Puerto Rico: Part Three

Day Six

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Ferry Ride

The next two days of this trip were probably my favourite part of the entire trip. On day six, we boarded a ferry at 6:00 in the morning and headed to the beautiful island of Vieques. Now, here’s some things you should keep in mind if you’re visiting Vieques. First off, rent a ATV as the island is big!

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Playa Caracas (the scenic view)

When we arrived, we were kind of lost of how to get around. Luckily, we came across an older gentlemen who was offering tours. After some hesitation in three girls getting into a car with one man, we decided to take a chance and we are so glad we did! As we drove around Vieques, he told us about the island and how Hurricane Maria had decimated a lot of the island. Despite this, there was still much to enjoy. Our first stop: Playa Caracas.

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Playa Caracas (the wildlife view)

As we chilled out enjoying the beautiful white sand, we also got to witness some wild horses hanging eating some nearby grass. As I admired them from afar, my best friend worked on trying to be a horse whisperer and get them to come closer. It was great beginning and set us up for the rest of the day in Vieques.

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Sun Bay Beach

After this, we headed to Sun Bay Beach. Despite being on the same island, the waves were incredibly strong that day. As a result, we spent most of our time here just walking along the beach and discovering new spots. There was a nice little secluded spot which had crystal clear water. The best thing about the beach here was how scenic it was. Just take a look for yourself!

Playa Negra

Our last stop in our Vieques’ grand tour was Playa Negra (Black Beach). The trail is about a 20 minute walk if you manage to not get lost. We obviously got lost, but it was all part of the adventure. Once we got there, the beach was nice and secluded. After our trek, it was definitely nice to kick back and enjoy the refreshing water and charcoal coloured sand. Believe me when I say the trek was worth it! One thing I’ve learned about travel, is the best things are often unplanned. In the case of Vieques, this was true. We got an excellent tour guide and got to see lots of cool things on the island as well. This concluded our day in Vieques. The next day, we would head on over to Culebra to continue our adventures.

Puerto Rico: Part One

One thing that 2019 taught me was that you need to stop apologizing for everything and knocking yourself down for not doing “more.” I think North Americans have a problem with constantly trying to outbeat each other. If one person wakes up at 7 am, the other proudly proclaims that they have been awake since 5 am. To anyone feeling like they are not doing “enough,” you are doing great! There is all this talk about being the greatest and extraordinary, but what makes people extraordinary is a genuine sense of happiness and fulfillment. Gain confidence from being at peace with your strengths and your weaknesses. Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself for a short while on the bad days, and then pick yourself up and remember that you are a badass! For me, these reminders come in the form of holidays. So in order to get myself out of a slump, I picked myself up and booked a trip to Puerto Rico. This is my story.

Day One
After arriving in San Juan late in the evening on our first day, we began our official adventure of San Juan the morning after. The first thing on our list was Museo de Las Americas. If you are a history buff, then take a moment to check out this museum. The museum highlights Puerto Rican history while also incorporating contemporary Puerto Rican art. According to my best friend, she also swears that she heard a ghostly tapping while perusing the galleries. While I cannot confirm the validity of her ghostly encounter, what I can comment on is one unsettling demonic figurine that is hosted in the museum. This figurine is encased behind glass and on the front of the glass is the symbol of the cross. So whether you want to learn about Puerto Rico’s history, enjoy some contemporary art, or have your own ghostly encounter, check out the Museo de Las Americas.

Museo de Las Americas

Next on our list, was Castillo San Cristobal. This is a fortress built by the Spaniards to protect the city. With the stone walls and ocean views, it definitely offers picturesque views. After this, it was time to treat ourselves with some giant coconut water infused with rum. Treat yourself! After this, we headed back to our place before getting some food and enjoying the nightlife that the La Placita neighborhood had to offer.

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Castillo San Cristobal

Day Two

On this day we decided to check out El Yunque Rainforest and Luquillo Beach. For the elderly, the young, and the physically unfit, you have been warned that El Yunque is a bit of a trek. Just make sure to pack some snacks and water as there is no place to stop to get food. I am a nature lover and El Yunque hit all the spots in what I look for in a good trail. It has lush greenery, rugged terrain, cascading waterfalls, and a few great photo opportunities. When we began our hike it was all sunshine and rainbows, but shortly after the weather turned misty and foggy to the point it was a slightly precarious situation. Despite not being able to see much once we got to the top due to the dense fog, it was a long arduous workout which was physically satisfying. In addition, once you reach the peak, the world echoes around you. With the dense fog and our voices echoing to the forest below, the best word I can use to describe the experience is sublime. To those who have been with me for awhile, you will know that I have mentioned the experience of the sublime before. It is something awe inspiring but also takes us beyond ourselves and may even incite fear. This is what El Yunque offers. The reward of sanctuary in a place that makes the world around you feel so vast and unknown and yet so magnificent. There is a small lookout point once you reach the top and if you take a moment to stand up there by yourself, you will understand what I mean.

