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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Aruba by Margot Justes

Last island on our itinerary, like Bonaire, it’s another gorgeous Dutch Island, and by far the most developed and wealthiest of the islands we visited. It was interesting to see the progression, and the distinctive personality of each island, while at the same time it’s a relaxing lesson. Life is slower,
it’s closer to home and the pressure to do everything in one day is not there.

Aruba is lively, energetic and filled with expensive shops, beautiful hotels and an abundance of tourists. If you like to shop, know your prices well. I bought T-shirts for my kiddies, and Aloe cream, which I will admit is fantastic for sunburns and general care, it's available on line, but a nice gift to bring back. Otherwise most things I could get home for less, tax savings notwithstanding.

Took a morning tour to visit a few boulders, and I had a lump on my head to prove it. To get to the top you had to crawl through a small hole, not that small since I fit, but it was too close for comfort. The guide said keep head low, of course I looked up and heard a resounding thud; that was my head and the boulder meeting. I lost, boulder is okay, but it was touch and go for a bit.

Once I reached to the top, it was worth the egg shape rock on my head. Aruba was below, the view was worth the headache, literally. The way back was interesting too, a gorge below, and the only thing between you and the bottom of the gorge were uneven, deep and shallow steps, and a life saving railing. I’m not the most coordinated individual, and all the way down I did not let go of the railing, and actually looked where I was going, something I tend not to do.

We visited an Aloe factory and I bought a few bottles of the stuff for gifts. Good thing the stuff works, since I had a nice sunburn, a farmer’s burn to be precise.

I also forget to wear a hat, not a smart thing to do when it’s scorching hot. It was neatly stashed in my purse, where it remained for the whole tour.

The afternoon was spent with my friend and next door neighbor. She was spending two weeks in Aruba and we met to do some sightseeing on our own. Aruba is a place where you go to relax and unwind. I’m not a beach person, but enjoy being around water, and no matter where you are there are always things to see.

After we boarded the ship, I went for a dip in the indoor pool, where the waves relaxed my achy muscles. It’s a tidal pool, the sea water is treated, but still salty, and as the ship lolls, so does the water in the pool,  you wind up riding the waves. Delicious feeling.

The captain announced that it was going to be a stormy night, and anyone susceptible to sea sickness, should take precautions, pills were available. I thought I had my sea legs firmly in place, but walking in a straight line was impossible.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bonaire by Margot Justes

Bonaire is a beautiful, developed, rather wealthy, and arid Dutch island. The shopping is abundant but expensive, it’s best to know your prices.

Once we docked, a short stroll down the pier and across the street was a garden, and in the garden, an art fair. Tents were pitched and one display after another showcased the local talent. I was in heaven.  I bought a couple tiny original drawings for my kiddies, they both love fish, and these were local to the island. I tried to find a clown fish, but Nemo was not available.

This time I didn’t take a tour, but instead walked along the beautiful pristine shore, the water is crystal clear, and we could see fish and various reefs. This island is a paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving, and any other water activity. I’m a land lubber, but do appreciate natural beauty, and I find water mesmerizing.

I stopped for coffee, and in the al fresco setting, I listened as the water lapped against the rocks; the rhythmic sound of the waves almost put me to sleep. This is an island where you sit and enjoy, you do not rush,  you whisper a soft thank you just for being there. Truly relaxing.

Once we left the port, I watched our huge ship glide along the waves and not sink. I know water is heavy and there is displacement involved, but it’s still magic, and incredibly peaceful. After dinner, and the serene day on the island, I went for a swim and watched the stars. To make the day more perfect, I was alone in the pool, and Tom Jones serenaded me as I swam. I happen to love Tom Jones’ voice.

 As promised, the Barbados fish cake recipe courtesy of the Sunbury Plantation.

1/2 lb boneless salt or Cod fish
1lb flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Green seasonings/chives
Sweet Pepper/Marjoram
Hot Pepper Salt to taste
Cooking oil (to fry)
Water to mix

Soak salt fish overnight. Clean thoroughly, removing skin, vein and bones. Mince fish & chop all seasonings finely, including hot pepper. In a medium bowl combine all ingredients except salt. Gradually add water until mixture reaches to a ‘drop’ consistency. (Mixture must be able to drop from a teaspoon in small balls.) Add salt to taste. Fry in hot oil (deep fry) until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel; serve hot with dip of ketchup and hot pepper sauce mixed together.

The fish cakes were positively delicious.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Barbados by Margot Justes

Welcome to Barbados, even the name sounds exotic. We docked at an industrial port, where nothing could be seen but containers, more containers and a few cruise ships; Celebrity among them, I missed the cold towels and drinks that Celebrity provides on hot and humid days as you re-board. The little touches are important. Celebrity even had employees hold up signs and guide the passengers of the area, so that they could head to town or board the appropriate tour bus. I followed the Celebrity signs to get to my destination. Great customer service, that little commodity has become increasingly scarce. I am a Celebrity convert.

I fell in love with Barbados and would definitely go back, it is one of the most vital islands I have visited, the people are lively, exuberant and friendly. The island is developed and tourists abound, but it is the local population that really makes one feel welcome. I always think of pirates when I think of Barbados, and even the name evokes mysterious sunken treasures, mischief and mayhem.
The first stop of the our tour was the Gun Hill Signal Station, the view of the island from above was picture perfect. The name says it all, the station watched as ships entered the area, guns poised. Now, it is a museum that houses military artifacts.

We paid a visit to the Sunbury Plantation House, the sugar plantation is over 300 years old and gives an excellent example of life in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Originally bought by an Irishman, who was one of the first residents of Barbados. The house filled with antiques that span centuries, along with many carriages provides a visual tour of life in Barbados that spans 300 years; well worth a visit.
Along with a full tour of the plantation, and the sumptuous gardens, we had an opportunity to sit in the garden and sample rum punch, and positively delicious fish cakes. A visit to Barbados must include a sampling of Rum; it is abundant. Not a big fan of spiced rum, but became a huge fan of the fishcakes.

After visiting the plantation, we stopped at Orchid World. I have never seen so many orchids in one place,  the stunning colors, one exotic bloom after another, from white to black and anything in between.  The garden was huge, the vegetation rich and luscious, but the orchids were truly sublime.

I would be remiss, if I did not share the rum punch recipe that was given to us.

Bajan Rum Punch
1 of Sour (Lime Juice)
2 of Sweet (Liquid sugar syrup or sugar)
3 of Strong (Rum)
4 of Weak (Ice and/or water)
2 Dashes of Angostura bitters
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Place ice in glass, add rum, liquid sugar, lime, top with water and 2 dashes of bitters. Grate some nutmeg on the top and serve. For a Sunbury Style Rum Punch, add 2 measures of pineapple juice. You may use your preferred unit of measure.

To go with the rum punch,  next week a recipe for the fish cakes. They were positively yummy.
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks