Nevis: What’s New and What Has Stayed Exactly the Same

Charlestown, Nevis. Photo by Pearl Macek.

Nevis isn’t known for being particularly fast paced, which most visitors quite enjoy. However, from time to time, new things happen. So here is a mix of some of the new things happening on the island, as well as a few goldie oldies that are worth the experience.

New: A Pier Designated For St. Kitts – Nevis Water Taxis

Due to the infrequency of flights into Nevis, residents and tourists alike usually arrive via the Robert L. Bradshaw International airport in St. Kitts. There is a fairly well-oiled machine in place that runs passengers to Reggae Beach where several water taxi companies ferry passengers and their luggage to Nevis. Many of the taxi drivers are in business with the captains and owners of the water taxis, so they are able to keep each other perfectly informed as to when clients are arriving, which significantly reduces wait times.

The drive across the peninsula has incredible views of both islands, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. At night time taxi drivers will wait with you until the boats have pulled along side the pier on the St. Kitts side, which is great since it can be pretty desolate on that side of the island at night.

For awhile, on the Nevis side these water taxis docked at a couple of different piers along the coast, which would sometimes cause some discontent for other boats and/or hotels sharing those docks. This, in part, led to the construction of a cement taxi pier located just to the right of Oualie Beach Resort and the Nevis Yacht Club. The pier is gated and well lit at night.

 

Paradise Beach. Photo by Pearl Macek

Relatively New: Great Self-Contained Villas on the Beach

Paradise Beach Nevis constructed new villas right on the beach that offer an experience on the island unlike any other. There are five, two-bedroom beach houses that offer private plunge pools, a fully-equipped gourmet kitchen and drawbridge stairs for complete privacy. Guest has access to concierge services including a private chef.

These villas certainly seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but they might be short lived. Rumor has it that they were built outside of property lines and might have to be moved. I am not privy to the ins and outs of the legal proceedings with this, so who knows what the outcome will be, and/or if anything will happen at all.

Four Seasons Resort Nevis is undergoing some renovations as well which includes a new infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and a new beach restaurant concept offering farm-to-table menus. The resort is scheduled to finish renovations by October 2019 (so long as there is no hurricane damage) which, knowing the Nevis and the Caribbean as whole, could be a bit of a stretch. However, no matter when the renovations are done, they are sure to impress.

What Hasn’t Changed:

The Hermitage still offers its West Indian pig roast every Wednesday night. For vegetarians, vegans or anyone who doesn’t like seeing a spit roasted pig, the experience might not be for you. Even so, there are plenty of other dishes to choose from including tania fritters, johnny cakes and plenty of veggie dishes.

The Hermitage is a hotel built around one of the oldest wooden houses in the Caribbean (built circa 1670) and has charming cottages scattered throughout the property. The Lupinacci family have owned and operated the hotel for decades. They are also some of the most hospitable people that you will ever meet.

 

The Alexander Hamilton Museum. Photo by Pearl Macek.

The building that houses the Alexander Hamilton Museum is in fact where Alexander Hamilton was born. You would think that with the incredible rise of the popular Hamilton musical there would be more people visiting. Yet, it is just as sleepy as it used to be. The building was originally constructed around 1680 and was later destroyed in an earthquake in 1840. The building was restored in 1983. The museum also has general information on Nevis history and culture. It is not by any standards a state-of-the-art multimedia museum, but even just to stop by and admire the building and to take in the interconnects between Caribbean and U.S. history, makes it worth the visit.

There are a few new things going on, but Nevis remains a sleepy island. It is ideal for relaxing and getting one of the best night sleeps of your life. The Queen of the Caribees is most definitely worth a visit.

Karin Patrick’s Take on Havana, Cuba

Cuba from the sky

Cuba has long remained elusive to the American traveler. Notions of vintage cars driving through the streets, cigars, rum and excellent music all come to mind. Who wouldn’t want to go?

Over the past ten years, travel restrictions for Americans has slowly loosened, although during Trump’s presidency, the process toward absolute free travel between the U.S. and Cuba has come to a halt.

Karin Patrick has been a travel industry professional since 1978. A German native, Karin moved to the United States in 1983 and currently lives in Florida with her husband, Christopher Patrick, the CEO and owner of CKIM Group.

Karin is a Virtuoso specialty travel consultant, a network of the world’s finest travel advisors and suppliers around the world. She recently returned from Havana, Cuba, a place that is now dear to her heart.

Havana rooftops.
Given the current political climate in the U.S., is it still legal for Americans to travel to Cuba?

Yes. Groups are allowed to travel to Cuba. The loophole is that two people are considered a group and it is entirely legal. I would really like to send more people to Cuba because I really had a wonderful time there.

Where did you go in Cuba?

It was just five days so for the majority of time, we spent in Havana and then we went to Varadero for a couple of nights. The most interesting part was the drive [to Varadero] through the country side.

Where did you stay while you were there?

