Thursday, July 26, 2018

Our Boring Life, House and Pet Sitting In Egypt.......

Ready for Our Morning Walk

For the past few months Clyde and I are being boring, settled into a house sit in Egypt. Although the house is spacious, modern and lovely with a gorgeous water view, we have not done much to blog about lately. Our days begin soon after sunrise, as we crawl out of bed around 5:30 AM, in order to walk the two dogs, Will and Tee Tee before the heat of the day sets in. Since Tee Tee sleeps on the floor of our bedroom, today I woke up being poked by a snout, telling us it was time to get out of bed. Will prefers sleeping downstairs or in the upstairs hallway, and keeping the two apart seems to alleviate any barking during the night.

Tee Tee Giving Hints That It's Time For The Evening Walk

And Sometimes Mouse The Cat, Who Thinks She's A Dog Comes Along

While we typically never repeat a house sit since there are so many other places to see, this one is a repeat. If you recall, as Americans we can only stay in the Schengen countries in Europe for 90 days and then need to leave for 90 days before reentering. So before leaving this house sit last year I indicated to the homeowners that we certainly would not mind coming back. By coming to Egypt again it filled that gap, giving us plenty of time out of Europe Besides that, the the house is lovely with a gorgeous pool outside, the dogs and cat are easy to handle, and we have made friends with some of the British people and Europeans that live here.

Back Of The House With Pool

But this is El Gouna, a resort city for the rich and famous. Those that live here are rich Egyptians who either retired here or use their villa here as their weekend getaway. The Brits and Europeans bought into the development ten or more years ago when property was selling at good prices, compared to those back in their countries. Nowadays, homes here are selling for a million euros and up.

Lagoons Surround Most Villas Here
El Gouna Means, "Lagoon."

Watching The Sunset From The Pool

Our View From The Dining and Living Room
This Place Really Is Lovely!

During the daytime temperatures rise to 100F/40C with scorching sunshine and dry, dusty air. The streets are like that of a ghost town since people stay inside, only venturing out in the early mornings or at night. The only people outside are the workers who meticulously keep El Gouna clean. They include gardeners, pool boys, garbage men, security guards, military soldiers standing guard, fumigators, drivers of taxi's, tuk-tuk's, and buses just to name a few.

We have been going out to dinner on a regular basis since eating out is cheap here. We can literally get  a meal out for as little as $2 each, or splurge on an array of other restaurants. Typically we spend around $15 for two meals and drinks and have enjoyed Italian, Egyptian, Greek, seafood, grilled meats and so much more.

Thanks to the Brits that live here a local restaurant has become the place for Friday night karaoke. We have enjoyed a night out, with a few drinks to party with Europeans and Egyptians alike. Most Egyptians are Muslim and despite what you may think about Muslims, they do get out to party like the rest of us. Hearing karaoke sang in Arabic was a rather different experience, although we were not able to sing along.

  Karaoke With New Friends

Yes These Are Conservative Egyptians, 
Even The Girl In The Tiny Shorts sang
"My Way," by Paul Anka. Way Before Her Time!

Partying With and Like Egyptians

Also we have enjoyed several days out on the Red Sea that included snorkeling, lunch, some time on a beach and socializing with our new friends that live here.

Out On The Red Sea

In our travels we need to take time out once in a while to do routine things like having our teeth cleaned. Since we were overdue we decided to visit a dental clinic here.....yes in Egypt! At the advice of our British friends, we made appointments with a local dental clinic that they use. First we hired a taxi to get us into the nearby city of Hurghada to find the clinic.

                                                 Dental Clinic In Hurghada, Egypt

Outside the building was old and rundown and featured a restaurant on the ground level with the clinic up above. Not sure where to go we first walked into the restaurant to see if there was access to go upstairs. As I looked around the modern cafe I realized that there was not another woman in there. Men sat at tables wearing long robes, some white, gray or black while others were dressed in normal clothing. Many were smoking "sheesha" pipes, that were attached to elaborate, silver bottles through long tubing. While we have no idea what the attraction to sheesha is, we see men and women at just about every restaurant here smoking it.

A Sheesha Pipe

We left the restaurant and walked outside and around the side of the building where we found an elevator up to the second floor. Once inside, the dental clinic was bright, clean and modern with the latest equipment and English speaking staff. We paid about $38 each for thorough cleanings and were quite impressed with the service. And our appointments were on a Sunday afternoon which we thought was strange.

Because we have nothing but time at this house sit, we have decided to spend it wisely doing something useful. We are learning European Portuguese for the next chapter of our lives that includes setting up a home base, apartment in Portugal and pursuing residency there. Although learning a new language is never easy, we are SO thankful that we have learned Spanish since many of the words in Portuguese are similar. But while the written language looks similar, the spoken words are totally different! We found some self-learning programs to do at the house and have just signed on for private lessons via Skype with a teacher in Portugal. Hopefully, with our knowledge of Spanish that gives us a head start, we will go further with our knowledge of Portuguese than we ever did with Spanish. Time will tell and we will let you know after we land in Portugal next month and see how it all plays out.

A bit strange to think that we are Americans who first leaned Spanish and British English, and now are learning Portuguese while living in Egypt. Amazing where our lives have taken us! Stay tuned as the next chapter of our lives unfolds in a few more weeks as we begin our lives in Portugal......along the gringo trail.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Two Years Homeless, Where Have We Been?

It was two years ago on June 30th that we handed over the keys to our home in Panama, and left bearing nothing more than what would fit into two, small suitcases. But where would we go? We had NO home, few things and were ready for a life as retired, nomads, ready and willing to travel the world. Although we were, "homeless by choice," we would be making ourselves at home by living for FREE in other people's houses as house and pet sitters. It was our time in life to stop collecting things and start collecting memories of our adventures around the world.

So where have we been in the past two years? The list is mind-blowing and still hard to believe each and every time we look at it.

From Panama we flew to Texas, for a house sit  near Austin that we would use to visit with our family for the last time before heading abroad.

Next it was onto New Jersey to visit my sister and friends, before boarding a plane for a 20-hour flight to Bangkok, Thailand.

During our one-month stay in Thailand we visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and took side trips to Hong Kong and Cambodia. Amazing people, temples, and so much more!

From Thailand we flew to Italy, which would be our home for the next 3 months. There we lived in the former bell-ringers house next to a church, on the hillsid. Overlooking the town of Giavera del Montello, we were about a 40-minute drive from Venice. From there we stayed in a restored grainery on the border of Umbria. Right down the road was our next house sit, a two-story stone house that sat in the shadow of a majestic castle with over 300 rooms. Gorgeous!

Then we were off to Tuscany where we lived in a huge, old farmhouse on what was once a working vineyard. The views from the balcony were gorgeous as we watched deer come up from the woods daily to feed on the shrubs nearby. Nearby was the lovely city of Siena, spelled with just one "n" in Italian.

Onto a hilltop village, also in Tuscany where we took care of alpacas, rescued pigeons, dogs and cats from the privacy of our Granny flat next to the main house. Our last stop in Italy was the lesser known region called Le Marche, where we stayed in a totally renovated farmhouse that was both modern and old.

While in Italy we drove from one end of the country to the other, taking in the sights, smells and of course the food at each stop along the way. We even added two other countries to our list as we spent a few days exploring the tiny countries of San Marino and Vatican City.

Next we were off to the United Kingdom where we would live for the next 5 months rent free. We spent 3 months in England, 6 weeks in Scotland, 3 weeks in Wales, 1 month in Ireland and one day in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Along the way we explored castles, the famous Stonehenge, toured the old stomping ground of the Beatles in Liverpool and so much more. We enjoyed a cool, holiday season complete with a Christmas tree in our temporary home that took us well into the New Year.

Then we enjoyed 3 warm, sunny months living in Spain, starting in the countryside and ending in Madrid. Since we speak Spanish we felt right at home chatting with the locals and enjoying the white, sandy beaches along the way. We explored cities like Valencia, Alicante, and Pamploma, even taking in the sights of the Running With The Bulls.

Since Morocco was the next country over we took some holiday time and played tourist for three weeks. We rented a car and drove from one city to another stopping to see Casablanca, Fes, Marrakesh and Rabat while melting in the scorching, summer sun.

Then onto a place we never thought we would be, the ancient, civilization of Egypt. Since we landed a 6 week house sit in the resort town of El Gouna, we could afford to splurge and see the sights in other parts of Egypt. But to our surprise Egypt has been the most affordable destination we have visited or lived in, with the Egyptian Pound to US Dollar running around 18-1.

We flew into Cairo to begin our adventure visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphynx, temples and more of this, lively, over crowded metropolis. Next we flew to Luxor to pick up an 8 night Nile Cruise with a private guide who stayed on the boat, for the low cost of $550 each. This included everything! Food, entertainment, and shore excursions too. From Luxor we made our way by land to the resort city of Hurghada, on the Red Sea, before making our way to our house sit in El Gouna.

