If you ever find yourself in Turks and Caicos then make sure to island hop over to Grand Turk! Grand Turk is the territory’s capital island, and the cutest little island. To make the most of your experience on this piece of Caribbean paradise, check out this list of things to do!
Rent Fun Transportation
Grand Turk is very small (6.95 square miles), so it is very easy to navigate! Rent a car, scooter, golf cart or bicycle and scoot around the island checking out the sites. Keep in mind the island-wide speed limit is 20MPH and they drive on the left side of the road. There are also taxis available, but I think it is so much more fun to go at your own pace. If you do rent an open air vehicle, make sure to wear sunscreen!
Splashdown at Grand Turk
Did you know Grand Turk played a roll in the space age? John Glenn’s Friendship 7 splashed down off the coast of Grand Turk. You can find a replica of the Friendship 7 on display at the entrance to the Grand Turk Island airport. There is also an exhibit dedicated to Grand Turk’s role in the space age inside the Cruise Center.
Grand Turk Lighthouse
The Grand Turk Lighthouse is the only lighthouse on the island, and holds quite a bit of history. Prefabricated in England, the lighthouse was constructed in 1852 to help ward off ships that wrecked off the northern coast. However, it was not very effective since the light was only visible for 15 miles. A visit to this lighthouse provides a little history of this quaint Caribbean island, like how it could be the first place Christopher Columbus landed in the new world, and stunning views of the ocean.
Swim with Stingrays
Ever wanted to swim with stingrays? Then you need to find your way over to Gibbs Cay. This small uninhabitaded island is located about a mile off the shores of Grand Turk. The shallow waters make it the perfect location for stingrays, which come ashore with the boats. There are several tour companies that provide tours out to Gibbs Cay, otherwise known as Stingray City, and several include snorkeling. Be sure to give one a kiss before you leave!
Explore the Reefs
Go under the sea and explore the amazing reefs Grand Turk has to offer. Several of the ancient coral shelves can be accessed from shore, near Cockburn Town Beach and English Point. You can also opt for a boat tour that will take you out further. We opted for this option, and the shelves were stunning! Also, if you visit between January and April you might catch a glimpse of the humpbackwhales as they migrate south.
Stroll Cockburn Town
If strolling the town is more your style, then be sure to stop in Cockburn Town and stroll down Duke and Front Streets. The town provides a wonderful selection of historical buildings, and is definitely worth checking out while you are there. Note: You pass through Cockburn Town on your way from the cruise center or airport to the lighthouse.
Heading to Puerto Rico anytime soon? Then I highly recommend you add Cueva Ventana to your agenda.
Cueva Ventana translates into “Window Cave”, and one look at the photo above explains why! The Cueva Ventana caves are located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico about an hour and half from San Juan. The trail leading to the caves is unassuming and located next to a gas station. At the top of the trail is a check-in desk to receive your helmet. Then you hit the trail to the caves.
As you meander through the cave, the tour guide points out interesting rock formations, plants, and points out some of the local inhabitants. The guides also discuss the history of the Taino Indians and the importance of these caves for that culture. You can even see some of the Taino petroglyphs.
The best is saved for last—the “Window Cave”! After strolling through caves, seeing bats, the most spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, you reach a fantastic view of the Río Grande de Arecibo valley.
This tour is absolutely worth getting a little muddy!
The U.S. Virgin Islands is a very popular tourist stop in the Caribbean.The islands offer a vast variety of character on each island. We had the opportunity to spend the day exploring the views of St. Thomas during one of our port calls on our Christmas cruise.
Due to weather, our day of snorkling and diving was canceled so we opted to take a driving tour around the island to see some of the best sites of “Rock City”, as it is known by many locals.
Our first stop was to Beacon Point, which is situated on the eastern end of Skyline Drive. This view offers a view of Charlotte Amalie and Magens Bay.
Skyline Drive Overlook
On your way to this overlook from Beacon Point, keep your camera handy because each turn offers a different view. Skyline Driver Overlook offers beautiful panoramic views of Charlotte Amalie, Hassel Island and Water Island.
