The British Virgin Islands

I never figured out why these islands are called Virgin Islands, but the British Virgin Islands are barely any different to the USVI’s. They are equally beautiful, full of more beautiful beaches, a little pricy, plagued by cruise ships and a lot of boaters and ex-pats escaping the colder north. They’re all connected by ferries, and at points, you could almost swim from the US to the UK without anyone noticing.

Welcome to the BVI’s

Matt from NYC was my new travel buddy, replacing Ursula, now back in NYC. We ferried from St. Thomas to Tortola with a Quebecois couple who was renting a sailboat in Tortola and sailing around the virgin islands for 5 weeks. We settled for our less impressive plan to take public ferries around the islands for 5 days.


anegada lobster

In Tortola, we stayed at the Ole Works Inn, a plantation restored into a hotel in Cane Garden Bay. The beach was lined with restaurants and small hotels, where you could find local Anegada lobster and fresh snapper. Though its caught locally, only tourists seem to eat any seafood, and the locals eat BBQ, so we tried some saucy ribs and wings too, but stayed touristy by pairing it with a bottle of champagne that could have paid for my entire BVI visit (thanks Matt!).

the shipyard

On the west end, we stayed at the Jolly Roger, a pub with 5 rooms above the restaurant for rent. We explored the harbor and stumbled into an eerie shipyard, scattered with shipwreck parts, the skeletons of boats in disrepair, and one sunken, rusted ship. We found a make-shift bar built with drift wood fully stocked with countless bottles of rum, but no one around to drink them. We didn’t dare disturb the place, in case some haunted pirate popped up. Just a mile away was Sopers Hole marina, full of shiny new boats I couldn’t imagine anyone abandoning, where we ate the best seafood pasta (pronounced pah-stah, not with that awful American drawl) I’ve ever had.

White Bay

We only went to Road Town (the capital) for ferry transfers, but found a fresh fruit smoothie stand there that I’d consider going back to just to have another one. We ferried to Jost Van Dyke, home of famous Foxy’s beach bar – the alleged birthplace of the painkiller cocktail. We drank bushwhackers and painkillers on White Bay beach, someplace stolen straight from a picture perfect postcard of the ultimate Caribbean destination.

Josiah’s bay was another dreamy beach, a lazier beach, with a handful of people lying around the only 2 buildings there. Both are restaurants, and one serves a mean chicken roti, and the rest of the coast is deserted for little kids to practice surfing. They caught waves better than I’ll ever learn how to, and it makes me wish I grew up playing in the Caribbean waves with a sun-kissed tan and a 6 pack at age 10.

Josiah’s bay

We daytripped to Virgin Gorda, to see BVI’s number one attraction, “the baths.” I saw pictures and read about this place so many times before actually figuring out what it was, but basically, it’s a beach covered in massive boulder rocks, that you can climb over and through caves, or swim between and snorkel above. Our ferry almost murdered all its passengers with carbon dioxide poisoning as the passenger seating area completely filled with boat exhaust, but we made it, and didn’t even get seasick. Our taxi was flyered with 2002 tourist pamhplets and a roll of kitchen towels that had probably remained unopened for ten years too, but no one seemed to care, much less the driver.

the baths

Leaving Beef Island International Airport for St. Martin was almost painless, except when security insisted I buy a 25cent ziplock bag to store my chapstick and sublock in. We had to leave the security checkpoint to buy one in the airport terminal, and come back through security, strip down and unpack everything onto the conveyor belt, at exactly the same moment when another woman came through security with sunscreen. I watched the security inspector pick it up, put it back in her purse, and wave her through. What’s up with that? So I left Beef Island with some beef… pun intended 😛

Miami, from the water

I flew from Italy, to Madrid, to Miami, which seemed like a natural transition, between languages, climate, culture, even food. Spain was close enough to Italy, only an hours flight, and the people and place not unsimilar. Then a slightly longer-haul flight to Miami, where the unofficial first language is still Spanish, but the culture a mix of Spanish colonial heritage and raging latin sexiness.

Sunset from the marina

I think Miami resembles Venice, but Venice on steroids – a bigger, shinier, newer city built on invisible islands, surrounded by much larger canals and super-bridges. The city is ten times taller and ten times wider, with probably a hundred times more people, but boats and bridges still connect everyone and everywhere. The boats are also on steroids – instead of romantic gondolas leisurely floating past, you have super-turbo yachts with 800 horsepower zooming by.

