Back Trackin’ – Cocos Hotel, Antigua

Monday, February 13th, 2012 | Posted under Antigua, Back Trackin', Hotels

For those of you in the middle of winter, this is for you. Daydream, if you will…

While I’ve written about the hotel where we stayed in Antigua this past August, Sugar Ridge, I haven’t written about the one we stayed in back in 2008 for Husband J’s first time in Antigua. Cocos Hotel is actually in the same general area as Sugar Ridge (you can see it from there actually), but it couldn’t be a more different resort.
I would say that Cocos is the exact opposite of Sugar Ridge. Sugar Ridge is modern with all of the comforts you could want with opportunities to eat high end food. Cocos is a much smaller resort with rustic rooms, and its own beach, which Sugar Ridge clearly lacks. You could honestly stay there the entire time at Cocoas and never leave, which I know is very common for many people’s trips to the Caribbean.
When I say that Cocos’ rooms are rustic, I mean it. The rooms are sparsely decorated with a bed with netting, no TVs and just a dresser and a small refrigerator. There is NO air conditioning, which at times even I wanted (I LOVE heat. Give it to me, but even I need to cool off eventually).
The bedroom (I forgot there was a fan.)

My favorite part of the room was the outdoor shower. At first, I was worried that someone might be able to see me, but I usually think “If I can see them, then they can see me.”
Since I couldn’t see anyone, I figured I was safe.

Cousin C (remember him?) testing out the outdoor shower.

Cocos is beachfront and is actually right next to a larger resort complex and beach called Jolly Harbour. It’s nice when the beach is right there.
Cocos’ beach area + Husband J’s feet

Cocos’ best feature though is the views. All of the little bungalow rooms are built into rock and have beautiful views of Ffryes Bay and the Jolly Harbour area. Unfortunately, you have to work to see it all. The walk up and down to the beach and possibly to your room is not for the faint of heart or the out of shape. It’s up a cement path that can have steep inclines in some parts. Also note that we got a room with a nice view (you can specify) because that was all they had left. 🙂
Can you see the incline in the path up from the beach?
Cousin C and Husband J ahead of me on the walk up. It’s a crazy incline, and it gets worse at some parts of the path.

When you are rewarded with a view like this, then you realize that the walk up was worth it and a good way to fit in exercise.

The bedrooms open up to a large covered balcony/verandah. I had fun taking this picture from the bed.
If you look closely, you can see the sand on my feet.

As for the food and service, it was fine. I am usually worried about the food at all-inclusives, but the food at Cocos was very good and exceeded expectations. I think because it’s a smaller resort, food isn’t going to be mass-produced as much. The staff was very friendly.

If Acari, the bartender, is still there, then you are in luck. He arranged this ridiculously delicious lobster lunch that I wrote about here for us and another couple. He made sure that I got some of the local drinks that I like when I visit Antigua, and I appreciated that so much.

Some homemade ginger beer that Acari made for me

Some things you should know:

Don’t come here if you want a happening hotel with a hopping party scene – Cocos is about relaxation, and since it’s a smaller resort there really is no bar/party happening. One time there was a steel drum/pan (as we call it in the Caribbean) group, but that was it. The resort is pretty quiet by 9pm (at least it was when we went). If you want a party, go to the neighboring Jolly Harbor or to other spots on the island.

Don’t come here if you want to be totally sequestered away on the beach. Some hotels try to patrol their beach, but Cocos does not. You’ll get folks selling their wares and services. That’s just how it is.
A necklace I bought on the beach

Don’t come here if you want luxurious rooms – The rooms were clean and comfortable with breathtaking views, but just simple. Honestly, you’ll be at the beach most of the time anyway. 🙂

Do come here for a quiet (really quiet), relaxing, beach focused vacation. Husband J was looking at these pictures as I was writing this post, and he remembers only good things about Cocos.

Me, too.

If you’ve been on a beach-y vacation, what types of resorts do you prefer? Large ones with options for dining and entertainment or smaller, quieter places? Weigh in in the comments section!


Back Trackin’ – Central Dublin

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 | Posted under Back Trackin', Ireland

Even though I’ve written about Ireland before, I don’t really think I’ve written much about our time spent smack dab in the center of Dublin. I don’t really know what I was expecting Dublin to be like. I thought it would feel similar to the hustle, bustle and grandness that is its neighbor, London. I’m sure the Irish hate being compared to the English, but that was my only point of comparison. Instead Dublin felt more like a large town, and I liked the large village feel.

We started our first morning by wandering around the center not too far from our hotel. We ended up at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We have a St. Patrick’s Cathedral right here in New York City, so it was enjoyable seeing its Dublin namesake, which having been built in 1220, is a whole lot older than New York’s.

That’s me

The interior of the church, which is actually Anglican and not Catholic, is definitely worth exploring.

For those of you into history and literature, make sure to pass by the bust of Jonathan Swift. He was the Dean of St. Patrick’s (meaning that he was the church’s chief resident clergyman) and is most famously remembered for writing Gulliver’s Travels (I haven’t read it. Have you?).

We kept on wandering and finding lots of courtyards and castle-like buildings that I am forgetting in my old age.
Hmmm..don’t remember where I was, and what I’m actually doing here. I’m guess I’m doing “The Price is Right” hand flourish. 🙂

At one point, we made it over to Trinity College, widely considered to be Ireland’s most prestigious university.

Trinity College is open to the public to wander around, but I would take advantage of the student-led free tours.

