Kalamazoo Appy Crawl

As the tee shirts say, “Yes, There Really IS a Kalamazoo!” It’s the kind of name that makes you want to stop and see what’s going on. Kalamazoo is an Algonquian Indian word meaning “boiling pot” and the city has gained fame through celery, taxi cab production, Gibson guitars, the Upjohn “friable pill” and the Kalamazoo stove. With all of this going for it, we had to drop by and try an appy crawl in this tidy little Michigan college town, proving that appy crawls can be done in anyone’s hometown.

All roads led downtown, which boasts the first pedestrian mall in the United States. Since 1959 it has hosted fun little… CONTINUE READING >>


As the tee shirts say, “Yes, There Really IS a Kalamazoo!”

It’s the kind of name that makes you want to stop and see what’s going on. Kalamazoo is an Algonquian Indian word meaning “boiling pot”.

The city has gained fame through celery, taxi cab production, Gibson guitars, the Upjohn “friable pill” and the Kalamazoo stove.

With all of this going for it, we had to drop by and try an appy crawl in this tidy little Michigan college town, proving that appy crawls can be done in anyone’s hometown.

All roads led downtown, which boasts the first pedestrian mall in the United States. Since 1959 it has hosted fun little retail stores, restaurants, theaters and, of course, now an indoor rock climbing wall.

Somewhere along the line someone installed heated sidewalks, the Jetsons could live in Kalamazoo! Ice sculptures, a fountain and local artwork, all adorned by twinkling lights, gave a festive feel to the blustery evening.

Kalamazoo has done an admirable job of keeping the huge retailers outside of downtown leaving a down home, albeit kitschy, feel.

An exploratory lap around the Mall revealed that the restaurants featuring the mechanical bull and dueling pianos were stuffed to the rafters (too bad — that would have been right up our snarky alley), so we opted for a more “civilized” evening:

Olde Peninsula Brew Pub

We’ve never seen a more beer-centric menu! Some scary sounding fare indeed — Cheddar Ale Soup (yup, cheese and beer) and Beer-B-Que Pizza.

Beer bread was a choice for the sandwiches (with Beer Battered Fries, of course!) and the steaks were marinated in beer. From reading the menu, we were worried we’d end up smelling like a particularly rowdy frat party.

Fearing a hops overload, we opted to share the Seared Ahi Tuna with soy ginger glaze and black sesame seeds, nicely done. For the beer experience, we sampled the Brewhouse Salad with the “Italian Beer Vinaigrette.” And it was delicious. We washed the whole thing down with a glass of one of the house brews, Haymarket Light.

What’s a trip to a brew pub without giving the handcrafted root beer a try? The Olde Peninsula’s is an ooey-gooey syrupy wonder. A dessert in itself, but it is also available float style.

The Union Cabaret & Grill

We plopped down in comfy chairs at one of the tables that surround the showroom style stage to enjoy a jazz trio of local college students. The Union has agreed with nearby Western Michigan University’’s music department to showcase students, alumni and faculty giving them a venue to strut their stuff before a live audience. The Union successfully pulls off its attempt at big city jazz club ambiance.

Lobster Fondue:
A lobster and cheese fondue with scallions and roasted red peppers. Grabbed big slices of French baguette, we dug in and dug it! Fought
over the big ole lobster hunks. Good fun. Creamy, wonderfully fattening, delicious.

The competent wine list had Riesling so Veronica was happy. We were tempted to sample their “famous” Portabella Fries, but more crawlin’’ had to be done.

The Wine Loft

The idea behind this establishment basically is an appy crawl without the crawling. We walked in to a large open room with snuggly little alcoves sporting love seats with sheer, billowy curtains as partitions. An upstairs loft, chucked with pseudo sophisticates from the local institutions of higher education, separated the boys from the men. Nice.

Choosing a cozy spot, we perused the menu and were intrigued. Did these people stalk us and then create a dining experience just for us? Looking around covertly, we saw no one standing in the shadows and relaxed into the pillows.

Our friend, Umberto from Italy, had schooled us on a prior trip about the Mediterranean thoughts on wine drinking. Rather than the chicken or seafood/white, beef/red tradition, he prefers white when it’s warm and red on the cold nights. Works for us!

As a salute to Umberto, we ordered the Italian Red wine flight (though they were out of Chianti, strike one). Other wine flights included Michigan Favorites and Curious Whites.

The menu featured amusing “Small Plates.“ We chose:

Lamb Wellington with wild mushroom mousse, rosemary and truffle essence.

