One happy island, bo kier baila? Part 3

Wednesday turned out to be my leisure day, my bum was still sore from all the bouncing and shaking and my knee was acting up from the 181 step climb back up from the Natural Pool, so I laid kinda low. After a morning pot of coffee I started wondering what to do, sit on the beach, take a dip in the pool, nah, let's go downtown. Into a taxi I go and I notice the mileage on the taxi to be 147 thousand kilometers and some change... how to you rack up that much on an island that is roughly 32 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide... and much of the north side is not accessible by car. Maybe it was used somewhere else before relocating to Aruba, oh well, the things I notice sometimess, strange! Just drop me off as the bus station and I'll find my way back (of note, bus round trip, $2.30, taxi round trip, $18, what you learn in a taxi versus the bus, maybe it's worth the extra money). As I expected, downtown was lined with all the super discounted jewelry and electronics stores and for the ladies, all of the designer clothing, purses and shoes you could ever want. Not for me! I did find the strip of "local" vendors, but any more, you have to wonder if it's local arts and crafts or made in China. None the less, I picked up a few souveniers for the kids and a couple others, then found a bar. At 10 in the morning, the bar was empty, what is it with people, don't they know that beer is for breakfast? Or at least a Bloody Mary! Out of respect to some potential island rule, I asked if it was too early for a beer. Although I did get a funny look, I was promptly served an ice cold Balashi (see, there is a theme to this trip, Balashi). Being the only patron, I got all of the attention, not only in conversation, but in prompt refills (oh boy, slow down there sailor, it's only 10 am). My bartender, Swalini (I know I murdered her name, I'm sorry my dearest) was originally from Brazil, moved here 16 years ago and been working behind the bar ever since. She does like it here, although (she confirmed my thoughts), it's becoming too Americanized. She wants to move back home, but is scared about how the economy and job markets will be if she does go. Anyways, we chatted it up for about an hour about random things. I told her about St. Martin (she now really wants to go), she told me about Bonaire (I really want to go) and she asked why I was alone. This trip has landed me in more situations where I've been asked if I was traveling alone then the last five years of travel combined. It doesn't bother me, I'm on my own timeline, I can do whatever I choose and stare at women in bikinis as long as their boyfriend/husband doesn't catch me. I need to come up with the standard response though, so here it is... I'm scoping out the world for a retirement home, once I have found it and it's in my name, I'll be open to finding someone to share the travel with. There, that sounds good! The only downside I have found traveling alone is that it's awkward to ask someone else to put sunscreen on your back (yes, I've done it, and yes they did, many times). The ceiling and walls were plastered with layers of money and pictures from around the world. I asked about this. The tradition is that when you return, you leave your mark. I'll post the pictures when I get home, it's really interesting. I asked her where to buy some rum that I needed for my morning coffee and she sent me off on a wild goose chase for the market. I ended up on Main Street, found the market and for a mere $20, left with a bottle of rum, fruit punch and some sunscreen (I didn't make it to the beach this year so my base tan is just not there). Next stop was Iguana Joe's for another beer, too Americanized, only one beer then off to Cellar 23 for Tapas and yet another beer. The bartender, I never caught his name, once again asked if I was traveling alone. He told me to come back around 8 when he gets off and he would show me around. And find me some "hot Columbian bitches" - his words, not mine! Yes, it's legal here, am I going there, absolutely not! Time to head back to the hotel, had enough of downtown, but first, why the hell not, let's book a submarine tour on the Atlantis for Friday. On the way back, Mr. Taxi Driver and I chatted up about the refinery closing. This is big news and no one knows what it will do to the economy. Thousands of locals are employed there, it could drive up the crime rate (Aruba is a relatively safe island, but still keep your caution goggles on). I couldn't understand anything that was being said on the radio, but he explained that there were a lot of political battles going on over this news. Once I returned to the hotel, it was relax on the beach time (and I did find a cute gal to put my sunscreen on, twice! she was traveling with her parents so no, I didn't steal someone else's gal) and then retiring to the beach bar to listen to the steel drum band where we met back up and danced (well, she danced, I have 4 left feet) for a spell and had a few more drinks before calling it a night with a quick kiss and exchange of email addresses. Hmm, 10 things, you escape me, between the iguanas and the really cool blue tailed lizards, I think I saw 10 today, but maybe we'll go with 10 fun filled facts about Aruba. 1. Aruba has the 3rd largest desalination plant in the world and the World Health Organization ranks the water as the purest in the world. (Water research is something you should do when traveling to other countries) 2. It rains very little here and on the rare occasion where it rains for more than one day, much of Aruba will flood 3. There are three types of snakes, a common snake, a rattlesnake, both native, and a boa constrictor which is not native and is killing off iguanas, small rodents and other lizards 4. Year round temperatures are around 80 degrees dipping to the 70's at night. Constant trade winds keep it pleasant, although being only 12 degrees from the equator, the midday sun is brutal 5. Much of the north east side of the island is more desert like than tropical, abundant cacti dot the landscape 6. Aruba was granted status as an independent entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1986 7. Local food is hard to find (unlike my travels to St Martin and Jamaica where you can find roadside local food pretty much everywhere 8. August through November are the slowest tourist months (perfect time for me to go) 9. Aruba lies on the southernmost edge of the hurricane belt which makes it popular during hurricane season 10. There are approximately 60-70 wild donkeys living on the island, I didn't see a single one

