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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Stingray City- Grand Cayman VIDEO

The older I get, the more I try to avoid the touristy gimmicky attractions when I travel.  When I plan my trips around the globe, I try to avoid the "Blue Lagoons" of various destinations. More often than not, they are usually overpriced "in and out" types of deals that you do for the bucket list or a quick picture.  The older I get, the more I try to avoid the crowds of people and 5 second photo ops. 

I have to admit, when I booked my trip to Grand Cayman, I had one overly touristy activity on my radar: Stingray City.  If you've been on a cruise in the Caribbean, you have probably stopped at GC and saw this exact activity as one of the excursions along the way. Stingray City is the famous little sandbar in Grand Cayman where you can hop in the water and feed the wild sting rays.  My internal debate was "Yes, Yes I want to feed and swim with wild sting rays." and then "No, No I do not want to give someone all this money to some guy who doesn't care for something super touristy that doesn't support eco-tourism".   
First world problems. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Grand Cayman Cuisine

One of my favorite aspects of traveling is the food.  Yeah yeah the sunshine and crystal clear water is nice, but the food is the biggest perk.  New restaurants, new menus, new cultures and new amazing food. I always get extra excited when my travels bring me to an island because this typically means a lot of fresh fish will be offered on all the menus. So what type of food can you expect on Grand Cayman? My week was filled with stewed turtle, conch fritters, kangaroo sausage,  lionfish tacos, jerk chicken, countless curries and chicken tikka masala.  But before I go into how good lionfish tacos are, we need to go over a quick and dirty 1 paragraph history lesson and then the food will all make sense (except for the kangaroo). 

SHORT VERSION:  Grand Cayman was first colonized by Jamaica, and then by the British. HISTORY LESSON:  "The Cayman Islands were sighted by Christopher Columbus on May 10, 1503, during his last voyage to the West Indies. At first the Spaniards named the islands Las Tortugas because of the many turtles in the surrounding waters, but by 1530 they were known as the Caimanas or Caymanes for the alligators (caim├ínes) reported to be native there. After the Treaty of Madrid (1670)—which ceded Jamaica and a number of other Caribbean islands, including the Caymans, to Great Britain—the first permanent settlement was established on Grand Cayman. Most of the inhabitants were British mariners, privateers, shipwrecked passengers, and African slaves, as well as land-grant holders from Jamaica. The remoteness of the islands, and integration following the emancipation of slaves in 1835, resulted in a socially homogeneous society." Read More

Shrimp and Mango Salad from Paradise Grill - Georgetown

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Compass Point Dive Resort - Grand Cayman

Planning dive vacations can require a lot of research.  You are looking for a nice resort with great diving and easy access at an affordable price.  You spend a lot of time stalking flights, emailing resorts, and comparing different weeks of travel to find the trifecta of quality, convenience and price.  Hopefully, at the end of these spread sheets and emails you find the type of resort you are looking for and most importantly, in your price range. While I researched flights, two friends headed west to Las Vegas to scout out different dive resorts and island destinations.  What they came back with was Compass Point Dive Resort in the Cayman Islands. 

Hammocks and the dock at Compass Point
Compass Point Dive Resort is a "Dedicated Dive Resort" on the quiet East End of Grand Cayman, the largest island of the "Cayman Islands".  Compass Point aims to bring Live-A-Board style diving at a land based resort.  Their motto is "roll out of bed and onto the waiting dive boat".   Far away from the crowds, easy access to some of the islands best diving, and at a great price, Compass Point had a lot of what we were looking for in a resort.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Scuba Diving the Kittiwake Wreck- Grand Cayman

Scuba Diving the Kittiwake, Grand Cayman 
I am officially back from one glorious week spend soaking up the 83 degree sunshine and scuba diving in Grand Cayman.  I apologize for the lack of posts while I was gone (glitches with my brewery posts), but promise that the Cayman posts to come will make up for it all.  The first post in the Cayman series is one of the main island's most popular dive sites, the Kittiwake Wreck.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Stony Creek Brewery- Branford, Connecticut

While I am in the Cayman Islands diving (sorry for all of you stuck in winter still..) Katie Wanders will be sharing a few posts all about local breweries.  

Welcome to Monday and another post featuring a New England brewery (Katie Wanders visited, tasted and approved).  Truth be told, Stony Creek has been on my radar for a while.  I have heard awesome things about their new space in Branford with its large outdoor area right on the water.  I have also enjoyed some of their beer on tap at restaurants and bars around the Connecticut shoreline like Little Cranky that was almost always on tap at Dog Watch right down the road. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Packing for a Dive Vacation

This time tomorrow I will be on a plane heading for the Caribbean, Grand Cayman to be exact.  I am jetting away with 13 other friends I dive with to spend a week scuba diving around the island.  Getting away from a dreary New England winter in March is just what the doctor ordered. 

To kick off my trip, I am sharing my tips and secrets to packing for a Dive Vacation (or really any trip in general).  I am sharing what kind of bag makes an awesome and cheap dive gaer bag, and how you can fit a weeks worth of clothes in a carry-on suitcase.  While I am gone, keep an eye on the blog as I share a tale of three breweries (three posts about three different breweries- one great, one good, one awful).  Now, let's start packing!

Packing for vacations can be an awful experience.  You lay out everything you think you need on the bed, look over at your empty suitcase and cringe.  A:  you probably forgot a few things and B:  that stuff is never going to fit.  If you are packing for a dive vacation, then you need a lot more in your suitcase than a normal trip.  A lot of that equipment is also really expensive, hard to replace and necessary for a week away spent diving. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Vermont Travel Club Card

When it comes to hobbies, I always joke that I picked the "most expensive ones".  From horseback riding to scuba diving to skiing, my bank account takes a hard hit when it comes to extracurricular activities.   As much as I love skiing, it can be an expensive hobby to maintain.  Even after the initial investment of gear, you have to keep putting money into lift tickets or season passes.  While season passes are often a "deal" in the long run, they are expensive up front and generally restrict you to one mountain. Of all the years I have been skiing, I have never held a season pass (even while living in Utah).

I have always looked for ways to score lift ticket deals whether it be memberships to ski clubs or discounts online at sites like Liftopia.  Here in New England, there are a lot of ski mountains to chose from and many are very expensive.  Stowe for instance, breaks the bank at $124 for a one-day lift ticket.  The high prices of Stowe had also turned me off from skiing the mountain.  However, a friend had a condo at the base of the mountain and I was eager to give Stowe a try (you can read all about my day skiing Stowe HERE ).  Before forking over the $124 for a one-day lift ticket (ouch), I did a lot of research on discounted lift tickets.  After some extensive internet searches and phone calls into various travel clubs or memberships, I discovered that a $54 one-time fee gets you membership to the Vermont Travel Club Card, a card that offers lift ticket discounts at various Vermont mountains, as well as discounts at restaurants and hotels.