Summer to do list

28 June 2013

I missed the official first day of summer by a few days, but it feels like my summer will really begin tomorrow, when John and I leave for our big road trip to Michigan! Here are a few other things I’m hoping to “accomplish” this season…

summertime wave splashing

— Host an adventure dinner party (!!!)
— Bake something with fresh berries or fruit
— Order from a local food truck (I’m eying this one)
— Swim in the Eno
— Go to an outdoor country concert
— Watch an outdoor movie at Koka Booth and the NC Museum of Art
— Spend a day at the beach
— Watch fireworks
— Pick blueberries
— Canoe down the Haw River
— Stargaze during the Perseids meteor shower
— Buy a grill
— Make flavored lemonade
Jump off the dock at the Island
— Eat lots of bruschetta :)

What’s on your list? I’m always inspired by what y’all have planned!

Honeymoon in Nevis, Part 2

26 June 2013

After three nights in tropical mountain paradise, we were certainly sad to leave Montpelier. The happy news, though? Our honeymoon wasn’t over! After a short trip down the mountain and around the island, we arrived at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club.

Once we had decided on traveling to Nevis, John began to explore places to stay, and Nisbet was an immediate and obvious choice. They’ve received the AAA Four Diamond Award for the last 7 years, they were Conde Nast Traveler’s #1 Resort in the Caribbean for the last 6 years, and #1 in the Caribbean according to Travel + Leisure for the last two years. They also have fabulous reviews on Trip Advisor. (John loves Trip Advisor, so this meant a lot to him!) Aside from all the awards, we liked that Nisbet, which is directly on the beach (in fact, the Caribbean’s only historic plantation inn on the beach), would be a nice foil to the mountains of Montpelier.

When we arrived at reception we were given our choice of their signature welcome drinks; we chose the Palm Frond, which was delicious and pineapple-y despite its alarming color. We walked down the Avenue of Palms to our cottage, which, like the one we stayed in at Montpelier, was a duplex. (We were in a deluxe garden suite.) All of Nisbet’s buildings are a buttery yellow color, giving the whole resort a warm and friendly feeling.

nisbet-plantation-rooms

There are about 15 cottages scattered across Nisbet’s property, and each is surrounded by almost a quarter acre of land, which keeps things feeling private. Compared to Montpelier, the decor was definitely more Caribbean in feel, but elegant Caribbean. Nisbet bills itself as “not ultra fancy and opulent, just private, romantic, and personal,” and John and I definitely found that to be an accurate description. This was the view from our cottage:

nisbet-palm-trees

After exploring the beach a bit and playing a few rounds of croquet, it was time for afternoon tea! Nevis is a former British colony (their head of state is still the Queen!), and the prevalence of tea was one of several holdovers from colonialism. To our delight, the resort’s cat, Henry, always made an appearance at tea (as is only appropriate for tea, he was very well behaved).

nisbet-greeter-cat

We opted to skip lunch most days in favor of afternoon tea, which was included with our room and served on the terrace of the Great House from 4-5 each day. Tea consisted of individual pots of tea (we tried the highlighted special each day — green, lemongrass, basil, and honey and lemon) as well as scones, sandwiches, cookies, and cake. YUM! I was so sad to leave tea behind when we headed home.

avenue of palms

Dinner that night was in the Great House, as it was three out of the four nights we stayed at Nisbet. We were greeted upon arrival by the wife of the husband-and-wife owner team, which was a lovely personal touch, and definitely a benefit of staying at a smaller resort!

Each dinner was three courses, and there were generally three choices for your starter, four choices for your entree, and four choices for dessert. Each meal included an amuse bouche, as well. John had the “Taste of Nevis” option each night (including things like curry, snapper, and jerk chicken), and loved each one. The food was excellent, though slightly homier, with bolder flavors, and less refined, than Montpelier.

nevis sunset

Our first full day at Nisbet revolved around our first ever massage! We did a couple’s treatment in their cute little spa, and though we were a bit nervous going in, we really enjoyed ourselves! I still wouldn’t say I’m a massage person, but I could have laid there for hours with those warm towels they put on your feet at the end…

The rest of that day and most of our other days was spent reading at our cottage, lounging in the hammocks at the beach, snorkeling, or walking along the shoreline. I wouldn’t say Nisbet was a snorkeler’s paradise, since there weren’t any terribly impressive reefs, but we enjoyed paddling around :)

southern-wedding-nisbet-cottage

nisbet-hammock

One super cool thing? Andrew “Hollywood” Nisbet (apparently a Nisbet institution!) climbed up a palm tree outside our cottage, dropped down a coconut, then cut it open (with a machete!) for us to taste!

nisbet-beach-and-coconuts

nisbet-beach-hammock

nisbet-beach

On Thursday, our big adventure was renting a four wheeler to explore the island! All went smoothly once we adjusted to driving on the “wrong” side of the road and learned to avoid the random herds of goats. Though we might not have learned as much as if we had taken a guided tour, we liked having the freedom to chart our own course and stop wherever we wanted. We saw lots of churches…

