Traveling Well with MS

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Lakebay Marina in Lakebay, WA

My husband Darren and I are back in the U.S. in western Washington state after spending a year traveling around Europe. Traveling with MS isn’t always easy. However, it is totally worth it and I’m glad I had the opportunity for extended travel. After spending a year on the road, here’s my advice about how to travel well with MS.

  • Pack light. Really light. You’ll be glad you did. If you have issues with your legs and don’t do well with carrying a pack, get a small bag with wheels – a suitcase or backpack. As you’re preparing what you want to take with you, put all your stuff in one place. Pack your bag. Now, cut that amount of stuff in half, and add more money to your trip fund. You often need less stuff and more money! If you find that you really need something that you didn’t bring, you can purchase it on the road. You’ll then have a fun memory of shopping in a foreign country. You’ll also always think of that place when you see your purchase back home.
  • If you use assistive devices take them with you, especially if you need them for walking. Examples are canes, crutches, AFO’s, braces, etc. If these things will help you walk more and see more, take them along and use them all the time. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Rest. Get lots of rest. Get more rest than you think you need, and more rest than the others you’re traveling with. Also, have things to do during this rest time. In addition to taking a nap, this is the perfect time to Skype with a friend, catch up on emails, listen to a podcast, meditate, read a book, or write a postcard.
  • On a longer trip, staying in touch with friends and family can help you be less homesick. Email, instant messaging and Skype were all important ways that I stayed in touch with what was going on back home.
  • Go slowly and don’t try to see it all. You can’t see it all anyway, even if you didn’t have MS. Slow down and prioritize your list of things to see. Leave some things on your list for the next time you’re there.
  • Adjust your expectations. You may see less, but in going slowly you may just have richer, more interesting experiences with people you meet on the trip. You don’t have to lower your expectations but you may need to adjust them.
  • Be open to new things. You’ll be glad you did. Push a bit beyond your comfort zone. You may just surprise yourself!
  • Be curious. Ask questions, talk to people, look around, research where you’re going.
  • Make the trip your own. Like to spend all day in museums? Then do that. Love nature instead? Then get outdoors. People will have suggestions before you go, but if they aren’t right for you, don’t feel forced to do things. Make the trip yours! You’ll enjoy it more than if you just follow the normal tourist path. Explore the local culture in your own way. There isn’t one right way to travel. It is different for everyone.
  • Be gentle with yourself. There will be times you need to stay back and rest when your traveling companions may go out. There may be things you wont be able to do and see. It is OK. Be gentle, and remember to be grateful for what you are doing!
  • Write about your experiences, even if you just jot down a few notes about what you did each day. You’ll be glad you did this later, as some of the fun and amazing little details of a trip are often lost with the passing of time.
  • Ask for what you need. People want to help. Whether it is a stranger on the street, or your travel companion, ask when you need help. It may just make the trip easier.
  • Know that you are different from other travelers. And yet at the same time, know that you are the same. There is comfort in both of these thoughts!
  • Finally, to quote author Thalia Zepatos in my one of my favorite travel books (A Journey of One’s Own), “Just go. You’ll be fine!”

 




The Covered Passages of Paris

The covered passages of Paris (Passages couverts de Paris) were a form of indoor shopping areas, built in the early 19th century on Paris’ Right Bank. In the 1850’s there were over 150 covered passages. Only a few dozen remain today.

Exploring these passages was a great rainy day activity when we were in Paris recently. Enjoy the pictures!

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Le Cafe des Chats, Paris

Just before we headed to Paris in late March, my nephew and his wife visited a cat cafe in California, and I saw their pictures on Facebook. When we got to Paris I was missing Bouzouki, the house cat who shared his house with us in Corfu, Greece. A quick Google search brought us to Le Café des Chats, a cat cafe in Paris so I could visit some cats. (Chat = cat in French.)

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It was a rainy, drizzly day in Paris, and a lot of the cats were sleeping in the window.

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The tables on the ground floor were already full, so we headed to the basement of the cat cafe. Look at this great fainting couch!

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Most of the cats were sleeping, but this girl was hanging out in the basement and was awake! We were warned, though, that she runs a bit hot and cold, so depending on the day, she might be super friendly, or a bit standoffish. Based on this picture, we thought this gal was having a bad day. Isn’t the coloring of her face fascinating?

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However, once I sat down, she jumped up in my lap! Good kitty!

