October Favourites

Whew! Where did the year go?

It’s crazy how fast the months are flying by, I guess that’s what happens when you’re knee deep in a new job. But October has been a weird month of ups and downs. The dating thing is just not working out for me and I think this month I reached my emotional limit with the BS. I'm talking, random girl I've only met once coming up to me at a wine tasting to tell me that the guy I was sorta dating but not really dating has a pregnant girlfriend in Tanzania type of BS. I swear I can’t make this stuff up. Some days really are torn out of a Days of Our Lives script. Luckily I'm surrounded by great people and a job I honestly wake up excited for every day.

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I can’t walk into a classroom without an army of students running up to me for a group hug. Teaching and counselling Pre K-6 is a LOT of work! Even though I love what I do, I was super grateful for the escape I got over midterm break last week. It was so necessary to recharge with my closest friends. In addition to quality time spent with friends and family, I found so many fun things on the internet this month, that I’m excited to share with you.

READING

Life After Coffee
By Virginia Franken

I finished reading Virginia Franken’s Life After Coffee novel and honestly, I have a lot of mixed feelings. The main character was someone who at times I sided with, and other times, thought to be the most pretentious person on the planet. The story begins with a woman about to leave for another business trip. She’s a buyer for coffee and takes pride in it. But it’s her son’s birthday and he resents her for travelling so much, while her toddler daughter has an emotional breakdown every time she leaves. On her way to the airport, her boss calls her into the office to fire her because the business is closing down. She then has to learn how to actually be a mother to her autistic son (never specifically stated but it’s obvious) and bratty toddler. Her husband is utterly useless and her ex boyfriend makes a surprise guest appearance. I’m not sure I would recommend reading this, because seriously, she’s pretentious.

MUSIC

I’m in love with the COLORS showcase, so when I found their playlist on Spotify, I had to hit play. I love so many of the songs and discovered new artists like Tank and The Bangas, Tobe Nwigwe, and Seinabo Sey. My taste in music is always evolving, but there’s usually a particular type of rhythm and message that I look for: Feel Good/Woke.

MAKING (or wanting to)

I’m always inspired. Lately I’ve gotten a sudden urge to make a Fall wreath. I know, I know, it’s practically Christmas, but I’ve never made a wreath and I really want to try. I actually bought a wreath making kit from Joann’s (wreath not included) so I’ll give it a try this weekend and let you guys know how that goes.

My favourite recipes from the month were the Creamy Tomato Soup, Apple Pie Egg Rolls and the Acorn Squash Pizza with Spinach and Feta Cheese. I made a lot of treats for Thanksgiving that you’re going to have to wait until next month to see including a special ice cream that requires no machine! I’m also really excited about Christmas cocktails and I’m trying to figure out what my signature Christmas cake will be this year now that I finally have a stand mixer.

For work, I want to try making something called a worry doll. The process is meant to be a meaningful and creative way to explore themes connected to anxiety and worry. Making worry dolls provides a great opportunity for storytelling, to discuss coping, and the repetitive, patterned nature of wrapping the yarn around the clothespin can be soothing and calming.

WENT

I went to several events this month. It started with a wine tasting at Mahogany House (really didn’t like any of the wines this time). I went with my friend Gary and we met up with our friend Denaricka. This is where all of the drama of the hidden baby mama was revealed. That same weekend I went to the International Food and Culture Festival with my family. I ran into a lot of friends, colleagues and old classmates. I tried sio-mai which are Filipino dumplings and although they’re spicy, they’re still really good. I also enjoyed a smooth slushie called the “Panty Rippa” (my underwear stayed in tact). The following week I enjoyed another wine tasting at Young’s Fine Wine.

TRAVEL

This month I got to travel to Miami for midterm break with my best friend Tiana. Miami isn’t anything fancy. I really only went for the shopping and to catch up with my friends from college. When I say we shopped, I mean we shopped! I got 6 new pairs of pants for work, about 4 new jackets for work, 4 new dresses, 6 new pairs of shoes (including Nike AND Puma tennis), over $100 worth of holiday ornaments and wreath making supplies for only $45 (don’t question my skills), workout gear and at least 15 new short-sleeved blouses for work. Since working out my clothes don’t really fit any more, and my new job has a pretty strict dress code, so I needed to get clothes that I could wear to work.

But shopping wasn’t all I did. On the first day we had lunch at a restaurant called Bolay and honestly, I could eat there every single day! There are so many healthy options on the menu. Everything is gluten free and there’s vegan and vegetarian options. The first day I had Basmati rice, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and tofu topped with Parmesan cheese and carrot ginger sauce. The second time I got the exact same order but with sweet potato noddles instead of Basmati rice.

I didn’t get a chance to go to Wynwood other than Ladies Night at R House, but I did go to the Flamingo Road Nursery for the pumpkin patch, hayride, frozen apple cider and paint a pumpkin. We didn’t paint the pumpkins because we were shocked to see how much everything was really for children. The pumpkins were tiny and there were no chairs at the tables to paint the pumpkins so we weren’t about to bend the whole time. Despite this, it was still a fun experience and I’m looking forward to going to more pumpkin patches (for adults).

