Our Recent International Travels

Ever since I retired six years ago, my wife, Meryl, and I have tried to check off the places on our international travel wish list.  Luckily, we made it to most of them over the past ten years.  During the three years before I stopped working, with an arrangement with my partners to work for two months and then take a month off, this reduced work schedule gave us an excellent opportunity to spend a month away from home in many different locations.  It also gave me a head start in getting used to full retirement.   

We live in Palm Beach County, the big blue county in the southeast end of the state.

Since we live in Florida, my wife thinks that it is criminal to leave “paradise” during our beautiful winter season (from November to April).  She reminds me that “people are paying big bucks to come down here” so it has always made sense for us to schedule our long trips in May-June and September-October.  We have found that those are the best times to avoid large crowds and the extreme heat (or cold) in certain places.  In addition, Florida in the summer, although hot and humid, is quieter and has less traffic.  You just need to know how and when to plan your time outside when it gets up to the high 80s by 9 am.

During the Pandemic, friends and relatives who know that we like to travel have asked me often how we have been adjusting.  After several months of self-imposed isolation, we have slowly been coming out of our cocoons.   We still have very limited in-person contact, but we have recently returned to doing our own grocery shopping instead of using the delivery services.  The social distancing and mask-wearing appears to be well-accepted so we are now comfortable in most supermarkets.

Costco, still our favorite

Going for even a 15-minute car ride now seems like an exciting field trip.  We try to schedule our Costco runs for the early morning “senior hours” when the store is much less crowded.  They have improved the flow so that you can get in and out in very short time.

Whole Foods Market
An extensive selection of cheeses from our favorite places

For a real treat with an international flavor, we go to Whole Foods where spending some time in the cheese section makes us feel as if we are on a foreign trip.  We have bought several Spanish and French varieties of sheep, goat and cow’s milk cheese.  It reminded us of when we had an extended stay in Valencia and Madrid and used to make tapas every afternoon. 

When we went to one of the local fruit and vegetable markets, Maria’s, we found that she had a large selection of Chinese and Thai greens.  This reminded us of the trip a few years ago to China and Thailand.   She also carries many Central and South American varieties of vegetables and fruits, making us nostalgic for the time we spent in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru. 

It’s all comes down to your attitude!   If you adjust your expectations, you find that you can satisfy your culinary interests by learning to cook many of the dishes you may have tasted during your travels.  There has been such an explosion of food blogs during the last year that you can find the recipes for almost every type of cuisine.   With some determination, along with the willingness to fail miserably, it has been an amazing experience to learn how to cook many foreign specialties. 

Cooking together

Our trips to the Chinese grocer or the Indian/Pakistani store have yielded us with the ingredients that we had thought we would never find here in the United States.  With some advice from our Chinese and Indian friends, we are now able to recreate some of the same meals that we enjoyed while traveling to those countries.  A recent find has been the snow pea greens that we loved in China and which are very easy to sautee with just a little garlic and olive oil.

We have joked that our favorite restaurant is now our backyard waterfront café.  Until the cold weather finally reached Florida in December, we had eaten every dinner for more than eight months on our patio overlooking the lake.  It has been a lot of fun cooking together most of the time, and on some nights, we surprise each other with new recipes that we have found on the internet. 

Our favorite restaurant, overlooking our lake.
We imagine that we are on a cruise.

I hope that we will be able to resume our travel plans in the future.  Who knows when that will be?   Until then, we’re having a great time, trying to make the best of this very bizarre situation.   

November 30: End of “Summer”

Today is November 30, 2020 and it’s the end of the season.

It is actually the end of many things here in South Florida,

I’m in Palm Beach County, the big blue county on the Atlantic side near the bottom

where December 1 is the start of the winter dry season. After all, Thanksgiving is over and the Holiday decorations are quickly appearing.  Even though an occasional hurricane may slip through during December, we can most likely rule out any devastating storms until next June when the hurricane season will once again begin.

During this Year of the Pandemic, we have had a very long summer. Besides the often-heard complaint that every day runs into the next, the higher than normal temperatures that we have endured since late March have made us feel as if the summer lasted forever!  Except for a few days in the past month, it was rare that it didn’t reach at least 80 degrees since the Pandemic began. 

In South Florida, that means that by about 9 or 10 am, the temperature quickly rises into the 80s and remains so for the rest of the day.  When the occasional tropical afternoon thundershower rolls in around 4-5 pm, we sometimes enjoy a brief respite from the heat.  At dinner time outside on our patio, the decrease of a couple of degrees makes a very noticeable difference.  

In the past few days, we have been teased by some early morning cooler temperatures.  One day as we left our house for our daily sunrise walks,

it had even dropped down to 68 degrees!  We dressed in long pants and long-sleeve shirts for the occasion and I vowed to complain the whole time about what we call a cold snap. 

Old timers used to say that you know it’s cold in Florida when you have to tell your kids to put on their shoes to get the morning newspaper from the driveway.  Using that expression dates you since almost everyone receives their “newspapers” online, and young people wouldn’t even understand what you’re trying to say.  This is definitely barefoot country where wearing sandals may be considered “dressed up.”  

This afternoon, in celebration of the end of the tropical hurricane season, we are going to experience a cold front moving in from the North.  Temperatures will plummet down into the 50s!  The local weather report is warning us with words like “chilly.”

Weather Forecast: Cold Front Moves Through Overnight – Temperatures Down to the low 50s

That’s how I will describe it and I will proudly complain about it like any good almost-native Floridian.  I definitely fall into the group for whom anything below 60 degrees feels downright cold and in need of footwarmers. 

We are prepared for the yearly December weather change.  We have already shaken the dust off our warm sweaters and we look forward to wearing long pants for a few days.  Soon after, however, the breezes from the still-warm Atlantic will return us to our usual Florida reality where the days feature temperatures that we enjoy the most, the mid-70s with low humidity.   That’s a far cry from the low 90s with 80% humidity that we’ve put up with for the last 7-8 months. 

No, I am definitely not complaining.  I love the Florida weather.  I will live with the heat and humidity any day in order not to have to shovel snow or suffer through the cold, dreary gray days in the 40s that I remember from my childhood.   I will gladly forfeit the “change of seasons” that our snowbird friends love to brag about.  For me, I will continue to get up every morning before the sun rises just to be able to observe nature at its colorful best while the conditions are almost consistently ideal.    

A typical Florida early morning sky