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Leah Travels: I’m on a Boat - Sailing the Spanish Seas

Leah Travels: I’m on a Boat - Sailing the Spanish Seas

Our contributor sails the coast of Spain while tasting plenty of delicious food along the way

Leah goes to Costa Brava, Spain.

I’ve never been one much for bodies of water whether it be brooks, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, seas, or oceans. I’d like to think it has to do with not spending much time around any of those things growing up, but perhaps it has more to do with the lack of control and the unknown that lies beneath. I almost drowned floating a river in my 20s, so to say I have trepidation when it comes to water deeper than my bathtub is an understatement.

In March, I went to Costa Brava, Spain with Charming Villas Catalonia. Thrilled to explore more of the region, I couldn’t wait to see the final itinerary. The first three days were to be spent in Cadaqués, a former fishing village set on the Mediterranean Sea. Just beyond Cap de Creus National Park, Cadaqués is the former home of Salvador Dali. Nice. I would get to experience the Mediterranean beyond Barcelona and listen to the soothing sounds of the sea. Scanning down to day two, I saw that I’d be sailing around Cap de Creus, the most eastern point of Spain, in a traditional Catalan fishing boat.

After I rid Andy Sandberg and T-Pain’s song, “I’m on a Boat” from my mind, my stomach started doing flips. Watching the waves roll in and out safely from the shore was one thing, but boarding a gas-powered dingy to be transported to a wooden fishing boat was an entirely different story. Like I do with most things I’m frightened of {heights}, I simply blocked the Gilligan’s Island/Jaws/Titanic scenarios from my mind. Instead of dwelling on my irrational fear, I decided to focus on the new experience I would get to have. After all, it’s not everyday that I get to cruise around one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines on a private boat.


Boating in Playas del Coco: Private Beach Hopping, Snorkeling, Fishing and Surfing tours

When it comes to the ultimate beach vacation in Costa Rica, Playas del Coco, Guanacaste is one of the best places to do so. At first glance, the beach is not that impressive and what people don’t know is that right around the corner are stunning white sand beaches that you can have all to yourself.

The only way to enjoy these beaches is to go on a private boating tour in Playas del Coco since most of these beaches are boat access only. As the Gulf of Papagayo is huge, there are so many hidden beaches that you can spend days exploring them all.

We’ve gone boating in Playas del Coco many times and in our experiences, our favorite memories have always been with our friend who owns a boating company in Coco.

Please click here to fill out the form to book your tour or receive a quote. For reviews and comments from our past readers who have booked this tour, scroll down to the bottom of the post to the comment section!


Sailing the Caribbean, the Frugal Way

CONSIDERING that none of us newbies had any idea what we were doing, the voyage south from St. Lucia was going well. At 10:30 a.m., amid gray but not ominous skies, the S.V. Illusion — the 75-foot, two-masted schooner on which I and two others were novice sailors — had weighed anchor off the coast of Vieux Fort, a sleepy city at the island’s southern tip, and steered into deeper waters. The sea was mild, with five-foot swells rocking us just enough to make walking a conscious effort, and when Norman Garnett, the Illusion’s 61-year-old English captain, gave the order, we scrambled to pull, feed, winch and cleat a series of ropes that unfurled our three sails, which caught and tightened in the wind. We were sailing!

At first, we cruised along without a care. The sun revealed itself, we applied SPF 30 and we fetched paperback novels to read on deck. A pod of pilot whales surfaced off the port bow, then vanished, heading west. This was, it seemed, a cinch, a few minutes of complicated labor in exchange for untold hours of relaxation. But midway, we began to notice something odd. We were tilting to starboard. Severely. The thickening swells, in fact, were almost touching the worn wooden rail that arced around the ship. Was this normal? The wind was picking up, droplets of rain coming down. Was this safe?

“All right, kids!” shouted Norman, popping up providentially from below. “We’re going to bring the staysail in!”

Frantically, we reversed the morning’s procedures. As the squall whipped us, we loosed one coil from the staysail winch and fed out the line as Norman pulled in the other end, and soon the staysail was safely away. The Illusion righted herself, and we glided on toward St. Vincent and the Grenadines, our next port of call, both shaken and invigorated by the danger and the drama, the chaos and the education, the teamwork and the hard-won, elemental pleasure of harnessing the wind.

“That’s what I’m paying for!” Steve Hill, a 45-year-old from north London, announced that evening, once we’d moored in Wallilabou Bay, a tiny inlet on the volcanic island of St. Vincent.

We were not, however, paying much. Our berths aboard the Illusion cost us each $55 a day, a sum that covered breakfast, dinner, basic instruction in sailing, plus mooring and customs fees — pretty much everything except lunch, beer and off-shore excursions. And beyond those tangibles, we were getting access to the world of yachties, those fortunate souls who drift on the wind from port to port, stopping for snorkeling, drinks and tale telling at sparsely inhabited tropical islands where ferries and prop planes rarely land. I’d always craved that sense of freedom, but with sailing classes in New York City generally starting near $500 and yacht charters in the thousands of dollars, this Frugal Traveler despaired of ever attaining it.

Then I discovered Crewfinders.com. And GlobalCrewNetwork.com. And FindaCrew.com. And FloatPlan.com, CrewFile.com, WorkOnABoat.com, WorkOnAYacht.com and any number of similar Web sites that link up sailors (both amateurs and professionals) with boat owners and captains. The jobs range from basic deckhand duties to skilled work, like engineers and cooks, and span the globe, from the Caribbean and the Mediterranean to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

With no experience, however, I had to look past the paid gigs to the unpaid ones. Many of these posts seemed to be written by late-middle-aged guys seeking female companionship (fair enough: solo sailing is lonely), but I also found a Bahamas-bound couple with teenagers seeking someone to help cook and clean. Not for me, perhaps, but for the right person, it’s a free tropical holiday.

