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Spending a Day at the Baths

A treasure of the Virgin Islands was created millions of years ago with heat and pressure when magma pushed its way up through the Earth’s crust and just didn’t make it all the way to the surface. Instead, the molten rock cooled, creating massive granite blocks. A millenia of erosion shifted away the softer rocks and allowed the wind and sea to weather the boulders to create the massive rounded shapes we see piled along the northern coast of Virgin Gorda today. The unique geological formations make this area, known as The Baths, one of the most visited spots in all of the British Virgin Islands.

Sunlight filters in through the boulders that make up The Baths.

Sunlight filters in through the boulders that make up The Baths.

The park, covering 7 acres, is a must-see and definitely a highlight of any trip. You can spend your day relaxing on the soft sand or climbing over boulders (with the help of pre-anchored ropes) and through the caves. We found one of the best uses of this geological gift was to find shelter from the tropical sun without giving up our time at the beach.

Enjoy the sun, warm water and shade in The Baths.

Enjoy the sun, warm water and shade in The Baths.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking of finding a quiet little grotto for some skinny dipping with your honey. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but tourists flock to these caves. I think the longest we went without running into another couple or family was 10 minutes, and we visited during the off-season.

If you’re coming by sea to visit The Baths and your captain wants to drop you off at Spring Bay, beware. Your captain may be trying to avoid paying the entrance fee for the national park (fair enough), but you’ll need to be prepared to swim your way to The Baths in about 10 feet of water. No matter what your captain tells you, there is no walking path from Spring Bay to The Baths.
(Yes, we had to break this news to several groups of travelers during our stay.)

You will find a Poor Man’s Bar & Grill with facilities just off the beach in the shade of some trees. There’s also a restaurant at the top of The Baths (called Top of the Baths); it’s a great place for a bite to eat, a beer and a view of the Caribbean and Tortola in the distance. Bring your swimsuit, they have a fresh-water pool next to the bar for their patrons.

You can visit two other beaches if you’re up for swim from The Baths. If you swim about 200 yards to the south you can visit Spring Bay, a far more relaxing and lest tourist-filled beach, or continue swimming north to go to Devils Bay, for even more seclusion.

The cost of visiting The Baths National Park is $3 per person.

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The United States Sailboat Show

If it had ever been suggested to me that I’d be spending the day walking around the harbor in Annapolis, Maryland in my bare feet on a damp fall day in the beginning of October I’d think you were crazy.  Zeke's feetWell, you’re not.  I was in my bare feet and loving it.  The 45th United States Sailboat Show was last weekend in Annapolis and my sister, Andrea, and her fiancé, Matt, meet me for an afternoon of ogling.

The show is one of the largest boat shows in the world, specializing in every kind of ship under sail and the largest in-water boat show in the country.  The five-day event hosts boats of all sizes buy every major manufacturer. The harbor is a web of floating docks and boats letting you leisurely walk over the water from one side of the harbor to the other.

If you want to climb on board, kick off your shoes and explore above and below the decks of hundreds of boats. You’ll find small 15’ day sailors and 90’ luxurious yachts. I swear some the catamarans on display would qualify as a small cruise ship.

Andi, Matt and I spent the most of our time climbing around the boats of the Catalina section. I have found that Catalina owners, like Matt, feel like they are members of a club (much like Amanda and her Fiat). We checked out boats of similar layouts and varying sizes to get a sense of space for a possible upcoming joint purchase.  But, Matt and I aren’t exactly rich, so the brand new boats sitting in the harbor with base prices of $150,000 were little out of reach. I found out recently that we missed the section of harbor called Brokerage Cove where there were dozens of used boats for sale (Amanda thinks this was a good thing).  I guess it’s also an example of how big the show is, that you can miss a whole section of the harbor.

The boats themselves weren’t the only things to look at; scores of tents were set up with the latest electronics, accessories, clothing and nautical antiques. We even found a great booth that had jackets and bags made out of old sails. The afternoon was absolutely perfect, even with the cloudy skies and occasional rain.

If you’re planning to attend, I suggest parking at the Navy-Marine Corp Stadium and taking one of the dozen buses running free shuttle service to the show. The parking was $10.00 and, trust me, you won’t find an easier way to get in and out of downtown, where parking is hard on a normal day. A one-day Regular Admission ticket to the show was $18.00 a 2-day was $31.00.

The sailboat show wasn’t just a place to buy and look at boats, but a place to talk to the various owners and dealers to trade stories about sailing, sailing vacations, and lessons. I couldn’t believe that it took me 20 years to get to the show, but I’m sure that it’s on my list of places to go next year. Or, if I can’t wait, they have a smaller (but equally amazing) Annapolis Spring Boat Show.

