• Punta Sal, Honduras

    Arriving in Honduras: Initial Thoughts

    Our first moments, arriving in Honduras, initial thoughts, plus assuaged fears.

  • Prickly Pear, Anguilla

    Birthday Boating in Anguilla

    Celebrating a special birthday with a day of boating in Anguilla.

  • Anguilla Carnival, Beach Party, Meads Bay

    Countdown to Honduras

    We're in the final stretch! Excited for a family trip to Honduras, my first time back in Central America in ten years!

  • Ireland Cover

    European Getaway: Dublin + County Kerry, Ireland

    We're celebrating dad's 60th with a surprise getaway in Dublin and County Kerry, Ireland!

  • Family Travel, Mombasa, Kenya

    Family Travel with Adult Children

    Do you travel with your parents or with your adult children? Where do you weigh in on family travel as a band of adults?

Punta Sal, Honduras

In reality, San Pedro Sula isn’t a huge distance from our home base in Anguilla, but once you’ve added in the travel time to St. Maarten and the connection time in Panama City, it ends up being a solid twelve-plus hour travel day. By the time we’d arrived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras (after an hour delay), it was 8:30PM.

We weren’t entirely sure what to expect when we disembarked. How established would the San Pedro Sula airport be? Would it feel as unnerving as every advisory warning would have us expect? We stepped off the plane and into a fair bit of chaos as we raced to find our transfer. We identified our driver, a man carrying an Indura sign, who began leading us out of the airport and into the parking lot. We hadn’t changed our money in advance since we expected to exchange our US dollars for Honduran Lempiras (22 lps to $1 exchange rate) when we arrived in the country.  Rushing out of the airport, and in a hurry to get to Indura Resort to see our travel buddies, we asked our driver if we could pause a moment to head to the exchange counter. It didn’t exist, at least from what we could see.

Instead, a guard whistled and called a fannypack-wearing man over to assist. I’ve seen this happen before, of course, but we had just landed in Honduras, a land infamous for its crime, and we honestly felt a bit apprehensive as a small group of men looked on. We pulled out a couple of $100 bills to exchange for lempira. We worked quickly and as discreetly as possible and jetted out the door. Objective 1: complete.

To be honest, our driver wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. I think we both assumed that there would be a resort-owned van for transfers like ours, with a driver that worked exclusively for Indura. Our transfer cost a rather steep $65 per person so I didn’t think that notion was entirely unfounded. Instead, our driver, dressed in jeans, a graphic tee, and no name tag, led us to his car, a mid-90s Japanese sedan that we scrunched into for the hour-plus long journey. Read More

Prickly Pear, Anguilla

Mesmerizing Little Bay & Prickly Pear Cays

As I mentioned last week, my mom and dad joined us in Anguilla along with my aunt and uncle for a 9-day getaway in honor of my mom’s birthday (this is becoming a bit of a tradition for her). My parents have been to Anguilla a few times each and have a fair understanding of the island, how to get around, and the most awe-inspiring spots. They’ve joined us for beach hopping boat trips before, but never have we enjoyed a private experience boating in Anguilla with them. This go-around, with my aunt and uncle in tow, we headed off to explore Anguilla’s off-island cays in honor of my mom’s big day.

Her one request: a picnic lunch complete with traditional Maltese fare.

Little Bay, Anguilla, BWI

We departed from Sandy Ground around 11AM and made our way to Little Bay to start the day. I’ve talked about Little Bay a number of times before (here, here and here, for example), but it’s truly one of those spots that takes most visitors’ breath away. It’s a stunningly dramatic backdrop, and perhaps more importantly for my mom, it’s a pretty good snorkeling spot with its calm, crystal waters. The visibility was great on the day we visited and there were a number of brightly colored fish swimming near a rugged rock face by the beach. For an extra touch, starfish and a stingray joined us as we were finishing up our afternoon snorkel. Of course my GoPro decided to stop working so naturally I have zero footage of our underwater adventures. Ugh. Read More

Anguilla Carnival, Beach Party, Meads Bay

My parents have now come and gone (I’ll post some highlights shortly!), and we’re beginning the final countdown to our #SibTrip in Honduras. It’s been a decade since my last time traveling in Central America, and the region holds a special place in my heart. I visited family in El Salvador ten years ago, which marked my first international trip ever. It gave me the opportunity to delve deeper into my cultural heritage and see firsthand where my grandmother was born and raised. That journey in particular marked a rather aha! moment for me, observing the realities of the class structure in developing countries. It was jarring and raw, and that experience played prominently in my desire to pursue International Development further as a field of study. It also incited my desire to travel within the developing world to gain a deeper understanding of both the beauty and the obstacles that individual nations experience, from conflict and corruption to roles of family units and community development.

