Germany

Winter is Coming…

October has brought cooler temperatures to Germany, a sure sign that it is time to move along to an area with warmer weather. (If we do this just right, we will never have to experience another cold winter again.) Luckily we are nearing the end of our stay in Dusseldorf.

Bonnie and I have settled into an easy pace of life in this largely corporate and college town. George’s morning here typically starts around 7:15, if he is not up and about, Digger (one of the two cats we are looking after) stands beside the bed and makes chirping sounds until he relents and get up. If somehow, he manages to sleep through the morning concert, Cato (the second of the pair) jumps on the bedside table and head-butts him in the face until he is awake and up. Thus, they have us trained to get up and feed them promptly in the morning.

After morning yoga, some breakfast, and the New York Times crossword, we typically head out to explore the city and shop for the day’s provisions.

We enjoy walking, and this is just the town to do it in. In the last month and a half, we have explored quite a bit. Most of the good shopping areas are a bit far away; so we jump on the subway/tram that stops on the street just in front of the apartment.  The tram (or Stadbahn, as it is called), gets us to the start of our walks, by delivering us to either the old town (Alstadt) or the a great walking street called Kings Avenue (Konigsvalle) which is lined on both sides with shops and galleries.

In order to ‘get our steps’ that make up the 2 miles or so we like to walk,  we love cruising through the Carlsplatz Market. A collection of specialty stalls including bread shops, cheese mongers, butchers and flower shops. Once we decide on an evening meal, we are off foraging.

It would not be fair to mention Altstadt without talking about the touristy area lined with bars, breweries, and restaurants. There is one street that is so closely packed with bars, built side by side, that it is commonly referred to as the worlds longest continuous bar. Like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, this area has a quiet peaceful personality during the day and a completely different frenetic energy at night.

Speaking or beer and breweries; it is October, and we are in Germany BUT, we quickly learned that Oktoberfest if limited to a specific part of Germany (around Munich). We did, however, go on a tour of several of the local breweries. The tour involved walking around old town, stopping at several different breweries, and trying their beers, while learning more about beer in Germany. We learned that each region makes it’s own stlye of beer and that there are very strict regulations about what ingredients can be added to beer made here. This is limited to malted grain, hops, yeast, and water. No other ingredients and additives are allowed. We also learned about a special style of beer which is fermented with yeast that works from the bottom of the vessel up (as opposed to most which consume the sugar from the top down). These bottom fermented beers are called Altbier (“alt” beer) and have a distinctive taste.

After having visited, the butcher, bread shop and whatever other markets we need to, we jump back on the tram and head back to the apartment, usually around 2:00 or 3:00pm. Evenings are consumed by preparing whatever fresh ingredients we have found and enjoying the meals in the very comfortable apartment that we are house sitting in.

On Sunday, we will once again pack out bags and jump on a plane. This time we are off to Vietnam. No more long pants and sweatshirts for us!

See you again Dusseldorf, it has been fun…..

Spain

English in La Alberca Spain

This is not the first time that we have volunteered for English immersion camp. But believe us, the experience we had in Germany was very different than the experience we had in Spain. Both were wonderful but showcased very different cultures.

The program was created by a group called Pueblo Ingles. They bring together 20-25 paying students, and an equal number of native English-speaking volunteers. The goal is total immersion in English, in a comfortable and fun environment.

In the first paragraph, we called this a camp; what we did not specify was whether is was a summer camp or a boot camp, as it has elements of both. You do meet amazing people, and make friends like summer camp; but the program is structured and the days are long. The week is exhausting but so worth doing!

We first met the other volunteers and the students as we boarded luxury tour a bus for the four plus hour ride from sweltering Madrid to the much more temperate climate of the mountains in La Alberca.  The program coordinator Cristina, an American transplant who now lives in Spain, guided us onto the bus and let us know what to expect for the day.

Each volunteer (or anglo, as they call us) was encouraged to sit next to a student. This concept was carried out throughout the week. In halting, but passable English, the nervous students introduced themselves and we initiated what was to be the first of many hours of English conversation.

