The Cloisters on Paradise Island, Bahamas

 

Island Travel is amazing… white powder-sand beaches, clear turquoise water, peach-colored sunsets, blue skies with wispy white clouds, and, of course, yummy drinks. Paradise Island has all of these things… and more.

Having a father who used to teach history, I have become accustom to travel that involves some sort of history lesson. This schooling, however, has the benefit of taking place in paradise.

The French Cloisters is located in the One and Only Ocean Club’s Versailles Gardens. It overlooks Nassau Harbour. The Cloisters is what remains from a 14th century French Monastery and is made of stone.

 

William Randolf Hearst, a US newspaper businessman, originally purchased the Cloisters. It was later bought from his estate by Huntington Hartford and shipped to the Bahamas. The stones were not labeled properly; as such, it took artist/sculptor, Jean Castre-Manne, two years to make it look similar to the original.

All history lessons aside, The Cloisters is also a perfect wedding site.. you can certainly see why. My husband and I are are already plotting our points to convince at least one of our children to get married there.

The Cloisters is an easy supplement to your hopefully nonexistent schedule in order to add some history to your beach vacation on Paradise Island.  It is definitely worth the short walk to check it out.

What about you? Do you try to add a little history or learning even when you are on a sun-and-sand trip?

Have I convinced you to visit The Cloisters? Here is a pin to save this info for your next trip.

 

Resources:

http://www.bahamas.com/vendor/cloisters

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/paradise-island/attractions/the-cloister

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

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!