I had a lot of fun this month. Even though it was off to a rough start and everything didn’t go as planned, I’m really grateful for everything I did get to do. Did you do anything exciting this month? Share your adventures, favourite blog moments or anything you’re looking forward to in the comment section below!

Getting Wet at 27 Charcos in The DR

Hello Lovely,

The last stop on my summer tour is The Dominican Republic. I was really excited about this one. And why shouldn't I be? The mountains, the culture, the coffee! Okay can I just go on record as saying that every time I travel to a foreign country, I must buy coffee. Especially if it's not a predominantly English speaking country. I absolutely hate American coffee (Dunkin Donuts being the only exception) and my favourite is Haitian coffee. Although I must admit, as I write this post, I'm enjoying the hazelnut New Orleans coffee my dad bought me. I prefer medium roast, tolerate light/blonde roasts and basically just NEVER bring me a dark roast.

Whoo! Sorry that was a long, random tangent about coffee. Back to what really matters. The DR! This was my favourite stop! In researching it, I saw that we were going to Amber Cove, which was described as a cay off the DR mainland, so I was a little bummed. But when we arrived and I saw that Amber Cove is actually just the name of the port the ship docks in, and it's very much attached to the DR mainland, I nearly did a cartwheel!

I chose to spend the last stop with my dad and new step mom and sisters. It was the first time I had spent any time with them since the wedding. We were all kind of doing our own thing on the ship. Once we left the ship it was just chaos. The walk felt long in the heat; it's probably the same length as the walk from the ship in Grand Turk. After walking through a gift shop, we were met with various excursion options like ziplining and waterfall adventures. We opted to get a taxi that was supposed to take us on a full tour. Our taxi driver spoke very little English, but we tried our best to use the little Spanish we knew. So a lot of things weren't really explained.

When we first started the tour, there were a lot of empty lots, filled with lush green lands. We passed a lot of businesses and I was surprised to see the price of gas was so high (my calculations may have been wrong but it was about $8 per gallon). Our first stop was the 27 Charcos, one of the waterfalls that can be found in the DR. We thought we would just be going to look at a waterfall, take some pictures and continue the tour. We didn't realise we would have to walk a path to get there. When they started giving us helmets, life jackets and water shoes, we all became increasingly aware of our mortality and wondered what the heck we were getting ourselves into. They said it's a 15 minute hike to the waterfall, once we got there we would jump off and then it would take another 15 minutes to walk back. They strongly advised we carry bottles of water to stay hydrated. At first we weren't going to since it was only a 15 minute walk, but eventually we agreed and trust me, you need to get that water bottle. IT TOOK TWO HOURS!!!!!! We climbed up stairs and steep mountains in dangerously high rainforest temperatures. Then as we approached the top, they told us, we wouldn't be jumping once, but SEVEN times!!!! My camera battery actually died after the first jump.

Here is the video of our trek:

Climbing 27 Charcos on vacation in The Dominican Republic. It takes about 2 hours to do the entire course and you MUST stay hydrated. My camera battery died so I couldn't record all of the jumps.

This is where we actually got annoyed. While the experience was truly amazing and I would recommend it to everyone I know, it was very misleading. Had we known it would've taken 2 hours out of our day, we would've planned better. We could've made it our last stop, or split the group so that half did it, while the other half continued the tour. I felt guilty that the half of the group that didn't do the hike had to sit there the entire time and couldn't leave because they didn't know when we would be coming out. If you're on a cruise with only so many hours at port, this may not be the activity for you if touring is more important.

After that we were so hungry, our priority was to get something to eat before it was time to return to the boat. We were horribly disappointed with the food in Puerto Rico so we were really hoping our luck would change at Polanco. The restaurant has free open WiFi and the staff was very friendly. None of the waitresses spoke English so the manager had to translate for us, but the service was efficient and fast. Even better, our food tasted amazing! The fish just melted in your mouth like a cheesecake! I know that's an odd comparison but I was really impressed. 

After lunch, we really didn't have time for anything. We were approaching 30 minutes to get back onto the ship before the doors would close. We didn't have time to see or do anything else. I barely had time to buy two bags of coffee and a bottle of rum (it's called Brugal Coco-Pineapple infusion rum) 25% alcohol per volume and it tastes absolutely divine! Well maybe divine isn't the right adjective, but you get the picture. If you like fruity drinks, this is the one. It's so smooth, you wouldn't even know it's there so I usually mix it with a dark rum for more a bite. I made a cocktail out of apple juice, plantation rum, the Brugal pineapple rum and peach schnapps and everyone loved it! I practically had to fight the cup back from my best friend, Tiana!

Well that's it for my summer travel adventures! I won't be travelling again until Christmas (maybe). I really hope you guys enjoyed my travel guides. Don't forget to leave a comment in the comment section below to tell me what you thought! If you missed any of them, you can check them out at the end of this post. And if you're planning on travelling soon, don't pack without my new packing checklist. I promise you'll never overpack, under-pack or leave essential items again!

