• Dominica, Roseau Market

    Colorful Roseau + Snorkeling at Champagne Reef

    Exploring Dominica's vibrant capital plus snorkeling at famed Champagne Reef.

  • soufriere, Dominica, Soufriere View

    Dominica: Snapshots from Soufrière

    Snapshots from the picture-perfect seaside town of Soufrière, Dominica.

  • Dominica, Hiking in Dominica

    Dominica: Hike to the Boiling Lake

    Six hours and 14 miles later, we survived the hike to Dominica's Boiling Lake, the second largest in the world.

  • Rum Dominica, Macoucherie

    Dominica: Macoucherie Rum Factory

    Some thoughts from our experience exploring Dominica's Macoucherie Rum Factory.

  • Trafalgar Falls, Dominica Hiking

    Dominica: Trafalgar Falls + the Emerald Pool

    Day one in Dominica, exploring Trafalgar Falls, the Emerald Pool and zipping around the southern part of the island.

Dominica, Roseau Market

After our day of hiking on Friday, we decided to stretch our legs a bit less intensely on Saturday by exploring Roseau, Dominica’s capital city. Set on the island’s western coast, Roseau is home to a bustling market on Saturday mornings where you can purchase fresh fish, homegrown fruits and vegetables, or grab grilled plantains and breadfruit from local street vendors. With no cruise ships in the port, the vibe is mostly local; we were two of a handful of visitors exploring the area.

Roseau, Dominica, Sightseeing in Dominica

Roseau, Dominica, Sightseeing in Dominica

Even on an average low-key Saturday, Roseau provides a captivating backdrop melding distinctly Caribbean, European and African flair. We’d walk by an old building that could easily be set in a charming Italian town only to bump into a burst of vibrant Caribbean colors next to it: green, yellow and red-painted doors allowing entry to a restaurant serving up local BBQ. If we had a kitchen in our hotel room or had been staying in a villa, this would have been a perfect opportunity to stock up on fresh produce and fish for the week. We purchased grilled plantains and sampled breadfruit from a roadside BBQ stand; two plantains set us back $1 EC.

Roseau, Dominica, Sightseeing in Dominica

Roseau, Dominica, Sightseeing in Dominica Read More

soufriere, Dominica, Soufriere View

On Saturday, after our time exploring vibrant Roseau and snorkeling in Champagne Reef (more on that later!), we headed to the postcard-perfect town of Soufrière, en route to Scott’s Head. Many locals had recommended the area for snorkeling, but we ended up just taking in the scenery, astounded by the natural beauty of this little coastal town. Soufrière is a village on the southwest coast of Dominica with a population of less than 1500. We drove by fisherman preparing their nets and children splashing in the water. In some ways the town reminded me of the Amalfi Coast, with candy-colored homes built into the cliffside and stunning views of the sea below. We were mesmerized from the moment we began driving in – beautiful vistas and sweeping views of the town below.

Soufriere, Dominica, Southeast Dominica

Soufriere, Dominica, Southeast DominicaSoufriere, Dominica, Southeast DominicaSoufriere, Dominica, Southeast DominicaSoufriere, Dominica, Dominica youth, Southeast DominicaSoufriere, Dominica, Southeast DominicaSoufriere, Dominica, Southeast DominicaSoufriere, Dominica, Southeast Dominicasoufriere-townSoufriere, Dominica, Southeast Dominica, Dominica Sulphur SpringsSoufriere, Dominica, Southeast Dominica

CarRod’s // Rodney’s Wellness Retreat

We had read about Rodney’s Wellness Retreat and happened upon it while driving through the town of Soufriere. We went in for lunch and felt like we had stumbled into an oasis. This space is so much more than a restaurant; it’s a campsite, it’s a garden space, it’s a resting place. In truth, it’s difficult to define. We ate lunch at a table for two under a cashew tree while the owner/chef made up a custom lunch for us (there’s no menu). There were tents popped up across the way from us available for rent for budget or adventure travelers looking for an incredible eco-friendly experience within Dominica. The tents – single or double occupancy – can be rented for $100 EC per night (a little over $37 per night for two people). Like the rest of the island, Rodney’s is lush, and is home to mango, papaya, grapefruit, cashew, orange, lime and lemon trees among others. As someone mentioned to us, one of the incredible things about Dominica is that plant life thrives in the nutrient-rich environment. If a tomato seed falls to the soil, a fruit-bearing plant will undoubtedly sprout in a short period of time. If you’re in Soufriere, this place is a must, whether just for lunch or for an entire afternoon of lazing in a hammock.