One happy island, bo kier baila? Part 2

Adventure time! I rolled out of bed at 6:30, right on time, put on a pot of coffee, did the morning routine and was ready for the day. Until... I realized my camera battery was dead. I had an hour before I was being picked up for my day of exploring, maybe I can get some charge in. At 7:50 in rolls the Land Rover of all Land Rovers from ABC Aruba, we're going offroading! I arrived at the office, signed a waiver (I probably should have read it a little better) and was ready to go. Some quick math here, the Rovers fit 10 people each, 98% of the people gathered were couples, 1% was a group of three ladies, and then there was me to round out the hundred. I figured at least I might get the passenger seat up front since there were 8 in the back. Elijah, the Prophet introduced himself, he would be our guide, and his sidekick (but I cannot remember his name). Wait, we were a group of about 30, and five Rovers, 2 guides doesn't add up. Elijah explained the morning, where we would be going, explained we would be back at the office for lunch and that his drink was the Elijah's Punch because he used to box when he was younger and we should all have one to make us happy for the afternoon shake up. But I was still wondering about the number of vehicles to guides. And then it happened. He asked for three daring volunteers. Ah, there's the other drivers! We were all then instructed to hop in. I grabbed the second in line and hopped in the passenger seat, I get an up front tour. I then learned that Tony, my driver and fellow adventurer was from Brooklyn, well, originally from Greece, but now in Brooklyn. I thought about this... driving in the city versus off roading, my life was in his hands for the next 8 hours. How bad could it be? City drivers tend to be right up on the tailgating concept, this would be my fear, he didn't like to use the brakes. I never truely caught his girlfriends name, but I think it was Christy, I did find out she was from China. The best thing, and worst thing (which I will explain later) is that we were the "rest" and the only three in our Rover, the remaining four were packed with between 6 and 10 people. Buckle up, lets go. First stop, the Natural Bridge. Hmmm, I said, because I knew it had fallen in 2005, most likely due to Hurricane Ivan smacking his tail against the coast in 2004, but Baby Natural Bridge is still there, but probably not for long. The ride there was not too bad, pretty much all paved road, and my Brooklyn driver had increased my confidence level in his ability to keep me alive. Ouch, brain freeze as I write... Dang Summer Dreams, a yummy frozen concoction of 151 Rum, Green Grenadine, Coconut Cream and fresh bananas. We all notices the stacked rocks, but Elijah wouldn't tell us yet their meaning, and on we went. The next stop was... an ostrich farm? Yep, that's right, certainly not indigenous to Aruba, but here none the less. There's a "good luck butt" carving near the entrance, yeah, I rubbed it! We met Herald, the Ostrich farm tour guide and then we met a few Emus. I learned that emu oil is great for joint pain, and they run 25 miles an hour, but don't drink the emu oil, warned Herald, or you will shit at 25 miles an hour! Next we me a few ostrich, they are much taller than me! And I fed them, pictures come after the trip, you must wait. They can run 40 miles an hour, and sustain that speed for an hour, and can kick like hell, so what once was a bear escape plan is now an ostrich escape plan. We then headed off to the gold mines, the terrain became a little more rugged, the bumps a little bigger. Gold, over 3000 pounds of gold was mined from Aruba, and a castle like fort thingy was built with openings to scare the pirates away (you couldn't tell from the pirate ship if there were cannons or not in the openings), although no cannons were ever in the fort, nor was a roof ever put on. It stands today, pretty much as it was the day it was finished. Here we finally learned about the stacked rocks. Ledgend says that the firsherman used to stack rocks to mark a good fishing spot, but then the tourists kicked in, and Aruba loves tourists, so pretty much the entire north shore from the Natural Bridge to the lighthouse has stacks of rocks (pictures to come, it's pretty cool). Of course Elijah had his own story when he told us to go stack rocks, stack 7 rocks, one for each wish, the seventh is your big wish, but before you put the seventh rock on, slip a $20 under the sixth rock, then make your