would be in the neighborhood, we added the Uniworld pre-trip to Jordan. How much planning went into this? Not much!  Mark had never been on a group tour but he agreed to give it a try.

United made this whole trip easier by adding a direct flight to Amman from DC.  After we arrived in Amman, Uniworld took care of the details and we just followed directions.  They even met us before passport control and took care of the Visa on Arrival.

After arriving 3 days before the tour officially started, we booked our own day tour of Amman.  The city was pretty quiet during the day (relatively) because Ramadan started the day before we flew in.  The Arab food at the Iftar buffet (meal eaten after sunset during Ramadan) in the hotel was yummy and the staff pointed out the special iftar desserts we had to try!

Olives for sale in one of the Amman markets
Citadel. We had a retired Jordanian military officer as a guide. He asked if we are British before telling us how the Brits screwed up the Middle East after WWI.
View of Amman and the Roman Theater from the Citadel
Mark and Susan at the Roman Theater in Amman

John O. and Sue H. , friends from Fort Collins, joined us in Amman the day before the Jordan trip started. To give you some perspective, the tour itinerary went like this (and not the order we would have done it):

  • Amman – Jerash – Dead Sea – back to Amman
  • Amman – Petra (THE highlight of Jordan) – Wadi Rum
  • Wadi Rum – Aqaba
  • Aqaba – Madaba – Amman

Hadrian’s Gate at Jerash. Every time Hadrian visited a town, it seems they built him a gate.
The Dead Sea is at the bottom of these steps. If you look really hard, you can see Mark and John on the sand before they got in it and floated around. Sue and Susan retreated from the sun!

The Jordan tour group only had 12 people in it and we were 4 of them. Another 2 couples were fun and easy to deal with. Another 4 came from Nebraska. Let’s just say we didn’t want to have beers with 2 of them in the evening. Every group trip has “one of those” and our’s was Norm from Nebraska.  The day we left Amman for 2 nights, Norm left his passport in the bathroom of his hotel room. WHY do you even have your passport in the bathroom?   Who knows!  Fortunately, the hotel found it and held it until we returned to the hotel 2 days later.   Off to Petra!

We spent 4 hours there and 4 DAYS would be better. The site is huge – the Treasury, a monastery after you climb 800 steps (no time for that), Royal Tombs (only saw them from a distance), an amphitheater, camels, other ruins. This is definitely on our list to come back to.

After a 1.3 km walk to the bottom of the Siq, the Treasury appears at Petra.
Mark, along with the camels, vendors, and other tourists, in front of the Treasury. Yes, you saw the Treasury in an Indiana Jones movie.
Camels are everywhere! These 2 were along one of the roads we took to Wadi Rum.
Glamping in the desert. The tents came with flush toilets and showers.
View from our bed in the tent
Starry, starry night! The stars would be better with a smaller moon. It was too bright to see many stars.

Our last day was a drive from Aqaba to Madaba to Mt. Nebo to Amman. The highlight was lunch in Madaba where we FINALLY had upside down chicken … chicken and rice and veggies and lots of spices cooked in a big pan (wok size) and flipped upside down to serve it. It was the best food of the whole trip!

Upside down chicken!
Mosaic floor at the Franciscan Church on Mt. Nebo. And before anyone asks, we had NO idea what Mt. Nebo is famous for. We had to Google it to discover that this is where Moses stood to see the Promised Land before he died. If this is wrong, talk to Google.

We were exhausted by the time we arrived back to the hotel in Amman and checked in again. Norm got his passport back! The four of us headed to the bar for a beer and a sandwich for dinner.

It’s a small craft beer world. The only craft beer made in Jordan is from a brewery started by a Jordanian guy who went to grad school at U of Colorado in Boulder. He learned about craft beer there and decided to start a brewery in Jordan.  Pretty good beer.

Jordanian Craft beer with a Colorado connction

That finished the Jordan trip. Mark and Susan loved Jordan … nice people, great food, safe country and cities. We walked to find the laundromat one day in Amman and several people pointed us in the correct direction. When one dryer didn’t work after we inserted our coins and we used another one, the owner dropped off the equivalent of $4 for us back at the hotel after he finished work.

We brushed up on geography lessons in Jordan, too. Aqaba, Jordan, is on the Red Sea – about 1km. from Israel, 10 km. from Saudi, shares other borders with Syria and Iraq. They describe themselves as “a nice country in a bad neighborhood.”

French Polynesia in the rain – 2/4/2023

I’m a bit tardy in posting this so here goes!

When should you be really happy you are not traveling with any children? When you are on an island in a hotel and it rains all day – as in buckets down! This was one day on Bora Bora. It rained so hard we couldn’t see the island across the water.

That was only one day.  Other days ranged from hot and humid on Tahiti to drizzly and humid to cloudy and humid.  Get the general weather idea??

Raining in the pool.

We wanted to go to the city market in Papeete but it was closed the week between New Year’s and Epiphany so Mark had to settle for finding a lovely lady in men’s shop who took his shorts home over lunch to fix a torn hem. We enjoyed some micro-brewed beer and lunch while it rained hard – good beer!

Raining while we ate breakfast. The hotel had umbrellas everywhere to use!
With no light pollution, the stars and planets were gorgeous on the clear nights.

We had no problem flying to Bora Bora and enjoyed 10 days at Le Bora Bora resort.    We flew back to Tahiti a day before we were due to fly to San Francisco and Denver; we spent the night at a Hilton about 10 minutes from the airport with the biggest pool in FP. The pool was great and the hotel was across the street from a huge grocery store. (We get excited about finding grocery stores bigger than 7-11.)

View of Bora Bora from the plane

Now was time for the next weather problem. In all the plane flights on this trip (14 so far) with many of them having a chance for bad weather delays on one end or another, we had no problems.  When it’s time to fly to Denver, spend one night in FC, drive back to the DEN airport, meet Liz (Iowa friend), spend the night, and fly with her to Maui, a snowstorm pops up with snow predictions from 5 to 12 inches.

Decision time. After consulting with various weather services, texting and talking to Liz because Iowa would be impacted a day AFTER Denver, we decided to see if United would change our flights to fly SFO to Maui and we just wouldn’t go home.  We have swim suits with us so all is well, right? United already offered Liz the choice to change her flight by a day.  She just needed to get to the airport for a 5 AM flight!

No problem with United. We just needed to cancel one hotel in Denver, get another hotel by the SF airport, get a hotel in Maui for one night before we picked up Liz in Maui,  change a car reservation, and  reschedule a doctor’s appointment. It all worked out fine in the end!

That’s the tale of getting to Maui where the weather is perfect so far and no snow is rearing its ugly head.  Thank heavens we bought a few t-shirts along the way because I’m getting mighty tired of the same clothes!

On Maui enjoying sunset after 5 days of rain showers and clouds.
When you go to Maui, Costco is a necessary stop. I guess they were trying to make us eat healthier by putting the Maui Chips in no-man’s-land. Fortunately, Mark has long arms. Another lady was happy too!

Singapore and NYC  – December 2022-2023

Our last stop in the Maldives was the Westin, another hotel where we used points. They gave us a room all the way at the end of a boardwalk.  10 villas were between us and the next villa with guests (The hotel was doing renovations.) so we could have had a wild party and no one would have heard us! The staff was great and we learned a few tidbits about the hospitality industry in the Maldives:

  • 60% of resort employees have to be Maldivian citizens
  • $519 is minimum monthly wage;  working over 8 hours per day requires OT pay
  • The 10% mandatory service charge is pooled together and shared by all employees at the resort except for management. 

The Westin has their own desalination and filtration plant for water so we could drink the water if we wanted – we did!

We were the last villa way out there in the line.
Biolumenescent plankton on the beach on our last night.
Mark’s birthday!

Singapore was the next stop – flew there on Christmas Eve.  Singapore goes all out for Christmas with decorations everywhere – streets, shops, hotels.  We even got a short visit with Ana who we met in Split during our RTW trip.

The highlight of Christmas Day was doing the laundry!
Singapore skyline from our window.
Hotel Christmas tree
Robot to seat people at Din Tai Fung, a favorite restaurant. We were at a table away from the main walkway so we had a person seat us.
Singapore skyline

We flew to French Polynesia via Frankfurt and NYC and San Francisco. Susan’s bucket list included flying Singapore Air first class one time and this was it. Mark’s research found their “best” first class are suites on the A380 and that routing to the U.S. only goes to NYC.  Since we were going to fly through NYC, Susan suggested we stay for New Year’s Eve – why not?  We didn’t spend any travel money in 2022!

Susan in the Singapore Air suite on the flights from Singapore to Frankfurt (14 hours) and then 8 more hours to NYC.
A few of the suites connect and 2 single beds make into a double. They were not the most comfortable but Mark managed to get some sleep.
We spent one night at the TWA Hotel at JFK. It’s the old TWA terminal from 1966 made into a hotel but with all the old furnishings – dial phones in the room, pay phones in the lobby, photo booths, old style departure boards. It’s good for one night when you’re pretty tired.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The city was packed but we managed to walk 18000 steps one day. I was thankful and amazed that I felt well enough to all the walking.
New Year’s Eve Time Square crowd
It’s finally 2023!
Happy 2023!
We could even see the Statue of Liberty in the distance in the haze.

Then it was on to Tahiti via San Francisco.

Maldives 12/18/2022

We spent the second week in the Maldives at the St. Regis Hotel paid with hotel points, not cash!  It’s lovely but certainly has a different vibe than the Hard Rock Hotel. We met a lady from Iowa – surprise!  They live in Chicago area now and threw in a stop here because they have tickets to the World Cup finals in Doha so will stop there on the way home. Fun!

This is the main pool which was NEVER crowded – just a few guests used it every day.
We had one day of bad weather – hard rain and wind. Some shingles blew off our villa at night! This is the pool for our villa getting pounded with rain. That night the rain started right as we finished dinner and even with a buggy (golf cart) back to the villa, we were pretty wet!

