Tag Archives: travel

Normal Service Resumes

After 18 months away from the UK, our first sight of ‘Blighty’ was from the Cruise liner Windjammer Restaurant window as we drank our mugs of tea and scoffed a bacon sandwich. The early morning sun was shining over the Docks of Southampton, we were home!
It was a strange feeling being back in England and as we drove away from the port, an assembly line of Kebab shops and Chippies filled the main road, trees were lush and full . Derek my splendid brother in law had picked us up and as we headed into The New Forest, I have to say I marvelled at how compact everything looked in this green and pleasant land.

Both sets of little old grey parents were waiting to greet us at my sister’s house, there was a lot of hugging and a few tears – they hadn’t changed at all, maybe a bit smaller and they were in good spirits. Betty wasn’t letting her Bradley out of her grasp, after all she’d only been waiting 18 months for his return! Within a few hours it was as if we’d only just been away on holiday.

I wanted them to notice we’d changed, we were intrepid travellers who had ridden buses, climbed volcanos, saw the Big Heads and stood atop of ancient Incan cities…but when you go home things are still the same and we didn’t look any different. But inside, our goals, our attitude to daily life and something in our minds had changed. I hadn’t expected this and the positivity is still here. Travel had definitely opened up our minds.

In the weeks before coming back, I had made a mental list of everything I was grateful for, a list of all the beautiful places we had seen and a list of all the wonderful things we were returning home to. I was determined to make all these small positive thoughts set the tone and the attitude for my homecoming. It’s working and I’m happy. My life back in the countryside is pretty sweet but I could do with some summer sunshine!

So it’s been 8 weeks since we sailed into port and I’m putting on my best smugface as I have to say it’s been great coming back. I wish I could whizz back and tell my crying self in the Puerto swimming pool that it’s all going to be ok “Don’t worry about slotting back into your everyday life as if you’ve never been anywhere, don’t be anxious about going back to work, you’ll be better than fine and the best bonus is that you won’t have the post trip blues!”

The transition back to regular life was ridiculously easy. This was all down to the organisational skills of Mr E who had arranged everything and I mean everything before we actually left Puerto and a month before returning, all I did was pack the bags and cried. Mr E picked up his new Learner Car and the moving van was ready to collect, new furniture all arrived on the day we moved back into our dinky Corsham home, Sky and BT internet was switched on and the post stopped being redirected. Our fantastic renters had moved out and into the house next door and I swear the house was cleaner than when we left it. The only bummer was that we had to wash everything that had been in storage and Eileen at the local Laundrette did a great job with 4 ginormous bags of musty smelling towels, blankets and bedding all for the economical price of £50. Luckily the sun was shining and we could scrub the stink away in the garden before putting things back in place in the house.

We had cleared out huge amounts of ‘stuff’ before we packed up the house but I have now filled 4 charity bags with more ‘stuff’ we absolutely don’t need or want. So it was definitely a good job I bought new work shoes in Florida as I totally needed them…as I unpacked another 4 pairs of work heels, I can’t be expected to remember everything, now can I!

I have been thanking my lucky stars I had a new job to start and I was returning to the same company I had left in October 2014, I half expect them to ask for the leaving gifts back! My company car was delivered the day before I went back to work and I set it on autopilot down the M4 to my head office in Luton. Back to Comensura, back to C.net, back to excel spreadsheets, back to a lovely set of people who welcomed me with hugs and back to getting my brain in gear again. Last week I had the Eureka moment, this was week 5 when my brain put all the compartments back in order and finally brushed any remaining sand out of the corners.

Mr E has picked right back up from where he left off but probably hasn’t been quite as happy to resume work as I have – he’d rather not work. He had a great month and has a full complement of learner drivers again. His outlook has changed too, he’s become my own DIY ‘Matt Blashaw’ without the tool belt. This was the man who couldn’t put up a picture without drilling through the wall, but now he is sanding walls, painting doors, changing door handles and power washing garden walls! Unbelievable,  there’s no stopping him.

It’s been a joy seeing our dearest friends, catching up on news and seeing how big the kids and babies have grown while we’ve been away. A lot can happen in 18 months!

So what have we learnt from our trip away…everything. But that’s for another time!

Life on the Ocean Waves

Ahoy there!
Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum, shiver me timbers and hoist the mainsail me hearties…it’s a sailors life for me!

