We followed the panda’s advice and spent a lot of time inside. We really liked the huge aviary.
Everyone was having a nap.
Or staying inside in the air conditioning
Outside was nice though if you found a cool shady spot to sit.
My best advice for visiting the National Zoo
Take the Metro from Washington D.C. to the Cleveland Park stop on the red line which is one stop past the stop labelled Zoo. If you get off at the zoo spot it is a long walk uphill to the zoo. If you get off at Cleveland Park it is slightly downhill.
The food available isn’t very vegan friendly on the menu but the paninis seem to be made on site so you could ask for them to be made without cheese. They weren’t very appetizing looking though. I just had a pretzel.
The zoo is large and is on a hill so be prepared to hike. To go from the back of the zoo to the exit is an uphill climb. Maybe head to the back of the zoo first and gradually make your way to the front while seeing the animals so you gradually work your way back up the hill.
I love public transportation. I live in an area where it isn’t developed enough to make it a practical option for everyday living so when I travel to a city with a good system, I love it.
We went to Washington D.C. for the weekend. Our hotel was right across from a Metro station in VA. Perfect. Well, it would have been perfect if there wasn’t a track closure on that line this weekend.
There was a work around. You took the train to the next station from where we got on (less than one minute after getting on). Get off. Take a free bus service to the next clear station. That added 20 minutes to what would have been a 10 minute trip. It was also roughly the same temperature as the surface of the sun and you were crammed on the bus with a gazillion grumpy people and sometimes you couldn’t get a seat. I didn’t want to try it during rush hour on Monday morning.
Download the app before you need it
I thought about this before I left home. But, but, public transportation is available. It is just a little more complicated, right? No need to add to the congestion by hiring a car.
Then we tried to leave the National Mall on Saturday afternoon when some large prayer rally was letting out. I’m actually glad there was a prayer rally because I noticed that a lot of people on the Mall were wearing Christian t shirts and I was afraid. I’m glad it was a Christian gathering and not just a bunch of people independently feeling so superior that they needed to proclaim their faith through their attire. Mind you, we wandered all over the Mall and never noticed this gathering actually happening. To be fair, my eyes were on the gay men’s kickball tournament.
Anyway, the point is, we couldn’t get into the Metro stations because of all the Christians. There were also ambulances everywhere. We later heard that many were passing out from the heat which made me ask why they didn’t pray to their God to be saved from heat stroke but I digress again.
I sat on a lawn and tried to download the Uber app. It took forever to get it to download outside in the middle of a crowd of people using devices. It never did connect to Paypal. There was also a storm coming in. Seriously, if there is any chance you will use it, download at home.
Know your pricing
In this situation when there were lots of people trying to get away, hello surge pricing. The app helpfully informed me that surge pricing was in effect and my rate would be 2.5 times the regular rate. Did I want to accept? No, because I am cheap but it was still cheaper than a taxi might have been.
I like the fact that Uber gives you a price up front. I always worry with a taxi that the driver will wander around the long way and jack up the price.
On Monday morning during rush hour I looked at the app to see how expensive it was to get to the Capitol visitors’ center. I was given an option of sharing a ride and it was actually cheaper than what the Metro would have cost. I contemplated the fact that I was a horrible person contributing to the destruction of the planet from overuse of fossil fuels in air conditioned luxury.
Take a car person
I don’t know cars. I refer to cars solely by color. I don’t know the icons on the front and what brand they represent. When the Uber app connects you with a driver it tells you the driver’s name and the make of car. It doesn’t tell you the color. Luckily, the husband is a car person and he understood what he was looking for. When I used it alone, I quickly googled to know if I was looking for a car or an SUV.
The app has a map that shows you where the car is in relation to you. So then a car that you think might be the right type slows down near you. You rush over to it and you and the driver question each other’s identity to make sure you aren’t getting into a random person’s car who just happened to slow down. That would be awkward.
I wasn’t murdered by getting into cars with strangers.
I never got heat stroke.
Victoria's Recipe for Marriage: Take two adventurous newlyweds and place them on a floundering yacht where the wife is the chef, and her boss, the captain, is also her husband. Add two inexperienced crew members, an anorexic diva and her bully of a husband, a CEO who thinks he's in charge, a drunken first mate, and a randy wife looking for diversion. Stir with a violent storm and a rapidly flooding engine room. Apply pressure and watch the situation simmer to a boil. Sprinkled with over 30-mouthwatering recipes and spiced with tales of adventure, SEAsoned is the hilarious look at a yacht chef's first year working for her husband while they cruise from the Bahamas to Italy, France, Greece and Spain, trying to stay afloat.
Victoria Allman and her husband have just gotten their big break. He is going to be the captain of a yacht after years of working on crews. To do this though they have to lower their standards. They aren’t going to be on a big boat. They are taking on a measly 100 foot yacht that isn’t in the best of shape.
I was very surprised when I heard her refer to a 100 foot yacht as a small boat. I’ve seen those things in marinas and they are huge. That’s your first clue that the lives of the rich people who rent these yachts are a bit different.
Victoria and her husband run the yacht with two crew members. She is the chef. She has to decide what to stock in the very small galley and what she might be able to find to cook with in ports that they call at. If the passengers change their destination at the last minute or if they invite their friends from another yacht over, she might have to scramble. She makes elaborate meal plans that can be crushed with a breezy “Here’s what I want for lunch…”
They start out doing charters in the Bahamas until the yacht is damaged enough that it has to go in for lengthy repairs. They then pick up another job on a 200 foot yacht in the Mediterranean. This makes Victoria happy because of the bigger galley but adds more crew member problems.
This is a behind the scenes look at a life of luxury that most people would never experience. See what it takes to cater to another person’s every whim while living in cramped quarters with your spouse.
There are a lot of recipes in here too. Most are meat based but there is one for a Santorini Eggplant Salad that sounds interesting.
I enjoyed the story telling in this book and wished it were a bit longer to immerse myself in this world for a while more.
Pete McCarthy established one cardinal rule of travel in his bestselling debut, McCarthy's Bar: "Never pass a bar with your name on it." In this equally wry and insightful follow-up, his characteristic good humor, curiosity, and thirst for adventure take him on a fantastic jaunt around the world in search of his Irish roots -- from Morocco, where he tracks down the unlikely chief of the McCarthy clan, to New York, and finally to remote Mc-Carthy, Alaska. The Road to McCarthy is a quixotic and anything-but- typical Irish odyssey that confirms Pete McCarthy's status as one of our funniest and most incisive writers.
It all starts when the author hears that there is still a king of the McCarthy clan. Not everyone agrees that this is a legitimate title but he wants to meet him. The king is hard to find – enemies probably – and lives in Morocco. From there, Pete McCarthy is off to follow the Irish diaspora. He is half-Irish and half-English and grew up in England. His English accent is sometimes a problem in discussions in the most Irish of strongholds.
After Tangiers he travels to New York and attempts to crash the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Then it is off to Monserrat, a small island in the Caribbean that was populated by a large amount of Irish people before an erupting volcano decimated the population. He follows the travels of Irish republicans who were exiled to Tasmania. A few escaped and one became the governor of Montana so it is off to Butte. Finally he goes into the wilderness to McCarthy Alaska to see a town named after the family.
The tone of the book reminds me a lot of Bill Bryson. It is chatty with a lot of history thrown in but in bite sized pieces with the absurd facts pointed out.
In New York:
“Fitness is an overrated virtue in a law enforcement officer. In their way these guys are much more menacing. They’re putting out a subliminal message: ‘Don’t run away. We can’t chase you, so we’ll have to shoot.'”
On the joys of traveling:
“This is what tourists do all over the world. You see a sign for something you’ve never heard of and probably wouldn’t cross the road to see at home, and, bang, you’re there. And then people tell you about other things you ought to go and see. Once you’re in a small obscure are that the rest of the world knows nothing about someone will say, ‘Our big attraction is Satan’s Drain. You really should go.’ So you do. And you develop an interest in geological features and sea levels and all sorts of other stuff you’ve never cared about before…”
On finally reaching the end of the road in McCarthy Alaska:
“There are few more comforting experiences for the traveler than to journey great distances through unfamiliar and threatening landscapes, anticipating an austere and possibly squalid destination, only to discover that catering and interior design are not in the hands of heterosexuals.”
This is a great introduction to Irish history and the influence that the Irish people have had around the world.
A hilarious insight into the wild and wacky characters of an expat community in a familiar holiday destination, More Ketchup than Salsa is a must-read for anybody who has ever dreamed about jetting off to sunnier climes, finding a job abroad or flirted with the idea of ‘doing a Shirley Valentine’ in these trying economic times.
Joe Crawley’s step father bought a bar on the island of Tenerife and strongly suggested that his two stepsons and their partners run it. They all had dead-end jobs and no experience in the hospitality business but they moved from England to the Canary Islands to give it a go.
They quickly realized that running a bar and restaurant in a resort is very different than being on vacation yourself. They are surrounded by British people who want all the comforts of home – just on the beach.
“…at times it seemed like an imported little Britain full of patrons who thought that abroad was any sunny place bedecked in red, white and blue where the locals couldn’t talk properly.”
