A Day on St. Kitts – January 2019

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St. Kitts was our 5th and final port stop on our Caribbean Cruise. After a pretty chaotic experience on Barbados, we decided to take it easy on St. Kitts. We wanted to just find a beach where we could soak up some sun and breathe in some fresh air, while on solid ground, as we would be sailing nonstop for a few days after this.

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After disembarking from our ship, we found an information desk right inside the port entrance. Everyone was so helpful, and we easily found transportation to Cockleshell Beach. This beach was on the other side of the island, so we had a nice drive around the island. I was pleased to find that the beach had a restaurant attached to it, so we immediately decided to eat and have a few drinks at the Reggae Beach Bar before lounging on the beach. This was our first time eating conch, and we both agreed that conch is not for us, but we are happy we tried it.

After we finished eating, we took our bucket of beers and went to go claim some loungers on the beach. The beach staff was super helpful and got us hooked up with an umbrella. We would relax here for most of the afternoon, and it was glorious. Secretly, we may regret not taking advantage of the jet skis and having some water fun. There is always next time.

This may not have been the most exciting part of our vacation, but it was a nice and relaxing way to end it. Plus, the beach and water was beautiful!

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Until next trip….HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

 

A Day on Barbados – January 2019

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Barbados was our 4th port stop on our Caribbean Cruise. All we really wanted to experience on Barbados was to snorkel near shipwrecks. We decided that booking an excursion with our cruise line would be the easiest way to achieve this activity.

We believe that possibly our lack of experience with cruising almost led us to miss our excursion bus on Barbados. On St. Lucia, our excursion starting point was a three-minute walk off of the ship. However, on Barbados, it took us 20 minutes from the time we got off the ship to get to our connecting bus, which alone was not easy to find. It was a pretty long walk that we did not necessarily allocate time for. We did catch the bus, which took us to Pirate’s Cove on Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown. We got to spend some time lounging on the beautiful beach (see picture above and at the bottom of this post).

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After a good amount of time on the beach, many individuals in our excursion group were getting antsy to get on the snorkel boat, which turned out to be delayed by more than a half hour. On top of this delay, we had to walk a half mile into town (see picture above) to catch the boat that was suppose to have docked right by the beach we were on. This was not happy news for a few individuals who had mobility concerns (they were on this excursion for the glass bottom boat option). Both were poor planning issues by the tour company. While we did not personally mind the walk, it was another delay that took away time from our snorkeling adventure, that we had been most looking forward to. The boat was equipped with the necessary snorkel gear, drinks and a slide to get into the water. After a few minutes, we got to the first destination – the shipwrecks.

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The view of the shipwrecks was crazy stunning! Our boat was literally parked on top of them, so we didn’t have to snorkel far at all. The pictures above are a bit grainy, because I pulled it from an underwater video that we took. However, while we enjoyed snorkeling around the shipwrecks, it was nearly impossible to view this amazing sight and simultaneously avoid swimming into another snorkeler. It turns out that there were many many excursions to this sight at that time (see picture below). Even with the craziness of all the people, I would have still liked a bit more time to explore the shipwrecks, but when you have all those boats in one place, you become a bit nervous that yours will take off without you, so we remained close by.

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Our next stop, was to see sea turtles or in our case sea turtle. I don’t believe I ever snorkeled with a sea turtle before and this one was much larger than I expected.20190102_125939 However, there was one of them and like twenty of us snorkelers following/chasing it. It was an odd experience, and we don’t feel like it was a positive one. Again, our snorkel time was too short, and we were back on the boat, heading toward the beach. If we were feeling a bit disappointed by this excursion at this time, that disappointment increase a lot by how we disembarked from the boat. The boat landed on the beach, which was fine. However, the waves were rocking the boat so much that it became very dangerous to disembark and people exiting the boat were falling. Some fell pretty badly. I feel like we definitely earned ourselves a cold beverage on the beach after that. (See picture on the right.)

Note: While the cruise line did reimburse us some of our excursion money for this not so positive experience, we will definitely think twice before booking another excursion through a cruise line.

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20 Years of Travel #20: Washington, DC

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Over the summer I began a series called my 20 Years of Travel. As 2018 comes to an end, I am concluding the series with my home away from home – Washington, DC. This place means so much to my husband and I. Washington, DC (and its surrounding areas) is where my husband earned his PhD; where I got my first professional job; where we made lifelong friends; and where we met and fell in love. Since this place means so much to me, it is hard to sum up all the wonderful things to do and see in one blog post, but I’m going to do my best.

