About Me

Living in the Caribbean is probably like living anywhere else, with the same ups and downs. But it does have its own vibe and flavour and gives me a unique perspective on most things. I'm often sarcastic, mostly funny, always looking for a new adventure. I have not boxed myself into any one category of life. I love a lot of things and dislike a lot more. I write about them all.

2015 - Finding those Moments and Moving Forward

Back in March, I did a check in on 2015 - to assess how I had been doing to date with my goals. It was a slow start but it was not tragic. However, somewhere between then and now, it went downhill and 2015 was a dud of a year. Too much work and work-related stress and concerns definitely, which led to exhaustion and indifference and bad moods. Still, there were many brilliant moments.

Aperol spritz - The drink was amazing as was the vacation on which it was consumed daily. Venice, Florence, Paris - brand new adventures in the first, making fresh memories in the next two. It was a really great vacation.

Being the best aunty ever - There were sleepovers, game days, sous-chef training. This aunty gig kicked into overdrive this year and as I type, I have a sleeping 5 yr old next to me. We watched Paw Patrol, played with his new crane and had chocolate. Last night I had to dig deep into the grey matter to remember bedtime stories, but in the end the 3 little pigs survived the wolf but they were all then eaten by a dinosaur.

Best Big Sister - Mentoring has been a joy.  I loved being a Big to my Little this year. She is so creative and smart. Volunteering is a gift that really does keep on giving. I am looking forward to another such project in 2016. If we can lend support to those who need it, let's do it!!!

More time with friends - There were some epic breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and such this year. I spent less time on social media and more time in the present.Sadly the blog was included in this - will do better! Friends will be visiting in 2016 and I am excited and so too, I hope, I can return the visits, amidst all the belt tightening ahead.

Birthday - This was a low-keyed birthday by usual standards but it was spent in Miami, where the weather was good, the fruit and veggie smoothies were popping, the shopping was constant and catching up was mandatory.

The food - Probably explains why I am no slimmer at the end of the year but this was a foodie year for sure. Whether I was cooking it myself in the hills of Tuscany, or in my South Trinidad kitchen, or breaking bread with friends at various foodie haunts at home and abroad, my palate definitely had its fair share of fun this year.

Health and fitness - While I am no slimmer on December 30, it was a year of fitness firsts. The Fitness Challenge pushed me to focus on healthier eating and at year end, I am part of a training group which has tried to kill me but somehow I have managed to survive and more focused on not sabotaging all this hard work with drinks and snacking.

Health issues - personal and otherwise - were probably the main Debbie Downers this year, aside from professional stress - from my nephew being in hospital for a week, to his mum being in hospital for 2 weeks, to my mum being worried about her health, to me having to get tests and now minor surgery - meh meh meh. So it is a good reminder to all to not take your health for granted. Emotionally, it was also a bit of a rollercoaster for me and I had my fair share of things on my mind and on my heart that kept me from being my true self all the time. Each day is a journey - glad for each day so now to work on the 'stuff' day by day.

I am taking 2016 in hand and owning it. It HAS to be better than 2015. Going into this with fresh eyes, a clean slate and an open mind.

Wishing you all a brilliant 2016!!!

Avoid the Holiday Rage and Embrace these Holiday Tips Instead

It has been a REALLY long time since I have been here and I apologise. But life happens. I don’t usually do my 2015 round-up this early but I must say, 2015 was not the greatest of the great. Sure there were some awesome moments, but it was not an award-winning year. Still, I am happy to have been here with you.

So it’s the holidays – another ‘winning’ time of year for me. God! I cannot say I loathe holidays but I do hate the way the holidays make people act a little cray cray. The season of love and giving has become the season of road rage, car park rage, Toys ‘r’ Us rage, supermarket rage, department store rage, etc. Everyone is so angry because there is traffic, silly people standing around in stores doing nothing, people picking up the last bottle of Chardonnay you spotted from a mile away and thought – that would be great with Christmas dinner. People are awful this time of year.

While you may get tips for the holidays that include where to shop, when to go and so on, please heed the following tips as well:

Remember the reason for the season. People get themselves worked up over the holidays – worked up over material things, and other nonsense. The cleaning, the cooking, the shopping. The season should be fun and filled with warm memories of great times with friends and family. Don’t lose sight of that.

