007 in the Bahamas

Are there any other Sean Connery fans out there? Let me tell you a story about my childhood… I was raised on James Bond. Now, I was not allowed to watch Jem or Growing Pains, but for whatever reason, 007 was a-okay. And what’s not to love about this spy series? There is mystery, intrigue, action, and beautiful scenery. I’m not sure how many James Bond movies were filmed in the Bahamas; I’ll have to ask my brother the next time we talk and get back to you on that one. However, I do know that, being the super fans that my parents are, his name came up just a few times during our last visit to Nassau and Paradise Island. Here are the 3 places we visited and the corresponding movies…

The British Colonial Hilton in Nassau is the site of the Never Say Never bar… you know, the one where there is flirting and water skiing… all of the things good island banter is made of. Unfortunately, the bar is no longer there. I remember when it was. Yes, my family may have gone on a little James Bond escapade when I was younger. Maybe even stopping out at Lyford Cay and taking a picture in front of Sean Connery’s gate. Moving on…

Another Bond movie great, Thunderball, was also filmed at the Hilton in the lobby; apparently, a few things were rearranged for the movie, so this doesn’t look exactly as it did in the movie. Coincidently, this lobby is also where we all sat in the lobby during our vacation because the 4 year old got a little ambitious “just sticking his toes” in the water and ended up drenched (there are air hand dryers in the bathrooms and the gift shop does sell size 4 swim trunks, in case anyone needs to know).

I’ve saved the best for last… The One and Only Ocean Club on Paradise IslandHaving never had the opportunity to stay here, I’d love to roll my eyes or make some snide remark, but, wow, this place is everything it claims to be. It is gorgeous and immaculate and the staff is spectacular. I have so many memories here. My brother taking lessons from the pro, Leo, who still remembers my family and greets us with his warm smile. Or, my mom taking me to The Courtyard Terrace for dinner and my first official drink (White Zin, of course… it was the 90s) . Pictures of my parents on dates there while my grandmother watched us. The first time my husband and I went there for drinks or when we left our kids with their grandparents for our date nights at Dune. Ahhh… just so.many.memories. But, I guess we aren’t really supposed to be talking about me…oops! Back to the handsome man in the suit. While he’s not Sean Connery, Daniel Craig is a close second. And, he fits in well at The One and Only in Casino Royale. Here are some more pictures because it’s hard not to just keep snapping. It is beautiful!

Want to save this for your very own future 007 self-guided tour? I have a pin for that…

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

To Plan or Not to Plan

To Plan or Not to Plan? This is obviously a personal question and depends on, well, your personality. Before I share what we do, please understand, I honestly do not believe that there is a right or wrong way. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below, too.

I think I may have mentioned this before… I love lists. So, you might think I am a huge planner for trips. I’m not. Maybe I used to be? Then, we had kids… Kids can either make you a crazy planner or a non-planner. After trying to plan with kids and having my husband and I disappointed because we couldn’t go to our favorite restaurant that we had been so-looking forward to because there was an hour wait, I knew I needed to change my thinking. We often don’t even plan whether we are going to check into our hotel or go somewhere else in the city until we see the city’s skyline (which is super annoying, I’m sure, for anyone who may be meeting us). We are now flexible, meaning, we may eat lunch at 11am or we may eat lunch at 2pm… a lot of it depends on our kids. But, I actually think this is a positive thing, at least for this ex-crazy planner. It has helped me relax. We have discovered all kinds of new places just because we sometimes hit a wall and are thinking, “get these kids some monkey bars, asap.” (Does anyone else have kids that start climbing when they are tired? What?!) Granted, phones and google maps, lend themselves well to this and help me loosen the reigns a bit too. It’s easier than ever to find restaurants and nearby parks, and this is comforting.

That said, we do plan a bit… we always buy our plane tickets at least a couple of months in advance for domestic flights and 6 months in advance for international flights. We also do have hotels rooms booked at least a week in advance for weekend trips and usually a month or so in advance for longer trips. I remember driving out to the east coast with my family one summer. Now, keep in mind, these were the days before cell phones and Mapquest.  We weren’t really in a hurry, but around 5pm, my parents decided that we should start to look for a hotel for the night. They were all booked. We finally found one at 10 at night. My brother and I knew not to ask if there was a pool. I don’t know why that memory has stuck with me (clearly, I had a very nice childhood if that stands out as a struggle- ha!) but it has and I make certain that we have hotels booked for road trips. There are some things that I just need and knowing that we are going to be at a decent hotel at the end of the day is one of them. Food is another item I like to plan for… Not necessarily restaurants but just food. Breakfast to be specific. Clearly, there aren’t any full breakfasts had in hotel rooms unless you think ahead and fill out those door-handle room menus or can wait 45 minutes (we don’t and can’t) but a few of us (me and the 4 year old to be specific) need to eat the second we wake up, so I definitely plan to have some Clif bars on hand. I also tend to carry some Smokehouse almonds with us at all times- we all love them and they help us make it through until the next meal. Activities are items we half plan for… we think, “hey, it might be fun to drag our kids on an architecture tour,” but if it is sold out or the weather isn’t great, we don’t stress about it. It’s just always a good idea to have a backup plan should, say, my husband’s business meeting go longer than expected. Having activities in the back of my mind is a must.  We also recently discovered that our children like lists too (yay!). If we do have an agenda, it always helps to draw out what we are going to do or even make a Home Alone-ish map. Another way that we plan is through friends. It is so much fun to ask friends what they would recommend; these are always the best recommendations.

