Tag Archives: solo trip

Amtrak Lakeshore Express

image

There is a Cafe Car on this Lakeshore Express Amtrak train that offers beverages, chips, hot dog or hamburger. Or, down one more car is the Dining car, which offers different menus for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Since reservations had been made & the dining car was pretty fully booked, I was seated across from a young man from Rochester who is on his way to Boston to a conference.  Adam enjoyed a sirloin burger, while I tried out the daily special of BBQ pork shanks & mashed potatoes. Both dishes came with opening appetizers of marinated vegetables and sliced fruit.

Two women were seated across the aisle from me, and asked if I would use their phone to take their picture. This is their first train trip. Another older couple got seated at their table across from them. They are from California and travelled overnight through Colorado, then a 2nd overnight from Chicago heading east. After seeing NYC, including the new Ground Zero museum they will take another train down to DC.  They’ll fly back to the West Coast from there. My seat mate back in the coach car is a student at Geneva heading home to Boston for the weekend. He plans to drive his car back. Such an intriguing cross-section of folks from around the States.

As an extrovert, it’s easy for me to talk to strangers and find out a little of their story. But the train is perfect for introverts – there’s no need to talk at all. I spent most of the time looking out the window at passing scenery, checking where the train was on an Amtrak app that showed progress along the route, and checking email and social media on my smartphone. The passenger seats on the train are about 4 inches wider than on a plane, recline more, and it’s easy to walk around… like down to the Café Car for snacks.

Advertisements

Exploring My Environs dans Pointe du Bout

image

I slept well in my double bed – a full 7 hours before I woke up to use the restroom. I was a little chilled when I’d roll over, covered with just a sheet, and remember thinking I should figure out how to turn down the air conditioning, but was too tired. In the morning I found the control for the AC, which had been set to 25 C., and the next night, alternated between 26 (which tended to feel a little too warm and humid) and 25 (which tended to feel good originally but when I rested, my body would feel a little chilled).

image

The bathroom in the 1 bedroom had a seamless shower – no door or lip, just what appeared to be a river of rocks in the midst of the tile floor toward the shower area. There was both an overhead rain shower and a hand held. To my delight, the hot water was hot – I love hot showers, unless it’s like 90F. Roosters were crowing in the morning to wake me up, but it was only about 7 AM, so I decided I’d go back to sleep for a while.

image

When I finally got up and dressed mid-morning, I went back out to explore the neighborhood. Down the street past the Creole Village area it turned out I was at the harbor. There was a multitude of booths advertising excursions by water – sailing around Diamant, dolphin & whale watching, diving. You could also take a ferry over to Fort du France, and return on ferry – the last run of the day being at dusk. On this short 3 full day trip, I decided I’d just stay around Pointe du Bout, and one day drive the rental car south. I’ll have to come back again to try some of the other adventures, but this trip is to get rested, not exhausted. Having walked around a couple blocks and checked out available restaurants, I decided I’d try the Havana Cafe, which was the crepe place. Only it turns out crepes are not a breakfast food, that they didn’t serve food till 12 noon. I satisfied myself with a mango smoothie – which was not based on yogurt but more like a frozen fruit puree. Again I had the experience of waiting to be given a menu, waiting to have my order taken, waiting to have my glass removed, waiting for the bill – which, when it finally arrived was in a small bowl with a mint candy. One of my daughters has been working as wait staff in New York City restaurants, and the tempo there is quick, quick, quick. Ici in Martinique, time apparently moves more slowly. Since I had no specific plans for the day, I realized I wasn’t in a hurry anyway, so why not enjoy the outdoor restaurant, the people going by, and the other restaurant customers.

I walked back to my studio apartment, changed from my white slacks and top to very lightweight loose pants, short top with gossamer overshirt to protect my arms from the sun. I have a wonderful straw hat I got several years ago that travels with me and protects my face from the sun. I proceeded to walk down the street the other direction, towards the beach. A cut off to the Anse Mitan beach was just past and across from a casino, so I walked down.