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So the rules of the cat cafe are:

  • Don’t wake up a sleeping cat
  • Don’t pick up the cats, let them come to you
  • Don’t use flash photography

This cutie in the blurry picture below had found a warm place to sleep just behind the space heater!

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Wait, what’s up there? What’s going on?

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See the little hole in wall up above the book shelf? There was a cat up there! Darren got this fun picture, above, of me and the cat watching another cat come down from the little hiding place. We didn’t even realize there was a cat in there!

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A sign in the cat cafe. Savon le Chat = cat soap in French!

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We enjoyed our visit to Le Café des Chats, and the next time I’m in a city that has a cat cafe, I’ll be sure to visit!

 




I’m Grateful…

On Friday night, April 3rd, one year and one day after we left, we returned to SeaTac airport and took a ferry across to the Kitsap peninsula. We’re back in the US.

The sun was setting as we headed west on the ferry, and I was reminded that on a sunny day, Puget Sound is a beautiful place.

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Sunset on Puget Sound, taken from a Washington State Ferry

I’m grateful for many things. Here’s my grateful list for today:

  • I’m grateful that I was able to travel in Europe for a year
  • I’m grateful for the friends we were able to visit in Europe
  • I’m grateful for the new friends we made while we were on the trip
  • I’m grateful for the friends we came back to here in WA state, always ready to help when we need it
  • I’m grateful that I have a deeper understanding of what it is to live in America and how lucky I am to have freedom and opportunity
  • I’m grateful for the experience of seeing and living in other cultures for a time, and for understanding that there isn’t just one way to view things
  • I’m grateful for my husband who shares my wanderlust and understood my need to go, and to stay out there traveling for a good long while
  • I’m grateful for the realization that no matter what our government or the news media portray, most of the world is quite safe with kind people who will help you when you need it
  • I’m grateful for a deeper understanding of various cultures of the world, and how hard they have fought to exist
  • I’m grateful for the historic sites that have been preserved and maintained so I could experience them
  • I’m grateful for websites like Airbnb and Homeaway, whose sites make finding apartments and houses to rent so much easier
  • I’m grateful for these past few mostly sunny days in the Pacific Northwest

As we headed west on the ferry towards Kitsap County on Friday night, we looked back behind us and the full moon was rising in the east, with a ferry headed the other direction. Gorgeous. The sun has set on this particular trip, but the rising moon signified more to come. More what, I can’t say. But more. More adventure. More travel. More fun.

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Moon rising over West Seattle with a ferry in the foreground

There’s also so much more to say about this trip. More pictures, more posts. I’m sure I’ll be processing this trip for a long time to come.

Finally, I’m grateful to you, for reading my blogs, following my journey, and encouraging my wanderlust. Thanks! 🙂




The Olive Trees in Corfu, Greece

There are a lot of olive trees here on the island of Corfu, Greece. How many, you ask? Well, there are several million olive trees, many of which were planted during the Venetian period (from the 14th through the 18th century.) Estimates I’ve seen online mention about 3 million olive trees, which is a lot for an island of 230 square miles, with a population around 100,000 people!

One website I saw mentioned that the Venetians wanted the olive oil not for food, but for lighting the lamps Venice, and that they paid Corfiots in gold for each olive tree that was planted. Now there’s an incentive!

We’ve enjoyed seeing the olive trees as we drive around the island. The trunks of the trees, many of which are several hundred years old, are gnarled and twisted with interesting holes in them.

We found these great big trees near San Stefano on the northeast coast of Corfu.

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Many of these trees in the olive groves of Corfu are still actively managed for the production of olive oil, and you often see nets under the trees. The nets are used to collect the olives. This terraced olive grove was right alongside a narrow road in the north.

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It is interesting to see how the nets are dealt with. Sometimes they are rolled in a long line, and other times they are bunched up around the base of the tree. I’ve also seen the nets gathered and folded with a few rocks on top to keep them from blowing away.

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This tree is right along the side of the road, where they’ve added a paved parking area.

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On our drive the other day through the central part of the north of the island, we found an old grove on a hillside and just had to stop to photograph the trees. I could spend hours just wandering around checking out the trees. Each one is different!

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Sometimes you see the nets not rolled or bunched or folded, but spread out under the tree waiting for the next harvest.

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OK, that was probably too many olive tree pictures, but each one is fascinating to me. Finally, the olive tree selfie!

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Today is our last day in Corfu, Greece. Tomorrow we fly to Paris, where we’ll spend 5 days before flying back to Seattle.




