A Travellerspoint blog

February 2013

Pitt Stop

From Terre Haute, the drive to Pittsburgh was pretty nice. I'm surprised at how much longer I could have driven considering I hadn't done so much “distance driving” in St. Kitts.

Again in Pitt, I saw people. We also went to eat at this very cool restaurant, Zenith Tea Shop. It is an antiques store for most of the week, but it is also a vegetarian restaurant for Sunday brunch. You get to sit at antique tables and use old tableware while looking at all of the neat antiques all around. Very cool.

After Pitt, I took the bus to DC. For the next two weeks, I was mostly in DC packing for my next adventure. Sorry that I didn't do so many touristy things to write about, but I had a lot to get done and a lot of people to see. From DC, I drove up to Newark to fly to Israel, the next long-term stop on the SP adventure.

Zenith Tea Shop

Zenith Tea Shop

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SNOW!!!

You don't expect to be writing about snow in a blog about the Caribbean. However, Thursday, I left San Fran for Indy, but got snowed into Chicago. As I had been wearing 2 hats, a ton of shirts, a coat, 2 pairs of socks, gloves, and all sorts of other clothes in the frigid 40-50 degree F San Fran weather to keep warm, I was surprised at how well I did in the Chicago snow. I think the difference was the long underwear. In Terre Haute, I also got some boots.

It was great to see so many old friends in Terre Haute and also to eat at Exotic Thai twice.

From a tourist perspective, I didn't do a whole lot there, but I can comment on the Days Inn- It's a reasonable hotel. The room was clean, but old. The service was good. It was nice to be able to pull the car right up to the door to unload all my junk. (I was on the first floor.) I think you'd get a cheaper rate calling to book than trying on the internet. That's about all I've got on it.

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Steamrolls in San Fran

Sunday, I finally said goodbye to the Caribbean. While I can say I was sad to leave St. Kitts, I wasn't all that upset at leaving Barbados. The other islands had been nice, but I much prefer traveling with friends. Also, I was headed to see my little sister in San Francisco, which I was pee-in-my-pants excited about. The first day in San Fran, my sister took me to the pier and wharf. I was especially excited by the food market. There were all sorts of foodie-fun things to look at, taste, and buy. Also, we saw Alcatraz, the seals, and the shops in that area. We ate at Boudin, THE San Fran sourdough restaurant. Unfortunately, my camera died and so I have no pictures. Also, I've been to San Fran a few times before, so I was being less of a tourist and doing more catching up with my sister. Tuesday, we mostly hung out, but I went down to Stanford to visit my cousin for dinner. Wednesday, I met a friend to go on a tour of the Winchester House. Apparently, the lady who married the guy in charge of Winchester guns felt that “people don't kill people, guns kill people.” She went to a psychic in order to determine how to pacify the ghost of the victims of gun violence. The psychic said that she must start to build a house and never finish building. So, for the next several decades, she built and built. The result is a HUGE mansion with all sorts of crazy architectural features. There are doors to nowhere, windows that have a view of a wall, towers good for spying on the kitchens below, and furniture painted with a feather to look like a different wood. The tour itself is pretty interesting. I wish I could show pictures of the inside, but they ban those and with only 2 people on the tour, I wasn't going to be able to sneak any.

Winchester Mansion

Winchester Mansion

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Bajan Beach Bum

I got up for an early breakfast at the Steakhouse Grill/St. Lawrence Pizza Hut (not part of the chain) and then headed straight for the beach. This is my last day in the Caribbean for a long time, so I planned to just spend it on the beach, one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday in St. Kitts. Unfortunately, they charge for the beach chairs where I went. There wasn't a sign saying that they cost anything, but some guy came up to me with a badge and said that the chair and umbrella was $BDS15. At first, I assumed this was a scam, but paid anyway. Later, when a beach umbrella fell, they guy I paid and another one with a badge ran over with shovels to put it back up properly, so at least I can feel I was paying for something. I read on the beach until lunch time, when I grabbed lunch at one of the nearby beach bars. I'm still surprised and a tad upset that nobody here seems to ever have any local drinks, but the macaroni pie was decent.After lunch, I went to Barry's Surf School, which is a short walk up the road. A family of 4, including 2 under-10 kids and I were signed up for surf lessons. The dad already knew what he was doing. The kids caught on quickly and their mom caught on by the end. I, on the other hand, am not a surfer. I don't know what I was thinking given that my klutzy self falls over walking on flat ground, but you never know until you try. By the end of the lesson, I could kneel on the board well, but only ever stayed on my feet for about a second or so before getting smacked in the face by the ocean. It didn't help that we were at a rocky beach and my feet were getting torn up as well. I was beaten up by the ocean and hadn't yet truly learned to surf. Oh well. Not everything can be for everybody. However, if you have better balance like those kids did, I'm sure you'd love it. I had Pablo Dante's for dinner- another unremarkable place, but it was there and the food filled me.

