Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bermuda Babymoon

Greetings! I have been slacking on this blog since March for a few big reasons including being inundated at work, buying a house and yes, preparing for the arrival of our baby boy this October!

Overdue for some relaxation, Jason and I managed to squeeze in a three-night babymoon in Bermuda in mid-June, during which we also celebrated my birthday.

Bermuda offers beautiful beaches!

We chose Bermuda because it’s a short two-hour flight from Boston (JetBlue points covered it). Also, because we held our wedding at the Fairmont Battery Wharf in Boston, we are now “friends and family” and were able to get a discounted rate at the Fairmont Southampton. At the airport, we split a shuttle with two other couples, paying $30 per couple, to the hotel, which was about 40 minutes away. The ride was scenic and passed quickly.

Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda

Our harbor-view room was ready when we arrived. Although I was disappointed that our wedding coordinator at the Fairmont Battery Wharf in Boston did not upgrade us, as I had requested twice since we were celebrating a babymoon and a birthday, our room was bright and spacious. The Fairmont Southampton is huge, offering 600 rooms, eight on-site restaurants and a golf course. The grounds were spectacular.

Our room

Harbor View

We changed into our bathing suits and hopped on the Fairmont’s shuttle bus (four-minute ride) down to the hotel’s private beach.

In addition to two restaurants, the beach offered plenty of chairs and umbrellas. The entry into the water was slightly rocky but the beach was gorgeous and the water was clear. We ate lunch twice at the Cabana Bar and Grill and once at the Ocean Club – food was tasty and service was great.

Fairmont's Beach

Enjoying a mocktail at the Ocean Club

On Monday, we took a cab to nearby Church Bay (incredible views) for snorkeling, which we enjoyed but the snorkeling at the Fairmont was also ok. Snorkeling (from what we experienced) on Bermuda is so/so, especially if you are used to snorkeling in certain spots in the Caribbean. The view from the top of the cliff at Church Bay was spectacular and we had a great time collecting colorful sea glass that washed up on the shore there. Because there was very little shade at Church Bay, we stayed long enough for two snorkels before heading back to the much-needed umbrellas (aka shade!) at the Fairmont.

On Tuesday, we enjoyed a long walk/hike along the beach, passing by the stunning pink-sand, Horseshoe Bay and swimming in a few other quiet and private coves along the way. It was hot and there was little shade. Bring water, sunscreen and a hat! We actually quit the walk early, as I felt worried about overheating while pregnant.
Horseshoe Bay - spectacular!

We enjoyed exploring these beaches.

The Fairmont Southampton offers a complimentary ferry service to its sister hotel located in Hamilton, Bermuda’s capitol. We ate dinner at Portofino Restaurant, splitting an eggplant appetizer, a pizza and some over-priced focaccia bread but the food was very tasty. After dinner, walked along Front Street, although most of the shops were closed. We were surprised by the modern feel of Hamilton and the expensive shops that lined the street, definitely different than most islands we visit. Because the ferry was no longer running after dinner, we took the public bus back to the hotel - $5 for both us, cheap and easy!

From the ferry

Front Street

On Wednesday morning, we ate breakfast overlooking the pool area, looked very comfortable. The Fairmont's restaurants were pricey but we enjoyed all of our meals - it's hard to complain about prices when the food is so tasty! We ate breakfast a la carte at Windows on the Sound and once at On the Go in the Jasmine Lounge. On our last night, we ate the most amazing piece of cheesecake EVER at Jasmine, just delicious. Another honorable mention is the chicken tikka wrap at the Cabana Bar & Grill, so tasty.

If we were to stay longer than three nights on Bermuda, we would have wanted some transportation to see the rest of the island. There are no car rentals on the island, only moped rentals, and with my pregnancy, renting a moped was out of the question.

On our last day, I was slightly disappointed that we asked the front desk to extend our check out by two hours and were told that the hotel was full...this hotel is huge, I doubt all 600 rooms were in use on a Wednesday. Other than that, we greatly enjoyed our stay, due to an amazing staff, beautiful grounds (the golf course look spectacular) and comfortable room.

One last note - the cost of a cab from the Fairmont to the airport is $45.  We split the ride with another couple, which was actually cheaper than the shuttle. 

To learn more about Bermuda, click here. Thanks for reading!

Sunset over the harbor

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Lost City of Pompeii

En route from the Amalfi Coast to Tuscany, we stopped at Pompeii to view the ruins of the city destoyed and buried by 13 to 20 feet of ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. Today, 2.6 million tourists visit the site each year and to take a peek at Roman life in the first century, until Mount Vesuvius erupted.

