^^ A very merry, happy, jolly 2017, from our little family to yours.
Well friends, 2016 is over and I have to say … I don’t miss it one bit. Of course Lotte being born was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but other than that, 2016 was kind of awful in a lot of ways. So we’re moving on over here, embracing 2017 with open arms and hoping that it’s a much kinder year.
We’ve had family in town since before the holiday so I’m way far behind on my WW postings, but for now, here’s a short look back at what we got up to in 2016 …
^^^ Here we are, all ready to hop our Japanese Bullet Train from Tokyo to Kyoto — yehaw!!
Last Wednesday we were making the trek from Tokyo to Kyoto for the rest of our trip, but we were making it in style by riding the bullet train 😉 We had booked our JR Pass before we even left the states, and we decided to go ahead and upgrade to first class which, as I mentioned previously, turned out to be quite nice. I only caught a glimpse briefly of what the regular seats would have been like as the train whizzed into the station, and while I’m sure they would have been perfectly fine, for someone who had just run a marathon and another someone who was pregnant, we certainly weren’t going to complain about the extra legroom, foot rest and spacious seats.
One word of advice here — even when you book first class tickets ahead of time, you still need to go into a Rail Pass station and book in tickets for your exact seat and train time. I’m not sure what would happen if you showed up to a train where you hadn’t booked ahead of time, but luckily for us my father-in-law figured out before that happened that we needed to book, so we did so for our trip to Kyoto from Tokyo, to Hiroshima from Kyoto and then back from Kyoto to Tokyo to catch our flight on Sunday.
The ride was pretty glorious, friends. Lots of beautiful countryside to take in, and small towns along the way to peruse. I know I’ve shared this photo on Instagram already, but it’s just too good not to post here, too:
^^^ See? Ooooohhhhhh … pretty 😉
Anyway, the 452 kilometer ride (aka 5 1/2 hr car ride) from Tokyo to Kyoto only took about 140 minutes on the bullet train, and it was far more comfy then any car ride would have been. In Kyoto the train arrives into Kyoto Station, which is such an amazing place I’d recommend checking it out even if you’re not catching a train. There are tons of restaurants (good restaurants!), bakeries and shops — there’s a lot to do there. The hotel we stayed at was the New Miyako Hotel, which was literally right outside the train station and super convenient for exhausted, weary travelers who just want to drop their bags off in their room and take a quick rest before heading back out. (Not to mention how great it is to only travel a short distance when you need to hop the train to get back to Tokyo!)
Anyway, after resting up for a bit, it was pretty late, but we decided to hop on a city bus (again, thank you Chris Connor for showing us how to get around!), and went to check out the Gion District, which is Kyoto’s famous geisha district and is filled with shops and restaurants (and while we were unfortunately a tad early, I can tell you this area would be gorgeous with cherry blossoms probably right about now, too!). The Yasaka Shrine is also right next door to the Gion District, so you can easily knock both things off your list in one trip.
^^^ Entrance to the Yasaka Shrine. We thought the shrine closed to visitors at 5, and most of the stalls and things were closed, but you can still walk into the actual shrine area past 5, so seeing it at night (and then again later during the day) was special.
^^^ We were starving and decided to get sushi (no raw fish for me!) at a little place we happened upon in the Gion district. They had vegetarian noodles, so I started with those, and then gorged myself on veggie sushi, as well. Yum!
The next day we decided to hop back on the bullet train and head to Hiroshima and neighboring island Miyajima. I have to admit that I was hesitate to partake in the Hiroshima part of the trip. I knew it would be an emotional thing to see, and we only had a limited number of days in Kyoto and I just wasn’t sure how I felt about all of it, but after going, I’m so glad I did. Yes, the Hiroshima sites and museum are incredibly heartbreaking, but the area is so beautiful and there’s just so much history there, to go, you really feel like you’re a part of something, for better or for worse.
^^^ We caught the ferry from Hiroshima over to Miyajima Island first.
^^^ Chris & his dad about to chow down on some fried oyster donuts. Chris said this was one of his favorite things he ate the entire trip.
^^^ The wild deer are indigenous to this island, and while they’re cute and friendly, they will try to eat any paper you have hanging around, if you let them!
^^^ We also took the Miyajima cable car up into the mountains for the most incredible view of the area, including Hiroshima in the background. There’s also a beautiful walk that you can take back from the cable car area down into the village, which I would recommend. It’s a steep climb up, so we took the bus to the entrance of the cable car, but to walk down isn’t so bad, so that’s how I’d recommend doing it.
^^^ Back down on the island …
^^^ After Miyajima Island it was on to Hiroshima, where our first stop was this structure, now known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. As one of the only standing reminders of the atomic bomb, you can obviously guess why it would have been a controversial decision to keep it standing all these years later, but after much back and forth, the building was finally designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site and today is protected. There’s a really good explanation of this building and how it remained standing after the blast right here.
^^^ The city as it stands today. Incredible. While it’s obviously been a while since the attack, it’s still pretty amazing to see how the city has built itself up around the ashes.
Anyway friends, I didn’t take too many photos in and around Hiroshima, and I didn’t take any inside the museum, but I’d say if you are in the area (or in Kyoto), it’s worth a visit. Just brace yourself, because it’s as upsetting as you might imagine it would be.
After a pretty full day of touristing around, it’s safe to say we were pretty tired. So we headed back to the station, bought some food to eat on the ride home, and caught the bullet train back to Kyoto. The next day would be Chris’s parents last with us before they headed back to Australia, so you just know we had to jam pack that day full of goodies, too 😉 I’ll have more on that tomorrow, my dears. Until then, bis bald!
Well, friends, it’s been quite the year! When I’m old and grey and looking back on my travels, this will certainly be one of my favorite years to reference. Here’s how our adventure-filled 365 days played out:
So, how exactly do you blog about a trip that has meant so much to you for so long? It’s hard to know where to start, friends, I’ll tell you that much.
Let me start from the beginning. When I first started out in college as a bright-eyed freshman, I went in as a biology major, since I had had the dream of becoming a vet for oh-so-very long (nevermind the fact that this dream eventually gave way to my one of being a journalist … let’s skip that part for the purposes of this story). During fall semester of my freshman year, I became obsessed with a school trip to the Galapagos, where we would be following in the footsteps of Darwin, making amazing discoveries and partaking in fascinating experiments.
Not to make things dramatic (who are we kidding — I’m nothing if not dramatic), but my parents wouldn’t let me go. So it became a goal of mine to, at some point, make it to this beautiful, interesting, historic place.
And a few weeks ago, I did, friends — I accomplished the goal. Go me! And it was way, way, way more than I ever could have hoped it would be. Little did I know what adventures awaited both me and Chris when we signed on for the 5-day Aida Maria cruise in the Galapagos (which, by the way, was booked by Southern Explorations on our behalf as part of our whole Ecuador package). Little did I know that we would fall in love with our tour guide (a Galapagos native named Reuben who walked around everywhere barefoot), or snorkel 2-3 times every single day with everything from sharks to sea lions, or see penguins and owls, as well. (Penguins, for goodness sake!).
If you’re an animal lover, you must add the Galapagos to your list, because there is no place on earth like it, my friends. So far in life I’ve had the great opportunity to snorkel in some pretty amazing places (the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Great Barrier Reef, to name a few), and nothing even came close to snorkeling here. (Sorry, Barrier Reef. You were awesome and all, but the Galapagos has my heart.)
Let me start by explaining our boat to you. The Aida Maria is a small-ish sized yacht that fits up to 16 guests, and we had 15 on board for our trip. Lucky for us, Southern Explorations booked our trip early enough so that we got a top room (there were only two available, and we were told they’re booked on a first-come, first-serve basis), because it really helped make the cruise special to be able to open our bedroom door every morning to gorgeous Galapagos waters. The size of the ship also means that space is pretty limited, and while we had bunk beds in our room, Chris and I used the top bunk to store our luggage and we slept together on the bottom bed. I’m honestly not sure what people did who didn’t share a bed, because there would have been very little floor space for luggage.
In terms of our itinerary and the islands we visited, here’s what we did:
Monday: AM: We woke up after cruising all night in the midst of Genovesa, a shield volcano in the eastern Pacific Ocean
PM: The Barranco (aka Prince Phillip’s Steps and the place where we found owls!) at the top of Genovesa
Wednesday: AM: Daphne/Black Turtle Cove
PM: Cerro Dragon (a trail that runs through three different environments even though it’s just 1,600 m long) on Santa Cruz. It’s named this because the northwestern side of Santa Cruz Island is home to an impressive population of Conolophus subcristatus, or Galapagos land iguana. We also had our final (and my favorite) snorkeling excursion on this particular outing. It was here that we saw sharks again, and I had one playful little sea lion who swam in circles around me while I snorkeled, waving her cute little fin at me the whole time. Oh Galapagos — you slay me with your magical moments.
Thursday: AM: The Charles Darwin Station, where we saw giant tortoises! We were a bit bummed as we left that we hadn’t seen these awesome animals in “real” life, but as we were driving back to the airport we saw three or four them along the side of the road — so check that off the list 😉
PM: It was back to Baltra to catch our flight back to the mainland Ecuador
Something else that was really cool about the trip is that everyone’s itinerary was planned by the National Park Service in order to keep as few people as possible on the islands at the same time. So for example, even if we were docked at an island with two or three other ships, we were never doing the same activity at the same time as the people from the other boat. If we were hiking, they would be snorkeling, and vice versa.
The last night of our trip we even got to go out to a bar (which was a good thing because the ship ran out of booze!) with a couple other young people from our boat and our tour guide (there were some restaurants, shops and bars at Puerto Ayora, which is where our tour guide was from. We even got to meet his adorable wife and 5-year-old son!)
Now let’s get to the fun part — the photos!
^^ This (not so) little guy is a land iguana. We came across another one later in our hike that walked a good 100 feet towards our group of 16, bobbing his head in warning the whole while, before getting a couple of feet in front of us and turning around. I think he made his point, though 😉 Land iguanas are pretty territorial, but they’re also pretty harmless.
^^ Pink flamingo!! Look at this scenery — does it not look like another planet?
^^ Clawless lobsters at the fish markets in Puerto Ayora.
^^ A marine iguana just hangin’ out. Watching them swim in the water is pretty amazing.
^^ How cute are the giant tortoises?! They can live to be between 120 and 150 years old, so you just know they’re super wise 😉
^^ These bright red crabs against the black lava? Amazing.
^^ Being in the water snorkeling was amazing, but watching sunsets from the back of the boat wasn’t too shabby, either.
^^ The sea lions would get so close to you! And our tour guide would say, “Just see what happens.” Animals on the islands are super curious, and because humans aren’t their predators here, they are just fearless. It’s pretty cool.
^^ A lava heron (which we concluded looked shockingly similar to a grumpy old man, no?!)
