sMARt Travel

I have always had a passion for traveling and seeing the world. It’s no wonder. It began with a passport at the age of three. Who knew the world would become my playground with so much to discover, learn and pass along. I have explored much of the globe as a follower of culture, style, and hospitality. Along the way, I have experienced a variety of cultures and all levels of sophistication, or lack of it! From “cheap sleeps” to luxury resorts, I am delighted to share these experiences with you.
Most recently I was sent on an assignment to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to highlight the beautiful island of Tortola, one of the 60 islands that make up the BVI. Tortola, the largest of the BVI, offers both peace and quiet and every activity you could possibly want. With excitement and anticipation, I packed my bags for this magnificent destination to do a lifestyle segment for Northeast Living.

I am a huge advocate for traveling “off” season if at all possible. It’s the best way to really experience a destination without the problems and distractions of large crowds and typically at a reduced price. During the off-season, it’s much easier to make reservations for both restaurants and hotels. Here’s a smart tip: try to book your vacation a few weeks before the high season. That way, the hotels, and restaurants are not only available but they have trained their staff and geared up for high season in anticipation of large numbers of tourists. In my case, I love to travel around the Thanksgiving holiday; it’s my favorite time to travel anywhere bar none. Whether it’s Rome or the South of France and now the BVI, I love to give thanks to a new and exotic destination whenever possible. And that’s exactly what I did just after Thanksgiving in the BVI.

Paradise greeted me in Tortola with cliffside views of brilliant blue skies and clear turquoise waters. I was surrounded by natural beauty and this was just the beginning. I felt my whole body relax, my shoulders drop and my breathing begins to slow down the minute I walked into The Moorings Hotel. Mar Central in the BVI was a spectacular room overlooking the marina.

The real adventure began the next day. All the islanders I met were very friendly. Our driver, Karl, is a native Islander with manners that surpassed anyone I have ever met anywhere in the world. What a gentleman he was! Karl was polite, engaging and extremely knowledgeable about the island. He was my first introduction to and my last memory of Tortola, solidifying my affection for the people of this tropical wonderland. As a gardener, I was enamored with the intoxicatingly lush vegetation, cool tropical breezes and endless sunshine.

From boat rides on amazing yachts to swimming with schools of fish, I was treated to a dazzling array of activities and introduced to the most delightful people, including the Director of Tourism. They made sure I got to experience everything that Tortola has to offer. Here’s just a few things that stand out in my mind: white powdery sand, breathtaking sunsets, cocktails and yummy snacks on the side of a hilltop, swaying in a hammock under a palm, superior cuisine, cocktails by the pool, lush vegetation, lobster dinners every night, the Painkiller cocktail, evening strolls, snorkeling with the fish, cocktails on the beach, shopping, effortlessly floating in salt water, spa treatments, a private yacht cruise to surrounding islands, windblown hair (what’s left of it!), did I mention the Painkiller cocktail?

I am no stranger to a strong cocktail. So, I was intrigued by the idea of the Painkiller Cocktail, the most popular mixed drink in the Caribbean. Legend has it that it was originally invented at the Soggy Dollar Bar on the island of Jost Van Dyke. It has orange and pineapple juices, sweetened coconut cream, shaved ice and a topping of granulated nutmeg. But the main and most important ingredient is Pusser’s Rum. After imbibing one of these Painkiller Cocktails, I found myself swinging in a hammock under a coconut tree, in my bathing trunks without a shirt, enjoying the beach with the warm penetrating sun relaxing every cell of my body, and completely and utterly feeling no pain. So, it works!

One of the experiences that stood out in my mind was “swimming with the fishes” and I don’t mean Godfather style. I put on snorkeling gear and jumped in the water. As they threw in fish food, I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of yellowtail fish. They were as curious about me as I was freaked out about them. I felt them bumping into me, tickling every inch of my body. It was exciting and freaky at the same time. My senior producer thought this would make a great clip but the look on my face as the fish swam around me touching me with their fins said it all. We didn’t use it, but I would definitely do it again.

Amazingly, even though I was working every day on assignment, I managed to get and come home well rested. So when asked to read my lines from the bow of a boat or to do a cannonball into the clear blue waters at Norman Island or even to swim to the trampoline at White Beach, I was able to comply with the requests and even asked if I could do it again and again just to make this wonderful and extremely fun experience last as long as possible. It’s not every day that these types of assignments pop up but I’m hoping for a lot more.

No matter where I travel, you can be sure that I will bring the experience to you in a unique and entertaining way. So if you’re thinking of booking a reservation, a word to the wise: Venus may be booked and Pluto may be too far, but you’re always welcome to visit Life on Mar’s.