Wednesday, August 20, 2014

6 things to love about Bermuda

 Sunset at Elbow Beach resort
I just returned yesterday from my first visit to this stunning island with a unique location in the Atlantic Ocean (I was lucky enough to stay at the fabulous Elbow Beach resort), and am already planning my next visit! Here are just a few of the reasons why:

1. The flights
Total time from takeoff at New York's JFK airport to arrival at LF Wade international airport on Bermuda? 1 hour and 35 minutes! My only complaint? Such a short flight meant that I did not get to see the last 5 minutes of the movie I was watching on the seat-back screen. Ah, I suppose there are worse problems...
Coming back, I flew from Bermuda into Atlanta. Even with headwinds and about 50% more distance to cover, I was still in the air for under 2.5 hours.
For travelers in the Midwest, and especially on the west coast, getting to Caribbean islands can be tedious and time-consuming, often requiring overnight flights or long layovers due to most flights leaving in the morning from the East Coast. But thanks to a couple of evening flights from Boston and New York, travelers coming from further west can easily get to Bermuda the same day with just one simple connection!

2. The Bermudians
From the moment you go through customs and immigration in Bermuda (where the booths sit next to a paneled English fireplace topped with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, natch), you notice the huge smiles and genuine friendliness of the Bermudian people. Rightfully proud of their island, they are welcoming and gracious hosts, full of wonderful stories and information, and from what I could tell, love to share a hearty laugh! And they love their cocktails - making them definitely my kind of people! Which brings us to...
3. The national cocktails
Pick your poison - rum swizzle or dark n' stormy? The former is my personal favorite, but that did not stop me from sampling (for research purposes only, of course) quite a few of the latter as well. Islanders and visitors alike may disagree on where to find the best, and it seems like most locals will say no one makes them like mama, but rest assured that it's hard to find a bad rum swizzle or dark n' stormy anywhere on-island! For my money, dapper, charming Danny at Elbow Beach (see photo above) wins the award for the most delectable rum swizzles (and best stories - he's been at the resort since 1959)!
 
4. The beaches
I was blown away by the (approximately 63) stunning beaches here! Unfortunately I only got to visit a tiny fraction during my short stay, but that's a great excuse to go back! Warwick/Long Bay was my favorite on the island. With a long stretch of pink sand backed by dramatic rock and lush greenery and lapped by crystal clear turquoise and royal blue water, enough wave action to keep things fun without risking your neck, and portions where I did not see a single soul, what's there not to like? If you climb up over the rocks at one end (there's a little trail as well), you can also reach a tiny grotto in the rocks that acts as a natural swimming pool. A tiny concession rents umbrellas $15+$10 deposit) and sells some simple food items (hot dogs, fries, chicken fingers) and water/soda, but if you prefer your beach day to include beer or rum, be sure to bring your own!
 
 
 
 

5. The food
As an island nation, of course seafood tops the list of things to eat in Bermuda. And they do a fantastic job with it - everything from locally caught tuna made into delectable tartare to pecan crusted swordfish, enormous shrimp, and the (elusive but apparently incredibly lobster-like) hogfish. But the restaurant scene in Bermuda offers so much more as well - whether you're in the mood for Italian, French, Asian, English pub grub, or just about anything else, you can find it here! Be sure to check out the Ocean Club at Fairmont Southampton (and request a table next to the railing for incredible views), Lido at Elbow Beach (go early enough to enjoy the sunset from the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows), Sul Verde at Rosewood Tucker's Point (the antipasti buffet and mozzarella bar alone are worth the trip), and Swizzle Inn (a Bermuda institution, now with 2 locations and an especially delicious pizza -  aptly named "The Favorite").
 View from Ocean Club (with rainbow)
 

6. The customs & immigration process
Generally, coming back from an international destination means having to wait in interminable lines for C&I once you arrive back in the US. Not so when leaving Bermuda! Here, you go through C&I before you get on the flight. It's an extraordinarily simple, quick, and civilized process that perfects caps off your vacation and makes the trip home so much more pleasant, knowing that all you have to do at the other end is grab your luggage (or not, if you're a light packer and didn't check a bag), and go!
There's a whole lot more to love about Bermuda, but you should really go and find out for yourself! To get more information and plan your Bermuda vacation, contact me at caroline@easyescapestravel.com!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hello...is it me you're looking for?

So I've been MIA since January...didn't realize it had been that long! But after a (very amicable) divorce and way too long without any trips on my calendar, I'm back and traveling again!

Shortly I will be posting photos and reviews of my July trip, which started as 10 last-minute but very planned-out days of relaxation in Honduras and ended up as 24 fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants days of fun and adventure in Honduras and Belize!