So, in summary, this is what we plan for: food, hotels, plane tickets. We wing it with: activities and restaurants.  Somewhat embarrassingly, I think it has taken us years to get to this point. My husband, the non-planner, and I, the crazy planner, have finally met in the middle and found the sweet spot in planning our trips together where neither of us is stressed out by the other (we just stress other people out now).

Being Americans, I do feel that I have to address this Disney planning business. It is a planner’s dream come true. So. Many. Ways.To.Plan. There is something thrilling to me knowing that we need to book the Belle Breakfast exactly 180 days before we plan to dine with the princess. Or, when I discovered Fast Passes… oh the fun to be had with those. And, maps, how fun would it be to highlight and number those so as to maximize our time. But, in the end, guess what we did? We showed up. I’ll admit, I felt a little cheated out of all of the fun planning. But guess who didn’t feel cheated? Our kids. And that made everything just fine and just as magical. Maybe they didn’t get to meet Anna and Elsa, but just look at how much fun the then 2-year old had sneaking in a hug with Cinderella! And maybe we criss-crossed the park and wasted all kinds of precious time, but then we had time to just wander and take in all there was to see (and there was plenty off good people watching, too). I should add, though, that we went on a 92 degree day in June, so the park wasn’t terribly crowded, but still… I guess my point is that if you plan, it works out great and if you don’t, that’s great too. It’s finding what works for you and your traveling companions.

I want to know… do you tend toward the planning or non-planning end of the spectrum?

If you found this amusing if not a bit helpful and feel like pinning it, here you are 🙂

 

Island Travel Interviews-Philippines, Take 1

 

Photo Credit- Pixabay

This week we are headed to the Philippines with our Island Travel Interviews! I have to admit that I am pretty excited about this, mostly because I really don’t know anything about the Philippines. I will be learning right along with you this time. Fortunately, we have Chel Inumerable from Hey, It’s Chel to take us to Borocay and Roneth from The Fickle Feet to help us learn about Siargao. Let’s get started!

First Stop… Borocay!

Name and Blog Name/URL

Chel Inumerable of Hey, it’s Chel www.heyitschel.com

Which Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Boracay! My favourite island in the Philippines where the water is clear and the sand is pure and white.

Photo Credit- Hey, It’s Chel

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

As many as you could…But if you really, really need to leave, 1 week is enough.

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

I met one of my bestfriends here and we instantly clicked, we backpacked around Asia after that. Also, just recently, I brought my boyfriend here and we had a wonderful time!

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

A good massage by the beach (US$7) by licensed and trained therapists, cliff jumping, scuba diving, sunset watching. There’s a lot of water activities actually that you can do here.

Photo Credit- Hey, It’s Chel

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

Spider House, it has the best sunset view. Sea Breeze Café for a delicious dinner buffet for only US$15, by 8pm watch out for the dancing chefs, Hoy Panga Boracay offers the first smoothie bowls in the island and Jonah’s Fruit Shake for their yummy fresh fruit shakes.

What Surprised You About this Island?

There’s always a new restaurant or establishment popping up.

Photo Credit- Hey, It’s Chel

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

Everyone speaks English so language won’t be a problem. The best way to get there is via Caticlan airport. You can also fly via Kalibo airport which most of the time has a cheaper airfare prices but you need 2 more hours to get to the island (by land and water). There are many hostels and traveller’s inn if you are on a budget, always check the accommodation away from the beach (it will be like a 3-5 minute walk to the beach so it isn’t that bad). If you are a spender, then a nice hotel facing the beach won’t be a problem for you. There are ATMs around the island too.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

Yes I do have a couple, feel free to visit my blog or DM me on Instagram @chelinumerable

And, Next Up… Siargao!

Name and Blog Name/URL

Name: Roneth Politud

Blog:    The Fickle Feet (http://theficklefeet.com)

Photo Credit- The Fickle Feet

Which Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?
The Philippines is composed of 7107 islands. Each islands has a different kind of beauty but Siargao Island stole my heart. Siargao is the surfing capital of the Philippines. It faces the Pacific Ocean, that’s why it has beautiful big waves that surfers all over the world visit. Even non surfers will enjoy the island as it offers a lot more than waves.

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

During our visit we stayed there for four days, but it was never enough! If someone really like to visit the Island, I suggest at least a week is better.

Photo Credit- The Fickle Feet

What was Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

My favorite thing in the islands is the easy and chill vibe it has. Surfing in the morning, going to the beach and even ride a bike in the afternoon. Also, they have a night life where you can just chill and enjoy a good set music while sipping on your margarita!