Each day started around 9:00am with a buffet breakfast where tables sat four (always had two Anglos and two students). Immediately after breakfast there we activities aimed at boosting the student’s vocabulary and general comfort with English.

 

 

Daily activities were led by our master of ceremonies Sam (from Wales) and included:

    • One-on-one sessions where a student was matched with an Anglo and encourage to spend an hour talking about whatever came to mind.
    • Telephone and video calls.
    • Group discussions from a suggested list of topics
    • Theater presentations, where a small group of students could create and present humorous skits
    • Presentations from both students and anglos. George did a demonstration about how to make the perfect margarita, it was very popular with the group.
    • Dancing, sign along sessions and other creative activities.

Lunch and dinner were three course meals, the food was good and plentiful, and served by English speaking waiters. Lunch at 3:00pm followed by free time (a nap) until 5:00pm then back from more activities until dinner at 9:00pm. The days typically ended with us dragging back to our cabins (private rooms with an ensuite bathroom and shared common areas) around midnight and falling quickly asleep.

By the end of the week, we were all tired, but happy. The students had all made significant progress with English. There were a lot of folks asleep on the bus ride back to Madrid. The goodbyes were emotional and heartfelt, I know we made friends that we will keep for life!

If you are a native English speaker, regardless of your accent, and you are looking for a unique travel opportunity, this is it! There are programs for teens, young adults (18-23) and adults (30-80). To learn more about this amazing program, visit Pueblo Ingles at this link.

and there’s always ham….

Spain

A Visit to Madrid

We had a couple of days between the end of our house sit in New York and the start of the English immersion program, so we decided to take advantage of it and visit Madrid. The first thing we had to do was find housing. Lately we have found air B&B to be too expensive for short stays (by the time you add in the cleaning fee, a hotel is often cheaper), but since we were going to be there for several days it worked out OK. We found a small studio in the Atocha area that was central to just about everything we wanted to walk to.

We knew nothing about Madrid, but lucky for us, an old friend Jose Daza lives there and he was happy to show us around. Madrid in the summertime is very hot, and for this reason we met a little later in the evening for our walking tour of the city with Jose. What a tour it was, we started at 7:00pm, walked for more than 5 miles and ended up at home around midnight, lucky for us the tour included tapas and cocktails!

Here are some interesting tidbits we picked up during our tour:

    • The Spanish take their sports very seriously. There are many football (we Americans call it soccer) teams in Madrid. The most famous of course is Real Madrid. There are also many beautiful fountains around the city. Each of the major teams has a particular fountain where they gather to celebrate wins. As you can imagine this involves a lot of music, dancing, drinking and a more than occasional dip in the fountain.
    • There are many, many museums in Madrid, but the largest three are in an area called the Golden Triangle of Art. These include The Prodo, Reina Sofia and the Thryssen-Bornemisza. For a reasonable price, one can purchase a single ticket to visit all three.
    • There is still a King in Spain, although, these days he is more of a figurehead. There is a royal palace, but it is more of a museum, the King lives in a private residence in suburb of Madrid.
    • Cathedral de la AlmudenaThe original official cathedral, still stands, but has been replaced with a larger, much grander structure. “I guess God needed more room”, our friend told us.

Dinner was light, the Spanish eat their big meal in theIbercaHamandEggs middle of the day, which is good since they eat the evening meal so late. We did not sit down to eat until 10:00, for Spain this is quite normal. It also makes sense since lunch is typically served at 3:00pm, after which is a “mid-day” siesta. This worked out well for us since it was really hot in Madrid while we were there, with temps in the 90’s (that’s the high 30’s for those of you keeping up in Celsius)

The day after our big tour, we slept late and then headed out to do some more exploring. We stopped in a small café for some morning tapas and a glass of Sangria. The last time we enjoyed Sangria was in Portugal with our friends Leslie and Becky.

