Saint Kitts and Nevis

“The Mother Colony of the West Indies”

A new day, and with it, a new port of call after Saint Vincent two days before. This is the turn for another country, Saint Kitts and Nevis, docking at its capital city Basseterre. This is now making the already serious number of country 95 visited so far up to date. Yet again, the count can easily go up here in the Caribbean especially if on a cruise. The only real way for enjoying the islands to be honest at a decent overall cost than if going on your own planning yourself the trip. Inter islands flights are quite expensive not to mention the hotels. Yes I agree is nice to stay longer at some of these pieces of paradise, but for now, getting an idea of the region seeing the most we can is the best option.

Basseterre, meaning low land as it’s located in the lowest height in a rather flat area of the island was founded in 1627 by the French. Then made the capital of the island of Saint Kitts in 1727 following the French expulsion full British control, and remained ever since the capital of the country counting the second island of Nevis as part of its territory after its political independence on 19th of September 1983.

Although small, it has lots to offer, especially that is completely surrounded by lush green hills and mountains, hence beautiful scenery and nature. It’s also home to spectacular Georgian manor houses once home to wealthy sugar plantation owners. It was the main economy back in the colonial days, production of sugar, like in all of the other former colonial islands. The remains of factories are scattered in both St Kitts and Nevis islands, while manors and houses have been turned into museums and luxurious hotels.

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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

“The Breadfruit Isle”

Next port of call in this cruise after Barbados, docking at Kingstown, the capital city of small Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, country formed of the main Saint Vincent island and 32 other smaller ones. Now if Bridgetown was small, here Kingstown is a much smaller fraction in size, with little to almost nothing really worthy from a touristy point of view, yet like almost every island in the Caribbean, lots of beautiful nature, although not many beaches as it is in the other islands.

Founded by the French in 1722, it turned hands from the French to the British, back to French and lastly to the British again before gaining independence on 27th of October 1969, however still remaining in the Commonwealth, a constitutional monarchy and representative democracy where Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State. The mix between the French and British colonial past is seen everywhere and not just in the capital city, but across the islands with its architecture and heritage. Tiny yet very cute, the island of Saint Vincent is in fact full of extreme natural beauty and lush vegetation, all due to La Soufriere Volcano located in the northern side.

However, the few hours in between since the early morning arrival until the evening departure of the cruise was well more than enough, as there’s not much more you can do here. And if you would think about going to some nice paradise beaches, then it would be better to wait for another port of call in your cruise since Saint Vincent is not really the place you would consider the perfect paradise in the Caribbean. It’s quite rough because of the nature, although in the Grenadines archipelago you will for sure find such paradise and the turquoise waters as is in Mustique, Canouan or Carriacou islands.

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Barbados

“The Bearded Ones”

One last trip of the year, and beginning of the next to discover some Caribbean islands on a winter cruise, escaping the cold weather back in Europe. A cruise is actually the only feasible way to visit these islands, many of which are tiny independent country-islands and therefore, rising the total count of countries visited so far to date to 99 by the end of the cruise; over half of the world’s total which stands as of December 2018 at 195. So starting with one of the largest, Barbados, and its beautiful World Heritage Site listed by the UNESCO, its colonial capital, Bridgetown, one of the major international ports in the Caribbean for cruises.

Founded by the British on 5th of July 1628 as a traditional English medieval market layout town, was raised to city status from 1842 after the Saint Michael’s Parish Church was elevated to the status of Cathedral. Then considering all other islands and their respective capital cities, Bridgetown remains as one of the largest and one of the most historic and therefore, touristy due in part for the large amount of colonial structures so well preserved and of course, the beaches and great resorts around the rest of the island.

Now, considering the fact of how small it is and how straightforward it is to visit, there won’t be too much more to add rather than the obvious section of what to see and do. Still, Barbados has more to offer than just Bridgetown or what many see it as their port of arrival. The island was visited by Spanish navigators in 1511 who claimed if for the Crown, however not much they did until the arrival of the English, developing it into an important sugar cane production, and leaving quite a large legacy of structures all over the island.