I think our experience in Honduras will probably be slightly less raw since we’re opting for posh digs at Indura Resort in lieu of a hostel, but we will be balancing that by spending a couple of days at Lago de Yojoa, and will be venturing out while in Tela to better understand the native Garifuna community that resides in the region.

Honduras Packing List

Indura Resort, Tela, Honduras

Now that we’re only a couple of days out, we’re loading up our suitcases as our impending getaway becomes more real. I truly can’t recall the last time that I felt so ready for a trip. This will be one of the first real vacations that we’ve taken in a while, and beyond a couple of days of cultural immersion we’re really on a mission to relax which is a surprisingly welcome change from our typical on-the-go adventures (e.g. Jordan, Israel, Kenya, etc.). We’re fortunate to have had a wonderfully busy year at the resort which has kept us constantly on the go since the season began. A weeklong deep breath will definitely help revive us a bit!

Also exciting, I’m fulfilling one of my New Year’s Travel Resolutions: we’re going away for 7 days and we’re each packing carry-on only. FINALLY. I’ve made this a mission for so long and have failed miserably most times. Since we’re primarily packing shorts, bathing suits and cover ups, packing light has been a cinch this time around. For anyone traveling to the region, I thought I’d share my list with you (courtesy of the Travel List App), which seems to cover all of our activities and the laid back seaside vibe pretty well:

Honduras Packing List, Central America, Travel List App

I can’t wait to share photos and thoughts from our time in Central America. Stay tuned, and for more up-to-date photos and details, follow me on Instagram and Twitter to stay apprised of Honduran happenings!

xo from the islands,

Shannon Kircher

Ireland Cover

Finally – FINALLY! – we can share some exciting news about another trip on the books for the year: Ireland. If you’d asked us in January what adventures were on our schedule for the year, the autumn months would have taken us to somewhere in Asia, either China’s Yunnan Province or sunbathing in Bali, but within the last couple of months things have changed rather dramatically. My dad is celebrating a milestone birthday this fall and we couldn’t allow it to pass without honoring it properly. We celebrating in style for my mom’s 60th in Anguilla, Scott’s mom’s 60th in Kenya, and his dad’s 60th with a big bash in California. For my dad, we were brainstorming options. We’d more or less settled on New Orleans, an approachable trip that is #1 on his US bucket list.

Then, in January, a crazy idea was sparked and quickly caught fire. We found a place in County Kerry, Ireland, in the town of Kenmare. A great four-bedroom villa that offers access to the Ring of Kerry, the Ring of Beara and a short jaunt to the Dingle Peninsula, it seemed like the perfect location to explore Ireland’s varied landscape. Ireland is quite possibly the #1 place in the world on my dad’s bucket list (alongside of Scotland). Could we do this? Could we orchestrate a 7 – 10 day getaway with/for my dad and family? We gave it some thought and quickly pulled the trigger. It would certainly be a birthday to remember! Better yet, after talking with my mom and sister, they were both on board with joining.

Surprising dad with a trip, Ireland

So, Scott and I secured accommodations, including a couple of nights in Dublin on the front-end of the trip, and surprised my dad during this trip to Anguilla. I put together a book illustrating the itinerary from start to finish so he could get a taste for what was in store. We planned out the week and left it open-ended; no return trip booked yet in case he wants to extend a week and explore neighboring Scotland on his own. He’s excited yes, but I don’t think it’s hit him as of yet. We were waiting for a reaction from him as he was reading about the trip, but it was utter and pure confusion for the most part. When he chatted with my sister later that day, he admitted that he just felt dumbstruck by the entire thing. Understandable! Read More

Family Travel, Mombasa, Kenya

I didn’t travel much as a child. We went on the regular trip to Disneyland every four years, plus the odd trip to LA or San Diego to visit family. My first time out of California (besides the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe) was in seventh grade when I visited the exotic lands of Ashland, Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival with my English class. Quite honestly, we didn’t really have the resources to go on big trips. Instead, we opted for economical family getaways like camping, which was a hit.

Unlike the generation before me that just glimpsed the pages of NatGeo for travel inspiration, I grew up in an age when the internet was becoming pervasive. Even though I hadn’t been anywhere, I realized that there was this incredible world with dazzling sights that lay before me somewhere in the future. I had a unrelenting desire to see the world, but it wasn’t until I began graduate school in the UK that I really began to travel internationally and independently. An entirely new world was born, and as others bitten by the travel bug can attest, it quickly became a priority. I accepted the fact that money was better spent on traveling the world than on material things, and that’s still a rule that I abide by.

PragueLondon, St. Paul's Cathedral, Family TravelDad&Tiff in Prague

The Benefits of Adult Family Travel

Just because we couldn’t travel together as a family growing up didn’t mean that had to remain true in adulthood. I’d begun to realize how great this world is and the transformative quality of travel, and I wanted to experience that with my family. While living in London, my dad and sister came to visit and we embarked on a Eurotrip of our own, visiting Paris, Prague and Amsterdam after a few days in London. It was fabulous and it was the bonding experience of a lifetime. I realized that while we didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy those travels as children, there was something pretty magical about family travel as a team of adults. We all genuinely appreciated everything we were seeing, and we were all seeing these things for the first time. We were all adults but traveling with children’s eyes; seeing a world as something fresh, spectacular and rich. Yes, it would have been magical to have those memories as a child with my parents but not all parents are able to do that for their kids, and that’s okay, too. Instead of thinking about memories we didn’t make, it became more of a priority for us to focus on the future memories we can make.

Possibly my favorite picture ever!

My parents have since visited me in Anguilla three times – their fourth trip starts next week! – and Scott and I have traveled extensively with his parents (Kenya, Israel, St. Barths, and a trip to Brazil planned for May). It’s a pretty special thing to experience and I think we all relish a relationship that’s more than parent/child now; a relationship that has morphed into genuine friendship. It’s not a burden to go on trips with our parents, many times it’s a preference. We’re adults – all of us – so there’s not one party necessarily footing the bill for flights, accommodations, food, etc. We all have an income and can all contribute so finances don’t overshadow the fun. It’s a brilliant thing for all involved, and this year will mark one of the most travel-laden years for my family. I’m excited to announce some new adventures that’ll be happening later this year! Until then, I’m remaining mum, and relishing the planning process.

Do you travel with your parents or with adult children?
How do you think that compares to traveling with little ones?

xo from Anguilla,

Shannon Kircher

soufriere, Dominica, Soufriere View

The value of recognizing good and not-so-good travel experiences

“Oh my gosh, we spent time in the Amazon during our honeymoon, and it was spectacular!” “Yes, I’ve been to Barcelona – such a great city!”

I hear myself saying things like this a lot when recounting trips, and I can’t help but wonder: am I remembering the trip for how it actually was? Alright, don’t get me wrong: cruising down the Amazon River was cool, it really was, but what I’m actually remembering when I say that is the incredible sunsets, a few hours in a local village, and spotting wildlife from our skiff. It was a really unique experience and I’m so glad that we did it, but Scott spent 1/3 of the time on the boat sick from a brush with something in the Amazon, and we both got fistfuls of poisonous spines from a tree (Scott’s were much worse) that had to be removed by a medic. We spent a day in the Amazonian town of Iquitos and while it was interesting (I can’t think of a better word), we were surrounded by people who had been tripping on ayahuasca for a week. Plus, it was one of the first places we’d visited where we honestly felt a little on edge in terms of safety. There was a moment that I thought someone was going to whack me with a machete as we set off across the Amazon into the middle of nowhere. And Barcelona? I seem to be the only person that missed the memo on Barcelona being the most magical city in the world. I liked it, but I wasn’t as over-the-moon as everyone else seems to be.

