Friday, February 18, 2011

A Private Cabana

I’m walking along the cushiony sand; my toes disappearing beneath the granules. The crashing waves to my left capture my attention and I look to see a wide ocean of blue, complete with a colorful balloon hovering above the water below; an anxious or excited parasailer looking down into the depths.

The large white cruise ship sits in the distance, providing the perfect postcard shot; however, my sights are now set on the miniature, intimate house that I will take up residence in for the next few hours. Its green exterior blends in with the atmosphere surrounding me. My parents, sister, and I set down our things and are welcomed by a man carrying fruit and drinks; he fills our refrigerator and kindly explains the delicacies he has brought us.

My eyes wander over the plate of fresh, juicy strawberries; plump grapes that create an explosion in your mouth when bitten into; slices of kiwi and honeydew that provide your taste buds with a welcoming hello.

Stripping out of my shorts and tank top, I step out onto the deck and breathe in the air around me. Reaching for my sunscreen, I apply a generous amount before sinking my toes back into the sand and setting up shop on my towel for a bed. The sun beats down on me and I can feel the heat penetrating my skin; a welcomed feeling that helps me to relax and enjoy my time in this tropical haven.

The birds make themselves known as they vocalize themselves while flying overhead; a welcomed sound that helps to add to the beach bum attitude I’m currently sporting. The Bahaman breeze feels warm, as if it and the sun are working close together to make me feel completely and utterly relaxed.

My body starts to cry out for some sort of relief; it burns from the sun exposure. Stepping into the waters of Half Moon Cay, I feel instant relief against my skin. I wade out until I’m chest deep into the water, not fearful of what lies beneath me. My eyes break through the transparent waters as it ripples around my body. My feet kick up and suddenly I am on my back, floating through ocean. I can hear laughter and screams from far away, alerting me of the other beachgoers; I simply smile and fall back into my floating heaven.

Quenching my body of its thirst, the only thing left parched is my mouth. I make my way back to our little cabana home and greeting me are the lush strawberries that beat a vibrant red on the plate. Grabbing its green stem, I bit into it and am immediately satisfied. A bottle of water waits in the cooler as I twist off its top and drink it down. My mom joins me at the small table; a tray of salsa and guacamole stares back at us, along with the bowl of chips. Unable to say no, we eagerly partake in the special treat.

As the day progresses and time slips away, we pack up our things and bid adieu to Half Moon Cay. Taking my final steps off the small deck, I hate to see it go. With my bag on my shoulder, we walk back to our stop, leaving our small private cabana behind.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Recommendations: Travel Movies and Travel Books

If you are a travel lover like me, you probably find yourself watching and reading anything related to travel. Much of my Goodreads list is composed of either books dedicated to historical events, specifically World War II, or you guessed it…travel books. Whether it is a memoir, a piece of fiction, non-fiction, or a book compiled of short stories, I’m interested in reading it.

Now, when I’m not reading, I love watching movies, so while my taste in film include comedies, action, dramas, and even a few horror and rom-com flicks, what matters most to me is a good, solid story.

I’m hoping to use this post as a chance for all of us to recommend and share our favorite travel books and movies. It is always a joy for me to learn what other people are reading and watching. So without further ado, here are my favorites…


Eat, Pray, Love”: Some of you may say this was a typical “travel writer” dream/fantasy book, but I loved it. I don’t know how many times I sat on a plane and saw someone reading this book. I held off for quite some time as I figured it would be one of those “everyone reads it but it’s only a mediocre book” kind of reads; however, I decided to see the movie and quickly decided that I had to read the book. Elizabeth Gilbert is an author, writer, traveler and pretty good story-teller if you ask me. Having been to Rome, I immediately grew interested in her experience and time there. Traveling through Italy, India, and Bali, I found myself wishing I could follow in her footsteps and experience exactly what she did that life-changing year she spent away. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the whole divorce/woe-is-me/finding love aspect of the book, the details of each destination and experiences helped to make up for all of that.