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Baku, (Azerbaijan)

“The City of Winds”, “The largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region”

Quite of an unexpected last minute trip using the last remaining holidays left for this year’s allowance, it does also mean this is the very last country in Europe as a continent I have not been. With it, I’ve completed all 51 countries that are as per-se, considered Europe, one way or another, although it is a trans-continental country with soil in Europe and Asia. So completing the Caucasus region coupled with Georgia and Armenia that we’ve visited just few months ago, it is coming closer the time to get farther to the big empty space in my travel map that is Central Asia now that East and South East Asia is almost fully completed as well.

Baku, the capital of the country, and actually the only metropolis in Azerbaijan, contains almost every sight worth visiting in the country, together with the nearby natural attractions of the mud volcanoes and fire mountain, and the prehistoric hieroglyphs of Qobustan. Easy to visit it all in merely 3 days without any rush, so imagine that we calculated 4 full days for this trip, that was well an over-estimation, however we knew it. After all, Baku is not just next door from London, and flights are not cheap at all, so we rather enjoy a bit more time and discover other facts and corners outside from the touristy landmarks.

With a history dating back to the Stone Age, the true “modern” Azerbaijan and Baku itself as we know it today with its great architecture is the result of an idyllic location, cross-roads for centuries of trading between Asia and Europe, and Iran taking over its rule in the 10th century from the native Shirvanshahs for centuries, switching thereafter hands to Russia back and forth in the 18th century, including the Ottomans eager for this land, until the Russo-Persian War of 1804–1813 where it became irrevocably part of the Russian Empire and remained as such part of Russia until the Independence in 1918, however captured as part of the Soviet Union until the fall in 1990. Continue reading

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Providence, (USA)

“The Creative Capital”, “Renaissance City”

And here we are at the end of our trip across some of the major cities of the USA, reaching one last city before the return back to London: Providence, the capital of the State of Rhode Island. In fact, another city and State I’ve never been before hence adding to the list one more place visited in this huge country. Leaving this city to the end of the trip was also nicely appropriate since it is small enough to enjoy without any rush, and knowing how tired we already were after three full weeks non-stop, it was great to have this day out from our base back in Boston for a rather chill-out and relaxing tour.

The city is one of the oldest in the country, founded back in 1636 as one of the original Thirteen Colonies, almost at the time of Boston merely couple of years before; but was the first to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown on May 4, 1776 yet the last of the now ex-colonies to ratify the United States Constitution on May 29, 1790. That was the 9th largest city at the time at less than 8000 people, but thrived through the following years, especially after the American Civil War when it became one of the wealthiest cities in the country at the turn of the 19th century in part due to the heavy industrialization and manufacturing. Not so positive was the collapse of the heavy industry from the 1970’s that took toll on every city with a dramatic increase of poverty and crime.

Likewise it was in Baltimore or Milwaukee (but many more of the “belt-cities”, only listing here the ones we’ve visited this time), the urban regeneration set in place from the 1990’s onwards have transformed a decadent city into a great example not only in the country but in the world on how a proper plan, good management, great ideas and a good will can switch and drive a city into a thriving place and a boom in tourism. Believe me when I tell you Providence is a city that will surprise you and overturn your expectations. Continue reading

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Boston, (USA)

“Athens of America”, “The Cradle of Liberty”, “The Freedom City”, “Olde Towne”

One last base in this very complete trip across some of the main cities and states in the USA; this is the time for one of the most historic city in the entire country: Boston. Leaving behind massive Chicago for this very cute, elegant and although quite large; still feeling small and compact enough to call it cosy and charming if you like. Welcome to the capital of the state of Massachusetts and by difference, the main city in importance in the whole region of New England. “The Freedom City” as it is known by one of its many nicknames, here is where the Freedom was proclaimed.

