Friday, March 27, 2015

Departing Paradise

Our trip ended early Thursday morning as we departed Culebra for a short flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is always fun to be sitting in a small, regional airport and the power go out. Lack of power at the airport is a good way to calm your nerves before boarding the tiny plane. Another trick to calming nerves it to ask the passengers to step on the luggage scales and check weights. Then scribble the numbers on a sheet of paper and add them by hand before giving a thumbs up that we are okay to fly!

The plane ride off the island was actually smooth and a good ending to our trip.

Once in San Juan, we shared a taxi with an older woman from Spain who travels the world for fun. She shared some solid traveling tips and left us envious of all her adventures. After a brief stop in Orlando, Sarah and I landed in Birmingham and could not drive home fast enough to see our girls.

I love traveling and seeing the world, but nothing is better than returning home and having three little ladies waiting to jump into your arms. Actually, it was only two in my case, as Selah only wanted her mother!

Love taking pictures of all the random airports I get to visit.

Our plane at sunrise

When we flew into Culebra, our plane splits the V in the mountains.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Destination Culebra: Day 3

Sarah and I began our final day in Culebra with a massage at our condo. The masseuse came to our condo and provided each of us an hour of relaxation. I have experienced massages in Thailand (amazing) and China (a unique experience), but this was a different experience. He was an actual massage therapist and seemed to have a plan and a routine.

After our massages, Sarah and I enjoyed lunch at Mamma Cita's Guest house. It was another fantastic meal with a great view of the water, boats and wildlife. Following lunch, we experienced our first rain on the island but it was short lived, as Sarah and I spent some time on Flamenco Beach getting sun and people watching. After we both got good and burnt, we headed out for some island exploring. I took advantage of the Jeep and found many dirt roads to explore.

For dinner, Sarah and I decided to try a restaurant that delivers food. It was a great call as Sarah and I enjoyed a relaxing dinner at our amazing condo. We also spent time in the hammock chatting and planning our next trip. All of Sarah's ideas typically involve a road trip with kids and mine involve some foreign country that may or may not allow Americans (CUBA!).

Here are some pics of the day. Again, I do not have any pics of the massage time, but if you want to talk to the young man flying the mini drone outside our window, he may have some pics of Sarah and I in a relaxed state. He also may or may not be a fan of mine as we had a conversation about his flying.

Sarah's lunch of Grilled Mahi-Mahi with rice and beans

Flamenco Beach

View from the hill beside our condo

Another view I found on a dirt road

Dinner: Sarah with vegetarian lasagna and Matt with Italian Sausage and Yellow Rice (Death by Chocolate Cupcakes for dessert)

Sunset from the hammock

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Destination Culebra: Day 2

Sarah and I awoke at the crack of dawn to attempt snorkeling with sea turtles at Tamarindo Beach. We decided to go the self-guide route. We found our way to the beach, well off the typical path but still reachable by Jeep. A swarm of mosquitoes aided our acclimation to the cold water as Sarah and I were off to find some sea creatures. After a short swim, I spotted a sting ray below me and mistakenly pointed it out to Sarah. She treated such sting ray as a great white shark and nearly pulled me under while screaming at the top of her lungs. We swam for an hour and enjoyed another sting ray, a variety of fish and finally on our way back to shore, sea turtles!

We followed up the morning dip with an organic breakfast at an outdoor market. The food tasted all the same to me, but each item said organic before it on the menu, so I take it as a check mark in the daily healthy column!

Thanks to a recommendation from a friend we met on the plane, Sarah and I set off for Brava Beach. The Jeep got us partially down the path but a dead end forced us in to a 30-minute hike through some pretty rough terrain. The hike was well worth the time and energy, as Sarah and I found the most amazing beach. It was huge with plenty of sand and waves. The best part... we were the only people on the beach for the entire length of our stay. It is the highlight of the trip for me!

After a quick shower, Sarah and I went to Dinghy Docks for lunch. It had a great atmosphere and even better food. We went with crab cakes for an appetizer, Mahi-Mahi sandwich for Sarah, Grouper Sandwich for myself and Peanut Butter Pie for dessert. The positive reviews for this restaurant were spot on!

