What To Do In Abaco

When my parents announced they would be taking their sailboat to the Bahamas in early 2017, I thought it would be a pretty solid trip: I’d get to see my parents, explore some beautiful (and lesser-visited) parts of the Bahamas, and probably not have to pay for much because, well, parents. (And it would be extra good because I swore I wouldn’t stay on their sailboat but would book accommodation on land, instead – 3 adults and a cat on one 35-foot sailboat is just too much for me).

In the leadup to my trip, I got almost daily emails from my mom telling me about itineraries they were putting together, new places they had explored that we should go, and plans for my arrival. I was pretty pumped to have someone else do all the planning for me, since that’s normally a role I reluctantly/not so reluctantly take on as the most Type A person I know.

The weekend had its ups and downs, but throughout it all I couldn’t deny that visiting the Bahamas makes for a beautiful long weekend.

And now, a not-at-all comprehensive list of things to do there!

Learn Whether It’s “Abaco” or “The Abacos”

Because I have no idea and cavalierly use the two interchangeably.

Sailing

2017-02-24_17-28-02_605

The best way to travel between the different cays, in my opinion, must be sailboat. Taxis are expensive and things are far apart. If you have to take a while to get there, might as well do it from the water!

Now, I have absolutely no advice on how to rent a boat or what tour companies to use, since I was able to take advantage of the sailboat taxi from the airport to my hotel gratis. All I can tell you is prepare to get slightly quesy if you aren’t used to being on the water for long periods of time. Also prepare for the captain and first mate to continually stress out about tides and having to leave at precise times.

Explore Underwater

2017-02-27_10-28-44_000

Once you’ve gotten your fill of life above the water, time to jump down and see what’s below. Our original plan to snorkel at Great Guana (featuring apparently amazing sealife and a beautiful reef) was scuttled due to intense waves. So, we went to plan B and snorkeled Mermaid Reef close to Marsh Habour. Definitely a fun way to see some very colorful fish and a couple of rays!

And, I got to try a full-face snorkel mask, which is 10000% better than the snorkel in your mouth, once you remember to breath like normal and not like you are being chased into a dark basement.

Treasure Cay Beach

2017-02-25_10-39-01_968

My absolutely favorite part of the weekend – relaxing on Treasure Cay Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. When I arrived to the Bahamas, my parents suggested we alter our original plans and cancel going to this beach and I threw a very big fit about it – and I’m so glad I did. Once we arrived (because I won the fight), I had first been planning to spend the morning on the beach, then the afternoon doing something active like going for a bike ride. Alas, the day was so beautiful that I spent the entire day down there. I cannot stress how blue the water is and how sugar-powdery the sand is. Just writing about it makes me want to go back. Truly, it made the other challenging aspects of the weekend all worth it.

2017-02-25_13-32-16_588

Things to know about the Bahamas: A bunch of U.S. airlines fly into the Bahamas and specifically to Marsh Harbour, but I flew JetBlue direct to Nassau and onwards on Bahamasair. I had read horror stories about Bahamasair, and did get delayed about 2 hours on one flight due to mechnical errors – but I concede mechanical errors happen, and they did a good job at keeping us informed. I would definitely recommend taking a morning flight since I could see later flights on that airline just get more and more delayed.

No need for a visa for a short-stay U.S. citizen, and USD is happily accepted (although you may receive Bahamian money as change). I went through U.S. customs in Nassau heading back to the U.S., which ruled since I didn’t have to do it after landing.

The Abacos are very sleepy and rural, so don’t expect a Sandals-type resort. But if you want the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen, head here.

And I still don’t know if it’s Abacos or Abaco.

Advertisements

The Other Side of London

As I bragged about last week, I was offline for part of October on a fantastic vacation to London with my gentleman. I’ve spent a fair share of time in London, having studied abroad there during college, worked there for four months after grad school, and visited a few other times. So, needless to say, I feel quite comfortable there and love any excuse to visit one of my favorite places in the world.

What I discovered on the trip is a really dumb problem: what do you do when you’ve seen all of the things, and are traveling with someone whose preferred method of touristing is skipping most of the museums? London has SO MUCH to do that I feel like we barely did anything this trip – even though we were almost constantly out and about. So, what did we do outside of the guidebook suggestions?