There was no call to go getting adventurous with the food either.
“For some stalwarts even our Hawaiian burger, simply chicken breast crowned with a pineapple ring, would prove too exotic for simple palates: “Hawaiian burger? Oooh nooooo. Foreign food doesn’t agree with me. Have you not got anything like curry or bolognaise?”
In between power outages, bureaucratic nightmares, the mafia, and hordes of cockroaches, they manage to make a go of it even if their relationships might not survive intact.
If you’ve ever considered quitting your job and going to live on the beach, read this book first.
When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries.What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.
What is it about people doing things for a year and writing a book about it that draws me in every time?
Helen Russell is a Londoner with a job at a magazine who is also going through IVF treatment when her husband is offered a job with Lego. That means moving to Denmark – in January. This isn’t Copenhagen either. This is rural Jutland. They decide to go for one year with Helen giving up her job and starting to freelance.
When they get there the place seems deserted. They find out that it is because of hygge. Hygge is the Danish word for getting cozy in the winter with candles and dinner and friends and basically hibernating until spring.
When I was reading this part of the book, I looked over to my left and saw this.
She also found that working all hours of the day and night doesn’t show that you are invaluable to Danish employers. To them, not getting your work done during the allotted time in the day means that you aren’t good at being efficient. Everyone stops work in the early afternoon to spend more time with family. I had some questions about this section though. She only talks about office workers. What about service industries? Does this hold true there too? What about medical workers? This read a bit like the articles I see all the time that tout everyone working from home or being a geographical nomad. I’m always thinking, “I see patients for a living. How exactly is that supposed to work then?”
Not everything is great in Denmark though. While women are legally treated equally, there is still a way to go on getting equality in people’s attitudes towards them. There is also a lot of violence in the culture. Fights are common. There are also a lot of unwritten rules that the community enforces which can be hard for someone coming in from the outside.
The school system is good though. High taxes mean that there is a huge support structure. For example, college is paid for and you get up to 2 years unemployment if you decide to change jobs. There is maternity and paternity leave.
I have been thinking about going to Denmark in 2017 for a conference.
Hello, tax deductable airfare and hotels!
This book made me even more interested in going.
I got this book from Bex for the Nonfiction November swap.
I am the most hum-buggiest of people in December. I don’t like hub bub over Christmas. My house is decorated against my will. So when I was told that there was a Christmas themed memorabilia place a few towns over, I had to see it for myself.
This collection is brought together by a sculptor who really likes Christmas. He has been buying and restoring holiday movie memorabilia and department store window displays. Now he displays them in this museum. He made this mouse for when his daughter was in The Nutcracker with the Cleveland Ballet.
You have to go through it in a guided tour. I hate guided tours. I would have much rather had everything labeled and done it at my own pace.
The tour starts off slow with rooms with still shots of famous actors in holiday movies, vintage games, and some trains. It gets more interesting as you move on with some costumes from movies like Elf.
I found the window displays the most interesting part of the tour.
The main reason that the husband didn’t want to go to England with me is because he declared that there was no food in England. That surprised me because I haven’t heard of their famine, the poor souls. He likes to pick vacation destinations based on the local cuisine. When I travel with him, meals are a huge part of the days.
On the other hand, my mother doesn’t eat. Actually she has breakfast and then around 3 PM she has a meal and declares herself done for the day.
I think that we ate very well in England. We were staying in apartments through airBnB so we had a kitchen in London. We were across the street from a small grocery store so we picked up some fruit and oatmeal for breakfasts.
Ping Pong is at St. Katherine’s Dock near the Tower of London and easy walking distance from our apartment. It is a dim sum restaurant. I love Chinese food but can’t eat it much because of the husband’s sesame allergies. We had a lovely meal with vegetable sticky rice and spring rolls being among a whole lot of vegetarian options to choose from. I celebrated the fact that I was openly eating Chinese food without worrying about brushing my teeth and lips and washing my hands and clothes before talking to the husband.
My mother fell in love with Pret a Manger for lunch. They have soups, sandwiches, and salads made up in coolers and you go grab what you want. She would have eaten there every meal. She was also fascinated with the people watching there. Most people grab and go but we’d fight for one of the limited tables and she’d be amazed every time with how many people were going in and out.
All About The Pies
When I posted about going to Bath, I got a comment recommending The Raven as a great place to eat. I looked at the menu online and got very excited. When we got to bath we tried to go for dinner but it was so crowded that we couldn’t get in. It is a small place. We came back for lunch the next day right as they opened. That was a good choice because it got crowded soon after.
We were here for the pies.
Look at that! If you aren’t vegetarian you may not notice what I saw right away. Not only is there a choice of vegetarian pies but ALL THE GRAVIES ARE VEGETARIAN! Yes, I will cross an ocean for you. Being a vegetarian means asking for no gravy on everything in restaurants. I bring my own gravy to Thanksgiving. Here is a restaurant serving 3 — count ’em THREE — vegetarian gravies as the only options.
I had the Heidi Pie with sage and onion and my mother had the fungi chicken also with sage and onion. This place also inspired me to make a cabernet gravy I found on pinterest at home. Vegetarian gravies are awesome.
I emailed this picture to the husband with the caption. “I’m eating amazing food with small sprinkles of death on top!”
This restaurant is across the road from Hampton Court. There is an outside eating area right on the Thames. There were people rowing boats and a swan hung out near us.
There were many vegetarian choices but I went with the Veg Pie. Field Mushrooms, Wilted Spinach and Hazelnuts, PanFried In White Truffle Oil, Topped With A Layer Of Béchamel Sauce Encased In Short Crust Pastry. My mother had fish and chips because she said she would have felt wrong not trying it.
So, eating in England went much better than my husband thought. I got my scandalized, tee-totaling mother into a few pubs. A few times we were too tired to care and grabbed prepared food from the grocery store for dinner.
We never did quite get the hang of restaurant etiquette. We could never figure out how to pay. We’re American. We expect to have the check dropped off after the food to pay at our leisure. Here we never saw a server after the food came so we had to flag people down and beg to pay. There is probably some British procedure for this that we were flagrantly flouting and adding the image of crass Americans. Sorry.
From one of Germany’s most beloved celebrities, a cross between Bill Bryson and Paulo Coelho. It has sold over 3 million copies and been translated into eleven different languages. Pilgrims have increased along the Camino by 20 percent since the book was published. Hape Kerkeling’s spiritual epiphany has struck a nerve. Overweight, overworked, and physically unfit, Kerkeling was an unlikely candidate to make the arduous pilgrimage across the French Alps to the Spanish Shrine of St. James, a 1,200-year-old journey undertaken by nearly 100,000 people every year. But that didn’t stop him from getting off the couch and walking. Along the way, lonely and searching for meaning, he began the journal that turned into this utterly frank, engaging book. Simply by struggling with his physical limitations and the rigors of long-distance walking, he discovered a deep sense of peace that transformed his life and allowed him to forgive himself, and others, more readily. He learned something every day, and he took to finishing each entry with his daily lessons. Filled with quirky fellow pilgrims, historic landscapes, and Kerkeling’s self-deprecating sense of humor, I’m Off Then is an inspiring travelogue, a publishing phenomenon, and a spiritual journey unlike any other.
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage across northern Spain to the cathedral in Santiago.
In 2001 German comedian Hape Kerkeling decided almost on a whim to make the trip. He was out of shape and recovering from gall bladder surgery. He wasn’t looking for spiritual enlightenment. He just needed to get away. He started in St. Jean Pied de Port in France near the Spanish border.
I liked this book because he does the pilgrimage like I would. He doesn’t stay in the refugios set up for travelers. He stays in whatever hotels he can find. He takes lots of rest days, especially if he drank too much the night before. At the beginning, he cheats a lot by taking public transportation to skip hard sections. He also gets really mad at people treating dogs poorly along the way. He finds a lot of his fellow pilgrims insufferable if not downright crazy but makes a few good friends along the way.
As the walk goes on he gets in a bit better shape and is able to complete the official part of the pilgrimage. In order to get a certificate of completion, you have to prove that you have walked the last 100 km by getting stamps in each of the towns.
I loved the fact that he didn’t let his new friends, who were from England and New Zealand, know that he was famous in Germany so they were puzzled by how excited German people seemed to get when they saw another German hiker. He’d hide giving autographs by saying that people just wanted directions.
I was bit hesitant to pick this book up because I was afraid of comparing it to Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods about the Appalachian trail, which is a book I love. This is a very different book but it didn’t suffer from the comparison. It made me want to go out and walk for days.
17. I went with a group of language students from my mother’s school on a trip through Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. It was a few months after the Berlin Wall fell and the big debate in Germany was about reunification.
B) Best foreign beer you’ve had and where:
I don’t like beer no matter where I’ve tried it.
C) Cuisine (favorite):
South American. I learned to LOVE beans and rice and fresh mangoes and fried plantains.
D) Destinations–favorite, least favorite, and why?:
I really loved Portugal. It was beautiful all the way down to the street mosaics.
I didn’t like Jamaica at all. I can’t quite put my finger on why but I always felt very claustrophobic there.
E) Event you’ve experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
The night we arrived in Costa Rica we were exhausted because it had been a long day. It was dark by the time we got to the farm where we were staying for a few days. We just collapsed into bed. The next morning we got up and looked outside. We were in the mountains and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I remember each person coming outside and being struck speechless. We all just stood there and watched a rain storm slowly come in over the mountains.
F) Favorite mode of transportation:
European trains, not in any way to be confused with South American trains where you take your life in your hands in the melee to get on.
G) Greatest feeling while traveling:
Getting there after a long trip and dropping your suitcase and collapsing on the bed after hours or days of travel.
H) Hottest places you’ve traveled:
Bolivia in September. I was so glad whenever it rained.
I) Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?:
I don’t know about this one. There isn’t anything that stands out as spectacular but I’m not a very needy traveler so I don’t usually ask for help. I know the worse service ever was at a resort in Florida that kept us locked out of our room for hours.
J) Journey that took the longest:
Probably my first trip to Europe. We went by bus from western PA to JFK, then flew to Iceland and then to Luxembourg.
K) Keepsake from your travels:
I don’t buy any keepsakes anymore. I just have pictures. I do have a quilt that I made from t-shirts I bought in Costa Rica and Bolivia.
L) Let-down sight, where and why?:
Mount Rushmore. We saw Crazy Horse the day before and it made Mount Rushmore look so puny.
M) Moment where you fell in love with traveling:
I’ve always loved it.
N) Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
My parents have a time share membership to some amazing hotels all around the States. I would never pay for them but since I get to use them for free, I indulge. Left to my own devices, I’d stay in cheap places.
This is the living area of a three bedroom, three bath suite in Florida at one of my parents’ timeshares.
O) Obsession–what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
Old buildings and landscapes and seascapes.
Zion National Park February 2014
Villefrance-sur-Mer, France October 2014
P) Passport stamps-how many and from where?:
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Lichenstein (I had to pay for that one!), Costa Rica, Bolivia, Peru, Spain, France, Jamaica, Virgin Islands – but not all in the same passport. I don’t like the fact that you don’t get stamps for all the countries in Europe you go to anymore and I never get anything from Canada.
Q) Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?:
Maybe the salt mines in Germany where you get to ride a little train and then use slides to go down levels in the mine.
R) Really Frightening: where’s one place you’ve visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy?
The bus ride from San Jose, Costa Rica to Orotina, Costa Rica. You start in the mountains and go hurtling down the mountains to the coast. There are huge drops off the sides of the roads and no guard rails. Everytime I’d convince myself that we weren’t going to die because the buses do this every day, there’d be another cross to mark the site of an accident.
S) Splurge-something you have no problem spending money on while traveling:
T) Touristy thing you’ve done:
All of it. I have no shame.
U) Unforgettable travel memory:
Can’t pick just one.
V) Visas-how many and for where?:
I haven’t ever needed one.
W) Wine–best glass while traveling:
Good wine is wasted on me
X) eXcellent view and from where?:
Peering over the edge of Pike’s Peak during a thunderstorm was impressive.
Y) Years spent traveling:
Internationally, off and on for 25 years. In the U.S. forever.
Z) Zealous sports fans and where?:
Nothing beats being a college student at an SEC school when you have a top 5 football team.
Once upon a time there was a boy who wanted to marry a girl. The girl was perfectly content to continuing living with him forever and ever without being married but the boy wore her down and she finally agreed. She said, “In January I’ll be going to Florida for a conference which ends on a Wednesday. You fly down Wednesday night and then we can get married on Friday.” It was agreed. The girl even ordered a dress appropriate for a Florida beach wedding. And it came to pass that one week after the girl paid for express delivery on the dress, since this was September already, the boy got a new job. New jobs that start in December do not accrue enough vacation time to go eloping in January.
So, today was supposed to be my wedding day. I am in Florida. My intended is not. I think that counts as him standing me up. I will abuse him for this as I see fit. He is also going to have to start the whole begging process all over again to get me to set another date although I do have a dress that needs used.
Instead of getting married I went to Sea World. I used to go to Sea World a lot as a kid when they had one in Ohio but I haven’t been since they realized that Ohio gets cold in the winter and moved to San Antonio.
I love this shot if I do say so myself.
The Clyde and Seamoore show was always my favorite. The sea lions and walrus did fine but the people and otter kept screwing up. Then the people got to laughing because everything was going wrong. It made it even funnier.
Of course there has to be turtles!