Smoked Salmon and Caviar Pizzetti with Apple Butter and Crème Fraiche.

The food came in perfect portions for an appy crawl, was reasonably priced, but was a bit overambitious. The ingredients just sat on the tongue separately. Not horrible by any means, just underwhelming. The Sardinian wine in the flight was authentic, but a little overpowering.

LOVED the Veitti. For a wine bar, better choices could be made, but since this place had just opened we feel it will come into its own.

About the time we finished our food, the music suddenly turned from smoooooth jazz to annoying techno and the upstairs loft began unloading onto the main floor, the boys on the prowl for female companionship. Though the people watching got better, we felt it was time for us to bug out.

We’’d need our rest if we were going to go hunting in the morning for the boiling pot… and some friable pills.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

The LIAT Airlines Experience

Traveling is certainly made easier when you heed the warnings of those who have gone before you. Especially when your path winds through the tangled Second World jungle that is “island time.” Laid back charm aside, island time can sometimes make the simplest plan mind-bogglingly complex. With the hope that you may avoid a major pitfall, the GypsyNesters relay this tale:

We arrived at the LIAT Airlines counter in the St. Croix airport the proper two hours early for a 30 minute flight eagerly anticipating our whirlwind 25th anniversary trip to St. Martin. Perhaps, in hindsight, we should have seen the possibility of things going awry when… CONTINUE READING >>

enjoy ur flight

Traveling is certainly made easier when you heed the warnings of those who have gone before you. Especially when your path winds through the tangled second world jungle that is “island time.”

Laid back charm aside, island time can sometimes make the simplest plan mind-bogglingly complex. With the hope that you may avoid a major pitfall, the GypsyNesters relay this tale:

We arrived at the LIAT Airlines counter in the St. Croix airport the proper two hours early for a 30 minute flight eagerly anticipating our whirlwind 25th anniversary trip to St. Martin. Perhaps, in hindsight, we should have seen the possibility of things going awry when our check-in agent was ignoring the ringing phone while waiting on us.

We got into a conversation about how rude it was to answer the phone when you have real live customers in front of you and she remarked, “Why should I answer the phone anyway? They always want to know if the flight’s on time and we don’t ever know.” Huh? We were just about to ask if the flight was running on time. Looks like we got our answer.

We remained optimistic, joked a bit with the agent and headed towards our gate. We entered a room that we would become painfully familiar with — the dreaded “waiting for security” lounge. Knowing we had a big night ahead of us, we napped.

We memorized the gift shop. We went to the bathroom just for the distraction. We played a game of guess which “chup” (the West Indian teeth-sucking noise of displeasure) was coming from which person by critiquing the pitch and timber of the individual rapid saliva inhalation.

Then we heard it. A TSA Agent snarked to the room in general, “It’s LIAT—Leave Island Any Time.” Uh oh.

By the time we had formulated a foolproof strategy for ending the war in Iraq (complete with detailed charts and graphs) we were finally shuttled through security and deposited into another room.

No gift shop, no airline rep, and a much smaller bathroom to entertain ourselves with. Even the boisterous musicians who had been jazzed from their performance the night before at the St. Croix Christmas Festival had finally lost their groove and began drinking heavily. That, of course, made for some bang-up people-watching. A mere two hours later we were on our way.

We arrived at our destination in the teeth of The Princess Juliana International Airport’s rush hour. Two international jumbo jets had just disembarked. Customs was a rip-roarin’, armpit-to-elbows blast! Kudos to St. Martin customs folks for processing the mass of humanity dumped on them so quickly—no island time here, mon!

We hailed a beat up Subaru taxi for the short ride to our hotel. But not too short for the cabbie to get in the phrase that we were getting to know all too well, “You took LIAT?! Leave Island Any Time.”

We spent a fabulous one-night anniversary trip on the island then headed back to the airport for our return flight to St. Croix. Not before we took a brutal teasing from our taxi driver when he asked what airline–“LIAT? Late LIAT? You mean Leave Island Any Time? Best of luck!” With our tails tucked between our legs, we entered the airport.

Under a LIAT sign that read “enjoy ur flight” stood two young, beautiful check-in agents. One of them was so frustrated by the long line of chupping, angry-hornet-like travelers and inadequate technology that she was actually bashing her computer’s keyboard with her fist in frustration.

We got away from the counter just in the nick of time — with a handwritten boarding pass (in ink even!) — as a girl fight was about to break loose. They had turned on each other.