SIGHTS/MUSEUMS/MONUMENTS:

  • Capitol Building (pictured above)
  • Library of Congress
  • National Mall
  • White House
  • Smithsonian Museumsmy favorites include The Air and Space Museum and the American History Museum
  • Some Other Museums not included in the Smithsonian –
    • National Art Gallery
    • Archives
    • Holocaust Museum
    • Spy Museum
    • Newseum (my personal favorite)
  • Monuments (not listing all of them – just ones near National Mall & a couple in Virginia)- highly recommend doing a nighttime tour
    • Washington Monument
    • Jefferson Memorial
    • Vietnam Memorial
    • Korean Memorial
    • WWII Memorial
    • Lincoln Memorial (pictured below)
    • Roosevelt Memorial (my personal favorite)
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (pictured below)
    • Arlington Cemetery
    • Iwo Jima Memorial (I like this area because it is elevated with great views of the National Mall area.)

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: (see additional items under “DAY TRIPS” below)

  • Parks
    • Rock Creek Park
    • National Arboretum
    • Great Falls Park
  • Potomac River
    • Ferry boats
    • Sailing
    • Kayaking
    • Paddleboarding

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DC SPORTS TEAMS:

  • Baseball: Washington Nationals – Nationals Park
  • Basketball: Washington Wizards (men) & Washington Mystics (women) – Verizon Center
  • Football: Washington Redskins – FedEX Field
  • Hockey: Washington Capitals – Verizon Center
  • Soccer: DC United (men) – Audi Field & Washington Spirit (women) – Maryland SoccerPlex

FAMOUS HOTELS:

  • The Willard InterContinental Hotel – famously known as being the location where Abraham Lincoln, prior to his inauguration, hid due to assassination threats, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “I Had a Dream” speech. For booklovers like me, many famous authors have stayed here like Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and many others.
  • Mayflower Hotel – known for hosting many political events throughout history and also known for some infamous sex scandals.

THEATERS:

  • Ford Theater – Well-known as the theater President Lincoln was attending when he was assassinated.
  • Performance Theaters
    • Kennedy Center
    • Warner Theater
    • National Theater
  • Music Venues
    • Jammin Java (Virginia)
    • Black Cat (DC)
    • Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (Virginia)
    • 930 Club (DC)
    • Wolf Trap (Virginia)

BOOKSTORES: 

  • KramerbooksSecond Story books
  • Politics & Prose – opened a new location on the Wharf that is wonderful
  • Busboys & Poets
  • Capitol Hill Books (my favorite – love getting lost in this bookstore)
  • Second Story Books

Food: (these are just a few of my favorite and notable places)

  • Ben’s Chili Bowl268472_10150246351517986_7747990_n
  • Old Ebbit Grill
  • Dukem Restaurant (Ethiopian)
  • Elephant & Castle (British) – I feel I have to include this one because I waited tables at the Pennsylvania Avenue location before landing a salary job in DC.
  • The Inn at Little Washington – just received DC’s first 3-star Michelin rating. (For full article, click here.)

BREWERIES:

  • Capitol City Brewing Company (DC)
  • DC Brau Brewing (DC)
  • Heaving Seas Alehouse (Arlington, VA)
  • Old Dominion (Hyattsville, MD)

CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL:

A gift from the Japanese in 1912, 3,000 cherry blossom trees line the Potomac River near the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Every spring thousands, if not millions, of people come to view the cherry blossoms in bloom. While the cherry blossom trees only bloom for about 1-2 weeks, there is a month-long Cherry Blossom Festival during this time that includes parades, fireworks, music and many more events. You can find out about this festival and get a more accurate bloom timeline on the Cherry Blossom Festival homepage.

DAY TRIPS:

  • Mount Vernon (VA) – this was President Washington’s estate.
  • Monticello (VA) – this was President Jefferson’s home. I highly recommend a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to get there from DC (pictured below)
  • Ocean City (MD) – my favorite ocean spot getaway
  • Harper’s Ferry (WV) – where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet, and where John Brown led a raid to end slavery prior to the American Civil War
  • Antietam Battlefield (MD) – very interesting Civil War battlefield for American history buffs

Some other great suggestions for day trips can be found at Pink Caddy Travelogue’s post Best Day Trips from DC.

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I hope you have enjoyed a look at my 20 favorite travel spots in the 20 Years of Travel series. If you want to see the complete list, please visit my Travel page. Hopefully the next 20 years will be just as exciting, as I explore more of the world!

HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

 

 

 

 

20 Years of Travel #11: Jamaican Wedding

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When my husband and I first got engaged in 2010 and started talking about our wedding that would be in 2012, we found ourselves gravitating toward the idea of doing a destination wedding. Our family is scattered around the country, so it would be difficult to pick one place to actually get married, so we decided to pick a place where no one we know lived and was a new travel destination for us. I’ve always loved the beach and water, so I really wanted to find an island destination. We chose Jamaica as a great island destination that we had never 457676_10150795098582986_668210987_obeen to and would also be close enough for our immediate families and closest friends to travel to. It was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives and is why it is being featured on our 20 Years of Travel series.