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Of course I will say surfing! But if you don’t want to surf there’s a lot of option. Like what we did, we went island hoping for whole day. We explore the nearby islands like Naked Island, Guyam Island and Daku Island. Even visited the farther island, it took us almost 3 hours to get the Sohoton cove. Other than island hopping Magpopongko Tidal Pool is a must visit!

(Sohoton) Photo Credit- The Fickle Feet

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

One of the must try is in Kermit’s. We were able to dine-in here. They serve Filipino-Italian Food. Which is authentic I must say. You can make your own pizza, and the pasta was beyond my Filipino taste buds that’s why I can say that it’s authentic on the Italian side. Haha. Also, the restaurant is always full, they have reservations, but if you are not able to make any reservations like we did, just wait. It’s also quite pricey here. Ready your cash for the good food you are willing to spend on!

Of course, if you don’t like to spend much, I have a place in mind. Go to Mama’s Grill. It was actually popular. A lot of travelers were in the place. No wonder, they serve delicious grilled food with affordable price.

What Surprised You About this Island?

I was expecting that it will be so touristy since it is very popular. And on our way to the island, our group of five is the only Filipinos in the plane. All are tourists, mostly are from Spain. The moment we arrived in the island, as I expect more foreigners are there, actually they’re everywhere. It doesn’t feel like I’m in the Philippines. But the surroundings are not crowded, it just like a simple island. Many foreigners but not touristy and crowded, I hope you get what I mean.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

Accommodation: There’s a lot of hostel in the island! If travelling alone, it is best just to stay in hostels like Paglaom. . But during our stay we just rented in Airbnb. It is good when travelling with a group since we can divide the cost. We got ours at $20 (Php1000) per night.

How to get around: A motorcycle ride will cost $0.40 (Php20) per ride. It is cheaper to rent a motorbike for $7-8 (Php350) for whole day. You can also rent a bike for $2 (Php100) a day.

Tips:

  • Reserved a surfing lesson for the next day.
    • Surfing Board: $4 (Php200) per hour
    • Surfing Instructor: $6 (Php300) per hour
  • For night life events in the island. On Mondays chill night at Rumbar and on Tuesdays dance party at Jungle

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

Yes! I actually made a 4 days complete guide in the island.

 http://theficklefeet.com/complete-guide-make-4-day-experience-siargao-wothwhile/

 

Thank you so much to Chel and Roneth for sharing their experiences and traveling tips to these two remarkable Philippines Islands!

Want to put a pin on it? Here you go!

Photo Credit- Pixabay

 

**Nope, I didn’t forget… This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

Top 4 Best Spring Break Beaches

Well, we are in our home stretch! Spring is almost here, and to be quite honest, this winter wasn’t even that bad (I think I may be scarred for life from the Polar Vortexes we had a few years back). You may have noticed that I have been posting quite a few beach pictures over on my Instagram lately, just to get in the mood.  So, let’s talk Spring Break Beaches. Specifically, let’s look at 4 super doable beach vacations. No 8-hour flights for our crew this year!

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina- This island is incredibly easy to get to and could even involve a quick road trip if you live on the eastern half of the US. There is something for everyone here. The beaches are beautiful for running, playing, sunbathing, and, yes, especially biking… they go for miles and miles! Just don’t get overzealous like we did and remember that you do have to ride back to the hotel. If you are wondering what else there is to do, I wrote about it here.

Naples, Florida- Another beach town that is quite easy to get to. A quick flight or a longer drive, but, nonetheless, doable. The beach is beautiful and again goes for miles and miles (can you tell this is a major requirement for me?). The sand is soft and easy to nap on or go for a long stroll. There are several different hotels, with hotel bars, along the way, so if you get thirsty, you will have options. 

Dana Point/Laguna Beach, California- Ahhhh… one of my favorites. Even if you don’t surf, it is amazing to watch all of the surfers getting their waves on (is that a phrase?) early in the morning. Our hotel overlooked the beach with gorgeous cliffs in the background- it almost felt as though we were in a different county. To the right on the beach, was an expanse of sand leading to some rocks and cliffs. To the left were extraordinary homes all stacked one on top of the other and fabulous nonetheless. Just as I was picturing our family living in one of these modern beach homes, we discovered the also-extraordinary pricing. I guess we will just have to look forward to hotel stays at this West Coast “must.”

Paradise Island, Bahamas- My happy place. I’ve been walking this beach since I was about 8 years old and will never, ever tire of it. It exudes calm and peace and a sense of timelessness. The water is so clear that you can see to the bottom and the sand is so white and powdery that even if you are one of those “no sand on my toes” kind of people, you won’t mind it. Everything is so clean and bright that you need sunglasses but really don’t want to wear them because you don’t want to dim all of that brilliant color. Again, you can walk forever on this beach and lose yourself in thought without much effort at all. This is my forever beach and I really hope you are able to experience it because it is much too beautiful not to share. 

I want to know…Do you have a US/Caribbean beach that you love? What is your favorite beach activity? Are you a solo or company beach walker?

