Vacation like a celebrity in Nevis!

Nevis, the sister-island to St. Kitts, is a 36 square mile lush and unspoiled slice of paradise. It’s about 217 miles (350 km) east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 50 miles (80 km) west of Antigua.

A tiny island that has more monkey crossings than stop lights, it has attracted, and continues to lure, its fair share of notable visitors. mount nevis

It’s the place where Princess Diana went to escape the media spotlight after her divorce in 1996. In more recent times, the likes of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, John Travolta, Beyoncé, Britney Spears and former US President Bill Clinton have visited.

If you are considering Nevis for your next Caribbean vacation, you could be their next A-list visitor!

Below, I’ve shared my suggestions for things to do when you go..

1. Visit the wedding site of Frances “Fanny” Nisbet and Admiral Horatio Nelson

If you’re in the mood to get whimsical, you can visit the wedding place of the decorated British naval officer who has a statue in his honor at London’s famed Trafalgar Square. Nelson and his wife Fanny got married under a silk cotton tree at Montpelier Estate in 1787, shortly before the end of his Caribbean tour of duty.

Entrance to Montepelier Plantation, chains away from the Nelson wedding site
Entrance to Montepelier Plantation, chains away from the Nelson wedding site

2. See the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton is the man credited with being one of the most influential contributors to the U.S. Constitution. The oceanfront location houses a museum and the local parliament. I found it slightly surreal to walk through that modest looking abode and read about the early history of the man on the face of the US$10 bill.

The humble home that is now part museum, part center of Parliament
The humble home that is now part museum, part center of Parliament

3. Dip your body, arms or toes in the therapeutic Bath Spring

This is a free outdoor “spa” supplied by hot volcanic waters that flow from a hillside. It is reputed to cure numerous aches and pains but be warned, the temperature gets very hot, so tourists are advised not to spend more than 10 minutes at a time soaking up its healing powers.

4. Explore the Botanical Gardens

All nature lovers will like this place because it is hard not to appreciate seeing the array of tropical trees, plants and shrubs that are so lovingly cared for by the efficient yet unobtrusive staff. What’s more, the quiet spaces, the Asian-influenced statues and the fountains make it feel like an oasis that will zap all your stress away.

That bench whispers R&R!
That bench whispers R&R!

5. Get stung by a Killer Bee at the legendary Sunshine’s Bar and Grill

No, that’s not an insect; it’s a simple but powerful signature cocktail that will knock you sideways if it is consumed too quickly. Located on Pinney’s Beach, Sunshine’s is close to Four Seasons Nevis and it is an experience not to be missed.

6. Eat, eat…and eat!

Whether you opt for lunch at Golden Rock, a pre-dinner snack at Banana’s Bistro, a fancy four-course meal at Coconut Grove or simple local fare, just unbuckle your belt and give in 100% to the foodie experience. Simply plan to lose the pounds later because the meals are beyond good. You must try local favorites like the goat water (a thick, meaty soup) and Tanya fritters (made from root vegetables).

Such a pretty lunch venue! What is/was on YOUR plate today?

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7. Tour the old sugar plantations that are now converted into hotels

Once a vibrant industry, sugar production used to be the backbone of the Nevisian economy. Evidence of that is seen in the many sugar mill ruins you’ll see as you drive around the island. Hermitage Plantation, Montpelier Plantation, Nisbet Plantation and Golden Rock Inn, were some of the ones I visited and they each had their own distinctive style.

Hermitage Planatation Great House

8. Finally, no trip to the Caribbean would be complete without a few hours spent lazing on an uncrowded beach

I clocked my sun and sand time at the Paradise Beach Nevis but there are several places to choose from. Go pick out your beach chair and mark your own spot soon!

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Editor’s Notes:

I originally wrote these travel tips for a site I contribute to called TravelDudes. The article first appeared there in August 2015.

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Great Caribbean eats every foodie must try

Who doesn’t like to enjoy a good meal? We all do. In fact, the foodie experience is even more pleasurable when your taste buds are awakened with unexpected combinations of seasonings and spices, and when your senses of sight, sound and smell are dazzled by new surroundings. That’s why I always try local foods when I travel. You should too.

Epicureans, gastromes, gourmands and foodies of the world you can unite and thank me now because I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Caribbean meals for your sampling pleasure. They are listed in no particular order.

Name of Dish: Goat water soup

Oh, this puts the "heart" in hearty
Oh, this puts the “heart” in hearty.

