Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World


Venasque & Martinique & More… Jane Catching Up

Well, I’m WAY behind on the blogs. It’s time to catch up with a quick look back. France, Martinique, Philadelphia, Albany, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, and now Costa Rica. There, you’re all caught up!

Now for a few, but not all the details.

We left Dubrovnik, Croatia Dec 8th (yes, that’s how far behind I am, yikes) and headed to Venasque, France for a three week house sit. We found this house sit through Linda, a friend of Bob’s from over 40 years ago. We house sat for her neighbor. Linda and Dan took us under their wings, included us in all the holiday celebrations, introduced us to wonderful people and showed us the sites.

Venasque sits high on a mesa creating striking views in all directions. At least once a day, I was compelled to pause to take it all in.  It’s a hiking community with well marked trails, so a perfect stop for us.

Lolly, the Jack Russell with never ending energy, kept us moving with at least three walks a day winding us through those trails with the stunning views of the Provence countryside.

Our time in Venasque was too short and we hope to return for more of its beauty and time with Linda and Dan.

The next stop was Martinique for a three week dose of ocean and sun. A bit of hiking, lots of exploring and a fun week visit from Michael and Randy filled out the time. Again, too short.

We spent February in Philadelphia at a fabulous house sit around the corner from our grandkids. We took care of a cute little dog named Yaffa, who stole our hearts. In March, we visited the rest of the family in New York and friends and family in Wisconsin.  Now we are near San Ramon, Costa Rica for a 2 month house sit.

Sorry for not blogging and thanks to all who so kindly reminded me to get my butt in gear and get writing.



Dubrovnik, Croatia

Some places have a magic and Dubrovnik, Croatia makes that list. Situated on the Adriatic Sea where the hills meet the sea, the views are spectacular. The red roofed buildings contrast with the blue sea calming the soul.

Communities tuck into the hillsides accessed by many stairs and a few roads. (Mom you would live close to the water. No stairs!) To get to our house, we walk 316 stairs to our doorstep. Who needs a stair stepper.

We’ve rented a quirky apartment and couldn’t be happier. Our patio offers magnificent views of the peninsula, the bay and the sea. Each morning I’m surprised by the beauty. Grape vines grow in the yard and produce the sweetest purple grapes that I have eaten. I pick them most days. Yum!

The apartment is decorated with dated quirky art work, clocks, and a cabinet filled with liquor glass. I’d love to know the stories behind this stuff. “Grandpa gave this clock to Grandma on their wedding day and Grandma finished this needlepoint just before you were born.” It’s fun to guess the stories. The place is simple, clean and has a powerful shower. That’s all we need.

Bob tried to turn on the lights in the bathroom, but he flushed the toilet instead. It’s an updated version of the Thomas Crapper style toilet, and it’s got a powerful flush.

I’ve been going to the fresh market most days to pick up fruits and veggies. One woman sells her olive oil. I love the rich smooth flavor. I hope she’s back at the market soon. So many little surprises in Dubrovnik.

One week in and we’re settled and starting to explore outside our immediate neighborhood. We walked around the peninsula the other day and have lots more exploring to do. HIstoric Old Town is next.  Stay tuned.


The French Alps

On August 14, Bob and I left Scotland and headed for the French Alps.

We had a week before our next house sit in Chambery, so Bob set us up in Chamonix, at the base of the highest mountain in the Alps, stunning Mont Blanc.

We arrived in Chamonix under the darkness of night. I woke up, looked out the window, and “Wow”. That pretty much describes the place. Every direction has a view of the mountains, some so high they are permanently capped with snow. I got dizzy looking up at the beauty.

Paragliders floated down from the mountain just outside our window. I signed up to tandem glide, but it was canceled because the lift up the mountain wasn’t running. Slightly disappointed, I wrapped my head around the idea that it wasn’t meant to be. BUT, I will jump off a cliff another time.

Chamonix, which is a most popular ski resorts in Europe in winter, has gondolas, tramways, and cable cars that take you up to the mountain peaks where all the great hiking happens. So, that’s where we went, to the top.

One day, we rode a cable car up, hiked across the mountain ridge to another peak and took a gondola down. I forgot my camera in the cable car on the way up and realized it about 10 minutes after we got off. Panicked, I hiked back to the cable car station, pantomimed that I forgot my camera and without missing a beat this kind Frenchman called down to the bottom and my camera got it’s very own cable car ride up the mountain. Now that’s some luck.

Another day we went all the way across the glaciers to Italy on a cable car. Yep, traveling in three different gondolas, we climb all the way to a mountain peak overlooking Mount Blanc that’s so sharp it’s called a “needle” in French. We’re talking serious altitude here, over 12,500 feet. Today, however, the needle is covered in clouds and the visibility is zero.

It’s an eerie feeling to look out and only see white. Getting off the gondola, I start adding my layers as the temperature has dropped by 30 degrees. Brrr…. We walk through a short hallway dug out of the mountain to the cable car to Italy. We get in, the door closes behind us, and the tiny little cable car, with just us inside, slides out into the white nothingness.