big wish and place the seventh on. Walk away for seven minutes and when you come back, if the $20 is gone, you wish will come true and your tour guide's wish already did! We then went through some pretty serious four wheelin' action and I was holding on for dear life! My drivers girfriend was bouncing and shaking in the back and got a little sick, but after a cool frozen drink from the roadside stand, was feeling a little better. We stopped at the Alto Vista Chapel, the California lighthouse and then headed back to the office for lunch at the Waka Waka where we had Aruba style bbq ribs and according to my drivers girlfriend, rice comparable to that which she would have in Hong Kong (it was pretty tasty). Then there was the not so good strawberry ice cream. We all had some drinks and jumped back in the Rovers for a shake you up afternoon! Our first stop was Baby Beach, and it was a long 45 minute ride, although mostly on paved roads. Baby Beach is hard to get to unless you have your own rental vehicle, the taxis will take you there, but they don't exactly come around to pick you up. There are plenty of tours that will get you there, buut ABC Aruba is the only one that will also take you to the Natural Pool (and a bunch of other places as well!). This beach is waist deep forever and does have a little bit of snorkle action, but the current is a little strong, so without flippers, very tiresome, and we had already had a tiresome day, so I didn't stay out long. Bring extra money if you go, it's two quarters to use the restroom, and no, it's not one quarter for #1 and one for #2 (yes, this was asked by someone). I decided it was time for another Balashi, so for the small fee of $3.00, I had an ice cold beverage and sat down with a couple from Holland. We talked for 10 minutes or so then it was time to go. Fifty kilometers an hour over the desert like landscape, dust flying everywhere (note, don't wear a white shirt, it will not be white when you get back to the hotel). The terrain wasn't too bad, my drivers girlfriend had moved to the front seat, she was right though, it was more intense in the back (possibly since we had an empty Rover, not much weight back there). Next stop, the bat cave, no seriously! It was dark. It smelled like bat dung. We could go in any cave we wanted to, but our guide couldn't promise we would find our way back out. I almost did another Aruba Face Plant, but managed to catch myself. There were spots in the cave where the ceiling had holes up to the surface, really neat how the light poured in. Anyways, time to go for the last stop on our adventure. Holy @*#%, hold on for dear life kind of ride to the Natural Pool. This was serious four wheeling! Up and down volcanic rock and coral, hairpin turns, six inches of clearance to the edge, please stay on the road! For what seemed like hours, my ass was in the air more than it was the seat, but we made it. You could hear all the others in the Rovers screaming, it was like a roller coaster. It was only 88 steps down the rocks once we parked, but 188 steps back up. Basically a pool formed by rocks and coral, the water was crystal clear and swarming with fish. Well worth the bumpy ride. We spent close to an hour there before packing up to end our adventure. In true spirit of Elijah, he made sure we had a bumpy shake you up ride to almost ever place we had been today, but there was always a smooth ride leaving each place. We asked him about this and he was quick to relay that the only way out was the same way we came in. Holy @*#%, hold on for dear life kind of ride leaving the Natural Pool. Going back was a lot bumpier than coming down, I think this was due to over confidence of the drivers, a little faster and trying to aim for the bumpiest of bumps. We made it though! Back at the office, lots of email exchanging goes on before we all get redivided into groups for a smooth ride back to the hotel. What was an eight hour tour was better close to ten hours, and worth every penny - I would do it again, and I'm usually not one for those big group tours, but this one goes down in my book as an excellent adventure and social experience. I arrived back at the hotel close to 7:30, Happy Hour was over but I popped a couple asprin (my ass hurts!!!) and headed down to the bar. A few drinks later and I was in bed by 9:30, exhausted, but had a wonderful time! My new song One Balashi Two Balashi Three Balashi Four Five Balashi Six Balashi Seven Balashi More Eight Balashi Nine Balashi Ten Balashi Floor Cheers!

