Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Magic of Travel

What is it about getting ready for a trip that is so magical? Is it just the anticipation of escaping the drudgery of everyday life? Is it biological? Perhaps endorphins pump into the bloodstream with the mere thought of new adventures and new horizons.

Whatever it is, the ability of a planned trip to render worries and problems less important to us is a happy development. What once caused us to obsess and stress ourselves out is suddenly overshadowed by thoughts like, “what am I going to pack?” (if you are a woman) and “when are we going to get there?” (if you are a man).  I’m not saying we don’t stress about what to pack. We surely do. I’m just saying it’s a different kind of stress. It’s a fun kind of stress, if you know what I mean.

We can even believe that we actually get more for our travel money than the usual seven days and six nights, if we add in the days leading up to the trip that pass in a fuzzy blur of anticipation and last-minute preparations. And then finally, the day arrives when we are off! That feeling when your plane takes off, or the car pulls out of the driveway, or the cruise ship drifts away and land recedes into the background, is liberating and exhilarating. The thought might be, “All of my troubles are left behind and my entire vacation stretches out before me.” There’s nothing else quite like it. If that feeling of lightness and shedding of worries could just be preserved, life would be a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.

The next time you plan your dream vacation, remember that feeling and make sure you savor it and enjoy it. It’s one of the things that makes travel so magical.

Dominica by Cruise Ship

The tiny island of Dominica is a gem in the rough. Exploring its wonders by cruise ship was the highlight of our entire voyage. Surely a land vacation here would reveal many more delights, but a day- long visit was enough to intrigue and inspire.

Arrival early in the morning revealed a mountainous island shrouded in mist and surrounded by azure waters. A large white cross planted on the hillside above the port, barely visible through the mist, seemed otherworldly and mysterious. The cruise ship docked at a modern pier in deep water where passengers conveniently walked off the ship, no tender required. A small town of brightly painted buildings, none more than two or three stories high, beckoned to visitors.

We walked around the little town of Roseau, Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). Dominica is a totally undeveloped island known for its rainforests, reefs, and natural beauty. There are no condos, malls, or other trappings of tourism so prevalent on the other islands. For us, we have all the shopping we need at home. We have more condos than we know what to do with. What we don’t have is real, natural, unspoiled beauty and interesting cultural differences.

We struck out into the town using a little map received from the Dominica tourist board before we left home. The streets are uneven cobblestone and probably very hard to maneuver for handicapped visitors. Watch your step! The shops are small and stark. But the attitudes are warm and welcoming. Everywhere we were met with “Good morning, madam,” and a smile. No conversation began without the requisite “Good morning,” or “Good day.”  It was all so civilized, and we loved it.

Heady aromas wafted from a spice shop called the Ruins Rock Café . I wanted vanilla beans and tellicherry peppercorns grown on-island and sure enough, they had them. They also had an abundance of medicinal teas, one called “Horny Mix.”

I asked, “What is ‘Horny Mix’ tea?”

“Oh, madam,” this beautiful young lady with tawny skin and a voice that caressed the senses replied, “That is an aphrodisiac. You should try some.”

I laughed and said, “No, no, I don’t think so,” as my husband blushed.

Suddenly the elderly (really, elderly!) English lady in front of me said, “Oh I just bought some for my husband and my lover! Oh dear, I just let the cat out of the bag now, didn’t I?”

It was a priceless vacation moment. That same lady led the way to the handicraft market behind the Dominican Museum (red tin roof building you can see from port). There stood a wealth of local handicrafts, as well as some probably made in China. Good-natured haggling over beautiful woven baskets and a carved calabash melon remains a fond memory.

Later in the day we gathered at the end of the pier for our 1:00PM snorkel trip to Champagne Beach. Here geothermal vents open underwater (the island is volcanic) and create bubble streams in the water which make it look like you are swimming in a glass of champagne.

Friends on a previous cruise had done this trip unescorted, but we opted for the ship’s tour. We enjoyed having our snorkel guide, Big Dave, available. He pointed out a 400-year-old shipwreck with cannon, anchor, and rode which we never would have noticed without his guidance. Dave also collected some of the water from the vents in his snorkel for us to feel. It was scorching hot. Our most interesting sighting was a spotted moray eel. There were lots of tropical fish we had not seen before because we were farther south than usual.

Dave also pointed out the twin mountain peaks above our location. That is where they filmed one segment of Pirates of the Caribbean where Johnny Depp is suspended between the mountains in the spiked ball. That scene was shot above Champagne Beach on Dominica. The tours from the ships are more expensive than going out on your own, but information like that, which you recall later, may be worth the extra expense.

The beach at Champagne Beach is reddish volcanic rock. You must have Teva’s or sand shoes because it is painful trying to walk on it barefoot. Luckily there is a long boardwalk for most of the way to the snorkel site.

With the tour we received complimentary rum punch (potent!), or excellent Kabuli beer. Make sure you enjoy the Kabuli beer if you like a pale ale. It is excellent and you cannot find it anywhere else. The beer is locally made with spring water from the rainforest. The bottled water is also locally bottled at Soufiere Spring on Dominica. Make sure you buy this water rather than drinking water from your cruise ship. Again, you can only get it on Dominica and it is memorable because it is so delicious.

As the cruise ship prepared to leave for the next stop, we were stunned to see a rainbow arching over the mountain peaks and rainforest of Dominica. The beauty of that rainbow was a fitting ending to a beautiful day. At a later date we hope to find the end of that rainbow on the other side of the island as we further explore Dominica.

Facebook Travel Pages

I’m holding off on revamping my Facebook travel pages until the bugs get worked out of the new Timeline format. I still plan to use this picture (see below) of Bathsheba in Barbados. It was taken from the open window of the Round House restaurant, which actually is a round building. A small jazz band was playing on a Sunday afternoon, the rum punch was flowing, and the locals were lunching after church in their best dress. Such a wonderful memory the photo

Bathsheba, Barbados

View from the Round House Restaurant, Barbados

evokes. Do you have any memorable travel photos to share? I’d love to see them! Would you like to explore the undiscovered Barbados? Let me know and I will share my secrets of this British gem with you while we plan a perfect vacation by land or by sea.

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