• Anguilla, BWI

    Anguilla: A Sunday Farewell

    A Sunday of goodbyes with a farewell boat trip to Little Bay, Scilly Cay & Sandy Ground.

  • Discover St. Kitts

    Discover St. Kitts

    Heading to St. Kitts? Get the inside scoop on activities, accommodations, and best kept secrets from the island!

  • Anguilla Carnival, Beach Party, Meads Bay

    Meads Bay Beach Party

    Photos plus a live concert during Thursday's private beach party on Meads Bay.

  • August Monday, Carnival, Sandy Ground

    Anguilla: August Monday Celebrations

    Anguilla's Carnival celebrations are underway! Check out photos from August Monday, one of the biggest beach parties in the Caribbean.

  • SCilly Cay, Anguilla

    Anguilla: Scilly Cay Sunday

    A standing pre-Carnival tradition, we headed to Scilly Cay on Sunday for our fill of sun, sand and rum punch!

Anguilla, BWI

Little Bay, Scilly Cay + Johnno’s

If you can’t tell from my previous Sunday posts from Anguilla, Sunday is the ultimate day for live music and activities on the island. Johnno’s has their afternoon jazz, Scilly Cay is open with live music, Gwen’s has a string band in the afternoons, and Omari Banks serenades the crowd at da ‘Vida during lunchtime. Experiencing all of it in one day is impossible, but we were on a mission to make it a day of memories, including as much as we could without spreading ourselves too thin.Little Bay, Anguilla

This trip marked my in-laws last full day on the island, and also marked my last day with out-of-town houseguests that had been visiting us from DC. We wanted to end the trip with a bang, and bring a memorable conclusion to an already jam-packed trip. First up: Little Bay.

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Lest we float empty-handed, we cracked open a jeroboam of rose that we had gifted to my in-laws for their anniversary. If ever there was a time to drink it, this was it. Drinks in hand, we floated in the calm cove without any other visitors in sight.

Floating in Little Bay

Perfection.

I’ve talked about Little Bay time and time again (here, for example), but it’s a place that’s truly awe-inspiring; dramatic and unique. As I explained to my mother-in-law during our time there, it doesn’t matter how many times we visit, I can’t help but take pictures. While we’re idling there with no one else in sight, it feels wrong to not capture the moment and take in all of the colors and depth. As a result, I have about a thousand of the exact same photo taken on different days, but you know what? I’m okay with that.

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From Little Bay, we made our way to the wondrous Scilly Cay. I just talked about how much I love Scilly Cay a few weeks ago so I won’t go into detail about why it’s amazing. Suffice it to say, it is amazing and in my book it’s a must if you haven’t been. Even if you don’t want to splurge on a crayfish lunch, pop in for a rum punch and take it all in. When you’re planning your itinerary, remember that Scilly Cay is only open on Wednesdays and Sundays with Sundays offering live music.

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Typically a Scilly Cay Sunday is plenty in and of itself, but we had a next step involved. Since it was the final day for a number of passengers, we concluded our boat trip by pulling into Sandy Ground to listen to jazz. Sprocka, a veritable living legend on Anguilla, was serenading the crowd with his covers and upbeat originals. If you remember, Sprocka played the cocktail party for our wedding so we have a particularly soft spot in our heart for him! As usual, he was fabulous.

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It was a bittersweet Sunday with some incredible memories and some sad premature goodbyes. Still, I can’t think of a better sendoff than a mini island tour with friends and family.

For those that have spent time on Anguilla on a Sunday, what are your go-tos? Why?

xo from AXA,

Shannon Kircher

Discover St. Kitts

A few weeks back, I worked with the St. Kitts Tourism Board to host a weekly Twitter chat, #CaribChat, with a focus on St. Kitts. When I first started #CaribChat, we talked a bit more generally about travel in the region, but I thought it may be valuable to host chats that were a little more focused and island-specific. Those that have an interest in potentially visiting can gain insight from travel pros and lovers of an island, while frequenters to a given locale can share their best kept secrets and musts for newbies. By all accounts, it’s a win-win, and our first island-focused chat on St. Kitts was an overwhelming success. Lovers of the island came out en masse to share their thoughts and everyone who hadn’t yet visited the island was thoroughly convinced that St. Kitts is, in fact, a destination worth noting. Check out the recap from our conversation to learn more from others who contributed. We talked about accommodations, dining, beaches, activities and more, and everyone was bursting with ideas and excited to share. A big thank you to the St. Kitts Tourism Board for co-hosting and to all the St. Kitts lovers who participated and shared insight.

Activities in St. Kitts

Activities in St. KittsActivities in St. Kitts Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 12.45.51 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 12.46.06 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 12.46.18 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 12.46.31 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 12.47.03 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 12.47.17 PM Activities in St. KittsActivities in St. KittsActivities in St. Kitts Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 12.56.16 PMACtivities in St. KittsActivities in St. Kitts Read More

Anguilla Carnival, Beach Party, Meads Bay

Private party at the Frangipani Beach Resort

After the madness of August Monday had come to a close, we were gearing up for Thursday’s events. The Meads Bay boat races takes place on Thursday, making the Frangipani – and other hotels that line the beach – the perfect place to watch the races while taking in the energy of onlookers.

In honor of the races, the resort hosted a private party for in-house guests, complete with live music, appetizers from Straw Hat restaurant and a DIY bar to whip up rum cocktails. In hindsight, this was the highlight of the week for me. Having friends and family at the property, floating in the pool, watching the boats take off, and listening to the Mussington Brothers play while the sun began to set was absolute perfection on every level. Check out this quick video of the Mussington Brothers in action – absolutely incredible:

Here’s another quick clip that I captured on my iPhone:

Below are some of my favorite pictures from the day’s festivities, including my sister debuting her new blue braided extensions that she wore in the Grand Parade of Troupes on Friday. I’ll be honest, I was shocked by how good she looked with blue hair — such a rock star!

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Frangipani Beach Resort, Anguilla, BWI

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How great are the Mussington Brothers?! We were all floored by their performance. I had imagined live music to complement the bar, the beach and the people but it ended up feeling like the best private concert imaginable. A huge thank you to the group for bringing such an incredible vibe to the resort on Thursday!

 xo from Anguilla,

Shannon Kircher

August Monday, Carnival, Sandy Ground

Anguilla’s Carnival/Summer Festival is a week-long celebration that involves pageants, Band Clash, the Grand Parade of Troupes, sailboat races, a street fair, and the famous August Monday beach party in Sandy Ground. For me, the festivities of August Monday have become synonymous with Carnival.

August Monday, Anguilla, BWI

The typically tranquil Sandy Ground of daytime is completely transformed on the first Monday of every August. A stage is setup for bands that play through the day and the beach is lined with BBQ stands serving up chicken, ribs and the occasional dose of fish. Heineken has a massive tent set up smack dab in the middle of the beach to dole out Carnival-themed tees and hats to folks buying rum punch in quantity (there are lots of takers).

Carnival, Sandy Ground, Anguilla

If you’ve never been to Anguilla during Carnival, it’s certainly a different side of the island – it’s one of the biggest beach parties in the Caribbean, and the beach is buzzing from morning until night. Check out the pictures from the festivities:

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Have you been to a Carnival celebration in the Caribbean? Was anyone in Anguilla for this week’s festivities?

Love from Anguilla,

Shannon Kircher

SCilly Cay, Anguilla

Scilly Cay Sunday is a tradition. Before the madness of August Monday ensues, we head down to the miniature island for a day of sunning, sipping, and gorging ourselves on Scilly Cay’s famously delicious food. I feel like I’ve talked about Scilly Cay before a thousand times (here‘s one example), but it’s one of those places that never seems to disappoint. When you think of paradise, this is it. And while I now know what to expect when we pull into this little conch shell-lined segment of sand, stepping foot on the island still seems to transport guests into a different realm.

Scilly Cay, Anguilla, BWI

Scilly Cay, Anguilla, BWI

The island is only open on Wednesdays and Sundays, but Sundays bring the full experience with the incorporation of live music. You can simply go for lunch or pop in for a rum punch if you’re looking to take a glimpse, but we typically end up making a day of it. There are beach chairs strewn about the island, so bring a towel so you can find your space to marinate. Yes, the food is pricey (you’re in about $75 for the crayfish or lobster), but when we chat with guests about whether or not it’s worth the expense, we always go back to the experience of Scilly Cay. In my opinion, if you haven’t been before, it’s a must. For photographers out there – professional or not – it’s a haven for artsy islandy shots.

It’s worth noting that the portions are huge and absolutely splittable (Scott and I typically share a chicken/crayfish combo). The rum punches are no joke, either. At $5 a pop, you can’t help but want to get your rum punch fill, but they creep up on you! Watch the proprietor, Gorgeous, pour a rum punch and you’ll see what I mean – 3/4 rum, a bit of punch and a signature splash of amaretto.

Scilly Cay, Anguilla, BWI

Scilly Cay, Anguilla, BWI

In honor of Carnival, the group put together some fun shirts for the occasion:

Group

Anguilla Tank Tops

We said our goodbyes to Scilly Cay and headed back to the main land while the sun was setting. Our boat was full of happy travelers singing Caribbean tunes as we made our way back to Island Harbour.

Sunset-Boats

Sunset Tiff

As per usual, it was another fabulous Sunday soaking up the sun at Scilly Cay!

Have you been to Scilly Cay? What are your thoughts?

Shannon Kircher

Lake Tahoe, Zephyr Cove

An impromptu three-day trip to California

I had zero intention of being in California last weekend. Seriously.

Lake Tahoe

My cousin, who will be getting married in San Francisco in September, was having her bachelorette party in Lake Tahoe last weekend. She sent out the date eons ago, but I sadly had to decline. Considering time and financial constraints, it didn’t seem plausible to hop on a plane for a three-day weekend in California. The travel time to the West Coast is around 13 hours from Anguilla (plus the ferry to St. Maarten, plus transport within California), so the logical part of my brain was screaming that this was impossible.

Fast forward to last Monday, just a few days before I would have been departing had I opted to go on this trip. Scott and I were having a heart-to-heart with my in-laws where they emphasized the importance of moments like this, and inadvertently reminded us of our current views on spending: we’ll (hopefully) always make money, but we can’t have the time and memories back. After our conversation, I hopped online the next morning and booked a ticket to Northern California.

I would be leaving on Thursday afternoon, arriving in CA Thursday night, heading up with the rest of the girls for a weekend in Lake Tahoe on Friday morning and then flying out of CA on Sunday night. It was destined to be a whirlwind, but I was excited.

She was totally surprised by me being there, of course. I surprised her at her house and she was in utter disbelief (the kind where you can’t formulate a word). Success.

We spent our weekend on Tahoe’s South Shore, with a day soaking up the sun at Zephyr Cove. The weekend, with its smoke-filled casinos, cover bands, gambling and festivities, was wonderful from start to finish. Check out some pics from my three quick days in Tahoe:

South Tahoe, California

South Shore Tahoe Bachelorette PartyTahoe Bachelorette PartyBridesmaids

Bachelorette GiftsMorning After

As a super bonus, I got to see my favorite person in the world, and she looked better than ever:

Reunited

xo from the islands,

Shannon Kircher

Flytographer, Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI

A St. John Photoshoot + Tips for Vacation Photos

Amidst this surprise trip to St. John for the weekend, I also booked us a 30 minute shoot with St. John-based Flytographer, Savanah Loftus. I chatted with Savanah over the phone before we arrived to get her thoughts on our options for a quick thirty minute shoot. She gave me a few thoughts on circuits that she typically does: 1) A focus on Cruz Bay using the vibrant colors and fun qualities of the island’s main town; 2) a beach shoot; 3) a shoot playing off of the ruins near Caneel Bay in St. John. I’ve seen photos from all three settings and all are pretty incredible for different reasons. Before meeting with her, I had my mind set on a beach shoot. I wanted something playful but still romantic to capture the essence of our first wedding anniversary.

Flytographer, Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI

When the day arrived, the skies were hazier than they had been the previous days. We had heard about this ‘Saharan dust’ and were finally understanding what it was: it left this bizarre hazy layer on the island, muting the colors which was especially noticeable at the beach. When we met up in Cruz Bay, I mentioned it to Savanah to ask for a bit of direction. She quickly pointed us to a Cruz Bay shoot where we could play off the colors in the town instead of relying on the colors in the sky.

Flytographer, Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI

Tips for Vacation Photography

No question about it, Scott and I both felt awkward to begin with; having your photo taken in public with people quizically looking on makes the whole thing feel even less natural. With a thirty minute shoot, you have to get comfortable pretty quickly to take advantage of the brief time that you have with the photog. Savanah did a great job of trying to make us feel natural and put us in situations that didn’t seem too forced. All in all, we both thought the photos turned out fairly well. I chose to have a vacation photographer primarily to have a few photos from our first anniversary that we were both in. We always end up leaving trips without more than one or two decent photos together and I was determined to make this trip different. Keep reading for a few tips for getting the most out of a vacation shoot based on our experience and what I think I could have done better. Read More

VIbe St. John

Enter to win a necklace from Vibe Collection

During my time in St. John, I found myself utterly amazed by the amount of shopping available on such a tiny island. Beyond St. John-logoed tees, magnets and cover-ups, there were shops doling out spices, interesting art and most notably, jewelry. Vibe Collection caught my attention immediately. There are two separate shops in Cruz Bay: Vibe Collection and Into the Blue, both selling stunning handmade jewelry with stones like larimar, green quartz, citrine and blue topaz. As a major bonus for women that have a hard time finding bracelets that fit: their jewelry is sized so it actually fits you properly. Such a simple but brilliant idea, right?

I’m excited to kick off a giveaway in conjunction with the team at Vibe Collection. One of their most popular pieces, the Jost Van Dyke pendant, is up for grabs for one lucky winner (a $348 value)! As a bonus, you’ll get to pick the stone that best reflects your style and personality: blue topaz, white topaz, citrine, amethyst or onyx. To enter, connect with VIbe Collection through their social channels (Facebook, Twitter &  Pinterest) and let us know that you’ve done so using the widget below.

The contest closes August 7, 2014 at 12PM EST and winners will be notified shortly after!
a Traveling Scholar Giveaway

Good luck to everyone!

Shannon Kircher

This giveaway was made possible by The Vibe Collection. Winner will be randomly selected and pendant will be sent directly from the team at Vibe St. John.
Snorkeling in St. John

During our final day in St. John, we rented a car and headed out to explore. We wanted to get a sense of the island, to learn our way around, and discover the places that we’d want to revisit if we were to return. We’d gotten a decent feel for Cruz Bay by this point but hadn’t ventured past Trunk Bay to explore.

Before booking the trip, I’d spoken with frequent visitors to St. John who had raved about how tranquil the island is, and how beautiful the landscape is with its stunning beaches and its national forest. Going in, I managed my expectations: sure, the beaches will be nice, but would they even compare to Anguilla’s? I didn’t want to get my hopes up. After exploring the beaches at Caneel Bay, plus undertaking our self-guided tour of the north shore, I was impressed.

Many of the beaches are stunningly gorgeous, and the silhouettes of neighboring islands make the landscape even more interesting. The only downside is that the beaches were far more crowded than what we’ve become accustomed to in Anguilla. We had to search for an open slice of sand on the beach when we wanted to settle in. Most of beaches were at least 10x more crowded than what we’re used to on our home beaches. Even the ‘local gems’ that residents had told us about were busy.

Still, you can’t argue with these views and the color of this water.

Caneel Bay, St. John, USVI Read More

Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke

For the most part, we were winging it in St. John. I had an idea of places that I wanted to go, beaches I wanted to see and places I wanted to dine, but everything was extremely loose knowing that I would want Scott’s input (this was a surprise trip so he had no input on the planning front). The one thing that I had solidified before we departed was a little something special for our actual anniversary on July 5th: a day sail to Jost Van Dyke.

Survivan, St. John Yacht Charter, Sail to Jost Van Dyke

This was my first time in the Virgin Islands broadly but Scott had been to the area before with family. He’d always spoken highly of his experience sailing in the USVIs and BVIs, but was especially enthusiastic about Jost Van Dyke (based on my conversations with other people who had been, this seemed to be a trend). Knowing that this was one of his favorite places in the world, a day sail was a no-brainer. I rabidly searched the internet trying to find the right option for the trip. Being that we were heading out in July, many sailboats had already left the Caribbean and headed north – many up to Maine, Rhode Island, etc. – for the summer months. There’s a public ferry that’s offered if you want a no frills way to get from Point A to Point B (it’ll save you a few dollars), but there are also a slew of sailboats available to make the experience a bit more memorable. We chose to sail with Jason from St. John Yacht Charters aboard his boat, Survivan. He serves up painkillers and soft drinks along the way but we brought a special bottle of bubbly to celebrate.

