Cuban Adventure

Ever since travel to Cuba has been lifted it has been high on our Gypsy bucket list. This past month our dream has finally come true and we ticked off the box!

It was an absolutely incredible 10 days in Cuba! We have new brothers and sisters in Christ there! In 10 days we experienced 3 cities; Havana, Cardenas and Camiguey, a round trip bus ride from Havana to Camiguey ( 8 hours both ways), taxi rides in Classic American cars and horse pulled wagons, tons of amazing Cuban cuisine (they have the best chocolate, ice cream, and of course coffee!) and the beautiful people of this wonderful country that we know so little about. But most of all we saw the impact of God on the people there and how they are being the hands and feet of God in the work that they do. We had the honor and privilege to worship and pray with the people of 7 different churches, were hosted in the homes of 7 different families and Jon had the opportunity to preach in 6 different churches and one leaders conference. We have seen the power of prayer and God’s almighty power working already! We are blessed!

There are way too many pictures to post, but here it a link to our Cuban adventure album.


What Would You Do With…

What would you do with 3 days in NYC and 4 days on Long Island?  Walk like crazy, plan carefully, reboot when plans don’t pan out and keep on walking (or riding the subway).  See as much as you can in a little time but really try to absorb the sights, sounds, smells and everything surrounding you!  Ok- so it was time for another trip to see family in NY.  One thing we love to do is to at least try to grab a little bit of time in NYC.  So our week long visit to NY began with some time in NYC.  We had so many things on our bucket list to tick off and believe it or not we actually got a fair share of them completed!   Oh- so what did we check off?  Well here we go—

Day 1:

As we did last time our adventure began in Astoria, which we absolutely love.  We branched out from there for the first 3 days.  Of course, no trip to Astoria is complete without a trip to Neptune Diner, which was our to go spot for lunch.  Then it was on to pounding the pavement in Manhattan!  We caught the N line into Union Square and headed down Broadway.  First stop- The Strand Bookstore (no trip is complete to NY without going here), Laughing Man Coffee (owned by Hugh Jackman), Bleecker Street Pizza (way tinier than we thought).  Tons of walking, browsing, riding the subway (with some pretty cool subway entertainment tossed in), & back to Astoria for dinner at Mosaic Wine Bar.  Cold, snowy, and tired it was time to call it a night!

Day 2:

Today was a highlight day of our NYC time.  We had tickets for a tonights taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  We were so excited because tickets are incredibly hard to get, plus one of the guests was Ricky Gervais, one of our favs!  We decided to center ourselves around midtown so we could be close to the theatre when we had to check in at 2:00.  We are learning that no one gets anywhere quickly in Manhattan!  Now, in my humble opinion, there must be a stop at Macy’s while in the city. Of course, we already knew that the N train stops at 34th and Herald Sq- OMG- right across from Macy’s!  Off we went into the flagship store- just browsing of course- and being just a little sentimental riding the wooden escalator!  It does remind us of Halle’s in downtown Cleveland!  Ok- off to Times Square and all points Midtown.  We got in a stop at Magnolia Bakery (an awesome blueberry scone somehow jumped into our hands), onto Rockefeller Center for some lunch.  We still had a little time before we needed to be to the theatre.  One place that was on my list was St. Bartholomew’s Church – I have no clue why I wanted to see it but we did find it.  And of course a quick trip into St. Patrick’s Cathedral while we were right there.  One more trip back to Rockefeller Center for just a little sustenance at Bouchon Bakery and then we were off to the Stephen Colbert Theatre.  After an hour waiting outside (in the cold mind you), then another hour inside (thank goodness it was warm and we got a bathroom break) it was time to head into the theatre for the taping.  It was so worth the wait and was an incredible and fun night!  We even made it on TV when he did his final audience run and we all got free ice cream afterwards!  It was Stephen Colbert’s very own Ben and Jerry’s Americone Dream.  After chowing down our ice cream in 20 degree weather it really was time for a warm place to sit, have a glass of wine and dinner.  We came across an absolutely delightful Italian restaurant, Osterio Del Circo.  I will say it was probably one of the best Italian Dinners we have had in a very long time.  Another awesome day in NYC- and only one more to go!  But stuff is getting ticked off that bucket list slow but sure!