By the Seat of My Pants”: Donald George has compiled numerous short stories by travel writers who have experienced some humorous, eye-opening, and even somewhat dangerous adventures while traveling the world. At times, I found myself literally laughing out loud at these stories. Some of the stories you can expect to find are a man’s experience with a “friendly” taxi driver in Prague, a couple’s experience of staying in a tent on an animal reserve in Africa, and even a man’s unlucky experience of being trapped in a Dutch men’s bathroom. If you want a quick read that will have you laughing, you must check out this book.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”: Okay, if you read my review on Goodreads, you will probably wonder why this is on my list of favorite travel-like books. Mainly, I loved the movie but somewhat disliked the book; however, I LOVED the portrayal of Savannah, Georgia. Having never been to Savannah, the way that John Berendt describes the city, the people, and the atmosphere; I’m ready to jump on a plane and go experience it all for myself. I’ve always wanted to go to Savannah and sit on someone’s porch and sip some sweet tea (that’s what I imagine) but I imagine the moss hanging from the trees, the big white plantation homes, and of course, the southern charm of the people. In my opinion, Berendt drags the story along for far too long, but he does a fabulous job of making you a part of Savannah culture and making you wish you had that southern drawl and were sporting a wide-brimmed hat.


Eat, Pray, Love”: I won’t go into detail since I did above. But let me just say that I love Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem is seriously growing on me so yes, I loved this movie.

Chocolat”: Okay, for all you women, if the title doesn’t entice you, then maybe the mention that Johnny Depp is in this film will do the trick. Set in a small village in France, Vianne and her daughter, Anouk open a small chocolate store, which is located across the main square from the town church. Opening her shop during the time of Lent, the church’s priest and many of the townspeople resent her efforts to entice the community with her chocolates. However, her efforts are not in vain when the people of this tiny French village learn to let-go a bit and enjoy the finer and sweeter things in life.

Mamma Mia”: Yes, this is by far one of my favorites. I just recently saw the play for the first time and loved it. Not only do you see the gorgeous country of Greece, but you will have a hard time staying in your seat when you heard the great songs of Abba. Sophie and her mother Donna live on a small island of Greece. Sophie is getting married but wants to find her dad, which could be three possible men whom her mother had some wild times with back in the 70s. Upon their arrival, hilarity ensues as Donna struggles to deal with her past while her daughter works to find out which man she can call “dad.”

Schindler’s List”: In 1993, Steven Spielberg created a movie so true, so realistic, and so heartbreaking, that anyone who can sit through it and not be touched by Oskar Schindler and his story must be lacking a heart and emotion. Filmed in Poland and Jerusalem, movie watchers get an intimate look into the world in which so many Jews experienced loss, terror, and death. Spielberg filmed outside the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau; an entrance that led to the deaths of millions of Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies just to name a few. This movie will not only provide you with a historical lesson of the Holocaust, but it will provide you with a look into the county of Poland and the terror that rained upon it during World War II.

South Pacific” (1958): Although this was filmed in Hawaii and Spain, you certainly get the feel of being in the South Pacific with all of the lush green scenery and vibrant blue oceans. This movie tells the story of an American nurse (from Arkansas—my home state!) who falls in love with a Frenchman who is involved in a secret military mission. With songs dedicated to Bali Hai, you can’t help but wish you were sailing to this magical and exotic island.

What are some of your favorites?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Car Full of Girls, A Pot Full of Chocolate, and A Farting Elephant

This past August, my four best girlfriends and I decided to take a little road trip six hours north to the great city of St. Louis. Having family from that particular area, I have grown up absolutely loving this city. Spending time down on the river, listening to the great music in the parks, and watching the great fireworks show during the Fourth of July are all wonderful memories that I have of this enjoyable city. With all of this previous knowledge of the area, my friends and I agreed that it would be a great road trip for us.

Unfortunately, due to finances and other personal reasons, this was the first road trip my friends and I have taken since we graduated high school almost eight years ago. Now, we are not these wild and crazy kinds of girls but we certainly know how to have fun, and the car ride was no exception. One thing we all agreed on was that none of us had ever seen so many adult stores on the side of road in our lives. I bet I counted at least 50 on the six hour drive. Considering that we left around 8:00 that Friday morning, by the time we started seeing these lovely roadside treasures, multiple cars were already in their parking lots. It reminded me of the cars I see parked outside of the liquor store before it opens in the morning.

When we weren’t laughing hysterically over the adult stores we passed, we spent our time rocking out and reminiscing to songs of the 80s and 90s, reading Cosmopolitan and Glamour, and of course, engaging in the ever popular “girl talk.” This usually consists of drudging up memories of high school and all of the ridiculous and unnecessary drama, as well as what is going on in our current lives, which of course means work, and for two of us who are single…our non-existent “love lives.”