14633219_10103790347460154_8339591504721940708_o

Stayed in an awesome hotel

Thanks to my work travel and my slavish dedication to one hotel brand, I scraped together enough hotel points to get three free nights in the Sheraton Grand Park Lane (technically, it was only two nights at first, but we loved it so much we bagged our shitty AirBNB and came back for the last night).

The hotel had just gone through a massive multi-year renovation and we were there literally for the grand re-opening (attended by press, C-level British celebrities, and people walking Dalmatians on leashes for a mysterious reason I still don’t understand).

The best part for us was my Platinum-member (YEAH) access to the Club Lounge, which was stocked with a delicious free breakfast, snacks, and alcohol basically every hour of the day. MUCH free food was eaten, and MANY of those baby jam jars shoved into my suitcase. We know how to party.

Ate ourselves silly in the East End

Probably the best thing in the entire trip happened within our first two days: The East End food tour with Eating London Tours. We tasted eight wildly different food and drink items across the East End, including a bacon sammie, bread pudding, curry, and – of course – a beer. We couldn’t stop raving about the food, the street art, and the amazing tour guide. It could only go downhill from there, folks!

Traveled afar for a brewery and ‘za

Something my gentleman in particular enjoys is a good craft brewery experience; we actually did a brewery trail in New Hampshire a few months ago (and learned four breweries is a lot to handle in one afternoon). So, when my friend who lives in London recommended we check out Crate Brewery in Hackney, famed for its brews and its pizza, we jumped at the chance. One long Underground and Overground ride later, we were tucking in to the best cider I’ve ever had, and a Middle Eastern flatbread pizza. Will travel for noms.

 14691240_828861284007_8828890175915845298_o

 

Other fun things? A very long day trip to Paris (less “fun” than “full of wine”)… a pub quiz with a good friend of mine… many walks around London… exploring the exhibits at the Tate Modern… and, of course, all the cream teas.

 

Cheerio for a week!

All right, loyal readers (aka mom): I’m off for a week with ne’er a post in the meantime. My gentleman and I are headed to Europe!

To say am I excited would be an overstatement. (I mean that literally: the week before the flight, I came down with an ugly case of otitis externa – that’s an outer ear infection for non-nerds – in both ears. It’s been an extremely painful, and expensive week, as  I’ve seen numerous doctors to get this sorted. As I draft this, I have my follow-up with the ENT tomorrow, and I am crossing everything on my body that she will tell me I am good to fly. So, I’m not really that excited about the trip AT THIS MOMENT, lest my dreams get dashed by Ann Walters, ENT PA).

(Second update: Just saw Ann Walters, Angel, and even though she kept me waiting for an hour to see her, she gave me the all-clear! Plus I contributed to the long wait time for others by asking her to put in my eardrops for me and then chatting with her while we waited for the suckers to soak in. Now I’m just paranoid something in my body will break – like, is this how throats are supposed to feel? I CAN’T REMEMBER).

All my ear drama aside, we’ve been planning this trip for about six months and I can’t wait to see it finally happen. This is his first time in Europe, and I’m pumped he picked my favorite city in the world to visit: LONDON.

We’re cashing in hotel points to stay 2 nights in a fancy hotel, then finishing the week in an apartment rental in my favorite neighborhood. We’re planning on participating in an East End food tour, seeing a play, hitting up pub trivia, and taking a long day trip to Paris. Basically, we are doing many of the things.

So, I’m outta here. See you in a week!

 

Hostility in a Hostel

So I recently went to Ljubljana, on my first-ever solo trip. I had a challenging but beautiful weekend, with one good story: my hostel roommate. In my four-bed dorm, the only other person (on the bottom bunk to my top bunk, as it were) was an older European gentleman. How old, you ask? Well, I answer… I have no idea. I’m terrible at telling ages. I’ve best described it as, “If we were dating, he’s the older than me that people would say ‘Whooaaa,’ but not SO old that they would be like ‘WHOAAA!” Make sense?

On the second night, I come bustling in at 9.45 and Grandpa is already asleep. I am initially psyched that he is asleep because a) I feel SO COOL being the last one (of two) in the hostel room, and b) now I can go to bed and not worry about when he is going to roll in and wake me up!

