Friday, 18 September 2015

The Bahamas here we come!

In my last post, Trav and I had visited Miami over Memorial Weekend, traveled down to the Florida Keys by Greyhound Bus, celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary, and flown from Key West to New Orleans.

It had been something of an impromptu trip, to leave our Caribbean island home earlier than planned and travel to the USA, and we knew we still had almost four weeks to go before we met with our flight out of Houston Texas to Glasgow Scotland.

We now had a luxury of choice whether to go back to the Caribbean or to continue travelling in search of a new adventure. Either way, we would still have to find somewhere to rent for almost a month.

Sitting in our hotel room in New Orleans, over a glass of wine for me and a glass of bourbon for Trav, we discussed what to do next. We explored the possibility of taking another Greyhound Bus and traveling up through Memphis and onto Nashville. Or doing the ‘Bourbon Trail’ in Louisiana – which was certainly high up on our bucket-to-do-list. But, actually, what we really needed at that time was somewhere to relax and kick back for a while. Somewhere with a nice climate, lovely beaches, with diving for Trav and where I could catch up with my writing commitments.

On the internet, I found a lovely looking beach cottage for a reasonable rent on Saunders Beach, Nassau, Bahamas, courtesy of Airbnb website. We had never been to the Bahamas before and it certainly ticket all the boxes on our current wish list. The accommodation was available for the three weeks plus that we needed it for and the airfare costs using United Airlines seemed very reasonable.

The cottage was being advertised by a guy called Stuart, a retired university professor, who had annexed off a porch area and the side of his traditional style clapper-board Bahamian home as a rental. The photographs looked very appealing and there were lots of reference reviews by others who had stayed there – all saying wonderful things about the cottage, the location, and about Stuart himself. So I sent an email to Stuart, apologising for the short notice, asking if we could come and stay the very next day. He agreed and the deal was done!

On arrival at Nassau airport, we soon realised that this time it was my turn to have a suitcase go missing. In my last post, I’d explained that Trav’s bag, with all his dive gear, had gone missing from our flight from Key West to New Orleans and had later been found in New York! I was assured that my bag, wherever it had gone without me, would be found within 24 hours. Of course, it was Sod’s Law that this was the one and only time that I had packed my carry-on bag in a rush, which turned out to contain lots of tops but no bottoms!

Our host, Stuart, greeted us as planned in arrivals and when we explained about my lost luggage, he insisted on speaking with the luggage official, whom it turned out was a friend of his. He also kindly said that it would be no trouble for him to drive me back to the airport as soon as we had the phone call that my luggage was there to collect. Then Stuart drove us to our new accommodation, giving us a wonderful guided tour along the way, pointing out where the ‘stars’ lived (lots, but the ones I remember were the BeeGees, the Rolling Stones, and UK rock group Iron Maiden). Then we stopping at a big supermarket so that we could stock up our newly acquired fridge with both the basics and the essentials.

Somewhere to hang our 'Trav and Janice's Hoose' sign for a while !

Stuart’s home was a traditional colonial style Bahamian house set back from Saunders Beach, Nassau. Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas and is located on the twenty-one mile long island of New Providence. Nassau’s main harbour is protected by Paradise Island. The harbour attracted settlers in the early days, particularly pirates and traders, these days it is mostly tourists and cruise ships.

Our home for almost a month - a traditional Bahamian beach house
The open screened porch/sitting area and bedroom beyond

Saunders Beach
Along the coastal road were lots of restaurants and bars and handy stores in case we needed something quickly (like a bottle of wine) and didn’t want to go to the supermarket. In the other direction, towards the world famous Cable Beach, was some of the world’s top hotels, golf courses, and homes of the rich and famous. I felt we had chosen a great destination in which to spend the next few weeks!

Over the next few weeks, Trav and I explored the island by public buses called ‘jinties’. Only we preferred to call them the ‘rasta-buses’ as they were always blasting reggae music, driven by dreadlocked drivers and filled to capacity with larger than life local characters and bewildered tourist. You could also travel anywhere you wanted on them for one very low price. We often went into Nassau (just 20 mins away by bus) and to the Mall. On rainy days (there were a few when we first arrived) we went to the cinema.

