Monday, 28 January 2019

Larnaca, Cyprus (Nicolaides Sea View City) 

I actually slept in until 6:00 a.m. this morning, but up in time to watch the sunrise. At around 6:30 it became apparent that the morning clouds will block out the sun. No beautiful sunrise this morning. No problem. I just made my hash browns with fried eggs and had a good breakfast. Then went back to bed.

When I woke up the second time, and made coffee, I decided I should start working on my tour of southern France. My stops will be Nice, Marseille, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Bordeaux. After Bordeaux I’ll take the train up to Paris to meet my brother, niece and her son.

I haven’t decided how long to stay in each city until I do more research on what to see. I have zero knowledge about what there is to see. I do want to visit Monaco and Cannes while in Nice, that I know. I’m sure while in Bordeaux I’ll visit one or two wineries.

Tomorrow I’ll complete making the final reservations for my visit to southern Italy and also book my flight from Bari to Malta where I’ll meet up with Barb. At some point I’ll work with Barb on what we’ll see in Sicily and Malta. I have my place in Malta booked for two weeks after she leaves to return to Oregon. From Malta I’ll travel to Nice to start my tour of France. Not enough time to see everything so I’ll plan to return to France, probably next year, to visit Loire Valley, Le Mans, and Normandy.

I’m healing quite well after my Efudix treatment. With my face peeling and red blotchy skin I looked poorly. But now I’m almost looking good again, though I still have a slight taste of medicine. I can probably wait a year before another treatment. I have a few more days where I’ll need to stay out of the sun while my skin continues to heal.

Later this week I’ll take the bus to Limassol and meet up with my Airbnb host, Marcel, for coffee and deep conversation. I’ll also let him know that I might be back in October or November of this year.

I found out how to order movies from Google (who has many more movies available than Netflix) for about the same cost. The other night I watched Crazy Rich Asians and last night was Best in Show. The second season of Star Trek Discovery is now available to watch as well as The Orville.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Larnaca, Cyprus (Nicolaides Sea View City) 

I’ve been finding myself following a daily routine now that I’ve been here a couple of weeks. Wake up before the sunrise, watch the sunrise and take a few pictures, eat breakfast, then go back to sleep for a few hours. After waking up again, taking a shower, maybe have lunch, go out for a walk and perhaps do some shopping. Another nap, make dinner, and watch something on Netflix before going to bed. 

As of today my skin treatment is complete (Efudix lotion applied twice daily) and I’m in the recovery stage. I still need to stay out of the sun, but I have plenty of travel planning to do while I recuperate. I still have a medicine taste in my mouth but that will go away in the next few days. My skin should return to normal by next week. 

As for travel planning, I’ve completed all reservations for my trip to Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. Also booked my flight from Beirut to Cairo where I’ll meet up with Hussein, then leave there for Rome on the 27th of February. I’ve also been planning my trip through the southern part of France, but that won’t happen until the first part of May. I should be planning and making reservations for my southern Italy trip before I meet up with Barb on Malta on March 23rd. 

My flight to Tel Aviv will be easy and quick. The flight leaves Larnaca at 13:00 and arrives in Tel Aviv at 13:55 on Friday the 8th of February. It occurred to me after I made my flight reservation that Friday begins the start of the Jewish sabbath. Oops. My Airbnb host assured me that even though public transportation will not be in service Friday afternoon, there are shuttle buses that are available to bring travelers into Jerusalem. My Airbnb flat is close to the old city so walking around to the various historical sites will be easy. I may take a couple of side trips outside of Jerusalem, but I’ll figure out that later.

I’m actually flying to Jordan from Tel Aviv rather than trying to navigate through the border between the Israel and Jordan. It will be an early flight and will expect to leave my Jerusalem flat by 4:00 a.m. to make sure I get to Tel Aviv for my 7:35 flight. It will be a 45 minute flight. I’m staying at a Hilton resort on the Dead Sea, an hour away from the airport. But I will get to see the countryside along the way from the airport to the hotel. (Thinking positive.) I also made arrangements to stay overnight in Petra, then return to the Hilton resort for another couple of nights before leaving for Beirut on the 20th.

