Everybody deserves a day off

I’ve shared a lot of “keeping it real” posts lately, both here and on social media, attempting to capture the hot, dirty, and not-so-glamorous side of living on a sailboat. Especially in the month or two each fall when we try to cram six-months worth of maintenance into a few weeks! So I reckon it’s time for some fun! We couldn’t possibly spend a month in a beautiful place like Puerto Rico without getting out and exploring, now could we?

Beautiful Luquillo Beach is only about a 20-minute drive from the Puerto del Rey marina. So when we needed a beach fix, this was our go-to spot! At low tide, you can walk for over a mile on the sand, connecting several public beaches, and the tall palm trees and red wooden life guard stands add to the natural beauty of the water and sand. When we tired of the beach, we introduced each of our cruising friends to the wonder that is Mojito Lab. It’s basically a food truck for mojitos – each one hand made and muddled to order, with fabulous flavors such as passionfruit, coconut, and tamarind. At $11.15 for a 32 oz drink, Capt. Mike and I like to share (after negotiating on who gets to pick the flavor) and that way our drinks never get warm!

After seeing the amazing lightweight beach chairs that Zach and Lindy of SV Holiday had aboard, we went onto Amazon that night and ordered two for ourselves. That’s one of the things that makes Puerto Rico such an easy place to store our boat – Amazon Prime free delivery of everything we need for the season!

When we felt really adventurous, we piled into the rental car and drove WAY up into the mountains of central Puerto Rico to Guavate to check out the famous lechoneras on Pork Highway. What a scene! After about 45 minutes of highway driving, we turned off onto a super winding, always climbing mountain road. Now don’t get fooled by the first lechonera you see – keep climbing, keep climbing, to find the where the locals go on a Sunday afternoon. When the road comes to a T so you have to turn right or left, and you can barely hear your passengers over the sound of the salsa music, you’re there!

Lechon is roasted whole suckling pig. Each restaurant has its own secret recipe of marinades and spices. And of course, each restaurant insists they are the first and the best! At El Rancho Original, first order a pina colada at the tiki bar kiosk out front. The bartender will ask “con ron?” “with rum?” and I highly recommend you answer yes 😎

If you’re not quite ready to eat yet (although the yummy smells may convince you) take a minute to bet on the wooden horses.

Then sip your drink as you stand in line, trying to decide what to order. I can’t imaging NOT ordering the lechon. It is displayed in full glory on a spit in the front window. Every few minutes, a server walks over wielding a machete and hacks off some serious pig.

Each serving, in its styrofoam takeout tray, is elegantly plated with a piece of fried skip balanced on top – don’t mind the occasional black bristle. Choose your two sides to go with you hunk of pig (all starches – no veggies to be found here!) such as rice and peas or potato salad. There are plenty of other Puerto Rican delicacies to try, such as morcilla (blood sausage), batatas (roasted sweet potatoes), and pastels (a yucca-based tamale, steamed in banana leaves). Once you’ve placed your order and given your name, loiter by the bar waiting for your name to be called. Then pay (cash only, of course) and carry your cafeteria tray down to one of the many picnic pavilions down by the stream.

Here the volume of the fiesta is a bit lower, and you can enjoy your meal and conversation in peace. It’s also great people watching! Check out the big groups in matching colorful t-shirts all here together to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. And some of the pavilions are decorated with balloons and streamers and birthday cakes. There’s everyone here- from babies in strollers, to abuelos (grandfathers) in wheel chairs.

When you are as stuffed as the pig, head back up the stairs to the main restaurant to enjoy the band and watch some serious salsa dancing. Or better yet, drift from one restaurant to the next, sampling the mojitos (a live mint plant in a pot is a good sign), and checking out which band is the loudest and most energetic, and which establishment has the most serious dancers. No flip flops here! The women in the Cuban heels and the men in tight black pants and elaborate white shirts came here to dance! My gringo blood shows, and although I can’t stop my toes from tapping, I really can’t compete with these dancers!

Hopefully, you’ve picked a designated driver, because it’s easy to get caught up in the festive atmosphere and to forget that it’s over an hour of winding roads to get back home. But this is an afternoon party, not nightlife, so it’s easy to be back in the marina, full and happy, way before cruiser bedtime!

Just-In-Time Living

Another “keeping it real post” about nomadic life. Since only about three people actually read this blog (Hi Mom and Dad! Hi Sharon! Love you guys ♥️) I guess it’s ok to go public with my love of thrift-store finds, and maybe even to admit what I spent on my 30th reunion outfit.