We’ll leave you with a last bit of advise as we are writing from St. Croix minus Veronica’s beautiful “anniversary” dress and David’s only suit:

If you decide to fly Leave Island Any Time, against your better judgment, consider laying in rations for the extended wait in your carry-on bag. Oh — and be sure to leave room for everything you might want when you get home.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Ginormous Stuff Photo Gallery

We love us some BIG stuff! Check out  what the world has to offer!

Got one you want to share? Leave a comment  or e-mail us at info@gypsynester.com

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We love us some BIG stuff! Check out  what the world has to offer!

Got one you want to share? Leave a comment  or e-mail us at info@gypsynester.com

CLICK TO SEE MORE >>

25 in St. Martin

Jet wash on the beach in St. Martin

Sometimes a split personality isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the case of St. Martin, the schizophrenia can be crazy, but hey, crazy can be good. Sint Maarten/Saint Martin is the smallest island in the world that is governed by dual sovereign states, divided nearly equally… CONTINUE READING >>

Sometimes a split personality isn’’t necessarily a bad thing. In the case of St. Martin, the schizophrenia can be crazy, but hey, crazy can be good.

Sint Maarten/Saint Martin is the smallest island in the world that is governed by dual sovereign states, divided nearly equally between
France and the Netherlands. While certainly Caribbean, the old world character traits have remained uniquely preserved.

The French side is laid back, but intense about fine cuisine while the Dutch side is fun-loving and focused on nightlife.

It’s like a miniature tour of northern Europe. Add the numerous other little islands so close that you can see everyday life on them and it’s an inspiring place for a GyspyNester.

We were literally itching with the exploration bug. But exploring the neighboring isles would have to wait for another time. This visit was a celebration of just 25 hours. One for each year of our marriage.

We checked into our hotel on the Dutch side, a huge complex of high-rise rooms, swimming pools, eateries and a few too many love-handled speedo guys. Not exactly our cup of tea, but very posh and a befitting change of pace for our celebration.

Usually we try to stay a bit lower to the ground. After sundown, we hailed a cab and headed out for Grand Case on the French side—with our taxi driver Matt at the helm.

Matt’ is the man—! A veritable treasure trove of local information. He answered all of our queries with humor and honesty. We found out gas is cheaper on the French side, but is too “light” (low octane) for his taxi.

We were also heartened to learn that we could ship one of our daughters to the French side, doll her up and have her find a nice man. Once they are married, she can hen-peck him until they move themselves and our beautiful grandchildren to Paris and buy a villa with a guest room for us.

Find Matt when you visit, he’s a true artist, a chuckhole dodging Botticelli, a master. He knows stuff.

The border between the two countries of the island is in a fairly remote area—the best way to tell that you’ve crossed over is that the road immediately changes from a typical tropical island pothole laden mess on the Dutch side to icy smooth on the French side. No gates, no guards, no problem.

With our back-roads tour of the island behind us, (Matt knows the short cuts) we arrived at the little French village of Grand Case. A goal of ours is to moor a boat off the shore of this wonderful little area and proceed to gain 20 pounds. There were so many wonderful restaurants packed into the quaint, narrow streets it is a Herculean effort to choose just one. But, alas, we had just the one evening.

We decided on L’Auberge Gourmande, a lovely gem among a glittering tiara of deliciousness. Highlights were a epic scallop swimming in an
asparagus soup, monk fish with wasabi mashed potatoes, and an amazing array of chocolate for dessert—white mousse and hot baked fondant.

If you looked up hot baked fondant in the dictionary, it would read “Molten chocolate cake with orgasmic properties.” Each plate had those wonderful French touches—a flower of caramelized shallots, dots and dashes of sauces and spices, and pools of butter, butter, butter. A bottle of Pinot Gris, “Les Maquisards” Domaines du Château de Riquewihr, created a nice counterpoint to the nose-stinging wasabi.

After coffee Matt was waiting for us, as advertised, and we headed back to the Dutch side to wander the pleasantly garish Maho Bay area of neon, casinos and entertainment galore.

The next morning we took a stroll (note that we didn’t say romantic stroll) along Tortuga Beach, and spent some time dodging aircraft. Tortuga beach is directly under the flight path of landing aircraft.

It’s a constant barrage. The beach is literally the last thing a pilot sees before the beginning of the runway.