From ‘our’ beach we could see cruise ships coming in each morning and we could also see Paradise Island, where there were some seriously impressive hotels. One of them, Atlantis, is the famous original hotel and water park. (Its newer twin resides in Dubai). Checking out Atlantis online, we realised that Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett were doing a one-night only ‘intimate’ concert there the very next weekend. Feeling excited, we booked into the hotel for the weekend and secured tickets for the concert. Our Bahamas adventure was looking even better!

The poster for the Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett concert at Atlantis!

We also found out that it was possible to buy day passes into some of the exclusive 5* All-Inclusive hotels on Cable Beach and on Paradise Island. The cost of the passes seemed entirely reasonable to us, when we considered that we could arrive in time for breakfast, have both lunch and dinner, use the beautiful pools and beach etc, and have full-on all-day access to the swim up bars and as much champagne or premium drinks that we could reasonable quaff. (And if you know Trav and I then you’ll know we can quaff rather a lot!) 

We decided, early on one incredibly hot morning, to try out the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort. It was the nearest resort to us, just a five minute ride up the road in a rasta-bus. There we were welcomed, paid our dues, and immediately went in search of breakfast. And oh, how I had missed dining on the best smoked salmon and drinking bucks-fizz for breakfast. (Yeah, right!)

Bucks Fizz for breakfast at Sandals Bahamian Resort

We sunbathed. We swam. We got a little tipsy. At lunchtime, we took the complimentary boat over the Sandal’s private island (all included in the all-inclusive day ticket price) for an exquisite seafood lunch in a restaurant called 'Stewfish' - which was all washed down with a very good bottle of wine. Later in the afternoon, when we returned to the main beach and pool, we managed to make some lovely new friends at the swim up bar.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that Trav and I visited the Sandals Resort several times during our time in The Bahamas and, after being welcomed back by the lovely reception staff after our first visit, we were offered a very nice discount on all our subsequent passes. Yay!

Top Tip: So, my top tip for if you fancy trying out an exclusive 5 Star resort but like us are managing on a 3 Star budget – why not think about renting an affordable place just outside and pay for daily access into the resort? Evening passes are also available in many resorts. In fact, why limit yourself to one resort when you could try several and also get the chance to island hop to some of the amazingly gorgeous outer islands (The Bahamas are a chain of around 700 islands) this is something we didn't do this time but do plan for another time.

I do believe that this economy driven tact, should you also be able to get some good-priced flights, could save you thousands of pounds/dollars - but, to be sure, do your own research before you travel - always check online or phone the resorts to find out what passes are available and when, to familiarise yourself with the rules of access, and at what cost.

Atlantis: We were really excited about the Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett concert. We packed a small bag each and set off by rasta-bus to Nassau town, where we then took a taxi over the big arched bridge to Paradise Island. The hotel was amazing and we wasted no time checking into our gorgeous room and then checking out the famous waterpark.

The park was huge: there were walkways and rope bridges connected swimming pools and man-made beaches, lagoons filled with eagle rays, hammerhead sharks and dolphins. There were water rides and slides that took you through see-though tunnels and a tank infested with sharks. It was all very well designed, but I must admit that I’m still not altogether comfortable with animals that belong in the open seas being kept in such confinement.

If you look into the shark tank you can see people in the flume!

Just one of the pools in the Atlantis water park

Trav and I spent five hours on a twin inflatable lounger on the ‘lazy river’ which was, in parts, not so lazy, as there were many off-shoots from the ‘river’ that took you into wild water, onto watery conveyors that lifted you up and then swept you down into tubes of darkness at scary speeds. It was all such fun!

Time to leave: When it came time to leave the Bahamas, to meet with our flight back to the UK, we had decided that we would forfeit the first booked leg of our journey (Roatan, an island in the Caribbean close to Honduras) to meet up with the second leg of our journey – Houston to Frankfurt – from where we would catch our third flight back to Glasgow. With just a few days to go, we contacted the booking agent we had used to make sure this was going to be okay. It wasn’t.

