From Craggy Cliffs to Green Gables PEI offers Shuck & Awe


From Craggy Cliffs to Green Gables PEI offers Shuck & Awe

Prince Edward Island, or PEI, as it is fondly referred to by the natives is located off the eastern coast of Canada, nestled between the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Charlottetown is the capital. The area feels very much like a harbor town with boatyards and lighthouses dotting the coast line.

The island is a mix of red sandstone cliffs, soft blue skies, and the white-capped waves from the surrounding sea.

 

Places to Go & Discover

When the novel Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908, most people could only dream of visiting its magical setting. The book gained popularity around the world and was translated into 36 languages. The story was about an orphan named Anne Shirley who came to Cavendish on Price Edward Island to live with a family. Today millions of the book’s fans have made the trip to PEI and discovered the land that captivated Anne in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s stories. I am no exception; little orphan Anne captured my heart and I had to tour her homestead and buy a few souvenirs. Apparently Green Gables is one of the most visited places by Chinese tourists coming to the island as well. We hired a driver and did our own private tour. The house is small and is best done independently not with a tour group. Be sure to stroll down lover’s lane before you depart. The trip to Green Gables can be combined with a lovely drive down the north shore of Cavendish Beach.

 

Dine-Devour

If you like mollusks, you will love PEI. There are endless supplies of clams, oysters, mussels and all varieties of fresh seafood. It doesn’t get more fresh or favorable than a PEI oyster or mussel. They pluck them from the sea and shuck them at your table. Experienced slurpers, which I am not one of, may choose to adopt particular rituals, while beginners will find these simple do’s and don’ts helpful. Knowing the basics can help you better appreciate the entire tasting. As a beginner, I have a fear of the oyster. Try Blue Mussel Café in North Rustico Harbor.

Expert Insight- Consume Plenty of Seafood

There are many ways to enjoy raw oysters on the half shell, depending on the situation and place. Whether it’s an intimate tasting or a relaxed “shuck & suck” right at the source, the key is to pay attention and have fun. When a fresh oyster is properly shucked, a small pool of clear liquid will remain with the oyster in the bottom half shell. It is actually filtered sea water in which the oyster lives, and it holds a robust amount of flavor. By sipping this liquid immediately before or after eating the oyster it will naturally complement the meat. You can even sip a little to start have the oyster, and then finish the remaining liquid. Whatever you do DON’T pour out the oyster’s liquor. This is the best part. If there isn’t any liquid this tells you the oyster isn’t fresh. Do NOT swallow it without chewing; that would defeat the entire purpose of a tasting. Once the entire oyster is in your mouth, pause for a second to appreciate the initial flavors.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, travel blogger and speaker and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com    

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Derby Fever

My bucket ran over last year when by husband presented me with Derby tickets for the 143rd Running of the Roses at Churchill Downs. The race has been nicknamed the “Run for the Roses” because the winner is given a garland of more than 400 red roses sewn together, a tradition that dates back to 1932. There is a reason they call it “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” as frivolous as it sounds those two minutes didn’t disappoint. Growing up I loved everything to do with horses. I rode and competed in English Style in upstate New York for many years.

The Kentucky Derby held May 5th is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, and is followed by the Preakness Stakes on May 19 and the Belmont Stakes on June 9. The 1 1/4-mile race runs on a dirt racetrack at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Last year the dirt turned into mud after a morning deluge but that didn’t stop our fun.

Twenty horses enter the Derby, which is one of the largest fields in horse racing. To qualify for the Derby, horses and their jockeys travel on the road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of 35 races featuring a point system. The top four finishers of those races earn points and the top 20 horses from the 35 races earn a spot in the starting post in the Kentucky Derby race.

Churchill Downs is packed with over 150,000 fans all dressed to the nines with hats and sipping mint juleps hoping for their pick to be the one lucky windfall of the race. In fact, Always Dreaming, last year’s winner, did provide a little pay day for us helping me to recoup the cost of my dress and hat. The whole weekend was a lovely experience full of southern charm and hospitality. You should plan on spending a good amount of money to check this bucket list item off.

Places to Stay

During the Derby you have hotels that are high-end and make their year during Derby weekend and a selection of very nice Bed & Breakfast establishments. The B & B options were less pricey but not by much.

We stayed at a charming bed & breakfast close to Churchill Downs called The Samuel Culbertson Mansion. This was a good plan because the day of the race it rained and we were able to take a quick rickshaw ride right into the stadium. Many visitors were traipsing through the mud, dresses and white slacks ruined and splattered as they fought their way into the Downs. 

