TBT: Saint Lucia

My parents took me and my sister on so many amazing trips when I was growing up. I’ve shared posts about a few of them (England, Newfoundland, Antigua, Quebec City), but I’m home right now, and looking through all of our photo albums made me realize how much I haven’t shared! In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I’ll be sharing memories and photos from some of my favourite trips: look out for Australia, New Zealand, and lots of Canadian travel! My dad took all the pictures in this post and likely the others: I’m so glad he documented all this for us!

I do recognize that today is not Thursday, and I should therefore not be posting a “Throwback Thursday” post. However, it is exam time which means I never know what day of the week it is: so, happy Throwback Saturday. Saint Lucia was the first Caribbean island we visited, and clearly we loved it so much that we kept going back to explore other corners of this gorgeous area.

Looking through the pictures of this trip made me realize just how little I actually remember: which makes it a bit hard to write about the places we went and the things we saw. However, I will try my very best.

It might seem like all of the Caribbean islands are similar, and that if you find one you like it just makes sense to keep going back. Although we visited Antigua twice, we prefer to try new islands because they’re all so different once you are actually there. St. Lucia distinguishes itself with a practically perfect blend of four things: nature, history, beaches, and culture.

NATURE

I have totally become a nature person despite much moaning on forced camping trips as a child. When we visit a Caribbean island, we don’t just want to relax on the beach – we want a more diverse island that we can explore. St. Lucia has the Pitons, sugarcane fields, a drive-in volcano: what more could you want?

dsc03933 dsc04059 dsc04080 dsc04151

HISTORY

Like many Caribbean islands, Europeans had a huge impact on the history of these islands. Even I, with my short attention span (which was even shorter then) was fascinated by the history on Pigeon Point.

dsc03963 dsc04005

BEACHES

It’s not really a Caribbean island without unreal beaches, now is it? St. Lucia might not have 365 beaches, which is Antigua’s claim to fame, but it certainly has its fair share of sunbathing space.

dsc04053 dsc04139

CULTURE

We loved wandering around Soufriere and getting an idea of how locals lived. We also arranged a driver for certain days on our visit. Her name was Lori, and she is one of my clearest memories from the trip: she took us to special local spots, found me the best ice-cream, and was possibly one of the nicest people I have ever met. She made our visit special and was really an awesome way to get an insight into life on Saint Lucia.

dsc04067 dsc04108 dsc04105

Ziplining with Antigua Rainforest

Two years ago, when we first went to Antigua, we didn’t get a chance to go ziplining. At the end of the trip, my parents told us that if we ever came back, they’d take us on that trip. I don’t think they thought we’d be returning so soon, but 2 years later and we reminded them of their promise!

Antigua Rainforest is located, naturally, in the gorgeous rainforest on the southwest coast of the island. They have 13 ziplines as well as a ropes challenge course, and we opted to take both! For $89 a person the experience is a bit pricey, but we definitely thought the thrill was worth it. We arrived fairly early and were ecstatic to see that there were three beautiful dogs roaming around: nobody loves dogs more than our family, so we embarrassed ourselves by gushing over them. My dad also rescued a kitten from the other side of the road, which is the third time he’s been involved in a cat rescue.

DCIM101GOPRO

DCIM101GOPRO

They take people through the zipline course in large groups, which isn’t generally our cup of tea. There were a ton of obnoxious little kids (trust me, they were bad) in our group but luckily we were beckoned to the front and they were pretty far behind us. While you sometimes had to wait a little while to take the next zipline, it never felt overly long and you had these incredible views to amuse you!

One of the best parts of our time at Antigua Rainforest was the staff. They were all extremely helpful and seemed very knowledgeable, which is a plus when they’re the ones securing you before you leap off a platform. During the training session at the beginning, they explained everything very clearly and made sure we all knew what not to do. They were also very friendly, asking us if we were sisters (yes) or twins (NO) and who was older.

DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of soaring over the rainforest; total freedom as you hang from just a thin cable. I’ve loved ziplining when I’ve done it before, and Antigua was the coolest place I’ve done it so far: do yourself a favour and book ziplining with Antigua Rainforest to experience more than just the beaches! Check out this video I filmed on my GoPro for insight into the experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE4oYudL6qk&feature=youtu.be

DCIM101GOPRO

Practical Info

We booked our ticket through a guy wandering down the beach, which sounds totally sketchy but is really just how business is done here. We paid the same price but Tristan got some of it, which was a nice way to support locals. To get here, there are directions on the website, and lots of signs once you get close. We had a rental car for the day, but you could get a taxi very easily.

We paid full price for our tour and Antigua Rainforest is not aware of this review – just sharing my thoughts on a great company!

