Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Progressing from Progresso, scooting on to Cozumel

I must be honest, Progresso in Mexico isn't much to write home about. This is it.

One strip of beach with not-too-clear water, and a few streets like this. The main convenience store is called Oxxo, where we bought this interestingly named treat (which was supposed to be tamarind flavour, but was definitely not to my taste although I like fresh tamarind) and here's a street.

Why are all these people waiting here?

The best thing we found in Progresso was a particular restaurant called El Viero e el Mare or something like that, translating as The Old Man and the Sea.

Together with Vampiros (a bloody Mary, but made with tequila naturally) we made friends on two separate occasions with this small cat. The owners of the restaurant told us she just showed up, about two months ago and just stayed, the same day as the restaurant next door had acquired a new inhabitant also. This cat is called Pantera, and they'd named the one next door Tigro.

She was gorgeous, I fell in love. She chilled with us, wanting to be stroked and thrown the occasional chunk of fish from our fish platter for a good hour.

She was fiesty too, as you can see, but mostly she just wanted love and attention.

So, moving on to Cozumel and Eric's Birthday, we rented this "sweet ride" for $30, and went to explore.

It was at least 15 years old, backfired when we slowed down and stopped of it's own accord at traffic lights.

Once you get outside of downtown, Cozumel becomes rugged and beautiful, with unspoilt beaches and only occasional bars or basic hotels.

The roads are falling into disrepair, scooters, beware of pot-holes!

We stopped for lunch at this restaurant, which I'm pretty sure had no electricity.

A big plate of barbeque fish later, we went to the beach, swam (here's the Birthday boy!)

and slept on the sand for nearly two hours. We'd gone all the way down the West Coast of the island (with it's excellent snorkelling opportunities!) to the southernmost tip, and so all that remained was for us to carry on in a loop along the East coast, past scenery like this, and then across the island on the one main road there is, to get back.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Blonde ambitions of my Birthday-boy Boyfriend!

Reader, this post must begin with an admission. Although born a natural blonde, I must admit to "helping the colour along" with a bottle of dolled-up bleach. Here it is.

Now, I do not know exactly why, maybe it was his impending 29th Birthday, but when I embarked upon the latest root-retouch of my hair, Eric became quite involved in the proceedings, helping me with the back bits and generally asking questions.

No sooner had I turned my back than Eric, colour-brush in hand had turned the remnants of the bottle towards his own head.

When I realised he was quite intent on colouring his hair, I tried to help out and was carefully told "I just want an even sheen of colour". These are unusual words from my boyfriend. The same thing applies for his next phrase: "Do you have a hand-mirror?"

Here we are, then. Yes, that is bemused confusion on my face.

After 20 minutes I washed my hair as usual, checked the colour and had to leave for a cut appointment in the spa, and so left Eric with clear instructions on the next step in his colour treatment.

When I returned, Eric informed me he'd already applied extra bleach to some "uneven spots" and unveiled his new look proudly. I'm the girlfriend of a Nordic Blonde, reader!

Eat your heart out, Johnnie Rotten!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Scooter? How very French West-Indian of you

St. Barth's is, I've decided, best seen via scooter, and with a French-speaking companion (boyfriend:check!).
We rented our scooter from this man, whose store was right along the main drag, for 35 euros, not bad considering it's more powerful than the standard model (good for more than one body when going uphill, and St. Barth's has a few....um, hills, not bodies!)

From Gustavia, where the tender boat left us, we headed east, past St. Jean/Nikki beach with it's airstrip on the North coast and along the whole of the rugged east coast with it's various beaches.

This was taken at Petit Cul de Sac if I remember correctly.

And this one. My helmet was way too big for me: anyone can tell I'm nowhere near a 7 and-a-quarter!

The first beach we stopped at was the Grand Saline, on the south coast.

It looks like a river when you first drive in. The beach is approximately a ten minute walk,

but look, it's worth it.

We swam in the clear, turquiose water, lay on the beach a while, and then walked back to have lunch at a place called Le Grain de Sel (grain of salt, reader!).

This was my view.

And this.

One appetiser and one main dish plus a beer and a rum-punch came to $99 without tip. St. Barth's isn't cheap, but it is movie-set beautiful.

Heavier on our scooter but lighter in pocket, we headed to another beach, known to be one of the loveliest, called Gouverneur. There was a steep decline to get down to this beach, but as you can see it was easy on the eye, if not so easy for Eric doing the driving.

Again, beautiful.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

How to be a good girlfriend

Give your boyfriend a facial! Seriously! I reckon tons of men actually crave a facial but are too scared to go to a salon. All I can say is, when I suggested it, my man went for it in a big way.

See, you can make all the stuff yourself. You can get really good recipes for natural face-masks using only basic foods like oatmeal, honey, brown sugar, etc. (don't eat them, put them on his face!) from the internet. Check out http://www.essentialoils.co.za/ or http://www.skin-care-recipes-and-remedies.com/

From left to right, in this picture, I made:

-a yoghurt/honey cleanser; 40z yoghurt, 1 tablespoon honey (mix, apply and remove with a warm face cloth)

-a toner that's just a green tea bag, steeped in half a cup of boiling water for 3 mins, then chilled (apply all over face with a cotton wool ball)

-a scrub with 2 tablespoons each of quick oats and brown sugar plus 1 tsp lemon juice and 2 tablespoons aloe vera juice (but I used aloe vera aftersun gel and it worked great!)