The Old Fortress in Corfu

The Old Fortress in Corfu town (Corfu is the name of the island as well as the main town) sits on a peninsula that has two peaks. The fortress site was developed in the early 15th century when the Venetians had control of Corfu. This peninsula contained the original town of Corfu, and dates back to the 6th century.

We recently spent a sunny afternoon exploring the Old Fortress. Here are a few pictures.

Looking north towards the peninsula and the Old Fortress.

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The Venetians put in a moat to separate the peninsula from the mainland.

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Crossing the moat to get to the Old Fortress.

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I love the stone around these windows.

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From inside the fortress, looking up to the first peak.

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Not sure what the tripod structure is, maybe for moving the cannon around?

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Loved these rusty iron bars on this window.

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Clock tower

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View of the sea and fortress grounds as we head up the first peak.

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As usual, we are fascinated by the old doors and windows.

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There’s a small yacht harbor on the north side of the fortress.

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The fortress grounds, looking across to the second peak, which is behind a fence with no access.

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Walking through a tunnel to head up to the peak.

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Part of the way up…

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Most of the buildings that remain in the Old Fortress were built by the British during their rule of the island in the 19th century.

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The view of Corfu town from the peak.

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Physical therapy Corfu style! 🙂

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While this looks like a Greek temple, it is a former Anglican church built by the British.

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The old(er) and the new. A brick building built up against the older fortress wall.

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Another view of the peak we walked up.

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This is the tiniest obelisk we have ever seen!

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A beautiful pine tree near the moat.

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Another view of the moat as we leave the fortress.

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Corfu also has a New Fortress, which we have yet to visit. The New Fortress was built by the Venetians in the 16th century. We are headed back to the US soon, and as I walked around the Old Fortress I realized how much I’m going to miss this sense of history and exploring ancient sites!




Paralimni’s Carnival Parade

In researching things to do and events on Cyprus, I discovered that February 23, 2015 was a public holiday called Green Monday. This was a new one for me. Green Monday? It is also called Clean Monday, and is the first day of Eastern Orthodox Christian Lent. As I began to research this I discovered that there were several Carnival events in the nearby town of Paralimni leading up to Lent and Green Monday.

On Saturday there was a small procession to the Paralimni town square where there was a party with music and dancing. The music was very loud, and there were speakers on the side streets all along the square with the music playing. We stopped in briefly when things were just getting started around 7pm. I suspect it got busier, but we didn’t stay. Here’s a picture of the Saturday night party:

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On Sunday there was a Carnival parade in Paralimni. I’ve heard that the larger cities of Limassol and Paphos compete to have the best Carnival parade.

I have never been anywhere that celebrates carnival so when I read about the carnival parade in Paralimni, I knew we had to go to see what it was all about. I figured there would be floats and kids marching. What I didn’t expect were all the bags of confetti and cans of silly string! 🙂 There were speakers lining the parade route with loud and fun dance music playing.

The parade started with a group of cheerleaders. Notice how clean the street is.

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Great wigs!

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This is King Carnival. He is holding a syringe of Valium. I saw one reference online to his coronation, and they referred to him as King Carny-Valium. I’m not sure of the significance of this. So, things were a bit weird right from the start.

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More of the King’s float

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Another float

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There were a lot of dancers, in a variety of different costumes.

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Hey, look. There are bees! Darren was happy to see this.

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Bees doing the waggle dance.

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Here are the beekeepers.

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Another float. I have to say that some of significance of the parade was lost on me since I don’t know any Greek!

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There was a Candy Crush float with dancers. Notice the spray of canned foam (like a foamy version of silly string) on the left.

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Super Mario was a big part of the parade. I’m not sure why!

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The weirdness continues… The meaning of this was lost on me. Dancers with plungers, mops and brooms!

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Oh, and dusters too!

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These guys weren’t in the parade, but were kind enough to pose for me!

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I thought these two little penguins were so cute!

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More penguins, dancing.

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More candy…

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Ooh, the big bad wolf!

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So, drinking is part of Carnival. This guy in the parade can’t get his can of beer open, so he’s using a screwdriver!

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Notice now that the street has a lot more confetti and silly string on it. Also, notice the hands of the dancers. Many of them are holding a can of silly string!

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Want some candy?

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Even weirder, a hookah on a hand cart.

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Spartans!

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Another float

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These guys were near the end of the parade and were handing out wine.

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More drinking.

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More penguins, and Eskimos?

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This guy had no trouble getting his beer open! Notice the cigarette in the other hand. Lots of people smoke here.

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These guys are advertising kid’s parties.