Once settled on a destination, we had some help picking a resort and settled on Couples Resort in Negril, Jamaica. I always hear stories about how stressful the days leading up to a wedding are, but I never experienced that. I only experienced sun, swim-up bars, beach bonfires and karaoke.

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The resort set up all the wedding details. I just had to approve of flowers. While we loved spending time with our family and friends who made the trip to Jamaica, the resort also set up some private time for us, such as a candlelight romantic dinner and a couples massage. Outside of the many restaurant choices, pools and bars, the resort also provides many other activities. Some of our group went on a nighttime snorkeling adventure. Basically, we told our family and friends that they had to be at the wedding ceremony and dinner that night, but for the most part, we let them know where we would be if they wanted to hang out, but otherwise, they could do their own thing and have their own little relaxing vacation.

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We were drinking in the pool with our friends when the wedding planner (from the resort) scolded us on not being ready as we only had one hour before the wedding ceremony. I guess it was time to get out of the pool. We got ready and then all headed to the beach for our ceremony (see setup picture above). While this has been a great story to tell, if you don’t want your wedding party (and occasionally the groom) to be giggling460833_10150784920972986_248609937_o during the ceremony, make sure that your ceremony is not placed right next to a nude beach. It was actually difficult to get pictures of the ceremony without getting photo-bombed by a nudist. After the ceremony, we did a sand ceremony (see picture on the right) and then had cake with our friends and family. It was simple and lovely and stress-free. I wouldn’t change a thing about  having made Jamaica our wedding destination.

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Christmas Holiday in Porto, Portugal – December 2015

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Unable to spend the holidays with our family, my husband and I decided to take a little relaxing getaway to Portugal. We decided to spend Christmas in the town of Porto. We just pre-booked our accommodations and that was it. Everything else we were just going to figure it out as we went. We spent five full days in Porto and loved every minute of it. Just going with the flow was not a problem. There were plenty of things to do and see. Porto was far from boring during Christmas. Here are the highlights:

Food

francesinhaTry the Portuguese dish called the francesinha (pictured on the right), which is a sandwich with layers upon layers of different meats, covered in melted cheese and topped with a cooked egg. I do not want to think about how much cholesterol there was in that meal.

Not surprisingly, many restaurants are closed Christmas Eve night and Christmas night. Plan accordingly. We found that kabob stands around the city and hotel restaurants are open.

Drink

The Cafe Majestic is the perfect place for a great cup of coffee (though slightly more expensive than other cafes in the area). It is a stunning cafe but is very popular and well-known so do not be surprised if there is a line out the door.

port tastingAn absolute must in Porto is to take a port wine tour. There are many vineyards and cellars to choose from across the Douro River from Porto’s city center. We chose to visit Taylor’s Port Wine Cellar. For 7 Euros a person, we were given a lesson in the origins and creation of port wine, a fantastic tour of the cellars, and three tastings that we were able to enjoy from a scenic veranda that overlooked the city of Porto. Such an amazing deal for this wonderful experience!

The Christmas Scene

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treeI loved the Christmas decorations found all over Porto, from the Christmas tree in front of City Hall (pictured above and on the right) to the ice skating rink in the park to the markets and finally the street lights (pictured below). On Christmas Day we sat inside Clerigos Church and listened to popular Christmas songs being played on the organ. We were surprised to find after the organ concert that the Clerigos museum and tower were open on Christmas, so we climbed the 240 steps for some breathtaking views of Porto’s city center and the Douro River.

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Sights

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As a book lover, I really enjoyed visiting the Lello & Irmao Bookstore (pictured above). It is said that the ornately decorated inside of the bookstore inspired parts of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies. It is simply stunning!

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Porto has unique architecture. Its buildings are coated with tiles (pictured above). You will find grand tile murals located inside the Sao Bento train station.

If the weather is nice, like it was for us, then take a nice relaxing boat cruise down the Douro River. It is a great opportunity to get a different visual perspective of Porto and take lots of pictures.

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Seaside Excursion from Porto

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Since we were so blessed with sunny and warm weather, we decided to take the 500 bus from Porto’s city center (across from the Sao Bento train station) to Matosinhos, which is a nice beach town on the Atlantic Ocean. We got to Matosinhos in time to have a wonderful seafood lunch at Restaurante Lage do Senhor do Padrao. The seabass is fantastic (pictured on the right). foodMatosinhos has a wonderful walking path along the coast where you can people watch and enjoy the waves crashing on the shore (picture above). It is a great place to view an amazing sunset (picture at bottom).

We loved Porto! If it isn’t on your travel bucket list, it should be!

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