We made it across the pond!

LOCATION: Southampton, England
WEATHER: Cloudy. 50s

It was a long trip – 9 hours direct from Austin, Texas to London Gatwick. Norwegian Airlines, in addition to being inexpensive, is very modern. You order drinks and food on the computer in front of your seat, paying with credit card. Then, the steward brings you your order. No more carts going up and down the aisles; no more fiddling with a credit card by the flight attendant. Very efficient.

We landed in London in a typical pea-soup fog. Public transportation is so good here. The train station is inside the airport. We bought our tickets for Southampton, a 2-hour train trip, for $20 each. The train route took us through lush countryside. We saw a lot of sheep and cows graising, and a few pheasants in the fields.

Southampton is the largest city in the area, and is where our cruise will be departing from in a week (the same port as the Titantic!) We found our B&B, an older house that has been converted to a B&B with about 15 rooms. Our room, unfortunately, was on the top (3rd) floor and it was exhausting hauling up our heavy suitcase all the way up! We rested a bit as I hadn’t slept at all the plane, and we were suffering from the 6-hour time zone difference.

Then – off to check out some pubs in our neighborhood.

George chatted up some of the other customers, as usual. Then, a stroll down the street to another pub that looked cute.

It was quite cozy, so we had an early dinner there in addition to our beer.

DINNER: We shared their evening special – gyro-styled chicken, chips (French Fries), and a salad. The food plus the beers was a total of 15 pounds – the quivalent of about $20 USD. The British pound is low, so the US dollar goes further.

Early to bed, after a bit of BBC on the telly, to try to catch up on our sleep.

Reids in the Sky Again!

LOCATION: Austin (Texas) Airport
WEATHER: Nice and cool until about noon. High 85

We enjoyed our last Texas margarita last night, sipping as we did our final packing-up. Our community is a “Lock and Leave” – meaning that all we have to do is lock the house, and have no worries while we are away. We went to the city water department today to put our water/sewer/garbage on “vacation mode” while we are away, so the price will be half of our normal rate – about $35/month. We have automatic sprinklers and everything is safe in this gated community. We have a mail-forwarding service which will send our mail to our daughter while we are away. So, we can be away without any worries. Our last dinner was an omelette – always a great way to finish up every bit of leftovers.

Then, the alarm got us up at 6:30 this morning, and we were off by 7:00. We rented a car for $86 to Austin, including the drop-off fee. So much better than trying to fly there (would have been an all-day proposition) and much less expensive. After about 5 hours, we arrived at the Austin Airport. Beers and pad thai tacos at the ready for a late lunch at an airport eatery.

We are EXTREMELY happy and relieved that there are no issues with our flight on Norwegian Airlines. The fare is $149 each for a direct flight from Austin to London Gatwick. We had heard rumors that Norwegian might go bankrupt, but no sign of this here.

Our flight is 9 hours. We will buy a sandwich at the airport to eat on the plane. I made pickled eggs which we will have for breakfast as we arrive in London at 7:30 AM tomorrow.

To my blog reader who inquired about Mexican meds we bought in Progreso, Mexico this weekend— The Mexican meds are only available for meds that are already generic. (For example – my husband’s Eliquis is not an option). We show them the container – e.g, Atenelol, and they sell it to us. Trustworthy? We think so, although we only use this as a back-up. Just as a precaution, when we have to use them, we alternate a US pill with a Mexican pill each day.

We hope that you will read our blog as we travel to England and then to southern Africa. I will try to write daily.

Cheers! Cheerio!

Eating bugs and tacos; drinking margaritas and cervesas in Mexico

LOCATION: Our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Hot (93) and really humid

Today’s destination was Progreso, Mexico. Although we live less than a mile from the border, we need to drive about 20 miles to an entry point with a town – Progreso – that offers amenities.

Most people, as we did, park and walk across the border. It costs $1 to enter Mexico (and upon departure, costs 30 cents to re-enter USA).

After walking across the Rio Grande bridge, all your senses are assaulted. First you see signs, mostly in English, advertising available drugs in pharmacies, dentists, eye doctors, beauty shops, etc.