One happy island, bo kier baila? Part 1

My, oh my, 3 o'clock came early, but I'm here, sitting at the bar on the shore of the Caribbean sea at fifty past four on a Monday sipping a Balashi (Aruba's Beer) out of a plastic cup and enjoying constant trade winds while listening to the island version of "I can't take my eyes off of you." It's happy hour, I'm double fisting and writing knowing that I am surrounded by water, and I couldn't be more at ease. Then, I digress to how I got here. Well, I have good great luck with airlines lately and managed to score first class upgrades all the way, and then I met Charlie. Charlie, well, he sat next to me for four hours from Atlanta to Aruba, and I'm all about people, conversation and experience, so we entertained each other (and drank) along the way. Charlie was born in 1934, 78 years old.... TODAY! Before I get into the details, I had a little fight with Atlanta, the airport bars do not open until 9 am, not good for early morning vacation travelers, but I made do. After 9 (and everyone at the bar was counting the minutes), a beer and a serious arm twisting from the bar tender, a Makers straight up, I was very ready to sleep the flight away; Four hours, sounded like a good catch up on sleep to me. No, didn't exactly work that way. I boarded, took my seat and was ready to snooze when Charlie asked to get into the window seat. I didn't care, I was either going to sleep, or drink for free, or both, so I thought. Charlie, I learned, was heading to Aruba to celebrate #1, his 78th birthday and #2, his 52nd wedding anniversary. Russian heritage (don't know if this is the why...), he was quick to share that, although his wife and him had occasional fights, they were in it for life, and at 52 years, I'd have to agree. He also said she drank like a fish, his retirement fund split between keeping her pleasantly inebriated and him playing golf and semi inebriated. What a combo. So very rarely when I travel to the Caribbean do I run into solo travelers, Charlie is one of the few. He was denied boarding yesterday on a flight to Aruba due to not having his passport, only his passport card which is only valid on international travel by land or sea to select destinations, so his wife and the couple that they were going with were partying it up in Aruba while he took an alternate flight a day later from Orlando through Atlanta, where we crossed paths. Mambo #5, break... We toasted to his birthday with a whiskey on the rocks, followed by a few beers. We talked and talked and talked, I'm sure all the other happy couples in first class were annoyed with us, but we were having great conversation. We talked of relationships, travel, he tried to convince me to take up golf, I learned of a great retirement community north of Orlando, we talked literature and philosophy. I took a couple of notes on books I should read (always carry a journal and pen) and he showed me a few exercises he does with numbers to keep his mind sharp. He was the only one of 6 kids to graduate from college with a degree in accounting and went on to be a principal at a school for 30 years. He then shared his "motto" for living life which was a 20 minute tale involving a drawing on a napkin (which is folded neatly in my journal) which essentially boiled down to "pay it forward." I then shared mine with him, it took all of two seconds to show him the word "relax" tattooed neatly on the inside of my right wrist and an apology for not having an elaborate story. Now Mama always said "Don't talk to strangers," but I do that every day. With caution. About half way through the flight, I decided to switch to coffee. One thing you don't want to do is to go through immigration intoxicated! Charlie put up a little resistence, but eventually sided with me and sobered up (he had a few more whiskies than I did). We continued our conversations and exchanged email addresses (I did give him my spam one, just in case) and shook hands as we deplaned. Honestly, I was ready to get away from him so I kicked in the turbo on my suitcase and