What I remember:
Amazon, Amazon River, Sunset, Aqua Expeditions, Amazon Cruise

The other reality:

Aqua Expeditions

Yet when people ask about Peru and about the Amazon, I can’t help but say, it was spectacular!  And when people mention their undying love for Barcelona, I echo their sentiments.

I don’t think I’d be totally off base in assuming that we’re all a bit tempted to respond with the positive, instead of genuinely reaching deeper to share the nuances of an experience. Perhaps it’s because we’d rather not bother people with the pesky realities, lest we dissuade them from undertaking a trip of their own (I definitely fall into this camp sometimes; I’d hate for a mediocre experience of mine to dampen someone else’s travel ambitions). On a more selfish note, perhaps it’s because we actually want to believe that a trip was made up of sunshine and rainbows like we’re telling people; as if we share our sugar-coated story enough it makes it real in our minds. Most of us have limited time and limited money to spend on travel, so perhaps to admit to ourselves that a trip wasn’t as magical as we’d imagined is where the disappointment lies. Read More

Lunch Spots in Anguilla, Rendezvous Bay

7 Days of Beachy Lunches in Anguilla

At the Frangipani, we’re fortunate that we’re smack-dab in the middle of gorgeous Meads Bay. It’s easy enough to spend an entire week lazing under a palapa here, but for those looking to get out and explore, you’ll want to pick your beaches wisely if you’re not toting your own beach chairs.  The same goes for villa renters on the island that often times don’t have easy beach access from their front door. Unlike some other islands where you’re likely to see a sea of beach towels strewn around the beach, that’s an insanely rare sight here.

There are a number of wonderful restaurants in Anguilla that provide beach chairs for guests that dine and drink with them, and for many guests to the island (and locals for that matter!) this ends up providing an excellent opportunity to see and enjoy a range of beaches during a getaway. If you have 7 days in Anguilla, here are a selection of great lunch spots that provide wonderful dining, beach chairs and a great atmosphere.

Da ‘Vida | Crocus Bay

Drinks at Da 'vida

1da ‘Vida is just edged out slightly by Straw Hat as my favorite lunch spot on the island. In my opinion, it really is one of the best spots for great food, great value + awesome beach service. Their chairs aren’t rickety plastic chairs that you’ll find many places (not that there’s anything wrong with those); these are super plush, comfy loungers that deserve poolside status at a luxury resort. Lunch is divine, service is generally attentive and quick, and you’ll have the added benefit of being a short boat ride or kayak away from Little Bay if you want to head over and take a peek. Musts include the seafood wrap or mahi salad + a frozen mojito.

$15 – $20 for lunch + $10 each for cocktails

The Sunshine Shack | Rendezvous Bay

Garvey's Sunshine Shack

2Garvey, the owner and operator at the Sunshine Shack, is nearly reason enough to head to Rendezvous Bay. A personal friend of ours (he bartended our wedding!), his charming personality and wicked blender skills keep you coming back for more. He’s done something pretty great at the Sunshine Shack and for that reason it’s often a go-to when we have friends and family in town. A simple white shack on the middle of Rendezvous Bay (look for the rasta handprints on the shack!), he grills up chicken, ribs and fish and keeps the coolers of beer headed your way for a cool down. He’ll set you up with a chair and a table, and you can easily laze the day away here. Alongside of Meads Bay, Rendezvous is a personal favorite of mine – a gorgeous long stretch of beach that’s relatively undeveloped. If you want a sweet concoction, try Garvey’s BBC (Bailey’s Banana Colada) – it’s my grandma’s personal favorite, and she’d never lead you astray.

$18 – $25 for lunch, drinks from $8+

Blanchard’s Beach Shack | Meads Bay

Blanchard's Beach Shack.