^^ A few minutes after this photo was taken this sea lion would take a big ole’ dump in the water while I was snorkeling, totally bringing me back to earth (and out of the water!) from the surreal moment I was having. See the one in the background, too? With his nose in the air? I always wondered what they were thinking when they did that. So cute!
^^ The blue beaks on the red-footed boobies are simply beautiful.
^^ This was a view from Cero Dragon on Santa Cruz island.
^^ Penguins! Can you believe the Galapagos has penguins? What doesn’t this place have?
^^ Look at our cute little boat — oh how I miss it!
^^ Chris took this photo of me at Sullivan Bay on Santiagoto demonstrate how far and wide the lava fields went. And our tour guide went barefoot on this! Poor Reuben — his feet were too big for standard Ecuadorian mens’ sizes, so he grew up not wearing shoes most of the time, and now his feet are tough as nails! (As was demonstrated on many, many, many occasions on this trip.)
^^ The site of one of our many, many snorkel adventures.
^^ “There’s a blue-footed booby on the rocks!” This was an inside joke amongst everyone on our boat, since we came to realize that we could listen carefully for Reuben to call out loudly when we were on hikes or outings and he spotted some wildlife he really wanted us to see. His enthusiasm was seriously contagious. You could tell he loved his job and loved the Galapagos and just wanted to teach us everything he could, and that was just the best.
^^ Pelican in flight.
^^ We took the dinghy’s out one morning to Black Turtle Cove and saw all manner of animals, from the blue-footed boobies above to this green turtle, to mating sea turtles to sting rays and sharks.
^^ Mating turtles, oh my!
^^ Four stingrays in a row, right in front of our boat.
Honestly, we took about a gazillion photos here friends, as I’m sure you can imagine, and culling them down into just a couple is really hard. But I think what I’ve included here gives you a good indication of what the Galapagos is like — and it’s simply a heaven on earth.
So after our five days on the boat we caught a flight back to Quito and Jorge dropped us back off at La Rabida for what turned out to be only a couple of hours, since our flight to Costa Rica was super early in the morning and we basically had to be picked up at 2 a.m. to check in and such.
We leave for Australia this Monday (ah, I can’t believe it!), but I’ll be sure to get my final South American post — Costa Rica! — up as soon as possible next week. So bis bald for now, my friends! I shall see you all again very soon!
^^ Hey guys! So once again our internet abilities is forcing me to post a 52 Project photo on a Sunday instead of a Monday. We are currently in Escazu, Costa Rica, and we leave bright and early tomorrow morning for our 5th and final destination of our South American tour — Tamarindo, Costa Rica. The photo above, though, is from my new absolute favorite place on earth – the Galápagos Islands. There is so much I can’t wait to share about this trip, but I can say without a doubt that the Galápagos Islands are one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. I’m making it my travel mission to get back to this place again. Bis bald, friends – my next post will be coming at ya from back in the States. Massive bummer.
Well friends, I’m back from what can only be described as an epic girlfriend’s trip. Although it did take both myself and my friend Lisa a couple days to unwind from a few recent projects that we only justbarely turned in before we left for Florida, once we did relax, it was resplendent.
The fact that I was gone for 10 days means that I can’t really go through every single detail of the trip, but I did want to bring up a few important points, the first being about where Lisa’s parents live:
My friend’s parents live in Jupiter, Florida, which is where we spent Thursday through Sunday at the beginning of our trip, as well as Saturday and Sunday at the end. If you happen to find yourself in Jupiter ever, you must visit Castaways (aka the Square Grouper Tiki Bar), Dune Dog Cafe and Guanabanas. [If you drive your boat to Guanabanas and dock it there, you get a 10% discount. Lisa’s dad would have wanted me to tell you that ;)]
^^ Gorgeous flowers in the Gerry’s backyard.
^^ How amazing is this? These are the mangroves that you walk through in
Lisa’s parent’s backyard to get to where their boat is docked.
^^ I could have ridden around on that boat all day, just checking out the gorgeous houses.
^^ The sand bar.
^^ Lisa’s parents took us to Dune Dog’s on our first night,
and Lisa taught me the proper way to crack crabs. Thanks, Lise!
^^ Oh my goodness you guys. Lisa’s dad works on the Everglades Restoration, so he’s big into the environment. Lucky for me, because I’m pretty much obsessed with animals and the environment. I loved hearing from him about all the work they’re doing, as well as visiting the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and turtle rehab hospital. All the sea turtles this organization has rescued — or that people have rescued and brought there — are swimming around in their own tanks in the Center as they rehabilitate. How. Adorable. Are. They??
^^ I also made my first visit to a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. on this trip — wahoo!
This particular Bubba Gump’s was right on the water and had live music.
We ordered every single appetizer on the menu and fancy Mojitos. Not too shabby.
Anyway, after checking out the amazingness of Jupiter for a few days, Lisa and I hopped into her mom’s car and headed down South to our second stop — Marathon Key.
So this particular Key, my friends, is unlike Key West (if that’s your only experience with the Keys, as was mine). This Key is much, much more … well, low key. Lisa’s parents have owned this particular timeshare at Hawks Nest in Marathon since before Lisa was even born, and Lisa’s whole family has been visiting her entire life. The 7-mile bridge is only a handful of feet from Hawks Nest (cars can no longer drive on the old bridge — which is right next to the newly constructed bridge — so it’s only for walkers and bikers. The old bridge where you can walk is actually only a little over 2 miles in distance each way, so about a 4-mile round trip.), and Lisa and I walked that almost every day. We saw sharks and dolphins and manta rays and starfish and tarpon … it was just one of the most amazing things ….
