A Slice of Retirement Paradise; Antigua



There isn’t a soul who knows me that wouldn’t agree that I greatly appreciate living comfortably. I mean, we all do to some extent, but some of us need it a little more. I’m of the latter. My home is my sanctuary, and be it large or small, it needs to have the sense of comfort I am used to.

By living comfortably I don’t mean it in the literal sense of a nice couch, or a large house. I mean the overall comforts of life; strong structure, good weather, the limitations of strange bugs, the prospect of serenity and the convenience of central shopping. Pretty much in that order.

I’ve been lucky living my entire life in Southern California, because bugs, and weather aren’t a huge issue, and shopping is literally everywhere. Serenity I’ve found is something you need to find on your own, and location won’t always provide it, but it helps. Realistically I know my days are potentially numbered for retiring here in my little comfort zone of South County. My HOA fees will probably keep going up, and with the cost of groceries, and utilities inflating as they have, I would probably get by, but that could be about it. Travel would be limited, especially to my favorite place; the Caribbean. And by numbered, I mean I probably have a good ten more years, and I understand that a lot can happen in that span of time, but that doesn’t stop me from keeping my eyes peeled for new and possible locations to rest what feels sometimes like, my already-getting-weary bones.

Plus I’m a planner. If I’m not creating spreadsheets, I’m creating plans. Even those a decade away.

In another lifetime I considered living on the road for a good portion of the year; Camp hosting seemed an ideal way to be able to travel and see so much of the U.S.. But that was another life, with a partner that no longer exists, and strangely as that relationship faded, so did the appeal of that lifestyle. I’d still like to see those parts of the U.S. that I’ve missed, but maybe not living out of a box on wheels. We also looked at the idea of becoming an ex-Pat somewhere friendly and welcoming to Americans, and that idea has magically been tucked away as a possibility.

And it blossomed.

My childhood friend and I both being single, and singularly obsessed with aging alone, bally back and forth different ideas and locations. I think it’s almost unspoken that one of us will care for the other if it’s ever needed. Add to that the fact that both of us are a tiny bit obsessed about retirement, her definitely moreso than me.

When the conversation turns to this, I tend to think of it as our Chicken Little phases. She is running around calling out that the “Sky is falling, the sky is falling!” and I am Henny Penny, trying to keep her grounded. She’ll get her mind set on one location, and no sooner does she convince me that this place is ideal for the two of us to grow old, living next door to one another, then she goes off and finds a new location. I laugh because I have to, or my frustration at her inability to freaking pick a place would drive me nuts. The truth is her antics are like watching a child chasing a butterfly. I picture her mind running from one part of her imagination to the other chasing these ideas. I suspect at times it’s just fodder for her, so I’m careful not to take much of it to heart, but it did get me thinking, “What IS my criteria for retirement living?”

The first thing that comes to mind isn’t so much what I want, but what I don’t want.


All I ever hear is how someone of an older age has slipped on a patch of ice and broken a hip. The next thing you know, Death is knocking on their door. I honestly still don’t know exactly why the hip is related to death – I assume it somehow leads to pneumonia from being bedridden for too long, but I could be wrong. All I know is that a slippery icey walkway is not going to be the death of me. I have to remind her of that every time she mentions a place with snow.

This crossed several locations off her list that actually sounded quite nice. Mountainous areas of Arizona. The beauty of Idaho. Even a few areas of Oregon. Of course it pretty much wipes all of the Mid-West and East Coast off the list, but truth be told they were never really contenders anyway.

I guess following that, affordability is pretty high on the list. I’d like to be able to sell my place, and take my retirement and live comfortably. As much as I’d like to afford to cruise or travel six months out of the year, I never planned for that financially in my earlier years, so I’ll take a nice place that affords me a decent vacation annually.

I’ve lived within 25 minutes of the beach nearly all of my life, and I’ve almost accepted the fact that this little piece of criteria might not be viable. It saddens me with the realities, but it is, what it is. So if possible, I’d like to stay near water. River, lake, ocean or sea – doesn’t matter all that much to me. Just give me water, simple, sweet, water.

I’d also like something warm, but — with lower humidity. That last part throws Florida off the list. After spending a week in San Juan last week, I was reminded I acclimate to humidity pretty fast, but to live there I’d probably need to shave my head. My head simply doesn’t adjust like the rest of me does, and with my already baby fine hair, I end up with damp locks stuck to my scalp for a good portion of the day. It limits the wearing of hats because of the horrible hat head I get. Hats are something I can’t wait to invest in when I retire. I suspect hats will be the new heels for my senior years. Humidity + Hats = No Bueno for this gal.



Humidity also limits living on a cruise ship just in case I happen to hit the lottery. The planned climate aboard the ships is too high in humidity for me, throwing my sweat glands into overdrive sometimes just for simply eating too fast. OK maybe not eating too fast, but I swear my head was in humidity limbo for a week on that ship.

Have I mentioned how much I hate to sweat?

So I have a lot of places crossed off my list, and nothing really on it firmly.

I mentioned being in San Juan last week; it was a precursor to a cruise I was getting ready to go on (hence the reason I also know that the climate conditions on a ship are too clammy for me too). We were hitting a couple of islands I had already been to; St. Thomas & St. Kitts, and a few islands I hadn’t yet; Barbados, St. Lucia and Antigua.

Now I haven’t done crazy extensive travel around the Caribbean like a lot of my friends, but I’ve done enough to sort of get a feel for what I like and what I don’t. Wait let me rephrase that. You’d sort of be crazy to not like anything in the Caribbean– so I guess I should say what I love and what I qualify as “a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”. Top of my list after visiting last year was Aruba. The beaches are beautiful, it’s contemporary and clean — and it’s also very, very expensive. On a catamaran excursion I was on last year, in talking with one of the native guys helping run the bar he compared it to living in New York City, where for $800USD you get a 350 sqf apartment – and that’s lucky living. So Aruba became the favorite “Nice place to visit, but I couldn’t afford to live there.”

I also watch enough HGTV International, and Beach House Living and whatever other names they come up with to show the real estate in most island and coastal countries. Beach front living is doable in many places, but I’m always amazed when someone says they have $150,000 and then a list of must-haves as long as their arm. Generally speaking they get rarely get what they want. I like to think I’m more realistic on what my dollar will get me.

If those same househunters had shopped for property in Antigua, that list might have been met.

I hit the island last week; one of the stops mentioned above. We had a group excursion planned, with about 60 of us; 20 to a bus. Each bus had a sort of guide, so to speak. Ours also happened to be our bartender/BBQ cook/comedian – basically he headed up our excursion to Ffryes Beach (double ff is how it’s spelled). While one woman talked his ear off, my friend and I attempted to throw a question at him here and there when we could get a word in;  asking about the locals, and the cost of living, whether or not there were large grocery stores. We joked about there being no Target’s on the island.  Of course the answers were pat on. Low crime, low housing, etc. Who is going to say their city is a crime infestation with inflated property levels when leading a group of 20 people that you are trying to sell the city on?  Basic housing was $80k USD for a 2 bed/1 ba.. Okay not too bad. We asked as we got closer to the water, “What about this one? Wood vs concrete? Water view vs water living?” He stayed pretty consistent.

The areas we were seeing were honestly pretty rustic, but they were right on a busy(ish) highway. Some a little more decayed than others. Most looked pretty sturdy and when he saw we were truly interested in island living he explained how each house is built with steel beams in each corner that the roof is built into, so that with high hurricane gusts, the winds would have to pick the entire house up to get the roof off. He was right about not seeing one dilapidated home with a missing roof. The area was very lush with greenery. Each place we saw, mansion or shack had immediate potential if you knew how to look at it.

For the record, I could totally see myself as the Chip & Joanna of Antigua. 😉

Then we climbed over the green hill and you saw the selling point. Sugar fine sands and turquoise waters. Ffryes Beach. We all tumbled out of the bus, and I saw this wasn’t the rockin’ tourist beach that so many of the islands had. They had a small mom & pop bar set up for these cruise excursions. No fighting amongst the locals for business. It’s a popular beach, but still with some sense of serenity. They still had the beach vendors, selling beads and baubles, braids and massages, but it didn’t have the constant swarm of them like some of the beaches have had. These were friendlier versions, that seemed to be working together, not against one another.

I loved it.

The beach backed up to a small forest of swaying palm trees, while the shoreline had an area with this beautiful embedded natural driftwood, looking like it was planted there for the specific purpose of art. The water that lapped at your feet was a coolish-warm. Not so warm as San Juan (which isn’t a good thing btw, but for another blog), refreshing without being cold. And to the left a structure was built into the side of the hill that we initially mistook as a possible small resort. It was newer, and without being close enough to confirm, it looked pretty modern. Lots of windows and balconies all facing the water.31143740_10216341622638417_9129155826068488192_n

We asked our guide Von after he finished barbequing us a nice lunch, about the structure and he explained to us that it was a condo, and that several behind us were going up. We asked what he estimated the price on these to be, and he said about $150k USD. It was hard to believe that price, but later back on the ship we met another couple who had gone on the island looking at properties for retirement, and showed us a comparable house (not condo) on the beach for $200k. I think Von could have been spot on with his pricing.

All of a sudden this tiny spark that started out as a joke, became an itsy bitsy flame of reality.

The breezes – which I imagine could turn into gusts by the way the beach umbrellas were picked up from time to time, kept the island from too much humidity. It was definitely affordable. It was a place that would offer me the peace that I wanted.  I wouldn’t have my Target to go shopping at, but would you trade paradise for shopping? (No, I mean really, as a shopping addict, would you?)  I imagined myself there finally getting serious about my writing, taking walks on the beach, and finally learning to snorkel without panicking first. Vacations could be puddle jumpers to any of the handful of nearby islands.