One of the toughest transitions from land life to boat life was getting used to the idea that I could no longer buy in bulk, and couldn’t keep things around just in case I might need them someday. There’s no room! There’s high humidity! You gain weight! You lose weight! Basically, if I manage to keep stuff around, by the time I need it either it’s no good anymore, or I don’t like it anymore. Capt. Mike shared with me a great article on minimalism that suggested using Craigslist like your own personal storage unit. If you don’t need it on a regular basis, sell it! When you need it again a few years later, odds are you’ll find something just like it on Craigslist or eBay. Great advice. I feel better now about parting with something that rates marginal on the “brings me joy” scale.

When we were packing last June for our summer in Europe, a record-setting heat wave was blanketing the continent. So we carefully packed light, and left thermal jackets behind. But we knew we’d end our trip at northern England in September when weather conditions could be very different. I stayed firm, forcing Mike to leave those wool tops and jeans behind: “We can spend $50 each at Primark when we get there. It’ll be fine.” And, for the most part, it was!

I think I walked off a layer of fat in the 900km between St Jean Pied-de-Port and Finisterre, and by the end of the Camino de Santiago I shivered through the chilly fall evening temps. But no problem! I discovered the European sporting goods chain Decathlon and bought my favorite color purple long sleeve top for €9.99. Plus, they have gluten free energy bars!

And yes, it was every bit as cold and rainy in Harrogate, North Yorkshire as we anticipated in September. But that was ok too. We spent our first afternoon wandering the town where we lived for four years in the late 90’s ducking into all of the charity shops and really enjoying the vibe of the town. We did great too! Mike found a pair of khakis and a navy blue sweater. I found a cute winter jacket for £9 and a pair of Converse sneakers for £15. After that promised trip to Primark, we were set for anything the cool and rainy English countryside could throw at us. You wouldn’t even recognize us by looking at our Camino photos and comparing to our English selves, and we didn’t have to carry all those warm clothes or have to pay to ship them ahead while backpacking.

The coup de grace of our thrift store shopping adventure was preparation for my 30th high school reunion. The dress code was “cocktail” and we sure didn’t have anything in our backpacks to fit the bill. In fact, Capt. Mike decided he wouldn’t even attempt to achieve cocktail status, he’d be happy just hitting the halfway point between hiker and formal, lol. I think he hit the mark: black Gap jeans with the tags still attached and grey dressy button down shirt from Plato’s Closet with black leather shoes from Thrifty Shopper. Grand total – $28. I was feeling a bit more conflicted. After all, it was actually my reunion, and and hadn’t seen any of these people in 30 years. And I was more geek than cheerleader in college. I didn’t want to LOOK like I’d shopped in a thrift store. But … I’m a retiree on a fixed budget now, so I’m not going to spent a lot of money on fancy clothes I’ll never wear again, right? My outfit: dress from Plato’s Closet, purse from Thrifty Shopper, tall boots from MoShop30. Grand total = $22. I cheated and bought new high heels from TJ Maxx for another $20. We salty sailors / backpackers / homeless nomads clean up pretty good, don’t ya think?

A Pinxtos Tour of San Sebastian

San Sebastian is known as a foodie city. It possesses 18 Michelin stars. Eight percent of it’s population belong to gastronomic societies. And eating is entertainment! But you don’t have to be on a Michelin star budget to enjoy great food – you just have to indulge in some pinxtos.

Look at all that deliciousness!

Pinxtos are the Basque version of the Spanish tapas. It’s a snack, usually eaten standing up at the bar or outside the restaurant with a glass of wine, to tide you over between the end of the work day and the late Spanish dinner. But here in San Sebastian they’ve elevated pintxos to a culinary art and it’s easy to make a meal of these tasty morsels. After four days of pinxtos tasting, here’s what I’ve learned….

Where to go?

When restaurants brag about being on the “100 best pinxtos bars” list you know there’s no shortage of hot spots. My method is to follow the crowds – if it’s busy, there’s probably a good reason. And you don’t have to stick to Old Town’s “Pinxto-landia” theme park vibe and tourist crowds. The trendy Gros neighborhood is also amazing.

Constitution Plaza at Sunset

Because you only order one or two small plates at each establishment, the crowds ebb and flow quickly – just loiter outside and people watch for a few minutes until there’s room at the bar. And if they ask you to pay each time you order something, it’s a tourist trap! Traditional places will let you order a round, maybe two, and when you’re ready to leave they’ll have magically remembered what you ordered and present a perfect tally.

