Homeowner Brings New Meaning to “Pet Friendly” Vacation Rentals

BBBlabel3Beachhouse.com homeowner and owner of Mermaid Cottages, Diane Kaufman, has combined 2 of her loves – property management and dogs – in her latest “pet” project, Beach Bum Biscuits.  These delectable all-natural bakery-made dog biscuits are currently on sale in Tybee Island, Georgia at Seaside Sisters, and will soon be available in a beach town near you.  As if you needed any more reason to spoil your furry friend, proceeds from the sale of Beach Bum Biscuits also go to support service and guide dogs!IMG00114-20100605-1443

Also,  by staying at any Mermaid Cottage vacation rental property, you help to support 2 great guide dog foundations:  the Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Puppy Sponsorship Program, and The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.

Stay up to date on the latest Beach Bum Biscuit news by following their blog!

Beach Bum Biscuits are also a great Holiday gift for your pet or that special pup in your life!  To order in time for the Holiday’s, contact Diane at:  Diane@MermaidCottages.com or call her at:  912-313-0784.

Mermaid Cottages has always sponsored Guide Dogs.  Read below for bio’s and information about a few of the dogs they have sponsored:

Clarke2

Clark

Clarke is one of the first dogs we sponsored who trained at Southeastern Guide Dogs’ School in Palmetto, FL. Clarke has proven to be easy going, extremely comfortable with people of all ages and very quick to learn new tasks. We are all hoping for a great career for her as a guide dog for a deserving blind individual. Clarke is also from the Southeastern Guide Dogs Program.

(Update)  It is with great joy we tell you that Clarke was matched in June 2009 with her blind partner, Joyce. They both are quite laid back and easy going and from all appearances will be great companions for a very long time. Clarkes’s truest challenge might be living with Joyce’s six birds!! No doubt, she’ll do just fine.

Erik

Erik

Erik was given a career change in 2007 due to medical issue. We are happy to report that Erik is currently embarking on a new career as a Hearing Dog for 5 year old Jay Lommel. Jay, born deaf, recently received a cochlear implant, and with his new pal Erik will hopefully be on his way to speaking as well as hearing. Erik is receiving his new training at Polite Paws in Bluffton, SC, courtesy of owner, trainer Robin Walter.  Erik is also from the Southeastern Guide Dogs Program.

Tony

Tony

Tony is one of our newest guide dog sponsees for spring 2009 from the Southeastern Guide Dogs Program. Our update on Tony is that he is a great pup! He will be a year old in November. He is sweet and has a great work ethic. He lives with his new owner’s other dog, Sherlock, who is 8 years old. They go to work together, play and enjoy each other’s company.  Tony is a beautiful black lab, who loves to please.

Berkeley

Berkeley

Berkeley is our newest Service Dog from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc since Fall of 2009.  Here is a great pic of him at Diane’s cottage.

Photo Journey through SE Asia

Beachhouse.com Guest Bloggers, Stacy & Jeff, traveled across 6 countries in Southeast Asia and were nice enough to check in with us all along the way.  This is their journey by the numbers:

  • 21different airplanes they took
  • 6bus rides (varying from 7 hours to 27 hour trips)
  • 2train trips (overnight)
  • 11boat/ferry rides
  • 46different hotels (not including Cynthia and Fernando’s homes)
  • 12the # of languages they came across (at least!) throughout their trip
  • 0sicknesses
  • 0injuries
  • 1root canal
  • 0danger/trouble they encountered
  • 22# of books they read – each!
  • and we both want more!
  • This is their journey in photos (each photo links to the corresponding blog entry):

    We hope you enjoyed this as much as we did!

    Insider Interview: Florida’s North Captiva & Boca Grande

    3435492417_cd85059273_bIt’s no wonder Sarah Rapp loves what she does.  For the last 10 years she has worked as a Broker/Realtor and advertising agent for rental properties throughout Southwestern Florida.  As the owner of her own company, Beach Vacation4me, Sarah has worked for 8 years in North Captiva and 2 years in Boca Grande and owns a private residence in North Captiva…although she divides her time between Boca Grande and North Captiva.

    And who wouldn’t love dividing their time between these gorgeous barrier islands?

    Property ID#19623   Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

    Property ID#19623 Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

    Sarah recalls her first visit to North Captiva, “I loved the natural beauty – it’s still somewhat untouched and family oriented.”

    And untouched they are – North Captiva is only accessible by boat and there are no cars on the island, vacationers instead opting to navigate around the island by golf cart, bicycle and boat.

    Boca Grande has a land bridge making car travel an option, however many still choose to get around in golf carts or on bike.

    “For some people, the fact that they have to be without their car in North Captiva is a bit too much,” says Sarah.  ”So Boca Grande is the next best fit.”

    Peak season for both of these lush US islands runs from March through the first part of April.  However, both of these locals have great weather year-round, so go ahead and plan your trip for the off-season when you can enjoy warm weather and great rates on vacation rentals!  And if you’re concerned about hurricanes, they are no reason to miss out on a great tropical escape.  Sarah recommends getting travel insurance if you’re planning your trip anytime between August and November.

    Once in Boca Grande, vacationers have many options of activities – one of Sarah’s favorites is to head out on one of the many bike paths that wind through the city.  Sarah has also found that Boca Grande has some of the best shelling of anywhere Sarah has been, saying  ”They’re magnificent”

    Gasparilla Inn - photo courtest of Florida Trend

    Gasparilla Inn - photo courtesy of Florida Trend

    She also recommends stopping by the charming Gasparilla Inn & Club for dinner and drinks.  The club has a variety of dining options ranging from The Main Dining Room (open for breakfast and dinner daily), The Pink Elephant, or “The Pink” as many call it (a more casual option for lunch, dinner and drinks), or the popular BZ’s lounge where patrons can lounge on the sofas and chairs and sip one of the Inn’s signature drinks: Gaspartinis, Mojitos and Planter’s Punch.

    North Captiva and Boca Grande are only about a 40 minute boat ride apart from eachother – close enough to plan a day trip from one to the other.

    Sarah’s North Captiva Picks

    A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

    A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

    Food:

    • The Boat House Restaurant and the Island Club – chef David Kivel serves up delicious surf & turf eats, making this a great restaurant to go for a romantic dinner or to celebrate a special occasion while on the island.
    • Mango’s Island Grill & General Store – a great place to stop by for breakfast or lunch, grab your food to go or enjoy it on Mango’s waterfront patio.
    • Andy’s Seafood Market – in Matlacha, an old fishing village on the mainland before you take a boat over to North Captiva Island, has great fresh fish for vacationers to buy and take with them to cook at their vacation rental house.

    Activities:

    • Dennis Realy, owner of North Captiva Charters, is the island’s “Best Kept Secret” and a master fisherman.  According to Sarah, “He knows his stuff – red fish, tarpon, shark, whatever you want to catch, he will cast and then hand you the rod.  I’ve never fished and not caught something!”
    • Visit Boats and Fun run by father, Alberto Barbero, and son, Matias Barbero, who Sarah refers to as “Mr. Fun,” for jet ski, kayak, wakeboard and boat rentals, banana boat and inter-tube rides, and scuba & dolphin excursions.  ”Matias is always smiling, always happy,” says Sarah.  Boats and Fun “has really created a great shop – you can go by and ask them when the tide is, what’s going on around town, anything.”

    Vacationers who stay at one of Sarah’s North Captiva rentals that is managed by the Island Club also get to enjoy a guest membership (and all of the amenities that come with it!) to the North Captiva Island Club Resort.  The club offers tennis courts, a huge pool, fitness equipment, day excursions, a pool bar that also serves up milkshakes for the kids and more.  The staff of the North Captiva Island Club will also help assist with groceries and luggage!

    Insider Interview: Destin, Florida

    John and Dawn Foy have been in the vacation rental business for 23 years – 10 years in Destin, Florida alone.  After vacationing in Destin for a couple of days, John and Dawn fell in love with what they have heard described as, “a Hawaii in the States,” moved a couple months later and still haven’t left.  Now they are the owners of 14 rental properties.  The Foy’s were some of Destin’s first property managers to recognize what exactly vacationers look for when choosing the perfect vacation rental.  ”The number one requirement is that the house have a private pool, so we added pools to our properties,” said Dawn.  ”At first, people thought we were crazy.  Now almost everyone is adding pools to their rental properties.”

    “They also want King size beds,” Dawn adds, “and views.”  And if you’re vacationing in Destin, Florida, how could you not want views once you’ve seen Destin’s almost blindingly white sand in bright contrast against the clear turquoise ocean?

    “Members of Destin’s Chamber of Commerce collect little bottles of sand from wherever they visit and Destin’s is the whitest,” explains Dawn.  ”It literally squeeks when you walk on it because it is so fine and powdery.”  It’s not just local bias that makes the sand seem so white and sparkeling.  The sand comes from the Appalachian Mountains, and is made of finely ground quartz crystal, which gives it the appearance of sugar.

    But there is much more to Destin than the white sand and teal ocean.

    One of Destins Jettys

    One of Destin's Jettys

    Destin is home to virtually every water sport and activity imaginable.  The water is consistently warm with temps reaching 86 degrees in October.  Vacationers can go boating, parasailing, jet skiing, or snorkel with some of the local marine life including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles.  You don’t even have to take a charter out of the harbor to find a great snorkeling location.  Dawn offers this local’s tip: snorkel on the jettys off of Gulf Shore Drive on Holiday Isle, where you can park for free and walk down to the water.

    “The snorkeling here is amazing!” Dawn says.  ”We tell our vacationers to bring frozen peas or Cheerios to feed the fish.  You’ll see fish in all colors – bright yellow, royal blue, and black and white striped ones…they’re everywhere!”

