Allure Cruise – St. Martin

Welcome to St. Martin.  Saint Martin is part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. It comprises two separate countries, divided between its northern French side, called Saint-Martin, and its southern Dutch side, Sint Maarten. The island is home to busy resort beaches and secluded coves.

We hired a guide from tours by locals and he took us on a great tour of the island.  Our first stop was at an overlook that had awesome views.

Our driver then took us to Fort Louis which is one of the top island attractions and historical landmarks.  It also offers panoramic views across the island and beyond.

Our driver then took us past St Martin’s Princess Juliana International Airport, famous for its proximity to the beach, which sees aircraft swoop within spitting distance of sunseekers and planespotters.  Vacationers like to stand on the beach and watch the airplanes land.  It can be very dangerous and you can see the signs posted all over.

A co-worker had recommended that we lunch at a place called Mr. Busby’s so we had our driver take us there.   Mr. Busby’s is located at Dawn Beach and offers you everything you’d want in a Caribbean beach bar; great food, friendly people, a primo location and relaxing environment.  It was simply a great place to eat and relax so I’d highly recommend going there.

After an hour or so relaxing at Mr. Busby’s, our driver picked us back up and took us to Orient Beach.  Orient Beach is the most famous beach on the island due to its beauty and liberal policy on clothing; which is optional.  No pictures are supposed to be taken here so I just took a pic of the sign.

There are a number of places to cross the border between the French and Dutch sides of the island of Saint Martin.  Here is a picture of where we crossed over.

We had a great time touring this island and really enjoyed our guide, but after a full day it was time to go back on the ship but I will leave you with a couple of pictures of the views that we saw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Time Out

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  I’m taking a time out this week to get some stuff done for the holiday so won’t be posting about St. Martin this week so check back next week.  Hope all of you have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving and safe travels to wherever you go.

Allure Cruise – St. Thomas

Welcome to the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  St. Thomas is the gateway isle of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. It’s known for its beaches and snorkeling spots.  We did our research on what to do on this island and decided to go into town and walk 99 steps up to a spot that at the top has a 1679 watchtower called Blackbeard’s Castle, in reference to the area’s pirate history.  It is actually more than 99 steps, but we weren’t counting:)

As you can see from the picture above, the steps are a brick staircase.  You do have to watch where you are going as parts of the steps are not too sturdy.

This is the 17th-century watchtower known as Blackbeard’s Castle.  You have to pay to go to the top of the Castle; which we did and the view was really quite awesome.  After the walk up, we figured we had worked up an appetite so, again having done our research, we found a restaurant that conveniently was right next door to Frenchtown Brewing.  The ladies in the group went to the restaurant and the guys headed over to the brewery.

The restaurant is actually a pub named Pie Whole which is known for it’s pizzas.  We enjoyed a salad and a well deserved adult beverage and the guys joined us after their brewery tour and they had pizza which they said was very good.

As you can see from the above picture, the guys enjoyed the Frenchtown Brewery and even bought a full growler.  Of course, they had to drink the entire growler prior to getting back on the ship, but we found a nice garage to sit in:)  It was a full day so we headed back to the ship to get ready for our dinner.

Next week St. Martin and the dutch side St. Maarten.

Allure Cruise – Bahamas

We all loved this ship, Allure of the Seas.  There is just so much to do and see on it.  Here are a couple of pictures of the ship that will show just how big it is.

Our first port of call was Nassau, Bahamas.  We have been to the Bahamas on cruises several times before and actually debated not even getting off the ship but we found this garden that looked very interesting.  It is called Versailles Gardens and French Cloister.  As you can see from the pictures below, it is a beautiful place to go to and take pictures of.

We spent some time there just wondering around and enjoying the views.  After taking our pictures and seeing the beautiful scenery, we decided to go back into town and check out a new brewery that had recently opened.  It was called Pirate Republic and we all enjoyed having a beer and wine and drinking on the deck and just enjoying the view.

We got back on the ship early and just chilled out a bit before our dinner that night.  Next week I’ll take you to St. Thomas.

 

 

Cruise – Allure of the Seas

Welcome aboard the Allure of the Seas.  It was one of Royal Caribbean’s largest ship until the Harmony of the Seas was built.  In February of 2016, we decided to go on a cruise aboard the Allure leaving Ft. Lauderdale for the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Martin.  We had never been on a ship the size of the Allure and wanted to see how we would like it. We stayed two nights in Ft. Lauderdale before boarding the Allure and had a great time.  There are many sights to see in Lauderdale and since the guys are home brewers they had to stop by Lauder Ale Brewery for a tasting.

We toasted to our cruise on our last night in Ft. Lauderdale.  It also happened to be the wedding anniversary of one of the couples that went with us so we toasted to them as well.  Our group loves to toast to everything!

