St. Maarten

St. Maarten is one of the many beautiful islands in the Caribbean. This was our second time here and we just loved it. We went on a cruise in April of 2016 although you’re only there for a day it’s definitely worth it. The interesting thing is that the island is divided, one side is Dutch and the other side is French. We always rent a car so we can go around and stop wherever we like. The first time we went around the island and could really tell the difference between both sides. The second time we were just focused on the main things we wanted to do and didn’t drive around as much.

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The people are friendly and the culture is alive. Warm blue Caribbean Sea and fine soft white sand. The colors are so vivid. The green mountains, blue ocean and colorful homes. This is truly the definition of a vacation. It’s so beautiful and there’s perfect weather year round.

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Our first stop was to a beautiful beach we found while driving. The scenery was just breathtaking. There were rocks that extended into the ocean so of course, I had to stop and take pictures. There were also nice sailboats to look at and admire.

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After spending some time there we went for a drive and recognized spots from the prior visit. We stopped at some shops and walked around the plaza. Then we got in the car trying to find this amazing restaurant we had lunch at last time we were there. It was next to the beach and had seafood on a huge outside barbecue. But no one could remember where it was and we drove around hungry for what seemed like hours. We finally gave up, maybe it wasn’t even in business anymore. We found a little strip of seafood restaurants, which seemed way over priced. So we just ended up enjoying the outside view and eating ribs, at least they were yummy.

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The main thing we loved in St. Maarten is Maho Beach. The beach is right across from the airport. This is the only place in the world you could have this experience. The planes come in from the ocean and land on the strip, getting as low as 100 feet. There’s a person on a microphone announcing the airplane that is coming in and where from. People stand underneath to get amazing shots. The most interesting part is when the airplanes leave. The jet blast is crazy, you have to hold on to everything if you don’t want it to end in the water. People would actually hold on to the fence and legs flying in the air from how strong the wind is. Actually, it’s quite painful if you stand by the water the sand hits you and it hurts so bad. At one moment someone fell and rolled all the way out to the water. The airplane goes down the runway then quickly lifts up in a short space due to the mountain being close by. You truly have to experience this.

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-Dayana

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Airbnb in Peru

Peru was the second place we tried Airbnb out again and we truly loved it. We were going with my parents and wanted them to experience what Airbnb had to offer. We had so much fun on our trip and I’m glad we had the chance to share it with them.

The first place we stayed at was in Cusco, Peru. It had a Spanish style/feel to it that we loved. The host was really nice, although we never really saw her or her husband. They did have other rooms in the house and we would occasionally see other guests in the middle patio area. It was also very centric from all the things we wanted to do.

The best place to stay at, to then visit Machu Picchu, would be Cusco unless you ‘d like to stay in the town of Aguas Calientes (Aguas Calientes is the closest access point to Machu Picchu). The only thing is that it’s hard to get a place there because it books fast and I think it’s also expensive (I don’t really remember though), so make sure to book with time. It is definitely worth staying in Cusco in my opinion because the city has so many more places to see than Aguas Calientes. Don’t get me wrong, Aguas Calientes is incredibly magical and worth checking out for sure, but you can easily finish seeing it in a day so I would suggest looking for a place to stay at in Cusco rather than in Aguas Calientes (if you’re only going for a week or less) and just visit the little town instead of staying the night. If you’re staying for longer than a week and can fit Aguas Calientes in your trip, then, by all means, stay a night at least.

Charming Apartment in City Center (click link for more pictures and for booking)

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Neighborhood

I don’t have any pictures of the inside because I only took video of it, but you could click on the link above and there will be pictures of the inside on their page. Everything did look just like the pictures, so definitely recommend!

Our second Airbnb was in Puno, Peru. Puno is located on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, and they aren’t kidding when they say that because to me it looked like an ocean. It’s located at such a high elevation (12,556 ft) that if you’re from Florida, which is at ocean level, or any other lower point you would definitely have trouble breathing. My husband and I did get a little out of breath when we would run or walk fast, but my parents had a really hard time, so we would really recommend drinking lots of water, drinking coca tea, and/or buying oxygen cans before making your way up to Puno.