P1220649

first church in nevis

…a gorgeous resort, Golden Rock, with the most amazing gardens (and striped pool deck!):

golden rock pool

nevis-golden-rock-gardens

golden rock tree

…and of course, beautiful beaches.

lovers beach nevis

We also crossed over to the Atlantic side of the island, which was TOTALLY different than the Caribbean side! It felt like we were on a Scottish moor!

nevis atlantic side

nevis ruins

nevis four wheeling adventure

nevis-beach-ruins

That evening we took our one and only dip in the oceanside hot tub. We enjoyed the most perfect sunset from our perch after everyone else had turned in to get ready for dinner!

nisbet-sunset

Thursday night is Nisbet’s weekly Caribbean Beach BBQ, which attracts visitors from all the other resorts on island. The evening began with a cocktail party, then continued with a surf-and-turf style meal cooked in front of you, and concluded with dancing to a local band on the beach under the stars! In my mind, this was about as “traditional Caribbean” as Nevis got, and it was just the right amount for us!

nisbet-cottages

Our last day on Nevis was spent enjoying Nisbet’s beach, which was supremely easy to do. I also had a last serving of heart-shaped banana pancakes, my favorite Nevis breakfast!

nisbet-breakfast

nevis-beach

The next day we took a taxi, then a water taxi, to St. Kitts, and boarded our flight back to America. We traveled with a couple who had been coming to Nisbet — not just Nevis, Nisbet — for 15 years in a row (!), which really underscored the most remarkable thing about the property: the staff. By our first breakfast (less than 24 hours after we had arrived), everyone from the hosts to the waiters to the owners seemed to know our names, and always greeted us with a warm smile. We saw many guests launch into long conversations with the staff, but there was no pressure to engage if you were looking for a quiet meal. This, I think, is the reason most guests return to Nisbet year after year — guests are truly treated as family. Though I don’t think we’ll be lucky enough to return every year, we would be delighted to make it back at some point!

nevis water taxi

John put together a little film from our trip — enjoy!

Honeymoon from Emily Thomas on Vimeo.

Both of us are happy to answer any questions about Nevis, Nisbet, or Montpelier, so don’t hesitate to ask! Thanks for indulging my travelogue!!

Guest post on Snippet & Ink!

19 June 2013

I’m guest posting today on Snippet & Ink! S&I was one of the very first wedding blogs I ever read, and one I still read today, post-wedding. Kathryn’s style and character is impeccable, and I am honored to help fill in for her while she’s on maternity leave!

Em-for-Marvelous-Dream-Registry

Head here to see my dream registry picks!

Honeymoon in Nevis, Part 1

18 June 2013

Warning: This post is very long, but I wanted to provide a good amount of detail for those thinking of traveling to Nevis! Enjoy! :)

From this Marvelous Money post, you know that John and I highly prioritize travel and new experiences when thinking about how we’ll spend our money. It probably comes as no surprise, then, that we were very excited about our honeymoon!

John is an excellent trip planner; he really enjoys digging into new places, and often serves as an informal travel agent for our friends and family. For our first trip as a married couple he took the lead as usual, but we discussed many options together. After we crossed off France and Italy (flights were too expensive combined with a bad exchange rate), he spent weeks considering possibilities in the Caribbean. In no particular order, our priorities were: unspoiled physical beauty; safety; amazing hotels; both beaches and rainforest; relaxed atmosphere but things to do; and vibrant native instead of tourist culture. St. Lucia, the US and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico were in the running, but Nevis eventually won out. (With no small thanks to our friends Meredith and Michael, whose glowing review of the island definitely influenced our decision!)

I wasn’t immediately onboard — after all, John was suggesting a destination that neither of us could pronounce (for the record: KNEE-viss), that no one we talked to had ever heard of, and that frankly I thought sounded a bit like a skin condition. Despite this somewhat inauspicious beginning, the end result was clear: Best. Decision. Ever.

Because we took the week before our wedding off (highly recommended!!), neither of us had the vacation time to take the following week off, as well. So, we took a “minimoon” through Virginia on the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday following our wedding as we drove from Connecticut to North Carolina, then planned our big adventure for several months later. This really worked out well for us — the minimoon meant we didn’t have to jump right back into daily life, and the honeymoon gave us something to look forward to as life went back to normal.

And look forward to it we did! When April finally rolled around, the first leg of our journey was a flight to St. Kitts (we left and returned on a Saturday). It was the first time either of us had used our passports!

passports

The St. Kitts airport is pretty small; we disembarked onto the tarmac in a light drizzle. We made it through customs in about a half an hour, then found a taxi driver holding the name of our first resort, Montpelier. Hilariously, before setting off across the island, we made a quick stop in Basseterre (the main city) to drop off our taxi driver’s boss at his house (definitely less formal than the US!).

The roads in St. Kitts are terrible!! But, we made it; after about 25 minutes, we transferred to a water taxi for the five-minute hop to Nevis. Once we’d pulled up to the beach, we transferred to another (land) taxi for another 25-minute ride to Montpelier (the roads are much better on Nevis!).