Mount Vesuvius in the distance
When the volcano, located near what is now Naples, erupted, ash and dust poured into the city like a flood and killed 2,000 people. The volcano did not produce lava but instead involved superheated gas and volcanic ash. Ash fall was detected as far away as Africa.

Fifteen hundred (1500) years later, Pompeii was rediscovered and explorers found that most of the objects laying beneath the surface did not deteriorate and instead were well preserved due to lack of air and moisture.  Excavations produced skeletons, buildings, cobblestone streets, pottery, artifacts, mosaic floors - an entire city underground.  

Pompeii was a thriving commerical business center and community until the eruption.  The city includes several restaurants, a food market, baths, a mill, a hotel, a bar, a brothel, an ampitheatre and two theatres and a sophistcated aqueduct system that provided water for the town - even the houses.

We visited Pompeii on a sweltering day in October.  We could have spent days exploring this site but due to the heat and a long drive ahead of us, instead spent about four hours walking around.  We rented audio guides, which helped us navigate the carefully mapped grounds. I highly recommend carrying water and wearing a hat as there is very little shade! When we visited, we paid 11E each to enter the ruins and 10E for two audio guides.

Here are some photos of the ruins. To learn more about Pompeii, click here. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tranquility - A Day Trip from Virgin Gorda to Anegada

On a recent trip to Virgin Gorda, an island in the British Virgin Islands, we decided to day trip to Anegada. Nicknamed the Drowned Land, Anegada is the only coral island in the Virgin Islands' volcanic chain. Surrounded by coral reefs, Anegada is home to the Horse Shoe Reef, the fourth largest barrier reef in the world, which has been known to cause ship wrecks and makes sailing to Anegada difficult.

Anegada is the ultimate tranquil paradise. Only 200 people live on this 15-square mile island, and with the exception of some wandering cattle, donkeys, sheep and goats, and Caribbean flamingos, you will pretty much feel like you're away - far away!

I hemmed and hawed for weeks prior to the vacation about whether to take the public ferry to Anegada or cruise over on an organized catamaran trip with DiveBVI or Double D Charters. Because we wanted to leave early and spend as much time as possible on Anegada, we chose the ferry.  Waking up before 7am on vacation was difficult, but we took the 7:10am ferry on Wednesday.  To view the inter-island ferry schedule, click here.

Less than an hour later, we arrived on Anegada.  We had rented a jeep in advance from Dean Wheatley with D.W. Jeep Rentals (call 284-495-9677 or email dwjeep@hotmail.com to book).  Dean, who is very friendly, met us at the ferry dock and got us in our Jeep very quickly. 

First stop, the Anegada Reef Hotel for breakfast!  Located near the ferry dock, we sat at a picnic table by the water and enjoyed friendly service and coconut rum pancakes (yum!) and bacon.  As you can see below, the view from our table was not too shabby!

After breakfast, we drove toward Cow Wreck Beach, stopping along the way to check out the long stretches of white-sand beaches.  The beaches are great for walking, and we pretty much had the beach all to ourselves, the water such a beautiful color!

At Cow Wreck Beach, we grabbed a few chairs near the beach bar and hopped in the water to snorkel.  We saw a variety of fish, conch shells and coral, not spectacular snorkeling but still a lot of fun.  After our snorkel, we grabbed a hammock and drank a Red Stripe, what a great place to relax!

Around 11:30am, we drove to the northern side of the island, to Loblolly Beach, home of the Big Bamboo restaurant and some excellent snorkeling.  The ride there was long and bumpy (dirt roads!) but we detoured here and there, trying to sight some of Caribbean flamingos that inhabit the salt ponds - no luck, but we did see some from afar while on the paved dirt road earlier. 

As soon as we arrived at Loblolly, the skies darkened and the rain started!  Boooo!  

We took shelter at the beach bar, chatting with the friendly bartenders and enjoying some painkillers and Red Stripes, and later tasted the fabulous grilled Anedaga lobster - absolutely delicious!  Spoiled by Maine lobsters, we were skeptical of this lobster but enjoyed every bite, as well as some delicious sides from Big Bamboo.  I only wish I had photos of the meal.  

Finally the rain stopped.  The skies were still dark, but after a long walk on the beach where I found several sand dollars, we jumped in for a snorkel and were very happy we did!  Even without the sun, the visibility was great, water was very clear.  We saw loads of fish, some interesting coral formations and three large turtles - just beautiful! 

After our swim, we realized we needed to head back to the dock to catch the 5:10pm ferry back to Virgin Gorda.  Dropping our jeep off at the dock was easy. A great day, even with the rain!  If you've been to Anegada, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.

To read my trip report on Virgin Gorda, click here.  If you enjoy my blog, don't forget to follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or scroll up to sign up for my emails.  Thanks for reading and I'll leave you with one more picture...ahhhhh.