I also just got back from 2 fantastic travel conferences in Las Vegas, and will be traveling for most of October, spending time in Florida (Disneyworld), Grand Cayman, San Francisco, and 5 different Tahitian islands! So many more posts to come in the following days/weeks!

Cheers to anyone still checking this blog after all these months...thanks for hanging in there - and hopefully it will be worth the wait!

Caroline


Monday, January 07, 2013

Overwater Bungalows in Africa!

 
Having trouble deciding between that South African safari or a beach vacation in a bungalow over the sea, but don't have the time or money to visit SA and Tahiti or the Maldives on the same trip?  No need to weigh the options for one more moment, thanks to Flamingo Bay Water Lodge in Mozambique! So go ahead, start narrowing down those safari lodges, and plan a relaxing pre- or post-animal-viewing stop in this amazing country!
 Only about an hour's flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to the town of Inhambane and a half-hour car ride will bring you to this eco-paradise.
 Flamingo Bay's barefoot elegance, laid-back style and atmosphere, excellent food and service, simple but lovely water chalets, and exotic setting would definitely be worth a splurge! However, the rates here could actually be more accurately described as a steal - $350-$400USD total for 2 per night, including daily breakfast and dinner!

Here, you can be as relaxed or as active as your heart desires...
Just want to laze? Spend time soaking up the sun on the deck of your chalet, jumping off now and then to cool off and snorkel in the clear waters below. After you've worked up an appetite, jump in one of the complimentary golf carts for the short ride from your chalet to the resort's restaurant and bar. A treatment at Flamingo Bay's spa is a fabulous way to spend the afternoon, and later, a sunset cruise is the perfect activity to cap off the day!
 

Want more adventure and excitement? Paddle around in a kayak, go for a horseback ride down the beach, take a guided city tour of Inhambane or a walk through one of the nearby small villages, try your hand at deep sea fishing, explore the local waters and islands by catamaran or traditional dhow, or take out a bike or ATV to visit one of the gorgeous nearby beaches!


No matter how you choose to spend your stay at Flamingo Bay, it's sure to be an unforgettable experience!

Photos courtesy of Flamingo Bay, Barra Resorts, and Mozambique Tourism

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Five exotic gift ideas for everyone on your list!

For the spa addict: Pure Fiji bath, body, and home products

These locally and sustainably produced goodies come beautifully packaged and in 12 splendid natural scents (I especially love the coconut and frangipani), so you're sure to find one that appeals to any nose! With products ranging from candles and aromatic seashells to sugar scrubs and body butter to facial toners and cleansers, and quite a bit in between (including wonderful gift sets) the hardest choice you'll have to make is which ones NOT to buy! Go ahead and treat yourself to a few presents as well - after all, with all of the good works Pure Fiji does in the local communities (see more on that here), every purchase you make helps make a positive difference in the lives of many lovely Fijian people!
Where to buy: PureFiji.com, plus various boutiques and resorts in Fiji (some of the higher-end resorts even have these as their bathroom amenities!)

For the foodie: Tahitian vanilla beans
There are a ton uses for these gourmet pods, from cooking sweet or savory dishes to flavoring sugar or vodka to scenting body lotions or scrubs, and more! You can buy vanilla beans in the US, but they're often skinny and dried out, not to mention lacking the rich flavor of those grown in the Polynesian soil. For those who prefer their ingredients to be locally sourced, these make a perfect gift!

Where to buy: You'll find the freshest and best choices when purchasing these are Le Marche (daily market) in Papeete, Tahiti or direct from harvesters on the islands of Huahine, Tahaa, and Raiatea. Don't have a trip planned to French Polynesia before Christmas? You can also purchase great quality beans (as well as wonderful vanilla extract, paste and other edible and non-edible products) online through Vanilla From Tahiti. But you really should plan a trip to buy these locally in time for the 2013 holidays; leave a few for Santa (or better yet, bake him some cookies with these flavor-packed beans) and you'll definitely be placed on his lifetime "Nice" list!


For the fashionista - or anyone who loves beautiful things: Thai silk from Jim Thompson
Silk scarves, ties, clothing, bags and accessories, and wonderful children's items are all available in the most gorgeous prints from Jim Thompson (the legendary "Silk King" of Thailand, whose disappearance in 1967 remains a mystery to this day). His legacy still produces some of the highest-quality examples of Thai silk work available. My personal favorites are the proud and handsome silk elephants; 3 of them sit on my bedside table for luck!
Where to buy: The full range is available only at Jim Thompson boutiques and a few other stores in Thailand. You can find some pieces at Asia Store in Manhattan or online, though (Ebay also usually has new pieces). But really, think of this as yet another excuse to plan a trip to Thailand - the amazing shopping is just the tip of the iceberg in this incredible, exotic country!