Our 18 month adventure is coming to an end (boo hoo..) as of tomorrow we arrive back in England. For the past two weeks First Mate Sarah and Cabin Boy Mr E have been guests on the 4000 nautical mile transatlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale USA to Southampton UK on the Royal Caribbean cruise liner The Independence of The Seas.

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Rather than flying home, we thought this would be a fun way to end our trip and try out a new holiday experience. The decision was an easy one as the cruise cost was the same as 2 single economy seats on a plane. The reason for the lower cost, is that it’s a one way repositioning cruise. Having completed the winter Caribbean cruises, the ship now moves over to the UK to start the run of Mediterranean summer cruises.

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We’re a bit of an odd couple as we like our own company. We definitely avoid package holidays and forced entertainment, preferring to make our own plans and we generally stay away from other holiday makers, weird hey?! So we were a little unsure if cruising would suit us. But I can happily report it’s been wonderfully relaxing and a great value way to return home.
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Our first impressions were that the ship was huge and that there were a lot of people from all different nationalities. So it was a bit of a shock to be with 3500 people and to hear a variety of UK accents again, especially after being in Spanish speaking countries for so long. But our fears were quickly surpressed, as we found we could do loads of activities if we wanted to and that we could find quiet spots if that suited us too.

So if you’ve never been on a cruise, here the rundown of what’s on offer –

Food and Beverages
Everyone told us you can eat 24/7 if you wanted on a cruise! This is certainly true for some, as the amount of food available is immense and varied, we witnessed people piling their plates really high in the buffet, you can eat pizza any time up to 3am (we didn’t!) You can fuel your heart attack by eating badly or you can eat a balanced healthy menu, which we aimed to do but…those oatmeal raisin cookies just kept appearing with our afternoon cuppa!
For breakfast there is a buffet in the Windjammer self-service restaurant, it’s horribly busy, you struggle to find a table and for me was the worst thing about the cruise – jostling shoulders to get food. We found the seated service in the Romeo & Juliet restaurant was much more refined but then it was a bit stuffy for first thing in the morning.
As soon as breakfast was over, within half an hour lunch was served – too much food!
The Promenade Cafe served smaller filled rolls and this was perfect for us.
Dinner was in the Macbeth restaurant, food quality was very good and there were loads of choices on the menu. If you didn’t want the seated or formal dinners you could eat in the Windjammer from the evening buffet.

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Our waiters Malachi from Vincent & The Grenadines and Rosario from India were fabulous and took excellent care of us during dinner service. These guys work super hard and really made a difference to our cruise experience.

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Our Select Cruise Package included all meals, beers, wines to the value of $8 and soft drinks. This week I’ll mostly be drinking champagne..Thank you Simon for bringing us bubbles!

Entertainment and Sports
OK there is something for everyone on ship all coordinated by Entertainment Director Bobby. Right here we go, we’ve got – iceskating, dancing, quizzes, musical shows, comedians, bars, pool olympics, card games and bridge sessions.

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There’s a library, pub, casino, hot tubs, swimming pools, H2O splash zone for kids, movies, enrichment lectures and there is a fabulous gym. There’s an art gallery and you can bid for fine art in the auctions – who knew they did this kind of thing on board?

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On the upper deck there is crazy golf, flo – rider surfing, golf simulator, rock climbing wall and ball court.
Then there is also ‘The Hard Sell’ – crikey no wonder Royal Caribbean are so successful.
You can book your Next Cruise on board before you leave, deals are to be had!
In the promenade marketplace you can buy duty free, jewellery, handbags and gifts. Got cash to splash? Why not pay for spa treatments, teeth whitening, non surgical facelifts, shoe implants, acupuncture and wine tasting. It’s full on, sales pitch.

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My motto for the cruise was ‘not to go home fatter than I left’ so with Jawbone trackers on our wrists to monitor our 10,000 step target and record set daily calorie intakes, we got sweaty in the mornings. Even in the gusty wind topside on the latter few days as we got nearer to the UK, we did our laps on the running track and I took my big old bum to the gym. It was good to share the gym with all ages and abilities.

Getting Around and Facilities
For our first few days we got a bit confused finding our state room – were we Port or Starboard side? But then we found the carpet colour guided us back to our rooms, pink for starboard and blue for port. The artworks on all the stairs also guide you back to where you needed to be, Starry, starry night for us on level 2! There are handy maps everywhere detailing if the location you need is forward or aft. If you forget what day it is, don’t worry-  you’ll be reminded in the elevators!

