Archive for March 7th, 2009

Travel_log_ Miami_feb 2009


We had the chance to start and stop this trip in Miami (Thanks to Alaska Airs direct service from Seattle) .  If you have not had the chance to be a tourist in Miami- I suggest you do it.  South Beach with the restored Art Deco buildings is really quite something.  We tagged along with a local museum tour as they explained all the lingo with Art Deco-eeybrows, frozen waterfalls, decals, porches and so on.

I noticed that the locals are much more active than other cities – it is more like California/Vancouver this way. If your loved one likes to shop. Lincoln Ave is a good place to stay away from.  The shoe stores alone will break you.

Enjoy the snaps.


Art Deco in South Beach
Image by Suburban Kat via Flickr
Ocean Drive - South Beach, View towards the no...
Image via Wikipedia
Miami Beach, Florida: Girls dancing at Mango's...
Image via Wikipedia
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Travel_log_St Lucia_feb 2009

st-lucia-soufriere-petit-piton12CastriesSt. Lucia

We fell in love with this Jewel in the Caribbean. After we waited fruitlessly for the scooter guy who was operating on island time, we lucked out with Guys Car Rental ( Elvis (not Presley) came up with a little Mitsubishi car. After a few quick tips, we headed off to Gros Islet at the very tip of the island, where we set eyes on the first stunning views of St. Lucia.

You see the Atlantic crashing on the west side and balmy Caribbean gently caressing the eastern shores. This is just past Raffles Golf and Country club – immaculate greens and obviously no waiting at $285 a round.

We turned around and threaded our Mitsubishi through the grid lock of Castries, the capital and headed south to Soufriere (Sulphur in French) home of the twin Pitons, Petit and Gros – the twin peaks made famous in Romancing the Stone. We wound up and down this hilly trek, it took all of 90 minutes to cover 37 km. A paved road all the way but enough pot holes to lose one’s car in. A real driving challenge. In this part of the world you don’t pave unnecessarily – roads are narrow, ditches are open and deep, and drivers become very cautious. The scenery on this hilly west coast was stunning- you had to stop so often just to capture another once in a lifetime shot.

We got in beach time and met up with another Canadian, Chester (from Chatham, Ont.) who has been spending 6 months every year for the last 30 years in this little paradise. He let us in on the local highlights – terrific scuba dive sites, a good scuba shop, good sailing, great fresh food. We were convinced just with the swim we had – warmest water yet, refreshing and cleansing too. We decided to check out the Caribbean’s only (famous) drive-in volcano and sulphur hot springs. Bad mistake! It was inundated with tour groups. We turned turtle and headed back to Castries.

Dropped off the car at the airport, spotted a little Caribbean snack shack on the beach across the road and zeroed in on their local menu. With a nice cold Piton beer in hand, fresh rotis, chicken curry & hot sauce on our plates we watched the Barbados/British cricket match with a group of islanders.

St. Lucia, a definite destination for island lovers!

Romancing the Stone
Image via Wikipedia
Pigeon Island National Park
Image via Wikipedia
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St. John, Antigua

Thanks to Noel Jackson (Govinda’s Scooter Rentals), our transportation today was a Peugeot Scooter to traverse the Island with. He pointed us towards Darkwood Beach which was supposed to be an easy 20 min ride out provided we could find our way out of this hairy, congested little town of Antigua. After much cursing & swearing on Amanda’s part, we finally wound our way out towards the coast. Reg took a dip in the ocean at Darkwood Beach, then on to other beaches. We came across a fabulous spot called Carlisle Bay where we stopped for another dip, even found an empty conch shell as a keepsake. Our next destination was supposed to be the highest point but our gas tank was showing close to ¼ tank, there was no gas station in sight so we cautiously trundled our way through Fig Tree Drive (a rainforest grove), stopping to enjoy more coastal scenery until the signs led us back to St. Johns. Our Peugeot was not built for North American frames, towards the end of the day, Amanda’s thighs were crying out in pain. Noel was glad to see us back in one piece, with no dents or scratches to his vehicle. We did a walking tour of down town Antigua, stopping at the local market & chatting with a couple of vendors about spices. Stopped for a quick bite of curry chicken roti in a little side alley cafe (Paradise Cafe) washed down with a cold Wadaddli beer.  Amanda was able to supplement her sandal collection with a locally made all leather hand tooled product.

We are thoroughly amazed at how friendly and helpful the Islanders are in all these islands – one can never really get lost. It has been a godsend for the number of times we had taken more wrong turns than right ones. There are limited road signs & directions. I actually saw my life flash before my eyes when Reg took a turn towards oncoming traffic once and another time headed down a one-way street the wrong way! We were saved by a tooting horn behind us. I could just hear it……”G..damn tourists!”

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Travel_log_Samana_Feb 2008

samana_Dominican republic

Santa Barbara de Samana

As we were quite unprepared and having read about the problems in Samana, one of the lesser known towns in the Dominican Republic, we decided to wing it and take our chances. We did a walking tour which turned out to be a fruitful adventure.