At several of these sites, I saw ads for the S.V. Illusion and followed links to the boat’s Web site. Built in Rio de Janeiro in 1976, the Illusion had spent years as a treasure boat, ferrying divers in search of sunken colonial-era wrecks (it helped discover the Atocha, a $450 million haul of gold and silver), before Norman, a native of Liverpool, England, bought it in 2003. Since then, he’d been plying the waters between Trinidad and St. Martin, taking on up to eight crew members for as little as two weeks or as long as three months, and for just enough money to break even. No experience necessary: this was the ship for me.

I e-mailed Norman suggesting tentative dates for a 16-day sail in early October he wrote back asking for a $100 deposit via Western Union. I complied, but to be sure this wasn’t a scam, I contacted Misty Tosh, a TV producer from California who’d blogged about her stay on the Illusion. Don’t worry, she told me by phone, you’ll learn to sail, maybe swim with sea turtles and have a crazy time.

Three weeks later, I was deep into good crazy, courtesy primarily of Norman, the captain. With his Popeye-like forearms, grin that glinted gold and freckled skin that concealed deeper layers of pale white and bright pink — like a sunburned snow leopard — he looked the part of a weather-beaten sailor with hundreds of thousands of sea miles under his belt. But this was only his latest incarnation, he told me, having previously been a bodybuilder, a lawyer, the chairman of a television production company, a mercenary in Africa and a manufacturer of amphetamines (for which he said he served time in prison).

Uniting these multiple identities was his caustic Liverpudlian sense of humor. His delightfully twisted outlook allowed only extremes. Everything was either the best (“Oh, they have the best steaks in the Caribbean — the best!” he growled about one island) or the worst, the ugliest, the most bloody awful. His temper was sharp (he’s the captain, so his word was law) but you couldn’t take his rebukes personally. Once, a rope I was pulling in got trapped and stuck, and Norman yanked it from my hands, yelling at me for failing to pay attention. I could’ve sulked, but 10 minutes later he was grinning again, and so was I.

Still, the other novice crew — Steve Hill, tall and easygoing, and Francesca Fantacci, a 50-something Ottawa architect — and I were glad to have Alison Hill around. A redheaded 39-year-old hairstylist from London, Alison had joined the ship back in May 2008 and fallen in love not only with the lifestyle but also with Norman himself. Now she was first mate, head chef and, as his girlfriend, the honey to Norman’s vinegar, a patient soul who acted as a buffer, literally showing us the ropes on the Illusion.

It was Alison who taught us to put up the blue canvas awning under which we’d lounge and read, shielded from the sun. It was she who showed me to my cabin, a tight, mahogany-lined nook near the bow with cabinets for my gear (and life jacket), a narrow bed and a hatch to bring in some air. She instructed us in the use of the pump-action toilet and taught us to haul seawater in a bucket to wash dishes, a daily chore that reminded us that this adventure was, as Norman repeated almost daily, “not an ’oliday!”

But though it wasn’t an ’oliday, it was often pure joy. Sailing days would start early, with coffee, cereal and toast with pineapple jam downed hurriedly, though never fast enough for Norman, who’d berate us for idling. “Sheets out!” he’d yell, and we’d scramble barefoot onto the deck to uncoil the sheets — that’s ropes to you nonsailors — thread them through pulleys, seal them with figure-eight knots and half-hitch them to cleats. Then we’d pull up the anchor, start the motor and chug out to sea. At first, Alison took the helm, but when I reminded Norman I wanted to learn to sail, he put me there instead, telling me to stick my head out of the pilot-house hatch and use my toes to steer.

Soon I was plotting courses from island to island, using the ship’s library of sailing manuals as reference. If putting a novice at the helm sounds sketchy, don’t worry. Obviously, Norman was overseeing everything, but the eastern Caribbean is a fairly easy place to sail. The wind comes from the east, and since journeys tend to be north-south, you sail on a beam reach, perpendicular to the breeze, one of the simplest tacks you can take.

Sheets out, course plotted, autopilot engaged, we’d put up the sails and, if the wind was strong enough, kill the engines. Then we’d drift on for an hour or four, reading and sunbathing, chatting and taking pictures, pulling out the headsail when the wind picked up and rolling it back in when the wind died. This was freedom.

As we sailed south to ever-more-obscure towns and ever-smaller islands, we settled into a rhythm. In the morning, Norman would take us all ashore so he and Alison could run errands (food, fuel, laundry, banking, e-mail), and at 5 p.m. he’d be waiting at the dock to return us to the Illusion for dinner. (While it wasn’t the Caribbean-inflected gourmet seafood I was hoping for, Alison and Norman’s cooking was tasty and hearty nonetheless, particularly the weekly Sunday roast, with crispy potatoes, sweet onions, caramelized carrots and thick gravy.) In between, we crew did whatever we wanted.

At first, in St. Lucia, we simply adjusted to the climate, trekking through Vieux Fort — a sleepy town of ramshackle concrete buildings and older wooden ones whose intricately carved lintels reminded me of Tamil homes in India — to the Anse de Sables beach where kids rode horses into the warm water and the nearby Coastline Beach Bar served subzero Piton lager and spicy fried kingfish (16 East Caribbean dollars, or about $6 at a fixed rate of 2.67 E.C. dollars to $1).

By the time we arrived in St. Vincent, we were energized to explore the island, particularly since Wallilabou Bay had only two businesses — the Wallilabou Anchorage, a tidy restaurant-slash-customs point, and the Pirate’s Retreat, an amazing, semi-improvised bar run by a former New York City cabdriver named Tony — and just one claim to fame: decaying sets where “Pirates of the Caribbean” was filmed.

So we squeezed into a minibus (along with 18 other people) for an hourlong roller-coaster ride (4 E.C. dollars) up, down and around the island’s plentiful curves to Kingstown, the capital, where we admired the colonial architecture and watched locals play checkers and dominos. Another day, we hired Speedy, a dreadlocked friend of Norman’s, to guide Steve and me up the 3,864-foot Soufrière volcano, a challenging hike that led through a lava chute whose floor was littered with sweet, passionfruitlike bell apples, then up past illicit marijuana plantations to the windswept, smoking crater. (We paid Speedy 120 E.C. dollars, and 80 for a taxi.)