Off the Beaten Path in Antigua: Half Moon Bay

One of my biggest problems with solo travel is that I don’t have a driver’s license. Travelling solo? Doesn’t phase me. Put me behind the wheel, though, and I totally panic. This means I can’t rent a car (not that I’m old enough in most places) and explore some of the more far-flung destinations. Some places just seem meant for road trips – think Iceland, the US, etc. Antigua, my family has decided, is one of those places as well. Luckily, when I travel with my family, my very capable father can face the scarily skinny roads, aggressive drivers, and the whole ‘we drive on the other side of the road’ thing. Although we spent our fair share of days lounging on the beach and trying water sports, for two days we rented a car and headed out…to lounge on beaches. Different beaches, so it counts as exploring.

One of our favourite spots on the island is Half Moon Bay, so we decided to revisit it for an afternoon. This beach is basically impossible to find, and the difficult navigation combined with my very head-strong family being packed into a tiny car made us all rather irritable, but the instant you see this beautiful view your annoyance just melts away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last time we visited this beach, my dad and sister found some awesome snorkelling. They tried to show me the spots, but I think the tide was too high or too low or something. Basically, we couldn’t really snorkel. Despite that, we swam a bit and then went back to our favourite family activity: all reading separately on the beach. Since we like to explore, we broke this up with some walking. What’s unique about Half Moon Bay is the fact that just outside the sheltered beach is the Atlantic Ocean. That means that compared to our home base, the unbelievably tranquil Jolly Beach, there are actual waves just off shore. If the swells are up, you might not be able to enjoy the swimming as much. The tide also has much more of an impact on the skinny, ungroomed beach – when we tried to walk back to our car, we kept getting cut off by the ocean. I also stepped on burrs and yelled for my mother until she came and got them out for me…I’m so brave and independent.

The best part of this place is the walk you can take around the cliffs. You just have to go to the end of the beach and clamber up some rocks to see the power of the Atlantic and these gorgeous views:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This beach actually kind of reminds me of home: some of the waves are genuinely terrifying (if you’re scared of waves, that is) and the fact that the beach isn’t cleaned up makes it feel more natural and wild. If you’re looking to escape from the aggressive beach vendors and get off the beaten path in Antigua, rent a car and get lost on the way to Half Moon Bay! Because you will get lost.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Adventure Antigua Eco Tour: Exploring the Island

On our first trip to Antigua, we hired a private boat and visited some of the most popular snorkeling sites on the island. This time, we spent some time looking for a boat tour that would take us to some different places, and not just for snorkeling. Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor both recommended the Adventure Antigua Eco Tour and it seemed to fit the bill with snorkelling, hiking, and exploring a cave, so I convinced my dad to sign us up! We are not party boat people, so the website’s promise that we would not be forced to play limbo or listen to loud music was very reassuring.

I am so glad we went with this tour. From pickup to drop off,  we felt welcomed by the amazing crew, and the sights we got to see were even better with their commentary and background info.

Pickup was bright and early, and staying in Jolly Harbour meant we were the first ones on the list. We headed over to the docks and picked primo seats right at the front of the boat, then enjoyed a personal tour of the coast between us and the rest of our pickups in St. John’s and at Sandals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Once everybody was on board, we flew along the island’s North Sound, hearing about the islands along the way and working on our tans. After some ecological information about a beautiful mangrove,  the crew anchored the boat just off our first major stop.

Hell’s Gate

I pathetically donned a life jacket for the 10 foot swim to the island as well as the provided water shoes, and once I strapped my GoPro to my head I looked about as dorky as it is possible to look. Safety first, am I right?!

We climbed through a cave and up to the top of the island, learning about the geology behind the island along the way. One of the best things about Adventure Antigua was how interesting the staff made their talks: and believe me, it takes a lot to interest me in geology.

Hell’s Gate was seriously beautiful. There’s a natural hot tub where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meet, and the top of the island has some stunning vistas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After just enough time on Hell’s Gate Island, we got back on the boat and headed to our next stop.

Bird Island

Bird Island is known as an extremely ecologically diverse part of the country, especially because it is the only place with snakes. Being completely terrified of snakes, I was rather nervous about even setting foot on this island, but luckily for the eardrums of everyone around me, there were no sightings.

First, the boat stopped a few feet offshore and we had some time for swimming while lunch was prepared. I was expecting some crappy sandwiches and cold chicken, and was totally surprised to be served delectable chicken and amazing pasta. I also had 6 pieces of banana bread – don’t tell the crew. After lunch, we disembarked and walked up to the top of the island after a brief talk about the ecological importance of the island. Again, there were amazing views – in my books, anywhere where you can see the Caribbean sea is a great view.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally, we hopped over to the last stop of the day, and one of my most anticipated:

Snorkelling

Despite my ridiculously poor swimming ability and fear of water, I opted to go with the advanced group to see some cooler things and so that I could stay with my dad. Normally, I make him hold my hand during all snorkelling, but for some reason I felt really comfortable this time. I think the presence of so many other people, as well as the seemingly very capable staff, was a great way for me to feel safe. I freaked Dad out by immediately taking off to catch up with the group, but all’s well that ends well and I got to see a lot of great coral and fish!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Overall, we had an incredible day exploring the island with Adventure Antigua. For $100 per person, it’s better value than a lot of boat trips out there. If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere with lots of informative commentary from a knowledgeable crew, check out the Adventure Antigua Eco Tour!

Adventure Antigua did not solicit this review – we booked the tour independently and they don’t know I’m writing this! This is just my opinion about a fantastic company. 

Stand Up Paddleboarding in Antigua

On my family’s trip to Antigua over Christmas, there was one thing I knew I wanted to try: stand up paddleboarding. This seemed a bit ridiculous for the most uncoordinated person in the world. I also happen to be totally terrified of deep water, and you can’t really stand up paddle in water under 5 feet. Nevertheless, a post from Alex in Wanderland and a desire to overcome my fears led me to research whether I could rent a board on Jolly Beach – and I could! If you haven’t heard of stand up paddling, or SUP, it originated in Hawaii and has become kind of like a real sport recently. I’m basically allergic to exercise, but everyone who’s tried it says it’s a very low impact workout and you’ll have no idea you were exercising until you feel the soreness the next day. Tricking myself into working out? I was sold!

DCIM101GOPRO

I waited for my sister to arrive on the island, since she was the only member of my family I could convince to come out with me, and found someone who would rent them to us. I’m not sure if we actually rented from Salty Dog Rentals (the company I found before our trip) or just a random guy on the beach: I just know we were told to go find a guy named Tristan. The way they do business in the Caribbean fascinates me.

After a few brief instructions and being given lifejackets (highly necessary for as bad a swimmer as me) and we were off. The people who had been using the boards previously warned us that the wind was deceptively strong, and although it’d be easy to paddle out to sea, getting back in (in my mind, the most important part) would be harder. This proved to be totally true and there were definitely a few moments of pure panic.

Once I got over the fear of drifting out to sea and mastered the art of steering (well, at least grasped the basics) I attempted to stand up. After 3 seconds of balancing gingerly, I got scared and kneeled back down. So brave! After about 15 minutes of berating myself for being a baby, I stood up and stayed there. The actual transition from kneeling to standing may be the hardest part, but once you’re up there it’s not so bad. Jet-skis kept cruising by and sending waves my way, but the board stayed remarkably stable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DCIM101GOPRO

My sister has always been less of a scaredy-cat than me, so she was up on her feet much earlier. Staying near eachother was pretty difficult, but anytime she got too far away I paddled briskly after her; my fear of water gets much worse if there’s nobody nearby. Once I got into my groove, I fell completely in love with the freedom of stand up paddleboarding: gliding across the beautiful Caribbean sea, I felt like I was walking on water. I was surprised by how unafraid I felt most of the time. My dad even came out and joined us for a little while – paddling my board was much harder with two people on it, so I naturally made him do it.

DCIM101GOPRO

DCIM101GOPRO OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
After an hour, however, I was ready to head back in for some sunbathing. Getting into shore was quite challenging, but I eventually got there and was immediately knocked down by a wave. Ah, the ocean is so much fun. Embarrassed, I dragged my board back to Tristan and felt how weak my legs were – although that was nothing compared to how sore I’d be the next day!

This hour of SUP showed me that I could get over my fears and really enjoy being out on the water. I can’t wait to try stand up paddleboarding somewhere else, and I’m going to look for the opportunity everywhere I travel!

 

Have you ever tried stand up paddleboarding? What’s your favourite water sport?

2014 in Review: Beginning a Life of Travel

I’ve always travelled a fair amount with my parents, but 2014 was the year I really got inspired to make travel a bigger part of my life. This year I took family trips, a girls’ trip, a business trip and, most importantly: my very first solo trip. I also started this blog in June, which was an amazing decision! Although the end of the year was definitely more travel-heavy, I have tons of exciting plans for 2015 and I can’t wait to share all of my adventures with you. For now, here’s a post wrapping up my year: 2014 in review!

Saskatoon, Winnipeg & Calgary

I flew to Calgary for an Enactus event, which is an organization I’m involved with at my school. Naturally, I took the chance to visit my long-distance best friend in Saskatoon! I also checked something off my bucket list with a convenient layover in Winnipeg: I’ve officially been to all ten provinces, although there’s still a ton more exploring to do. I was a really bad traveler for most of this trip and did more friend-seeing than sight-seeing, but I’d been to Calgary and Saskatoon before! I extended my stay in Calgary because Sunjita and I got the chance to compete in a Westjet contest. It was really cool to come up with a marketing campaign for a major Canadian airline, and we were so excited to be declared the winners!

Winning the Westjet case competition!

Winning the Westjet case competition!

A night out in Saskatoon

A night out in Saskatoon

New York City

Anybody who knows me is aware of my undying love for New York City. I finally made it there for the first time in April for a quick mother-daughter trip that was just as amazing as I hoped it would be! We stayed on the Upper West Side and as soon as I left, I wanted to go back. Highlights included a day spent shopping on the Upper East Side, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and the highlight of my year: seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway.

Posts

New York City’s Top Ten Attractions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chicago

Due to a major travel mishap on the way to China, I finagled a free night in Chicago which was my first time in the city! I had to explore without doing any research at all, which is very unlike me, but I fell in love and can’t wait to go back for more than an evening.

Posts

Turning Travel Problems into Travel Opportunities in Chicago

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

China

This trip was a game-changer. I had genuinely never even considered solo travel; I didn’t even know it really existed. When I started reading travel blogs, I was so inspired and knew I had to made solo travel part of my life. There was an event going on in Beijing that I really wanted to attend, and nobody could come with me – so I went myself. Originally I was booked to see Beijing and Hong Kong, but I changed my flights after the protest and explored Beijing, Datong, Xian and Shanghai. I had a ton of mishaps and the trip totally changed my life! I’d love to get back to Shanghai as soon as possible.

Favourite Posts

Beijing Trip: Solo Doesn’t Mean Alone

How to Avoid Getting Lost and Crying in a Cab

Twelve Hours in Xi’an

Arriving in My New Favourite City: Shanghai

Taking the Train in China

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New York City

My best friend and I were supposed to reunite in Croatia in September, which I’m still really upset didn’t happen. We really wanted to see eachother, so we planned a long weekend trip to New York City! I got a great deal on flights, which turned it from a long weekend to missing a week of school….whatever right?!  It was a bit ironic to celebrate my 19th birthday (legal drinking age in most of Canada) in a place where the age is 21, but we had a blast exploring familiar and new neighborhoods from our Airbnb base.

Favourite Posts

My Favourite Food in New York City

The Number One Thing to do in New York City

Walking Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Antigua & Barbuda

I just got back from yesterday from a great trip to close out the year: Christmas on my favourite tropical island! My family spent the holidays in Antigua two years ago, and this year we ended up returning because we loved it so much. I can’t wait to share more about this island that tends to fly under the radar. Highlights included a tour with Adventure Antigua and standup paddleboarding!

All in all, my year may not seem that impressive, but for an 18/19 year old student I’m pretty proud of the places I’ve managed to go this year. I know 2015 is going to be an incredible year for travel: I have a trip to Toronto and Montreal booked in February and I could not be more excited about my summer in Italy!

Where to Stay in Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda make up a small island nation between the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, and the country is aptly nicknamed ‘Land of 365 Beaches.’ This may be my favourite Caribbean island that I’ve visited.

Where to Stay in Antigua

Where to stay in Antigua

Where to Stay in Antigua

My family and I had an amazing time on Antigua over Christmas 2012. Although we didn’t venture to Barbuda, we easily filled our week on Antigua with sightseeing, exploring, and relaxing. I have a ton more recommendations and stories coming, but first I wanted to talk about the FANTASTIC place we stayed on the island.

We stayed in Jolly Harbour, which you can see on the west coast of the island.

Where to stay in Antigua

Jolly Harbour’s marina is home to dozens of villas that you can easily rent out. Whether your entire extended family or just you and your spouse are heading to Antigua, there are villas that are perfect for you.

When my family travels, the responsibility of picking our accommodation usually falls to my dad, and he did an great job with this one. We rented a villa with 2 bedrooms, and it fit the four of us perfectly. Our Caribbean checklist usually includes:

  • Close enough to all the major sights (not a huge consideration on a tiny island)
  • Ability to make our own food
  • Safety
  • Excellent beach access
  • Affordable
  • Balcony or patio

This villa ticked all the boxes. I really think villas are the way to go in the Caribbean!

Where to stay in Antigua

Where to stay in Antigua

I mean…look at this beach. We were MAYBE a 2 minute walk from this beach.

Where to stay in Antigua

Where to stay in Antigua

If you’re interested in renting a villa in Jolly Harbour, don’t get scared off by the reviews on TripAdvisor! My dad used holidayrentals.com to find our rental, which he was very happy with. There was a great maid service, and our villa was clean and well-taken care of, but of course make sure you read specific reviews or testimonials before you rent any villa!

Do you prefer resorts or rentals?