Sunday, March 29, 2020

Making Masks in Charlottesville, VA


We have been busy for the last five days or so making masks for the local front line workers in the stores, gas stations, etc.  We delivered 50 to Kroger yesterday and the store manager was so excited.  I am also doing a daily video of our journey, friends, and we welcome you to watch.  Take what you like and leave the rest behind.  Stay safe, stay healthy, and STAY AWAY from each other.  

Here is a link to my how-to-video:  https://youtu.be/slSK2x75AK4

Here is a link to my last daily message:  https://youtu.be/TKRBrCLf-Dw

I love you, even if we have never met before.

Leopard and Bobbie


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The First Ten Days into our Quarantine in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA


We arrived back in the USA 2 1/2 years ahead of plans.  We are sad and disappointed...our dream od traveling the whole world is being interrupted by an international catastrophe and we have nothing truly to complain about...we are healthy and alive,  It has been an amazing 3 1/2 years so far and we will pick it up again when our world is healed.  Here is our world map and stats as of today...

We quickly settled into sister Andrea's home to begin our 14-day self-controlled quarantine.   it was a bit eerie at first, settling in for a long stay...we haven't been in one place for more than two weeks in a long, long time...not since our one-month stay in Oska, Japan two years ago.  Out of the last 2 1/2 years, sister Andrea has joined up for 14 months...she pops in for a few weeks, hangs out with us and then goes home.  Then a few months later she returns.  She has become our mule for supplies we can't get overseas.  

It didn't take long to settle in, find our separate corners, and learn the rules of the house.  We visited the store for supplies a couple of times, bought enough food to last a while...not toilet paper or course, and settled into watching the news, ad nauseum, and coming up with things to keep us occupied.  Bobbie started doing home repairs and completed reorganized the basement, Andi started at new puzzle, and I began making daily video messages.  Ten days into our recluse, we started making medical/surgical masks to donate to first responders.  It took a few days to get up to speed and or first box os 35 makes went out to a doctor friend and her clinic in Colorado.  Her need was intense and we really felt a lot of joy in our little jester.

We've taken our temps daily...so far so good...and have probably put on a few extra pounds.  We are healthy, still like each other, and are daily more hopeful that our world will heal.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Germany and our COVID-19 Evacuation


Concerned about Italy being closed and not knowing how our plans for the rest of our European adventure would work out, we found ourselves in a small industrial village north of Heidelberg.  It looked like something out of the Post WW2 eastern block and the lady's name meeting us for check-in at our Airbnb was Svetlana...she spoke with a heavy Russian accent.  It was a decent apartment, lots of room and fully equipped.  For the next week, we stumbled through each day as the news of the COVID-19 virus spread brought up roadblock after roadblock.
The news indicated that Germany was considering shutting it's borders.  We still had hope that we would make it at least into Spain.  Fom Madrid we at least might be able to wait out developments and still make it on to Myanmar.  The days dragged by.  We drove to Heidelberg for a day visit.  The walking tour we had booked was canceled.  The castle was still open and we did get a chance to tour some of the interior rooms.  Tensions were high and everyone was on edge.  Even though the castle was grand, our spirits were pretty dashed.


On our fifth day, the French borders were closed and the writing was on the wall.  We quickly assessed our options and decided to attempt to return home from Frankfurt.  We have been trying all week to contact American Airlines, Qatar and Lufthansa with no luck,  In the end, we bought last mind tickets from Frankfurt to Charlottesville, VA where Andi lives.

We got up at 3AM and packed up, leaving all of our six weeks of kitchen supplies of canned goods, etc, along with the ice chest and much more, and drove the one hour to the Frankfurt airport.  There we returned the car and boarded the LAST plane bound for the USA.  Talk about luck.  If we had missed that flight we would be in Germany for the duration of the pandemic.

The flight was GREAT.  The service exceptional, and we shared the 320 passenger plane with about 80 other people and 30 crew members deadheading back home.  When we landed in Atlanta to switch planes, we were boarded by the CDC, temps checked and questions asked.  We were then told to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.  We had a three-hour layover before continuing on to Charlottesville and settling in for what was appearing to be a very long time.



Monday, March 9, 2020

Switzerland - Family Time


We planned a week in Switzerland to visit sets of old friends.  The drive from Nice was beautiful, through stunning mountain valleys, passing Lake Como as we approached the southern border at Italy.  The temperature dropped and we started to see quite a bit of snow.  It was winter again.
We approached the Gottard Tunnel knowing we would be traveling underground for at least 20 minutes.  It is 10 miles long and still one of the longest tunnels in the world.  The transit was fine with enough turns in the road to prevent being hypnotized by the monotony.  



Once on the other side we wound through sleepy villages and small towns, got lost up in the mountains by our GPS misdirect, and ended up making it an 11-hour drive.  We reached our friend's home late in the day and settled in.  They live in Glarus, a lovely village nestled within a high mountain valley.
For three days we wandered the little town, took a few hikes, enjoyed the cheerful howl of a three-year-old and one-year-old, and reminisced about our many years of friendship.  This was the first time we got to meet Grace.  Marc was an employee of ours, one of our most skilled comedy tour drivers, and, eventually purchased the company and made his fortune.  He sold it two years later and moved to New Zealand where the Kreiger love story began.  Now living in Switzerland, they had a lovely family and it was a grand time sharing quality family time with them.  Getting off the road n such a loving environment was a true gift for us.

Sofia, Grace, Marc and Valentina Krieger
We got a small snowfall while there and it had been a long time since we shoveled a driveway.  In reality, we watch Marc shovel.
We took a full day and drove to Vaduz, Lichtenstein.  We walked around the very quiet city, it was an early Saturday morning and few shops were open.  We took a few photos and then headed into Austria for lunch.  There we wandered the streets of a small city (I failed to note the name) and enjoyed each other's company. 


Late in the day, we drove back home to a wonderful home-cooked meal with Grace and the kids.  In the morning we said our goodbyes and drove to Zurich.  We dropped Marc off at the airport where he departed for London and a new assignment.  And...met up with John and Constanza, old travel friends from many, many years back.  John is one of our brothers and this is the fourth time we have hooked up with him since departing Alaska.  We settled in quickly into their home in Baden (Bath) and joined then for a dance class that evening-they danced and we watched.

The next two days went by slowly as things got progressively worse in Italy with the COVID-19 blockade.  We barely missed getting stuck in Italy and were thankful we had changed our route into Switzerland.  John took us out on a long day hike along the river in Baden and we ended up at a really nice hotel for a fancy lunch.  Later that night we drove into the Zurich city center and met Constanze for dinner at a really historic hotel that specialized in fondue.  It was a spectacular dinner.
We did a day trip into Zurich with John and visited the history museum.  It was quiet and the displays were great.  After a few hours, it was time to head back home.  That night we cooked a traditional Mexican carnitas dinner and had "street" tacos which Constanza ate with a fork and knife...LOL.

In the morning we left early for the airport, met sister Andrea, said goodbye to John and headed north into the safety of Germany...or so we thought.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Spain - Two More Weeks on the Costa Azul - Part 2


After a nice break at the beach, we headed north to our next big Spanish city, Valencia.  Still, on the coast, Valencia is the home of Paella, the Spanish delicacy, and a beautiful, very large city with loads of cultural heritage sites.  It was a five-hour drive on the tollway reaching the city mid-afternoon.  We were met at our apartment by our hostess, Sonya, who showed us around and also took us down the block to the parking garage.  Luckily we found a street space right in front of the apartment and since it was too good to lose, we never moved the car during our whole stay.  We had a large three-bedroom apartment, and as usual, it was perfect in every way, sparkling clean, nicely furnished and perfectly located.  We settled in quickly with a market trip to replenish supplies.

The bus stop on our block took us right into the city center in just five stops, and at $1.50 a trip, it was more economical than driving and parking.  We chose to wander the first day, and after a few hours in the historic center and a quick visit to the Spice Market building, we got onto the metro/bus system and headed west to the sea and the City of Arts and Sciences.  The architecture was so modern and fanciful, that it felt like we were on a foreign planet.  There we visit the science museum and enjoyed the sun.