Country: Nevis, the sister island to St. Kitts

My consumption spot: Bananas Bistro, Upper Hamilton Estate

Description: Their version of goat water is a thick, full-bodied soup filled with carrots, small dumplings and root vegetables. Naturally, the main protein is goat meat. In other places, the soup has a more broth-like consistency and it is consumed as an appetizer; not the main course.

Name of dish: Conch salad

Nothing beats the taste of conch freshly harvested from the sea.
Nothing beats the taste of conch, freshly harvested from the sea.

Country: The Bahamas

My consumption spot: A gorgeous picnic laid out on an elusive sandbar known as Tahiti Beach in Andros, a part of the Bahamas Out Islands.

Description: Conch is a popular menu item in many islands and you can have it prepared in several ways. In this salad, the conch was caught right near our boat, taken from its shell, cleaned and cut into small pieces. Our boat captain turned impromptu chef added diced peppers, onions and tomatoes then poured lemon juice over the mixture to cure the uncooked meat, like in a ceviche.

Name of Dish: Ackee and Corned Pork

Ackee and corned por with boiled bananas and yellow yam
Ackee and corned pork with boiled bananas and yellow yam

Country: Jamaica

My consumption spot: M-10 Bar and Grill in Vineyard Town, Kingston

Description: Ackee is a fruit that is one half of the national dish of my home country, Jamaica. Usually it is served with sautéed salt fish (cod) but on occasion it is paired with other proteins like sausages and corned pork. When cooked, at a glance it looks like scrambled eggs but it has a much creamier texture. Incidentally, ackee with its favored partner, salt fish, recently earned the number two spot on National Geographic’s list of top national dishes around the world.

Name of dish: Oxtail with peas and rice

Oxtail has been one of my favorite dishes since childhood
Oxtail has been one of my favorite dishes since childhood

Country: Cayman Islands

My consumption spot: Welly’s Cool Spot, Georgetown

Description: Yes, you read that right. The main ingredient in this dish is the tail of a cow! The meat is first tenderized in a pressure cooker and then slow-cooked to gelatinous perfection with fresh thyme, onions and other spices. Most places add butter beans to the mixture and serve it with kidney beans and rice, cooked with coconut milk for additional flavor.

Name of dish: Bake and Shark

Shark meat, anyone?
Shark meat, anyone?

Country: Trinidad and Tobago

My consumption spot: Richard’s Bake and Shark, Maracas Bay

Description: Quite arguably the most famous beach food in Trinidad, this fish sandwich starts out as a simple combination of fried pieces of shark meat served within a bun. It ramps up to noteworthy finger-licking proportions once you add the choose-as-you-go accompaniments. Food patrons have a choice of toppings and sauces that range from the mundane mustard and ketchup regulars to the more exotic tongue pleasers like mango chutney, tamarind and Shado Beni (similar to cilantro).

ARE YOU HUNGRY YET? I am.

My four best sunsets of 2015

I’m a little late with my end-of-year roundups but its still early in 2016 so I figure I’ll proceed with them nonetheless.

These were my four best ‘captured” sunsets of 2015, in no particular order.

Snappas Grill and Chill in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas
Snappas Grill and Chill in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas
Paradise Beach, St. Kitts and Nevis
Paradise Beach, Nevis
Ocean Club Resorts, Turks and Caicos
Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

 

South Florida, USA
South Florida, USA

 

Related stories can be found here:

Four great beach bars in the Bahamas Out Islands

Showering outdoors on vacation; have you or would you?

Turks and Caicos: 7 Fun Ways to Play in Providenciales

Saddle up in South Florida!

Unusual country traditions that create visual points of interest

I suspect the June 2015 news of the removal of the famous “love locks” on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris took a lot of people by surprise. I mean, really, with an estimated total of more than 700,000 locks similar in weight to that of about 20 elephants it means a lot of lovers must have journeyed to that site to etch their names onto specially or hastily bought locks before fastening them to the bridge.

The former Lock Bridge in central Paris, France (photo courtesy of englighcntv.com)
The former Lock Bridge in central Paris, France (photo courtesy of englishcntv.com)

Who knew that such an innocuous practice, believed to have started in Rome after a 2006 Italian novel-turned-film aired would have mushroomed into such a symbolic sign of “ironclad” affection? So great was the movement, it eventually converted a regular bridge into a world-renown point of interest arguably as famous as the Seine River over which it flowed.