The “pride of Samana” is a set of two causeways out to a tiny island at the harbour mouth. Getting there was unprepossessing as the locals seemed to have carved out a new road which was left as red dirt and dust. It was longer than it looked. The walk along the causeway was interesting, it provided us with great views of down town Samana, it also took us to several ruins (which could have either been houses or resorts). We then ended up at a quiet beach (part of a rather ostentatious resort with their own elevator to the beach), and our first step onto white sand and blue seas of the Caribbean. No begging on the beaches like Mexico and very friendly locals. This was a good start to the trip.

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Travel log_Barbados_Feb 2009


A second British invasion! This brought about 40,000 Brits to this little gem of an island for a cricket test match, plus 3 cruise ships in port totally wiped out our chances of renting a mini-moke or scooter in Bridgetown! Our only alternative was to hire a private tour guide, Ron, to see the Island. Ron was very entertaining; he showed us the most famous resorts on the West side of the Island, including Sandy Lane where Tiger Woods was married.  He seemed somewhat disappointed that we did not want to see Cliff Richard‘s house. Although he did point out where Tom Sellick had property.  This side of the island is very developed, with more condos and resorts under construction, preventing the unwashed such as ourselves from seeing much of the famed beaches.  Yes, it sure is a money place!

We continued inland where fields of rippling sugar cane stretched as far as you can see, rising out of dark, fertile soil, allowing Barbados to maintain a sugar industry (perhaps ethanol in future). The east coast is completely different, beaches with rolling thunderous breakers and strong currents to catch the unwary surfboarder wind surfer – you certainly can see why the World Championships are held here. Unfortunately we didn’t get much beach time as the weather wasn’t cooperating.

We asked the question, is the island better off being independent – Ron felt yes, but that no political party should have too many sessions – perhaps two is one too many!  Before he dropped us off in downtown Bridgetown, Ron serenaded Amanda with a lovely strong voice – a serenade to encourage us to return to the island of Barbados

Cliff Richard in 2006.
Image via Wikipedia
Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
Image by jzakariya via Flickr
Image by Getty Images via Daylife
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Travel Log_Tortola_Feb 2009

tortola-smugglers-cove4Road Town, Tortola

We have Everton McMaster ( to thank for a truly memorable day in Tortola. A hot blue Suzuki scooter and tips on the best sights & eating establishments, his parting shot being, “Don’t forget to drive on the left!” We headed off, somewhat unsteadily through down town Tortola to our destinations. Little did we know what was in store for us, an incredibly scenic drive to Smugglers Cove. Aside from forgetting how to unlock the baggage compartment & leaving the kickstand down (we were rescued by the locals during these instances), the Suzuki was a dream to drive. Tortola has a very healthy economy with a strong British influence brooking no nonsense on the roads & thoroughfares. We came immediately face to face with this approach when we met up with numerous prolific speed bumps on all the roads especially around churches, schools, small villages & entrances to resorts.

The Island is quite small with an absence of conspicuous road signs, thus our journey to Smugglers Cove took many unexpected turns. However every turn gave us another stunning scene. Just when we were about to give up hope in finding it, we turned into Smugglers Cove. What a stunning discovery

Imagine a pocket bay with waves crashing on rocks at the entrance, brilliant white sand, azure blue water washing gently onto shore, Pelicans diving for fish among the coral reefs. It was hard to decide what to do first. We walked about 15 ft and had our own private piece of beach to ourselves. In all, there were a handful of people on the beach which included 4 from Seattle, 4 from Virginia, and Patricia, who barbecued scrumptious jerk chicken on the beach (as well as $3.00 rum pain killers). We all seemed to have found our own tiny slice of paradise that even a very brief Caribbean shower could not deter us from dashing into the waves. As the blue sky & heat returned, everywhere we looked it seemed like another Corona beer commercial. There went our agenda for the day, we could not peel ourselves away from the Cove – it seemed senseless! Our new found US buddies provided us with umpteen tips of what islands to visit, (e.g. Jost Van Dyke, home of the famous sailors bar) plus accommodation tips.

It’s a sailing haven with continuous breezes and sail boats everywhere you look, amazing cats & yachts. We finally tore ourselves away from Smugglers Cove with our friends reminding us that this is the best & prettiest spot in the Caribbean. Off we went, after many wrong turns, to Long Bay, Cane Bay, Brewers Beach. The trusty Suzuki was flat out going through some of the steepest hills & switchbacks we have ever experienced. Our next target was Sage Mountain National Park, which we did find after going up the wrong mountain & dogging a few aggressive watch dogs that were willing to take a chunk out of our legs or tires.

At Sage Mountain, we of course took the long way up to the view point. Thank goodness we met Keith when we finally got to the lookout. An NCL employee stationed in Hawaii, who had lived in Tortola for many years. The view was stunning, he pointed out Peter Island, owned by the Amway founders & explained the culture of Tortola. Keith showed us the shortest route back to the parking lot, down the mountain, and back to down town, via one of the longest, steepest hills I’ve ever driven down. It was brakes all the way. He threaded us through the mazes & roundabouts & pointed us in the direction of our destination. We delivered our trusty machine back to Everton, safe & sound, making this a home run day!


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