Apparently, if we had booked with the airline directly it would have been okay, but because we used a booking agent they would not change our itinerary. We were told we would have to make our first flight or the whole trip would be cancelled and we would be classed as a ‘no show’.

This seriously sucked because we already had a flight booked from Bahamas to Houston, where we planned to spend a couple of days, which we now had to abandon. We also now had to get on the internet quickly and book ourselves at short notice onto a flight out of Bahamas to Roatan. We managed it but had to buy Business Class tickets – leaving us suddenly and unexpectedly out of pocket by around $1000.

We also now had a couple of days extra to spend in Nassau, but Stuart’s beach house had been rented out during this time. Trav and I decided, albeit still stinging from the extra expenses, that if we were in for a penny then we may as well be in for a pound – so we checked ourselves into a very nice hotel for two nights. Not quite Sandals Royal Bahamian but not too shabby either!

Our last day in the Bahamas at Melia Nassau Resort

In my next post, we are back in Scotland and I’ll be sharing photos of a friend’s wedding that we attended in St. Andrews at the end of June.

Before the month’s end however- after hiring a car and visiting our lovely and much-missed family all around the UK - Trav and I realised that we still had two whole weeks between the St. Andrews wedding and our next big trip - flying with our other two sons to visit our son, his wife and our wee grandson and his lovely family, over in South Korea at the end of the month (the day after the St Andrews wedding actually).

What were we to do? We had no home anymore, having sold up everything we owned in favour of just two suitcases. We knew we had kind invitations from family or friends to come and stay anytime, but we had just seen and caught up with them all. Suddenly, like fate, we received an email notification from Emirate Airlines that they were having a ‘24 hour flash sale’ selling cut price seats on last-minute flights to far-flung destinations out of Glasgow.

To Trav and I, it seemed that some of our farther afield bucket-list destinations might be reasonably affordable if we booked the flight in the next few hours with Emirates and then organised our accommodation ourselves once we arrived. It didn’t take us long to agree and press a few buttons.

Two weeks island hopping in the Seychelles here we come!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sharing our recent travel adventures...

It’s been a while since I updated this blog and I hope you didn’t think that I’d forgotten how to post on It’s just that I’ve been so busy travelling over the past few months and updates were difficult to manage. Now that we’re settled down again and back on the island of Utila, the smaller of the Bay Islands, situated in the Caribbean Sea just off the coast of Honduras, I’m looking forward to sharing all our recent travel adventures with you.

In my last post, my husband Trav and I were enjoying being here on the island. It was late May – and we were approaching our wedding anniversary at the end of the month. Quite spontaneously, we decided to take a trip to properly celebrate our thirty-two years of marriage - and what a fun trip it turned out to be!

Our going-away party poster!

Even when it is a special occasion, it is important to us that we travel wisely, as although we have now sold almost everything we owned (except for the few things we carry in our suitcases) in order to travel the world, we still don’t have a huge pot of savings and we are very conscious of it needing to last a while. So we looked carefully at our budget and then spent some time online checking out our options.

We decided to fly to Miami, stay there for the weekend, then to rent a car and drive down to the Florida Keys. We hadn’t ever been to this part of Florida before and it felt like an exciting adventure to us.

The logistics of getting from Utila to Florida are quite complicated, so with less than a week to go before our anniversary, we took a small plane to La Ceiba on the Honduran mainland, where we caught a Cayman Air flight to Grand Cayman. There we did a quick change of planes and flew onto Miami, where we had booked a hotel in the ‘American Riviera’ on Miami Beach for two nights. We used to find a moderately priced hotel, as splashing out on a high-end hotel was being reserved for our actual wedding anniversary.