Later, after our nap, we headed out to sample a Spanish specialty that Jose talked about during our tour. Locally made vermouth, or Vermut. Presentation was impressive, a chilled martini glass with garnish was delivered to the table. The large ice cubes in the glass were then misted with Gin, a generous serving of red (sweet) vermouth was added and finally topped off with two small dashes of Compari.  The drink was as delicious as it was beautiful, we were very impressed.

On our final night in Madrid, Jose invited us to his house for a very special meal, home made Paella. Jose’s home is in the suburbs not far from the King’s residence. We grabbed an UBER (which we found works quite well in Madrid) to get there. The Daza home was lovely, and we quickly made friends with the family dog & cat. Jose explained that his wife and son had already headed out to their holiday home on the coast for the long weekend. Jose had to work, so he was packed to drive out to meet them the next day.

Paella2.

We snacked on cheese and local ham (Aaaaamazing ham was everywhere in Madrid) while Jose prepared dinner. He explained that “real” Paella was made with meat, not shellfish. His had rabbit, chicken, and a bit of beef. He started with a broth he had cooked in a pressure cooker and them moved the ingredients over to his Paella pan to prepare the rest of the dish. Needless to say, it was delicious!

With a fond farewell to Jose, we headed back to get some sleep before we had to meet the bus the next morning for the English program; the original reason we came to Spain in the first place.

France

A City In The Clouds

After New York we hopped a Delta flight to Madrid Spain, where we will be doing another language school, more about that later. As we had a few days before the start of the school we organized a house sit across the border in Southern France.

With a rental car organized in Madrid, we drove 8.5 hours northwast to Cordes Su Ciel, France. The drive was a lovely mix of mountains (the Pyrenees), fields and tunnels. Huge fields of sun flowers were everywhere. We also noticed an amazing amount of hay being grown and harvested; but a surprising lack of farm animals to consume it.  If anyone has clues to this mystery, please let us know.

Nico, proprietor
On our first night in Cordes (as the locals call it) we met with the family were we sitting for and then proceeded to beautiful guest house called La Maison au Puits. Despite out late arrival, the owner Nico organized a glass of wine and some amazing local ham and fruits for us to enjoy while we visited until well past midnight. Later in the week Bonnie and I returned to the hotel when Nico and his wifeLa Maison au Puits outdoor Christiane prepared a three-course dinner for us that would impress any gourmet chef.

About an hour from Toulouse, the village of Cordes-su-ciel is a bastide. To say that the village is charming would be an understatement. Around every corner of the hilly cobble stone paved streets was another surprise. We shopped in the local Saturday market. We dined on fresh bread, fois gras and local wine (they specialize in rosé). We lingered over coffee at the café in town square.

CordesWe found we had much in common with Eve and Tom, the couple we sat for. Like us, they sold their home and possessions in California and set off for international adventure. In their case, this meant purchasing and renovating a delightful home set into the hillside of Cordes with an amazing view. Together with their dog and cat (Mocha and Ella), these two really seem to be enjoying their retirement in France.

Mocha  Ella

The week flew by and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to France and our new friends and head back to Madrid. More adventures await us there!

USA

I Love New York

We spent just over a month in the “city that never sleeps”. Despite rumors to the contrary, we found Now Yorkers to the exceptionally friendly (that is except for a couple of UBER drivers). The city has a vibrancy that is infectious, and you can feel it walk through any of the diverse neighborhoods. Definitely a walking town, by the way, we found that we averaged 4 or 5 miles per day…

Our stay was made up a combination of two hotels, and two house sits. We fell in love with three local cats that we sat for: Sena, Basil and Sage. We sang along to Jimmy Buffet songs in the Margaritaville Hotel in Times Square and wondered at the amazing costumes of the Lion King on Broadway.

Sena
Sena
Basil and Sage
(The Spice Boys)
Basil and Sage (The Spice Boys)

Lucky for us, several family members were able to come and visit. We spent time with George’s mom and niece (B.J. and Sydney), did a pub crawl with Bonnie’s cousin Marcia and her partner Cheryle and ate amazing food with George’s sister Martye and her partner Bryan.

We became absolute experts at navigating via the subway and wandered from the top of Washington Heights to Coney Island, with museums, libraries, shops and bars in between.

NYC_MTA Map
NYC_MTA Map
The Original Nathan's
Coney Island
The Original Nathan's Coney Island
Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium
Empire State Bldg
Empire State Bldg

During a bus tour of the city, we were advised that the restaurants in hell’s kitchen were better and about 15% cheaper than the ones on times square, we tested this theory and found it to be true. We went on an exhaustive search for the best cannoli in Little Italy and were introduced to amazing other pastries like the bamboloni (a crème filled Italian doughnut).

           

One of our stays included daily delivery of the New York Times, so we fell into the habit of doing the crosswords. A little-known fact the puzzles start out easy on Monday and get harder throughout the week. As we continue to travel, we are now doing the crossword online and enjoying it every morning!

download

Even after a month of intensive tourist things we feel as if we have barely scratched the surface of the amazing city. It is sure that we will be back to take another bite out of the “Big Apple”.

NYC Sunset MMC
USA

Back on Land

It has been a while since we posted on our our blog, we promise we will do better.

To say the past couple of months have been busy would be an understatetment. We, along with the Smith family, left South Africa and sailed Private Island accross the Atlantic ocean, with a stop in Saint Helena, and another stop on an Island off the coast of Brazil (Fernando do Naronha). From there we sailed up to Grenada. In Grenada, the Smith family headed home and we added two new crew members. The first was Judy Nelson, an old friend and regular at our neighborhood bar in San Diego. Judy brought along, Gary Clark, a childhood friend from Massachusetts. After a short delay in Grenada, the four of us sailed the boat up through the Carribean and into Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Caribbean leg was amazing. Luckily, since we fell down on the blogging/video job, Gary picked up our slack and wrote an epic poem (see the end of this post), which decsribes our journey .

The journey from South Africa was definitely a “bucket list” adventure. However, somewhere along the way between South Africa and Fort Luaderdale; Bonnie and I came to a realization…While we enjoy being on boats and island hopping around the Carribbean; ocean crossings are just not our thing. Since sailing the boat to different destinations (ie: Atlantic to the Mediterraean, and back) was a major portion of the gig on Private Island, we have resigned our commision as crew and moved back onto land.

Before we even left the boat, our schedule starting filling up. We went to meet up with friends
in Las Vegas and San Diego (many thanks for Van and
Christopher for opening their home to us again!)

 

 

 

 

And then to Victoria, British Columbia for a housesit with an adorable labradoodle
named Chutney

Now we are doing a house sit in New York city with two very playful cats

.

From here, we are off to Europe, starting with Spain.

Watch this space to keep up with our crazy life…..

____________________________________________

A Long Starboard Tack On The “Private Island”

By Gary Clark

She called out of the blue

And said How-Do-You-Do

It’s kind of sudden and maybe rude

But you once told me you’d work for food

 

Not rude at all

For a trip like this

A sail up the leewards

Is more like bliss

 

A California Girl

A Captain and his wife

We land in Grenada

And begin our new life

 

The quick trip to the “Private Island”

A yacht beyond compare

She’ll take you around the world

But only if you dare

 

Port engine is giving us trouble

Twice we were on our way

But it’s back to the Marina we go

Hopefully just for a day

 

Third time is a charm

We head for Prickley Bay

Fill her up with fuel

And we’re finally on our way

 

Day after day

Night after night

Our Journey is long

But our course is right

 

The seas have been huge

The ride has been tough

But we’re a strong crew

And no one has made a fuss

 

We’re all very tired

But nobody is breakin’

Tonight in Puerto Rico

The drinks will be shaken

 

We anchor in a cove in P.R.

