I just returned from the most relaxing vacation and am having the WORST back to work blues :(
I spent four days on a catamaran named Lazuli off the coast of St. Martin and Anguilla with the bf Ben, roommate Connor and bff Jessica. We had no itinerary and instead spent most of the day eating, swimming, laying around and wondering what time it was or where the heck we were in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. It was pure magic and can only be described as a once in a lifetime trip.
PS- If this blog seems short on pictures, that's because it is! I didn't take many (because live in the moment, duh!), but these ones are some of my faves!
When I was searching for a Caribbean vacation, I knew I didn’t want to do the norm, which for me means staying at an all-inclusive resort. I wanted a vacation where I could completely forget about my troubles, be “one with nature” and relax to the fullest.
I started my search by deciding on an island. I heard great recommendations from friends about St. Martin and made up my mind. From there, I started searching Airbnb for accommodations and stumbled on Lazuli, a spacious catamaran/house boat captained by Belgian couple Gi and Lien. The description alone “wake up in paradise, dive into the sea and have a healthy breakfast!” sold me instantly. I couldn’t wait to wake up in the middle of crystal blue, warm waters and booked it almost immediately. Gi charges an inclusive fee for food, docking fees, boat maintenance, etc and it was completely affordable. He was wonderful communicating beforehand and provided us with a packing list, and was accommodative to picking us up at an easy location.
About Gi and Lien
Gi and Lien are a Belgian couple who quit their lives in Belgium 7 years ago to pursue their dreams of sailing around the Caribbean. As life coaches, they love hosting travelers on their boat, getting to know them and helping them pursue their dreams. They are warm, wonderful and gracious hosts. We loved spending time with them – whether it was preparing and enjoying our meals together, learning how to sail, or talking about our life dreams, it was wonderful being together. Lazuli is their home and it is so wonderful that they open their home up to so many strangers. We can’t wait to spend more time with them in the future!
Day 1: Sailing to Scrub Island
Gi and Lien picked us up on their dingy at St. Martin Yacht Club and we took a short ride to Orient Bay where Lazuli was docked. We took a quick tour of the boat where we saw our two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and living space. My favorite parts of the boat were the trampoline on the bow of the boat, which provided for wonderful island sunset views, and the back lounge/cockpit area for dining and chatting.
We departed the bay for a 4.5 hour sail to Scrub Island, a deserted island off the coast of Anguilla. The views were spectacular as we drifted away from St. Martin and splashed in the sapphire waters. We arrived at Scrub Island just before sunset. OMG it was the most beautiful island I have ever seen. The sand was untouched – no footprints, animal tracks or trash – just unaltered, pure nature, and the water was crystal clear. We watched tropical fish swim beneath our boat as Lien cooked a wonderful vegetarian curry for dinner and swam as the sun sank into the ocean behind us. Pure bliss.
Day 2: Scrub Island and Sail to Ile Tintamarre
Waking up in the bay of a secluded island is paradise. It’s a feeling of peace and relaxation I hope to hold on to for the rest of my life. We leisurely got on with our day by enjoying coffee and breakfast in the warm Caribbean morning sun and looked on to the clear water to see what kinds of animals were out to play. We swam to the beach on Scrub Island with nothing but ourselves, our snorkeling gear and our bathing suits, laid in the sand and splashed in the water taking in the scenery. It looked like a calendar picture – white (with a hint of pink) unbothered sands reaching out to crystal blue water and bright green brush.
When we felt we had enjoyed the island enough, we swam back to Lazuli for a fresh salad and decided to sail off to our next destination – Ile Tintemarre. As we were leaving, a four-foot barracuda swam up to our boat. It was an amazing reminder of the pure and natural setting we were in!
We sailed to Tintamarre for two hours. After some instruction, Ben took his turn sailing and successfully navigated us to the island! We landed just before sunset and were able to enjoy spectacular views of the sun setting behind St. Martin. Tintamarre is known for being a snorkeling hot spot, so there were a few boats docked beside us. We enjoyed another wonderful dinner made by Lien – this time, it was a couscous and vegetable stew. Yum! We went to bed early so we could wake up early to enjoy our last full day together.
Day 3: Ile Tintamarre and Sail to Pinel Island
Tintamarre was spectacular in the morning. The sun was shining and water was filled with wildlife! I enjoyed my favorite breakfast of toast and Nutella with bananas :P and jumped into the warm water for a swim. We saw so many animals as we snorkeled to the island including stingrays, turtles and dozens of varieties of fish. The sand was warm and we laid around until our skin was too hot and then swam back to the boat for another afternoon of eating, laughing and lounging around.
As sunset approached, we sailed to popular party island Pinel. The bar had closed for the day but we were still able to walk around the island and enjoy the beautiful view of St. Martin. We were shocked to find thousands of hermit crabs in the sand – a nightmare for some, a childhood dream for others! We finished the night with a final dinner, pesto and pasta, and laughed on the deck of the boat as a full moon rose out of the ocean.
Day 4: Sail to Orient Bay and Farewell to the Caribbean!
I woke up early on our last day to capture the sunrise from the boat and was not disappointed. Caribbean sunrises are truly magical.