Rodney's Wellness Center, Dominica, Soufriere Dominica Rodney's Wellness Center, Dominica, Soufriere Dominica Rodney's Wellness Center, Dominica, Soufriere Dominica Rodney's Wellness Center, Dominica, Soufriere Dominica Rodney's Wellness Center, Dominica, Soufriere Dominica Rodney's Wellness Center, Dominica, Soufriere Dominica

xoxo from the islands,

Shannon Kircher

 

 

Dominica, Hiking in Dominica

It was 7:15AM and we were in front of Jungle Bay’s activity center, picking our walking sticks for the day’s adventure. We were heading to the Boiling Lake and had enlisted the help of a resort guide to help us navigate the notoriously extreme trek. From our experience in Saba, we knew walking sticks, which we previously dismissed as an accessory for avid Austrian hikers, were a must.

Dominica, Boiling Lake Hike, Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Judy, our guide for the day, worked for Jungle Bay and originally hailed from New Hampshire. After years in the Peace Corps based in Dominica, she began leading tours with Jungle Bay last December. We never asked her age, but she’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 years old and more active than Scott and I combined. This woman, who had hiked the Boiling Lake around a dozen times, was a snowboarding and skiing instructor for over twenty years, plus an aerobics instructor and a yoga teacher. She was about 90 pounds and she was about to kick our asses. Read More

Rum Dominica, Macoucherie

During our first day in Dominica – the same day that we visited Trafalgar Falls, the Emerald Pool and Mero Beach – we also made a pit stop at the Macoucherie Rum Factory, a destination that I thought would be a good way to balance the otherwise health and wellness-focused getaway. A lady that we spoke with at lunch prefaced our tour of the rum factory by gently letting us know that we shouldn’t expect a distillery a la Martinique, but rather a local, old-fashioned production center. We were a quick five-minute drive away so we were up for a visit, regardless of the outcome.

Armed with the new knowledge that the distillery was non-descript, we spotted the small sign designating the entrance into the factory. We were the only car in sight and had apparently come after the standard tour times. Still, one gentleman – the wearer of all hats and jack-of-all-trades in the organization – kindly gave us a tour. If you’re planning on doing the tour, don’t let the less-than-friendly receptionist put you off from the get-go. The rest of the people that we came in contact with were welcoming and knowledgeable. For $3 each, we were on our way to learn about rum production in Dominica. Read More

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica Hiking

We landed in Dominica on Wednesday night after a quick (albeit delayed) one-hour flight from St. Maarten on Winair. We were headed to Jungle Bay, on Dominica’s Southeastern side, about a two hour drive from Melville Hall Airport. The roads were dark, the night was crisp and I was dozing in and out while we journeyed to our cottage, zipping by the National Park, Kalinago Territory and small villages along the way. When we arrived at our hotel, somewhere between 10 and 11PM, we quickly fell asleep to the scent of Bay Oil and the sound of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the beach outside of our bungalow.

Neither Scott nor I had been to Dominica, so we tempered our somewhat ambitious goals with managed expectations. We bound ourselves to a no alarm rule during the trip (sans one notable day), sleeping in until the sun woke us through our windows. We woke up on our first day at around 7:30AM, too late for me to join Jungle Bay’s morning yoga class, but early enough for us to fuel with a healthy morning meal and get a good start on the day. After breakfast to kick-start our morning, we headed to the lobby to retrieve our rental car, a two-door RAV4 with 220,000 miles on it – perfect for getting through the rugged terrain of the island while still small enough to zip around the tight corners fairly easily.

