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Memories of Bequia – Part 2

The Tobago Cays, St. Vincent & the Grenadines

The Tobago Cays, St. Vincent & the Grenadines

When we were preparing to travel to St. Vincent, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time researching activities. We were busy wrapping up our jobs, packing our belongings and simply looking forward to taking a break from work. Knowing that the first ten weeks of our adventure would include the daily duties of pet sitting, we knew we would have time to sort out our spare time once we arrived. Plus we also decided to stay in the Caribbean for a few “bonus weeks” following the house sits to do whatever. Our plan was to ask everyone we met in Bequia what we should experience before leaving the island. Everyone said go sailing on the Friendship Rose. We thought it was a little spendy (US$140 each) but with all the positive recommendations we went ahead.

The Friendship Rose.

The Friendship Rose anchored at Port Elizabeth.

Bequia Island has a long history of ship building dating back to the Scottish settlers from the 1800′s. The Friendship Rose – a schooner – was built right here on Bequia back in the 1960′s. It originally served as the ferry between Bequia and St. Vincent. It has been retired for a while, refurbished, and is now used for charters to several of the Grenadines.

Raising the sails on the Friendship Rose.

Raising the sails on the Friendship Rose.

The trip that seemed the most appealing to us was the full day voyage to the Tobago Cays Marine Park. You may recall seeing them featured in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, which included scenes filmed on Petit Tabac Island.

The Tobago Cays are a cluster of five uninhabited islands in the heart of the Grenadine Islands. They only way to reach them is by boat and you can only stay for the day. No one is allowed to anchor over night. They contain some of the best preserved coral reefs in the Windward Islands. In addition to coral reefs, the park also contains a Hawksbill Turtle sanctuary, bird sanctuaries and shipwrecks. You can hike, snorkel and scuba dive to take it all in.

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Baradol Island, home of the Hawksbill Turtle sanctuary.

The ride out to Tobago Cays was scenic and relaxing. Coffee, tea, juices and freshly baked croissants were served for breakfast. The crew were efficient raising the sails by hand and taking care of our every need. Once we anchored at the Cays, we were shuttled over to Baradol Island to go snorkeling with the sea turtles. It only took a few minutes before we spotted our first. From what I saw, they are not afraid of humans; you can snorkel right up to them. They just look at you while they are munching away at the sea grass.

Delicious food!

Our lunch was Caribbean chicken, carmelized plantain with roasted vegetables and herbed rice.

After we returned to the boat, it was time for lunch, followed by a quick swim before we began the return trip.

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Enjoying every minute.

The Friendship Rose is all wood, canvas and rope. A sailing trip into the past.

The Friendship Rose is all wood, canvas and rope. A sailing trip into the past.

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“Dummy” was our favorite crew person on the Friendship Rose. (Seriously, that was his name.)

We very much enjoyed our day on the water and can highly recommend this trip if you are in the area.

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How Netflix Changed My Life – Part 1 Camino de Santiago

 

The movie that started it all.

The movie that started it all.

The obsession with walking began with a movie, a movie suggested by Netflix. I was alone one weekend night while Greg was out of town. With no shows or movies in mind, I turned on Netflix and saw that it predicted that I would really like the movie “The Way”.

It is a story about a young(ish) man (Emilio Estevez) who quits graduate school to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. The son dies and the father (Martin Sheen) who is not happy about his son’s choices, travels to Spain to get his son’s remains. The father ends up walking the route to finish it for his son. Along the way, he meets a variety of people and learns that maybe his son was on to something in life when he told his father, “You don’t choose a life Dad. You live one.”

The scenery, the history and the idea of walking 500 miles caught my attention. I read up a little on the Camino de Santiago and I knew I had to do this. Convincing Greg took about 2 minutes after we watched the movie together.

As it turned out, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Walking when I didn’t think I could go another inch. Meeting people from all over the world. Feeling so small and humble at the Cathedral in Santiago, where people have been coming for a thousand years. Back in medieval times, this journey was worth the not uncommon risk of death.

What follows is our story of our journey. Oh, and thank you Netflix.

Memories of Bequia – Part 3

Traditional Caribbean living at its finest.

Bequia Island, Caribbean living at its most traditional.

Our introduction to island living came shortly after we arrived. We were heading to the Gingerbread Cafe to meet friends and enjoy a coffee on the beach. We didn’t know exactly where we were going, so when we got close we stopped to ask directions. “Just turn left at the Almond tree and you can’t miss it mon.”  To an American, that seemed like a odd way to give directions. For starters, which Almond tree?  There are lots of them here.  And where should I stand so a left turn gets me to where I want to go?  Confusing?  Welcome to Bequia Island!

