Monday, November 9, 2015

Check out Our New Blog!

Now that Mark and I have sold Irie and temporarily moved onto land in the United States, we have created a new blog called Roaming About - A Life Less Ordinary. This new blog showcases our semi-settled life and all our current and future adventures, with flashbacks to our "old" cruising life. It links back to this website when appropriate. On Roaming About I write about our new lifestyle of house and pet sitting, side-trips, upcoming travels and plans, thoughts, ideas, writing, food, health, frugal living and much more. Basically about everything that strikes my fancy! :-) The goal is to post more often and write shorter pieces. Feel inspired to live a life less ordinary, check in often or sign up to follow our alternative lifestyle blog by email! Click here to see what it is all about...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Farewell Irie!

It is final. Irie has been sold. Her new Australian owners will soon bring her to their home country. She will leave French Polynesia after more than two years, just like we left her after more than eight years.

Mark and I are a bit sad, but mostly happy that she will be sailing again and that the burden of owning a sailboat on the other side of the world is lifted. Of course, we will miss Irie; she meant everything to us and was our home for eight years. She brought us all the way from Annapolis, MD on the east coast of the United States, via the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean, to the northern regions of South America. Then, she safely sailed us to our all-time favorite, the San Blas Islands in Panama, before transiting the famous Canal, and entering the Pacific Ocean on the other side. Before we decided to put Irie up for sale, because other priorities arose, we had a great time in the Galapagos Islands and lived two interesting and diverse years afloat in French Polynesia.

We loved the cruising lifestyle and will always have fond memories of Irie, our watery surroundings – the beautiful beaches, the clear water, the amazing wildlife, the colorful and peaceful snorkeling, the people we met (locals and cruisers alike) - the intriguing sites and pulsating cultures, and especially, the peace and solitude of exquisite anchorages. And we will definitely miss the tropical climate! 

While we totally enjoyed being one with nature for so many years, appreciating what she had to offer and living a pretty basic life, we are currently content with the quirks of “modern” living. We indulge in daily hot showers, are aware of conveniences like unlimited internet and electricity, and embrace the fact that we can just take the car somewhere or go for a walk. We are ready for some comfort and landlubber “delights”!

With the sale of Irie another special experience and adventurous chapter of our lives has ended, but a new one – intriguing and exciting on a different level – is about to begin. Officially homeless, we will have our base in the United States for now, but anyone who knows us pretty well, can predict that it is just a matter of time before the next adventure presents itself… What that will be, is anybody’s guess! (But we do have some ideas. :-))

More photos of Irie and stories of our cruising life can be found in older posts on this website. The archive is listed on the right (bottom of the sidebar).

My last view of Irie, when I left Moorea for the last time in July 2015

Irie hauled out for a buyer's survey in Tahiti, August 2015

Irie hauled out at Technimarine in Tahiti - August 2015

Mark's last view of Irie - under contract - in Moorea, August 2015

Bye bye Irie and the cruising lifestyle (for now)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

St. Petersburg in Russia

During my last week in Belgium, my mom and I went on a little 5-day vacation to St. Petersburg (ex-Leningrad). Claimed to be the most beautiful city of Russia, if not the world, the expectations were high, but the travel organization Davidsfonds and our local guide Ella delivered. Our program was chock-full from 9am to late at night, every day. There was literally no time to relax in our comfortable room or take a dip in the hotel’s swimming pool. Dinners at our hotel Ambassador were fair, but all breakfasts and other meals at the diverse restaurants were well-prepared, and tasty, predominantly Russian, cuisine.

In a group of 27 people, we visited dark Orthodox churches with shiny relics, colorful cathedrals, exquisite and exuberant palaces, expansive museums, a moving ballet (Swan Lake with music from Tchaikovsky), interesting stores, the impressive Peter and Paul fortress, a cemetery of famous Russians, and massive gardens with funky fountains. We were lucky with the weather: no rain was felt and the last morning, a glorious sun accompanied us on the boat ride over the city’s network of rivers, showcasing St. Petersburg’s historical buildings in their most favorable and favored way.

A picture doesn’t necessarily say more than a thousand words (as a writer, living a seemingly "picture perfect life" I don’t agree with that expression), but it sure is easier to post a photo than write a thousand words for each sight we saw and experienced! :-) So, here are a whole bunch of photos of Russia’s prettiest city.

Entering St. Petersburg from the airport
Peter and Paul Fortress:

Peter and Paul Cathedral

Interior of the cathedral

Tomb of Peter the Great (and burial site of many other members of the Romanov family)

Top of the cathedral

Part of the fortress, along the Neva river

St. Petersburg skyline seen from the fortress

View from our hotel Ambassador at dusk

Trinity Cathedral, seen through the bus window - we saw many pretty sights this way

Alexander Nevsky Monastery:
Tikhvin Cemetery

Grave of the famous Russian composer Tchaikovsky

Many famous Russian artists are buried at this cemetery

The monastery's cathedral


Impressive monastery building

Taking care of the monastery gardens

Detail of the gate to the monastery

St. Isaac's Cathedral:

St. Petersburg's largest church took 40 years to build

The lavish interior of the impressive church

Art Deco building of a delicatessen store

Buildings like these are part of the street scene

Another Orthodox cathedral (of St. Andrew the First-Called), seen from our bus

The Hermitage and Winter Palace:

The Hermitage - One of the biggest museums of the world with a very extensive and impressive collection of art. It would take days to explore the Hermitage and the adjacent Winter Palace of the Tzars

Entrance way in the palace

Rooms full of paintings

One of the many exquisite galleries

Mikhailovsky Theater: 

Inside of the theater

Ballet dancers - the Swan Lake

End of the second act of "Swam Lake"


The grand palace of Peter the Great

The gardens have many (gold plated) fountains

Our tour group in front of  Peter the Great, founder of St. Petersburg and Tsar and emperor of Russia, who ruled from 1682 - 1725

Another garden in front of another palace on the grounds

Mom and me, and "our" summer palace

Romanov palaces, art, gardens, water and gold - Russia's rich past

Savior on the Blood Church (or Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ), my favorite Orthodox cathedral in St. Petersburg

The Russian Museum, full of Russian fine art

St. Petersburg by night

St. Nicholas the Maritime Cathedral

Statue of the famous Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin

Catherine Palace:

Catherine Palace, one of the palaces in Tsarskoye Selo, Tsar Village, is an 18th-century baroque palace, where the Russian royal family spent their summers.

It is massive with extensive grounds

And very exquisite - watch the immense painting on the ceiling! Most rooms in the palace look like this.

With lots of gold, special wooden floors and exactly as it looked like ages ago
Evening out with dinner and Russian entertainment

Savior on the Blood Church at night

One of the pretty buildings during our one hour river cruise

Bridges and historic buildings along the water ways of St. Petersburg

It's a very charming city, especially seen this way

Back on the main river the Neva, with the Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral
Lady of Kazan Cathedral:

Another massive cathedral in the city center

View from the cathedral with a fountain and Art Deco bookstore

The cathedral was our last stop in St. Petersburg

The front side of the Kazan Cathedral faces the main artery and famous shopping street Nevsky Prospekt