This is now my 4th or 5th time in this beautiful city, although the first time was quite complete as well since I came to be with an American family for 5 weeks, living nearby in the smaller city of Hudson, MA; hence why I spent more than one time coming downtown. Still, that was very long ago in the year 2000 and I was too young. It took another 12 years for me to return, and now, 6 more years to finally be back here. This time with more experience in travelling than ever before, and more time to enjoy as much as possible every corner there left to discover and re-discover.

One of the most culturally influential cities in the country, home to some of the most exclusive universities in the world. A magnet of knowledge from all over the world and very important ever since its foundation back in 1630 by settlers from England. Some of Boston’s firsts include the first public park in 1634, the Boston Common; the United States’ first public school in 1635, the Boston Latin School. In 1852 the Boston Public Library was founded as the first free library in the United States, while the first subway system was opened in 1897, only third in the world after London and Budapest. Continue reading

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Milwaukee, (USA)

Cream City”, “Brew City”, “Beer City”, “Brew Town”, “Beertown

Coming next in our trip while in our base Chicago, we spared one of the days for visiting nearby Milwaukee, the largest city in the State of Wisconsin. Referred by many nicknames, most of them leading one way or another to beer. The Beer City, Brew Town and many more. Not difficult to know the reason why of this. it was back in the 1850’s with the arrival of many German’s immigrants that they created many beer breweries all over this region, not only producing beer for the city but for the rest of the country at the time is was home to four of the world’s largest breweries. Nowadays only one of these remain, Miller.

The city’s architecture is clearly influence by its mostly German past. At points in the city such as the City Hall you can feel as if you were in a German city. Quite elegant and imposing buildings, although unfortunately many great ones have succumbed in the past decades for creating larger blocks and towers. Another most recognisable brand in the world, the Harley-Davidson is from this city. Here you will find the only museum in the word dedicated to these motorcycles in a great building worth for its architecture.

The smallest city in this trip so far, and it will remain as the smallest after we continue towards to the last points in this journey, it is nevertheless a great day out from Chicago to enjoy a quiet visit, relaxing in between the sights since distances are short, and enjoying at any of the plenty bars and restaurants serving fantastic beer of course. Said that, a day is well more than enough, to the point of not needing to get here early in the morning nor returning back to wherever you came from late at night. We did spent 7 hours altogether, and it was the perfect time.

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Chicago, (USA)

“The Windy City”, “The Second City”, “Chicagoland”, “Chitown”

Moving on to our next destination and base for the next five days after enjoying a great relaxing time in New Orleans, we arrive to the second largest city in the USA after New York: Chicago. On the shores of lake Michigan it’s this marvellous city, where the skyscraper was born. Many wrongly still believe it was in New York City where they were first erected but that’s not right. Referred to as The Windy City as the most known nickname, it’s not only because of the likely chance to be windy, but because of years back of political issues and rivalries with Cincinnati and the World’s Fair to mark the 400th Anniversary of Columbus arrival to America.

The city was once the 4th largest in the world, in time after the Great Fire of Chicago that destroyed most of the city in 1871, and thereafter rebuilt in record time with the new legislation in safety on buildings, broad avenues, beautiful landscaping and overall care and beautification. This was the time where the skyscraper was born, the first steel-frame structure in height in 1885 (the Home Insurance Building). Such a vast playground of empty plots to be built opened and unprecedented case in which architects from all over the world wanted to leave their work in Chicago. The architecture of the city is one of the finest collections of all styles. No wonder you can find here a school of architecture that has become a pride to the world, the Chicago School.

The elegant and expensive Michigan Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile, is the heart of the city. Most of the city icons can be found along its length and it is intersected in the middle by the Chicago River, the next main attraction. Coupled with this, crossing through the centre of the city’s heart you have the Big L, or The Loop. These are the elevated subway trains. A sight on themselves either if riding them or capturing them from the street. And dotted here and there the remaining masterpiece, its buildings and extensive parks, with a fabulous lake front.

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Posted in 04. North America, 04. September, 05. August, 06. September, 2012, 2018, Big Trips, USA | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment