A Travellerspoint blog

Caribbean part 1

Taking in the sun, doing very little else

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So leaving Vegas would bring us into the final stretch of our trip (sniff sniff) - the Caribbean. The original plan was to start off with a week in Martinique, followed by a week sailing with friends, and finish off with a few days in Saint Lucia. Sadly our organisational luck this trip finally ran out on James and when he tried to book some accommodation in Martinique from Vegas, we found that there was nothing to be had for the week. So a quick replan had us staying for a few nights in Saint Lucia before heading up to Martinique instead.

Saint Lucia

After a pretty long flight (two 4 hour flights with a 4 hour lay over in Miami) from Vegas we finally arrived at the international airport at the southern tip of Saint Lucia. James later realised that he'd managed to leave his waterproof camera at the airport security scanner in Vegas - sigh - though luckily we've managed to get it back from them now. It does mean there's rather fewer photos than we'd hoped as we were slightly nervous of getting sand/water in the SLR.

After the long wait for customs which we've grown so accustomed to on our travels, we made it out of the airport and onto the overpriced taxis going to Rodney Bay at the north end of the island. The 1 and 1/2 hour drive up meant we got to take in the sights of the rugged exposed Atlantic coast, the lush interior of the island, and the relatively sheltered Caribbean coast. It was very pretty. We arrived in Rodney Bay which is a pleasant if very artificial collection of resort hotels and restaurants.

After a false start at a smart hotel which refused to let us check in without a print out but also had no printer facility, we settled in for a few days basically doing very little other than lying on the beach / by the pool which was great. We managed to play some tennis too, and to our delight we even had our first good Indian curry since Singapore, in a restaurant opened by two Nepalese brothers who'd emigrated to Saint Lucia!

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Martinique

We then got the express ferry from Castries (the capital city of Saint Lucia) to Fort de France (Martinique's 'capital' city if you don't count Paris). It was a slightly stressful start to the day as our taxi got caught in rush hour traffic (who'd have thought they had that in the Caribbean eh?) and we only just made the ferry by 5 minutes. That was further compounded by the Saint Lucia border guard clearly not trusting James and picking at his passport for about 10 minutes (passports don't look as good once they've been in the washing machine). We eventually made it onto the ferry for a rather bumpy ride to Fort de France (sadly James hadn't taken any sea-sickness tablets).

Fort de France itself was a striking change from Saint Lucia - it really felt like we'd just landed in France, albeit with warmer weather and more coconut trees. We walked to the centre of Fort de France and found a nice tree-lined square with some bistros serving a nice 'plat du jour' and a creperie for dessert. Oh how we'd missed French food...

After a rather long drive down to the south end of the island (public transport really isn't up to much in Martinique), we arrived in our digs for the next couple of nights. Until recently it was a very smart (and rather pricey) hotel; it then went bankrupt during the strikes of 2009 (where basically all of Martinique went on strike, meaning the tourism sector took a real hit) and was converted into much cheaper short-term holiday lets. It was on a nice quiet beach a short walk from the village/town of Sainte Anne. We took in some more sun, James went snorkelling for the first time, and we even managed to catch a local carnival in town in the evening, with people marching/dancing/singing in local costumes down the main street. All in all, a very nice couple of days; we just wish we could have been there for longer.

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From there we went up to Le Marin (a few kilometres up the beach) to pick up our charter yacht for the next week - more on that shortly...

Posted by jamesandanita 05:05 Archived in Martinique Comments (0)

Vegas

What happens in Vegas... goes on the blog!

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It's been a while with no updates to the blog; we're running a few weeks behind due to lack of time and internet connections and the fact we've been in the Caribbean. We'll catch up bit by bit; starting with our time in Vegas.

The drive down to Vegas from Death Valley was pretty impressive - after driving through desert for a couple of hours, you descend from up in the mountains to a sea of bright lights and massive casinos. We could literally see our hotel from about 20 miles away as it's the tallest building in Vegas. On approach we cruised along the famous Vegas strip and gawped at the ridiculousness of it all.

The strip

Then we spent a fun few days wandering around in awe at the sheer scale of the many replica areas: Venice, Paris, New York, etc, all produced brilliantly.

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We enjoyed a few good nights out in Las Vegas, listening to a piano duel, playing some poker, prancing around in an Irish bar and of course seeing a show. We saw a Cirque du Soleil show to see what all the fuss was about and it was pretty good to be fair with lots of acrobats, dancers, etc.