The sand was littered with couples and families lying on beach towels, absorbing the bright rays. Children frolicked in the waves, sputtering when knocked over. Others built sand castles, or more accurately sand piles, trying to contain incoming waves. Some children and adults snorkeled through the turquoise water near shore, their backsides and air tubes the only visible parts. Some adults walked down the beach, bodies young and toned, or more often blubbery and sagging. The adult tourists I saw were predominately French and of retirement age.

I soon came to a couple of beachside restaurants, and decided that one which had tables and chairs covered by shade but right in front of the beach, was perfect. Since I hadn’t yet eaten and it was 11:30 AM, I wanted to sit and look out at the water, listen to the waves rolling in, and be amused by the families and couples who were playing in the water or lying on towels catching rays. The Barracuda — gave me the same lack of attention I’d experienced at the 2 other restaurants. Waiting nearly 30 minutes to be given a menu, 20 minutes to have my drink & food order taken, etc.
image

I ordered their buccaneer chicken with rice and decided to try a Mojito, which I’d heard about. After waiting another 15 minutes I got my drink, then the food right after. I must have been crazy to have ordered a Mojito – I’m not a mixed drink person, tend to like sweet or semi-sweet wine with dinner. The Mojito was very strong and had weird leaves floating in it, which looked like drowned spinach but was really soggy mint. The smoked buccaneer chicken was a little dry & over-cooked I thought. I had also ordered a water, which came in a giant bottle – which would have been a bargain in New York City! Although I was disappointed at the food and disgusted with my alcoholic drink, I stayed and enjoyed the beach from my chair in the shade. That’s what made it worth the money.

 

French Caribbean Winter Escape

image

I wasn’t supposed to be going on this trip by myself. It had been 8 years since my younger daughter & I had traveled to Scotland together. At the end of April, when she has a week off work, we planned to fly to Martinique. In January we bought tickets, paid for lodging, and were excited about our spring visit. She speaks fluent French; I love French breads, cheeses, desserts! But then WHO & the CDC put out travel warnings due to the mosquito carried Zika virus. My daughter is not expecting a baby, but in her 30s, she didn’t want to delay 2 years. So plans changed.
image

Except that, where I could get most of my money back through AirBnB for our rental, I was going to lose money on Norwegian Airlines if I cancelled outright. And since my daughter is not currently pregnant, their policy wouldn’t refund our tickets. But I could re-book… for a fee, of course. And the JFK run to Martinique stops after April.

So, here I am, another Senior Solo trip about to happen. A week ago Upstate New York was the coldest place in the lower 48 (20 below zero according to the weather app on my phone). Although we’re above zero now, I’m anticipating flying to a place that’s in the low 80s F.

Sailing the Caribbean off St. Martin

"          "wpid-20150213_100128.jpg

Friday I booked a day trip with Random Wind to sail out of Simpson Bay. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We sailed east towards Phillipsburg along the southern coast, stopped to allow snorkeling and eat lunch, then sailed back towards Mullet Bay and moored to allow folks to take advantage of a trapeze swing out into the ocean and have snacks, then finally returned to moor back at Simpson Bay. Diane and Trevor picked up passengers from the boat dock behind Skip Jack’s, and after climbing aboard the sailboat from the dinghy, enjoyed an all day sailing adventure.

wpid-20150213_144746.jpgwpid-20150213_144730.jpg

The Random Wind is a ketch that was originally built in South Africa, but has been in St. Martin for about 20 years. Diane & her husband bought the business in 2007; she still runs it even though she and her husband have separated. The captain is Trevor, originally from Great Britain, but sailed all over. They do a great tag team in sailing the ship and catering to their guests. Diane made a delicious, healthy lunch, lots of snacks, open bar/any beverage you could desire throughout the day. Trevor captained the ship, and supervised the trapeze swing… the pre-teen and teen girls were a hoot, swinging out over the ocean, dropping in, swimming back to the ladder, climbing back aboard and waiting for their turn to drop in the drink again!

wpid-20150213_134222.jpg

I wasn’t interested in aquatic gymnastics… I just enjoyed the sail. Although one person in our group of 14 ended up experiencing some seasickness, I thoroughly enjoy the rolling of a sailing ship. There’s something so calming about looking out at the ocean or back to land, and being lulled by the motion of an ocean vessel. The turquoise water close to shore that the Caribbean is famous for is so stunning, and St. Martin sports mountain peaks that rise fairly precipitously up from sea level. For those who like to marvel at big ships, we also saw cruise ships and huge yachts… But I always find the natural landscape provides the most fascinating views.

wpid-20150213_105518.jpg

When I go back to St. Martin (already planning on it!), I’ll want to sail on the Random Wind again. My only regret for the whole day was not putting enough sunscreen on top of my feet… I got a little sunburn!