Appreciate those who work for you to enjoy the holidays. The guys and gals who work really crazy shifts and work long hours in the toy stores, department stores, supermarkets and so on, just so you can get that Elsa doll for little Dana, or that bottle of Flower Bomb for your wife – these people have families and loved ones too. They have homes which they would like to clean and trees they would like to decorate with their kids. Everywhere is busy and crazy and I personally cannot even fathom working in that type of environment without busting a blood vessel, so I appreciate those who do. So be considerate and appreciative when and where you can.

Remember those less fortunate. That grab for that last Elsa doll and the whining that the supermarket does not have the wine you want - pales in comparison to what so many among us lack. The senseless road rage to get to the store to get a parking spot to spend tonnes of money on something so insignificant in the grand scheme of things can often seem so obscene. Invest a bit of that energy to make the holiday a little brighter for someone else and see how good it feels.

Be considerate to those who may not have anyone for the holidays. Some people are alone, plain and simple. Some have lost close loved ones, or have moved away from family – sometimes in a new city or new country. The life of the single man or woman, is not always as fancy free as some make it out to be. It can also be a depressing and lonely time. Seniors, with no close relatives nearby, can have a terrible holiday season. It never hurts to invite someone who may not have the bustling big family and the huge love around them to join in on your celebrations. It can go a really long way.

(Have you seen that awesome Publix commercial? Warms my heart)

I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my 2 readers out there. Tomorrow I will do my annual baking and I will spend Christmas Day with the family, including my brother and his munchkins, and other relatives. Be safe. Don’t over-eat. Avoid the rage. Love and blessings.

Solo Traveller Adventures: From Florence to Paris, with Love

I could tell you so much more about Florence - about the great people I spent time with, about that night we - a Trini, some Italians, a Polish grad student and a Kazakh went to a belly dancing show after our wonderful aperitifs, about the smells and sounds of San Lorenzo Market, where I spent a few hours just people watching, buying coffee (of course!) and truffle oil and wine tasting, about how I accidentally ended up in Trattoria ZaZa while looking for another place (of course I got lost!) and had the most amazing lunch ever.

Ossobuco from Trattoria Za Za

But then if I went through all that, I would not be able to share a few photos from my relaxing return to Paris. I planned nothing at all for Paris - no tours, no visits to monuments. I just had a hotel reservation and that was it. I wanted to just be - to be unorganised, unscripted, unscheduled. Wanting to not be a part of the mad rush that Paris typically is, I chose to stay on the hill - Montmartre - my favourite part of the city. And during my short visit, I headed to my breakfast spot every morning with my Kindle, had a bowl of coffee, brioche and jam, visited the Sacre Coeur, people watched, drank wine, ate pastries, ate French food, spent time with a long lost friend, drank more wine, spoke in broken French.

I had this the first morning I had breakfast at Coqueclicot in Montmartre and could not finish it all
Breakfast after that was much lighter. lol. A bowl of coffee was too much even for me!

Le Sacre Coeur - oui!

I love walking through Montmartre - fave part of Paris

Montmartre views

Th view of Paris between the trees on the hill

Wonderful little place if looking for a bite in Montmartre!

Dinner at Autour du Midi, Montmartre

This is what you call a mall!!! 

I also took a trip out of Paris for a day in Provins - a well preserved medieval city about 2 hours away from Paris by train. What a lovely day out of the city. Provins was not only quiet and stress-free, but also very quaint with its medieval fortresses, bistros and homes.

I just liked this.

Le Tour Cesar in Provins

Loved this church in Provins

The town is really well preserved. It was a real throwback kinda visit.

Lovely crepes were had here!

The view while walking along the top of the defensive ramparts

For those who love doors

Of course no visit to Paris would have been complete without one special visit. You just must!

No description necessary

Solo Traveller Adventure: Journey to Cinque Terre

If you ever get tired of life, bypass the therapist and decamp immediately to Cinque Terre. - Lonely Planet

On my first visit to Florence, I wanted to do the trip to Cinque Terre but somehow it never happened. This time it was going to happen and it did. Like the good traveller, I had pre-booked everything beforehand, and had planned for this trip. It was a hike, and not just a cutesy walk about town. So I had upped my incline sessions during my workouts (lol) - ready to go. However, one can plan and plan but you don't cater for:

1. Blisters - all this tourist walking in Venice and in Florence had taken a toll, and I got blisters, as I always seem to while on vacation. Not cool. I soaked my feet the night before, hoping for the best.
2. Pre-hike drinks - While I was not drunk or hungover, I was tired after a night out in Florence. And while I put my sunglasses on, pulled the blinds and slept on the bus, I was in no shape for walking 4.5km!
3. The HEAT!!!! - It was 40 degrees Celsius. Nuff said. It was horrible.

