A Travellerspoint blog

St. John Day 1: We Survived the Ferry Boat

Some time around May 2021, at one of our pool Sundays, my friend Melissa and I decided we needed a beach vacation. Because of the pandemic, I hadn't been on a "real" vacation in two years and it had been even longer for her. We didn't want to deal with COVID testing to re-enter the US so we chose another of the US Virgin Islands, St. John. With only a couple of months to plan and what seemed like all US travelers making the same plan, the pickings for lodging were slim and reserving a Jeep was even slimmer. I finally found a nice little condo in Cruz Bay and a very expensive Jeep on St. Thomas.

As with our trip to St. Croix, we had a somewhat early morning flight so Melissa came over and spent the night before at my house. We had enough time at the airport to grab some coffee for Melissa and some McDonald's for me before our 9a flight. Five hours later, we arrived on St. Thomas. The Jeep wasn't ready when we arrived but after a semi-short wait we loaded everything into our dark green Jeep and made the 30 minute drive to the St. John car ferry.

This was the most nerve-racking part of the trip for me...backing the Jeep into a tight space on a bobbing car ferry. Ugh. We had lots of direction.



We made it as the last car on the boat and they raised the ramp.


We enjoyed the fairly smooth 20 minute ride over to Sl. John.



We arrived on St. John around 5p and it was a short drive to our condo where we met the leasing agent who gave us a tour. It was only a one-bedroom but it was convenient, clean, and new. Ours was on the second floor.








This trip, no grocery store run was needed. I used a service on St. John where you place an order for your groceries ahead of time and they stock your kitchen for you. It was a smart move. I had made dinner reservations for most nights on the island since it was more crowded than usual with tourists and COVID had created a labor shortage. Tonight was a reservation night and it was for 7:30p at Banana Deck. We had some time to kill before then and we were craving our first island drink. We made the relatively short walk into town to Beach Bar.

The walk to town started off walking down a very long, very steep hill then up a shorter, less steep hill to arrive at the cemetery outside of town. Across the street, a peacock was hanging out.


We arrived at Beach Bar and sat at the bar for our first island drinks. Melissa ordered a pina colada and I ordered what would become our nightly staple, a BCBBBC which was basically a pina colada with banana cream and bananas made with Blue Chair Bay rum. This was one of those places with good music, a sense of humor, and a beautiful sunset.



Banana Deck was just across the street so we stumbled over after our drinks for dinner. We hadn't eaten since the early morning McDonald's so we were starving and tired. And Banana Deck was slooooooooow. We started out with conch fritters which they forgot about and then when we reminded them, they brought them out overcooked.


For dinner, we both had the blackened shrimp and mahi mahi with broccoli and rice. It was fine but nothing special. Banana Deck would not get a repeat visit.


After dinner, we both just wanted to go back to the condo and relax. Unfortunately, that required walking up that very long, very steep hill that we came down into town. We thought...how bad could it be? The answer is "always take a taxi back to the condo" bad.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:46 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged st melissa john Comments (0)

Sedona Days 4-5: Canyon by Foot

OK so we weren't really exploring a canyon and we weren't totally on foot. The title is a stretch but it fit in with the other two days so I went with it. We checked out of our cabin this morning and I wanted to do some shopping at Tlaquepaque shopping center. It's pronounced Tuh-lack-ee-pack-ee which is fun to say and makes me smile. We hit some of the jewelry stores and I bought a gold bracelet as well as the Christmas store for a javelina-themed ornament in honor of the wild ones we saw on our Jeep drive.

Afterwards we drove down the road to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church built into the red rocks with a breathtaking view. It was originally commissioned to be built in Budapest but when WWII broke out, plans were moved to the current location.



We did have to hike up a large, steep hill to enter the chapel (hence the "by foot") and see the view.