^^ Where we plopped ourselves every single day after our bridge walk. Hello, ocean!
^^ I posted this little guy yesterday as my photo of the week, but how cute is he!?
He came up and swam with this group of children for over an hour,
letting them rub his belly and feed him fresh water from a hose.
^^ Did I mention it was my birthday while we were there? Ugh, I’m old 😉
But my sweet, sweet husband made me feel better about being old
by sending me a letter and necklace while I was away, as well as flowers and he treated us to breakfast on my birthday, as well.
That’s some hubby, I have!
^^ Birthday flowers.
^^ Beers with a view. (That’s the 7-mile bridge in the background …)
^^ Iguanas were everywhere! We went kayaking through the mangroves
on my birthday (which was insanely awesome!) and our tour guide told us
that she had grown up in Marathon, but that the iguanas had really
become prolific lately, most likely due to people getting them as pets
and then releasing them in the wild once they get too big.
^^ Bloody Mary’s at the Sunset Grille & Raw Bar right next to Hawks Nest on our last full day.
We won’t go into detail in terms of how many of these we had …
^^ Iguana crossing.
^^ Cheeky French Toast on my birthday. Thanks husband!
^^ Lisa made shrimp boil for dinner on my birthday. Ummm … it’s my new favorite thing!
^^And she made this delicious dessert with homemade whipped cream.
I’m seriously one spoiled lady …
^^ Lisa and I took a liking to swinging in the hammocks in the
late afternoon. This was our view.
^^ Fried Key Lime Pie at Burdine’s Waterfront on our last full day.
It was every bit as delicious as it looks.
^^ We took in the spectacular sunset on our last night and caught
this man paddle boarding with his water-loving pup.
^^Making pic stitch’s of our time together may have become a theme 😉
After spending seven days in Marathon, I think it’s safe to say all of our cares had melted away. Despite all our relaxation, though, we managed to fit a lot in as well, with the bridge walks and kayaking — we even made it to Key West one night to visit friends and have dinner at Blue Heaven. We left Saturday to drive back to Lisa’s parents’ place in Jupiter, where we once again took advantage of the fabulous weather to take one more long boat ride.
^^ This was an actual hot dog/hamburger stand in the middle of the water. Genius.
^^ Ahhh! We saw so many alligators on Saturday’s boat ride! It was crazy!
Saturday night we watched True Lies with Lisa’s parents, since the second to last scene in that movie actually takes place on the 7-mile bridge. So that’s pretty cool.
And that was about it, my friends — our girlfriend’s getaway in a nutshell. We head off to Colorado this upcoming Monday — Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver — with my sister and her bf, so that should be absolutely amazing, as well.
Bis bald, friends! Let me leave you with these awesome moments of beautifulness ….
Things here have been a bit … hectic! We were in Pennsylvania this past weekend for our nephew’s first birthday party, which was so cute and fun :
^^Photographers who can wrangle kids into taking awesome, synchronized photos deserve a medal.
^^ But the mayhem is fun, too 😉
^^ The best we could do 😉
Until Sunday night when my whole family started to drop like flies as we one-by-one contracted pretty much the same stomach bug.
Anyway, we’re moving on from that, because thank goodness I’m better for tomorrow, when I fly out to Marathon Key! I’ll be gone for 10 whole blissful days (yahoo!), and my best friend and I plan to do nothing but lay in the sun, go out on the boat, snorkel and drink tasty drinks the entire time, with maybe a little hiking thrown in here and there.
I’ll be back in early April (holy cow, April!) to update you on the happenings in Marathon Key. Until then, bis bald, my friends!
Well it’s that time of year again — the one where everyone takes a couple minutes to take stock of how the past 12 months have gone? This year has been a particularly important one for myself and Chris. It was our first year of married life. It was a year spent celebrating our marriage around the world with family and friends. It was a year that we made some pretty big decisions about our future (not yet shared here!), and one that had a lot of amazing traveling in it …
Welcome back. On to Part II of our Australian Adventure. Last Monday morning (was it seriously only last Monday morning?! Gosh a lot’s happened since then.) Chris and I left his house in Bathurst seriously early in the a.m. with his brother Ben and Ben’s girlfriend to head back to Sydney to catch our flight to … drum roll … THE GREAT BARRIER REEF!
It only takes about two hours to fly from Sydney to the island where we were staying , Hamilton Island, which is part of the 74 Whitsunday Islands all located on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. And thank goodness, because I was ready to get my relax on! The place we stayed — the Whitsunday Apartments — was actually a group of apartments … obviously.
So we had a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room and really huge bedroom. It was nice that we really felt like we were on our own during our honeymoon, but at the same time had the help of people in the lobby if we really had a question or concern. The island itself is relatively small, and it’s pretty easy to walk to the majority of the places you’d want to go (like the downtown shop area, the other resort pools and stores, the beach, the place where you could eat breakfast with the koalas!), but it is pretty hilly, and some of the spots (like one particularly gorgeous sunset area), is much more easily accessible via free bus transportation, or …..
It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — the beaches here are gorgeous. And during low tide, you can walk out for what seems like miles into the ocean, with all of these little pools of warm water around you, and tons of sea life surrounding you.
