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.

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.

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.

 

Travel Gift Guide by Mackinaw Road

 

I do not like February. Despite it being my birthday month and housing Valentine’s Day, it is just not my month. Last year, I was determined to make it my month, went out for a run, and returned with a broken jaw. So, March wasn’t really my month either. I’m on to a new strategy for this February. Lay low. While I’m “laying low”, I’ve had some time to come up with a Valentine’s Day wish list for the traveler in your life/me.

Moment Lenses and Case– I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wanted to bring our nice camera along on a trip, only to not have room to pack it or not want to lug it around or been in fear that it would knock one of the kids out while they were hanging on me because they needed to be carried. Problem solved with these lenses and case that fit right on to your phone. Genius.

Ebags Packing Cubes– Love these, Need these. Don’t you love it when you think you’ve gotten a great deal on a flight only to find out that each of your bags is going to be an additional $25 each way upon check in? Enter the ebag packing cubes. Now, we can pack one big suitcase but still have some separation of clothes.

Little Passports– Want to include your little ones in Valentine’s Day and your travels? This subscription looks super fun and a great way to learn about the world. You can order based on age or product (e.g., Early Explorers, USA Edition, World Edition).

Okay this is an oldie but goodie- but less expensive- yay! Need some organization in your life? Check out this Travel Cord Roll. 

Hey you! Yeah, you. The one with the sparkle in your eyes. This one is for you. Make your trip even more fun with these Anywhere Travel Guide cards.

Looking for some wall art for the Traveler in your life? I love this print you can easily get from BonsoirStudio on Etsy.

True there isn’t any chocolate or lingerie on this list, but I’m willing to bet that the traveler in your life will still be thrilled. (Keep in mind- this is my wish list, so I haven’t tried nor am I endorsing the products, but they still look pretty awesome, right?!?)

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

** Don’t forget to keep an eye out for a Giveaway this month. I’ll be announcing it over on Instagram as well as on the blog.

My Ultimate Travel Bucket List

Hello again from cloudy Michigan! Last week, I asked you what was on your Travel Bucket List. This week, I share the Top 10 Places on My Ultimate Travel Bucket List. Since this is a family-friendly travel blog, I’ve included some fun facts to share with your kids, grandkids, neighbor kids… grown-up friends who act like kids… really anyone.

Photos courtesy of Pixabay
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Australia: Australia has always intrigued me. How great would it be to be there right now, enjoying sunny skies and catching a little tennis? Seeing the 12 Apostles would definitely be on my list, too. I do have to admit that binge reading all of Liane Moriarty’s books (affiliate link) this past summer has increased my fascination as well.  And, can you believe that we know two families from our small town who are traveling to Australia in the next year?  That seems like an unlikely coincidence and also an indication that we should probably book some tickets too.

Did you know… that it is believed that humans have lived in Australia for an estimated 45000 years? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Turks and Caicos: I am a huge fan of Caribbean travel. We have been to several islands, including Paradise Island (Bahamas), Grand Caymen, St. Kitts, and Aruba. Every time that I see a photo of Turks and Caicos, I am drawn to it. I can’t quite explain it (maybe it is the white sand, turquoise water, or sunny skies.. maybe?), but it seems like Turks and Caicos and our family would be very compatible.

Did you know…that there are dozens of underwater cave systems in Turks and Caicos? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Colorado: Can you believe I have lived in the United States my entire life and have never been to Colorado? I don’t think I know another person in my city or state who hasn’t been to Colorado. I feel like it must be fairly special because people leave our snowy state to go to another snowy state (what?!?) instead of heading for an all-inclusive in Jamaica.

Did you know… that Colorado is the only state to have turned down the Olympics? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Greece: My parents have such a wild and crazy story about traveling to Greece that it has always had a place in my memory (probably because we all live the opposite of wild and crazy lives). My dad often spoke of Greece fondly and, when I lived in Chicago, it was our tradition to head to Greek Town for dinner. For whatever reason, I just have always wanted to go because my dad seemed to love it so much.

Did you know… that Greece is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Portugal: While I have memories of my dad talking about Greece, Portugal is on my mom’s bucket list. Herein, I also feel enthralled with this country and would love to go someday, hopefully, on a family vacation.

