Dream Vacation Home

I have daydreams sometimes of the perfect vacation home in the Caribbean of course. Each island has its own unique style of architecture, but ideal home away from home abodes usually have certain things in common. Rental homes are not always deluxe, but you want a comfortable amount of space. First and foremost you want a living room or sitting area with a water view. How great is that! You want to survey the beach and watch the waves from your picture window. You want a yard so you can enjoy the sunny climate without having to go more than a few feet. A balcony that overlooks such a garden will also do nicely. It all adds up to a feeling of openness and expansive space. You don’t want to be cooped up in a small efficiency condo. A single family house it must be if you are to enjoy a top-flight vacation. This can run into some money, but certain island locales are cheaper than others and it pays to ask an agent like me. You can go online, but you have to week through so much information; but at least you will have photos. Basically, you want to imagine yourself and your family in the space. Does it feel right?

You also want nice large bedrooms so you can spread out and not feel cramped. You must have at least a minimal closet and a place to stow luggage to keep it from being underfoot. You also want a view from the bedrooms if you can. Then there is the matter of the kitchen. Some are so darned antiquated and you can barely turn on the stove. So some modernization is required if you ae listing the qualities of your perfect vacation home. It doesn’t matter if it is gas or electric as long as the appliance works. It should be clean as a whistle and contain at least an apartment sized fridge. No doubt you won’t be cooking much since you will want to taste the local fare for your meals.

Let’s not forget the bathrooms. For some people, they make or break a deal. You will be lucky to get more than one and hopefully it will be a decent size. You want a full-size shower and a nice soaker tub/Jacuzzi and some decorative fixtures so that it feels clean and modern. One house I saw for a client had the most beautiful oil-rubbed bronze faucet. I think I was sold on the property for her just because of that. The expense of the faucet continued and the rest of the bathroom had matching towel bars and cupboard pulls. It was lovely. I like these kinds of little details—like hand-painted tiles in the kitchen or a plethora of plants on the back stoop. The bedrooms each was painted a bright island color and the living room had a glorious hand-loomed area rug. Finding something out of the ordinary is always my goal.

Why Go Caribbean?

Why Go Caribbean

This is an honest question, and one I get asked all the time. With so many amazing places to vacation around the globe, why go Caribbean? I’ll tell you why: because the beaches, the culture, and the relaxed atmosphere make it a perfect destination for just about anyone.

The Caribbean checks off many of the boxes people have for vacations: great food, adventures for all ages, and wonderful escapes!

Foodies don’t often think of the Caribbean as an ultimate destination, but they are so wrong! Many of the Caribbean islands had native peoples who were then colonized by other countries. Which means a unique cuisine unlike any other. Remember, the main reason many of the imperial countries who colonized these places were looking for spices and produce that can’t be found anywhere else. The result is a fantastic mix of traditional local flavors are mixed with exotic spices and techniques. You get the foods of different nations, sometimes thousands of miles apart, in relatively close vicinities. I highly recommend Caribbean cruises for my foodies. They get to experience a wonderful blend of African, Arab, European, East Indian, Asian, and even some Native American cuisine. Yet they don’t have to travel all over the world to get it.

If you are looking for adventures, it is not hard to find a multitude of activities. The fantastic weather and gorgeous waters around the Caribbean mean there are great water sports available. Everything from scuba diving to explore a shipwreck, scenic boating, and amazing sportfishing, or exciting kayaking and waterskiing; there are tons to do. If the water isn’t your thing, there is always hiking through gorgeous rainforests, ziplining over a waterfall, or meeting exotic creatures. There are so many different cultures to explore as well—old forts and plantations, rum factory tours, and lots of museums and cultural centers. I always set my clients up with reputable local guides and tours to be sure that they will be getting the best out of anything they decide to do.

