Moai at Sunrise on Easter Island

I received a sweet new GoPro for Christmas (thanks, Mom!) so I took it with us to Easter Island and used my spankin’ new mini tripod to take a video of the Moai at sunrise at Ahu Tongariki, just one of the numerous sites where Moai can be found on the island.  I’m the opposite of a morning person – you’ll never catch me up before the sun unless it’s for a flight or an important event – but this was one of the items on my bucket list when we booked our trip to Easter Island, so I dragged my sleepy butt out of bed for this at five-something in the morning, praying I wouldn’t regret it.

We arrived at Ahu Tongariki in the pitch blackness and used our iPhone flashlights to guide our way down the hill from the small parking lot, over the grassy field with scattered rocks here and there, and perched on one of the larger half-submerged boulders in the field. We waited there, whispering in the dark, facing the sea and listening to the waves crash. Then suddenly, the sky began to lighten, almost imperceptibly, then faster and the Moai emerged from the darkness, almost like ghosts from the sea. It was nearly spiritual.

At first I was a little peeved by the tourist laying around in the frame and posing for photos, but I have to admit now – it’s pretty hilarious.

It’s a shame that it wasn’t a more clear day, but as you can see, it is still pretty magnificent. It was definitely one of those moments that makes you sit and marvel at the world – how lucky we were to be here at this moment to see this and wonder how many people have seen this before, what they were doing at the time, what it meant to them, and who will see it in the future?  It’s one of those things that I think I’ll always remember. At least, I hope so.

Read more about our time on Easter Island here.

48 Hours on Easter Island

48 Hours on Easter Island

Easter Island. Rapa Nui. Isla de Pascua. Whatever you call it, it is a mysterious gem in the middle of the south Pacific Ocean. I mean it’s really in the middle of nowhere, with being about 3,756 km (2,340 miles) to Santiago, Chile and 4,231 km (2,646 miles) to Tahiti and 1,922km from Pitcairn Island, the closest inhabited place to it. Fun fact: Pitcairn is trying to recruit new residents since the population has dipped so low – as in, to 45 people –  in the past few years – read more on that here:  http://www.immigration.gov.pn/

Here’s what I knew about Easter Island before we went there:

1) there’s Moai there (the big stone heads)

2) it’s technically part of Chile, and

3) …Ok…that’s about all I knew.

Moai of Easter Island

The Moai at Ahu Tongariki

So why go? Seeing those big, beautiful stone dudes was on my bucket list. And Easter Island is pretty expensive to get to if you’re traveling around South America as a student or a poor, newly-employed attorney. It was more expensive to go there for a weekend than to go to Rio de Janeiro for a week. So, let’s just say it was on the list but wasn’t do-able until my friends and I started seriously talking about a South America trip this year.

First – how does one get to Easter Island?

You fly, obviously. But, not so obvious is the complete lack of variety when it comes to airlines and direct flights. You basically need to fly on LAN and fly from either Santiago, Chile or from Tahiti. There’s one flight a day, in the morning around 11am. And that’s it. You miss it, you wait until the next day. So when our flight departing New York’s JFK was late in leaving (because – get this- the plane was on the other side of the airport and took an hour and a half to DRIVE TO THE GATE), we knew we were going to be cutting it close and our 2.5 hour layover in Santiago was shrinking.

Pro-Tip #1: arrive in Santiago the night before your flight to Easter Island, or leave at least a 4-hour window between your connection’s arrival at the airport and your scheduled departure.

Easter Island

The arrivals gate at the airport

We nearly missed the flight, and after some begging/pleading/nearly crying to the LAN employees at Santiago airport, we made our connection. I don’t recommend starting your vacation that way. I’m typically probably way too nice to airline personnel, but this was a moment where I almost truly lost it. Mainly because we were promised by the flight attendants and the desk staff in New York that we’d make our connection without a problem, even with the delay. So give yourself a good cushion!

So the plane you take to Easter Island is a jumbo jet – a 787- for some reason, I was thinking that there would only be a small plane since it seems like a semi-unpopular destination. Continue reading

Get Your Sleep On – Majestic Elegance (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)

DR

It’s good to be the Queen.

Well, ok, maybe I’m not the Queen of anywhere, although my parents might disagree. But, that’s the way that the Majestic Elegance makes you feel when you book a room at their Elegance Club level – the adults-only part of the all-inclusive luxury resort situated in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Set on Bávaro Beach, this high-end all-inclusive delivers on hospitality and, well, elegance, throughout your stay.

The result of a boozy brunch barbecue, we booked this trip on a whim and decided to spend our Labor Day Weekend in a more tropical locale than the sweltering humidity of New York. It’s a long story and I’ll spare you the details, but we recruited some additional folks and booked on CheapCaribbean, who I am delighted to say made the booking process painless. We had 3 credit cards and 2 different airports of origin, and their customer service line was amazingly accommodating and helpful. I’d always book a stress-free all-inclusive vacation with them from now on. Not a plug, just love the website.

I’m digressing. Dominican Republic. We went there. And this is a review of our amazing resort.

Pro-Tip #1: Book a room with the Elegance Club level.

