Art by Mimi

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Read Don's blog and poems of our year around the world 2011

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Fishing village on Lamma Island, Hong Kong

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where to Stay
We have been on the road now for 7 weeks and we have stayed in a variety of lodgings. First it was the train berth on Amtrak. It is cramped with the two chairs making two beds, with a foot to negotiate before hopping in bed. It sure beat the one night that we had to sleep in coach, sitting upright, with a car full of strangers. We spent 5 days in Florida, sleeping on the floor in our almost empty house.  The next leg of our journey was to Puerto Rico, staying two nights in a hotel, a Comfort Inn to be precise. We had orginally planned on staying in Comfort Inns, collecting points for free nights as we travelled. So far, we have not run across another Comfort Inn, which is fine with us.

Once we arrived in St. Lucia, we stayed in a small hotel, Auberge Seraphine, with white walls and a beautiful pond out front, tucked away in a cove near the sea. The restaurant on the first floor had excellent food and was a delight for the eyes. The walls were painted a deep blue and white and the table cloths were a wonderful purple. The rooms were spacious and breezy with a small iron enclosed balcony (which we promptly hung our handwashed clothes on to dry!)

We chanced upon our next hotel in Port of France, Martinique. It was just a few blocks from the ferry terminal, in the heart of town. The delightful Caribe Hotel, with French speaking staff that I practised my forgotten French, was tiny but our room, just behind the front desk was huge, large enough for us and Rashawna to sleep very comfortably. Our stainglass window was at street level with iron bars for safety. If there had been a fire, we would have been barbequed, but that doesn't seem to be a worry in the Caribbean.

We met Don's brother and sister-in-law at a wonderful resort in Dominica. Rosalie Bay Nature Resort was a piece of heaven. It was newly finished in November and our room was amazing! Glass blocks in the bathroom, natural stone floors, two inviting queen size beds, a black bottom pool, a world class restaurant, and the list goes on. It was a beautiful location on the Atlantic side of the island, with waves crashing on one side of the compound and a river splashing on the other. We paid well for it, but it is nice to treat oneself every once in a while. Well worth the money and I can't imagine what we would have paid for it in the States!

We spent more than week at Rashawna's apartment. She has two bedrooms and she graciously gave us her bedroom while she took the spare. It was nice to wake up to Rashawna making us breakfast and to have a livingroom and kitchen to move around in. Her landlady lives upstairs with her teenage children so it was a nice homey feeling of living. We enjoyed feeding the "watch dog" our leftovers, putting some fat on his ribs.

Once we left Dominica, we read the flight magazines on the plane enroute to the next country to figure out where we were going to stay that night. Not the best way to make a decision, but the immigration required it and we just hadn't been thinking that far in advance.  The Caribbean seemed to have plenty of places to stay so we hadn't been worried. The airport information guided us to The Croton Inn, our first guest house, in Barbadous. We loved the studio apartment, with a kitchen, bathroom, and lots of windows, all for the small price of $65 a night. We were hooked.  Our next destination, St. Vincent, we found a wonderful guest house named Sky Blue, another lodging with a bedroom, livingroom and kitchen, just a short walk to the beach but farther from public transportation. We were getting the hang of what we needed. When we stepped off the plane in Grenada, we asked for a reasonably priced place to stay, and a cabbie told us to go to such and such a place. We asked the cab driver to wait for us while Don went in to see how much it cost. $375 a night! OK, go to plan B.....the driver took us to a guest house, just a short walk to the beach, right on the main road to town near a bus stop and it was only $60 a night. Now we are talking. And it was just a 1/2 mile from the expensive hotel! It might not have had all the amenities, but the once person staff was friendly, helpful and the room was clean. What more does one need?

Before arriving in Trinidad, I looked on-line, Trip Advisor, clicked on Guest House then B & B, and read the comments about the prospective lodgings. I chose Samise Villa, a B & B, one that had a good rating by past customers, booked in advance, including asking for transportation from the airport. Again, a wonderful place to stay, within walking distance from Port of Spain, in a lovely large house with personal service unlike a sterile hotel. 

Lessons learned.....go to the internet, look on TripAdvisor, find the guest house or B & B that has good reputation and book in advance. I like serendipity but for me, a good place to stayfor the night might not be one of those serendipidous things.
10:26 am edt 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Greatfully grateful

We have planned the first leg of our South America trip! So why so greatfully grateful? Because I have a wonderful husband! First he takes me on this wonderful tour, a lifetime dream of his. ( I realise that I am a bit of a homebody) Then, Don is willing to give up going to three countries, just so I feel comfortable. Now how often does a woman find such a good husband as I have? They are hard to come by! I have been so nervous about going to Venezuela, even though I would love to see Angel Falls but I have just heard too many bad stories about crime and corruption. I do realize that the stories that get told are the bad ones, and the good old USA has horrible stories in their news, yet I feel reasonably safe in my country, but I can't get past the ones I hear about Venezuela. I not giving them a chance to prove or disprove the stories because I am just not that brave. So Don has graciously given up Venezuela for my sake, which is just way too kind. So we are going to go to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands instead, two places not on our original list but places Don had wanted to go to but we ran out of time. Now we have time.