I found the concept fascinating. In fact, it spurred me into thinking about other unusual traditions that I’ve seen throughout my travels. At each place, I’ve always paused to wonder about the origin of these unusual practices. Two examples immediately sprung to mind:

Cayman Shoe Tree

Any visitor to Grand Cayman should drive, jog or walk to South Sound Road and witness the spectacle of the Cayman Shoe tree in person. Reportedly the brain child of an expat couple who lived and worked on the island for a few years, it began as a means of them clearing litter from some of the beaches they liked to frequent. Deciding they wanted to do something that would draw attention to the need for recycling, they collected more than 300 discarded shoes on the first night they started rounding up garbage. They then secretly nailed the flip flops and sandals onto a tree over the course of two nights. They were aiming for shock value, so they stopped what they were doing whenever any cars drove by to ensure that early discovery would not spoil their big reveal.

Cayman Shoe Tree on South Sound Road, Grand Cayman
Cayman Shoe Tree on South Sound Road, Grand Cayman

By the time they were finished hammering shoes to the tree, their unusual display was 12 feet high. Since then, people have continued to add to it. The couple have since left the island but either them or someone else was kind enough to leave a hammer and nails in a wooden box at the base for you to leave your own footprint on their initial design.

The Egg Plant in Nevis

I heard covering trees with egg shells used to be a common practice outside traditional households in Nevis but the only evidence of it I witnessed was one small plant on the grounds of a cute little eatery by the waterfront in Charlestown. Nestled among the colorful tables, chairs and foliage at the  popular breakfast and lunch spot called Café de Arts, there sits a small spikey plant covered in brown and white egg shells. The art of properly positioning them lies in the level of skill in the cracking method. You must make a small incision at the tip of the egg shell so that it can be affixed to the prickly and pointed ends of the plant. Most of the shell must remain whole in order to achieve the full peacock-like effect.

I stood there dumbfounded.  I just couldn’t outrun that eerie sense of déjà vu that came over me because I was immediately reminded of the reaction I had when I first saw the flip flop tree in Cayman. Shaking my head to clear it, again I wondered who had started this unusual trend.

Egg plant in Charlestown, Nevis
Egg plant in Charlestown, Nevis

I was with a small group on a walking tour so I couldn’t stay to dig deep into the back story. All I know is that the eggs that patrons order for breakfast are likely to end up on the plant. After I left, I called the restaurant owner to ask about the practice but she was an expat-turned-resident and told me she really didn’t know the origin of it. I’ve made it a point of duty to find out. After all, this popular food spot sits next door to an important part of history – the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton; one of the writers of the United States Constitution and the face on its 10 dollar bill. From farm to table to plant décor, it is only fitting that the history of these eggs must also be told.

Have you ever come across any unusual country traditions that have become visual points of interest? Please tell me about them.

 

Showering outdoors on vacation; have you or would you?

There’s just something really hot about taking a shower al aire libre. For some, the main appeal lies in the thrill of possible discovery, while for others it is in the ability to toss inhibitions aside as easily as they remove their clothes. True confession? I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be ‘at one with nature’ and revel in the light embrace of cool air as it gently caressed my soapy skin.

Outdoor shower at Paradise Beach Nevis
Outdoor shower at Paradise Beach Nevis

Whatever their reason, guests staying at the Paradise Beach Nevis, a new 5-star boutique villa resort in one of the most unspoiled islands in the Caribbean, can luxuriate – day or night – in this decadent pleasure. Spacious outdoor marble showers that are tucked away behind privacy walls adjoin each master suite. And these open-air liquid immersions make a shower more than just a shower; they transform an otherwise routine activity into a cathartic embracing of ‘the good life’.

What’s more, set amidst a backdrop of brilliant blue skies, fragrant and colorful tropical foliage, it’s just darn sexy!

The view and Foliage at Paradise Beach Nevis
The view and foliage at Paradise Beach Nevis

When I visited, I had the option to wash away any residual shyness with products from Hermes’ classic Eau d’Orange Verte unisex line. Created by perfumer Francoise Caron and built around a mossy woods base, the products have a burst of citrus with hints of lemon, mint, mandarin, bergamot, jasmine and cedar.

In the Caribbean, what more could you ask for? The best answer is nothing. If you ever go, I dare you to try it.