While we spent most of the day Monday familiarizing ourselves with the island and the pools and the oceans, we wandered into town around 4:30, just to check it out, and ended up squatting at the Manta Ray Cafe, which turned out to be a great place to catch the sunset over the harbour, as well as to learn about some of the local wildlife from our waiter:
On Tuesday we rented our little golf cart early in the morning, and then spent the morning eating breakfast with the koalas (yes, my favorite ever), and checking out the zoo.
The rest of Tuesday was a pretty chill day for us. We checked out the island a bit more, had some drinks at the swim-up bar, slept on the beach, drove the car out to this spot with gorgeous views. You know — pretty typical Tuesday stuff.
Onto Wednesday. Wednesday was an amazing day because, as a wedding gift to us, good family friend’s of Chris’s got us a half-day boat ride out to Whitehaven Beach.
Oh Whitehaven Beach … how beautiful were thee? The beach stretches out over 7 km (yup, that’s Aussie speak), and is completely uninhabited. It’s received a ton of accolades, such as “Queensland’s Most Beautiful Beach,” and for good reason. The sand is pure white, and it never gets hot. Plus it’s so fine, it’ll clean your jewelry for you while you sunbathe.
Not too shabby.
Oh, and there’s some sort of ridiculous fine if you were to try to steal sand from it. Something like $35,000. So don’t do that.
So that was how we spent our Wednesday morning — chillin’ on the most beautiful beach in the world. When we got back mid-afternoon we did a bit more pool-hopping and beach sleeping and eating and drinking and card playing … just general merriment.
Thursday, then, was the day of all days. On Thursday, we took a full day boat excursion out to the Great Barrier Reef. This tour included oh-so-much. There was a breakfast on the boat, lunch out on the pontoon once we arrived at the Reef and a tea service on the ride back. There was snorkeling equipment at the Reef, a glass-bottom boat ride and an open observatory deck from the pontoon. All of that was included in the price. ($225 per person which, honestly, wasn’t that bad.) You could also purchase some additional activities for an added fee, like Scuba diving (which Chris did), and a guided snorkel tour (which I did). So when we arrived, luckily Chris and I were the first group to go on our perspective diving and snorkeling tours. (A quick note about the jellyfish: Since it was stinger season, we had to wear wetsuits into the water. This was my first experience wearing one and I have to say — I didn’t hate it. I mean, they definitely aren’t the most attractive things … but they kept me warm and safe, so I’m okay with it!)
Then we met up afterwards for lunch, went on the glass bottom boat ride and then spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling together.
Me oh my, it was amazing. Besides how gorgeous the Reef itself is (don’t stand on it or touch it! it turns to sand!), we saw Clown Fish (aka Nemo), sea cucumbers (which no one else was impressed with, but I was), giant sea turtles, clams the size of my body, this other fish that I don’t remember the name of that is so territorial that when my guide picked up a rock and placed it near the fish, he picked it up with his mouth and spit it out far away from him. Amazing. Plus tons of other awesomely colored and incredibly interesting sea life. Experience of a lifetime, to say the least.
Of course I didn’t take a ton of pictures here, because I was busy doin’ stuff (sorry), but here are a couple shots I was able to snap:
Thursday night we had dinner reservations at coca chu, a restaurant that one of Chris’s aunts had recommended. We ordered delicious cocktails, a bottle of wine and more food than we could even possibly hope to eat in two days. (Seriously, our waiter even told us we ordered too much food. We can’t be stopped.) The food is South East Asian, and our table overlooked the ocean as the fish jumped in and out of the water.
Am I setting the scene enough for ya?
Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling all that well that night (major bummer). I think the travel and jet lag and drinking and eating had all finally caught up to me. No matter — it was still an awesome night with delicious food and fabulous company. That’s all you can really ask for, right?
Friday was our last day on the island, and we spent it doing a bit of shopping, grabbing some delicious breakfast at the local bakery and eating by the harbour, and drinking the last of our wine and beer on the beach. It was seriously sad to say goodbye to Hamilton Island and our little honeymoon, but we had the best, most amazing time. Chris and I both keep saying how we loved that the island provided the perfect blend of fun activities and adventure with just the right amount of leisure and relaxation. You can chose to do nothing at all, and still have fabulous time, or you can do all the activities your little heart desires. (Chris even took a 2.5 mile hike one day while I took a nap. Gotta love that.)
Friday afternoon it was back to Sydney to meet up with our families for our last weekend in Australia, as well as to take in the International Fleet Review.
But I’ll be back with that blog post next week 😉 Bis bald, friends! Hope you all have awesome weekend activities planned!
As you can see, there were oh so many things to love about this trip. We came to the decision to go to Key West in the first place because we all wanted some place we hadn’t been before, some place that would be warm in January (but not too far away), and my BFF Lisa has always talked about spending time in the Keys with her fam. According to her, it was an amazing place…and she wasn’t lying.
So we three girls headed out at 4:15 a.m. Friday morning to catch our 6:30 a.m. flight.
Why is it that every single flight I take seems to leave at the crack of dawn.
Anyway, turns out leaving at 6:30 isn’t half bad when you’re flying first class. Free Bloody Mary’s, tons of leg room, a plethora of movies to choose from, warm towels….
The good stuff is just never-ending.
Anyway, after our first flight landed us in Tampa we caught our connecting flight to Key West, which just happened to be a teeny, tiny, 17-seater:
My sisters were less than impressed, to say the least.
I, however, saw it as an adventure 🙂
Anyway, after a quick hop, skip and 1 hour flight, we were finally in the Keys, where we picked up our awesome Mustang convertible!
Then, after only about 15 minutes of tinkering around, we were finally able to figure out how to get the top down:
So that was the first exciting thing to happen.
