Author Archives: Clem

St Vincent – Day 1 (Kingstown and Around)

⏳Reading time: 3 minutes

Hello, and welcome to my first mini-escapade for this series:  Mini-escapade to St Vincent!

I traveled to St Vincent over the Easter weekend (which is considered to be a long holiday weekend), and long weekends are just one of the many ways in which you can get more days for travel even with a 9-5 job! If you’d like to find out about more ways to get more travel days despite your full time job, click here. For now, let’s get to the juicy stuff (so excited). So, are you ready?

Hello St Vincent!

I arrived to St Vincent on Good Friday. What a funny day to travel, you might say. But surprisingly, a lot of people actually travel on that day. My main concern was not being able to catch the Good Friday service, and to avoid that, I ensured that I booked an early morning flight on Liat, the major airline that services the Caribbean. If you’re planning on traveling during a holiday season, this is a no-brainer: the earlier you book your ticket, the better deals you get!

I was really excited to touch down at the recently renovated Argyle International Airport. It was my first time in St Vincent, I had heard only great things, seen only great pictures and I was ready to experience it myself!

But wait, hold on, we’re missing a super important point…

Where is St Vincent?

Officially known as “St Vincent and the Grenadines”, St Vincent is a Caribbean island located in the Lesser Antilles. The neighboring islands are Saint Lucia and Barbados, and this means you can easily travel to and fro, with direct flights, between those islands.

Here is how St Vincent stands in the world:

And here is how it stands in the Caribbean region:

Now that we are adequately situated, let me add something else: the island is divided into mainland (St Vincent proper), and the Grenadines islands (which are a chain of smaller islands stretching south from Saint Vincent Island to Grenada.) More on this mini-geography lesson later. But what does this mean for the avid traveler? It means that in only one trip, you get to visit an island and multiple other smaller islands! How cool is that?

My fantastic sister was the hostess for the weekend, so I knew for a fact, I was in the best hands! (and she was a Photographer extraordinaire. She took 90% of the pictures she is not featured in!)

From the airport, we grabbed a bite at a fast food, headed home to take a rest before the Good Friday Service.

Dinner at Hotel Alexandrina

Later on in the evening, we headed to a pretty cool spot for dinner, called Kulture Bar and Grill, located inside of Hotel Alexandrina. The spot was actually recommended by a very good friend of my sister, and though tired, the avid eater that I am could not fathom the idea of saying no to a night out. Especially knowing that food tasting was involved! When I went there, it was actually not what I expected. Do I think that restaurant is worth stopping by at a visit in St Vincent? I will be dropping a review soon!

* Key Takeaway points*

  1. You don’t have to quit your 9-5 job to travel the world.
  2. St Vincent and the Grenadines is a strategically good destination because you can actually a total of 9 islands in only one trip!
  3. If you’re planning on traveling on a holiday weekend, the earlier you book your flight, the better deals you get.

Linking back to: CityTripping, a weekly platform where bloggers meet minds alike!

MummyTravels

Escape Bar’n’Grill: The Official Review

One of the things that I have always valued in life, was the opportunity to step out of my house at anytime and on any day, grab a hearty meal and head back home, counting my blessings (and certainly not my calories). Since coming back on the Nature Isle, I have been looking for spots where I could simply go out with friends and have a nice light dinner with talk, chatter and laughter, or perhaps just some drinks after work. And so, I finally decided to try (back) Escape Bar’n’Grill. The spot has been in Dominica for a while now, but I had only been there once since they opened a few years ago:)

My ratings?

🌟🌟🌟🌟 4/5.  And here are 6 Reasons why Escape Bar’n’Grill is a must when you visit Dominica (and 5 meal options you should try if you go there):

Things I love:

#1: Conveniently located in the heart of the city: most restaurants in the city are within a walking distance, and walking around can be a relaxing experience if you’re a fan of evening strolls while your cheeks are gently been slapped with the evening breeze. More, the street on which Escape is located is well lit, which is an important factor when it comes to safety.

