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Monthly Archives: February 2014

RSVP: Party at The Shirley Heights Lookout

February 28th, 2014 | By admin | Posted in Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

One of the most breathtaking views in all of Antigua can be found at the Shirley Heights Lookout. To catch a panoramic look at the English & Falmouth Harbor, you'll need to make an uphill trek, passing former military fortifications along the way. Once you get to the top, though, it will be clear that your journey was well worth it. There you'll find the ever-popular Shirley Heights Lookout Bar & Restaurant. Set in a stone house that once provided lodging for sailors, this venue now serves up delicious island-inspired fare & endless entertainment for residents & visitors alike. It goes without saying that on your next luxury vacation to Antigua, you'll definitely want to put this place on your evening itinerary. Whether you're hoping to mix & mingle with the locals or bond with friends, this is the place to get a memorable taste of Caribbean nightlife.

Here's what you need to know about the island's biggest & best party:

The basics
The Shirley Heights Lookout is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily – except Monday, when it closes at sunset. However, Sunday is definitely the night to make a stop. For the past 28 years, the establishment has been throwing an energetic outdoor bash at the end of the week that includes live music, delectable dishes & of course, stunning sunset views. However, this party tends to get crowded, so you might want to get there early to reserve a spot.

Admission to the restaurant & bar is included in the price you pay to get into Nelson's Dockyard. According to U.S. News & World Report, admission to the party is about $8 – a reasonable fee for the level of fun you're going to have.

The schedule
Once the sun goes down, the real excitement begins. Starting around 4 p.m., you can listen to the local steel band play. 

Then, around 7 p.m., the soundtrack gets even more lively with reggae & calypso music. By this point, you'll likely be getting hungry, & there's plenty of barbecue dishes to choose from from right off the grill.

Menu items are all mouth-watering yet made from simple ingredients. You can sample a variety of different selections with tapas, or savor authentic specialties, like Creole-style fish or grilled lobster with garlic butter. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try the curried goat or goat stew, & if you don't have a big appetite, the ultra flavorful pumpkin soup will fit the bill.

You also have the choice of enjoying your meal on the terrace or inside the 18th century building – either way, you can't go wrong.

Add it to Your Mexico Itinerary: A Trip to Cobá

February 27th, 2014 | By admin | Posted in Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

One of the best aspects of taking a luxury vacation to Mexico is the opportunity to see remarkable historical remains & architectural ruins. While Chichen Itza & Tulum are two of the most well-known places to visit, there is one more that should not be ignored on a trip to the Yucatán Pensinsula: Cobá. Located in the state of Quintana Roo west of the Caribbean Sea, this pre-Columbian Mayan site is just as awe-inspiring as its counterparts. In fact, Cobá boasts the second highest temple in the entire Mayan world.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your excursion:

Getting there
Fortunately, Cobá is open to the public every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., making it easy to fit into your itinerary. Admission is free for children under 12, & only a small fee for adults. However, be prepared to pay for parking. The drive takes about 1 hour & 45 minutes by car from Playa del Carmen. Otherwise, there are plenty of tour companies in Playa that offer trips to Cobá. Additionally, there are multiple ADO buses that go from Cancun, Tulum & Playa del Carmen each morning & afternoon. They will drop you off on the same road as the archeological site just a short distance away from the entrance.

Once inside
Don't get overwhelmed by the maze of roads, & be aware of what route you take so you can remember your way back. If you bear right on the path directly after the entrance, you'll be able to see the beautiful La Iglesia pyramid, but instead of climbing it, you may want to save your energy for El Castillo. After veering back onto the main path, you can turn right & follow signs to the restored juego de pelota, a court for an ancient Mayan ballgame. A five to 10 minute walk will bring you to a fork in the road surrounded by unexcavated pyramids. From here, stay to the left side of the fork, which will lead you to the Nohoch Mul Group. There you'll find El Castillo, one of the tallest pyramids in the Yucatán. While climbing Castillo was briefly prohibited before 2009, you can now ascend the 120 stone stairs to see the breathtaking view of the forest canopies & majestic pyramids from the top.

Tips to keep in mind
The temperature & humidity will likely be high, so dress in lightweight, breathable clothing. You also might consider coming earlier in the day to avoid intense heat as well as beat the crowds.

Come prepared with water, sunscreen & bug repellant since there aren't many tourist services on site.

You'll be doing quite a bit of walking & the trails here are not paved, so don't forget to wear sturdy & comfortable shoes.

Plantation Tours in St. Lucia

February 25th, 2014 | By admin | Posted in Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

Agriculture is deeply rooted in St. Lucia's rich & complex history. When Europeans discovered the "New World" – now known as the Caribbean, they found that these islands had fertile soil that was optimal for cultivating highly sought-after exotic crops. This produce then became the core of the Caribbean economy. Touring the remaining plantations & estates on a luxury vacation to the island allows you a glimpse into St. Lucia's culture. While gleaning insight into the systems used to process local crops, you'll also get the chance to appreciate the remarkable diversity of St. Lucia's plant life.

Ready to get a history, culture & culinary lesson all in one? Then head to one of these attractions:

Errard Plantation
It only takes a short drive from the village of Dennery to get to this former spice plantation, which is set in a valley on the island's east coast. Your tour starts with an overview of the different fruits that grow here, and afterward, you'll be ushered into the rainforest for a brief nature jaunt. Finally, you'll be treated to a home-cooked, traditionally prepared Creole lunch at the Victorian-style estate house, complete with fresh fruit juices. If the weather is right, you may want to wander to the Errand Waterfall & take a quick dip.