I was making the final reservations this morning between 5:00 and 6:00. During this time I was also receiving and sending texts with a few U.S. folks. I honestly wouldn’t get any sleep if I didn’t mute my phone at night. Making the actual reservations for me has to be done in batches, once I feel that I’m making the right travel planning decisions. I somehow know the time is right to commit to the plan when I actually make the reservations. 

Yesterday I spoke with my insurance agent to discuss medical coverage options now that I’m eligible for Medicare in March. Another round of decision-making on top of making travel plans. I’ll probably opt for basic coverage while I’m still outside the U.S., but before I return to the U.S. I’ll select a Medicare Advantage plan. My agent is sending me various plans for consideration. 

I has been nice to have a fully equipped kitchen. The last place, as it is with many Airbnb flats, was almost like camping out. Just a few pots and pans to work with and a stove (or “cooker”). Yesterday I made a tuna dish with a recipe that I made up. It was a cross between tuna noodle casserole and fettuccine with tuna. It tasted pretty good and will make it again. I just need to remember how I made it. 

I’m thinking about returning here for another month long visit later in the year, perhaps in November. By then the new building that is going up a block away will be done with their noisy pile driving work. Thankfully my ear plugs allow me to sleep right through the construction noise.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Larnaca, Cyprus (Nicolaides Sea View City) 

It has been an interesting, though restful, week in Larnaca. Thankfully I only have a few more days of my Efudix treatment (topical treatment of superficial pre-malignant basal cell carcinoma). I keep forgetting how painful and irritating it can be – and that it affects how food tastes. Once I stop applying the lotion, the side affects start to go away. 

I’m beginning to get used to the construction of a new building which can be noisy at times. The construction is only a block away. Putting in ear plugs helps ensure I get my required naps in each day. I used the ear plugs to help sleeping through the big multi-day gale-force wind storm that brought 50 mph winds a few days ago. I brought in some of the furniture from the balcony because it was starting to move around and was concerned it might get picked up and land in the street below.  

I’ve been working on my travel plans for visiting Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon – starting February 8th. After I booked my flight I realized that I was getting into Tel Aviv just hours before the start of the Jewish sabbath. Visitors to Jerusalem fly into Tel Aviv and then take public transportation into Jerusalem. I have my Airbnb place reserved for four nights. I’m now planning my stay in Amman and Petra (Jordan) and then will book travel to Beirut. Getting from one country to another is not as easy as it is in Europe. I’ll document the constraints in a future posting.

Today (the 18th) was a difficult day for me. I was having problems with staying awake and not feeling well. I managed to walk to the store and back but was completely exhausted when I got back to the flat. Today (the 19th) as I’m writing this post, I’m feeling much better. 

Since I arrived in Larnaca I’ve been waking up each morning to view the sunrise (around 5:30 a.m.). Except for the two mornings when we had the wind and rain, every day since I’ve been here I’ve enjoyed brilliant sunrises. The sunsets are enjoyable as well, but there is something about watching the sun rise over the Mediterranean that makes it a little more special. 

I roasted another chicken, but this time I made chicken soup from the leftovers. For a changed I added corn, cut from the cob, and cut-up string beans to the soup which adds a little more flavor and texture. I’ve also been making for breakfast hash browns, cooked in olive oil, then make two fried eggs that I place on top of the hash browns. This pretty much keeps me full until dinner time. To make the hash browns, I grate one medium potato, drop the grated potato (no rinsing or squeezing out the potato juice) into the heated oil, and it makes two hash browns. Quick, easy and yummy. 

I’ve been working on a travel schedule with my friend Barbara who will be joining me on Malta on the 23rd of March then we will travel to Sicily for a few days before she returns to the U.S. on the 2nd of April. I’ll return to Malta and stay for a few weeks before traveling on to France. I’m thinking about visiting Hussein in Cairo after Beirut, then will go to Rome after that.