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After the parade…

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As we headed back to the car, we ran into the Red Riding Hoods with the hookah again. Love the guy on the left fixing his hair!

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After the parade there was a party in the town square, but I was tired so we headed home. What a Sunday!

Carnival ended on that Sunday, and Green Monday, or Clean Monday, was the next day. It is the first day of Lent and fasting. Families often take a picnic to a local park and fly kites. We did see a few folks flying kites from the lawn area just in front of our condo.

I’m glad I got to experience Carnival in a small town in Cyprus. It was so great to see the Cypriots laughing, dancing and having fun!




Bits and Bobs from Cyprus

Odds and ends, this and that, bits and bobs… whatever you call it, here’s a random assortment of photos from Cyprus. Most of my posts from Cyprus have been about the sea, or churches, or cats. I thought I’d show you a few other things. No cats, no sea, no churches.

Darren found this Romantic Supermarket near Oroklini.

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Also near Oroklini… the bowling ball and two pins near the parking lot entrance were huge!

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I love seeing roses blooming in the winter. This was early January.

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And then there was snow! It was the briefest snow shower at the sea in Pernera. You can see the snow falling in the lower part of the picture.

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This tree was HUGE! This sycamore tree at the monastery in Ayia Napa is estimated to be about 600 years old.

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We noticed a trend in the touristy parts of Cyprus. Some of the businesses use American cartoons or other names or logos in their business names and signs. Here are the Flinstones.

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Sunset in Pernera. The whole sky was full of color. This was taken from our balcony looking east.

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A Cypriot mail box.

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Hey! I said no cats. Get that cat out of here!

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The Red Indian diner has borrowed the Indian logo from the Cleveland Indians for their sign.

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Darren finds a new friend!

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A chocolate bar with cornflakes, seen (but not purchased) at the local Lidl grocery store.

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Sunrise from the balcony in Pernera.

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Scooby Doo and Speedy Gonzalez. Not used to seeing them together!

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Hey! No matter how close to the camera you get, I said no cats!

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The Bed Rock Cafe in person, in Ayia Napa. They were closed since it is winter.

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I am not sure why an astronaut is the clapper inside this bell!

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This area of Eastern Cyprus has a lot of windmills. Kind of a blurry picture, but I like the windmill at sunset.

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The rental care thinks that 19 degrees C is good. I agree. (That’s about 66 degrees F.)

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I still don’t understand this sign at Lazy Frogs that says “Sorry we are open!!”

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Both Darren and the cats are incorrigible! I said no sea pictures!

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The Simpsons selling mini-donuts.

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Porky Pig.

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Here’s Scooby again.

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OK, well, the sea and the cats made it in, so here’s a church picture.  This was in Paralimni.

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I love this mosaic with the rocks.

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One last image where someone is “borrowing” a logo, although this isn’t a burger place like In-N-Out in California, but a convenience store.

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Hope you enjoyed the random pictures!

 




The Cats in Protaras, Cyprus

Our trip started out with lots of things to do with Darren’s beekeeping, and it has slowly changed to having lots of things to do with cats!

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This is a Cyprus cat – yep, Cyprus has its own breed! Our name for this one is Jay Leno since he has a little white patch on his back (under where Darren’s hand is.)

We have enjoyed our time here in Pernera, Cyprus. There are a lot of cats here. There are actually too many cats. It is estimated that there are 2 million cats in Cyprus. That is a lot of cats for an island country that only has a population of 1 million people! Cyprus also has issues with animal cruelty. Animals who are seen as pests are sometimes poisoned, and sometimes treated badly.

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This was a cold and windy day when we first arrived and all the cats huddled together for warmth.

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I love the eyes on this one!

When Darren and I saw how many cats there were along the sea front in Protaras, Cyprus, we wanted to do something to help. Unlike the cat colony near our rented apartment in Torremolinos, Spain, where most of the cats had been spayed or neutered, there were fewer cats that we were seeing here in Protaras that had their ear marked to indicate that they had been fixed.

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Love the ears on this cat.

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These two are kittens…

I did a quick search online to find out who was working with the local feral cat populations and came across a project called the Famagusta Cat Care Project. (If you read my previous post about the Ghost Town of Famagusta, you may be wondering about the name. In addition to being the name of a city, Famagusta is also the name of one of the 6 districts of Cyprus, and where we’re staying is in the Famagusta District.)

