Monday, September 19, 2016

Scenes From The Merida Market

Browsing through a destination's market supplies so many revelations. The sensory overload of colors, smells and sounds show so much about a place and culture. I was excited to see Merida's Mercado Lucas de Galvez and I was not disappointed. The sprawling covered market offers everything from paella pans to pet parakeets. Walking through the endless aisles was like a lively tour of the kitchens and tables of a local house.

I was amazed to find that all of the fruits above are different variations of mangoes.

Spices are essential to Yucatecan cooking so peppers, herbs and spices were everywhere.

A whole section is dedicated to dulces or candy, which meant I was in heaven. I felt compelled to buy pounds of my fave cajeta, which almost required me to check my luggage at the airport.

But the most unexpected site for me were the vendors for fresh chicharrones or pork cracklings. I learned that Mexico is one of the world's top producers of pork rinds. Locals crowded around this vendor for bags of the popular snack. I don't eat meat so these didn't look tempting to me but it certainly gives Merida's market a flavor like no other!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Merida's Progreso Beach

The Yucatan is famous for dazzling beaches but the bustling capital city of Merida makes you forget that you're surrounded by coastline. So I was taken aback to glimpse the pearly sands of Progreso Beach just 20 minutes outside of the city center. Old fishing boats decorate the end of the beach and vendors stroll with Mexican candies and fruits.

Palapas line the beach for fresh seafood but I focused on the flawless stretch and gentle waves. The beach was quiet with only a few strolling locals but on weekends, it's a popular spot. I splashed through the Gulf of Mexico and lounged on the sand until I couldn't ignore the prospect of fresh fish any longer.

Yucatan cuisine is one of my favorites so I immediately ordered pescado tikin-xic, a regional fave of fish seasoned with achiote and other herbs and baked in banana leaves. Nothing beats the taste of freshly caught fish with an ocean breeze washing over you. Afterwards, I meandered down the malecon and soaked up the Mexican sun that always seems to shine the brightest on the Yucatan coast.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Nevis' Sunshine's Bar and the Legend of the Killer Bee

If you are on Nevis for even a few hours, you will hear about Sunshine's. Sunshine's Bar is the island's most famous hangout, where every visitor whether celebrity or beach bum, is required to make an appearance. Named for the gregarious owner, a burly man who will greet you with a smile as wide as the Caribbean Sea, Sunshine's is the ultimate beach bar, sprawled out on Pinney's Beach, with a thatched roof, rainbow-colored benches and communal tables.

The interior is lined with international flags and photos of famous guests. I saw Beyonce and Jay Z, Oprah and Britney Spears smiling back at me but I knew the draw wasn't to spot stars or to taste the  BBQ menu, which is very good. No, the real attraction is a cocktail called the Killer Bee. Every island has their own rum drink but this Bee elixir is more famous than Nevis itself. I had heard about Sunshine's Killer Bee from rum connoisseurs who sip bottles daily and they deemed the drink lethal. I don't know what exactly goes into the concoction, its such a secret that the bartenders mix it out of view but I do know that it knocks out professional drinkers, which I am not. Suffice it to say, I was totally skerd.  So much so that Sunshine took one look at my face and decided that he would make me a Baby Bee, with half the rum in a tiny cup. I sipped the sweet cocktail and as I watched some guests stumble around, I was thankful that I didn't succumb to the legendary Killer Bee.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Unusual History of Nevis" Cottle Church

Nevis is a tiny island but it packs a lot of history in its small space. I saw historic ruins and landmarks on every other road but for me, the most moving was Cottle Church. Hidden in the woods north of the capital of Charlestown, the ruins of Cottle Church stand as a reminder of  a time when slavery was rampant but glimmers of hope still existed. That hope was demonstrated when Thomas Cottle built the Anglican church in 1824 so that his family could worship along side the enslaved inhabitants of the plantation.

It was actually illegal for the enslaved to worship so Thomas was bucking the system on many levels. The church was never consecrated but this monument to religious freedom exists as a special landmark. Walking through the archways of the church, I felt the spirits of the dozens of enslaved people who worked all day, every day, and then prayed for freedom in this church.

The names and ages of all the enslaved plantation workers are listed on a wall of the church. It's fascinating to see the people who are highlighted for being born in Africa. This means that they survived the Middle Passage of being chained in a ship on the West African coast and sailing for months to the Caribbean. It's especially heartbreaking to see the number of children listed. Emancipation was granted in Nevis and other British colonies in 1834, so they would work and hopefully survive the brutal conditions for ten more years.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Glimpsing Nevis Peak

Nevis is a multi-faceted island. It might measure only 36 square miles but there are a lot of layers crammed into such a small area. I spent a lot of time whipping my head back and forth, trying to capture the natural beauty, the historic monuments and the people. With every scene, I spotted the tip of Nevis Peak beckoning in the background. Nevis Peak is a mostly dormant volcano that rises 3,232 feet high and serves as the island's main landmark. It's the highest point on Nevis and as I journeyed further up the island's hilly landscape, the volcano emerged clearer and clearer. Fog and clouds often obscure parts of the peak but I was lucky to view the entire volcano from a distance at the historic Montpelier Plantation Inn. Gazing fully at the peak surrounded by a lush meadow, I felt like I was finally meeting up with a hard to catch new friend.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Next Stop: Nevis

My island lovers dream will come true this week with an exciting visit to Nevis, the tiny sister island to St. Kitts. Just 36 square miles and with about 12,000 residents, Nevis defines the old school Caribbean lifestyle with a slow pace and community focused lifestyle. I will be covering the island's annual carnival celebration, Culturama, which commemorates emancipation from slavery in the 1830s with parades, parties and pageants. I'm thrilled to actually participate in Culturama's street parade, where I'll be donning a red feathered costume and jumping up with the locals. Please stay tuned for my posts about that festive experience as well as my visits to the Nevis capital of Charlestown, where Alexander Hamilton was born, the botanical garden, calypso shows and the island's famous, secluded beaches.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Flying High On Mont Tremblant With Birds of Prey

There's nothing more iconic than a bald eagle soaring over the mountains so I was excited to get a close up experience of this in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. At the summit of Mont Tremblant, a Birds of Prey show demonstrates the beauty and skill of native aviary predators. It was raining and cold but I was determined to see and grab some shots of the birds and I was rewarded with the image above. That striking profile against the sweeping mountain backdrop makes it my fave animal photo so far.

The falconer explained how there used to be only six nesting bald eagles in Quebec, just 15 years ago. Now, thanks to conservation and the banning of DEET insecticide, there are 200 nesting bald eagles in the region. We got the chance to see owls and smaller birds dive through the sky, and capture meals mid air but I liked the eagle the best. It's a rare thing to get so close to these majestic creatures and I feel lucky to have been close enough to gaze into its eyes. Have you ever grabbed a close view of an eagle?