Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Best Authentic Caribbean Gifts and Souvenirs

Adopt a Turtle - Want to make someone feel good at the holidays, and feel like you did something good yourself? Adopt an endangered sea turtle on behalf of the person you love.

Angostura Bitters from Trinidad - a secret mix of herbs and spices used as a cocktail mixer and cure-all for a variety of ailments.

Batik from St. Kitts or Andros - The Caribelle Batik Factory on St. Kitts, located in an old sugar plantation, is bursting with colorfully dyed fabrics and clothing, from sarongs to dresses to pillow covers and wall hangings.

Caribbean Gift Baskets - Caribbean Tastes can put together a custom gift basket stuffed with Caribbean goods like rum, spices, fruit, and more.

Caribbean Rum - Other than sunshine, the Caribbean's most famous export is rum, and this liquor distilled from molasses (a byproduct of sugarcane cultivation) remains the most popular souvenir for Caribbean travelers.

Curacao Liqueur - Made from the peels of the laraha fruit grown on Curacao (a type of bitter orange), this liqueur is famous for giving color to drinks like the Blue Hawaiian and the blue margaritas you'll find at many bars.

Guava Cheese - Guava cheese doesn't actually contain any cheese -- it's the quirky name for an authentic treat found in Caribbean islands like Trinidad and Nevis and made of fresh guava and cane sugar, plus flavorings like cinnamon or lime juice.

Guavaberry from St. Maarten - The Guavaberry shop in Philipsburg, St. Maarten is one of the island's most popular tourist destinations and the best place to pick up a bottle of St. Maarten's folk liqueur, made from a rare and bitter local berry found in the island's interior. In addition to rum blended with guavaberries, the shop stocks guavaberry honey, hot sauces, and other products.

Island Charms Jewelry - Island Charms produces original jewelry crafted in the shape of islands like Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Grand Cayman, St. Croix, St. Martin, and St. Thomas, with more on the way. Made of sterling silver or 14k gold, the islands are adorned with Swarovski crystals denoting the location of capitals or major attractions.

Jimmy Buffett's Christmas CD - Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett is the personification of laid-back Caribbean cool, and his "Christmas Island" CD will warm up even the chilliest winter day.

  • Model Ships from Bequia
  • Spices from Grenada
  • St. Croix Cookbook
  • St. Croix Hook Bracelet
  • DVD on the History of Montserrat
  • Tortuga Rum Cake

Monday, December 2, 2013

Taste Of The Caribbean: Kilibibi

When the going got really tough during the Great Depression, people ate dirt. Literally! Thankfully, the current global economic mess hasn’t had as profound an impact on most of us, but really, who isn’t trying to slash their grocery bill these days? Enter the magical chefs from the island of Martinique with a gourmet twist on the most desperate of Great Depression meals, Kilibibi.

A simple, sweet cereal enjoyed plain, with milk or molasses, Kilibibi consists primarily of sand – yes, the same impossibly ubiquitous granules that we scold our kids for putting in their mouths and whipping at their friends. Here’s how you turn grains of sand into gastronomy:

Rinse sand and heat it in a large pot. Add uncooked popcorn and stir, bringing popped grains to the surface. Once all the popcorn has popped, sift out the sand with a strainer and store in a large bowl. Grind popcorn to a powder using a mortar, then combine with sand, add 300g of cane sugar, cinnamon, grated nutmeg.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Points Of Interest in Anguilla

Sandy Ground  is “the entertainment capital of Anguilla.”  A sleepy village by day, at night the imaginative beach bars, and fun and casual restaurants come alive with music, dancing and lively conversation. At night the popular “Pumphouse” jams with dancing, drinking and fun, but by day The Old Salt Factory & Pumphouse is a historic site that showcases the once thriving salt economy. During holidays, Sandy Ground hops all day.  Whether you come down to “lime” (hang out) or “mash sand” (dance), it is usually the place to be, and to be yourself. 

The Old Valley  - On the road to Crocus Hill, is the area of town that Anguillians refer to as The Old Valley.  Here there are a number of architectural examples from Anguilla’s yesteryear.  Ebenezer’s Methodist Church, Miss Marjorie’s House, The Warden’s Place, Rose Cottage, and other graceful buildings are a reminder of Anguilla’s beautiful past. 