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I Went All The Way To St. Thomas to Get Tatted

Hello Lovely,

The third stop on my cruise was St. Thomas. Before going on the cruise, I knew there was only one thing I wanted to do in St. Thomas.  You guys might remember that I went to St. Croix a few years back. I was told that if you've seen St. Croix, you've seen St. Thomas and St. John, but St. Thomas would be nicer. But I didn't see enough of the island to really know. Apparently if you're only taking a taxi to get to a particular stop, and you're not taking the tour, the tour guide won't explain anything until you're off. That was kinda harsh, and while I understand, I can't say that I agree. I got dropped downtown and walked a part of the waterfront to get to the studio: Salt of The Earth. You're probably wondering why I chose to get another tattoo. After my step dad died, I did a lot of soul searching. Around June, I realised that I wanted another tattoo but it had to mean something. I don't see the point in getting inked if it doesn't mean something to you, because this thing is going to be permanent. But before I show you my new ink, I want to share the few photos I was able to take of the island while I was there.

My only regret is that I didn't leave earlier. Had I left the cruise ship earlier I would've been able to see more of the island including a bakery I had arranged to meet with. Eventually I found my way to the arcade (or alley as it's commonly known) where the Salt of The Earth Studio was located. I was blown away by how beautiful it was. I would definitely consider it one of those hidden, off the beat paths. If I had more time, I definitely would've gotten lunch at this gorgeous restaurant.

Salt of the Earth Tattoo is the tattoo and art studio of artist, Kristin Forbes-Mullane. She's super nice and patient and I loved every moment. I wasn't in pain until the shading and even then, Kristen was really friendly and encouraging. Here's how it turned out:

I LOOOOOOVE my new tattoo! It says, "She believed she could, so she did", which is the quote on a bracelet my mum bought me as a graduation present. That quote means so much for me because there's a lot I have accomplished simply because I didn't give up. There have been so many trying moments so I see my tattoo as a reminder of my strength to overcome those negative moments and feelings. I highly recommend her for anyone who likes to collect tattoos from artists around the world. Even if you're not a tattoo person, her artwork is incredible and you should definitely check it out.

Well that's it! I'm almost done with my cruise recap. Have you been enjoying it so far? I can't wait to show you the last stop, which was my personal favourite: The Dominican Republic.

 

What I Loved (and Didn't Like) About Puerto Rico

Hello Lovely,

Our second stop was Puerto Rico. I was really excited to see Puerto Rico because it's filled with rich history and gorgeous architecture. I was also looking for any way to give back to the country after the devastating hurricanes last year. We landed in San Juan and set off on foot to explore. Just as I like it, no signs were in English so we all had to rely on our high school Spanish to get by (not being sarcastic). I don't know why I was surprised to see how modern the buildings were given that it is a U.S. territory, but there's still a colonial theme in their designs.

We walked up Recinto Sur Calle, where I saw the most gorgeous blue cobblestone street, and almost got knocked down while I stopped to take a picture of it. Then I saw the colourful buildings I had longed to see. When it comes to architecture, my favourite designs are colourful buildings and Gothic cathedrals. We ducked into a little bar and got Sangria in a pouch for $3. I really thought I was going to get to drink it out of the pouch like an adult CapriSun, but apparently that's not how it works.

We walked up a fairly steep hill to get to Castillo San Felipe del Morro. On the way a strong wind blew up my cousin's dress and apparently flashed everyone. While we were all just grateful that she was finally wearing underwear, this didn't earn us a free ride up the hill. The view from the top of the fort is breathtaking! We didn't go inside but we did enjoy a little photo break. I even got to take a photo of my 14 year old cousin, who up until that point, had been my personal photographer.

My cousin thought it was a must for us to walk through La Perla. La Perla is a historical shanty town in the steep hillside between Old San Juan and the sea where the video for the pop hit Despacito was filmed. My cousin mentioned nothing about Despacito. She was excited because it is supposed to be a very dangerous area that they typically warn tourists to stay away, but given that it was her fourth trip, she felt like a veteran. Afterwards I did some research and found that the little houses that make up La Perla are clustered on the other side of the wall, where the sea crashes against the rocks. Its residents have fought tooth and nail to preserve it, and artists like Calle 13, Ismael Rivera and Ruben Blades have dedicated songs to it. With 1,600 inhabitants, it is one of the poorest communities in San Juan. Drug trafficking largely drives its economy, with the government trying in vain to clear it. On Yelp, reviewers comment on the dangers outsiders risk going there. At one point (thanks to my knowledge gained from Narcos) I identified a few "drug houses" and when two men came out to have a smoke on the rock wall, I knew that was our cue to leave because we weren't welcome. But the graffiti my cousin promised was absolutely gorgeous and worth the walk! 
 

From there we were all really hot and tired, so when we came out by Castillo de San Cristóbal, our first priority was to find a restroom and hail a taxi. Our first stop on the tour was the Bacardi factory. I'll be honest, coming from a country that used to have a Bacardi factory (and actually put Bacardi on the map) there wasn't much that amazed me, but it was still very beautiful. After the tour, you can buy bottles of Bacardi, some flavours are only sold in Puerto Rico. But I'm sorry at $160 a bottle, I can have Bacardi anywhere, because they all taste the same.

