Celebrating An International Thanksgiving On The Beautiful Remote Island of Crasqui, Venezuela

Out-islands of Venezuela

Out-islands of Venezuela

White-sand beaches and warm sunshine replaced the cold Thanksgivings we were used to in the US, but it made for an unforgettable holiday.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and it’s important to me to make it a day that my kids will always remember. We were in our second year of our four year sailing adventure. The year before we were in the Dominican Republic for Thanksgiving. It was our first year ever to celebrate a holiday outside the US and with the warm weather and different culture, Thanksgiving sneaked up on us. I didn’t realize it was Thanksgiving until the day before. Needless to say, it was a mad scramble to find “American” food to make a traditional meal. We had to settle with sliced turkey from the deli, mashed potatoes and green beans. I was determined I would never let that happen again.

The next November found us on the beautiful island of Crasqui, an island part of the Los Roches National Park in the out-islands of Venezuela. We had an eclectic group to share our meal. The Americans were represented by our family, a family from Seattle, Washington, a family from NY, and a family from California. Roberto, an Italian diplomat’s son and now a fashion designer, represented Italy. A young couple named  Hilge and Therese represented Sweden. We were all living on sailboats, Alegria, Salt & Light, Independence, Uliad and Coquelicot, crossing the Caribbean. We had all come together in the name of friendship. 

Roberto arranged the meal at the small restaurant on the very small island. Roberto’s father had been the Italian ambassador to Venezuela, so Roberto was familiar with these islands. These out-islands, part of the Los Roches National Park are very remote—a little over one hundred miles to the mainland of Venezuela. 

Crasqui is small with white-sand beaches surrounding a crystal clear harbor and great snorkeling. It’s a remote paradise, a hidden gem in the Caribbean few Americans venture to see. You can get there by boat or a small plane to Los Roches, then a boat to Crasqui. Either way, it’s a well worth it adventure! 

The restaurant was rustic: white-sand floors, a hammock in the corner, a bright blue covered settee. A long table was set up and on each plate, an orange hibiscus flower greeted us. It was perfect!

 

Crasqui Restaurant

Crasqui Restaurant

 

Crasqui Restaurant

Crasqui Restaurant

 

Crasqui Restaurant

Crasqui Restaurant

 

Thanksgiving Venezuela Style

Thanksgiving Venezuela Style

 

The kids enjoyed the beach while we waited for our meal

The kids enjoyed the beach while we waited for our meal

The food, freshly caught and prepared by Felipe and Patricia was delicious. No we didn’t have turkey or mashed potatoes but we had a feast! We stuffed ourselves on unending platters of freshly caught, melt-in-your-mouth lobster, oysters, two types of tuna prepared sushi-style, tiny, crunchy fried fish and spicy conch salad. No one left the table hungry.

Felipe and Patricia couldn’t do enough for us. Felipe even let me play DJ with his surprisingly diverse iPod.  We danced into the evening until it was time to head to Uliad  for a late night desert. Before we left the restaurant, I exchanged warm, heartfelt hugs with our hosts. They now felt like part of our family. 

We ended the night much too late, talking and laughing on the deck of Uliad, exchanging stories of life, holidays past, and reflecting on how thankful we were to be spending this time together. It was the perfect Thanksgiving.

 

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Picture of the Day An Undiscovered Island Paradise Mayreau, Tobago Cays, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

 

Mayreau, Tobago Cays, St Vincent and the Grenadines

Mayreau, Tobago Cays, St Vincent and the Grenadines

Mayreau is an unspoiled gem in the chain of islands comprising St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is a small island, about 1.5 square miles, and a population of only a few hundred.  A ferry will bring you to the island, then you can walk or catch a ride to the small village on top of the island.

 

 

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Jockey Ridge State Park and the Wright Brothers Memorial

Our second day at the Outer Banks we headed to Jockey Ridge State Park.   According to the website for  Jockey’s Ridge State Park,  it is the tallest natural sand dune system  in the Eastern United States.  The dunes really are spectacular.  According to the park’s website, the  temperature on top of the dunes can be extremely hot, on an average 25 to 30 degrees warmer than the surrounding air.  It was cool and overcast the day we were there, but it was warm on top of the dunes.

 

The really interesting thing about the sand dunes is they are always moving.  They are referred to as the living dunes.  Winds from the Northeast blow the sand one way, and then the Southwest winds blow it back.  It’s  just incredible.  The landscape of the dunes is always changing.

In addition to hiking on the dunes, many people were surfing down the sides and even hang gliding.  Tristan and Tessa wore themselves out running down the dune, then making the long climb back up.  The wind was so strong that day, that even after sitting for only a few moments, the sand started covering up the jackets we were sitting on.  Jockey’s Ridge Park was definitely worth the trip.

On our way to see the dunes, we stopped by the Wright Brothers Memorial.  At first we weren’t going to bother since it was chilly and overcast, but realized we would probably regret not stopping.  I am so glad we did.  The memorial far exceeded our expectations.

 

First there are the museums.  These were pretty interesting and gave a good overview on the history of the the Wright Brothers and of the history of aviation. Just outside the museums, you can see the marked spot for the first flight.  What’s unique about this is the marked spot is where the actual flight took place.  The problem is, the Wright Brothers took off on a dune.  There is no dune here.  Why?  Because the dune moved.  Between 1903 and the time the memorial was started in 1928, the dune had moved 450 feet!