El Yunque

After our experience in El Yunque it was time to relax on the beach and so we headed to Luquillo to refresh our tired, sweaty bodies. It was still quite overcast when we arrived and it was getting late but all that mattered was a moment to do absolutely nothing. And so, that is what we did. We enjoyed the waters and then ultimately headed back to San Juan for the night.

Stay tuned for more ****

Return to Scotland: Part Three

On the second day of our tour, we were on our way to the Isle of Skye. However, our first stop was the Glenfinnan Viaduct. For all you Harry Potter lovers out there, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is the location where the Hogwarts Express passes through in the films. The viaduct’s primary purpose however is to serve as a bridge which services a railway that passes through it. For some of my tour mates, they decided to take the Hogwarts Express train to relive their childhood memories. For the rest of my tour mates including myself we decided to skip the costly train and instead rode on in our bus to where the Viaduct was located. Once there, we took our very own Harry Potter inspired photos while enjoying the scenic mountain area.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

After this, it was time to take the ferry to the Isle of Skye. There is now a bridge which runs to the Isle of Skye, however for the sake of adventure we were made to take the ferry on the way there. After arriving to the Isle of Skye, we needed pass the time as our Harry Potter train riders had missed the ferry. As a result, we decided to check out Armadale Castle. Armadale Castle has castle ruins dating back to the early 19th century. A fire in 1855 destroyed the castle’s interior and it was left to slowly deteriorate as the family moved to a new house. Today the ruins are fenced off but visitors can enjoy the frame of this once beautiful estate. The frame is adorned with climbing flowers which bloom a beautiful fuchsia colour in the summer. In addition to the castle itself, there are magnificent surrounding gardens as well as small nature trails to enjoy where wildlife can be seen.

Armadale Castle

After Armadale Castle, we headed over to a small woodland trail in which we climbed rocks through the misty rain and observed various marine plants adhered to the slick rocks surrounding the water. The colour of them was a vibrant yellow which contrasted beautifully against the overcast sky. After climbing rocks and indulging our inner child, it was time to pick up our Harry Potter stragglers. Once doing so, we headed to our hostel where we made ourselves comfortable, ate some food, and settled in for the night. The next day we would be headed to the Fairy Pools in the Isle of Skye which would prove to be extraordinarily beautiful!

Beach in Portree (Excuse the instagram tag, this is the only photo I captured of it

Return to Scotland: Part Two

The next morning began the start of my journey into the Scottish Highlands. As we left Edinburgh behind we ventured off to check out the Wallace Monument in Stirling, which commemorates Sir William Wallace. While I did not particularly know much about the history relating to it, the views from the balcony were fantastic and worth the journey. After this, it was time to visit a pair of famous Hairy Coos, which are a Scottish cattle breed. Here we got to feed the cattle from behind the fence and admire the funky looking cows. Although it may not seem like much, it was an entertaining pit stop that I was happy we were given the opportunity to do.

 

Feeding the Hairy Coos

Now onto the stuff that dreams are made of. After checking out the hairy coos, it was time to go on a scenic hike through Glencoe Mountains. The nature lover in me was beaming as we hiked higher and higher with water streaming from the mountain throughout the trail. It was a surprisingly warm day in Scotland that day and I was forever grateful the weather held up. Once we reached the end of our hike, we had a moment to sit back and relax and drink water directly from the mountain spring. It’s one thing to buy bottled water that claims to be from mountain springs, and another thing to actually drink directly from the spring itself. I’m a city kid so this was an experience I don’t come across too often. This would be end of our first day of the tour, and after the hike we headed to Oban where we spent the night filling our bellies and preparing for our journey to the Isle of Skye the next day.

Glencoe Mountains

 

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Miami Travels: Part Three

The final day in Miami was upon us and man had it been an amazing ride so far. Our plan for the day consisted of going to Vizcaya Museums & Gardens, followed by the Venetian Pool and lastly a stop at Calle Ocho. Our first stop, Vizcaya Museums & Gardens was the former villa and estate of the businessman James Deering. The villa was interesting but  it was the surrounding gardens which won my heart. The gardens were beautiful manicured and included several fountains and beautiful sculptures. While I did not care for the actual history, I admired the property for its greenery and the work in keeping it so beautiful maintained.  So do yourself a favour, and make sure to check out Vizcaya the next time you head to Miami.

