Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Pre-Wedding Adventures

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 9, 2018

Our daughter’s wedding was magnificent. It’s hard to believe it is over. All that planning for ten months and then in three days, it was done. There’s relief that things went well mixed with regret that it’s past history, but we’ll relive the event through the photos. (This collage is representative of a wedding but is not ours.)

Wedding Collage

We checked into the bed and breakfast inn at St. Augustine that was designated for the bridal party. Here began the first of our Wedding Misadventures. This historic inn had no private parking area. You have to park in an assigned space at a lot several blocks away. To unload your luggage, you must hunt down a driveway on a street at the rear. We pulled into the wrong place and had to drive around the block again to find the proper loading zone. Our room was in a separate structure from the main building, where our daughter had booked a lovely suite. We had a room that needed renovation as the wall a/c unit blasted onto the beds. There was a long flight of steps up to our second floor room with no elevator.

The front desk sent a guy to help us with our bags. Then we backed our car out of the tight driveway and ended up scratching the passenger side. We suspect it came from a latch sticking out from a gate. Mishap #1.

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Friday evening, we had drinks in the cozy cocktail lounge at the inn and then got ready to meet everyone at Michael’s Tasting Room for an informal dinner. My husband flushed the toilet in our hotel room before we left. It overflowed and flooded on the floor. Mishap #2. We reported it to the front desk, who assured us they would get the maintenance man right over there.

We went to dinner and had a delightful meal with the members of the bridal party who’d arrived early. From left to right are the bride and groom. They are toasting with the groom’s brother (aka the best man) and his wife. And here are Richard and I seated with Es and Rick, soon to be our Mechutonim (i.e. relatives through marriage).

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Anxious about our room situation, we hurried back around 9:30. The front desk person said a plumber had been called, and he was still working on the toilet. We spoke to the man, who said the problem was in a pipe and he had to drill into the wall.

We were outta there. After speaking to the front desk, we spent the night at another hotel, planning to return in the morning. The inn refunded our night’s stay. We returned the next day and had a pleasant breakfast on the front porch. I had French Toast Peach Cobbler. That’s the best part about B&Bs – the morning meal.

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It’s a good thing we ate first, because here’s what we found in our room:

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Despite the clerk’s reassurance that the problem had been fixed and the maid would clean up, we checked out and booked two nights at the Hilton. Central a/c! Starbucks in the lobby! We were in heaven! We moved over all our stuff and were ready to face the new day.

Coming Next: The Wedding Rehearsal

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Museum of Science

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 12, 2018

We took a break and visited the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It had been years since we’d last visited when our kids were young. The museum has two levels plus a gift shop, concession stand, and IMAX theater. We bought tickets to the exhibits only, bypassing the films and the flight simulator or Mars Rover experiences. There’s also an Everglades Airboat Adventure, which we chose not to explore since we’ve been on the real thing in the past.

We began our tour in the Florida Ecoscapes section. Here displays showed various South Florida habitats and some of the creatures that lived in them.

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An impressive aquarium section had colorful tropical fish and this spiny lobster. It’s a good thing the lobster and shrimp that I eat in a restaurant come without the heads and antennas or I’d lose my appetite fast.

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A section on prehistoric Florida had this giant replica of a sea creature whose only predator was the whale. An overenthusiastic young tour guide told us how its cartilage structure instead of bones meant mainly teeth were found to prove its existence. He may have said the creatures died off due to lack of food during a mini-ice age, but I was only half-listening to his rapid-fire talk. He was very knowledgeable if you wanted a thorough explanation of the era.

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The otter section is nicely done, with a rocky waterfall that gives the animals room to play.

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Naturally there’s a hurricane section where you can see a water spout form and watch news broadcasts about various storms. Downstairs also has a kids section that looks like fun for smaller children.

Upstairs are the flight simulators and IMAX theater. Models of aircraft cockpits tempt you to sit in them and push buttons to allow you to virtually cruise down a runway. I ended up blowing up my aircraft as we veered onto the grass.

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There’s a health section where you can read about various bodily functions and medical robotic techniques.