Sarah and I spent the afternoon at Flamenca Beach. It is the reason that I decided upon on Culebra as our spring break adventure. It was ranked by Trip Adviser as the No. 2 beach in the world. In terms of just a beach, I do not know what could be better. The water is crystal clear. The sand is plentiful and soft. Their are no high rises or buildings in sight. It is just water and nature. We soaked the water for a long time and just admired the amazing views.

After such a long day, Sarah and I picked up dinner to-go and settled in for a night at our beautiful condo and watched the sunset. Sarah read a book while I laid in the hammock.

*** Due to the mosquitoes and lack of underwater camera, I only have mental images of our snorkeling adventure.

Walking Trail was an understatement especially on the return hike up the mountain.

Must have been taken on the way to Brava Beach because our faces were not so happy on the way out due to the hike!

Trail got rough in spots

Finally, we see the water!

I went high and Sarah went low on the rocks.

This beach was amazing and we were the only ones on it!

Sarah working her selfie pose!

Might have eaten one of these for lunch

Amazing view from our lunch table

Pretty hot, if I must say so myself!

The famous tank on Flamenca Beach

Our view from the condo as we chilled on the hammock

Monday, March 23, 2015

Destination: Culebra

For Day Two of our adventure, Sarah and I ventured to the remote island of Culebra off the coast of Puerto Rico. We plan to spend the rest of our trip on this island as it has some of the best beaches in the world. Our first initial view of the island did not disappoint.

We started our morning off with breakfast at the hotel followed by a bit of shopping for Sarah and slot machines for Matt. Slot machines for Matt consisted of one 50-cent pull on a Walking Dead slot machine that netted $45. It was my one and only pull, as I paid for breakfast, taxi and Sarah's shopping with that one pull. After checking out of the hotel, we made our way to the Isla Grande Airport, although nothing was Grande about this tiny airport. It made Tuscaloosa's airport seem international in scale. The 8-seat plane did not sit well with Sarah's nerves but she was a trooper. A New Jersey girl named Hannah ended up shotgun with the pilot. Maybe I will get dibs on the return flight. The ride was entertaining, scary and amazing. We survived and made a perfect landing on the island.

Once on the island, we snagged our rental Jeep and explored the island. We saw some amazing beaches, met some interesting people, tasted some flavorful food and viewed some amazing sights. Following a long day, we settled into our cottage on top of a large hill for reading and catching up on a missed episode of The Walking Dead.

Walls around San Juan Old Town.

Airport for our flight

Our ride to Culebra

I am ready to go!

He said "This will be a 30 minute flight and a bit bumpy." Sarah got nervous!

View outside my window

Both of these sauces were true to their word!

Lunch guest No. 1

Lunch guest No. 2 (look closely in the tree)

Amazing lunch spot!

My ride for the week and YES, I already found the mud!

Zoni Beach

Brynn would love these rocks

Glad to find the water

Best part of Zoni, NO PEOPLE!

Our back porch at the condo!

Welcome to San Juan, Puerto Rico

After much convincing, I was finally able to persuade Sarah go on a vacation without our three little ladies. Since Brynn and I did not share the same Spring Break, we decided to take a short trip during my time off. Thanks to wonderful parents and in-laws, we were able to take a little adventure and know our girls were in good hands. After much research I decided upon Puerto Rico, with the tiny island of Culebra, as our main destination.

Day One...
We arrived in San Juan and took an interesting taxi ride to our hotel. The taxi driver claimed to be a commercial airline pilot who just returned from an interview in New York City. If his flying remotely resembles his driving, I hope that he is never hired! We are staying at the Sheraton in Old Town. It is a great hotel with an amazing location. Our day in Old Town included visiting two colonial forts, walking the cobblestone streets and tasting local food and drinks.

Water rising from the ground is the love language for children all over the world.

Weekends in Old Town are filled with family time and kites.

Beautiful cemetery right beside the water.

Grass, water and History are everywhere.

Our wonderful street side view at dinner.

Sarah going authentic at Cafe Puerto Rico.