As the islands shrank, so did our options. In Bequia, seven square miles of steep hills and pristine beaches that Norman called the Grenadines’ “yachtie central,” we snorkeled at Princess Margaret Beach and caught a Sunday soccer match at Port Elizabeth’s stadium. We grabbed lunch at the Green Boley, an open-air bar where the conch roti — curried gastropod and potatoes wrapped in flatbread — was the best I’ve ever had (15 E.C. dollars), and at Maria’s French Terrace, an airy second-floor restaurant with free Wi-Fi where the slablike fish sandwich (a slab of tuna the day I had it) cost 22 E.C. dollars.

On even smaller Union Island, which had a charmingly touristy main drag, Steve and I just played pool at the spic-and-span Anchorage Yacht Club and ate great fried fish and salad (25 E.C. dollars for each of us, including beer) at Olivia’s Family Restaurant. And on Mayreau Island, a boomerang-shaped dot with a population of 300, more snorkeling, more sunbathing and more aimless wandering, which led us up a hill where we found the fine old stone Catholic church, with its wood-beamed interior, stained-glass windows and stellar views of the Tobago Cays, a prime diving and snorkeling zone.

And, of course, there were the bars, which we’d hit first in the afternoon and then, if we had the energy, after dinner. But though we consumed an awful lot of beer, rum, gin, whiskey and (Norman’s favorite) Grand Marnier, the bars were only secondarily about drinking. Their primary purpose was for meeting old friends and making new ones.

Up at Bequia’s hilltop Salty Dog, where a steady breeze cooled us almost as much as the frosty Heinekens, we argued with the Trinidadian manager, Nigel, about what makes a great hot pepper sauce. And down at homey, casual New York Sports Bar, Steve and I met Michael Guenther, a Mario Batali look-alike from Germany who’d sold his software company and used the profits to sail first the Mediterranean and now the Caribbean, and Roxanne, a charming, mysterious girl famous throughout the Grenadines, who claimed friendship with everyone from yachties to Tony and Cherie Blair.

On Union Island, we followed Andy Tittle, a local cook, to the super-hip, down-and-dirty Stress Out Hideaway and laughed at his impression of Roxanne. And halfway up the hill on Mayreau was Dennis’s Hideaway, a Malibuesque compound with a bar-restaurant (seafood pasta — wow!), guesthouse, swimming pool and, of course, Dennis Forde himself, who at 48 years old has at least 100 years’ worth of stories to tell, like about how he became the first black member of a Newcastle pub’s social club decades ago, and about dancing in Bequia with a cousin he’d never met before — the legendary Roxanne.

Typically, these nights would end weirdly. If Norman hadn’t come out, Steve and I would have to find our own way back to the Illusion, whether by hired speedboat or half-sunken, one-oared wooden dinghy (20 to 50 E.C. dollars). And even when Norman was there, things would get strange, like the night in Bequia when we happened upon a pair of locals singing a hypnotic version of the country-and-western duet “Seven Spanish Angels,” one singing the Willie Nelson part in a dead-serious bass, the other rapping Ray Charles’s lines and thumping the rhythm on a plastic telephone box. Then Tango, a gaunt Bequian with bizarre fashion sense (he once wore a DVD on his forehead) whom Norman often hires for odd jobs, appeared out of nowhere and started yelling at the musicians, so Norman yelled at Tango, and then a helmeted bicyclist rolled in and yelled at Tango, and then the police drove up, and then. .

And then, eventually, I’d be back on the Illusion, and in all likelihood my cabin would be too hot, so I’d drag my sheets and pillow up on deck and stare at the stars, pinpoints of ultimate clarity, banded by the faint cloud of the Milky Way, and let the waves and the wind rock me to sleep.

LEARNING THE ROPES ON A TWO-MASTED SCHOONER

FINDING A BOAT

Of the dozens of Web sites that link up crew with boats, CrewFile.com, CrewRecruit.com, FloatPlan.com and FindACrew.com are just a few of the most useful. Be aware that some sites require membership fees.

To book a spot on the S.V. Illusion, visit www.sv-illusion.co.uk. The fee is $55 a day, and the owner prefers the crew to spend at least two weeks aboard. The Illusion is not, however, the only Caribbean boat to follow this business model. The 52-foot ketch Karaka, for example, is currently looking for crew in the Caribbean, with shared expenses totaling 100 euros (currently about $150) a week (not including food) each see karaka.site.voila.fr for details.

GETTING TO THE CARIBBEAN

St. Lucia is usually the easiest place to rendezvous with the S.V. Illusion. JetBlue has just inaugurated three-times-a-week nonstop service from Kennedy Airport to Hewanorra International near Vieux Fort, with round-trip fares starting at $300, based on a recent Web search. For roughly the same price, American Airlines makes the same trip, but twice a week. The Illusion docks either at the Vieux Fort fishing port, which is a $10 taxi ride from the airport, or at the Rodney Bay marina, a one-hour $65 taxi ride to the north of the island.

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

On small islands like these, street names either don’t matter or don’t exist. Finding businesses, however, is easy — just ask around, and locals will let you know where to go.


Cachupa

Cachupa is a famous dish from Cape Verde. It is a slow cooked stew of hominy (dried maize kernels that have been treated with an alkali), beans, cassava, sweet potato, fish or meat (sausage, beef, goat or chicken), and often morcela (blood sausage).

Referred to as the country's national dish, each island has its own regional variation. The version of the recipe called cachupa rica tends to have more ingredients than the simpler cachupa pobre.

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 stick chorizo
  • 4 boneless pork spare ribs
  • 1lbs beef stew meat
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 2 cans red kidney beans
  • 2 cans yellow hominy
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 6 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • Olive oil
  • Red chili powder

Instructions

  1. Pour 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil into a cooking pot and sauté the onions and garlic. Add the tomatoes, seasonings, and the meat cut in larger dice.
  2. Stir well, then add water to cover all ingredients.
  3. Add the vegetables, as well as the beans and hominy, then give it a stir to mix all ingredients.
  4. Cover and simmer for at least two hours, until the stew reaches the desired consistency. If you like it denser, the cooking time is about three and a half hours.
  5. Serve with slices of sautéed chorizo.