#2: Food comes on time: literally: anyone who has read my food/restaurant reviews knows that this is a deal/breaker or maker for me. Whenever I go out to eat, I would love to have my food within the first 30-35 mns, otherwise hunger disappears and frustration sets in. So for a food spot to really make it to the list, this criteria has to be fulfilled. And Escape did!

#3: The food is yummy

When it comes to food, I am not picky, but I am hard to please. I know this might sound weird, but this is actually something I am low-key proud of. Amazing culinary experiences are one of the things that I enjoy when I travel, and I just don’t compromise on that. And for a spot like Escape, I was pretty pleased with their food, everytime I went there, and regardless of the menu item I picked. Check out my top selections at the end of this article:)

#4: Super Affordable Prices

Though I have spent more there, budget meals that I have had at Escape have never costed me more than $15 USD, to be frank (and this included my meal and a drink by the way. This is just to say that even if you’re not super loaded, you can still get a great meal that would definitely make you happy. Cheaper meal options include Burgers and Alfredo Pasta meals.

#5: Cocktails are to Die for

In the mood for fancy drinks with co-workers or your special person after work? Escape is the spot.

#6: Free wifi! “Free wifi” sounds like heaven for all, tourists and locals alike! And it’s even more important now especially since after Hurricane Maria, a lot of places still do not have access to light or internet. At least, if you dine at Escape, you won’t have to wait to get home to update your Instagram story! (By the way, are we friends yet? Add me on the Gram! @travelwithclem).

Things that Could be Improved:

#1: There’s not enough space: frankly, this is something that I believe they should probably work on. Come to think of it, this place can legit accommodate a maximum of 30 people (comfortably seated), or 36 if you are Ok squeezing just a bit. Because it’s really small, you need to get there early especially if you want to dine on weeknights and weekend nights. Afternoons are pretty Ok, you have better odds of finding a seat.

#2: I would love to “pay by card” someday: come on, this is the 21st century, and people (especially when visiting from overseas), seldom work with cash in hands. It would be great to be able to pay for your meal by card, and especially if you use a credit card that gives you travel rewards for any purchase you make! More, no one wants to

#3: More Options on the Menu, please! if you follow my recommendation and try out Escape Bar’n’Grill next time you are visiting Dominica, then I have no doubt that you’ll want to go back there again. And again. And again. And if you live on the Nature Isle, it won’t be long before you exhaust all their menu options. That being said, I think changing the menu every now and then could actually help to spice things up and just give regulars (or soon to be regulars) like me something else to look forward to!

My Top Picks at Escape!

  • Escape Specialty Burger
  • Chicken Alfredo Pasta
  • Escape Grilled Fish
  • Grilled Chicken Breast with Rice and Mashed Potatoes
  • Grilled Fish (Based on availability)

What are the things that are the most important to you when you go to a restaurant? Feel free to drop a comment below!

🍤“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” 🍝
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

 

 

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10 Tips for the Ultimate Carnival Experience in the Caribbean.

⏳5 Min read.

PS: Pics of the Carnival experience at the end of this post:)

It’s been 2 weeks since the Real Mas (Carnival) ended on the Nature Isle (Dominica), and I’m still not over the fact that I have had such a blast. Rejoicing in Carnival celebrations with my friends this year was really important for me, not only because I had been away for too long (traveling the world, devouring fondue in Switzerland, paving my academic path and tasting Belgian fries in Brussels – you get the point), but also because the island was just 5-months fresh out of Hurricane Maria (hit on September 18th, 2017).  Caribbean carnival seasons are unique in helping you to discover different aspects of the caribbean culture. And, for someone who has spent several years in Dominica and took part in Carnival almost every year, I can say with confidence that 2018 truly gave me the ultimate Carnival experience.

SO, if unending joy, non-stop “fete”, continuous laughter and everlasting memories are things you look for when you come to the Caribbean islands for Carnival, then follow these 10 tips and I can promise you this: your cup might just overflow.

#1: Plan early

Let’s get this straight: Carnival is only 2 days, but in general, the Caribbean Carnival season lasts for about 6 weeks. According to “A Virtual Dominica”, Carnival takes place on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. In the months leading up to Carnival, there are Calypso shows, village feasts and pageants. Traditionally Monday and Tuesday are the two final days of celebration before the quiet and reflective Lenten period.

