The Perfect Apulian Coastal Town – Polignano a Mare

View to the right from the cafe.

Sapphire blue water, cute old white stone streets, a public beach, and easy access to other places (if you ever want to leave), Polignano a Mare has it all. The city is walled and the old part is pedestrianized. The only wheeled vehicles inside are pedicabs transporting customers and their luggage to the many hotels and B&Bs.

It was hard to get a photo of this door without people in front of it, but I managed to snatch one in the few seconds between tourists.

The old city has many shops but doesn’t feel excessively touristy (even though it is), and once in a while you can glimpse real people living their lives here.

The swimming area is surrounded by cafes on cliffs.
The beach is a pebble beach but that’s the only downside.

Since visiting, I have been raving about this town. It just seems too perfect. Even in 95/34 degree heat.

There is poetry dotted all about the town. This basically says, “Happiness is easy when the sea is in front of you.”

We went just for a the day but I could see staying here for an entire vacation.

The access to the beach overlook.

Outside the old city, there are also lots of streets and neighborhoods to explore, or stay in, but we only explored the old town. We parked in the piazza just outside the old walls, helped by old gentlemen sitting in the square (they helped explain the parking sign — lunch is free parking), and when we returned at the end of the day, the same gentlemen were doing their “passaggiata” (daily walk to be seen, see, and catch up with neighbors) in the square.

Try to get that table for the photos. It was a bit windy out there so we ate inside.

We ate breakfast at a cafe, Caffe Dei Serafini, with a jawdropping view. Utterly amazing. The restaurant is in a cave wall of the city on the cliff and has only one table for two/three out on their tiny balcony… but if you are lucky, you can get that table, or, at least, use it for photo ops.

View to the left from the cafe balcony. Around the corner to the left is the swimming beach.

While I thought Lecce was more intellectual, and Otranto had a smaller vibe, I think that Polignano a Mare has a good combination for an overall Apulian vacation. And it has those blue waters.

I’m told that Sicily and Sardegna have blue waters as well, but for now, these have been the most jewel like yet.

A snorkeler seen from the balcony. Photo with an iPhone. No filter.

My photos were taken with my iPhone and I did not use a filter. The water really is that color. Better than on postcards.

Paracas and the Ballestas Islands

f4ZXWugK9DQQdURtpd3KOkfv6HECie9OS-9wr3o3_4KJ3Yl51K6vYGN7uH5RiAPfDwJuADlh-XYxh1mqtW3pugvSnP18UNjA1IfgeuTlLzCVw0H9YoZIpRLbeM0vsm1J3sQpRlZQwzqMx-Zqt2CbTQHZXjCW4RhC29EsC5zuu-13vofW8VPdZUjs95As strange as it seems from May to September, there is no sunshine in Lima. If you imagine an overcast day that lasts for five months, then you are getting close to imagining it. Therefore, it is necessary to get out and find some direct sunlight. One of the places is Paracas, three or so islands to the south of Lima. Go for a weekend. There is a national park and sunlight. Maybe. If you really want to make sure, go down to Ica, location of the Nazca lines. Make sure to stop at the pitstop at marker 52 for breakfast.

IMG_4693We went for a weekend. Paracas is a small town that seems to exist nowadays for the tourism related to the Paracas National Reserve, a vast sandy national park, and the Ballestas Islands which is part of the park but a separate boat tour. These islands were the source of guano, bird poo, which is used for many products, including fertilizer. It was a big industry. The birds still produce and they like to aim for the tourists (wear a hat and long sleeves). You will also see sea lions sunbathing. The boat ride is two hours with no toilet, no roof, and lots of wind and water. Be prepared.