The majority of people going on vacation are the ones who come in looking for a great escape, whether it be to recharge their batteries or reconnect with loved ones. Maybe they just want to sit on a beach chair with their feet in the sand, listening to the waves crash as they read a book or take a nap. They want that Corona commercial. Or they want to frolic in the fun and sun with their kids. The Caribbean can certainly give them that! Some of the world’s most famous beaches can be found in this section of the world. National Geographic has St. Bart’s in its top 10 best beaches in the world. Condé Nast Traveler has St. John’sV.I., Anguilla, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico in their top 20 list. And with over 1,000 islands, beaches are everywhere. You could go to the Caribbean every year and not have to visit the same place twice. For these types of clients, I can usually find the perfect vacation destination by determining what level of crowd they are willing to tolerate and what resort level they are thinking of. This makes it super easy to narrow it down to a manageable amount of choices for them to pick from.

So there you have it. The Caribbean is a fabulous destination that can fulfill every one of your vacation dreams.

Staying Healthy, One Drop at a Time

I am not too busy planning Caribbean vacations to stop for a moment and think about my health. In fact, vacations and health go hand in hand. Resting up on a sunny island is one of the best things you can do for yourself to curb stress and refresh to go back to the trials of ordinary daily life. You don’t realize the value of time off until you don’t have any. I counsel people all the time not to miss at least one vacation session per year of one week or more. Life is so full of demands these days and you have to treat yourself now and then to a bit of a respite. The Caribbean offers a myriad of choices for those who love sunbathing, hiking, and water sports. Speaking of health, it was actually on one such vacation stays on an island that I got sick from the water. At least I assume as such. You are perpetually warned anywhere you travel outside the US to avoid tap water and to carry bottles with you at all times. I always comply with this dictum, but somehow I managed to drink something, perhaps a local iced tea or coffee drink that contain impurities.

This got my attention. When you are feeling bad, you want to prevent a recurrence. Not only am I going to take a small portable water purifier on trips in the future (the straw type), but I am going to install a system in the kitchen attached to the faucet. I am going to stay healthy one drop of water at a time. Precautions are necessary as you never know when a tummy ache and/or chills will strike. Water filters are great these days. They are affordable, easy to install, and help you save on expensive cases of bottled water. It is amazing how many of those little bottles we consume per day. You can refill them with you filtered tap water and stretch your budget.

I was thinking that I was going to save enough to put in a fancy Culligan reverse osmosis drinking water filter, a little more elaborate a plan than I had anticipated. They offer an elegant designer faucet in a variety of styles to match any kitchen. The filter is said to reduce harmful impurities like lead, radium, aesthetic chlorine, hexavalent chromium (chromium-6), and arsenic. That makes me feel safe and happy. I also feel good about going green by eliminating wasteful plastic bottles. For those of you who are new to the subject, such a filter system also improves the taste of baby formula, coffee, tea, powdered drinks, soups and recipes.

With my filtering system, I can free up space in the fridge where all the bottled water used to go. The company offers a great warranty and maintenance plan to keep your system operational at optimal levels. A local Culligan man to handle everything from installation to refills. I love convenience!

Fishing Excursion Ideas

Instead of chartering a boat for a fishing trip, try some other options: fly fishing, or fishing from a kayak instead.

Today you are going to be treated to a lesson in how to buy a fishing kayak. I am actually gearing this information to my clients who enjoy water sports like stand up paddle boarding when they go island hopping in the Caribbean. Some want to practice a bit at home before they go. Kayaking is a great alternative to other forms of boating, whether you intend to catch fish or not. You don’t need to charter a boat once you find out about fly fishing and fishing from kayak. The point is that I recommend a fishing excursion of some type for every island vacation. Tourists constantly rave about the experience, prompting me to include it on every must do list. People like to go native, so they tend to go with the flow when they get to their destination. Kayaking is very common.

When scouting out good quality fishing kayaks, I found the Blackfood HB Angler. It comes highly recommended. Named after the legendary Blackfoot River in Montana, Aquaglide’s rugged kayak will effortlessly glide you into your favorite honey hole on the river of your choice whether it be in the wilds of the US or on an island. With plentiful Scotty mounts within reach, the Blackfoot can be completely customized to tackle the wildest angling missions of your dreams. Industry leading stiffness, crucial for efficient paddling and casting, is forged through the use of premium-grade drop-stitch combined with a proprietary powerstrip. The commercial-grade Duratex hull construction provides long-lasting performance, while the forward Splash-Guard helps keep you dry while you paddle to your secret fishing spot. With sturdy molded handles positioned around the boat, you will be able to board the boat easily and quickly. A mounted Rugged Core seat lets you paddle comfortably for hours. Equipped with a high backrest, mesh storage pocket, integrated fishing-rod holders, fore and aft support straps, and an infinite adjustment system for a longer and more comfortable fishing experience. The Blackfoot Angler comes with a high-performance fin system which includes a stiff, durable, foiled fin with unique quick-release for easy setup. Adjustable footrest improves comfort and paddling efficiency. High-pressure HB floor creates a solid Hard-Bottom platform that is incredibly stiff and responsive. HB floor supports up to 12 psi air pressure for a hull that is as stiff as fiberglass and stable enough to tolerate standing. High-pressure spring valve uses common Halkey-Roberts type fitting. A convenient backpack-style travel bag included. 400-lb. capacity. The kayak weighs 32 lbs. 10’6″L x 3.

If it sounds complicated, don’t be intimidated. All these features are meant to make you feel secure. All you really need to know is that you get:

  • Premium-grade drop-stitch construction
  • Rugged core seat for longer-lasting comfort
  • Integrated fishing rod holders
  • Infinite adjustment system
  • Convenient backpack travel bag included

You probably are no expert by now, but this is a basic guide for what you should look for. I hope you enjoy your kayak.

Taking a Road Less Traveled

I’ve been a travel agent for ten years now. I specialize in creating memorable vacations to the gorgeous Caribbean islands. They are pretty spectacular places beyond anything you can imagine in your wildest dreams of beauty and natural richness. Most everyone has one or two places on the top of their must see list. A vacation there is a real getaway, full of mystery and magic, and new things to explore. There is so much variety of cultures, languages, cuisines, and scenic extravaganzas. I love sending people off to sunny shores and soft sand and making that dream turn into a reality! At the very least, I hope to inspire people to consider the Caribbean at least once in a while. Meanwhile, through this blog you will get to know me a little and learn something of my day to day life.

Today, I wish to encourage travelers to be ready wherever they go to do their touring with some advance planning. You need a guidebook or at least notes from your travel agent and some basic gear on the road. What should you take with you in your trusty but cool backpack? I assume you will have a roomy one: most tourists do. They want to pack an extra shirt in case it rains and they get soaked, a bathing suit, a small towel, some sunscreen and suntan lotion, and a pair of sun glasses. A fold up rain poncho is a nice option. You can enjoy yourself more when you are out and about if you are not caught by surprise and are missing something vital. One thing that comes to mind is a broad-brimmed hat. They fold up into neat little packets and they are essential when island hopping.

In addition to the above items, you also will want a bottle or two of water, a granola bar when food is not readily available (as it is often lacking in those out of the way places), and some type of protein source such as nuts. You want to crank up your energy when it flags. People who are in the sun for long periods of time forget about nutrition and they can fall ill. So you have practical things and you can add some optional items like a digital camera (unless you are dead set on using your cell phone exclusively). I like the idea of an alternative in case the phone goes dead and needs recharging. Then you won’t miss some lovely photos that will serve as your vacation mementos. You may want a tablet or laptop if you like to work on location, but this adds a lot of bulk to your backpack, and you should ask yourself if all this is really necessary. Are you on vacation to see the sights or to work?

Island life is exotic and irresistible. I encourage clients to explore wherever they go. Knowing a bit about the culture in advance focuses the journey and helps you try to encounter it with an open mind.