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Why We’re Not Worried About Ebola

Courtesy: CDC

Courtesy: CDC

We’ve all heard the anchors and reporters on the news saying “starting this weekend airports are clamping down on passengers from West Africa” or “major changes to air travel in the U.S. to combat Ebola.” Statements like these conjure images of draconian methods being employed to anyone traveling by air, causing chaos at every airport in the country. Longer security lines, being turned away from a flight if you sneeze, taken to a stark white room for an intrusive physical exam, as if we are on guard for the Zombie apocalypse.

The hype couldn’t be further from reality.

I’m not claiming that Ebola isn’t one step from becoming a true international epidemic, because it is. But the media makes it sound like thousands of people a day cross our boarders with the intent of spreading a plague of biblical proportions.

Here’s the truth about the extra screenings:

150 passengers a day enter the U.S. from an Ebola-stricken country. They arrive through several different airports, mainly on the east coast.

350 million travelers enter the U.S. each year and only a fraction come from these affected countries. The extra screening will basically involve a temperature check and a questionnaire, so not too complicated.

Screeners at these select airports will be looking for travelers with fevers of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you have a fever of 101.5 you should only be traveling as far as your doctor’s office, even if you haven’t been exposed to anything more serious than a stomach bug.

If you’re flying through one of these five U.S. airports you may see some of these extra screenings:

  • Atlanta
  • Newark
  • JFK
  • Dulles
  • O’Hare

If your travel plans happen to include a stop in Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone, the CDC has three words for you: don’t go there. Okay, they say “avoid nonessential travel” — same thing. If you’re heading for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the CDC suggests taking enhanced precautions.

I’m not worried. The odds of getting infected are slim to none (unless you are one of the generous souls who become infected while caring for a diagnosed patient who is showing symptoms).

In spite of what the panicked reporter in front of the airport says, the CDC and No Kids are pretty sure you can safely jet off to Nassau without packing a hazmat suit.

That said, DO NOT, we repeat, DO NOT crack jokes about Ebola on a plane (or anywhere else, for that matter).

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A Stay at Guavaberry Spring Bay, BVI

We’re back from our tropical getaway and sorting through our notes for the next few blog posts. I promised to let you know about our affordable accommodations on Virgin Gorda a couple of weeks ago, so here it is: our stay at Guavaberry Spring Bay .

Note – All prices are in USD because, despite being part of the Commonwealth, the British Virgin Islands use US dollars.

Note – These islands are officially called the Virgin Islands. They use “British” to differentiate themselves from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The vacation homes offered by Guavaberry Spring Bay suit just about any need.  You can rent small one- and two-bedroom homes between 350 and 710 square feet for between $160 -$210 a night in the summer and $255-$325 in winter, which is a bargain when an ocean view at Rosewood Little Dix Bay (the premier resort on the island) can cost $420 per night. If you’re looking for luxury, Guavaberry Spring Bay offers that too, with Deluxe Villas like Beach House that are just off the beach, featuring gourmet kitchens and plunge pools. They were also built with air conditioning in mind. For two people you’ll pay $3,000 per week in the summer and $4,000 per week over the winter. Being the budget-minded travelers we are, we chose one of the 350 square-foot cottages without air-conditioning since we really don’t mind the heat. It was a decision that would come to literally bite us in the ass.

We were met on the other side of customs by our ride to take us out to Spring Bay with two other couples that were staying at Guavaberry, too.  The office was only a short 8-minute ride and cost $4 per person.

Note – If entering the British Virgin Islands via Saint Thomas, you must have your passport and go through customs.

Guavaberry Spring Bay Sign

The office is everything you’d want in an out-of-the-way destination like Virgin Gorda. You can get all the essentials you need.  The staff will help you make reservations for side trips, taxis and excursions. You can also rent snorkeling equipment from them, $3.50 for fins, mask and snorkel for a 24-hour period. They also have a clubhouse with wifi (for a fee), television, and games and books to check out. You can even rent a personal hotspot for $15 a day. A warning though, the internet speed isn’t what you’re used to, unless you have an old dial-up connection. But if you want to check email, Twitter or the news the speed is just fine.