After a day of touring it was time to eat. My cousin insisted on us eating at a local favourite called Bebo's. The line was unnecessarily long and slow. I contemplated crossing the road to McDonalds but I had to keep telling myself that I didn't come all the way to Puerto Rico to eat McDonalds.She wanted us to try the national dish: Mofongo. Mofongo is often touted as the best Puerto Rican food. Whether it is or isn’t is debatable with so many tasty options to choose from; however, it’s certainly the most famous. It’s a mashed concoction of fried green plantains with garlic seasoning filled with vegetables, shrimp, chicken, steak, or pork. Think of your favorite mashed potato but oh so much WORSE! I hated it! And sadly it wasn't even the worst thing I ate.  I ordered white rice, mofongo and tostones. Tostones are twice-fried plantain slices. Most commonly known as tostones, they are also known as tachinos or chatinos, Platano frito, bananes pesées, and patacones. I didn't want to trash anything about my trip, but I am not lying when I say there was ABSOLUTELY no seasoning in the food. My dad ate at a different restaurant and he said everyone there hated the food as well. Lastly, my rice was so undercooked, it only could've cooked for about 5 minutes on high. I really wanted an authentic experience, but I'm so sad that I didn't like it.

Have you ever been to San Juan or any other part of Puerto Rico? How did you enjoy your trip? Did my guide prepare you for a trip to Puerto Rico? Or maybe you have questions. I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below!

My Dad Got Married & Other Highlights From Grand Turk

Hello Lovely,

It's still a little weird being back to real life after vacationing for three weeks! I've never travelled for so long but I must admit: as much as I love to travel, three weeks might be a little too long to travel at one time. Earlier this week I shared some tips for any first time cruisers. Cruises can be fun because you get to visit so many different countries, with 24 hour food and hospitality services. So I'm going to be breaking down the different stops from my summer cruise, starting with the first stop: Grand Turk.

Only July 9, we arrived in Grand Turk and left the ship for a very special reason. My dad remarried! My parents divorced 11 years ago and during that time my mum remarried and widowed. My dad's new wife has two teenage daughters and we were all a part of the wedding. They got married on Governor's Beach in Grand Turk. It was kind of funny seeing other tourists come to the beach and "attend" the wedding. Some even took photos. I couldn't understand why anyone would want photos of random people getting married on the beach, but it was a little nice to be commemorated in another family's vacation memories.

At one point, I began to cry almost hysterically when I thought about my step dad. It's weird how grief sneaks into random moments that have nothing to do with what you're grieving, but I had to pull it together because I knew my dad's side of the family wouldn't understand (they're not the best at handling emotions). I had to give a toast at the wedding and even though I already wrote it out, I HATE public speaking (mostly speaking in front of people I don't like) so this was really anxiety provoking for me. I just had to remind myself that the toast was to my dad and no one else, so it only mattered that he liked it.

After the wedding we took a tour of the island seeing most of it. I loved the wild donkeys and horses. A lot of people may not know that Grand Turk is still under British rule and independence is a huge debate in the country. So don't be surprised if you happen to see a few red telephone booths. The island is very small and still recovering from the hurricanes, so don't expect a lot of places to be open. The simple lifestyle is very nice and peaceful. We also found out you could buy a 1/4 acre of land for only $35,000. Can anyone say vacation home/investment property?

Grand Turk was a nice but it wasn't my favourite stop. Which one was? Well you'll just have to wait and see. But until then, I'd love to hear from you guys! How was your summer? Did you travel anywhere interesting? Have you ever been to Grand Turk before? Would you want to go? Contact me for more details on how you can vacation in Grand Turk if you're interested and I can give you the low down on where to go and all the must see sites.

What You Should Know Before Taking a Cruise

Hello Lovely,

I just got back from my summer vacation and I’ve got to say, IT…WAS…A…BLAST!!! I took my second cruise on Carnival (my first cruise was 2001, and also on Carnival). While it wasn’t my original plan to spend my summer trapped on a boat with my family, the fact that my dad was getting married kind of made it a priority, regardless. We boarded the Carnival Glory on Saturday 7th July, 2018. The first part of the trip was a little stressful because we were supposed to do an online check in, but no one told me that we were supposed to do an online check in until the night before. But the moment I walked up and saw the Carnival Glory (in all its glory) I was overwhelmed in awe. Luckily it wasn’t too much of a hassle for me to get checked in at the ship. When I realised how many things were limited, prohibited or simply not included, I just knew that I had to write this guide to help anyone considering a cruise vacation. Keep in mind, ships may have different regulations or the small stuff, but in general, they all follow the same guidelines.

