Sunday, December 5, 2010


So I have a little down time due to the fact I have the worst cold ever (ok a little too dramatic).  In between catching up on old 30 Rock episodes (thank you Roku and Netflix) I decided that I need to do something constructive but not involving work.

So it is time to fess up… I have not taken and major trips since the Bahamas.  This revelation is deeply disturbing.

I did participate in my first ever camping and kayak trip, took a last minute trip to the Cape and a relaxing weekend at a yoga center. Still, all this lack of travel (at least longer than 3 days at a time travel) has left me with time to ponder my next adventure.
I recently read The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner.  This book details the travels of three friends that leave their jobs to travel the world together.  Now I can’t do anything drastic like that but it did draw out the dreamer in me.  I have so many trips on my bucket list and this book really inspired me to get moving on that list.  It also brought up happy memories of my Semester at Sea program, backpacking through Europe with my sister, cross country adventure with a friend and Italy and Paris with two of my best friends.

The Lost Girls also inspired me to also attend an information session with Briefcase to Backpack.  This group helps fellow travel dreamers find a way to take career breaks and travel the world.  Amanda Pressner, one of the authors of The Lost Girls, spoke at this meeting as well as several other career break travelers.  I realize it is not feasible for me to take a year right now but I think I could take a couple of weeks at a time.  The audience and speakers have sold me on the wonders of affordable Southeast Asia.  I am not sure I am ready to take off on my own but the meeting was also sponsored by Gap Adventures.  I normally hate tour groups but this company has affordable small tours that look great for solo travelers.  I picked out at least half a dozen trips.  Sailing in Thailand, surfing in Costa Rica, volunteer trips in Nepal or Africa… Stay tuned!
In the meantime here are some photos of my favorite travel memories:

Semester At Sea, Spring  1995 (Bahamas, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan)

Axe Project Band, Salvador, Brazil

Capoeria Demonstration, Salvador, Brazil

Table Mountain, South Africa

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Italy and Paris with more Friends, Spring 2006
Birthday in Paris

Paris (does this really need a caption?)

Florence, Italy

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bahamas August 2010

Saturday July 31 - Arrival Day
We left for the Bahamas today… We had to get up at 3:30am!!! What the heck was I thinking when I booked the 6:30am flight? Oh yeah, get to the Bahamas as early as possible and then take a nap on the beach. Usually this plan works but I forgot that we couldn’t check into the timeshare until 3pm. Thankfully the property had a bar and grill so we passed our time with conch fritters and rum punch.

Our First Rum Punch of the Trip

We stayed most of the week at the Westwind 1 timeshare property. This is the oldest timeshare on the island but the apartment was spacious and each unit has its own patio and grill. Yes, its decorated straight out of the Golden Girls but it was clean and comfortable. The pool and beach are small but we spent most of our days away from the property.

Westwind 1 Beach

Back to check-in… We got into our unit put on the bathing suits and went straight to the beach. Ahhh, this makes a 3:30am wake-up a distant memory. 12 hours in my memory to be exact…. The water was warm and we stayed in until our fingers turned to prunes and day turned to dusk. By the way, the Bahamas have lots of sharks so I don’t swim at dusk or dawn. Oh, did I mention I am obsessed with Discovery Channel's Shark Week?

After our long soak we cleaned up and headed out to the Arawak Cay fish fry for dinner. I have been to a couple of fish fries in the Caribbean. Fish fries are usually a collection of grills and amazing local foods and held once per week but this fish fry was much more organized. I don’t even think it should be called a fish fry since it is really a block of restaurants with a couple of outdoor grills. Swayed by the crowd and the “Featured on CBS Morning Show” we decided to eat at the Twin Brother’s restaurant. I don’t usually go to the restaurant that basically screams tourist trap but we were tired and it looked like an easy decision. Did I mention the 3:30am wake-up? The good news is the food was great. I got the fried /cracked conch and grilled snapper. Warning - the snapper arrived with skin, bones and head. It was good but way to much work. The cracked conch was amazing and we topped off the meal with a traditional Bahamian dessert called Guava Duff that tastes a bit like a fruity bread pudding.