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An area with brain teasers could keep you occupied all day trying to fit the jigsaw pieces into a square shape and doing other tasks. The biggest exhibit was on The Science of Archimedes, a Greek scientist eventually murdered by a Roman soldier. He designed a great many apparatus that were replicated here.

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A brief area with rocks and minerals drew my interest, followed by the inevitable dinosaurs.

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This was a fun visit that took about two hours to roam around inside and check out the gift shop. There’s no café on premises but the museum map shows one under construction. Parking is next door in a public garage. So if you’re in town looking for something indoors to do, visit our Museum of Discovery and Science. It’ll bring out the curious child in you.

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Posted in Research, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St. Petersburg Florida

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 12, 2018

We got into St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday Sept. 5. Unfortunately, I hadn’t booked the conference hotel which was already full when I registered for Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. Events took place at the historic Vinoy Renaissance by the bay. This distinctive structure faces a boat marina and a park on one side and Beach Drive at another end. Our hotel, the Hampton Inn, was on a side street from this main strip that hosts a plethora of restaurants and museums. The town is good for a few days stay with all there is to see and do. Here are shots of the Vinoy that was built in the 1920’s.

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It was a distinct disadvantage not staying there as we had to tip the valet at the Hampton Inn each time we needed the car. I got too hot walking the five to six blocks in ninety degree heat to the conference hotel while dressed up for the meeting. Once I left the Vinoy in the afternoon, I didn’t return. Daily thunderstorms and the intense heat prevented another long stroll. A shuttle ran between conference hotels, but only in the early morning and late afternoon. So I learned my lesson. Never stay off site again. However, we enjoyed St. Petersburg along Beach Drive even though we didn’t go farther into downtown.

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Dining adventures included Parkshore Grill where we had lunch on day one.

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We dined outside at Fresco’s on the first night.

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We met my former critique partner, Sharon Hartley, and her husband for dinner at Bella Brava.

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Richard and I enjoyed the early bird special at 400 Beach Seafood.

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I think I had more fun trying the different restaurants than anything else!

I skipped out on the conference on Saturday afternoon for a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. This two-story building held many exhibits including sculptures, paintings, and valuable artifacts. I liked the clock exhibit. There’s a café and gift shop on the premises. Here are some of the items we viewed. More are in the album on my Facebook page.

museum        

Coming Next: Bouchercon 2018

See all my photos HERE

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Posted in Conferences, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Adventures in Dining – Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 4, 2018

As usual when we visit Orlando, we like to try new dining spots as well as frequent some of our favorite restaurants. Besides Bonefish Grill and Longhorn, we celebrated our family’s September birthdays with the Magical Dining Month menu at Fleming’s. I got the beef filet with a salad and carrot cake for dessert.

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I didn’t fare as well at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. This being Labor Day Weekend and the opening of the festival, the park was crowded and there was a long wait under the broiling sun just to get in through bag inspection. We made it to a couple of places where I tasted the mini blended burger (very good!) and the loaded mac and cheese (too spicy).

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Then I succumbed to the heat and felt lightheaded. After a brief rest on a shady bench, I recovered my stamina and we headed to the festival marketplace to pick up our annual passholder magnets. Then we left, vowing to return when the weather has cooled and the crowds have thinned. I just can’t make this trek anymore in the 90+ degree heat.

Another day, we dined at La Madelaine, a French café located inside the Florida Mall where we took a nice air-conditioned walk. I didn’t have a problem there and enjoyed the exercise. My meal here was tomato basil soup, Caesar salad, and a half turkey and brie sandwich. The best breakfast was at Keke’s Café where I had a waffle accompanied by fresh berries and whipped cream.

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The highlight of the week was a bridal shower in honor of our daughter held at Orchid Thai Cuisine in Winter Park. The food was delicious from the buffet-style appetizers to the plated lunch to the beautiful cake. Our daughter was radiant as she greeted her friends and other guests.

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It’s hard to follow the wedding diet on these meals. I’d say I would wait until after the wedding, since that weekend will involve a lot of eating too, but then Thanksgiving will be upon us. Maybe I should make getting in shape a New Year’s resolution?