Did you know…that Lisbon (Portugal’s capital city) is the oldest city in Western Europe? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Sweden: Although I am not Swedish, I have been asked several times, especially when I lived in Chicago, if I am Sweedish. Believe me, when I had my children, I often wished I lived in Sweden and could be given the maternity leave that seemed to make sense. It just seems like a place of peace and logical thinking. Oh, and the landscape doesn’t look too shabby either.

Did you know… that Sweden’s official name is the Kingdom of Sweden? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Switzerland: I don’t know much about this country other than Roger Federer represents it quite well. Again, though, judging from pictures of the mountains and the opportunity for outside activity, I think I would be very comfortable.

Did you know… that Switzerland has been a neutral country in war times for over 190 years?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Italy: While in college, I spent 3 weeks in Vienna for summer school. Afterward, several of us traveled south. We spent time in France and Spain… and only one day in Italy. I’d love to return to be able to explore more of the larger cities and history of the country. And, the Amalfi Coast, of course.

Did you know… that Campione d’Italia is in the borders of Switzerland but is part of Italy? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Texas: I really didn’t think twice about Texas until Fixer Upper. Now, it’s on my list. Waco, Texas, to be specific. (Yes, you read that correctly. A destination made my list based on an HGTV show.) I just think it is amazing how two people can really breathe a new life into not only homes but also a town and its inhabitants.

Did you know… that Waco, Texas, is the place where Dr. Pepper came to be? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Vancouver, Canada: Again, you can thank HGTV for this one. I enjoy watching Love It or List It Too not only for the fun little competition my husband and I have going (yes, he is a really good sport about my HGTV addiction) but also because of the beautiful scenery. It looks like a city I’d like to check out.

Did you know… that overall Vancouver is English-speaking but 52% of its city residents’ first language is one other than English? (Source)

*Please note that the pictures above are not my own. They were taken from Pixabay– thank you! Hopefully, someday soon, I will have my own photos to share.

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

***While I’m asterisk-ing… I’d love for you to come visit me over on Instagram and Pinterest. See you there!

****And get ready for a giveaway next month, too!!!

Oh, and in case you are wondering what we are up to while we are grounded, here are some photos (these are mine) of our day at the beach last weekend. It was sunny and 60 degrees in January! 

Photo credit- Mackinaw Road
Photo credit- Mackinaw Road
Photo credit- Mackinaw Road

24 Hours in West Michigan

Someone recently posed the question… What would you do in your city if it was your last 24 hours there? Good question. First, I would cry… because I really do love where I live. Second, I would be all over West Michigan because it would be too difficult to stay in one city, and, with the ease of travel here, why not? Third, how has this not been a dinner conversation topic before? Move over crazy toddler stories, there’s a new topic in town.

I would begin my day with a nice jog around Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids. Waking up to perfectly aligned swans and a gorgeous sunrise? Yes please.

Reeds Lake

Fortunately, the purpose of that run would be more for scenery than good health because I would then head straight to D’arts Donuts in Eastown for a beignet and to-go of Madcap coffee.

D’arts Donuts

After a 40 minute drive to Holland, I would head out to the Big Red Lighthouse and pier to watch boats going out for the day.

Big Red

Because it is difficult to leave the lake on a beautiful day,  Saugatuck State Park would be next on the list for a hike through the woods and a beach walk.

Saugatuck State Park

I’d finish with lunch at New Holland Pub on 8th and a stroll through downtown Holland.

New Holland Brewery

Back in Grand Rapids, I would stop by the GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum) because it is the one place I keep meaning to get to and haven’t.

GRAM. Photo credit- Griggs and Woodward

Dinner would most definitely be at Donkey Taqueria…

Donkey Taqueria

Followed by an outdoor concert at Fredrick Meijer Gardens.

Fredrick Meijer Gardens

And back to the lakeshore for a sunset.

Lake Michigan Sunset

So, apparently, I would really just want to eat a lot and be by some of the lakes that make Michigan such a great state in my last 24 hours in West Michigan. Oh, and the remainder of the evening and into the night would be spent with family and friends talking, planning, and reflecting on this porch…

Now, I’d love to hear from you… What are your must-sees and must-dos in your home city?

*Please excuse the multitude of seasons in the photographs… but now you have an idea of the ever-changing weather of Michigan! 

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

Amazing Desserts from Around the World, Part II

 

Next up, my new friend, Nerin and her amazing Tres Leches cake.