Bench with Towels and Hermes line of products
Bench with towels and Hermes line of products

Have you ever used – or thought about using – an outdoor shower? Let me know how it felt.

5 postcards from around the Caribbean

I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Jamaica and while I grew up with an appreciation for my country’s lush tropical vegetation, white-sand beaches, rolling hills and scenic roadways,  I sometimes took those assets for granted. Interestingly, as I grew older and travelled to, or lived in other countries I realized how naturally stunning my country and other islands in the Caribbean really are. As islanders we live where people dream of going on vacation and we should pause more often to take it all in.

Below, I’ve compiled a few images from just five Caribbean islands to illustrate my point.

Da Conch Shack, Providenciales
Beach tables at Da Conch Shack, Providenciales (Turks and Caicos)

 

Lush foliage at Goblin HIll Villas at San San in Port Antonio, Jamaica
Lush green foliage at Goblin HIll Villas at San San in Port Antonio (Jamaica)
The Hermitage
Majestic mountain range, enchanting gardens and a traditional Caribbean-styled home at The Hermitage (Nevis)
Colorful kayaks along Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands)
Colorful kayaks along Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands)

 

Elbow Reef lighthouse, The Abacos (Bahamas)
Elbow Reef Lighthouse, The Abacos (Bahamas)

 

The day I got stung by a killer bee in Nevis

A week ago today, I got stung by a killer bee in Nevis. Don’t panic! My condition was not caused by contact with a honeybee or a bumblebee. Nor did it invoke any pain or allergies. In fact, it was quite a heady experience.

Killer Bee from Sunshine's Beach Bar
Killer Bee from Sunshine’s Beach Bar

Oh, how I remember that day clearly! It was near high noon and my travel companions and I sought refuge in the air-conditioned vehicle of our Nevisian host while the sun buttered the narrow road leading to the source of my “liquid affliction”.

That memorable place was Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill, a very festive yet unimposing-looking structure on Pinney’s Beach. It is arguably one of the most celebrated parcels of real estate on the island.

Entrance to Sunshine's
Entrance to Sunshine’s
View of the beach at Sunshine's
View of the beach at Sunshine’s

In case you’ve never heard about it, please pay close attention now. You cannot visit Nevis and not go to eat at Sunshine’s or sample their Killer Bee, its world-renown rum punch. The drink gradually creeps up on you but you feel fine as long as you are seated. Stand up quickly and that’s a different story. Believe me, things can get noticeably mellow from there.

Former President Bill Clinton

I am willing to guess that former US President Bill Clinton can tell you all about the fare at Sunshine’s. From all the pictures proudly displayed on its rustic drift wood walls, it is also safe to assume that Oprah, John Travolta, Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Z, Beyonce and countless other celebrities can do so too.

Ellen DeGeneres standing next to Sunshine's
Ellen DeGeneres standing next to Sunshine’s
Britney Spears and a friend (or fan) at Sunshine's
Britney Spears and a friend (or fan) at Sunshine’s
John Travolta and Oprah
John Travolta and Oprah

A closely guarded recipe that was effortlessly thrown together in response to a 1995 drink competition,  the Killer Bee is now unofficially a Nevis national treasure. According to Sunshine, the basic entry requirement was it had to be “easy and reasonable” to make. A combination of white and dark rum (he won’t divulge which ones), passion fruit, nutmeg and bitters, it is one of the most potent rum punches you’ll sample anywhere.

The food is fantastic too! We had sampler plates of the fresh tuna, grouper, lobster, ribs and one of the most tantalizing garden salads that I’ve ever tasted – mango cutlets included.

Some of the most tender ribs I have ever tasted
Succulent and tender ribs
The lobster at Sunshine's is divine!
The lobster at Sunshine’s is divine!
Fresh grouper
Fresh grouper
Salad at Sunshine's
Salad at Sunshine’s

And nothing can compare to the size and magnetism of Sunshine’s personality. He is the owner after who the bar is named. As soon as we exited the SUV and walked up to the entrance, the legend himself met us on the top step with an effusive smile and firm handshake .

“Hello, I am Sunshine“, were the first words he said. After that, his aura took over and it silently screamed ‘warmth’ and ‘a genuine love of people’.

Sunshine and me
Sunshine and me. Wonder if I’ll ever make his wall? (Giggle)

With that megawatt presence, it’s clear how he got that name. The rest – his business acumen and sustained success in spite of numerous odds –  is now well-documented history.

Go visit with him when you can.