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1.      Wi-Fi is not included

I was pissed to find out that for the S1100 I had invested, it did not include Wi-Fi. To make it worse, there were different internet packages for different services just to force you to spend more money. The most basic was the social media package (access to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram etc.) for $4 per day. That came out to $28 for me for the entire trip. If you wait until you're onboard, it's $5 per day. The Value Wi-Fi plan adds access to email, airline sites as well as news, entertainment (not including streaming sites), sports, weather, banking and finance. Pre-Cruise price: $10.25 USD per day | Onboard price: $12.00 USD per day | Onboard price for 24 hour plan: $16.00 USD.
Then there's the Premium Wi-Fi plan which truthfully provides nothing worth paying for as you still can't stream Netflix, Hulu or, well anything. This plan just boasts having the fastest internet speed. Pre-Cruise price: $14.88 USD per day | Onboard price: $17.70 USD per day | Onboard price for 24 hour plan: $25.00 USD.
 

2.      Online check in is preferred

U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires Carnival Cruise Line to submit a final departure manifest with specific guest information at least 60 minutes prior to departure. This allows you to print out your boarding pass and luggage tags in advance. Don't feel bad if you don't get a chance to do it, as the site wouldn't allow me to complete my online check in the day before. I was still able to check it on the ship, it'll just take a little longer (like 10 minutes).

3.      No plastic bottled beverages are allowed

Carnival’s  Liquor and Beverage Policy states that guests are prohibited from bringing water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages onboard that are packaged in bottles. This also includes juices. But if it's in a can, you can bring it on board. You'll meet two litre-sized bottles of water in your room on embarkation day but they costs $4 each. A complimentary bottle of water will be delivered to your stateroom on embarkation day. Bottled water may also be purchased onboard by contacting Room Service (gratuity fees apply).

4.      That means you can’t bring your own alcohol

The ship has bars all over so it makes sense they wouldn't want you bringing on your own alcohol, which would cut into your profits. But there are ways you can sneak them on, like in travel sized clear bottles (you know the stuff you put your shampoo and what not in), or even in the Listerine bottle. Shh! Don't tell anyone I told you that.

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5.      If you’re not a US citizen, you need a US Visa

Because I'm Bahamian to go anywhere in the US, I need a US Visa. And because a lot of the ports were US territories, my US Visa was definitely a necessity. I'll never forget travelling to London last summer and thinking everything was fine, until I got stopped at the airport check in because I needed a Canadian ETA just to connect through Canada. Guests should check with their travel agent and/or government authority to determine the travel documents necessary for each port of call.

6.      Luggage restrictions

This one isn't so bad and it's pretty much just like flying. Each checked suit case and carry-on suit case should not weigh more than 50 pounds, and when lying flat, bags must not exceed 16 inches high by 24 inches wide (the length of the bag is not a factor). For security screening purposes, all luggage should be unlocked. Oversized luggage and locked luggage may cause delivery delays. The common sense thing here is to pack sensibly, so limit your luggage to a maximum of one bag per person, if traveling on cruises of 3-5 days duration, and no more than two bags per person, for cruises of 6 days or longer.

7.      The rooms are really small

You know how hotel rooms are usually tiny? Well subtract about 20 square feet and that’s the cabins on a cruise. It’s not small enough to trigger claustrophobia (unless you have it bad) but don’t expect a grand space. The bathrooms are tiny and there are only five drawers, only two of which can actually hold clothing. There are three closets, but the hangers aren’t the best if you have the type of clothing that easily slides off the hanger.

8.      Bring a drop cord, not a surge protector

I am not kidding, there is literally one outlet in the entire cabin. ONE!!! And the way it's set up, it's at the desk so an outlet won't fit in the socket, only a drop cord. So if you have a cabin of three, it's going to be hell for the three of you to charge all of your electronic devices. However, we were told that surge protectors are not prohibited so make sure your drop cord is not a surge protector.

9.  Beware of hidden charges

On the last day, we were all shocked to find out that our accounts had been charged $90.65 for “Gratuity”. I was grateful that I didn’t attach any of my cards to my account so technically my account was in the red, and I had to pay it back. Other hidden fees include having to buy soda and juice from the bar as it’s not available from the free beverage dispensaries, having to pay for photos that are taken of you from the photo gallery, and a few restaurants and coffee shop that are not free.

10. Pre-booked shore excursions sometimes cost more

How many of you like to pre-book your activities before you get to your destination to save time and money? I know I preached this with my trip to London, but guys, after this recent experience, I have learned that does not apply to everything. When we got to Amber Cove, DR we were surprised to see the ziplining that was advertised as $75 per person, was only $20 per person at port and came with unlimited use. Had we actually booked it, I would've immediately demanded a refund! Then a guy for the waterfall excursion told me it was $110 to go to the waterfall. There was no way I was paying that much! When we got a taxi for $20 per person and the driver said he would take us to the waterfall, imagine our disbelief to see it only costs $10 per person. That is a HUUUUUUUUUGE difference! So please be careful when book shore excursions in advance. In fact, you're probably better off just doing a tour.

11. There is ALWAYS something to do

I looked forward to reading the itinerary every night for the next day so that I could know what to expect. On the last night we had a Mardi Gras party, which was full of energy and live music that simply brought the ship alive! The waiters would put on a show at dinner time that was really adorable. We had a Motown show, 80s and 90s music trivia, trivia games, raffles every day for art work and jewellery and even free fitness classes in the gym. There are several opportunities to score free booze with free rum tastings, and free champagne at the raffle events.