What does this mean for you? If you’re planning on traveling to any Caribbean island for the Carnival, check out the official Carnival calendar to know exactly when to plan your holidays. Whether you want to stay for a week or two is completely up to you, but early planning is essential.

Thinking ahead, here are some Caribbean Carnival dates for 2019:

  • The Real Mas (Dominica): March 4-5
  • Trinidad and Tobago Carnival (Trinidad and Tobago): March 4-5
  • Cropover (Barbados Carnival): find out more here.

#2: Make a budget

The Carnival season is normally a high-expense season, and expectedly so. There are a lot of activities going on, and people naturally tend to splurge especially since right after the season, we fall straight into Lent (for islands that plan carnival according to the Gregorian calendar). That being said, it is important to make a budget, be true to yourself and know exactly how much you’re willing to spend for the entire season (or for the amount of time you’re planning on spending there).

My cheat trick: put aside a specific “Carnival budget”. My budget included fees for costume bands (which I talk about later), T shirt band, calypso (music competition) events, clothes, hairdos, shoes, etc. Basically, anything that you might need for the season. As you spend, keep track. And if anything goes beyond your budget, pass. It will sting a little, but trust me: your bank account will thank you later!

#3: Do your homework on activities

If you’re traveling from overseas to take part in Carnival, you only have limited time. Because there are so many activities that are going on, you won’t have time to take part in everything. This is where doing your research ahead of time comes in: love music and pageantry? You might want to focus on the Calypso tents and pageant shows. Are you a “fetard” and want to jam all day all night? Look into boat cruises happening on the island, and other related events. Doing your homework also helps you to use you time wisely and stay within your budget.

  #4: Join a T-shirt band and/or costume band

T-shirt bands and costume bands tend to be the highlight of Carnival season especially on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. In the Caribbean, Carnival costume bands registration can open as early as 6 months before the Carnival, and different bands release their costumes concepts and designs. This year, I was pleased to join the Hysteria costume band, under the theme “Turning Tragedy into Epic Fantasy”. Generally, the band theme for the carnival season is highlighted into the different costume sections. On carnival Tuesday, the different costume bands parade on the road and the best band (based on specific criteria) wins a price.

For Carnival Monday, I joined the Signal band which presented the theme “Lumi-nation”. The theme was well conceptualized and matched the service that was provided on the D-day (glow and light sticks). More, the band really stood out by featuring Farmer Nappy, renowned soca artist from Trinidad and Tobago and this just made the entire experience 1000 times worth it. (To really picture it, just imagine your favourite artist singing for you during Carnival, live, for about 3-4 hours!)

Tip: before joining a band, ensure that you clearly understand what is included in your package! For the Hysteria band, my package included a costume and relevant accessories, unlimited drinks for carnival Tuesday, breakfast and lunch, drink cup and bottle, and a surprise $25 Top up! On Carnival Monday, Signal Band  offered a T-shirt and relevant accessories (body paint, glow-in-the-dark sticks, etc.), a drink cup and bottle, 12 drink tickets, as well as unlimited access to soft drinks.

   #5: Be smart about flights

Airlines and travel agencies are very aware of the social calendars of the islands you’re planning to visit, and there’s no question that around Carnival, Caribbean destinations become 3-4 times more expensive and flight ticket prices can easily triple. So once you’ve planned your dates (#1) around the activities that you want to prioritize (#3), track flight prices and make sure you book at the right time to benefit from the best deals. And while you’re on it, pay particular attention to Flight Booking Traps that Nobody is Telling You About!

   #6: Know where to stay

Just like booking flights, securing your accommodation on time is crucial to make sure you get the cheapest rates. Websites such as booking.com, hotels.com and AirBnB have proven to be super effective, especially for staying in Dominica. And if you have friends living on the nature isle, it’s even better!

#7: Be weather-conscious

This is particularly important for packing if you’re traveling for Carnival. In Dominica for instance, the Carnival season was particularly rainy. Result? Everyone was rocking their rain boots, umbrellas, jackets and sweaters. So, don’t let the weather spoil the fun, and make sure you’re prepared, rain or sun!