Saturday, 11 January 2019

Larnaca, Cyprus (Nicolaides Sea View City) 

After my first night here I was concerned about the heat, but now that it has warmed up a bit in Larnaca, I’m very comfortable. After I got ready, I left to walk down for my pedicure yesterday and then over to the Metro store across the street. I’m getting used to my new sunglasses that I bought on Amazon. Since my prescription sunglasses were in the bag that I lost on the train in Frankfurt, I was without sunglasses that I could use to read my phone while walking in the sunshine. The walk today gave me an opportunity to walk on uneven ground while wearing sunglasses that had a 2X lens built into the bottom of the frame. They work fine, but I have to remember to keep looking forward rather than looking down so often because of the distortion. They worked fine. I bought two pair since they were so cheap. 

The person doing the pedicure did a great job, but I warned her that the bottoms of my feet are very sensitive. I jumped a couple of times while she was scraping off dead skin from the soles of my feet. She thought it was funny how sensitive I was. I might go back again to this shop before I leave next month.

I just had a few items to buy at the store. Easier to find everything now that I know my way around the place. I’m very impressed with the variety of meat, fish, and produce at this store. Most of the fish is caught fresh from local fishing boats. I bought a chicken yesterday to roast, which I did, and will make my version of a chicken pot pie this evening. But first, I need a few more vegetables.

When I looked at the store receipts for yesterday and today I noticed that the costs were very reasonable, if not a bit less than in the U.S. For instance, today I bought: potatoes (4), corn on the cob (3), string beans (bag), ginger (1), carrots (3), and onions (2) and the total bill was $5.75 (USD converted from Euro). The previous day the most expensive item was the chicken and it was $9.60, which is compatible to the U.S., but it was fresh and organic. It made a beautiful and tasty roasted chicken. 

My version of chicken pot pie uses mashed potatoes instead of a crust or biscuits. I was going to make biscuits but preferred to keep it simple, not being a good biscuit-maker unless I use Bisquick. After sauteing onions I added flour to the onions, then slowly added milk and chicken broth that I made with bones from last night’s roast chicken. After it was starting to thicken, I added chicken, carrots, peas, corn, and cut string beans. This will last me three days. 

For entertainment, I decided to watch (or re-watch) 2001, A Space Odyssey. Too bad the final part of the movie left the viewer with more questions, such as “why”, but I watched it anyway. Can’t believe that it has been 50 years since it was originally released. Interesting to see brand names like Bell Telephone, Hilton, and Pan Am in the movie. It was still fun to watch and remember the first time I saw it at the Rialto Theatre in Hood River.

I’ve enjoyed waking up and watching the sun rise while I drink my coffee. What a great way to start the day. Then I go back to sleep and wake up later.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Larnaca, Cyprus (Nicolaides Sea View City) 

Before leaving London I enjoyed a good-bye breakfast with Prean and Viktor at a restaurant at Sloane Square. I had my choice of two restaurants (per Prean) and selected the second of the two, just because it was slightly less crowded. It wasn’t until after we were seated that Prean informed me that Eddie Redmayne (the actor) was at the first restaurant with his daughter. Regardless, we had a great breakfast (Viktor and I each ordered Eggs Benedict) with our usual lively conversation. Our waiter, we discovered, was from Egypt and could speak some Russian. Very impressive! Outside we said our good-byes, knowing that it will be late May when I return. 

The day before I left London, Airbnb informed me that I will receive a 30% refund for what I paid for the flat, as a result of the lack of resolution for repairing the thermostat to restore the heat. I was floored. I didn’t quite expect this much of a refund but they were frustrated because they couldn’t get the host to respond as well. I accepted their offer!

Soon after I was informed of the refund, I went online to check-in for my flight the following day. I discovered, when I saw the seating assignment, that I was given a middle seat. This is for a 4+ hour flight. I called British Air and asked if there was another seat available, even though I saw that all of the other seats were taken. No, was their answer. I had seen during check-in that for around $250 I could upgrade to first class and asked if this offer was still available. The British Air representative said that I could still upgrade but it would be $900 more for my ticket. I thanked him, thinking that was that. As it turned out it wasn’t. I went back to the online check-in and started the process again. I then again saw the upgrade offer for $250 extra, and with my refund for the flat in place, I took the lower-priced upgrade offer and my flight was booked with me in first class. Almost for “free”. 