Famagusta Cat Care Project was founded and is run by Lynn Gandy and a small group of volunteers. They feed some of the cat colonies in the region and also try to keep the cats healthy by getting them to the vet if there is a serious issue. They also help to re-home the stray cats to homes within Cyprus, and also in the UK and Europe. But the main goal of the project is to trap the feral cats and have them spayed or neutered, as this is the only way to control the population. The fixed cats are then returned to their colony.

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Kitties lined up for some lovin’.

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This little gal is one of my favorites. We’ve named her Bebé (baby in Spanish).

Lynn and her group are working with some of the local hotels to create a program where there are feeding stations, so the guests can enjoy the cats, and at the same time to get all of the cats in the area of the hotel spayed or neutered. This is a big job, and as you can imagine, it takes time and funding.

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GrumpyCat on the left, PuffBall on the right. Yep, most of this kitties we would see regularly got names!

During the busy tourist season, a lot of people are around and feeding the stray cats. However, in the off season, there are fewer people, but still a lot of cats that need food and care.

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Sylvester! See that spunkiness in those eyes? Yep, this looks like trouble!

In addition to Lynn’s project, there are several individuals who live in these resort areas of Cyprus year round and feed the cats as well. (Shout out to Rob, great to meet you and Hayley! 🙂 )

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Another cold day on the sea front, and this gal was all curled up by this plant trying to keep warm.

In addition to hanging out with the cats and giving them some love, Darren and I are helping Lynn with her project. Famagusta Cat Care Project has a Facebook page you can “like” to follow Lynn’s progress (Famagusta Cat Care Project.) Please like and share her page, and this post.

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PuffBall again. He’s a favorite! He’s so curious, and has to be in the middle of whatever is going on.

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This is Gray, also known as Gray Davis, or Big Gray. He is a sweet boy!

In addition, there is a PayPal account where you can donate funds. The money goes towards the spay/neuter program, vet care and food. Please donate to help Lynn and her group to help the cats.

You can donate on PayPal, using the email “famagustacatcareproject@hotmail.com” to donate. Thanks!

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Flop and the left, Goldie on the right. These two are on the boardwalk closest to our apartment, and are the first kitties we see when we go for a walk.

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The beautiful Bebé again. Just can’t get enough of her!




About Corfu, Greece

Usually I write about a place once we’ve arrived. However, Corfu is unique for us.

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Image courtesy of the Visit Greece website

Back in the summer of 2013 we were having lots of yard sales and paring down our belongings in preparation for selling the house and traveling. (You can read about that here in the Summer Of Getting Lighter). As people would come to the yard sale they would often ask us why we were selling our stuff. Once we told them we were going to go travel, they would often tell us about their travels, as well as asking us where we were going.

Darren has a question for those who have traveled a lot. It is: “What is your favorite place you’ve ever been to,” but it goes a bit farther than that. “If all of the planes, trains and buses suddenly stopped running, where is the one place in the world you would want to be to spend the rest of your life?” He gets some interesting responses to that question.

One day, at one yard sale, someone mentioned Corfu, Greece as “that” place. That is the first I remember hearing about Corfu. So that summer and fall as we continued to pare down, Corfu kept coming up, and not just in that gentle way that a new word or new topic is more noticeable after you’ve first heard about it, but in a “Corfu is such an amazing place you have to go there, and you may never leave!” Another person at a yard sale mentioned Corfu. A beekeeper friend has a brother and sister-in-law who live there. A travel blogger who has seen quite a bit of the world chose Corfu as the one place where she would settle down if she stopped traveling. A new friend I met through a class I took right before we left had dreamed of going to Corfu.

This all led us to adding Corfu to our list of places that we absolutely must go. It just seemed like the universe was telling us that we had to go to Corfu.

On Monday, we fly from Larnaca, Cyrpus to Athens, Greece, and then change planes in Athens for our flight to Corfu. Corfu is both the name of the island, and the name of the town. Greece has many islands, and this one is part of the Ionian Islands and is just off the coast of northwestern Greece and Albania.

We already have the most amazing welcome set up for Corfu, so it is in line to be the friendliest place we’ve visited so far! People meeting us at the airport, and an amazing house to rent. Oh, guess what? The house has a cat! 🙂

We have stayed 7 weeks in the same apartment in Pernera, Cyprus (our longest time so far in one place), and we are experiencing the sadness of leaving of place that we have come to love. We are beginning to do our last rounds of visits to our favorite beaches and favorite cats. Mixed with that sadness is the excitement of Corfu, of new friends, a new place to explore, and the realization of a goal that has been with us for several years now.