Already have Spring Break plans but want to save these suggestions for next year? I have a pin for that 🙂

*Please note that this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation… Thank you!

 

Friday Finds (Take 2)

 

Our Crazy Buddy

Welcome back to my randomness… with Friday Finds, Take 2….Hope you all had a great week! We made it to almost-Friady. Yay! And I made it through February without a broken bone- double Yay! Our only February hick-up was that our dog ate sand at the beach and had to spend the night at the Emergency Animal Hospital. Fortunately, he is back to his crazy, jumping, kissing 10-year old self. 

Brunch Bowl @ Donkey

Donkey Taqueria- If you are visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan, or live within an hour radius of Grand Rapids, this restaurant is a must. It is my favorite restaurant. So much so that I always have fabulous intentions of trying one of the new eateries that keep popping up around the city but just cannot tear myself away from Donkey. I love being guaranteed great service, a delicious Paloma, and top-notch food. Every. Single. Time. Making it feel even more special is the fact that it forces you to just relax. You cannot call ahead (there isn’t a listed phone number), making you come to terms with the fact that you are just going to have to show up and go with the flow. If the wait is too long, we have always had good luck going across the street to Winchester for a pre-dinner drink. Donkey will just text you when your table is ready.

Lee and Birch– Looking for a different activity while you wait for your table? Just head up the street to Lee and Birch. I went in to just “check it out” and pretty much could have seen myself in all of the clothes in the store. It is small, which feels cozy and not too overwhelming. The sales people are pretty chill, helpful but not at all pushy.

Zing Zangs- This is an oldie but goodie. One of my brothers-in-law is our designated Bloody Mary guy and this is a favorite. Whenever he and my sister-in-law ask what they can bring, I always want them to bring the Bloody Mary’s. He did, however, share his secret, so now we can all make delicious Bloody’s. Zing Zangs has just the right amount of spice and thickness. It’s as much a staple at our family gatherings as ice cream cake, maybe even more so!

Barre 3 via You Tube- With all of this eating and drinking going on, I thought it only “fitting” that I throw in a workout too. I just discovered this tonight, and it is great! It is perfect for when, say, your stairclimber is covered in plastic and every item in your storage room is now in the family hangout room because you had/have a “vision” for your laundry/mudroom (insert teeth-clenched emoji here). Moving on… the You Tube sequence is about 40 minutes long and would actually be perfect for when you are traveling too (there are small weights involved, but, let’s be honest, I’m not using those at home either). I really found the instructors to be encouraging and saying everything I needed to hear throughout the workout. The sequences are really easy to follow, and since repetition is key, it’s fairly easy to stay on track.

Well, there you have it, my barely-travel-related Friday Finds. I’ll be back next week with the Island Interviews Series. You may have also noticed all of the beautiful beaches lately on my Instagram account.. stay tuned, a related post is coming next week too. 

**I have no more fun ways to say this, so just know… this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may be compensated. Thank you!

Island Travel Interviews, European Islands, Take 1

Photo Credit- Pixabay

Hello again! This week we are going to travel to Europe to explore some more islands. Sandra from Tripper will fill us in on Flores Island (Azores) and Emma from Journey of a Nomadic Family is going to tell us about Madiera. Do you remember that Portugal is on my bucket list? Now, when I finally get there, I have added these two islands to the docket.

Let’s start with Sandra and Flores Island…

Name and Blog Name/URL

My name is Sandra and I blog about cultural travel to offbeat destinations at Tripper (www.tripper.pt)

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Flores island in the Azores, my homeland. It’s the westernmost part of Europe, just a little lump in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with a population of 4000 people, and one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see in your life.

Photo Credit- Tripper

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

If you’re up to some real islander life, forever! But if you’re just passing by 3 to 5 days should be enough to really soak it all in.

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Travels to This Island?

I lived there until I was 16, then moved to another island, then moved to Lisbon at 18. When you’re that young and live in such a remote and isolated place, you want to see what is out there in the world so your home island is the last thing on your mind. When people asked me how the island was, my answers were always pretty bland as if it wasn’t that big of a deal that an island with 4000 people on it looked remarkably like a smaller version of Ireland. People were amazed at this description, I thought it felt too much like home. And what’s fun about it?

Of course, now that I’m a bit older, I remember my childhood living in an indescribable beautiful place where time is slow and islanders have mastered the art of letting go for centuries. I will probably never live that close to the ocean again but sometimes I miss the daily sound of those waves hitting against the rocks. How do I put this into words…? Your mind wanders. You see that immensity of ocean around you, and you can’t help but go into some kind of meditation mode. And that’s common to all the people I’ve met who travelled there. The best way to see the island is to contemplate it in silence, because you feel so small and so part of it all, that there is nothing you could say to make that moment better.

Photo Credit- Tripper

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Hiking and canyoning are the two top activities. Can I consider eating an activity? If yes, eating. The Azoreans (and I guess all the Portuguese) like to see their visitors well fed, so they will always cook more than what you need to eat, even in restaurants. And then you can hike afterwards, just in case you feel too guilty.

Since you are already here, hop on to the neighboring island of Corvo. It’s about 45 minutes away by boat (or 10, if you choose to fly) and it’s the smallest island in the Azores, with a very tiny village, pirate folk tales, and around 400 people. It’s also my dad’s homeland which I visited every summer, so I can’t betray my DNA and talk about one island without talking about the other.

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

Por-do-Sol (sunset, in Portuguese) on the west coast of the island. Typical dishes, mouth-watering desserts, and a spectacular view (with the bonus of the most beautiful sunset you have ever seen, if you drop by for dinner). My favorite dish is fried sausage with taro root. The taro root is very popular in the Azores, it looks like a brownish potato and I understand if you feel reluctant to try it since it’s not the most attractive thing you’ve ever seen. You can switch to local sweet potatoes, all is good.

What Surprised You About this Island?

You won’t believe how much there is to see in such a small place! I returned to the island this summer, after six years, and I had forgotten about so many places! We took a tour around the island and I think we stopped for sightseeing over thirty times. It’s insane! And most of these places are unreachable so imagine nature in its wildest form. Well, and in the Azores the weather is always a surprise, hence the “letting go” lifestyle.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

Visa, money and language is the same as in Portugal (so Schengen visa, euro as currency, and Portuguese). Most of us have family in the US and Canada, so the majority of the Azoreans will speak English. In Flores, in particular, some people might speak a little French since there used to be a French military base in the island between the 1960’s and the 1990’s. Azores Airlines has regular flights from Europe and North America to the bigger islands (Sao Miguel is the biggest) and from there you can take the connecting flight to Flores. My best advice, is to try and book everything through the Azores Airlines (which is the local company). It’s a bit easier to figure out everything flight-wise.

When in the island you can rent a car to drive around and see the sights, although if you’re a big fan of outdoor activities you can also walk around a lot. I’ve done my share of hiking around the island and it’s an amazing experience.

Photo Credit- Tripper

My favorite accommodation recommendation is Aldeia da Cuada but they’re so famous that you have to book a long time in advance. It’s an old abandoned village, super secluded and peaceful, that people left behind when they immigrated to the US. Little by little the current owners bought the houses, refurbished them and started their business. Right now it’s a fully functional village, each house is named after the previous owner (kind of like an homage to the people who lived there) and they are decorated as an old typical country house. It’s beautiful! There are other options across the island, including two hotels in Santa Cruz das Flores, the town with the airport.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

They can read all about it here: http://www.tripper.pt/travel/portugal/what-to-do-in-the-azores-part-8-flores-island

 

And now for Madeira and Emma…

Name and Blog Name/URL

Hi, I am Emma and I am one fifth of Journey Of A Nomadic Family. Our blog can be found at: www.journeyofanomadicfamily.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

We have just spent 30 days in Madeira; an island in the mid-Atlantic which belongs to Portugal. It is just south-east of the Arzores Islands and level with Marrakesh, Morocco.

Photo Credit- Journey of a Nomadic Family

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

The beauty of Madeira is that you could spend as little as three days on this island or thirty plus. There’s lots to do but it does help if you have an interest in the natural world.

Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Travels to This Island?

My favourite memory from staying on this island is the PR1 hike that leaves Pico Areerio and heads to Pico Ruivo. It is a very challenging circular hike of 15km that underlates heavily around the mountainsides, through tunnels, over rock slides, up lots of steps and through the clouds. We made it back just in time before it got dark and we appeared at 1800 metres, hiking up through the clouds to see the sun just sitting on the clouds. It was a very special moment filled with equal amounts of relief and awe.

Photo Credit- Journey of a Nomadic Family

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Madeira provides everything from coach tours to rock-climbing and beach holidays to 4×4 adventures. You could hire a car and go off the beaten track to explore the rock pools at Prainhas (a little known secret if you can find them) or you could have a tour around a winery. You can discover the black sands at Seixal or sit on the yellow sands of Calhetta. Why not stand on the Cabo girao skywalk and look through the glass to the waves below. If you fancy a spot of history, head over to the old town of Funchal to the see the 17th century forte and the old painted doors. No trip to Madeira is complete without a ride on their Teleferico cable cars and a must see is the Tropical Gardens of Monte Palace.

Photo Credit- Journey of a Nomadic Family

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

As a vegan, my best meal out was to a restaurant in Funchal called Olives. It sits high above a shopping centre with a sun terrace looking out onto Funchal and the ocean. The food is divine and the service is perfect. My recommendation is the beetroot with walnut cheese for starter. If you’ve got room the desserts are delicious. There is also a meat menu and a vegetarian menu.

Photo Credit- Journey of a Nomadic Family

What Surprised You About this Island?