A Classic Sail on the Passaat (1911 Schooner)

wpid-20150212_172630.jpg

On Thursday I booked a dinner cruise on the Passaat, a 1911 long sailing ship that offers both day tours and weekday dinner cruises. The dock behind Skipjack’s restaurant is the loading area, with folks ferried by dinghy under the Simpson Bay bridge out to where the ship is moored. Pieter and Mirian crew the ship and provide the drinks and meal, which are part of the dinner cruise package.
image
Continue reading A Classic Sail on the Passaat (1911 Schooner)

Exploring Saint Martin by Car

wpid-20150213_154928.jpg

The island of Saint Martin is actually 2 countries – Dutch (southern) and French (northern). There are no guards or border crossings between the two – only a monument to peace and the flags of the 2 countries. Both flags are red, white and blue – the Dutch side flag has horizontal stripes with red on top, the French side has vertical stripes with red on the right. The only way to know you’ve changed countries is by the main spoken language – French or Flemish, and that the exchange rate for US dollars is better on the Dutch side. Dutch Sint Maarten trades $1 USD for 1 euro, but on the French side, the euro is worth more.

wpid-20150213_154857.jpg

On Wednesday I had booked to go on a day sailing trip, but the wind was from the south instead of the east and waters were rough, so my trip was postponed till Friday. For my first full day on the island, I decided to explore. I took my rental car on a big loop – Orient Beach south to the Quarter Orleans, to just north of Phillipsburg, to Simpson Beach and around the airport, west to Cote D’Azur and up to Nettle Bay, east to Marigot,  north to Grand Case and east back to Orient Beach. The island roads are narrow and often have cars parked on the side… I was glad to be driving the standard island rental car – a small white Hyundai.

St. Martin has steep mountains rising up from the sea and the roads go up and down and curve around. I would have liked to be driving a Porsche… except the roads are not in very good shape, with potholes and rough patches. The views are scenic… but no good places to pull off and take photos. Also, February is high season and traffic is heavy. Locals get around by mini-bus (like a narrow tall mini-van), with a label on front of where it’s heading to. Retired seniors wintering on the island say rental cars are too expensive all the time and often use local transportation, except when they make a grocery run. But unless one flies in and wants to stay stuck in some large tourist resort, a rental car is a must.

Why Not Go the Caribbean All By Myself?

caribbean-map-gm

Most people travel as a couple. Or with friends. Or with relatives. Or tour groups. But why not go by myself? Just because I’m a woman in my 60s, what’s stopping me?
In the States I travel by myself a lot. Just take off in the car and go. Wow, I’ve got 24 free hours and I can go see the fall colors in the Adirondacks! Or, I need to unwind along the St. Lawrence in the Thousand Islands.
Internationally I’ve planned trips to Scotland with one daughter back in 2008 and to Grand Bahamas with another daughter in 2013. Why not plan something just for me?
When you live in a place that has cold, snowy winters, a warm beach in winter sounds incredibly inviting. I’ve wanted to go to Sint Martin/St. Maarten … something about the dual nationality, middle of the Caribbean, online and in person reports that it is a “must see” island.
My first choice was to travel with a friend… but that wasn’t working out. None of us are quite retired yet. And it’s hard to juggle vacation time from jobs so that time off can happen at the same time.
An advantage of traveling with someone else is that costs are often cut in half – hotel rooms for two, or cruise cabins for two, or sharing a rental car, etc. But surely there had to be a way to travel economically as a single person. I just had to find it.
Thanks to Trip Advisor and Google, I planned to fly from JFK to SXM in February for a week of exploring Sint/St. Martin/Marten.