    For other activities, there are dozens of golf courses, the Big Kahuna waterpark, the Gulfarium (“A cute mom and pop type aquarium that is popular with kids and families” according to Dawn) or the Harbor Docks in downtown Destin, offering free parking and a variety of specialty shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors – a great place to rent boats and snorkeling equipment.

    Destin is also known for its great dining and shopping.  On the East end of town there is the Silver Sands Outlet Mall, the largest designer outlet mall in the US, and in Mid-town Destin is the newly built Destin Commons, which is home to a Hard Rock Cafe as well as a 14 screen cinema and other retail shops.

    The Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin, a bustling sub-community of Destin, has lots of shops and it is a great place to take the family or head out to for a night on the town.   At Christmas they even bring in an ice skating rink and put up lights!

    Taken off of Dewey Destins dock

    Taken off of Dewey Destin's dock

    For food, here are Dawn’s picks:

    • The Back Porch – known for their fresh seafood and oysters
    • The Crab Trap – on Scenic 98, on the beach, has a bar, restaurant (inside and outside dining), play ground on the sand for kids, ice cream bar, regular bar and is part of James Lee Park which has a public bath house, picnic tables and plenty of parking for the public
    • Dewey Destin’s (the town was named after his family!) – located on the harbor and serving up large portions of great downhome cooking
    • Pompano Joes Restaurant – its right on the beach on Scenic 98, and also has outside as well as inside dining, casual entertainment and a casual beach bar
    • Captain Dave’s on the Gulf – has been around for over 30 years and is one of Destin’s favorite waterfront restaurants
    • Bonefish Grill – good service, consistently great food, and a nice, quiet ambiance – perfect for a romantic dinner or special occasion
    • Donut Hole – a popular locals spot that has been a staple since the towns conception  - makes a great keylime pie
    • Broken Egg – fresh and nutritional food, over 130 menu items, great for breakfast, brunch or lunch
    • Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ – great southern food made from scratch
    • Fudpuckers – perfect for the family, kids can feed alligators, play in the arcade, and there is a great souvenir shop with unique local gifts
    • Ciao Bellas – they have the best pizza!
    • Cafe Grazie’s – real Italian food, great kids menu

    Destin’s peak season runs from the end of May through the first part of August but “the luckiest fishing village in the US” as Destin is also known, hosts one of its main annual events in October – the annual “Fishing Rodeo” where the person with the largest catch nets $100,000 in prize money!

    Angler, Jeff Satterwhite from Niceville, Florida hooked this 108.8 lb. Yellowfin Tuna

    Angler, Jeff Satterwhite from Niceville, Florida hooked this 108.8 lb. Yellowfin Tuna

    What keeps people returning to Destin year after year for a great vacation spot?

    Dawn thinks it is the “beauty of the water – it’s turquoise, clear and breathtaking.  People can’t believe it when they first pull up to the water.”

    “It’s still family oriented,” describes Dawn.  ”A quaint town – no crowds or high-rises – and the people are down to earth…good ‘ol boy people.”

    Destin has managed to maintain this small-town feel, yet is only 55 miles from the Spring Break-type of vacation one can find in either Pensacola, Florida and Panama City, Florida.

    And the sluggish economy hasn’t hit Destin as hard as other popular vacation destinations – perhaps due to its central location on the Froida panhandle, making it easy to get to on not too much gasoline from southern Florida, and the neighboring states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  Destin is about to get much more accessible thanks to the addition of an International Airport that is already in the works for Destin, set to be completed by Summer 2010.

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (31 of 40)

    even ronald knows the local customs

    even ronald knows the local customs

    more on KL and on to bali
    “KL, what a crazy unique city. at least to our eyes. the people, so many different people. we stayed in china town, in an indian owned place, ran by one of the manliest lady boys we’ve seen (indian) and these two other guys that had more going on than amy winehouse. piercings, rainbow nail polish chipping, gold teardrops on their foreheads, you name it, quite colorful human beings. but all very nice and entertaining.

    we went to one of their many malls and witnessed the largest indoor themepark in SE asia amongst this 10 story gigantic mall. we ate a craving lunch of mcdonalds. it’s funny how good a big mac tastes over here when you don’t even think about it at home. we were surrounded by young chinese girls all dressed up to one side, young indian boys in skater clothes on the other, a group of indian ladies with their colorful head dresses, and then two families where the women are completely in black, only revealing those mysterious eyes through a small slit, while the guys are dressed as any other everyday man. and we see she doesn’t take her veil off even to eat, she must slide her grease dripping french fries under her cloak. like we said, a vast variety of people here in KL.

    indoor themepark - too expensive for us

    indoor themepark - too expensive for us

    we finally found our peanut sauce though. at home we like to order that scrumtous thai dish called panag: spinach and chicken smothered in peanut sauce, yummy! we have yet to find anything close anywhere! not one peanut sauce in thailand. here, completely different story. everything comes with peanut sauce. the best is with a pack of satay (less than two bucks for 12 sticks of chicken and beef) served with a mouth watering spicey crunchy peanut sauce. worth it all.

    after two nights in our strange indian palace (dirty tiles greated by fake flowers, fake grass hanging from the ceiling, plastic chinese lanterns, way too many fish tanks to not be an aquarium, and pop music like it’s rick dee’s weekly top 40), we were off to bali.

    dinner and beers - rooftop in KL

    dinner and beers - rooftop in KL

    heaven. yes it’s a bit more crowded then in january, but great weather and the smell of waves. we went straight to ayu guna where we left the boards at and guess what, they were still there, locked in the bag, never touched! love the karma here. we stayed a few nights in the same bungalow as last time, swam at padang, then moved to juni’s warung (recommended by fernando) at bingins. it’s great. our room has a large window opening up to the waves below, and we’re literally steps from the water. now jeff can walk out to the waves at any time, impossibles, bingin, dreamland, and even paddle up to padang… while i’ve got a beach, snorkeling, and a great place to just chill.

    flying over java or sumatra?

    flying over java or sumatra?

    we just booked mentawi’s wavepark for the end of the month, so for now, chill here in bali, then head over to lakey’s point sumbawa, then back to bali and off to mentawi’s which will put us in june when we’re done. then work our way back to bali through mainland sumatra and maybe java. surf’s up the whole way….bagus (pronounced bagoose = good!)

    sidenote – thanks to everyone who’s been checking us out. it’s such a great surprise to see everyone’s comments on the board. can’t wait (well we can cause we’re here!) to catch up with everyone once we get back!

    peace love and surf!”

    indo fire mouth

    indo fire mouth

    lookin out over impossibles from the cliff

    lookin out over impossibles from the cliff

    lookin out at bingin from cliff

    lookin out at bingin from cliff

    jeff and fernando

    jeff and fernando

    impossibles, view from above our warung/hotel

    impossibles, view from above our warung/hotel

    padang padang sunset

    padang padang sunset

    padang padang fisherman - my favorite!

    padang padang fisherman - my favorite!

    treckin down the road

    treckin down the road

    real backpacking now!

    real backpacking now!

    jeff comin in from bingin

    jeff comin in from bingin

    window view daytime

    window view daytime

    sunset panorama

    sunset panorama

    bingin sunset

    bingin sunset

    surf

    surf

    moon

    moon

    sky

    sky

    Bluefields Bay, Jamaica

    Bluefields Bay, Jamaica is a breathtakingly gorgeous and highly secluded vacation spot in Jamaica. It is sixty minutes away from Montego Bay and forty minutes away from Negril. Because of its untouched beauty and exclusivity, it is an idealgetaway spot and it is perfect for hosting weddings, dinner parties, important family events or birthdays, or any special occasion. The spectacular venues that can accommodate up to forty-two people overlook the Caribbean Sea and hosting an event in one of the venues would be a private and memorable occasion.

    A must-see sight in the western part of Bluefields Bay is the Paradise Park which is a serene, 1000 acre private estate. Anyone that has been to Paradise Park will bear testimony that its name is an accurate reflection of its nature. The park is mainly a cattle and dairy farm located on a tropical savanna with flourishing, grassy fields and colorful flowering trees and shrubs. You can take a tour at the park which takes about an hour and a half and then explore the paths of the topical forest, swim in the blue waters of the bay, picnic in the park, or just seep in the serene, soothing atmosphere. The park is enjoyable at any time of the year; make sure that you are dressed casually and comfortably.

    Bluefields Bay offers a wealth of activities for tourists that include snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, sea kayaking, playing water sports, scuba diving, golfing, horseback riding, going to beaches, and hiking along the beautiful trails of the Bay. There is also a vibrant culture of drinking, dancing and dining that you can explore—over the weekends, you can visit one of the indigenous reggae bars or the lively clubs in Negril and have the opportunity to mingle with the locals of the town. There are also many traditional Jamaican restaurants in Bluefields Bay that are worth visiting. Incidentally, you can eat world-class food cooked by a renowned chef at your own villa! A tour of historical sites would be very interesting because Bluefields Bay has a rich past having been occupied by the English and Scottish colonists. It goes without saying that a trip to Bluefields Bay will be a very enjoyable, relaxing and memorable experience for you.

    California’s Central Coast’s Beach Communities

    Cambria – Located just off of California’s Pacific Coast Hwy 1 is Cambria – a picturesque artists community set amidst the pine trees and foothills half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Head to Cambria’s “East Village” for a selection of small restaurants and cafe’s set between gardens and old historical buildings. There is a cute downtown village area with boutiques, antique shops, flower stores and art and jewelry galleries. Cambria has a selection of great hotels to choose from.  The FogCatcher Inn has beautifully appointed rooms – I highly reccomend a stay in one of the oceanview rooms. Centrally located, Cambria is a great place to head out on day-trips from.   Vacationers can head a short distance to tour either Hearst Castle or to San Simeon, home to one of California’s largest populations of elephant seals. Moonstone Beach is also nearby, which is a great place to walk the beach before dining at one of the delicious restaurants while you take in some amazing ocean views.