Guava Duff

Sunday August 1 - Sandals
We wanted to find a better beach and just completely relax so I called up Sandals Royal Bahamian to ask about a day pass. Remember, it’s my job to check out the properties! I know, I have a horrible job.  Sandals  gave us a day pass as well as a short tour of the property. This is definitely one of the best Sandals properties I have seen. It was crowded but still felt very relaxed. We immediately hit the breakfast buffet and then grabbed a seat at one of the pools. After all of five minutes (mostly spent applying sunscreen) we hit the pool and then of course the swim up bar. Yes, you can get a drink pretty much any time of day.

So we ate, we drank and then ate and drank some more…. Oh, and then grabbed a dessert pizza to go…

By the way, I can help you book your next Sandals holiday. I can discuss the differences in the destinations as well as properties and room choices. This will help you choose the best property and destination based on your interests and vacation style. This is a shameless plug but we need to keep me traveling right? Contact me to discuss or look online.

Monday August 2 – Day Trip to Exuma
Normally I like to do a sailboat / snorkeling excursion whenever I travel to a tropical island. I just find that it is the most relaxing and fun day and I always walk away with a smile on my face. We really wanted to get to Exuma (one of Bahamas out islands) and it just would have taken too long by sailboat.We  booked a day trip on Island World Adventures power boats. The trip took us out to a private island and included some shark sightings, snorkeling, lunch and open bar. We just needed a camera, sunscreen and towel.

I have never been on a boat like this but I knew it was going to go fast and bounce a lot. The trip was definitely fast and bouncy and I  think we made it to the island in less than an hour. We pulled up at the dock and there were sharks right there! It is truly amazing to see a shark in the “wild” rather than a tank. I wanted to reach in and touch them…but not really….


The tour company served us a little snack and some rum punch. We then made our way to the opposite side of the little island and one of the most beautiful beaches. We just floated away but I was also wondering if the sharks ever come around the bend to this beach.

Fruit and Rum Punch

Sharks Don't Come Over to this Side Right? Right?

The island we were on was Saddleback Cay and it is just one small island amongst the Exumas 120 mile long island chain. These islands have everything from inexpensive lodges to luxury hotels. Many celebrities own islands in the Exumas. Oh, if I only knew which island belonged to Johnny Depp. Ok, back to Saddleback Cay and my hour long soak…. This island is a private island and is run by a caretaker who was also our cook / bartender.

Caretakers House

Lunch was tasty with fish, salads and grilled chicken. After lunch we took our scraps and fed them to the sharks before getting back on the boat to head out to some snorkeling. We went out to a reef that was just ok. I kind of expected better for the Bahamas but it seems for some reason we couldn’t go out to the better reef that day. Still, it was enjoyable.  It's hard to have a bad day surrounding by crystal clear blue warm water.

After snorkeling the reef they took us to a sand bar. We hopped off the boat, beer in hand, and just played in the sand.

Drinking a Sands Beer on a Sand Bar

I think I decided right then and there that this just might be the most beautiful place I have ever been (so far). I will definitely go back one day and spend a few nights on one of these islands.

The last stop was the iguana feeding on Leaf Cay. The iguanas came right onto the beach as soon as we pulled up and the crew gave us grapes to feed to them. We were warned ahead of time that people with painted toenails need to bury them in the sand. Apparently they look like grapes to the iguanas. I looked at my toes and regretted my grape colored nail polish. I walked carefully and made sure I kept my toes covered in sand. I like all ten toes where they are thanks. The iguanas loved the grapes and it was kind of cool as well as a big hit with kids.

Tuesday August 3
Just a lazy day soaking in the sun and water.

Wednesday August 4 - The Atlantis
We decided to treat ourselves to a couple of days at The Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. I have been hearing about this place for years so we had to take a look. We were looking forward to playing on the waterslides and relaxing in the huge pools but it seems that every family in the world thought this was a good time to visit the Atlantis. It was just too crowded for me to completely enjoy the amenities. I would compare it to staying a couple of nights at Water Country…. The kids were all having a blast but if I return I will wait for school to be in session.  After all, this kid would really like to play with all the fun stuff without having to share with the real kids.