I’m a bit nervous. When we first start out, the only thing I can see is the cable piercing the clouds. We are descending a bit now, so within minutes we travel out of the clouds and realize that we are above a gigantic glacier. Again, WOW. What a view.

We get out at the top of an Italian peak and  wander around the station, looking at the spectacular views in all directions. One mountain looks just like the peak above Whoville where the Grinch lives. I listened for the Whos singing, but no luck. By the time we got back to the “needle” in France, the clouds had cleared, and there was Mont Blanc so close we could almost reach out and touch it.  We had incredible views the whole way down. Once again, all I  can say is, “Wow.”

Chamonix was a short six days and soon Sunday came and we were off to Chambery, still in the French Alps, to start our six week house sit for Sabrina’s furry friends.

Sabrina introduced us to a few of her neighbors and we’ve been adopted. Guido and Felicia took us on a fabulous hike to La Croix du Nivolet. To get there we drove half way up the mountain through the beautiful countryside, surrounded by mountains.

We started the hike serenaded by the clang of cowbells, not for a Wisconsin football game, but around the necks of actual cows.  The mostly wooded trail took us to the top, but not before the rain. Just in time for lunch, we turned a corner as it really started to pour, and there was a refuge filled with hikers waiting out the rain.

We were warmly welcomed as people scooted over, making room for us to sit on the benches. Cookies, coffee, wine and some amazing homemade cordial were passed around. I like French hikers! We hiked up to the cross despite the rain. The view was a bit cloudy, but still great.

After the hike, Guido and Felicia drove us to a spectacular overlook to see the Chambery valley stretched out far below and promised more hikes in the future.  Then we descended down the mountain and home.


Peebles, Scotland – Round Two

Since our house sit in Vancouver that ended in late May, I’ve been to Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Albany, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Royalton, Denver, Door County, Madison, and back to Milwaukee. Just listing these locations makes me tired yet it’s where my people live so its been the best of times.

We arrived June 30 in Peebles, Scotland which is the first place we have returned to since we started our adventure. Both house sits invited us back to care for their pets. As Peebles is one of our favorite places, we were more than happy to return. And, after all the visits in the US, it’s a great place to relax and regroup.

Our first week was at Hannah’s with the dogs Rusty and Nell, and her cats Sparkles and Ernie. Each morning the dogs and I walked through the enchanted woods where fairies and elves live.

Now we have moved over to Julie’s with Misty the whippet. Our morning walk takes us up to a ridge overlooking the rolling hills, the patches of foxglove and grassy meadows of Scotland. Each morning I’m inspired by the sweet smell of the morning dew and the sound of the wind.

Hiking trails cover the countryside and we plan to hike as many as time allows. Bob, Misty and I took our first hike following the River Tweed past the Neidpath Castle, built in the 14th century. We continued up the ridge overlooking wooly grazing sheep and a picturesque view of Peebles.

Oh, almost forgot. Bob and I both had birthdays in July. Bob celebrated with an ice cream cone. We celebrated my birthday with lunch at an 11th century hunting lodge, a place where royalty hung out. Happy Birthday to us.

In between the spots of rain, we plan many more hikes and cherish every minute in magical Peebles before heading to the French Alps in mid August.

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House Sitting in Vancouver, Canada

Hi, everyone. We are enjoying our two week housesit in Vancouver, Canada. Country Thirteen. 

We left Malaysia April 26th and traveled a grueling 28 hours including flights and layovers. Talk about jet lag.

Normally we wouldn’t take a two week sit, but it’s Vancouver! We lucked out and were welcomed by the cherry blossoms in full bloom and two happy pups.

It turns out to be a perfect transition to the new time zone. We’ve had a relaxed first week walking the city’s amazing seawall, and giving ourselves permission to be a bit lazy.

Cocoa and Noville keep us busy with daily walks to the park and cuddles on the couch. The pups have won our hearts and it will sad to say goodbye.
We leave for the East Coast to catch up with our six grandkids and the rest of the family in the Northeast and Wisconsin, including a housesit in Brooklyn. After that we are off to Europe again with housesits in Scotland and France (the Alps and Provence).


Nice Routine in Penang

It’s been pretty low-key since the quick move to our new apartment.

I’ve made a habit of walking the promenade, shopping at the public wet market, and enjoying the yoga community. When walking the promenade, I see the same red-hatted street sweeper each day. The walk ends at the wet market where I often partake in Nasi Lemak, which is coconut rice, half an egg, a bit of mackerel and sweet hot sauce served on a banana leaf, all for 2 ringgits. That’s about 50 cents. On Fridays, yoga is held outside in the botanical garden with a waterfall as our music. Sometimes the monkeys come to watch. All and all, it’s a great routine.

We’ve of course found a few nice hiking trails into the jungle and drink tons of water on the hikes. It’s hot and humid here.

I discovered a Vipassana Meditation Center just up the hill and decided to enroll for a 10 day session. Unfortunately, it was closed to students, but still open to servers, so I applied and was accepted.

The best way to describe the experience is “difficult”. We were short handed and the center was “temporary.” Translated – primitive. Again, serving was outrageously difficult, with little rest.  I always try to see the positive and see the lessons, so here’s the positive.