    Morro Bay – Surrounded with natural beauty, Morro Bay is a great place to spend the day or the weekend.  Whether you like shopping, hiking, boating or all of the above, this harbor town has it.  Morro Bay’s Natural Estuary has great hiking trails, and is home to the Museum of Natural History and a Heron Rookery Preserve.  Continue down Morro Bay’s Coast and you will find more bluff trails, the Elfin Forest and the Sweet Springs Preserve.  The entire bay is home to many different species of birds making it a bird-watcher’s dream.  Morro Bay also has a great beach, with certain parts that are dog-friendly.  Local surfers enjoy “the Rock” – not only does this break have a killer view of Morro Rock, but the water is a few degrees warmer than the surrounding water thanks to the

    Avila Beach – For a funky little beach town that’s not much larger than a neighborhood, Avila Beach sure knows how to make headlines. In the late 90′s and into 2000 the community got an almost complete makeover after it was discovered that a Union Oil Co underground pipeline had been slowly seeping oil into the ground for decades. But now Avila is back and better than ever, with a re-vamped boardwalk that hosts a farmer’s market each Friday afternoon, delicious deli’s and an assortment of upscale eateries. Locals and visitors enjoy Avila for its unpretentious and friendly atmosphere where flip flops and sandy toes are practically a uniform. Looking for some great grub? Be sure to wander over to nearby Port San Luis to Fat Cat Cafe – it’s so good that Sunset Magazine wrote about it!

    Shell Beach – Unlike the others on the list, Shell Beach doesn’t have a central downtown or main street, per se, and really is more of a neighborhood. If you turn down Silver Shoals Road off of Shell Beach Road, you will dead end into a grassy area on the bluffs of what the locals have dubbed “Silver Shoals Beach.” This park is a great place for picnics and people watching. There is a dirt trail that leads down to the beach where, even on a windy day, is perfect for sunbathing as the sand is protected from the elements by the sea wall behind you. Feel free to bring your furry friend – the crowd is usually mellow and on the younger side so nobody minds that you are voilating the “no dogs on the beach” policy that most California beaches seem to have.  If you’re looking to stay in Shell Beach, check out the lux Dolphin Bay Inn – not only is is gorgeous, set atop the bluffs with panoramic views of the Central Coast, but the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean stayed there while they were filming on the nearby dunes!

    Pismo Beach – If you want some action, Pismo is the beach for you – there is more going on and much more to do here than at any of the other beaches on this list. Pismo Beach offers great shopping. Vacationers can find everything from surf stores, antique stores, candy shops, souvenir stores and more.  Pismo’s sandunes are a great place to camp, go off roading and ride horses.  The pier at Pismo Beach is a great place to fish, people watch and get tasty treats including hot dogs, ice cream, and snow cones to name a few. As you stroll the beach, look for the volleyball nets – there is often pickup games and the courts are also the location of tournaments during certain times of the year. You must allot time for a trip to Splash Cafe. Be prepared to wait, but I assure you that even a half hour wait is well worth it. There is a lot to choose from on the menu – and all of it is good – but this place is famous for their clam chowder.

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (26 of 40)

    killing fields memorial

    killing fields memorial

    exploring cambodia…
    “phnom penh roads are filled with cars. and not the little skinny asian cars that we’ve seen thus far, but big sudans, trucks, landrovers, 4-runners, escalades, and…wait for it…. brand new hummers cruising around (we’ve seen 3 so far). crazy. there’s a lot of money in this town, but with it seems to be more curruption and the worst poverty we’ve seen yet.

    we went out to the killing fields with some friends, got depressed, came back and got some good lunch at happy phnom penh pizza with an early happy hour and got un-depressed. we skipped the genocide museum but probably will hit it up when my mom joins us later today.

    incense offering at the memorial

    incense offering at the memorial

    everything’s in dollars here, even the ATM so it’s a bit of an odd feeling at first, and everything things more expensive even though its really not. we hit up some street bars by night and got attacked by a giant rat. luckily it only hit jeff and dans feet. jeff had a river of rat spit/juice left over on the top of his foot after it scurried away….yummy. we’ve made a small routine of having some delish pizza at lunch and then doing nothing in the afternoon, it’s been quite relaxing…even got some pool time in. all the fancy hotels let you pay a small fee or just buy something and you get to treat yourself for the day poolside.

    looking forward to mom coming today! then we’re back to the touristy sites and onward to the beaches. it’s one of the biggest cambodian holidays this week, khmer new years, so it should be some fun excitement… involving lots of food, dancing, music, the throwing of water and talcum powder to top it off! we shall see…..

    chillin for now

    xo”

    killing fields

    killing fields

    prayer flags on grave

    prayer flags on grave

    96 degrees in the shade - real hot

    96 degrees in the shade - real hot

    america likes happy pizza

    america likes happy pizza

    monks preparing for cambodian new year

    monks preparing for cambodian new year

    Restaurant Review – The Temptation, Boca Grande, FL

    Boca Grande Florida Best Little Beach TownRestaurant: The Temptation
    Location: 350 Park Avenue, Boca Grande, Florida
    Cuisine: Fresh Seafood, etc.
    Price Per Plate: Lunch – around $20; Dinner – around $50
    Verdict: Thumbs Up!

    On our recent trip to Boca Grande, we had the pleasure of enjoying lunch at the Temptation.  Located at 350 Park Avenue, this Boca Grande bistro says welcome the minute you walk in the door.  The staff greeted us like we were family.  They were very courteous and attentive to our needs.

    I enjoyed the strawberry chicken salad which was extremely fresh, light and tasty.  Bronzed grouper was my daughter’s selection.  The menu summed this dish up correctly as they stated it was an “Island Sensation.”

    Clearly my daughter enjoyed this immensely as she had the first clean plate in the group.  The grouper was prepared on a bed of sautéed Brussell Sprouts With Roasted Garlic, Shallots, Prosciutto, & Parmesan Cheese
    Topped with an Orange Beurre Blanc.  My husband enjoyed the fried grouper fingers.  Typically he does not order fried food, but he described this being extremely light and some of the best fish he has ever tasted.

    You can read more about the Temptation HERE.

    A Recipe From Each Continent of the World (3 of 7)

    North America:  America’s Best Burger Ever

    (Recipe excerpted from ABC’s Good Morning America, host of Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Best Burger Ever Challenge – the winner was Allison Koplan’s Stuffed Bacon-Cheddar BBQ Burger)

    Burger Ingredients

    • 1 lb. ground chuck
    • 1 lb. ground round
    • 2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
    • 2 tbsp. garlic salt
    • 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
    • 1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • 2 medium Vidalia onions, sliced
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1 bottle of sweet barbecue sauce (of your choice)
    • Hamburger buns
    • Lettuce (optional)
    • Tomato (optional)
    • 1/2 cup Onions
    • 1/4 cup Barbecue sauce for basting

    Winner Allison Koplan and Chef Emeril Lasasse

    • Combine ground round, ground chuck, salt and pepper in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the coarsely shredded sharp cheddar and cooked bacon pieces. Let bacon and cheese mixture sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes to get soft. Then, shape mixture into balls (for however many burgers you would like to make)
    • Form 2 patties of meat and place one cheese/bacon ball in between them. Pinch the sides together to seal in cheese ball. Gently press formed patty, to spread out cheese ball. Continue until all patties are formed
    • Cook burgers on grill over medium flame for about 7 minutes on each side. While burgers are grilling, slice sweet Vidalia onions and saute them in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter. Once onions become translucent (about 4 minutes), add some sweet barbecue sauce
    • Flip burgers, and baste the cooked side of the patties with the same sweet barbecue sauce used in the onions. After about 7 minutes longer, the burger should be done (these are big thick burgers and may take longer to grill to your liking). Baste again with sweet barbecue sauce before removing from grill. Butter hamburger buns and place on top rack of grill for several minutes, until toasted
    • To build burger, take toasted bun, add patty, and top with smothered barbecue onions. You can add tomato or lettuce, if you’d like, but the flavors are great without them

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asis (25 of 40)

    monk kid

    monk kid

    leaving the breast milk for bigger and better things…
    “sorry to say, but we were both glad to get out of vietnam.  a beautiful country but the ‘sales tactics’ were starting to wear on us a bit.  we would definitely recommend anyone of you guys to go there, you just have to be ready for the constant haggling and barganing.  that aside, a great country.

    it’s amazing how much war the country has been through; it seems their whole existence has been based around war, with the chinese, cham empire, french, americans, and the khmer.  i think they really live up to the saying, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  and now, 30 years after the states left the country, consumerism is swallowing it up.  it’s no wonder that everyone’s eger to make a buck, or two or three off you.  for that reason though, people can come off real rash and hard.  but still, we would meet a jem every once in awhile that reminded us not all are just after your wallet.  and actually, in our last town we stopped in, chau doc, we weren’t ripped off the whole time and were given the locals price, no questions asked! such a relief after you’ve spent the last month wheeling and dealing.  not too many tourists stayed in this town, so you can see the ‘tourism dollar’ hadn’t made its impact yet.

    commuter traffic

    commuter traffic

    after a grueling  boat ride and bus ride up to cambodia, we arrived in phnom penh, the city of contradiction. the boat ride was pretty, but loud and hot and air filled with deisel.  but we saw lots of little villages on the river side with kids and monks swimming and working the land.  after loading all 13 of us and our bags in our minivan, the 1hour ride began into the city.  in the first five minutes in the van, we bottomed out but kept on driving.  us in the back seat could tell right away something went bad with the tire.  sure enough, once we reached the center of the city, in the middle of a massive intersection, at a dead stop in traffic, the driver finally realized the rear tire was completely flat.  so we all loaded off the van, and onto the sidewalk, amidst zooming cars and motors, as well as roaring fire engines on their way somewhere.  fortunately there was a tire store right there so within 10 minutes we were back on our way.”

