Historic San Juan

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RH and I have finally returned home from our amazing journey on the Transatlantic Cruise with Royal Caribbean from Galveston to Barcelona and then around the Mediterranean to France, Italy and Monte Negro.  This trip was truly something I had dreamed about for countless years and I promise you, it did not disappoint!

  I have learned so much from this journey and have been awed by the history, beauty, architecture and culture of the many places I have had the great privilege to see.  As we journeyed into each port, I became increasingly fascinated with the amazing history our world has to offer.  

I will begin my account of this journey with the historic port of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We arrived in San Juan on the fifth day of our journey  and were quite excited to have a day in port.  We were up early that morning in plenty of time to enjoy our cruise into the San Juan Bay.  As our ship headed to the port, the massive fortress of El Morro is on the left side of the ship and offers quite an impressive view from the sea.  El Morro is the 400 year old walled fortress designed to guard the entrance of San Juan Bay and defend the colonial Spanish port.  The history of this fortress is truly fascinating and takes you back in time to when the Spanish conquistadors were defending the fort.  

The port is located in the heart of what is known as Old San Juan, the oldest European settlement in America.  El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal, both a part of San Juan National Historic Site  are a fairly easy walk or a short taxi ride from the port.  Walking or driving, the views of the San Juan Bay along Paseo de la Princesa are simply stunning.   

If you are a lover of narrow, cobblestone streets and charming, colorful colonial architecture, you will delight in strolling the streets of Old San Juan.  It’s easy to spend the day wandering the streets and soaking up the beauty and history in the vibrantly colored brick and stone buildings.  The buildings are delightfully quaint with elegant doors, balconies and colonial details, an absolute dream for a fan of colonial architecture.  I would suggest walking shoes to meander though the cobblestone streets and know that mid afternoons might be a bit warm as the tall buildings block the breeze.  There are many museums, shop, and street cafes to visit and enjoy easy going Caribbean vibe.  If you tire of walking,  there is a free trolley that winds through the area and you are able to hop on and off as you desire.   

This was our second visit to Old San Juan and I was still fascinated with the history and amazing colonial architecture.  We noticed that there weren’t the crowds that we saw on our last visit,  presumably due to the devastating hurricane last fall.  However, Old San Juan is alive and vibrant awaiting your visit.  If given the chance, I will definitely return to explore the history and culture of this amazing island. 

Blessing to all – Gerri

Cruising to Barcelona

There is nothing ordinary about sailing across the vast Atlantic Ocean!

We are traveling on Royal Caribbean’s ship Vision of the Seas which left Galveston, Texas almost two weeks ago.  Our first stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico where we had a lovely day wandering the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan.  After another five days at sea, we arrived in Ponta Delgado, Azores, an island off of Portugal! I have to say this was one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places I’ve ever seen!

The experience of crossing the Atlantic has been totally amazing, relaxing and so peaceful.  There is something so calming about listening to the gentle sounds of the waves as the ship glides through the ocean.  The waves have been mostly between 4 to 6 feet, which our magnificent vessel glides through luxuriously!

Most days the skies have been delightfully blue, with occasional clouds.  The air temperature has ranged between the mid eighties in San Juan to the mid fifties as we travel north to Spain.  

As we traveled from San Juan to The Azores, I was overwhelmed by the unspoiled beauty of this magnificent ocean!  When traveling in the Caribbean, you occasionally see other vessels. Perhaps freighters passing by or other cruise ships as you travel along your journey.  However, in the middle of the Atlantic, we went for days with only seeing the sky and sea, no other vessels!  Water depth was about 15,000 feet or 3 miles deep.  We traveled along at about 20 knots. We have currently traveled 5013 nautical miles towards our destination in Barcelona.  

Tonight we will pass through the Strait of Gibraltar and tomorrow we arrive in Malaga, Spain.

I wish I had more photos to share with you, but I seem to be having some technical difficulty!  I’m looking forward to sharing more with you soon.

Thank you to all for your well wishes for this journey. –  Gerri

 

Dreams Can Come True!

As you are reading this, I am leaving on a ship for my dream of a lifetime trip! This trip has been in the wishing and planning stages for years.  My husband and I have saved our pennies, hoped and dreamed, and it is finally coming true!

We leave out of the Port of Galveston and our destination is Barcelona, Spain!  Some may call us crazy, but we will be spending sixteen nights on a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  I have to admit that although I am totally excited about this grand adventure, I am feeling a bit nervous about so many days crossing the Atlantic.

Along the way we will stop in the beautiful and historic San Juan, Puerto Rico before many days at sea.  Eventually, we arrive in Ponto Del Gado, Azores which is a small chain of islands off of Portugal.  Then, three more stops in Spain before we arrive in Barcelona.   After that we will be doing a bit more traveling around the Medeteranian Sea. 

During this time, I will be taking a bit of time off from blogging.  However, I hope to post some pictures for you on my Instagram page @tocreatesunshine.  I also have a Facebook page of the same name.

While I am away, I will be journaling about the experience and look forward to sharing with you upon our return.

Until then, wishing you many blessings…..Gerri

Chacchoben Ruins, Costa Maya

If you are a lover of nature and history, the Chacchoben Ruins are surely not to be missed!  Located about 100 miles from the Costa Maya port, south of Cozamel,  these three excavated pyramids are surrounded by a lush, tropical jungle filled with an amazing variety of trees and plants.

You can follow a well maintained circular path that leads you to these ancient structures, while a guide gives you a wealth of information about the Mayans ancient religion and customs.  You cannot climb the pyramids, but there are stairs to climb to a raised area with a very impressive view of the area below.

Truly, I was as fascinated by the beauty of the massive trees and lush jungle as I was by the ancient pyramids.  The Spanish moss and Palm trees not only offer inviting shade, but also enhance the majesty of the pyramids.  The combination of nature and history creates an awe inspiring harmony that leads you to imagine what life would have been like for the Mayan civilization of so long ago.  

I think I would have been content to just wonder the path and relish in the magnificence of this amazing, tropical, jungle.  I am not aware of the age of some of these trees, but by the size of the trunks, I would think they had been there quite awhile.

If you choose to visit these amazing ruins, remember you are in a jungle and you might want some bug repellent for the mosquitoes.  There is some walking involved, and I think it would be rather warm and humid in the heat of summer.   Our visit was in October, and while there were a few mosquitoes, I found the weather to be fairly comfortable.  

Being an avid nature lover, history buff and photography fan, this magnificent archeological site turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  

“Wherever you go, Go with all your heart.”   –   Confucius

Hope you all have the opportunity to satisfy an adventurous spirit.  –  xxoo Gerri

 

Cruising to Roatan, Honduras

I am so excited to share with you the events of last week.  I had the opportunity to cruise the Western Caribbean with my husband and other family members and I have to say what a wonderful trip it was!

We took Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas  leaving from Galveston and cruising to Roatan , Costa Maya and Cozamel. The ship itself was amazing with an incredible shopping mall, ice skating rink and magnificent shows and entertainment.  For the younger crowd there were some fantastic looking slides, a zip line and even a Flowrider which is a surf simulator.  I cannot imagine anyone being bored on this astonishing ship!

Personally, I spent most of my time relaxing and reading in the adult area pool and spa.  However, if I had been traveling with children or teens to cheer me on, I think I would have ventured out and at least tried one of the slides. I am really just a child at heart!  

Our first port was Roatan, an island off Honduras, known for it’s beautiful, pristine beaches and magnificent snorkeling, coral reef and dive sights.  The morning we pulled in to port, I awoke to the most breathtaking sunrise!  

I am rarely one to leap from my bed at sunrise, but that’s exactly what I did as we were pulling into port, with camera in hand ready to capture every moment.  Perhaps if I awoke to this kind of beauty every morning it would be easier for me to hop out of bed!

Our plan had been to zipline though the jungles of Roatan, but as we departed the ship the skies opened and the rains poured down, and our excursion was cancelled.  I have to admit I was a bit relieved as I was feeling squeamish about the prospect of ziplining.  I have a definite concern for heights! 


We regrouped, grabbed a taxi, and headed to the northwestern end of the island to West End Village.  West End has something of a bohemian vibe and is filled with restaurants, bars and scuba shops.  This area is where a majority of the scuba diving, fishing and water-based outfitters are located.  It is a fun area to visit and wander around, however the better beaches are up the road in West Bay.  

Our next stop was West Bay Beach, a dream location filled with beautiful, white sandy beaches.  West Bay is surrounded by the second largest reef barrier in the world and is considered to be one of the best beaches for snorkeling.  My husband and I visited this spot a few years back and it definitely features some amazing turquoise, blue water and excellent snorkeling full of marine life. However, since it was a cloudy day and we had planned to zipline, we opted not to snorkel and just enjoy the laid back beach vibe.

I really wish we had a bit more time to explore West End and West Beach.  It’s my second trip to Roatan, and if you are a beach lover and especially if you’re interested in the incredible marine life it is a spot not to miss!

I will return soon with more on our cruise.  Up next the Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya!

Until then, happy cruising!  xxoo Gerri

 

The Beaches of Isla Mujeres

Imagine sitting on the beach and gazing off into the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.  I can’t think of anything more relaxing and tranquil than doing just that.

While visiting Isla Mujeres, an island across the the Bay of Mujeres from Cancun, I was fortunate to have several days of relaxing on the beach and soaking in the incredible soft hues of the amazingly clear and tranquil waters.

To Create Sunshine beach on Isla Mujeres

Not only is the water an amazing color of blue, the beaches are as pristine and white as you could hope to find.

To Create Sunshine beach on Isla Mujeres

There are a wide variety of beaches to visit around the island, all beautiful. We spent most of our time at Playa Norte, near downtown.  It was easy access for us, just a short five minute drive in our golf cart from our little casita.  It is also just a brief walk from the ferry if you are visiting the island for just the day.