Notes

Cachupa is time-consuming to prepare.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:


How to Make Mexican Ceviche

Mexican ceviche has to be one of my favourite dishes. While it is traditionally from Peru, every country has its own take on it.

It’s even a popular Honduran food and no one talks about eating ceviche there.

For example in Ecuadorian ceviche, they actually boil the shrimp first and serve it in a tomato sauce with popcorn.

Peruvian ceviche is my favourite as the recipe also calls for a bit of ginger. But preserving fish in acid is common around the world. There’s also Hawaiian style poke and kinilaw in the Philippines.

When I was couchsurfing in Chiclayo I was lucky enough to stay with a family and while the host mother did not speak any English and I spoke beginner Spanish we bonded through food.

In Playa del Carmen I pigged out on ceviche and chelada beer. Well actually I ate a lot of everything.

Now here in Loreto I was happy to learn how to make Mexican ceviche with Chef Manuel from Villa del Palmar, he admitted it wasn’t traditional but this is one of his favourite recipes.

Like most fish ceviche, this recipe is pretty flexible. Chef Manuel told me I could easily substitute the papaya for mango, pineapple or any other tropical fruit I preferred.

And if I didn’t like the red onion I could choose white, yellow or even green onion. The same goes for the mint, basil could be substituted in its place.

I am constantly surprised at how easy it is to make ceviche and yet people pay such a premium for it. Save your money and pair it with one of many classic drinks in Mexico.


The key pieces of kit for Clipper Round the World Yacht Race Leg 2

Each Clipper Race participant gets a pair of Musto sailing salopettes, smock jacket, shorts, T-shirt and long-sleeved top. Here are some of the other pieces of kit I used during Leg 2 crossing the South Atlantic, with temperatures fluctuating from 10 degrees Celsius to the mid-20s…

  • Leatherman Wave + £135 – The ultimate sailing accessory, with a tool (17+ in total) to help solve the oddest of problems!
  • Quechua Aluminium water bottle and holder, from £5.99 – Essential to keep hydrated, helps fend off sea sickness
  • Smartwool Merino Wool Underwear – Pants and sports bra made from very soft fabric for comfort and moisture wicking
  • Musto Dynamic Pro Lite deckshoes £110 – Lightweight with good grip and drying ability. Rope laces stayed tied up throughout the day
  • Musto Hydrotech Gloves £70 – Great for keeping hands warm in colder weather and especially during night shifts
  • Musto Active Base Layer Zip Neck Top £65.00 – Fits well, absorbs sweat, great for changeable weather conditions
  • Anker SoundBuds Slim + Wireless Headphones £24.99 – Great to help you get to sleep with snorers on board. Wire means you won’t lose these in bed
  • Petzel Actick Core Trekking Headtorch £39.99 – Headtorch is needed for night shifts with a red light required so you don’t strain your eyes
  • Musto Gore-Tex Ocean Racer boots £225 – Waterproof and comfortable to wear, keep your feet warm during night shifts too
  • Musto Performance Short Finger Gloves £35 – Help protect hands from rope burn
  • Filson Double Mackinaw Wool Hat £105 – The warmest piece of head gear I own, with a under chin tie so it doesn’t fly off
  • Osprey Transporter 95 Duffel £130 – Roomy, waterproof and very comfortable to wear as a backpack, with straps that can be zipped away
  • Jack Wolfkskin Smoozip Sleeping bag £150 – Warm and easy to pack away between shifts, made from 100% recycled materials
  • Rab Valiance Jacket from Cotswold Outdoor £310 – A waterproof down jacket, which is extremely warm and quick drying with a wired peak hood

I’d been warned before setting out that the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is 80 per cent about the people and 20 per cent about the sailing. I could see this was totally true. It’s a pretty crazy social experiment!

There were 23 people on our boat Punta del Este (sponsored by the namesake city we left from in Uruguay) for Leg 2, with the youngest being 24 and the oldest 71.

Many of the crew were Spanish, including our bubbly skipper Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez, which meant there were language divides at times. The main issue though was living on top of each other.

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In bad weather, there was nowhere to hang out other than the saloon and we all filed in like penguins, our damp, unwashed bodies rubbing against each other.

Halfway through the trip people started coming down with flu, including myself, and we all put more effort into trying to reduce the spread of germs with extra pumps of the hand sanitiser and coughing into our elbows.

Sea sickness was also a constant curse, although it was worse for people at the beginning of the voyage and everyone gradually got their sea legs.


Water Taxi! Water Taxi!

I’m always torn between the wing-it or plan-ahead vacation philosophy. The problem with planning, as we’d done in this case--making restaurant reservations as we plotted a harbor dine-around, hopping from one eatery to another by water taxi--is that plans can be foiled. As ours seemed to be.

The water taxis were packed. Boats went by with no room for us as reservations and the afternoon slipped away. On the other hand, there are worse things than being stranded on a dock in Oxnard’s Channel Islands Harbor on a bright, sunny Saturday. It wasn’t as though we were starving. The first part of our scheme had gone without a hitch. We caught a cheery, powder-blue and yellow taxi-boat, with a “little-engine-that-could” smile painted on its bow, and rode across the harbor to Pirate’s Grub & Grog, where we sat on a waterfront balcony and enjoyed margaritas and jalapen

o poppers (delectable deep-fried, cream-cheese- filled peppers).

Now, as I watched the tide roll in, I could hear Otis Redding playing, even if it was only inside my head. My friend Tami had her flower-bedecked straw hat pulled over her face. The only thing missing was a couple of fishing poles.

By the time we did catch a boat, there wasn’t enough time to make another restaurant and still get back to our car before the Harbor Hopper Water Taxi service stopped running at 6 p.m. (We wouldn’t have this problem now, as summer schedules have begun and water taxis run Saturdays 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Call for weekday schedules.)

So we joined the rest of the crowd just cruising the harbor aboard the smiley boats. A friendly elephant seal provided entertainment, following the boat around and showing off how he could stand on his head and stick his tail fin above water.