Sunset at the Lake Party

This past summer, we were at a lake party, and Nerin brought two cakes. I, of course, went directly for the chocolate one, but she encouraged me to try the Tres Leches cake as well. Since we were new friends and she had a very convincing Costa Rican accent, I cut a small piece of the Tres Leche cake, too. And then another. And another. And when she offered to pack some up for us to take home, I said “yes please.” And then my kids ate it before we even got in the car. I am so thankful that she is one of those amazing cooks who shares her recipes. Thank you, Nerin!

Nerin’s Tres Leche Cake

Nerin makes this cake with her sister in Costa Rica. I love the idea of baking with family, especially around the holidays. So much so that I keep trying to bake with my kids. I have to say that this cake kept their attention right up to end, which is quite an accomplishment. I think it may have had something to do with the whipped cream and sprinkles.

TRES LECHES CAKE

Ingredients:
4 eggs
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of all purpose white flour
1 tsp of baking powder
2 oz cold water
1 can condensed milk, 14 oz can
1 can evaporated milk, 12 oz can
1 heavy whip cream container, 8 oz
1 large cool whip, 16 oz container
Sprinkles

Separate the egg whites from the yolks, set the yolks aside. Sift the flour with the baking powder and set aside.

Mix at high speed the egg whites until stiff. Slowly, add 1 egg yolk at a time alternating with the sugar. Add the sifted flour and at the end, the cold water.

Place the mix in a rectangle 15″ by 10″ pyrex, previously sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake at 350F for approximately 25 minutes until a tooth pick comes out clean. Once ready, pull out of the oven, cool down for 10 minutes and insert a fork on the top of the cake every 2″ apart, in order to allow the liquids to seem into the cake.

Mix the condensed milk, evaporated milk and the heavy whip cream. Pour this mix over cake while it is still warm. Place in the refrigerator until totally cold.

At the end cover with as much cool whip as wanted and decorate with sprinkles.

*The second time I made this cake, I had shopped at a small grocery that did not carry cool whip or evaporated milk. For the cool whip replacement (and the heavy whipped cream), I whipped 32 ounces of heavy whipping cream with 1/3 cup of sugar (because, hey, we all know that there needs to be some left in the bowl for the bakers). For the evaporated milk, I used 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup half ‘n half. 

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

Day-After Recipes

 

day-after recipesThe Holiday Season is officially upon us. Lots of good food, good times, and good drinks are in our immediate future. I have already bought the ingredients for my Day-After recipes to get myself feeling healthy again. These are my top 3 contenders for the Day After I return from traveling as well. No matter how hard I try, I just almost always need the upgrade to french fries, at least one McDonald’s breakfast in the airport, and dessert, dessert, dessert.

Full disclosure… I don’t always love smoothies. However, I was forced into it after literally falling on my face last winter. That’s right. 6 weeks of soup and smoothies, so I do consider myself somewhat of an expert. And, these are so good that I still make them even though my jaw is back in working order.

Apple Pineapple Smoothie

A friend stopped by the day after my face plant with a big grocery bag from Trader Joe’s with all of the below goodness just ready to be blended.

Ingredients: apple (any sweet pink or red variety will do), 1 cup of frozen pineapple, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 cup greek/Siggis yogurt, and a handful of kale/spinach. Blend. Enjoy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

Pure Chocolate Peanut Butter goodness~ is there any better combination?

Ingredients: large handful of spinach, 2 TBSP of Peanut Butter, 2 TBSP of honey, 2 TBSP of cocoa, 1 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Blend. Pour over ice (or blend the ice with the other ingredients). Yum.

Robin’s Healthy Lentil Soup

I have to admit that as I read through Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine, this was not the first recipe that was on my list to try. However, feeling in need of something healthy one day, I decided to give it a shot. It seemed pretty basic- carrots, celery, lentils, etc., etc. But then you drizzle balsamic vinegar in at the eleventh hour, and it transforms into one of the most delicious soups.  I haven’t ever blended it, as the directions suggest one should, because, well, I’ll admit, I can only handle so much blending in my life. 

Here is the link to Robin’s Healthy Lentil Soup or you can also find it in Shauna’s book Bread and Wine, which I would highly recommend. 

Whether it’s the Day After a holiday party or the Day After your return from a trip (hopefully, not the Day After a broken jaw), I hope you find these recipes useful in your recovery.

** please note that affiliate links are contained in this post, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation.