Monday, July 11, 2016


Bermuda is a beautiful island off the coast of Virginia, less than a 2 hour flight from New York. We chose it for our week long vacation because it was one of the few islands relatively close to the US that is Zika free. We soon discovered that it also boasts incredible beaches, lush greenery, bright flowers, plentiful wildlife and friendly locals. However, it should be noted that eating and drinking on the island can be very pricey. You should also plan to spend a bit more on transportation as tourists cannot rent cars and there are virtually no pedestrian walkways on the island. Despite those small drawbacks, Bermuda is very easy to navigate using public transportation. There are numerous activities and places to explore so I've outlined my top choices below by area, or parish.
Paget Parish
I'm starting with Paget Parish because that is where we stayed, at the darling St. Helier B&B run by two delightful people, Sally and Scott Godet. Elbow Beach, a 10 minute walk away from our place, offers lovely, pristine sands and crystal clear water. The Elbow Beach Resort has several good restaurants. Mickey's is right on the beach and serves a mix of light French themed dishes. We also tried the Sea Breeze, another casual option closer to the water. Their menu consists of Asian and Italian influenced tapas style plates. There are some other resorts on the other side of Paget Parish but we didn't have a chance to check them out.
Southampton Parish
Further down the coast from Paget is the Fairmont Southampton. We did our Scuba diving from a dive shop at this resort and ate several meals at their beachside cafe.
Next to the Fairmont is Horseshoe Bay, another long stretch of beach with the pinkish sand. You can rent chairs and umbrellas here and they have a small snack bar. If cruise ships in town, I would avoid this area like the plague because it can get very crowded.
Also in Southhampton is Gibb's Hill Lighthouse. It has incredible views of the entire island and a great restaurant on site- The Dining Room.
Another beautiful beach (they were all amazing) in this area is Church Bay Beach. Several people were snorkeling and you could even see some fish just standing on the beach.
Railway Trail
While this isn't technically a parish, the railway trail spans the entire island and can be used to travel between Paget, Warwick, Southhampton, even all the way to Dockyard. It's beautiful to walk, run or bike along.
St. Georges
This area is the located on the far tip of the island, near the airport. At the recommendation of our hosts, we decided to explore Cooper's Island Nature Reserve. I'm not going to lie, it was very difficult to get to. It entailed taking 3 separate ferries to Hamilton, Dockyard and St. Georges then catching a bus to St. David's Island then about a 20 minute walk to the entry to the reserve. By that time, we only had an hour to explore the area. It had several beautiful beaches with rocky cliffs and lots of trails. I'm not sure if it was just a windy day or the area is especially wind prone, but be prepared. On the way back, we decided we were over the ferry and just took the bus back to Hamilton.
The town of St. Georges is also worth checking out. While very small, it does have one of the oldest surviving Anglican churches outside of the British Isles, St. Peter's.  There are also a few shops and restaurants to peruse.
Flatt's Village
Unfortunately it rained for about half of our trip so that left us scrambling for inside activities. We decided to check out the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo in Flatt's Village. While very small, it was fun to see some of the fish that we saw diving and learn their proper names. The zoo also had some interesting birds and reptiles to watch. We stopped for lunch at Rustico, which had good pizzas and salads.
The main town in Bermuda, Hamilton, is a mix of business people, tourists, sailors and locals. We tried several restaurants. The Pickled Onion had decent food with a number of craft beers. I would skip the Hog Penny, it was probably the worst meal of our trip. Devils Isle had the best local, fresh fair but the service was not very on top of it.
Otherwise there's not much happening in Hamilton. It shuts down pretty early and shopping isn't too exciting.
This is where the majority of the America's Cup events will be taking place. The area itself is designed for cruise ship passengers so it feels very touristy. There were a few local shops selling art prints and local products. Restaurants didn't look that great but we did hear they had a good bakery that was already closed when we got there.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekend in Barcelona

I studied abroad in Barcelona in the fall of 2004 and Kent and I returned for a weekend trip 11 years later. I waited so long to return to the BCN because I wanted to see other parts of Europe, but as soon as I was back walking the streets of Barcelona, I remembered exactly why I love this city so much. Besides the beautiful modernist art and architecture, delicious, fresh food and unbeatable shopping, the people in this city are super friendly and fun loving. Here's a quick hits list of some of the best places in the city, but part of what makes it so incredible is that you can find something new, different and special wherever you look.

What to see

Sagrada Familia: this church in progress is unlike anything you've seen before. It is truly spectacular. Buy tickets online beforehand.
Hospital de Sant Pau: one of my favorite places in the city and very much under the radar of the hordes of tourists. I discovered it because I lived right by it but there is actually a pedestrian walking street that goes from Sagrada to Hospital. Definitely do free the tour, which explains the history behind the buildings and gives you a bit of insight into Lluís Domènech i Montaner, one of the most important modernist artists, right up there with Antoni Gaudi. 
Palau de la Musica Catalana: another one of Montaner's buildings that is absolutely stunning. There is a tour or you can buy tickets to one of the shows. 
Park Guell: a quiet escape with some quintessential Gaudi architecture and sculpture.

Bario Gotic: this is a fun neighborhood to explore. It has great boutiques and small restaurants.

L'Eixample: Passig de Gracia is another good shopping street in the L'Eixample neighborhood. But wander off the main street to see some beautiful buildings, cute little bars and shops.

El Raval: this is a mostly student and immigrant heavy area but it was once the most important parts of the city so you will find the Boqueria Market and several other Gaudi designed houses here. If you are lucky, you will run across El Gato de Raval, an awesome life size cat sculpture from Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
Where to eat

Firo Tast: this tiny little tapas bar is located on the street that runs between Sagrada Familia and Hospital. We ordered a wide range of items and everything was delish!

Spoonik: make a reservation in advance for this tasting menu only joint where the chefs personally describe the different ingredients and inspirations and the lighting, music and art changes depending on the course. You also sit with strangers so hopefully you get a good crew like we did!