Taking the Plunge:  Jamaica’s Blue Hole

Taking the Plunge: Jamaica’s Blue Hole

On my 42nd birthday I chose to follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise advice:  “Do one thing every day that scares you.”  Since childhood I’ve maintained a healthy sense of physical self-preservation.  I kept my hands on my bike handlebars, but also kept my bones unbroken and my teeth intact.  I’m not timid by nature, but jumping off cliffs, and letting my 5-year-old jump too, falls outside my comfort zone.  However, in search of adventure and new challenges, our family visited The Blue Hole near Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  Result–best birthday ever! If we hadn’t read about the Blue Hole on TripAdvisor before leaving the States, we wouldn’t have known about it.  The larger excursion companies don’t go there (something about it being privately owned we were told) so we arranged for a taxi from our resort.  About 15 minutes after turning off the highway outside of Ocho Rios and ascending an increasingly narrow and bumpy road, we were warmly greeted in the parking lot. TIP #1:  Bring cash. My husband and I were in flip flops, and were told we’d need water shoes, which we rented from ladies in the parking lot for $6/pair.  I suspected this was simply a revenue opportunity, but we really did need them for walking on trails, climbing rocks and swimming.  There’s no way we could have done it in flip flops.  Our daughter wore her Crocs, which worked fine. TIP #2:  Bring water shoes (aqua socks) or plan to rent them on site. Next we paid our $10/pp admission fee and met our guide, Lloyd, who led us down a short trail to the lower...
Friday Escape:  Caribbean Digital Detox

Friday Escape: Caribbean Digital Detox

Admittedly, today is Saturday, but I took my own Friday escape yesterday.  Consider this posted in island time.   I found the perfect lounge chair on the beach, partially shaded by the palms above, Bob Marley on the breeze, paperback best seller in hand.  BEEP BEEP BA BEEP!  Whose text disturbs my tropical tranquility?  Why in the world didn’t I leave my phone in the hotel room safe?  Can I ever really escape?  Yes! This photo of St. Vincent is courtesy of TripAdvisor   This Week’s Destination:  St. Vincent and the Grenadines Where: Lesser Antilles, southern portion of the Windward Islands, West Indies, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Population:  103,000 Things to do:   In 2012, the tiny Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines teamed up with a life coach and launched its solution for e-addicts:  digital detox vacations.  The official guide, Digital Detox in SVG, provides tips for disengaging from the digital world, fully relaxing during your vacation, and, inevitably, easing back into real life.  Here’s the corresponding YouTube video. While unplugged you can:   Claim a secluded hideaway beach as your own; try the island of Canouan. Visit the vibrant public market in the capital city of Kingstown. Savor banana pancakes, lobster and rum punch while perched on stilts over the sea at Basil’s in Mustique. Learn about conservation at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary on the island of Bequia. Stroll the St. Vincent Botanic Gardens (you know how I love botanic gardens!), the oldest in the western hemisphere. Interesting fact: Grenadine syrup, that red stuff in Shirley Temples and Tequila Sunrises, doesn’t come from the Grenadines.  According American University,...
Tranquility in the City:  Visit a Botanical Garden

Tranquility in the City: Visit a Botanical Garden

When visiting a new city, I often seek out a botanical garden.  I love escaping the urban rush to walk at a relaxed pace, practice my photography skills and explore the local plant and animal life.  Some provide a picnic area or small cafe, perfect for a quiet lunch.  Gardens also offer interesting gift shops with unique souvenirs such as local art, handmade jewelry, and gardening books.  I’ve visited gardens from Canada to Florida.  Here are three of my favorites: Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk, Virginia. The Norfolk Botanical Garden traces its history back to 1938, when funds from the Depression-era Works Progress Administration paid 220 African-American workers to clear 30 acres of dense vegetation.   Today, the 155 acre garden features one of the largest collections of azaleas, camellias, roses and rhododendrons on the East Coast. Its 52 distinctive themed gardens shelter 95 species of birds including bald eagles, 30 kinds of butterflies, turtles and other fauna.  The highlight for families, the World of Wonders children’s garden, showcases 3-acres where kids explore plants and cool off in the splash park.  Enrichment programs such as guided kayak trips, star gazing, yoga, floral design classes, and a drive-through holiday light display encourage visitors to return year-around.  I snapped the monarch butterfly photo during a macro photography class taught by a local professional in the Garden’s butterfly house.   Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona Founded more than 70 years ago by the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society, the Desert Botanical Garden showcases 55 cultivated acres in the Sonoran Desert.  The Garden’s stated vision is “to be the premier center in the world for the display, understanding and study of desert...