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Yesteryear Village

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 18, 2018

Yesteryear Village is located at the Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach. It’s a living history museum that tells the story of Florida up until 1945 or so. The nine acres house various historic buildings, shady oak trees, and brick-lined paths. A general store offers nostalgic goods for sale. But bring your own snacks. There’s a picnic area under shelter but no café on premises. The park is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. There’s an admission fee. Allow a couple of hours to stroll around and enjoy the exhibits.

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Inside the gated grounds, we turned left from the Welcome Center and passed equipment for sugar processing and a small building describing the Pineapple growing industry in Florida. As the interior was roped off, we couldn’t read the signage inside, but I got enough of a view to get the gist of it. I hadn’t even been aware Florida had pineapple plantations.

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Next was a train caboose next to a switching station housing model trains and other railroad memorabilia.

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Inside the next structure, which held one set of public restrooms, was a shoe repair place, a print shop, and a fire house.

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From here we went to the jail, which held a one-person cell. Note the noose on the outside.

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We passed an old hunting shack and moved on to the church, which is still in use today for services and weddings.

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Beyond the Bait and Tackle Shop and the Smokehouse, we came to a two-storied (plus attic) Victorian house that dominated the area.

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Riddle House must have been very large and well-built for its day. Downstairs were the common rooms and kitchen, while upstairs were several bedrooms. It was rumored someone killed himself in the attic, and indeed, the park offers seasonal ghost tours. Some of the places have costumed guides, and this was one of them. We got our own private tour of this impressive house.

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We peeked inside the visitor cabins, sewing circle room, old telephone exhibit, and a shotgun house. I liked the school, a large building with two classrooms on either side of the teacher’s desk. A single schoolteacher taught all the grades, and she wasn’t permitted to be married. The old wooden desks each had a hole presumably for an inkwell.

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You can visit the old post office, farm buildings, a blacksmith shop, and more as you stroll among the shady grounds. Although the temperatures hit the nineties, a breeze kept us comfortable as did the leafy branches overhead. Some, but not all, of the buildings are air-conditioned.

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You can see all of my photos HERE. If you visit the park, ask for a map at the Welcome Center. They’re busiest during the Fair season, so you might want to go at a less crowded time. This site is owned and administered by the Fairgrounds, which somewhat surprised me. I guess it’s a way for them to earn some income when the fair or other events aren’t in session, but you’d think a historical society would be interested in this display of early Florida life. Be sure to visit if you’re in the area.

Do you like visiting recreated villages or living history museums with costumed guides?

 

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Key West 2018

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 26, 2018

We drove down to Key West on the Thursday before the Mystery Fest Key West conference began. Once you hit the Keys beyond Miami and Homestead, you pass interesting little towns on each island along with scenic ocean vistas on either side of the highway. On Ramrod Key, we stopped for lunch at Boondocks. Their creamy New England clam chowder was one of the best. I liked the crabmeat salad and cole slaw that accompanied the soup. A half portion of salad was more than enough.

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After arriving in Key West, we checked in at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort and then took the hotel shuttle into town. Here we meandered around until our friends Alyssa Maxwell and her husband joined us for dinner. We dined at Conch Republic Seafood Company. Richard and I shared stuffed mushrooms and grilled mahi mahi. We were as stuffed as the mushrooms when we’d finished.

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Friday morning, we were free, so we visited the East Martello Museum, a Civil War era fort. Exhibits tell about how the fort was used during the war as well as a bit of Key West lore including ghost stories and the creepy Robert the Doll tale. Doll houses, a treasure chest, and a cannon were among the relics displayed. Then we went outside toward the tower where a spiral staircase takes you to the top. Here are some scenic views.

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Hungry from our exertions, we drove into town and lunched at Pinchers Crab Shack on Duval Street. Then it was back to the hotel for the start of the conference.

 What’s your favorite place in Key West?

