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Monday, July 18, 2016

Grand Isle

This is my Grand Isle tabletopper pattern.  I love how 
changing colors can really change the look of a pattern.
You could make a different one for each season or holiday.
The one with the pumpkin is made from felted wool and 
the ones with the brighter colors are made with wool felt.

There is a funny story about this pattern.  Our relatives
Pat and Jim had purchased a summer home in Michigan 
in a town that started with the word Grand at the time I
was designing this pattern.  I looked on a map and found
Grand Isle and named the pattern for Pat and Jim's new 
town.  It wasn't until later that I found out they moved to
Grand Haven ~  ooops!  I think I should design another
pattern to honor Grand Haven.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sint Maarten

Sint Maarten is a popular port for cruises.  Sint Maarten
is a constituent country of the Netherlands and shares this
small Caribbean island with the French Saint-Martin. The
capital, Philipsburg is where the big cruise ships dock.  It is
a very quick and affordable water taxi ride from the dock to
the town.  We were told to be sure to have the taxi drop us at
the Police Station but we didn't have a choice, we were just 
told to get on the taxi and were dropped off at another dock.
It is not terribly far away from the shops and restaurants

This is what you see when you leave the taxi dock,
it is a very clean, shaded area and you can see why 
the locals would want visitors to see this area first
as it is very inviting.  

The palm shaded area is flanked by these colorful buildings
 that house many shops.  Unfortunately these shops were not
open on a Sunday morning.  We considered taking a taxi to
the French side of the islands but were told most places are
closed there on Sundays.

We strolled along the cobblestone streets toward the more 
populated area of the town.  We passed by local homes
near the quieter end of town.

Many of the locals were in church since it was a Sunday
morning when we first arrived.

The capital's courthouse is a beautiful old building.

There are many colorfully painted building selling
jewelry, alcohol, souvenirs and quite a few selling
Delft since this is a Dutch holding.  We purchased
some sea salt since this island was once named the
Land of Salt, we also purchased some local spice
mix and vanilla extract.  We love to buy local food
products and then cook with them back home, it is
a way to bring your vacation home with you.

After a nice walk and some shopping we walked to the
beach and rented a few chairs and an umbrella for the
day.  The prices can vary from one vendor to another
but all the prices were quite reasonable.  The people 
working on the beach will bring you drinks if you wish 
or you can just walk up to one of the bars on the street
that runs alongside the beach.

When you have had enough surf and sand, just walk
over to the police station and hop a water taxi for the 
short ride back to the ship.

We had a nice relaxing day in Sint Maarten.  It was easy
and affordable to get to a beach, bars and shopping.  The
locals were friendly and nice though a few people in the 
shops seemed very bored and they did not get any of our
money.  The guy who rented us our chairs and umbrella
was very friendly and he had a deal for chairs, umbrella
and 6 beers for a decent price. When I told him I don't
drink beer, he reduced the price and said he would get
me anything I would want to drink from a local bar, it 
was all very simple, relaxing and easy.

Friday, July 8, 2016

24 Hours in Old San Juan

For Lavender Linda and Captain von Trapp

A few weeks ago we were taking a cruise that 
departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We
decided to arrive a day before the cruise so we
could spend some time in Old San Juan.

We stayed at the boutique hotel in Old San Juan
called the Casablanca Hotel.  When I was on the
cruise a few days later I had breakfast with a chef
from the Ritz Carlton in San Juan, when I told her
where I had stayed while in town she looked at me
and exclaimed, "that's where you stayed?  That's a 
great hotel, it's a boutique hotel, it's a really cool
place!"  Yep, my travel street cred went up a few

You've got to love a hotel that plays Casablanca 
in the lobby 24 hours a day.

By this time we were very hungry since we hadn't
eaten since we arrived at the airport in the wee
hours of the morning.  Walking along a street a
woman walked across the street to give me a 
postcard and tell me that the cafe she worked at
was having happy hour.  I asked her how long
happy hour was and she said until 7pm.  I said,
"That's more like Happy Day!"  I looked at Mr.
Wonderful and said, "Well, we are on vacation, 
let's go to happy hour!"  The place was called the 
Blessed Cafe and it was owned by a Jamaican
Rastafarian who wanted all his guests to have
a wonderful experience.  It was a small place
with a bar and another room with a few tables
and all the decor was related to Bob Marley
and the Wailers.  We ordered  a few drinks and
settled back in vacation mode.

Our taxi driver who drove us in from the airport
told us not to miss trying mofongo while in town.
It was on the menu so of course we had to try it.
It is mashed plantains with a pork mixture on top.
It was delicious!

After the Blessed Cafe we walked off our
lunch and popped into antique stores and 
small artisan boutiques.

We headed back to our hotel for a siesta.
The room was small since the building is old
but everything was very nice.  We had upgraded 
to a room with a balcony thinking we would have
one overlooking a quaint street but the balcony is
really just the walkway to your room, don't bother
getting this upgrade because...

...upstairs is a lovely rooftop terrace with large
soaking tubs.  Bring your favorite beverage and
enjoy stargazing while soaking in your tub.

When we awoke from our siesta, we were hungry 
again and it was time to hit the streets.  I wanted to see
the big church and hiked up the hill but the church was
locked up but just across the square I spotted a little tapas
place called Rosa de Triana.  Our plan was to stop into a
few places for a small dish and a drink.

We sat in the cozy courtyard filled with plants 
and fairy lights.  The cafe is known for it's 
Sangria so we had to sample it.  Since there
were no cruise ships in port, the town was quiet 
and we dined with all locals.  It was the type of
place where you nod and say buenas noches to
your fellow diners.

We ordered two tapas plates and the servings 
were so large we knew our plan for visiting a few
places that evening was going to have to become 
Plan B.  So we lingered over our food and drinks
and fell into slow down vacation mode.  At the end
of the meal the waitress served us complimentary
glasses of a local apple liqueur that was delicious.
I wish I had brought a bottle home with us.

Leaving the restaurant we walked down the street 
and through San Juan gate and walked along the
Paseo de la Princesa, the old city walls are on one 
side of the walkway and San Juan Bay is on the other.
It was an enjoyable stroll and we came upon an area 
filled with food vendors and artists selling jewelry.
The food and drinks looked great but we were far too
full to sample anything but we did pick up some cookies 
to eat in bed once we got back to our room.

We watched a bit of Casablanca in the lobby back at
the hotel and then headed up to bed.  I would suggest
to anyone who will be staying at the Casablanca to
bring along a DVD of the movie or download it to one
of your devices and bring along an HDMI cord so you 
can watch the movie in bed.

Mr. Wonderful was up at the crack of dawn
and ready to find a cafe for a coffee.  For myself,
I prefer to laze around in bed when I get the chance
and since all we had to do that day was eat something
and head to the ship, I opted for waking up slowly.
Opening the wooden shutters and looking out these
windows I felt like I could be meeting Papa Hemingway
for lunch.

When I finally got myself moving we hunted around 
for a new restaurant called Melt.  I saw a photo of
their food on instagram and wanted to go there.  When
we finally found it there was no Hemingway but we did 
sit next to the owner of the hotel in which it is located
and got a lesson in Puerto Rican history and politics.

Then it was time to head to the ship to set sail
for parts unknown.
A great 24 hours!