Friday, August 29, 2014

A Day Trip to St. John

The ferries to St John leave Red Hook every hour on the hour.  We made the 9am boat, and got there about 9:20.  We took a walk around and talked with the National Park office down the way.  They recommended Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay and gave Scott some hike ideas.  I’m pretty happy we didn’t have to do a hike because carrying T + snorkel gear + beach bag + towel + nice camera = not such a great hike and more of a walking chore.  So anyway, we got in a cab and went straight for Trunk Bay ($4 entrance) which is part of the National Park. From a look at the map it seems 80% of the island is a national park!  Anyway, this beach is rated Top 10 in the world, and it’s not hard to see why! Just spectacular!  The only beaches that compare in my mind are in the beach in Western Samoa and Ko Hai on the coast of Thailand.   The gradation of the water was PERFECT and the gradual slope and zero waves and perfectly non-rocky sand was ideal for kids!

 Those colors are real!  Are you serious??!  This place is heaven! 

We brought summer sausage, baybel cheese and crackers, along with a few chips and apples, and were so glad we had food with us, because the thought of leaving the beach for food was not appealing!  We set up camp and stayed from about 9:30 until 5pm.  We all reapplied 65 Water Babies sunscreen every hour and a half and we came out okay!  I got like zero color (which is sad, but I didnt really feel like burning.) and T and Scott seemed red the day of, but it faded and never really gave them any pain, so I'd say our diligence in re-application paid off! 

 She would go all the way in past her chin all on her own- the water was warm but still refreshing and she was SO CONFIDENT in the water which we haven't really seen before.  I think because the gradation was so gradual she really felt in charge. 

 T promptly fell asleep on the ride back to town, and stayed asleep for our nicest dinner out!

 The sleeping little angel:
 Then she fell off the chairs to her rude awakening, and screamed for a good long while.
 Since she missed dinner, we bought her some Mac and cheese which was actually really delicious and made our baby a happy child once more. 

Big thanks to Christina for this cute romper from Bali-- T loves it and always talks (and tells others about) Beana when she wears it!

We were too tired to hot tub when we got back to the hotel.  We packed up our stuff and started route planning for the next morning.  The trip back to New York was our most dramatic return x3, and it deserves its own post.  You can look forward to the Pros and Cons of standby travel and learn how we eventually made it back this time on the next post!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Weekend in St. Thomas

Many, many words today.  But first, a photo.
 This kid is seriously wild. 
We are home safe and sound from St. Thomas and St. John.  We had a fabulous trip!  It was the perfect tropical getaway.  Poor weather the first day turned into a beautiful weekend, we stayed in one hotel all 3 nights, and we did everything Tatum wanted to do-- which makes for a great vacation!  
Pool, beach, and animals (iguanas) every day.
I am pretty happy we didn't cut her hair before this trip. Those curls... :)

We booked our hotel about 40 minutes before we left for the airport.  And we left for the airport at around 9:30pm for a midnight flight. There were some complications getting out of JFK (lightning) but we made it to San Juan in time for our 7am connection to St. Thomas. We had a prayer that our hotel would check us in at 8am instead of making us wait until the usual 3pm check in... Upon arrival, the taxi guys lied to us which always gets Scott really worked up.  They said there is no local bus, and that it will cost $15 pp for a taxi to our hotel- $45 for all three of us.  So we started the walk. And then it started raining.  Harder and harder.  We took cover and waited it out until it just started normal raining again.  Scott thinks the walk was 1/2 mile and I'm certain it was well over a mile, but anyway, we walked parallel to the runway out to the main road, and caught a safari bus.  They come every 5 minutes and you just pay $2pp to wherever you want to go.  

Thankfully, it passed right by our hotel, Sugar Bay and we had a great ride!  We showed up at our resort and felt again like "slumdog millionaires" which we called ourselves all through Asia when we would end up at nice places and be wet as a dog, or with things hanging out of our luggage after a local ride... 
(she slept so well on the second flight we just buckled the belt around her sleeping little body.  What a trooper.

They did check us in right away and we took a little rest (remember we had a red eye) and spent the rainy/overcast day at the hot tub and the beach.  That evening we took the safari bus into Red Hook and shared a delicious pizza overlooking the islands.  We then learned that the Safari busses only go one direction around the island, so basically we had to taxi back to our hotel.  Well some expats (which are really not expats since St. Thomas IS America...) overheard us talking this over with someone on the street and volunteered to give us a lift!  So nice!  So we hopped in the back with their seeing eye training dog and had a fun conversation on the 5 min ride back to our place.  