Surfing

Surfing


Beach

Beach

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Barbados

In Barbados, I stayed at Rio Guesthouse, which is on the south side of the island and is easily accessible by bus. It is in a beach town where there are a lot of places to eat and buy souvenirs, but is far enough out of the way that you don't get he hustle and bustle of the city. It has a nice kitchen and seems like a great place for backpackers and others who want the full hostel experience. The only negative thing I can say is that the internet was pretty crappy. I had to move all around to get any and when I had it, I barely had signal so it was very slow. This was not conducive to me buying San Fran tickets. However, it was definitely worth the price. I had an eh breakfast at the nearby Happy Days Cafe and then got on a bus to town. Again, the bus had a packer in addition to a driver. What was extremely disorienting for me was that there isn't a “mountain side” and an “ocean side” to the road like all of the other islands I've been to. Barbados is so flat. I keep looking around to try to get my bearings and I can't do it by using the non-existent mountain or the ocean that I'm not far enough above to actually see. It's pretty confusing for those of use who are used to navigating using that method. When I got downtown, I first saw St. Michael's Cathedral, which is cool-looking. Next stop was Nidhe Israel, a synagogue, mikvah, and very well-done museum of the history of Caribbean Jewry. It looks more professional than most of the other Caribbean museums I've seen and even had a hands-on “name that spice” game for kids to play. I got lucky and one of the congregants happened to be around when I was. I got a special history lecture from him. It turns out that the synagogue was put out of service a long time ago and the items all sold. The building was used for various uses including storage until relatively recently, when they were going to demolish it. Instead, some people got together the money to buy it and restore it. They used the old pictures to get all of the details correct, including the uneven-width planks in the ceiling.

I followed this museum and tour with another very professionally done museum- the heroes museum. This one also had a lot of very good informational displays, but also had some very neat art. I learned a lot about the history of the Barbados government and other world governments from this museum. Nearby is the Parliament building, and then the port. I knew I was at the port because I saw the KFC. So far, I have yet to see a Caribbean island that doesn't have a KFC prominently located right near where all the tourists go. In the US, we tease about McDonalds being the “American Embassy,” but I've seen way more KFCs and Subways here than McDonalds. The port is also surrounded by some very nice parks, some of which have some interesting statues. It's actually one of the more pleasant port areas. Also, as typical, there are a ton of shops selling tourist souvenirs and high-end items. One of the restaurants was even advertising that dolphin was the special of the day. I did not get dolphin. I ended up eating at Apropos, which looked great in concept. It's like a healthier subway where they make salads Coldstone-Creamery style. Unfortunately, they didn't have any local drinks and the food didn't taste so great. I was also unimpressed with the Pelican Art Mall. This is between the dock for the ultra-big cruise ships and the main port area, so you'd think it would be very open and hopping with business. Instead, there are a few shops, many of which were closed. The ones that were open did have real art from real artists, but I also wasn't super impressed with a lot of that. Close to that area is one of the main bus stations. The buses that go to that station are buses like we imagine city buses in the US to be. Still, the bus ride is $2 anywhere on the island. However, they don't fly by as regularly as the vans/minibuses that roam town. I ended up waiting an hour for a 15 minute bus ride to Harrison's Cave. (Take the Gate 7 Chalky Mount/ShoreyVillage/Sturges bus to get there.) The interpretive center was useful in that it explained the island. The reason it doesn't have a big volcanic mountain the middle is because it's actually uplifted coral and not a volcano. This is why it's so flat. Water got into the dead coral that formed the stone and started making holes in the stones. That caused the caves. Of course, it's still dripping through and making stalactites and stalagmites now. It also means that you get rained on inside the underground cave. That was a bit disconcerting- you don't usually think of underground as a wet, drippy place. On the tram tour we had a relatively serious guide and a hilarious tram driver. They actually played off of each other very well. While she told us information about how the caves were formed, what the various cave formations we were seeing were called, and how the series of underground lakes worked, he was joking about how the cave water makes you live forever and getting lost in the caves. They made the tour worth it. Otherwise, the cave itself is only worth it to those who've never been on another cave tour. While the underground lakes are neat and there are a few cool formations, I can't say that this is better than Carlsbad, Luray, New Zealand, or even that much different than Lost River Caverns in Hellertown. To get back to town, I went to stand at the “to city” bus stop outside the cave area. However, the “from city” bus driver told me to get on anyway. I guess that for that route, the caves are almost at the end of the “from city” route, because it wasn't that long to get back to town. Back in town, it was a bright, sunny day when I went inside to use an ATM and pouring rain when I stepped back out. Everybody went for shelter to wait out the rain, so the sidewalk edges (under the building awnings) were pretty packed. I waited it out by getting dinner at a local fast food chain, Chefette. The food was less greasy than a lot of US chains, but it's still very recognizably fast food. It's good I ate when I did, because traffic out of the city was ridiculous. I think it took an hour to do the 20 minute ride back to the hotel. After a quick clean-up and change, I headed back into town for Friday night services. On the way, the bus packer was telling me that I was headed the wrong way- Oistens is the place to be Friday night (which is what I had heard in St. Vincent as well.) Services were nice, even if they weren't a big fish fry. I was looking to head there afterwards, but apparently the party in Barbados ends early and doesn't run till 5am like it does in St. Kitts.

St. Michaels

St. Michaels


Inside of synagogue

Inside of synagogue


Parliament and Heroes Museum

Parliament and Heroes Museum


Pier

Pier


Harrisons Cave

Harrisons Cave

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