…And then I realize. My locker is a lockable drawer on the bottom of the bunk. All of my clothes and toiletries are in it. And the drawer is DIRECTLY – and I mean DIRECTLY, like three inches – below his sleeping head. If I were to crouch down at the drawer and slightly lean forward on the balls of my feet, we would be making out.

Next image: I’m awkwardly two feet away from my drawer, stretching my arm out and rummaging through blindly, just to avoid the awkward moment of him waking up to find my wonderful face literally three inches from his eyeballs. Thank you and goodnight.

This experience brought to mind some of my more interesting hostelmates throughout the years. And now, a compendium of some of the delights:

The Super Snorer: Oh, this one is commonplace but just fantastic. In the first hostel experience I share with Jenny and Molly, we discover that one of our roommates in Brussels was a strange recluse who spent the ENTIRE day on his bed looking at his phone, and the ENTIRE night snoring loudly. Come on, dude. If you know you’re a snorer, get a single room.

My delightful traveling partners

The Weird Couple: At our next hostel in Bruges, J, M, and I had three beds in a four bed hostel. We’re giggling away about something when our roommate comes in with his girlfriend. They are incredibly affronted to realize that they have apparently been put in two separate rooms and keep staring at us for an explanation. Sorry, dudes. There’s one twin bed left. Looks like you’re gonna have to keep it separate for a night since you get to bunk with the three best people you’ve ever met.

When we returned from dinner, it was to discover that he had constructed a little fort around his bed, where he and his girlfriend were sharing a twin bed… in the same room as three other girls. Uhhh whatever dude. Looks like you and your girlfriend BOTH get to enjoy the story about the time Molly lost all her teeth.

The Storer: Someone in Munich stored cheese in her locker. Overnight. That’s all, but isn’t it enough?

The Overly Familiar French Lady: The coup de grace of my strange hostel experiences. J, M, and I were at a hostel in Lyon with one of the least pleasant people on the planet. She was a weirdly old snorer who STILL insisted on staying in a hostel room, went to bed at 8.30pm and got VERY angry when others came in later (seriously – she pulled me aside in the common room to demand to know our schedule because we were being too noisy when we came in at 9.30 and, for some reason, needed the lights on), and was the NOISIEST PERSON in the morning. You know the type. OH and she also accused us of spilling liquid on her sweater. The scene: the window is open on a windy April day. A cup was on the windowsill. Her sweater was directly below that. What do YOU think happened? Yeah.

We finally prepare to roll out of town; after my morning ablutions, I swing by the room to pick up my bag, and she is standing there. Directly in the doorway. I politely try to slip past her, but she grabs my shoulder and says menacingly, ‘Ca va?’ in a very low, almost growling voice. (Now, she really just said it normally, but my friends and I have exaggerated the story so much in the succeeding days that it’s like the devil himself saying it.) I weakly smile in response, but she’s not done. She reaches over and kisses my cheek. I meekly accept it …. but she’s not done. She’s still holding on to me while she exposes her cheek to me and pats it, making it quite clear what she wants (even though I am not that kind of girl). I see no recourse but to kiss her back. It got weird.

Unfortunately for her, I had just rinsed my mouth so my chin was really wet. That’s what you get, lady.*

Lord only knows what kind of people I will come up against in Asia… at least it’s good blog fodder, eh?

The man’s fort in Bruges, the construction of which upset
Molly very much. You can’t make this stuff up.

*Yep, I stole this almost verbatim from my old blog. I just described it so amusingly the first time around!

Birthdays Spent Abroad

To understand this story, you have to realize how much I freaking love birthdays. Birthday cake is literally my favorite food on the planet (regular cake is #2). I say it’s because I just love the taste of melted wax, but really I think I love the happiness that surrounds birthday cake. One of my best friends, many years ago, got TWO birthday cakes for her own birthday party – one for me and one for the other guests – just because I tended to eat more than my fair share.

So it was through some strange twist of fate that I have spent three of my past four birthdays abroad. In all of these situations, I was with people who mostly barely knew me. So for all of these years, I was steeling myself for a less-than-hooplaish hoopla.

Boy, was I wrong. 

Birthday Number One: The big one. The big 2-1. 


My first legal drink… I want to say Long Island? Go big or go home.