IMG_4932As much as I enjoyed the boat ride and watching the local fauna (a man and his 12 offspring) on the boat, I actually preferred driving around the desert part of the reserve and finding well appointed viewing platforms and amenities along the way.IMG_4542

Playa Bonita at Las Terrenas

nI-JCyIIkicfFpz-fbRg6XvKuaTCF9-p7PiY3j74gQQqlxrbM015LvTp2OKUwxS_GM77paf9LZ38zmEzUr8y5K0qbFHry9-yrwA_xE_S1OSeP2yI2c2vvT5tTmnn8UHEoyQCyBjUD62cmlT_X_Y5HtUH23tRKS2g6hhPUmS2cYKZUNHtD5v5meqtPGIt’s not Punta Cana. I hear that Punta Cana is popular. Instead, the beaches at Las Terrenas are not as populated. Hardly anyone to be seen. Which is slightly surprising considering all the villas and hotels on the beach.

Szo6e03G7tzJe__tD4PJs3jbp32HdjNF9hfnXoLWtpxS7EmqECZiwyokghF_942yaDhjq4KJVDvbcKJ-OlwcEut5YGCLSbJdtAs-iTclVEEyiYNbr1G8h57gQVQ4akwP4JYaFcXmmhXjeMN-7Br4HM4GN6hukBinFQiumbScNnqe-Xqk59hgEUD-ThI was lucky to get driven there so I don’t know how to get there. But, I do know that we paid many tolls of hefty amounts (as in 8 bucks, 8 there, etc.) in Dominican cash. The drive took about three hours and went through an area of natural beauty.

1P90szb-4IVEZixPRAEgAZl6-CuNv8EmTE-bRTxSguU9SFQJuV25Uz6s5-gFAwu7yHFmYJaz_ids6_uXoipCe7_2bqzBA1gT5gQm5YiMSFfxgO09KG7zQJpLxGyUL-TXNYOWExubkkJ8mnh98vxI1MCFHgOjiyA_720xGb98B8zRFDBdaB8Wwn6k50Along the way, we stopped for some famous barbecue, at a gas station. It’s the Gran Parador Bellamar, Autopista Nordeste, Carretera Samana KM 1, Santo Domingo. After the first toll. It’s a good pitstop with toilet, cash machine, kiosk, etc.

dlTrmzkFwNOtb_t2x0-fmvTSVfDqJPMiRi-4nm_u1CNCEQ0lxqXdUZJMfJI1W05mNNzJNiDNJABcB7JCHKp3OKAIsBC1_vNNitOEmhlHvVCkQRoPhROaA5XmKfeLLroEtHl8sSRaEsownzQHwMKoV-eCyEienpi-eLu-6-Kdk64PkBKOuBKesviYm1We rented a luxury villa. I think there were enough beds for 10 or more people, and it was a good party house. But, also great for relaxing.  Our villa cost $500 per night but I’m sure there are much cheaper options.

l8XNYRx4W90alMLhaVppD7K0Z_QL_GcF7Xp668Rq0pWQVmHVFsd4PfYBNCDbDubeBcPYBhdcERSTRUnX_QEchXrqQz0TouKuplMSXoC1jwJRmBxrWE5ihY0dulEgI9LY-QtMLCQa89O93xvogARmD4jcNRzcupNUJgERVrluR8ZcGXVUBPo5AmWP_SSo pack up the cooler with drinks and food! You can probably find a colmado that will deliver!

GxhmvFNR0mVxjCAbyM0U1agKbIqD2QmqRW1KiKl8Jkj2Z0NvscNxxK1qtIiFD7p5fiRzUrTlCjUsX4x2IRa8MA8bkQaACTeTYUKRuFqEAYjwiw3jn22lejKeMF_mbd5zi1D0hhnB6sznd85nXDpxQ8ykOfJRjprcbUbgUNyjl3yK_57yjaeIc_2TwgOn the way back, we stopped for some chicharron. Chicharron is pork rind but with meat attached. It’s not like pork rinds in the U.S. This is like greasy barbecue.