The basic restaurant plan, however, is a good one. There are six water-taxi ports in the harbor, five outside restaurants, such as Tugs, whose highly recommended cheesecake had been on our dessert list. It costs $1 a person for each taxi hop, and in many cases restaurants offer complimentary tickets.

After the taxis stopped, we drove the 15 minutes north to Ventura and checked in at our hotel, the Bella Maggiore Inn on South California Street--with just enough time to walk to the beach three blocks away before wine and cheese were served in the lobby. The 24-room inn has wrought- iron work wrapping a central spiral staircase, roses stenciled on the walls, vases of fresh flowers and a grand piano in the lobby. Complimentary breakfast (including omelets, cream-cheese-filled French toast, and grapefruit filled with berries and topped with lime-honey creme frai^che) is served in a peaceful courtyard with peach-colored walls and a fountain.

The area, Ventura’s historic downtown, is full of antique shops and used-book stores. We were immediately drawn to Bank of Books on Main Street, a cavernous store with bulging shelves, paperbacks stacked 4 feet high on the floors and more books on the way, according to the new owner.

On the 1 1/2-hour drive up from Pasadena we had somehow gotten to talking about “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” a book we’d both read as girls. I couldn’t believe it when Tami picked a book off a stack only to find the teen classic lurking beneath. We left with armfuls of paperbacks and spent less than $5 each.

The street was an intriguing hodgepodge. If Santa Barbara, 30 miles to the north, is the Barbra Streisand of tourist towns, in careful control of her image, then Ventura is rocker Courtney Love, undergoing a transformation to glamour but with the scrappy edges still showing. Dreary thrift stores named after the afflictions they raise money for share the block with upscale boutiques. The best part of the incomplete gentrification is that there’s still free parking everywhere, even downtown.

I’ve never had the patience or money for antique shopping, but for anyone so inclined, Ventura is the place. We walked by windows displaying vintage clothing, Bauer bowls, wonderful old maps and the same model of wooden Jack Kramer tennis racquet that I happen to own and still use! If we had been interested in antiquing, our first stop would have been the Ventura Visitors Bureau, next door to our hotel, for their shopping guide to all the antique stores.

At a tiny shop with lacy curtains and a pink scalloped awning lettered Atelier de Chocolat, we bought delicious, creamy candies that were the Godiva of peanut butter cups. Indeed, shop owner Audrey Gaffney told us her husband, Bernard, who makes the chocolates, was once a Godiva vice president. The candy shop is the realization of their retirement dream.

At the east end of Main Street we peeked into the Mission San Buenaventura, the ninth of California’s 21 missions. Here in the midst of a downtown street was a peaceful garden of rosebushes, stately pines and a bubbling stone fountain lined with blue and gold Spanish tile.

There wasn’t any readily discernible night life, so after dinner at the 8-month-old Jonathan’s restaurant, where the food was decorated with edible flowers, we ended the evening by catching a movie.

After seeing our well-made plans spoiled on the first day, we learned that the problem with not planning is that you can get left ashore while those with reservations sail away. The sky was again brilliant blue, and I was determined to get out on the ocean. But at 10 a.m. I stood on the dock at Ventura Harbor watching what seemed to be the last available boat for rent or hire sail toward the horizon.

Then a Dutch-accented voice said, “Why don’t you go sailing? My husband could take you.” Lia and Erik Sluyter own Aloha Sports Boatel Bunk and Breakfast, a B&B, only the bed is on a boat in the harbor--another realization of a retirement dream. Erik also teaches sailing. He would take us both out on his 34-foot sloop (not the boat you sleep on) for a two-hour sailing lesson for $100. It was an unplanned expense, but on the other hand, we hadn’t spent all the money we’d expected to on restaurants the day before.

Before Erik had finished freshening our memory about jibs and mainsails, Lia decided to ditch her paperwork and come along. In no time, we were past the harbor and out on the open ocean. Erik told us about luffing (when you get off your mark and your sails start flapping about in confusion--a concept I figured I could use, sailing or not). The sea was turquoise green. Anacapa, the Channel Island just 11 miles from shore, grew bigger on the horizon. The sails were filled with a 12-knot wind, and once again an elephant seal was tagging along.

We sailed back to harbor wind-whipped, happy and very hungry. Taking the Sluyters’ suggestion, we walked to the nearby Greek at the Harbor and downed savory, authentic Greek food. We ate in the sunshine on the outdoor patio, feeding sparrows, watching boats come and go . . . just sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time. I swear I could hear Otis Redding.

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Appetizers, Pirate’s Grub & Grog: $15.85

Bella Maggiore, 1 night plus breakfast: $148.50

Bella Maggiore, 67 S. California St., Ventura, CA 93001 tel. (800) 523-8479. Harbor Hopper Water Taxi tel. (805) 985-4677. Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau (800) 4-VENTURA.

Diana Marcum writes about life in the small towns and rural areas of California for the Los Angeles Times. In 2015, she won the Pulitzer Prize for narrative portraits of farm workers, farmers and others in California’s drought-stricken Central Valley. She is the author of “The Tenth Island, Finding Joy, Beauty and Unexpected Love in the Azores.”

These trips will take you to priceless places, and our pro tips will help you dig deeper.

As COVID-19 recedes, California workers are being called back to the office. The office? Who remembers that place? And what will the return look like?

Come June 15, businesses in California can open their doors without COVID-19 constraints and fully vaccinated people can go mask-free in most situations.

The office beckons. What rights and protections do you have? Will safety and vaccine issues in the workplace prompt lawsuits?

Tensions are rising in Shasta County, where a far-right group wants to recall supervisors, has threatened foes and bragged about ties to law enforcement.


Families Who Gave It All Up to Travel the World — With Kids

So, you&rsquore waiting to pick up the kids from school while simultaneously answering yet another “ASAP” email from your boss and wondering what you&rsquore going to cook for dinner. For a moment, you scroll across an Instagram photo of a jaw-dropping destination in Europe, Africa, South America, you name it, and you think to yourself, “If only I could pack up my family and see the world.”