Still, I was on vacation, there are pools, waterslides and beaches. There is no way it can be bad. We moved past the screaming children and planted ourselves poolside. There were also a few trips around some lazy rivers as well as some not so lazy rivers. It took me a few minutes to remember how to hop on top of those tubes. I skinned my knee in the process. My first battle wound of this vacay …

Thursday August 5 - The Atlantis and Nobu
We had another lazy day sitting around the pool, a few dips in the ocean, drinking stupidly expensive mixed drinks and reading. Ahh, why can’t I do this every day?

This evening was our big dinner out at Nobu. I have been dying to eat at a Nobu and this dinner did not disappoint. This is different from any Japanese restaurant I have been to so it took me a while to put together my choices. I started with the yellowtail and caviar. Wow, I could eat that all day, every day. Amazing. My friend ordered the black cod and miso which was even better. She threatened to sell her child for a daily supply. I will make sure to mention this to him when he grows up. We had a few other dishes but those two were the standouts.

Friday August 6 - The Atlantis and Sea Lion Hugs
Another morning of playing in the sand and waterslides. We decided to check out the slide that has a tunnel through the shark tanks. I managed to slam my head while getting onto the tube. I think I saw stars... there were also some sharks but mostly stars. Second battle wound.

We left the resort and headed to Blue Lagoon Island for a Sea Lion encounter. This island is owned by Dolphin Encounters and has a series of pens for Dolphin swims as well as a Sea Lion encounter area. We opted for the Sea Lion encounter. Our Sea Lion was Pj and she had quite a personality. Pj is an actress / diva and has been in numerous commercials and movies. Her most famous role was Baby Andre in the movie “Andre”. We had a chance to get in the water with her, pat her back, feed her fish and she gave us each a big hug and kiss. Ahh, if only I could take her home. Kind of like a big puppy but better…

Saturday August 7 - Home :(
Home? Really? Why? Ah well, they say all good thing must come to an end. I will have to return here. There are still things I need to do… One day I want to scuba dive with some sharks and spend a few nights on a deserted island in the Exumas.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

California February 2010

How Embarrassing…. I haven’t updated this blog in two years. Thankfully it’s not because I haven’t traveled. Since my last post I have been to St Martin a few more times, California a few times and Sanibel Florida. Had great times but let’s move on. 
CaliforniaSan Francisco and Los Angeles, February 2010
Friday Feb 5:
I arrived in Oakland around 11pm bu strangely the car rental place was packed. I noticed a beautiful couple ahead of me. They both looked so young but then I saw that their hands were at least 15 years older than their faces. They must know a good surgeon. Ahh, California.

After getting my rental car I immediately went to my cousin J’s 35th birthday party. Sorry, no photographic proof. I was surprised that my eyes were still open.

Saturday Feb 6:
I headed out to Sausalito to catch up with C, a high school prom date. Can’t believe it’s been 20 years. We went sailing in February and it wasn’t freezing!
(ok, this isn't the actual boat I was in but one that was part of a nearby race)
Had a delicious lunch at Sol Food in San Rafael. Seriously, delicious chicken and plantains.
After lunch we took a drive up the coast.
On the return stopped at a park overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

I had been to San Francisco before but had mostly seen the city. I had no idea that the surrounding towns were so beautiful.
Sunday Feb 7:

Went to the Temescal Farmers Market to see my cousin R. perform with the Harkenbacks. Great show and I am very jealous of the California farmers markets. I would love to have fresh local produce and delicious fruit all year long. I guess it would also be nice to have a climate where we could have an outdoor market all year. Bought some delicious tomato Jam. May have to order this when it runs out.

Monday & Tuesday Feb 8 & 9:

Travel day and study day. Hey, it’s vacation. Had to relax and also sadly try to catch up on my class that I was going to miss.

I stayed with R. and her family while in LA. She is my Dad’s first cousin and left gloomy Glasgow for LA (via Israel) in her late teens. It was so nice to catch up with her and her family. They really made me feel at home. Thanks!

Wednesday Feb 10:

Ventured down from Stevenson Ranch into the city. Started off at Fred Segal for some window shopping. Hey, I can pretend right?