It’s hard to describe the overwhelming feeling being at the monument.  A dream these brothers had, turned into one of the most life changing events for the world.  Airline travel changed everything, and so quickly.  The Wright Brothers held their first flight in 1903 and in 1966 we were going to the moon.  All because two brothers had a vision, a burning dream, and saw it through.  The quote below by Orville is my favorite.  It follows the adage, if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

After the memorial we headed down the road to a town call Rodanthe.  Rodanthe was hit the hardest by Hurricane Irene last August and it has yet to fully recover.  Several businesses were just opening back up, but many go cart tracks and miniature golf places looked like they never would.  Rodanthe did have a few campgrounds to choose from, including a KOA that had been damaged by the hurricane but was being renovated.  We chose the Ocean Waves campground.  At around $34 per night, it was a good pick.  There was a nice convenient type store on the premises, selling a good selection of food.  It also had a game room and a book exchange.  The bathhouse was very clean with hot showers.  We chose a site next to some trees.  Surprisingly the campsite was pretty full.  The best thing though, it was close to the ocean.  We had about a 100 yard walk through the campground to the ocean, and if we wanted to go to the sound, we merely had to walk across the road and another 100 yards and we were there.

By the time we got to the camp and set up, it was again late and we were tired.  No one was very hungry and the wind was really picking up and the temperature was dropping, so we ordered a pizza from Lisa’s pizza.  That night we all stayed up late reading.  The later it got, the harder the wind blew and it started to rain.  As we were going to bed, the wind was getting even stronger.

“Didn’t anybody look at the weather?” I asked.

Tristan turned on his computer, (yes they had WI FI) and this was the actual weather report. It said there were thunderstorms in our area that included gusty winds 30 to 40 mph including possible gusts to 50 mph.  (WHAT THE…..)

It advised seeking shelter in a nearby building or vehicle.(Forget it, our car was stuffed to the gills!) Strong winds were capable of knocking down small trees (such as the small tree we were camped next to??)  and blowing around trash cans, potted plants, lawn furniture and other light outdoor objects. (I think a tent constitutes a light outdoor object).

Just to be clear, we were prepared for the cold, but not for the wind and rain.  How had we missed that?  To also be clear, on our sailboat, which was much bigger than our car and certainly heavier than our tent, we would not have ventured out in 40 t0 50 mph winds.  But here we were, sleeping next to Pine trees, in a tent,  in a storm.  I envisioned the tent rolling toward the ocean and all of us inside scrambling like hamsters on a wheel.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it began to thunder and lightening.  I’m not sure how close the lightening was, but remember, this island isn’t very wide.  What a fun trip!  Tessa slept through everything of course.  There was nothing for the rest of us to do but go to sleep and try not to worry.  Luckily, our Eddie Bauer tent did not leak.  There is an endorsement for you.  We hadn’t done anything to it, not sealed the seams, nothing, and it never leaked.  It did, at one point during a strong wind gust, push in on one side, but it sprung back just as quickly.  Dan went over what would happen if the tent collapsed and what we should do, while I cursed to myself.  He said we should throw something heavy on top of the tent and get in the car.  Well, the car was pretty full and the idea of trying to get into the car in a panic didn’t seem like an easy task.  Fortunately, Tristan and Tessa had done an excellent job of staking the tent into the ground, and we remained where we were.   It was a long night.

 

 

 

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Washington DC for Spring Break…. Wait…..Outer Banks

OUR TENT

When our daughter, Tessa, went to bed at 10:30pm Easter evening, we all had our bags (backpacks) packed for our trip to Washington DC the next morning. When she woke up the next morning, she was shocked to hear we were headed to the beach: the Outer Banks to be precise.

We had told everyone we were headed to DC for Spring Break. Even though we hadn’t reserved tickets to the White House in time, Brittnay McHale, from Senator Burr’s office, was nice to get us tickets for the Capitol tour. I had hoped we could stop by the Outer Banks on our way home, but Dan thought it would be out of our way. As the evening wore on, and I realized we couldn’t get into the National Archives,(booked til April 17), the Washington Monument (closed for repairs) and the Smithsonian tours (don’t even try it this late) and the great deal on the hotel we found was now gone, our enthusiasm for Washington DC was waning. I made the mistake of looking on Flickr for Washington DC pictures, and discovered this guy had visited both Washington  DC and the Outer Banks. He had posted some amazing photos of the Jockey Ridge Dunes and I was hooked. At 11:30pm, I looked at my exhausted family trying to locate a hotel in Washington DC and asked, “Why don’t we just go camping at the Outer Banks?” It was on.

After checking the weather forecast, we threw a few warmer clothes in our backpacks, printed out a some information on campgrounds in the area, and went to bed after midnight. By 6 am we were up. We were scrambling to think of things we would need as we had tent camped only once before, about 6 years ago. We found our tent in the shed. I grabbed some silverware, the electric griddle (we didn’t have a camping stove) an extension cord, a bowl, a pan, the George Foreman small grill, coolers, sleeping bags and we were on our way, finally, around 8am. [Read more…]

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