Crocus Bay - Crocus Hill - the highest point on Anguilla at 213 feet above sea level, crowns the beautiful turquoise bay and offers spectacular sunset views as well as a bit of history. Crocus Bay is the site of the first military invasion in 1745. Six or seven hundred French soldiers landed on the beach and were fought off by the English settlers in less than fifteen minutes - the first of three invasions that all ended in the invaders’ defeat. Not too long ago Crocus Bay was a quiet place mostly forgotten by visitors, except to catch Calvin for a ride over to Little Bay.  Today, Crocus Bay is home to DaVida’s, an elegant fine-dining experience, and her sister property, DaVida’s Bayside Grill. Calvin is still there underneath the Mahogany trees, and he is still one of the easiest and least expensive ways to get to Little Bay for snorkeling.

Shoal Bay - Home to bright beach bars, blinding white sands, electric turquoise seas, umbrella and beach chair vendors, snorkeling at the coral reef, scuba diving and glass bottom boat tours. While many of Anguilla’s beaches have been mentioned among the world’s best time and time again, none so much as Shoal Bay — “The world’s best beach.”

Island Harbour Anguilla’s quaint fishing town, Island Harbour, is on the East End of Anguilla. Colorful boats moor in this protected cove, and the fishing pier juts out towards the conch-lined island of Scilly Cay. Children jump and fish from the pier, while their parents tend to their boats and the day’s catch.

The Wallblake House - The only standing “Plantation House” on Anguilla, The Wallblake House is situated on the Western edge of The Valley next to Anguilla’s Catholic Church.  Located across from The Old Cotton Gin, this part of our capital houses some of Anguilla’s more colorful and interesting architecture.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

El Morro (Fuerte San Felipe del Morro)

El Morro juts out of San Juan harbor beckoning cruise ships just as it used to deter sea attacks. The structure is a hulking six-story fortress built between 1539 and 1589, withstanding two World Wars and several other scrimmages. Now, El Fuerto San Felipe del Morro is Puerto Rico's go-to tourist attraction, both for its extensive history and its outstanding vista of the Atlantic Ocean. You can also walk though the fortress' depths, which include a maze of tunnels, barracks and prison cells.

Admission to El Morro is reasonable, considering its size, and as one Virtualtourist notes, "what I enjoyed the most about visiting El Morro was that we were able to roam around the fort on our own." You'll enjoy exploring more if you wear comfortable walking shoes.

El Morro is one of two forts inside the San Juan National Historic Site. Its sister, the Fort San Cristóbal, is one of the largest Spanish fortresses in the Western Hemisphere. Both sites have seasonal hours; during the summer the Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and you can hike the trails from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $3 for patrons age 16 and over, $5 if you want to visit both forts. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Best Time to Take a Cruise to the Caribbean

There are more than 7000 islands in the Caribbean Sea, and cruise ships visit many of them. Caribbean cruises run throughout the year. You must select your cruise date carefully because there are certain advantages to sailing during various time periods. Your ideal date depends on several things, such as how much you want to spend, the type of weather you prefer and whether you will be bringing children along.

The Caribbean is temperate all year round, but it can get chilly in the winter and make swimming uncomfortable. This is a problem if you want to take advantage of the region's excellent snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Sail during the spring or fall if you want to do water sports in warm temperatures but don't want to deal with excessive summer heat. Hurricane season extends through November, so it's best to choose spring to avoid potential tropical storms.You are at a higher risk for flight delays or cancellations if you sail during the winter, so consider buying trip insurance.

Many cruise lines decorate their ships for the Thanksgiving through New Years Day holiday season and have special on-board activities. If you have children, they usually have some time off school during this period. They can cruise around Thanksgiving, Christmas or the New Year without missing schoolwork. School breaks also coincide with Easter and other holidays such as Presidents' Day. You will pay a premium to sail to the Caribbean during this period, but the trade-off in special celebrations or minimal disruption to your children's school schedule may be worth it.

Most schools have a break between June and August. Some employers make employees take their vacation time at some point during the summer months. Most cruise lines charge their highest prices for Caribbean cruises during the summer because of this,  but it may be the best time for you if you're under work constraints or have school-age children.

Couples who prefer not to encounter a lot of children on their Caribbean cruise should sail during the school year. Cruises to the Caribbean usually last at least five to seven days. There are more adult passengers during this period because some parents don't want to take their youngsters out of school for that long. Most of the kids on board will be age five or below, and the overall passenger count will be lower. This means shorter waits for tendering into ports such as Grand Cayman and less crowded dining rooms and other on-board areas.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cuba. Trinidad