Search

About Diana:

Diana is a traveler, a writer and an adventurer! She is also a proud coach of 5th and 6th Grade Boys Basketball, a happy wife and a loving mom of two mini-dachshunds! She writes for various newspapers and online travel sites in and around the NYC area and beyond! To learn and see more about Di, click here!

 

 

Yay for Social Media!

Follow Me on Pinterest

 

Entries in travel (5)

Friday
Mar072014

Who should MY Lego Man be?

Have any of you seen THIS? What a fantastic idea: a year in the life as seen from a Lego man's point of view.

photo by Andrew Whyte

I am going to straight out say this--I am copying this idea.

FULL CREDIT for this idea goes to Mr. Andrew Whyte, but as a perfect example that imitation is the highest form of flattery, it appears Mr. Whyte and I are not the only ones thinking on this same wavelength: tiny Batman anyone? It's not a new idea--even at my niece's wedding we had a stuffed animal goat make an appearance here and there (more to come on that).

But even still—the Lego aspect is so fun! Although Mr. Whyte stayed around the UK with his Lego man and had his Lego man "taking" the photos, I will be putting my Lego man in various sceneries all over the World and snapping his photo as I travel around this year. 

I am narrowing down my Lego man choices... please feel free to give me your opinion on which I should use.

It is down to:

Surfer Boy

Argument: I DO live at the beach and love everything water and surf. 

Shakespeare

Argument: I am a writer.

Tiki Island Warrior

Argument: The tropics always call me, and who doesn't love a Tiki?

Comments?

Thoughts?

Threatened lawsuits from Mr. Whyte?

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep152013

Tobago? Huh? Where is that?

A few weeks ago two of my besties from high school and I embarked on our 3rd annual Girls' "Weekend" (which of course, is always longer than just a weekend). In past years we've visited Zion, Utah (GORGEOUS) for some hiking (and lounging and drinking) and New Orleans (CRAZY) for literary sight seeing & beach day trips to Pensacola (and lounging and drinking). This year we decided to venture outside of the states to somewhere tropical and different; we went to Tobago (pronounced Ta-bay-go).

Where is Tobago, you ask?

Good question. I didn't know anyone, nor had I met anyone during the planning phase of this trip, who had even HEARD of Tobago and my only experience with the country was from my college days when I was assistant manager at the Birkenstock Store and every sandal had a city/country name. 

The "Tobago" Birkenstock

The past few months have been pretty crazy for me with deadlines and other work stuff so my friend Rachel took the reins and planned our entire trip. I knew it would be sunny and warm (and of course nice, she wouldn't choose a bad location)--but I had no real expectations. Tobago as it turns out, is an exciting, isolated, "can't believe my eyes this place is not more popular," Caribbean paradise. We stayed in the Bacolet Beach area and steps from the pool of our gorgeous rented home were mango, bread fruit and lime trees ripe for the picking and a jungle path leading to a deserted white sand beach with aqua water. In fact, we were surrounded by deserted beaches with the warmest water and our only visible neighbors---- peaceful, grazing donkeys and really fast, really green lizards (although the local lazy river had resident alligators that we didn't see -- unfortunately, or fortunately). 

Anyone can buy a guidebook for Tobago and its big brother Trinidad to learn about the islands, so I won't go into that type of review. Instead, here are SIX things the guide books may not tell you (or at least in the same exciting way). :-)

1. Where IS Tobago anyway?

Tobago, claimed "sighted" by Columbus, is technically IN South America but it is part of the West Indies therefore considered Caribbean albeit the most southern of the Caribbean Islands. Trinidad (where foreign flights arrive before taking a shorter flight to Tobago) is less than 7 miles from Venezuela. Trinidad and Tobago are two separate islands 21 miles apart but are considered one country and officially called the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago or as the locals call it, TT. 


2. Sunday School is NOT about church.

Summer months are considered the off-season in TT so most of the people we met were locals. For the most part, they were extremely friendly and most of them asked us the same question: Are you going to Sunday School? No, this island isn't any more religious than any other Caribbean spot (but we did wonder...); it turns out that Sunday School has NOTHING to do with religion but with music, dancing and "liming" (visiting, hanging out) with friends and neighbors.

By the time Sunday rolled around, we three were pretty good at liming (pronounced LIME-ing) so we figured we better try SS. Local steel drum bands start off the night and play for two hours or so then open it up for a DJ that plays loud, local music that keeps everyone dancing until 4 or 5 am (don't ask me how they get up and go to work the next day). Although we were three of maybe seven tourists gathered at this dockside area off the Caribbean Sea, we felt safe and not too out of place. The people watching was entertainment on its own level. Fun Fact: Steel Drumming got its start in TT.

3. Driving--not so easy. 

Locals drive crazy. I drive in NYC regularly and I'm saying this: locals in Tobago drive CRAZY. They pass giant trucks that barely fit the narrow lanes on mountainous curves; they swerve by goats and people meandering in the middle of the road and they tail-gate like crazy----while riding the horn. And for my non-New Zealand readers: be ready to drive on the LEFT side of the road with the steering wheel on the RIGHT side of the car.

And for fun -- please count how many times you intend to turn on the blinker but instead get the windshield wipers flapping. Good times.

Here are some (non-intentionally humorous, yet true) tips from a local website on driving. 

  • Keep your eyes peeled for local hazards ... chickens, sheep and goats, cows, adults crossing the road.... Politely tap your car horn if you suspect danger — its better to be safe than sorry. (Author's Note: we were tapping our horn nonstop around the tight curves all over the island. Also, street dogs should also be on that list—watch out for them!)
  • Cars inevitably drive with their windows rolled down ... and as expressive people while talking we gesticulate constantly, hands outside the drivers car window are not uncommon. Be aware — that hand may (or may not) have been making a signal. Slow down and see what happens next.
  • Indicator lights — are usually a sign of what the driver ahead intends but sometimes the light remains blinking after the turn is made.

4. But still rent a car.

Even with these warnings, I do recommend renting a car to fully realize the spectacular beauty and landscapes the different areas of the island offer. Mountains, rainforest, beach, military forts (TT has an intersecting political history) and small fishing villages with old timers that sit and watch the day go by in plastic back chairs.

One small fishing village in particular that's worth a drive is Charlottesville. A couple street vendors, a small grocery and Gail's, the best restaurant on the Northeastern coast of the island, are the opening act for the amazing Pirate's Beach which is a small hike away (park near Gail's) and is totally do-able in flip flops -- especially when you know you can have a cold Carib at Gail's on your way back. 

Pirate's Bay as seen from the top of the hike. 

Gail and me eating chenet the local fruit (pre-Carib)! 

Our capable and mostly fearless driver Rachel. 

5. The Caribbean Sea is COLD.

Well not really COLD, but where we stayed, the Caribbean is colder than the Atlantic--which is a rare occurrence! Tobago sits so close to the equator that the Atlantic side of the island (where we stayed) had much warmer water temps than the Caribbean side. 

Our private beach with the oh-so-warm water! 

6. Everything STOPS when the National Anthem plays.

When you are driving, eating, walking, talking, etc.,  you must stop and sing along or at least stand to attention. I am proud to say we adhered to this while driving (see #3 above). 

According to the office of the President, the following is protocol:

'The National Anthem should be accorded the respect due to it when played, and on no occasion should it be treated with scant courtesy. Must be played in the original music; the pitch, speed and tone can be changed.

When the Anthem is being played all persons should pay respect to it by standing to attention.'

Trinidad (the big one) and Tobago

This girls "weekend" was of course the best one so far, but everyone can guess that I'll likely say that about the next trip too; the most recent vacations have a way of earning that title. But this trip to Tobago will be hard to beat. There aren't too many places where one can feel totally immersed into the local scene (benefit of going "off- season") and learn so much about the culture and people while still feeling a bit touristy. Of course, my girlfriends and I could vacation at the Best Western in a place as regular as Portland, Or and still have a wonderful time--so maybe my view of destinations and girls trip awesomeness will always be wonky. :)

 

Tuesday
Sep252012

where does this $$ COME FROM (and can I have some)? 

We headed to South Florida this weekend to see some friends, feel the humidity that has finally left the NE (yes, I miss it) and partake in what turned out to be a most excellent shell finding excursion at the beach in 85 degree ocean temps.

Retro art deco: we stayed in the Delray Beach area but headed to South Beach/Miami Beach for a day trip

Also-- we wanted see how low the real estate bubble really is (read: can we find an awesome getaway-place for nothing?). We ended up looking at so many places that they all have sort of morphed into one awesome place that has none of the granny flower wallpaper or furniture (oh... it comes furnished...how great...) straight out of 1982. Not good.

One place we looked at had THIS HOUSE as an across the street neighbor.

Seriously. Seriously?

I took a few shots of it as I was measuring in my mind the sq. footage of JUST the GUARD GATE before I decided to stop guessing and google the address. No, I am NOT a house stalker... normally but, I did find out that this is a single family home where a father, mother and teenage boy live. Hard times in this economy for sure...

the front gate

this view is from the "ghetto" condo we looked at across the street (the mansion is next to in-construction high end rental "cottages").

The house is just shy of 20K sq. feet and has 12 bedrooms and 19 bathrooms. Check this link for inside pics or, no big deal, THIS LINK for some pics of the owner's Ferrari collection. 

Sadly, this house is currently NOT on the market but just as well, since it is a smidgen bigger than we were looking for but alas, the tempting thought of being able to adopt an army of wiener dogs to roam free should we'd have moved into this place will go unrealized.