Montain Top, our third location, is the highest point on St. Thomas, situated ove 1,500 feet above Magens Bay. This first major tourist attraction on the island offers views (on a clear day) of St. John, St. Croix and the British Virgin Islands, and it is also home to the world famous banana daquiri, so be sure to grab one before you head out on to the deck for outstanding views!
Our last stop was Magens Bay, one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island as well as a gathering place for locals. This beach is three quarters of a mile long and is stiuated at the head of a deep bay. It is a little slice of paradise.
A couple of suggestions for your next visit to U.S. Virgin Islands:
I recommend grabbing a taxi or renting a car and exploring the island. The island is 31 square miles so it’s easy to get around. Note: USVI drives on the left side of the road.
We found that a lot of the island closes its doors at 5:00 PM local time. Some of the restaurants stay open late, so make sure you check before you head out at night.
U.S. Virgin Islands are expensive, so keep this in mind as you are planning your trip.
Snorkling is one of my favorite activities when it comes to exploring the Caribbean. So when we had the chance to do something a bit different during our port call in the Dominican Republic, we jumped on it! Our adventure of power snorkling took place in Sosúa, a popular resort town in the Puerto Plata province, which is about a 45 minute drive from the port of Amber Cove.
Once in Sosúa, we boarded a boat and headed out into the bay. For a couple of hours, we “jetted” around the water looking at the reefs and the fishes. Our guides provided us with bread to feed the fish and pineapple with honey to feed us. If you have not tried pineapple with honey, then I recommend it because it is quite the treat!
Power snorkeling was quite the experience, and something I will definitely try again. The scooters helped when we had strong currents and prevented us from getting tired as quickly. I only wish we had a longer amount of time to explore the reefs before we had to head back to port.
When it comes to traveling, I am a big fan of trying to get everything into a carry-on suitcase. I have not always been that way, but the more I travel the less I want to deal with baggage. This is especially true when it comes to cruising. If you have never cruised before, or even if you have, it is very easy to over pack. Especially, since you never know what you are going to face.
In addition to packing your main suitcase, I highly recommend packing a “day pack” for your embarkation day. This bag should include all the essentials you will need until you can gain access to your stateroom later that day. The day pack should include items like passport and curise documents, money (cash and/or credit card), medications, swimwear, change of clothes, and minor toiltries.
Below are a few cruise packing tips to keep in mind on what to pack and what you should leave at home.
What to Pack
Power Strip – Most of the rooms only have one or two outlets, so I highly recommend adding a small power strip to your bags so you have a place to charge all your devices.
Towel Clips – Boat decks can be very windy making towels unweildy. Purchase a set of towel clips to help keep your towel locked down as you soak up the sun while at sea.
Travel Clothing Steamer – Irons and Ironing Boards are not allowed on the ships, in fact, they are not even provided. If you are packing some items that will need to be refreshed, packing a travel clothing steamer will come in handy.
A Watch – A watch will help you keep track of the time and make sure you don’t miss your ship from port. You will be operating while at sea on “ship time”, or the time zone of your ship iniatlly left, and sometimes cell phones don’t know your timezone.
Lanyards – Ladies, this will be a life saver when it comes to keeping up with your room key. Trust me.
Spare Luggage – If you are planning to take advantage of the shopping while on your cruise, you may want to pack an extra piece of luggage in your check bag to bring back your purchases.
Deck of Cards/Travel Board Game – Not all days are going to be sunny, so make sure you have something to entertain you and your party when you can’t find something on the day’s itenerary you want to see/do.
What to Leave at Home
Towels – Your room will include towels that you can take with you to shore or to the pool, and you can also check them out while on deck.
Extra Books – Unless you plan to spend all port time on the ship, then you really won’t need the extra book. Consier swapping books with others in your party or checking out the on-board library. Another alternative is packing an ereader to help cut down on the weight.
Hair Dryer – Like hotels, your stateroom will provide one so there is no need to pack one. Or consider doing a heat-free week.
Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a FREE cruise packing list, and check out these first-time cruiser tips. Also, don’t forget to check the packing lists provided by your cruise line to get a sense of dress code.
Some people have claimed 2016 was a terrible year, but I would have to politely disagree. This year has been pretty fantastic. I really appreciate y’all sharing in the journey (even when I fell off the radar for a bit) and sticking with me! Take a look at what all happened this year, and stay tuned because I’ll be back in 2017 (I promise!).
I rang 2016 sitting on my couch watching Alabama annihilate the Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl. It was the perfect way to kick-off the new year. The following weekend I headed up to New England to spend some time with The Tall Man in his home state. The Monday night I returned from New Hampshire, Alabama brought home it’s 16th National Championship against the Clemson Tigers. It was a close game, but Alabama was victorious. The rest of the month was pretty quiet. January did bring Atlanta’s first “snow” of the year, which was a light dusting from Winter Storm Jonas. The last weekend brought The Tall Man for his first visit to Atlanta, and we had a great time exploring the city.
February was a pretty quiet month. So I binge watched my way through The Newsroom. The Tall Man and I had an impromptu date in Chattanooga thanks to a business trip on his end in Knoxville. A couple of days later I flew up to New Hampshire to spend some QT with my man.
Busy. That is the single word I would use to describe March. The month kicked off with a work trip … in Atlanta … for a client. Gotta love those local business trips! My big trip for the month was to New York! The Tall Man and I took advantage of a vacation day for a long weekend in the city prior to a work trip. We crammed as much as we could in those three days! I also headed to Birmingham for the last weekend to celebrate my brother’s 25th birthday!
Adventures awaited me in the month of April. The month started off with a four-day weekend in Austin with National Geographic. Not only did I have the chance to explore the city a little, but I also participated in another National Geographic Workshop. The Tall Man came for two visits during the month of April. The first weekend was just a quiet weekend at home with a quick visit over to Big Shanty Festival and The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. The second weekend was to celebrate his birthday, so we headed over to Historic Banning Mills for a fun Saturday and a romantic evening the last weekend of April.
May started off with a weekend trip to Decatur, Alabama to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom’s family. It was so good to see my grandmother and my aunts and uncles. It had been too long since I had a chance to see them. The second weekend of May is when we celebrated my mom’s Mother’s Day since my brother couldn’t join us in Decatur. We set up a family portraits session for Saturday evening then enjoyed a delicious dinner in historic Roswell. The third weekend of May I traveled up to New England one last time to see The Tall Man before his big move to Raleigh, North Carolina, and while up there we had state date number nine in Maine.
The Tall Man made his big move the first week of June, and I made an impromptu road trip over to Raleigh to see him that weekend. It may be a 6.5ish hour drive, but it’s nice to have him in a bordering state and within driving distance. Yay for no more expensive plane tickets every time we want to see each other! For the second weekend, The Tall Man made the trek back to Atlanta, and we attended my 10-year high school reunion on June 11th. For Father’s Day, the whole fam jam headed over to Birmingham to see my brother and to help him with a few things around his house. My family and I also headed to The Ted for our final game with Braves at Turner Field. It was a lot of fun, albeit hot, and the fireworks were great as always.
July started off with a bang! The Tall Man and I traveled back up to New Hampshire to spend the holiday weekend with his family! We had so much fun playing on the lake and attending The Tall Man’s cousin’s wedding. I also drove over to Raleigh to spend some QT with my man. Being 400 miles apart definitely has its advantages to being 1,100 miles apart. We were able to just do life: went to the movies, slept in, built furniture for his apartment, grocery shopped, and made breakfast. It’s the little things that make it work. For the last weekend of July, my brother and his girlfriend drove over from Alabama and The Tall Man drove down from Raleigh, and we all spent the day at Six Flags riding rides and just hanging out.
Hello birthday month! This year I celebrated my 28th birthday, and even though there was not a lot of fanfare around it my birthday was just what I wanted! I celebrated with The Tall Man by seeing elephants (my absolute favorite!). The month also kicked off my travel season with work.