For a small island there is a HUGE amount to do and I feel as if we didn’t even scratch the service. I really recommend that you hire a car – with a decent engine because those roads can be steep – and get out and explore the inlets and different areas.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

We flew with Easyjet but my husband (who still works in London some days) also flew with Norwegian Air and British Airways. Easyjet flights are cheap but you’re required to pay extra for baggage. The flight is three and half to four hours long from London Gatwick. A shorter route is to fly to and from Lisbon in Portugal.
We rented a house through AirBNB as this gave us greater choice and value for money. There are loads of options though and hotels and house rentals are plentiful.

The language spoken is Portuguese however with long tying links to South Africa and the UK, a large number of people speak good English.

Being part of Portugal, Madeira’s currency is euros. We used cash machines to withdraw money and got a very favourable rate of exchange. The majority of businesses accept card payment but there’s the odd one that doesn’t.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article? 

http://journeyofanomadicfamily.com/ Search for ‘Madeira’.

 

Aren’t the pictures amazing?!?!? Want to add these islands to your list? Here’s a pin 🙂

Photo Credit- Pixabay

*Please note this post contains affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

Island Travel Interviews- Caribbean, Take 4

Photo Credit- Pixabay

Tired of the Caribbean Islands yet? I’m not! I’m super excited to share these interviews from The Wayward Walrus and Diaries From the Window Seat. Guess where we are going this week?! Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Not. Too. Shabby.

FIRST UP…. PUERTO RICO!

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL

 The Wayward Walrus

www.thewaywardwalrus.com

Photo Credit- The Wayward Walrus

Which Islands Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Puerto Rico, my first introduction to the Caribbean! Many times the island gets overlooked by travelers for the Bahamas and Jamaica on many cruise routes and other prominent luxury island destinations like Aruba, the Cayman Islands, or the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico offers the same beautiful tropical Caribbean experience but with budget friendly options for any traveler. It’s also a very easy island to visit for Americans since English is widely spoken and they use the U.S. dollar.

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

            Anywhere from 4 – 7 days.

Photo Credit- The Wayward Walrus

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

There are so many! However horseback riding in the tropical rainforest of El Yunque and taking a boat to the secluded island of Isla de Culebrita were two of my favorite memories.

Photo Credit- The Wayward Walrus

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Hiking through El Yunque National Forest, exploring the beaches on the mainland, taking a boat to an uninhabited island, trying out the local cuisine, night life in San Juan, exploring old San Juan historical Spanish colonial buildings.

Photo Credit-The Wayward Walrus

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

Luquillo Food Kiosks across from a beautiful local beach. The kiosks offer a wide range of local food to select from. 

Photo Credit- The Wayward Walrus

What Surprised You About this Island?

It’s mountainous! I never expected a tropical island in the Caribbean to have a backdrop of beautiful mountains to hike in. 

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g.,where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

I’d definitely stay somewhere around San Juan, in either an Airbnb or hotel. Old San Juan is gorgeous but limited on hotels in the area so Airbnb would be a great option. Downtown San Juan offers a great selection of hotels but is a bit touristy, although still a great home base to venture out to all the spots on the mainland.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

http://www.thewaywardwalrus.com/puerto-rico-archipelago-surprise

NEXT UP… the BAHAMAS!

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Eryn MacGillivray

Diaries From The Window Seat

https://www.diariesfromthewindowseat.com/

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Eleuthera, Bahamas

I chose this island because I have been fortunate enough to go there several times. This allowed me to get a good feel for the island and really explore.

Photo Credit- Diaries from the Window Seat

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

I would recommend staying on this island for a week to two weeks. It depends on whether you need to have activities each day, or if you like to relax at the beach and do nothing. If you can relax, you will be able to last much longer than someone who needs things to do. There aren’t a ton of activities other than playing on the beach or in the water.

What was Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

The beaches! We drove down this sketchy dirt road for half an hour into the middle of nowhere in search of a secret beach. We heard this was the best beach on the island so had to check it out. After parking the car we walked for about 5 minutes and came out onto the most beautiful beach we had ever seen! It was like a movie!

Photo Credit- Diaries From the Window Seat

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Take a ferry to Harbour Island. This island is a short ferry ride away and is great for a day trip! Lots of stuff to do and things to see! It’s a tourists dream town!

Also, if you’re on the island over Christmas, you need to check out a Junkanoo! They are these parades that the towns put on and they all compete against each other for the best costumes, floats and dances. So much work goes into this event and it’s a ton of fun! I even got pulled into the parade one year!

Photo Credit- Diaries From the Window Seat

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

You need to check out Tippy’s! It’s got a great vibe and is located right on the beach. They have amazing food as well. No matter where you eat, make sure you try the conch fritters and cracked conch! I would live off that stuff if I could!

What Surprised You About this Island?

How rural it is! I had never been to a Caribbean Island before so I was expecting large cities like Hawaii. The most you’ll find on these islands are small towns. Although you wouldn’t want to be stuck somewhere without a car, I love how much character each area had!

Photo Credit- Diaries From the Window Seat

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

If you have the funds, I would recommend renting a house on Windermere Island. It’s a private island connected to Eleuthera by bridge. The houses are beautiful and many famous people have stayed in them or owned them. We stayed in the house Princess Diana stayed in for her honeymoon!

