vacation

Verdon Gorge

Um, can I go here ASAP?!

verdon gorge

That’s Verdon Gorge, in Provence, France. (Click on the photo to get a better view!) I stumbled upon this snapshot, the other day, and was instantly transfixed.

Verdon Gorge is often referred to as Europe’s Grand Canyon, though at 16 miles long and 2,300 feet deep, it’s not quite as large. (The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and a mile deep!) Still, as far as I know, the Colorado River in our stateside canyon isn’t asВ magnificently blue as the Verdon River.В Its water gets its stunning color from microalgae and fluoride.

I was struck by Verdon Gorge’s sheer beauty—and how idyllic it looks to spend a day there, drifting downstream in a raft. It reminds me of a much more dramatic variation on the annual tubing outing we embark on every year!

Besides rafting, you can also go kayaking, paragliding, climbing and a number of other outdoor activities in and around the gorge.

I’ve already added it to my travel wishlist.

(Photo via bippity boppity boo)

A Few Days on Eleuthera

water cay

Recently, Mal, Peter, and our friends, Virginia and Doug, and I went to Eleuthera, one of the Bahamas’ “Out Islands.” True to that designation, Eleuthera felt wonderfully removed from everything. There were no cruise ships or mega resorts. We saw barely any other people during our time there—and, better yet, even fewer tourists. And since the island is so sparsely populated, most of the beaches we visited were pristine, and we had them to ourselves. And you know how much I love wild, isolated beaches!

Some highlights:

Our Cotton Bay Rental

Eleuthera is a long, skinny string bean of an island. It’s approximately 110 miles in length and two miles wide. Initially, I leaned toward staying in central Eleuthera, where Governor’s Harbour, the island’s largest town, is located. Most vacation rentals are there, and many, like this one, are gorgeous. Plus, the pink sand beaches of Harbour Island, which I’d written about, are not far away.

Despite those appealing factors, we ended up rentingВ Sanderling, a house in Cotton Bay, on the southern part of the island. Unlike the Governor’s Harbour options, this place was on the beach. (As opposed to a few minutes’ walk away—I know, so far.) All the bedrooms had private bathrooms.В Plus, there were no other rentals in Cotton Bay, and we wanted to be around as few other people as possible. And, best of all, the rental fee included a cook, who’d received rave reviews. Um, not having to prepare meals for a group every day? Sold!

Sanderling wasn’t swank and modern; the one-story, yellow house was built in 1959. But it was comfortably furnished, bright, airy and well-kept. Coconut trees grew on the property…

sanderling

…and a small dock out front led to a calm cove. From there, we (well, everyone but me) launched kayaks and paddled them into the ocean. Another night, we went swimming—and later found out that’s prohibited because sharks lurk there, once the sun sets! Luckily, we made it out with all of our limbs intact.

cove

The front patio had a few lounge chairs and a small table…

front porch

…and the porch, right behind it, had an additional seating area, where we played several hilarious rounds ofВ Cards Against Humanity—helped by cocktails made with Ole Nassau, a Bahamian rum.

The dining table is where we ate all the meals Ruth, the cook, prepared for us. She was lovely and her food was delicious—lots of fresh fish and veggies. Plus, Ruth hadВ worked at Sanderling for 22 years and told us about the family that owned it, as well as bits and pieces of local news and history.

sanderling porch

From the front porch, you could see through to the ocean side of the house…

sanderling

…where we spent most of our free time, just reading, relaxing and enjoying the view.

back porch

And—this was my favorite part—a short staircase led down to our very own private beach, which was beautiful and spotless.

private beach

sanderling beach

While I couldn’t have been happier with our rental, I did feel a little sad seeing how the surrounding neighborhood had deteriorated. Cotton Bay was once a fancy resort community. In 1959, Juan Trippe, founder of Pan Am, opened the exclusive Cotton Bay Club and golf course. However, after the airline went bust and hurricanes ravaged the island, the resort was abandoned. Ownership changed hands a few times, and the current owner has let it fall into disrepair. The hotel is covered in brush, and golf course looks like Jurassic Park.

cotton bay golf course

The single road winding through Cotton Bay is full of giant potholes. Half the houses are well-kept and the rest are run-down. (Despite that, we never felt unsafe.) Ruth told us that she’d like more tourism to boost the area’s economy, but not so much that it erodes the area’s peaceful setting or strains its natural resources. I couldn’t agree more.

* * *

Water Cay

Our rental came with one more amazing perk that we didn’t even know about until we got there: the use of the owner’s deep sea fishing boat and a captain!

The guys were instantly ready to fish. Given my history of seasickness in nearly every country I visited, I was a little hesitant. But once Sydney, the captain, mentioned that we’d stop at a small island to hang out and go snorkeling, as well, I was game. Besides, I figured that I’m an old pro at leaning out the back, “feeding the fish,” then getting on with a trip!