The show I was most impressed with was the pet show. They had trained dogs and rats and pigs and birds. Big deal. Anyone can train those. But this show had trained cats. Not lions. Just normal ole pussy cats like the layabouts who live in my house and don’t do any tricks at all. The show cats climbed ladders and walked wires and hung from ropes and went place to place and hit levers without anyone on stage guiding them. In other words they learned a bit of routine and then did it unsupervised without eating the birds or rats. I’m going to tell my lazy beasts about it. They’ll probably hurt themselves laughing.
This is the only time of the year when the Florida theme parks are bearable. It isn’t crazy hot and there are no crowds. I love it.
Yesterday I went to Busch Gardens in Tampa.
I love tortoises. I love to watch them eat. I really want one – a small one of course. I don’t want to be trying to get a 100 lb tortoise in the nursing home with me.
There were kitties.
Somedays I feel like I could eat a tree.
It’s very hard work to be a kangaroo. It is important to nap and recharge. All the kangaroos and wallabies were out cold…
…except for me!
I must be getting old. I didn’t ride that many rides. I could have because the park was almost empty. All lot of the coasters were running with empty seats. I was never more than second in line.
But the roller coasters are giving me massive headaches. I’m starting to think that I have a screw loose and the coasters are rattling it. Very sad. Also, I’m starting to think that some things are stupid. That coaster above pauses and hangs the car over that drop for a few seconds. That didn’t look fun to me. *sigh* From here it is a short slide to yelling, “Get off my lawn!”
Hey, I went on vacation! Here’s some photographic proof!
The picture above is a view of the beach at the Wyndham Resort on St. Thomas. The main thing that surprised me on St. Thomas was how expensive everything was. Food was especially pricey. We thought ahead and brought enough power bars to serve as breakfast for the entire time we were there. We also went to the grocery store and bought drinks to keep in the small fridge we had so we didn’t have to pay the resort prices. But we didn’t have any cooking equipment (not even a microwave) so we had to eat out for lunch and dinner.
I don’t think we were able to get any meal for two people for less than $30. That includes one vegetarian who is generally fairly cheap to feed. I always worry a bit about what there is going to be to eat for me on vacations. I’m not a person who is a fan of ordering a house salad for every meal. St. Thomas was a pleasant surprise. The salads were much fresher than anything you’d get in a restaurant in the states so I didn’t mind eating them. Almost every restaurant including roadside stands carried veggie burgers. I had a lot of meals of veggie burgers with a side of local fresh fruit.
Combine that with not having a lot of food stockpiled in the room so there was no snacking except for an occasional ice cream and with snorkeling a good bit and guess what? By the end of vacation my clothes were looser. I was torn between being happy about that and being slightly annoyed that with all the diet advice you get it may really only come down to “eat small, healthy meals and lay off the snacks.”
I decided to try this at home. I’m horrible about grazing. I walk through the kitchen and pick up a piece of string cheese. It is healthy, right? I may do it too many times a day though.
I was doing well and then I got nailed with the mystery virus that sucked away any desire to eat. I like that in an illness. No nausea. No vomiting. Just pleasantly happy not to eat. I would have about an hour in the afternoon when I would get hungry and then I would eat something with not enough calories in it to keep a flea alive and my body would say, “Ok, thanks, I’m done now.” I’ve been trying to keep my calorie count a bit elevated by drinking broths and soups but it is definitely force feeding. My body says, “No, thanks,” and my brain says, “You need to fuel this crazy immune response somehow. Drink your soup!”
I have a feeling that this phase is coming to an end too. I feel hungrier even though I have no interest in eating. In a day or two I’ll be back to chaining the refrigerator shut! But it is sort of nice while it lasts. This morning when I stared into the mirror at my sickly grey-green reflection my main thought was, “Oh, look! Cheekbones!”
I didn’t weigh myself before vacation mainly because I knew I was gaining weight but I didn’t want to really confirm that by weighing myself. I weighed myself today and saw a number slightly lower that the number this spring. Yes, lower than that number that refused to go anywhere but up in spite of diet, weight lifting, and taking up jogging. All it took was a vacation on an island with expensive food and a crazy virus to get it to move!
ZombieBaby being menaced by sharks at Coral World!
I’ve talked before about the problems I have because I’m forgettable. People who I’ve met several times will introduce themselves all over every time. I would make a master criminal if I were so inclined. The trip home proved it.
The SO is not forgettable. He talks to everyone and has a big personality. He went into customs first. I went to my customs guy and had a little chat. I showed him my passport to prove I was American. (Yes, I was in the US and had to show a passport to get back to the mainland.) I left and the SO was still in customs. He didn’t get to leave for a while. It turns out that he hadn’t signed his passport. I looked at mine and realized that I hadn’t signed it either. My guy looked over it completely.