We took a small plane from Utila to La Ceiba, Honduras

We expected Miami to be busy, but somehow, despite our research, we managed to completely miss the fact that it was Memorial Weekend – a major US holiday - and the city was packed with holiday-makers like us looking for sun and fun. Despite the crowds, we had a fantastic weekend of sight-seeing and people-watching as we strolled down Ocean Drive, which was closed to all traffic due to the holiday. All the smartest bars and restaurants had set up gazebos outside to shade the extra tables that now spilled out onto the street and had hired uniformed security to make sure those waiting in line for one of those tables remained orderly behind the roped off queuing area. We decided not to bother waiting and just bought bottled water of a vendor instead.

Memorial weekend on Ocean Drive Miami 

We were excited to visit the beautiful and iconic Art Deco district with its historic and colourful buildings and to walk on the famous South Beach, where the sun was blazing down on the hot sand and all the beautiful people. Our walk on the beach was a short one - a quick photo opportunity due to the intensity of the heat.

South Beach!
Ocean Rescue - and my hero on South Beach!

Sight-seeing and people-watching on Ocean Drive

Iconic Art Deco Buildings on Ocean Drive

Our plan had been to drive out of Miami down to the Keys with the wind in our hair in a rented red Mustang convertible. However, once we saw all the traffic trying to get out of Miami on the Monday morning, we looked at other options and decided to take a bus instead. Not quite so glamorous? Well you’d be wrong! We planned to take a Greyhound Bus, the most iconic symbol of travel throughout the USA!

Go Greyhound!
As a bonus, we saved a heap of money not renting a car, but what we didn’t know was quite how much fun it was going to be meeting lots of lovely people on the bus, with whom we chatted and with whom we shared our stories and snacks along the way. When the bus pulled over to allow for a comfort and lunch break at a road side Burger King, a couple of ladies also shared their clipped-out coupons, meaning everyone on the bus got a burger, fries, an ice cream and a coffee for just $4!

One friendly young guy we met on the bus was a musician from New Orleans, a city that sounded fascinating. He regaled us with amazing stories and jotted down the names of a few places that he recommended we should go if we were ever to get to visit the Big Easy.

It was a lovely trip and we were sad to say goodbye to everyone when the bus stopped at Key Largo, where Trav and I planned to spend the next three nights before travelling on to Key West.

At Key Largo we stayed at the Holiday Inn. It was a nice hotel with an outdoor pool which we appreciated in the tropical heat. Trav had planned to go diving with Horizon Divers during our stay while I had a magazine feature to write. 

One of the best things about being a writer is that you can work anywhere, as long as you find an internet connection now and again so that you can file your features. Trav enjoyed his diving and we got together later in the day to go and do a bit of shopping. I bought a new pair of flip-flops and Trav treated himself to a new set of fins from Divers Direct – a scuba divers superstore paradise!

Trav dived wth Horizon Divers at Key Largo

A diver's paradise!

While in Key Largo we found some great bars and restaurants and had cocktails while listening to some fabulous live music. On the marina, we found the original African Queen – the actual boat (now restored) that had been used in the 1951 film of the same name that famously starred Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.

The original African Queen

We left Key Largo to head for Key West and once again we traveled on the Greyhound Bus. This time we had seats right at the front which gave us paramount views through the large windscreen of the road ahead. This was particularly thrilling as we were excited to be travelling across lots more of the famous Keys bridges, in particular, the Seven Mile Bridge, which had featured in one of our favourite movies ‘True Lies’.

The famous Seven Mile Bridge

Key West was just as I’d imagined it to be, Disneyesque pretty with lots of old historic buildings that were meticulously preserved. These buildings are now being used as a front for modern day bars, restaurants, shops and galleries: even the Walgreens supermarket was housed inside the original façade of a theatre. It was wonderful!

Me and Marilyn at The Tropic Key West

We checked into our ‘anniversary’ hotel (we stayed at The Lighthouse Court – just a short walk from all the action in Duval Street) and then went out to explore. To get our bearings and to make sure we saw all the town had to offer we took the ‘Original Conch Tour’ – an open carriage sight-seeing ‘train’ that takes you choo-chooing and tooting past quaint pastel-painted and picket-fenced houses until you reached the Point – the most southerly point in the United States of America.