Before we are judged too harshly, we are fully aware how cheesy this touristy diversion is but the cheesiness is totally beaten down by the sheer awesomeness of it.

Here’s how it’s done: Lay on the warm, white Caribbean sand, position yourself under a jumbo jet filled with Canadian tourists and get doused with waves whipped up by the jet wash. Try it sometime — then dare to judge us.

Here’s hoping that every one of our anniversaries will include a rush like this. Next year, who knows?

But no doubt we’ll find a way to fill those 26 hours no matter where we are.

David & Veronica,
GypsyNester.com

Under Sea St. Croix

Like an iceberg in the tropics, only the tip of St. Croix is visible above the surface. To truly experience what the island has to offer one must look below the water line.

We returned to the island during the holidays and from previous trips were prepared to be flexible as the Christmas Winds are usually ablowin’. These annual “Jesus Breezes” produce high seas that make the water murky and boat rides stomach churning. Patience will pay. Just wait a day or two, there is there is always perfect water weather within any week’s span.

Buck Island National Park with… CONTINUE READING >>


Hawksbill Turtle under the waters of St. Croix

Like an iceberg in the tropics, only the tip of St. Croix is visible above the surface.

To truly experience what the island has to offer one must look below the water line.

We returned to the island during the holidays and from previous trips were prepared to be flexible as the Christmas Winds are usually ablowin’.

These annual “Jesus Breezes” produce high seas that make the water murky and boat rides stomach churning. Patience will pay. Just wait a day or two, there is always perfect water weather within any week’s span.

Buck Island National Park with its celebrated beach and spectacular snorkeling trail through the beautiful Elk Horn Coral Barrier Reef is no doubt St. Croix‘s most famous underwater attraction.

There are many boats that offer wonderful day trips where even beginners may join rays, barracuda and a school of hundreds of blue tang as they dance in and out of perhaps the Caribbean’s most impressive reef.

On the downside, the trip will be spent with forty other sun burnt, seasick tourists crammed on a sailboat and all elbows and fins in the water. We prefer just our own elbows and fins.
Captain Paul aboard Muzik on Great Salt Bay

Being the type to travel low to the ground, we were elated to find Captain Paul’s Water Drop Tours. Paul specializes in eco-friendly, personalized tours geared towards his client’s interests and abilities aboard the skiff Muzik.

Born and bred on St. Croix, Captain Paul knows his island and its treasures intimately and his little boat can launch on almost any beach making every part of the island accessible.

He’’ll introduce you to fantastic places you’ll never see in the guidebooks and you’ll probably have them all to yourselves. Bliss.

Considering the weather Mother Nature provided for our day, Captain Paul recommended a two hour snorkeling trip around the reef in Great Pond Bay. We were provided with fantastic snorkeling gear–a real treat–not the standard leaky masks and floppity fins usually pawned off on the tourists.

An octopus feasts on a clam St. Croix

In the water Paul has a jeweler’s eye for sea life. He quickly led us to an octopus in his garden munching on a clam dinner.

Veronica, a decent free diver and photographer, found she couldn’’t do both at once.

She was stunned as Captain Paul swam to the bottom without the benefit of fins, grabbed onto a rock to hold himself under and snapped a couple of brilliant pictures of the feasting cephalopod.

We spotted a four foot long hawksbill resting on the sandy bottom all by ourselves–what an eye!

The turtle tolerated our hovering around him for several minutes as we ooohed and ahhhed though our snorkels and then he darted off into the reef.

There are three types of turtles in the waters around St. Croix–the hawksbill is most common–but with a bit of luck the rare green sea turtle and the giant leatherback are sometimes encountered.

In the late spring the St. Croix Environmental Association hosts turtle watches where the endangered leatherbacks can be seen laying their eggs on the beach. A once in a lifetime experience.

St. Croix under water scene

Being a boat person is not necessary to enjoy the depths. Tamarind Reef is the best Cruzan destination for off-the-beach snorkeling that we’ve found. Just rent gear from the little beach shack and wade in.

Easy for the beginner but with plenty of room for the more experienced diver to explore out into the deeper waters.

Floats anchored along the way for resting are a really nice touch, especially on the swim back against the current. Colorful sea fans wave gracefully under the waves, spiny lobsters hide in the holes and overhangs while urchins dot the rocks among the giant brain coral.

Octopi, lobsters, turtles, rays and barracudas aside, the real serenity of island time underwater is dreamily swimming among the little colorful tropical fish. It’s like being on the inside of your dentist’s office aquarium.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com