   #8: Stay healthy

One of the worst things that could happen to you when you’re on vacation, is falling sick! And during the carnival season, trust me on this: you want to be on your feet, ‘cause nobody wants to miss the beat! The funny thing is, I caught myself catching the cold > flu a day before the Carnival Jump up, and I posted the following picture on my social media. If you’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money planning out your carnival, it would be a waste (and a pity) to be down for Jouvert and Carnival Monday and Tuesday, especially if you can do something about it. In my case, almost everyone around me started to get sick, so I decided to nip it in the budJ

   #9: Think Safety

Because there is a lot of excitement in the air during the carnival season, it is even more important to be conscious about your security. Safety rules that apply on a regular day become even more relevant during the carnival season. What I loved about Carnival in Dominica was the fact that Police presence was very visible and noticeable at all events that I attended, and this made me feel safer. However, this does not mean that you should behave recklessly, hoping to be saved by a man in uniform. Park your vehicle in sufficiently lit areas, lock all doors, do not go out with any valuables that you can’t safely carry with you, do not go to public bathrooms alone (especially ladies),

#10:  Make time to rest!

In the midst of all the Carnival hype, make sure you find time to rest. Why? Because you need to be ready for the next day of jump up! And also, because Ash Wednesday (the next day) is a working day for the majority, and it would be quite a tragedy to go to work and perform sub-optimally. I believe that just as much as you commit yourself to enjoyment and celebration, you must demonstrate the same commitment to showing up for whatever comes next for you, on the day after Carnival Tuesday!

There, you have it! I hope you enjoyed this article and that the tips shared here can make you better prepared for Carnival 2019. Have you ever experienced Carnival? Where was it and what are your best tips to make the most out of it? Drop a comment below, and thanks for reading!

🍁”Adventure may hurt you but monotony will kill you.”🍁

More pictures of the Carnival Celebrations:

 

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Review of “Making New Year’s Resolutions that Work”

This is how happy I am that you made it to this page. You are about to have such a “litty” year that I can’t wait for you to thrive with me.

 

Feel free to share any thoughts you had about “Making New Year Resolutions that Work”. I only have one question:

Which secret was your favorite?

Tell me everything M’Love, I want to know! Take a few minutes and drop a comment below.

Cheers, Clem. ☺️


The “Must See” At the Chicago O’Hare International Airport this Christmas Season

The Holidays season is always superfestive all around, and if you’re like me, you certainly enjoy going around taking pictures with awesomely decorated pine cones in honor of this holy, introspective and joyful season.

But today, while traveling through the Chicago O’Hare International Airport from Minneapolis on my way back to the Nature Isle, Dominica, I noticed (and gladly so) something different: Christmas Trees with a difference, brought to you by American Airlines. You see, employees from different departments at the American Airlines branch at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport decorated Christmas trees according to specific themes, to reflect their team’s values and what they stand for. 10 Trees/teams entered the contest, and travelers from around the world passing through the Chicago airport were invited to vote for their favourite tree. 

  

I found this particularly amazing, especially because this season goes beyond sharing joys, gifts and toys: it also fosters the spirit of humanity, togetherness, teamwork, mutual respect and equality. All the good stuff.

I was amazed by all the trees, but I had to pick only one! (Unfortunately I can’t tell you which one). So if you are traveling through the Chicago O’Hare International Airport this season, make sure to stop by and vote for your favourite tree!

Looking at them right now, which one do you prefer? Let me know in your comments below!

Two Traveling Texans

Have you “bean” to Chicago yet?

Have you “bean” to Chicago yet?

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Summer isn’t really summer when you are in the “wind city”, and it’s definitely not a vacay when you have to catch the red line every morning at 5:00 AM to head to the hospital!

But hey, you’ve gotta love what you do or there is no point in doing it at all.

Despite the hustle, I managed to steal some moments.

I loved every moment of it, except the “wind” part of it!

Check out My trip to  Chi-city here!


Clem’s Fun Moments!

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