Turns out we were making things more complicated then they needed to be.  We quickly came to understand there is a specific Almond tree used for giving directions. Once we knew which tree they were talking about, it all made sense…sort of.  Port Elizabeth is not a very big place and everything is pretty much lined up on two roads: Front Street and Back Street.  And they are only two blocks long.  It’s a hard place to get lost.

To to get to the Gingerbread Cafe, you do turn left at the Almond tree, walk up Front Road to the end, then cut right and take the sidewalk that is right on the water.  In one minute you are standing under a different almond tree right in front of the Gingerbread.

Our view from the Gingerbread Cafe. It was a great place to catch up on island gossip.

Panoramic view from the Gingerbread Cafe. It was a great place to catch up on island news.

Sooner or later anyone with some time to kill ends up at the Gingerbread. One day, the former Prime Minister of St. Vincent – Sir James Mitchell – stopped by, introduced himself and sat down with us. We had a nice conversation about house sitting, travel, wine and how to solve the U.S. immigration problem.  In only  fifteen minutes we agreed on a solution. Turns out Sir James owns the Gingerbread and the attached hotel (the Frangipani,) so he is a regular customer.

As long as I’m talking about the Gingerbread Cafe, I should point out the architectural style of many of the buildings here is “Gingerbread.”  What makes it unique is all the detailed trim in the rooflines, railings and other features. It’s always painted white and sometimes gets a little playful. The local ice cream shop had little ice cream cones included in its pattern.

The Frangipani Hotel with its beautiful Gingerbread style of architecture.

The Frangipani Hotel with its beautiful Gingerbread architecture.

We visited Bequia Island during the summer, which is the off season.  A few tourists, a few locals and not a lot of energy. And it was hot! The place was very much on island time. That all changed on Fisherman’s Day. One of the largest festivals on the island, it seemed everyone came together as a community to celebrate and party.  The men took the fishing boats out for some fresh catch and unloaded right on the beach. Here the fish were cleaned, cut up, battered, fried and sold along with a few sides to raise funds for the local Rotary Club.

Fisherman's Day. Everyone on the island comes out to celebrate.

Fisherman’s Day. Everyone on the island comes out to celebrate. The locals prepared the food….

And we ate it!

….and we ate it!

Other than this opportunity to eat out, we prepared most of our meals at home. It was a bit of a challenge as the local grocery store was pretty small and only had a limited selection of items. But we innovated and eventually figured out how to prepare tasty meals with just the local ingredients. The house we were staying at had fruit trees in the yard – limes, star fruit, mangos and papayas. So we learned to make lime bars, lime pie, lime pancakes, fresh squeezed lime juice on everything and, of course, gin and tonics. Our big discovery was lime juice makes everything taste better. But no matter how hard we tried, the limes matured faster than we could use them.

Fresh star fruit ready to be picked from trees in the front yard.

Fresh star fruit ready to be picked from trees in the front yard.

In addition to getting our ingredients from the front yard and the local grocery store, we would stop by the vegetable stand for fresh produce. Besides the fruits and vegetables we were used to seeing, there were any number of Caribbean items we were completely unfamiliar with.  Darkie made a special effort to introduce us to these local fruits.

Molly shopping at Darkie's

Molly shopping at Darkie’s Fresh Produce (I kid you not, her name was Darkie.)

About once a month, we would take the ferry over to Kingstown on the island of St. Vincent where they had larger grocery stores with a better selection. Usually we would do some sightseeing before we hit the grocery on the way back to Bequia. We timed one visit so we could take in the steel drum competition at Vincy Mas, which is the biggest festival of the year. Unfortunately for us, the steel drums didn’t start until 9:00 PM and the last ferry back home was at 6:00 PM. Since we were house sitting, we couldn’t stay the night. Once the steel drums get going, they usually go all night. It would have been fun…..

Kingstown, St. Vincent. The land that time forgot.

Kingstown, St. Vincent. The land that time forgot.

As long as I’m talking about the island of St. Vincent, we had a great view of it from the little neighborhood park on top of the hill next to where we were staying.  The nearby residents all pitched in to build this beautiful park. It’s a great place for a barbecue, or searching for shooting stars. We visited regularly to enjoy the amazing views.