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Day 3:

Our last day in the city and then we are off to LI for some family time!  Our adventure today was another long awaited item- The Museum of the Moving Image and Kaufmann Studios-right in Astoria!  If you should ever be in Astoria I most certainly would recommend you check out the museum!  It was absolutely incredible and so interesting.  Make sure to try to get there by April to see the Martin Scorsese Exhibit!  After spending the morning at the museum we were off back into the city.  First item on our list- Katz’s Deli.  Oh- and we got our first experience with subway delays when the train we were on was taken out of service between Astoria and Lexington Ave.  Thank goodness we aren’t a little afraid of exploring and soon found our way to Union Square.  After a short jaunt we finally found Katz’s (this one being much bigger than we expected).  We certainly needed to walk off that lunch to we headed back to Broadway for another stop at The Strand.  It was getting on into the afternoon and the temperature was slowly dropping so we had decided to head to Central Park.  Two more things to check off our list for the day.   Of course, we were at the opposite end of Central Park from where we needed to be, but we did get in a good walk through the Park and then on over to… Strawberry Fields and the Dakota Building.  Very serene and emotional it was with a small bouquet of flowers quietly placed by someone on the memorial.  It was a perfect ending to our time in NYC.  Our day ended with one last stop at The Neptune Diner in Astoria before braving the traffic out to Long Island!

So much to see, so little time to see it.  But, we will be back!  More memories in the memory bank!

Next Stop… Long Island!

Margaritas and Sand Part 2

Incredible!  Beautiful! Stunning! Relaxing! Fun!  Words can’t describe the fun of spending a week with friends at one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.  This past October we ventured to Punta Cana with friends of ours for some R&R and just plain catching up.  The theme of the week-

Sleep, Eat, Beach, Pool, Eat, Drink, Beach, Pool, Eat, Drink, Repeat!

We did spend a couple of days before and after Punta Cana in Santo Domingo. But the highlight of the trip was Punta Cana and our stay at the Bahia Principe Esmeralda Resort.  Oh and we did discover a sweet and beautiful beach- Juanillo Beach– that had been on our bucket list for a few years.  Words cannot describe the serenity, the beauty, the sand, the food and the fun of meeting and getting to know the locals.  As they say – a picture holds a million words.

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Got 3 days to spare?

This past week we ventured on down to Key West for a few days.  When we would vacation on Marco many moons ago our time was so limited that we would only do a day trip to the Keys, which doesn’t leave much time for really enjoying the area and all that Key West has to offer.  Since we’ve moved to FL we love being able to take a few days and just soak in the ambiance and life of Key West!  So if you’ve got 2-1/2 or 3 days to spare and are thinking of heading to the Keys, here is just a quick little 3 day itinerary that may just hit your hot button!

Day One-

Arriving in the afternoon you’ll have time to check into your hotel, freshen up a bit and head into Old town for a night of beginning your Duval Crawl and all that KW has to offer in the evening.  Catch an early dinner at Sloppy Joes to start your evening off.  This time of the year is a perfect time to go since it’s pretty much off season there.  Plus, sunset doesn’t happen too early, leaving time for a leisurely dinner before heading over to Mallory Square.  But, back to Sloppy Joes.  Start out with an order of conch fritters, something you just have to have at least once in the Keys.  Of course, you must try their original sandwich, the Sloppy Joe! Sweet and tangy at the same time it truly stands up to it’s name- sloppy!  Be prepared to eat it with a fork savoring each and every bite.  Another must is the Greek Salad.  I know you wouldn’t think this would be the place to get a Greek Salad, but it had to be the best one I’ve ever had!  Both meals were huge, so if you leave feeling hungry it’s your own fault.  Definitely a must to check out.  After dinner head on over to Mallory Square.  The Sunset Festival typically starts about 2 hours before sunset.  Street vendors, food vendors, entertainment fills the square.  If there isn’t a cruise ship in you can get a great view of the sunset from anywhere on the square.  If there’s a cruise ship in you’ll want to wander on down past the Westin as far as you can go where the view is unobstructed.  Make sure to get a mojito from the guy with the old truck bar.  He’s been there 20+ years!  After sunset take a stroll down Duval street, catch some music at Hogs Breath or anywhere else along the street, check out other spots you might want to try during your excursion, like The Green Parrot, Capt. Tony’s, Charlie Mac’s or Blue Heaven.  A perfect ending to a perfect evening comes with a couple of drinks at the Rum Barrel.  If you can’t find a rum you like there, then I guess you must not really like rum!

Day Two

Start your day off right with a great breakfast to last you through the day.  Recommended by a local KW person, Pepe’s is the place to be.  Mingle with the locals and check out one of the oldest restaurants in Kw.  Two must try’s are the Goldman’s bagel with cream cheese- lightly toasted with creamy, cream cheese just tickles those taste buds.  But, to die for, is their homemade bread of the day.  The day we were there it was cinnamon pecan bread.  Order it lightly toasted so it’s just warm enough to melt the butter that will ultimately melt in your mouth.  Plus, there is nothing better than a good old fashioned “Chock Full o Nuts” cup of coffee from a real coffee mug to start your day.  After this delectable start to the day head on over to the Hemingway Home.  You may want to get there early in the day as it does get very busy, especially if there is a cruise ship in port.  Catch one of the 30 min. narrated tours as your guide will give you more of an insight into Ernest Hemingway, his life and the house.  Plus you’ll get to really know the 58 cats, 6 toed ones, living on the property as they tend to follow the tour guides around (treats included for the cats).  After the tour you are free to roam the grounds and house for as long as you like.  From the Hemingway House it’s not a far walk to the Southernmost Point.   90 miles to Cuba from there!  It’s usually pretty crowded with folks lined up to get their pictures taken from the infamous buoy.  But you really don’t need to stand in line for some great photo ops.  Head on back toward Duval Street taking your time to stop in some of the shops and art galleries, such as Rockhouse Gallery on Julia Street.  Time for lunch!  Head back to Two Friends for a delightful lunch and some live music.  One of our long time favorites where my husband loves their fried shrimp and I love the mahi.  Just a great place to sit back, relax, regroup and refill before heading back out into the heat of the day.  From Two Friends it’s just a short walk to the Custom House Museum.  This definitely is a must see.  There are a few permanent exhibits which are absolutely fascinating!  Plan on spending at least an hour or so here.  After spending some time here it’s time for an afternoon respite- head on back down to the Rum Barrel for a wonderful afternoon pick me up!  At this point you can also spend a little time checking out some of the shops in the area.  Head on back down to Duval Street to continue your Duval crawl, stopping in shops and galleries along the way.  It’s hot, you’re on island time and there isn’t any need to hurry.  End your day with a delightful light dinner at Frita’s Cuban Burgers!  A cuban burger and pork street taco’s along with a side of rice and beans are a must.  It’s just a small place, basically a food truck, so it’s easy to miss.  But, most of the time these are the best places to check out.  The night is still young and sunset is looming on the horizon.  Take an evening stroll along Mallory Square, usually there will be a cruise ship in port, and just enjoy the atmosphere of the night and where you are!

Day Three

Another day to start out your day right with a great breakfast.  This time try Harpoon Harry’s, another recommendation from a KW local.  A low key diner, off the beaten path, with breakfasts that will not break the bank, but will fill you up for your day ahead.  In fact, ours was enough to last us until dinner time!  After a ton of walking the last few days and absorbing the ambiance of Old Town, it’s time to head to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park .  As many times as we’ve been to KW, this is a spot that we’ve not ever explored.  Make sure to have some good directions as it is just a little difficult to find.  But, it’s worth the trip.  The Fort dates back to the Civil War and has quite a very interesting history.  It also played some roles in WWI and WWII.  It’s a short, self guided tour, but the views are incredible.  Plus, if you want to spend some time away from town there are also picnic spots and a beach there.  Headed back into town there is still plenty of time to continue shopping, browsing or whatever your little heart desires.  Spend some time enjoying a margarita (or two) at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe.  It’s always fun talking to the local folks there and learning about life on KW.  Celebrate your last night in KW with a delightful dinner at El Meson de Pepe.  Another one of our favs and some of the best Cuban food on the island.  By now, you’re probably worn out, sun weary and your feet may be feeling the effects of walking more than 10 miles/day.  Take some time to enjoy your evening in your hotel pool, reflecting upon your time in the Conch Republic and what’s on your bucket list the next time you return!

Oh- one more thing.  If you’re driving you might want to check out the Islamorada Beer Company in Islamorada.  Great spot for a cold beer before hitting the road.  And the Bass Pro Shop down the road houses the sister ship to Ernest Hemingway’s Pilar, also names Pilar.