wheeled into immigration in half the time. He was a great guy, and I enjoyed his company on the four hour flight, but I am also a cautious traveler. Immigration was easy, no questions asked, I'm in Aruba. My next encounter was Jennifer, she made sure my check in was flawless, provided me with all of the neceassary instructions for towels and most importantly, where the bars were. I admit, I did give her a hard time, but she smiled none the less and knew it was just all in good fun. I don't think she's ever had a guy from North Carolina flirt with her ;) (of note, this is the first time I've put an emoticon in a post, shame on me!). I planted my feet on the floor of room 8306, tastefully decorated and clean one bedroom suite with a full kitchen in case I decided to stay in and cook. Uh, no, the full kitchen is for the full size fridge to keep the Balashi cold in case I have to much to drink to be out in public and need to retire to my room. Also, in case you were wondering, no it's not ocean view, well, I can see a little bit of the ocean. Although ocean view is nice, I don't spend much time in my room, so why pay the premium? Oh, that brings up another point about Charlie. I thought it was very strange that he shared all of his trip costs with me, showed my his online booking printouts and everything. The point in sharing that was that he payed way too much. I didn't tell him this directly, but I could have gone 3 times for what he paid. Maybe there's a travel agent in my future when I retire. If you need some advice on Caribbean destinations on a budget, let me know. I did some quick unpacking, threw the essentials in my Jan Sport, you know, the old fashioned canvas backpack that is extremely difficult to find these days, and headed to the beach bar. The sun was starting to sink on the horizon and I could feel sleepy setting in. A few drinks later and it was time to start making my way back to the room with a quick stop at the pool bar (for maybe one more), but mor importantly to Skype my kids and tell them good night. Lesson learned from last years trip, don't get a global phone (unless you already have one, although if you do, it's not cheap to call the US), but take a small laptop or tablet and Skype back home. I do give this resort one negative point for poor wireless. I've found two spots that are decent, neither are in my room. So I called the kids, said my goodnights and headed up to get some rest. I took a Balashi to go, which didn't get far, and it (and me) went flying as I tripped over a rock and did the world's best Aruba Face Plant. You can blame the Balashi if you want, I blame my buggered up knee. 1. Always carry your passport to the airport if you are going to leave the country 2. Never get plastered (I can't say that I always listen to this one, maybe one day I'll remember the stories of downtown Philly, Chicago, NYC, San Fran, etc.) 3. You don't really want all inclusive, sure, they are convenient, but each of the islands have so much to offer outside of the resorts 4. Be aware of your surroundings, always! 5. Smile, have fun, don't be an ass to people 6. Always tip the bartender well the first time he/she serves you, they will take good care of you from then on 7. Be adventurous (see Part 2 to come) 8. Travel light so you can bring back more rum, don't check baggage if you don't have to 9. Make sure you charge your camera at night (again, see Part 2 to come) 10. Balashi is the best beer I've ever had, and it goes down pretty quick! Sleep tight!

Guavaberry

Yet another week draws to a close as the sun hides behind the clouds. These are pine trees, not palm trees. I'm tired of Eastern time and need to be on Island time. I miss Rum Punch, it's not the same in the confines of my land locked home. I miss Gizmo and crystal clear turquoise waters. I miss being under power of the wind as the cat slices gently through the waves. Dear Caribbean, If I hadn't met you I wouldn't like you If I didn't like you I wouldn't love you If I didn't love you I wouldn't miss you But I did I do and I will

