‘Be Here Now’-2018 Travel Recap

USA    The very last day of 2018


To say 2018 was a year of travels wouldn’t be accurate, as I’ve traveled more and to a higher number of countries in other years.  So I’m a little stumped as to how to describe my 2018 travel year.  Maybe a year of travel from the US?  Sure, lets go with that.

January: Following my quest to see all seven world wonders, January brought me to China, and of course, the Great Wall.  What an amazing feeling to walk on such a captivating piece of history.  I conquered every last step I could on the Great Wall, finding spectacular views up into the hills.

 

February: Each year TripAdvisor puts out a list of the best beaches in the world, for two years running that beach has been Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos.  I’m curious, and a lover of nice beaches, so after being awarded with the highly renowned title I knew I had to go and see for myself!  Stunning blue water, mixed with white sand and sun, it did not disappoint.

 

March: Having previously traveled to the Western part of Australia, making my way to the East coast was a must-do!  I spent my time in and around Sydney from the coastal beaches to the mountain ranges.  And since I was already so close, I just HAD to fly over to New Zealand to frolic in Hobbiton.

 

April: Making my way to World Wonder #5 brought me to the breathtaking, peaceful country of Peru.  I NEED to begin blogging about my adventures here, but I really can’t seem to put my experience into words.  Being on top of Machu Picchu is a feeling I will never forget.

 

May: May was supposed to bring me back to Abu Dhabi and Dubai to see all my amazing friends, but unfortunately I fell very ill after my trip to Peru.  (I think it was the alpaca or my guilt for eating it).  It ended up being an inactive month for me, but I did manage a trip to North Carolina to check out Wilmington, an old town restoring their historical downtown. And of course, I caught some lovely sunsets here in Myrtle Beach, and spent another day in the Brookgreen Gardens.

 

June: This month brought me on a trip to upstate New York for some hiking in the Adirondack Mountains, and even a little road-trip to Virginia for a country winery tour.

 

July: The annual Bastille run and festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a long standing tradition for me, and this year was no different. A 5K night run with thousands of people in the streets of downtown Milwaukee. A trip to Milwaukee is never complete without a trip to the beach with family and friends.

 

August: Finishing July and entering August with my annual birthday trip brought me to a luxury resort in the Domincan Republic. A birthday trip full of breathtaking blues, sandy beaches, entertainment, crystal clear waters and cocktails.

 

September: In my attempts to start exploring more of the South, a weekend getaway to Charleston, South Carolina was a must-see destination.  Rich in history, ghost stories and culture, Charleston did not disappoint. Another unexpected trip, in the midst of Hurricane Florence making a direct hit on Myrtle Beach, we packed up and headed to Georgia for a few days, and even made time for a day trip into Alabama.  A month of the South!

 

October: After over a year of not working for ‘The Man’, it was time to pull in some extra money to finance some more travels! Back to work I went, keeping me very busy, with not as much time for adventures.  A weekend trip brought me on Camp Lejeune to photograph some of the beaches and buildings.

 

November: Another trip of discovery around South Carolina, this time taking a stop in Pawley’s Island.  There is something about these quaint little coastal towns that just draw people in, but for me, its the rich history of the land, and the things a bit out of the ordinary.

 

December: And last but not least, this brings us to the start of winter in Myrtle Beach. And what better way to celebrate then witnessing the magical fairyland of lights setting a glow to the spectacular gardens.  A night of a Thousand Candles is a sight not to be missed this time of the year.

 

 

I wish that 2019 brings myself and all of my ‘Wanderlust’ readers a journey of discovery, adventure, and the courage to continue to delve into the unknown.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Conch Shack VS Bugaloo’s (Turks and Caicos)

March 2018–Turks and Caicos Islands


When traveling to Turks and Caicos, there are two popular restaurants that the tourists and locals alike rave about. So of course, those two restaurants were on my radar for a few reasons.

  1. I LOVE seafood.
  2. I’m on an island where the seafood is caught fresh, daily.
  3. I’m always open and willing to try new things, and conch was the island specialty.

Let’s start with the Da Conch Shack simply because it was my first stop, and even my second. What can I say? My first impression was amazing. My only disappointment is that I didn’t have time for a third stop! (I realllly wanted to try the rum cake desert).

My first few days on Turks and Caicos Island were spent relaxing at the beach and doing a bit of exploring in and around Grace Bay Beach (recently named by TripAdvisor #1 Beach in the World!) I was researching the perfect tour around the island to get a feel for the local culture, and to see every nook and cranny. After a bit of searching, I found exactly what I was looking for, a safari tour that took us exploring around the island, with a stop for some fresh local conch. I’ll get into the island tour with TCI Safari with another post, but for now lets talk about that fresh conch! Included in the tour was a seafood platter, more than enough for two people; including conch fritters, cracked conch, grouper fingers, jerk chicken wings, fried plantains, and home fries.

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Seafood Platter

Holy conch!! This food was delicious. If you’ve never tried conch, I encourage you to do it! The fritters were my favorite, I loved the mix of conch and spices. I know I don’t have anything to compare them to, but as far as I’m concerned these were top notch! The jerk chicken was so good, that we ordered a dozen more wings for the road. It was a lot of fried seafood, which I normally would never order, but this wasn’t greasy and the taste of the seafood prevailed!

