Tag Archives: food

Diane’s Diner

We eat most of our meals at Diane’s Diner, the exclusive restaurant in the Dream Machine.  Diane’s serves a variety of locally-inspired and classic dishes at very reasonable prices.  The chef works with limited kitchen facilities and creates everything without recipes.

Diane cooking in the small galley kitchen of our motorhome with roasted green chilies on the counter

Behind the scenes at Diane’s Diner

STARTERS

Guacamole

Fresh avocado, tomato, onion, garlic, lime, and cilantro served with organic blue corn chips.

Tuna Salad

A fresh blend of romaine lettuce, green onions, grape tomatoes, avocado, olives, and tuna dressed with olive oil, lemon, and red wine vinegar.

Caesar Salad

Romaine lettuce, shredded parmesan, and a classic dressing of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, ground anchovies, and spices.

Tostadas

Small crispy tortillas baked with fresh tomatoes, green onions, cheddar cheese, and Queso Fresco, served with chipotle salsa.

 

ENTREES

Chicken Spezzatino

An Italian stew of boneless chicken thighs, kidney beans, tomatoes and other vegetables.

Spaghetti Koroluk

Creamy bolognaise sauce over spaghetti noodles.

Strip Loin

Grilled strip loin streak served with crispy rosemary potatoes.

Turkey

Roast turkey breast with pan-fried potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce.

Patrick seated at the table with a roast turkey dinner on the plate in front of him and a glass of wine

Turkey Dinner on my Birthday

New Mexican Rice & Beans

Sautéed chicken with fried rice, black beans, corn, and jalapeno.

Tacos

Ground beef, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, salsa, and fresh guacamole on small, warm corn tortillas.

Burritos

Ground beef, re-fried beans, tomatoes, green onions, salsa, lettuce, and shredded cheddar wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla.

Tex Mex Skillet

Sliced grilled pork and red potatoes fried with a tangy bar-b-que sauce.

Green Chilli Burger

A beef burger smothered with roasted green chilies sautéed with onions and garlic on a toasted bun.

Toasted bun with a hamburger piled higher with strips of green chili on a wite dinner plate

Green Chili Burger

Chicken Enchiladas

Strips of chicken sautéed with tomato, green chilies, black olives, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, chili powder, oregano, salt, and pepper, wrapped in flour tortillas, covered in enchilada sauce and baked with cheddar cheese.  Served with rice, salsa, fresh guacamole, and sour cream.

 

LUNCH

Tamales

Masa filled with potato and green chili wrapped in a corn husk.

Grilled Ham & Cheese

Sliced ham and cheese with a hint of mustard on bread grilled until brown.

Turkey Quesadilla

Roast turkey, cheese, and fresh tomato layered between grilled flour tortillas.

Greek Salad

Chopped cucumber, green pepper, roma tomato, black olives, and feta cheese in a light dressing

Picante Cristo

Ham, pepper jack cheese, and red onion sandwich dipped in an egg and milk mixture and fried to a golden brown.

 

BREAKFAST

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Healthier muffins containing oatmeal, ripe bananas, fat free vanilla yoghurt, and cinnamon.

Pancakes

Klondike cakes with mixed fruit and syrup.

Diane seated at a picnic table with pancakes and gruit ready to eat with a lake in the background

Pancakes with a view

Oatmeal

Hot oatmeal with a mix of fresh cut bananas, apples, oranges, and strawberries.

Crepes

Thin crepes with melted butter and sugar or mixed fruit.

Omelette

Onion, tomato, greed pepper, and cheddar omelette with roast potatoes, buttered toast, and jam.

Breakfast Burrito

Scrambled eggs with red onion, sweet orange pepper, grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese and Queso Fresco topped with chipotle salsa and wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla.

Banana Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

Sweet muffins made with ripe bananas, dark chili chocolate, and Ghirardelli chocolate chips.  Equally good for dessert!

Chez Diane

We eat most of our meals at Chez Diane, the restaurant in the S&M Motel.  It serves an excellent variety of delicious local specialities and old favourites made with fresh ingredients.  Always close at hand, it offers European flavours and homemade charm. And the service is excellent.

STARTERS

Cauliflower Soup
Creamy soup of leek, potato, and cauliflower.

Minestrone Soup
Italian vegetable soup with white beans served with bread.

Caesar Salad
The classic salad of Romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, fresh garlic, and black pepper.

Greek salad
A fresh salad of tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, black olives, and feta cheese with a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, parsley, and pepper.