September started with a trip to the lake to celebrate Labor Day weekend. My family met up with our dear family friends, and we celebrated the weekend by watching football, playing Catch Phrase, eating, and of course playing on the water! The following weekend, The Tall Man came down for a visit before my work craziness began. We had a quiet weekend watching football and hanging out. The majority of the month was spent on the road or getting ready to be on the road for work, so I took an unplanned hiatus from Southern Exhilaration. Work-life balance is challenging at times!
It took a while for October to bring in the cooler temperatures, but they finally arrived in time for a trip to Tuscaloosa to introduce The Tall Man to real Alabama football. There is nothing like experiencing college football in person. The month also included a work trip to Jacksonville, Florida and two trips to Raleigh. The Tall Man and I also celebrated our first anniversary together! (Click here for our long distance relationship advice.)
November started off with a little excitement as The Tall Man completed his first Tough Mudder, and he some how talked me into doing it next year! So, let the training begin! The month also consited of seeing my man every weekend. He was a sweetheart to make that drive every weekend to see me. We made visits to Decatur to see my grandmother, another trip to Tuscloosa, and finally a trip to our family farm for Thanksgiving. All is fair in love and war, so it’s only fair that December was my month to drive to him!
2016 started with Alabama football, and it also ended with Alabama football. My dad and I had the chance to attend the SEC Championship in the Georgia Dome the first weekend of the month. We cheered the Tide on to its 26th SEC Championship! The rest of the month was pretty quiet, and I spent almost every weekend with my Tall Man in Raleigh. To wrap up 2016, my family headed down to the Caribbean to celebrate Christmas and the new year! You’ll have to check back in 2017 to read about those adventures! 😉
Fall equals football in the south. The temperatures may vary from the high 80s to the low 50s, the leaves may change in time for Halloween, but the one thing you can count on in the south is every Saturday there is college football.
To say I was excited to introduce The Tall Man to Alabama football is an understatement. I booked our tickets to the Texas A&M game as soon as they opened, and I have been counting down to this weekend since they season started. Making it a long weekend to celebrate our anniversary, we drove over on Friday in time to grab lunch at City Cafe, a staple to any visit in Tuscaloosa. A meat & three restaurant with lots of history in the city (and my family) this place makes for a great cheap date.
From there we drove over to campus, and walked around The Quad. I gave The Tall Man my best tour possible sharing not only the history of the university, but also the buildings where I lived attended class for six years. The weather was giving us a perfect fall night, and the cherry on top was Denny Chimes playing in the background. We had planned on going to a few bars that night, but someone (cough cough) forgot his wallet back in Atlanta, so we headed to the movies before heading back to the hotel for an early night.
On Saturday morning, my brother drove down from Birmingham to join us and we headed off to campus to show off what college football is really like. If you didn’t attend a southern football powerhouse for college, then Saturdays are a totally different expereince. The Tall Man was quite impressed with whole spectical. We headed to The Quad to start the tailgate process and grab breakfast. We sat around, talked and drank. Before heading towards the Stadium for all the pre-game festivities we took a detour by the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Smith Hall. We got to see the Hodges Meteor, a time capsule from 1907, and some dinosaurs. If you are ever on The University of Alabama’s campus, I highly recommend making a stop.
Our next stop was The Walk of Champions before we headed into the game. And what a game! The Tide was able to pull off another win agains the Texas A&M Aggies. I was so glad my Tall Man was able to experience my happy place. It was so much fun watching him learn our cheers, songs and chants. I think he is now officially an Alabama fan – Roll Tide!
Today marks The Tall Man’s and my first anniversary. For those that don’t know, we met in Cincinnati at a work conference and our first date was two days later. From that day forward, we have been in a long distance relationship. For the first 7.5 months of our relationship, there were 1,137 miles from my front door to his front door, but after The Tall Man’s big move this past summer to Raleigh we are currently 412 miles apart or a little over 6 hours of driving.
We will be the first to tell you, long distance relationships are hard and at times messy. But they are absolutely worth it with the right person. We have compiled some of the lessons we have learned over the past year that help keep our relationship growing and that spark alive.
One | Compromise
Compromise is key to any relationship, but even more so when it comes to those of the long distance kind. Anyone in a long distance relationship has to do a lot of compromising especially when it comes to time and money. If anything, long distance relationships cost more than traditional relationships because you have the expense of traveling to see each other. The Tall Man and I worked hard to balance the travel by alternating who travels each trip. This helped balance the expense (somewhat) and the exhaustion. Sometimes there will be exceptions to “rule” of alternating travel, but make sure you are both aware ahead of time.
Two | Stay Involved
The Tall Man says staying involved with each other’s lives is his biggest piece of advice. Talking to a phone or texting can get boring, so when do see each other try to do the stuff the other individual loves doing. We have found staying involved and doing activities we each love to do is crucial to making sure we both feel appreciated. Sometimes you aren’t always going to love what the other individual picked as their activity, but that’s when compromise comes into play.
Three | Communication
Communication is central to any relationship, but it is especially important when you can’t see the other person’s face. Texting is really convenient, but I’m talking about REAL communication. We established up front that our relationship was a safe place and free of any judgment. This has allowed us to have some deeper conversations than I think most people would have, and it has allowed us to relax a little bit more when we shared something scary. We also work to have an open and honest line of communication at all times.
Four | Date Nights
Date nights are an indispensable element that should be incorporated in every dating relationship. You need to have that time to unplug from the day-to-day and focus on each other. When you are in a long distance relationship you definitely have to get creative to make these work. At the beginning of our relationship, there were times we would go three or four weeks without seeing each other. So, we came up with date nights via the phone. A lot of our nights consisted of watching a movie or binge watching our favorite TV shows while on the phone together. We quickly established the talent of syncing our computers, and by staying on the phone we were able to chat during the show. When we are together on the weekends we try to do one “date” activity whether it’s going to a movie, trying a new restaurant or visiting a new museum or tourist attraction. We also do our best to keep our phones put away when we are on our outings so we can focus on each other.
Five | Keep a Count Down
Prior to The Tall Man’s move to Raleigh, I kept a countdown going for each of our various trips and weekends together. It helped me keep things in perspective when four weeks felt like an eternity, and I also found great joy in informing The Tall Man when we were down to single digits until our planes touched down. Countdowns help to prevent the time apart from feeling so massive. My favorite countdown app is Big Day because it allows you to add your own photos and keep multiple countdowns in one place.
Bonus | I love you.
Even if you aren’t to the point of saying those three words, never let a day pass without telling that special person how you feel. It’s a great reminder to you of why you’re holding on and working so hard to make the relationship work.
Over Labor Day weekend, my family and The Tall Man headed down to Lake Blackshear outside of Cordele, GA to celebrate the long weekend. We met up with lifelong friends and just thoroughly enjoyed the time catching up with each other.
We ate, drank, learned new word games, watched football, soaked up the sun, played on the water, and simply enjoyed the slower pace of life the lake brings.
We managed to swing by the Blue Hole to let The Tall Man show off his monkey skills, and I also was able to get up on a wake-board for an extended brief amount of time for the first time. It was so much fun, and I’ll definitely be trying that again next summer!
Situated on top of Red Mountain in Birmingham, Alabama sits the world’s largest cast iron statue: Vulcan.
Now you are probably thinking why does a classic southern city have a Roman god as its symbol?
Birmingham, founded in 1871, has a deeply rooted history in the steel and iron industry. With rich veins of coal, iron ore and limestone this city boomed as an industrial city. To help advertise the city and state, Birmingham officials funded the building of a cast iron statue to be revealed at the 1904 World’s Fair, and thus Vulcan was born. Designed by Giuseppe Moretti, Vulcan was revealed on June 7, 1904 and moved back to the city in 1905.
Since his move to Vulcan Park on Red Mountain, Vulcan has been the keeper of Birmingham.
If you are looking for a unique perspective of the Magic City and want a history lesson of it’s industrial history, check out the Vulcan Park & Museum. The museum offers an interactive experience of Birmingham and Vulcan’s history.