Marquis Estate
Between the remainders of antique machinery, lush scenery & authentic 18th century water wheel, there is no shortage of intrigue at the Marquis Estate, which happens to be St. Lucia's largest working plantation. Located just outside of Castries, the plantation continues to produce some of the island's principle crops, such as copra & banana. After being greeted at the estate house, the hostess will offer you samples of coconut water, rum punch & fresh seasonal fruit. Then you'll begin your tour, which includes a drive along the north eastern coast to the countryside, a stop at an old sugar mill & even a boat ride on the Marquis River. Upon returning to the estate house, you can perch on the verandah for a view of the stunning grounds while enjoying an authentic buffet-style lunch made with local produce.

Morne Coubaril Estate
The Morne Coubaril Estate, which faces Soufriere, offers a rare opportunity to observe a water & sugar mill & learn about the steps involved in producing cane syrup, cocoa, coffee & manioc. After a demonstration on the process involved in the making of these products, you'll visit an old worker's village & get a look inside the huts. Then you can savor a Creole lunch at the on-site restaurant, take a leisurely walk through the colorful botanical gardens & stop by the gift shop for a unique souvenir.

Sightseeing in Antigua

February 24th, 2014 | By admin | Posted in Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

From the moment you set foot on Antigua, it's clear that this is not your average island. With a fascinating history, a breathtaking & varied landscape, & a diverse animal life, there is much to see on a luxury vacation here beyond just beautiful white-sand beaches. The only downside? Squeezing it all into one trip is nearly impossible, so you'll need to pick & choose which places are top on your list. However, some attractions stand out among the rest for showcasing Antigua's natural beauty.

Make sure to incorporate these spots into your itinerary for some truly spectacular sightseeing:

Indian Town National Park 
Situated in Willikies on Antigua's eastern side, the remote Indian Town National Park faces the rocky shore of the Atlantic at Long Bay & is not often visited by tourists due to its wild terrain. With numerous hiking trails along the coastline, though, a trek here is well worth it. Arguably, the most well-known site is the Devil's Bridge at the mouth of Indian Town Creek. Although there are a multitude of limestone formations at this park, which have a major influence on the island's overall terrain, this arch is especially intriguing. Constant wave action caused the arch to form, & the force of the foaming surf also created blow-holes for the ceaseless wind. 

Fig Tree Drive 
If you're seeking to take in some stunning scenery from your car window, Fig Tree drive is definitely your best bet. This is the major road that runs opposite the Catholic Church outside of Liberta, & it continues from the low central plain into the volcanic hills of Saint Mary's Parish in the southwest quarter. Don't expect a smooth ride as there are bound to be a few bumps in the road, but you'll hardly notice them while looking at the colorful coconut groves, charming churches & ancient sugar mill plantations that line the route as you pass by.

The Mount Obama National Park
Whether you're hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous Antigua Black Pineapple or do a little bird watching, this 2,500-acre park, which seeks to protect the island's tropical forests & their biodiversity, is the place to go. Not only that, but Mount Obama, which was known as Boggy Peak until it was renamed after the U.S. president in 2009, is the highest point on the entire island. It goes without saying, then, that a climb to this point offers a remarkable view of Antigua that's definitely worthy of a few photographs.

Discovering Beauty in St. Lucia

February 21st, 2014 | By admin | Posted in Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

You don't have to look hard to find beauty on the island of St. Lucia. Breathtaking sights are all around you – in the crystal-clear cerulean water, the tropical flowers, the lush rolling hills & the mystical mountains. However, if you want to be truly amazed, it's worth seeking out specific sights on your luxury vacation that showcase the island's natural wonders & remarkable talents.

Put these spots on your itinerary & prepare to be stunned:

Diamond Botanical Gardens
It's no surprise that the 6-acre Diamond Botanical Gardens is one of the main attractions for visitors in St. Lucia as it offers a perfect blend of history & nature. In fact, the gardens, mineral baths & historic Estate Houses were built for the French troops of King Louis XVI in 1784. Between cascading waterfalls & scenic nature trails filled with tropical flora & fauna, there is much to see at this remarkable site. Tours begin around 10 a.m. If you're seeking a more leisurely stroll, opt for a privately arranged tour at 2 p.m.

Llewellyn Xavier Studio
There's a reason that Llewellyn Xavier is the island's most well-known artist. Using innovative techniques that it took him forty years to perfect, he manages to create works that perfectly capture the color & light of the Caribbean. He isn't just famous in St. Lucia, either. With permanent collections at The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. & the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York, art enthusiasts & collectors alike have grown to appreciate his paintings. His studio, which is located at Cap Estate, can be visited by appointment only. It's worth a visit to see his inspiring works & afterward, you can stop by St. Lucia Fine Art in the Pointe Seraphine shopping complex to purchase one of his pieces for your home.

Fregate Islands Nature Reserve
The fertile volcanic soil on the island of St. Lucia actually offers perfect conditions for sustaining a diverse animal life. Midway up the eastern coast are a cluster of rocks, which were named for the scissor-tailed frigate birds that breed there. If you visit between May & July, you can spy large groups of these graceful birds fly in impressive choreographed formations. A great way to get a closer look at the the Fregate Islands and protect the ecosystem at the same time is to follow the trail the government has carved along the clifftop of the mainland, about 45 miles inland. Bring along binoculars for watching the birds overhead or getting a more detailed view of the sea caves, swaps, waterfalls & ravines along the coast below.

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