The last portion of the tour takes you to the library, which is a sight in itself.
The exterior of the library

You’re not really allowed to take pictures within the library due to its collection of old manuscripts. Make sure to take a look at the Book of Kells, one of the greatest examples of Medieval manuscripts of the New Testament Gospels and other important readings. It’s beautiful.

At this point, I think it was time for a pint, which is why Husband J is smiling. 🙂
outside of the library

If you’ve been to Dublin, what was your favorite part of the city?


Back Trackin’ – Old Salvador

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', Brazil

I’m not particularly verbose this week. Perhaps my mind is on vacation already. 🙂

I realized that I may have given Salvador, Brazil short shrift thus far on the blog. One of the many things I loved about it was the sense of history and antiquey-ness of it all. The central Pelurinho district, where I stayed, is really good for taking in all of the old buildings. Since Salvador was actually the first capital of Brazil, they made sure the buildings were rather stately, and the churches extra majestic.

Igreja (Church) do Sao Francisco

Close-up of Igreja do Sao Francisco

Rua das Portas de Carmo, right outside my hotel, Casa do Amarelindo (loved that place!)

Ummm..I forgot 🙁 It was being renovated when I was there. It’s right off of Terreiro de Jesus.

The spires of Igreja da Nossa Senhora dos Pretos

Palacio Rio Branco

So, are you a fan of older architecture, or do you like sleek, modern design?


Back Trackin’, Ireland Edition – Downtown Galway

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', Ireland

I can’t leave a bland plain blog up with no pictures this week!

Galway is Ireland’s fifth largest city and sits on its western coast. Husband J and I had enjoyed our drive across country even with a not so auspicious beginning (let’s just say that I threatened to get out of the car multiple times while it was moving. True story. Not one of our better travel moments together). Driving from Dublin to Galway only took us about four hours even with a stop for lunch, and I enjoyed the picturesque country drive.

Galway’s downtown is small, but it makes for a nice afternoon of exploring. Also if you are there in July, the Galway Arts Festival is one of the largest in Ireland. Here are some of the more notable places we meandered through over the course of the day and half we were there.
We started out in Eyre Square, which was undergoing somewhat of a makeover when we went. It’s a nice spot for people watching, but I think that’s it. I liked this rusted metal statue below. It’s supposed to mimic the sails of hooker ships, which are commonly found in Galway Bay.
Do you see me?

At one point, we found ourselves in front of Lynch’s Window. It’s named for the Lynch family. Apparently, Walter Lynch, the son of then mayor, James Lynch, stabbed and killed a Spanish guest of the family after said guest was flirting a little too much with Walter’s girlfriend. The younger Lynch was sentenced to death, but everyone in the town wanted him to be pardoned. Even the town executioner didn’t want to perform the hanging (at least this is what the guidebook says). Who did instead? His own father from this window. Hence the name, Lynch’s Window. Not a really heartwarming backstory, is it? 🙁 People from Galway claim that this is how the term “lynching” was coined. Who knows?
Lynch’s Window

My face after I read the story above in the guidebook.

Husband J after I read the story in the guidebook.

Lynch’s Window is right next door to the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, the largest functioning medieval church in Ireland. It’s Anglican/Episcopal.

We proceeded over this scenic bridge to the Galway Cathedral. I know it looks nice and old, but this church was built in 1965. It’s not much older than me. It is the most recently built stone cathedral in Europe.
Galway Cathedral

The River Corrib runs through the city, and Husband J and I stopped to take a pic while walking along its banks. Now look at how we’re dressed. Husband J is even wearing a fleece. I had a sweater on underneath that raincoat. We went to Ireland in JULY. Don’t know if I could live somewhere that rarely gets hot in the summer.

If you like any kind of Claddagh jewelry, Galway is where you get it. Dillons Jewelers is the originator of the ring, which is used as everything from a promise ring to a wedding band. I thought it was sweet that Husband J wanted to buy me one (he wasn’t even Fiance J at the time). I still have it in my jewelry box. Maybe I should whip it out one day?

I also made some new friends while walking through the old centre.
Yes, I am the weirdo speaking to statues.

If you’ve been to Galway, what was your favorite part of the city? Have you ever had any “heated discussions” with your travel partner(s)?

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Back Trackin’ – Fall in Napa Valley

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', California, Wine

Late November will make three years since Husband J and I went to Napa Valley, but we STILL talk about our trip there…a lot. It’s such a beautiful place with so much great food and even better wines, which essentially means that we were in total heaven. We were there a week after Thanksgiving, and it wasn’t particularly cold (As someone who hates the cold, you know you can trust me on this one). It was actually nice, nippy fall weather with sun pretty much every day we were there. I believe that Napa really is an all-year destination. Don’t feel like you need to go there in spring or summer to enjoy yourself.

I am sure that it must be enchanting to see the vineyards bursting with grapes, but I loved the fact that so much of the greenery and vineyards seemed to say fall. 🙂

On the grounds at Duckhorn Vineyards

Husband J on the grounds of Frog’s Leap

The view from our balcony at the Wine Country Inn
What I liked most about being in Napa in the “off season” was the fact that no one else was really around. Most visitors aren’t coming to Napa in late November/early December. We got to really hang with and talk to all of the folks at the wineries as if we were shooting the breeze like old friends. They weren’t rushed, so neither were we. I think we really got to ask all of our questions and learn more about the folks that work at the wineries and how they got involved in the wine industry. A big shout out to the folks at Arger-Martucci and Cakebread Cellars for being especially nice.
Are you a fan of off-season travel? Where was your most enjoyable off-season trip?


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