The following morning, the 8th, I was up early to finish my packing and cleaning the flat. I could have left it as-is, but I have my standards and made sure that it was in good condition. As an extra precaution, I took pictures of how the flat looked when I left. Given the hefty discount, perhaps the host would say that the flat was in poor condition. When I was out of the flat I sent a text to the host’s management team and let them know I was out and that I had taken pictures of how I left the flat. 

I left myself plenty of time to reach Heathrow and arrived well before check-in was available. Was a good time to have a cup of coffee and relax. As a result of my upgrade, I joined a very short line for check-in then was directed to the British Air lounge and enjoyed a little nourishment before boarding my flight. 

Was nice to have extra room to enjoy the flight. Though, since I was in the last row of first class, I happened to be in front of a family of four traveling to Larnaca. They were very restless, taking care of two young children, who insisted on kicking the back of my seat. Between me and the flight attendant, we put a stop to that. The father was actually wrestling with his son behind me.  

Very uneventful trip otherwise and we arrived in Larnaca ahead of schedule. After a quick passing through Passport Control I picked up my luggage and was outside looking for a taxi to take me to the flat within 10 minutes. 

When I arrived at the flat I was surprised that Marcel, the Airbnb host, was there to greet me. He is usually in Limassol where he lives and I use the lockbox to fetch the key. I guess he wanted to show me how he and his cleaning crew had prepared the flat for my 30-day stay. Was good to see him again and we make plans to meet up in a couple of weeks for coffee in Limassol. He said there was snow in the mountains so I made a mental note to visit the mountains within this next week.

Everything was the same as my previous three stays. There will be no learning curve to settle in. I went to the local corner market to pick up a little bit of food to carry me through until the following morning then unpacked. I slept very well my first night.

I also slept in late the following morning but was up early enough to watch the sun rise, and take a few pictures, before going back to bed again. By the time I got myself organized to leave for the store, it was time to watch the sunset. I took a few pictures of that event as well. 

Marcel recommended a market that was located closer to the flat, which I didn’t know about. When I arrived at the market, it was like a medium-sized shop that carried groceries and household goods. No meat or produce to be found. After I returned to the flat with a few items I visited the nearby Pizza Hut and ordered a medium Hawaiian pizza for dinner. Later I had a great phone call with a friend from the U.S. Good to catch up and share updates. We talked a lot about health and Medicare. Given that we’re about the same age, that is what us old folk talk about I guess. 

Seems that friends who I have not heard from in years have reached out to contact me over the past few weeks. Someone who I worked with at U.S. Bank in the 70’s, a high school friend, and someone who I worked with for a few years in Portland. Earlier in 2018 I connected with a grade school friend who I hadn’t seen in over 40 years. So many trips down Memory Lane. Was wondering what is attracting this interest to connect. In any case, I’ve enjoyed connecting and remembering the good times we had together.

Tomorrow I’ll visit my usual grocery store to pick up my traditional chicken to roast and some other food items. The place were I get my pedicures is across the street so will make an appointment on my way to buy groceries. 

Time to relax in Larnaca and enjoy my long stay here. It is stil a bit cold here, but there will be more days of sunshine to enjoy and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

London, England (49 Theseus Walk)

I’m finally feeling back to 100% after having a mild cold for the past few days. Nothing major, just a stuffy nose and a tickle in my throat. Drank plenty of orange juice and several cups of tea with plenty of rest and it was over and done with. Only have taken a few Sudafed to clear things up during the healing process. 

Yesterday, on my way to the grocery store, I picked up the prescription for Efudix that I’ll begin to apply once I’m in Cyprus. The cost for this one tube cost $250 when I picked up the prescription at the OHSU pharmacy last March. At Boots Pharmacy, the cost was $60. Gives me a good idea how much more expensive drugs are in the U.S. than anywhere else. (No, I didn’t use insurance to pay for either prescription.) Something to keep in mind as I decide where to live.

