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 2

Photo Credit- Pixabay

Welcome Back! Have you booked your Caribbean trip yet? Waiting to see all of your options first? This week, we hear about Utila from Aaron of My Sweet Adventures and Jamaica from Khristina of Global Jamaican. So, without further ado…

First Up… UTILA

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Aaron Sweet, www.mysweetadventures.com

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

Utila, Honduras – I fell in love with this Island when I went there in 2011 to complete my Divemaster course.  The friendly people, the amazing diving, the WHALE SHARKS, the proper Caribbean island feel – it was just incredible.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

As long as you can! The joke is there are three lies on Utila – 1) I’m leaving the island tomorrow 2) I’m not drinking tonight 3) I love you.  The island sucks you in and before you know it you have spent 3 months there, and THEN you leave for 6 months, and come back on the way home!

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

My favorite memory was swimming with Whale Sharks for the first time.  In Honduras you cannot dive with them, you can only snorkel – when the captain told me to jump off the back of the boat and the bubbles cleared to see a 10 m fish swimming towards me – I was hooked.  It will stay with me for the rest of my life.

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

You have to visit the Jade Seahorse Resort and in particular Treetanic Bar – voted a few years ago by Lonely Planet as one of the top 5 bars in the world – it is a truly magical place.  You also have to go diving – if you can get to the North Side of the island this is more rugged and has some incredible dives.  I highly recommend diving with Utila Dive Centre – the Course Director, Andy Phillips is a true professional.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

My favourite is RJ’s BBQ – it is opposite Utila Dive Centre and has huge servings of BBQ.  It is only open on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday so plan accordingly!

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)?

You will get free accommodation if you go diving, for a certain amount of nights.  Some dive centers have accommodation on-site. UDC doesn’t, but the Mango Inn is still a great place to chill out.  If you are flying in from overseas, consider flying direct to Roatan Island and taking a boat/ferry across from there – it is probably the easiest way. There are also flights to Utila available but they are expensive.  If you are flying into Tegulcigalpa or San Pedro Sula, be wary of these cities as they are dangerous – pay extra for the most expensive buses – I used Hedman Alas which have armed guards and security before getting on the bus.  On the island, the islanders all speak at least some English – I spent three months there and didn’t improve my spanish at all! The money is Lempiras – its around 23/24 to one USD. While Honduras is very cheap, Utila is a bit more expensive due to its popularity for backpackers and the need to get everything from the mainland.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

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

My full blog article is located here: www.mysweetadventures.com/utila

 

And Next Up… JAMAICA!

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Khristina – Global Jamaican – www.globaljamaican.com

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

Jamaica – It’s where I was born and raised; No matter where I am or where I travel to, Jamaica will always hold my heart.

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

Weekend trips are good if you want to explore one part of the island at a time; but you’ll need a week or more if you’d like to explore more.

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

One of my favorite memories is the view from sitting on the verandah of the home I grew up in, located in Discovery Bay.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

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

There are so many! If I had to pick one, I’d say to spend a day at Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay.

Have you ever been in water so clear that you can see tiny fishes swimming at your feet? A visit to Montego Bay is not complete without a day at Doctor’s Cave. It is said that the water has healing powers and was made famous after Sir Herbert Barker, a British Osteopath, visited in the 1920s and later wrote an article about it. Located only 5 minutes from the airport, you can watch the planes descend to land, while soaking up the warm Caribbean sun.

The island also offers other activities for every interest. Everything from adventure tours like zip lining, horseback riding, and climbing waterfalls, to relaxing tours like rafting slowly down the Martha Brae River or enjoying a sunset cruise. There are way too many to mention.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

Again, way too many to mention. Jamaica is a food lover’s paradise. One of my favorite restaurants is also in Montego Bay. Chill Out Hut is located on a secluded beach with Tiki-style seating. They specialize in seafood, but the menu has a good variety for every taste. My favorite is the escovitch fish and bammy. Escovitch is a pickling sauce that is poured on fried fish, and bammy is a traditional Jamaican cassava flat bread.

The atmosphere is lively on weekends, with a band performing right on the sand, creating a real Caribbean vibe. The prices are reasonable and they also have a full bar with a wide variety of drink options.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

What Surprised You About this Island?

Being that I grew up there, I don’t think anything could surprise me. But if I looked in from an outsider’s eyes, one thing would be the amount of different cultures and backgrounds that make up our people. I hear “you don’t look Jamaican” often times when meeting people that have never been to the island. That’s because a lot of people are unaware that Jamaica is made up of a wide variety of ethnicities. Our motto is “Out of Many One People,” meaning that we are a cultural melting pot of people living together as one.

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)?

After visiting Jamaica once, you’ll definitely want to return. I would start with a weekend getaway to an easy destination, like Montego Bay. There are many resorts in close proximity to the airport and a wide variety of things to do. Flights are plentiful from the USA and many have non-stop options. All-inclusive resorts are most popular, but there are many other options as well, including Airbnb.

Most hotels/resorts offer transportation from the airport and if not, there are taxis readily available.

The official language is English and the local currency is Jamaican Dollars, but US Currency is accepted.

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

Two articles from my site that might help:

http://www.globaljamaican.com/2016/09/quick-affordable-weekend-getaway-jamaica.html

http://www.globaljamaican.com/2016/11/must-do-and-eat-in-montego-bay-mobay.html

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