Niçoise salad
A traditional salad from Nice containing fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, red peppers, tuna, onions, black olives, and anchovies with a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Bruschetta
Bruschetta topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions, fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, scallions, olive oil, and fresh basil.

Empanada
Baked pastry filled with meat.

Antipasto
A variety of prepared meats (salami, Iberian Jamón, French saucisson made of duck and wild boar), European cheeses (emmentaler, edam, gouda, camembert, chèvre, gorgonzola, roquefort), sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and nuts, served with fresh toasted baguette accompanied with extra virgin olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.

ENTREES

Chicken Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad topped with grilled chicken breast slices.

Pan-bagnat
Fresh white bread generously coated in extra virgin olive oil and filled with Niçoise salad.

Pasta
Fresh pasta (penne, rotini, cappelletti, or tortellini) with tomato-basil or bolognaise sauce.

Gnocchi
Fresh soft dumplings with pesto sauce.

Three Meat Ragu
Ragu of chunky chicken, veal, and sausage accompanied by gorgonzola risotto.

Curried Chicken
Chicken breast in a curry sauce of sautéed onions, garlic, ginger, and cumin, accompanied with dhal (lentils) and basmati rice.

Aloo Gobi
Sautéed cauliflower and potatoes mixed with tomatoes and fragrant Indian spices, served with dhal and basmati rice.

Burritos
Fried beef or pork, rice, re-fried beans, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, salsa, and guacamole wrapped in a warmed flat bread.

Chicken Fajitas
Chicken sautéed with onions and red peppers in a spicy sauce with fresh tomatoes, guacamole, and salsa wrapped in a warmed tortilla shell.

Beef Chili
Chili with beef, kidney beans, tomato, onion, carrot, and garlic.

Pork Medallions
Pan seared pork medallions with mushroom pan gravy, boiled potatoes, and green salad.

Breaded Chicken
Breaded and fried chicken breast tenderloins accompanied with rice and steamed vegetables.

Paupiettes de Pork
Sachets of sausage wrapped in veal served with gorgonzola mashed potatoes and ratatouille of aubergine, red onion, tomatoes, olives, and basil.

BREAKFAST

Fruit Salad with Yogurt
A mix of fresh kiwi fruit, pineapple, apples, oranges, and grapes covered with flavoured yoghurt and topped with muesli.

Cereal and Toast
Muesli with fruit accompanied by buttered toast and jam.

Bacon and Eggs
Fried eggs, thick cut bacon, and buttered toast.

Impressions of Europe

Here are some common items that we’ve noticed about the 10 European countries we’ve been to.

  • There is an obvious sense of history here. Public buildings and churches can be hundreds or even a thousand years old. Families often trace their roots for hundreds of years and may live in a house that has been handed down for many generations.
  • Generally people dress better than those in Vancouver, and definitely better than we do in our travel clothes. Women are willing to sacrifice for fashion (e.g. wearing high heels on cobblestoned streets).
  • There is a greater focus on food. Europeans purchase higher quality fresh ingredients. Most cities have morning fruit and vegetable markets several times a week where the freshest ingredients can be purchased, the largest typically being on Saturday morning.

    Produce at morning market in Aix-en-Provence

    Produce at morning market in Aix-en-Provence

  • Bread is the main staple. Always fresh and delicious it is heavy and darker in Northern and Eastern Europe (e.g. Germany, Czech Republic) and lighter in the South and West (Italy and France).
  • Beer and wine are cheap. They are often cheaper than soda pop (bad for someone with a Diet Coke addiction) and bottled water, which makes it a tough decision to drink anything else.
  • Pork rules!  Unless you’re Muslim or Jewish, you’re going to eat a lot of pork here.  Far more popular than beef and as common as chicken.
  • Europeans don’t refrigerate their eggs. It is somewhat disconcerting to see huge stacks of eggs sitting in the supermarket aisle. When they get them home, people store their eggs on the counter or in the pantry, not in the fridge as we do in Canada.
  • Although America is one of the most religious countries in the world, Europe seems even more so, perhaps because there are impressive churches everywhere. The most religious countries in Europe are in the East (e.g. Turkey, Romania, Poland) and in the Mediterranean (e.g. Cyprus, Italy, Greece).
  • The Catholic Church is ubiquitous. There are grand Catholic churches in every village, town, and city, becoming larger and more impressive with the size of the city.