Progreso has one primary street. The street is covered with a canopy and shops, offices, and stalls line the pathway. Vendors stand in front of their shops shouting in broken English….”Hey lady, we sell drugs almost free!” Or ….”Hey, lady, the dentist is here today…..wanna crown for $100?” etc. Many of the shops have music blasting from speakers, enticing people to enter. The smells are interesting, too – candied almonds roasting, tacos cooking, and smelly car engines. We LOVE it!

Our first stop along the walkway was to buy a margarita. It is interesting that most of the walk-up bars are part of pharmacies. I guess it makes sense!

Now fortified, our next stop was a pharmacy. We like to go to one that is called “Similares” – meaning knock-offs. Since we will be gone for more than 3 months, George needed to supplement one of his prescriptions. All you do is take in the bottle of the US prescription, and they sell you the generic drug. No prescription necessary!

Progreso is very touristy. Many gringos in the Rio Grande Valley go there for dental work, eye glasses, and curio shopping. A lot of English is spoken, and USD is the favored currency. This changes as you walk farther down the street, away from the border.

We walked beyond the main touristy area and found this guy selling tacos and baked potatoes.

No English here. No gringos here, either. I ordered a plate of fajita-style tacos. He carved the meat off the spit.

We asked for a beer, and the stall owner called a shop nearby. A guy came over and sold us beers for $1.50. Very tasty taco and Indio beer!

On our way back to the US border, we did a little pottery shopping. George bought a belt from a young mother with a leather stall. I watched her baby while she showed George the belts. After haggling a bit, he bought one for $11.

We couldn’t resist buying some fried grasshoppers for a snack (they are in the bucket)….

Our final stop was at Pancho’s, a popular bar/restaurant near the border. We sat at the bar, on saddle bar stools and watched the bartenders do their work. This drink is a concoction of liquors, then topped with upside-down beers.

Back home, I did laundry, and more laundry, to get us ready for our trip. George watched football, snacking on his cricket purchase…..

DINNER: The cupboards and refrigerator are almost bare. Tonight, I finished up all the frozen seafood – shrimp and scallops, sauteed with peppers and onions. I topped it with a can of smoked oysters, which gave it an interesting twist. Served over the last of the rice.

Wrapping it up in Texas

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Hot and humid again. The cool front (taking us down to 91) blew through, and we are up around 100 again.

We are counting down our days here with lots of to-do lists. I finished one up and started another! On today’s list was a haircut for me. All of the hair dressers are Latinas and I enjoy hearing them switch back and forth between English and Spanish.

A kind friend dropped off a broad-brimmed safari hat (for George for our Botswana safari) and a shiny blouse with lots of bling (for me to wear on the cruise ship on one of the gala nights). So nice!

I did a water aerobics class. This is my get-up….

While I was swimming, a beautiful greenjay swooped down in front of me. They are prolific here, and so beautiful.

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIPS: I thought of another one that I use a lot while on the road in our Airstream. We have just a small place in the refrigerator to store butter. A regular butter dish will not fit. So, I buy the softened kind…..once…..then refill the tub with a stick of butter as we travel. I keep the unused quarters in the freezer until I am ready to use them.

DINNER: Every day the refrigerator and freezer look a little less crowded, as I try to use up everything before we leave. Tonight – tacos with leftover chicken and hamburger, the last of the salsa, onions, poblanos, and jalapenos – topped with some remaining sorry bits of lettuce and tomato.

Dia De Los Muertos prep

LOCATION: Our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Getting better. Record highs for this time of year (96) but very pleasant evenings

What a busy day! Chair yoga class, then 2 water aerobics sessions. Then, in the afternoon, I participated in a fun activity offered up by our community’s activities committee. About 15 of us met in our craft room to make Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) pumpkins. The directions were to bring scissors and a glass of wine to enjoy while carving (sounded a little dangerous…)

I had warned the coordinator that I am the least artistic person I know. She and others helped us carve and decorate.

I happened to sit next to this lady who is a real artist. She put me to shame, of course…

They all turned out quite different.

I put mine in the planting area in front of our house…

A close-up of my finished product…

Then, I rushed home to get ready for guests. Two couples came over for drinks and snacks. They are super neat people and we had a great time. Thankfully, it was cool enough to sit outside.