12. The pools suck

I've never seen people go to a pool to literally just stand in it! There are two actual pools and everything else is a whirlpool so that was disappointing. Then the pools deepest part is only 4'7". But let's be realistic, it's a giant floating hotel so naturally you can't have massive pools; and the way lawsuits go, the pools couldn't be too deep. Lastly, the pools are almost never free so don't expect to go swimming. Just stand up in your swimmy with your drink and take a few photos.

Olivia's Guide to London

Hello Lovely,

It’s no secret I love to travel. In the past year I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in St. Croix,  Exuma, and now London, Amsterdam and Switzerland. I didn't really get to share my trip to Exuma with you guys other than a few photos on Instagram; so when I was in London, I couldn't wait to write about my experiences. 

Now, if you’re just here for the recipes – no hard feelings. I totally get it! But I wanted to let you know travel posts will be a new thing around here, and I hope you’ll enjoy getting a sneak peak into my adventures.

So without further ado, let’s dive into my guide to London.

My travel companion for this trip was my best friend from college who is also my ex, Doran (yes I'm actually best friends with my ex). I was supposed to go on a European cruise with my last boyfriend but when we broke up, I knew that wouldn't work any more. I didn't want to miss out on my European adventures so I called up Doran while I was in Exuma, asked him if I could stay with him for two weeks and he agreed. So all I had to do was pay for airfare and ground transportation and I bought all of the tickets for us to get to Amsterdam, Switzerland and back to London in advance (I'll share more on that in a separate post).

Oddly enough I was super sick on the flight to London. My acid reflux flared badly (to be honest it had been a problem for two weeks leading up to my trip) so I was in a lot of pain on the plane. I couldn't do anything and I could hardly move. I almost requested an emergency landing for medical attention but I suffered through. Upon landing, I didn't feel any better. And to make matters worse, my friend forgot that I was flying through Gatwick and went to Heathrow instead. So I had to book a coach to take me from Gatwick to Heathrow, which was really easy to do and cost me just under £30.

Once I was settled in, I drank tea for two days, got back on my Nexium and ate better.

Where we ate:

Keat's Cafe: This was my favourite place to eat. It's budget friendly, food is ready in 10 minutes or less and presentation is great! It was just around the block from where I stayed making it super convenient for me to pop in for a latte. I was so impressed by the glass and spoons, I went to Poundland and bought 2 latte glasses and latte spoons for £1 each. Two people can eat here for £15 or less depending on what you order. Just walk in and grab a seat and a waiter will come to you.

Bill's (New Broadway, Ealing): The perfect date night spot, Doran and I ate here on a Friday night before walking up the street to a bar for a night of dancing. Dinner for two can be less than £40. It's very close to the Ealing Broadway Tube Station and it's open pretty late. Our joke of the night was me trying to get through the Diablo Gnocchi without dying. I thought asking for no spicy sausage would eliminate all spices but the sauce itself is spicy. The waiter was also really accomodating when I asked to change my drink because the Pimms Summer Punch ended up having cucumber in it, which I ABSOLUTELY HATE. Even without the cucumber it just had too much going on, so I settled on a nice Rose.

We also ate from a pizza place that offered 4 toppings on a 9" for only £3.99 and a Thai place in Westfield Mall (I also can't remember the name of this place).

Where we Partied

The Lodge Tavern: After dinner we walked up the street to The Lodge Tavern. It's gorgeous on the outside, nearby the tube station and adjacent to a bus stop making getting home after a night of partying very convenient. Oh and free adminsion!The DJ on deck (can't remember his name) was great. We danced to Top 40 mostly and drank Heineken. It was a fun and safe environment.

Where we Shopped:

Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre: I'm not ashamed to admit that I went here twice during my stay! The first time I went straight to Primark and I am in love with that store now! The second time was to exchange a few items at Primark for larger sizes, and pick up a few gifts at the other stores. I love this place and it's never too crowded that you can't enjoy your shopping experience.

Westfield Mall: This place seems to be the mall everyone shops at. It reminds me of Aventura Mall  x3. It's so big! There's luxury high end stores and regular stores for the average person like myself. It was my first time ever walking into a Zara store so I was super excited. But the almost hour long wait just to check out was enough to drive me up the wall. The food court has a lot of great options and there always seems to be something happening here. You've got to check this mall out (just be prepared to spend the whole day here).

Where I Toured

This is the one I enjoyed the most! I booked a Vintage Double Decker for my first full day and saw all of the major sights of London including Big Ben, London Tower, the Tower Bridge, London Bridge and the London Eye. I enjoyed the cruise on the Thames River as I got to see Parliament, MI5 and MI6 and the school that Daniel Radcliffe went to before joining the cast of Harry Potter. My tour guide was awesome but sadly due to all of the excitement, I don't remember half of what he said. I really only remember that you will never see IV on a church clock or clock tower to represent 4. And he was right. Even when we went to Switzerland, they all said IIII. This is because Charles V of France complained about the use of IV on a clock made by Henry de Vick and demanded it be changed to IIII. Ever since then it's been customary to just use IIII instead of IV. And now you know!