We now know how the “other half” lives. This hotel is a bit over the top. We have our own “butler” to help with our stay – as if we need any help! He will give us a buggy ride whenever we want – we walk! The worker bees rake the sand path to our villa every day.  We think it’s so the housekeepers know if we’ve gone out as they can see our footprints in the sand. 

The guests really don’t interact with each other. A player from the Netherlands National Soccer team was here after the Netherlands got eliminated from the World Cup. His girlfriend is a model and you can tell! One really nice waitress in the bar says that lots of the guests here are “posh” – British for entitled.

Mark’s birthday was celebrated early with a yummy chocolate fondant dessert of some sort and a YouTube video playing “Happy Birthday”.
Our butler decorated the bathtub, too. The bubbles lasted until the next morning before the decorations all drownd!
The housekeeper liked to decorate the bed each evening. It was a shame we had to destroy it to sleep!
And he left us a towel creature each night.

We flew on a seaplane from Male here which was about an hour long and not bad at all. TransMaldivian Airlines has its own terminal and no security to clear.  The St Regis rep met us when we got off the Hard Rock Boat at the International Terminal and walked us everywhere to check in, weigh our bags and backpacks, check our passports, get the St. Regis car to the sea plane terminal (other side of the airport island), and take us to the business lounge to wait for the flight to be called.  Then he took us to the boarding location.  The pilot checked our names off his printed list when we got to the pier for the plane.

Mark actually fit in the plane seats – not assigned – just pick a seat!  The flight had 2 pilots and one of them flew in his bare feet!

A little tidbit about the Maldives … most of the resorts in the atolls that are not near Male go on “island time” – one hour later than the real time of GMT +5.  It’s a made up ti e zone. This gives people more beach time later in the day but doesn’t help people with jet lag.  Plus this makes the World Cup start later.  The semi-finals started at 1 AM here so you can guess who !did not watch! We will watch the finals tonight.

We also learned how the resorts get their alcohol since this is a Muslim country and alcohol can only be served in the resorts.  The beer, wine, spirits all come to a big warehouse where it clears customs (We don’t know how much paperwork is involved with that.) Then it is put on a boat to ONE resort.  The boat can only go to one resort and it is tracked on its trip to make sure the boat doesn’t stop along the way.  This is what one employee told us when  we asked.

A few nights the sunsets were marvelous!
It was bit windy that day at sunset and I had to grip the gin glass pretty hard to keep it from blowing over.

Now we’re off to The Westin resort again using points.

Maldives 12/9/2022 – end of week 1

Our first week is almost over and it’s a grey, windy day with some rain thrown in BUT it is warm! We’ve been at the Hard Rock Hotel all week.  It’s the closest resort to the airport, only requiring a speed boat ride. We did half board which included a large breakfast buffet and dinner (appetizer, main, and dessert each) from a number of different restaurants – Mexican, Indian, Thai, Maldivian, International, seafood, Japanese, Hard Rock Café – so we never got bored.

The staff here is very international although most are Maldivian.  We’ve met people from Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, India, Italy.  They’ve tried teaching us some Maldivian language not too successfully, but they are very polite when we butcher it!  Every evening at sunset there are canapes and drinks with different staff members wandering around to get feedback from guests and this is when we’ve learned the most about the country and the staff.

The guests come from all over the world with a strong contingent from Brazil, Russia, and Europe.  Dubai is only a 4 hour flight so lots of expats come here for a break. We met a lovely Scottish family who live in Dubai and shared a few beers by the pool with them.  For those of you who don’t travel because “we have children”, the Scots were here with their 6 year old and  7 week old! 

We’ve seen/heard a few Americans, but we are definitely in the minority.  When we are asked where we are from, we reply “Where do you think?” and the UK is the normal guess!

Our overwater villa
Full moon at the Hard Rock. There was a Full Moon party but we were in bed before the party really got going about midnight.
This is the beach at the Hard Rock with the villas in the background. The pic is a bit crooked but we’re taking all the pics on the phones since my neuropathy won’t let me use the “real” camera!

Off to the Maldives – 12/2022

Next stop is the Maldives on this adventure.  If you’re wondering where these islands are that Mark picked for his birthday celebration, find India, go all the way south, and look to the west. You’ll find this tiny country of about 550,000 people made up of about 1000 islands.

We flew Turkish Air from Munich with a 5 hour stopover in Istanbul followed by an 8 hour flight leaving at 00:40 – as in 40 minutes after midnight – and arriving about 10:30 AM in Male, capital city. Flight went well after we survived the totally unGerman-chaos of checking in and boarding. Turkish Air had flights leaving at 1:30 and 2:30 with 3 hour in advance check-in. Lines were everywhere with no one and no signs to direct traffic.  It took us about an hour to get checked in but the security line was short although inconsistent. Mark had to take off his Nikes but Susan didn’t.

Then there was boarding lack of organization, mainly caused by being in the old terminal 1 which has some issues with space to wait and line up. Again, some people giving directions would have helped.

