TRAVELIRVANA’S TOP 7 MUST SEE AND DO IN THE BAHAMAS

God said the color “blue” is just not quite good enough for us here on earth and so on the 8th day he created The Bahamas. Here the color spectrum includes blues never seen by me before and I’ve been to the Maldives, Zanzibar and Belize so that is saying a lot! Here you get to swim in the divine – the water of the Gods themselves. It is so clear near the beaches you can see iridescent fish with the naked eye.  Admittedly, the Maldives is either equal to The Bahamas or a very close second.

WHERE TO STAY IN NASSAU?

There are many ways to enjoy the hundreds of islands in The Bahamas but you will pay for this privilege unless you stay away from Tourist Highway also known by me as America’s Playpen i.e. the resorts. My choice, and I would make it over and over again, is BahaSea. It’s peaceful and relaxing here. Read a book in the hammock or lay out on the balcony, go for a delightful swim just down what seems like your very own steps to another world and while there, witness Nelly, her daughter and Akeem ready to step up and help you in anyway they can.

Shop for groceries down the street and cook your own culinary feasts in the kitchens provided for your use at BahaSea or stop at Marcos Pizza and enjoy probably one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had (the secret is in the crust this time not the sauce although that was delightful too); however, be wary of the cost of certain groceries i.e. a bag of pistachios costs $24 USD in Nassau. Although groceries can be expensive here too, they are certainly cheaper than any food you would buy at the resorts by a VERY long shot.

Venture by public bus safely to downtown Nassau or anywhere on New Providence Island for a mere $1.25 each way because the taxis are not affordable here. This way you can perhaps afford to catch a quick day trip to Exuma Cay and swim with the pigs or, if your budget won’t allow it, Akeem at BahaSea will let you swim with his two piggies.  Also, bless yourself with a trip to Eleuthera and Harbour Island to swim with celebrities if you prefer them to pigs or try dolphins or sharks – it’s all here in The Bahamas  – a bucket list trip for anyone I assure you.

BELOW IS A QUICK LIST OF MY TOP 7 SEVEN THINGS FOR A FIRST TIMER IN THE BAHAMAS:

1. Swimming with the pigs in Exuma.

2. Glass bridge in Eleuthera.

Photo from www.bahamas.com

3.  Pink sand in Harbour Island.

Photo from the Travel Channel

4. Dolphins at Atlantis.

5. Day at the beach in Bahamar.

6. Conch salad, Sky Juice and junkanoo dancing at Arawak Cay a/k/a Fish Fry.

7. The Queens Staircase in Nassau.

If you have any questions or can add something about The Bahamas, I would love to hear from you so submit same via the form below. Then go unlock the Travelirvana in you.

Travelirvana’s Top 5 Things to See on a City Tour of La Paz, Bolivia

It’s a Tale of Two Cities here in Bolivia and by that I mean the straightforward question of what is the capital of Bolivia is not so straightforward. While most believe that the capital is La Paz, there are strong sentiments that it is, in fact, Sucre and La Paz at more than 3,500m is merely the administrative capital.  Interesting huh?

  1. Valley de la Luna a/k/a Moon Valley

Valley de la Luna a/k/a Moon Valley brings to mind the famous Psalm “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” especially given it’s “sister” property known as “El Valle de las Animas” a/k/a The Valley of the Souls which is said to be an important site in Boliva for the famous holiday – Dias de los Muertos a/k/a Day of the Dead. Valley de la Luna; however, is a mere 10km from downtown La Paz and can easily be reached by taxi or the famous La Paz Mi Teleférico (more specifically, the green line of La Paz’s famous cable car).  Here you will find a truly unique landscape of tall spires of clay formations and caves caused by persistent erosion of the mountains near La Paz from wind and water over time.  It lends itself to a view like nothing I’ve seen to date and is absolutely worth a visit when in La Paz.  In fact, in a city surrounded by dramatic terrain, Moon Valley is undoubtedly La Paz’s piece de resistance. It is also the home of “Espiritu de los Andes” or the Spirit of the Andes statute.  The entry fee is a mere 30BS or $4.30USD and worth every penny.  Alternatively, you can get some incredible views of Moon Valley while playing the back 9 at the La Paz Golf Club and, in particular, at the 12th hole.  The backdrop of this lunar-like terrain is bound to make any round of golf special regardless of how over par you are on any given day. The price is a hefty 400-560BS or $57USD to $73USD for 18 holes depending on what day you go but that is only your green fees and doesn’t include club rentals, caddies, golf carts, etc. Make sure that you bring some khaki’s and a collared shirt though or you won’t be allowed on the golf course.