Now the realities do intermingle with the fantasy. First and foremost is living that far away from my children. In ten years a lot could occur. I could have a slew of grandchildren that have old granny absolutely wrapped around their little fingers, making it completely impossible for me to leave them. Second, is Hurricanes. I mean, I’ve heard stories. While they don’t scare me as much as the idea of tornadoes, they are still pretty fierce. Third, really should be first, and that is understanding island living. You’d be taking my family and friends and placing them on the backburner. Could I realistically do this? It would be hard.

If this fantasy were to come to fruition, I wouldn’t jump on a plane and simply buy. I don’t know for sure if I would do that anywhere, be it Las Vegas, or Antigua. I started this off stating that I have lived in the same region for nearly my entire life. Before I make a jump like this, I’d test drive it. I’d live there for an extended period – a rental I imagine, and see if those bumps that I am aware of are manageable, and moreso; those bumps I am not aware of are even more manageable.

But I’m telling you, if I have the nerve, the gumption to actually ever make this a reality – if the idea of island fever doesn’t scare me off, I know the first house I’m going to be looking at purchasing.


Southern Caribbean (or how I really miss my Nikon)

Just finally coming down off the high of my latest travels. I think this is probably one of the best trips I have taken if measured in terms of complete relaxation. I decided to literally go with the flow for nearly everything, which made the excursions and ship experience itself much different than previous cruises.

To boot, I’ve upgraded my bucket list; It’s my intention to eventually visit and semi-educate myself on every island in the Caribbean. Now to get a map and start working on this New List.

While my forte (do I even really have a forte?) is really not Travel Blogs per say, l’m going to give this a try.

First I should start by saying this trip wasn’t all the Southern Caribbean. It’s booked as such, but in looking information up on the islands, I found that technically only two of them; Aruba and Curacao, are considered part of the South.

That’s about as much education as you will get from this particular entry.

I think. Let’s see as we go.

Starting Destination: Puerto Rico

Let me start by saying this particular bucket list of mine will eventually rack up quite the airline miles. Outside of living in the Pacific Northwest, or perhaps Alaska I don’t think I could fly from a worse U.S. starting point for the Southern Caribbean; Los Angeles. While most of my friends were flying four, maybe five hours, my travel time was twelve hours without time change. With time change it gets a little foggy, because it calls into state my inept math skills, and my fascination and yet inability to understand time travel. (Yes, I’m aware that I am not time traveling, but it always feels that way to me). I’m four hours behind Puerto Rico time, so I guess technically I only travelled 8 hours, minus 1 between flights give or take. Whatever. It was a long fucking trip that had me in the air at 8 AM and arriving my final destination by 8:30 PM.

I won’t even get into my starvation issues on both flights, but suffice to say I will now be one of those old ladies who pulls out a baggie of snacks on planes in the future and offers you one.

Puerto Rico wasn’t my first international solo flight (and for those who correct me on the fact that technically PR isn’t international because it’s still part of the U.S., can bite me. It’s international to me. – such hostility in this blog! Ha!) – but it was the first one that I flew into alone for the first time. In other words I had zero idea of what to expect. The airport was small, and like my local airport in Orange County it apparently closes down early. We must have been the last flight in, which actually made the baggage pick up quick. I loved that a baggage/transportation guide was right there, and I never had to touch my bags (thank God because I packed a fuck ton of clothes). He grabbed them off the carousel for me, and had me nearly running after him to keep up til we hit a cab. I’d say seriously from departure of the plane to Old San Juan was maybe 30 minutes.

Puerto Rico, or Old San Juan (which is all that I really saw of it – that’s a reoccurring theme here; one destination per island) really was beautiful, and the people we encountered were so friendly. English was spoken I think literally everywhere we went, although we did have an interpreter with us when needed in the smaller establishments. It just really made things faster. English is just as prelevant there as it is here.

The first night we made the awful mistake of heading next door to our hotel; Senor Frogs. I was starved (read above about no food on the flights) and one of our roommates had headed over earlier and was told it was Ladies Night and for a small cover charge, women drink for free.

Plus they served food.

I heard food and booze and BAM! was sold. We paid something like six or eight bucks to get in, and get our little wrist band. There was absolutely no doubt that we were the oldest women in the place. And not by a couple of years. By decades. The first indication that we were not going to really score on that All-You-Can drink bennie, was the fact we had to order not from the bar, but from these strategically placed tables. The first one we went to, the bartender could a). Barely understand English (so see not EVERYONE here speaks English) and b). Couldn’t make a drink to save his life. I was ordering off his menu which clearly called out the liquors he needed, and he still had to stop and look up to see what he needed next. Eventually he realized he didn’t have even half the boozes required. In slight frustration I just revamped my order to a simple rum and pineapple juice, tipped him well, and quickly scurried away.

Being as old as we are, we were able to score the “Old Ladies Booth” (I like to call it), in the corner where the waiter kindly ran to the other manned bar-table and got us real drinks that were on the menu. The problem was it took him a good fifteen minutes between orders. The menus definitely were not highlighting the fact we were in Puerto Rico. It was chain bar food for all, except me, because I ordered spaghetti and meatball (no “s’ – meatball in the singular form). I had been taunted with it on my last flight. A bar serving spaghetti? I felt it was a sign from the Food Gods. Plus how can you really fuck up spaghetti? I was too hungry to be adventurous. With the music thumping at a bass level so high I could feel it in my chest, and conversation between me and my two friends in that screaming manner, as soon as we finished eating we pretty much hightailed it out of there.

Of course not before myself and friend sucked our drinks down as fast as possible, only to find we could have taken them with us.

The rest of the trip was a bit easier. We had a fantastic breakfast with the best coffee I had had since Costa Rica. Later we hit the large 400 year old El Morro Fort that sits on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, with this spectacular view; as well as San Juan Cemetery, which I swear if I were inclined to be buried, I’d want to get a spot in there. We didn’t get a chance to actually head into the cemetery, but the views from above were unreal. Of course I have a weird fascination with old cemeteries, so it makes sense to me.

San juan coffee

Best. Cup. Of. Coffee. EVER. (Old San Juan)


One of the things this trip brought back out in me – starting in Old San Juan, was my inner amateur photographer. For reasons I am not completely certain of, after the big break-up, I just put the camera away. Whether it had anything to do with him or not, was moot. I took it out once, and it felt alien and foreign to me, and I haven’t really touched it again. Instead, I’ve relied on my iPhone which is so limiting. This was the first time I felt the longing of the lenses and the ability to get more detailed shots. I think the next vacation might require me to pick her up once again. Since I didn’t have her, I went ahead and did my best with the phone, shooting like crazy and feeling like I was missing an old friend.

San Juan Cemetery

If my body has to be buried, take me here please. (Old San Juan)


The rest of Old San Juan was good food, drinks and merriment. Hit La Placita de Santurce one night and it was probably one of the highlights. Even though it was teeming with American’s, it was very local and had more of the energy and flair that I hoped for in PR. We ended the night with a midnight dinner, where I opted to come out of my comfort zone and have dinner with strangers. Not random strangers. Three women who would be traveling with our group, but who I had never met. For seating purposes it made more sense that I ate with them, and in the interim, I learned a lot about them. Very sweet and funny ladies, who probably questioned amongst themselves who the kinda drunk & crazy lady that was seated with them.

We lost a day of sunshine to the unpredictable weather patterns of island living, but we made the most of it, and it gave me the opportunity to finish off a bottle of pineapple infused booze I bought at a local bar the day before. There was no way I was going to get that on the ship, so while in PR, do as the Puerto Ricans do.

San Juan Bottle

The bottle of pineapple infused “moonshine” that had to be drunk before boarding the ship.


Soon we were heading onto the ship where my roommate and I found the area we would be frequenting the most. It was like we planted our asses there and never left unless it was time get off the ship, or sleep, which is more often than it sounds in that statement. As I stated, it was a very relaxing trip.

First Island: St. Thomas

Our first port stop was St. Thomas, the following day. For educational purposes, St. Thomas is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and like Puerto Rico is an unincorportated territory. Just basically means it’s an area controlled by the U.S., but not in all matters. I had to look that up, because my illiterate self didn’t completely understand. I knew they were territories, but I didn’t exactly understand how or why.

Anyway, I opted out of any ship or group related excursions and trusted my roomie who had been here several times before. A group of us on her recommendation took a shuttle, and headed over to Coki Beach, which is apparently famous for its snorkeling, especially for beginners. It’s this perfect little beach cove nestled on what felt like the other side of the island. I think this was my favorite stop on all four islands visited, although I will admit the tractor-trolley type ride there had me grabbing on a few times, questioning our method of transport.

Driving thru St. Thomas won’t overly impress you if you are looking for pristine highways and drivers that stay in their lanes. It was rugged in some areas, and poorly developed in others. The drivers take these hairpin turns at terrifying speeds. Someone started to tell me the story of how one of these tractor trolleys went over an embankment a year or two ago in another location, and XX cruise passengers were killed. Not exactly the adventure I was looking for, but after this version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, I totally understood the plausibility of it happening.

Once we arrived the Cove and negotiated our chair and umbrella rental, we were set. The waters were a breathtaking turquoise and were seriously to-date the prettiest I had seen. The waters, because we were in a cove were calm, and that made wading or swimming an absolute breeze. The beach, while itself was small, was wide and had a large scape of eateries and bars that argued and vied for your business. Literally argued and vied. The place we chose eventually had the owner come out and apologize to us because of the drama between his staff and the neighboring place.


Coki Beach, St. Thomas


We hadn’t been blessed with the greatest of waitresses, but I had ordered a bucket of beers and split it with a friend and was set. Taking a walk to one end of the cove placed me in the unincorporated area of Iguana City Central (I just totally made that name up), where about a half dozen carefully camouflaged iguana’s were spotted. Later a friend took the veggie remnants of her burger lunch down to the island lizards, and I clicked away on my iPhone while they slurped up bright red tomatoes. Again, my Nikon would have done a spectacular job there.


Tomato Slurping Iguana of Coki Beach (St. Thomas)


I really didn’t want to leave this little island paradise, and was almost granted my wish when during our group exit I came out of the bathroom and found none of my group nearby. With the roar of a nearby diesel engine I looked over and saw them all piled on the bus headed back, looking like they were willing or considering — leaving me. I am not sure I would have survived long on the island once the credit cards maxxed out, and I might have ended up on the rocks, begging for scraps with the iguana’s. I milked the fact they almost left me during the entire trip. That’s me, running a joke out until it crashes and burns.

I think on my next venture here, I’d like to take a ferry over to St. John’s, a neighboring island. St. Thomas is definitely on my list of “Y’all Come Back and See Us All Again!” places.

Second Island: St. Kitts

St. Kitts is almost the antithesis of St. Thomas. Again, I decided to go against the grain of established excursions, and follow my roommates advise, since she had travelled these waters so much before. There is nothing like the voice the of experience to guide you in my opinion.

Where St. Thomas was rugged and questionable in some areas, St. Kitts was manicured with beautiful clean roads. Where St. Thomas drivers use lanes and speed limits as a suggestion, St. Kitts follows their road rules to a T. Instead of an open tractor-trolley, we had an air-conditioned bus. The driver we got for our group, either mistook us for wanting a tour, or threw it in for free. I had the good fortune to sit up front with him, and felt bad at how much chatter was going on while he tried to explain the history of his homeland, so I really tried to seem involved and intrigued. Unfortunately a good part of the time I couldn’t quite understand him. He did get us to our destination of Cockleshell Beach.

I would never complain while on a beautiful vacation in a gorgeous location, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was underwhelmed by almost everything on Cockleshell. The water, while beautiful didn’t have the serenity that Coki did. Getting in and out of the water alone was a little more challenging than Coki and the sands were rougher on my delicate toesies. I think my daughter would call this #whitegirlproblems. “Ooo the beach sand wasn’t as soft, and I could only see thru the water to a depth of 15 feet, instead of 16 feet at the other beach”, she whined while the violins played My Heart Bleeds For You.

St kitts

There really should be a Go Fund Me for the suffering endured here at Cockleshell, in St. Kitts.


But wait, the whining isn’t over: The wait-staff on this beach wasn’t arguing for our business, and all but ignored us (at least when I was around).I did most of my business at the bar, which was about as friendly and helpful to customers as a blood bank is to a mosquito. Have you ever had to chase a waitress down to pay her before you leave an establishment? I have.

They did have wi-fi, and tables with umbrella’s, so I was able to take pics and load them quickly. And seriously, all kvetching aside — I was on freaking St. Kitts! So what if it took longer for me to get that delicious Mango Colada – I was freaking on St. Kitts!! Drinking fucking Mango Colado’s on a Monday, no less! To be honest, the picture opportunities were actually better for me here, and this is when the jonesing for my Nikon really took shape. That should be my theme here. Jonesing for my Nikon.

Ultimately, would I want to head back to St. Kitts? Yeah I definitely think I would. I really loved how clean and pristine the island felt. I might pass up Cockleshell, that’s all.

Third Island: Aruba

I cannot say Aruba, or think Aruba without immediately humming or singing the Beach Boys line, “Aruba, Jamaica, oooo I wanna take you to Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go …..” – Not even certain if I have those lyrics in the right order, it goes thru my mind every time.

I LOVED Aruba. Of course I did, it follows every single faction of shopping in my life which is: Leave me to shop on my own for anything; clothes, shoes, handbags, homes and now vacations – and I will find and fall in love with the most expensive item there, completely unknowingly.

I believe Aruba is ultimately for millionaires, but I’m sure an average Joe can either spend one day there (as did I) or save their pennies and vacation like a Peasant.

This was the first island that I did a paid excursion on. A large catamaran that took us out onto the clearest most beautiful waters. Snorkeling, swimming, rope swing and slide, plus booze and a little bite to eat. LOVED IT. Not only could I completely see myself living in Aruba, I’d have to have one of these Catamaran’s. I could deal with a smaller one. I’m not greedy.

Getting back from the boat, we opted to stay on the beaches, which are much more expensive than the other two we stayed at. First they tried to rent us an umbrella for $50.00. We could have bought a used umbrella at that price. Then there was the bickering over who was going to pay what to sit under these thatched umbrella’s (which let’s be honest here, we could not have bought one of those) that were going for a mere $35.00. I had enough and headed down the pier in hopes to find the perfect little beach bar and as fate would have it – there she stood. From there I sipped on a local beer (which I did not reorder – Mango Colado’s had stolen my heart) served by a local who spelled her name Janet, but pronounced it Jhah-NET, which is what I think all my Janet friends should go by now. Looked over the once again, but never tired of, turquoise Caribbean waters, watched the water sports and sail boats and talked with a new friend.


The view I vie for during retirement (Aruba)


Time slipped by quick on this island, and pretty soon we were hunted down and told it was time to leave. I could have almost cried, I loved it there so much. In my retirement dream I want to find a little local wooden bar on the end of a pretty pier, that is run by a Jhah-NET, where we sit and discuss those crazy American’s and their politics and maybe the local goings on. I would erase the hotels and the fifty dollar umbrella’s and the Palapa’s (the thatched umbrella’s, and I’ll be honest I just looked up what they were called) would be free. I’d bring my freshly picked mango’s to Jhah-NET for her to slurry me up some tasty coloda’s with the local rum, and life would be GOOD.

Fourth & Last Island: Curacao

Our last island, and fifth day out to sea was Curacao. Curacao is a hard word for me to pronounce, because up until – oh this past December I had pronounced it Kur-raw-coh. Fortunately I heard someone else pronounce it while I was on my Vegas trip and realized I had been saying it wrong all these years. Not that Curacao comes into my conversation a lot over a lifetime, but I almost felt like Elizabeth Berkley in Shows girls when she pronounces Versace as as Ver-says. I looked up the phonetic pronunciation of it when I got home, and when I say the word I have to hesitate as I visualize the word Cure-ah-sow.

I’m sure when I hit the lottery and buy enough homes to island hop, that saying the word Curacao will be said so often, that I will simply slip off my tongue as easily as Peanut Butter. 😉

Curacao was the only island we didn’t beach it during the day. I had originally booked a small excursion with a bit of tour, bit of beach, but the call time to meet was 8:15 and by God this was my vacation, and I wasn’t going to work office hours by setting an alarm. I was willing to take the financial hit by simply ditching the event, but got super lucky when an honest soul took my spot on the excursion at the last moment and then later found me and paid me for it. I would have never known, and thought it quite commendable on her behalf to be so honest.

Of course I gambled this found money in the ship’s Casino the following night and lost it faster than it took for her to hand it to me.

Instead of the excursion, the roommate and a few friends ventured into town and walked the cobbled streets, which I both LOVED and HATED. I only hated it because I wanted my fucking camera so badly at this point! – This was a photographers haven, especially for people and buildings. We did our own form of a pub crawl and had a great time during it. Very relaxing, and best yet, I finally got some shopping time in.  Prior to that was me running in as quickly as possible to a small shop here and there buying my magnets. Oh and an overly priced, yet very loved ballcap. Haven’t bought one of those in years.




Curacao was seriously lovely, from the moving bridge which is similar to a drawbridge only this moves sideways, instead of up and down – to the colorful landscape and buildings, to the free roaming dogs, sometimes only with three legs. Made it back in from town onto the ship just in time to rinse, later, repeat as we repeated the same walking venture, plus about a mile or two to a hotel suggested to us by — well let’s just say fellow passengers arranged this. It’s rare that the ships dock as late as this one did (11 PM) so we took full advantage like a kid without parents for the night and headed out.

The location of the hotel itself was great, but getting there was a little more than I anticipated. Between the un-level walking that reminded me more of the streets of New Orleans, to the length of the walk itself, I was very happy that the hotel actually exceeded my expectations. When I arrived I was a grumbling little mess, but the moment I walked into the outside bar and restaurant which were nestled in this tiny little cove, all anger subsided. We had arrived just in time to get libations and watch the sun go down.


The sunset 430 miles north of Venezuela (Curacao)


428 miles from Venezuela. That’s like Vegas close. It’s the second farthest point South ever traveled for me (Costa Rica edges it out, just barely). Friendly, and clean. Not cheap, but not Aruba prices either. I would definitely come back to this last of our island travels for this particular trip.

The Ship:

The ship was a Royal, and it was nice. In fact, while I wasn’t overwhelmed by the beauty of it, it was probably one of my favorites. We had a great balcony room. I was really lucky with my roommate choice, because we just gelled really well living together for a week. We had been very new friends before, but I think the trip cemented things for us. Like, I’d have her out to my place for a weekend if she ever wanted. Can’t say that invite extends to everyone I know.

Back to the ship, there were some areas I really liked, like their promenade area, which is almost laid out like a mall. Very easy to locate what you are looking for. The nightclub was nice as well. Larger dance floor than most, and ample seating around the floor.

I can’t really report too much on the food, because that part about me taking it so very easy? It extended itself to dining hours. I literally never stepped foot in the dining room except when we were going from floor to floor in the beginning, checking things out. Plus we tend to do as our company does, and my friend almost seemed to have an allergic reaction to the dining room. While I wasn’t purposely avoiding it, and had even considered a point of going, the timing was always off for me. The buffet? It wasn’t too bad. Nothing to write home about, but I could always manage a meal when needed.

What I did get in lieu of the dining room was an evening at one of the specialty restaurants, which really did exceed my expectations. The food and service were exemplary, and the dining company wasn’t too bad either.

We only had two sea days, and those honestly flew by. Having had a lot of direct sun on those days that were at dock, I spent my at-sea days in shade, ass planted firmly in an area that had excellent cocktail service.

So that’s it. That’s my take on the four of the islands I was lucky enough to spend a small amount of time on. I still want that boat to retire on, taking it from island to island, until my time comes and they just throw me into the water and make me fish food.

Until then I will just bide my time and island explore to the best of my abilities. And take pictures of course. Lots of pictures.

Traveling with Phil



Travel to Live

In the midst of the happiness and cheer in my life (because honestly it really is going pretty well, despite the minor challenges that are a constant for me … for every living, breathing, person out there) there is this small little part of my brain that I feel sits on what I am going to call the Death button. Maybe not sitting on it, but definitely watching it. It’s that nagging little part of your brain that starts to question the stress induced chest tightening as possibly something a little more.  I’m certain it’s a jumbled recipe of recent personal circumstances, media fed pharmaceutical commercials reminding me that women my age may die suddenly, spurts of bad but yet-oh-so-good living, genetics, and lastly with what feels like a death parade of some of my favorite rock stars since the start of the new year. It just all adds up to being there. To questioning mortality. Let’s just add into the fact that the New Year as fresh as it may seem, is also a signifier that we are all about to be one year older. That’s my Anti-Pollyanna reminding me of darkness I refuse to embrace.

I don’t obsess over my age. I’m good with it. But —- Neither of my parents lived to see their sixties. While I feel far from cursed, I can’t help but wonder; What’s my unlucky number? Will it be the long slow ride to 90, where I fear my mind turning to mush or are these the last few good ones left? Truth be told, my parents deaths were not life’s cruel twisted joke; it was hard living on both their parts. Some might say karmic retribution in one respect, but I’ll leave that for my Daddy Issues blog when I finally get around to writing it. ;-). I know I am not either of my parents, but yet – I am. And therein lies that small part of my brain that sits and watches that internal Death button, waiting for the imaginary results on that bump, or lump, or cough.

I know I don’t always take good care of myself. I tend to live with vigor, and when I indulge I sometimes forget to shut off the “That’s enough” valve. My blood pressure has sent a scare into me more than once, where I start making false promises to myself and any entity that might have their hand on the paging Death button. But then I’m okay, and the promises turn into smoke and nervous yet reassured laughter. Add to that, my imagination which has always been a bit on the theatrical side.

It sounds crazy and a bit like hypochondria, but I never expected myself by my very early 50’s to have experienced death so many times. My family went thru a death crisis about 15 years ago, where like the aforementioned rock stars, family members were dropping like flies. While the number wasn’t huge, the percentage was, and it was like a small European village being wiped out of existence. They simply ceased to exist, leaving the survivors to stumble around wondering what the fuck just hit them. When it was all said and done, nearly every one of us had lost a parent. Soon after I was fortunate enough to experience a death free lull for about a decade, until it started to hit friends and acquaintances in the same fast, bullet spitting fashion. By then I was experienced, although I’d be lying to say that each one didn’t steal a little piece of me away.

The upside to this? There is always an upside to time and tragedy. For me, I’ve decided there is no time like the present, to live life a little fuller. Bump up that Bucket List while you still have the mental marbles to do so. You just never really know. I expanded a bit on my dreams and pushed the reins out of the hands of Awkwardness and Fear. (Fear holds those reins very tightly)

I started with Travel.

Travel for me was something  I wanted to achieve, but never realized how I would grow to love it so much. I was lucky in my last relationship because he liked travel as much as I did, so that’s probably where I got my feet wet. But travel as a couple, versus travel as a single is different. I can’t exactly say how different, because I’ve only recently put my toes out there in the past year or so. Small places, girl trips, built up to slightly larger and now I have a couple of trips lined up throughout the year, and cannot wait to line the following year up.

In my 20’s, Greece was the big objective, followed by what I could only imagine as the breathtaking Tuscany region. By my 30’s I wanted to rest my ass in Ireland because it was so beautifully green, and the lilt of the Irish brogue has always sang so sweetly to my ears. But it wasn’t until the action of actually doing some travel, that I got it. The country that really did it for me was Costa Rica; even though the circumstances of that trip are yes, something I can laugh about now, but definitely not at the time. Since then, travel for me has become a bigger piece of the pie. No longer are the dreams a bit on the sparse side, to be done tomorrow.