By the time we reached St. Louis, which is a fairly easy and semi-pretty drive; it was early afternoon. Our hotel was right across from Busch Stadium; however, there was no Cardinal game that weekend so the parking lot remained vacant. After checking in, the four of us were ready to hit the pool. Unfortunately, to our dismay, the only pool the hotel had was indoors and the water was 80 DEGREES!!! Now, here it was, late August and the only pool in the entire hotel was INSIDE with sauna-like temperatures…no thanks.

Seeing as we were planning an easy night, we opted to chill out for a while before heading down to the Jazz Festival that was taking place just a few blocks down from where we were staying. Once again, unfortunately, the festival had yet to start and there wasn’t much around, so we walked another few blocks to Union Station and ate dinner at The Hard Rock Café. Now, what I failed to tell you is that considering all of these places were within walking distance to our hotel, it took much longer than we had expected. I wasn’t too familiar with this particular area so we relied on my friend’s GPS that was on her phone. Apparently, that proved a bit more difficult than we had thought. All in all, we made it there and had a deliciously good dinner.

I'm in the middle
Now, if you visit the great city of St. Louis, you MUST go to the St. Louis Zoo. Not only is it quite large, but it has a wide array of animals and can be loads of fun for four young girls on a weekend getaway trip. Not only were there adorable little penguins, dressed to the nines in the cute tuxedos, but the seals, giraffes, gorillas, and zebras were all quite entertaining to watch. However, the best part of that day had to be the elephant exhibit.

I have to ask…have any of you ever heard an elephant fart? I’m not kidding, in fact, I’m dead serious. We spotted this beautifully large creature just enjoying the sunny day, minding her own business and not paying any attention to the crowd gathering around. Standing there, my friends and I took pictures and waited to see if she would give us a glimpse of her face. Suddenly, we start to see food flying into the elephant area and the voice of a trainer/zookeeper. That giant, grey behemoth turned around and made her way towards the delicacy lying on the ground. After eating a bit and doing some tricks, we were graced with the lovely sound of what sounded like a trumpet.

The Farting Elephant

“What was that?” I asked my friends, with a somewhat laughable grin on my face. Looking around at each other, we burst into a fit of laughter and agreed with everyone around us that the elephant had indeed…farted. It was a first for me that is for sure. I’m proud to say I even have it on video 

Later that night, when we got all dolled up for a dinner out to The Melting Pot, we still couldn’t stop laughing about that elephant. I must say, for any of you who have never been to The Melting Pot, it is an ideal place if you are not in any hurry and enjoy the company around you. (Talk about awkward if you’re on a first date and it’s not going very well) Now…when you’re there, you must get all three courses: cheese, meat, and of course, what everyone goes there for…chocolate.

Me and my besties (I'm in the white top)
 Due to the fact that one of my friends is quite picky, we ended up with plain ol’ cheddar cheese fondue; however, it was still quite delicious. Next, came the shrimp, chicken, and steak fondue with a spicy little simmering sauce. With about four different dipping sauces, our entrée was divine. Of course, it always helps to have the veggies and potatoes to add to the meal...I love my taters hehe

And the portion of the meal that needs no introduction, the creamy, decadent, and lick-the-bowl goodness of chocolate, caramel and pecans; otherwise known as the Turtle fondue. With two plates of strawberries, pound cake, pineapple slices, marshmallows, rice krispies treats, and brownies for dipping, I was in heaven eating this stuff. (I would like to mention that during the meal, I popped two Excedrin migraines because if I eat too much cheese or chocolate, those pesky migraines hit me with a vengeance) I was more than happy to pop those pills those; especially for that yummy goodness.

The rest of the night was spent downtown near the riverboats, cozying up inside a piano bar, singing loudly to Journey songs and partaking in a drink or two. Since we were in Missouri, it was only natural that the piano players poked fun at the Arkansas people; something that didn’t set too well with me and my friends, but we’re nice enough to take it in stride. Continuing with the night, a short jaunt to the Four Seasons hotel and us gals were trying our hands at the slot machines and blackjack tables inside the casino. Now I love a good game of blackjack. With all the cruises I’ve taken, I’ve spent many nights sitting at a blackjack table, winning then losing, winning then losing…it’s a viscous cycle. However, don’t think that I have a gambling problem, I only play with a $20 bill…I guess Kenny Rogers wouldn’t qualify me for being “The Gambler.” 

By the time we left the following day, I was fortunate enough to have spent a weekend with my best gal pals and in a city that provides loads of fun without spending loads of money. Not only did I get a quick getaway weekend with my besties, but I got some fabulous memories, some deliciously and sinfully good food, and who could forget…video of the farting elephant!