Arriving in the Maldives was WAY easier than we expected after reading the country’s tourist website.  Every tourist has to have a paid reservation at a hotel, enough money to pay for accommodations and food while we are here, proof of onward passage, and a Travel Declaration “card” (electronically done either 72 hours or 96 hours ahead of time, depending on which website you read).  We had proof of all this printed out and on our phones but would we have cell reception?  Since Susan never trusts phone reception, she had the paper forms. 

Were we asked for any of this???  Just in Munich did we have to show the Travel Declaration and hotel confirmation before we got our boarding passes  In Male, the immigration guy just wanted to see a passport and we were good to go.

Our luggage showed up – yeah! – since the trackers in the suitcases showed the bags still in Istanbul and Munich, causing a momentary panic! When we exited customs into the open air terminal, hotel and resort greeters were lined up holding  boards with the names of the tourists they were meeting.  If your hotel was not there, you get to go to a large greeting area (open air) full of hotel and resort stalls and search for your hotel greeter there.  It’s all very organized. We found our Hard Rock Hotel stall with a little help from a nice Maldivian.

We’re staying the first week at the Hard Rock Hotel which is just a 15 minute boat ride across the lagoon from Male.  We waited about 45 minutes for some other arriving passengers before we boarded the boat and whisked our way to the Hard Rock Island.

BTW … my hair is growing back after I “shed” some during chemo and it’s coming in a bit curly. The humidity here makes it even more curly or fuzzy.

Can’t complain about the view from our bed.
The first day was a bit cloudy with drizzles but it was still warm and we got a bit sunburnt through the clouds. Need to remember the sun screen being this close to the equator.

Christmas Markets in Munich – 11/2022

Our newest adventure started off in Munich for the Christmas markets. Munich is definitely in the Christmas spirit with gluwein, bratwurst, roasted nuts, crib scene figures for sale, and the stores all decorated for the holidays!  Did I mention that the weather was cold and wet? No snow in sight in the city but we were told the mountains have enough snow for skiing.

Lederhosen and dirndls for the children
Christmas market at Marienplatz in Munich
Food stand at the market at the Residenz, Munich

11/2021 – Where to spend Christmas in a world gone crazy from COVID?

After 25 months of hanging out in the states, several cancelled trips, a few rescheduled trips, in September 2021 we decided things were looking good enough to plan a Christmas trip to Germany for the Christmas markets, a visit with a German friend and meet up with some Iowa friends who had the same idea we did.

We bought the tickets from Lufthansa – direct to Munich so no stops to cause possible problems.  We found some great hotel rates since December in Munich is not a big visit time, lined up a schedule with Jutta and Sam and Josh. We were fully vaccinated and even got our boosters in November.  We investigated how to get the online Vax Pass for Germany, where to get a COVID test 72 hours before flying home to Denver and uploaded the Luca app for contact tracing in Munich.

Everything was looking pretty good when COVID decided to attack Germany. We watched Bavaria and Saxony cancel their Christmas markets only a few days before the markets were supposed to start during Thanksgiving week. After we watched rules change for restaurants and museums, we gave in! Cancelled everything and rebooked our plane tickets for some made up dates next Fall.

Now where could we go for Christmas?  We knew Hawaii was packed already but what about Tahiti?  United flies direct from San Francisco, seats were available, and we could find hotels to stay in.  Why not?? About 4 days later, we’d booked the flights, reserved hotels, and investigated Tahiti entrance rules – not in that order!

Paperwork and testing!

We needed to fill out a ETIS (electronic permission to board the plane and enter the country), prove we’d been vaccinated and pay $50 each for testing when we landed.  At this point, we also needed a COVID PCR test within 72 hours before departing – 2:05 PM 12/7.

Tahiti gave us permission to come, took our $100, and all the documentation still told us we needed a COVID test (PCR) 72 hours or an antigen test 48 hours before departure from San Francisco.  This meant we needed COVID tests after 2:05 PM on Saturday 12/4.  We went on-line and managed to find one in FC.  Actually, we found and scheduled 2 different ones in Fort Collins just to be sure – one for money and one for free.

I’m a big chicken when it comes to scheduling flights out of Denver in the winter with connections so we were flying from DEN – SFO on Monday 12/6 and then SFO – PPT on 12/7 (Tuesday). 

Everything is going merrily along when Thursday 12/2 hits.  I checked the French Polynesia entry requirement ONE more time (I have them memorized at this point.) and see that Tahiti changed the COVID test to 48 hours before departure, thanks to our Omicron friend.  Now we need our test after 2:05 PM on Sunday. Time to cancel the FC 72-hour tests.  (BTW – United still said 72 hours on their Travel Ready website and we’re thinking there are going to be LOTS of pissed people at the airport.)

Now what are we going to do?  It is really hard to find a test in FC on Sunday that will get you results quickly.  There’s always the SFO airport but those tests cost about $250 each and we made some reservations there just in case.  Mark did great research and found a place in SF who would do a test on Monday afternoon and was even free.  Another set of reservations were made!  We just needed to take BART into the city and go from there.