Then I headed over to High Voltage Tattoo (otherwise known as LA Ink).

No, I didn’t get a tattoo this time. Maybe S. and I should do a 20th anniversary road trip and get another tattoo. That would be 2018. Hmm, maybe not.

After playing silly tourist I went over to Cantor’s Deli to embrace my 80 year old inner Jew. I have been to LA many times but never got to cross this off my list. Can’t say it was worth the hype. It might have been because it was lunchtime so I might have to go back in the evening. I ordered a half of a chopped liver sandwich and chicken kreplach soup. The soup was yum but somehow I don’t think I like chopped liver anymore.

Thursday Feb 11:

Went skiing with my cousin G. Yes, I escaped New England weather to go skiing. Honestly I thought the mountain was going to be easy but I was wrong. We went to Mt Baldy or as my cousin would say Mt Oldie or Mt Scauldy. He had never been there before so we took a chance. Drove into the parking lot and noticed that everyone was putting their boots and ski gear on in the parking lot. Turns out you have to go up a really slow and steep chair lift just to get to the lodge. As I looked down I wondered if I was going to be able to ski that trail on the way down. It was a black diamond but a real black diamond. Not one that I would want to do at the end of a ski day. Thankfully many people take the ski lift down rather than skiing that trail.

This is the lift that you take up to the lodge.

The skiing was great in the morning. I was able to ski in just my fleece and no hat! Skiing can actually be fun when you are not freezing your but off. The trails were challenging and this mountain was made for real skier’s. There were not many boarders. Heck, most people were over 30. There were very few areas that were off limits and many of the “trails” had plenty of trees. This is definitely not a polished chain run ski resort. This was kind of refreshing but difficult ski day. We packed it in around 1pm when the snow started to melt and turn to slush. We took the ski lift down the mountain (that’s a first). When I saw all the people falling on the trail I realized I made the right decision.

Friday Feb 12:

I spent the day with my friend M. We went hiking at Towsley Canyon. Don’t know what I was trying to prove but I decided I wanted to try to more challenging trail. Almost gave up when my calf muscle popped again (when did I get old?). Decided to continue when M. said the uphill part was almost over. It was worth the trouble.

Went to Spaceland in Silver Lake to see Marvelous Toy. Oddly before we went there we were watching “Yes Man” with Jim Carey. M. noticed that a scene from the movie was filmed there. What are the odds?

(sorry, cell phone pic, I must get a new little point and shoot camera)

Marvelous Toy was excellent. Frank, the drummer, is a friend of M’s.

Saturday Feb 13:

Headed back up to my cousins and then off to Santa Barbara. It’s a beautiful drive and gorgeous area. Made me wonder why I went to college in Amherst. UC Santa Barbara would have been fantastic.

We had lunch at California Pasta. It looks like your basic lunch place. Order at the counter and the food is delivered later. The food was amazing. I ordered the avocado farfalle (Bow-tie pasta w/ creamy avocado, garlic, cilantro, chives and lime, fresh tomato and avocado) and proceeded to clean my plate. If anyone has the recipe let me know.

After lunch we walked down to the Santa Barbara pier. It was an absolutely gorgeous day.

Went out with my cousin’s to see the band Tarts and Lager. They primarily do cover songs but it includes members of Quiet Riot, Asia and Bonham.

(yes, more another cell phone pic)

Sunday Feb 14:

Headed back home… but one last adventure

His tattoo says Nicole.

Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

St. Martin: March 9, 2008

Heineken Regatta

Ok - so I realize that I never finished my St Martin posts. Since then I have been to St Lucia so I better get this posted...

So every year St Martin is inundated with sailors from all over the world. They come for the Heineken Regatta. This is a sailboat race but also a 4-day party. Each night a different town hosts a party. The last night finale was at Kim Sha beach which is within walking distance of the condo. This year Shaggy was performing. There was also a local steel pan band and Youth Waves, a local band that is a blend of salsa, soca and reggae. They also showed some of a new movie “The Pan Man: Rhythm of the Palms”. This film was written and filmed on the island.