    96 degrees in the shade - real hot

    96 degrees in the shade - real hot

    A Recipe From Each Continent of the World (2 of 7)

    Africa:  African Potato Stew & Ugali – native to Kenya

    Stew Ingredients:

    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 2 cups onions, chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
    • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
    • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    • 4 cups water
    • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
    • 2 cups cauliflower cut into bite-size pieces
    • 1 medium sweet potato cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    • 4 cups collard greens, sliced thin
    • 1/4 cup dark raisins
    • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup shelled peas (for garnish)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
    • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (to taste)

    Now What?

    • In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat – a add onions and garlic and cook them for 5 minutes (or until onions become transparent and soften).  Stirr occasionally
    • Add ginger, seeds, coriander and cloves – cook (stirring frequently) for 2 minutes
    • Next add the potatoes and gradually stir in the 4 cups of water.  Then turn the heat up to high
    • Once the mixture comes to a boil, stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer the stew (uncovered) for 5 minutes and stir occasionally
    • Stir in the cauliflower, sweet potato, collard greens & raisins and continue to cook for 10 minutes (or until the potatoes & sweet potatoes are tender)
    • Last, season the stew with the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and add in more water if the stew is too dry – garnish with peas

    Serve hot and Enjoy!

    Ugali Ingredients:

    • 4 cups water
    • 3 or 4 cups maize meal (a bit more coarse that American corn meal, however, corn meal will work fine too)

    Now What?

    • In large pot, bring your water to a boil
    • Add the maize meal, stirring to prevent lumps
    • Gradually add more maize meal to make a thick mixture (it will resemble grits until it cooks down a bit more)
    • Continue to stir until the maize meal is well cooked and mixture is about the consistency of Play Dough
    • Remove the ball of dough from the pot and place onto a serving plate – the ugali should hold its shape
    • Traditionally, diners pinch off pieces of the ball and use it to “sop up” soups, stews or sauces

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (20 of 40)

    arriving to the caves

    arriving to the caves

    descent of the dragon
    “the junk/boat was fairly big – it had 10 rooms on the first floor, dinning room for 20 + on the second, and a deck up top.  we started with lunch which was decent.  all-inclusive usually means the food’s gonna suck, and in this case, it pretty much all did. the meals on the boat were okay: sticky rice, fried something (either french fries, fish, calamari, peanuts, peas, you name it) nem (fried spring rolls), grilled fish (unfillet’d of course), steamed cabage of some sort, and sauteed noodles with either a meat or fish…. like i said, decent, but bland for sure.  and as drinks weren’t included, not even water, we suffered cause we refused to pay the 4x markup price…although we did splurg once on a beer.

    keeping with food, the food on the island at the hotel we stayed at was horrible.  it was as if you were at the worst hospital ever, and it was ‘chinese food day’, slopped up by the lunch room lady played by chris farley… horrible i tell you! and it made me sick and even jeff a bit too.

    Food aside…. the bay was great.  Our boat first took us to a giant cave on an island.  The boat pulls up to the cement dock stairway and then the music instantly starts.  It`s like we`re at disneyland! The load speaker is spitting out some form of traditional music followed by a vietnamese voice, and then an english voice.  Now we`re on the ride… She explains to keep the island clean by depositing all rubbage in the Penguin and Dolphin trash cans and stay on the path… Cross between Jurassic Park or Disneyland for sure.  We hiked up a short stairway to enter this massive cave.  It was totally unbelievable.  For the biggest cave we will probably ever see in our lives.  All in all it`s the size of a small mall after you`ve walked it all and it`s tall, a huge room of many forms and shapes. But, continuing with the disney theme, they`ve wired it with electricity and colored lights reflect off different walls or bottoms to represent water i guess or something… kinda crazy.  Still the natural beauty prevailed.  Van Whee took us through with his lazer light and pointed out all the shapes of people and creatures you could see, like when you`re looking at clouds.  But, he forgot to distribute enough drugs for the rest of us so we could be on his same plane….  After 25 minutes, we started to exit the cave, only to find the beautiful bay has now been encompassed by a massive wind and rain storm.  We cancelled the second cave we were to hike to and made our way down the slippery cement stairway to our Junk.
    Now, we`re soaking wet and stuck on the boat realizing there went our afternoon of kayaking around the bay.  The boat starts its departure and we`re on our way to find cover in a cove around the bay.  As we`re moving along, I of course bring up whats the liklihood of a boat like this tipping over.  After Jeff and this guy from Boston discuss the decisions made its too big to tip, it would rather have to sink from hitting a rock or something.  Moments later, we hear a crash outside and one of the deck hands rushes inside and yells something loud and crazy that then results with all 20 of us franticlly moving to one side of the boat to balance it out.  The sound had come from two of the beautiful giant flower pots they had outside that were obviously not secured down as they slide around breaking and going overboard.  It seems that we had got caught at just the imperfect time in this wind tunnel between these two islands as we were trying to get around them.  It took about 10 minutes of shifting side to side and opening the windows so the rainy wind could blow through the ship rather than at it, until we were safely motored to cover.  Kinda crazy and exciting, at least since we survived it!
    Since our afternoon was shot, we ended up taking a long nap in our actually very comfortable and cozy room.  Then dinner while we watched lightning and thunder surround us.
    In the morning we awoke at 630 and hit up the kayaks now that it had cleared and the sun was beginning to shine.  We row`d around for 30 minutes or so then retreated to our room and warmed up before breakfast.  Then after our horrible cold breakfast, we motored over to Cat Ba island where we would spend the next night.
    Now we seriously were on Jurassic Park.  We got in our little bus and drove through amazing limestone peaks where we were awaiting T Rex to jump out at any moment.  Unfortunately I guess we were a few million years too late.  Our first stop was the national park.  We hiked a short but gruesome hike to the top of a peak where we climbed a scary old rigidy army look out tower and gazed accross the mountain peaks.  And looking down at the old army base (VC army).  Very cool, but super scary,for me at least, Jeff I guess isn`t fazed much by heights, but half the people couldn`t even make it to the top.  I did, but I could feel my legs almost about to give out if I thought about it too hard, or looked down through the rusty old crate top.  After the trek we went to our mediocore hotel, had horrible lunch, then hit the beach up (cause now its sunny).  Went for a dip, sunbathed, then I got sick and couldn`t really leave the room, or toilet for that matter.  Not much going on the island but a lot of building.  There were whole areas cleared out with the giant billboards showing pictures of the future projects that looked like condominium developements and more resort  hotels… the new Phuket of vietnam, too bad.
    On the third day we boat`d back about two hours to mainland, sunbathing on the top deck, not too shabby.
    Bia Hoi, our only saving grace.  Translates to Beer Fresh.  Only 18 cents a mug if you can believe that! Tastes kinda like dirty fermented water at first, but after one or two you get used to it.  Its made by locals, unfermented and dranken on the street corners or little cafes.  That`s been part of our daily routine, meeting lots of expats from around the world that are here teaching english or own tourism copanies or restaurants.
    Food, we`ve tride fried corn kernals rubbed in a butter custard thing (ultimate popcorn), squid jerky dipped in a sweet and hot sauce, kebabs, either in a pita or baguetts (decent), and more pho (still our first experience has been the best).
    Now we`re loaded up on oranges and we`re getting on a 13 hour busride south to Hue in the middle of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) which at once was an imperial capitol and has an old citidel in it…. we`ll see.  Then Jeff just might have his luck as there may be surf at the infamous China Beach which is just south of Hue….
    Overall, Hanoi is still in our tops.  We found out it is a city of around 8million now, with 6.5 million scooters! We`ll be uploading photos to prove it at the next stop.  Great people though, with some hasslers everywhere, but we`re used to it now….
    Peace and love for now!
    xostacy and jeff

    food aside…. the bay was great.  our boat first took us to a giant cave on an island.  the boat pulls up to the cement dock stairway and then the music instantly starts.  it’s like we’re at disneyland!  the loud speaker is spitting out some form of traditional music followed by a vietnamese voice, and then an english voice.  now we’re on the ride… she explains to keep the island clean by depositing all rubbage in the penguin and dolphin trash cans and stay on the path… cross between jurassic park or disneyland for sure.