jungle bay, breakfast in dominica

We set off, map in hand and iPhone compass at the ready to help us explore the island. I’d read tales about the potholes in Dominica’s roads being big enough to practically swallow a small goat. That’s only a slight exaggeration. The roads are windy and narrow – sometimes big enough for a single car, and dodging the potholes is like playing a game of Mario Kart. Throw in left hand driving with a right hand drive car and people naturally get a little intimidated about exploring solo. Still, there are so few other cars on the roads that it’s not as horrendous as it may sound. Plus, you’ll have the ability to really get to know the island and what it offers – it’s extremely spread out and even by road it’s not overly well connected. Read More

Dominica, Caribbean Islands, Caribbean HIking, Caribbean Jungle

Our bags are packed and we’re jetting off tonight to explore one of our fellow Caribbean islands, Dominica. Bearing the nickname Nature Island, Dominica is a stark contrast to the white beaches and flat topography of Anguilla. When we initially began our planning for a mid-season getaway (see here), we had heavily debated between St. Lucia, Dominica and Nevis. After surveying fellow island residents, the clear winner was Dominica. We wanted an island that felt worlds away; that offered something totally different from Anguilla (e.g. Turks & Caicos wasn’t even a consideration). At the same time, we preferred something a little more raw, and perhaps a little less touristed. Without a doubt, Dominica fit the bill. Dominica is a veritable jungle; covered in green and home to a palpable health and wellness scene. They’ve been designated as one of the ‘world’s most ethical countries‘ and boast incredible initiatives to move towards wind and solar energy as a part of their sustainability mission. I’ll be taking part in morning yoga sessions while we’re on the island, plus we’ve identified a slew of hikes that have piqued our interest.

We booked a total of four full days in Dominica, giving us enough time to explore without being away for too long. After doing some research and reading reviews from fellow bloggers, we quickly discovered that four days in Dominica barely scratches the surface of the island. Four days anywhere doesn’t really scratch the surface, but there are typically stand out itinerary items that come to the fore. With this getaway, I find myself still trying to prioritize the places I want to see and experience during our time on the island. In part, we hope that advice from the staff at Jungle Bay Resort will help guide our journey. Here’s what we’ve put on our priority list — we’re hoping to create an itinerary that allows us to experience all of these things during four short days.

The Boiling Lake

Boiling Lake, Dominica, Nature Island
1Dominica’s Boiling Lake, the world’s second largest, is perhaps one of the most famous sites on the island. Second in size only to New Zealand’s Frying Pan Lake, the lake is a flooded fumarole within Dominica’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park. To get to the lake, one must embark on a strenuous hike — around 8 miles round trip — that by most accounts takes around 6 – 8 hours depending on your pace. While most who have done the hike have remarked on how difficult it is (lots of steps, muddy terrain, etc.), nearly everyone has mentioned the hike being worth the sore muscles afterwards. In this case, it’s not just the destination that’s worth the experience, the entire hike takes visitors through stunning greenery with incredible views. In planning our trip, we’re allocating a whole day for this experience, with a massage to follow!

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Greece, Hydra, Greek Photography

Greece for the Photography Enthusiast

Guest post by Steve Ewins
Mykonos Panormos Villas

steve-ewinsWe travel for a number of reasons.  Some of us travel just to get away from it all, some of us travel in search of new friendships and adventure, and some travel for the sites and the history. Whatever our reason for traveling, almost all of us try to take beautiful pictures of the places we’ve been to as a way of capturing and sharing our experiences.  Heading to Greece? If you haven’t found your inner photographer already, here are some of the best places in the land of gods and mythology to help unleash the photographer in you.  Brace yourself because your Flickr or Instagram feed aren’t going to know what hit them.

Athens

Greece, Athens, Greece Photography

1No matter what time of day you get your camera out and start shooting, the Greek capital provides an endless landscape of natural resources mingled with temples and ruins ensuring that your compositions will never be dull.  Why not take a walk up to the Acropolis in the evening or at nighttime to try a couple of shots of the city from a slight aerial perspective?  The Acropolis itself is worth a few shots as well especially if it’s a bright sunny day, a sure thing in this part of the world.  Other ruins scattered around the entire city such as the temple dedicated to Zeus, the god of thunder, will keep you trigger happy for the rest of your stay.

