Dushi Curacao

Summer has certainly come and gone here in Salt Lake. And although there is not much I love more than fall colors and pumpkins, our summer was so sweet it’s still got me reminiscing. We missed part of the change in seasons. Our final adventure of the summer was a beach get away to Curacao, a tiny Caribbean island 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela. What was supposed to be a 6 day trip turned in to an 11 day trip for reasons soon to be told. When we left it was summer, when we returned fall had arrived.

I don’t know where to begin to describe the time we had in Curacao. It’s an amazing little island full of beautiful beaches, bright colored houses, and delicious eats. The people are friendly and the island is easily explored. We spent part or all of everyday at different beaches snorkeling with tropical fish and sea turtles. As mentioned before, our trip ended up being a little longer than anticipated. Hurricane Irma hit Miami the weekend we were there shutting down the airport in Miami for several days. We didn’t experience any weather effects of the hurricane, except some intense humidity and a couple hours of rain, but since all flights to the U.S. flew mostly in and out of Miami our flights were cancelled twice, extending our trip by 5 days. We were supposed to leave on Monday we didn’t get home until Saturday. Needless to say, we got to know the island pretty well. IMG_8196IMG_8195IMG_8540IMG_8524I’m sure the number one thing to do in Curacao is go to the beach. The island has over 30 beaches with a wide variety of appeal. You can find any preference of beach. Beaches connected to resorts, beaches you hike to, beaches with locals, beaches with no one. Most of the beaches are prime spots for snorkeling and scuba diving and the Caribbean blue and turquoise waters never get old. The best beaches were Kleine Knip, Grote Knip, Directorsbaai, and Playa Grandi. There’s also Tugboat beach where you can snorkel a sunken tugboat. They fish are plentiful and don’t seem to be near as scared of people. On Sundays there is a small food market in the tiny town of Barber. People venture to the market to sample some local fare like stewed chicken or beef and home made lemonade or Tamarin soda and then head to Playa Grandi to watch the locals fish and swim with the sea turtles that come closer to shore to check out what’s going on.IMG_8288IMG_8276IMG_8346IMG_8515IMG_8638IMG_8649IMG_8865IMG_8462IMG_8460IMG_8703My absolute favorite beach was Playa Gipy. It’s on the very northern tip of the island and takes a short hike to get to, but it’s beautiful and rarely filled with other people. We went twice and the second time we were there for about half a day and had the whole beach to ourselves. We swam, drank wine, and built sandcastles. It was amazing. We also went to the Blue Cave. It’s an underwater cave that you hike about a mile or so to from Santa Cruz beach. You jump in and time the waves right to dive under and get in to the cave. The light from the water makes the whole cave sparkle with a blue tint. Unfortunately, my underwater camera died before that day, but it is burned in my memory because it was so beautiful!IMG_8474IMG_8484IMG_8475IMG_8630IMG_8466We spent part of a day in one of the two national parks on the island, Christoffelpark. We made it to the park in enough time to start the climb of Christoffel Peak, the tallest peak on the island (1,220 ft.). The park has a cut off time of 11am to start the hike due to the high heat, humidity, and the trail being exposed. Luckily, we hit the trail on a cloudy and overcast day which made it a bit cooler, but the humidity was still rough. You can see the whole island from the top of the peak. The trail is steep, but short and the views make it worth it. The island has a unique terrain of tropical jungle like trees and desert looking cacti intermixed everywhere you look and iguanas are easy to spot all over the island. IMG_8337IMG_8449I got to check off a bucket list item while on the island. I spent a morning snorkeling with dolphins at the Curacao Dolphin Academy. Getting to actually swim with dolphins and not just splash around a bit has always been a dream of mine. It was a surreal experience. To get to dive, swim, and play with 4 dolphins (two were babies!) was spectacular and the best part was I had the whole excursion to myself. No sharing!IMGP0066IMGP0059IMG_8657IMG_8287The capital city of Willemstad and it’s brightly colored neighborhoods are also highly worth exploring. The island hosts a port which separates two neighborhoods Punda and Otrabanda (literally “the other side”). The floating Queen Emma bridge connects both sides and when ships need to come in to the port the bridge moves and opens like a gate to let the ships in. If you time it correctly you can “take a ride” on the bridge and stay on it as it moves. Both sides of Willemstad have color splashed buildings and street art in various places. At night the city and the bridge light up with more beautiful colors everywhere. Curacao is certainly colorful in more ways than one!IMG_8580IMG_8581IMG_8582IMG_8585IMG_8588IMG_8589IMG_8620IMG_8722IMG_8805IMG_8807IMG_8776IMG_8771IMG_8770We feasted on meals that often included plantains, rice, and beans. We tried lionfish at Seaside Terrace overlooking the ocean and Asian/Caribbean fusion at Ginger in the hip Pietermaai district, right next to Punda. The most memorable dining experience was stewed iguana from Jaanchies where there are no menus and the owner actually comes over, sits at your table, and goes over what they have until your ready to order. If you clean your plate you get a bowl of homemade peanut ice cream for dessert. We had Jamaican food at Cool Runnings, the portions were so large we ate on it for a couple of days. We also dined on goat burgers at Williwood, which mimics Hollywood with a similar sign across from the restaurant. We visited Curacao Brewery twice to sample locals brews and did a tour of Landhuis Chobolobo, which is home to the distillery that makes Blue Curacao (as well as Red, Orange, Green, Tamarin, and Coffee flavored). Curacao also has a decent food stand and food truck scene throughout the island. We made sure to stop at one and try some traditional Dutch food. And of course, Derek made his traditional McDonald’s stop. He eats McDonald’s in every foreign country we visit!IMG_8432IMG_8497IMG_8455IMG_8549IMG_8889IMG_8225IMG_8229IMG_8188IMG_8623IMG_8626IMG_8681IMG_8459There are so many other wonderful sights to see! Like the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. It’s beautiful on the inside and the floor is covered in sand which makes it even more unique. Punda also hosts a floating market where vendors sell all sorts of fruits, veggies, and other local goodies. The cemeteries and churches are also worth stopping to visit. The multi-colored tombs and churches catch your eye all throughout the island. There’s also a flamingo park, an aloe vera plantation, an ostrich farm, and tons of art galleries. Something for everyone! I came home with a piece from local artist Nena Sanchez and also enjoyed seeing all of the Chichi’s (which is Papiamentu for big sister) at Serena’s Art Factory.IMG_8563IMG_8557IMG_8555IMG_8543IMG_8789IMG_8785IMG_8711IMG_8709Curacao is a constituent country of the Netherlands and the Dutch influence is still very prominent on the island. Almost everyone on the island speaks at least four languages-Dutch, English, Spanish, and the local language of Papiamentu. In this language, the word Dushi is used very frequently and you’ll see it all over the island on t-shirts, souvenirs, and a big statue in one of the squares (see above). The word essentially means “sweet” or “good”. It’s the perfect word to describe Curacao!IMG_8895IMG_8887IMG_8717IMG_8193

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Celebration in Las Vegas

Over Labor Day weekend we surprised a most beloved cousin, Cole, for his 30th birthday in Las Vegas. We spent Friday night camping in Cedar City, UT. They have a cute Main Street where we spent some of the evening tasting wine and eating pizza.

We made it to Vegas Saturday morning and surprised our cousin at DW Bistro. Cole had no idea we were coming, his wife, Kelsey, did an excellent job at planning. Her sister and brother in law also surprised Cole for the weekend and w got to meet some other friends of there’s that live in Vegas as well. We had bottomless mimosas for brunch and then gambled a little on the strip. We ended up back at Caesars’ where our cousins were staying and relaxed poolside for awhile. We checked in to Alexis Park where we were staying for the night and got fancied up for a night out with dinner at Canalettos in the Venetian and drinks around the strip. That night we were also able to meet up with some friends from Texas who also happened to be there that weekend.

Sunday we checked out various casinos and did a little more gambling. We drank beers at Hop Nuts brewing and Banger Brewing on Fremont. We then moved over to Heart Attack Grill for delicious burgers and a unique experience complete with wearing hospital gowns and getting spanked when you didn’t finish all of your food! We casino hopped for awhile and then Derek and I headed to stay with my life long best friend, Sharon, her husband, Ricky, and their two kiddos for the evening.

Monday morning we went to breakfast with Sharon and her two kids at Makers and Founders. We said our good-byes and made our way back to Utah. We stopped in the Valley of Fire (aptly named since it was HOT) to enjoy a bit of nature before making it home.

It was another fantastic getaway although not long enough with people we love dearly!

ATL

Just spent a wonderful weekend in Atlanta with two friends I do not get to see near enough. It was a weekend full of laughter, reminiscing on old memories, making new ones, and exploring a lively city. Anyone that has traveled with me will tell you that I like to cram as much into the time I’m visiting somewhere as possible. I want to see, eat, and do as much so I can to get a full taste of what the city as to offer.