Speaking of countries....... and the degree that I feel safe. The Caribbean has been incredible. At first, it felt uncomfortable because it didn't feel like home. The smells are different, the traffic flow is on the "wrong side of the road". the sounds are different, the merchandise is different, the money is different and the list goes on. Even the language is different. Most of the Caribbeans' first language is English, but it is still hard for my American ears to understand the words through their accents, words used, influctions, the whole thing! I just feel a bit lost....and I am obviokusly a tourist. Then as I get familiarized, I really start noticing the people. They greet everyone,( "good nights" in the evening), they give us directions for everything, so helpful, people walk at night alone, crime is low, (mostly non-violent), they enjoy their families, everyone is very clean and they love their country. I feel very safe here! I would love to stay here, on any one of these wonderful islands! I could paint and draw for a year, easy! But, got to keep going....there is much more to see, hear and experience.

10:46 pm edt 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Beachy Barbados
The first thing we said to each other as our plane was landing in Barbados was "Look how flat this island is!" After spending 4 weeks visting several of the more moutainous islands in the Caribbean, Barbados looks completely flat! However, after spending a day on the bus, we saw that they do have a few hills and their highest peak is about 1000 ft high. No wonder it looks flat after all the "Pitons" in Dominica and St. Lucia!
We found a lovely little guest house with 8 rooms and we got the upstairs studio apartment for the grand price of $65 US a night! Lots of windows to let the sea breeze in. Granted we don't have a view of the ocean, but we are just a block from the beach. And across the street from the public transportation - a real city bus. They go to a large part of this small island and since it was raining a good part of the day, we decided to see Barbados from the inside of a bus. For US $4 each, we spent the day travelling from Christ Church (Bridgetown) to Speightstown (pronounced Spicetown),over the island to the Atlantic at Bathsheba and then back. What a relaxing day! We saw a lot of places that we would have liked to have visited, but chose to get a good overview of the island, rather than concentrating on seeing one or two places. In a day, we probably travelled 2/3  of the island. I give a big thumbs up on this island. I could stay in our little guest house for a month easy. (I think I said that about Dominica as well! I think I am more of a nester than an explorer!)
11:55 pm est 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Leaving Dominca, leaving Rashawna
I can't believe that we have been here for over two weeks and with Rashawna for over 4 weeks. And now it is time to say Goodbye to "Rashawna" for another year. Even though we are headed out to one more country that we get to check off our list, I will do it with a heavy heart. I am likely not to remember a thing about Barbados nor Trinidad. The mother job can be a hard one, even when the "kid" is no longer a kid!

A few thoughts on Dominica from my "mother role" point of view. How can a mother leave her daughter in a country so far away from our home and our culture? I have met so many wonderful people who have taken on my mother job for me. I have met Rashawna's landlady, who has such a lovely apartment for my daughter, right below hers. I have met the many shop keepers who all greet Rashawna and the many school children who call out her name when we are walking in town. I have met several bus drivers who know her, from her many trips to Roseau to the Peace Corps Office, or the trips to Portsmouth to spend the weekend with her best PCV friend Mary, or to Concorde to help women apply for a grant from Child Fund for a greenhouse, or to the other outlying towns. I have met her host mom and host brother who has taken Rashawna on as his little sister, making her house safe. I have met the Canadian nurse and her Dominican husband who visit the island regularly and take Rashawna on outings like they would their own daughter. I have met the group of men who set up the concert sets  (I suspect Rashawna is their groupie) that give her rides home safely from every concert she attends. I met the man who tells me that Rashawna is now a Dominican and will not be returning to the States because she belongs here. Now this is a village I can leave my daughter with, even tho I will find it very hard to get on that plane tomorrow afternoon, tearfully waving goodbye to my daughter. But I know that Dominica will take good care of her and she will be back sometime next year. 
10:54 pm est 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Bumpy Road to Marigot
I am loving it here in Dominca! It is a beautiful island. Our stay at Rosalie Bay Resort was a slice of luxury just outside of the tropical rain forest, resting on the black beaches that the protected turtles come to lay their eggs.  We stayed two days and could have spent the whole month!

We left the resort for Marigot, Rashawna's town by the ocean. We were lucky enough to get a ride with the driver from Rosalie Bay Resort, who was a fabulous driver. We had to climb back up the mountains to descend into her village, that is not far from Rosalie, if you were a bird flying from beach to beach! Instead it took us over an hour to reach her town. We celebrated Rashawna's 23rd birthday at Pagua Bay Bar and Grill, enjoying the cheese cake and coffee. 

After arriving in Marigot, I have been privileged to experience the local bus system. The buses are called Coasters and carry tourists who come daily to Roseau on cruise ships and tour the island in their 8 hour port of call. The minivans, that can hold up to 18 passengers, are the buses that locals take to go to town, Roseau, the capitol.  The bus waits in the bus zone until they are full, many times honking to get customers. They transport people from the bus stop, a designated area in the village, to Roseau or from Roseau to the village. Once they are full they set out at full speed, which might just be only 35 mph but it feels like 80 mph when they rip through villages, where houses hug the single lane road. Once the person has reached their destination, they shout "Stopping!" and the bus pulls over. Goats and cows are usually tied to stakes in the ground near the road, but are known to escape. The driver might stop to pick up a gas canister to be filled in town for his aunt.  People walk on the side of the road with no safe space from vehicles, or wait by the side of the road to flag down a passing bus, that will stop in the middle of the road, sometimes on blind corners. They just have to hustle in the bus faster! 

Next, the road is the next adventure. The driver tries his best to avoid the pot holes but sometimes it is unavoidable. I'm not sure that any of the buses have shocks that are still doing their job. They hit the hole and the whole bus shutters.  
12:37 pm est 

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Mimi Lamp


It all started here, a little gallery in Idyllwild, no better place on earth. Or so I think.  My husband Don and I are on our way around the world this year. Watch my website for new drawings, sketches, watercolor washes of places we visit.

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