One day while in Egypt I looked at a map only to discover that Israel was just a one-hour flight away, so visiting that country was a must. How cool it was to play tourist and visit the Holy Land We began in Jerusalem and visited Galilee, Bethlehem, Palestine, Tel Aviv and Nazareth on an 8 day tour. Since our scheduled allowed, we spent extra time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv where we explored on our own before and after the tour.

Back to the UK we went in November to visit friends we had met the first time we house sat for them, for a three week stay.

Next we were off to warmer temperatures in Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands owned by Spain. This beautiful island is covered with luscious white sand, clear blue waters and volcanic mountains for us to explore.

We rang in the holiday season in the countryside of Portugal before heading to Munich, Germany to ring in the New Year. We welcomed the new near along with hundreds of partying Germans on the famous Marianplatz part of the city, with fireworks shooting off from every corner of the plaza, even into the crowds. We decided to head to the safety of our apartment when we saw one man in the crowd catch on fire and his friends nearby just casually patted out the flames.

From Germany we flew to New Delhi, India for a tour of the famous Golden Triangle. We visited old and new Delhi, Rajastan, Jaipur and finally Agra to see the famous Taj Mahal.

Then we flew half way around the world to visit Panama, where we would rent a condo for six weeks to visit old friends. The first of our friends we met up with was Jasmine (Our Spanish teacher and friend) and her husband.  Because we lived in Panama for five years, we had friends that we wanted to reunite with, as well as visiting our old house and chat with its new owners. It was such fun to see our old house, the changes that they made and know how happy they are in their new lives. And a big perk was to visit with Coco, our Doberman who the new owners were kind enough to adopt. We are thankful that they adopted both Venus, the older Doberman who passed away prior to our visit, and Coco. And since our visit they adopted a Doberman puppy who will keep Coco young and lively for many more years to come.

Next it was time for some family visiting as we were off to Texas, in the US for about one month. Clyde's oldest son Cobey found the love of his life, Barbara and was getting married in El Paso.
Since we wanted to be there for the celebration had had no house sits scheduled, we made arrangements for a visit with the kids. While in Texas we visited with my daughter and grandson, Clyde's three kids and even his sister and her husband came for the occasion.

Clyde and his sister Donna grew up in El Paso, Texas.  Clyde found their childhood home that they left in the mid sixties.  An added surprise was that Clyde's cousin Mike and his wife Nancy lived nearby.  Was nice to visit them.  Clyde had not seen his cousin in probably forty or so years!

Since we had time to kill we opted to drive from Texas to Arizona to visit the Grand Canyon and New Mexico along the way. It was nice to have some down time to visit our old stomping grounds, and to actually play tourists in our own country.

We then flew to New Jersey to spend some time with my sister before going back to the other side of the world. 

But we missed our second home which is Europe and looked forward to our next sit which was in Belgium.  Because our temporary home was located close to the border of Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands we were able to explore all of those countries. Once the sit was finished we took some time to tip toe though the tulips in Holland, walk the touristy congested streets of Amsterdam and explore further away parts of Belgium too.

A few months back we confirmed a house sit in Mtwapa, Kenya for a little over one month. For many years I have wanted to do a safari and game drive in Africa and now it was finally going to happen. We booked a 5 day safari with a private guide for the coolest adventure of a lifetime. In Kenya we would explore the parks of Tsalvo (savo) East, Taita Hills Wildlife Reserve and Amboseli National Park. Each day began with a safari in an open-topped van where we could stand up to get the best wild life viewing. How amazing it was to see elephants, lions, buffalo, wildebeest, antelope, zebras, giraffes and more roaming freely, in their natural habitat. Wow!

Following the safari we spent the next month living for free in a large home with a swimming pool,  overlooking Mtwapa creek. The Kenyan people were warm and welcoming, and living there was truly an adventure that will not be forgotten.

We are celebrating our two-year, full time, travel anniversary doing a repeat sit in El Gouna, Egypt. A large home with a pool, two desert dogs and one cat to care for, in a resort town near the Red Sea.

Although we have been traveling full-time for the past two years, we had traveled extensively the last year we lived in Panama. It was during that year that we started house sitting and visited many countries in Latin America and Europe, which prepared us for our further adventures abroad. For the full story please refer to earlier posts in this blog.

Here's to many more years of travel, adventures and living abroad as house sitters, travelers, and explorers around the globe.....along the gringo trail.

Life In Portugal....At A Snails Pace....

Yesterday was just another day in Portugal when my dear husband Clyde said he was going to run to the pharmacy for a few things. Time passed...