Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Santa Cruz How I've Missed You

The other day my brother and I headed to Santa Cruz for some skim boarding and sun. I haven't been there for over a year, and have been seriously missing it. We get there and find out skim boards are $50, so we bail on that idea and head strait to the beach. The sun is also a bit lagging, so we eat the food I brought and then decide to see if the water is even remotely enterable. It's just as freezing as Santa Cruz water always is, so we hike up on the rocks to check out tide pools, trying to salvage our "beach day." I find a pretty cool star fish clinging to the side of a tide pool, and end up getting sprayed by the waves crashing on the rocks, as you can see below. My brother and I decide to finish our day by heading to the boardwalk to ride the Big Dipper. We scream like little kids taking our first roller coaster ride ever, (okay, I scream) and as we high five upon our exit from the ride we realize our day was pretty cool after all.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Apparently Hogs Breath Is Better Than No Breath At All

Hogs Breath Saloon is known locally and throughout the world, so I figured I'd have to give it a go. Tucked away off Duval Street in downtown Key West, the Saloon is filled with people in the middle of the afternoon. A bluesy crooner belting out county hits serenaded my mom and I as we sat down and got ready to order. Oysters on the half shell are the house specialty, so we figured a dozen of those along with some shrimp ceviche would make for a delicious meal. The oysters were succulent and juicy, almost creamy. The house made hot sauces were flavorful and spicy without rendering the mouth tasteless. The ceviche was filled with jumbo shrimp, onions, cilantro and just the right mix of lime juice and spices. A very tasty light meal.

After we walked around Mallory square, an area that meets the Gulf of Mexico with the Atlantic and is known as the best place to watch the sunset. We browsed some shops and carts filled with trinkets of all kinds, one with dozens of different types of sea sponges for sale and then headed to a shady area to sit for a while and ponder what to do next.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Drinking and Driving is A-OK in The Keys

As I was driving around Key West the other day, I noticed signs for drive through liqueur. A bit weird to see, so I had to investigate further. It seems that here in Key West, you can buy shots, beers, daiquiris and more at drive up windows. Some of these windows are on the side of liqueur store buildings, others are at the front of a regular restaurant size building. My mom thought this was as hilarious as I did, and we decided to drive through one last night and see how the drinks were served. Unfortunately, the drive through service stops at 11pm, so I guess that means you just have to get drinks the old fashioned way, you know, go to a bar and then get in your car and drive off after, darn =(

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Top Ten about Key West

The Florida Keys are a relaxing, fun and interesting place. Key West in particular has a lot going on-things to do, see and eat. Read this top ten list for some fun tips if you decide to head down:

1. Mile 0 -the most southern part of the United States
2. Glass boat bottom sunset tours
3. Wacky and fun Duval Street
4. Hand made Cuban cigars
5. Delicious seafood
6. White sand beaches with warm water
7. Fat Tuesdays, Hard Rock Cafe and a Margaritaville
8. The home of Ernest Hemingway...six fingered toes anyone?
9.Almost every hotel/resort looks into the Gulf or the Atlantic
10. The island feel without having to leave the states

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bienvenidos Miami and the Keys...

My last few pictures of Aruba, top-bottom: the Aruban flag, checkers on the beach, the beach behind my hotel.

I wasn't sad leaving Aruba, because I was boarding a plane to Miami. I mean, who could be sad going form one tropical destination to another?

Got through customs in just under two hours  (yay) and landed in Miami safe and sound. So excited to be in Florida because my sister and my nephew flew in from Atlanta and they are spending the week with us at our time share in Key West. We got to the rental car place at 7:30pm and were on our way. We stopped once for a snack, all of 15 minutes, and we still didn't get to the Keys until 11pm. Oh my god we didn't know the drive was gonna be that long.

WooWee....lots of ocean crossing, little small towns and then finally, Key West at the very end. We did pass through Key Largo, which was pretty cool. This morning I awoke to a crazy windy tropical rainy storm (yay), so no beach today....but we are gonna scope out the town and some places to eat. I'm excited to see what the Keys have to offer, and looking forward to another week in paradise.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Last Night in Aruba

"Is the restaurant in an exciting area," my mom asked the cab driver. "No, it's residential," he replied. Our last night in Aruba and we're headed to an island favorite, Madam Janettes. A French Caribbean fusion restaurant, known to have good food and a great atmosphere. As excited as my mom and I are about the upcoming food selection, we're thinking about the nonexistent possibility for getting a drink after dinner that's walking distance. "Yeah, you can take a cab back to the high rise hotel area, lots to do over there as you know, cost you $9," he pitched. Lovely, well, I guess we'll just keep racking up the cab fare as we've done all week.