Now it’s Friday and United texts us to inform us that Tahiti changed their entrance requirements to a test 24 hours before departure. I’m pretty sure they were wrong but who am I to argue with United when they control access to their planes?  More research!  Mark finds a place that will perform rapid antigen tests in San Bruno about 4 miles from our hotel by SFO.  We make more reservations for after 2:05 PM on Monday and cancel the ones in the city.  We rent a car for the day, too, so we can actually get to the test site.

Saturday and Sunday, I keep checking United and French Polynesia which still don’t agree. 

Monday rolls around, we fly to San Francisco, pick up a car, and wait until close to our reservation time for our COVID test.  Google maps gets us to the address which has the correct signs and is a repurposed shipping container. We drive up; fill out a bunch of forms on our phones while we sit in the car.  The lady does the test and we head off to Target to pick up some socks since Susan forgot to pack any.  By the time we bought socks, our results were available.  We passed!

SFO was ready for Christmas!

Back to the hotel for the next stress point.  United makes you upload a picture of your passport and the app has a bit of trouble actually focusing. No, you cannot upload a jpg file. The app has to take the picture.  We also had to upload the file with our COVID test results.  Mark downloads the file on his tablet and uploads it to the United website.  Approved!  Susan downloads the file on her laptop and uploads it to United. Fail!  Not accepted!  Try number 2 – Fail!  Mark reads the comments closely and sees that the file can’t be read.  SO … Susan sends link to Mark, he downloads the file on his tablet and uploads it to United – Approved!

We are ready to go and had a few beers and wine at dinner to celebrate! 

Lessons learned for COVID travel:

  • Check and double check and triple check the rules and regulations for testing. Everyday is a good benchmark!
  • Print out EVERYTHING!  If you have any form that is electronic, print it out.
  • Take then entire pile of paper with you on your flight.
  • Download any files that you couldn’t print to your phone AND to any other device you are traveling with.

12/2021 – 3 Weeks in French Polynesia

Given Susan’s belief in checking in for flights REALLY early, we went to SFO about 3 hours ahead of time to avoid any lines.  Flight left on time and was very empty.  When we landed in Papeete,Tahiti, we had to show our vaccination cards, passports, Electronic forms, and COVID tests before we were allowed into the country. We had no way to print the COVID tests in SF but did download them to our phones to show Mr. Immigration.  He was good to go with this.

We also had to do a COVID test at the airport – covered by the $50 fee.  Cough 5 times, blow your nose into a Kleenex, swab each nostril, swab top of mouth, under tongue, each cheek.  We only get notified if we test positive.  Thank heavens we never heard from the public health people in FP.

Our next COVID test adventure will be getting a test within 24 hours of leaving but the airport has them.  Otherwise, I guess we’ll be in Tahiti longer!

Geography lesson – French Polynesia is HUGE, south of the equator, and just about directly south of Hawaii (same time zone). It’s made up of a number of archipelago’s and hundreds of islands. We went to 3 – Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora – but there are lots more to explore. The islands are connected by a few ferries and lots of planes.

First stop was Papeete, Tahiti, the capital and largest city.

Tahiti is a volcanic island with black sand beaches
Tahitian Christmas tree

Our next stop for a week was Moorea which is the island you can see in the background of the black sand beach picture above. We took a taxi to the ferry terminal, bought a $15 ticket for each of us, waited 15 minutes and took the 25 minute ferry ride to Moorea. Then we took a taxi to our hotel, Hotel Manava. It’s actually near a town (about 10 minute walk to the grocery store), has a food truck next to it and a restaurant grill across the street. This gave us more choices of where to eat instead of eating at the hotel all the time.

The town also has a laundry run by a French lady who moved to French Polynesia with her surfing husband 20 years ago and has been in the laundry business ever since. Drop it off one day and pick it up the next – about $20 for 10 kg., washed, dried, folded and probably ironed!

Cook’s Bay. We took a tour one day to see more of Moorea and to learn history and plants. Cook never actually sailed in this bay.
View from the side of one of the volcanoes.

We took a 4 hour excellent tour with lots of info about the history and myths of the islands plus the plants. Stopped at Cook’s Bay, the Belvedere where we can see both bays, archeology sites, Agricultural school for a bathroom break and ice cream.  The vanilla and the coconut ones were yummy!  The students were on break. Stopped to get info about many plants – wild pineapple, wild hibiscus, yellow magic flower.  The tour guide gave us cold clothes that were soaked in water and plumeria flowers.  One of the plants smells like Chanel #5 when crushed. Last stop was at the juice factory for samples of the alcoholic drinks and juices.  It’s too expensive to export locally grown fruit so the plant makes it into juice.  Pineapple is grown locally along with bananas, avocados, green beans, papaya, mangoes, oranges, grapefruits. 

A yellow flame tree. Red ones are way more common.
Poisson Cru – raw fish marinated in coconut and lime juice. Yummy!
On the hunt for more flavors of potato chips around the world- smoked ham

Bora Bora was the next stop for a week. We expected things to get busier since this was now Christmas week and it did.

We were #1 and #2 people to check in for our Air Tahiti flight after the boxes of green mussels got checked in!  No security, take water on board.  A prop plane picked us up on Moorea on the way from Papeete after dropping off about 6 people.