I got in Thursday afternoon and met up with my friend, Mary Kate, who came in from NYC. We headed straight to Decatur to check out the shops and square. We met our friend, Erin, who was kind enough to let us crash with her for the weekend and also the main reason we were. She was a wonderful tour guide for the weekend! We snacked on empanadas and sangria on the square. We walked around for a while and met up with her husband, Stephen, and went for burgers at the Vortex in Little Five Points.img_7883-1The next morning, Mary Kate and I spent to day on Freedom Park exploring the MLK, Jr.’s home, museum, and the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This experience was profoundly moving more than I have time to describe here. We also went though the Jimmy Carter Presidential library. We feasted on pancakes and French toast at Thumbs Up Diner and then went back to Little Five Points and Decatur to explore more in the daytime and without carrying out bags everywhere. That evening we ventured to Three Taverns for some sour beers and Fat Matt’s for some delicious southern BBQ.img_7885-2img_7877-1img_7648-1img_7875-2img_7669-1Saturday began with tea and breakfast at Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party which is just as magical and whimsical as it sounds. I felt like Alice in my own version of Wonderland with umbrellas on the ceiling and fanciful decor. It was straight lovely. We made our way to through Krog Street Market and through the Krog Street Tunnel. The tunnel is wall to wall street art and graffiti. Beautiful! We walked the Beltline to Ponce City Market (this is Atlanta’s version of the Highline and Chelsea Market in NYC). We ate food and shopped for a bit before stopping at Jackson Street bridge for views of the skyline and meandering through Piedmont Park. We bought food to make dinner from the Dekalb farmers market and had dessert downtown at Cafe Intermezzo.img_7871-2img_7872-2img_7874-1img_7866-2img_7861-1img_7864-2img_7860-2img_7732-1img_7845-1img_7846-1img_7842-1img_7809-1img_7839-1img_7758-2Sunday we walked around downtown through the Centennial Olympic Park and saw the Capitol building. We ate delicious tacos with a Southern California feel at Bartaco and tasted ciders at Urban Tree Cidery. That evening we did a women in history tour of the Oakland cemetery with dinner afterwards at the aptly named Six Feet Under across the street.img_7833-2img_7820-2img_7832-2img_7819-2img_7826-2img_7817-2img_7828-2img_7822-1img_7793-1img_7818-1Monday we said sad goodbyes as our weekend came to a close and parted ways. Erin went to work, Mary Kate made her way to the airport to return to NYC, and I stopped for coffee at Aurora Coffee and strolled through some picturesque neighborhoods in Atlanta before making my way to the airport for my own flight home.img_7825-1I loved Atlanta! It is a fun city with a rich culture. It’s beautiful and gritty and full of history and modern all at the same time. There is still so much of the city I would like to see, it us definitely a place that I would happily return to.

Colorado Vacation

Every other year Derek and I spend a week with his side of the family in South Fork, CO at a family RV park called Fun Valley. His family has been attending for 40 something years and a good 30 or so people on his dad’s side show up for the week to camp, play putt putt and cards, and eat, eat, eat! We stay in old vintage campers that have probably been around since the sixties and pass the days relaxing, conversing, and exploring.
This last week was just as wonderful as years in the past. We spent a day jeeping in the San Juans with his parents, took a day trip to Pagosa Springs with some cousins to check out some breweries, re-visited the waterfall in the area where Derek proposed to me 9 years ago, enjoyed afternoon summer storms, and spent many evenings around a card table or campfire catching up with those we don’t get to see very often.

The area is spectacular and being surrounded by the mountains never gets old. It was a fun filled week in CO and always hard to say good-bye to those we love and get back to reality. Good thing summer’s not over yet!

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Grand Escalante and the Cosmic Navel

