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Isla Marietas

On Tuesday we ran into a gal from Montreal who winters here and she recommended a restaurant, giving us some directions to get there. By the time we we went out for dinner the directions and the name of the restaurant both seemed to have disappeared from our minds. We happened upon a local who didn’t speak english and attempted to figure it out, but alas, nada! So, we wandered a bit and came across Eclipse Cafe, another courtyard setting, nice music in the background where we both selected Enchiladas con Pollo (Chicken). It was very tasty and followed nicely by a creamy Pina Colada!

Wednesday we headed to Isla Marietas for a few hours of snorkelling. There were 6 of us on the tour and the trip to Isla Marietas is about 40 minutes by panga. The seas were calm, the trip uneventful! Isla Marietas is a couple of miles out from the shores of Banderos Bay and the area is protected land and a bird sanctuary. There was some nice snorkeling and a couple of great beaches, one of which is a lagoon accessed by swimming through a rock archway! The birds were amazing and in particular the blue foot boobies and the yellow foot boobies (need to research these a bit more). I’m typing this in notepad right now, the internet connection is down, and no access to my beloved google!

We are starting to have conversations with some of the expats here and they seem to come from all over. The gal from Montreal has been coming here for 14 years, and they now stay 8 weeks. We ran into a fellow from southern California, he speaks fluent spanish and seems to be quite established as a seasonal local. They rent a place all year round (for use only half the year), it’s brand new and they have exclusive rights to the rental, even doing some renovations themselves. As a reminder, only indigenous people can own land, so expats only rent, although they do build on land that they must have long term leases on.

On our return trip home from Isla Marietas we were served fresh ceviches with tortillas and guacamole and it was delicious! Once back, we had a wee siesta! The internet WAS working last night and I found the restaurant we were looking for on trip advisor (what DID we do before the net??). Once again, we headed out to find Los Abuellos, which means the grandparents. It was a lovely 2nd story restaurant (all open air) with partial views of Yelapa Cove, the food was excellent, I had a salad and chimichangas and they were the best chimis I’ve ever had! We again had an early night, as you know vacationing takes a lot out of you! Today, it’s relax day, Johnny has dragged me around long enough and it’s time to sit back!

Saba & St. Martin 2013

Saba & St. Martin

March 2013 we spent 7 days on the island of Saba.  Saba is a special municipality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is a five square mile island located at Latitude – 17.38 North ~ Longitude – 63.13 West in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, 28 miles southwest of its international hub the island of St. Maarten.

We had discovered this tiny island when watching one of our favourite TV shows ‘Distant Shores‘.

Saba is one of those spots no-one seems to have heard of.  It’s well known in the scuba diving community and we did in fact take a day long scuba diving lesson.  It was pretty easy in the swimming pool…..a bird of another feather once in the old ocean 🙂  I couldn’t equalize, started to panic and decided I would continue my training for longer before I went straight to ocean! (still a work in progress)!  Saba is also known for it’s medical school and surprisingly a great number of Canadians attend it.  A few photos in the gallery below to give you an idea of the diversity of Saba.  Google it, well worth a little explore.  We discovered that many of the beautiful trails in Saba are maintained by volunteers from Canada who come down every year to work on the trails.  The hiking is really beautiful and the trails are in good condition.  We did Mt Scenery first as it’s the highest and we thought if we started there everything else would seem easy.  Well, just because some of the others aren’t high, doesn’t mean they were easy!  The hardest was in fact Spring Bay trail, as it was totally exposed to the elements and very dry and hot.  A lot of ground that slid a bit when you walked on it.  My favourite trail was one we went on without being prepared (no water, no poles), it was Sandy Cruz and it was a beautiful trail through a jungle like setting with frequent views of the ocean.  At the end of the trail is a beautiful hotel, where we went for lunch and a well deserved cocktail!

We stayed in St. Martin on the French side in Grand Case for 2 nights before Saba & 1 night after.  I love Grand Case,  really perfect location, nice water, great restaurants, a lot of different styles of accommodation.   We stayed at the Bleu Emeraude and just loved it!