That&rsquos the question these five parents asked themselves when the desire to explore the globe &mdash with kids in tow &mdash hit them hard. Instead of brushing off what seemed like a radical idea, they took it as a challenge: How could they make the lifestyle they dreamed about a reality, all while giving their kids the education and experiences they deserve?

Here, the best advice on taking that leap of faith and booking a one-way ticket to a nomadic lifestyle &mdash from families who gave up everything to make it possible.

Expect the unexpected

Journalist Janis Couvreux and her husband Michel Couvreux, an architect, met in France. After being married for four years, they knew they wanted to start a family, but they struggled with the concept of giving up their traveling spirit. They also didn&rsquot want their kids to grow up in suburbia Janis says this type of community promotes the idea that “the world stops at your door.” Instead, Janis and Michel wanted the globe to teach their kids what cul-de-sac living never could. So when they were given the opportunity to take their friend&rsquos boat from the Bay of Biscay in France to San Sebastián, Spain, spending several days at sea, they had their epiphany.

&ldquoBoth my husband and I turned to each other on the deck of the boat at our arrival and said, &lsquoThis is how we will do it.&rsquo Traveling on a sailboat seemed to be an ideal method while raising kids and spending vital time with them in their early years. We had a vision and began planning for our ultimate goal of sailing around the world,&rdquo Janis said.

When their first son, Sean, turned 1, they stepped away from their careers to set sail &mdash literally. Sean grew up on the sailboat (until age 11), while younger brother Brendan spent his first eight years at sea. While eventually, the Couvreux kids went to school in San Francisco (the boys are now in their mid-30s) the experience was one they&rsquod recommend to any family who can make it happen. Janis’ advice? Traveling &mdashand parenting &mdash means expecting the unexpected. Just be prepared for how the experience might impact your kids.

&ldquoThis lifestyle will influence them, but maybe not how you would wish or like. Some will accept it others reject it,” she explains. “Both our sons are adventurous [and] adrenaline-driven, and live in the outdoors one is an America’s Cup professional sailor, the other a fanatical rock climber and paramedic/firefighter with a Denver fire department. They don’t have nine-to-five jobs, and one never went to college, but they are both hugely successful.”

Just do it &mdash & let it go

Image: Cindy Bailey Giaugue

Three years ago, Cindy Bailey Giauque and her husband, Pierre Giauque, looked at their comfortable life in Silicon Valley, California, and felt like it wasn&rsquot their own. Though they had everything they needed, including a four-bedroom home and stable careers, they felt trapped by the routine and obligations of their daily lives &mdash work, school, raising children, community commitments… the list goes on. Not only were they feeling unfulfilled and uninspired, but after struggling to conceive their kids &mdash Julien and Lily &mdash they wanted to spend more time with them than they were, especially while they were young. So they started saving and budgeting for two years of travel. They began on the islands of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and are currently preparing for their next adventures in Africa and Australia.

The experience of jet-setting with their 9-year-old and 6-year-old has not only brought the couple closer it’s made the whole family happier by teaching them about what they really need: each other, not a big house and a lot of stuff.

&ldquoAmericans especially are really attached to their stuff,” Cindy has realized, “but you’ll find when you travel, you won’t need any of it beyond the basics you take with you. It was hard for us to give up almost all our possessions, but while traveling, we found we didn’t miss a thing. Even the kids: They played with chopsticks and empty boxes. And you’ll need to travel light anyway.”

You can still have “normal” days around the world

Image: Karen M. Ricks

After living in central Japan for almost a decade while running a Montessori school, Karen M. Ricks and her husband, Dave Varnes, felt they had accomplished all they could in their work and community. So when Ricks was offered one of only a dozen spots at a renowned cooking school in Italy, they decided to take it as a sign to begin their trip around the world. Their most important carry-on? Their 7-year-old son, Christopher. And what a ride it&rsquos been: The family began with three months in Sicily before traveling through London and then six months in Mexico. There, they practiced the Spanish language while trying their skills at cooking traditional local dishes. After traveling through the United States to visit family members they hadn&rsquot seen in 10 years, they headed back to Japan for a culinary tour. With every month, both Ricks and Varnes focused on their passions, writing blogs, a cookbook and romance novels.

And while it&rsquos all been a whirlwind, Ricks says what&rsquos comforting &mdash and surprising &mdash about traveling full-time is how much you can feel at home wherever you might be.

&ldquoAs exciting as it sounds to jet around the globe, we really are just a &lsquonormal&rsquo family that still has &lsquonormal&rsquo days,” Ricks says. “While we have incredible tales to tell about some of the amazing places we’ve been, we also still enjoy quiet days at &lsquohome,&rsquo wherever in the world that may be. We still go for walks around our neighborhood, play in the local park and have conversations around the family dinner table before taking a bath, reading a story and bedtime. The most magical parts of our adventures have been when we slow down to appreciate all the little nuances of the experiences we are sharing.&rdquo

Remember: It&rsquos never going to be the perfect time

Image: Wendy Awai-Dakroub

After meeting in the Middle East where they were both working, Hawaiian-born Wendy Awai-Dakroub and her husband, Lebanon-bred Youssef, began building their lives in Dubai. But once they wanted to start their family, they made the choice to move to Awai-Dakroub&rsquos native island. Six years and two children (Leah and Jaffer) later, the family found themselves trapped in what Awai-Dakroub calls “the rat race.”

&ldquoWe worked more than we needed to. The kids had after-school programs they didn&rsquot really enjoy. Getting stuck in traffic daily was no fun, and chores consumed our lives. What&rsquos worse is that we lived in Hawaii, aka paradise, and yet didn&rsquot have time to enjoy the beauty of our island,&rdquo she explained. So in 2014, they changed everything: They listed their house for rent, sold their belongings, took their kids out of private school and booked a one-way ticket to Europe with the intention of “world-schooling” their children as they traveled.

