Saint Lucia

“The only country in the world named after a woman

Saint Lucia, January 2019

One more island, and another country before a last one in this trip. Moving on from  Antigua onto the exotic Saint Lucia, docking at its capital city Castries. The only country in the world named after a woman; pulled back and forth for 14 times between the French who were the first to settle in the island and the British; it became permanently a British Oversee Territory until 1979 when it gained full independence. The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, however, is still the head of the state as Saint Lucia is part of the Commonwealth Nations.

Among its key sights in such a small land, nature and landscapes are somehow unique. The incredible rain forests, such exuberant vegetation and truly paradise beaches all around, but something unique adding to the excitement, it is one of the few islands in the world that contains a drive-in volcano. This is self-described by the word, you can be driven right there to the very edge of the boiling water springs, but do not expect any height, instead a rather hilly area at the backdrop of Soufriere with marvellous views towards the colonial city, the coast and the world famous Pitons Mountains.

Both cities of Castries and Soufriere, the “largest” in the island yet tiny when compared to normal standards of size and population are straightforward to visit. It’s merely an hour or so and you have completed all the nice colonial buildings around, hence when planning your time be mindful of this, while sticking to the limitations if you’ve come on a cruise which generally gives you from the morning around 8.00am until 18.00pm. That’s well enough to actually enjoy the best sights in the island which are along the west coast and in between Castries and Soufriere and the Pitons, some 40 kilometres apart from each other. (more…)

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Antigua and Barbuda

“Land of 365 Beaches

Antigua and Barbuda, January 2019

After such a little piece of paradise that was Tortola, although anywhere in this trip and all the islands we are visiting are pieces or paradise, we dock in the capital city of a new country in the list of countries visited so far to date, Antigua and Barbuda. That’s 97 as of today, exactly the half of the world’s currently independent nations (it’s 195), and still 2 new ones to come in the next few days to rise to an astonishing 99.

The country name was, likewise almost all other islands in the region, given by  Christopher Columbus in 1493 in his second voyage in honor of the Virgin of La Antigua in the Seville Cathedral. It was nevertheless not a priority island to form a settlement, and has been for majority of the history part of the British Empire and Kingdom, until gaining sovereignty on the 1st of November 1981. Since that date, it remains a member of the Commonwealth, where Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state.

The twin islands country, an other islets in between has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, hence why its fame, especially the island of Antigua. Barbuda, while smaller and more secluded, is by far less visited, rarely included in any cruise trip, and as of today is still recovering from the almost total destruction that caused Hurricane Irma in 2017. (more…)

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Puerto Plata, (Dominican Republic)

“Tacita de Plata (Little Silver Cup)”, “Novia del Atlántico (Bride of the Atlantic)”

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, January 2019

Continuing the cruise after some Dutch feeling at Sint Maarten, and after an entire day and night cruise this time only resting and enjoying the plenty of activities to do on-board, we dock at Amber Cove, the port of Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic. A city of many firsts in the Americas. It was here nearby that the very first village in the “New World” was founded on January the 2nd, 1494 called La Isabela, in honor of the Queen of the Spanish Empire. Dominican Republic was named back then, La Hispaniola, the first piece of land where Christopher Columbus set foot in 1492.

Puerto Plata is the 9th largest city in the country, therefore do not expect a city or large distances or lots to see and do. All the opposite, there’s not really that much here other that of course, the incredible landscapes and nature at the backdrop, and the impressive paradise beaches just east of the city. The top resorts are not far east as you can imagine. it is for this reason it’s a booming tourist destination, made even more accessible after the recently opened new cruise terminal at Amber Cove. Fair enough this is not Punta Cana, but it’s a great alternative for the beaches; and so it’s not Santo Domingo, but a nice idea for a first time in the country.

Visiting the city is very simple and quick to do. Give or take merely 3 hours for what’s the core in downtown. You won’t need any longer, but instead head to the gorgeous beaches farther east along the Costa Dorada. Playa Dorada is without hesitation the best, with the greatest resorts. Then if you came here as part of your cruise, you will not have that much time anyway to do as you wish, so city and beach is the perfect combination. Fantastic local food and amazing fresh cocktails. What else to ask for! (more…)

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Barbados

“The Bearded Ones”

Barbados, December 2018

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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Providence, (USA)

“The Creative Capital”, “Renaissance City”

Providence, USA, September 2018

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. (more…)

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Boston, (USA)

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

Boston, USA, September 2018

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. (more…)

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Milwaukee, (USA)

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

Milwaukee, USA, September 2018

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”

Chicago, USA, September 2018

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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