Enjoy an amazing meal from Brazil

We leave in the morning

For three days with not much of a thrill

 

More of the same

As we march on

Next stop Grand Turk

Some time after dawn

 

Two days on the hook
Rejected by Grand Turk

Covid rules are a pain

And the Dock Man is a jerk

 

We pull up to the dock for fuel
The men tie us up with glee

But when we go to leave

They want a hundo to set us free

 

They see the fancy yacht
With stars in their eyes

But we won’t be held hostage

By low life dock flies

 

I climb up on the dock

And set us free

Captain George backs her out

Without paying the fee

 

As the boat glides by

It’s too far down to make the jump

So I head to the end of the dock

And dive into the water with a big ol’thump

 

Back to the hook

Some repairs to get done

Two days to Rum Cay

For another night of fun

 

We head out of Grand Turk

But the winds are light

Too late in the day for Rum Cay

So it is on to Cat Island for the next night

 

A beautiful cove, a beach of white sand

To the restaurant for drinks and dinner

Caipirinha’s and some new friends

Music and laughs are always a winner

 

It is so peaceful and relaxing

We enjoy the next day

Next stop the Berry Islands

Thirty three hours away

 

We land at Great Harbour Cay

My daughter, family and girlfriend to greet us

The owner’s of Soul Fly Lodge

A fly fishing destination that is a MUST

 

Two days of hugs and love

Young Micah is growing fast

We enjoy the time we have

But we know it is not going to last

 

The last leg to Florida

Following the pink line

We arrive at Port Everglades

And everything is fine

 

We navigate the narrow, winding “New River”

Past lots of bridges and boats

It’s a tricky ride but George is a pro

We pull into the Marina and we’re still afloat

 

George and Bonnie are top notch

They’re just really awesome folks

It’s been a great journey

With many laughs and lots of jokes

 

Three weeks at sea

Lots of time for reflection

But it’s nice to be home

Now we will all head off in another direction

South Africa

Following Seas

We’ve FINALLY left Knysna and now we’re in Cape Town, making the last minute arrangements to head out towards the Caribbean. So much has happened, but the “to do”  list just does not seem to be getting any smaller. 🙂

Ray, Tonia and Eddie (the owners of the boat), arrived last week and we have been quite busy settlng in.

Meanwhile, we have had several visitors since we have been here. A couple of our youtube channel followers (Derek and Elmarie) reached out and came by for a visit, it was so great to meet them after a long email correspondence.

One of South Africa’s more famous muiscians, front man for the band Just Jinjer, Ard Mathews is refitting a pirate sloop close to us, He has been over to visit a couple of times, and we are now following him on YouTube.

Speaking of following, if you want to track us on our travels you can use this map.

More soon!

South Africa

Final fittings

We’re currently docked in the marina at the Knysna waterfront, while the folks building the boat do all the final fits and finishes before we head off to Cape Town. We’ve had plumbers, electricians, carpenters and painters working on the boat 6 or 7 days a week since we launched. George, of course not wanting to be left out of the “fun” has been doing his part. He’s been up the mast working on the antennas, in the water working with Malcolm to center the rudders, and battening down the hatches during the (at least weekly) storms that bring some crazy wind.

Meanwhile, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. They delivered our fuel for the trip today. Since there isn’t a fuel dock here, all the diesel is delivered by truck – yes, they bought 900 liters of fuel in jerry cans and siphoned them into our tank by hand 😳

While I was writing this post, George was working on a (very) short teaser video showing the boat dressing and ready to show off. Check it out on our YouTube channel and stay tuned for the detailed walkthrough coming soon.

 

South Africa

Down to the waterfront…

In December of 2019 we first began talking with Ray about moving onto the new boat that he was having built in Knysna. In November 2020, George and I arrived in South Africa expecting the boat to be completed in Jan/Feb. And now, finally, after more than 3 years of design and construction, the very first Knysna 550 rolls out of the shop and down to the waterfront. The boat is so high that they could not install the helm and top of the flybridge in the factory.

South Africa

Just a Few More Days!

After almost 8 months of waiting here in South Africa, it is almost time for us to move onboard the new boat.

To say that we are excited is an understatement. Soon we will publish videos of moving the boat down to the waterfront, installing the roof on the flybridge, floating the boat for the first time and eventually adding the mast and boom.

Then the big one, a guided tour of our amazing new home “Private Island”

 

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