Sunburned and selfish

What a freakin' awesome weekend, and a 3 day one at that! Just me and the kids, we had the hood to ourselves for a change. It started with a ball game Friday night where my daughter's team is really starting to show that they can play. They still lost, but that's not the point. They are maturing into a pretty good team considering their pre-season practices were mostly rained out and almost all of the girls are first time players. I'm proud of them! In preparation for a long weekend, I let the kids make the decision of what to do, fully aware it would just be the three of us (sort of). It was head to the beach or stay at home and chill, do some gardening and invite Grandma and Grandpa over for a cookout. Stay at home won, which honestly was a little weird considering they are beach babies through and through. So we hung out ALL weekend, and it rocked! And I got a little bit too much sun! And they were nice enough to lather me up with aloe in the evening. And I'm a little sad that it's over, but there's always next time! 1. Digging up plants that we are donating to someone else's yard 2. Flip flops or bare feet, no need for shoes 3. Hot hot hot Carolina sun 4. Grillin' and chillin' 5. Suntan lotion a little too late 6. Bathing suits and running through the sprinkler 7. Catching frogs in the pond 8. Fireflies in the evening 9. Hit a few hundred balls in the back yard (square up those feet, elbow up, bat back) 10. Enjoying spending time together, just the three of us A little blast from the past, last Memorial Day, I was sliding on a wing and a prayer across 100ft of plastic and vegetable oil on a home made slip and slide that ended with bruises for 3 weeks, so here's to keeping it low key!

Oh what long legs you have

I no longer understand the social dynamics of the frogs living in my pond. Earlier this spring, there was but a single large frog, presumably male, that spent his days swimming around and basking in the sun on the lily pads. One of the first particularly warm evenings, he sat at the edge of the pond singing his song to any ladies that might be out there. His song worked and she came to answer his call.  A few days later, there were hundreds of eggs attached to the underside of the lily pads. I never saw her again. I'm not being critical, but really, a one night stand and she leaves him with the reminder by watching his offspring hatch, grow stubs, and eventually turn into little frogs. I suppose I am a little disappointed that she took off so fast. He doesn't seem to mind. A few weeks later, after all the little tadpoles are well on their way to growing up to be strapping young adults, he sits at the edge of the pond again one evening, singing his song. This time, two answers come to him. The thing is, both couldn't have been more than 3 or 4 feet from him, one on the left and one on the right, but he wasn't aiming his call to either side. This went on for a couple of hours while I enjoyed the rocking chair and some wine. The next day I noticed another frog in the pond, much smaller, but still relatively good size. Was this the mother? I can't be certain as it was dark and I was unable to determine her coloring that infamous night. Regardless, she is still hanging around today. Just the other night, he sings again and gets 4 answers. I'm almost positive I heard the mother say "Seriously, you asked me to move into your pond and now your are off trying to find someone else in the middle of the night?" The next morning, it was still just the two of them in the pond, never in close proximity, but they were in there together. Last night, he sang again. This morning there are 5 frogs in the pond, she's still there, but sometime during the night, he found 3 more ladies to move into his pond. She must have really started to nag on him and express her anger as while I was rocking and enjoying my cup of coffee this morning, he pounced on her. They splashed around for a few seconds, he managed to get hold of her in his mouth and hold her upside down under the water for what seemed like 5 minutes. I really think he was trying to drown her. Her one back leg was kicking for most of the time she was under water, but it started to slow towards the end, and he seemed to be tightening his bite on her. He let go, or she managed to get loose, not really sure, but she immediately swam away and jumped out of the pond. Some fight that was! She's gone. I'm not sure if she will be back and frankly, I don't blame her a bit. Meanwhile, he still has 3 ladies to share his pond. What does not make sense is that since the first "batch" of eggs, there have been no more-or at least that I have noticed. Time for a coffee refill and then back to the porch to relax before officially starting the work day, and all the ladies are gone. I chuckle! Serves you right Mr. Frog for treating the mother of your children that way, I really think you are a creep and "HaHa" on you, now you are all alone (for now)! I'm quite sure that tonight or tomorrow night, he will be back out there singing preying on some innocent unsuspecting female. I will not interrupt nature or anything, but I would not be upset if a big snake came along and ate him up. But then the kids wouldn't have the joy of watching the eggs hatch into tadpoles and the tadpoles turn into froglets and the froglets turn into frogs. It's nice to have such a strange metamorphosis conveniently located for the kids to see first hand how awesome nature really is. I just won't tell them about the cheating and attempted murder escapades that go on in my pond. Some things you should protect your children from. So there you have it, the drama and dating and relationships of my pond. The thing is, I might be completely wrong and he might be a she and all the ladies might be dudes. Or, all the ladies might be dudes and he is still a he. Wouldn't that throw some interesting detail in the fire. For now, though, I will accept him as he is and watch the rest of the season unfold. It sure is nice having commercial free drama to watch. I'll leave you with a list of songs as the number of frogs didn't really add up. 1. Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit 2. Time Is Love by Josh Turner 3. All the Small Things by Blink 182 4. Angel Eyes by Love and Theft 5. Cowboys and Angels by Dustin Lynch 6. The Weakness In Me by Joan Armatrading 7. Feel So Close by Calvin Harris 8. Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons 9. Dreamer by Ozzy Osbourne 10.Casual Sex by My Darkest Days Bonus Track: "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog" Joy To the World by Three Dog Night Cheers!