Two days later, I went on the most magical experience of my life! I took a tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral and Bath. I found Windsor Castle to be highly overrated and Stonehenge to be a little underwhelming (I have no idea why). But Salisbury took my breath away! I was so angry that my camera battery died at this point and in an effort to curb my spending on trinkets, I left my bag with the backup batteries and my cellphone on the tour bus which was parked over a mile away. It was here that I saw an original copy of the Magna Carter and had a lovely conversation with a female Methodist priest. (Just so you know, like almost every other church in England, the church is Anglican).

The city of Bath was nice as well where I finally tried Costa coffee (it's everywhere in England and totally overrated). Although everything seemed more expensive in Bath, the desserts were at a great price and SOOOOOOOOO DELICIOUS! I had the strawberry and rhubarb and I was so hungry I can't even remember which pastry I got for lunch but I remember being highly satisfied.

It was a very long drive back to the city of London and I actually got on the wrong train coming back home (twice). I actually cried hysterically when I realised I got on the wrong train again so luckily a nice lady on the side of me named Candy helped me to get on the right train because she was headed to the same station. Silly me didn't realise the train desitnation was on a marquee on the front of the train and a marquee at the station let you know when to expect the train. Thank goodness I never made that mistake again. (Who am I kidding? We totally got on the wrong train in Switzerland, but my friend is completely to blame for that and that's another story for another day).

Question: Have you been to London? What were your favourite spots? I was there for nearly 2 weeks and in hindsight I know there’s so much more we could have seen (and eaten) if I weren't so sick and afraid of getting lost. Do you have any recommendations for where I should vacation next? Share in the comment section below and don't forget to subscribe for the newsletter!

Tuesday Ten: THE 10 BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKES YOU’RE MAKING

Hello Lovely,

This summer has definitely been a blast, but it's not over yet! On Friday I'm jet-setting to Miami for three weeks. I will spend a part of this trip repeating last year's road trip to Tampa, sans boyfriend, but with my family instead (so please pray for me). I plan on doing a lot of shopping, so I've got to be very strategic and that includes the way I pack my suitcase! I can never seem to get it right. I always either over-pack or under-pack. One time, I under-packed so badly, I had to Febreeze my shirts just so that I could keep wearing them, and go to Kmart to get more clothes to wear! I don't know what I was thinking on that trip. But hopefully I can say lesson learned this time around. And that's thanks to these awesome tips from Rachel over at Department of Wandering, some of which I've been using for years!  Here are the best packing tips that will help you master the most common mistakes and have you quickly becoming a packing pro

1. Not checking your airline’s luggage limits

It might come as a bit of a surprise, but your luggage allowance depends on a few different things: the airline you’re flying with, your class of ticket and your destination. Budget airlines generally only include carry-on in the base fare and you’ll need to pay extra if you want to check bags. Checked baggage allowance also varies from airline to airline. So make sure you pay in advance or have the funds when you get to the ticket counter!

I remember a time when my luggage was overweight on Jetblue and I had to pay $100 for the overweight bag, but had I bought another piece of luggage, I would've only paid $35 for a second bag. Whereas, flying on Bahamasair, the first checked bag is free and a lot of times, they're willing to look the other way if your bag is overweight.

2. Packing slowly and as you think of things

A trap I’ve fallen into time and time again is slowly packing over a few days, placing items in my case as I go. Trust me when I say that this ALWAYS results in over-packing! What I started to do instead was devoting a specific chunk of time to pack and I laying out everything on the floor before putting anything in the case. This means that I can easily see what outfits work well together, which items are versatile and which aren’t. This also helps me to avoid the urge to pack extra things ‘just in case’ I was forgetting something because I can see it all laid out in front of me.

 

3. Not checking the weather before you travel

Okay, I know that the weather is always unpredictable, but it does help to check the upcoming forecast to get a sense of what the general climate will be like. It might be summer in your destination but the nights might still be cool or there might commonly be thunderstorms in the afternoons. Pack smart and arrive prepared for the weather conditions. The last thing you want to be doing when you arrive is madly hitting the shops in search of a raincoat or a sunhat!

4. Using a packing method that doesn’t work for you

Over the years I've evolved from simply folding clothes to rolling them. Some people say it works wonders but despite this magic space saving method, I have noticed it tends to make my luggage feel a bit heavier. Be sure to use a packing method that you’re comfortable to help you feel in control.

5. Letting hidden space go to waste

Space is sacred when you’re packing your bag and it’s sinful to let it go to waste. Pack smart by stuffing your socks, chargers and adaptors into your shoes, scrunching your underwear into the cups of your bras and even rolling a belt around a collared shirt. (It's also a great way that we Bahamians evade Customs taxes).

6. Bringing mismatched outfits

The key to smart and effective packing is planning your outfits beforehand. Pack essentials that you can easily mix and match. Organise your outfits around a simple colour scheme like monochromes or neutrals, add a pop of colour with a scarf, hat or jewellery and you’ll never be stuck for something to wear!