We boarded the Allure of the Seas as soon as we could as we were all wanting to check out this huge ship.  This ship is a small city on the ocean.  it has everything you could possible want on a ship; a rock climbing wall, mini golf, flow rider, zip line, ice skating, lots of entertainment and dining experiences from all over the world.  We just loved the Samba Grill.  The Schooner Bar was another favorite of ours for drinks.

One of the attractions on the ship was the Rising Tide Bar and as soon as we heard about this, we just knew we had to go there for drinks one night.  It’s a bar that actually rises off the lower floor to the upper deck of the ship.  It’s a fun and unique bar.

Next week I will write more about the ship as well as our first stop in the Bahamas.

Maine – Portland

Portland is a city set on a peninsula extending into Casco Bay. The Old Port waterfront features working fishing wharves and converted warehouses with restaurants and shops.

We decided to take a trolley ride around Portland to get some history and see some sights as we only had a couple of days to tour this city.

The tour was very informative and lots of fun with our group taking up about half of the trolley.  One of the first stops was the Portland Head Light, informally known as the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse.  The light station sits on a head of land at the entrances of the primary shipping channel into Portland Harbor.  It started out being a beautiful day so the picture of the lighthouse at the top of this post turned out beautifully.

After a lunch stop, we then took a boat tour of the harbor area.  It was about an hour long and took in some pretty scenery.  However, the weather had turned a bit rainy so this picture of Portland Harbor Breakwater Light (Bug Light) was a bit cloudy.

While most of us went on the trolley and boat rides; the brewers did not.  As Maine is the the U.S. city with the most craft breweries per capita, they opted out of going with the rest of us and did a few brewery tours instead.  Below are just a couple of their stops.

I’ll leave you with one more picture of the Portland Head Lighthouse.  Doesn’t it look like a postcard and someplace that you would love to visit??

 

Maine – Booth Bay Harbor

This is our group shot in front of the house that we rented in Bar Harbor right before we left to continue our trip.  We stopped off first in Camden.  Camden is called the “Jewel of the Coast.” A beautiful seaport town with a harbor full of sail boats, Camden has been used as the setting for so many movies, from Carousel to Peyton Place.  It is quaint and adorable so we stopped there for lunch before heading on.

Above was our next stop; Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park.  It was a beautiful day driving there, but as soon as we were within a mile of the park; fog rolled in and made the pictures not as clear as we would have liked.  Pemaquid is home to one of Maine’s most iconic lighthouses.  In fact, the Pemaquid Light is on the Maine quarter, the first U.S. coin to feature a lighthouse. The Pemaquid Point Light was built in 1835, and marks the entrance to Muscongus Bay and Johns Bay. This beautiful light and lighthouse keeper’s home and museum are preserved in a spectacular coastal park, perfect for picnic grounds on the smooth rocks that border the ocean.  We all loved this stop even with the fog.

We had booked the Topside Inn in Booth Bay Harbor and I would highly recommend staying there if you are in the area.  It is run by two men and they are very accommodating.  The rooms are very lovely and most have a beautiful view of the harbor area.  Booth Bay is a small harbor town with lots of quaint shops and restaurants.  There is some hiking that you can do and this is a good place to just rest, shop and relax a bit.

We did go to the Coastal Main Botanical Gardens and that was a beautiful stop. Then we headed  on to Portland; our last stop on our Maine trip.  Please join me next week as we explore Portland.

Maine – Bar Harbor continued

This picture is typical of what you will see in the harbor area in Bar Harbor.  It is a quaint little town.  If you’re considering a vacation in Maine, Bar Harbor should top your list of destinations, as it is truly one of the best places to visit in Maine.  Not exactly a well-guarded secret, but not overrun with tourism either, Bar Harbor is a Maine vacation spot that is awesome.  Of course one of its many attractions is its close proximity to Acadia National Park—over 50 square miles of mountains, lakes, hiking, biking, views and dramatic coastline.

We all really love Acadia National Park.  The pictures below are some that we took on our drive around the Park.  There is a scenic 27-mile loop that begins at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and offers access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain.  If you get the opportunity, go to Cadillac Mountain at Sunrise as it is supposed to be spectacular.  Most of Park Loop Road closes for the winter (December – April 15).  We really enjoyed Jordan Pond and if you can make sure to eat a meal there and get the popovers as they are yummy.

The first picture below is Thunder Hole.  The next picture is one that we took while hiking the carriage roads.  The bubbles at Jordan Pond is next and the last is just a scenic picture we took of the water.

Besides hiking, our group went kayaking and biking.