Kefalonia

Greece, photography

2If nature and limestone buildings tend to rock your boat more than anything else look no further than Kefalonia, an island in the Ionian see.  Get on a boat and visit some of the coastal caves or the more remote beaches.  Take your zoom lens — or your underwater casing if you’ve got one! — and you might be able to capture one of the loggerhead turtles, an endangered species the island is most famous for. Read More

London Bridge, Tower Bridge

Newsflash: you can’t fly direct from Nairobi to St. Maarten. To get home from Kenya, we had a scheduled connection in London and then in New York before making our way back to the Caribbean. There was no way we were going to pass through London without stopping to explore. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I started documenting my life through this platform when I knew that I was moving to London. It marked my first international move, the beginning of a distinct period of my life, and the moments when my wanderlust was first truly ignited. London is, and always will be, an incredibly special city for me; incomparable in many ways.

We had to have at least a handful of hours in the city based on flight schedules so we chose to stretch out our layover in London and give ourselves an entire day (6:30AM to 6:30PM) to explore. Our original plan was to be in London on a Saturday, the most perfect day to be in this city for all of the things that I had planned. As fate and terrible flight mishaps would have it, our day in London was postponed until Sunday when many of the items on our loose itinerary didn’t exist. As a note for anyone that has a Saturday in London, my original itinerary included starting at one of my favorite markets, Borough Market, south of the river. It also included a stop in Westminster Abbey for a requisite tour (I’ve gone on this tour twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times – I thought it would be a solid dose of history for our day). Sadly, Borough Market isn’t open on Sunday and Westminster Abbey is closed to tours as they offer services.

Paddington Station, London UndergroundLondon Underground, London Tube Station, Westminster Tube Station

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Nairobi, City Center, Kenya Capital

Normally a night at Nairobi’s Sarova Stanley Hotel, a stunning five-star resort in the city center, would leave me swooning. However, we weren’t planning on another day in Nairobi, and while it ended up being a wonderful hotel experience, our flight experience was quite the opposite.

Picture this: we’re leaving Mombasa a day before the rest of Scott’s family. We had our last meal at Monsoon in Mtwapa, where we said our tearful goodbyes and hopped in a cab to the airport. An early flight was available on Fly540 to Nairobi so we took them up on it. Perhaps there’d be free wifi in Nairobi’s airport! We were off to a great start.

Then we arrived in Nairobi.

We had over five hours in the airport and we quickly discovered that our fantasy about the airport having wifi (and us being able to get some work done) was just that – a fantasy. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling great. My head was hurting, coffee wasn’t helping, and the smoking lounge that was near us was making it worse. Needless to say, I was ready to get off the ground and make our way to London, where we had our Saturday mapped out. We headed to the departures lounge and waited until 12:40AM when our flight was scheduled to take off. It was about ten minutes prior to that at which a ground crew member came out to inform us that there may be a slight mechanical issue, but that he would report back.

Then the captain came out, again informing us that there was an issue with gauges on the plane. While there were two of these gauges, both seemed to be having issues. The mechanics were hard at work trying to remedy the problem as safety is naturally the number one concern. I get that. We waited, still optimistic as it didn’t seem like a massive issue.

The pilot came back out about thirty minutes later to explain that they were still at work and the parts needed to be repaired as the nearest replacement parts were in London. No other useable parts were in Nairobi, and apparently not in East Africa either. We waited, optimism slowly fading from the crowd of people.

When the pilot came back the next time, around 2AM to explain they were still working, we had more or less accepted our fate. Still, they brought food and water in from the plane to help keep people sane.

Now, let me pause here to explain something. I think we’ve flown enough to understand that mechanical and weather-related issues happen. They’re not fun for anyone, but I don’t think they’re within the airlines’ control and I do believe that the airline does what they can when possible. After all, they want to get the plane off the ground, too. I grumble over delays and mechanical problems, but I accept that it’s a part of flying. What I do think is within the control of the ground crew and airline: the service element.