Our happy place

It's a cinder block efficiency with 2 double beds and a kitchenette.  It's a downstairs unit with a front porch and a courtyard area with picnic tables.  It's two blocks to sand and surf.  It comes with welcome hugs from the owner and hurry backs when we leave.  It's our happy place filled with memories and good times. 1. Included with every stay are complimentary plastic wine glasses with a single Hershey kiss in each one.  My son cannot wait to get his Yoo-hoo from the store around the corner which he promptly pours in his glass upon arrival 2. Also included is a little rubber ducky, this time a turkey duck, sometimes a sunglasses duck, you just never know, this is Ducktur Ducktur 3. It's a familiar escape for the last 2 years which promises to bring relaxation and reflection time 4. It's where I spend quality away from home time with my kids 5. It's where we play Go Fish with plastic tigers and dolphins and stuffed penguins and we laugh and smile and enjoy disguising our voice when it's one of the animals turns 6. It's a 5 minute walk to the beach where we soak in the sun, splash in the water and take long strolls down the beach at dusk 7. It's across from the pier, which each time we meet with less hesitation and my little ones are no longer trying to avoid stepping on the cracks and clinging to me for dear life so high above the water 8. It's salt air that cures all 9. It's where spinning around a pole until we are way too dizzy is so much fun 10. It's where we make friends with the neighbors and share sea shells and stories of the beach, our getaway, our happy place, at any time of the year It's almost time to go again!

Sand between my toes

1. Sand baking in 100 degrees for a few hours is hot enough to grow blisters on your feet, lesson learned 2. Two feet of water plus a two foot wave puts both my little ones in a little over their head, 206 tears later, we were back out in the water 3. I went body boarding for the first time in probably ten years, with a twist. I went blind, well, close enough, without my glasses. My depth perception suffers greatly with my naked eyes, I felt eight feet tall walking from the blanket to the water (need to do that more often, being not short was kind of neat). As the waves sucked in to topple over themselves, they looked like monsters with gaping mouths ready to swallow me and a body board with one gulp. Still, I let go of my fear and pushed with the power of nature towards the shore, probably with a pretty big grin 4. Is there an age where you finally say "I don't give a ____" and you realize that not all of the suntan lotion has rubbed in and you have white streaks all over and it's not a big deal? I think I've reached that age. 5. I pushed the limits of stamina at 3 hours in the hot sun and warm waters 6. Son, I'm sorry, but I don't think you will catch those little fish in the surf with a bucket 7. Don't leave the beach towels in the truck - stinky ride home 8. Or half eaten orders of chicken nuggets, a cooler full of water (that was once ice) and pork rinds (half eaten as well) - stinky truck after 6 days of sitting in the airport parking garage 9. Life's a beach, roll with the waves - they come crashing down regardless, ride them out, or drown 10. Off topic, I may have exposed and pushed a topic outside the scope of Just10Things too far tonight of which the consequences will be either loose a friend, or gain a better friend. Value friendship for friendship so that you can continue to look forward to something you look forward to.