Saturday was predicted to rain 90% of the day, but it probably only sprinkled for about 20 minutes! It was so beautiful!  (Which the locals were kind of sad about because they were counting on the rain!!)  We spent the morning at the hotel iguana feeding time, the pool and the beach at our hotel:

 We went snorkeling every single day there.  What a treat! It was really worth packing our own set (read, our great friends set) so we never worried about the time or money, and it was good quality too!  My mask never leaked one single time and I never swallowed water.  Snorkel success!

They told us at the feeding time that iguanas have been known to bite on property, and they go for bright pink and red things low-ish to the ground.  We are listening as we see T, with freshly painted pink toenails and a hot pink diaper cover on...

Then we had a little cup o noodles and snacks in the room and jumped back on the safari bus headed for Sapphire Beach just down the road.  We debated between Sugar Bay Resort (nicer rooms and pool) and Crystal Cove Condos (nicer beach) which were the same price for our stay.  We are happy we chose Sugar Bay, BUT really glad we went over to the beach for the Crystal Cove Condos because it really was fantastic.  We headed in the back way and the beach attendant assumed we were staying there and gave us lounge chairs and the good treatment.  The beach was so perfect and it was such a beautiful day.  We grabbed some BBQ take out and taxied back to our place for dinner on the balcony.  What a goooood day.

 My fastest and cheapest sew to date:  $2.98 and 32 minutes.  Sun dress for the win!
Stay tuned for our day on St. John!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Orleans Part II

Cafe Beignet was host to Tatum's biggest meltdown of the trip.  Right during Sunday brunch time.  Yep, crazy, fiery screaming at the top of her lungs, and don't ever stop tantrum.  I was out in the garden holding the table with Tatum while Scott was in line for beignets.  He says its pretty funny to hear people trash talk the screaming baby when he's not with her-- people say what they think, assuming a parent isn't standing right there.  HA!  
So anyway, she is really into opening and closing water bottles these days.  She reaches them from the stroller and I can't always stop her/watch her.  Well I noticed that she had a half full Dasani bottle that she had done her best to twist the lid on to, but I was SURE was not securely on... and I was also sure that my SLR was loose in my purse.  So I immediately grabbed her arm and yanked it out and away as to not get any water on the camera.  I knew it would make her mad, but I knew I had to save the camera.  Sorry brunchers, for ruining your brunch!  

These were also very, very good.  They just didn't quite have the magic in them that Cafe Du Monde did though.  Not puffy enough, maybe.

 And since we watched Undercover Blues the night before we left, a walk to the cemetery was in order.  Also, it was right on our way.  It is really cool to see all the above ground headstones/burial slots-- entire families are buried in each spot!
 At this point it was kind of a run-from-shady-spot-to-shady-spot activity.  Really really hot.
 And last and probably least, the pralines.  They say Royal Pralines are the best around, but for $2.25 I was expecting something a little better than this.  Still happy we tried them, but I wasn't about to bring any home as souvenirs.

We opted for the cheaper route getting to the airport- local busses.  Scott says public transportation is now one of my core competencies.  Anyway, we walked 3/4 mile to the streetcar.  Then rode that a ways.  Then got off, got out our coats and umbrella for a rainy half mile walk to what we hoped was the right bus stop.  No way to really know.  We sat there for seemingly ages, hoping the E2 bus was coming sooner than later so we'd make our flight.  It did finally come, but it was a stressor.   While walking over crazy cracked sidewalks in the rain searching for the right bus stop I was thinking, "This cannot be normal.  Who does this??"  Someone willing to save $30, that's who.