On day two in Key West (our wedding anniversary) we again packed in as much sightseeing as possible. We went to the Ship Wreck Museum, the Key West Museum – where there was also a fabulous Hemingway exhibit. We had a fabulous lunch at Pincher's Crab Shack, where we sat on the outside upper balcony above Duval Street.  In the afternoon, we toured the Hemingway House – which was a much anticipated treat for me, as a writer. Later, we enjoyed several Margaritas in the original of Jimmy Buffet’s famous bar, Margaritaville. We finished off our special day by having a romantic meal and a bottle of wine in a very nice seafood restaurant on the boardwalk while the sun was setting over the marina. It was all absolutely perfect.

The original Jimmy Buffett's Margarita!

At the Hemingway House
We loved exploring the Key West Museums

On our last day in Key West I had arranged to have two new tattoos done. I already have two tattoos, one on my shoulder and one on my leg. They were done many years ago and I am still very fond of them. Until recently, I was of the opinion that I might be getting too old to have more tattoos, but happily I have since changed my mind. Age is just a number after all and with all our travelling and the broader outlook I now have as a result it, I’m inclined to do what makes me happy. So I had a ‘yoga’ style tattoo put on the inside of each of my wrists – a lotus flower and an ‘Om’ symbol in the shape of a heart; which reflect my newly found love of yoga and meditation. Whenever I look at them, I will also be reminded of our wonderful time in Key West.

I had a ‘yoga’ style tattoo put on the inside of each wrist

I wrote a travel feature on the Florida Keys for LLm Lifestyle Magazine. It is published here if you’d like to click the link and read it.

On our last night in Key West, we knew that we had to check out of our hotel by 11am the next morning - but we didn’t know where we were going to go to next.

We hadn’t planned any further but we had almost a month ahead of us before we met our flight out of Houston, heading back to Edinburgh Scotland. So what would be do with ourselves for all that time? To have such freedom was a little daunting; should we head back to the Caribbean and Utila or travel on to somewhere new?

Over a few drinks that evening, we discussed lots of travel ideas. We had loved travelling by Greyhound bus but knew that we would be covering old ground by going back to Miami. We made use of the wi-fi in our room and perused the internet again and considered other options. Why not fly out of Key West airport directly and go somewhere else? What about the Gulf Coast of Florida – Naples, St. Petes, Clearwater Beach? Orlando? Or the Space Coast and up to Daytona? Or what about taking a three day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale? Tempted by some very cheap cruise deals we investigated a few – but  saw that they were all sailing to Key West!

In the end, we agreed that we should travel on to somewhere new: we’d been to Orlando and most of the Gulf Coast resorts years ago with the kids: ditto the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, where we’d been lucky enough to see several Space Shuttles launch before they were retired. We had to think of somewhere special: somewhere exciting: and as we were going to be dipping into our hard earned savings – it had to be a bucket list destination.

So we agreed on a fabulous new location and hardly slept that night. We were so excited about our new trip and also worried that we would sleep through both our alarms and not be ready for when the taxi arrived at 5am to take us to the airport.  We were going to fly with United Airlines via Fort Lauderdale to New Orleans!

We planned to stay for four nights in The Big Easy – a bucket list destination for sure – and we still had the list of recommended places to see that the nice guy on the Greyhound Bus had given to us. However, our excitement was a little dampened due to an engineering problem with our plane at Key West airport and by the subsequent three hour delay. Eventually, we were told that the flight was grounded and we were being flown to Miami instead and from there we would fly on to our destination.

This all worked out okay, until we discovered upon arrival that Trav’s luggage with all his diving gear in it, was missing. We filled in the forms with United Airlines to report the missing bag and we were assured that it would be found and delivered to our hotel as soon as possible. I’m sure you understand that it is stressful enough for anyone to lose a bag to an airline but especially one that has ALL your worldly belongings in it! Luckily, thanks to the hyper-levels of security at American airports, the bag was quickly located. Strangely, it was found in New York(!?) but as good as their word, Trav and his bag were reunited the very next day.

We were flying with United Airlines to New Orleans!

