Guess, win, give… I love Birthdays!

Last year for my birthday, I opened a donation page with the intentions of distributing funds in small doses throughout the world. Primarily within personal contact, small foundations and local families. Since that glorious event, Herhappytrails has been able to gift in so many ways! Clean water in Africa, local chefs in Thailand, rescue sex trafficking in Cambodia and Sacramento, local schools and yes, this includes the ice bucket challenge as well.

If you’re new to this little journey of mine, I’ve been handstanding around the world for almost three years now. This year I’m feeling a little quirky, so here’s the deal:

I recorded myself doing a handstand for the fun of… Well, for fun! I’m giving you until December 1, 2014 to estimate how long I had the sky at my feet! The person who guesses to the nearest time will get to choose from 5 foundations in which Herhappytrails will donate the next $100.

BONUS: If you guess the exact amount of time, we will give $50 to any person or charity of your choice! An incredible teacher, thoughtful nurse, amazing neighbor, a school, local business, a student in need of educational funds… It’s your call!

Easy as 1,2,3:
1. Make a guess.
2. Apply it in the comments below, email it to herhappytrails@yahoo.com or on Facebook.
3. Wait for the reveal!

Much gratitude for taking the energy to read, contribute and continue spreading the joy of giving!

Many cheers and one love,
Erika Mae Young

Fun fact about this photo: I was house sitting alone, so I set my camera to self timer and had no idea their little pup got in the shot. Adorable!

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Hint: I only attempted twice and took the longer of the two handstands. It was more than 4 seconds, less than 4 minutes… Ready, set and guess!

Categories: Polls, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Raiders just keep on giving…

Since the Raiders lost during my “birthday” game (seen in “A day in silver and black”) it was felt to attend one more in high hopes for them to redeem themselves. Before I even try to drag this post out, let me just lay it out there. We got demolished. I mean, they generously sacrificed yet another win to allow the visiting team to feel welcome. I just can’t get over how unselfish the Oakland Raiders truly are!

Let’s make this post quick, fun and painless.

Instead of driving, Hayden and I decided to take the route that required no wheels. The first transfer required light rail, a regional transit system, from our home town of Folsom to the main Sacramento train station. Once arriving there, we hopped over to Amtrak that would take all the way to the Oakland colesium!

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Finally arriving to Oakland, we exited the tracks to cross a bridge before entering the sea of black and silver. Tailgaters are already in motion on this side of the gates! Can you spot the flag being carried under us?

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Trucks, food, friends and reunions. Yes please!

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Here are two sets of “last game/this game” photos.

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Football time! Today the Raiders are playing/donating a win to the Denver Broncos.

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Well look here… A foreign color sitting right next to me. Clearly he didn’t get the silver and black memo. Ooh, game on buddy!

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Lucky for Tom, his mustache and fun conversation made up for his choice of team.

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Here’s the last photo I took of the charitable event before we decided to beat the crowds back home.

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So when I say “beat the crowds”, what I meant was join the herd of like-minded fans.

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Waiting for the train… Game over.

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A day in silver and black

NFL- the National Football League is a North American sport that will be defined in many different ways depending on who you ask.

For example, the average American might say, “It’s a full contact game with 4 exciting quarters, a half time show and the best fans ever”!
Someone less enthusiastic might claim it to be a “4 Hour commercial, with some occasional football in between”. (That is unless they have the NFL red zone ticket). A diehard rugby player could accuse it of being “An over padded, handball game with too much structure and unnecessary penalties”.

For the most part, it’s generally an event that gives people another wonderful reason to gather on a Sunday to enjoy food, drinks while sharing the support (and hassling others) for the their favorite team. Although I don’t base my entire social schedule around this league, I do consider myself a fan.

Which team do I root for you may wonder? Well, non other than the Oakland Raiders! As of now, they are currently 0-5.
If you’re unfamiliar with the meaning of those numbers, let me explain:
Zero times have they selfishly taken a victory for themselves… which means they have kindly donated 5 wins to other teams in order to divi out the prosperity. Sharing is caring.

That is why I am such a loyal fan of this generous team (to be said in a sarcastic voice ending with the tone of a question. You may also vision it with a head tilt and one eyebrow raise).

Moving on. It used to be a tradition that my mom and I would go to one game a season. Since she now lives on the other coast and I, well you know, it’s been a few seasons since I have gotten to enjoy it live.

Flashback collage with my fabulous mom!

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Compliments of my dear pal Hayden (thanks for the early birthday present) I got to go! Ride along as I share with you the experience of a NFL game.

Alarm clock: 4:45am. Depart at 6:00 to meet with friends for the 6:30 carpool. Below, is a series of photos from the sun rising to the opening of the gates at 8:00am.

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Without exaggerating, I took the next set as we were parking and snapped the second picture when I got out of the truck. Please notice the sign in the back to prove this is the same angle, just seconds a part. These people mean business!

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Parked, unloaded and set up (in less than 60 seconds). Now we’re ready for the well known act of “tailgating” – An outdoor party or picnic, typically in the parking lot of a sports stadium. Served on the tailgates of trucks, station wagons and any other vehicle that can be sat on or in front of.

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If you take a minute (or an hour in my case) to walk around, you’ll get to see the many unique sights the parking-lot gathering has to offer.

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Yes, pictured below is a DJ mixer inside of a barbecue.

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This popular tailgater brings a supply of beer, liquor, shooters and food to generously offer to all fans for free. A drink and a burger? Jell-O shot and some nachos? Sure! He accepts donations to support this routine, but if you don’t have a few bucks, cheers till next time!

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More grub, friends and… the game hasn’t even started yet!

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I planned on “a” handstand shot, but with friends like mine… It turned into 4! Thank you Kate, JC and Hayden for the photo suggestions!

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The kickoff is nearing so we wrapped up the grill and headed in.

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After being guided in a structured, slow manner (ha ha ha) we made it into the stadium. This is when that sensation rolls over you that I explained in the post called cricket… not the insect.

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The photos say it all. Here is just a glimpse of the view that consumes the day.

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Our team was on the 10 yard line ready to score (fingers crossed). I sat back and waited for the touchdown so I could capture the crowds response… Success!

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Final score was 28-31. The Raiders so graciously followed their pattern by granting the opposing team a win. I had no idea I was a fan of such a generous team.

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Worst tour guide ever?

Once upon a time I went to Munich Germany to experience the ever so popular festivities of Oktoberfest. Who would of known that this event would introduce two of my now dearest friends, Carina and Florian.

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I’m grateful to say that it would take several posts for me to show you all of the connections we’ve had since 2010, including but not limited to Amsterdam, Greece, Costa Rica, Recklinghausen and another Oktoberfest. With that said, let’s just jump to the exciting news that my amazing German bundles-of-joy finally made a visit to California!

Although I had been traveling as well and only arrived 18 hours prior to them, I had been planning a few adventures to show them just a small variety of what Northern California has to offer. Little did I know, my calendar dates were not in line with well… anything.

Could I really be the worst tour guide ever?!

Worst tour guide ever: Spend 4 years bragging about living next to the grand Folsom Lake, just to have them visit during one of the biggest droughts in history.

Redeem the situation by bringing them to a different body of water known as the American River. Sun, water, smiles… Check!

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Worst tour guide ever: Invite them to a big night on the town during the only holiday weekend in which everyone is out of town.

Redeem yourself by taking them on a Johnny Cash tour (they’re huge fans) from the actual “Folsom Prison” to the tracks in which you used to “hear the train uh comin…”.

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Eventually making it to Reno (where Mr.Cash “shot a man… just to watch him die”).

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Worst tour guide ever: Almost run out of gas on the way to your next stop.

Redeem yourself by making sure to point out the stateline… Twice!

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Worst tour guide ever: Register for a “discount motel” without ever seeing it before.

Redeem yourself by bringing out a camera and spending five extra minutes in the room doing, hmm… I don’t know what to call this one.

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Worst tour guide ever: Describe the perfect beach… just to arrive at a full parking lot and an over populated coastline.

Redeem yourself with a walk through the gorgeous greenery of North Lake Tahoe to a lesser known beach. Classic panoramic views and sandy toes… Check!

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Worst tour guide ever: Get them really excited about the huge Gondola ride, stand in line, get to the ticket booth and find out it has doubled in price since last time you were there!

Redeem yourself by taking a night walk lit by fireworks and stumble upon what appears to be a huge bike?! Photo time!

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Worst tour guide ever: Take them to a country bar explaining the art of line-dancing and prepare them for tall cowboy hats, only to walk in to an empty bar with a dj playing pop and hip-hop music all night.

Redeeming yourself isn’t as necessary here, because with energetic music and quality people… fun just follows.

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Worst tour guide ever: Drive them to San Francisco not realizing there were a dozen festivals happening which means, extreme traffic and no parking…anywhere!

Redeeming happened with a refreshing walk across the popular Golden Gate Bridge.

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To conclude the possibility of me being the worst tour guide ever, I’ll close with the defense that when you combine genuine people with a true desire for a good time… No tour guide, weather disasters or other unexpected fault can tarnish a beautiful memory. Honored to have been a host and now sad to see them go, I’ll simply look forward to the next glorious time we meet again. Fingers crossed, I’m not the guide.

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I want to recognize several fabulous people that you see in the post above.
Hayden, (who met Florian in Greece and Carina in Amsteredam) thank you for opening your home, loaning your truck and being the best second worst tour guide with me!
Michelle and Nick, (met Carina and Hayden in Costa Rica) your lovely Truckee home and energetic night out in Reno absolutely enhanced our time together, thank you for all of the love!
Nate, (who was in Germany with me, but didn’t get to meet these guys till now) thanks for being so flexible, your hospitality didn’t go unnoticed!
Ian, (who met their friends Denise and Ioni in Argentina) I’m so thankful we got to celebrate your birthday with you this year!
Mike, (met Carina in Amsterdam) so glad you brought another smile to the table.
Crystal, thanks for making time to come out and finally meet the duo I’ve been telling you about. Ps, you doing the worm made the night!

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Kimchi- short and sweet (and a little spicy)

As you’ve seen before, I worked at the award winning vegan bar called Raw and Juicy and got to experience some of the most flavorful tastes that were designed around fruit, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds and love.

On this day, the ever so talented chef Kevin held a class teaching the traditional way to create Kimchi. Yes please!

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Chopped fresh veggies, a sprinkle of salt and a throurough massage leads us to the final step of sealing the jar.

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Care for a bit more spice? Blend up a variety of peppers, ginger and garlic to top it off. Yum!

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Now we wait… For 3 days!

Update: Seventy two long hours later, I finally got to enjoy my homemade goodies, well worth it! Side note for all of you backpackers out there, this doesn’t need to be refrigerated and only requires a few ingredients. Brilliant for the road!

Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Schatzti + The String Boffin

I’m thankful to say that my schedule has been so packed with glorious events, that I’m a bit behind in the blog routine. To catch up, I’m going to wrap up my return to Florida with an entry based on the live music I enjoy so much.

First up, the gorgeous Dannica Lowlerly and her talented brother Ben Parsons. Together they perform as Schatzti + The String Boffin.

Translation:
Schatzi [shaht-see] German slang – darling; sweetheart.
Boffin [bof-in] British slang – scientist; technical expert.

Mom and I were pleased to catch them at this small venue especially considering that they just opened for the Rascal Flats!

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You know when you’re watching a band and you think, “I bet those guys are fun to hang out with” or “I wonder if they’re always that happy”? Well, those are not only thoughts but a reality with this duo. Genuine smiles and relaxed energy flow as they share their magnetic sound.

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My dark photos and lack of audio certainly doesn’t do them justice. For quality pics and samples of their unique sound, please check out www.dannicalowery.com

More music? Who could it be but none other than some of my favorite guys doing what they do best. I know I’ve included them in several posts, but for good reason. Not only do they produce entertaining music, but their message vibrates a positive feel-good time. Each personality in this group balances out the band we all know and love… Heritage!

It was our first time to this venue called Club La Vela, a popular night club that promotes a daytime pool party on the weekends. I suppose it’s an easy way to chill with friends while listening to good music and cool off in the hot Florida sun.

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Remember sweet Jodi from the tour last year seen in “A man becomes what he thinks about”? The first picture is from that journey followed by one on this day. Love her!

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Mom, I feel like I don’t tell you enough how much I appreciate you not only as a mother, but a friend (and dance partner!). All of these shows just wouldn’t be the same without your company. Thanks for be the perfect date. Love you!

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The best kept, not so secret… Café Moya

There are times I’ve eaten somewhere and the food was good and the ambience was comfortable. Then there are occasions in which the entire experience was exactly that… An experience! Café Moya falls under one of those categories in which you leave feeling filled up with not only delicious nutrients, but love and all the fluffy feel good stuff.

When you walk in to this quaint little shop, you’re greeted with a simple welcoming area that invites you to take a seat and relax.

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Judging from her baked goods display… We missed out!

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To be honest (not that I ever lie) but I was expecting your typical menu offering bagels and soup with the dessert of cupcakes.
To my surprise, we were given the menu’s below. Fresh food and creative ingredients with flavor combinations that leave your taste buds debating on which to order.

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We finally chose to split a cassava wrap that was delightfully filled with falafel, hummus, cucumber, tomato, and fresh salad.