The sun hasn’t appeared as mentioned in the last weather forecast, but I’ll wait for it. Would be nice to have some sunlight come through the windows to warm this flat. Yes, it has been a week since I walked in the door and discovered that I had no heat. Thankfully the flat isn’t ice-cold like it is outside. Must be the neighbors, with their heat, that is keeping this flat from becoming a refrigerator. Continued promises from the management company that acts on behalf of the flat’s owner. Yes, they hear from me once or twice a day. I’ve been working on options for being reimbursed for the lack of heat. 

Today I have been planning my trip to Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. Glad I’m starting the planning process early for this side trip. Many things to consider for these three countries. Being next to Syria is a consideration but I’m not concerned and won’t let myself be consumed by fear as I make my plans. Yes, I’ll be careful.

An ongoing concern that I haven’t addressed is the possibility of overstaying my welcome in the U.K. I can stay for a total of six months out of every 12 months. I’m okay this year, but my plans for next year are pushing the legal limit. Was a relief to find out that there is a 30-day grace period on the contingency that I have my own travel booked to leave the U.K. within that time, which I am. A possible penalty is that I won’t be able to return to the U.K. for a year. That, I would like to avoid.

Still doing well with my new food program. (I’m trying to avoid the word “diet”.) My refrigerator is stocked with a variety of vegetables, chicken, and good foods that will be good for achieving my weight goals and lowering my cholesterol. Still no bread with butter and honey. The toaster is still on the counter and hasn’t been used.

I’ll look forward to having heat restored tomorrow (fingers crossed) and a walk in the sunshine. I’ll be optimistic about both and see what happens.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

London, England (49 Theseus Walk)

My first post of 2019! I usually write my post the day after the date at the top of the post, but today I’m posting as it is still New Years Day here in London. 

I’m still without heat in the flat due to a thermostat that doesn’t work and hope to have it repaired by tomorrow. The temperature in the flat is cool but tolerable. I turn on the oven to warm the kitchen and lounge area where I spend most of my time. 

I’ve been going out for walks every day and continue to explore the Islington / Angel area of London. I’ve been following my diet plan to get my cholesterol in line and take off a few pounds. No more toast with butter or McDonald’s! Now eating more fish. Once I get to Cyprus I’ll have more fish options (not from fish farms) to select from.

Last night I wanted to hear Big Ben again, which now only strikes on New Years while the clock and tower are being restored. I passed by Buckingham Palace and took a few pictures before walking down the Birds Walk to Westminster. I only got within a few blocks of Big Ben but as it became midnight I couldn’t hear the bells because of the fireworks, helicopters, and the noise from the crowd. At least I made an effort. Saw a little of the fireworks before heading back to my flat.

Getting home was a challenge due to the several 100K of people who were in the same area. I finally had to walk nearly a half mile away before I could arrange for a ride back via Uber. Took me over two hours to return to the flat. 

Today I’m enjoying New Years greetings from around the world from the comfort of my semi-warm flat. Yesterday I managed to outline a tentative travel schedule that I’ll include below. I’m looking forward to meeting up with Barb and will tour Sicily and Malta with her in March, In May my brother, my nieces and her son will join me in Paris and perhaps I’ll be visited by Paula when I’m in Glasgow in August. Maybe will see Moly and Ori in Germany too, but haven’t spoken with them about what dates would be convenient. 

Planned travel for 2019 (some dates and locations are tentative):

London: Until January 8
Larnaca, Cyprus: Jan. 8 – Feb. 8
Israel, Jordan, Lebanon: Feb. 8 – Feb. 22
Southern Italy (various): Feb. 22 – March 22
Sicily & Malta: March 22 – April 30
Southern France (various): April 30 – May 12
Paris (Family Visit): May 12 – May 18
London: May 18 – June 1
June & July: Edinburgh, Scotland
August 1 – August 15: Western Scotland
August 15 – August 31: London
Sept, Oct, & Nov: Ireland (Various locations), Germany?
December: London/Wales

Thinking ahead, I’ll visit Oregon later in 2020. Will I return to Europe after my Oregon visit? Not sure at this time.

I’m enjoying Instagram to show my travel pictures. Finding it much easier to post pictures than my previous options. 

Sunny weather is expected for the next few days, though a little colder. I can safely predict more walking is defiantly in the forecast.