My meditation reached a new level, I met some amazing people, learned a ton about Malaysian cooking and food, and learned once again, that a common language is not necessary to create a strong bond with a person. I’m pretty sure that Ah Bek, our 82 year old cook, and I are best friends.

Ukeko from Japan and I had no shared language, yet worked in the kitchen for 11 days with lots of smiles, points, and demonstrations. The rest of the team consisted of Connor, a Brit, Chow, a Malaysian with great English, Joe, a real yogi and Jessica who saved the day with her experience at the center and her incredible curry.

The cliche “what doesn’t kill you, makes your stronger” applies here.

Jessica  and Connor came back to our apartment to shower, do some laundry and recuperate for a few days. It was good to rehash our days of selfless service and relax for a bit.

One day after recuperating, I created my own walking tour of the UNESCO Historic District and explored the jetties and the murals. The jetties started when Chinese workers stayed near the water before and after work. Eventually the jetties evolved into permanent homes. Each jetty represented a different Chinese clan. When walking through a few I felt I might be invading personal space, and while walking in others, it was clear that tourists were welcome.

In the afternoon I hunted down the murals of Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic. He was commissioned in 2012 to paint whimsical murals around the city. I love this work because he incorporated actual objects into each mural. My favorite is a child standing on a chair on tiptoes reaching for a window. The chair and the window are real.

Two weeks left in Penang. We have a short list of must-dos before we leave. We recently visited Penang Hill which has “the view” of George Town, and wandered the Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple exploring its nooks and winding staircases. It’s one of the largest temples in Southeast Asia.

We are back in North America in May for a three week house sit in Vancouver and then head to the East Coast to visit the kids and grandkids. My nephew, Kelley, is getting married to a wonderful woman in June, so we will be in Wisconsin for their wedding.

The experiment continues and it’s going quite well. We are approaching year three.  We’ve lived in twelve countries and on five continents. As I wrote in my first post, “Holy Shit. I’ve sold almost everything I own, am living from one suitcase, and traveling the world.” It’s still true, and we love it.  Let the adventure continue.





Malaysia, The Best Laid Plan

We’re in Malaysia now, specifically Georgetown, Penang.

Our Plan – 3 months

First  month, rent historic shophouse.

Last two months rent near the sea.

It was a great plan. Many of the shophouses were built in the late 1800’s. Usually two stories, the business on the first floor, the shop, and the residence on the second, the house.

We were very excited to live in a bit of history.

Well, that historic living lasted three days.

We moved because of one creepy-crawly reason…



Yep, those disease-carrying-unpredictable-scurrying-evil-beasts wanted to share our shophouse.

NOPE, not happening. Jane doesn’t live with cockroaches.

Within the first half hour of checking out the place, I meet my first beastly crawler in the upstairs hallway. A quick inhale, some fancy panicked footwork, and a quiet scream to Bob and I’m on edge.

Oddly, there’s a can of roach spray right there and I empty it on that bugger. It crawled over a wooden Buddha sculpture sitting in the corner, then flipped over dead on it’s back. When we left the house, it was still leg up next to the Buddha.

(Hmm, first clue, why was there a can of roach spray right there?)

I begin my research on the unwelcomed guests. One article suggested misting the floor with vinegar to prevent them from coming into the house, so the next morning I’m armed with two spray bottles and lots of vinegar. I spend the next four hours cleaning the kitchen and misting all the floors in the shophouse.

I’m trying to be a trooper, but I’m on edge. If my pant leg fluttered over my skin, I would quickly brush my leg. When walking around the house, I would stomp the floors announcing my presence showing those beasts who’s boss.

Well, on night three, I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve misted many times, I’m stomping, only eating in the kitchen, and keeping all food in the frig. I can do this.

So, on night three, I’ve settled into bed to watch a little Netflix when Bob comes in to talk. I sit up and there it is. A cockroach crawls across the sheet, IN MY BED. I’m on my feet on top of the bed screaming, “There’s a cockroach. Look Bob, there’s a cockroach!” Bob sits up and the roach turns left and heads toward the head of the bed and crawls down over the edge.

Now, I am truly freaked. I’m not ok. I’m not the boss. The cockroaches have won the war.

We email the owner of our next apartment asking if they have cockroaches and if not, asking if we could move in early.  That night we sleep on the couch, and no, I didn’t sleep.

Luckily, we hear back about the apartment the next morning, and we moved by early that afternoon.

It’s taken me a few days to catch up on the sleep and relax. AirBnB helped us negotiate with the host of the shophouse, and we got back half our money. They said I should have taken pictures.

It makes sense, but at the time, I wasn’t thinking documentation. I was thinking, “Get the hell out of here!” Next time – Wait, I hope there’s never a next time with those creepy crawly evil critters.

On a happier note, since we’ve been in our new wonderful apartment, we’ve been to a Chinese New Year party, went to an Thaipusam Hindu festival, explored the coast a bit and are enjoying the beautiful seaside promenade. The markets are plentiful, and my kitchen provides all I need to prepare healthy wholesome meals.

We have two and a half more months in Penang. Let the exploration continue in our bug free apartment.

Here’s a few pictures of Penang. (no pics of cockroaches)