So when we got to Cinque Terre, I already figured this hike was not going to happen. When given the option to take the train and wait for the group - I did. lol. All my morning workouts down the drain.

But it did not make Cinque Terre any less beautiful. For those who don't know, Cinque Terre which translates to the Five Lands is situated along the coast of the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region of Italy. Five ramshackle yet beautifully quaint villages - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - built along the cliffs, along steep terraces overlooking the ocean. Actually our guide told us there are more than 5 villages but Cinque Terre  just had a nicer ring to it. lol.

Just a note on our guide, Fabian, who was funny, knowledgeable and so friendly.

The views from the terraces are breathtaking. We arrived in Manarola and the views were immediately taking our breaths away.

View from the terraces of Manarola - this was a downhill hike, but careful of the terrain

Beautiful Manarola

The village itself - Manarola

The villages each have their own unique spirit and again, food and wine played an important part of the day.

I don't remember much about the first village but we lunched in Corniglia, in a cute family run place with great views of the ocean. This however came at great cost, as it was quite a hike up almost 400 steps to get there, in the punishing heat. And this was the easy part.

Lunch though, was well worth it. Pesto has its origins in the Liguria region, so of course no lunch would be complete without it. Pasta with the best pesto I had ever eaten was preceded by a seafood starter comprising of such lovelies as octopus and anchovies.

The first plate in Corniglia consisted of stuff like octopus, crab balls, calamari and anchovies
I really enjoyed this and ate it all.

So simple and yet pesto is always so amazing

There would be no wine with lunch, in preparation for the 4.5km hike up the steep cliffside in the 40 degree heat. It was at this point, I said - not today, and took an easy stroll to the bus stop and to the train station. I was not the only one either. It was terrible how hot it was. So while the others continued on the hike, we took the train to the village of Vernazza. It was in Vernazza that I found a table under an umbrella and took in the sights of people sunning on the rocks on the beach, licking sticky rivers of gelato from their arms or just having beer or wine in the shade.

The worn elegance of the town of Vernazza

Beautiful coastline views in Vernazza

View from behind my wine glass in Vernazza

I met up with my tour group peeps, who were all sweaty and busted, and one was so surprised that others had taken the train because he was too embarrassed to admit he wanted to pass on the hike as well. Funny. After a few more gelatos and soaking our heads in water, we took the train to Monterosso.

In Monterosso, I did some wine tasting. Where Chianti is known for its red wines, the Cinque Terre DOC produces lovely white wines - which are my preferred wine, so of course - bring it.

Cinque Terre DOC white wines - all for me!
One of the beautiful spots in Monterosso

By now, the sleep debt was weighing on me, but so much more to do and see. Next we hopped on a ferry which would be a 40 minute ride along the coast - where you could get a different view of the five villages. The ferry would drop us off at what was my favourite of all 5  - Riomaggiore.

We took a ferry from Monterosso to Riomaggiore  and got to go past all the villages we had been to before

Ferry views - one of many on the 40 minute journey


Oh how lovely - Riomaggiore

Oh how I loved this village. The energy was different. The people seemed more passionate, friendlier, the village itself, more contemporary. I found while the town itself still had a worn appeal about it, there were touches of the 21st century which made for a lovely contrast. Maybe it was because it was the 'youngest' of the five villages, built up around the 1300s. Yeah - that's the kind of cougar bait we are talking about.

And my fave part was the seafood mix - which is as 'fast food' as you get here. Various types of seafood, battered and fried, and for 5 euros, you get a huge cone of niceness - calamari, anchovies, shrimp, anything you want - you customise your cone.

You could have deep fried veggies or fries as well with your seafood mix.
Wide assortment of yumminess

My seafood mix order consisted of vegetables, shrimp and calamari. This was beyond beyond good!

Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must visit. I would recommend the hike as well, which is offered by Walkabout Florence, but August is probably not the best time to try this. But it is a must - really. It is the only one of the tours that ensures you visit all five villages.

After a great day in Cinque Terre, I took it easy for the rest of my time in Florence before heading to the City of Lights. So we go to Paris, up next.

Solo Traveller Adventures: Cooking in Florence

Having visited Florence before, I had done all the major sightseeing and really wanted to take it easy a bit. Of course, this did not happen, as I kept myself busy doing all sorts of new things, including a wonderful one day cooking course.

For those who are regular readers of my blog, you know food is an integral part of my life – dining out, cooking and trying new recipes, including making healthy eating exciting and fun. So when I saw this activity listed among the various tours one could do from Florence, I booked it.

The tour hosted by the great team at Walkabout Florence (my second time using this great tour company) and would start in Florence itself, and as predicted, I got lost trying to find the meeting spot. Let me just say that this time, Google Maps led me astray. Getting lost meant being late, which meant keeping the group waiting, which made me angry, cause I hate making people wait, but woosah – let’s continue.

Our wonderful guide, Valeria first took us to the various markets, where we picked up the various main ingredients for preparing our menu for the day. Quite an interesting little walk, as we learnt which types of tomatoes were best for sauces or for bruschetta, for example, sampled cheese and also had a very important stop before heading to the bus that would take us to the farmhouse – a coffee stop. I am sure it was a bit of a lesson for some of the Americans on the tour to learn that frappuccinos are a Starbucks invention and Italians’ idea of a cold coffee beverage is the shakerato – espresso and ice cubes shaken in a cocktail shaker with a bit of syrup, and served. For the hot day, everyone had one of these except me – gimme a cappuccino, buddy. Give it!!!

Fresh veggies at the market - ready for our bellies

Picking up our awesome pork loin for roasting at San Lorenzo Market

Shakerato - espresso shaken (not stirred) and my lonesome but awesome cappuccino

Next stop – the farmhouse, in the hills not too far from Florence, but absolutely gorgeous. Here we would meet our ‘teacher’ for the day, the lovely Carmela who spoke no English but her passion for her cooking and for food was evident. Our guides, Valeria and Lavinia took us through what we would be doing for the day and our menu included

  • Bruschetta 
  • Fresh homemade egg pasta 
  • Ragu meat sauce 
  • Pizza 
  • Roast pork 
  • Patata al rosamarino (Roast potatoes with rosemary) 
  • Tiramisu 
  • Florentine gelato 

This was the best fun and the best tour I have done. While the dishes themselves were not that hard, there were little gems shared during the day which would serve me well in the future with my own cooking. While I do a fair amount of cooking myself, I was always a bit gun shy about going to a class, but this was a lot of fun, with a great bunch of people.

Check me out cutting up that bread for our bruschetta

Aren't our tomatoes sexy?

Bread toasting and wine - Round 1. lol.

Always amazed at how simple but how amazing bruschetta is. I heart bruschetta!

It seemed to be a great bonding activity for couples especially, with newlyweds, not so newlyweds, and newly engaged couples, joining us three single solo travelling girls on this culinary adventure. My favourite part was preparing the pasta, which I always thought was beyond my amateur skills, but it is so easy it is ridiculous.

My pasta - the finished product - left to dry for 30mins before boiling (and eating!)

Our ragu doing its thing - slow cooked for 2 hours!

The end result of our hard work - this was so nom nom

Oh wait – that was my second favourite part, after eating the pasta and all the other goodies we slaved over a hot kitchen table in 40 degree heat to prepare.

We also made our own pizzas and washed that down with Italian beer 

Our roasted potatoes

This pork was everything. I have already replicated this awesomeness since being back

A for Awesome - Awesome tiramisu. A is also my first initial.

Eating and drinking. We did a lot of drinking too. A lot! Lol.

The belle of the ball - Chianti Classico. And our hosts were not stingy with it either. 

I would do this again in a heartbeat and it is such a great activity for single girlfriends, or couples to do together as an aside from the sightseeing. I met some wonderful people, learnt how to make some of my favourite foods, ate a lot (soooo much food!!!) drank some amazing Chianti reds (and beer) and made a lot of great memories.  Thanks to the Walkabout Team for a great day and to great peeps like - yes, gonna give you a shout out - Danielle, Jamie, Libra, and Sarah - for the laughs and the good times.

You can check out more tours on Viator or go directly to Walkabout Florence and just choose one or two, or five! They are a great bunch! My next post will feature Walkabout again as I took a trip out of Florence for some coastal fun.

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