We pull up to the restaurant and are immediately chipper. White Christmas lights shine and sparkle from, what are those, trees? It's an indoor/outdoor restaurant with trees throughout, which means sparkle as far as the eye can see. We get seated right away, and start to peruse the menu. Not too many options, but enough to get my mom and I excited. I get my new favorite fish, grouper, Caribbean style and a glass of Argentinian Malbec. My mom gets a seafood salad and a mango mojito. Delicious herb covered bread and spread greets us with pickled onions. Yum. My wine is full bodied with a sharp, but pleasing after taste. Our food comes out promptly. Mothers is a luscious salad of mainly shrimp, calamari and scallops. My grouper came lightly sauteed with a side of a sweet cilantro sauce and light salad. Very good. The dinner was light, so we ordered dessert. What better than the Jamaica Mama, sliced pineapple, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, fresh whip cream and all topped with my fave, toasted coconut. That was to die for. At the end of our meal, as we were in food bliss, getting ready to head out, a storm was brewing and rain poured on the pretty inside/outside restaurant. Luckily, after a few seat changes everything was fine, but my mom and I looked at each other as we knew this would limit our last night activities.

We decided to hop back in a cab and head over to a piano bar called Sopranos. Feeling more tired than we thought we would, we get there and order one drink. The piano singers good, but after a few songs we finish our drinks and decide to hail a cab back to the hotel. Nice last night, but time to get a little rest before we pack up and head to Miami and Key West tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Island of Many Flavors

 Pictures top-bottom: shrimp vesuvio, vegetarian lumpia and surinam bojo cake, Dutch cheese and crackers, green mussels.

Aruba is known for many things, good food being high on the list. Seafood, especially mahi mahi, red snapper, grouper, shrimp and yellowfin tuna. Being a Dutch state, cheese is very big here, with many varieties imported from Holland, and Dutch snacks such as croquettes and frickandel. The Caribbean influences of coconut, mango, papaya and spices can also be tasted in different dishes. Then of course there is an abundance of worldly foods, with Italian, Japanese, Brazilian, Argentinian, French, Surinamese, Colombian and more. Needless to say, if you get bored of the food here, you're not trying enough. I have been to over ten restaurants so far in my stay, and it has been a delicious experience. Come, stay, eat. Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wine is the Best Medicine

Ahh, miles above earth, zipping through the clouds, feeling light as a feather, and hearing little Johnny in the seat in front of me screaming bloody murder. "Little Johnny, hunny, what's wrong," says his mother. Perpetual screaming follows. And follows. So, what's a girl to do when she's in for another five hours on a flight? IPOD earphones in to zone out the noise. Check. Seat reclined as far as it will go for maximum relaxation. Check. Uncomfortable and still irritated. Check. Alright, enough is enough. I want to sleep, and I want to sleep now! Not just a light sleep, where I'll go in and out of hearing Little Johnny's screams, but a deep, alcohol induced, drool coming out of the side of my mouth, eyes shut to the world, not gonna wake me up for a soda, pretzel or plane crash sleep. Yeah, that kinda sleep. Flagging down the flight attendant, I request some wine, red, as always. She doesn't even blink and eye, and in a minute is back with my own personal bottle of delicious sleeping medicine. Gulp, gulp, guuuulllllllllllppp. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I chug almost all of it, not needing to drain the contents because I already feel sleep coming on as a hit two-thirds of the bottle. I seal the bottle, put my tray table up and lean back, eyes closed, waiting for sleep to come. Seconds later I'm in la la land. No Little Johnny screaming, no annoying shifting in my seat, no messages from the pilot on the loud speaker, just unadulterated coma inducing sleep. Good night.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Top 10 Joys of Aruba

Aruba is a gorgeous place. Sparkling clear water, yummy delectable treats and eats and drinks available morning noon and night. After you read these top ten tips you'll want to hop on a plane and get ready for some fun in the sun...Caribbean style!

1. Ocean water so calm you can use inner tubes and float to your hearts content
2. The best white fish you've never heard of: Grouper....yum!
3. If you like pina coladas.......
4. Eating a fancy delicious dinner with your toes in the sand
5. Lazy river at the pool
6. Servers that take your drink order while you lounge on the beach
7. The beach is100 feet from your hotel room...no joke!
8. Friendly locals and the spirit of the Caribbean with a dutch twist
9. 24 hour casinos...black jack anyone?
10. Sales tax is 1.5%...you're already booking your ticket, aren't you? =)

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Land of Milk and Honey

Israel is an amazing place. My mifgash with the country ranges from seeing more landmarks and sites than I can remember, meeting amazing people and eating a wide range of food. There is so much I could say about my ten day extravaganza trip. Floating in the dead sea, eating a pomegranate right off of the tree, drinking melon martinis at a bar in Tel Aviv just feet from the Mediterranean, hiking Masada, sleeping in a Bedouin tent and so much more. I could go on and on about the people, the politics, the atmosphere, the weather, the culture and all that is Israel. However, I am off on another adventure tonight to Aruba, and I need to pack and do laundry, so what I will say is the land of milk and honey is bittersweet. A new country with a lot to show and a lot to bare. Don't judge it if you go, instead, go with an open mind, and I guarantee you will leave with an open heart.