This back and forth with the pilot and ground crew continued every thirty or forty minutes. By 2:30AM, people were ready to get to a hotel in Nairobi, get a bit of sleep and try their luck the next day (or with an alternate airline). The crew insisted that they would continue working though, which didn’t allow us to leave the airport and move to a hotel since we were already checked into the flight. We were trapped in this little departures space with zero food, water or wi-fi access (which I realize isn’t quite equivalent to food & water, but there were four British Airlines networks available and no one seemed to know the password to help us keep ourselves entertained).

It wasn’t until a little after 5AM that they finally cancelled the flight as the crew was no longer legally allowed to fly. We listened as they gave us instructions on how to proceed. Everyone fought their way to get out of the departures area, get their bags and get on their way. There was one girl helping all the passengers get on a list for a hotel (as you can imagine, this took a while), and instead of arranging buses to the hotels, one man was calling individual cabs to transfer four people at a time to their respective homes for the night. Pure and utter chaos. By the time we checked into our hotel and actually got to bed it was 7:30AM.

Lest this all be less-than-positive, below are some snapshots from the beautiful Sarova Stanley in Nairobi — they took great care of us!

Luxury Hotels in Nairobi, Sarova Stanley Nairobi

Exchange Bar, Sarova Stanley, Luxury Nairobi Hotels

Now here’s the kicker: during this fiasco (immediately after the flight was cancelled), I decided to call American Airlines (with whom we booked the flight) to get us rebooked on alternate flights the next day. As far as their system was concerned, our flight was on time and landing as scheduled. They couldn’t help until the flight was officially cancelled and they suggested that I speak with British Airways since I was flying with them. Ugh. I called BA in the morning – desk closed. I called AA again at around 11AM and they informed me that my flight appeared to be on time. Hmm… well, if it were on time, we would have landed in London. We were still in Nairobi so clearly this was not the case. Still, she couldn’t help me because the system showed otherwise. When we looked online, the AA app showed we had landed in London on time. Curious, no?

I called AA again four hours later, defeated. Who am I supposed to talk to?! BA pushes me off to American, and American pawns it off on BA. Meanwhile, I’m paying upwards of $10 per minute to talk to a human that can help us. The flight was never officially canceled (something I still find very, very suspicious) and no one could help us. Finally, one very understanding and empathetic customer service rep helped us rebook our flights after profuse explaining on my part. We retained our layover in London, though most of our plans were no longer relevant as Sunday is a far different day from Saturday when it comes to city happenings. Still, we were relieved to finally be on our way.

We left that night from Nairobi an hour late but still made it to London to continue our onward journey. Naturally, we were utterly put off by the entire experience, the worst flight experience either of us has ever encountered.  After letting the initial anger subside, I finally wrote a letter to AA earlier this week. I’m patiently awaiting the response. Oh, the joys of flying.

Stay tuned to hear about our day in London! It wasn’t quite the day we had originally planned but it was spectacular nonetheless.

xo,

Shannon Kircher

 

 

rsz_1starfish

Thursday marked the last full day on the coast for Scott and I, and was also his mom’s official birthday. We’d gotten out on the Indian Ocean on Wednesday for a morning of deep sea fishing (you can read about my catch here) and were planning on spending another day in the water on Thursday. This time, we were headed north, past Watamu to Malindi where we were going to snorkel at Malindi Marine National Park. I had read on numerous sites that the snorkeling in Malindi was pretty spectacular so I was excited to take a dip and see what existed below the surface.

We arrived at the marine park, where they collected an entrance fee and charged a fixed rate to allow us to rent a boat (and guide) for the morning. Ali, a local fisherman, was our captain for the day, and took us out beyond the reef to take a dip. Snorkels and fins on, we jumped in.

Malindi Marine Park, Snorkeling Kenya

Malindi Beach, Kenyan Coast, Malindi Snorkeling

Snorkeling in Kenya, Malindi Snorkeling, Malindi Marine Park

My experiences with marine preserves haven’t been the most awe-inspiring. I had relatively high hopes about the snorkeling in Kenya but I tried to manage my expectations. When we pulled up to our snorkeling spot in a glass bottom boat, there were schools of fish surrounding the small wooden vessel. When Ali through out pieces of bread, brightly colored varieties — neon almost — were quick to jump up and grab a bite.  The sheer number of fish was mesmerizing. Read More