The best part is the commissary; they have a lot of the essentials in stock, from suntan lotion to frozen pizza and beer. You can even order fresh bread (a day in advance) from the bakery down the street. Guests log their purchases on a notepad with the name of your house on the top and pay your bill when you check out. I was told by other guests that the prices were competitive but didn’t have the chance to check that out myself. We did the math and after a week we spent about $30 a day in groceries. The one time we went out for dinner it cost $50 for two burgers, fries and drinks. We certainly came out ahead by getting breakfast, lunch and dinner each day for $30. I will admit we brought our own coffee from our favorite coffee shop, because we’re snobs like that.

Our villa was at top of a hill situated behind one of the large boulders that dot the island. It commanded amazing views of the sea. The 350 square-foot hexagonal house packed in all the essentials you need.

Our villa was equipped with a small gas range and oven, full-sized fridge, breakfast table, a couple of comfy chairs, a large bed, closet, small safe, and a comfortably sized shower. The whole house was built with the trade winds in mind. The screened windows and slanted shutters to cut down on the light are designed to bring in the soft breezes. The temperature was just right, actually quite comfortable considering there was no climate control.

We were prepared for our unplugged week at the beach. But, a flaw in our plan quickly emerged. The small gaps in the screens where they met the frames were enough for the bugs to get in. Getting bit by mosquitoes sucks. We had to hide under the covers to sleep, even though it was still pretty warm at night. Still, the bites were the only drawback, one we could put up with since covering yourself in bug spray is just a mood killer.

The cost of our Saturday to Saturday stay ended up running about $1,400 for our rent and commissary bill.

All in all we enjoyed the convenience, service and privacy during our stay at Guavaberry Spring Bay.

We’ll cover the wonderful beaches of Virgin Gorda, and especially the unique and amazing Baths, in an upcoming post.

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Sharing the Travel Love

Here at No Kids, Will Travel, we attempt to bring you the best information and creative narratives we can about travel, so we do a lot of first-person tooting of our own horn. Here’s our attempt to share the wealth in terms of travel perspectives. The goal of this post is to simply highlight some of the blogs we think might be worth your follow.

  1. Nomadic Matt- Matt is a hero to me; he lives his life as example of wanderlust. He provides narratives and sound real-world advice with references and examples of how he’s managed to travel the world on a shoestring budget.
  2. The Great Affair- Candace Rose Rardon uses her considerable artistic talent to bring you the world through paintings, sketches and from-the-heart narratives. She has one of the most beautiful travel blogs out there.
  3. The Everywhereist- Geraldine DeRuiter is a perfect example of taking lemons and turning them into lemonade. She’s irreverent, honest and informative with a touch of sarcasm. She posts about hard-core travel info like city guides and her own Cupcake Death Match — which combine to make her a great read.
  4. Landloper- Matt Long is a lot like us at No Kids, he’s a Gen-Xer and shares a similar target audience, people who haven’t chosen to quit their jobs and travel full time. He has learned to get the most of his time off the clock.

I know this is a short post, but since it’s about looking at what others have to offer, we’ll leave you to click through these great blogs. Be sure to share the love!

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A Playlist of Memories

“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories.  And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.”  – Stevie Wonder

I couldn’t agree more, Stevie. We all have that song that takes us back to a place and time the moment we hear it. Heck, even as I write this the sounds of XM radio’s Sinatra station is playing in the background awaking many memories.

I can’t help but smile from the very first orchestral note as Etta James begins At Last. The song played for our first dance at our wedding, a choice made years before the resurgence of the standard into popular culture. At Last wasn’t just a nice tune to listen to, it was a statement for both Amanda and myself, who were unlucky in love so many times, before that first amazing date. I can’t help but see her smiling in her dress as we glided across the floor of Ceresville Mansion surrounded by our family and friends. I still say that was the happiest day of my life and think about it every time my phone rings; it’s set as Amanda’s personalized ring tone.

A few other songs are connected with strong memories too. Like Sloop John B. by the Beach Boys, the catchy tune played through my head constantly the summer of my 7th grade year as I  spent two weeks on a sailboat as part of a summer classroom. The trip was good, but being the first time being away from home, it wasn’t all happiness, but far from the worst trip I’d ever been on.

When I was even younger the song Doe a Deer from Sound Of Music was a standard for family sing-a-longs on long road trips, we even learned to sing it as a round just to change things up.

I can’t hear Your Song by Elton John without a very vivid memory popping up, and it’s not even a mushy, romantic one.  Amanda and I were sitting poolside at this little hotel on Ios when the Moulin Rouge version came on and that was fine enough, then the original came on, then a dance mix, then one more version. We heard Your Song for almost 20 minutes straight.  I can only guess they were back to back to back on an iPod and they didn’t hit shuffle. We couldn’t stop laughing about it for the rest of the trip.