    St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle

    St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle

  • People here ride bicycles a lot more than we do. It is done much more as a means of transportation than recreation. Most people don’t ride fancy road or mountain bikes, just basic bicycles with simple or no gearing, front and rear lights, a comfortable seat, and perhaps a basket.
  • More people smoke than in Vancouver.
  • Homes are smaller. It is very common for people to live in apartments or shared accommodation of some sort. Owning a house (especially one with a yard) is less common than in Canada.
  • Buildings, including houses, are made of brick, block, or stone. As a result, walls and door frames are thick. We haven’t seen any wood framed houses which are the norm in British Columbia.
  • Most large cities have some pedestrian only streets where locals and tourists flock. They are typically full of retail shops and restaurants and don’t have the run-down feeling of Granville street, Vancouver’s singular pedestrian-only street.
  • Little dogs are very popular. For the conspicuous consumption types (like the ‘schickimickies’ in Munich), a small terrier, dachshund, or Chihuahua seems to be an essential fashion accessory. In case you’re wondering, the word ‘schickimicki’ is of German origin and is used to describe the ‘in crowd’, very stylish, superficial, chic, and pretentious.
  • Europe has a graffiti problem. In every country we’ve been to graffiti is common, but it was most prevalent in the former East Germany and Eastern Europe. In a few places it was particularly bad (e.g. on the inside of trains, on historical buildings, etc.)
  • There seem to be a lot of small circuses (mostly extinct in Canada) and traveling amusement parks here. We see them advertised everywhere, and have run across them a few times (in Pont du Gard, Arles, and even in Monaco).

    Tent and sign for a small Circus in Pont du Gard, France

    Small Circus in Pont du Gard, France

  • Europeans use the 24-hour clock. Times are often quoted to us as, “17 hours”, by which they mean 5 PM.
  • Virtually every European capital has a very fancy shopping district, much larger and higher-end than Vancouver. If you’ve got some serious money to spend, head for Europe (or the Middle East).
  • Most pharmacies tend to be boutique shops (no mega chains like Shoppers Drug Mart) with well-dressed staff to help you choose cosmetics and hair products. They often don’t even sell drugs, not even aspirin when I have a hangover.
  • Europe has a lot of co-ed bathrooms. They’re not the standard, but we encounter them frequently. They take some getting used to. I’m not accustomed to hearing the girl pee in the stall next to me, nor feeling the necessity to regulate my body functions so as not to shock her.
  • Mushrooms seem to be popular. Perhaps it’s just mushroom season here, but we see them more frequently and in a much greater variety than at home. There are mushroom sellers in the markets with whole tables of different kinds of fresh and dried mushrooms.
  • Most countries have a Value Added Tax (VAT) of some sort, usually much higher than the sales taxes we pay in Canada, but it’s always included in the price. The price you see is the price you pay. In principle I don’t approve of hidden taxes, but I must admit that I like the simplicity of it.
  • Europe has the most stylish and lavish McDonald’s I’ve ever seen. In Bratislava (Slovakia) and throughout Italy they have very modern styling and décor. The one in downtown Madrid has granite floors throughout. I think they are trying to compete with the coffee shops that have a long tradition in Europe.
  • It is rumoured that body odour is a more common problem in Europe because people don’t traditionally bathe daily. Although we have noticed this occasionally, it has only been slightly more frequently than we might at home. However, traveling by RV, we also haven’t been bathing daily either, so perhaps we can’t distinguish their smells over our own!

Traveling by RV in Europe

We’ve been roving across Europe for over 3 months now and have learned a fair bit about traveling in Europe by RV. Here are some of things we’ve been experiencing.

Terminology

Our vehicle (affectionately known as the S&M Motel) is a self-contained recreational vehicle (RV) known in England as a camper van and in Europe as a camping car.

Picture of the S&M Motel on a fogy morning

S&M Motel on a foggy morning

An RV is a self-powered motor vehicle and is different than a trailer (known in Europe as a caravan), which is towed behind a motor vehicle.

Campgrounds in Europe are generally known as campings, but this may be spelled differently in different languages. They are usually privately owned and operated, but some may be run by government institutions like municipalities.

Preparation

A trip by RV shares many common aspects with other European travel, so the usual things need to prepared in advance and brought along (e.g. passport, travel insurance, suitable clothing for the season and intended activities, electric plug converters, first aid kit, etc.)