You know, turning 21 in London isn’t as exciting as it seems. You can already drink legally. I was just starting out a study abroad program, so I didn’t have a ton of friends (except for the aforementioned best friend who fortuitously was in London as well).

Despite my assuming it wouldn’t be too big of a shindig, it actually turned out… pretty awesome. And I quote from my terrible study abroad blog three and a half years ago:

yesterday was my FABULOUS 21st birthday. A bit of a damper since it was in London and 21 doesn’t mean toooo much… but that doesn’t mean I didn’t FORCE everyone to make a big deal out of it! (including the bartenders and the cute old Brits sitting at the counter). Some incredible folks graciously took me out and bought me a series of drinks to help me celebrate, which was especially nice because most of them I only met a few days ago. But I did have a RIPROARING time, and I didn’t make a fool out of myself. Basically the perfect 21st birthday. And I shall end the public stories there…

And I shall AGAIN end the public stories there. Although to be honest, it wasn’t really too crazy of a night. Mostly it was nice to kick off my stay in London with such a grand evening.

Birthday Number Two: 23! 

First picture of me taken as a 23 year old. Note the sophisticated wardrobe choice.

After spending my 22nd birthday back in the States, enjoying drinks with Titanic-shaped ice cubes (I have no memory as to why) and karaoke, I randomly ended up in the most random of places for my 22nd: on a short-term abroad program to Turkey!

I ensured everyone would be ready to properly celebrate by reminding them over… and over… and over about its date. (They think I’m endearing, don’t worry). The day of my birthday, I was really bummed – we had had kind of an “eh” day, and it was about to be capped off by an overnight train ride from Konya back to Istanbul, so we couldn’t even do a nice dinner or go out anywhere.

As we started to move from the train station to the train, the faculty director (my good pal Kevin, not to be confused with my father, although I do call Faculty Director Kevin Papa Kev, to make it extra confusing) started to fumble with his papers and asked me to help. He and I fell behind the pack as we gathered up his belonging, waited a prolonged amount of time for him to track down his ticket, and finally boarded the train.

As we got on, I was struck by how …. weird it was. I knew my friends had gotten on before me, but couldn’t see or hear them anywhere. Papa Kev and I started to trudge down to our compartments, when suddenly the compartment door next to me slid open and I heard the best thing ever: “HAPPY BIRTHDAAAAY!!!” and a group of 12 people who love me start to sing LOUDLY and to the anger of the Turks next to us. They had even found a little cake and candles!

We spent the night as all surprise birthday parties should be spent – cramming all 13 of us in a train compartment, eating cake, and drinking Turkish beer.

Birthday Number 3: 24! 



Papa Kev decided one birthday spent with me wasn’t enough, because he asked me to be the TA for his program in Turkey the NEXT year. And so, 24 was spent in just about the same spot as 23, only much differently. Since I was a (cough cough) grown up, I couldn’t expect my students to be super into my birthday celebrations. Plus the day of my birthday they were leaving to spend a few nights in a homestay, leaving PK and I to a few days of quiet in hotel rooms.

We went out to a nice dinner, and I figured that was it. But really… why do I doubt people? I return to my room and spot the most beautiful thing: a birthday cake with my name on it! (Literally… including last name, just so the other Kristens in the room didn’t get confused.)

And yes, the above cake/wine shot does seem very romantic. PK is fairly convinced the concierge (who helped him arrange it) thinks that Kevin and I are involved, which is awkward for everyone, not least of all Kevin’s wife. But no matter.

And for my next birthday? The big 2-5, the Quarter of a Century? I’ll be where I belong – Virginia. I’m deliberately planning not to leave for Southeast Asia until after, so I can spend time with family and friends.

But who knows what will happen? 🙂

A New Kitchen Leaf (As it were)

I’ll let you in on a dirty secret: while I may not be the MOST health- or nutrition-conscious person and I may not be the world’s GREATEST cook, I do have good intentions, I swear!

….at least until I stopped working.

This is probably a common phenomenon, but I found it MUCH easier to eat healthily (or healthier, at least) when I was NOT at my house for 8+ hours every day and had to plan out the foods I bought with me.