New Orleans is known as the home of Jazz, Mardi Gras, and Cajun cuisine. It is also a city with many names – The Crescent City, The Big Easy, NOLA, and my favourite of them all: 'N’Awlins'

We stayed in New Orleans for four nights in a gorgeous room in the Chateaux Hotel in Chartres Street, the oldest neighbourhood the French Quarter, and the center of all the action as far as we were concerned. We were just one street away from the infamous Bourbon Street, and as Trav (as all his friends know) is a bourbon drinker, what better reason to drop (my) luggage and immediately make our way to the #1 main tourist attraction… or so we thought.

It turns out that Rue Bourbon was named after the French royal family ‘The House of Bourbon’ in the 1700’s rather than after my husband’s favourite tipple and is nowadays is more famous for its tawdry strip clubs than for its music scene. We strolled the length of it, holding our nose most of the time against the stench of urine and vomit while averting our eyes from the scantily-clad ladies. We stopped off for a meal and a couple of drinks at a bar and while there we did witness a passing ‘jazz funeral’ but soon decided that the action, as far as we were concerned, was elsewhere.

Luckily, we discovered the delightfully picturesque Jackson Square, just a block way in the other direction, with its street jazz bands, its ragtag collection of colourful entertainers and tarot readers. At the Square’s crown are three 18th-century architectural glories: the Cabildo, a former city hall where the Louisiana Purchase was signed; St. Louis Cathedral; and the Presbytère. The onetime courthouse is now the flagship of the Louisiana State Museum and it was here that I came face to face with the original portrait of Marie Laveau – the so called Witch Queen of New Orleans – a painting that had been an important plot feature in my book ‘Voodoo Child’ – a book that I set in New Orleans and wrote a few years ago, sourcing information from the internet. It was rather surreal to re-live the footsteps of my fictional heroine and stand in front of the masterpiece myself!

 I came face to face with the original portrait of Marie Laveau – the so called Witch Queen of New Orleans

That same evening we found Frenchman’s Street, in the Faubourg Marigny, a historic neighbourhood a short walk from our hotel in the Quarter, and where the city’s music scene has now shifted. We had drinks in a bar listening to a traditional washboard blues band and then went on to the famous Snug Harbour jazz club and bistro, paying a small cover charge to see a fabulous and unforgettable jazz, blues, gospel and soul band.

We had been told by friends that our New Orleans experience would not be complete without attending a ‘Crawfish Boil’ so we took a taxi downtown to the Maple Leaf Bar. We were a little nervous, wondering if we’d found the right bar, as we couldn’t hear any music. It turned out that we were a little early, so we paid a small cover charge and bought a drink at the bar, while suspiciously eyeing the long narrow table along the middle of the long narrow room. Soon lots of people started to arrive, buying drinks and congregating along the table. Then the musicians arrived and climbed up on stage to do a tune up. In no time at all the place was packed and there was a commotion starting at the top of the table where a huge tin bath full of food – the Crawfish Boil – was being thrown onto the table. Several bathtubs later, the table was filled with crawfish, potatoes, corn cobs, and sausages and a feeding frenzy ensued. It was crazy – it was fun - and it was delicious. Especially after a kind fellow diner demonstrated the correct and quickest way to eat the crawfish, (which resembles a very small lobster). First you pull off the head and discard it (throw it back on the table!) suck on the headless body to extract the delicious juice/stock, then quickly peel the shell and pop the crawfish meat straight into your mouth. It is a messy business!

Crawfish boil - it was crazy – it was fun - and it was delicious! 

Classic Louisiana Bayou Crawfish Boil Recipe: Once the seasoned water comes to a boil in a large tin bath, add the potatoes, corn, garlic, and sausage. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the crawfish, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve to the hungry masses by tipping the meal onto a scrubbed clean wooden table. No cutlery necessary.