For two years, the family slow-traveled through Europe, where Awai-Dakroub developed a world-schooling program for her children &mdash and they experienced some of the most beautiful sites in the world along the way. They only decided to stop trekking full-time when their daughter approached her teenage years. Today, the family spends six months in Oahu and six months nomadically. Awai-Dakroub&rsquos best advice to families who want to try their hand at globetrotting is do it &mdash and do it now. &ldquoThere&rsquos no &lsquoright&rsquo age to start traveling with them. But from our experience, traveling has opened up Leah and Jaffer to new experiences and taught them empathy, something we find difficult to learn in a traditional classroom setting,&rdquo Awai-Dakroub explains.

It&rsquoll teach your children about gratitude

Rebecca and Nicholas Bennett used to live and work in the United Kingdom, where they ran country craft courses and landscape garden-design classes &mdash and offered a luxury vacation accommodation from their sprawling 16th-century farm in the South of England. But when they learned the farmer next door to them was going to sell his land for a housing development, they knew the shift would dramatically change their business and lifestyle. So they went back to the drawing board &mdash over drinks, of course. Instead of looking at the situation’s negatives, they found the silver lining: an opportunity see the world. They sold their home and business. And instead of booking multiple flights and finding accommodations, the Bennetts bought a sailboat, finding comfort in having their home always with them.

The couple spent two-and-a-half years on their boat with their daughter, Amelie. They traveled 10,000 miles, including a full cross over the Atlantic, after which they eventually sold the boat in the Bahamas. They then flew to have their second child, Rufus, in Panama.

It was the experience of close-quarters living that inspired the Bennetts to start their new business, The Solid Bar Company. &ldquoWhile sailing, we saw dolphins, sharks and flying fish, but also quite a bit of plastic, which was sad. All our big bottles of shampoo and other toiletries would fly about the boat in rough passages, so we realized there really was a need for personal care products that travel well but could remain luxurious and preferably plastic-free. So we set about creating The Solid Bar Co. products that are waterless, solid and eco-friendly,&rdquo Rebecca explained.

After receiving their business visa and spending time in the U.S. Virgin Islands perfecting their products, the Bennetts finally decided to move to Florida. But overall, Rebecca says that being on a boat with kids for an extended period of time taught their family about gratitude more than any other experience could. &ldquoIt taught us all an immense amount about ourselves and each other in a positive way, made us value things like water and space. I&rsquom glad we traveled when our daughter was still very young and not too set in her ways. She has seen different cultures, poverty, experienced school in different languages and countries, and I can see the maturity and confidence she has gained from it,&rdquo Rebecca adds.

Let your children open doors

Originally from South Africa, Sue Campbell-Ross and Rod Campbell-Ross moved to the United Kingdom to work and travel thanks to a job opportunity. They lived for more than a decade in various places in England, including London and Birmingham, before they settled in West Yorkshire and welcomed their clan of three children: Pip, Harry and Emily. But Rod&rsquos hectic career schedule kept him commuting for hours each day, leaving little time &mdash or energy &mdash to spend with his family. Sue and Rod decided to make a change &mdash to prioritize family, love and life. Rod had fallen in love with Australia after a work trip there, and he dreamed of moving his kids to this continent, so they were off.

The family opted against flying and took the long way &lsquoround: by boat. Or rather, by yacht.

After selling their home and most of their belongings, the Campbell-Ross clan purchased their floating home and Rod took a redundancy from his job. For Sue, it was quite the adventure considering she had never set foot on a yacht in her life, but Rod reassured her that not only would she learn, but it would be an adventure she&rsquod always remember. He was right.

&ldquoAt almost the exact time that Rod proposed this adventure, I was attending a life-coaching workshop and was given that quote, &lsquoTwenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn&rsquot do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.&rsquo It hit me like a bang to the head when I read it. And you know, I did exactly all of that,&rdquo says Sue.

With the intention of giving their children stories they could tell for the rest of their lives &mdash and the hope of savoring every last second as a family &mdash the clan began the two-year trek to the land down under. Sue explains there was nothing quite as powerful as witnessing the world not only through her eyes, but through those of her children too. She describes the experience as “multiplying joy a hundredfold.”

She also says kids have a way of opening doors while traveling that adults never could, and when you let them be, their wanderlust is free to roam. &ldquoSo many local families would reach out to us because of the children and invite us in. Our children would meet other sailing children, and we would then get to know the parents,&rdquo she shared. &ldquoThey were shown love and kindness by strangers everywhere. It was an amazing experience for the children&hellip they had such freedom to be.&rdquo

If your travel goals for 2018 include introducing your children to the world, why not take it a step further and see if 365-day country-hopping is a fit for your family? After all, with growing opportunities for freelancers and remote workers &mdash plus an entire burgeoning digital-nomad marketplace &mdash the possibilities are endless.

Image: Getty Images/Design:Ashley Britton/SheKnows


Day 1

Visit Cartagena Old Town

The old town of Cartagena is one of the richest, and full of character places in the city. It was constructed in 223BC, and was Hannibal&lsquos capital city on the Iberian Peninsula, making it an area with plenty of historical monuments, squares, and buildings for you to discover!

It&rsquos an amazing example of the beauty of Andalusian architecture, built within grotesque, little streets, lively tapas bars, and the overall Spanish atmosphere and chatter!

Make sure to stop at Plaza Ayuntamiento with the gorgeous town hall for a photo! The square is absolutely breathtaking!

In order to explore all hidden gems, take a guided tour. &ndash Check the best prices here

Discover the Roman theatre and Roman heritage of Cartagena

When walking around the Old Town, you simply cannot skip the Roman theater in Cartagena Spain! Built between the 5th and 1st centuries BC, the theater has been one of the cities main tourist attractions and is a truly magnificent site to explore!

A great place for all interested in re-discovering the ancient history of Spain and a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the archeological remains and development of Spanish architecture.

Opening times:

Oct &ndash April: Tues &ndash Sat: 10:00-18:00/ Sunday: 10:00 &ndash 14:00
May &ndash Sept: Tues &ndash Sat: 10:00 &ndash 20:00/ Sunday 10:00 &ndash 14:00

Head over to ARQUA, Marine Archaeology Museum

Spending at least an hour in the Marine Archaeology Museum is simply a must! Known to be one of the best places to visit in Cartagena, the ARQUA facility is true underwater life and marine history wonderland set in a modern and well-designed building for you to relax and enjoy the tour!