Our hotel was only about a 10 minute ride from the airport—but when you’re riding in a convertible every trip seems so much cooler.
At the hotel check-in the first day we were confronted with what would be our first clue into the festivities set to take place at the hotel that weekend. Despite his repeated check-ins to make sure that the three of us would have two rooms near each other, when we checked in we were told the hotel was so full, the best they could do was get us a room right above the other room.
But whatever. We were nonplussed. That’s how you are on vacation, right? Things happen, and you just roll with the punches.
Our first order of business (or Steph’s first order of business, at least), was to check out the beach. Lisa had warned me ahead of time (and I had passed the word on), that the Keys don’t have beaches quite like other beaches. Our hotel just happened to have its own beachfront area, so that was nice, but even so, we ended up spending the majority of our time in the hot tub (where we met a medium, a 15-year-old bull herder, a CIA agent and a retired school teacher, to name a few).
That first night, at the recommendation of our new “medium” friend, we headed to Duval Street for dinner and to hit up Willie T’s, where bar-goers staple signed dollar bills to … well, pretty much anything they can find to staple it on:
After returning to the hotel Friday night we received our second clue as to the festivities of the weekend. Or should I say the festivities themselves made us aware of the festivities. Basically, at around 4 a.m. this incessant blasting of music started, and after about a half hour of listening to it, Steph and I decided to call down to the front desk. Turns out Jen had called as well, and they sent security up to stop it.
The next day we were told a wedding would be taking place at the hotel that night.
Oh, and it was someone local.
Oh, and there were about 500 people invited.
It wouldn’t be until later that day (well technically it was Sunday morning, to be exact), that we would find out it was actually the owner’s daughter who was getting married there.
But more on that to come later.
So after having very little sleep on Friday night, we nonetheless decided to head out to a few other places. First up was the Southernmost point in the U.S. (which is only 90 miles to Cuba), and to get some coconut water (Literally. A man with a drill was drilling holes into actual coconuts and selling them for $3.)
Then it was on to Mallory Square. Unfortunately we weren’t there at sunset, which is supposed to be the most beautiful (and most eclectic) time there. Oh well, that’ll just have to be for another trip.
After Mallory Square we headed over to this local seafood festival we had seen advertised in a park near the hotel. I’m really glad we ended up doing that. It was all local people and local restaurants with tons of booths filled with beer, seafood, artwork and live music. We ended up trying out lobster, conch fritters (Fried conch, basically. Whatever that is!), and shrimp.
After the festival (in which we all bought artwork by a local artist that was framed with used lobster traps! At the time it was cool…and it looks a lot cooler than it sounds, trust me) we went back to the hotel and the hot tub, before heading back out to Duval St. for dinner and—something I had been excited for the entire trip—Key Lime Pie!!
Now, what I forgot to mention before was that earlier in the day we stopped to pick up some provisions in preparation for the upcoming night:
Yup. Those, my dear friends, are ear plugs. But despite that fact that our sister Jen swears by them, Steph and I just could not seem to get used to them. It’s the oddest sensation to have those things in your ears, and try as we might, at around 3 a.m., when it seemed like we were perhaps in the clear and had avoided any ruckus for the evening, I removed the buds.
Turns out the partying wasn’t going to start until 4 a.m. that morning.
From 4 to 7:30 a.m. we sat up listening to the thump, thump, thumping of the base to the terrible music the party-goers were blasting (in, of course, what turned out to be the room right next to where Steph and I were bunked).
Despite my two phone calls, Jen’s two phone calls, and what I’m sure were any number of phone calls from whatever other rooms in that hotel turned out to not be guests of the wedding, there was nothing the poor manager on duty could do. What was she supposed to do, after all? Ask her boss to kindly turn it down?
I don’t think so.
Anyway, lesson learned. Next time you think something might be up…ask. You’re probably right.
It wasn’t a total loss, though. My dad got comped his miles back for the room that night, and on Sunday night Jen and Steph and I were upgraded to an amazing 3-bedroom, 3-bath suite with a kitchen, dining room, porch and roof access.
Not that we actually needed all that, but it just went so nicely with the rest of our indulgent trip, we had to accept 🙂
On Sunday we ended up spending most of the day lounging, but we did head out to breakfast at Blue Heaven where I had shrimp and grits (which brought me right back to my JMU days. Sad!)
And there was live music (as there is most places in Key West), and ping-pong and art work (as there is most places in Key West):
After brekkie it was back to the hotel for more sun and hot tub. We ordered room service (beer and pizza. Dinner of champions!) and spent our last night soaking up our awesome suite and sharing some last-minute sister gossip.
All in all, it was an unforgettable trip. We spent most of Monday traveling, where we had a five-hour layover in Tampa and spent the entire time in the elite travelers lounge (I told you. This was a fancy trip all the way!), drinking free wine and eating cheese, crackers and salsa (oh, and taking over the TV, much to the chagrin of anyone else in the TV room).
A few more notes on The Keys and its awesomeness:
1) There were a group of feral cats at our hotel, which my sisters weren’t quite too fond of, and, as per usual, I was obsessed with:
2) There are also tons of roosters (or hens? Not sure I’d be able to tell the difference) around Key West, which cock-a-doodle-doo at all hours of the day (seriously, not just at dawn):
3) And lastly, if you go to Key West you must ride a bike. Sadly, I do not have a photo of me and my sis’ riding around on a bike, because we didn’t rent any, but it seems that when in Key West, this is the thing to do, so I would recommend it.