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We chose a stateroom with a window rather than balcony based on cost and we were pleasantly surprised. Showers are hot and roomy, beds are big and super comfy, all cases fit underneath of them, so they are out of the way. Carlington our stateroom attendent was lovely, kept our room super tidy and provided quirky towel animals to amuse us! Last night’s Monkey was the winner!
Going two weeks without Internet was going to be a killer for The Evans…Mr E would have the shakes without the sports news! But thank goodness, as Royal Caribbean changed their Internet system on May 1st. So instead of $25 per day per device, the new rates were $13 per day for 2 devices. So as we knew we wouldn’t be spending any other money for 2 weeks, we signed up. In the middle of the Atlantic it worked just ticketyboo!

Shore Excursions
As this was a repositioning cruise there were just 3 stops; Nassau in The Bahamas, San Juan in Puerto Rico and Philipsburg in St Maarten. 3 different Caribbean Islands in 3 days.

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Although time on shore was limited it gave us a nice feel for the Caribbean and reminded us how lucky we’ve been to take time out to travel. We got some final snorkeling in, did a little nail varnish shopping (you can never have too many!) and wandered around these historic ports imagining pirates landing in these safe harbours.

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Crew and Staff
All and I mean all the staff are just super friendly. They work ridiculously hard and are away from family for many months at a time. Totally professional, these guys really want to make sure you have a great vacation. All our gratuities were included in our cruise rate but for those staff that make the wow factor, we had some dollars left over to leave a little extra. If you go on a cruise – tip these guys they really deserve it.

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As the sun sets on our last day, our bags are packed, we’re slowly passing the south coast to dock in Southampton Port in the early hours ready for disembarking in the morning. Our lovely little old parents will be at my sister’s house ready to meet us and of course I’ll try hard not to cry when I see them…but as I’ve already had the waterworks at dinner knowing this is the last night of our adventure, I think the chances are pretty slim!

Thank you Independence of The Seas, it’s been a fun trip!

Life is like a box of chocolates…

Utility is when you have one telephone,
luxury is when you have two, opulence is when you have three
….and paradise is when you have none.
Doug Larson

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Got a few millions to spare? Then why not buy a super yacht and waterfront mansion to park it next to! Unfortunately we don’t, but it’s always fun to sit on the Water Taxis that transport tourists up and down the Intracoastal Waterways in between Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood. It’s a great way to travel around the area where you can hop on & hop off, but the Captain also gives you snippets of information on who lives in the properties and own these luxury yachts. We saw Amphitrite the $22 million yacht previously owned by Johnny Depp and recently purchased by JK Rowling, Harry Potter definitely is a girl’s best friend for JK. Sleek and luxurious the Azteca is owned by the Mexican Salinas Piego family, we know the department store Elektra well from our time in Mexico and this $83 million super yacht certainly sparkles in the water.

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One of the fun stories is about US business man Wayne Huizenga a multi – billionaire. He was having trouble with his neighbours complaining about his helicopter landing, so he bought their house, knocked it down and built a designated landing pad – problem solved! Then there is the story of the house now owned by 2 former High School teachers who decided to open a chicken wing restaurant. Their well endowed waitresses in tight vests and short shorts proved to be a big hit, Hooters restaurant chain has ensured the teachers now live that luxe lifestyle we all dream of. Back in the heyday Sonny & Cher, Lucille Ball and Jonny Weismuller all owned properties in this stretch of prime island lands.

After a day on the water it was time to wave Liz and Derek off from our two weeks in Florida together. They were driving upwards to visit St Augustine and Savannah before flying home. It was a fun time and even nicer to be able to say to them “We’ll see you in two weeks!”

For the last part of our Florida trip, we were staying in Fort Lauderdale in preparation to board The Independence of The Seas. After 18 months away our travels were coming to an end and it was time to head home to the UK.
Now I’ve mentioned a few times in my blog posts what a genius Mr E is at finding travel bargains and once more he surpassed himself! . When he knew last year we’d be travelling home in May, he booked a two week repositioning cruise with Royal Caribbean, get this – It was the same cost as 2 economy seats with British Airways. From the window of the Courtyard Marriott we could see the ship in Port Everglades ready for 3500 people who would all be travelling to Southampton.

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But before we tried out cruising, we had a couple of days to make the most of the Florida sunshine.We rode the water taxi down to Hollywood Beach from Fort Lauderdale. Along the way we passed Port Everglades home to south Florida’s thriving cruise ship industry and port of call to thousands of merchant ships from around the world.

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It’s a busy port and provides thousands of jobs for the region. We disembarked at the mammoth hotel resort of Margaritaville and wandered along the Hollywood Broadwalk.

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There are 2.5 miles of pristine white sandy beach, restaurants and nightlife, old style beach front motels and it’s a popular destination for sunbathing. Back at the  Margaritaville water taxi stop we hummed the lines ‘Wasted away again in Margaritaville’ and was glad I hadn’t ‘blew out my flip flop’

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For some old time charm we took the free trolly north to Lauderdale-by-the Sea. This cute beachside town is located on a barrier island just north east of Fort Lauderdale. We had stayed in a motel here back in 2002 it’s now been replaced by a large swanky condo building, the fishing pier remains and of course we had an ice cream sat on the beach for old times sake.

For our last night in America, we didn’t go far and ate dinner in Bubba Gump’s next to the hotel.
Forrest Gump “My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get”

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In all our 18 months away we certainly didn’t know what we were going to get, but I can honestly say it’s been far sweeter than we ever would have hoped for!

And now it was time to cross the pond…home was calling.

It’s five o’clock somewhere..

“An’ pour me somethin’ tall an’ strong,
make it a “Hurricane” before I go insane.
It’s only half-past twelve but I don’t care.
It’s five o’clock somewhere”

Throughout our 18 months away, the line from the Jimmy Buffet song ‘It’s five o’clock somewhere’ has pretty much accompanied us as we contemplate whether it’s too early for a boozy frozen concoction!  Good job I enjoy a Margarita as we were heading for Southern Florida where its always ‘five o’clock somewhere..’

By now if you’ve been reading my blogs you’ll know I cry far too much, so you can imagine my tears leaving our super hosts Billy & Mel, good neighbours Dale & Libby and our fabby friends Susan & Keith and Willie & Susan. But most of all I cried leaving Puerto Escondido knowing our 18 month trip was coming to an end and we would be heading back to reality of life in the UK and work all over again, our travel purse was empty. Yes, yes, I know I’ve been ridiculously spoiled by not working all this time but I’ve gotten rather used to it!

But before our return home, we had another month of travel to enjoy. Flying from Puerto we waved to the Interjet staff lined up on the scorching hot runway, flew the quick 1 hour to Mexico City and then changed for a pleasant 3 hour jaunt to Miami. My sister Liz and brother in law Derek were meeting us for a 2 week Florida vacation. Although we have had Skype calls while we’ve been away, I was very excited to see my big sister again. We amused all the arrivals crowd as we hugged, laughed and of course had some happy tears as I abandoned my luggage for our reunion.

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Derek had already picked up the hire car – a huge Town & Caravan big enough for all our luggage and passengers. After a night in Miami we headed down to stay in the Florida Keys for a few days. Although the sun didn’t shine on us that day and the sea wasn’t quite as bright green, we still enjoyed the view of fishing boats, stunning houses on the waters edge and counting down the miles to the next t-shirt outlet mall!

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The beautiful Florida keys are 120 miles of islands of various sizes, connected together like a string of shiny pearls by bridges, including the famous 7 mile bridge and the US1 highway runs all the way to the end of the road at mile marker 0 in Key West.

Hotel prices in the Keys are ferociously expensive but with Airbnb we had found a great value, quirky place to stay called Secret Garden House located on Big Pine Key, where tiny deer run free and there are funky places to eat like the No Name Pub. It’s all very laid back in flip flops and days in the Keys are totally relaxed.

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On a gorgeous sunny day we visited Bahia Honda Park for sunbathing, swimming and a Brits on holiday picnic. The sand was white, the sea was all sorts of luminous shades of green and it was a perfect beach day.

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Key West at the very bottom of the continental US, was a short 30 minute drive south and we spent a glorious day on the beach with a picnic where the snorkeling was cloudy but the water was lovely and warm. Key West is the place to party, the action takes place on Duval Street where there are plenty of bars, restaurants ( including the original Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville) and an anything goes club scene, some are clothing optional! Even the Cock a Doodle Doos roam free here.