After wandering through the grounds of Vizcaya, it was time to soak in the sun and so we headed to the Venetian Pool in the Coral Gables District. This pool is a public pool which has a lovely man-made waterfall and places to lounge around while you get your tan on. After spending the last two days at the beach but not being brave enough to venture into the water, the pool was the perfect way to perfect my swimming skills. After lounging around here for some time, we headed out our final stop of the day: Calle Ocho.

Now I’m going to be real with you in that Calle Ocho didn’t do much for me, but what they did have going for them was honestly the best food I had during my trip. Calle Ocho is Miami’s Cuban district and it was here I had some delicious Cuban cuisine.  We went to Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina  where I ordered the Lechon Asado with beans and rice and fried plantain. It was absolutely delicious. To top it all off, the staff serving us were an absolute delight.  Unfortunately, I did not get any photos at the Venetian Pool because water and phones don’t mix and at the restaurant I was too hungry to pause and take a photo of the food. But, enjoy all the images of Vizcaya and just believe me when I say Old’s Havana is absolutely worth every single dollar. This concluded our trip to Miami and it was perfect way to unwind after a stressful few weeks. Thank you Miami for your hospitality and while you broke my bank account you were worth every penny.

Chicago Adventures: Part Two

Chi-Town:The Rest of the Journey

On our third day in Chi-Town, we decided to start our day off at Corner Bakery Cafe, an American chain of cafes. After indulging in a sandwich to fill our hungry bellies and a warm tea to brace up for the chilly Chicago air, we headed onto our next adventure of the day: Revisiting the Chicago Cultural Center. The first time around we were on a time crunch due to our boat tour, and so this time we were able to truly take in the different exhibits. After this, we made our way over to The Magnificent Mile. The Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s upscale commercial district . Although, I am by no means in a position to purchase expensive brands it was great to just window shop as we walked along the mile.

As we walked along the mile, we headed on over to the Cub’s Clubhouse; a gear shop full of Chicago Cubs apparel. After this, we simply walked through the streets and eventually stopped by the AT&T store on Michigan Avenue. Now, you may be wondering why is it that I stopped by a phone store while in Chicago? The reason is simple. During the time I was there, the AT&T shop was promoting the Justice League movie and as a result had costumes on display that were worn by the actors of the movie. In addition, they also had props and other interactive displays relating to the movie. It was an unexpected surprise and after spending far too long in here, we headed over to The Shops At North Bridge. The Shops at North Bridge is a mall located on Michigan Avenue with a plethora of different stores for all your shopping needs. After entering the mall, we ended up coming across Charming Charlie. At the time, this store did not exist in Canada and I’m telling you it’s the cutest store in the entire world! If you are a girly person and love all things cute, this store is a must for you. Even as someone like myself who spends more time in gym clothing than real clothing, it was hard to resist the allure of this little shop. As a result, I ended up walking out with two scarves and the cutest fox shaped bag. Adorable!

We then headed on over to Goddess & The Baker to enjoy some delicious dessert. If you are headed to Chicago, this bakery is a must and their rainbow cake is absolutely delicious! Furthermore, this place is incredibly homey and it was here we began to draw our day to an end. The rest of the night was spent indoors, making use of the pool table in our AirBnB. Although I did not win the game, it was a great time nonetheless! Thank you Chicago for your hospitality, you truly were amazing!

Afterthoughts

There are a few things I didn’t get the chance to see in Chicago that I recommend people try and see during their visit. For starters, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Museum of Contemporary Art and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting. Another great museum to check out, The National Museum of Mexican Art. If you’re a baseball fan, check out the Wrigley Field to watch a Chicago Cubs game. And last but not least, the Chicago 360, an observation deck with a tilting glass lookout.

Two things that really stuck out to me during my visit in Chicago was how amazing their transit system is (and how underutilized it is) and the sheer hospitality of the people in Chicago. Maybe it was because it was the Christmas holidays, but what I observed in one instance was a cook offering food to a homeless man, someone on the bus offering clothing to another individual during the frigid temperatures, and just the general kindness of everyone I interacted with in all the shops and outings while I was there. Another great thing that Chicago had implemented was heated bus shelters in some areas. While it may not seem like much it made waiting for the train a little less painful. So thank you Chicago for showing me the kindness that exists in the world and for being an absolutely beautiful city.