Enjoying the views from the top of Bequia Island.

Enjoying the views from the top of Bequia Island. In the distance is the island of St. Vincent.

We were on the island long enough that Greg needed to get his hair cut. We had spied this sign on Back Street and decided it was a real opportunity to connect with the locals. Clive did a great job and was really stoked he had the chance to cut my hair. As you can see below, he has a picture board with all his customers. Needless to say, my picture was really going to stand out.

An intriguing idea, going to the local barber shop. Can I really look like Mr. T?

An intriguing idea, going to the local barber shop. Can I really look like Mr. T?

 

Hangin' with Clive under a very hot cape on a balmy 95F day.  Note the customer photos on the wall.

Hangin’ with Clive under a very hot cape on a balmy 95F day. Note the customer photos on the wall.

One other fun thing we did while we were on the island was visit the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. We had heard stories about Orton King and his turtles and decided we needed to check it out for ourselves. Situated right on the beach, they gather turtle eggs from secluded areas around the island, bring them here to hatch, hand feed them tuna, raise and then release them into the wild. The Hawksbill Turtle population here is under pressure, so the idea is to raise them in captivity to help repopulate the reefs. It’s not perfectly clear if the sanctuary is helping, but at least he’s trying. In any case, it’s always worthwhile to stop by and check out the baby turtles.

Silver dollar size Hawksbill Turtles being raised at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary

Silver dollar size Hawksbill Turtles being raised at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary

 

Memories of Bequia – Part 1

Lizzy and Monty out for a walk.

Our plans to travel to Bequia Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines had been in the works for almost a year. We signed on to house sit for two families while they are on vacation. House sitting on a remote island in the Caribbean certainly sounded like fun, but we knew the best part would be getting to play with their puppy dogs while they are away. We are both former dog owners and life long dog lovers, so a chance to have pets in our lives again – even though it would be temporary – was something we couldn’t pass up. Before we accepted this assignment, we really didn’t know much about this part of the world. After some studying up we learned this about St. Vincent:

Just the name St. Vincent and the Grenadines evokes visions of exotic, idyllic island life. Imagine an island chain in the heart of the Caribbean Sea, uncluttered by tourist exploitation; with white-sand beaches on deserted islands, sky-blue water gently lapping the shore and barely a soul around.

Intriguing…. go on….

There are 31 Grenadines, each more tranquil than the next and each begging to be explored. Beaches stretch out before you, the pace of life slows to a crawl and the desire to go home vanishes.

and specifically about Bequia Island….

Bequia is the most perfect island in the whole Grenadines. Stunning beaches dot the shoreline, accommodations to fit most budgets and a slow pace of life all help to create an environment that is utterly unforgettable.

So with visions of paradise dancing in our heads, we left Seattle for the first stop of our very long holiday.

Molly and Little Bit share a moment together.

Molly and Little Bit share a moment together.

We had an overnight flight to Miami, changed planes heading to Barbados then finally took a small regional prop jet to Bequia Island. Alan (from our first house sit) met us at the airport and gave us a quick tour of the island on the way home. And I do mean quick. The island is only seven square miles and basically has one road up the middle. After fifteen minutes we were intimately familiar with our new (temporary) home. The house sitting jobs did not disappoint. Wonderful home owners (we couldn’t have asked for anyone nicer,) great houses to stay at (tropical gardens, swimming pools, panoramic views) and pets we just couldn’t spend enough time with. And, of course, nearly ten weeks to really relax, enjoy and understand what it is like to live on a Caribbean island. We loved every moment we spent with the doggies and enjoyed so many memorable moments. Each puppy had such a distinct personality that we could zero in on exactly what we needed to do to make them happy. And it was oftentimes hilarious to watch them interact with each other. There was definitely a pecking order at each home!

The Adventure Begins

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After a year of planning and preparation, Molly and Greg quit their jobs May 31 to travel the world. During our year of preparation – and the first two weeks of unemployment – we have been busy selling, packing and giving away our belongings. We have sold furniture, cars and hot air balloons. Given away household items to family and friends, and packed the remaining things away into storage…. just in case our dream of long-term travel turns out to be a nightmare.

We have gone “on-line” with everything so we can run our lives from a laptop: on-line banking, Skype, e-mail and a forwarding address for snail mail.

With our preparations complete, tomorrow we head for our first destination – the island of Bequia in the Grenadines.

It would be an understatement to say we are excited to begin this phase of our lives.

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