The last one has no words, just DAH-DUH-DUH-DUNNN… DUH-DA-DUH-DUH-DUH-DA-DUNNN! (also known as the Monday Night Football theme music). It was playing in the background as I proposed on the sidelines of FedEx field just before the players took the field for a Redskins game. It wasn’t good timing, just a coincidence. We didn’t realize the music had been playing until we looked at video a fellow photographer shot of my proposal. I hear those epic notes and if she’s near I ask Amanda to marry me all over again.

The music we hear isn’t always background noise, it can pull memories to the surface as readily as a photograph. So, why not make up your own playlist and travel the road of memories?

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Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

I promised and have delivered. The post last week contained a promise that a post about the Inner Harbor in Baltimore would be forthcoming, so without delay here it is.

The city of Baltimore’s harbor area wasn’t always the tourist mecca it is now. The smelly water, crumbling chemical plants and rusting hulks left over as all of the new, larger ships moved to a port about a mile away made it a place you wanted to avoid. A massive, but slow, rehabilitation project began in the 1950s to change the purpose of the harbor from industrial to recreational, and the creative destruction began. 64 years later it’s considered a model for redevelopment of post-industrial waterfronts.

So what should you do on a visit to this model waterfront?  Here are a few suggestions.

I would suggest staying somewhere close to the harbor so you don’t have to deal with the city traffic and pay for parking.

The two nicest budget options are the Lord Baltimore Hotel ranging from $141-$161 a night and the Hampton Inn at $118-$200 a night. Both are within walking distance of the harbor. There are plenty of hotels in along the waterfront with names like Hilton, Renaissance and Monaco, but their per-night prices start at $200 and up.

You’re relaxing, so don’t get up early. Walk to Miss Shirley’s for — as they say — “brunch reinvented”. You might want some southern dishes like fried green tomatoes made with lemon-herb seasoning, aioli and chow chow (and because it’s Baltimore you can add 2 ounces of jumbo crab meat at market price) or try their berry fresh waffle sampler: blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and strawberry for $11.99.

You’ll want to walk off all those calories, so head over to Fort McHenry. You know, the place on the hill under the massive star spangled banner. You can take a self-guided tour of the 18th century fort, catch a living history demonstration and hear all about the 1812 battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen his poem “Defense of Fort M’Henry” that was eventually adopted and renamed the “Star Spangled Banner”.

Looking across the harbor at the National Aquarium. Photo courtesy: Kristal Mallonee-Klier

Looking across the harbor at the National Aquarium. Photo courtesy: Kristal Mallonee-Klier

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a massive nonprofit conservation and education organization. The great tank located in the inner harbor hosts 750 species of animals. The aquarium had a massive renovation to its shark exhibit and opened the Black Tip Reef about a year ago. I’ll wait here while you click that link. It’s amazing.

This the part where I tell you to visit Oriole Park at Camden Yards and watch a ballgame at the stadium that started the renaissance of stadium construction and architecture. GO O’s

I really do suggest taking a tour of tall ship. The USS Constellation sits in the harbor now, but spent its early years as part of the Africa Squadron, stopping slave ships before the Civil War. If you’ve ever wanted to get a real feel for the rigging and close quarters of a ship, this is your chance. She still sails, and is not just a museum piece. You can pay $11 for visiting just the Constellation or pay $18 and visit a retired Coast Guard cutter, the USCGC Taney, the USS Torsk a WWII sub, and a light house ship called Chesapeake, all right there anchored in the harbor.

All this walking around is probably bringing your appetite back, so here are two good choices for a bite to eat. The first mention is Chiapparellis in Little Italy, only about a 15 minute walk from the aquarium. You can eat well at this Baltimore staple for a moderately expensive price. Soup is $6, lasagna $18, or go for an entree like chicken Giuseppe (breaded chicken breast, crab, prosciutto, spinach and provolone with a Marsala wine sauce) for $29. The prices are well worth it according to the community and Zagat.

The second place you should consider is Phillips Seafood. It can be pricey, but it’s a Baltimore must. The city prides itself on crabs — so much so that it’s surprising neither of the sports teams are the red-steamed beauties. The price of crab varies daily, so you’ll have to check the board out front for the current price. No matter what the going rate happens to be, the view of the Inner Harbor is great from the Crab Deck, and sitting in the sun and having a cold beer with some steaming crabs is a truly great Baltimore way to spend an afternoon.

So there you have it, my ode to Baltimore — and we only scratched the surface.


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