After one has obtained a European RV with suitable insurance (thanks Sue and Martin!), it is necessary to make sure that it is appropriately equipped. In addition to the typical personal and household items (clothes, toiletries, bedding, cooking and eating utensils), you must have the things necessary to operate and maintain the vehicle (e.g. water hose and electrical connectors, wheel ramps for leveling, toolkit, common replacement parts like light bulbs, cleaning supplies, etc.). Also essential is the superset of safety items mandated by the various European countries for cars or RVs (e.g. reflective vests, warning triangles, snow chains, spare vehicle bulbs, large reflector for rear bike racks, etc.) Having an awning, portable table and chairs to extend the living area outside is strongly recommended to prevent cabin fever. It’s useful to carry bicycles enabling flexible transport between cities and campgrounds, which are often on the outskirts of town. In addition, it’s a good idea to have the following for communication and recreation — laptop, European cell phone, books to read, cards and other games, sporting equipment.

Driving

Driving in Europe is even more of a challenge with an RV. The freeways are the easiest routes to drive, but are not scenic and often have tolls (see Driving in Europe). Secondary and scenic routes are far more interesting, but some are not navigable by RVs due to height, width, or weight restrictions, limitations which are virtually indeterminable in advance. It is necessary to be constantly vigilant about height limits when going under bridges and overpasses, and always on the lookout for overhead obstacles (trees, branches, cables, signs and balconies that extend over the street).

The challenges of driving on narrow streets and finding parking are exacerbated when you’re in an RV. Some old cities have streets so narrow that the RV won’t even fit down them. Most street parking spots are fully delimited to restrict both the length and width of the vehicles that can use them, making them impractical for RVs. Many parking lots are off limits because they are underground or they have height-restricting barriers to prevent trucks or RV’s from using them.

Making a U-turns, legal if many places in Europe, and sometimes indicated by our GPS navigator, can be difficult due to the larger turning radius of an RV. Although the U-turn might be legal, making a three-point turn in an intersection probably isn’t. When backing up and parking an RV, it is highly recommended to have someone outside the vehicle to provide guidance.

Finding a Campsite

We have a couple of guidebooks that help us locate commercial campgrounds. Both books are incomplete (i.e. they only have a small subset of the campgrounds in Europe), so it’s better to have several. Many campgrounds close in the off season, so we often don’t know of any open campground in a place that we want to stay. In these cases we try to look online if we can get Internet access or ask at the tourist office in the town when we arrive. Getting to the tourist office can be challenging as they are often located in the town’s main square, airport, or train station, places that can be difficult to drive to or park an RV. If we’re desperate we might look in the GPS itself to try to find a campsite by searching for an address with the word “camping” in it. For a variety of reasons this usually doesn’t work (e.g. the time late at night in Berlin when it took us to a camping store rather than a campground).

When we have a specific campground in mind, it can still be a challenge to find it. Entering a street address into the GPS is sometimes problematic because of different spellings, the use of abbreviations, or out-of-date GPS information. We once spent almost 2 hours one night in a pouring rain storm looking for a campground that was less than 2 kilometers away (our GPS had out-of-date maps and it got us stuck in an infinite driving loop that it couldn’t get us out of). It pays to always have the latest GPS updates before beginning your trip. Sometimes Diane needs to work at it a while, trying different methods to find the campground in the GPS (e.g. looking it up by postal code rather than city, different spellings, etc.) Where we have the numerical GPS coordinates for a site, it is almost always preferable to use them. They are far easier to enter and rarely give us trouble. Campgrounds are usually marked and once we get close we can just follow the signs.

Campsites

The campsites continue to impress us with their services. Huge buildings full of clean, white toilets, showers, and sinks. All have nice shared cooking and dish washing facilities. Fresh water fill-ups and chemical toilets (to empty your RV toilet) are included. Electric hookups are also available but you may need to pay extra for this. Many have stores, restaurants, Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, bike and boat rentals, etc. The reception area staff usually speak English, and many provide great services like tourist information, buying transit tickets, free shuttle to the nearest bus station, and even ordering fresh bread for the following morning. Unlike Canada, none of the campsites have fire pits. Presumably trees are in far shorter supply here. All in all, they have more and nicer services that we would expect in a commercial campground in Canada. The disadvantage is they tend to be small and quite open, with very little space or privacy between us and the next unit.

Check out time is usually noon. It’s important to leave in time or you may find yourself locked in. Most campgrounds have gates that close at night. But they often also close them in the afternoon for a couple of hours, usually beginning at noon or coinciding with the normal lunch break or siesta time. If you don’t leave in time, you’re stuck for at least a few hours and may end up paying for another night.

As we’ve been traveling in the shoulder and low season for camping, the campgrounds that are open are not busy. Because school is in session there generally haven’t been a lot of children about. Some of the campgrounds are clearly set up for kids though, with playgrounds and activities in season. We’ve stayed in two places that had sad petting zoos right in the campground. There has been no need to reserve in advance, although we have had to squeeze in a few times during holiday periods. Reserving is more important in the summer if you want to stay in a particular place.

Many campgrounds cater to long-stay clients who leave their trailers in place all season or perhaps all year. They may even live there. A lot of campgrounds also offer permanently situated tents, bungalows, or mobile homes for rent. Some campgrounds are mostly filled by these types and have very few short-term rental spaces. In our experience these tend to be less friendly places as most people are “regulars” not inclined to get to know the people passing through.

Electricity in Europe is 220 Volt. There is a standard electrical connector for RVs in Europe, round with 3 large pins and a cover to protect the end that locks it into place when connected. In some campgrounds, they use the normal European plug (round with 2 smaller pins), so it is necessary to carry an adapter. Often the electrical service is limited to 10 amps or less, sometimes as low as 2 amps. In these cases, we need to turn off our electric water heater, and may only be able to run the refrigerator and limited lights.

Potable water has been available at every campground we’ve been to except one. We’ve encountered 3 different size tap nozzles, so adapters are required. It’s a good idea to let the water run a bit before filling and make sure the hose is clean before you fill, especially if it’s anywhere near the toilet emptying area.

Most RVs in Europe have toilets with cassettes that are designed to be removed and emptied into chemical toilets (larger versions of regular toilets) by hand, rather than emptying them into a sani-dump via a drain hose as is common in North America. The capacity of each cassette is limited to what a person can lift and carry, but this method does provide the option of having more than one cassette and swapping them when full for additional capacity. They are self-sealing to contain the smell, but you’d have to find a place to store the full ones (uuck!).

Food

Food is easily available at supermarkets, city shops, and outdoor morning markets. In the suburbs of some large cities you can find mega grocery stores (as big or even larger than a Walmart Supercenter). We’ve developed a fondness for a discount grocery store chain from Germany called Lidl which has approximately 10,000 deep-discount department stores and no-frills supermarkets across Europe. Each has a limited selection (only about 800 items vs. 120,000 in a Walmart or Carrefore Planet), but it’s as cheap (or cheaper for many items) than grocery stores in Canada. The contents of Lidl and the other grocery store chains in Europe does vary by country to reflect regional cuisines and tastes.

We always eat breakfast at the S&M Motel. We normally pack a picnic lunch (or occasionally a picnic dinner) and we usually eat one meal out every few days. We try to taste as much of the speciality regional food as possible, and Diane makes meals using fresh local ingredients whenever she can, often in the style of the region we are in (very impressive considering that she has no cookbooks and usually no Internet access).

Costs

Diesel is a more popular fuel in Europe than in North America. Most RVs here use diesel rather than gasoline. Diesel is usually listed first on the gas station signs (though it goes by different names in different countries), along with the prices for many other types of fuel. There are typically 5 or more prices displayed on the large street signs so it can be a bit confusing. They also offer premium diesel which costs more and probably isn’t required. Diesel has cost us between 1.30 and 1.56 Euro per litre ($1.87 to $2.24 per litre in Canadian dollars). The S&M Motel is a relatively small RV but still costs about 100 E to fill from empty (about $145 Canadian). It has a range of 700-800 kilometers on a full tank depending on the type of driving.

Campgrounds usually charge a certain amount for the vehicle and an additional amount per person. We have paid between 22 and 42 Euros per night ($32 to $60). In most campgrounds an electrical connection is optional and costs 1 to 5 Euro extra per night ($1.50 to $7). A few campgrounds have charged for showers, presumably to avoid people wasting water, and typically cost 0.50 to 2 Euro (75 cents to $3). Wi-Fi (wireless Internet access pronounced ‘wee fee’ here) is included for free about half of the time, but when it is charged it can cost up to 8 Euro for 24 hours ($12). Wi-Fi may be accessible throughout the campground or you may have to go to the reception area or restaurant to get access.

Other things

Traveling by motorhome requires many activities similar to an extended camping trip. There is the regular effort of shopping, cooking, and doing dishes. The setup and takedown of the bed and bedding each day. The constant filling (diesel, drinking water, and toilet flush water) and emptying (grey water and toilet cassettes) of various fluids. Daily cleaning of the interior and occasional cleaning of the exterior of the RV. The awareness and periodic maintenance of the vehicle systems (e.g. the toilet, electrical system and batteries, heating and hot water, gas re-filling, security system, etc.). And finally, resolving the inevitable problems that occur with so many moving parts.

Traveling by motorhome is different than staying in hotels or hostels. One difference is that we don’t get to relax when traveling from place to place, as we would if going by train or bus. There is no napping in transit. Similarly we can’t use our travel time to read or write. But we have enjoyed listening to local and ex-pat radio broadcasts and the occasional podcast from our iPod. Overall there doesn’t seem to be as much downtime, as there is always something to research, plan, buy, make, clean up, fix, or communicate. Of course, the pace is what we make it, and we always have the option to take a day off and hang out.

We haven’t met as many people as we did when traveling in the developing world. We don’t spend as much time in hotels, restaurants, or on transit where other travelers hang out. Also, there isn’t the same sense of camaraderie you find in the 3rd world, where travelers share information and fellowship partly out of necessity and partly out of desire.

Overall, travelling by RV has been an excellent way to see Europe. We would recommend it. We’ve learned a lot that we think will make our next trip even better.

How are we really doing?

A few people have asked how we’re really doing. Rest assured that we’re doing our best to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in our blogs. Of course we tend to emphasize the more interesting or adventurous bits, but we’re trying to give you a complete picture.

Temperatures haven’t been too hot in the places we’ve been so far. Day time highs are typically in the 25 – 32 Celsius range. We haven’t spent any time near the coast of the Indian Ocean, which tends to be hotter. The inland places we’ve been to are usually higher in elevation and therefore cooler. It is the rainy season, although that hasn’t caused us any difficulties, as it usually rains at night or for only short periods in the day.

We’re staying in budget or lower mid-range hotels, typically costing from $10-20 Canadian per night for a double room including breakfast. We often get a double bed, but sometimes there are only twin beds. The rooms usually have a private bathroom, which is rarely clean, but is fine if you try not to touch anything. We’ve gotten used to cold showers, as hot water is available only about half of the time. In Tanzania recently we’ve had a few cockroaches sharing our bathrooms, but they normally don’t come out until after we’ve gone to bed. It is possible to stay in much cheaper places if we wanted. Rooms in budget places with shared bathrooms are often under $10 Canadian. The cheapest room we stayed at was in a Catholic seminary in Rwanda, which was $5 Canadian for both of us.

Our room typically includes breakfast which is usually terrible. It’s almost always a ‘plain omelet’ (which is really just a fried egg) with white bread, dry and untoasted. Occasionally we’ll get a bit of fruit or some margarine for the bread, but more often not.

We’re both getting plenty of calories, but the East African diet isn’t well balanced. A lot of starches (potatoes, rice, or plantain), and just about everything else is deep fried in a dark, murky oil. We are often offered or provided with a small salad, but we try to stay away from them. Beverages are mainly water, with a soda pop in the afternoon and beer in the evening.

We’ve had most of the common travel ailments. Diane has had lots of mosquito bites, two scraped elbows, a bruised butt, two colds, a nagging cough, a sprained ankle (or perhaps a small bone break), diarrhea, and several upset stomachs. Patrick has had one cold, a sore foot, intermittent hay fever, a scraped shin and some strange bite marks on his forearm that went away after about two weeks.

We’re getting plenty of sleep, though it is often interrupted by noise. The mattresses are usually made of foam, which means they are typically firm but not that comfortable. Most places have mosquito nets, but they often have holes, which we patch with duct tape (even Canadian man’s best friend), or use our own net if they’re really bad.

On a positive note, we watch a lot less television that we used to. Our room may occasionally have a TV, but there is usually only one or two channels, and they are probably not in English.

Patrick is starting to relax a bit, but would still like to see and do more than time allows. He’d like to be getting more exercise, but isn’t doing much about it. We do a lot of walking.

Diane tends to get stressed when we transition to a new location. A combination of the scary transportation, and a fear of the unknown. She relaxes once she’s seen that the next place isn’t so bad, and in many ways, is a lot like the last place.

Reading this back, it seems rather bleak, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds, once you get used to it. It’s a bit like camping indoors, and eating out in greasy spoon restaurants. Every place has something unique and positive about it, and there are plenty of opportunities wherever we go.