Acadia National Park was our main source of entertainment here in the Bar Harbor area but there were plenty of other sites that we got to see.  The picture below is one of the most photographed bridges in the area.  While not officially located within the National Park boundaries, this is still a must-photograph for any visit to the area. Situated right next to the Selectmen’s Building (built in 1780), the Somesville Bridge is something that you can’t help but see and stop at when driving by. This idyllic white bridge spanning the small waterway is a fantastic location for photographs.

And speaking of photographs, we found a photographer that owned Acadia photo safari and he took us out on a boat to take some awesome photos.

Of course, what stop in Maine wouldn’t be complete without eating lobster.

From Bar Harbor, we traveled to Booth Bay Harbor.  Please joint me next week as we continue our journey through Maine.

 

 

Maine – Bar Harbor

We traveled to Maine with our group of travel friends.  We decided to split up the trip to go to three places; Bar Harbor, Booth Bay Harbor and Portland.  We flew into Portland and from there rented cars and drove to the house that we rented near Bar Harbor.  Our first stop was for dinner in Portland and we found the most adorable spot to eat in.  It was called Miss Portland and the food was pretty good.  We then stopped at the nearest Trader Joe’s to pick up food and drink to last for this portion of our trip.

The we drove a few hours to the house that we rented.  The house we rented was huge, but since we had 14 people to accommodate, it needed to be big:)

Bar Harbor is a town on Mount Desert Island. It serves as a gateway to the mountains and cliffs of Acadia National Park. Towering over the park, Cadillac Mountain has trails and views of the town, the bay and the Cranberry Islands. Sand Beach is ringed by mountains. From the town pier, the Shore Path winds along the bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Porcupine Islands.

There is so much to do in Acadia National Park.  Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Its landscape is marked by woodland, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks such as Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Among the wildlife are moose, bear, whales and seabirds.  Sorry for the short post this week, but please come back next week and I will go into more detail about Bar Harbor.

 

Banff National Park – Canada

From our original group of 14 that went to Glacier; six of us decided to go to Banff National Park for a few days.  Before we left, the entire group of 14 decided to travel up to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada to see the Prince of Wales Hotel and eat lunch there.  Perched on Waterton Lake, this landmark 1920s seasonal hotel is beautiful.  See below for the picture of the outside and of the lobby.  You can tell from the first picture of sky above the hotel that it was very smoky.

We arrived here right before lunch time intending to lunch at one of the restaurants in the hotel.  However, since the wild fires were also up in the Waterton Lakes area and the smoke was so bad the hotel was in the process of closing things up.  There was a voluntary evacuation in place for health reasons due to the smoke.  So we had to go to plan b which was to find something open in the town.  We found a restaurant appropriately named Fireside:)  Here’s a picture of those of us who decided to stay and have lunch.

After lunch the group heading on to Banff left and drove through some of the remotest land I’ve ever seen.  There was no where to stop until we were about three hours into the drive.

The place we stayed in Banff was an air b&b that one of the ladies of our group found and it was just a block from the downtown area of Banff.  It was a great location and since it was on the Whyte property we were able to go to the Whyte museum for free.  The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is located in Banff. The museum collects, preserves, and exhibits materials related to the cultural heritage of the Rocky Mountains of Canada.  The Whytes were both artists and some of their work was displayed at the house we rented.

The town of Banff was filled with restaurants and shops.  My favorite shop was the Banff Tea Shop as I love tea.  Our favorite restaurant was Melissa’s.  Of course, I should say this was the only restaurant we went to, but we loved it so much when we went to breakfast that we went back the next night for dinner.  Since I have celiac and cannot eat anything containing gluten, I must say that everywhere I went in Canada had lots of options for me.  I think the US could take lessons from them on this:)

This picture was taken on a walk we took up to see Banff Springs Fairmont.  This hotel is simply awesome.  We walked through the hotel and had drinks on their outside deck.

 

The next day we went up to see Lake Louise.  I had it in mind to do a two mile hike to a tea house on a hillside.  I am an avid walker so two miles sounded like an easy hike to me.  Unfortunately, it was two miles all uphill.  However, we all made it to the top and enjoyed a tea and a cookie at the top.  Before we got to the top, we came to Mirror Lake where we were able to catch our breath a bit before the last section of the hike to the tea room.

Lake Louise is an beautiful lake.  It is known for its turquoise, glacier-fed lake ringed by high peaks and overlooked by a stately chateau.

The Lake Louise Chateau is also a Fairmont and it is quite huge.  However, we all thought the Banff Springs Fairmont had more character.

On the way down from Lake Louise, we came across Moraine Lake.  Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in Banff National Park, outside the Village of Lake Louise. It is situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of approximately 6,183 feet.  It was also beautiful.

You can see that my pictures are quite smoky as there were also wild fires in that area as well.  We all enjoyed our brief stay in Banff and headed back across the border to meet up with our friends for a final dinner before some of us headed home and the rest headed on to Yellowstone.

Cheers friends; until we travel again!