Dominican Republic 2012

I’m writing this in front of a fire in a cabin on the edge of Algonquin Park.  Coincidentally, our cabin is called ‘Dominican’.   The inspiration for writing this review here is that we brought all of our cameras along this weekend to find out which one works best.  One of the cameras has been sitting in a draw since 2012 and the last photos on it were the Dominican trip.  A trip that was so uneventful for me that even looking at the photos didn’t bring back much of a sense of interest or remembrance.  This was the all inclusive trip that we decided we just didn’t want to do all inclusives any more.  As I am writing years after this trip, I will admit, we have been on one since (to Mexico).  This trip was a last minute, pick the cheapest vacation you can to someplace you’ve never been before.  We selected the Bayahibe region of Domincan Republic.  I believe DR is a very beautiful place, however this whole vacation was a bit off.  We landed in Punta Cana and had to drive for about 3 hours to get to our resort.  The driver kept saying – almost there whenever someone asked.  The only nice part about the small bus ride to the hotel was that we did see some scenery and there was fresh cold beer.  I’m not actually a beer drinker and this was the first beer I had in years and year…amazingly refreshing!

Overall, I remember very little about this trip, I imagine because it was one of the more unremarkable trips we have taken.  Almost everyone at the hotel was from Italy.   I have never seen so many people smoking in my life.  Everywhere you walked in this hotel there were people smoking and talking away in Italian.  Although, we knew we were in a foreign land, we didn’t realize it was going to feel like Italy Smile  We swam, we sunned, we read, we took a catamaran tour and another boat tour.  We took a taxi into the little village and had a beautifully prepared Paella at a 2nd floor restaurant overlooking the water.  Thus ends our trip to the Dominican.

When Johnny and I were driving home from our weekend away when I wrote this blog post, I was talking about how disappointed I was with the Dominican trip and how I didn’t remember very much of it.  He reminded of a few of the highlights of the trip….one was having a tasty dinner on the beach close to our hotel.  The little cafe was owned by a French woman and she served us complimentary tastings of Mama Juana a special Dominican liqueur!  We also discovered Brugall a lovely rum while in Dominican.  We also spent a bit of time chatting with a great gal named Anne from Vermont who I still keep in touch with via Facebook.

Hotel stayed at:  Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach Set on the white, pristine sands of Bayahibe-La Romana.  No clue why we flew to Punta Cana to get there 🙂  I imagine because it was later in the season.

 

British Virgin Islands/St. Martin 2011

This was the trip that spoiled me for all other vacations. The following is a little verbage I wrote about the trip for a class I was taking.  The majority of the planning was taken on by the experienced couple captain/1st mate and our planning sessions were more or less to rubber stamp their great plans!  There is a minor amount of poetic license taken in this story.

One dark, frigid February morning six fair skinned, sunburn prone middle aged Canadians some of whom were veritable landlubbers set off on a Caribbean bareboat sailing adventure. ‘Bareboating’ simply put, is renting a boat and crewing it yourself. Twelve months in the planning, this holiday was more ardently anticipated than any previous sojourn. On numerous occasions we huddled together over wine, fervently laying the groundwork for ten days of marine cohabitation. Two of us had previously attained Bareboat Certification and were thereby dubbed Captain and First Mate. Drawing upon their experience, we scrutinized charts, selecting routes, targeting Islands with special events or particular points of interest. A skeleton plan evolved for each day complete with menus for onboard meals and locations of restaurants featuring authentic local cuisine to tickle our Canadian taste buds. We aimed to pass by preeminent snorkel sites while treating ourselves to bits of the multi-faceted BVI culture.
Arriving at Beef Island Airport, exhausted after a long day, we revelled in the warm air as our shuttle wound itself through the gentle rolling hills until stopping at The Moorings charter base. Gear stowed, we ate, drank and restlessly awaited our first day on the water. Day two as the sun arose, we welcomed the arrival of supplies ordered online from a Road Town grocer, safely tucking all into heel proof galley cupboards and storage lockers. Fully provisioned we inspected the ship from stem to stern and were ready to set sail! The winds were high in the narrow channel as a gargantuan cruise ship was bearing down upon us. The challenges of our inaugural sail of the 50 foot Beneteau yacht were apparent as we soldiered on, finally freeing ourselves of the harbour, and setting our sights for Cooper Island and beyond.