3Blanchard’s Beach Shack is arguably the most kid-friendly place on the entire island when it comes to lunch. Serving up burgers, street tacos, sandwiches and frozen yogurt (+ root beer floats!), kids and adults have a hard time resisting at least one lunch – and maybe a dinner! – at the shack. Their menu is huge by most lunch standards and everyone’s nearly guaranteed to find something that hits the spot. Enjoy lunch under umbrellas or head down the beach to use their beach chairs for the day. Vegetarians: their house-made veggie burger and their goat cheese salad are both great options!

$8 – $15 for lunch Read More

Lake Yojoa, Honduras

I mentioned in a previous post that we’re gearing up for our first real getaway of year: Honduras. We will be spending the majority of our stay in Tela, a coastal town on the Caribbean Sea with a strong Garifuna influence, which will give us a glimpse into indigenous life. We typically like to stay at smaller properties or spots with a distinct cultural feel, but this go around we’re staying in pretty luxe accommodations (a bit atypical for us), the highly acclaimed Indura Resort, which is new in the Central American landscape. It’s slated to be on par with some of the region’s finest (think Mukul in Nicaragua and Four Seasons in Costa Rica) so we’re thrilled to get to experience it for the week! 

Indura Resort, Tela, Honduras

D&D Brewery

That being said, we wanted to counterbalance the luxe digs and get a taste for a different side of Honduras. We’re going to head away from the coast, and head to another body of water: Lake Yojoa. Central American countries dig their lakes: there’s Atitlán in Guatemala, Arenal in Costa Rica, Cocibolca in Nicaragua, and, of course, the lesser-known Yojoa in Honduras.

Lago de Yojoa, Honduras

 

What better than a little glamping to enhance the lake experience? We’re staying at D&D Brewery, a brewery/lodging/restaurant right on the lake that offers dorm-style accommodations, alongside of private rooms and private cabanas. We’ll be in two private cabanas ($35 each) for our experience – one for my sister and I, and one for Scott & his travel buddy. The owner, who’s roughly our age, started the brewery as a way to give back to the local community and highlight some of Honduras’ natural wonders. Honduras gets a bad rap, and it’s no wonder. With the highest homicide rate in the world, people are a bit apprehensive to set foot in the country when there are nearby locales with more tourist-friendly reps. Even with that in mind, we’ve come to realize that those stats – while probably not inflated – rarely reveal local attitudes towards tourists; often times those stats reveal the sad realities about the effects of things like drug trafficking and the associated gang activity, which is perhaps more telling of limited opportunities for local youth. Much like the media vs. reality takeaways that I brought forth from our time in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, I’m excited to do the same here. It’s a different region, but brings about similar security concerns for many travelers. Beyond the accommodations, D&D has expanded to include D&D Adventures which offers small group tours to nearby hot spots, including waterfalls (yes, please!), an ‘enchanted cave’, and lake-based adventures. We’re looking forward to hiking to some waterfalls, ziplining, and spending a bit of time kayaking on the lake. More than anything, I’m excited beyond belief to have a week-long getaway with my sister! We haven’t traveled together to a new destination since 2010 when she came to visit me in Europe. Things have changed a lot since them (I’ve gotten myself husband and she’s finishing college) and I’m excited to escape life’s stresses and decompress with two of my favorite people.

Stay tuned for stories from Honduras – I’m excited to share photos from our experiences in Tela and at Indura Resort, plus to showcase our contrasting experience at the lake with D&D. If you don’t follow me already, check me out on Instagram and Twitter for updates during the journey!

Happy travels,

Shannon Kircher

Machu Picchu

I’ve talked about this before: my pre- vs. post-parenthood travel list. I’m a firm believer in the fact that you can travel with children and I’m truly hopeful that our travel style and prioritization won’t change too drastically after we become parents (whenever that may be). That being said, I recognize that there are certain trips that are perhaps better done in adulthood and without little ones in tow (e.g. wine tasting in Napa or hiking in Nepal). In thinking about trip priorities – those bucket list getaways that are best done sooner rather than later – here are the top five pre-parenthood trips on my radar:

A Culinary Tour through Basque Country

Pintxos, Basque Country

1I wouldn’t generally consider myself a foodie, and until I met my husband I could have really cared less about spending hard-earned dollars on food, wine, and fancy cocktails. Flash forward to 2015: I still can’t get behind spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for a meal, but I do appreciate the cultural experience of dining; of exploring a new location through its cuisine. I don’t think that necessary has to take the form of a Michelin-starred restaurant; in fact, many times I find the hidden gems – the mom and pop establishments – tell the greatest stories about an area’s evolution. There are two foodie adventures on this Top 5 list and this is one of them: spending a week in Northern Spain noshing on pintxos and sipping rioja from the region’s best producers. Much like a trip to Napa Valley or Tuscany, this can probably be done with children, but I’m a bit doubtful that it would be done in the same way. A day of wine tasting and a 10PM dinner with a toddler in tow? Doesn’t sound like quite the same adventure. Read More

Grand Case, St. Martin

After an exceedingly luxurious couple of nights at La Samanna on Baie Longue, we ended up extending our St. Martin stay by a night due to some transportation issues. We would be leaving bright and early on Sunday morning to make it back to Anguilla for work, but we had another full day and night ahead of us, and thought we’d take the opportunity to explore an area of St. Martin that we’ve always enjoyed: Grand Case.

Love Hotel, Grand Case

We work with Grand Gase-based Tijon as a stockist at our resort’s boutique and as such have been to Grand Case on a number of occasions, but only for a quick pick-up or a long lunch at most. We’d never taken the time to properly explore the area which is overflowing with quaint boutiques, great dining options and a decidedly French feel. Many guests who stay with us at Frangipani in Anguilla choose to stay at a boutique resort in Grand Case as well if they’re splitting their time between Anguilla and St. Martin. L’Esplanade, Le Petit Hotel and Grand Case Beach Club are the most common add-on, but LOVE Hotel has been mentioned by a few guests and constantly receives rave reviews by online publications. We wanted to investigate on our own so we headed to the LOVE Hotel, a relatively no-frills hotel right in the heart of Grand Case.  We paid for a room for the night on the spot (115 euros during high season for a no view room), dropped off our bags and walked down from the bar to the beach.

Love Hotel, Grand Case, St. MartinLove Hotel, Grand Case, St. MartinLove Hotel, Grand Case, St. Martin I will say that the beach at La Samanna is more visually stunning than this, but we found the beach at LOVE itself – the powdery sand and shallow waters – a bit more inviting for a quick dip or a nice float. As you may expect, the feel is entirely different than that of La Samanna, too – much more laid back, and a mostly younger crowd frequents the resort. We traded in our $18 cocktails at our previous resort for a $20 liter of white sangria which was a great complement to a sunny afternoon. Accompanied by a couple of orders of tapas, we were perfectly positioned to marinate for a few hours. We met a few St. Martin transplants during our afternoon and ended up joining them on their boat for a champagne cruise out to Creole Rock. Floating for a couple of hours, we watched the sun set over the Caribbean and the lights ignite in Grand Case and on Anguilla, which we could see shiningly brightly from across the sea. It was an incredibly generous invitation from them, and an awesome way to cap off our final evening in St. Martin before our last supper at Grand Case’s Ocean 82 (divine).

Love Hotel, Grand Case, St. MartinLove Hotel, Grand Case, St. MartinLove Hotel, Grand Case, St. Martin

So, which did we prefer? Luxuriating at La Samanna or basking at LOVE Hotel on Grand Case? Honestly, it’s a tough comparison. If you’re all about luxury, La Samanna is the answer (isn’t Belmond always the answer?), but if you want something a bit more approachable (read: a bit more ‘fun’ and a slightly younger demographic), then I would vote for some of the smaller properties in Grand Case. The rooms we experienced at the LOVE Hotel were definitely more on the no frills side, but they were totally fine for what we needed, and we benefited from the beachfront locale and the beach service for food and drinks. A spot like L’Esplanade, Le Petit Hotel or Grand Case Beach Club would probably provide a bit more on the amenity side without sacrificing the Grand Case location. Major thumbs up to Grand Case for great food options, fun shopping and perfect beach bars (toes in the sand without being too bare bones). Thanks to everyone for the food recommendations, too – Ocean 82 was wonderful and there were a handful of others that looked equally delicious within walking distance!

What are your favorite spots in Grand Case?

Shannon Kircher