We found during the week, if you go over on the side near Mia Reef Resort, you get less traffic from day visitors.  However, we did not cross the bridge to the Mia Reef Resort.  Although it appears to be a lovely all inclusive resort, it is rather costly for a day visit to their private beach.

To Ceate Sunshine Isla Mujeres

We chose to stay at the lovely Villa San Miguel.  After several years of resort vacations,  we wanted to experience a more authentic feel for staying on the island.   So often when you are in a resort, it is so lovely and relaxing you just stay in the resort.  Not that there is anything wrong with that!  However, our goal for this trip was to get out and experience what it might be like if we were to purchase property on the island.

File May 14, 8 45 58 AM

We enjoyed zooming around the island in our rented golf cart, and we actually visited the local grocery stores and made our own breakfast each day! ( My husband is a fabulous cook!)  We had hoped to try grilling some fresh fish at our little casita, however, we found the grounds did not provide a grill for us to use.

Renting our golf cart allowed us to explore the island extensively.  The lee side of the island, facing a view of Cancun, has numerous beautiful, sandy beaches.  The east side of the island, facing the Caribbean, is more rocky, but beautiful to gaze upon.  Many gorgeous private homes are on this side of the island.

Breathtaking views can be found at the southern tip of the island.  Here lies the home of Punta Sur and Garrafon Reef Park.  To get there, you must take a taxi or rent a golf cart, but it is well worth the brief journey!  Punta Sur hosts beautiful and unique rocky cliff formations.  For a small fee you may enter the sculpture garden which entry to this allows you a closer views of the rocky cliffs and Cancun across the bay.

To Create Sunshine Isla Mujeres
View of Cancun from Isla Mujeres

If you do make the drive to visit Punta Sur, I highly recommend taking the easterly road back to town.  You get to see the many beautiful villas and the views are amazing!

If you are seeking natural beauty in a peaceful, casual, slower paced island setting, Isla Mujeres should be on your list!  Whether you choose one of the fabulous all-inclusive hotels or choose a quaint villa for your stay, I do not think the Island of Women will disappoint!

Wishing you safe travels wherever you go – xxoo- Gerri

*Original photos by To Create Sunshine – For more photos of the beautiful Isla Mujeres and other amazing places you may follow me on Instagram @tocreatesunshine

 

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Colorful and Exotic Isla Mujeras

To Ceate Sunshine Isla Mujeres

Beautiful and tranquil Isla Mujeres is a slice of paradise in the Carribean Sea.  A small island, only five miles in length, surrounded by amazing turquoise blue water and filled with pristine white sandy beaches.  Isla Mujeres is just a brief ferry ride across the Bay of Mujeres (Bay of Women) from Cancun, yet so very different from Cancun.  If Cancun is Miami, than Isla Mujeres is a smaller, more quaint version of Key West.  Cancun is a huge, metropolitan city filled with beautiful beaches, shopping and nightlife.  Isla Mujeres offers a much slower, laid back island pace.   Imagine your days lounging on the beach or snorkeling in the nearby coral reefs.  Evenings are spent wandering Avenue Hidaigo with it’s many Mexican marcados and street cafes.

To Create Sunshine Isla Mujeres
Marcado on Hidalgo Avenue, Isla Mujeres.
The Mexican Marcado on Avenue Hidaigo

Many visitors come from Cancun each day, but Isla Mujeras is truly a destination in itself. If you plan to stay on Isla Mujeras,  there is a wide range of luxury hotels, all inclusives, and villas to choose from.  For our visit this year, we chose a charming casita near downtown complete with a pool area and incredible view of the Carribean Sea.

GETTING THERE

If you are flying into Cancun, and plan to stay on the island, you will want to prearrange for transport from the airport to the ferry that will take you across the bay to Isla Mujeras.  Have your transport take you to the ferry, where for $10 US you can purchase your ticket to cross the Bay of Mujeres to paradise.

The ferry will drop you off right in the heart of downtown.  You will find yourself on the main boulevard filled with red taxi’s, scooters and golf carts zooming by.  From there, you catch a taxi to your hotel, or if you’re staying downtown, you can transport your own bags the short distance to your hotel.  Some hotels are right down the beach within easy walking distance.  Others are a bit further.  I would want to have a pretty good idea of the location of your hotel if you are planning on walking with your bags, however, you see many people doing this all the time.

To Create Sunshine Isla Mujeres

View of the downtown area from the ferry

One of the fun things about Isla Mujeras is zipping around the five mile island in your rented golf cart. We had prearranged to rent our golf cart for the length of our stay.  One of our party walked to pick up the golf cart while the rest of us waited at the ferry with our bags. Once we had our cart, it was less than a five minute ride to our little casita.

To Create Sunshine Isla Mujeres

Villa San Miguel

Thank you for stopping by for a quick view of Isla Mujeres.  I will be returning with more to share about this beautiful island across from Cancun and more photos of the beautiful beaches.    xxoo Gerri

*Original photos by To Create Sunshine  –  For more photos of the beautiful Isla Mujeres you may follow me on Instagram @tocreatesunshine