The boat

I was visiting five friends, who I suppose you could call sailors, and we had a 30-something foot speedboat to play with for 3 days. We circled around Key Biscayne and traversed the dirty rivers around downtown. I learned how to drive a boat, which was definitely not my idea – not because I didn’t want to, but trusting a female to competently drive a boat around 5 trained sailors can never make you feel like you know what you’re doing.

Captain Katrin, with downtown Miami ahead of us

We docked at the restaurants we wanted to have lunch at, which is probably the only form of free parking between 9-5 in downtown Miami, and lets you get service without shoes or a shirt. We unintentionally took the boat out to jelly-fish infested water, but luckily for everyone else only I was in the water then. I didn’t get stung since my friends inside the boat could see them and direct me where to swim around them and get back safely in the boat. But then moments later, they convinced me to get back in and try surfing behind the boat.

This is something I’ve never seen done before, but you take a regular short board (5’10” or so), sit on the back of the boat to one side, and put your feet on it to hold it steady. Then the boat speeds up to about 2500rpms, and you stand up on it while hanging on for dear life to the boat, mostly for balance. Then there’s a rope attached to the boat that you ease back on, and continue to get dragged behind. Eventually, you find your niche on the wake of the boat, and you can throw the rope away and continue to surf behind the boat as long as your legs can hold out. I think it’s the perfect type of surf – no need to paddle or battle any waves, and when you’re down, the luxurious speedboat comes back and picks you up out of the water, and in my case (I only got up once), congratulates you with a cold beer.

How I wish surfing could always be

It threatened to rain every day we were on the boat, but the grey skies stayed dry until my last day in Miami, when it all came down at once. It was Halloween night, and it poured and poured and poured. The fashion  scene is already quite scandalous, so seeing loud and colourful half naked girls wasn’t out of the norm, but no one could stay dry, so seeing everyone dressed up and soaked down gave an interesting spin to all the costumes. I was a party pooper and didn’t even have a costume, but I was just glad to be off the boat and in enough clothes to stay warm since I started to feel the inkling of a flu coming on – the first I’d had in almost a year. I just don’t understand how a body survives a whole summer, filthy in the frigid Icelandic mountains surrounded by horses and bad hygiene, but gets sick in the tropical heat of Miami beach.


The Sunny Side of Costa Rica

 I only spent a day in San Jose, a very wet one, walking around the markets and seeing the few attractions there are, and luckily I didn’t get stuck on the bus from San Jose out to the Pacific. I took a 5 hr bus west to Tamarindo, a popular surf spot in Costa Rica and frequented by many tourists, and stayed at the Beach House Hostel – highly recommended to anyone who wants to stay on the beach, with surf a few steps away, for only $10 a night with some of the best staff and guests who all become like one big happy family in no time. My main contact was Murray, a British guy I met in Vancouver over 4 years ago and hearing his royal pronunciation accent came as a shock to me since I had forgotten how proper he sounded like in real life after only being in touch through Facebook.

maxell Digital Camera

me with Australia, Netherlands, Sweden and Costa Rica

Like a good host, he took me surfing, with the rest of the Beach House friends and family, and of course the waves kicked my butt. I was riding a nice fishtail but when those points hit you in the thigh on a missed break, they leave very large, purple bruises. I did manage to kind of catch a few, but once I came in slightly sunburnt, tired and salt rinsed, I managed to rip my toenail off on a rock. I am so accident prone to my feet, I don’t know what it is…

I decided that even though Howler monkeys are on the brink of extinction in parts of Costa Rica, I hate the obnoxious, growling sound they make constantly throughout the night, a loud sound that kind of resembles a lioness in labour outside your window. But, I do really like laying around in hammocks with a bunch of laid back surfers whose names I can’t remember, so I call them all by their country of origin since almost ever single person was from a different corner of the world.

maxell Digital Camera

a howler monkey with a baby dangling from its tummy strolls past trying to look innocent

I somehow got convinced to stay 3 nights in Tamarindo when I was only meant to spend one or two, but it seems like a perpetual problem with travel – you never spend as much time as youd like to when you find a place you really like. Not a bad problem to have, I guess, I just wonder what places coming up will be receiving the short end of that stick.