  1. Mercado de Las Brujas or the Witches Market

Where does one go when one needs spiritual advice or a potion to exact revenge on a cheating lover, some llama excrement for some Aymaran ritual or llama fetus to honor Pachamama (Mother Earth) or maybe just to purchase an alpaca sweater? The Witches Market in La Paz, Bolivia, of course.  I was fascinated during my saunter through the various stalls in and around Sagarnaga Street near Iglesia de San Francisco.  I had my eyes wide open looking for the infamous Witch Doctors (also known as the Yatiri) which are often seen in these parts and are allegedly powerful enough to cure illnesses and perform spells to address money problems or fertility issues and the like. The closest I got to this was a Senora de Pollera a/k/a Chola (don’t call them this) and a native asking for money which I gladly gave, in part, in hopes of getting a photograph of her.  While she was happy to take the money, she refused to allow me to photograph her in her authentic dress.  And while I did not purchase any fetuses or other sundries, I did find a hat which I quite like.  While you are there, you will find Richard at All Transport Travel Agency located at Sagarnaga Street 229, Paraixo Gallery Office 10 and he will take care of all your tour needs including, without limitation, a very risky trek up Huayna Potosi and a not so risky trek down to Salar de Uyuni. Now, remember, when in the Witches Market be respectful of the culture of the locals and ask permission before taking photographs and don’t just touch things to touch things.  You never know what kind of spell could be placed on you if you do.

 

  1. Mí Teleférico

Mi Teleferico brings the public transit system to new heights.  It is an aerial cable car urban transit system providing fast and reliable transport between the city’s major attractions. Operating at 4000 m (13,000 ft) above sea level, the world’s highest cable car ride has revolutionized the way locals travel between La Paz and El Alto and every place in between.  As of March 2018, the system consists of 20 stations along six lines: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Orange, and the new White line (which opened about a week before I arrived in La Paz) with a lot more scheduled to come on line soon.  In fact, Mí Teleférico is the first urban transit network to use cable cars as the backbone of the public transportation network.  As educational as that is, what I was most interested in was the views of the city and the surrounding landscape that make up La Paz and boy did I get some stunning views of this lovely city.

  1. Iglesia de San Francisco

Seeing this historical landmark is one thing but seeing it during Semana Santa on the heels of the Pilgrimage that leaves this lovely church for its annual procession to Copacabana is a whole other thing.  The Pilgrimage begins here at the church on Good Friday and 157km later ends on Sunday in the church in Copacabana where the Bolivians’ patron saint resides – The Virgin of Copacabana.  It is said that some 35,000 penitent souls make this march.  Impressive huh? Anyway, the Basilica of San Francisco – which is in the center of La Paz in the Square that bears its name – was built between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries in the so-called baroque mestizo style. It was built on this site originally in 1548 one year prior to the founding of La Paz itself but, was reconstructed 200 years later after it collapsed under the weight of, if you can believe it, snow.  The Square is generally covered in tents with vendors selling just about anything you can imagine but, during Semana Santa, you are likely to find more chocolate bunnies and colored eggs than any other items. (Last photo is compliments of the Latin American Travel Association and a pictorial representation of the Pilgrimage.)

 

  1. Murillo Square

The Plaza Murillo is the central plaza of the city of La Paz and the open space most connected to the political life of Bolivia. Prominent buildings on the plaza include the Presidential Palace which has been gutted by fire twice, the National Congress of Bolivia, and the Cathedral of La Paz.  The Plaza was named after Pedro Murillo who was a signatory on the document establishing Bolivia’s independence.  One of the coolest things I learned here was that the US Dollar has two symbols on it that came directly from the decorative façade of the Cathedral of La Paz.  Moreover, I learned that despite all the government buildings being in La Paz, the actual capital of Bolivia is Sucre.  Surprisingly, most people don’t know that. Finally, I encourage you to have a seat Indian style in the plaza, have some helado (ice cream!), feed the pigeons and people watch.  It is quite a dichotomy to be surrounded by such history including political battles such as the unfortunate hanging of a President from a lamp post back in 1946 vs. the current tranquility you will experience today as children play and locals socialize.

Where to Stay in La Paz:  Stannum Boutique Hotel and Spa is hands down the best hotel I have stayed at for under $100/night in all 80 countries to date.  Every whim….every need….every desire….was met by the staff at Stannum.  I’ve never had this kind of service at any hotel ever.  You cannot buy service that good even though you are technically buying it by spending the money to stay there.  If I needed something from the store, the staff went and got it.  If I needed a SIM card, it was taken care of.  If I needed food, a tour set up, a taxi, a laugh, a smile, whatever, it was provided.  Stannum also had great water pressure, hot showers, spot on wifi that never missed a beat, comfortable beds and rooms with views, an incredible yet tranquil ambience, fantastic decoration and good food.  The location is superb. It is central to everything and is on top of a mall so if you need anything from groceries, to fast food, to a movie, to an ATM machine or a pharmacy, it is an elevator ride away. It just doesn’t get any better than the Stannum for the price especially if you are coming from other parts of Bolivia.  I highly recommend this hotel on every level.  Stay here.  Period!

That’s all for now so send your questions and comments if you have any and then go Unlock the Travelirvana in You.

 

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Day 1

As always, day 1 in a new country is errand day. I got off Busquebus Ferry from Montevideo at the port in Buenos Aires. The cost for the ferry ride while cheaper than a flight by about $100USD, was expensive because I wanted a direct ferry i.e. I didn’t want to have to do a portion of the trip by bus and a portion by ferry. The price was affected by this decision i.e. My ferry ride was a whopping $120 USD. There are much cheaper ways to do it if you have the time and are trying to conserve money. Busquebus is the only that is direct though so keep that in mind.

First order of business, per usual, is to locate a decent hotel in a popular area. img_7267This is a much more expensive way to visit a city of course as you can stay outside the tourists areas or get an Airbnb which is significantly cheaper; however, for me when I first touch down in a new country and particularly in a big city, I like to get my bearings, see how things are done, practice the language, and get any outstanding work out of the way. In this case, I stayed at Own Grande Palermo which cost $150USD/night…YIKES! That may not be a lot for a hotel in the United States but that is high for me and here – even for BA which is a very expensive city especially in Palermo but it is likely where outsiders are best situated.

BA does have an excellent subte (underground metro) and bus system to get you anywhere you need in the city and, as always, I highly encourage your use of public transportation. And, of course, you should practice the language. For me, I spent one whole day without speaking English! I am so proud.

img_7219So back to the errands – Argentina SIM card was first and it was not very easy but it is close by. Avenida Santa Fe is a few blocks from Own Grand Plaza Hotel down cobblestone and tree lined streets. When you get to Avenida Santa Fe you will find all the shopping possibilities, the metro, more buses than I’ve seen before, grocery stores, restaurants – whatever you want you can get. The SIM card was a process though because, for the first time in my travels, I was unable to buy one from the internet/phone service provider itself which is very strange. I went to Movistar and they sent me to 3 different places to buy the chip. I found it at a bookstore. Then had to find another store to cut the SIM card into a nano for my iPhone. Movistar didn’t even have that capability. Then to another few stores in order to buy credit but no luck there. Finally, I was instructed to use a kiosk or machina. It was a strange but a very efficient way to add credit for data to your phone. 200 pesos later I was armed with Internet and ready to go. Can’t believe I did all that without using English once…may have played a little charades once or twice but whose counting.

Second job was to replace my Gopro Hero 5 also known as mí novio if for no other reason than because he traveled everywhere with me, let me talk to him for hours and remembered everything I told him and followed all of my commands…what more can a girl ask for! This was yet another daunting task but a good opportunity to see BA, interact with the locals, and, again, practice my Spanish. Unfortunately, after 6 stores with no luck as they all only had the 4, I found one. I was so excited until I found out that the camera by itself is over a thousand dollars in Buenos Aires and the prices of all electronics everywhere in Argentina are ghastly. Don’t shop in Argentina is the lesson here. Get to Paraguay or, in my case, head towards Santiago de Chile. The clerk said I can get a new 5 for $500USD in Santiago. We shall see.

Next was food…not any food but Argentina carne asado alleged to be the best cut of beef I’ll ever have. Unfortunately, like in lots of other countries, dinner doesn’t start until 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. so nothing was open. Sometimes you can get lucky though as I did. The restaurant across the street from Own Grande Plaza Hotel had the best gnocchi ever (even better than Italy). I had no idea how popular pasta is here given their love of carne but they love it and they make it well.

After some work I climbed into my comfy bed for some shut eye but as luck would have it, I caught a cold or flu bug somewhere along the way so not much sleep…probably from that public transportation I’m always encouraging ya’ll to take 😉

That’s all for now. With love from Buenos Aires.