USA, Miami – an evening and day hanging out and about

I for one didn’t really appreciate that Miami had a river – well it does! And we ate there last night – first a few drinks at a delightful bar and restaurant call Kiki’s and then my first taste this trip of stone crabs – there will be more to come for sure. Here is Kiki which is also a good spot for sunsets and yacht watching

Then next day another shopping center – my favorite so far I think as it has a mix of high end and affordable places to shop and once again is open air – it is The Shops at Merrick Park.

Finally on to Vizcaya – an old mansion and beautiful gardens build by John Deering of International Harvester fame. He obviously had a lot of money but also good taste so walking around this place is like being in Italy most of the time as you can see – yet is is in Coconut Grove Miami. Worth a visit and we may go back for their evening event held once a month where the gardens are lit up for guided walks.


USA, Miami

Spending some time in Miami with my friend Beth. I ventured downtown to explore the area on foot (not many people walk anywhere in this part of the world). I used the free People Mover to get me where I wanted to go which was to walk around and check out buildings and outdoor sculptures. I saw quite a few but some areas are a bit dodgy – would not do this at night!

Also visited the Perez Museum of Art. He is a wealthy Cuban who has built this place close to the waterfront. It is small but quite interesting and has a great restaurant and shop.

At the other end of the spectrum I caught up with an old friend Klaudia in the shops in Bal Harbour. This is a very ritzy indoor and outdoor shopping Centre with only top end stores – so for window shopping mostly but we had a nice lunch there.

And close by to Brickell where I am staying there is one of the last designs for a building by Zaha Hadid – I think it is going to be spectacular when finished – and no doubt expensive too

The Caribbean, Barbados and Grenada

Last two days of the cruise included a stop in Barbados. We headed to Holetown about 15 minutes away and after a bit of retail therapy at Chattel Town which houses it’s shops in old style colourful buildings

we had a fantastic meal at Tides on the beach. Great views and food.

Final stop was Grenada – a new country to add to my list. We visited what’s considered to be one of the world’s best beaches – Grand Anse. It is spectacular.

Last day on the ship – including a 70s party with a spot of wild YMCA.

Caribbean, Martinique

One day in Martinique. Another island fully owned by the French. In fact if you are French and fly there from Paris it is considered a domestic flight! This was by far the wealthiest island I’ve been to so far – it would appear this is helped by the inhabitants enjoying all aspects of the Fenech social system plus a hefty dose of EU funding for important things – like making rum.

First stop was the rum factory which was interesting as they use slightly different techniques from other makers (in case you’re interested – they use all the sugar from the cane not just the molasses). We were tasting different rums by 10am – well that’s the way the tour went!

After that we headed to the north of the island to the former capital St Pierre – former because in 1902 there was a volcanic blast that instantly killed all 30000 of its inhabitants – bar one man who was in the prison for drunk and disorderly behaviour. He was badly burned but went on to join Barnum and Bailey circus and made a good living out of being indestructible. There is a moral to that tale somewhere. Anyway you can see some of the remains – like a very minor Pompei and it is all rather a sad story (especially as it was the local politician who decided to delay the town’s evacuation by a couple of weeks so that people would be around to vote for him (he died too)

Then we headed inland to the Rain forest where it is wet and rainy most of the time but of course very lush. Some nice things to see and opportunities for serious hikers too. (Not me). Also a fifth size kind of replica of the Sacre Coueur in Paris – it was a bit of a sad imitation.

End of day cocktails with Beth back on the ship is a must

The Caribbean- St Thomas and St Maarten/Martin

First two days at sea had two stops. The first to St Thomas was unexpected as we were meant to be in St Croix! High waves meant access to St Croix was not possible and hence the re-routing.

Sadly a lot of the islands were very badly damaged during Irma and in some case also Maria. Also cruise terminals in this part of the work tend to be very full of jewellery shops – and no I haven’t bought anything. You can have too much of a good thing.

I did find a synagogue in St Thomas which I think was the nicest building I saw. Note special parking for the rabbi below. And the impressive iguana near the docks who greeted us on arrival.

St Thomas

Next day we visited St Maarten/Martin part owned by the Dutch and part by the French. Most ships dock on the Dutch side but the French side (a 15 minutes taxi ride from the cruise terminal) is prettier although far more badly impacted by the hurricane with many shops and restaurants yet to re-open. I hope it picks up again as it has charm.

Puerto Rico- two days in downtown San Juan

Visiting PR for the first time in 15 years and of course after the recent devastating hurricane. Decided to stay downtown in the capital of San Juan at the converted convent hotel – El Convento. Lovely old building and very central for walking to all the interesting spots. Very limited damage from the hurricane to be seen in San Juan – just the odd lamp post that no longer has a lamp – but flying over on arrival it was easier to see some areas that still need to be repaired.

There are lovely colonial style buildings all around the capital – basically pick a colour and you will find a building to match. These buildings really give the place character.

Given Puerto Rico is a cruise port (I’m picking one up shortly for the Caribbean) there are also plenty of opportunities for cocktails on rooftop bars and shopping as well as taking in some of the Art Deco Buildings

And if you’re into history then the castle and fort area along the seafront make for a nice way of getting some exercise.

Vietnam, Hoi An – the rickety bamboo bridge and the memorial to women

Following on from some ideas I got via the Wanderlustplusone blog I was now in search of a real bamboo bridge across the rice paddies. These are easier said than found and my helpful taxi driver took me to the middle of nowhere – into the centre of the rice paddies after which we walked for ten minutes and I found my bridge. True it was broken and so didn’t actually go anywhere but it is an impressive piece of design and it was stable enough for me to walk out to the point at which it disappeared. My taxi driver came too as he had never seen one of these either – at least that’s what I think he said!

Firstly a drive through the rice paddies – to some astonished looks from the workers and everyone else who was on a bike or scooter.

And then the bridge

Then we made our way to the memorial for the heroic Vietnamese mother. Although I’d seen some photographs of it I was not prepared for the size of the memorial – which has the faces of women carved into it like Mount Rushmore (well except for the fact it is women only – yay!) or the lovely grounds in which it stood. Unfortunately the sun was in the wrong spot so it is hard to see the grandeur clearly – for best pics go in the morning.

When you go inside – it is free – you see various exhibits about women in Vietnam – unfortunately nothing in English yet but I thought these reliefs spoke for themselves about the variety of lives mothers in Vietnam have lived