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We also continued eating massive amounts of food and enjoying the service culture you see in the States (though lets not forget - you do pay an extra 20% on top of your bill for it and I'm not sure its worth quite that much!). On note of which, Vegas is seriously expensive even without the service charge: we wondered how anyone gets drunk and loses money at £8 for a bottle of beer.

Downtown

Outside of the strip, we wandered downtown to see what the rest of Vegas was like. Horrible. Very run down, lined with pawn shops, bail bond shops and wedding chapels, a curious combination! Downtown we saw the famous cowboy and a lot of people wandering the streets in a menacing fashion. We thought something was about to kick off when a bare chested white skinhead fell into our path hollering at a group of black teenagers. Having already sensed racial tensions we decided that was a good time to jump in a cab and get out of there!

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Indeed, it must be said that much of Vegas's clientele is friendly but less than classy. As an anecdote, I recall a guy sitting in the hot tub talking about how much cash he'd blown the night before gambling and then proceeding to moan that he was worried about his name appearing on his sick daughter's birth certificate in case people came after him looking to pay towards her healthcare. Charming.

On our flight out of Vegas we also saw people get thrown of our AA flight. This was a first for us. A family was sitting in the aisle opposite another guy and they were arguing; no raised voices, sat in their seats with their belts on. A woman sat behind moaned to the air steward that they were arguing, who went to fetch his Queen Bitch supervisor. She just yelled over anything they said and removed them from the flight threatening them with the police. We were sat four rows behind and didn't even know there was a dispute until they got thrown off!

Posted by jamesandanita 14:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

LA & Death Valley

Back in the USA

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So after the days we spent down south in Ushuaia, we had a complete change of scene to come. After a day and a bit in transit in Buenos Aires (in which we did very little other than lounge by the hotel pool), it was up to Los Angeles.

Universal Studios

Having decided (only just) that we were getting too old for Disney, we went to the barely more grown up Universal Studios instead. And we loved it! After three months of travelling through South America and enduring the long bus journeys, lack of choice of food, and indifferent service, the contrast couldn't have been more stark.

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We saw all the main rides: Jurassic Park (a dino-themed log flume), The Mummy (roller-coaster in pitch black), The Simpsons (a surprisingly nausea-inducing simulator), and many others.

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In the afternoon we went on the Universal Studios tour. It's actually a bit of a misnomer it turns out, because you don't get to actually see the inside of any actual studios. You do get to see a lot of the outdoor sets though, so it was pretty interesting nontheless. We got to see Wisteria Lane (of Desperate Housewives fame), as well as the motel and house from Psycho. Most impressive however was the wreck of a Boeing 747 which was apparently used to film War of the Worlds.

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All in all, some good relaxing fun. Yay!

Los Angeles

In the rest of our time in LA we were able to cover some decent ground, thanks to our trusty rental car... a Ford Mustang (at $10 per day to upgrade from a Fiesta, a bargain). Looks great, but drives terribly. After finishing with Universal Studios we took in Hollywood Boulevard, to have a look at the film celeb stars on the pavement, and the hand prints in the cement in front of the Chinese theatre. James was disappointed with the prints as he'd misremembered and thought they were going to be face prints in cement...

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After that we went for a cruise through Beverly Hills and Bel Air - mainly to gawp at some truly monstrously vulgar houses. We didn't get any photos for fear of being tasered/shot by the people in the private security vans, but suffice it to say there were a lot of neo-classical houses the size of a small school.

And finally we had a chance to cruise along the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway, taking in Malibu and Venice beach. Again, a load of movie actor houses, but these ones at least actually seemed nice. And we saw the beach from Baywatch (we think) - sadly they weren't filming at the time...

Death Valley

After that it was on to Death Valley national park - the hottest place on earth (though not in the middle of winter!), and lowest point in the USA. We stayed at a motel just inside the park, and sadly fell for the standard tourist prank on the first night - we asked what the stuffed head on the wall was. A jackalope they say... turns out it's a made up animal (a rabbit with antlers to be precise) which has been used by no Ronald Reagan to prank reporters no less!

We had two days there; on the first day it was pretty overcast (and raining/snowing at times) so we didn't get the best views of the scenery. The second day was bright sunshine though, and after a long drive we say some pretty impressive scenery. Rather than bore you with details and place names, here are some pictures we took.

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Next up, Las Vegas. Hopefully you'll be able to read about it all in an upcoming blog post; if not then we've probably lost the laptop at the poker tables! We leave you with one final shot of our Mustang...

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Posted by jamesandanita 23:37 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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