Tag Archives: beach

On Island Time in Aruba

This past winter in New York just didn’t want to quit. As an East Coast native, you’d think I’d be used to our harsh and unpredictable winters by now, but this one just kept zagging on us. One weekend we were lounging in the park, enjoying the sunshine and 70 degree temperatures; the next we were huddled inside, braving our third major snowstorm of the year. Don’t let anyone tell you that climate change isn’t real, kids.

It kind of bums me out that Spring Break ceases to be a thing once you’ve exited the academic world. We could all use a break during the long months between the holidays and the first signs of summer. I try my darndest to get out of town at some point during the winter/early spring. As much as I love the city, a little sunshine is extremely beneficial to my mental health. So when my parents planned a late winter getaway to Aruba, I decided to tag along (with their permission, of course – as an only child I’m a pro third-wheeler, but I know my boundaries).

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Most of our time on the island, just 18 miles north of Venezuela, was spent at the beach or pool at our resort. I was very grateful for the time to just chill out and actually read a book for once. I finished John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, two very different but equally excellent reads, while enjoying the (surprisingly strong) Caribbean sun. Knowing my parents, of course, we weren’t content to just plop for the whole week. We needed to get out and see some of the island.

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We woke up early one morning to take a Jeep ride out Arikok National Park, which makes up a good chunk of the northeast part of the island. Arikok’s terrain and shoreline stand in stark contrast to the sandy beaches of the island’s south side. It’s much more rough around the edges, featuring huge limestone formations, cliffs, and fields of aloe plants. It’s cliche, but it honestly felt like we’d traveled to a completely different island in the 30 minute ride from our resort to the park.

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The tour guides drove us out to the Natural Pool, one of Arikok’s top attractions, for a bit of snorkeling. It was kind of amazing to get to swim in this one calm little pond, while the waves of the Caribbean crashed on the rocks around us. We saw some great local fish, and I only hit my head on the rocks once! From there, we got to check out the Natural Bridge, ate some delicious pastechi, and took in the view from the comfort of our Jeep.

 

One of the last stops on the tour was the Alto Vista Chapel, a tiny Catholic chapel in the hills just outside the town of Noord. The chapel stands on the site of the original church built by Venezuelan missionaries in 1750. The original church was abandoned in 1816 after a plague hit the area, but a schoolteacher raised funds to rebuild it in 1952. Though I’m not particularly religious, I was raised Catholic and something about this church resonated with me more than others I’ve visited. Maybe it was the warmth of yellow walls, or the striking statue of the Virgin Mary at the altar, or just the serenity of its location high above the ocean. The place almost demands that you take a moment to sit down and just be still. Whether you feel like praying is totally up to you.

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Later in our trip, we took a sunset catamaran cruise around the south side of the island. I’ll be real with you, I don’t have much to say about this part of the trip other than a) I love sunsets, b) I love boats, and c) I love taking pictures of myself with sunset lighting on a boat. Also drinks were included. So that’s cool.

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I had a really lovely time in Aruba and would go back in a minute. This time with more cash for the casino, of course.


I’ve been hesitant to set up any kind of audience support page (a la Patreon) for this blog. For one thing, sometimes I don’t write anything for a year (again, sorry about that). And when it comes down to it, I do this for myself. But hosting costs money and a little support is always helpful. I do work in theatre after all.

So if you like what you see here (and you have the means), consider buying me a coffee! Ko-fi is a tool that allows people to support the content they love by making small contributions (roughly equal to the amount of a cup of coffee) to creators. There is absolutely zero pressure to contribute, but if you do I will love you forever. I really believe in supporting the content you love if you have the means. So help a girl out!

The Real Jurassic Park | Kauai, HI

Happy January, my poor, abandoned bloggy friends! I may have taken a good month off from writing, but that month included plenty of travel. I spent my two weeks off from work in Hawaii and California, enjoying the sunshine, taking pictures, and gathering plenty of ideas for new #content. Apparently I can never give myself a real break.