My apologies, as this meal was so delicious that we devoured it before any photos were taken. Whoops.

Following the moments of completing our dish (which I’m sure we pretended to do so slowly and calm, while wishing we could inhale it all in one glorious bite), we decided that “sharing” such a magnificent order gave us permission to “share” another one. Right? This technically meant we were still under the pig-out ranking.

With way too much thought put into it, we ordered another cassava wrap, this time with eggplant, kalamata olives, feta and avocado with some sort of sauce that resembled a light creamy vinegerette.

My apologies once more, as we even joked about forgetting the picture of the first plate… again, the salvation in our mouths must have blocked the brain cells to remember a second photo. Just take my word for it, simply amazing!

So, there we were, attempting to refrain from drooling when a sweet woman approached the table to confirm that the plate (that was licked clean) was “ok”.

“Ok!? It was delicious! Please tell the owner that we thoroughly enjoyed our experience”. She replied with “thank you”. It was her! The mastermind behind our unforgettable lunch not only came to check on the giggling girls in the corner, but proceeded to sit down and have a long chat.

Marguerite’s creative cooking, bright smile and generosity is such a fond memory. I guarantee her café will forever remain on my “must do” list of Bajan eats from this point forward.

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If you live anywhere on the island of Barbados, please swing in and tell her we say hello (that’s of course after you order, enjoy and wipe the crumbs off your face). If you’re a sea away from this amazing place, I encourage you to check out their facebook page here.

Categories: Edibles!, Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Mr.Delicious doesn’t serve pig tails

Although several of my recent posts of Barbados have been mostly of major events or daily excursions, (if you haven’t seen them, I suggest checking out Down de Road and Paint me up mudder cup) they’re just a small part of what this beautiful island has to offer. I’d like to share with you a bundle of our “down time” days between the Carnival celebrations.

Here’s a walk to the famous Miami Beach where there sits a popular palm tree that you’ve seen pop up in my blog several times.

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This setting seems to provide quality opportunities for classic photos.

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Moving right along with the traditional jump shot that Hayden and I started back at Machu Picchu to Yosemite, followed by Stonehenge and now Barbados!

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Hungry along the way? No problem man! Mr. Delicious sells some quality Roti’s and fish cakes on the beach.

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After a therapeutic walk to the famous palm tree, we were lucky enough to run into friends at a secret look out on the south coast. A little table hidden away in the casual Surfers Cafe.

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On the island, you can often keep hydrated by the abundance of coconut products that are around every corner. My favorite are the venders that will also divi out the meat and jelly from inside as well. Follow me to the coconut boys!

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Wendy’s is a local joint that provides traditional Bajan food, a full bar and indoor/outdoor seating. If you’re lucky to land here on a Friday night, you’ll also get serenaded with good ol’ karaoke.

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Take a look at the edible (at least they say so) item below. I’ll give you one guess at what Ryan is unwrapping… Give up?

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Pork tail. Yes, that is a sauced up squiggly piece of meat from the tail of a pig. Umm, no please.

If the wagger of Wilbur doesn’t appeal to your appetite, there’s always a solid chance that you’d pass a Chefette on the way home. This would be the “McDonalds” of the island. I choose to avoid drive through restaurants, but this one had a salad bar, so Bree and I decided to dig in! My favorite part is the secret booths. “How dare you see what I’m eating!”

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This is where I see fit to put in the only picture we captured of our new friends Nick and Shana. We spent hours with toes in the sand and stomach aches from the natural comedy that took over our time together. On this day, they joined us for a Chefette experience and as you can see (by the cradling of their meal) they’re fans of the popular Roti!

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I’ll complete this post with a few random photos that may snag your eyes attention while gazing around the island. Enjoy!

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When your heart aches a bit flying away from this divine country, there’s always one last glimpse of the natural beauty that takes up this space of our beautiful planet.

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For more posts on the random fun facts, the people, food and sights of this marvelous place, please click here and snoop around! Until next time Barbados…

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Categories: Edibles!, Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching a frog how to dive… only in Barbados!

Cool Runnings is an excursion setting you sail on a custom made catamaran through the gorgeous waters of Barbados while providing, food, drink, dance, snorkeling and of course plenty of time to be kissed by the sun.

It’s been called the Rolls-Royce of catamaran excursions‘ in Barbados and was voted the 2nd best attraction from the popular Zagat. All with good reason, as you’re treated like royalty from the beginning.

Ryan did the honors of introducing this day trip to me and it made such a memory that when I was in the hosting position, I made it a point to pass on the experience. Here are some photos from my first experience of Cool Runnings.