Go on Your Honeymoon

Go on Your Honeymoon

Caribbean islands are popular destinations for honeymooners. It can be a fantastic place to go! Here are my top two recommendations for that first trip as a married couple:

  1. Saint Lucia. It is gorgeous, lush, tropical, and yet remains one of the lesser known islands, so it is not as crowded as places like Jamaica can be. It has rainforests, verdant tropical peaks, and picture perfect beaches. This former French and British colony has a multitude of old forts to explore, colorful fishing villages full of charming locals, storybook forests teeming with vibrant wildlife, and some of the most photogenic beaches around. I highly recommend staying in Castries, the island’s capital, because the beaches are beautiful and you have plenty of resort options. However, one of my favorite properties is the AnseChastenet, located in the historic town of Soufriere. This gorgeous hotel rises up from a pristine beach straight into a luscious rainforest and offers such romantic treats as a private dinner on the beach and couples’ massages.
  2. The Bahamas. I love these islands because the temperatures are very consistent—fabulous any time of year! When you think of tropical islands, chances are you are visualizing somewhere in the Bahamas. The islands are dotted with brightly colored resorts, light sand beaches, and gorgeously blue water. There are the more showy places like Atlantis, but if you want a truly romantic getaway, I can’t say enough good things about Kamalame Cay. It is the only resort on a secluded island, so it is not built up or packed. The romantically cozy rooms in the main resort and fabulous island villas will make you feel like a celebrity on your own private island! Every year, I have clients who actually come back into my office to tell me how much they loved it there.

The best part about the Caribbean is that there are a tremendous amount of options as far as locations and accommodations to fit a variety of tastes and budgets. If you are considering the Caribbean, definitely visit a knowledgeable travel agent who can create the honeymoon of your dreams for you. Seriously, we live for this stuff!

I also have a little advice: think about the time of year you are getting married. The one drawback to the Caribbean is hurricane season, generally considered to be from June 1st through November 30th; more realistically think mid-August through mid-September, especially for Eastern Caribbean locations. But, two things to understand about hurricane season: the first is if you get married that time of year, a hurricane may affect your travel plans even if you aren’t going to an affected area. How many times have you been delayed at an airport because of weather somewhere else because that’s where your plane was coming from? The second thing is that hurricane season is basically what travel insurance was MADE for. It can be a serious stress reducer to purchase it, and it is actually a benefit on some of the credit cards you may already have. Something to think about.

Winter is Coming

It’s time to start thinking about winter. Yes, I did say winter. It’s not actually too soon to think about as you will soon find out. As they say, it is coming. When you are in the throes of summer heat, and you are sitting on a Caribbean island sipping iced tea, winter is the farthest thing from your mind. As your toes curl in the sand, you can’t imagine snow, sleet, rain, or hail. That’s why you take these island vacations. So that in wintertime you have memories of better days under the sun and azure blue skies. You bring to mind the crystal clear waters speckled with white froth. You see in your mind’s eye the crashing waves, lapping gently at the shore. You are frolicking about in that new two-piece bathing suit you bought for the occasion. You love stocking up on gear for summer fun. But there is winter gear to stock up on, too, such as a wood stove for the basement as a backup heat source.

Yes, it is time to think of winter. You want to buy your wood stove off season to get the best price. I am thinking an absolute steel hybrid stove which is an affordable medium-sized unit with an about two and a half cubic feet firebox. It operates on a combustion system that produces ultra-low emissions, high efficiency, and unmatched fire viewing pleasure through a large, clean front window.

The fire viewing is completely different than an ordinary woodstove or fireplace, because the stove can burn both wood and exhaust gasses in the firebox at the same time. This produces flames at both the bottom and top of the firebox with exceptional intensity, color, and composition.  Beware… you will likely find watching the fire much more interesting than anything on TV. The inside of the absolute steel wood stove, most of the “plumbing” is in the back and the top, keeping the sides free for easy left or right loading.  The catalyst is easily accessible under the lift top, and can be removed without any tools!  The back has a built-in outside air adapter, and the damper control is axial to minimize air leakage around the adapter.  There are no air intakes that are not protected by the outside air adapter, so the woodstove can be isolated from negative house pressure.  Also noteworthy on this model is automatic catalyst air, so that the catalyst cannot become oxygen starved at high burn rates.

So I have the model picked out as described above. I looked into it carefully for functionality, reliability, and safety. A wood stove doesn’t have to be overly simple or excessively basic. I like the complexity of the hybrid and relish the thought of the heat come the colder months. Yes, it is a backup in case the power goes out; but it will be a nice addition to the basement recreational space on its own for sheer looks and heat production.