We scheduled a free walking tour, our 42nd on this trip and thoroughly enjoyed our guide whose thick Italian accent speaking English was charming.  We wandered the old quarter and were introduced to many beautiful sites.  It was a Sunday and there were folk dances and costumes galore.



We took a day off and chilled a bit...Bobbie did her daily four-mile walk.  

We scheduled a bike tour for our last day in the city but got rained out, so we wandered a bit and did a bit of shopping at one of the large malls.

We departed on a six-hour drive to Barcelona.  We purposefully chose a location outside of the city in the village of Martorell (pronounced "Mar-tow-rey" and were pleasantly freaked out by the mansion we inherited for the week.  A fully restored main floor of a stately family home built in 1896 greeted us.  Our hostess, Anna, was quite proud and very amused by all of our oos and awes.  The place was furnished with exquisite antiques and art and in one of the bedrooms was a Dali original.  Wow.  We lived in splendor, though a bit cold at night, even with the heat on, for the next six days.






We drove into the city the next day for a walking tour of the city highlights.




Our second day we took an architectural tour of the Gaudi buildings ending in an outside tour of the Sagrada Familia Basilica.





We took a day off to rest.

On our fourth day, we booked a bike tour through the waterfront district that was refreshing and good exercise. Our guide was a transplanted Cuban fellow, charming and knowledgable and the day was bright and sunny, warm, and being a Sunday, packed with people.  It was interesting and fun weaving in and out fo the crowds on our bikes.












Saturday, March 7, 2020

The South of France - Two Weeks Speaking French


We departed Barcelona and had gotten 30 minutes out of the city when we received a text from our host that we had left a bag behind.  We quickly backtracked to discover it was Bobbie's purse...ugh.  Once back on the road it was a beautiful drive through the mountains and into Andorra.  Hoping to find a local restaurant to enjoy some local delicacies we sadly discovered that if the town did not have something to do with spring skiing, everything was closed.  We found a decent burger joint along the border and settled in for lunch.  Once back on the journey, we climbed higher and higher over the Pyrenees and into the ski resort area.  Lot of snow, lots of skiers, and a decent amount of traffic made for a slow journey over the high mountain pass.  Luckily the roads were clean and in great shape.


Into France and a couple of hours, more of driving brought us to Toulouse where we would stay for a week.  It is a large city, sprawling over the plain at the base of the mountains and we had a nice apartment in the city center.  Great bus and tram service allowed us to get into and out of the historic district.  It was off-season and not much to offer other than a few art museums, a walk around the old town and such.  One the day we were able to book a walking tour, it rained.  All in all, we enjoyed a restful week of watching movies, taking daily walking into the city center and visiting the space center.


Driving south, it took us a good eight hours to reach Nice on the coast.  The French Riviera was all we expected.  Clean, pretty, great beaches, and decent winter weather.  It was sunny for our entire week with only rain on one day.  We had a grand apartment on the ground floor just a few blocks from the city center, complete with a private parking spot that was ideal and cost-saving.



It was a grand week with long walks a great walking tour, a lovely botanical garden, and a movie house where we were able to see two new US films., Judy and The Gentlemen.  It has been a while since we had enjoyed a flick and we settled into the older, nicely appointed movie house easily.  

As usual, our walking tour guide was charming and effective...a transplanted Irish lass with a nice grasp of the city.  We walked about 5 miles that day, up and down the main hill.



We took the tram and bus into Monaco for the day and visited the Oceanographic Museum.  It had a great aquarium.  The rest of the exhibits were lacking and disappointing.  It was in a magnificent building though and that made the visit more worthwhile.  We wandered around a bit, caught a little of the changing of the guard at the palace, had lunch and opted to head back into Nice midafternoon.  We did not visit the Casino and lose $1,000 in a minute, as I pretended to do on Facebook.  That was fun and solicited an assortment of interesting replies to my posts.