After our morning swim, we packed up and headed for a final sail to Orient Bay. We laughed with Gi and Lien as they told us tales of their first trip crossing the Atlantic Ocean. I was so inspired as they told us about a “run-in” with two whales halfway through the crossing. They spotted two whales playing in the water and stopped the boat. One of their boat mates fell in the water while taking a picture of the whales and started to swim with the whales who gently played around him. The rest of the crew jumped in and were shocked at the gentle nature of the pair who seemed to be thrilled to have a few friends for the day. I am constantly in awe of our planet and our connection to nature and hope to have an experience like this once in my life.
We parked in Orient Bay and said farewell to our new friends. It was a bittersweet goodbye, but I am excited for my next travel adventure. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
"Why on earth would you go to Iceland in January?!" was something I heard on repeat as I planned for my winter wonderland getaway. The truth was, I thought there was going to be something so magical and romantic about spending a week in Iceland and I imagined it would look like a real snow globe. Lucky for me, I was right.
We spent five days in Iceland traveling around the southern half of the island with planning help from Guide to Iceland (the inspiration of this blog!), and it was everything we could have imagined and more. It felt like one of those cheesy travel videos you see, except better.
Before we get into our recommended itinerary (where to go, what to eat and what to see), here are a few fun facts about Iceland:
Make sure to read to the end for a winter in Iceland packing guide. Now, on to our trip!
If you're looking to feel extra hygge, look no further than Sandholt Cafe. Breakfast at Sandholt was the perfect way to kick-off our stay in Iceland. The atmosphere was warm and cozy (I mean there were candles lit at the tables at 7:00 A.M.!), the pastries were flaky and the lattes rich and creamy. It was the best way to warm up and enjoy the dark Icelandic morning.
Ah... the Blue Lagoon. Just thinking of it on a chilly day warms me up. If you've never heard of/seen the Blue Lagoon, you may be wondering, "what exactly is so special about this lagoon?"
Envision a pool full of hot, milky, icy blue water set upon a backdrop of dark lava structures and jagged mountains. Delicate ribbons of silky steam rise out of the water and vanish into the crisp, winter air. Oh, AND, you get to hang out in the pool filled with antioxidant-rich water all while sipping on a chilled glass of champagne. This. Is. What. Dreams. Are. Made. Of.
A few things to remember when visiting the Blue Lagoon:
Efstidalur: Who would have known that a dairy farm in Iceland would end up being one of my favorite places in the world! Efstidalur is a quaint dairy farm on the top of a hill near the Great Geysir. The farm produces dairy products, mainly Skyr and ice cream, and is a great view into Icelandic culture. We were treated to a scoop of ice cream, which was creamy and satisfying even in the cold January weather, and were able to pet the friendly working animals.
Gullfoss Waterfall: Gullfoss was my favorite waterfall in Iceland. I've never seen so many magnificent colors of blue and green in ice, water and snow, and a year later, I still think about this wonderful spot daily. Make sure to bundle up because the wind and water spray is very strong!
Íslenski barinn: This is a wonderful, cosy restaurant for traditional Icelandic cuisine. Ben ate Kæstur hákarl which is FERMENTED SHARK, with it's traditional pairing, Brennivin, which is very strong Icelandic vodka! It's a must-do when in Iceland.
Day 3: Two-Day Southern Coast and Ice Cave Tour
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland's most famous waterfall. During the summer, you can walk behind the waterfall, but during the winter it's as equally stunning. We were lucky enough to arrive at the waterfall as the sun was rising, leading to the most spectacular scenes of pink, blue and orange skies behind the serene waterfall.
Hike of Vatnajökull: This magnificent glacier is due to disappear in the next century due to global warming. Being able to climb one of Earth's most pure pieces of land is something I'll never forget.
Day 4: South Iceland Coast and Northern Lights
Skógafoss Waterfall: This was one powerful waterfall! When we arrived at Skógafoss Waterfall, it was extremely windy and bitter as a wind storm was quickly approaching. The frozen spray from the waterfall had overcome the parking lot, which made for a silly walk of slipping and sliding from the parking lot to the waterfall. We laughed hysterically as we slid towards the waterfall and as we got closer, we lost it as all of us tourists were pushed over by the wind and the spray from the waterfall. It was a great reminder at just how powerful mother nature can be - she rules all!
Northern Lights Tour: Seeing the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis has always been on my bucket list. This show did NOT disappoint. Our tour was originally scheduled for our first night but was canceled due to poor "light" condition. We were so glad to have gotten the tour in on the last night as it was the perfect way to end our trip in Iceland. According to the tour guides, we had been treated to the best light show in months, which consisted of hours of green and purple fairy dust swirling over our heads as we gasped in awe. It's a memory i hope i never forget!
Day 5: Goodbye Iceland
Tales of Iceland Museum: Tales of Iceland is a new museum that tells the history and culture of Iceland through videos. The videos are high quality, through and accurate. We were able to reminisce on all the wonderful places we had seen throughout our trip as we walked through the museum and was the perfect activity to do before we said farewell to this special country.
iceland travel tips
From top left to bottom right:
Knee-length waterproof North Face Jacket with hood
Mitten gloves with touch-phone capabilities
Warm wool scarf
Waterproof Ugg snow boots
Under Armour thermal turtleneck
Pack of Hot Hands
Cheap bathing suit for Blue Lagoon
Note: I included links for any products I ordered that are still available.