Puerto Rico

Snorkeling at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

To be honest, it was hard writing this post.

A few days before Hurricane Irma struck the Caribbean and Florida, my husband and spent a long weekend in Puerto Rico.

We weren’t affected by the hurricane (made it back home safely before landfall) and Puerto Rico didn’t suffer widespread catastrophic damage like St Thomas or St Martin and other nearby islands. However, the news coverage is still so unsettling about how many people are struggling.

This makes me feel uncomfortable writing about the trip. But I hope I can share what we appreciated this lovely part of the world.

Ocean Park Beach outside of San Juan

We stayed in an AirBnB in a neighborhood called Ocean Park. It had a relaxed local feel, and our stay was absolutely delightful.

The owner of the Airbnb created several beautiful spaces in her own home, and you can see from the sign outside her house, her warm positive outlook on life. 

I loved the eclectic decor which combined modern and classic Spanish influences, collected from vintage stores and flea markets.

Our room was built as a sort of tree house attached to the top of the house, and this was our very narrow spiral staircase leading to it.

The most notable aspect of our room was the outdoor shower. There is something so relaxing about taking a shower outdoors in the early evening, listening to the birds and crickets in the trees around us.

Of course, you have to get comfortable with the idea that you’re- you know- outside without any clothes on. But once you do, it’s cool.

This outdoor shower ended up being one of my favorite things are the trip (my husband not so much!) He kept thinking people could spy on us, even though there were pretty high barriers around the shower.

Breakfast at the outdoor communal kitchen

Each morning, we’d stumble down our spiral staircase to have breakfast with the other guests in the garden. This AirBnb had an outdoor communal kitchen, and each morning, she’d place bread, nut butters, fresh jams, granola, hot coffee, coconut water, and homemade beet juice.

It was such a fun way to interact with the other guests.

Perhaps the absolute best thing about this location was the beach, which was literally across the street!

There’s lots more to share about Puerto Rico coming up, including a wonderful dinner we had one night, all the tasty local dishes we tried on a food tour, our day spent in Old San Juan, and our snorkeling trip. 

How do you feel about the outdoor shower? Would you be comfortable with it?

Rocky Beaches, Seals, and Overcast Skies in Kaikoura

I recently read an article about the benefits of spending money on travel, rather than say, material things.

The research shows that even if you have a less than perfect time, we tend to remember it in a more positive light as time goes on, making us feel that our money was well-spent. Our brains look back on that experience fondly unlike a material thing we bought, which quickly bores or disillusions us.

This certainly rings true when I think about the tiny resort town of Kaikoura (or Kai-crappa, as my husband liked to call it at the time). We stopped there on our way from Christchurch to Nelson on the south island.

For the record, I don’t think Kaikoura was crappy at all. It was just a low point during our travels.

In the warmer months, Kaikoura is packed with visitors who come for the dolphin excursions and water activities. But we arrived at the beginning of winter, so it was gray and dreary.

But the funny thing is that although the weather felt really dismal at the time, now when I look back over the photos, Kaikoura looks rather pretty to me with its muted hues of blue and gray.

We stayed at a nice bed and breakfast overlooking a walk that runs several miles along the ocean. This was the lovely view from our balcony window.

We knew the rain was coming in soon on that day, but we decided to walk along the ocean to find the seal colonies. It was cold and misty, but the terrain was nice in a stark severe sort of way. 

The best thing was that finding the seals was so easy, and because there were few people around, we got the chance to get up close and personal.

Okay, not that close- (Have you seen their teeth?), but nice to observe them without people everywhere.

Some of the seals are rather bold too, and wobble out into the road, which makes driving around them pretty exciting.

Eventually, it started sprinkling on us, but we made it back to our room without too much damage. That night, we found a strange pizza place (that’s a whole other story about how they didn’t seem to have anything on their menu) and turned in early for bed.

As mentioned, reflecting on our stay, I’m glad we stopped over in Kaikoura. In the moment, we felt disappointed with the melancholy weather, but when I look over the pictures now, I see we were actually really fortunate to be in such remote and oddly pretty place.

Richmond Getaway

busy-bee-cidery-2
Sampling the ciders at Blue Bee Urban Cidery in Richmond

Last weekend, my husband and I packed our overnight bags and made a spontaneous trip to Richmond, Virginia.

Richmond is only about 90 miles away from us, yet we’ve only ever passed through the city on our way south. We spent our getaway exploring downtown and the old neighborhoods, visiting Museum of Fine Arts, and eating and drinking our way around the city.

Hope you enjoy the highlights!

Day One

Our first order of business on Day 1 in Richmond was food and drink, of course. We headed to the Naked Onion sandwich shop and got the famous Pork Belly Banh Mi (pictured above) and Manchego grilled cheese with red pepper coulis. These sandwiches were good and such a bargain as this take out place is a local cheap eats favorite.

From there, we needed a little refreshment and being cider fans, we visited the Blue Bee Urban Cidery. Since it was a cooler day, we sat inside one of the cozy stone walled tasting rooms. We’ll visit again on a warm day to enjoy the outdoor ambiance and the special hops and ice cream sandwiches they serve!

After lunch, we stopped in the famous Jefferson Hotel to admire the grand lobby with tall marble columns, burgundy walls, and portraits of presidents and snap a few photos. They serve a lavish brunch on Sundays and we made a note to return to enjoy that soon.

Next up was the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts., which houses some great collections. We particularly enjoyed the mummies and ancient Italian exhibits. In addition, the outside grounds are beyond beautiful and we were intrigued with the unusual sculpture of a head which changes from male to female depending on what angle you look at it.

At 4 o’clock, it was cocktail time, so we headed to The Rogue Gentlemen. This small dive bar serves the most interesting drinks, each labeled with its dominant characteristics (sweet/refreshing/citrus/herbal/bitter/smoky/etc ) so there’s little chance you can order wrong. My husband ordered something called “Vampire Kit to ward off the Vampire” made with garlic infused Oster Vit, Beckerovka, rum, and lime. I know the garlic part sounds a little bizarre, but I promise, it was surprisingly sweet and fresh tasting and not garlicky at all.

They can also custom create a cocktail just for you. I jumped at the chance and requested something herbal and refreshing and got this lovely rum, blood orange, and basil creation.

When in Richmond (or anywhere in the South, really), you must eat pimento cheese. So we couldn’t resist the jalapeño pimento cheese crostini platter. This restaurant also serves a tasting menu with each course only $12. This is such a bargain compared to prices in DC and we observed some really tasting looking things coming out of the kitchen, but we had other dinner plans at Burger Bach, so we stopped with our cheese platter.  (No picture, but our burgers were awesome too)

Day Two 

After a restful sleep, we made our way at 9 am to The Fancy Biscuit. When we arrived, there were nearly 50 people waiting in line ahead of us! Not ones to be deterred, though, we stayed in line. This is usually a good sign that the food is something special.

And it was so special! The Fancy Biscuit might be my favorite new restaurant.

They specialize in biscuits (hence the name) but not your plain biscuits with butter and grape jelly (though I don’t mind those either). These are biscuit creations with all kinds of toppings from goat cheese to collard greens to apple slaw.

We ordered two versions. One had pepper jelly, goat cheese, and fried chicken. The  other had a poached egg, ham, and Sriracha hollandaise. So good! Will definitely be trying to recreate these at home.

Our final stop on our Richmond itinerary was the beautiful Maymont Gardens. It was the perfect early Summer day for a walk in the park, and this one featured both Italian and Japanese gardens. This park was absolutely free and it was the best way to end our weekend trip to Richmond.