I always figured someday, myself and my husband, Phil Intheblank, would go back and visit that proverbial little island in Greece; perhaps staying at that magical place we spent our honeymoon. Only, I haven’t yet done Greece. Or the honeymoon. Or even Phil for that matter. It took me getting to this point, Age and the Death button to realize “I don’t need no stinkin’ Phil to make the magic happen!”, and that ultimately time really isn’t your friend and isn’t good for anything but a little bit of wisdom you can’t take with you anyway. Get while the getting is good. So I started to travel a bit sans a relationship. Baby steps at first. I joked in a previous blog about Eat, Pray, Love, but I don’t know if I yet have it in me to travel half way across the world alone.

Note the word yet. It’ll happen.

For now I am still sticking with my side of the hemisphere. Tracking down the tropical places I’ve want to say I at least stepped foot in. There are so many of them, and I am barely getting started. Maybe I will be lucky enough to sip a libation with a local, chow down on a new dish, or run my toes thru the earth. For today,  I’m using the safety and comfort of cruise ships and travel with friends, because it feels good to know I might be sort of traveling alone, but I’m not really alone. But soon I’ll put my big girl panties on, and just go – without the ship. Maybe even without the friends. Fly 12 hours, and rent that car, driving and relishing in the abandonment of lost fears.

I figure Greece will definitely be there waiting for me, maybe along with Italy and Ireland if I hit the lottery. Who knows maybe even my Phil to share it with. When I’m there I might get brave enough to flip off Death. But then again maybe not.

Either way, I’m going.


Vacation Blues


Post Vacation Depression has hit me today. I’m certain that feeding into the feeling is the fact that physically, I feel so crappy. I came down with the Cruise Crud the last day and night. While most who also caught this were able to shake it off, like usual, this went straight to my chest and started breeding a nasty little infection. So between the lack of sleep on the vacation, and the lack of sleep due to this cough, I’m certain I am not thinking with all cylinders fired. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the antibiotics kick in quickly.

I need to hit a lottery, because it became very clear to me this past week, I am so over being part of the workforce. I wonder if I just sold everything how long I could live as a boat bum, just island hopping on a small sailboat, sipping boat drinks and improving my snorkeling skills? Instead I am a petulant sick child today who felt forced to play the part in dress and heels, nearly stomping my feet as I walked in the office door.

This was a most interesting vacation for me. I am not certain if I will be able to clearly define why except to say that for me it almost felt a little … surreal and Wonderland like. Maybe it was the singles aspect of being on a cruise for me. All cruises before were as a couple and while those were enjoyable, they were much more staid than this. We never stayed up til 2AM dancing on an almost daily basis, or swam in the warm ocean during thunderstorms. I wasn’t with nearly 400 like-minded individuals. The vacations then were —- simply nice. This was … I don’t have the word for it yet.

I’ll admit there were a couple of minor speed bumps. As aggressive and forward as most people see me, there is also a very shy person who needs down time from crowds. At times I was nearly frozen with the knowledge that everyone seemed to know everyone else. I couldn’t stay attached at the hip to my roommate. I heard the percentage of people new to this huge group was something like 5%. So when those situations hit I just did what I do best at those moments — retreat, and regain my bearings. As the week went on I met more people and found myself having to do this less and less. Meeting sweet, interesting, people who made me laugh so much became easier and easier as the days went by.

Of course I wasn’t sure what the protocol for these types of cruises really was. Are you there just to make friends? Yes. Are you there to make romantic connections? Yes. Hook-ups only? I can’t be certain of that, but I would imagine for some, yes on that too. Do you stay in touch afterwards? Are there weird expectations? I mean there were no clear boundaries, no book of rules per say, and that’s what made this control freak a little bit out of her element. Tell me what I am supposed to do next! — I internally screamed into the wind, and no response came back. In these situations, when there is absolutely NO control, the only thing is to let loose and go with the flow. As usual whenever I finally loosen that tight grip, I find myself absolutely loving the free-fall. I really need to recall this when my controlling issues come up, because I rarely regret letting go.

Of course the PVD and Cruise Cough have my head sort of reeling, and while I wanted to touch on a couple of items, I realize that I am letting the sadness sort of envelope me by doing as much. So I’ll leave it alone, with this; Suffice to say there is some confusion going on surrounding a couple of individuals and I haven’t a clue on what direction to turn to in figuring things out. So I won’t. I’ll let life and time make things happen … or not and leave it at that.

Until then, I’ll throw myself into this thing called W-O-R-K … at least for a couple of days. I have plans on Friday and took the day off; Which makes today my Monday that actually lands on a Tuesday, technically my Wednesday. Double points if you followed that one. 😉