    Van Whee and Captain, chugging beers, you just cant see it in the pic

    van whee and captain, chugging beers, you just cant see it in the pic

    we hiked up a short stairway to enter this massive cave.  it was totally unbelievable.  by far the biggest cave we will probably ever see in our lives.  all in all it’s the size of a small mall – a tall, huge room of many forms and shapes. but, continuing with the disney theme, they’ve wired it with electricity and colored lights reflect off different walls or bottoms to represent water i guess…or something… kinda crazy.  still, the natural beauty prevailed.  van whee took us through with his laser light and pointed out all the shapes of people and creatures you could see, like when you’re looking at clouds…but he forgot to distribute enough drugs for the rest of us so we could be in his same frame of mind….  after 25 minutes, we started to exit the cave, only to find the beautiful bay has now been encompassed by a massive wind and rain storm.  we cancelled the second cave we were to hike to and made our way down the slippery cement stairway to our junk.

    rushing from one side of the boat to the other

    rushing from one side of the boat to the other

    now, we’re soaking wet and stuck on the boat realizing “there went our afternoon of kayaking around the bay.”  the boat starts its departure and we’re on our way to find cover in a cove around the bay.  as we’re moving along, I of course bring up “whats the likelihood of a boat like this tipping over?”  after jeff and this guy from boston discuss and come to the decision that it’s too big to tip, (rather it would have to sink from hitting a rock or something).  moments later, we hear a crash outside and one of the deck hands rushes inside and yells something loud and crazy that then results with all 20 of us frantically moving to one side of the boat to balance it out.  the sound had come from two of the beautiful giant flower pots they had outside that were obviously not secured down as they slide around breaking and flying overboard.  it seems that we had got caught at just the imperfect time in this wind tunnel between these two islands as we were trying to get around them.

    our nice room below deck

    our nice room below deck

    it took about 10 minutes of shifting side to side and opening the windows so the rainy wind could blow through the ship rather than at it, until we had safely motored to cover.  kinda crazy and exciting – at least since we survived it!

    since our afternoon was shot, we ended up taking a long nap in our actually very comfortable and cozy room.  then dinner while we watched the lightning and thunder that surround us.

    in the morning we awoke at 6:30 and hit up the kayaks now that it had cleared and the sun was beginning to shine.  we rowed around for 30 minutes or so then retreated to our room and warmed up before breakfast.  then after our horrible cold breakfast, we motored over to cat ba island where we would spend the next night.

    view of the island from our kayak

    view of the island from our kayak

    now we seriously were on jurassic park.  we got in our little bus and drove through amazing limestone peaks where we were awaiting t rex to jump out at any moment.  unfortunately i guess we were a few million years too late.  our first stop was the national park.  we hiked a short but gruesome hike to the top of a peak where we climbed a scary old rickety army look-out tower and gazed across the mountain peaks and could look down at the old army base (vc army).  very cool, but super scary, for me at least.  jeff isn’t fazed much by heights, but half the people couldn’t even make it to the top.  i did, but i could feel my legs almost about to give out if i thought about it too hard, or looked down through the rusty old crate top.

    fishing village

    fishing village

    after the trek we went to our mediocre hotel, had a horrible lunch, then hit up the beach (cause now it’s sunny).  we went for a dip, sunbathed, then i got sick and couldn’t really leave the room, or toilet for that matter.  not much going on on the island but a lot of building.  there were whole areas cleared out with the giant billboards showing pictures of the future projects that looked like condominium developments and more resort  hotels… the new phuket of vietnam – too bad.

    on the third day we boated back about two hours to mainland, sunbathing on the top deck, not too shabby.

    floating villages

    floating villages

    bia hoi – our only saving grace – translates to beer fresh.  only 18 cents a mug if you can believe that!  tastes kinda like dirty fermented water at first, but after one or two you get used to it.  it’s made by locals, unfermented and drank on the street corners or in little cafes.  that’s been part of our daily routine, in addition to meeting lots of expats from around the world that are here teaching english or who own tourism companies or restaurants.

    food, we’ve tried fried corn kernels rubbed in a butter custard thing (ultimate popcorn), squid jerky dipped in a sweet and hot sauce, kebabs, either in a pita or baguettes (decent), and more pho (still our first experience has been the best).

    kayaking couple

    kayaking couple

    now we’re loaded up on oranges and we’re getting on a 13 hour bus ride south to hue in the middle of the DMZ (de-militarized zone) which once was an imperial capitol and has an old citadel in it…. we’ll see.  then jeff just might have his luck as there may be surf at the infamous china beach which is just south of hue….

    overall, hanoi is still in our tops.  we found out it is a city of around 8 million now, with 6.5 million scooters! we’ll be uploading photos to prove it at the next stop.  great people though, with some hasslers everywhere, but we’re used to it now….

    peace and love!

    xo, stacy and jeff”

    rusty stairs

    rusty stairs

    at top of peak

    at top of peak

    mountain views

    mountain views

    top of lookout tower

    top of lookout tower

    lookin down

    lookin down

    sign on top

    sign on top

    seriously tall

    seriously tall

    and seriously old and rusty...missing last step!

    and seriously old and rusty...missing last step!

    from below looking up

    from below looking up

    army barracks

    army barracks

    old army barracks

    old army barracks

    cat ba harbor

    cat ba harbor

    jeff takin a dip

    jeff takin a dip

    sunset

    sunset

    3rd day on the boat and sunny!

    3rd day on the boat and sunny!

    always sportin the flag

    always sportin the flag

    view off junk deck

    view off junk deck

    front of boat

    front of boat

    this does no justice to show how many there really are

    this does no justice to show how many there really are

    beer hoi

    beer hoi

    motor transport for anything and everything

    motor transport for anything and everything

    lunch

    lunch

    A Recipe from Each Continent of the World (1 of 7)

    Asia:  Tom Ka Gai Soup – native to Thailand

    Ingredients:

    • Good quality Chinese chicken stock – 1 cup
    • Coconut milk – 1 cup
    • Fresh or frozen lemongrass – 1/2 a  stalk
    • Galangal – fresh – 6 slices (If you don’t have any at home, you can order some online)
    • Kaffir Lime Leaves – 2 (hand-torn)
    • Thai bird’s eye chillies (or Serrano chillies) – 2-3 (big slices so you can avoid them easily)
    • (If you don’t have any of the above, Amazon ships a package of all the fresh ingredients you need for the soup.)
    • Fish sauce – 1 tbsp (The saltiness can vary a lot across brands, so start with less always.)
    • Lime juice – 2 tbsp
    • Sugar – 1/2 tsp
    • Coriander (cilantro for the Americans) leaves – 2 tbsp
    • Boneless chicken breast (or Tofu) – 2 breasts or 1 package
    • Straw mushrooms (or regular button mushrooms) – 4 (sliced)

    Now What?

    • With lemongrass, recipes generally only call for the bottom 6 inches or so (the white part).  The rest is woody and can be trashed. Using the flat side of a cleaver or a heavy object, pound and bruise the lemongrass to releases the flavor before cutting into 2 inch segments. Easy with the cleaver or you can do way more than bruise the lemongrass – we don’t want any missing fingers!
    • Pour the stock into a pot and bring to a boil.   Then toss the galangal, lemongrass, sugar, and lime leaves in and simmer for 5 minutes.
    • Add the coconut milk, chillies and fish sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.
    • Lastly, add the chicken (or tofu) and mushrooms and cook till the protein is just cooked. (Chicken will be done shortly after you first see it turning all white on the outside – tofu can be cooked until you get the desired texture – 20 minutes for more meaty tofu and shorter if you like it tender).
    • For the grand finale, turn off the heat and add your lime juice and garnish with coriander leaves (wait till the end to add the lime juice in order to maintain that citrusy goodness – the longer you cook it the more it will mellow). Test for saltiness and sourness. The galangal should give you some good earthy flavor, there will be some tasty salty/sweetness from the coconut milk, and a fair bit of lime and chili flavor.  (If you need to kick up the salt factor, throw in some extra fish sauce – lemon juice will kick up the sour factor.

    Enjoy!  (Or as they say in Thailand, kin-khao-hai-a-roi-na   กินข้าวให้อร่อยนะ)

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (16 of 40)

    got baguette?

    got baguette?

    vietnam
    “well we made it.  and with that said we’ve already encountered/checked off things we knew would occur… we signed up for our 24hour bus ride at $19.00 each.  nothing to write home about, but at least it wasn’t the worst.  they drove us 7 hours to the border and then we stayed there until it opened up at 6am.  once it got light out we could see we had already crossed a major weather barrier:  it was foggy and misty and cool… a nice change, but we were still in shorts and t-shirts and flops.. not really prepared.  after we got pulled around the border crossing they (like normal), were demanding more money, and then we were left in the rain to walk through ‘no mans land’ (the inbetween laos and vietnam).  but we made it back on the bus, passport in hand, soaking wet and cold (see pics).

    arch of vien tien

    arch of vien tien

    our first stop was the classic bus owned road side restaurant where everyone gets off, chows down quickly, goes pee and even brushes their teeth (we’ve done this one many times by now).  but here we tried our first pho and co.  the first is the famous noodle soup, the second is a rice dish… both pretty good, but I know we’ll find better. on the bus there was about 6 of us ‘farungs‘ and the rest locals of vietnam.  not too much interaction occurred until the bus started to thin out in vietnam and seating arrangements were rearranged.  we finally started our interaction.  one guy knew very little english, but enough to get a convo going.  he asked us where we were from, but he couldn’t understand us.  we proceeded with age questions, travel, etc… then he asked again where we were  from so pulled out our trusty map and pointed to the states.  that’s when it came, the big long “ooooohhhhh…..” then silence for a few minutes.

    laos arch

    laos arch

    we weren’t sure how to take it and have been wondering what it was gonna be like since neither of us experienced the war and were not that affected by it…. he then broke the silence with a smile saying how many many vietnamese were killed in the war. we nodded in agreement, curiously wondering what they were thinking.  he continued on and we figured him and jeff are the same age so they went off that for a bit, then he explained how his older brother was sent to the states in 1975 at the age of 9, and has been there ever since.  he’s now a doctor in california (area code 714 – he showed us, but we’re not sure where that is…) and he sends home $1000-3000 every christmas since, the way things worked out, he is more successful now whereas the local brother we were talking to barely scrapes up the change. his buddy then explained his father was killed in 1974 in the war, but he was only 1 year old, so he never knew him.  the whole conversation was a very interesting experience and we know we’ve got lots more to come.  but there was smiles and even laughter so we felt in good company.  i do have to say that it’s heart wrenching looking into the eyes of the elders here knowing they DID live and breath through the war and that we have no idea what that was like….

    box wine...makes a bus ride smooth

    box wine...makes a bus ride smooth

    then, we saw it…just what we were hoping to not see – what we were thinking could just be rumors…. fido on a stick…well almost (he was on his way).  a lady on the side of the road was prepping her dead ‘fido’ (i just can’t bring myself to say it..) for the next stages in the kitchen…we continued on down the road and noticed quite a lot of dogs chained up on the side of buildings…keep in mind we’re in 3rd world countries here where dogs normally roam free and wild…so this was a dead give away…… now we have a lot more to explore, as this was all on our little bus ride.  hanoi is huge, 3 million i think.  we’re in the old quarter at a clean decent hotel – for 10 bucks, free internet, and dinner in our room….not too shabby! we got in at dark, so tomorrow we explore around… now we’ve got our box of wine from the bus to finish while chowing down on spring rolls….. peace and love always…”

    walking in the rain

    walking in the rain

    jeff like pineapple

    jeff like pineapple

    yum

    yum

    Dana Point – Harboring the Good Life!