You also need to have a car on this island, but don’t get your hopes up for anything fancy! We rented two cars and both were…. interesting! One had no air conditioning and the windows wouldn’t go down (it got hot in there to say the least). The other looked like a tiger had been trapped inside and shredded the entire interior! They got us around the island though, so that’s what really matters!

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

I have a section on my blog dedicated to my travels in the Caribbean. Here’s the link!

https://www.diariesfromthewindowseat.com/category/travel/thecaribbean/

 

Perfect… Just reading this puts me in a more relaxed and fun mood! And weren’t the pictures gorgeous?! I am nearing the end of the Caribbean section of Island Travel Interviews… Is there an island that I am missing that you were hoping to learn more about? Let me know in the comments section, and don’t forget to pin this one for later…

Photo Credit- Pixabay, cropped by Mackinaw Road

AND… don’t forget to make sure you are on my subscribers list by entering your name and email to the left and tagging a friend over on Instagram in order to win this beautiful, inspirational sign by Angela from Angtiques. (Read all of the rules here.) 

**Yes, again… this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation.

Winter 2017 Giveaway Time!!!

It’s Giveaway Time! I want to know… what is the biggest risk you have taken? What was your motivation? Inspiration? Any plans you are unsure of for 2017?

Whatever it is, I hope that your 2017 is off to a fabulous start! And I want to give you this sign to remind you to stay positive. I hope you all find your wings and fly this year. 

Tag a friend over on this photo on Instagram and subscribe to our updates (it’s over on the left side by the menu), and, just like that, you are entered to win. 

Only caveat…. you must have a shipping address within the continental USA.

Winner will be announced on Friday!

Oh, and one more thing, if you already subscribe to our updates, as a Thank You, you are automatically entered to win 😉 If you’re not interested, that’s a-okay too. Just shoot me a quick email or say No Thank You should your name be chosen. 

Wondering who the talent is behind this sign? It’s Angela from Angtiques. She is awesome to work with and I would highly recommend her. You can check out her store over here on Etsy or her Instagram feed here

Island Travel Interviews- Caribbean, Take 3

Photo Credit- Pixabay

This week, I’m back with two fabulous Caribbean Islands (neither of which I’ve been to- ha!), one that seems to be receiving a lot of attention lately, Cuba, and another that, unfortunately, often is confused with the Dominican Republic…it’s Dominica!

Let’s Start With… DOMINICA!

Name and Blog Name/URL

Raghav Modi from Ticker Eats The World

www.TickerEatsTheWorld.Com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Dominica (not to be confused with Dominican Republic)

Photo Credit- Ticker Eats the World

Dominica stood out among all the other Caribbean islands that we visited, during a 14-day cruise, because of the spotlight they shine on nature. While the Caribbean islands are famous for their beaches, underwater and over-water activities, the tropical aspect of the islands is often pushed back, but in Dominica it was the exact opposite. Waterfalls, jungles, quirky attractions like a school bus crushed under a giant tree, no wonder Dominica is also referred to as “The Nature Island”.

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

Many dream of spending a life living the island life, but since we all can’t do that, I would recommend at least 4-5 days minimum are required to make the most of what Dominica has to offer.

We covered a very minute part of the island in a single day, but being on a cruise, that one day was very satisfying, and gave us a good glimpse into what one can expect if they had more time.

What was Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

The hike to Middleham Falls deep inside the forest was not just the highlight of our day in Dominica, but one of the top attractions from our entire cruise vacation.

The trip included a drive through some of the most common tourist spots, to reach the starting point of a 45 minute hike with a well informed guide who spoke about the importance that nature holds for the locals.

Photo Credit- Ticker Eats the World

He went on to show and share wonders from the plant world – a leaf that tasted like an apple, man flower so called because it resembles a certain anatomical part of a male – and eventually led us to the cascading Middleham Falls that proved to be perfectly refreshing for the now sweating bodies of the hikers.

A dip in the plunge pool and the hike back followed by some local rum punch, it was truly a wonderful day.

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Besides the hike to the Middleham Falls mentioned above, there are a lot more impressive waterfalls across the island that are easily approachable and equally pleasing.

However, one activity that we missed out on – due to time – but was much talked about was tubing down the river and that is something I would go back to Dominica for.

Dominica is one of the few islands that presents its visitors with enough activates, both on land and in water, and can be appreciated by individuals of all ages.

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

No particular restaurant, but after the hike, I went for a stroll with my wife along the port which houses a number of small local eateries and pubs, and had the opportunity to taste the local Kubuli beer and totally recommend that you give it a try.

Photo Credit- Ticker Eats the World

What Surprised You About this Island?

After having been to islands that boasted beautiful beaches and beautiful snorkeling and diving spots, Dominica was different as it focused on in-land activities as opposed to sea based attractions. But, that is not to say Dominica doesn’t have breathtaking beaches.

Photo Credit- Ticker Eats the World

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)? 

In a perfect world, you should spend a few days exploring Dominica, but having said that, even one day via the cruise was quite interesting and definitely something you can look into doing.