And that’s about it friends! My sisters and I were so, so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip together. And I would suggest that if you ever get the opportunity to head over to Key West, I’d jump on it. I haven’t been anywhere else quite like it.
So my sisters and I arrived back in NY last night after an awesome trip to Key West. It’s 11:40 at night right now, so I’m not going to write up the entire Key West blog post, but as a preview, let me say:
Flying first class is ah-mazing
Key West is eclectic, funny and wonderful
I lost my dad’s headsets
Comped 3-bedroom/3-bathroom suites are also ah-mazing
Driving a Mustang convertible is as fun as it would seem
Anyway friends, tomorrow=full blog post, I promise.
Hi guys! So I’ve been MIA again lately…my bad! I’ve been plugging away on my travel plans for this year and, oh yeah, I got engaged 🙂
VERY excited about all that! Of course, that doesn’t really have anything to do with travel (although I will say that we will most likely be having a destination wedding. So that will most certainly be about travel!)
Anyway, besides all that, my sisters and I are headed off tomorrow for a trip to Key West. I’m beyond excited. This will be the first time that the three of us are going on a trip alone together, so I think it’ll be a lot of fun. I haven’t (yet) convinced them to go snorkeling with me, but don’t worry, I have time to do that…
In other news, Chris is all booked for the Berlin marathon in September. We’re thinking our Europe trip will be a couple of days in Berlin for the race, a couple of days in Munich for Oktoberfest, then renting a car (which is my new favorite aspect of this trip!) and driving to Venice for a night, before training it to Rome. Chris has never been to Germany or Italy, so I’m really excited to show him around there, especially Rome.
Yup, it’ll be tiring. That’s how most of my vacations turn out to be. However, my sisters have made it well-known that they would like for this Key West trip to be a relaxing one. I’m cool with that. I think I have it in me to do a relaxing trip!
Okay friends, you know how it goes….bis bald, until next time! I’ll be back soon with Key West photos and updates!
So last night, at around midnight, Chris and I arrived back in NYC after our trip to Jamaica for our cousins wedding.
It’s so sad to come home from a trip, especially one that was as fun as this one to Jamaica was. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort, the Iberostar Suites, in Montego Bay, Chris and I sharing a room with my sister, which was totally fun (well, for us it was! I’m pretty sure Jen would say she definitely knows Chris a bit better after that experience).
All in all, the five days we spent in Jamaica were amazing. It was fun to hang out with the entire family, and the weather was great. The only time we had rain was late one afternoon while some of us were visiting the little shacks off the hotel property (ominously labeled by the sign: “Enter at your own risk”) where local people sold goods they had, allegedly, made. We bought a painting and some wooden pooh bots, with each and every seller offering Chris a hit of their weed, as well.
He declined, of course.
And somehow, despite all the drinking and sitting around in the sun by the pool and the beach that we did (and trust me, we did a lot of this), we managed to be a bit active. We did water aerobics in the ocean (taught by one of the many beautiful staff workers at the Iberostar), and Chris, my dad, Judy and I also decided to test out the snorkeling that was available from the hotel, which was amazing.
We went to a beach party that included lots of provocative dancing and a fire-eating dancer, and went to a disco. With my dad. I went to a disco with my dad.
I got stung by a jellyfish, and, perhaps most importantly, revealed to my dad and Judy that I had a tattoo. After having waited years to tell my dad this, when I finally did tell him that I had a tattoo, his response was: “I know. I saw it on the boat.”
Sheesh, it was anticlimactic.
Anyway, here are some visual memories:
And that’s about it, my friends! Here’s hoping some of my family reads this and shares their own memories (hint, hint!).
Here’s to the next trip—Key West in January with the sisters.
Hey friends! So it’s only 9 days left until our trip to Jamaica … so exciting!
Our brochure and tickets (actual plane tickets! Do you even remember what those look like?!) came in the mail the other day, and we are so, so, so excited!
And speaking of trips, as this year begins to wind down (which, by the way, I seriously can’t believe…), I’m starting to get really excited for the trips I have planned for next year (as is usually the case with me).
Here’s what’s on tap (hopefully) for next year:
Key West in January with my sisters
Costa Rica in April with Chris
New Orleans with Lisa at some point
Berlin, Munich, Rome and Venice with Chris and some other friends for the Berlin marathon and Oktoberfest in September/October
Cath and I sat down last night so we could go over all her notes from our trip to Prince Edward Island (a trip she’s been wanting to take for quite a while now). So without further ado, now that I’m fairly certain all of my details are accurate, here’s a rundown of our trip to Canada….
After a two-hour delay out of JFK into Charlottetown (in which we flew in what is seriously the tiniest plane I have ever been on), we didn’t end up arriving at our bed and breakfast—The Sonata Inn on Grafton Street—until after 11 p.m. We were starving, but Charlottetown reminded me a bit of Salzburg in the fact that no restaurant would be open at such a late hour.
Luckily for us, though, Dale, the lovely owner of our B&B, took our delay and late arrival into account, and upon letting us in and giving us a tour, he also informed us that he had left a small basket of food in the room just in case we were hungry. This, my friends, is one of the benefits of staying in a friendly little B&B.
After a restful night on the comfy beds at the B&B, we all headed down to the breakfast on Friday morning before we started our day. As this was my first B&B experience, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew some socializing would be on the agenda, and that we would most likely be sitting with other groups of people at the table.
