This post had an incredibly hard time birthing itself into the world. I made repeated attempts to translate into binary form a host of feelings and musings and revelations that have come from this pandemic period, but nothing quite captured the gist. This post still doesn’t capture it, but I tried.

I remember the last time I tried to encapsulate this range of emotions – when I’d just been diagnosed with stage IV cancer. There are so many synchronicities between the pandemic and cancer and I say that without a hint of irony. There was the beginning of the pandemic – that period in March and April – when we were just starting to emerge into our new reality…the feeling of waking up every morning and saying “oh shit, this is real”. The isolation from family and friends. The confusion and depression. And the elephant in the room, the ever looming possibility that we – or our loved ones – could die from this disease. The possibility that if you scratched your nose the wrong way, comingled with the wrong people, or rode the elevator after someone who might have breathed out tainted droplets, you could have made an irreversible mistake.

But here’s the good news – and this comes from someone who knows a little about challenges where death is a conceivable outcome – there is always a silver lining. 

I say this with a well-read nod to the slew of recent articles, such as this one and this one and this one, that have emerged on the topic of “toxic positivity”. It’s okay to not be okay they all report. Own your baggage. And I agree. It’s important to feel our feelings, not to buckle under the pressure of showing a shiny happy face to the outside world. But I also feel that it’s my duty to report that when life gets torn down to the studs, the rebuilding can often produce a better, stronger, more reliable house. We may be too lost in the weeds of our current situation to fully appreciate our opportunities for personal (and cultural) growth, but they are there. 

I wish I could have taken a dose of my own medicine in the spring of 2020. Early quarantine nearly broke me. In an ideal world (a world very much unlike the current state, hi, yes, clearly) I would have been able to extract myself from my depression with a gentle reminder that “this too shall pass” or “may I live like the lotus, at ease in muddy water” or even “raise your damn vibration girl, you’re better than this”. But that’s the thing about depression – often you don’t know that you’re depressed until you’re waist deep in the sludge without your gaiters on, grasping for mercy while you sink.

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Many moons ago, I was a 20-something study abroad student in Australia when I decided to train down to Melbourne for the weekend. I was by myself, and what felt like an adventure at the time of booking soon became a stressful few days. I quickly realized that while I loved to travel with a friend or group of friends, solo travel wasn’t my thing. I had a hard time venturing out to dine alone and recall racing out of a movie theater when the film was over, worried that someone would see me by myself. The horror! I’m not sure what my angst was about, but I highlight this story only to illustrate how far I’ve come.

Solo travel has become my favorite way to travel. Perhaps it’s a result of family life, motherhood, generalized chaos, and/or the desperate (albeit temporary) need to get a break from it all….but I now look forward to vacations where nobody joins but me and a stack of books.

From recent trips to British Columbia where I spent days hiking into the mountains, reading, and cooking out of a mini fridge and induction oven….to Portland where I made plans with friends with whom I’d been long out of touch…..I find that solo travel resets me and recharges my batteries like nothing else, making the effort of tackling work/kids/homework/afterschool activities all the more dignified.

Earlier in June I was invited to visit The Loren Hotel at Pink Beach in Bermuda, 4 days of bliss that felt more like 4 weeks. When I mentioned that I’d be visiting The Loren on my Instagram page, one of the first comments was that The Loren was one of the most exciting developments to happen in Bermuda in the last 25 years. 

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Friends, it’s been a while since I posted. The subject of my break isn’t the topic of this post, I’ll save that for another time. It’s been a long, hard, and in some ways, rewarding year filled with personal growth and introspection.

But at a certain point, once the drama of this last year began to fade into my rearview mirror, I felt that it was time to start working on food + travel projects again. The nice thing about my work on the internet is that my community is always here, waiting with open arms to invite me back into discussions about pork shoulder and piña coladas.

Speaking of which (the piña coladas, extra rum please) I had the immense pleasure of finding myself en route to the Cayman Islands last week. Surrounded by a group of women who would make me laugh until my belly hurt. I’d traveled with two of them before, Laura and Emily, so I knew that my time away would be filled with great conversation and plenty of rosé champagne. Two more women, Gillie and Carly were new friends, and people that I’ll lock & load into my cell phone for future adventures, of which I’m sure there will be many.

We touched down in Grand Cayman on Thursday afternoon, chilled to the bone from our frigidly cold air-conditioned flight to warmer climes. And though rain had kissed the area for several days before our visit and gave us a quick greeting as we unpacked our bags, sprinkling the beach with golden dewdrops, we’d have 4 straight days of sunshine ahead of us.

Our hosts at the Westin Grand Cayman at Seven Mile beach had reserved us a double decker cabana on the beach, and there we parked our hungry behinds while the final bits of darkened sky cleared up. We placed an order for some shared appetizers of creamy clam dip, smooth sesame-intense hummus, and conch fritters, along with a few cocktails to wash it down.

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Hey, are you guys still there? Fantastic. Because it’s time to dish up part two on Antigua’s Jumby Bay Island, and it’s all about the food.

As in fresh-from-the-farm organic food. Plucked from the lady hen herself. Did I tell you that I’m now a chicken farmer? It’s all true. I learned how to enter a chicken coop without any of the residents escaping (harder than it seems) and cautiously step over forty or so chickens who like to greet their visitors like some kind of frenzied poultry paparazzi. It was all very zen, believe me. There was no screaming, no panicking, no running, no clinging to a ledge for dear life, no Hail Marys before plunging my bare arm beneath the feathered breast of a she-hen guarding her egg with a fierce case of stink eye. I may pick up the hobby this summer. Nothing beats fresh, still-warm chicken eggs. Nothing. And I’ll sacrifice life and limb to do it.

Fortunately Jumby Bay’s supremely talented kitchen and farming staff were there to help out with the remainder of our meals. Leaving that one joyous experiencing of plucking my own tomatoes, snipping some kale leaves, trimming herb flowers from the organic garden, and yes, even harvesting my own eggs…to an isolated incident of tomato salad-making for two. Forever encased in that memory box in my brain with the boldface letters A-N-T-I-G-U-A printed on the front. It’s a good set of memories.

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It’s officially the holidays. Although we already knew that. I knew that as far back as early November when I touched down in the UK to find that seasonal lights, Christmas trees, and sequined nutcrackers were already in full swing.

But that was London. There were other parts of Britain that I visited too. Parts less showy, less flashy, more understated, defined by rolling green pastures and black rubber boots. Parts that were no doubt celebrating the holidays, but you had to look for it. A seasonal mince pie here, some Christmas pudding gelato there.

Welcome to the countryside.

The Talbot Hotel

Yorkshire that is, and the second and final post of my two-part series on the UK, food + travel.

If there were ever a fitting stop to begin my Yorkshire adventures, it would be Malton. After departing from York and driving past endless meadows dotted with sheep and the occasional herd of cattle, I found myself staring up the imposing stone façade of the Malton Hotel where I’d be spending two glorious nights in the type of comfort that would have driven Laura Ashley into a jealous rage. Fabrics full of bounce and English rose. Handsome paintings of stallions and hounds and fine men in even finer hunting dress. Verdant dales, kissed with sun and a touch of English mist, peeking through every window. Those Bronté sisters knew where to set up shack.

The point of my visit though, despite my sudden desire to learn a craft like floral arranging or needlework, was food.

And much like I did on my city adventures, I tuckered into all that Yorkshire and its countryside had to offer.

The Talbot Restaurant

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