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Ernest Hemingway lived here in his latter years for a while and every year Key West hosts a looky-likey Hemingway contest, I saw couple of bearded salty dogs that would place in the top 3 for sure! At sunset, tourists congregate at Mallory Square where artists perform, stalls sell crafts and people watch the sun go down as yachts and party boats cruise by.

From the Keys we drove across Alligator Alley through the Everglades to East Florida, but not before stopping off for an speedy airboat ride.

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At Everglades City we got the wind in our hair as we whizzed through red mangrove corridors and our airboat captain expertly negotiated the glades, stopping to show us wildlife along the way. We only saw one alligator, she looked pretty hungry and we kept our arms firmly inside the airboat, as in her time it’s always ‘five o’clock somewhere!’

Coming up Cape Coral

What did the Evans pack…?

It’s time to pack up our from our Mexico home this weekend!
We arrived in November 2014 with 4 bags and although we have disposed of a lot of clothes and flipflops along the way, we are still going home with 4 bags! But to be fair, we have worn a selection of clothes for tropical sunny days and coats, boots & trousers for the chilly altitudes of South America too.

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The Evans don’t do backpacking and we haven’t stayed in any hostels during our time away – it’s really been one big long lovely holiday. But we had a budget and Mr E, master of finding outstanding deals delivered with huge success!
So although I can’t offer any backpacking tips, I can share with any future travellers or holiday makers a few snippets that might be useful..

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Packing Cubes
Once you go ‘zip up pack’ you’ll never go back! Making packing your luggage so easy, these useful waterproof bags keep clothes flat, tidy and organised. We loved the Ikea Travel Bags that come in a variety of sizes.

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Ziplock Bags
Ridiculously useful and probably the best couple of quid you’ll spend. I can recommend the Ikea Reseal bags as they are super sturdy and big enough for all your travel bits and pieces.
Use them to put in your empanada lunch, bus snacks, electrical stuff & chargers, first aid, suntan creams, smelly socks, wet swimsuits, passports and just about anything you want to keep clean and dry. Travelling to Puno in Peru through snow, our bus was so steamed up the floor was dripping wet and our daybags got soaked but ziplock bags saved the day!
Helpful Tip: shower caps are super useful for popping sandy flipflops or muddy boots in.

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First Aid Kit
We cashed all our Boots Card points in to buy an extensive first aid kit before we left the UK, thankfully we didn’t need to use most of what we carried around with us. But the essentials we did use were; painkillers, antihistamines, plasters, antiseptic cream, sting & bite cream and diarrhoea tablets. Throughout Latin America we have found there are plenty of pharmacies everywhere who will readily dish out antibiotics. Jot your symptoms down and even in Spanish the helpful pharmacists can supply medical help and all the drugs you need.
Helpful tip: ask the pharmacist to write down any advice and prescription dosage. You can Google translate anything you’re not sure of later.
Always check with your GP in advance of travel of any necessary inoculations and especially if you have prescription medication.

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Bug Spray and Bug Plug
Chikungunya, Dengue Fever and Zika Virus are all nasty diseases we have wanted to avoid, so preventing mosquitos sucking out our blood has been a priority each evening. We spray, cream up and pop a plug-in insect repellent in our bedroom. I keep a small bottle of repellent in my daybag at all times.
Helpful tip: cream up your ankles before getting on buses and planes to prevent itchy flea bites.

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Loobag
When you travel throughout Latin America you’ll have to pay to use a public toilet and very few of them actually have toilet seats. The tiny charge includes the attendant giving you a wad of loo roll, so the ziplock loobag is always to hand in our daybag. I keep tissues, tampons, hand sanitiser and a sick bag..some of those bus journeys can be nauseous!
Toilet paper goes in the bin and not down the loo, so sharing an open loo bin with your partner needs some consideration. I found biodegradable doggy pooper scooper bags can be purchased very cheaply and are useful especially at certain lady times of the month.
Helpful tip: keep some loose coin change in the loobag incase you have to, well dash to the loo!

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Footwear
Our biggest mistake for our South America packing was that we took way too much footwear, actually it was mainly me as I couldn’t resist buying Havaianas in Brazil!
In our bags we each had a pair of training shoes for city walking, Birkenstocks for beach wear and a pair of hiking boots for Chile, Peru and Ecuador. In hindsight we should have chosen a combo trainer/hiking shoe like this one from Columbia. Unlikely to use our hiking boots again they were left behind in Ecuador, donated to the local trail guides.