The people are extremely friendly and tourism is a huge part of their revenue, so they treat everyone with smiles and are forthcoming to help or recommend activities.

You can research the web and book attractions beforehand, especially like the hike to Middleham Falls as that required government ticket/permission – one cannot just simply drive there and start hiking – and a tour operator gets all the menial work done.

We stayed on the ship, but there are a number of luxurious and cheap options available on the island to suit all budgets.

The best way to get around the island would be by taxi. I am also a big supporter of helping the locals, so hiring a guide who can share more insight into the island is also preferred.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

The Green Dominica – https://tickereatstheworld.com/2017/01/03/captivating-caribbean-the-green-dominica/

Hidden Nature: Middleham Falls – https://tickereatstheworld.com/2016/09/04/hidden-nature-middleham-falls/

 

And Now For… CUBA!

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Paint Play and Travel

www.paintplayandtravel.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

I’ve chosen Cuba, the pearl of the Caribbean, because it is a unique place in the world. Just like a mosaic made of contrasts, its beauty consists of its rich culture, dramatic history, friendly people and amazing nature.

Photo Credit- Paint Play and Travel

 

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

The more the better since Cuba has too much to see and experience. However, I think a couple of weeks will do for first-timer visitors.

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

Cuban music! It is impossible to stand still to the hypnotizing rhythms of the drums and the charm of the singers.

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Go snorkeling/ diving in the blue-turquoise Caribbean waters. Cuba is one of the top diving destinations in the world. The beauty of the reefs will give you a memory for life.

Photo Credit- Paint Play and Travel

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

I don´t recommend Cuban restaurants. Unfortunately, most of the times you pay too much for bad quality food. However, if you’re staying at a Cuban house (casa particular), I do recommend you to eat with the family. They will make delicious, fresh food for you.

What Surprised You About this Island?

The strength of its people. Cubans have endured, and are still enduring enormous lacks and problems. Nevertheless, they always hold a smile on their faces, and a positive outlook on life.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

It is much better to stay at a Cuban home (a Cuban air bnb) than in a hotel. It is cheaper and you will learn more about Cuban culture and way of living.

Don’t bring American dollars. Since the U.S. has an ongoing embargo on the island, it reciprocates paying you a lot less for your dollars. The same applies to American credit cards. Credit cards from the rest of the world work fine. If you want to bring cash, Euros are the best option.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?         

 http://paintplayandtravel.com/blog/cuba/

 

 

Like what you learned? Why not put a Pin on it? Here’s a readily pin-able image..

Photo Credit- Pixabay

 

**Please not that this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

Decorating with Travel Trinkets

Full disclosure (again): just the word “trinket” makes me cringe. And, yet we find ourselves tempted to buy souvenirs or street art all the time. Luckily, my inner voice often stops us. That said, we have found ourselves in possession of said trinkets because they do remind us of a fabulous beach vacation or a memorable experience. Here is how we have decorated with them…

We have tried to be somewhat discreet. I almost feel like it is more fun for guests in our home to “find” these trinkets than to walk into a room and have them front and center. (I promise, we won’t make you play too many games if you ever come to visit.;)  We have our Indian elephants that we picked up at the Dillihut on our desk in the corner of our living room. I also have a tea cup that my grandmother purchased for me from the Bahamas in our butler’s pantry passthrough. Again, in full view, but not front and center.

We also have decided to leave some things for our own enjoyment. While we love telling people where the elephants and tea cup came from, it is also special to us that we keep some of our “treasures” to our more private rooms. We just moved my husband’s home office into the children’s previous playroom on our second level. It houses, well, another wooden elephant (I think we may be slightly obsessed) and a chess board my husband got from India that he and our daughter have enjoyed playing with lately. We have a framed sketch of India Gate from Dillihut in one corner, too. While we gladly show off his office, it is also a space that is mainly for our family and our special “trinkets.” Oh, and there is a password to enter, too… of course.

Some “souvenirs” are readily identifiable, clearly the elephants are from India and the tea cup with the huge hibiscus flower is from the Bahamas… but did you know that the anchor hooks and sea creature decorations in the kids’ bathroom are from New Orleans? Yep, I went all the way to NOLA just to choose some bathroom decor. In all actuality, it was a bit of a fluke. At the time I had a 4-year old and 1-year old at home, so shopping by myself was, well,… AMAZING!!! I had been looking for something for this small space and found it on a trip. Bonus? Every time I’m giving the kids a bath, I think of our New Orleans trip.

I’m embarrassed to even admit how many photos we have saved on our computer… for our computer’s enjoyment maybe? But we have managed to pull a couple off and find time to have them printed. We have our Lake Michigan photos scattered throughout the house as well as some favorites from our jaunts to Chicago.

How do you incorporate your travel “trinkets” or “souvenirs” or photos into your home?

Feel any of this is pin-worthy? I have a pin for that 🙂

**As always, this post contains affiliate links, meaning that, if you click on them, I may receive some compensation.