Later I realized that I was carrying needles and syringes in my carry on. I had checked them for the first flight but forgot on the way back. I carry them in case of bad food allergy reactions for the SO. Shouldn’t someone at least hand check the bag if they see that? They can’t tell what vial of drugs I’m carrying from the scanner. Amazing. I feel safe. But I guess looking sweet and innocent and totally forgettable has perks when you are too tired to travel correctly!
I’m back. I wrote a few posts that flat out refused to post while on vacation so I’ll post them over the next few days.
The big tourist thing to do here is buy jewelry. We did two days. of jewelry looking. I have a weird problem. I have a guy just dying to buy me jewelry. I can’t stand the kind of jewelry he wants to buy me. I’ve had to give him a blanket command of “Don’t you ever buy me jewelry!” He bought himself a necklace. It made me hyperventilate. I finally calmed down by reminding myself that I didn’t hesitate to buy saddles that cost more than that necklace. We just have different priorities.
I only saw one store on St Thomas that had something I could consider wearing. It was all made from black coral. It was not over the top gaudy. But it was outrageous. The earrings that I didn’t even like started at $1100. I must have snorted because she said she had some $125 earrings. She showed me these earrings that made me chuckle on the inside. I have a pair just like them at home except mine are pink instead of black. They were thrown in free when I bought a necklace at a street fair. I don’t even wear them because they are ugly. I could go downtown to the bead store and recreate them for about $1.50.
Everything else was just awful. The theme seemed to be “throw on diamonds until the gold is in danger of collapsing under the weight of the stones.” Subtlety is not in style.
On St John the other day I found stores that made stuff like I like. I keep trying to explain to the SO that I am simple. Here are the key phrases to look for in the store:
– Under $40
It is hard to go wrong with that. I like jewelry that has a story. I saw some ads for a style of jewelry they do in St Croix made out of broken pottery. It was very cool. I need to get more serious about making stuff again. I know in my head what I’d want to wear but I must be the only one who likes it because no one makes it.
We went to St John today which is the next door island. The ferry runs from Red Hook every hour. All the guide books said it cost $6.10 but it was actually only $5.00. It took 20 minutes to get there.
We went to the town of Cruz Bay. Our goal was to do some jewelry shopping. Actually jewelry looking since we weren’t planning on buying. There are lots of shops here because the islands are duty free. I ended up getting a pair of larimar earrings for $20. It is a light blue stone that is from a volcano in the Caribbean. There are many high end jewelers. I’m too cheap for that and I like pieces that have a story – like local artisan pieces. The SO doesn’t understand that. He likes to buy investment pieces. I think I may be getting him to see my point of view by taking him into small stores today. He learned that the stuff I was looking at was more intersting than the high end stuff.
After that opinions of the day are at odds. I contend that I was not trying to kill him. He begs to differ. I wanted to go to a restaurant at a neighboring resort for the rice, beans, and plantains I saw in the guidebook. It was an easy walk to the resort. What I didn’t know is that the resort was on top of a mountain. I just saw the entrance an easy walk from our hotel. We climbed the mountain. They were out of plantains. The waitress said there was a trail between the resorts so we headed that way after a very good (yet plantainless) dinner. The path was dark. It ended at a boulder. I’m not sure where we should have gone. It was too dark to see. We climbed back up the pitch black path. I ended up chasing down a taxi to pick up the SO who swears he was dying from the exertion. Please, he got up this morning and did 3 miles on the treadmill. So we had a little adventure. Does that mean he had to whine so much about the itty bitty baby thorn in his finger? I don’t think so. That was the most fun I’ve had so far. It made it feel like a real active vacation instead of laying around the resort.
ZombieBaby has been getting around too. Here she is showing off an iguana by the pool.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
We started out this morning working out. Why, yes, we are freaks – why do you ask? The SO went to the gym but I can’t focus there so I went to the 1/3 mile fitness trail. I may have been the first person ever to use the trail from the reactions I got. You go about 100 yards on mulched trail and then you end up running around the parking lot. There was a guy leaf blowing the mulched part and he was not amused by my running on it. Taxis kept stopping for me because I was walking/running while North American again. I walked a lap, ran one, and then walked one before giving up due to a combination of weird looks and stifling humidity. I did find my way to exercise though. There is a long staircase from the pool to the rooms. I went stair running. I didn’t do it all. I started where it climbed pretty much without breaks. It went 11 steps, 2 strides, 13 steps, 2 strides, 15 steps, 2 strides, and 28 steps. I figured I could do it three times. When I went to start the third time I was feeling so good that I figured I should go for 5 laps. When I got to the top of rep 3 I was lightheaded and felt like I was going to vomit. I decided to quit there. My butt is sore tonight from that!