    Dana Point is a beautiful city located in southern Orange County, California.  The motto of the city is “Harboring the Good Life,” which is manifested in the life of residents of the city.

    This city is a popular vacation destination because of its serene natural beauty, gorgeous beaches, shopping, beautiful parks, and host of activities that it has to offer.  A prominent point of interest in the city is Dana Point Harbor which offers boat rentals, fishing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, boat charters, shops, and restaurants.  Vacationers thoroughly enjoy the lively atmosphere and activities at the Harbor.

    Dana Point has 23 beautiful parks, including Chloe Luke Overlook, Creekside Park, Crystal Cove Park, and Salt Creek Park.  The renowned parks are free of charge for visitors and are perfect for picnics, barbeques, relaxing, walking, biking, and playing sports.  You can reserve the parks for large parties and you can also have a memorable wedding at one of the parks.

    Dana Point has world-famous beaches and a number of beach-related activities and facilities, such as boat rentals and surf shops.  Some of the beaches include Capistrano Beach, Doheny State Beach, and Salt Creek Beach.

    Capistrano Beach is a beautiful beach that offers sports, cycling, fishing gear and beach supplies.

    Doheny State Beach has an impressive picnic area and is famous in the state of California for its swimming and surfing.

    Salt Creek Beach is also popular for surfing and is located in Salt Creek Park.

    Dana Point is referred to as the “Whale Capital of the West” because a variety of whales use the city as a navigational landmark on their migrations. Thus, whale-watching is a popular activity that proves to be a majestic experience particularly in the months of January and February.  Moreover, Dana Point is a well-known fishing area and Dana Point Harbor offers fishing trips for everyone.

    The Ocean Institute is a valuable resource that provides an authentic ocean experience by means of children’s day camps, boat excursions, and wildlife cruises.

    Dana Point has a prominent shopping culture; the city offers shops that sell a broad range of items including Indian artifacts, custom-designed jewelry, designer sunglasses, well-known art galleries, and high-end clothing.  The city has something exciting for every shopper.

    Dana Point Harbor also has seventeen, well-known and diverse restaurants to choose from.

    Dana Point has annual events every season including boat rides with Santa Claus, Festival of the Whales, Doheny Blues Festival which is a vibrant event that celebrates the coming of the summer, Fourth of July fireworks, and Shakespeare by the Sea which is a free Shakespeare production.

    Dana Point also has a great location as it is close to a number of attractions.  Disneyland and other theme parks are about forty-five minutes away and the gorgeous Newport Beach is nearby as well.  San Diego is an hour away and Hollywood is about an hour and a half away.

    Dana Point is a magnificent city that promises a memorable vacation for everyone!

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (14 of 40)

    crossing the river in protest of the toll bridge

    crossing the river in protest of the toll bridge

    party on the river…
    “blazing through the towering limestone mountains of laos to the river town of vang vieng we arrive in our mini bus.

    so we’ve been taking lots of minibuses and each time you think your going to be riding in the brand new one sitting at the bus station, but when the time comes they always bring the old van around from the back. well, our luck has changed and we finally had the pleasure our of riding in a new minivan with a great ac and plenty of power.  since the car was so new our driver was a litttle timid and liked to brake when diving up hill.  oh well, the ac worked great.

    our bungalows, jeff and his beer

    our bungalows, jeff and his beer

    the landscape is beautiful here in laos.  we loved thailand but here it’s all blue skies and greenery with the classic limestone giants towering in the air.

    we found a nice bungalow across the river down towards the end of town.  when we arrived at the bridge to cross, they wanted 4000kp to cross, so we decided just to walk across the water instead.  having to wade across the river each time you want to go home makes for a great adventure – plus you can go for a swim and cool off!

    our first night we joined our travel friends for a great meal on the streets.  we tried the fried morning glory and fired noodles with chicken and chased it down with a large beer lao. then we went to the bucket bar for a bucket of wiskey.  in asia it seems to be your best value but the hangover is very bad.  even worse was the dj who was playing at the club.  so we sat and watch 3 boys that look like girls dance and grind on the pole – not a pretty sight.  it seemd to work because every 10 minutes or so you would see a guy walk up and go for a hug, then jump back 5 feet and run away while his buddies would laugh.

    more about our mountain bike excursion next time…”

    sunrise

    sunrise

    Unwind at Redington Shores!

    Redington Shores is a beautiful beach town in Pinellas County, Florida.  It is a lovely town that promises a soothing and enjoyable vacation experience.

    You can unwind by soaking in the natural beauty, relaxing at the wide sandy beaches, and going to the pleasant parks.  The more active people can enjoy fishing, boating, water-sports, golfing, shopping, and the arts and culture.  There is something for everyone in Redington Shores!

    Redington Shores has beautiful, white sand beaches along the Boca Ciega Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  The beaches have spectacular sunrises and sunsets—you can watch the first ray of light from the Tampa Bay and sun set in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Redington Shores is a lively beach that has concession stands, a fishing pier, and showers.  Incidentally, Redington Long Pier is the ideal place for fishing.  Various fishing charters are available catered to any fishing enthusiast.  Charters can offer short fishing trips in Tampa Bay while others offer hour-long or day-long trips in the Gulf of Mexico.  You are bound to have an enjoyable and successful fishing trip in these waters!

    Dinner cruises or gambling cruises are very popular in Redington Shores.  You can go on an elegant dinner cruise and view breathtaking scenery and the beautiful sunset.  It is no surprise that sunset cruise boat weddings are exceedingly common in this area.  Redington Shores is a perfect golf destination primarily because of the pleasant weather year round.  There are a variety of beautiful golf courses that golfers can enjoy.

    There is a wide selection of things to do in and around Redington Shores.  Unique and enthralling theme parks are very prevalent close to Redington Shores.  You can go to Busch Gardens, one of the largest zoological parks in the nation, that has rides and an African theme.  The Sea World of Florida features 20 shows and exhibits of whales, dolphins, and sharks, and it is also the world’s most popular marine park.

    Tampa Bay has educational museums that are worth checking out.  The Great Explorations is a hands-on children’s museum and learning center.  The Museum of Science and Industry is the Southeast’s largest science center that features Florida’s only IMAX Dome Theater, traveling shows and demonstrations.

    Redington Shores has a variety of restaurants that have outstanding seafood items.  You can also relax and meet locals at the bars and pubs of this beautiful town.

    Redington Shores is a wonderful town where you can enjoy the stunning surroundings for an unforgettable vacation experience!

    Guest Blog – Jeff & Stacy do SE Asia (13 of 40)

    monks playing football

    monks playing football

    back on the tuk tuk …
    “to the public bus stop.

    well we made it to our furthest northern town of chaing sien. this little town sits on the mekong river near the famous golden triangle.

    we found a great little guest house that sits just outside the old city walls. thinking that we could walk there we turned down the tuk tuk driver (fare was a doller) and made our way down the street strolling along the mekong river. temperature was in the 90′s, our packs weigh a good amount, yet we were determined to walk, because as a backpacker that’s what you do to save a dollar.

    after we settled in we walked back to town for a meal at the local street vender. i had chinese chicken rice which was prepared over a bed of japanese mesquite fire, then was flashed in a dry red curry powder and sprinkled with fresh corriander. stacy had the red pork on baby greens. her dish was prepared from 2 month aged pork that had been smoked with candy apples, figs and a hint of honey. amazing!

    luang prabang tuk tuk

    luang prabang tuk tuk

    the next day we rented a motorbike and head to the golden triangle where you can see burma, laos, and thailand all meet on the mekong. they burn all the under brush in this part of the world so its hard to see much of anything in the distance, but we were able to appreciate the beauty.

    after that, we set out to see the wats (or temples) that sit on the hillsides of chaing sien. very impressive with buhhda and all his monks chillin in their orange robes.  we then tried to catch the sunset at a nearby lake that captures  the beauty of the lotus flowers and the orchestra of the numerous wild birds. we ended our day with a great meal on the river. street venders throw down bamboo mats and tables and serve you a great meal with beers and local wiskey.

    the next day we were on our way to laos on a 2 day slow boat down the mekong river. the border on the laos side was a little unorganized. after we filled out the forms we stood in a line (or what looks like a line) to wait and wait to give our passport and 35 american dollars to the officials.
    grand palace now museum

    grand palace now museum

    after that, the boat company gets all the travelers together for a speech on the laos boat trip. first they tell us that on the first day we will be on the boat for 12 hours and that our lives are at risk.

    we spend the night at a river town and again the boat guy tells us that we might have our luggage stolen off the boat by villagers, that there is also no electricity, very few rooms available and, to top it all off, we could DIE.

    at that point i had to leave to get a beer because everywhere we went there is a scam and we have heard it many times. this whole speech is being given so they can talk people into taking the bus for an additional 300 baht.

    overall, the boat trip was a great time with travelers from all over the world. they had a bar with food, the seats were wood benches that suck after about 30 min, but lucky for us the first day was only 7 hours long.

    peace

    peace

    we arrived to a great little village with friendly locals and plenty of places to stay. a bit more expensive but nice. we ate at a great indian/laos resturant to fuel up for our second day.

    second day was great with lots of time to take in the beauty of the river and chat with the other travelers – this trip took about 10hrs. now we are in luang prabang checkin it out. seems to be more french influence here with fresh baguettes and wine stores along the narrow streets.

    we’re leaving in a day to vang vieng to see more and keep the adventure exciting and new….”

