Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Big Plans for 2010!!!

I haven't forgotten about my blog, and I hope my followers haven't forgotten about me!  December is an incredibly hectic month for me, as I'm sure it is for everyone.  I was a bit shocked when I saw my last entry was almost a month ago!  I will certainly get back to posting about some of my previous travel adventures with some of the photos from those trips....but here's whats on tap for 2010....

I'm currently trying to figure out where Keith and I can head out to for a couples trip in March.  Nothing too exotic, like our Belize trip was.  This is going to be a Mexico trip.  This is a trip for him.  This is a relax at the beach, drink in hand, sleep at the pool and read a lot of books type of vacation.  Maybe we'll toss in a few excursions, go snorkeling or see a ruin.  But this is a get away from it all type of trip.  The big decision here is which resort to go to.  We'll pick an all-inclusive resort where there are no concerns for the entire week.  That's my latest obsession.  Right now I'm toying with Apple's Square Deal.  This is when you book a trip based on the number of "apple" ratings and then find out where you are staying when you get to the airport.  Now for an obsessive trip planner, this is pretty difficult!  However, from what I understand, there are deals to be found with this!  But - it's hard to let go of the control.  We'll see....will I do it???

Also, another trip to Costa Rica is in the works.  I hope.  Every year our family, including my parents, goes to the NJ beach - as my last few entries shows.  But last summer we had really bad weather.  And it's not an inexpensive trip.  To be stuck in a beach house with bad weather and pay all that money - have to do your own cooking, clean your own house, make the beds....etc....Well, last summer we talked about heading out of the country and taking my parents to Costa Rica.  I know my parents would love it there, and I'd love to show it to them!  Keith and I have been there twice and we took the kids there on our last trip.  Those trips will be future entries.  I've been doing some research on where we'll go and how to best show my parents the amazing beauty and adventures of that country!

And other big travel news - my son, Alex, is going to England and France in the summer of 2010 with an educational trip, called People to People. He has to attend some preparation sessions to learn about the country and the people and also to meet the other student ambassadors who will be going.  It's a big trip for a ten year old!  But very exciting!  He'll be doing his own blog with his pictures and adventures when he goes.

So - there's a lot brewing here on the travel front and I have a lot of past travels to talk about....just finding the time - that's the hard part! 

Thanks for your patience!!  Happy New Year to everyone!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Boardwalk!

It wouldn't be a week at the beach without a trip or two to the boardwalk.  The Wildwood Boardwalk that is!  For those of you familiar with the Jersey beaches, you may be familiar with this boardwalk, but for everyone else it's about two and a half miles long, and filled with games, and piers of rides, all kinds of food, and it has the widest beach ever!  We usually don't go to the beach here - but for sure we make it to the rides!  Oh, and there are a few different water parks as well that we usually try to get to!

Walking the boards on the boardwalk...the sights and the smells - it's everything summer should be!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Close to home, but still amazing travelling!

Not every trip has to be far away, or on an airplane.  We don't always have to go to exotic destinations for a vacation to be special or for it to be unique.  Some of my most memorable vacation memories growing up were family vacations to the beach.  Now we have continued that tradition with our children...we love to go to the beach, almost every year.  Even if it's just for a weekend....but most times, a weekend isn't enough - we try to go for a week at a time.  There's something about the beaches in New Jersey and also in Delaware.  No, the water isn't that crystal blue you see in the Carribean or even the beautiful beaches of South Florida.  But the waves are FUN!  The crashing of the ocean as you sit on your deck...The kids riding their boogie boards in the rough surf. 

In recent years, Sea Isle City, NJ has been the beach town of choice for us.   It's a great family beach.  There is enough to keep the kids busy, enough for the adults to do, yet is still a quiet town as well. 

There's always something to do, in and around Sea Isle City.....

Monday, November 16, 2009


At Atlantis one of the most popular activites is the Dolphin Encounter.  Our kids were so excited to get up close and personal with one of their favorite marine animals.  We decided to go ahead and do the Dolphin Encounter where you get to feed, pet, hug and get a kiss from the dophins.  I know there can be very mixed feelings about this kind of program, however the program we did was very educational and the dolphins were not kept in small pens.  They were in a large lagoon and only brought into a smaller area for the purpose of interaction.  I have always felt that this type of program can bring awareness to children and adults the beauty of marine life that they would not necessarily get otherwise.  Dolphins are amazing animals and one of my children's favorites in part due to this close encounter.

We had a great boat ride to the lagoon and after arriving had an educational program about the dolphins.  And then we learned about the program.  Afterwards we went out onto a platform and the dolphins swam up to us and we could pet them.  My kids were shocked at just how big they were!  At this time the kids were only three and five years old.  So the size and noise that the dolphins made was a bit surprising in comparison to the size of the kids!  The kids were tentative and a bit hesitant at first.  With some guidance and patience from the trainers, they finally did get to touch the dolphins.  And then when it was time to hug the dolphins, the size of them was just amazing.  They are such graceful and beautiful animals.

We then got to feed them.  They gently took the fish from our hands and swam by a few times. 

We were in the water with them, on a platform for about thirty minutes.  It's still something our kids have wonderful memories about, and talk about five years later....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And even more fish!

Atlantis has so many unique aquariums.  And some of them are floor to ceiling!  They are inside the buildings and outside on the pathways.  There are some that you walk through as if you are walking through caves.  These had some of the sharks and sting rays in them.  These were some of the most fascinating aquariums, especially for the kids!

In some of these aquariums, it was as if we were standing right there with the fish!

Around every corner was a new adventure, a new was great!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Dig!

Atlantis is more than just a resort, more than just a hotel.  It's an aquarium around every turn.  Everywhere you go, wherever you look there are fish to be seen!  Every night after dinner we'd walk through the Dig.  This is a beautiful underwater habitat that takes you through a journey that represents the lost world of Atlantis.  The aquariums are beautiful.  Our kids could spend hours just watching all of the fish.    Just floor to ceiling glass with all different kinds of fish swimming.  Different pathways, different was set up just like a lost city.....the city of Atlantis!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Journey to Atlantis!!!

In 2005 we took our kids on their first big, out of the country vacation.  We surprised them with a trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas.  They were just four and six years old at the time and this was quite an adventure! Once again, a long, holiday weekend called out to me to start looking for a travel journey so the planning began for Labor Day weekend.  It was my son's first week of First Grade and he'd have to miss one day of the first week of school, but certainly a trip to the Bahamas was more exciting and more educational than the first couple of days of school!  We went for five days and it was amazing.

We stayed at the Harborside Resort, which are the time share condos that are part of the Atlantis property.  At the time that we stayed there the prices to stay in the condos were less expensive than staying on the actual Atlantis property, yet we were able to use all of the perks of the Atlantis resort!  However instead of just a small hotel room, we had a kitchen, a bedroom and a separate living area with a sofa bed that the kids slept on.  Harborside has it's own pool if you care to use that as well.  It's located just across the harbor, a short walk from the main area of Atlantis.  

When we arrived the kids were amazed.  Just the size of the resort, the color of the ocean, there were so many pools, and best of all the aquariums just about everywhere you kept us all busy for the duration of our visit!  We had a lot to explore.....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not here for a long time!

Just a quick getaway. Sometimes that’s what we need isn’t it? As a person who loves to travel, a four day weekend screams to me "plan a trip!"  Some people look at a long weekend as a time to catch up on things around the house, or maybe a time to just hang out at home and relax. Not me. The first thing I do is start checking airfares and bouncing from one website to the next to see where we can go and how many days more than those four days Keith can take off from work.

Fourth of July, 2008 we did just that. A spontaneous trip to Jamaica. We’d been there once before and it was ok. We really didn’t do much or see much and our hotel at that time was just ok. But this time I’d become a travel junkie. And the internet had become available to obsessively plan trips! I could check out every hotel on the island if I wanted to!

Jamaica became our choice because of the short, no connection flight as well as great prices for the holiday weekend. We wanted to stay at an all inclusive resort, but not a big one this trip. After some extensive research we chose Sunset at the Palms in Negril. It was charming! So different from most of the larger resorts we’d seen on the island. This resort had treetop rooms all made of wood. Like our own little treehouse. It was a very lush jungle property. The resort was across the street from the beach, which was no big deal because it was a small property so the walk was short. They had a nice beach bar and restaurant right on the beach.

We spent our long Fourth of July weekend doing absolutely nothing. The biggest decision we had to make was how long to stay at the pool before walking to the beach and then how long before moving back to the pool again. This was a do nothing but relax vacation and it was perfect.

We looked at several brochures for excursions, we thought about renting wave runners but we just relaxed instead. We recharged and felt great about doing nothing.

I came home with a t shirt that says on it “Not here for a long time, just here for a good time” and nothing could have been more true for our short getaway to Jamaica over our long weekend.

I was glad we went there.  After our first trip, many years prior I'd had no real interest in going back.  But after this mini-vacation I saw a different side of Jamaica.  Even though we didn't really leave our resort, I felt the island vibe.  The people we met there were lovely and the drive from the airport to Negril was long enough to get to see the beauty of the island.  We'll definitely be back!  Another trip in the works!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reflections on Belize...

The end of a vacation is always bittersweet. The end of this vacation to Belize was particularly hard for me. I’d really enjoyed Belize. Even more than I’d thought I would. I enjoy travelling, I love vacations, but this one was perfect! From beginning to end.  I knew in the planning stage that Belize had everything we were looking for in a great vacation – it had the ruins, it had the beach, it had the snorkeling. We could relax or we could go on great excursions. We did it all, and yet we were totally relaxed. It was perfect to start our vacation in San Ignacaio and end in Ambergris Caye.   But for the actual vacation to meet our expectations - now how often does that happen?  This one did!

Not only did we get to do some spectacular things, like going to Tikal and the ATM cave. We got to see amazing reefs while snorkeling and I got to scuba for the first time. We met wonderful people and stayed at chaming lodges. We ate great food and had perfect weather. There was more...

For me, waking up every morning and walking out from our cottage right on the beach and feeling the warm sand in my toes was like therapy. All the stress from my real world life just vanished while we were away. And isn’t that really what travelling is all about. Being transported to a place that is just magical and feeling the beauty of that place. Experiencing wherever you choose to go one hundred percent and not wanting to let it go.

We could leave Belize with wonderful memories, fantastic experiences to tell our children about and hopefully return with them in the future. I leave you with some parting shots….

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sailing into the night

Our last night…part of our package at Portofino in Belize included a Sunset Cruise, but it had been cancelled twice now. Once because there was no sign of a sunset happening. It had rained and when it cleared up it was cloudy. And the second time there weren’t enough people to schedule the trip. Tonight they’d take us one way or another. So, it was cloudy and apparently only one other couple was booked for the cruise. Excellent! Every excursion we went on was either just Keith and I, or with only one other couple. This was one of the benefits of travelling during low season!

We went back into town on the water taxi and found out our sunset cruise would be on a beautiful catamaran! Nice! There was no sunset to speak of, it was a cloudy night, but it was still a great evening out on the sea.

One of the guides told us all about the history of Ambergris Caye and Belize on the way out. We had some rum punch, listened to music and just hung out and relaxed. We sailed out to Hol Chan. As we got out there we saw a spotted eagle ray jump way out of the water. So cool! Some of the night diver boats were starting to come out. Even without the sunset, it was great.

 On the way back we had some chips and salsa and just laid back and listened to the crashing surf around the boat…our last night could not have been more perfect.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Scuba Time!

Snorkeling had been great…but all it was doing was making me want more! Ecologic Divers offers a course called Discover Scuba Diving or DSD for short. Today would be the day. We were going to go all in. Of all the trips we’d taken to the Caribbean and to Mexico we’d never tried to scuba, but something about Belize and the reefs here was just screaming to me! It was time to SCUBA!

DSD is a mini course in Scuba diving. It’s not a certification course, but it would count towards certification. And you can use that course for up to two weeks of diving I believe. So, back to the dive shop and I was relieved that Charlie was once again our instructor. By this, our third trip with him, I was quite comfortable with him and felt we knew each other fairly well. We filled out a bunch of paperwork and watched a training video. We got our equipment and spent a good amount of time learning all about it, how to use the equipment, how to put it on, what the gauges meant - it was a thorough lesson.

We went out on the boat, back to Hol Chan. We were in somewhat shallow water, but still over my head. We got comfortable with the regulators, the feeling of breathing through them. The thing that surprised me most was the feel and noise of the bubbles going up past my ears. I never expected that. Keith didn’t like it. I don’t know if his regulator wasn’t working or if it’s the fact that he doesn’t float at all. Sinks like a rock.  As a matter of fact, when we snorkel he has to hold onto a floating ring so he doesn't sink! So for him to have all this gear on and then have to breathe through this odd gauge, it just didn’t work for him. He decided to wait at the boat. He was going to snorkel for a bit, practice with the regulator and get some sun while we did our dive. I could understand the feeling. It was strange and I kept floating back to the surface. Charlie had to add a lot more weights to my vest. It was all very exciting and awkward at the same time.

Once we were in the water for a bit, we had to complete some test items. There were two others on the dive. There was one woman who was certified and her boyfriend who had been diving before but couldn’t find his certification paperwork. So, I was now the only beginner. It was nice to have Charlie’s full attention! The tests I had to do were to get the regulator back into my mouth while underwater and also to clear water out of my mask while underwater. I did both and didn’t like either. I hoped I didn’t have to do either one while diving for real!

Now the good stuff! We went down twenty-eight feet or so. They told me it was a very strong current dive and if you can dive there, it’s impressive – so yea for me!! I did keep floating to the top and I know I breathed too fast, but for my first time I think I did great!

Just a note, most of these pictures were taken by Charlie from Ecologic Divers since my underwater camera can’t dive these depths. Thanks Charlie!

It was amazing. To be right down in the reef with the fish and the coral eye to eye! It was awesome! We spent about an hour underwater. The sound was peaceful, just the bubbles and breathing. Watching the fish come and go, dart in and out of the coral. The colors were vibrant.

It was something that I know for sure I will do again. When we got back to the boat, Keith said he’d practiced a bit with the breathing and he’d be willing to try again, but maybe a slower starting course. One that you start in a pool. I’m glad….I’d love to have him as my diving buddy!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

San Pedro, hustle and bustle!

Ambergris Caye…it’s an interesting place to be! As I mentioned in some previous posts, we chose a resort to the north of the town of San Pedro. Portofino is only accessible by water taxi and it’s about a fifteen minute boat ride to get there. But when you get into the heart of the island the pace of life picks up. It’s still a sleepy island town by all means. But there’s much more hustle and bustle!

The first thing we noticed was the primary means of transportation are golf carts. There’s a few taxi vans, but most people are driving golf carts. This is certainly unique! There’s a certain charm about this for sure.

Our main reasons for going into town were to get to the dive shops, but that only brought us to the docks…to eat lunch and dinner once or twice and the obligatory souvenir shopping.

We didn’t get a chance to really see any of the other hotels in the area. In my obsessive research before the trip, there were quite a few that looked nice, but now that I was there I knew we made the right choice. I loved taking the water taxi to get to San Pedro. It wasn’t a hassle to me at all.

We had lunch one afternoon at Fidos. This restaurant is right on the beach, right by the water taxi dock. Perfect location for them I’m sure! It’s a nice little place that I’m sure is hopping at night! The food was good, the waiter was great – came one day to Belize to visit some friends and never went home. The longer I stayed there the more I was connecting with that feeling. Oh….but I have children, a business to run…reality hits hard sometimes!

Again, the view was spectacular for lunch. My husband enjoyed his Belikin, the beer of Belize, I enjoyed some tropical drink with rum and coconut. We shopped for the kids – it’s getting difficult to shop for a ten year old boy though. Found him some pirate type things! My daughter, she’s easy. A pretty sun dress and a hand crafted bracelet. Oh, but then I found a beautiful hand painted tea cup. At eight years old her favorite thing to drink is herbal tea….had to get her a tea cup from Belize as well. Painted with the sunset on it. We'd wait at the water taxi dock for a few minutes with our goodies and of course, I was thinking - I didn't get anything for myself!  I hope the airport has some shops in it!

Then back to our slice of heaven, back to the pool and beach at Portifino. We had just a day or two left before it would be time to leave.