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My parents and I started out our adventure on Kauai, one of the most lush islands of the Aloha State. After some rest to get over the massive jet lag (8 hours of flying is no joke), we got a real Hawaiian welcome at the Smith Family Garden Luau. The evening featured a tour of their gorgeous gardens, an amazing and authentic Hawaiian meal, and a show featuring the music and dance of the Polynesian islands. If you’re looking for a more classic luau, Smith’s does a fantastic job.

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We spent our next morning at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, a site in the hills of central Kauai frequented by people of all faiths. The monastery is definitely worth a visit for its lush views and general sense of peace. There’s plenty of people on site who are happy to talk to you about the Hindu faith, show you around the grounds, and answer any questions you may have.

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From there, we drove down to the town of Kapaa for some lunch. Kapaa is home to plenty of great restaurants, but some friends of ours highly recommended Mermaids Cafe. It totally lived up to the hype. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the BEST TACOS OF MY LIFE, but just take my word for it. They were awesome. The hibiscus lemonade wasn’t bad, either.

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You may have seen a little dinosaur movie last summer by the name of Jurassic World. The real Jurassic Park happens to be on Kauai, namely on the Na Pali Coast. A lot of the exterior shots from the Jurassic Park movies were shot in these incredible seaside mountains, and no wonder why. This place is unreal. We took a sunset catamaran cruise with Holo Holo Charters and saw some of the most incredible sites. Plus, they fed us. Shout out to food.

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Much of the next day was spent kayaking and hiking our way up to Secret Falls in Wailua River State Park. I’m still impressed that I actually made it back to the hotel without dying. Four miles of kayaking and two miles of hiking in ankle-deep mud is much more physical activity than I’ve had in…a while. But it was all worth it for the view. You don’t see that every day in Manhattan. And if you do, you should probably call the fire department.

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We spent our week at Marriott’s Kauai Beach Club, right on Kalapaki Bay. The whole property was lush and gorgeous, with lots of open-air spaces. The lobby/courtyard area, with its manmade waterfalls and stocked koi pond was one of my favorite parts of the resort. Plus, occasionally this cockatoo would make an appearance, shouting “Aloha” at the guests passing through. He was the best.

Kauai, you were good to me. Mahalo for your incredible hospitality to those of us just passing through. I know I’ll be back soon enough.

Looking for some more visuals of the Aloha State? Check out the video I put together with some of my favorite moments from my Hawaiian adventure!

 

How to Cruise Like a Pro – Bermuda Edition

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Every summer, I join my dad’s side of the family (all 22 of them) for our annual family reunion. This usually consists of a few days in Upstate New York, but every couple of years we’ll venture out of the northeast. This year we decided to return to the high seas with a five-day cruise to Bermuda on Royal Carribean’s Explorer of the Seas. This was my fourth cruise and second time in Bermuda, and at this point I feel like I’ve gotten the cruise routine down. So how does one cruise like a pro? Read on, dear traveler.

1. Pick the right port.

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The port you depart from is almost as important as the one to which you’re sailing. You’ll probably end up staying a night or two in that city before or after the cruise, so you’ll want to make sure that that place is somewhere you’d like to visit. This all depends on where you’re going, of course. Port Canaveral, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale are pretty common departure points for Carribean cruises, and I, as a 20-something, would personally much rather stay the night in Miami. There are also departure ports around the world, and there may be one within driving distance of your home. I’m lucky enough to live near New York City, a common departure port for cruises to Bermuda and transatlantic voyages. The first time we sailed out of New York, my parents and I drove into the port a few hours before go time and parked at the dock. That’s pretty damn convenient if you ask me.

2. You’re gonna want a drink package.

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While you can eat til you burst on a cruise and not pay a cent extra, drinks (aside from tea, coffee, water, and some juices) are unfortunately not included in your fare. And believe me, you’re gonna want a drink or five when you’re at sea all day. To save cruisers a little bit of a heart attack when they receive their bill, a lot of cruise lines are now offering prepaid drink packages. For a few extra dollars a day, you can drink to your hearts content. Royal Carribean offers a few different levels of drink packages to accommodate everyone’s thirst. I went with a package that gave me unlimited beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, and I’d say it was definitely worth it.

3. Get off the boat, dummy!

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This probably seems like a given, but a lot of folks on my cruise actually never set foot on the island once we arrived in Bermuda. If that’s what you want to do, go for it, but I’m a fan of exploring. Definitely look into the excursions your cruise line offers. When you have limited time in a new place, it’s nice to have someone guiding your adventures.

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My family decided on a snorkeling excursion with a local tour company. We cruised around the island on a small boat and stopped near a reef for some snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It was a nice, relaxing day out and the weather was fantastic. It also helped that they were serving complimentary Rum Swizzle all day.

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Since we were in port overnight, we decided to take it easy the next day with a trip to Horseshoe Bay. We laid out, did a little exploring, and took advantage of some excellent photo ops.

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Cruising definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive, crowded, and sometimes a little too structured. But I’m a fan of seeing the world on a full stomach, so I’m definitely into it. Now to plan the next journey.

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P.S. If you want to see a silly video I made while I was in Bermuda, click here.
P.P.S. If you like what you see, consider following me on Bloglovin!

The Road to Monterey

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I may have traveled a lot over the past four years but my “vacations” have been few and far between. You know, vacations? Those trips where you have no responsibilities and the primary goal is relaxation? Ringing any bells? Probably not.

Prior to last September, my folks and I hadn’t taken a proper family vacation since 2011. We traveled a lot over those two years, but those trips were always riddled with work meetings and looming schoolwork deadlines, and they were always far too short. When I decided to go out to LA for the summer, my parents decided it was time for another Dow family road trip. I had three weeks between the end of my program and the start of my senior year, so we took one of those weeks to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to San Francisco.

One of my favorite stretches of the journey was our drive between Ojai to Monterey. We stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch and to check out the city. We were only there for two hours, but it was just enough time for me to fall in love with the town. I also may have made some seagull friends.

After that, it was on to Big Sur. Aquatic mammals are kind of my thing, so I just about died when we pulled over to see a bunch of elephant seals just chilling on the beach. I broke out the macro lens and caught a few of these guys in action. We hit Big Sur just as the sun was setting so unfortunately we didn’t get to spend a lot of time in the forrest. It did make for some excellent photos, though.

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IMG_0391 IMG_0396Before and After the Storm

My grandparents live on Long Island, just a fifteen minute drive from the beach. It takes us about four hours to get there from Philadelphia, but my parents and I try to make the trip as often as we can. We had the great luck of planning our latest trip the weekend before Hurricane Sandy hit, devastating most of the greater New York area. Though we were worried about the storm hitting before we could make it back to Philly in one piece, we decided to take a pretty ballsy walk on the beach as the storm was coming in. The photos I took that morning don’t really do justice to the force we could feel just walking near the waves, but I felt like sharing them anyway. Mother Nature is a scary, scary lady. It’s incredible to think that these waters would go on to nearly drown entire neighborhoods just a few hours later. The people of New York, New Jersey and all the areas affected are strong, though, and they will be back on their feet and better than ever soon enough.

For the record, my grandparents (and other Long Island-dwelling family members) made it out of the storm relatively unscathed and I am incredibly thankful for that.

If you’d like to contribute to the relief efforts, check out some of these links for more information:

The Robin Hood Foundation:
http://www.robinhood.org/rhsandy

New York Cares:
http://newyorkcares.org/volunteer/disaster/

Jersey Cares:
http://www.jerseycares.org/jc_sandy_relief

Occupy Sandy:
http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/
http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/wedding-registries/

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