Bora Bora airport sign

Left 10 minutes early and took about 50 minutes to fly to Bora Bora.  BOB airport is on an island and the only transport from the airport is a boat either from Air Tahiti or from each resort. We stayed at Le Bora Bora Hotel and the guys were at the desk in the arrival area and gave us leis and crowns; took our luggage to the boat for the 10 minute boat ride across the channel to Le Bora Bora Resort, a Relais and Chateaux property. 

We splurged and stayed in an overwater bungalow. The A/C worked after we got instructions to not change the temperature!  Glass in the coffee table to watch fish along with glass behind the sinks and the bathtub. We had a lovely deck and ladder down into the lagoon.

Our room from the lagoon
View through the coffee table
View of the resort island from our room
Mark and Susan at sunset.

One hint – Liquor is very expensive in FP but each person can bring 2 liters into the country. Do it! We brought 3 liters of gin and only had to find tonic which was way cheaper! Lots of people did this. French wine was reasonable and beer was OK priced for local beer – about $5-6 each. The resort gave us 2 cans of beer, coke, juice and water each day in our room included in the price.

We did a 4 hour snorkel trip around the island with sting rays and sharks. I’m in love with sting rays now!
Fresh fruit on our snorkel trip!
Another sting ray hanging around our room

After 7 days in Bora Bora, it was time to go back to Papeete for Christmas and to get COVID tests in order to fly back to the U.S. Let’s just say, Air Tahiti was not having a good travel day but we made it and were not among the passengers worrying about missing their flights home!

Exercise class at our hotel on Christmas Day!
Microbrewery in Papeete. The beer was good!
Notice the BIG container of beer for your table. We did not order one!

We flew home on the 28th at 10:40 PM but took the shuttle into town to get a COVID test at the local pharmacy on the 27th. Really easy and got the results in about 30 minutes although the pharmacist really wasn’t sure we didn’t need to wait until within 24 hours.  The US says the test cannot be dated before 12/27 and mentions NOTHING about how many hours. We both passed, thank heavens! 

I passed!

The end! French Polynesia was excellent; we want to go back and check out Taha Island and a few others. The United flight is only about 10 hours from SF. We learned that Costco has some great packages at the moment with Air Tahiti Nui out of Los Angeles.

One Year Later – 4/2021

I just looked at the last post I put on the website and it was 13 months ago – March 8, 2020. I see that we weren’t too worried about COVID at the time. Little did we know about the illness, deaths, online school, toilet paper shortage, cancelled and changed plans of everything from travel to graduations to weddings that were about to occur.

This website is about our travels and I want to update you on the travels we’ve done in the last year. First is where we left off in Kona, Hawaii in March 2020. We changed our return flight and flew home 10 days early when it seemed as if no one had any idea what was happening with domestic travel. We landed at 6 AM in Denver to a virtually empty airport and drove home to FC with very little traffic.

One of the resort cats who loved to sit on the chairs with us to sleep in the sun and help with SUDUKO.
Empty airport at 6 AM in Denver

Our travel work for the next month was undoing all the plans we’d already made when it became apparent that travel had come to a halt worldwide! Seabourne cancelled our sailing from Miami – Morocco – Funchal – Barcelona, leaving us to undo flights. After many a phone call with United we got all our money back. It helped that they changed one of our flights by about 8 hours! Hotels to cancel, “Hamilton” tickets in London to cancel, walking tours to cancel … Then we started on the Berlin and Munich flights and hotels moving on to a flight to Singapore and a cancelled trip with a German friend to Nepal. We could quickly see where this year was heading even if we did have lots of Costco TP in our basement.

Sum total of April 2020 travel. The most distant points are Costco and a friend’s house for drinks on their patio.

May, June – nothing to report. July we drove up to Steamboat where we were lucky enough to stay for a 2 weeks in a friend’s condo on the mountain. Nice place to escape! Not to be forgotten was a one day road trip to Breckenridge to be friend’s “responsible adults” after hand surgery. The traffic was the best we’ve seen on I-70 in years.

Clark, CO valley near Steamboat.
“Masks required” coming off Rabbit Ears Pass into Steamboat

August, September – nada! October we escaped for the weekend to Denver!

Social Distancing at Jackson’s Bar and Grill in Denver

We spent 4 days at Thanksgiving in a nice cabin in Estes Park. The park didn’t need reservations at that time of year and the scenery is always good. December, January, February, March – more no travel!

Now it’s April 2021 – 13 months after this all started and we’re back in Maul, thanks to vaccinations and negative COVID tests. We followed the state of Hawaii rules – account on Hawaii Safe Travels, negative COVID test at approved sites, Health questionnaire, magic QR code – and here we are. DIA was much more crowded than this time last year. Yeah! It feels great to be someplace different for a while.

First flight in a year!
Morning rainbow
Pineapple Wheat to go with poke ….Yummmm

That’s the end of the 2021 travels but it IS only April! The EU announced today they are going to be open to fully vaccinated individuals from the U.S. so we are hoping MAYBE to get a trip in to the Christmas Markets in Germany.