On both islands, it was neat to see so much of the local environment, thanks to our taxi rides. Neither island is very built up (Nevis much less so than St. Kitts), so it’s not like you’re driving through the tourism district, since there really isn’t such a thing. It’s quite rural, and there are goats everywhere :) Happily, there are not a lot of stray dogs or cats, and no snakes, thanks to mongooses!

We arrived at Montpelier around 6pm and were given a brief tour of the property. Montpelier is in the mountains, so it has a lush, jungle-y, slightly Asian feel – lots of palms, and beautiful flowers everywhere! This massive tree is a cornerstone of the property — right at the entrance, in front of the main house (the building you can see is reception).

amazing montpelier tree

After settling into our cottage (made up of a main room and bathroom, as well as a front and back porch), we headed to the main house. The property’s custom is to hold a cocktail hour (with complimentary appetizers!) from around 7 to 7:30. After a little bit, you’re shown to your table for the night.

The-Mill-at-Montpelier

From Montpelier’s website

The first night we dined in the Mill Privee, which was certainly an experience worthy of a honeymoon! It’s an actual reclaimed sugar mill, and only had three tables set the night we dined there — sometimes I think it’s even less. The Mill serves a prix fixe menu, with an amuse bouche, a palette cleanser, and four courses. John and I agreed our favorite course was the fish – a pan-seared salmon filled with spinach, with shitake mushrooms and a cilantro foam. Sounds crazy, but it was so good!

mill-privee

From Montpelier’s website

The next morning, we woke up to this beautiful view from our back porch:

view from montpelier

We then followed this beautiful path to breakfast…

montpelier nevis resort

montpelier-plantation

…which was a continental spread served outside on the patio, including delicious housemade butter!

Our main activity for our first day in Nevis was hiking Saddle Hill. This involved walking on the road for awhile, then hiking up past fort ruins to expansive views of the entire island and surrounding ocean. We were accompanied by Ziggy, the dog of one of Montpelier’s owners, and he was a lovely companion!

nevis roads

mount nevis

nevis coastline

Round trip from Montpelier was about three miles, with no intensely steep inclines. It took us about two and a half hours.

view from saddle hill nevis

montpelier ziggy nevis

saddle hill nevis

There are wild goats everywhere on Nevis, and Ziggy couldn’t resist giving one a little chase on our way back. I love this action shot John captured!

ziggy chasing goat

Post-hike we spent a lazy afternoon by the pool and on the property, taking in the glorious surroundings and weather.

montpelier nevis pool

montpelier-flowers

montpelier nevis hammock

montpelier nevis grounds

Montpelier, though it is up the mountain a bit, has a private beach about a 20-minute drive away on the Caribbean side of the island, and that’s where we spent the next day! The hotel arranged for a complimentary taxi, and they’ll also pack a lunch for you if you wish.

montpelier-private-beach

montpelier-beach

montpelier nevis-private-beach

We explored the shore a bit, waded and snorkeled, and read in the shade. We were the only ones on the beach the whole time! Along our walk we saw literally dozens of large conch shells, and lots of diving pelicans.

Our final Montpelier adventure was venturing down the hill to the Botanical Gardens of Nevis. Like most places on the island, we encountered some goats on the way! Cuteness overload.

nevis-goats

nevis goats

I think the tickets were about $13 per person, which seemed a bit expensive to me, but we were on our honeymoon, after all :)

gardens in nevis

nevis botanical gardens

We strolled around the gardens for an hour or so, then headed back to Montpelier to catch our taxi to the second resort we stayed at, Nisbet! I leave you with a last photo of Montpelier’s majestic signature tree:

montpelier-tree-reception

Our final thoughts on Montpelier? It’s an amazing European-style getaway, very much unlike the Caribbean stereotype. It’s small, so there’s no “blending into the crowd,” but there is the chance for lots of one-on-one conversations with other guests and the property staff (who were all very welcoming and knowledgeable). The grounds and rooms are beautiful and perfectly designed for rest and relaxation in style and with sophistication.

Feel free to leave questions in the comments! Back with more from the second half of our week soon!

Tried and true recipes, no. 2

14 June 2013

Last year I posted nine of my favorite recipes found on Pinterest, with the goal of sharing a few tried and true winners amongst friends. As I said then, pretty photos can be deceiving, and it’s often hard to tell if the caption “AMAZING RECIPE!!!” was added by my friend, whose taste I trust, or a pinner she re-pinned from six steps out, who might have terrible taste. In case you’ve seen any of the photos below floating around your Pinterest lately and wondered if they were any good, I’m here to vouch for them!

favorite-pinterest-recipes

You can find the recipes for all nine of these tasty treats on this aptly-named Pinterest board (the recipes I haven’t tried yet go on this board).

If you have any go-to recipes you found on Pinterest (or anywhere, really!), I’d love for you to share the link! Anyone else tried any of these?