Derek and I, along with another couple, headed down south for our first camping weekend of the year! We got down to Escalante, UT and Grand Stair Case National Monument to a mix of rain which eventually turned into snow. We decided to camp at the Escalante Outfitters so as not to have to set up ours tents in the middle of nowhere with the weather how it was. We munched on pizza from the Outfitters that evening. I think it may be the best pizza in Utah. Goat cheese, jalapenos, and pepperoni-yum! We turned in and hoped for better weather in the morning. We woke up Saturday morning to this…unnamed-2 So much for a warm spring weekend in Southern Utah. With the weather conditions, most of the dirt roads leading to some of the desired hikes were impassable. We decided to make our way to the Upper Calf Creek Falls area and see if we could hike to the waterfall. The slick rock was covered with snow which made for a slippery hike down and a handful of good stumbles. I returned home with a nice baseball sized bruise on my outer thigh from one such stumble. The sun came out mid morning and quickly began to make the day warm and melt away the snow. We made it to Upper Calf Creek to find not one, but two waterfalls! We hiked around to explore the bottom and top of both falls as well as splash around in the water and through a few snowballs. By the end of the day, that warm weather we were hoping for had arrived and our drive back to Escalante looked like a whole new landscape without the snow.IMG_8171IMG_8174IMG_8183IMG_8187IMG_8207IMG_8233IMG_8247IMG_8249IMG_8251IMG_8259IMG_8276IMG_8280IMG_8178We played games, ate, had a fire, and relaxed that evening. The next day the roads were dry which meant we could get to the hike we were truly there for…The Cosmic Navel. Derek saw this online a few days before we left and decided we had to try and find it ourselves. We made our way to the start of the trail and followed GPS coordinates up and down red rock, sand, and slick rock. It took a while, but we found it! The Cosmic Navel (or Cosmic Ashtray depending on who you ask and what you Google) is a large, and I mean large, pothole full of sand. The hike ends with a view of the top and then there is a way to work your way down to the left into the hole with grooves in the rock forming a make-shift ladder. The Cosmic Navel is around 200 feet wide and the reddish-orange sand makes you think you’re on Mars when your down there. Definitely look it up, there are some pretty fascinating articles about how it was formed and why it’s there. Why call it the Cosmic Navel? Because it kinda looks like a giant belly-button…from outer space. Anyway, we climbed down to play in the sand and explore. Before we left, we played a few rounds of bocce ball using rocks. It’s certainly the most interesting place I’ve ever played bocce ball. We made our way out of the navel and back to the car. This was one of the most unique hikes I’ve been on in Utah. The scenery was other-worldly and breathtaking at the same time. Derek already has plans to return in the fall. Just to play more bocce ball in the space belly-button. IMG_8281IMG_8283IMG_8289IMG_8290IMG_8292IMG_8297IMG_8307IMG_8309IMG_8310

Birthday getaway to Ouray

This weekend we celebrated Derek’s birthday with a quick weekend getaway to Colorado. We spent Friday night checking out Palisade Brewing since we were staying the night in Grand Junction. The brewery has great beers on tap while also featuring local ciders and delicious sandwiches. On Saturday, we stopped at Octopus Coffee for breakfast before making it the rest of the way to Ouray. I had a bacon bagel, with bacon, and eggs mixed with bacon. WOAH! We made it to Ouray and checked out the local shops. I found a world necklace at the Silver Lynx that I am obsessed with. We spent the afternoon relaxing at the Weisbaden Hot Springs Spa. They have a vapor cave underneath their hotel that is like a sauna and hot springs in a cave with temperatures around 108 degrees. They also have an outdoor warm spring which you can enjoy while taking in the breathtaking mountain view all around. It was amazing and so relaxing! We split an afternoon snack of a poblano bacon burger with fries at Maggie’s, which is definitely the top 5 burgers I have ever had. We then had a brew at Ouray Brewing and ventured over to O’Brien’s Pub to have a few more drinks and watch KU beat Oklahoma State. ROCK CHALK! We decided to have some dinner at Buen Tiempo’s which was not amazing, but had delicious margaritas. After a stop Mouse’s Chocolate’s and Coffee for dessert, we finished the night with beers at Ourayle House Brewing (also known as Mr. Grumpy Pants) where we chatted up some locals and met Mr. Grumpy Pants himself!
This morning we had breakfast at Roast and Toast which had delicious pancakes and sausage and biscuits and, yes, more bacon.  We hiked a portion of the Ouray Perimeter Trail near Box Canyon Falls. The hike has incredible views of the town in the bowl of the mountains.  We started the drive back to SLC with a stop in Montrose where we found the best beer store ever, we brought home brews from Prairie, Grimm Brothers, La Cumbre, and more…so many favorites. And a stop for a wine tasting at Whitewater Hill Vineyards which had ice wine, something we hadn’t seen since Canada.
Derek deemed Ouray his favorite mountain town and I would agree. It was wonderful to escape to the Colorado mountains for a weekend, very relaxing and very fun!

 

Long weekend in Tahoe

This is definitely a late post, but I’m finally getting around to a small recap of a long weekend in Lake Tahoe, CA. Derek and some friends spent the weekend skiing at Heavenly and Kirkwood resorts, while I spent most of the weekend recovering from a knock out cold and a stomach bug. I had hoped to ski at least one day, but my body did not follow the plan. I ventured out long enough to explore the lake and snaps some photos and join the rest of the group for meals at local places such as Base Camp Pizza, Cold Water Brewery and Grill, The Brewery at Lake Tahoe, and sushi at Off the Hook. I hope to revisit Lake Tahoe when I am well and have the energy to do more!

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