When we arrived at the place I thought it was so cute and castle-like on the outside. It’s pretty much located in the middle of nowhere with no wifi, which I honestly didn’t mind, and right next to Lake Titicaca. We were not too pleased to find out that there was no hot water. I blame ourselves for not doing so much research about the place and not preparing ourselves for what we would be getting ourselves into. It was really inconvenient because we were all wanting to take a shower so bad. They were pretty new at Airbnb and were still making repairs, so the shower was under construction. I felt like I was in Cuba again having to take a “shower” with a bucket full of warmed up water. They had to warm it up for you and take it to you. Also, it was extremely cold, so you can only imagine the experience we had.  We also didn’t like that the bathroom was outside. We didn’t mind or even think about it when we booked the place until there was a thunderstorm the next day and my husband and my dad both REALLY needed to use the bathroom. Extremely scary stuff! We laugh at it now and tell people that at least we have a story to tell. The hosts, a couple with a really cute baby girl, were the sweetest and humblest people and were so hospitable. They barely spoke with us, even though we speak Spanish, they had someone else that also helps them with all the bookings, not only speak with us but also give us the tour of the place. We thought they were just a little shy, but they were definitely welcoming and we loved that they made breakfast, lunch and dinner for us and everything was so yummy and different from what we are used to eating. Also, worth mentioning is the fact that EVERYTHING was spotless and approved by my OCD mom lol. We would think that by now they should have hot water and the shower should be finished so that more people can book this place because aside from that everything was wonderful.

Huencalla Lodge (click link for more pictures and for booking)

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The door they are peeking into is the bathroom. The top floor where the window is is the hosts’ bedroom.
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The patio area. We recommended for them to have some outdoor seating for future guests since it’s so nice outside.
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The view of Lake Titicaca was truly wonderful and my favorite part!
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That door you see was our room.
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Lake Titicaca
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Lake Titicaca
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Our room
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Breakfast
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Dinner
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After we rested a bit from the long ride there, they took us on a boat ride on Lake Titicaca

They had us try Totora Reeds that grow from Lake Titicaca and they reminded me of sugar canes, except for they are not sweet at all (does that make sense? lol). If you are willing to try one, I would suggest just having one bite and that’s it. Don’t keep eating them even if they insist. I ended up eating most of them because my husband didn’t really like them and to not seem rude gave them to me to eat them for him. I’m lucky I have a pretty strong stomach, unfortunately for my husband and my dad they weren’t so lucky. We later found out that Totora Reeds can cause diarrhea…I won’t go on lol.

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Me trying a Totora Reed

At night, they took us to an open area in front of the house where they set up for a bonfire and had roasted marshmallows and wine.

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Waiting for the rest of us.
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Just chilling

After Puno, we headed to Ica, Peru a place with one of the driest climates in the world. Located on the border of the Atacama desert we weren’t going to pass up on going sand boarding and riding a dune buggy (amazing experience & definitely recommend). We rented an Airbnb RIGHT next to a sand dune and although we didn’t get to do it, you can go up the dune whenever you’d like and take amazing sunset views. We will never forget our amazing host Luis! We were lucky the first few days of our stay there were no other guests in the other rooms in his house and got him to give us a tour of Ica and take us to some of his favorite local eats. He was such a sweetheart and we appreciated him giving us his time to give us a taste of his amazing city. He took us to a winery (click here to go to Tacama Vineyard’s website) and to his favorite chocolate shop (click here to go to Helena Chocolatier’s website) to buy their famous Peruvian chocolates. Another thing we are grateful for was for all the tips about safety he gave us and advice on where to go and cheapest places to buy things and get the best deals. The room was clean and although the bathroom in our room could use some repair, it was a beautiful place to stay at and they also included breakfast. We would definitely recommend this place to anyone wanting to visit Ica!

Vacation Getaway in Gorgeous House! (click link for more pictures and for booking)

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Patio area & pool
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Patio area
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Dune was right behind the house!
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Desert in Ica, Peru
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Desert sunset
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Striking a pose lol

 

-Daylin

 

St. Augustine weekend road trip

On a long weekend, I decided I wanted to take a road trip to a nearby city that I hadn’t visited. We always travel farther, outside of the state or even out of the country but you also need to explore your own state. Husband is always on board when I come up with my spontaneous ideas. I have a list of must visit cities that are driving distance and every time it just gets smaller and smaller. This time we were driving to St. Augustine about three hours from our home. We woke up really early to make it there in the morning and were driving back at night. Little did husband know I had a surprise in store for him.

St. Augustine is on the northeast coast of Florida on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the oldest city in the US and is known for its Spanish colonial architecture. There is much to see and do so expect to do a lot of walking. When we arrived in the morning we drove around and spotted the trolley so we decided that was the best way to see everything in the least amount of time. They had different packages that took you around the city but also let you visit some attractions and the ticket was for two days. We spent most of the day going around and seeing everything from afar.  The stop that was included in our package was visiting the Fountain of Youth. It’s a spring that is said to restore the youth of the person who drinks or bathes in the water. Discovered by Ponce de Leon when he arrived in Florida. It’s an archeological park so you get to walk around and see the story. There are many things to do there and my favorite part was interacting with the peacocks. They walk around freely flaunting their beauty. I got to feed one and get some amazing shots.

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After that we grabbed some food, it was around 5:30. We realized it was already too late to visit the other attraction in the package so we decided to just walk around town before heading back home.

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A couple hours later we were exhausted and ready for the three-hour drive back home. But first I had to use the bathroom since I had “forgotten” too. We drove by gas stations but I just didn’t want to use it there until I saw an IHOP and that’s where I chose. Secretly I had booked a hotel for two nights and I was looking at the address the whole time and luckily it was connected to the IHOP. I went to the “bathroom” but I was actually checking in. When I went back to the car I showed my husband the hotel keys and he said, “what did you do”!? I had packed a luggage with everything we needed and it was in the trunk the whole time. Now we didn’t have to drive back and we could explore some more.

The day after we woke up, got ready and went off to breakfast. I found this breakfast place located in a cute little neighborhood, called The Blue Hen Cafe. There was a huge waiting line outside about an hours wait and that’s when I knew it had to be good. But it wasn’t just good it was so amazing! I had the Zada Jane’s Stack, egg omelet over sweet potato fries. My husband had the Southern Omelette and Pumpkin Pancakes.

The Blue Hen Cafe

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Zada Jane’s Stack, egg omelet over sweet potato fries
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Southern Omelette
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Pumpkin Pancakes

 

We then went on the trolley to the other attraction which was the Old Jail. It was actually next to the hotel so they made sure to make it look like a beautiful Victorian home from the outside. Later it was turned into an attraction where people visited and learned its history. We also went to the famous fort which is the oldest in the US named Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. We saw the amazing views and explored inside. We were so tired from walking and it was so hot. We grabbed some drinks nearby the fort at a Mexican restaurant named Frida Taqueria & Tequila Bar. Then we drove to the beach for a relaxing evening. It was so beautiful we stayed until the sunset.

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Then we went back to the hotel to shower and change and it was husbands turn to pick a restaurant for dinner. He did perfect! He chose Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille. It had outside seating just how I love it. A live band, but not too loud. Nice decorative lighting and amazing food. We started with some She Crab and Crispy Calamari. I had the Shrimp Scampi and he had the French Quarter Tenderloin. We couldn’t make it to dessert.

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille

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She Crab
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Crispy Calamari
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Shrimp Scampi
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French Quarter Tenderloin

The next day it was time to drive back home after grabbing some breakfast. I found another perfect place named Maple Street Biscuit Company. This was my favorite place because everything tasted so amazing. I had the Sticky Maple. Flaky biscuit, all natural chicken breast, wood smoked bacon all topped with real maple syrup. My husband had the Five and Dime. Flaky biscuit, all natural chicken breast, wood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, topped with sausage gravy and a fried egg. With a side of Hashups. Home fries, smoked ham, red and green peppers, grilled onion, melted cheese and topped with gravy. Yumm!

Maple Street Biscuit Company

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Sticky Maple
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Five and Dime
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Hashups

 

I would definitely recommend visiting St. Augustine and once you’re here visiting all of these places to eat is a must!

-Dayana

Washington D.C.