We stayed at the Kempinski Hotel. It is all hotels in Cuba in that, 80 percent of it is owned by the government, but the rest of it is German-owned. The hotel is not your traditional Cuban style: it is very contemporary, modern and slick. The rooftop bar and pool is very cool and overlooks the Havana Skyline. Having cocktails up there around 5 or 6’o’clock in the afternoon is an incredible experience as the sunsets. Just looking around the pool, you could be anywhere, like South Beach Miami, but when you look out and see that skyline, you know that you are in Cuba. You look down at the street and you see all the antique cars.

I would probably send potential client to the Saratoga as opposed to the Kempinski if they want a truly Cuban experience. I love the Saratoga because it is an old, traditional hotel. It is a five star hotel. The rooms are older, but all very clean. They have updated the place as much as they could. The staff are wonderful and the lobby is very pretty.

Many of the other hotels are mass tourism hotels, they are not really for the type of clients that I would like to send.

Cabaret at Hotel Nacional.
Where else would you recommend to visit in Cuba?

I would recommend going to the Hotel Nacional to have cocktails and see the cabaret show. I would recommend this cabaret over the Tropicana cabaret. It is smaller but the costumes are awesome, and if you don’t want to stay for the whole duration (two hours) you can discreetly leave.

The gardens here are also very beautiful. There was a walk through the tunnels and bunkers, built in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is good to bring a guide with you. Also, at the bar, the pictures of all the celebrities that have been there like Frank Sinatra, that is pretty cool.

We also went to the Partagas Cigar Factory, which was a sight to be seen. All employees make 25-30 dollars a month. Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we did a walking tour around the area, which was really really cool. Havana is the oldest metropolis in the New World with the largest collection of colonial era achitecture in the Americas. All the architecture and the art, is just awesome.

The guided walking tour through historical La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is like an open-air museum of architecture, art and culture. We strolled along the narrow colonial streets around Havana harbor, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Vieja, Plaza San Francisco de Assis and Obispo Street. We ended the walking tour with a demonstration and tasting at the rum museum. Of course we tasted some rums. I bought some home with me, which I still enjoy from time to time.

One of the biggest changes that Cubans recently experienced is they were able to branch out and start their own businesses. This change increased the amount of restaurants available to Cubans and tourists alike. We went to Mojito Mojito close to the rum museum. The food is great there and, of course, the mojitos are famous.

There is live music everywhere, especially in the plazas. It was so nice to see Cubans on their lunch break, enjoying the live music.

We also went on a vintage car tour and learned how they keep them running. We went to another awesome restaurant: La Taberna del Pescador. It is in an old home on the top floor. It is all nicely done, with “antique” furniture.

We also went to Ernest Hemingway’s home in Havana. I would recommend visiting this either on the way from the airport, or when you are leaving because it is a little outside of city.

Local residents in Havana Vieja.
What did you love most about Cuba?

I was so impressed by how warm the Cubans were, and how highly they spoke of Americans. I just could not get my head around that. It was a wonderful experience, with the people especially.

How easy is it to get to Cuba?

It is actually quite easy. There are direct flights from Boston, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale. Jet Blue has a special checkin area for Cuba flights, which includes the visa counter so you can get your visa right there. The reason why you need a legitimate, authorized travel company to deal with Cuba is because they provide an invitation letter. You show this at the counter, pay a small fee, and you get the visa right there.

Once you get to Cuba, what do you do next?

Usually when you arrive in Havana, there is a meet-and-greet arranged by the travel company. There is a bank teller at the airport where you can exchange your money for CUC (Cuban Currency). The exchange rate is 1.1USD to 1CUC but you also pay a 13% service fee. There was such a long line when we went, that we didn’t bother and went straight to the hotel, where you can exchange money too for the same rate and fee.

You have to take enough cash with you for the extent of your visit as you cannot use credit cards.

We also took a lot of goodies with us, like cosmetic items. Some of the group took children’s books and crayons. We gave these away while we were there to our guide and some of the maids.

Mojito Mojito bar and restaurant.
How safe is Cuba?

There were a lot of positive aspects to Cuban society as well. Education is free which is a plus and Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world. It is wonderful, you can walk late at night without worrying about anything happening. You feel really safe there.

We also visited a maternity house where women can spend the last three months of their pregnancy and the first couple of months after the birth with the baby.

Who would you recommend a trip to Cuba to?

It would have to be someone that is open and interested in history. They have to be open to seeing diversity. It is sometimes shocking to witness people living under very dire circumstances. It is an ideal place for someone that is well traveled and that has seen many parts of the world. It is a very rewarding experience to see what Havana is like after not being able to go for so many years. I think every American should go actually.

What else would you recommend?

It’s really important to have a good guide. I would say it is best to spend a minimum of three nights. I work with three main companies here in the U.S. that know Cuba inside and out, and that work very closely with the guides there. Once you are there, most of the time, you are traveling around, you will be accompanied by a guide. You will have some free time to yourself, and the guides will give you recommendations of where to go.