-a facemask you leave on for 20 mins with half a peeled, mashed up cucumber and 1 tablespoon natural yoghurt

-a second facemask using 1 apple, peeled and finely diced (I didn't do too good of a job dicing, but they don't let the crew have sharp knives onboard for obvious reasons!) 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of yoghurt. You leave this one for 20mins too.

The only thing I didn't make myself was a moisturiser, and that's because for me, there really is no other moisturiser than Este Lauder's Skin Refinisher. Eric loved it.

You get your man to shower, then wrap him up in warm towels before getting him to lie face-up for his facial. Make sure you have a big bowl of warm water and a bunch of face cloths to remove the various potions. My big tip would be to give him a foot massage while the face mask is on.

The only downside? If you want him to be energetic, take you out on a date and/or be coherent forget it. This is what you get after you give your man a facial. Ah...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Parents on for the Panama Canal, a disappearing Curacao bridge, Nessie and other stories

I haven't posted in a few weeks, dear reader. I apologise. My parents were onboard, and I've been a busy lady. I'll try to summarise their cruise in one post, which began in Miami, ended in Costa Rica and was deemed a Very Good Thing by all involved.

South Beach, Miami is much prettier than I'd imagined.
Images of stucco, fake, puce-painted art-deco buildings with Ripley's "Believe it or Not" museums housed inside were thankfully all in my head. The reality is so pretty. The architecture is authentic, and the beach is long with sand like icing sugar.

I like to walk behind Eric and my Dad while they talk.

It's true what the say, everyone seems to have one of those little 'teacup' dogs. They look like rats on ropes. The smaller and more specific the breed (Puggle: Pug and Poodle mix is just one I overheard) the better, and they are all carried around by their owners in these little bags/purses because they're just too small to walk by themselves on the street without being trampled or swallowed up in one gulp by a larger dog.

My dad bought me a dress that made me feel like a movie star, embellished with Swarovski crystals and complete with movie star pricetag.

In St. Barth's, we all went snorkelling on a guest tour, then I went with my folks to Nikki Beach, also called St. Jean's Beach. Check out Mum and Dad with their "noodles" (the word "Noodle" is particularly funny when spoken with a French accent, as it was in St. Barth's).

I acted as the guest escort and hence got to go snorkelling for free! I have to say -and I feel sorry for Eric, because he never got to go on the second trip- that the snorkelling in Curacao is far better. They took us to a tug boat wreck that sank 47 years ago. The fish seemed to love it, and we saw squid, octopus, huge parrot fish, angel fish in cute pairs and tons of things I'm not qualified to identify. Plus, I bought a throw-away underwater camera (my folks have it, undevelopped, that's why no fishy pictures are to be found here) which made time pass so quickly I couldn't believe it when our 2 hours was up and we had to get back.

Also in Curacao, Eric found his "ideal Birthday present." It's a speaker, worth around $600, even at Duty Free rates. Um, let me think....you can't have it!

In Curacao, there's a floating bridge over to the main shopping area, you can see it on the right of this picture.
The disconcerting thing is that when ships want to pass through, the bridge swings away from the far side of the pier to lie flat with one side of the dock, as if it were never there. Last time we were here (and I admit, after a few rum cocktails) I had an argument with the ferry driver about there being a bridge "Right here! And no I won't get on your ferry until you show me where the bridge is!"
Here are my folks at one of the Panama Canal gates, seen from Deck 8.
My Dad, a resort developer, quantity surveyor and property engineer with his own building company was enthralled by this piece of engineering, the hugest single concrete structure (so they say.) A huge amount of life was lost in the construction of the canal. It is always impressive, you're so close to the rainforest at times you can see monkeys and exotic birds, and I've been through it now at least a dozen times.
Also during this cruise, Eric finally got his new electric NS bass.
It's long, but thin and extremely transportable compared to his current upright bass, Big Brown Beatrice.
This new bass you have to put on to a pin, er, base, she is called Nessie, and I think Eric is very happy with her. He spends enough time with her, anyway...
After 10 days, my folks left for San Jose in Costa Rica on our final day of the cruise. Eric and I said goodbye the night before due to their early transfer by coach to their hotel, and were left in Caldera.

I must give you a tip on the port in Caldera, there's really not much within walking distance of the actual port, except an amazing, picturesque and well kept secret of a seafood restaurant called Costa del Sol.

I'm prepared to share details with you on how to get there, but don't tell everyone. You come out of the port, and go down the road. At the fork, you veer left, seeing this abandoned freight train perhaps.
Do not head towards Liberia.

Carry on walking, until you see this old steam train front carriage (I'm photographing it from the wrong side, but you get the picture). Here, turn right. Keep going, it'll look something like this.

Then turn left, this is what you'll see. Keep walking until you see the place on your right.

This is the place.

This is the view.

This is the food.

This is us.
It's worth it, I promise you. And on the way back, walk along these old train tracks, a very quaint old system with tunnels under the bridges still erected.
There'll probably be some young people playing in the water too to your right, trying to catch the fish that jump from the river.