CzQaZVQE_jhv23s-OTv6msbmySemHAd9otdZwNzC8PY3rl_Z59i2e5_-UcJE81EdhsJB530bMK7rZFD4Z0SkVWXHhcsG_iA0EmdDdASMLUvpTeqGpD6XOENSrPp8CzVs41ULDS6Qh7Ur7fUM8HqzOHtVlh5OGtHmZzy5M3XJx8VFc9ShmgknRScn7p

I can’t tell you the location because it simply appeared, like magic.

Sheltering In Place – In Florida

14484861_10154539848049618_3798888653102113882_nAlthough I lived in Bangladesh for two years, both of those years, the monsoons were not so bad (okay, one night it was awful, walking in the dark potholed street with flooded open sewers) but as Dhaka is located up the river, I didn’t get to experience the risks of coastal living. When I lived in Dhaka, the power went out on a frequent basis, but not for weather related reasons. In the U.S., I’ve experienced more power outages and flooding caused by weather and it looks like I will, again. Welcome to Florida in hurricane season.

I paid attention to the experts. I moved inland. Two days ahead. Then I bought food for ten days (I’m not quite sure why I thought chips and dip were essential foods, but maybe it counts as an activity as well?). Then I turned on the local news to watch the show.

This morning, I went out to check on the shopping frenzy at the local grocery store. It wasn’t a frenzy. Everyone was calm and shopping. Like any day at 11 a.m. (a note about price gouging: call the watchdog phone number if you see price gouging. It’s illegal to profiteer off of a situation like a hurricane. Sheesh.), just with hurricane shutters going up.

14563585_10154539848069618_2250615844766550418_nNow, I hope we don’t lose electricity. I have blogging to do!

Cartagena de Indias – The Most Beautiful Town in the World?

The lane where El Boliche cevicheria is located.
The lane where El Boliche cevicheria is located.

It’s just possible that Cartagena de Indias, on the coast of Colombia, is indeed the most beautiful town in the world. The old city, the “ciudad antigua,” is well preserved and pleasant for tourists, with lane after lane of prettiness and plazas. Wander from gelateria to ice cream shop (two are right next to each other which makes an comparisons much easier), after a dinner al fresco. The humid weather makes the juice (50 cents a glass) from the street vendor taste extra refreshing. Maybe try one of the “plantain hotdogs” which is a deep fried plantain stuffed with shredded meat and topped like a hotdog.

So pretty!
So pretty!

While this town is expensive, I recommend staying inside the walled city anyway. The city is different at night, and it’s nice to call it home for a while. During the day, enjoy the ridiculously picturesque lanes. Sure, it’s touristy but the vendors are not unpleasantly aggressive.

Many buildings are a cheery yellow color.
Many buildings are a cheery yellow color.

If you want, take a day trip to one of the nature reserves located out in the Caribbean. The main attractions in Cartagena for tourists seem to be the warmth, the beaches, the castle of St. Philip (“castillo san felipe”) and the walled city itself. Just outside the walled old city is the Getsemani, a neighborhood getting more publicity these days for its culture rather than for being the red light district.

The modern hotel strip of Cartagena (pronounced “Car-ta-heh-nah”), called the big mouth, “boca grande,” is a bit outside the walled city.

The famous walls make for a pleasant walk. The cars enter through small portholes.
The famous walls make for a pleasant walk. The cars enter through small gates under your feet.

Speaking of “Car-ta-HAY-nah” — If you go looking for scenes from the movie, Romancing the Stone, you will not find it since that was film was filmed in Mexico. But never mind, Cartagena de Indias will romance you (couldn’t resist!) even if you are made of stone. And yes, you can buy emeralds here (more on emeralds later).

The fruit ladies are famous! At over ten dollars for a bowl of fruit, they smile all the way to the bank.
The fruit ladies are famous! At over ten dollars for a bowl of fruit, they smile all the way to the bank.

A view of the modern part of Cartagena.
A view of the modern part of Cartagena from the castle.