An American in paradise, the photo essay

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, 18° 4′ 0″ N, 63° 3′ 0″ W, West Indies, Lesser Antilles, Leeward Islands, half French, half Dutch, 100% island with diverse cultural roots. 1. As promised, my companion, Gizmo 2. Front Street in Phillipsburg, which runs parallel to Back Street.  This bustling stretch in the Dutch capital is filled with shopping, food and bars.  Parking is difficult here, but if you drive around long enough, something will open up.  Just be sure you practice parallel parking first. 3. Oyster Pond, quiet calm waters and Orient Bay, French side, clothing optional. 4. This scene happened more often than not, which one is mine... 5. The blue waters of Anguilla 6. Sunset cruise on the Lambada.  The little girl has a striking resemblance to the girl in Water World 7. The streets and cafes of Marigot, the French capital 8. My delicious Mahi 9. Back to Little Bay 10. The last sunset I really need to invest in a better camera to capture the colors of the Caribbean, but I also like the "pocketableness" of my little Canon Powershot.  These photographs give you a sense of what it was like, but nowhere near the experience.  Until next time!
filled with shopping, food and bars.  Parking is difficult here, but if you drive around long enough, something will open up.  Just be sure you practice parallel parking first.

An American in paradise, a mini series, the finale

It's a different sun, a different air, a different water.  It's a slow down to island time. Whether a day, a week, a month, you will feel different here. It's about sinking into crystal clear waters, it's about power under sail, it's about conch fritters and rum punch. It's about music and fun, good times and sun. It's a love affair. I spent the greater part of yesterday soaking in UV rays that I probably didn't need, I'm sure that payback will come in time. Afterwards, I made my way to Simpson Bay for a sunset cruise on the Lambada. She sets sail from the Pelican which is fairly easy to find if you take a left at Hollywood Casino, parking however, is a challenge. I scored after two times asking the resort parking attendant where to park and she ended up letting me park in the guest lot. Main sail hoisted and I sunk into not a care in the world. Perched topside on the forward port hull, my mind drifted. Two hours later, I really didn't want it to be over, my therapy session was done and I needed to return to my room. I've almost learned to navigate the island, at least the southern portions. This was my first time driving at night, though, and my regular landmarks were not quite as visible, but I managed to make it back. Today was a return trip to Marigot, and I'm glad I did, the street was bustling with vendors selling local everything. I had two things in mind, rum and some good food. Maaya is the place to go for duty free in Marigot. My only advice is (as with any duty free I've found here) if you are using American Express, tell them that is all you have and they will most likely accept it. I had read some forums before arrival that AMex was not widely accepted, this is true, unless you present as your only method of payment. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. Cash always talks! I found my rum, now for food. It must have been cooked on a million degree grill, because the outside of my mahi steak was crunchy and the inside was moist and tender. Bistro de la mer filled my taste buds with deliciousness and a side of rice. Good food, check, time to head back. I made the same wrong turn as the other day, mental note, when leaving Marigot, it's a left on the roundy, for next time! I experienced my first "I need gas" moment on the way back. First of all, everything is in liters, secondly, the pump attendant doesn't really pump your gas, just stands there to usher you expecting a tip. No worries, 22 liters (I think I read it right) and a three dollar tip later, my lawnmower tank is full. The remainder of my afternoon was spent soaking in Caribbean waters as the sun sank deeper and deeper into the horizon. I left the soothing waters in time to climb back up to Fort Amsterdam armed with a camera. The wind atop the peninsula is pretty strong, but I had the best seat in the house for my last St Martin sunset. I did some experimenting with my cameras (I think I've actually figured it out) exposure settings and I think I got some good sunset photographs (to be posted later). I'm hesitating right now to continue writing, or wrap it up, my mind is so at ease and relaxed that listing 10 things seems distant. Maybe I'll leave it with Just3Nights in Vegas and Just7Nights in St Martin and call out a vacation I have shared with you... As the calypso rhythms echo across the bay, I wonder. I watch the mother next door dance with her baby boy, I miss my kids. I watch the couple on the beach slow dance, maybe next time we can dance, if I can muster up enough to ask you out. Yeah, there's no 10 specifics tonight, just me, drinking a rum punch, listening to music, dreaming, and dancing.... Reflections my friends, cheers!