Our Washington D.C. trip was pretty spontaneous and it turned out to be better than I expected. It reminded me of Europe, so the whole time I kept thinking  I was in another country. When we arrived at the airport we decided to take a taxi to our hotel and when we finally get one it was a long bearded middle eastern old man with a really funky/hoboish outfit. My husband, which looks middle-eastern, had asked him how much it would be for the drive to our hotel and he responded in what I thought was really bad English. He kept repeating whatever he was saying and then would laugh afterward. We were really trying to understand but could not get a word he was saying. He ended up finally telling us the price and we got in for the ride. It turns out that he thought my husband was from Pakistan, the same place he was from,  and all that time he had been teasing us about the price in Arabic. That’s why we couldn’t understand him and that’s why he was laughing when he’d say it. He says that Arabs are stingy, so that’s why he had joked in Arabic about how much he would be charging us.

We arrived at our hotel pretty late, so we really didn’t do much that night except eat a little something and then go to bed. We liked our room and thought it was really spacious, but the only thing that bothered me was the bathtubs mat. It felt like it was filled with water. It’s hard to explain but it’s the same kinda feeling you get if you’ve ever laid down on a water bed. I felt like I was getting seasick every time I’d take a shower. I think it was just an issue with our room though because in my parent’s room it was normal (sorry, but I have no pics of the hotel).

The first night we went to a restaurant called Malbec. It’s an Argentinian restaurant around the Dupont Circle neighborhood. The food was amazing and the service was excellent!

Malbec Restaurant

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Provoleta a la Parrilla
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Chorizo a la Parrilla con Chimichurri
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Parrillada for 2 “Traditional Dish”

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Since we went on Thanksgiving everyone was at home with family, so we were able to enjoy things without the crowds of people. We did as much as possible Thanksgiving day because we knew the next day it’d be packed! The only issue was finding somewhere to eat breakfast. We ended up eating at Starbucks, which was the only thing opened that day. We then took the Big Bus Tour that included a live English-speaking guide (FYI: commentary is pre-recorded in 8 different languages).

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Washington Monument
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The lockkeeper’s house, where he lived with his thirteen children from 1835 to 1855! His job was to collect tolls and operate the lock of the Washington City Canal.
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The White House
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Lincoln Memorial
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Engine 3 was built in 1916 and responds to over 5,000 fires & EMS runs annually.

The second day we had breakfast/brunch at Busboys and Poets. It had a really nice ambiance and when you walk in there’s a tiny cute bookstore where you can look around while you wait to be seated. The food was really good, so I would definitely come back.

Busboys and Poets

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Busboys and Poets French Toast
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Two Eggs Scrambled w/ Meat

After, we decided to use the subway since we noticed it’d be cheap. The only other subway I’ve been to in the states has been New York’s subway and between the two I’m not sure which one wins in stinkiness. We headed to the Library of Congress and Capitol Hill and walked around.

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Subway
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The Library of Congress
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United States Capitol Building
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Capitol Hill
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Florida is well represented with a Statue of John Gorrie at the National Statuary Hall Collection.
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Inside the ceilings are beautiful. I liked this one in particular because of the pink lol.
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The Archives Building

At night we went to a restaurant called Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. It was really nice inside and really packed as well. I’m not into oysters, but my husband loves them. I thought I wouldn’t like it so much but what I ordered was actually really good. I would definitely recommend this place especially if you’re into eating oysters! My husband definitely approves!

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

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Oysters
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Barbecued Shrimp
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Wood Grilled Gulf Redfish
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Blackened Gulf Swordfish
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Dessert of the Day

On our last day, we went to have breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin with the best, and I’m not kidding when I say this, milkshakes I’ve EVER had. I lovee coconut anything, so I knew I had to try the “Toasted Coconut Milkshake” on their menu and they definitely did not disappoint. Forget any other milkshake you’ve ever had and stop by this place if you’re in the area to try their milkshakes! After, we decided to visit a few museums and just relax and walk around.

Ted’s Bulletin

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Toasted Coconut Milkshake
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The Big Mark Breakfast
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Pancake Stack or Thick-Cut French Toast

International Spy Museum

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Petersen House Museum

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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

 

National Museum of Natural History

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In front of the National Museum of Natural History

On our last night, we went to Barcelona Wine Bar. A great tapas restaurant my mom found with really nice outdoor seating. We absolutely loved it!

Barcelona Wine Bar

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Albondigas

 

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Jamon y Manchego Croquetas & Hanger Steak
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Marinated Olives

 

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Patatas Bravas
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Jamon Serrano

All in all, it was an incredible trip!

-Daylin