So the next morning, we boarded our boat, the Shady Lady…

shady lady

…and got on our way.

leaving the harbor

For about 20 minutes, I felt great! I was thrilled to be bouncing over the waves, watching the water turn deep blue. But once the fishing part started, things went downhill. Deep sea fishing, I learned, involves lots of slowly motoring around, trying to get fish to bite. And if a boat isn’t moving fast, I’m not feeling too well. Plus, the smell of fuel was getting to me.

I was trying to keep my breakfast down, when we got our first bite. In fact, I was so intently staring at the horizon that I didn’t even hear Sydney yell for someone to reel it in. Luckily, Peter jumped into the chair and pulled in a giant mahi. (Which I, unfortunately, didn’t get a photo of, for obvious reasons—the one below is the best I could do, in my compromised state!)

peter deep sea fishing

Sydney speared the fish, which then splattered blood all over the deck. Between that, the nausea and the fumes, I nearly lost it. Mal was feeling just as bad, as well. I don’t know who made the executive decision to take a break from fishing, but someone secured the poles and we were moving at a faster clip.

Eventually we reached paradise.

IMG_1949

I happily jumped off the boat…

jumping in

…and headed to shore.

water cay

This was the highlight of my trip. We’d landed at a deserted island with a spectacular beach—one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. The sand was perfectly round, soft white grains, and the water was amazingly clear and calm. (The only beach that might top it is Australia’sВ Whitehaven Beach.)

water cay

I found out, from Sydney, that we were on Water Cay, a tiny island that’s one-third of Schooner Cays, off the coast of Cape Eleuthera, on the island’s Caribbean side.

water cay

We snorkeled around the Shady Lady, but the only fish I saw was a barracuda—which I seem to encounter on every trip!

shady lady at water cay

And we took lots of photos.

water cay

I could have stayed forever.

But eventually, we swam back to the boat and returned to the open water. We fished long enough for Doug to catch another mahi—but not so long that I got sick—then headed back to Cotton Bay…where Ruth cooked up some of that mahi for lunch. (And lunch and dinner the day after, too!)

mahi

* * *

Governor’s Harbour Fish Fry

After our deep sea fishing excursion, we took naps, then drove an hour north to Governor’s Harbour’s Friday fish fry. (Along the way, we had trouble with our car’s radiator. Everyone who passed stopped and offered help. In what seemed like a crazy coincidence, the owner of the car rental place happened to be driving by—even though we were miles away from his town—and fixed the car. But, as Ruth later told, us, that’s Eleuthera!)

The fish fry was smaller than I expected it to be. A wooden shack near the water served food and drinks, and a DJ played music in the streets. Though it felt touristy, there were just as many, if not more, locals there. (Maybe it seemed that way because this was the first time we’d seen other groups of travelers!)

fish fry

At the stand, you had a choice of a whole fried fish (or BBQ chicken) and sides, like rice and peas, mac and cheese and potato salad.

fish fry

The fry’s signature drink is the “Rum Bubba,” a (very potent!) bright red punch spiked with lots of its namesake alcohol.

rum bubbas

The food was delicious! We each got one of these plates and devoured everything with our hands—the only way to eat a meal like that, by the beach.

fried fish

We also had conch salad. The conch man pulled the mollusk from its shell…

fresh conch

…and chopped it, along with onion, tomatoes, celery and an insanely potent pepper.

conch salad

I like spicy food, but I’ll be honest—I only had one bite! The pepper immediately spread across my tongue, and I spent the next few minutes guzzling my Rum Bubba!

conch salad

We hung around for a little, taking in the scene, chatting with other fish fry goers, and listening to the DJ. Then we hopped back in the car and drove an hour south, back to Cotton Bay.

* * *

Sammy’s Place

Besides the fish fry, we ate out one other time. Sammy’s Place is one of the few restaurants on the southern part of the island.

sammy's place

It’s a nondescript place a few blocks off the main road.

sammy's place

The lunch menu offers staples like sandwiches and burgers, along with Bahamian comfort food, like fried conch, conch fritters and mac and cheese. I enjoyed every bite of my meal, accompanied by a Kalik beer.

fried conch

* * *

Lighthouse Beach

Due to distance and time, we never made it to Harbour Island’s pink sands. But on our last day, we visited Lighthouse Beach, another pink(ish) beach at Eleuthera’s southern tip.

Lighthouse Beach is accessible via a rough, badly potholed two-mile “road.”

lighthouse beach

The bumpy ride was well-worth it, though.

lighthouse beach

Like pretty much everywhere else we went on the island, the gorgeous beach was nearly deserted; we saw only two other people.

We immediately went for a dip in the clear, calm water.

lighthouse beach

Afterwards, we walked up a small hill to enjoy the view…

lighthouse beach

…and reach two other parts of the beach.

lighthouse beach

lighthouse beach

We couldn’t resist taking photos on the weathered rocks that jutted out onto the sand.

lighthouse beach

We stayed at Lighthouse Beach until the sun started setting. I had to drag myself away from it—and from Eleuthera, itself, when it came time to fly back home, the next morning.

lighthouse beach

Off to Eleuthera!

glass window bridge

I’m not gonna lie—I’ve been counting down for a couple weeks!