For the hostess: Ornaments from European Christmas markets
Scattered in towns throughout Europe (especially in Germany and Austria), these fun and festive markets featuring every bit of Christmas decor you can imagine pop up in late November or early December ever year. The stalls sell everything from cheap toys to pricey but beautiful handmade tree decorations, in endless colors, shapes, and materials.

Where to buy: The bad news is, you can really only purchase European Christmas market ornaments from, well, European Christmas markets. The good news is, you can buy many almost identical ornaments just about anywhere else in the world!

For the little ones: Delightful animal stories with an evocative Caribbean flair
 
Local author Jo-Anne Mason's 3 books (Trixy the Monkey Who Ate Nevis, The Perfect Shell, and Paddy the Goat who Saved Anguilla) are all perfect for the youngsters in your life; charmingly written and illustrated, they capture children's imaginations and even impart some wisdom about the cultures and customs of these beautiful islands! In general, I would recommend them for children age 3 and up, though my 2-year-old godson absolutely adores his copy of "Trixy", and has started saying "don't touch the fruit!" (will make sense once you read the book) in between asking to have it read to him again!
Where to buy: Boutiques on the islands of Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Kitts, and Nevis, as well as Amazon.com

I'd love to hear about your favorite gifts to bring back from travel destinations! Drop me a note in the comments section!

Monday, December 17, 2012

2013's Five Hottest Destinations!

2012 is not quite over yet, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start thinking about your 2013 travel! Here are 5 fabulous destinations that should be on your radar! I would also love to hear reader's top picks for 2013!

*Maldives
 Photo courtesy of VisitMaldives.com
This island nation is known for its luxurious private island resorts set of perfect sugar sand beaches fronted by crystal clear water. One of only 2 areas in the world (the other is French Polynesia) with tons of overwater bungalows, the Maldives offers the perfect romantic getaway in paradise! Some resorts even offer dining (and in one case, sleeping!) with the fish in under-sea restaurants.
 Photo courtesy of VisitMaldives.com
Top resort picks: Anantara Kihavah, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, Soneva Fushi, Baros Maldives, Cocoa Island
Best time to visit: January to April, November and December

*Greece
Rich history, fantastic food, and gorgeous scenery collide in Greece,where you can spend the morning exploring the Acropolis and the afternoon swimming in an infinity pool on the rim of an ancient volcano. From history buffs to culture-seekers to sun-worshippers to party-all-nighters, This incredible country offers something for everyone!
Top resort picks: Grande Bretagne (Athens), Astra Suites (Santorini), Mykonos Grand
Best time to visit: May to September

*Puerto Rico
 Photo courtesy of St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
With the recent opening of 3 luxe new resorts (see below), Puerto Rico offers more options for high-end travel than ever before. Stay near San Juan to enjoy all the shopping, restaurants, and nightlife you could ask for, or head to the outer islands of Vieques or Culebra for secluded beaches, lush rainforests, and a magically glowing bioluminescent bay.
Top resort picks: St. Regis Bahia Beach, W Vieques, Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve
Best time to visit: January to May

*Fiji
With 3 "main" islands crammed with sightseeing and adventure options, and dozens of incredible outer islands featuring beautiful boutique resorts, local villages, beautiful beaches, amazing snorkeling, rich culture, and some of the world's friendliest people, the Fijian islands are a must-visit destination!
Top resort picks: Royal Davui, Matangi, Qamea, Tokoriki, LikuLiku, Intercontinental Fiji
Best time to visit: May to October


*Belize
Photo courtesy of TravelBelize.org
Want to snorkel or dive the world's second largest barrier reef? Head to Belize. Want to explore and zipline through rainforests bursting with monkeys, tropical birds, lush foliage, and other wonders? Head to Belize. Want to see ancient Mayan ruins and tube through the cave systems they considered to be a sacred underworld? Head to Belize. Want to lay on the beach, stay in a private casita, drive a golf cart around a great little town bursting with shops, restaurants, and beach bars, swim with sharks and rays, see manatees and seahorses in their natural environment, eat fresh-caught lobster, and just have an all-around blast? Head to Belize!
Top resort picks: Victoria House (Ambergris Caye), Hamanasi (Hopkins), Turtle Inn (Placencia) Blancaneaux Lodge (San Ignacio)
Best time to visit: January to May

To start planning your own trip to any of these or other destinations, please don't hesitate to contact me at Caroline@easyescapestravel.com for custom itineraries and pricing!

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