Each morning was glorious as we awakened to the sounds and unique scents of the Caribbean. Our days starting with a refreshing swim in the tepid salt filled sea. As a team we prepared on-board meals. While en-route to the next unexplored port we layed anchor to swim, snorkel, or explore cave formations. Diving below surface we were awe struck by the multitude of rainbow coloured marine life allowing us to swim alongside. Late afternoon, always with a fair wind, we sailed to a new destination, latching onto a mooring ball or navigating into an available slip confident that we were living the lives of true sailors, marine radios screeching as the onshore operator called out instructions to our awaiting vessel.
British Virgin Islands is a stunning destination for bareboat sailing. When organizing your trip to the BVI’s, highly recommended stops would be the Full Moon Fire party at Trellis Bay, a walk through the fascinating geological formations of The Baths and a trip to the northern most, least populated Island of Anegada. Your trip will be exhilarating and filled with that sense of freedom that can be a challenge to surpass.

After our 10 days aboard Hull #5 (it didn’t have an official name yet as it was a brand new boat),  Johnny and I left for St. Martin, we stayed on the Dutch side and did some exploring throughout the island.  It was a bit of an adventure, I got caught in a rip tide, got sandblasted by a jet, and had Johnny’s wallet and my phone stolen from a rental jeep!

Our 4 nights in St. Martin were interesting to say the least.  We had just spent 10 idyllic days on board the Beneteau relaxing, in the very safe BVI’s.  We were staying in Phillipsburg on the Dutch side at Little Divi Bay Beach Resort.  It wasn’t an ideal location and the beach wasn’t wonderful.  We were able to get a bit of snorkeling in out at the point beyond.  On Day 2 we were spending the day with our friends who had rented a jeep.  Our goal was to do a bit of exploration.  We stopped first at the world famous Maho Beach which is at the beginning of a runway into the airport.  As you sit on the beach, plains are landing and/or taking off right behind you (feet away).  The first challenge was not however, the planes, it was that the water was fairly rough.  3 of the 4 of us went in for a swim, Johnny seemed to have no issues..he was out beyond where the waves were breaking and having a lovely swim.  One of our friends and I weren’t however so lucky.  He got caught by a big wave and more or less got slammed down inuring his neck (not hospital bad, but bad enough that he did seek attention when he got back to Canada).  I got caught in what was a bit of a rip-tide I think, and couldn’t get in.  The problem is, you get out there and feel a bit embarassed, plus it’s so loud.  I wasn’t near Johnny or our friends and the waves just kept pulling me back and submerging me.  Finally, someone else noticed that I was in trouble and a big guy came and grabbed my hand and pulled me to shore…..this was my first lesson in ‘respect of the water’, and I carry this experience with me always.  OK…so….I almost drown (well, not quite), friend hurt neck, and Johnny swimming happily and comes in out of the same water with no issues.  This brings us to experience #2 on the same beach.   Everyone gathers on this beach to watch the planes come in and take off.  The taking off part is something we had NO CLUE what was going to happen.  Essentially, the plane is sitting not far away, just beyond a fence.  It revs up, you can smell the jet fuel, and when it takes off it creates a hot windstorm picking up the sand and everything that’s loose on the beach and just blows it away.   I lost my shorts *sigh* – blown away into the water, never to be seen again.  The sand blast was so severe that it was almost embedded in your skin – it wasn’t something we prepared for.  OK…can this day get better? 🙂  Oh yeah, we headed out driving around the Island over the the French side.  We came across a sign for a beach and parked in a parking lot and went over a little hill to the lovely beach.  We spent quite a bit of time there, walking, playing, relaxing & having a drink.  When we went back to the car, our friend opened the trunk and my bag was gone and some other things were missing.  Unfortunately, the trunk wasn’t locked and my bad had Johnny’s wallet, my cell phone, some clothing *sigh*….oh what fun.  We had to borrow money from our friends who were leaving on Day 3 so that we could get by the rest of the trip.  It’s my understanding now that this type of thing is known to happen in that area.  The thieves are probably sitting there in the bushes somewhere and check the cars as soon as you leave…BEWARE 🙂  Again, another lesson, and thus ends my first trip to St. Martin.  Now…don’t get me wrong, I love St. Martin and have been back and had no issues (as I had learned many lessons from this trip :)!