Then we got to the airport.  We checked the flight loads in the morning, and the direct to JFK was filling up faster than we were comfortable with, so we went to the airport 3 hours early to catch the connection through Boston. We were the last 3 on the Boston plane, so relived and happy to be pulling away from the gate, and glad to have stuck together and be getting home that night before Scott's work in the morning.  And then, the second engine didn't turn on. In the name of safety (which I am glad for) they pulled back in for the contract mechanic to take a look.  They didn't cancel the flight for 4 more hours, but all 150 on that flight were rebooking for the next day- filling up every single flight leaving New Orleans for like 36 hours.  Not just the JFK or Boston flights, EVERY SINGLE flight.  It was looking like out best bet was to rent a car and drive 5 hours to Houston and then get on a connection from there.  We got a cheap airport hotel (where geckos ran as we opened the door and turned on the light) and decided Scott should try for the 6am flight direct to New York, and hope there were no shows. We hardly slept a wink, and in the morning, Christina's voice (Scott's flight attendant sister) ran through my head, "There will be at least someone who doesn't make their early morning flight!" and I decided to get T up at 4:45 so we could try for the flight too.  Through a lot of other details and drama (this story is already getting super long) Scott ended up getting a seat and giving us a hug goodbye before boarding "The last seat" on the plane.  The gate agent told me there was no chance, I could go back to the hotel.  But I refused to leave the gate before the door closed, and both T and I ended up on the flight!  Tatum as a lap child. It was quite the ulcer-inducing event.  Especially since missing this flight didn't just mean waiting around the airport- it would have meant a car rental/long drive, at least 1 more night of hotel and a lot of hassle.  We were SUPER grateful to make the flight and we continue to wonder why we do these things to ourselves.  Flying standby is not for the faint of heart. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

New Orleans Part 1

New Orleans was at the top of our list for weekend travel before our flight benefits end at the end of the month! This city is full of history and food, and it's not a likely option for somewhere we'd pay to go, so we figured it was the perfect option for an overnighter!

And, we each got our winner shot with Tatum, so I'd say lugging the SLR with the 50mm was worth it :)
Our primary goal was to try N'warlins food.  We went to ACME Oyster House for Jambalaya and Gumbo, but ended up ordering etouffee too, which ended up being both our favorites!  
 The first restaurant we went to was closed (chef on vacation) so we ended up waiting in the 45 min+ line at ACME starting around 7:30pm with a tired, tired Tatum.  We must have been in the good graces of the hostess, because with at least 20 parties ahead of us, she called down the line, "SCOTT!" and we raced up for our table for 3, acting like we won the lottery!  Several of the people ahead of us in line were still waiting to be seated when we walked out-- you better believe some dirty looks came our way!

Scott ordered the sampler which had this good sausage, jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans and rice.  This was the perfect place for us to get the feel for southern food and try lots of items in one sitting!  And our waiter was a crack up too!

 This girl.  I swear. She is always up to something.
 I mean...
 Another great feature of being an airline employee is the hotel deals.  This Marriott was the cheapest place we could find, a big upgrade from our usual Motel 6.  We've decided that we are tired of traveling like slum dogs and we should get a Marriott card.  It's just so comfortable there.  Especially with a baby, it just makes things really nice.  Are we getting soft?  No.  Just getting smart :)  We still love to travel and if that means doing it within our budget, so be it. 
 There's nowhere Scott would rather apply sunscreen than on a tufted velvet high back.  You know?
 Rifling through my purse has got to be Tatum's favorite past time.  I swear she can find anything in there!

 Thanks Yelp for all the food recommendations!  Johnny's Po Boys (sandwiches) did not disappoint!
I had roast beef:
 And Scott got sausage.  
 Now on to the really good stuff:
 Beignets.  There are two shops vying for the fame in the French Quarter.  Cafe Du Monde and Cafe Beignet, which I will go over in the Part 2 post.  
 Basically, scones.  Really hot, delicious scones with more powdered sugar on top than you can dream up. They are puffy, buttery, sweet but not too-- they're delicious.  And if we're cutting to the chase, Cafe Du Monde won out!
 I just love this little girl!

Here is our only family shot in front of the Plaza de Armas:

And a walk through the French Market.  Just for the record, it is really, oppressively hot and humid.  We almost died.  Actually, Scott almost died, the girls held it together fairly well.  
 Alligator heads everywhere!
 Oh, and the band. Tatum's highlight was watching and dancing to the jazz.  Maybe Blues.  We're not super sure.  

The lowlight for me was tripping off a step and rolling my ankle whilst holding Tatum and landing us both in a gutter.  I still can't believe that even happened. One second I was walking along, the next, I was literally in a gutter calling for Scott to come get the child.  It really was the craziest thing!  And then Scott's like "Well, get OUT of the gutter!!  Are you serious?!?" and so I scooted myself back up onto the sidewalk but I was in too much shock and pain to stand up right away.  I just sort of walked it off and it all turned out fine, but that was super weird.  And, the rest of the night I saw 4 more people fall down.  One lady fell right into/bounced off a garbage dumpster.  Lets just say the streets there aren't super well maintained. Stay tuned for Part II.