DINNER: Not very hungry after the get-together, we just shared a hamburger. Only 3 days of lunch and dinners left before we go on our trip. The trick is to eat up everything in the refrigerator without any food-less meals!

Absorbing some Tex-Mex culture

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Suddenly cool. High 70

After the cold front came in yesterday, we enjoyed some outdoor chores. We had planted some oleander plants last spring around our electricity breaker box to improve our neighbor’s view of our house. Over the summer, their bougainvillea grew into a huge bush, making the oleander unnecessary, so we transplanted the plants to our fence line. We don’t have neighbors on that side, but one day we probably will, so it would be nice to have some plants for privacy.

Some friends invited us to their house for happy hour. This was the first time that we have been able to sit outside. They live in a nice port home and we sat in their patio area

We drove over to “The Junk Yard”, a popular Sunday afternoon venue. The customers appear to be local cowboys, Mexicans, plus us Winter Texans. It is an outdoor junky bar with indoor and outdoor seating. Lots of interesting characters making people-watching very intriguing.

A lot of the customers arrived via motorcycle, especially biker babes. We were probably the only customers not wearing cowboy boots. We always enjoy watching dancers do the Texas Two-Step.

We are right next to the Mexican border – just over this levee.

This couple was particularly good. The lady was really dressed up, in a short short skirt and cowboy boots. After the dance, she came over to George, gave him a hug, and said “Welcome Back”. Is this something George hadn’t told me?…..as we (or at least I) have not been here before!

DINNER: Grilled porkchops that I served with a Dijon mustard sauce. Sides were French fries and a salad.

Catching up…

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Hot – 95 – 105 every day with sun…..until yesterday

I haven’t posted for a while, as life has been pretty mundane. Each morning is filled with exercise – water aerobics, chair yoga, and regular yoga for me, and exercises for George in the club’s workout room. Then, most afternoons we have some errands to run……We both bought some dress-up clothes for the cruise. I was lucky to find a little black skirt that I can scrunch up in my suitcase for $7. George bought some dress pants to go with the suit jacket he had bought in a thrift store in Minnesota. On our cruise, there are several “gala” evenings when fancy clothes are required.

We have also been working on our upcoming trip. This is our itinerary so far:

Fly to London
Train to Southampton and stay in a B&B
Pick-up rental car and go to the village for our one-week housesitting assignment
After the assignment, back to Southampton
Board ship for 17-day cruise
Air B&B in Capetown – TBD
Air B&B in wine country – TBD
Flight to Botswana
Safari in Botswana to 2 different camps
Flight to Zimbabwe
Hotel and activities at Victoria Falls
Flight to Johannesburg
Housesit in Johannesburg for 3 weeks
Trip to Krueger National Park – TBD
Arrangements back to USA – with possible layover in Dubai – TBD

So, most has been accomplished. Whew! I love doing all of this planning.

We have invited neighbors over for a couple of happy hour events with the idea of picking their brains. One couple spent a month in southern Africa last year, so they gave us some hints. Another couple spent the summer in New England, so we talked about campgrounds there for our road-trip next summer.

It has been super hot every day, making gardening difficult. When we arrived back here last week, several dead plants welcomed us. George cut them back and cleared away a lot of dead brush. Yesterday, we watched the car thermometer drop from 102 to 90 in about 5 minutes. Then, a strong Canadian wind blew in cold, refreshingly dry air, and the outdoor temp quickly dropped to about 65. Wow! (When the TV weatherman reported this, he pointed to British Columbia and Alberta on the weather map as the source of the cold winds, but said that the winds were coming from Ontario!)

The butterflies are in full force here. We are on a popular migrating path, as they fly from Canada to Mexico. Here in our community, we are encouraged to plant bushes that butterflies like…

There are also a lot of hummingbirds around.

While we were gone this summer, work continued on The Wall. These Wall parts are now sitting in a big lot on the road next to our development.

Workers in these pick-up trucks spend their days guarding the Wall parts. What a great use of our tax money! Not!!!

DINNER: We will be here another 10 days or so, so I am trying to use up all of the food I bought (I think I bought a little too much). Meals have included scallops sauteed in garlic butter, gumbo, hamburgers, and salmon burgers. Last night, taking advantage of the cool temps, George grilled a steak. I smeared it with chimichurri – very tasty.