 

Oh well; the hunt for an affordable mansion continues and until then we can look forward to more Florida images like this when we visit:

 

 

 

 

Friday
Aug102012

5 years on the East Coast

In about a week we will celebrate our 5th anniversary of living on the East Coast. For the first 4 years we lived just outside of Manhattan and enjoyed frequent trips to the city and getting to know our new area. This last year we decided to make the move to the beach, known here as the Shore. Before moving East, I had never been to the NYC area or New Jersey but I had many ideas of what I might see based on social media, what others "warned" me about and stereotype including crime, rude people, all cement cities, dirty beaches, high taxes (oh wait, that is true), big haired women with name necklaces in gold (oh wait, that one is true too) -- just to name a few.

In the 5 years I can happily say that many of the pre-conceived notions I had were incorrect and those that were accurate really aren't that bad. 

The City. New York City is my favorite city in all of the World and that is saying a lot considering I'm a travel writer and the first time I set foot in the city was when we moved here. I still find myself in awe at its size and unending opportunities to see/do/eat and most importantly BE anything you want. The diversity of the people and areas as well as the history adds to the charm and aside from Times Square and Chinatown, it is easy to escape to quaint areas within the city to "get away".

the city

"Family". We have met more people in these 5 years that have become as close to us as our actual family -- far more than anyone we met in the same amount of time (or longer) in other locations we have lived. Yes, people here tend to be more upfront and tell you what they think, but what is wrong with that? I find it much more refreshing than the passive aggressive "politically correct" friendships that we found common on the West Coast. 

NJ. New Jersey isn't just dodgy Newark and the turn-pike. And yes, that terrible show has given the Shore a bad name (you know most of those people are from NY, right?) and at times there are some questionable Italian themed crimes, but hey--- there are always going to be a few bad apples to spoil the bunch no matter where you are.  

the real Jersey Shore

New Jersey is diverse-- such a safe, small town feel in all of the townships and boroughs-- many only minutes from Manhattan--with individual culture and history. Farm towns are just 30 min outside of Manhattan where the famous Jersey blueberries and tomatoes are grown and the beach towns have some of the most gorgeous beaches complete with white sand and surrounded by boardwalks I love to run, "carnival" games and rides for all ages and all the fried food you'd ever want! The Shore attracts day visitors as well as summer renters that come down each year from NY, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and other surrounding states to spend their summer at the beach.

enjoying a day at the beach

General area. Just outside of Manhattan, less than 30 minutes driving, are ski-hills, white water rapids, beaches and big cities to get any and all of the culture, food or scenery you want. Go a little further by train or car and you can be in multiple surrounding states (DC, Boston or Block Island (RI) are just 3-4 hours away).

Sun--sweet sun. I love sun. I love to be tan. Out here, I can plan outdoor events for days--even weeks-- in advance without having to worry about the weather. Yes most winters are cold and snowy, but on the East Coast they have these things called snow plows and after a big snowfall the main roads are generally cleared within hours, and its sunny almost every day in the winter.

It does get Africa hot in the summer and the humidity sets in around late June and sticks around for a few months, but it is almost always sunny. The ocean temps are in the 80's, the number of prescriptions written for insufficient vitamin D is low and for the first time in my life, if I know I'm unable to get outside to enjoy the sun for a day or two in a row--I don't worry about it as I know the sun isn't going anywhere (side note: growing up in Seattle's gloomy weather left permanent scars and it took me a good 2 years here not to be glued to the weather forecast on the news each night during the summer to "see if it would be sunny tomorrow").

I can't think of too many other areas in the US where I would love to live as much as here. I'm an East Coast girl at heart and pretty sure I always will be! 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday
Mar122012

Big East Basketball in the Big City

This last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Big East NCAA Conference Championship Tournament in Madison Square Garden with my friend Jill. I am a HUGE sports fan, especially college sports where the players have yet to succomb (or totally anyway) to the fortune and ego that seems to accompany the pros. Jill and I had a great time roaming the city by day (shopping) and going to the games in the evenings.

One of the longest running tournaments among the different conferences, the Big East has some of the big name schools including Syracuse, UConn and Pittsburgh. But led by Peyton Siva, a fellow Seattle-ite, it was Louisville who werecrowned champs and they dominated in every game I watched them play. If you follow the March Madness that begins tonight you'll be interested to know that Louisville has a #4 seed. It will be a tough climb, but I will be rooting for them! Here are some shots from my weekend.

Wait, how did this pic get in here. Oh well... I'll leave it. :)

This was the billboard towering over the E train subway exit on our way to the Garden. 

 Empire State Building all lit up for the Big East. Or America. Or France-- you choose.

Peyton Siva lined up for some free throws vs Cinncinnati

 

Celebration on the jumbotron!! 


 Peyton Siva (#3) and the Louisville team celebrating their win!

My friend Jill and me with our Pitt shirts on (Jill is an alum and I cheered on Pitt this year, until they lost).