Chicago Adventures: Part One

I remember it like it was yesterday… the day I decided Chicago would be my next destination. I was sitting at a job I loathed, wondering if getting a root canal without anesthesia was less painful then being there. As I complained about the circumstances to a friend of mine at the time, it was decided that a holiday was in order.

After weighing our options, we finally decided on the beautiful city of Chicago in the beginning of December of that year.

For those looking to visit Chicago, one thing you should keep in mind is that its reputation as “The Windy City” is no joke. As a result, bundle up darlings because you’re about to get frosty. If you can toughen up and handle the cold during December, I assure you that it is definitely worth your while. While we were there, everyone was incredibly kind and helpful. The city was in full Christmas cheer mode, lit up with Christmas lights everywhere, and the spirit of giving was definitely in the air.

First Day In Chi-Town

On our first day in Chicago, we arrived in the late afternoon and so our first order of business was dinner. We eventually decided on Epic Burger: a fast food chain in America. I don’t know if it’s just because I was hungry, but I swear to you that burger tasted like freaking heaven. It was everything you would want in a burger: crisp lettuce, juicy beef, succulent tomatoes, greasy bacon, and warm melted cheese all on a delicious warm bun. After devouring the burger, it was time to see what Chi-Town had to offer. As we walked downtown, I was struck by the beauty of Chicago’s architecture and how beautifully decorated it was for the holiday season. Christmas lights adorned every lamp post and tree imaginable, restaurant signs seemed to glow brighter than ever, and more than that it truly seemed people were just so damn happy. As someone who has never been a huge Christmas person, it was hard to resist being infected by the happiness that pulsated through the city.

As trotted along, we noticed that Chicago during the holiday season offers a variety of free events and these notices were posted on boards across the city. Events like these only further contributing to the spirit of happiness that was so evident around us. As many of you will probably do once you get to Chicago ,we then decided to visit Millenium Park and get a glimpse of “Cloud Gate.” In the darkness of the night, this metallic structure in Millenium Park so perfectly reflected Chicago’s skyline and beauty. As we continued to explore the area, there was an area where people could skate and just before it a grand Christmas tree adorned in colourful lights. Christmas was in full swing in Chicago, and I for once was all for it! This concluded our first day in Chicago, and it was already winning major points.

Day Two

On our second day in Chicago, we decided on doing the bravest thing yet: Take a boat tour down the Chicago River. Now, you must be thinking… why is that brave? And darlings, if you knew how freaking cold it is to be on a boat tour… on the river… in the middle of winter in Chicago, you would understand the bravery it took. But sometimes you just got to put on your Big Girl Pants and get to it, and so we did. Our tour company: Wendella Boat Tours. Now, just before we headed on our tour we decided to pop into the Chicago Cultural Center. The Chicago Cultural Center is an architectural beauty. It a beautiful landmark building which showcases various art exhibitions, as well as hosts both public and private events. One of the main beauties of this building: the beautiful stained glass dome ceiling in one room. The beauty so magnificent, that there was even a few individuals laying down on the carpeted floor admiring the domed ceiling. If you’re an architecture junkie or just like beautiful things, a visit to Chicago is not complete without visiting here. After this, we briefly checked out Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, a Christmas market modeled after a Christmas market held in Nuremberg, Germany. There was beautiful wooden crafts, and one stall which was of particular interest titled “Dragons and Fairytales” which sold wooden figurines of of dragons and other mystical creatures. After this it was time to head on over the docks to board our boat.

Besides freezing our butts off, the tour was fantastic and our guide was a saint for being as enthusiastic as he was in such cold weather. For anyone really wanting to appreciate Chicago’s architecture, the boat tour is a must! Although, maybe do it in the summertime? As the boat trudged along, the guide explained the different river locks and gave us the history of various buildings we passed by. One of the great things about the tour time we chose is we got to see how beautifully the glass paned buildings reflected the river. As someone who constantly refers to myself as a nature girl, Chicago is one of those cities which has made me realize the city ain’t so bad after all.

After the tour, we headed to a small cafe before making our way to Dylan’s Candy Bar. This candy store was absolutely massive and I imagine is what heaven looks like to a child. There were so many different treats and the decor was absolutely adorable. After this, we grabbed some food at Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse, where the food was delicious and the portions were absolutely massive! Our second day in Chicago was a massive success, and the Windy City was winning over my heart.

*** Stay Tuned for the Rest of the Story***