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On this bright morning I’m like a little kid taking friends to Disneyland for the first time!

As you board ship, you’re greeted with an open bar and homemade banana bread. Yes, breakfast of Bajan’s.

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Brunch down and the first juice behind it, we’re off towards the first stop which is an opportunity to swim with tropical fish and sea turltes.

I’m going to pause here and define “dive”- a plunge into water executed in a prescribed manner, usually with arms extended and head first.

Since we have that clear, please explain to me how Bree managed to complete a dive by entering the water with both feet and hands at the same time after fully extending from what appears to be the position of a scared frog. Be mindful that we also initiated this attempt from a decently elevated height. I’m impressed.

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“Under da sea!” (To be said like Sebastian from the Little Mermaid)

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Back to the catermeran for our departure to the final stop which was more swimming and a Bajan Buffett! Flying fish, fried chicken, macaroni pie, salad, rice, veggies, spicy mango… and more adult beverages.

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A few years back, I connected with a warm hearted guy that was an instant friend with conversation that fueled my (already raging) fire for travels. Two years later as I approached the catamaran, I spotted Raymond immediately. Expecting him not to remember just another guest, he pointed and said, “Hand standing around the world… So good to see you again!” Brilliant. Here we are, then and now.

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Have you ever felt like a super-model being gently sprayed down with fresh water while gracefully perched on the back of a boat… only to see photos of it later to realize that you more resembled a giggling girl being drenched with freezing water out of a hose while trying to awkwardly brace yourself? Me neither.

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Here are some random photos taken throughout the day. Good times for sure!

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After swimming the clear turquoise waters, devouring lunch and enjoying one (or three) Bajan beverages, it was time for the final stretch back to the dock. What’s missing you may ask? Dancing! Music gets turned up and everyone braced themselves on deck to wiggle with it. Embarrassed to dance in front of a crowd? Eh, just blame your groove on the rocking boat!

Please take note of Hayden’s face… Was he just jealous of our sweet moves?

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Dear Annika and Robert, this beautiful day and the way it left us smiling reaches far beyond a day at sea. Your kind presence and willingness to make us feel right at home didn’t go unnoticed. Thank you!

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Sleeping by the mango tree.

It’s been awhile since I’ve specifically posted about accommodations. Mainly because I’ve been staying with family in the states and I’m sure the last thing they want is their house exposed online. “…but Erika, I haven’t even vacuumed yet!”

With that said, let’s talk hotels. My first time coming to Barbados was back in the 2011 when I surprised my mom for her 50th birthday. You can see more about that story in More than just a dolphin tour.

We didn’t know anyone on the island yet, so I had to use the good ol’ internet to search out the best option.

With multiple pools, a swim-up bar, nice rooms, restaurants and nightly entertainment Accra Beach Hotel had everything we needed to feel like we were on vacation.

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After venturing back to the island every year since then, I’ve met several friends who have welcomed me into their homes. Thank you Ryan!

This round, considering I had two buddies join me, we stayed in a hotel that offered apartment styled rooms. Coconut Court is known as the most “green” on the island in regards to recycling, room care and sanitary issues. It’s nicely located in Hastings which is on the south coast, walking distance from a variety of restaurants, shops and popular beaches.

Here’s a few views from the main building.

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Our apartment didn’t have the same views, but it was well worth the abundance of space in trade.

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I feel like spending too much time inside any building on this island is some sort of unspoken broken law. Getting out of the room, we found ourselves wandering around the Coconut Court to see what they offered. Here are a few pics from the area surrounding our place.

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Keep walking through the hotels property and you’ll end at the beach with lounge chairs, picnic tables and a tiny bar. Definitely different than my usual hostel grounds of bean bags, broken barbecues and outdoor toilets.

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After Hayden left the trio, Bree and I made our final move up the west coast to the more northern parish of St.Peter. Here, we occupied a friends guest studio house. Thank you Barbara!

It was quaint and comfortable with welcoming greens all around that could have fed me for weeks! Spinach, herbs, mango, bananas and papaya… Yes please!

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This mango tree made for not only an excellent breakfast option, but a fun handstand shot (or two).

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The final photo is our sweet little porch that was the perfect setting for coffee in the morning, a game of cards in the afternoon and several dinner conversations that eventually got drowned out by the tune of the whistling frogs.

No joke, these little (and I mean tiny) frogs will over power the sound of any evening small talk. So much, that leaving the island requires a transition to learn to sleep with silence again. Here, I found this sample of their acoustics for you.

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Categories: Accommodations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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