The CHECK-In Experience:

IMG_5480 IMG_5481

Upon arrival in the lobby, we were whisked away by the greeter to the VIP Check-In Area, a separate suite off the main lobby with a buffet of pastries and other snacks, as well as coffee, wine, champagne and other treats. We were invited to take a seat at a table with refreshments as we checked in and were assigned our butler, Bladimir. Continue reading

Get Your Sleep On – The Surfcomber Hotel South Beach (Miami, Florida)

My girlfriends and I stayed at The Surfcomber Hotel South Beach (a Kimpton Hotel) January 9-11, 2015 for my friend’s bachelorette party in Miami, Florida, and we were all very impressed and extremely pleased with the service and hotel in general. I’ve stayed at Kimpton hotels in NYC before (more than once) and this property blows them out of the water with its level of service.
I’ll just preface this that I didn’t take many photos because I didn’t have a camera with me, and only had my iPhone. Sorry.
Some of the folks who made our stay so great deserve special mention – Chase is a customer service dynamo and anyone can see that he is the perfect man for his job as Director of (Day)Life. Laz at the beach really took care of us and went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure we were enjoying ourselves and had everything we needed, and even made sure that we transitioned seamlessly to a pool cabana from our VIP bed when it started pouring rain while we were at the beach. Andy at the beach did everything he could to remedy any issues we had with service or food/drinks. Gia at the pool was so sweet and provided great, prompt service. Tony at the door helped us store our bags and hail taxis when needed and was friendly, efficient and kind. And finally, Brad from concierge was a doll – and we saw a lot of him, because the bachelorette’s friends kept having champagne delivered to our rooms throughout the whole weekend.
With 4 girls sharing a room, yes, the room was a bit small and yes, the bathroom was small. But Continue reading

Pic of the Day – Gozo, Malta

We signed up for a boat tour on the island of Malta during our honeymoon, which included stops for snorkeling off the coast of Gozo (one of the other islands of the nation of Malta), a stop at the Blue Lagoon, and some lunch onboard. We really enjoyed the tour, even though we ditched the boat and took an amazing speedboat ride back to the Sliema Harbor (more on that later). Here’s one of the shots from that day, from my iPhone:

Gozo, Malta

Date Taken: October 17, 2014
Location: Somewhere off the coast of Gozo, Malta

With highs in the 40’s Fahrenheit this week, you could say I’ve got Malta on my mind.

Honeymoon in Malta – A Day at the Beach in Mellieha

One of the reasons my husband and I chose Malta as one of the stops for our Honeymoon in mid to late October is that we wanted to mix up some beach time and relaxation with taking in the sights, and enjoying the food and wine that these destinations have to offer. Malta definitely did not disappoint in any of these aspects. For our beach time, we ended up in Mellieha Bay for a relaxing day of fun in the sun.

While many beaches in Malta are rocky, there are some sandy beaches. As you can see, this was one of the rarer, sandy beaches to visit. Since it was October 19, it was toward the end of beach season, so it was not as crowded as one would expect.
As with most European beaches, you can either be Brazilian about it and lie about in the sand on top of your sarong (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that, I just personally have an aversion to sand in parts of my body that should not have sand in them), or you can pay a little bit of money and rent loungers and umbrellas. Again, Malta wins here with the fee for rental of 2 loungers and one umbrella (and a little table) for just about 15-20 Euros. I don’t remember exactly how much it was, perhaps 16? But it was very reasonable, and they set everything up for us.

There are a few places where you can do watersports, too.

We enjoyed VERY reasonably priced refreshments, including the Maltese beer – Cisk  (pronounced “Chisk”), which, admittedly, is not so delicious. It’s like the Budweiser of Malta. But, it was cheap and cold, and just what we needed. They were about 2-3 Euros each – a steal, by U.S. standards!
The food on offer at one of the many beachside grills was mainly local specialties and some Americanized fast food. Fried chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, onion rings, french fries… and then tuna ftiras, hobz-bizejt (tuna and tomatoes), tuna and olives… tuna on pretty much everything.  Neither one of us a huge lover of tuna, we opted for a chicken sandwich and some onion rings. Again, super cheap, and again, they hit the spot.

 

The water was warm enough to swim in and beautifully clear.

 

How many other beaches have views of beautiful monuments in the background? I mean, come on.

 

Getting there: We took the public bus from St. Julian’s, where we were staying, to the beach. It’s supposedly VERY crowded in the summer high season, and it definitely was standing room only for much of the way, but where we got on, we found seats and were able to sit for the crazy ride through half of the island to Mellieha. It was almost worth it just to see parts of the island that we wouldn’t have seen normally. The bus is very cheap (like 1.50 euros for a full day) and it was nearly door-to-door service from our hotel, the Hilton Malta at St. Julians (there will be a separate hotel review later…).

The public bus stops just at the top of the beach, as the roadside is right THERE. No crazy, tumultuous walk down cliffs, rocks and other obstacles to get your toes in the sand here.

And, as with any European trip, I had to get my hands on some European Pringles. They have some pretty crazy flavors… or flavoUrs… but, we kept it tame with some Cheese & Onion this time. Of course, I had my R+F sunscreen in tow to save my half-pale mutt skin from the Mediterranean rays.

I definitely recommend making Malta a stop on your European honeymoon if you find yourself going towards mid or late October and want to try to sneak in some beach days… and definitely make it to Mellieha if you do!