Here is a link with a bunch of Youtube video’s of the planes coming in and going out…you MUST watch a few Click Here.

Jamaica 2010

This was a last minute trip to Negril, Jamaica – I believe we departed December 26th, 2010 and stayed for New Years Eve.  We stayed in an all inclusive at the Montego Bay end of 7 Mile Beach – nothing special, crazy packed as it was over the holiday.   It was a great walk along 7 mile beach to town.  We did a couple of trips, catamaran and an all day trip to YS Falls, Appleton Estates & a Black River cruise.  That trip was well worth it.  Rick’s Cafe is a nice little stop – I was disappointed that almost as soon as the diving is over the music stops and the evening is over 😦  Things to note on this trip:

We were introduced to Appleton Estates rum…and it continues to be our fav 🙂  We really enjoyed the tastings and tour of the facility.  The Black River tour was also well worth it and fascinating to see the life in/around the water.

A Canadian gal on the YS Falls tour was swimming in water at base of falls and fractured her leg badly by making a wrong move (and spent the rest of the day on the bus while we continued our tour).

On the all day trip we came across a number of car accidents up in the hills.  I would definitely not want to drive in this area, even in the bus I found myself holding my breath as we drove.

Our hotel had been invaded by gunmen a few days previously and one of the front desk clerks was shot (not fatally)

We aren’t people who like to stay on resort and Negril doesn’t really offer a lot to do in town, it’s not a wandering about kind of place.  Great place for beaching/all inclusives though.  All in all, every trip is a learning experience, not certain I would return, as always we are happiest when we are out looking at the sites off resort.

 

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 2008

Johnny was a tough nut to crack when it came to getting him to travel south.  However, I utilized our upcoming 10th wedding anniversary as an excuse to get him to bow to my whims!  Finally, after 10 years of marriage I talked him into a ‘south vacation’.  Don’t get me wrong, he was fine with vacationing, however mostly our vacations included a large family component and we traveled to areas near family.  So, for our first ever ‘south’ vacation together (I had been south numerous times before), we chose the cheapest darn All-inclusive package we could find in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  It was a tiny far from fancy hotel called Las Palmas by the Sea situated a 10 minute cab ride north of Downtown Vallarta.  Our room was comfortable with a wonderful ocean view, the food was just fine and the ambiance was exactly what we needed it to be.  In the one short week we managed to do as much as we could fit into the short week (not knowing if Johnny would ever agree to go back again 🙂

We zip-lined for the first time ever….this involved, taking a cab to the marina, taking a zodiac to Boca de Tomatlan, taking a big bus into the hills, then taking a jeep up to the Zipline place, once geared up, we then took a donkey up the hill, where FINALLY, we zip-lined, rappelled and did something that was kind of like tight rope walking.  All VERY exhilarating!

We took an all day tour into the Sierra Madres where we visited a Tequila Plantation, a rain forest, the home of a local family and a beach club.  Lots of miles covered and many interesting experiences (including sipping excellent quality tequila).

One of our favourite tours was the Rhythm of the Night Tour which took us to Las Caletas for the Rhythms of the Night evening.  “As night falls, the secluded cove of Las Caletas is transformed into a magical paradise, the ultimate backdrop for our exclusive event, Rhythms of the Night – an amazing voyage that will transport you to a mystical and spiritual land that time forgot.”

Johnny and I on our first All-inclusive vacation discovered that we are not ‘on resort’ folks.  Not a day went by where we didn’t leave the sort for a tour or an evening stroll or meal on the Malecon.  It was during this trip we discovered Mojitos!

As you can see from this blog…..Puerto Vallarta 2008 was just the beginning of our ‘south’ vacations and there was no arm twisting to get Johnny there for the rest of them!!

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