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I actually didn’t do a ton of research into the ferry simply because the thought of sailing felt too perfect given the backdrop. It’s an area that begs visitors to be on the water and I was excited for the full experience: meeting fellow passengers and learning Jason’s story (in the same way everyone asks Scott and I how we ended up in Anguilla, it’s interesting to learn what brought people down and what their experiences have been). Jason and his first mate, Madison, were awesome – they made the experience fun and could relate on tales of island life. For anyone looking at Survivan wondering why the boat’s name is spelled as such (I went through the initial period trying to figure out if it was pronounced like “surviving” or with some French twist that I couldn’t master), we got to hear the story behind the name: the boat was in Grenada during Hurricane Ivan and was the only boat to escape unscathed. The boat, which now had a legacy of survivin’ Ivan, was aptly named Survivan, with “Ivan” being integrated into the moniker.

Jost Van Dyke

Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, BVIs

En route to Jost Van Dyke we stopped for a snorkel before re-boarding and making our way to Jost. We had a dusting of rain on the way and a bit of wind which disappeared as we pulled into White Bay. On the way, we had collectively decided to skip Foxy’s since the beach and the experience wouldn’t be the same as White Bay during the day. We were given about two hours to spend on the island; enough time to grab a painkiller – or three – plus have lunch on the beach.

Naturally, our first stop was the Soggy Dollar Bar, the home of the painkiller. I’ve had a few painkillers in Anguilla, but it’s not the same as sippin’ the orange coconutty rum concoction at the bar that it calls home. Now, this is probably no surprise, but these things are deceptively strong. I was on my second when we began makin’ friends with a group of folks that frequent the island (twice a year – July and December, without exception). At this point, we’d meandered down to One Love Bar & Grill which serves up famously delicious lobster quesadillas along with other Caribbean bar fare. We placed a lunch order and headed down the beach to soak up the sun and exchange stories while the food was being prepped.

Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, BVIsSoggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, BVIsJost Van Dyke, BVIs

Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, BVIs

Extending the Day Trip

The folks we became friends with stay on Jost Van Dyke for the entirety of their vacation. Before we’d arrived on the island, I hadn’t even really considered it as a place to spend multiple days or as a place with hotels and proper dining establishments but it is. At this point, I was on my third painkiller and intermittently sipping Scott’s bushwacker from One Love (it’s like an adult milkshake). I’d also opted out of lunch since I wasn’t overly hungry. It was around 1:20PM and after chatting with our new friends Scott and I had decided that leaving JVD sounded like a terrible idea. We were going to spend the night.

Yes, that seemed like a good idea. We were staying the night on Jost Van Dyke. We added ourselves to our new friends’ dinner reservation at Abe’s and were going to find a hotel room somewhere, some way. Otherwise, there were plenty of hammocks we could sleep on. There was also a public ferry headed out the next morning that we could take. We had this thing figured out.

One Love, Jost Van Dyke, BVIsOne Love, Jost Van Dyke, BVIs

After we’d made this decision, Scott promptly swam out to Jason and Madison on Survivan and explained our idea. It was our first wedding anniversary and we’d decided that they’d delivered us to a veritable heaven on earth. We were hoping to stay the night if that was okay. Apparently this was the first time they’d encountered something like this but it worked out. Our passports were returned to us along with our shoes and we were in this. We were spending the night. We weren’t sure where we were spending the night, but we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

Soon after, we made another group of friends who’d headed over from St. John on a boat of their own. I’m going to pause here: if you can’t tell already, this is a theme and I don’t think it’s relevant to just us. This is the ultimate place to make friends whose names you probably won’t remember. You’ll take photos together and get along like old pals while trading off buying rounds of painkillers.

Jost Van Dyke, BVIs, Virgin Islands

After a couple of hours marinating in the water and chatting with them, they were going to head back. It was now around 4PM. Heading back now seemed like a good idea. We’d said we wanted to stay the night but at this point, we could see ourselves heading back. We’d had a great taste of Jost and having a place to sleep sounded nice. We asked our new friends if we could hitch a ride back with them. They accepted (we helped pay extra gas fees incurred) and we made our way back to St. John with them while talking about the newest season of The Bachelor. Don’t worry – we explained this to our other group of friends and they took us off of the dinner reservation.

I had somehow arrived back in St. John without my shoes and ate dinner at The Taproom shoeless with our new friends. I have pictures from the rest of the night, but I’m choosing not to share them as they’re not the most flattering of photos. I’ll share just one after the day’s adventure. It captures the love of a one year anniversary:

Tap Room, St. John

The best part is that we went home and were sleeping by 8:30PM. A memorable one year anniversary indeed.

xo from the islands,

Shannon Kircher

Wanna make a painkiller at home? Check out this recipe from Islands Magazine to get your fix.