Heading to the West Coast + vowing to experience it as a tourist.
A Sunday of goodbyes with a farewell boat trip to Little Bay, Scilly Cay & Sandy Ground.
Heading to St. Kitts? Get the inside scoop on activities, accommodations, and best kept secrets from the island!
Photos plus a live concert during Thursday's private beach party on Meads Bay.
Anguilla's Carnival celebrations are underway! Check out photos from August Monday, one of the biggest beach parties in the Caribbean.
I’m Shannon, a twenty-something island dweller with a passport at the ready and a never-ending bucket list. I didn’t start as an island dweller. I started as a California resident – a newly minted grad – and in 2009, I embarked on a journey. I left my home in California to begin graduate school in the UK and at that moment, life changed. Since that time, I have had an amazing opportunity to see parts of the world I never imagined, meet incredible and inspiring people, and enjoy…
Interestingly enough, I’ve realized that I sort of skim over my time in California rather than showcase the incredible destination that it is. I was just in Lake Tahoe for a bachelorette party, and spent two and a half weeks in San Francisco, Napa, San Diego + Tahoe last September, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at this blog.
That’s what happens when you’re revisiting a place that you call home; the sights tend to seem less brilliant purely because you’ve seen them before and/or you know you’ll see them again. Despite the iconic elements – the Golden Gate Bridge, the endless vineyards, the quintessentially Californian beachside towns – I rarely take photos unless they’re pictures of friends and family. When I’m in a foreign locale, even something as simple as a street sign or a weathered bench captures my attention. It’s knowing that I may never be in that same place again that makes me pause and take mental snapshots (a good habit, in my opinion), and it’s perhaps that same line of thinking that causes me to take my trips ‘home’ for granted.
But let’s be honest, the place we called home is a pretty great place; something that I’m starting to really understand now that I’m no longer there. That’s how it always happens, doesn’t it? You manage to remember the little details of what makes a destination captivating when you’re not living in it. It takes a seriously conscious effort to take mental snapshots of all the little moments that make up every day life. This go around, I’m vowing to take in our time on the West Coast. We have adventures ahead and I’m going to log each experience as I would any other memorable getaway. On our September agenda:
1Santa Barbara is one of my favorite cities in California, if not the world. It’s the ultimate blend of small town feel, a laid back beach town vibe with a serious splash of luxe. If I could live in any city in California, Santa Barbara would probably be it. It’s essentially all things great packed into one picture-perfect package. We’ll be in Santa Barbara for five days, celebrating a wedding and catching up with friends from the Bay Area.
2Vegas wasn’t supposed to be part of this trip but it snuck its way into the itinerary. We knew that September would take us to California to celebrate not one, but two weddings, during back-to-back weekends. The timing was superb so we booked our tickets for the 12-day stint which allowed us to watch our nearest and dearest friends tie the knot. Then we looked at each other and began brainstorming what we would do with the weekdays separating those two weekends. We could stay in Santa Barbara (expensive) or head up to San Francisco (even more expensive) or we could do neither of those. We could go to Vegas. It sounds extravagant, but here’s the truth: it’s cheaper to stay in Vegas than it is in most cities in California. A lot cheaper. On top of that, we’ve accumulated an endless amount of Southwest miles which allows us to fly to Vegas for virtually nothing (except for a nominal tax). I like to think we’re saving money by going this route. Reasonable justification, right?
Plus, it’s Vegas.
3Last, but certainly not least, we’ll be heading to San Francisco, our former home and one of my favorite cities in the world. We’ll be heading to a family wedding in the city, and will have five days in town to relive the magic of San Francisco in September. As a bonus, we get to toast to my grandma on her 89th birthday with a celebratory lunch in the City by the Bay. Location TBD — we’re still in brainstorming mode.
I’ll be recapping my adventures here, but you can also follow me on Instagram to stay up to speed with my upcoming journeys on the West Coast!
We’re still figuring out where to stay in Vegas! We’ve previously booked the Palazzo (great) and the Trump (meh). Any recommendations on new hotels that we should experience? Vegas will be a partial scouting trip – we’re on the hunt for the perfect experiences for my grandma’s 90th birthday bash in LV!
xo from the Caribbean,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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!
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,
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.
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).
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:
Have you been to a Carnival celebration in the Caribbean? Was anyone in Anguilla for this week’s festivities?
Love from 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.
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.
In honor of Carnival, the group put together some fun shirts for the occasion:
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.
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?
I had zero intention of being in California last weekend. Seriously.
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:
As a super bonus, I got to see my favorite person in the world, and she looked better than ever:
xo from the islands,
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.
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.
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
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!
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.