Not only was the food delicious, the atmosphere and beachy vibes were exactly what we needed to enjoy the night. The restaurant is located directly on the beach with a colorful open air seating area. There is a bar with plenty of island cocktails (also pitchers of island rum punch), tables on the beach, and even the Bimini Ring game which we played and pretty much failed at. At some point in my life, I WILL get the ring on the hook!

 

The next day, I rented a car so I could ride around the island at my own speed. I also was really excited to drive on the wrong side of the road, but still keeping a left sided steering wheel. After checking out a few beaches and hidden gems along the way, it was nearing lunch time and I headed back to non other than, Da Conch Shack. I couldn’t resist, it was on my path, and I was in the mood for some more fresh seafood!

This time I ordered blackened grouper, which was served with island peas & rice and coleslaw. I’ve tasted a fair amount of grouper in my day, as it’s actually one of my favorite grilled fish. So I was pleasantly surprised when this grouper was THE BEST I’ve ever tasted. The fish was cooked perfectly, juicy and flaky with the just the right amount of cajun spice. It was a generous portion mixed with the island sides, also flavored and cooked to perfection. This meal was a steal for just $18. Not only was the food amazing, it was a Sunday afternoon, and to my delight, a local guy was playing the guitar and singing some of my favorite reggae riddims.

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BEST Blackened Grouper

Let’s move on to Bugaloo’s Restaurant. Another local restaurant located on the beach, and well known for its fresh seafood. The ambiance is perfect for beach lovers, families and groups of friends. There is plenty of outdoor seating with colorful decor. Loads of island cocktails to choose from, not to mention the famous island rum punch. The food is just as fresh coming in daily from the local fishermen.

First thing I ordered was a nice, refreshing strawberry daiquiri. Flavorful, and thirst quenching, but considering I was on an ‘rum heavy’ island, there wasn’t much rum to be found in this cocktail. I considered ordering some conch here as well, but I was really in the mood for another piece of fresh grilled fish. Their market fish of the day was snapper, caught fresh daily. I ordered this with my choice of a side of plantain chips. The meal was a generous portion, with a huge filet of snapper. It looked amazing! Unfortunately it only tasted OK. The snapper was quite dry, even with the dousing of lime juice and some tarter. The plantain chips were greasier than my liking, but still enjoyable.

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Grilled Snapper and Plantains

After dinner, I walked around the beach area and was able to catch the fisherman cleaning out the conch from the shells. This was a neat experience, which can also be found at Da Conch Shack, I just happened to miss it the times I was there. I enjoyed my evening at Bugaloo’s in an atmosphere that exuded fun, but my particular meal just wasn’t that good.  If you’re looking for a budget friendly option, try one of the sandwiches or an appetizer averaging around $10-$15, as this particular meal and drink for one was close to $50

 

So with all that in mind, I’d suggest to give them both a go! If you love seafood with a beachside setting, you’ll be happy with either. But if you’re looking for the BEST food, you must head over to Da Conch Shack!

The Best Surprises Involve Photography!

February 2018–Conway, South Carolina USA


I’d been waiting for my ‘Saturday Surprise’ since arriving home from China a few weeks ago. Do you know how hard it is to wait that long?  Patience has never been my best virtue.  Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating for us on the weekends, so it continued to be postponed. FINALLY we had some good weather to kick it off!!

If you ask me, what’s the best kind of surprise? A new adventure, of course, involving photography and exploring!

The morning started, as Saturday’s usually do, with a long walk with the dogs and a trip to our favorite breakfast spot, The Bagel Shop. I was finally presented with two options for our ‘Saturday Surprise.’  Since I haven’t lived in Myrtle Beach long, and I’m not from the South, there are so many new places for me to experience, so I get really excited for new opportunities.  My two options that I had been waiting on for weeks were; Conway Riverwalk or Brookgreen Gardens.  We experienced Brookgreen Gardens, during their ‘Festival of Lights’ at Christmas, but seeing it in the day would look completely different.  As beautiful as I know the Gardens are, I chose Conway Riverwalk, purely to get some grungy, high-contrast photo opportunities.  I’d been wanting to challenge myself with some different scenery, so this was the perfect surprise for me.

Just a short drive into Conway led us to a Riverwalk, which was nice, but not exactly what I was looking for.  With a quick glace to the right, we both discovered an abandoned railroad track.  Perfect!  This is what I wanted to see, shoot and explore.

 

The railway was rickety, grungy, and dangerously crossed over the river.  Following it just brought a heightened level of excitement!  Myself and my camera were completely enjoying the day.  After following the tracks for a bit, it led us to an abandoned Railway Station.  There were signs everywhere claiming, ‘NO TRESPASSING’ and a few cameras monitoring the spot.  We weren’t there to tag up the abandoned building, equipment, or cars, we were harmless, simply on a quest for photos and new experiences. So we went with it, and walked around, staying far enough away as to not over step our boundaries.  It was completely worth the risk, capturing some great photos along the way.

Feb_10_Railway (7 of 49)

Take a look through my photos and enjoy my version of a perfect ‘Saturday Surprise.’