Great exhibitions about the city&rsquos development and marine life history are here for all travelers to marvel at and discover more about Cartagena! You can enter for free if you decide to visit on a Saturday after 2 pm!

Opening times:

Oct &ndash April: Tues &ndash Sat: 10:00-18:00
May &ndash Sept: Tues &ndash Sat: 10:00 &ndash 20:00

Learn about history at the Punic Wall

The Punic Wars between the Carthaginians and the Romans are known to be the most important moments in Cartagena&rsquos history, and it&rsquos a great idea to learn a bit about that period!

The legendary Qart Hadast founded by Hasdrubal in 229 BC and one of the few remaining Carthaginian relics &ndash the wall &ndash is a must-see when visiting Cartagena. &ndash Check guided Roman tours here

Lunch in La Catedral

After a busy morning, it&rsquos time to sit down and relax, surrounded by the aromas and flavors of Andalusia!

For an unforgettable experience head down to La Catedral (Plaza Condesa de Peralta) &ndash one of the best restaurants in Cartagena, where you&rsquoll be able to dive into the world of Spanish cuisine.

Try their delicious Tuna Tartare, Cod, and Baked Sea Bream if you&rsquore seeking for the best quality seafood dishes in town!

Explore the Modernist architecture of Cartagena

Architectural discovery does not only mean visiting museums and ancient ruins of Cartagena. Head down to Calle Mayor to discover the Art Nouveau buildings alongside the best shopping area in Cartagena.

You&rsquoll find here plenty of local bars and restaurants as well as monumental sites and squares to marvel at!

There are plenty of hidden gems in Cartagena, that&rsquos why we recommend booking a guided tour. &ndash Check prices here

Visit the military museum of Cartagena

The Museo Militar is a true gem in terms of capturing Cartagena&rsquos military history, and holds the world&rsquos biggest collection of military models!

You&rsquoll find here endless weapon collections and a great representation of the defense tactics of the city during its many years of war and conflicts!

The museum is free of charge and is a must-see when discovering the Andalusian coast.

Opening times: Mon &ndash Fri: 10:00 &ndash 13:30

Take a picture at Palacio Consistorial

The City Hall is, without doubt, one of the most outstanding buildings in Cartagena. It was built between 1900-1907 by Tomás Rico and Francisco de Paula Oliver and will definitely catch your attention with its eclectic French style.

A truly stunning place, not only to enjoy while wandering within its ornamented halls and corridors but also a beauty to marvel at from the outside square, while enjoying a sunny afternoon!

Opening times:

Tues &ndash Fri: 10:30 &ndash 13:30/ 17:00 &ndash 19:00
Sat: 10:30 &ndash 13:30/ 17:00 &ndash 20:00
Sun: 10:00 &ndash 13:30

Marvel at Casa de la Fortuna

Visiting Casa de la Fortuna will take you back in time to the domestic ways of the Roman Cartagena. A great place to learn and discover the traditional household settings from the 1st century, and a very interesting way of presenting a museum within Roman remains.

You&rsquoll find here plenty of personal objects, ancient dishes, murals, mosaics, and more, which will allow you to relive the history of the first Andalusian settlements.

Opening times: Tue &ndash Sun: 10:30 &ndash 15:30

Go shopping in Calle Mayor, Cartagena

The main shopping street, Calle Mayor, runs from the Cartagena port area into the center.

Filled with local markets, lively bars, restaurants, and petit cafes, here you&rsquoll be able to enjoy some good old shopping and grab a delicious coffee if you need a break from retail therapy!

A great place to enjoy the Carthaginian lifestyle and get to know the ways of the locals. &ndash Check guided tours here

Enjoy tapas in Cartagena

The best way of ending your first day in Cartagena is definitely going out for tapas! Close to Calle Mayor, you&rsquoll find plenty of original and unique places to grab a delicious Tinto de Verano and try some Andalusian delicacies!

In order to find the best tapas in Cartagena, have a look at the guided tapas tours. &ndash Check prices here

Check out one of the best tapas bars in Cartagena and fill your belly with amazing treats:

  • La Fortaleza (Calle Canon 7) &ndash best for crispy Spanish croquettes
  • Las Termas Del Pincho (Calle Honda 9) &ndash great variety of pinchos
  • Tasca Tio Andres (Paseo Alfonso XIII 46) &ndash delicious seafood

Learn to Sail

At BSV, we recognise the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served or are serving in our country’s armed forces. As a token of our appreciation, and our way of saying thank you, we are inviting veterans, active military personnel, and reservists to share our passion for sailing by offering a 10% discount on all private, group or flotilla ASA charters.

Belize Sailing Vacations is proud to be an American Sailing Association (ASA) affiliated sailing school and the only ASA school in Belize. We specialize in customized sailing instruction delivered in a catamaran charter environment over the course of multiple days.

Sailing courses are taught following the approved curriculum of the American Sailing Association and result in ASA certification. Our classes offer a personalized all-inclusive sailing experience with the right balance of education, relaxation and adventure.

Our experienced instructors deliver ASA sailing school material in a safe and fun learning environment surrounded by some of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. We will work with you to tailor a curriculum to meet all your training needs.

Belize Sailing Vacations offers sailing instruction in an informal but thorough delivery style, where the catamaran is our classroom and the beautiful sailing our material for learning. Earn ASA sailing school certifications while enjoying the Caribbean vacation of a lifetime. Our Belize sailing school curriculum offers a rich blend of technical skill, confidence building, and common sense coupled with a spirit of adventure and romance for sailing.

We refer to our courses as “instructional charters” and believe they are the most effective way to learn because you are immersed in a hands-on sailing environment for the entire time. Your instructional sailing charter allows you to complete your training and build additional confidence, all while sailing and exploring the amazingly diverse waters of Belize. We offer both private and group ASA classes and our bottom line is ‘sailing is fun’ and we believe your ASA sailing certification should be as well.


Watch the video: 3 September 2021 (November 2021).