See all my Key West Photos Here

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Dining Out Fort Lauderdale

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 21, 2018

You may be wondering why I write about food so much on this blog. Authors have lives, too, and I happen to enjoy dining out, taking cooking classes, and experimenting on recipes. Everything we do feeds into our creative works. You’ll find recipes and food mentioned throughout my Bad Hair Day Mysteries. So here are some local spots aside from the usual chains.

Dar Tajine is a Moroccan Restaurant that draws you in with its lush décor. The menu selections were varied enough to appeal to everyone at our table.

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We started out with Zaalouk, an appetizer with grilled eggplant, tomato, garlic, olive oil and spices. It tasted like Ratatouille and came with triangles of pita bread. For my entrée, I had the Beef Tajine that was wonderfully tasty and tender. My husband had the Vegetarian Tajine that looked substantial enough for his appetite. In my estimation, tajine means it is slow-cooked and served in these interesting pots. We’ll have to go back to try the Shish Kabob and Chicken Bastilla. Mint tea and a selection of pastries concluded the meal. The restaurant is located at 8281 W. Sunrise Blvd in Plantation. Go to http://www.dar-tajine.com

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On Mother’s Day, we dined at Vienna Café & Wine Bar. This is a favorite when we want a special night out. It has a continental atmosphere with Vienna classics on the menu. I started with the Mushroom Fricassee. The mushrooms are sautéed with port wine and cream and served in a flaky pastry. My main dish was the potato-crusted salmon, which came with a pinot noir cream sauce and steamed asparagus. I ordered a side dish of potatoes au gratin. This is located in Davie at Pine Island Plaza. http://www.ViennaWineBar.com

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So here’s my question for you. Do you like to read about my dining and travel adventures? Or would you rather I stick to how-to articles on writing and the writing process? Perhaps you like a mixture of both? Please let me know what interests you.

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Magic Kingdom is Magical

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 3, 2018

All your dreams seem possible at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This is where my husband and I came to celebrate our engagement over forty years ago and again when I sold my first book. That title was Circle of Light, and The Lion King had just come out with the song, “Circle of Life”. To this day, I associate that song with my very first published title.

Since we have annual passes and have been on most of the rides, we usually take a stroll, have lunch, and leave. I took a few short videos which you can watch on my YouTube Channel. These include a live show on the main stage beneath Cinderella’s Castle, the train ride, and the ferry from Magic Kingdom back to the Ticket and Transportation Center.

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We ate lunch at Harbour House across from the Haunted Mansion. It’s a fast food place but with more healthy choices. We split a cup of clam chowder and a tuna sandwich on multigrain bread, if I remember the items correctly. It was enough for the two of us.

My favorite attraction, the People Mover, had a line for the first time I can ever remember. We bypassed that one and headed to the Carousel of Progress, another favorite. I love the cheerful song with its message of hope, and how the people in each era thought their time was the most progressive. Don’t we feel that way now about our technology and ease-of-living devices?

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What’s your favorite attraction when you visit the Magic Kingdom?

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Curacao

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 29, 2017

We took Shore Excursion CUR – 100 from the Royal Princess in Curaçao. Beautiful aqua water greeted us at the pier. On land, we met dry terrain with cactus, a civilized city with houses that looked like places in Florida, columned municipal buildings, a cathedral, and a swing bridge into town.

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From the pier, you could walk to the right toward the Renaissance Hotel and follow the signs to cross the bridge into town. It’s a twenty minute walk, but it will seem much longer if you are carrying heavy packages. If I heard our tour guide correctly, the main industries are oil refining, salt, tourism, and producing Curaçao liqueur.

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Our drive took us first to the Curaçao Museum in a colonial-style building dating back to the 1800s. The rooms held paintings and antique furniture with windows wide open and no air-conditioning. An airplane cockpit rests in a secured outbuilding. The shady grounds are pleasant to stroll while waiting to get back on the tour bus.

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Next we toured Hato Caves, an above-ground cave. We had to climb a steep set of 49 steps to get there. Once inside, you had to duck and hold onto a hand rail to reach the various caverns. The usual views of stalactites, stalagmites, and calcite columns are present. Total blackness yawns from areas that are unlit, while bats hover overhead.

