Showing posts from March, 2010

Next Stop: Rock City

I'm headed for the lovely sands (that's Magens Bay above) and relatively (for the Caribbean) fast-paced streets of Rock City, also known as St. Thomas. St. Thomas carries the Rock City nickname because of its rowdy night life but I won't be catching much of that scene.  This press trip will focus on eco and volunteer travel so I'll be snorkling in the Mangrove Wildlife Sanctuary, kayaking to Hassel Island to clean beaches and trails, as well as checking out Saint Peter Great House and Botanical Gardens. I also hope to get the chance to volunteer at a school for an afternoon. Other than that, I'm most looking forward to feeding iguanas!  I'll be gone for the rest of the week, taking in a side of Rock City that I've never experienced. I promise lots of pix and posts on my adventures when I get back.

Sunset on Eleuthera

The Caribbean reaps lot of attention for golden sun, powdery sand beaches and turquoise water.  And it's true, all of these elements  offer enough beauty to soothe your frazzled soul.  But there's one Caribbean attraction that I think deserves more notice.  It's the sunsets. There's nothing more gorgeous than a blazing sunset over a stretch of water. I make it a point to capture a sunset on every island I visit. The drama of it all is enough to make me forget the sun and just come out at sunset. I captured this setting sun in Eleuthera, at the Cove resort.  The property boasts a lookout tower just to watch spectacles like this.   Watching the sun gently dip over water, with palm trees casting shadows, is one of my favorite island activities.  What's your favorite way to enjoy the beauty of a destination?

Michelangelo of the Caribbean

They call him Michelangelo of the Caribbean but that's not how he was introduced to me.  Tall and genial, with flashing gray eyes, Sir Dunstan St. Omer was introduced to me as St. Lucia's leading artist and cultural expert.  I later discovered that he represents much more than that.  I made the mistake of trying to interview him during the St. Lucia Jazz Fest.  We walked through the fest and every three minutes, he was stopped by men and women hugging him.  Finally, we had to be escorted by security to a private tent, which was the only way I could talk to this beloved icon undisturbed. I thought a photo of Dunstan next to the vivid St. Lucia flag, above, made a powerful image. I later found out that it was Dunstan who designed the flag, with it's cerulean blue representing St. Lucia's sky and sea.  Along with Derek Walcott, Dunstan St. Omer symbolizes the genius of St. Lucian culture, which boasts the highest ratio of Nobel Laureates in the world. A painter noted fo

Righting History

Julia Alvarez knew exactly the significance of  the history she was tackling when she wrote In the Time of the  Butterflies .  She unearthed the pain and terror of a regime that few outside of the Dominican Republic knew about.  As historical fiction, In the Time of  the Butterflies chronicles the oppression of  Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo's 31-year-reign as well as the details of daily life for the  revolutionary Mirabel sisters.  The story doesn't just document history but it connects readers to the legends of the Mirabels, also known by their underground code name "The Butterflies," revealing their legitimate place in world history. I read this book with a firm knowlege of its importance but I have to admit, I wasn't all that eager to delve into Trujillo's cruel world and the Mirabel's suffering. The Time of the Butterflies is not a quick, breezy read.  It flashes between the three sisters, Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa, using diary entrie

Pomegranates in Paradise

I've always loved the deep crimson and overall weirdness of pomegranates. What other fruit comes in pods like that? As a child who devoured Greek mythology, the fact that Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds that would doom her to six months in the underworld with Hades, added to the drama. But I'd never actually seen a pomegranate tree until I was in Eleuthera. The ancient pomegranate is native to Persia and the Himalayas but occasionally grows on some Bahamian islands.  Persians (Iranians) believe that it was a pomegranate that tempted Eve, not a boring apple. I got a kick seeing pomegranates growing on spindly trees, surrounded by hibiscus, yellow elder and Royal poinciana tropical flowers. It truly looked like the garden of paradise.  Have you spotted any surprising plants or fruits on your travels?

Taste Trippin' Part Six (Francais)

I've complained about Chicago's long, brutal winters but when it really grows unbearable, I just take off to the warmest place I can think of.  That would be Senegal, West Africa, by way of Chicago's only Senegalese restaurant, Yassa. Senegalese food mirrors the culture in general.  It's warm, colorful and very spicy.  Family run and oozing with welcome and graciousness, Yassa offers the perfect tropical escape. With African tapestries and pictures on the wall and two rooms filled with wooden tables and chairs, Yassa feels like your favorite Senegalese aunt's living room, complete with music and tales of village exploits. I go to Yassa as much for the atmosphere as  I do the flavorful food.  Live bands play jazz or R&B and the expansive Gueye family floats about, waiting tables and supplying African anecdotes in free flowing French or Wolof. And then there's the food.  Hearty doesn't even come close to explaining it.  Yassa's menu lists an au