7. Not protecting containers of liquids

After a leaking bottle of avocado oil completely emptied itself in my suitcase during transit, destroying a lot of clothes in my suitcase, I now never forget to protect my bottles of liquid. The changes in air pressure means that bottles can pop open or simply leak unexpectedly throughout the flight. Don’t let this happen to you! Use some cling wrap under the lid of the bottle before screwing back on or my personal favourite, duct or masking tape and always wrap your toiletries back in an extra plastic bag to be doubly safe.

8. Packing heavy items that you can easily buy once you arrive

Leave that gigantic 1L bottle of conditioner or shower gel at home! Seriously, that thing would take up most of your weight allowance alone. Instead, squeeze small amounts of liquids into travel-sized mini bottles and simply buy more when you arrive at your destination. And hotel shower gels won't kill you!

9. Bringing more than three pairs of shoes

I always do this! I don't know why, but I always do! It's at the point where I've had to leave a pair of shoes at my boyfriend's house that I haven't worn in years! Trust me when I say this, no matter where you’re going and at what time of year, you’ll never need more than three pairs of shoes. As long as you bring something comfortable for active days (sneakers), something casual (sandals or flats) and something more dressy  (boots or heels), you’ve got all bases covered.

10. Using luggage that’s difficult to use

I’ve tried and tested lots of different styles of bags over the years, from backpacks to duffle bags. When you have a bag that’s difficult to carry or secure, especially when you’re moving around a lot, it can cause endless frustration — believe me, I’ve been there! Don’t underestimate the importance of good luggage when travelling and make sure you invest in the right bag for you.

Do you have any packing tips? Share them in the comments below!

Friday Favourites: 5 Places to Visit in St. Croix

After going to St. Croix at the beginning of the month, I have a renewed love for travelling! I don't know where my next trip will be, but if you're planning a vacation, I would definitely recommend going to St. Croix. And if you do go there, here are 5 must-see spots to visit!

ARMSTONG'S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM

When we first went to Armstrong's (we went a total of three times) it was just for my boyfriend to visit his family members (the proprietors of the store). But when we went back I was really excited to try their ice cream. It was super-hot, and we had just come from the beach, so it was perfect! As you can see on the sign atop their shop in Frederiksted (which the first two days of the trip I kept saying Frankensted), Armstrong’s has been producing homemade ice cream in St. Croix for 112 years. Anyone and everyone on the island loves ice cream from them. Why? The big reason why is also right on the sign – Armstrong’s serves real homemade ice cream here, the kind with big chunks of good stuff conspicuously wedged into the cold and creamy treasures, the better to let the natural flavours shine in your cone or cup. Normally you’re able to get almond, banana, butter pecan, cherry vanilla and rum raisin ice cream just about anywhere. But here at Armstrong’s, you can probably find guava, mango, passion fruit, or soursop, too. Just remember that a lot of the flavours are seasonal so don’t expect to get mango or pumpkin in May. I fell in love with the banana, and even liked the guava and gooseberry, even though I don’t like guava or gooseberry. Despite my lactose intolerance, I was able to eat these ice creams with no discomfort at all! So if you’re looking to cool off, make sure you stop in to this family-owned store during your trip!

POINT UDALL

If only to say that you have been to the Eastern-most point of the United States of America you should go here. The view is absolutely breath-taking and really makes you appreciative for natural wonders.

CHRISTIANSTED NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

What I love about Christiansted is the streets are filled with historic colonial buildings and churches. I’m a huge history geek and a sucker for historical sites. To the locals, I’m sure they just saw dilapidated buildings. To me, all I could think was how many great photoshoots I could host there. If you find yourself visiting the USVI be sure to visit the Christiansted National Historic Site to see the Old Danish Customs House, Fort Christiansted, the Government House, local bars and restaurants and a great shopping district.

BIG DOCK

You know things are serious when your boyfriend tells you that no one jumps off big dock unless someone else is doing it too. Big Dock is right next to the Frederiksted Clock Tower (another great photoshoot location). We went there twice to jump and I jumped a total of 6 times. Here’s a video if just one of my jumps. I think you’ll have fun laughing at me.

SALT RIVER BAY NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK AND ECOLOGICAL PRESERVE

This one we didn’t actually get a chance to go to, but I really wish we did. At this point, everyone was a little cranky from the long car rides so we ended up driving right past it. It’s supposedly a great tourist spot though. Coral reefs, a submarine canyon, mangroves, wildlife, pre-colonial ruins and Columbus’ landing spot make this a top attraction. Photos came from their website.

In addition to these places to visit, there are many events you've got to try as well, such as stand up paddle party and beach fire every full moon at sunset, Disco Bingo at Deep End Bar & Restuarant, Caribbean night on Mondays and Crab Races on Wednesdays at The Palms at Pelican Cove, and After Hours on First Fridays at Cafe Christine.

So what are you waiting on? Book your next vacation in St. Croix today! And tell me what your must-see favourite spots were!

XoX,