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Wine tasting, Italian-style in Vesuvio, Italy: Haute Travel, Haute Eats

wine tasting at the base of Mt. Vesuvio

wine tasting at the base of Mt. Vesuvio

Wine in Italy may seem common enough, but embarking on a wine tasting journey to Campania, Italy can take you to the base of the circle of life itself.

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Head to Grand Cayman for a wonderful, and warm, winter vacation: Haute Travel

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Blue water, soft white sand, tropical drinks, and more await you if you choose to visit Grand Cayman.  I was lucky enough to escape the winter woes of the north and head to Grand Cayman for a wedding this month.  I have been to other Caribbean Islands in December, and the weather was not always amazing.  Grand Cayman is pretty far south though, neighbors with Belize, which gave us 85 degree days and 70 degree nights, perfect for a beach vacation.

We stayed at two different hotels – The Westin and The Ritz Carlton on Seven Mile Beach.

The Westin is a bit of an older property, but situated right on the beach.  We staying in a double room, with a not so lovely view of the parking lot. Our room wasn’t ready, so we waited in the lounge area while some folks in our party grabbed fish tacos to go from Sunshine Grill (#1 on Trip Advisor for Seven Mile Beach). We had shrimp and fish, and they were both delicious, and huge.  Though we weren’t especially happy with the front desk service at the Westin, but we found solace in our lime daiquiris on the beach later in the afternoon.  Our room was nice, but a bit tight for 4 girls.  Otherwise, the amenities included a fitness center, shops, and swim up bar.  In general, we felt this hotel was not at the level I expect for a Westin.  And being a loyal SPG customer, I can say that.  We heard the Westin was at one point the nicest hotel on the island, until the Ritz came and stole the spot.

When we woke up the next morning, we decided to head back to Sunshine Grill for a late breakfast/early lunch.  I believe why it has this reputation, the service was great, the menu choices were good, and the food was delicious.  The set up is super colorful, especially where we sat by the pool outside.  We had various frozen drinks, salads, and more fish tacos, before we ended the meal with a little treat courtesy of the restaurant.

Sweet Mini- Strawberry Ice Creams at Sunshine Grill   Photo credit:  Evita Singh

Sweet Mini- Strawberry Ice Creams at Sunshine Grill
Photo credit: Evita Singh

For dinner that night we headed to the patio at the Royal Palm hotel.  Dinner left us wanting more sadly, we shared a variety of wraps and salads, but the night was young after our light meal.  This spot turns into a bit of a dance party at night, which made the outing super fun for those interested in partying a bit.  The DJ played a mix of Hip Hop, Caribbean, and Top 40.

After a day at the Westin, we headed over to the Ritz for the duration of our stay.  I have a new respect for the Ritz after staying at two different hotels during my stay.  Yes they collect a $50 resort fee per day, but they use it to compensate their staff so everyone is attentive and pleasant; just plain willing to help you out.  Unlike the Westin, our rooms were ready on time, and we were greeted with a lovely garden view and spacious rooms. We quickly headed to the beach, where our party was easily found by the very helpful beach staff, and we joined them for a fabulous day.  While drinks were expensive here, about $20 each with taxes, we enjoyed a few of them along with our complimentary soft padded chairs and individual umbrellas.

Dusk at Seven Mile Beach Photo Credit:  Evita Singh

Dusk at Seven Mile Beach
Photo Credit: Evita Singh

After we had our fill of sand and surf, as it got a little choppy, we headed to the pool to end the day.  We noticed some coconuts being brought to a table, and we indulged in some ourselves.  These are also complimentary, but scouted out by the Ritz Staff from nearby palm trees.  We would have loved to see a Ritz staffer shimmy up a tree.

Coconuts poolside Photo Credit:  Evita Singh

Coconuts poolside
Photo Credit: Evita Singh

I should mention, the pool at the Ritz was also very nice, winding through the property and providing adequate seating for all with plush chairs and umbrellas all over.  We stayed by the pool until the end of the day, moving on to our next adventure in Grand Cayman.  Dinner.

Pool at the Ritz Photo Credit:  Evita Singh

Pool at the Ritz
Photo Credit: Evita Singh

We decided to order in for a quick meal from Yoshi Sushi, known by the hotel staff as one of the best sushi spots in town.  We would agree.  We ordered a buffet of sushi, sashimi, stir fry, and tempura – all for a mild feee since we carried out, but all very delicious.  Definitely would recommend this spot.  One we were happy and content, we headed to Tiki Beach for an evening out with the wedding party.

Tiki Beach is a cool spot, reminiscent of Nikki Beach in Miami, but maybe a bit less crazy.  It had beautiful white draping at the bar, beachside seating for the guests, a bonfire, and very strong libations like the Lychee Martini we all tried.  Great end to a great day.

Tiki Beach a nuit Photo Credit: Evita Singh

Tiki Beach a nuit
Photo Credit: Evita Singh

The next morning, we decided to try breakfast at Eats Cafe, which was a nearby art deco spot near Yoshi Sushi, and had a full breakfast menu.  (Note: That is one of the great thing about Seven Mile Beach, lots of cafes and restaurants to wet your palate outside the hotel!) I had blueberry pancakes and a burrito with no eggs.  All satisfying and tasty.  After breakfast, we headed to the beach for our last day of sun and surf before the day of wedding festivities began.  With the water calm and warm, and the sun strong, we enjoyed time out with the wedding party, before heading to Luca for dinner.

Luca had a private area for us on the patio, but inside the restaurant was modern and cool, with a lovely exposed wine cellar.  We enjoyed champagne belinis, hot or cold soup (gazpacho was delicious), various pastas and risottos (I had the lobster penne), and finally some sweet treats (tiramisu, creme brûlée, and frozen virgin limoncello).  It was a decadent and filling meal, and we all had a blast.

The last day was spend at the wedding of our beloved friend, including a reception at a private home with beautiful seaside views, and more.  Then it was off to the airport for our return journey home.

All in all, had a wonderful winter escape to Grand Cayman, and hope to visit again soon!  Grand Cayman: definitely a haute spot!

Cayman <3!! Photo Credit:  Evita Singh

Cayman <3!!
Photo Credit: Evita Singh

My Back to Boston Assessment and more things to look forward to…

Wow, have not posted since moving back, so I thought I would look into my goals and see how I have done so far…

  1. Seafood – I have been steady in this regard – sticking to my old haunts and trying a few new ones!
  2. Kayaking – Dropped the ball, er…paddle here.  Need to pick this one back up next spring!
  3. The Cape + Summer – Ptown happened, and with great splendor…now enjoying fall in NE.
  4. Exploring Cambridge more – Much more exploring over the Bridge and in Brookline!  Loving discovering some new haunts…

What’s exciting in Boston this fall?

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  1. Folliage – I don’t drive to see this, just look out my window or walk around…
  2. Fall Foods – Welcome back butternut squash and apple cider.  Need to get to an orchard before the season is over…
  3. Red Wine – I am happy dive back into my cooler weather friend, and have been checking out some great wine spots like Les Zygomates and am excited for Fall Wine Riot as well (www.secondglass.com).
  4. Giving Thanks – taking time to slow down, enjoy the view and relish the time before dreaded winter.  I decide November will be my month for me, Nov 3 – Nov 26, when it shifts to family and holiday time.  Consider taking on this challenge with me.  My goals: no travel out of MA, go to yoga, and plan a bit less, sleep a bit more.

All in all, I will give it my best shot…but looking forward to the ride!