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Teabags
You can buy teabags in Mexico but they are totally rubbish, so our top notch friends rallied to our call and posted us a stash of lovely jubbly UK teabags ..gotta have our morning cuppa. When travelling we would take the powdered milk sachets from hotels and restaurants so we could always make a brew. Most hotels we stayed in would provide hot water for tea when asked at no extra charge.

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Techy Stuff
The Tablet
Samsung Galaxy Tab4. Both of us purchased Samsung Tablets and we love them, sorry Apple but it’s Samsung products for the Evans.
The Camera
It took us a good while before we left the UK to decide on what kind of camera to buy for our trip. Ideally I wanted an SLR camera to be able to take fabulous photos of our travels but in the end I opted for a Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 I wanted good quality photos but from a camera small enough to pop in my pocket. This excellent point and shoot camera provides options to take photos in Auto Mode, Smart Mode or Expert Mode where you can set the aperture and shutter speed. The camera has a touch screen that is the same as the Galaxy Tablet, has wifi so I was able to upload photos to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter instantly whenever we had a free wifi spot. I added a micro SD card as I found I took more photos in a couple of days than the memory allowed but when I had good wifi I used Dropbox to back up my photographs to my tablet. There is also a Samsung Smart Camera App you can download that let’s you share your photos to your tablet or smartphone.
Helpful tip: by us choosing the same manufacturers tablet and camera, we only needed one charger that fitted all 3 devices.

Here’s a few things we didn’t pack but we found were brilliant for our travels:

Post Office Platinum Credit Card
We chose this credit card to use on our trip as there are no foreign transaction fees.
We did have to advise them of our travel plans, which is a bit old fashioned but you can phone or use the online application. They did put a block on the card when we returned from South America to Mexico (luckily I had cash for my shopping in Chedruai supermarket) but with one call this was quickly rectified.

Airbnb
Staying in hotels is great for a few nights but whenever we wanted to stay somewhere for more than 4 nights we chose to book apartments through Airbnb. Not only did we get to stay in some fabulous properties but it gives you a chance to unpack, get the washing done, cook a meal and really chill out.  We would definately recommend Airbnb!

Hotels.com
There are 3 reasons why we liked using Hotels.com
1. They offer great rates on a massive range of hotels.
2. By creating an account, most booking are paid for directly with no fees from your bank details you provide, therefore eliminating having to withdraw more cash from ATM’S that do charge fees each time you use them.
Helpful tip: check cancellation procedures and timeframe’s before you confirm a booking in case you decide to change or if your transport plans are cancelled due to strikes or adverse weather.
3. When you have booked 10 nights the 11th is a free night to the value of your average nightly spend.

Few other extras that we packed that were useful;
Spare Padlocks  – even though I’m a master packer, I misplaced the padlocks on too many occasions!
BUBBA Cups – save money and take your own cocktails to the beach for sunsets.

However and wherever you go.. love to travel!

Beachlife..

Life is better at the beach..

Beachlife is joyous; walking on sunbaked grainy sand, feeling hot sunshine from bright blue skies beat down on your shoulders, getting your hair blown about in hairdryer heated winds, drinking cold beers in coozies, relaxing on loungers watching families laugh and play at the waters edges, eating super fresh delicious seafood and sipping  from cold green coconuts.  Life at the beach is happiness!

We’re already thinking about our return to the UK, moving back into our little Corsham house and getting back into work mode. It’s exciting to return (my daily mantra as I click my heels and cry is “I’m happy to go home, I’m happy to go home”..) how could I not be sad to be leaving fabulous Mexico? So this blog post is totally selfish and just for me! I can look back on sunny photographs and relive those beach moments in a heartbeat.

Let me take you on a trip..to the beaches of Oaxaca

Situated on the Pacific Ocean, Oaxaca is a southern state in Mexico with a coast that has long sandy beaches framed by palm trees, lagoons and where chunky rocks have jutted outwards and upwards over time to form lush turquoise bays.
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Throughout our travels we haven’t yet found another place with such a gorgeous selection of beaches as in Puerto Escondido.
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The long stretches of Zicatela and La Punta are home to the famous surfers paradise of the mighty ‘MexPipe.’ World class surfers take the pilgrimage to Puerto whenever a big swell is predicted. Watching these fearless surfers drop and come through huge barrel waves is ridiculously scary and awesome at the same time.
We like to watch sunset and enjoy a cocktail from one of the many bars and restaurants on fabulous Zicatela where horses trot by and surfers bob on the waves.
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The town beaches of Playa Marinero and Playa Principal are more sheltered, fishing boats drop anchor here and boats whizz up onto the beach over laid out palm tree logs to deliver their daily catch to market. Families and boogie boarders play in the waters edges with much hilarity.
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Further north around the cliffs are the friendly bays of Playa Manzanillo and Puerto Angelito. Coaches unload holiday makers to the many beach bars here where its safe to snorkel and swim. On a good clear day underwater there’s a great selection of fish to view swimming around the rocks. We like to hang out under a shady palapa on the loungers covered with bright Mexican throws, order guacamole and drink cervezas here. It is heavenly.

If you’re feeling energetic you can skip down the concrete steps to the gorgeous cove of Playa Carrizalillo, swim in the deep waters and sunbathe in the glimmering sunlight. You feel a tad out of breath getting back up to the top but it’s so worth it!

Playa Bachoco is one of the more deserted beaches is Puerto, you can walk along the long expanse of sandy ridges while waves crash down next to you. Baby Turtles are released here to battle through the foam and hopefully onto their new sealife.
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A fun day trip to Playa Roca Blanca is just a 30 minute drive north out of Puerto. There are beachside palapa restaurants where the catch of the day was swimming around that morning. The seafood is as fresh as fresh can be! Swimming can be a challenge as waves can be rough and I’ve yet to visit here when someone hasn’t been knocked over unaware by a rogue salty seawater smack in the face. You can walk here for miles and miles and it’s stunning.
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South of Puerto there are plenty of beaches to visit, starting with Tierra Blanca and El Tomatal which are very unspoilt and pretty much deserted. Us Brits love to take a picnic, chairs and a sunshade umbrella. It’s a lovely lazy day and we have smugly said to ourselves “There are worst places to be on a Thursday afternoon..!”
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A short 30 minute drive from Puerto takes you to Playa Agua Blanca, this is definitely one of my favourite beaches. When we first visited Puerto back in 1998 this stretch of beach was totally deserted and offered no shade. You couldn’t buy sunshades then so we sat sweltering on towels sharing beers from a coolbox, but now there is a hotel right on the beach offering basic accommodation and plenty of palapa restaurants to spend the day in. When the tide goes out after scoffing a delicious seafood lunch, it’s fun to play in the shallow rock pools spotting tiny bright blue and orange fish, collecting shells and digging for sand dollars.
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Further south are the hippie relaxed beaches towns of Mazunte, San Agustinillo and Zipolite.
There are lots of cabana beachfront rooms to rent and community style campsites are available right on the beach for free and easy backpackers who travel with their guitars and drums. At the far end of Zipolite you can strip off and tan all your birthday suit on the only dedicated nudist beach on the coast, it’s an eye opener as a variety of bits swing by!
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For my birthday we stayed just around the bay from Mazunte looking over windswept Playa Mermejita. Our hotel OceanoMar had a splendid rustic feel with lovely boutique amenities and decorations. It was a wonderful stay and one of my happiest birthdays spent with our lovely friends Keith and Sue.
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A ninety minute drive south from Puerto takes you to the main planned resort for Oaxaca. Manicured Huatulco with beautiful tarmac roads has 9 bays with a cute palm roofed International Airport that bring in package holiday makers, to one of their plush all inclusive hotels.
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There are plenty of smaller hotels and bargains to be had though. It’s a very different town in comparison to Puerto and a fun diversion for a few days away.  At Quinta Bella Hotel each room has a spacious terrace and dip pool that looks out to the beach. We have also stayed on a couple of occasions at Binniguenda All Inclusive Hotel, which is a smaller resort hotel just a few minutes walk away from the beach, with a lovely family run feel and plenty of drinks on offer to sip by the pool.
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We have totally loved living in Puerto Escondido with healthy outdoor living and happy beachlife. Leaving here is going to be tough,  but we have many great memories that will last long after the tan on our toes has faded.