This was our last stop in Sedona before leaving for Phoenix where we planned to spend two nights before flying home on Sunday. We stopped at the outlet mall and a few stores on the way to Phoenix. When we arrived, a friend of mine from home texted me to tell me we should consider changing our flight. Apparently a winter storm was headed towards Dallas and would arrive on the day we were scheduled to fly home. I called the airline and they were allowing free changeovers so we took advantage. We picked up some sushi from a nearby place for dinner and then left out early the next morning for our new flight. It turned out to be the right decision as the morning after we landed a snowstorm came through and grounded all flights for several days.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Sedona Day 3: Canyon by Air

Early to bed usually means early to rise and we were up fairly early the next morning for our road trip to the Grand Canyon. We drove through Oak Creek Canyon, a beautiful, winding drive through the mountains, with snow and ice on the ground in many places. We stopped just outside the park at an air facility so that we could board our helicopter for the flight through the Canyon.


There were eight of us plus the pilot onboard and they seated us according to weight distribution. Alex and I were in the back behind the pilot.



We flew out over the treetops until we could see the Canyon peaking out then flew through it for some spectacular scenery.










We reached terra firma again and I wanted to drive to the Canyon rim itself for a ground level view. We stopped off at one of the first viewpoints in the park.




I would have liked to walk along the rim trail for a bit but Alex was pretty cold so we decided to drive instead. We stopped off at the General Store where I bought my usual Christmas ornament and a t-shirt then drove a few miles to the Bright Angel trailhead. I got out and took some pics from the top of the very steep, very icy trail. This is the same trail that people use to ride mules down into the canyon floor which is something I've always wanted to do in theory. Reality took care of that for me!





Before leaving the park completely, we had a picnic with the leftover burritos from the night before. They were surprisingly good leftover and cold! On the way back to Sedona we stopped off in Flagstaff at a few stores for Alex then headed back to relax for a while before our dinner reservations.

Dinner that night was at Mariposa, a beautifully lit restaurant high up on a hill just outside of town. We started off with the scallops and mussels with white wine, garlic, and chorizo.



For our meals, I had steak with chimichurri sauce and a side of au gratin potatoes.



Alex had the fish of the day.


The food was incredible, especially the broth the mussels were in. Alex raved so much about it to the waiter that he got himself invited back to the kitchen. It was late when dinner was done so we returned to our cabin and called it a night.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:40 Archived in USA Tagged arizona sedona alex Comments (0)

Sedona Days 1-2: Canyon by Land

After almost a year of dealing with the COVID pandemic, this trip was my first time back on a plane in a year and a half. And this time it would be with my new boyfriend, Alex. Milestones!

We left Dallas on a morning flight and arrived in Phoenix at 1030a local time. After picking up the rental car and stopping off for a snack, we made the roughly two hour drive north to Sedona. The closer we got to Sedona, the more beautiful the scenery and then we got our first glimpses of the red rocks this area is known for. We arrived at our cabin which was only a couple of blocks off a main roundabout in town.







It was over for Alex as soon as he sat down on the couch. He was immediately asleep (I had slept the entire flight). While he napped, I went to the grocery to get a few supplies and picked up a pizza from Famous Pizza.

After going to bed early, we woke up the next morning much more rested and ready for the day. We picked up our Jeep rental from Red Rock Rubicon which came fully equipped with trail maps already programmed into the GPS. All we had to do was select one and set off. We spent the next few hours in 4WD on the trails, alternating who got to drive.
















We had our fill of bouncing all over the Jeep so we hit the concrete to Cottonwood, a small town about 20 miles away. Alex wanted to drop in a few stores there for work and it was supposed to be a pretty drive. We stopped at a gas station on the way to get a drink and he got some dining recommendations from a cop stopped there as well. After we did our shopping, we tried out one of his recommendations which was burritos at BombAZ Grill.


They were big enough that we saved half to eat later. We returned to Sedona and dropped off our Jeep. I was sad to see it go. Every time I go on vacation and rent a Jeep I decide I want to buy one at home. I never do though. We'd worn ourselves out driving all day so we spent the rest of evening watching some TV and relaxing.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:37 Archived in USA Tagged arizona sedona alex Comments (0)

Doha Layover 2: Day in Doha

We arrived into Doha around midnight after our six hour flight from Dar.

Rather than immediately get on another flight, I booked two nights in a hotel in Doha so we could shower, sleep, and see a little of the city. Otherwise, the long journey back is way too arduous. A taxi brought us to Hotel Al Bidda where we checked into our room and crashed.




We were feeling a little more rested by morning and we had breakfast at the hotel. They had a huge buffet.

Just around the corner from the hotel was the famous Souq shopping area. This is a huge area with stalls selling clothes, food, animals (unfortunately), and all manner of everything. We ventured out and walked around a bit but we couldn't take it very long. Even before noon, the temperature was so hot it was almost unbearable and I was sweating just from walking around. At least the gold stores were air conditioned so after buying a necklace/earrings, we went back to the hotel to cool off.

On recommendation of the hotel and because it was air conditioned, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at the National Museum of Qatar. It was quite a ways away but conveniently for us, Uber was available. The outside of the museum was incredibly beautiful.



The exhibits inside were pretty nice as well.




We stopped at the museum cafe for a drink afterwards. I thought this water installation looked cool.

We tried to take an Uber back to the hotel but after picking us up, the driver claimed not to know where the hotel was. I was able to remember an area very near so we just had him drop us off there and we walked back. The streets of Doha are cleaner than you can imagine. Not only is there no trash but there also seems to be no dust or dirt. I saw why as we were walking back to the hotel. This guy was literally mopping the sidewalk!

Time to rest again...the heat just sucked every ounce of energy out of us. As it was getting dark, we walked around the corner to the camel enclosure where the police camels live. This was the area directly around our hotel.


They camel enclosure was closed to the public but they allowed us to come in and meet and feed the camels for a few minutes.





I think they were having a conversation.



After leaving the camels, we wanted to walk to the waterfront and go on a dhow boat ride around the harbor. To get there, we needed to cross a very busy street. I knew there was a tunnel that ran underneath but we couldn't figure out how to get there. A man was walking by at the time so I asked him for directions to the tunnel. Of course, he offered to show us. I was leery at first but there were tons of people around so we said ok. He said that he was from Egypt but currently living in Doha. We followed him through the tunnel and when we reached the other side, thanked him, and parted ways.

At the entrance to the harbor is a giant pearl monument. It pays tribute to Qatar's early days of pearl hunting before the more lucrative discovery of oil.

We found a dhow offering rides around the harbor and boarded. It looked like we were the only people on board what was in no way a luxury boat.

At the last second pulling away from shore, the Eqyptian guy who gave us directions jumped from shore on board. My heart stopped. He came and sat next to us. He was aggressive and harassing even after I told him I was married (I am not). We went upstairs to the roof in order to get away from him and try to enjoy the scenery.




Brenda and I were discussing what we would do when the boat docked and how we would get away from this guy without him following us. Suddenly he appeared on the roof. By now, I was getting very uncomfortable so we went downstairs and I tried to communicate with the boat captain (who spoke little English) what was happening and that this guy was scaring us. The boat captain, who was small and young, maybe even a kid, came to our defense. He said something to the guy in Arabic and when we docked, the guy immediately jumped off the boat. I had already called an Uber and it was waiting for us so we could hop in immediately and not be followed. But first, I gave the boat captain a huge tip. It was so much that he ran after me telling me we overpaid. I tried to explain to him how much he helped us and how thankful we were.

We were shaken but hungry so we went on to dinner at Al Shurfa, across the road from our hotel. We ate on the patio overlooking the square.

We both kept a lookout for the Eqyptian guy but thankfully never saw him again. We walked back to the hotel after dinner and spent the rest of the evening packing and preparing for our last, long flight at 8a the next day. Although we had that scary experience, we did really enjoy our time in Doha and we arrived home safely the next day.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:26 Archived in Qatar Tagged tanzania doha brenda Comments (1)

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