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Outside, we caught an iguana on the grounds. A snack bar and restrooms are available. The natives like iguana stew, the “poor-man’s chicken.”

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We visited the Chobolobo factory where they make the famous branded Curaçao Liqueur. It’s said the soil of the island changed the sweet Valencia orange brought by the Spaniards into a bitter fruit. But the peel contained an oil with a pleasing fragrance. The famous Blue liqueur comes from the peel of this fruit.

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Inside a building, the distilling process is explained in a museum-like setting. Their famous liqueur comes in an orange-shaped bottle. If it’s in another container, the product isn’t theirs. It comes in classic original orange flavor plus chocolate, coffee, rum raisin, and tamarind. An enticing gift shop offers a wide selection of liqueurs and other souvenirs.

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We crossed the Queen Juliana Bridge with vistas of the port city on our way back to the ship. At the port were a decent number of native huts selling souvenirs, hats, Curaçao liqueur, magnets, spoon rests, dresses and shirts, and Delft figurines. Waves crash onto the rocky breakfront by the pier where you can also enjoy tropical drinks at a bar.

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Our tour was well worthwhile, although we did not make a photo stop at the salt flats as listed in the tour description. Nonetheless, we need to make a return visit to go into Willemstad and roam the city streets. A brief glimpse wasn’t enough.

View All Photos Here

This concludes my review of our Royal Princess cruise and the ports of call. I hope you’ve enjoyed my descriptions. Happy Sailing to you in the New Year!

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Bonaire

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 28, 2017

Our Shore Excursion from Royal Princess was BON-105. It took us on a drive along the coast with gorgeous sparkling ocean to the left in aqua to navy hues. We passed a group of divers as one beautiful sea vista after another exposed itself to us.

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Cactus in many varieties dotted the dry soil on this island. Tall trees were sparse, but plenty of bushy vegetation grew along the roadside. To the right rose a rocky cliff with caves. Eventually, we curved around and ended up on the other side of this cliff. Donkeys roamed free on an open plain.

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At Goto Lake, we spotted native flamingos wading for food in the water. Having seen many of this species at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida, I was impressed to view them in the wild.

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In Rincon, the oldest settlement, it looked like any other Caribbean village with colorfully painted houses. We’d been driving nearly an hour and hastened to the single restroom at our stop. There wasn’t any toilet paper but there were paper towels. We were given a taste of cactus liquor that tasted minty. Snacks were available for purchase here at the Rose Inn courtyard. The stop seemed to benefit the tour guide more than us. We stood around waiting for her to finish her cold drink so we could head back to the bus.

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We were supposed to stop at a cultural park next, but this visit never materialized. Instead, we drove past the port and beyond to reach the salt flats on the other side of the island. A brown pond stretched into the distance. At the roadside, salt crystals bubbled and burped by the highway. A mountain of salt rose ahead as the guide explained the salt-making process.

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If I’ve gotten this explanation right, salt water is brought into the pond on the far side. This water is allowed to evaporate under the sun until it reaches a certain level of salinity. Then more water is added and the process repeated until it’s so concentrated that the salt begins to crystalize. We passed a freighter that might have been taking on salt, this island’s main export. It was fascinating to see the huge mound of salt and the crystals bubbling from the pond.

Then we stopped at a beach made from coral to view a cluster of slave huts. Slaves had to walk from there all the way to Rincon to go to church and receive provisions. It took them the entire day. With the low ceilings and cramped space in the huts, I don’t know how anyone could live there.

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This tour was too long. The drive to Rincon, while scenic, needs more stops. Rincon itself was unimpressive. We didn’t see the cultural center mentioned on the excursion listing unless the itinerary had changed. If you don’t mind a long drive to see most of the island, this tour will work for you. Otherwise, I’d suggest a shorter trip to see the scenic ocean vistas while heading to the salt flats. Then go shopping in town, a short walk away from the port. This tour took 3 hours.

See All Photos Here

Coming Next: Curacao

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