“At the beach, life is different.
Time doesn’t move hour to hour, but mood to moment.
We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the Sun.”
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Semana Santa in Puerto Escondido

You hear the flap of parachutes opening high above and then a ‘yahoo’ sounds from the skies, the skydivers falling to the beaches are the first sign that Easter Weekend is fast approaching in Puerto Escondido.

A one way system is put in place on the main beach strip roads of Zicatella, new shiny cars from out of town are easily confused driving through the town avoiding its potholes and the uneven kerbs. Chedruai Supermarket is stocked high with cases of cerveza and crispy snacks, cool boxes are on special offer for families to fill and transport to the beaches. Pop up Taco and Michelada stands appear overnight along the beach front and sun loungers are laid out ready for bodies slathered in suncream to sizzle upon along all the beaches.

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Beer distributors, Corona, Sol, Dos XX and Victoria compete for a share of the tourist market, at the Corona stage thousands and thousands of bottles are guzzled under the blue gazebos.
When bleary eyed Spring Break kids leave late night parties and wake up with the sunrise on the beach, they will pass the clean up squads who will be out in force early each morning. Along with this hedonistic young wealth coming into town to party hard, tiny wrinkly ladies on the poverty line hunt through the garbage, collecting tin cans to sell scrap for a few pesos. Unfortunately the mess left behind on the beaches is outstandingly disgusting. Easter Weekend transitions Puerto Escondido from our gorgeous tropical laid back town into Easter madness!

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Coaches of varying mechanical conditions roll in from all over Mexico, cars packed with holiday makers drive down from Mexico City and Puebla to unload into the hotels around the Adoquin, main shopping street. Semana Santa is a big deal in Mexico not only for the Catholic religious commemorations but it’s a major holiday when people from the cities can take an well earnt excursion to the seaside. Families of all ages celebrated the solemn Passion of Christ processions on Good Friday and they will attend Holy Mass on Sunday but the rest of the weekend is for fun beach time and partying, Mexicans love to fiesta!

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Bomberos and Salvadistas are prepared for all eventualities, they will save many people over the weekend who cannot swim, rogue waves can quickly sweep the unaware out from the waters edges. For some, swimsuits are a luxury that cannot be afforded. It’s fun to see whole families laughing and playing in their clothes in the water. Sandy jeans get left on the rocks to dry out and flipflops are abandoned, it’s a glorious time and people love visiting here.

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The shallow curved bays of Playa Principal and Playa Marinero are favoured by families, vendors sell drinks, nuts, fried bananas, pineapples and snacks. This is the time for the straw hat man to make a killing! The beaches will be rammed late after sunset, then music blares out from bars and discos well into the early hours.

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If you live in Puerto, you either love or hate the chaos that descends!

Easter is probably my favourite time of year, back in the UK it signifys renewal of the earth after a long wet grey winter. Daffodils and crocuses burst out of the soil to add colour to the side of roads, newborn lambs bounce in the fields, the clocks spring forward and by teatime we’re back in the light.

During our year in Latin America, I’ve been reminded of the importance of the Sun at the centre of our solar system on the land in all the countries we visited. In Peru, we saw elaborate Sun calendars chiseled into rocks where the Sun was worshipped to bring good crops and health, we witnessed how the 4 cycles of the Sun in the seasons bring different festivites throughout the year. At the Equator the 4 points on the compass show the changing cycles of equinoxes and solstices, we also balanced eggs to bring us good luck and prosperity!

When the Spanish conquered and converted, they tied in the resurrection of Christ to the renewal of the Sun on the Earth at the Spring Equinox, when the Sun is at its highest central point in the sky. Spring is a time related to balance, harmony and spritual values. The Easter story reminds us it’s a time to celebrate leaving dark days behind and for families to come together.

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So although we have no Easter Bunny or Easter Eggs in Mexico, the Evans spend time with our extended loved Mexico family. On Friday our Casa Los Mangos family were invited to Willie and Susan’s where we enjoyed a delicious Turkey BBQ dinner. With Billy and Mel we shared an Indian Saturday evening supper and snorted up Mel’s delicious trifle. Today on Easter Sunday we will spend the day with our gorgeous Frome friends Susan and Keith.

For me this Easter signifies our journey home back to the UK, just as the Sun journeys North from Sping Equinox to Summer Solstice in June, in 8 weeks time we’ll be reunited with family and friends. So this weekend we’re certainly feeling the luck and happiness I continually pray for throughout our year abroad.

Happy Easter friends, sending much love x