3/2020 Our worst days in 28 years of travel

As COVID-19 dominates the news, we are in Hawaii hanging out in Maui and Kona in the sun, avoiding any possible snow and not really too concerned about the virus. Once in a while I realize that I’m in the age group of “old” people (older than 60) who are being urged to stay home – not that I’m not going to do that!

Everyone seems to freak out about travel right now and it made me start thinking about what some of the “worst” travel experiences we’ve had since our first trip together 30 years ago. We’ve certainly had some “adventures” but none of them have been too terrible.

Mark and I had the excitement of two Metro strikes in Paris. We camped (in a tent) in a Paris suburb and took the RER into Paris.  The two strikes started in the middle of the day as Paris strikes are prone to do. We were in the city and needed to get back to the campground.  The Parisians were VERY helpful and pointed us in the correct direction. We learned a few things along the way:

  • The Metro and RER share some lines in Paris and the Metro controls the RER signage within Paris. No Metro, no RER signage for which train is approaching. 
  • Every train has a sign in the front window with a  3-letter code designating its final destination.  The locals all know the codes and helped us get on the correct train.

We haven’t really had that many cancelled flights along the way.  A May hailstorm in Denver made us miss our connection in DC to Frankfurt on our 25the wedding anniversary. Our dinner was United Snack boxes!  In case you’ve ever wondered, the Sheraton by Dulles has a bar but it closes at 11 PM so we didn’t even get a glass of wine on our anniversary!  Who would ever think a bar in an East Coast hotel would close at 11?

Susan had an extra night in Hong Kong compliments of United after a fan blade shattered on the runway.

We had a REALLY long day in Australia trying to get from Port Macquarie to Tasmania. What should have been a 4 hour trip ended up taking 14 hours!  Hobart is another city with no restaurants open after 10 PM.  Dominos Pizza was pretty tasty!

Tasmania was lovely after we finally arrived!

Oh, yeah!  Don’t fly from Berlin if there’s a chance of snow.  At Berlin Tegel the de-icers have to come to the plane.  Our flight (1 inch of snow caused this) was so late leaving Berlin for Munich that we arrived in Munich after EVERY flight to the U.S. had departed.  It took a bit of negotiating to get on a flight to Frankfurt and a rush through the Frankfurt airport to the gate with only enough time for a toilet break and grab a sandwich.  Ten hours after leaving our hotel in Berlin, we were still in Germany!  The only good thing about this was that we got home at 1 AM so had no jet lag the next day.

Then there was the direct flight from Denver to Maui that wasn’t!  We landed in Los Angeles for a faulty radio and waited for a replacement plane, landing in Maui about 6 hours late.  Lesson learned – Beer sales stop at 11 PM in Hawaii in grocery stores but there’s no line at the rental car office in Maui at 10 AM and no traffic driving across the island.

We were in London one day and learned that Londoners who ride the Tube aren’t really very good at figuring out the Bus.  The Tube was shut down for a bomb scare and no one appeared to know which bus to take!

Another nature-related travel adventure was in Maui. One Spring Break in Maui began with a night on the floor of the Civic Center after the earthquake in Japan triggered a tsunami warning for Hawaii. Listening to the Hawaii Tsunami alerts all night long was educational to say the least.  Be sure to take a pillow with you if you ever have to evacuate your hotel room.

Then there was the bad traffic day in Chattanooga, TN on a road trip around the U.S.. First, the interstate was backed up for miles with a truck accident. After we picked a random exit,  we drove through the middle of Chattanooga using only a tiny square AAA city map (This was before cell phones.) and came across a torrent of water in the street.  10 minutes later the radio reported a water main break exactly where we’d driven and they shut that road!

In about a month, we’ve booked a cruise from Miami to Barcelona with some time in Barcelona and then in London.  The corona virus news is everywhere but we’ve decided that we’re going on the cruise unless they cancel it.  After all, we went to England for Thanksgiving in 2001 after 9/11. The English were quite happy to see some tourists. We flew home from Portugal on July 4, 2002 and the news was full of commentary about blowing up planes on 4th of July.

So, follow along and we’ll keep you posted on the cruise adventure during COVID-19 in 2020.  We’re sort of wishing we were in Rome right now to see it without too many tourists.

3/2020 Observations about shopping at Costco in Kona on a Sunday during the coronavirus

We’re in Kona for a few weeks, arriving yesterday afternoon.  We’ve rented a condo and needed to visit Costco and Safeway to stock up for 2 weeks before we return the car later today.

Costco in Kona on a Sunday is always chaos but today was worse.  We can safely report that buying toilet paper for the coronavirus is a “real thing”. 90% of all the carts had at least on of the BIG Costco packs of toilet paper; many had cases of bottled water (Why do you need bottled water in Kona where the water is perfectly drinkable?) and quite a few had cases of beer.

Costco is restricting the number of cases of bottled water and TP you can buy but I didn’t venture to that section of the store to look for signs or information.

My new research project if I were a Consumer Science prof would be to find out the average number of rolls of TP a home stores at any one time.

11/14 The rest of the trip!