    Manzanillo – Que Bonita!

    Manzanillo, Mexico is a wonderful destination located in the state of Colima. It is a coastal city on the Pacific side with the busiest port in Mexico. However, despite its commercial importance, it has retained its tranquil laid-back Mexican charm.

    The port of Manzanillo is made up of two separate bays, divided by the Peninsula of Santiago. On the left is the Bay of Santiago, followed by a smaller notched-out area, known as Playa Audiencia and on the right-hand side, is the Bay of Manzanillo. Both bays are more than five miles long and offer a variety of water sports activities.

    Manzanillo is replete with pristine, breathtaking beaches that are undeniably the most beautiful on the western coast of Mexico. Manzanillo is a perfect vacation spot for people that want to get-away-from-it-all and immerse themselves in the best of Mexican beauty and natural charms.  The best way to experience the local way of life is to rent a beach house!

    In the north side of Manzanillo, the tourist zone offers exclusive gift shops, cultural stores, travel agencies, tour operators, authentic restaurants and beautiful beaches including Playa de Oro, Playa L’Recif, and La Boquita. In addition, the renowned seafood in Manzanillo is scrumptious and fresh due to the vast fishing culture of the city. Start out your delicious seafood lunch with a shrimp cocktail or fresh oysters and clams caught that morning by the local fishermen. You can also choose from a varied menu of seafood for the main course, such as shrimp, filet of dorado, red snapper, or lobster. While enjoying the delicious food in the vibrant town of Manzanillo, you can have the strolling musicians play you a few Mariachi tunes.

    There is a vast variety of activities for vacationers that include playing water sports, fishing, golfing, and enjoying the nightlife. Surfing, scuba diving, swimming, banana boat rides, and snorkeling are very popular in this town and Manzanillo also has two of the top golf courses in Mexico. The city is known as the “sailfish capital of the world” with year-round excursions available for sport fishing.

    Tours are available of the city and of the historic state of Colima. It’s a great place to shop too—there are stores ranging from upscale to local vendors that you can bargain with for hammocks, toys and authentic jewelry.

    Manzanillo is a cultural, relaxing and enjoyable place to visit for vacationers. It is undeniably a must-see for vacationers planning a trip to Mexico.

    The Heavenly Island of Provo

    The breathtakingly gorgeous Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory located in the West Indies.  The islands are widely known for their gorgeous beaches, natural beauty, and pristine coral reefs. 

    Providenciales, or Provo, is the urban center of Turks and Caicos and it is also the most popular island.  Interestingly, only about forty years ago, Provo did not have a single wheeled vehicle and today it is one of the most popular vacation destinations among tourists.  The gorgeous beaches, beautiful landscape, and tranquilizing atmosphere of the city will make you fall in love.

    Provo is a paradisiacal island that is ideal for families and couples trying to get away from it all.  Provo has gorgeous, white sandy beaches with dazzling turquoise waters, and miles of coral reefs making it the ultimate diving destination.  Flamingo Divers offers diving with small groups of eight people of any experience level and it provides an exciting and memorable diving experience!  The most popular 12 mile stretch of the beach is located on Grace Bay and is surrounded by a barrier reef

    At the beach, you can indulge in a host of enjoyable activities including parasailing, scuba diving, surfing, sailing, kite-surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and waterskiing. 

    Provo is a haven for golfers as it has one of the top ten golf courses of the Caribbean. 

    The island also has the world’s only Conch farm; the mollusks with their beautiful pink shells take five years to grow.  The Conch farm offers tours during the winter; it is most definitely a must-see, unique attraction of the island. 

    Another popular place of interest in Provo is The Hole located on the way to Long Bay Beach.  It is a breathtaking, bottomless pit that has ultimate natural beauty.  According to some, the pit is connected to the sea via underground tunnels.  The Hole is usually admired from the topside; you have to see this fascinating location on your visit!  

    Historic points of interest in Provo include Cheshire Hill and Sapodilla Bay.  Cheshire Hall is a 200 year old building that consists of ruins of a prosperous cotton plantation.  The building ruins have been conserved and they offer beautiful views of the island providing a captivating contrast of the old Provo and the modern Provo. 

    "The Hole" in ProvidencialesSapodilla Bay is a heavenly spot with white sand beaches and clear blue waters; there is a hill that overlooks Sapodilla Bay where you can observe historic stones engraved by shipwrecked sailors

    Provo offers a luxurious and diverse dining experience.  The island has a wide variety of restaurants with distinct ambiances and cuisines.  A lot of restaurants have mouthwatering specials every day of the week!

    During your stay at Provo, you must visit the island’s only live casino called Casablanca Casino.  The Casino is an exciting place with live gaming tables, a lounge, and a bar

    At Provo Island, you are bound to have a magical vacation. Provo is a heavenly island that will leave you with memories of a lifetime!

    St. Martin – the perfect blend of 2 countries!

    St. Martin is a magical island that is shared by the French and the Dutch; the two countries share an almost indiscernible and friendly border.  However, each side maintains its distinctiveness and represents its own culture

    The island has a very calm and secluded environment that makes it a perfect spot for vacationers.  The fact that the island has two distinct cultures makes it an exciting place to visit.  The beautiful island is warm and sunny throughout the year, the average temperature is about 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Marigot, the capital city of St. Martin, has a vibrant French culture – it has colonial houses, bistros, pastry shops, luxurious boutiques, and European fashions.  The best part is that the entire city is very accessible and vacationer-friendly because it only has four wide streets. 

    The figure of Fort St. Louis is a huge historical monument that is located on the side of the island and it overlooks the Marigot Bay.  While you’re looking at this monument, you can get a great panoramic view of the island.  At the South of Marigot, there is a museum that preserves the island’s history and culture as it has an abundance of pre-Colombian treasures and extensive displays that manifest the plantation and slavery period. 

    Paradise Peak is the highest point on the island, after climbing 1,400 feet to the top, you can get a magnificent view of the landscape and tropical forest.  On the east of the island, there is a small village called Orleans, or French Quarter, which still preserves some of the seventeenth-century structures.  Spending a day in this beautiful village is a great learning experience that you will thoroughly enjoy. 

    There are a ton of fun-filled activities that the great island offers.  St. Martin has thirty seven stunning and unique beaches.  The beach at Grand Case and the Anse Marcel beaches have vibrant local cultures and are great beaches to visit with families.  Orient Bay beach is unique because it has white sand and it offers a great variety of water-sports. 

    Dining in St. Martin is world famous- the cuisine there ranges from French delicacies to Asian and Indian cuisine.  There are plenty of renowned restaurants on this island; many of them play music for dancing as well. 

    Given the rich culture of St. Martin, the gorgeous beaches, the historical sites, the enjoyable activities, and the romantic and peaceful atmosphere, a trip to this beautiful island will be a magical one that you will cherish for the rest of your life!

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (9 of 40)

    stacy and her stick in the bamboo

    stacy and her stick in the bamboo

    and we’re offpart 1
    “before we knew it, mong (our local guide) charged down the hill with his basket on his back full of tons of food, water, a pot, and who knows what else…. we were told to follow with our little daypacks on our back, toil (our pai guide) following behind.

    we started through farmlands, then down to a creek through banana and bamboo groves.  first order of business was walking sticks.  the men stopped got out there machetes and cut each of us a sturdy bamboo walking stick.  we were off….

    jungle lunch

    we hiked up, down and around, and it was hot hot hot!  but we had our water, and every once in awhile it would get a little cooler.  we ventured through major teak groves and bamboo groves…we trumped over dry clay, through creeks, over bamboo fences, and through masses of dried huge leaves…it felt like trumping through snow, only a little crunchier sounding.  and of course, going through my mind was wondering what was underneath all these leaves, perhaps a poisonous snake? a giant spider? even a big lizard would give me a jump… but no such luck thank god.

    villiage street

    after a few hours we stopped for lunch in a dry creek bed.  the two guides pulled down some banana leaves and created some seats for us, then they swiftly created a fire with twigs, cut down some bamboo and made a mortar and pestle to crush chili and two bamboo cups for his homemade ‘moonshine whiskey’ – so resourceful! we sat in amazement as we watched the two of them create this tremendous lunch:  ramen noodles with tons of fresh veggies, salted fish, pork belly, and a fresh chili sauce using some ‘wild olives’ they found in the forest.  it was great, and super delish!

    karen villiage

    karen village

    as we were sitting, we glanced above at the banana leaves and realized they were moving… there were thousands, if not millions, of daddy long leg spiders with the longest legs you’ve ever seen! and when the fire started, the smoke must of spooked them cause it started raining daddy long legs…. you could hear it even as they made a run for the ground, and crawling on us! it was crazy, but okay, none of us freaked too much, rather observed in amazement!

    curious karen girl

    curious karen girl

    we tried some moonshine, and it literally evaporated on your tongue – strong stuff! and the two, toil and mong downed this stuff.  it must keep them running.  after lunch we ventured on to a waterfall, took a little dip, then we were on to the village.  all in all we probably hiked around 16 km (miles??) up down and around, we were totally pooped!

    we arrived at the karen village at dusk and were escorted to a house where tea awaited us.  the ‘hill tribe’ was very much a village, with one satellite in sight, but still very rustic. we were greeted by what seemed like one very large family.  the village itself consists of around 25 families. the house was two rooms, only separated by a half size wall and an open doorway and a step.  the front room was the ‘kitchen’ and hangout area with some storage, the back room the sleeping area.  large mats were thrown down with a small table and from there we were waited on all night long with tea, way too much food, snacks, fruit, etc….

    karen generations

    karen generations

    the dinner was rice, dandelion soup with pork, morning glory greens with cat ear mushrooms, noodles with veggies…. all very good!  and then we were given large samplings of a karen dinner… similar to ours but more spice and thrown in some dried fish and chili and tuna sauce that an eggplant like veggie was dipped into.  soo much food though, but all good.  the stars were amazing.  the most we’ve seen yet by far.  everybody was very nice, lots of staring from the curious kids too.

    after we set up our beds, we all fell asleep pretty swiftly.  but then… shortly after a lil sleep, jeff was awakened by a small sensation – after a little more focus on it, he felt something crawl up his beardand then all giant 8 legs hit his face, just over his eye!  aaahhhhh!”   we had previously seen this suckers outside in their bathroom:  the size of your palm, dirt brown, skinny long legs and big eyes…… jeff swiftly and quickly grabbed it and threw it against the wall beside him creating quite a pound and a thump to follow, just to show you how big this guy was.  after debating whether or not to wake me and tell me, he chose to wait til morning and then mummified himself in his blankets and tried to get more shut eye.  so glad it wasn’t me, i think i would have screamed bloody murder!

    more on our trek to come….