The next morning we took another walk through the streets of the Quarter, tipping back our heads to admire 19th Century mansions and floral balcony apartments. We strolled along the banks of the Mississippi River, admiring the river boats before stopping off for beignets (pronounced ‘Ben Yeah’) and coffee. Beignets are a New Orleans signature sweet pastry made from deep fried dough sprinkled with sugar. Later we stopped off for lunch at The French Market and ate baked oysters; after which we explored the famously haunted side of the city, where the notable above-the-ground graves in ancient cemeteries were decorated with flowers and candles and voodoo coins (in exchange for favours) particularly at the grave of Marie Laveau. Back on Frenchmen’s Street, feeling bewitched, we found spooky looking voodoo shops and felt compelled to buy spells and tarot cards.

Walking through the streets of the Quarter, tipping back our heads to admire 19th Century mansions and floral balconies 
We strolled along the banks of the Mississippi River, admiring the river boats
We stopped off for lunch at The French Market and ate baked oysters
Feeling bewitched, we felt compelled to buy spells and tarot cards!

On our last night in New Orleans, Trav and I were faced with a now familiar problem: we still had over three weeks before we met our flight out of Houston to the UK: so what should we do next? Go back to Utila and have a few more weeks on ‘our’ Caribbean island or should we find somewhere new to experience? If we chose the latter, then we knew it had to be on a budget. No more staying in hotels, moderately priced or otherwise.

Again, over a few drinks that evening, we put our heads together to discuss our travel ideas. We had loved travelling by Greyhound bus. Trav suggested we might take a Greyhound north out of New Orleans to Memphis and then go on to Nashville. That would be different and exciting. Taking the bus wasn’t as expensive as flying, but within the USA, flying was a lot less expensive than we expected. However, with an eye on the money, our choices felt limited and I must admit to feeling rather exhausted. You can only be excited and exhilarated for so many days without feeling some kind of burn out. I thought that the ideal would be to find a small cottage or apartment to rent, somewhere warm and nice, near to a beach and a dive center, for just over three weeks, where we could relax and cook for ourselves and just laze around in a hammock if we felt the need, before flying straight to Houston to meet with our flight back to the UK.

Although our flight back to the UK didn’t actually start off in Houston – it started in Roatan, the larger of the Bay Islands, Honduras, we didn’t think the airline would be bothered to much if we simply skipped the first leg of the journey - as our main flight was Houston: Frankfurt: Edinburgh.

It was then, in that moment, that I suddenly remembered a conversation I’d had a while back with a lovely young lady backpacker on the dock at Eco-Marine dive center on Utila. She had said how she was full of admiration for Trav and I, travelling the world (at our age!) and told me how her parents were currently travelling the Pacific Highway together using ‘Airbnb’.

I’d never heard of Airbnb and she explained to me that it is an international website where anyone could advertise/find a place to rent/stay. It could be as simple as a room in someone’s home or as lavish as a whole apartment in San Francisco. Armed with this information, I Googled ‘Airbnb’ and immediately found the description given to be true. It seemed that all over the world people were advertising places to rent: city apartments, country cottages, house-boats, beach cottages… erm, yes, beach cottages.

We finished off our amazing stay in New Orleans by eating at Irene’s Place at 539 St. Philips Street: an Italian/French restaurant just a short walk from our hotel. Outside, Irene’s looks unpretentious, but don’t be fooled because inside the atmosphere is decadent, the food is delicious and the wine list fabulous. Highly recommended!

inside the atmosphere is decadent, the food is delicious and the wine list fabulous.

So where were we headed next? Well, I had found a lovely looking beach cottage for a reasonable rent on Saunders Beach, Bahamas, courtesy of Airbnb. It was available for the three weeks and it was being advertised by a guy called Stuart, a retired university professor, who had annexed off a porch area and the side of his traditional style clapper-board Bahamian home as a rental. There were photographs that looked very appealing and there were dozens of reference reviews by others who had stayed there – all saying wonderful things about the cottage, the location, and about Stuart himself. I sent an email to Stuart, apologising for the short notice and asking him if we could come and stay the very next day. He agreed and the deal was done!

The Bahamas here we come!

And in my next post, which I promise to post in the next few days - I'll tell you all about our fabulous three week plus adventures in Nassau, Bahamas: including the Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett concert that we managed to see at Atlantis on Paradise Island! So please pop back soon!

Love, Janice xx