Then we went to Coral World which is an aquarium. It wasn’t great but we saw a sea lion demo. It also gave us access to the inside lockers for when we went to Coki Beach next door. It is a public beach that is said to have the best snorkling on the island. But it is not safe to leave your camera and stuff just laying around. The guy we rented our snorkling gear from gave us Milk Bones to feed the fish. I could start a feeding frenzy with a sliver of dog treat. I had an underwater camera so hopefully the pictures turn out.
We hung out there most of the afternoon. I’m getting really dark even though I have SPF 70+ spackled on me. There are a few areas where my suit moved today and exposed unprotected areas of skin. Note to self – sunblock goes on BEFORE the suit. The SO has darker skin than me and even he is burning in areas missed by sunscreen. He is dedicating himself to proper skin care of Albino Girl (as he is calling me) so I don’t burn up beyond recognition.
Dinner was in Red Hook at the East End Cafe. Despite the name it is an upscale Italian place that passed the high standards of my Italian SO. We almost died on the way. I think our taxi driver had been drinking. He passed another taxi on a hill on a narrow road with oncoming traffic. I’m not sure how we didn’t get hit. Our morning cab driver was playing horribly obnoxious preaching tapes. I thought my head was going to spin around if I had to listen to any more of it. Even the Christian SO thought it was awful. But at least the driver was sober!
If so you’d love our trip so far. I’m sitting in a bar in Red Hook drinking pina coladas because it is pouring rain. Everyone sing along – "Do you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain?"
Our waitress is Heather from Michigan by way of North Carolina. Followed a guy to VI. He’s gone but she loves it here. It was her birthday yesterday. Yesteterday was my former anniversary. We celebrated.
The SO and I hit the beach this morning. I lathered with SPF 70+ We found chairs in the shade and alternated swimming and laying for a few hours. Even through the sunblock I could feel the need to get out of the sun.
After the rain let up we explored Red Hook. We were guilty of walking while North American because every taxi stopped for us and the drivers acted like we were crazy for walking. We found a nice pagan store and a grocery store. We stocked up on rum, pina colada mix, and coke so we don’t have to pay $8 for drinks anymore. I never drink at home so two drinks a day seems crazy to me.
We snorkled off the hotel beach for an hour. The first animal we saw was a manta ray. Just a little one. There were some big fish too. Then we hit the pools for a change of pace. Multiple applications of sunblock later my arms seem to be getting some color.
ZombieBaby is on our balcony overlooking the ocean with St John in the distance.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
When I am Queen of the Universe if you plan a vacation all by yourself because your consort is not taking an active interest and then 36 hours before you leave he calls you from work and questions EVERY SINGLE DECISION you’ve made, it will not be illegal to drown him on said vacation.
If in a moment of annoyance you tell him that beggars can’t be choosers (because you bought the plane tickets and your parents are letting you use their time share club for free) and he then wonders why you are getting such an attitude, it will be required by law that you must reach through the phone and slap him senseless.
I’m trying to be patient. He has travelled extensively but never without a machine gun. He thinks of foreign places as hostile and threatening. I’ve told him that it is amazing how much nicer people are when you aren’t trying to overthrow their government. (Since we are going to the US Virgin Islands trying to overthrow the government will get him in HUGE trouble anyway.) I’m going to make him practice saying, “We come in peace.” That way if anyone finds him threatening I can claim he’s an alien and that will liven things up. I’m practicing saying, “Dude, chill, we’re on vacation” in a surfer accent so if it doesn’t succeed in calming him down it will at least annoy him. LOL
My preferred style of travel is upscale backpacker. I like cheap hotels and going out and exploring. I hate staying in big expensive resorts surrounded by other Americans. That is precisely what we are doing here. Chant with me – Beggars Can’t Be Choosers! I am looking forward to alternating laying on the resort’s private beach and swimming in the ocean though. My main goal is to make my own Corona ads. Just my feet and the water and another prop or two. I don’t drink beer so I’ll have to get creative.
We aren’t able to rent a car because only one car rental agency will rent to people with debit cards and that is subject to approval when you get there. What they are looking for in order to approve you seems to be a great big secret though. Since we don’t have credit cards (damn our financial responsibility!) we will be taking taxis around the island unless we can figure out the bus system. The buses are $1. That appeals to his cheapness and my sense of real tourism. Apparently there is no set schedule. If the stars align you can find a bus. Sounds good to me! Brings back memories of being dumped off a bus in Costa Rica where no one was waiting to pick me up. Ah, good times.
I think I liked it better when he was “too stressed at work to think about vacation.” I’d hate to have to strangle him before we even get there !