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (6 of 40)

    local thai market - meow!

    local thai market - meow!

    conglomerate of stories…
    “favorite food in phuket:  in our last few days in phuket, we found this little locals place hidden back off the road and tried their papaya salad for lunch, it was delicious.  we were so turned on by the spot we tried it for dinner that night.  the setting was something of an outdoor living room, the only other diners being what seemed family members and close friends.  the food was great and cheap! our first dinner there we sat and watched some thai tv drama while i sipped on so-co and coke…. it was great.  we ended up eating all of our meals there over the next two days and all were fantastic!  it was run by pretty much the sweetest lady with the best smile.  her daughter was a mini-me, looking to be 10 or so and seemed to be in training for a future running the restaurant.  dad looked like samuel l jackson if he were thai – by far the biggest/thickest guy we’d seen yet.  on our last night the woman was so sad to learn we were leaving for bangkok and, before we knew it, she ran off and then returned minutes later with this little plush blue bear.  she handed it to us and said it was for good luck on our travels and to make sure we come back when we return later in the trip.  it was great!  hugs and all and a firm handshake from the husband….great departure.

    fresh orchids for sale

    fresh orchids for sale

    chinatown, bangkok:  it was like the stockroom of a dollar store or a walmart with all the hair things and fashion jewelry you could ask for.  swarming with ladies and girls.  crazy.  it then unfolded into the food market, which as the photos show, are not for the faint of heart.  it had anything and everything - most we didnt’ know what it was.  You can only imagine the smells that went with it…

    teddy ska, brick bar, koh san road:  in search for the bathroom (cause I always have to go at the wrong time) we came accross a back-ally bar with live music coming out!  we decided to enter this dark brick-walled bar and check it out.  we walk in to a crazy rad bar filled with local 20-somethings rocking out to this really amazing ska band.  we were the only ‘farongs’ in there by far. it was great.  we met this drunk kid who proceeded to buy us beers and show usa good time.  sooooooo much whiskey there it was unbelievable.  for 1000 baht (a little short of 30 bucks) you buy a bottle and go to town.  nobody was drinking beer but us, so we too went to whiskey eventually.  but it was just so cool to see all these kids loving life and rocking out.  great tunes too, kinda like a mix between save ferris and no doubt…. we learned they’re a pretty famous thai band so we really lucked out in finding it…so cool can’t tell ya enough!!!!

    monks waiting for the boat taxi

    monks waiting for the boat taxi

    with that we were on a music search and got a list of some top reggae and ska bands.  we bought our first cds today, “kaijai brothers”, famous for their song tuk tuk brokedown… the only bummer is now we can’t listen to them unless we find a usb cord for the ipod.  but we also, learned of “job 2 do” which is known for their song ‘do do do do…’ we had never heard it until today, but everybody refers to it everywhere…. and then “t-bone” which is  more ska…. we tried to get our friends from last night at the bar to write down their favorite bands for us, but too much whiskey and too loud….

    stacy’s hair:  we were bored in phuket and i was frustrated with my hair being constantly wet and in knots… so jeff cut it.  he did a pretty damn good job too, but thanks to some remaining layers from my last cut, it wasn’t too hard.  i haven’t had my hair this short since highschool!  and it feels oh so fresh and so clean….

    now we’re off to chang mai on an overnight bus……

    cheers, peace and love!”

    Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (5 of 40)

    rasta tuk tuk

    rasta tuk tuk

    maggot soup
    “we’re in bangkok!  our flights in and out of malaysia were a piece of cake – still a pain in the arse – but it went smoothly.  once at the brand new airport in bangkok, we received our 30 day visa and are good to go!  the airport is only 2 years old so it’s shiny, sparkling, and huge (not to mention state of the art)

    making sure to really use all our connections, we were met by brian, my friend’s brother-in-law at the airport.  brian is finishing up his third year (maybe more) living here in thailand.  his first two years were spent volunteering for the peace corps in a village north of bangkok.  now he’s working with the education department per se through the gov’t in town.  needless to say, he’s fluent and know his stuff.

    so, we were privileged to have him meet us at the airport and get us a taxi into town.  the day we flew in, monday, was a local buddhist holiday so nobody had to work.  we headed over to an area near koh san (the backpackers district), found a cozy little guest house ,and then started cruising.  brian took us around to all the cool places and showed us some great local dishes, all in thai of course!  and we tried our fair share of the different beers they offer here.

    buddha feet with incense offerings

    buddha feet with incense offerings

    bangkok’s crazy and everyone seems a little jaded…not the same hospitality we’ve experienced so far.  not everyone of course, but a lot of the people at the street restaurant/carts, hotels, tours, and the vendors just really seem to be irritated and fed up.  granted, we understand, this place is swarming with ‘farongs’ (equivalent to gringo), but they are making a lot of money from it.  just different.

    also, so far, thailand’s a little more expensive then planned – we are in a major tourist area so we’ll see how it is outside of town.  but as of now, jeff may have to sell his liver…a very quick and easy procedure here in thailand   :)    kidding!

    we saw some buddhas and rode a tuk tuk (local taxi/golf cart type thing) around yesterday, pretty darn cool.  huge buddhas too.  today we’ll ride the boat taxi around just to do it.  it’s very hot here – i got my first pair of fisherman pants last night, so we’re slowly working into the thai way of doing things.  food’s still great, though we ate maggot soup yesterday.  yuk.

    reggae bar

    reggae bar

    i was trying to be cool like the locals and ordered what our tuk tuk driver got – it looked like a regular ol soup.  at first taste, okay, something was different - but we pushed through it because everyone in the restaurant was looking at us and slightly giggling…hmmm.  at the bottom, of course, we looked closely and realized there were little maggots or potato bugs or something in it…. hence the ‘different’ flavor.  we stopped dead in our tracks.  we said it was too spicy and that we couldn’t finish it and went on our way… after chewing our super minty gum we survived.  just part of doing the thai thing i guess…!

    tomorrow we head up to chang mai on an overnight bus…

    cheers!”

    The Best Thing to do in Cat Island is to do Nothing at All!

    Cat Island is a beautiful and historic island located in central Bahamas.  Cat Island’s exceptional beauty, peaceful atmosphere, superb climate, and pristine beaches contribute to making it a spectacular vacation destination.  Cat Island has the one of the best climates in the Bahamas – the temperatures average 80 degrees in the summers and 70 degrees in the short winters.  You can escape from the hustle and bustle of every day life to this lush island for a romantic getaway for an intimate family vacation.  Everyone is bound to have a marvelous time in this beautiful island.  Beach vacation homes are a popular mode of accommodation in Cat Island, as they provide a luxurious home away from home.

    There is pleny to do in this beautiful Bahamian island.  Cat Island has serene, beautiful beaches that offer enjoyable activities.  The expansive beaches are so secluded that you will feel as if the beach is your own private beach; this feeling is intensified if you stay at a luxurious beach house!

    Some of the beaches include the Greenwood Beach that has pink sand, Old Bight Beach with its pure white sand (ideal for walking, beach combing, picnicking, and relaxing), New Bight Beach, which hosts weekend dances and holiday picnics, and Fountain Bay Beach.  You can enjoy fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba-diving at the beaches.

    Mount Alvernia, which is 206 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the Bahamas and it is located in Cat Island.  Even though the island offers enjoyable activities, you can choose to do nothing at all and, instead, appreciate the distinct serenity of the island.

    Cat Island was once one of the thriving Loyalist colonies of the Out Islands.  The island prospered by means of numerous cotton plantations that were established in the 1700s.  Now, you can view the vine-covered, semi-ruined mansions in which the cattle was penned and the pineapples were grown centuries ago.

    cat island private beach

    The island has many other intriguing historical sites.  Columbus Point, which is also a momument to Christopher Columbus, is one of the  many Indian caves located in Cat Island.  Hawk’s Nest is a beautiful and fascinating area where a wonderful hawk awed all the locals by making her nest for several years.

    The Hermitage, a minature monastry, is an tremendous imitation of the larger hermitages in Europe.  The Hermitage is built on Mt. Alvernia and you can enjoy exceptionally beautiful, panoramic views of the island from there.  The historic sites are a must-see for tourists!

    Cat Island has variety of diverse restaurants that will ensure a wonderful dining experience.  Delicious, authentic Bahamian cuisine and seafood is a specialty of the island!  Some of the great restaurants include Bachelor’s Restaurant, Pass Me Not Bar Restaurant, and Blue Bird Restaurant.

    Cat Island is serene place that provides a superb vacation experience for everyone!  You are warmly welcome to say at a luxurious beach house and enjoy the serenity of this exotic island.  You will undoubtedly have an unforgettable vacation experience!