This whole year, thus far, has been pretty insane. As you might have guessed from my earlier entries, I’ve desperately been trying to survive the Long Slog. To do so, my masterВ plan mostly consisted of performing in the spring dance showcase and running the half marathon relay. Those two events (and the weeks rehearsing/training for them!) were fun and exciting. But when I signed up for them, I’d conveniently forgotten that I was still getting adjusted to my new gig (which I’m loving, by the way)—and working on a huge project that launched right after the ballet show and before the race.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a few days of relaxing and recharging—especially with summer plans on deck and more work projects revving up. A few days of lounging in the sun, in a gorgeous place, is what I need, right now. (Seriously, how stunning is the photo above? That’s Eleuthera’s Glass Window Bridge, with the deep, blue Atlantic to the right and the soothing Caribbean to the left. Can’t wait to get there!)

(Photo via Pinterest)

Eleuthera Recommendations?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was exploring Cat Island (the one in the Bahamas, not in Japan!) as a possible vacation option. В Since then, I’ve changed course—just a little!—and decided to go to Eleuthera, instead. Mal, Peter, two friends and I are headed there in two weeks.

As one of our friends put it: “I’m so excited, I could cry!”

I could, as well! I am very much looking forward to a few days of chillaxin’ on gorgeous beaches, eating lots of fresh seafood and sipping rum cocktails.

We’re likely staying in south Eleuthera (and hopefully visiting Lighthouse Beach, below), and spending a day around Governor’s Harbour, in the central part of the island.

lighthouse beach

If you have any recommendations about what to see/do/eat, please share—I’d love to hear your tips!

(Photo via Discover-Eleuthera-Bahamas.com)

A Resolution to Travel?

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

This weekend, I was in Orlando for a super-fun (and successful!) work event that my group put on. While chatting with one of my colleagues there, I learned of a very cool, year-long resolution she made: Last August, she decided that she would travel at least one time each month, for an entire year.

I thought that was a brilliant idea—and actually wondered why I hadn’t thought of it, myself! She told me she came up with it, last summer, when she realized she’d gone out of town every month for the past few. She decided that she’d keep the streak going for a full year. In the last several months, she’d been everywhere from NYC and Boston to Europe. (She’s based in Orlando.) As she spoke about the places she’d visited, it was clear how much she’s enjoying keeping this resolution!

I try to get out of town every few weeks—I get antsy, if I don’t! But I’d never thought about making that a goal that I’d have to stick to. I love the idea. In my book, any excuse to get away is a good one. And it would mean I’d always have something great to look forward to, every few weeks!

What do you think? Would you ever make a travel resolution?

(Photo: The Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando—I managed to snag an hour in the sun, the day after the event, before heading back to chilly NYC!)

Which Cat Island Would You Prefer?

Even though it’s kind of last-minute, Mal, Peter and I are planning a quick getaway for mid-May. Since we’re only going for 4-5 days, we’re thinking of somewhere pretty close—like the Caribbean. While researching destinations, I stumbled upon Cat Island, one of the Bahamas’ Out Islands. Besides its appealing name, it’s also home to gorgeous, white sand beaches. Like this:

cat island beach

But this discovery also led me to another Cat Island—which is appealing in a very different way!

Tashirojima is a tinyВ Japanese island that’s better known as Cat Island. It reputedly only has about 100 human residents—but hundreds of feline dwellers. Apparently, in the 1800s, the fishermen who lived on the island believed the cats would bring them good luck and fortune, and cared for them accordingly. Hence their population!

Today, the island has a number of cat-shaped buildings…

cat building

cat building

…in addition to their many real cats!

cat island 1
cat island 3
cat island 4
cat island 5
cat island 6
cat island 7

For me, a trip to that Cat Island would be an allergy attack waiting to happen…but I’d still want to go, if only for a few hours!

Which Cat Island would you prefer?

(Top photo via My Out Islands, middle photos via Tofugu; bottom photos by Fubirai via Buzzfeed)

A Moment to Breathe

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

Has this month been insane for you? I feel like March is speeding by faster than I can process it! On one hand, I’m thrilled—adiosВ Long Slog! But on the other, I feel like I’ve been going non-stop for several weeks—which, if I’m not careful, could lead to a little burnout. (In the past few days, alone, I’ve had super-late ballet rehearsals and flew to and from Orlando in one day for work meetings. Hence, the lack of recent posts!)

Throughout all the craziness, I’ve been reminding myself to take a few moments to slow down and breathe. I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to do so is to literally take a mental vacation. As in, recalling a moment from a specific trip when I felt completely wonderful and at ease. I usually envision my favorite beaches—those that are wild and green with lots of palm trees, clear water and brilliant, sunny skies. Often, I think about being on Big Corn Island, Nicaragua (pictured above), with my sister, or the southeastern part of Hawaii’s Big Island. Just thinking about those places makes me feel as relaxed and happy as when I was actually there. I can almost feel the warmth of the sunshine and hear waves crashing and wind rustling the palm fronds.

Happy Friday! Hope you have a chillaxin’ weekend. 😉