Turns out it wasn’t half bad! That morning we ended up sitting with three couples—one of which happened to be the two most adventurous 80-year-old people I have ever met in my entire life (seriously, they’ve been skydiving and zip lining and para-sailing…they really live it up!)—while we chowed down on muffins, fruit, yogurt, and homemade eggs and ham (I skipped out on that brekkie, as you could probably have guessed). It was actually kind of nice to get a chance to meet some other travelers, to hear about what they had already done on the island, and to get some pointers on things we should check out.
After breakfast, and after Chris had picked up our rental car…
Then we hit the open road. We took a scenic drive along the coast, stopping to have lunch at a fantastic little place on Brackley Beach called The Dunes, overlooking the Green Gables Shore. The cafe sold food and drinks, sure, but it also was an artsy venue, as well as a flower garden and pottery studio.
After our fabulous lunch, we all loaded back into the car and drove up the coast to North Rustico, this adorable tiny little fishing village.
Then it was on to the famous Cavendish to partake in the history of Anne of Green Gables, which included seeing the house where L.M. Montgomery’s cousins lived, which is believed to have been the inspiration for her stories, as well as the site of where the home of her grandparents used to be, which is where L.M. herself grew up. We walked the trails surrounding the little green Anne house, read some of the history of the place, and took lots of photos.
Full disclaimer: I’ve never actually read the books. Oops. But don’t fret, friends. I purchased my very own copy of Anne of Green Gables directly from Prince Edward Island, so it will be the very next thing I read.
After we’d had our fill of Anne, we tried to check out Avonlea, as well, but there was a big music festival happening the same weekend, so unfortunately it was closed off. So instead, we headed over to Cows Ice Cream (seriously some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had) in Bay View for a treat and a bit of a rest before hitting up our final destination of the day—New Glasgow for The Toy Factory, where Cath picked up some cute things for the kids in her classroom and her granddaughter.
After a full day of driving and site seeing, we were definitely starved. So after New Glasgow we headed back to our hotel to freshen up for our dinner at Lobster on the Wharf, where Chris and I would eat our first of three lobster rolls on this trip (Lobster Roll Rating No. 1: 3.5 for good lobster, but not enough of it, and the roll was just a bit hard (hey, we wait a long time for lobster rolls, we deserve to rate them! The potato salad was homemade and delicious, though, as was my Bloody Caesar drink (the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary, made with clam juice, so says Chris).
We ate out on the deck, which was beautiful, until I got so cold I couldn’t feel my right hand anymore and I had to ask if we could please move this party inside. Cath and Chris happily obliged.
So it was a busy day, my friends. But even so, when we arrived back at the hotel after dinner we borrowed London Suite from the B&B video library to watch.
And I promptly fell asleep.
I’m told I didn’t miss much.
Bis bald, friends! Stay tuned tomorrow for an update on Saturday’s adventures…
U.S. News & World Report has named South Padre Island the “Best Affordable U.S. Vacation” and “Best Family Beach Vacation” in their first-ever Best Vacations rankings, found here. According to a press release, the rankings compare the most popular travel spots against one another for the benefit of prospective travelers. They use a combination of how strongly a collection of published travel writers recommend the destination and how strongly U.S. News Travel website users recommend the destination to determine the winners.
I know I talk an awful lot about Projects Abroad, but I was really excited to read this story in Worth today about ten other ideas for philanthropic travel. There are Antarctic adventures and Vietnamese adventures….
And my absolute personal favorite—conservation in the Galapagos. Visiting the Galapagos is definitely on my bucket list, but for anyone who’s been listening knows, I’m having trouble with the whole idea of actually traveling there. As it turns out, tourists visiting the Galapagos have actually caused quite a bit of harm over the years. At least visitors traveling with this suggested group, expeditions.com, have been able to raise money—to the tune of $4.5 million to date—for tons of projects to help save the Galapagos. Now that’s a trip I could really get on board with.
So here we are in 2011, and in February it will be my one-year anniversary with this site—very exciting. I have definitely become a big believer in writing down the things that you hope to accomplish in a year, not so much as New Years resolutions, but more like mini-life goals. Last year London, Paris, Rome, and Oktoberfest trips were all on that list. So here I am on January 3rd, writing down my new travel goals for 2011. This year I hope to visit:
Let’s see how many of those travel resolutions I can keep!
Courtesy of my amazing traveling friend, take in the gorgeousness that is New Zealand and Thailand, seen through her eyes:
From New Zealand:
And on to Thailand: Locations include Baan Dada, Erawan Falls, Koh Phangan, Ton Sai
As an aside, my traveling friend and her traveling companion also happen to be volunteering at orphanages and clinics along the way which, as you can imagine, also allow for some amazingly adorable photos of kids. However, for the sake of the kiddies privacy, I have refrained from posting those particular photos. It was hard. They’re adorable.
I felt like learning about a new place today. So I took a quick hop, skip and click over the National Geographic site to look up African countries. Some of them seem so familiar (even though, sadly, I’ve never been to Africa…yet).
There’s Botswana, Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania…the list goes on and on.
I felt like learning about Comoros, because I’ve never heard of this place before. Keep reading to see what I found out …
This year I spent Valentines day at my mom’s house, planning an upcoming trip to Europe with my sister. Last year, however, Chris and I were on a boat heading out to snorkel in the Bahamas.
There’s a lot to be said about this. For our first Valentines day when we were actually physically together (the first year we were dating he was in Banff), it was pretty great to be in the Bahamas. On the other hand, we learned a pretty valuable lesson on that trip—if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.