The overnight ferry from Palermo went pretty well. Lots of people use the ferry with their dogs and we met quite a few dogs as we wandered the halls.  We headed to Pompeii via train to Naples from the port. 

Pompeii is a HUGE site. We highly recommend NOT visiting Pompeii in the summer. Even though the temps were only in the 70’s, the humidity was high and there’s not much shade. According to our B&B owner, at least 2 people die every year from heart attacks. Mark and I are pretty sure more people than that break or sprain an ankle on the site.

All of the devastation was caused by Mount Vesuvius exploding. Only about 2000 people died from the heat and ash that buried the city. Excavations keep lots of archaeologists busy!
The forum where everyone gathered. This is the most visited part of Pompeii and walking around here is pretty easy. Mt. Vesuvius is in the background
A city street. You can see why walking is quite interesting!
The frescos are amazing. You find them in a variety of houses just wandering around.
Grand fountain
Mount Vesuvius in the background framed by one city gate.

After Pompeii, we headed off to Capri right at the end of the season (ends on 10/31). Many shops and a few hotels were already closed, not to reopen to around Easter.  Restaurants and bars also close for the winter and workers head off for 3-4 months of holiday.  Several waiters and owners told us they work 12-14 hours every day from Easter until the end of October and are more than ready for a break.

Closed for the season. Capri is full of high end shops which we did not patronize!

80% of visitors to Capri are day trippers and we can believe that! Cruise ship tour groups and “regular” tour groups crowded the center of Capri every day; when evening came, we pretty much had the island to ourselves. 

View of Capri Bay from the main square
On Halloween, the local kids went trick or treating to the local businesses. This King Charles spaniel helped greet the children.
The streets are VERY narrow in Capri. Special trucks pick up garbage, deliver goods. This one is a medical ambulance.
St. Michele Church in Anacapri with a tile floor painted with the story of Adam and Eve. It’s now a museum and not a church. You can see the walkway around the floor to walk around the floor.
We think the apple tree in Adam and Eve became a lemon tree in this floor. Lemons are all over Capri!

Rome was our last city. How do you get to Rome from Capri??  Not easily, if you’re not with a tour group.

  • Walk from your hotel to the funicular in Capri to get to the port.
  • Buy a ticket and take the ferry to Sorrento (about 30 Minutes).
  • Walk or take the elevator (1 euro) UP from the port of Sorrento to the main town.  Best 1 euro you can spend!
  • Walk to the train station, dodging tour groups.
  • Take the local train to Naples – think 24 stops and 50 minutes, standing the whole way unless you luck out and find a seat.
  • Take the highspeed train to Rome and figure out how to get to where you’re staying once you’re in Rome. We opted for a taxi to our AirBnB.

We arrived in Rome on November 1, All Saints Day, and a holiday in many countries. Rome was packed with people for the weekend but calmed down come Monday.

A carved foot from 200 AD
Sunday, we went to St. Peter’s to visit the church and ended up seeing Pope Francis giving his blessing – in Italian!
One of the many churches we saw. We met an Italian TV personality in Palermo (She does shows about important houses in Italy.) and she told us to stop in any church when we see it open. You never know when it will open again! So many churches are plain and boring on the outside but when you walk in – WOW!

To get home, we flew from Rome to Frankfurt, spent the night, and took the direct United flight to Denver with the crazy lady sitting directly in front of Mark.  Other than punching the call button ALL the time, ignoring her lap baby and 5-year old, and yelling at the flight attendants, she was your normal passenger.  Denver’s finest met her when she got off the plane and United supervisors were everywhere!  Mark told the flight attendants to call him if they need any backup for her behavior!

11/14 Palermo

Our month in Sicily ended with 3 nights in Palermo before we took an overnight ferry to Civitavecchia, the port for Rome.  We weren’t really expecting much from Palermo, having never read many great stories about the city. It’s the largest in Sicily with about 700,000 people and is supposed to be quite dirty and chaotic.  Even the other Sicilians (not from Palermo) we met didn’t speak highly of it and warned us that traffic in Palermo is the worst on the island – mass chaos!

We enjoyed Palermo overall but have to agree that stop signs and red lights appear to be optional; park wherever – if your flashers are on, you’re legal!

We met some lovely people, ate some good food, and visited more churches, of course!

Best granite we had in a month. Granite is like a slushy but made with fresh fruit and some sugar. This one just used fresh lemons and ice. It was very tart and yummy!
Palermo twist on aperol spritz – limoncello, prosecco, tonic water, and a scoop of granite on the top. This was the best one!
It’s hard to see but the sign on the left side is a Water Closet sign. First time we saw it, we thought it had been moved. Second time, we figured out the sign points to a WC BEHIND the altar! We saw a few people coming out from there.
The Royal Chapel covered in mosaics on all walls and floors. It’s spectacular but small when we compared it to Monreale the next day.
Translation – horse meat. We didn’t go check out the various cuts you can buy.
We needed a beef burger after all the pasta and pizza that dominate most Italian menus. This restaurant let us choose between donkey, buffalo, pork, horse, chicken , veggie. Yes, beef is on the menu but didn’t make the picture.
Mark found this ingenious cat perch one day.