Avoiding Back Injury While Traveling

Tips for Avoiding Back Injury While Traveling

Travel Healthy

Travel plans can mask the fact that travel itself can leave our backs – which often bear the brunt of heavy luggage, cramped transportation and unfamiliar beds – vulnerable to further injury, according to Daveed Frazier, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Atlantic Spine Center. “Travel can be extraordinarily hard on the spine, something that may seem like an afterthought when we’re excitedly making plans for our summer vacation,” explains Frazier, who completed two spinal surgery fellowships and is a published author on spine disorders and treatment. “But between cumbersome bags, uncomfortable seats, and too-soft or -firm hotel mattresses, the very idea of travel can be daunting for those with pre-existing back or neck pain.” But injuring – or further injuring – your spine while on vacation doesn’t have to happen if common sense measures are taken before and during your trip, he says. Here’s what Frazier tells his patients about how to protect their backs while traveling.

Protect your back while lifting luggage

No matter where your travels take you, the one thing almost everyone needs to deal with is luggage. Beyond packing lightly, if possible, try to use luggage with wheels so you don’t need to strain your back to carry heavy bags. Other baggage-conscious tips include:
* Bending at the knees and using leg muscles to lift bags, rather than bending at the waist. * Avoiding twisting the lower back while lifting bags. * Distributing weight evenly on each side of the body. * Carrying shoulder bags on alternate shoulders for short periods of time to avoid stressing one side of the back. * Renting a pushcart to move through stations and airports. * Taking advantage of curbside check-in at the airport so you don’t have to handle the bags yourself.

Traveling doesn’t always involve airplanes or trains

Sometimes an old-fashioned road trip is the ticket to paradise. But whether you’re sitting for hours on planes, trains or automobiles, the mere fact that you’re sitting for long periods requires some forethought to prevent back pain. Here are some ideas to help with your pain. * Use a lumbar support pillow for your lower back, or rolling up a sweater or blanket in a pinch. * Use an inflatable travel pillow around the neck to avoid neck strain while resting or sleeping in a sitting position. * Align your back against the back of your seat, keeping shoulders straight, and avoiding hunching. * Getting up frequently and moving around. Sitting too long stiffens muscles and places stress on the spine. Once you reach your destination, you’ll also reach your new (temporary) sleeping spot, which likely involves an unfamiliar mattress. Frazier offers a simple back-friendly tip for this eventuality. “While you can’t bring your own mattress along on trips – wouldn’t that be wonderful? – you may be able to pack your own bed pillow,” Frazier notes. “This is a good idea, since we usually wear in our pillows in such a way that make them most comfortable for us, and familiar to our neck and back.”

Greece Travel Article – Credit Cards & Travel Safety

Greece Travel Article –  “Greece Update From Gwen Mead”

Avenue of Lions on Delos Island, Greece
Avenue of Lions on Delos Island, Greece

I’ve just returned from a most fantastic visit to Greece – during the most economically challenged period in modern history, and I would return in a heartbeat! The beauty of the country has not been affected by the economic crisis. The landscape is just as beautiful as ever, the beaches just as relaxing, the sun just as warm, and the people just as wonderful. All the reasons you could ever think to visit Greece are still there unchanged.

Credit Cards and cash availability

For the US traveler – credit cards issued by U.S. banks work with no restrictions. Clients should be prepared to bring enough Euros to cover expenses should shops and restaurants, metro and ferries require cash payments and for tipping and emergencies. The ATM’s are offering U.S. travelers Euros and there are ample ATM’s to choose from. All of the ETE Collection members transact business in USD, so US issued credit cards will always be accepted. They all have contingency plans in place to have ample cash reserves to cover operating expenses and payments to suppliers, and cover commissions. It’s business as usual!

The Greek islands are maintaining their supplies in high quantities, so restaurants, bars, and car rentals still transact with credit cards and no issues are being faced. The ATM’s in the islands have no one waiting in lines and machines are full. All visitors to the islands are commenting that if they did not read the news, they would not have known any issues were occurring.

Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens Greece
Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens Greece
Are there any safety issues? Any danger of unrest?

Greece is quiet and peaceful and the people are still as warm and hospitable as ever.
The Greek people understand very well that tourists are helping Greece and their economy and they love the American visitor. Furthermore, the Greek islands have always been peaceful and the atmosphere has never been affected by what happens in the capital.

I observed a peaceful demonstration in Athens, with lots of whistle blowing and children and dogs participating. Most demonstrations are scheduled, so authorities know when they will occur. The Grande Bretagne and King George have the best security in the world and they excel at making the guest experience safe and enjoyable. They have contingency plans and back doors to enter/exit away from the square. Athenians still enjoy coffee in the cafes blocks away from the protesters. These are democratic demonstrations in support of or against policies of their own government, not tourists. I’ve seen the strategic areas where the press broadcast – and they maximize any opportunity to “make news”.

Qantas becomes First Airline to help combat DVT while Traveling

Qantas AirlinesTravel and Exercise dont need to be mutually exclusive. Just see what Qantas Airlines is doing to help keep their customers fit and healthy…READ MORE

Qantas becomes first airline in the world to introduce exercise video to combat DVT while traveling (but don’t worry, you don’t need to change into your gym kit)