Places to Go & Things to See

Louisville can be summed up in three words, bourbon, horses & history. Before the Derby went off, we had a drink at the historic Brown Hotel and toured a couple of the distilleries in downtown Louisville. The Galt House is another well-known stop for a drink or a bite. The Louisville Slugger Museum was a fun and interactive stop. You get to make a bat and take a few swings in a cage. When planning your trip reserve your dinner reservations ahead of time. Most of the restaurants are booked out months in advance. We ate at Bucks and 610 Magnolia.


Expert Insight

I don’t like to be negative but there was one area of dissatisfaction during our visit. Churchill Downs has very poor signage and flow. When we and the other 150,000 people were departing it was a sea of crushing bodies pushing and trampling one another to get out. For a world-class sporting venue like the Derby, I was shocked and disappointed by the experience. People were pinned against the tunnel walls and it was very uncomfortable. There were handicapped people who couldn’t get through and no one was around from the stadium to direct the flow or help. This needs to be improved or someone will get hurt.

The Race

Who will it be this year? The odds makers are abuzz with speculations. Betting is complicated. You have to take into consideration so many details including the horses’ pedigree, breeder, trainer, jockey, race position and past wins. Last year it rained a good amount and some horse are considered good “mudders” while others are not so great. The process of dissecting and selecting can be overwhelming and exhilarating. We were in section 113, Row 3 by the finish line and just under cover enough so we didn’t get wet when the relentless rain kept coming all day. The pomp and circumstance was rich, the Juleps were flowing and they were off. You’re out of your seat cheering as the blaze of horse’s race by. As the field narrows you can barely control your excitement as you see your horse, Always Dreaming, clomping his way to first place. You never know when another Secretariat or American Pharaoh is just around the corner.

Dreams do come true! This year, we’ll be watching from our living room but our memories will keep us smiling for years to come.

Here is to the field for 2018 and it’s off to the races on May 5th at 6:34 post time!

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CT Takes Off -Destination Key Largo

Keys4     Key Largo’s Newest Hotel

It’s just a Flip Flop Away From Miami

Where to Stay

Discover Playa Largo, Key Largo’s newest destination resort perched on the Bay in the Florida Keys. We recently made an impromptu getaway and our GPS was set on Key Largo’s newest resort, Playa Largo. This mini-sanctuary is just a short jog from the mainland but you feel like you’ve left the hustle and bustle behind; the local’s call it Key’s Time. The resort offers a unique vantage point from the lobby with a glimpse of the pool and bay beckoning you in.  Ah, a deep breath and a rush of relaxation flowed over us as we are met with warm hospitality and a resort associate who remotely checks us in with iPads. Libations are offered as we assess our surroundings. Keys6

Playa Largo was once a pineapple plantation and the resort gives a nod to its history with fresh pineapple water in the lobby and bright colors throughout. If you feel the need for some pampering, Ocean Spa offers a citrus twist on services and the therapists couldn’t be more welcoming. The lobby has a swanky feel with a Ceviche Bar, hanging swings and blown glass fixtures, dangling about catching the suns rays.

Playa Largo Pool

Playa Largo Pool

We decided to head to the pool and enjoy a frozen drink and some light cuisine. The pool is a playground for guests in need of relaxation. There are numbers of cabanas and beach side hammocks to help you fully relax, Keys’ style. This Florida paradise atop a vibrant archipelago awakens your senses to become present in the moment. As we sway carelessly in the hammock overlooking the bay we spot jumping fish. The sky turns orange then a deep red as natures masterpiece unfolds before our eyes and we realize why we’ve come to this serene spot in Florida.

Where to Play

Keys7While in Keys, immerse yourself in the local culture, in particular the underwater playground is not to be missed. The Florida Keys offers world-class snorkeling, diving, deep sea fishing and many other water sports all set upon a canopy of a sapphire blue water. Exploring in John Pennekamp State Park reveals the iconic underwater Christ Statue, an awe inspiring moment to be remembered along with more than 23 other man made and artificial reefs. If you feel lazy, which does happen in the Keys, you can opt to just lounge about in a hammock or hang out in a pool cabana. Key Largo is the longest key with 30 + miles to explore. You’ll find kitschy T-shirt shops and restaurants serving all varieties of fresh seafood, along with Artisan Villages selling local bounty.

There is so much more than just T-shirt shops and key lime pie stands. Playa Largo is a much needed haven and an upscale alternative to the sometimes scruffy Keys experience. This is one secret you won’t want to keep to yourself. Learn more www.playalargoresort.com.Keys8

Expert Tip

Take the road less traveled by driving Card Sound instead of US 1. There are only two ways to get in and out of the Keys, the traffic can be brutal especially on holiday weekends.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, travel blogger and speaker and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com



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