This all went to hell in a handbasket (or handbag, as my friend Stephanie would say) over the summer. For the first half, I was home all day with access to parent-sponsored grocery trips (which is not a bad life, to be sure). This continued when I went to Boston and had NO access to cooking supplies or even a microwave – my entire diet relied on the (often inedible) food in the dining hall or restaurant outings.

But now that I’m in London I have a grand plan of Grown Up Nutrition! See, I have the beautiful thing of a Blank Kitchen Slate, just waiting to be created.  My grand plan is to intentionally buy foods that are nutritious – crazy, right?!

My new (empty) fridge – isn’t it so mod?

I’m also cognizant of two unique facts: I will be spending a lot of time working out of my house, or at the most within 10 minutes walking of my house, so I can easily run back home for a salad instead of bringing one to work.

View of my walk on my way to work…

HOWEVER, I won’t be able to cook nearly as often as before, both because I will have a lot of evening commitments and because of the unpredictable nature of my position. So I’m looking for foods that are either stand-alone snack foods or quickly and easily prepared.

The fanciest looking hob I’ve ever seen. It’s a touch-screen stovetop!

My good friend Becca proclaimed that before she studied abroad a few years ago she was going to reinvent herself. I don’t know if she really did, since she was awesome before and is still awesome now, but I’m taking her words to heart – total reinvention! (Or at least partially).

Obviously this isn’t to say I will suddenly be a health goddess. Cereal is the BEST and I’m as big a fan of frozen pizza as anyone. But I’m hoping to take this new opportunity to make some smart, adult choices – won’t it be fun to see me struggle with this?! Stay tuned!

And if you have any suggestions for healthy foods or good recipes, let me know!

For good measure because I had a request (from one friend and my mother), here’s a picture of my flat! Cute little seating area, dining area, and very importantly – three beds. So I can rotate if I am in the mood for whimsy. Also a little kitchen off the side 🙂

What it doesn’t have:

How to Waste Time in an Airport

On my flight over from Boston to London, I had the thing happen that makes every traveler’s worst nightmare scenario: you are sitting in the plane and they announce an indefinite delay.

The reason for this delay was a “maintenance problem” (the antenna on top of the plane, which I believe is called the falange, wasn’t working?) but this brings up several questions. Why didn’t they figure that out before I had already sat down and powered down my electronics? Why did they spend an hour “feverishly searching” (their words, not mine) the airport to try to find a replacement? Shouldn’t they have a specified place where they keep things like this, like normal people? Eventually it transpired they have to fly one up from Orlando, which seems like a careless place to keep it. But I guess they didn’t ask me to run the airline.

The moral is that I have a six hour delay and a supposed midnight departure – after getting burned several times, I’ve learned to trust Delta about as far as I can throw them. So how does one entertain oneself during this indefinite delay?

Glory in the free wifi and access to Netflix 

One good thing about being stuck in Logan – they have free WiFi. I also don’t know if I will be able to access Netflix in the motherland, so any opportunity to catch up on my important programming like documentaries about worldwide Things of Concern (i.e. Pretty Little Liars) is much appreciated.

Stand in a line for no good reason except that everyone else is doing it 

This will occupy at least a half an hour if not longer. Even if you know that it doesn’t really make sense for you to try to get a different flight, stand in line anyway. Then when you get to the front ask questions like: “Real talk. Is this flight ACTUALLY leaving at midnight?” Of course, they always say yes, but I think the real talk made them think twice.

Do yoga in the corner

You may feel silly doing it, but there’s a code of understanding with travelers in the airport past a certain point in the midst of a delay. I just had the person next to me offer me use of his computer charger, so I didn’t have to take mine out, without me even asking. It’s the code. You can be doing or wearing anything and everyone gets it. Do yoga in the corner. Go ahead and stretch out on the floor and take a nap. It’s fine. Survival of the fittest.

Write a pithy blog post 

See above.

Drink

Tried and true: get a glass of wine and accept that you are going to become Tom Hanks in The Terminal and just move in to the airport.

Postscript: No need to worry – I MADE IT, FOLKS. Everyone calm down. And extra bonus: because the flight was delayed and so many people switched, I got a row to myself and TWO HOURS OF SLEEP! Can you say score?

So rather than cats I’m gonna share with you something BOTH my parents felt the need to talk to me about/send me a picture of – they got an egg with a double yolk. Those crazy kids!!