I’m told this was always Anthony Bourdain’s first stop when ever he returned to San Sebastian

How to Order?

It can be kind of intimidating, especially if there’s a crowd and if the bartender’s speaking Basque! But stay cool. Just kind of wander through and check out the crowd, the platters of deliciousness displayed on the bar, and the chalkboard of “plates of the minute” hot pinxtos specials. Unless you see something amazing and creative, stay resolute and don’t be tempted by the cold pinxtos that have sat out all day. And DEFINITELY don’t ask for a dinner plate. A local told me “it breaks his heart” every time he sees a tourist with a huge plate of stale, bad pinxtos. Instead, order a “txach” of Basque cider, poured from a great height. Or a “gintonic” served in an oversized wine glass with bruised citrus rind, a few juniper berries, and lots of ice. Or keep it simple and go with a vino blanco – the house white is probably perfectly adequate and will only set you back about 1.20€ Now that you’re fortified with a cold beverage, order a hot pinxto from the chalk board. You might have even had a chance to check out what everyone else is eating to discover the specialty of the house. Don’t worry if you can’t translate exactly. It will probably be delicious, and if it’s not quite your thing, well there’s always the next bar down the street! Don’t forget to say thanks a lot, or “Eskerrik Asko” if you remember “Scary Costco” you’ll be close enough.

Grilled fois gras with apples cooked in cider

When I copied the description of the “rice of the day” at Atari into Google Translate I got back “Sailor rice with seaweed ali-oli and salicornia”. While that doesn’t sound very appetizing, it was actually the most delicious clam risotto served with two tiny clams on top and some sort of frothy green emulsion, topped with a few strands of a crisp, salty sea vegetable – easily one of the best things I’ve eaten in years.

“Sailor rice” and “Huevo cooked at low temps” at Atari

While you’re waiting for the kitchen to prepare your hot pinxto, ok – go ahead and help yourself to a cold one from the bar. You’re only human after all!

Some of the best pinxtos from our tour

Other highlights from our pinxtos exploring?

We stumbled upon the wonderful La Cuchara de San Telmo because a) it was crowded and b) several men wearing shirts from the local rowing club were drinking beer outside the entrance, and when we peered inside and hesitated one said “very delicious” in a strong Basque accent.

We treated ourselves to seafood pinxtos from the special 20th anniversary menu and they were some of the best of our trip. Grilled octopus with homemade tzaki and chimichuri sauces, and sea scallops wrapped in Serrano ham and served with a fresh corn emulsion and crunchy granules of toasted corn. OMG!

The name of the bar is fun too. Back when San Sebastian was being built, the church of San Telmo was considered the “poor people’s church.” In fact, they ran out of money and never completed the wall which still shows the rough unfinished sea rock known as cucha today. The rich merchants started using the name “cucharas” as an insult for the working class folks who couldn’t even afford to finish their church. Today, many San Sebastian natives have taken back the name, and embraced it with pride as their own nickname.

We really enjoyed the grilled pequillo peppers at Bar Tamboril because, except for olives, they were the only green vegetable we’d eaten since we arrived.

done we’ve done some long hikes but over a long long ago we did the Appalachian Trail 20 years ago the east coast of the United States and some it’s 2000 miles up the east coast of the United States but that was 20 years ago relationtrip

Wherever you go, and whatever you order, don’t forget to introduce yourself to the person next to you, relax and enjoy the setting sun reflecting off the stone walls, and to laugh and tell stories! You can’t go wrong!

Stunning San Sebastian

After a full day in Biarritz, these global nomads had to move on! We took a bus about an hour and a half down the coast to San Sebastian, Spain for 13€ per person. Which was kind of sad, ’cause I was enjoying speaking French and now we’re back to Spanish. Or worse yet – Basque! The Basque language is not a romance language so nothing on the signs or menus looks the slightest bit familiar to me. And almost every word has an ‘X’ in it. This would be a great language for Scrabble!

Just in case I’ve given you the impression that traveling full time is easy, let me tell you a story … I booked every night of our first week in Europe at least twice 😥 At first I was thrown off by the red-eye flight and booked an Airbnb in Biarritz on the night we were actually flying to France. (for the record, Capt. Mike reviewed my reservation before I hit the “Book” button and said it looked good) So I went back to the drawing board. Then I learned that in a crazy coincidence, some of our dearest friends from Virginia planned to be in Spain on a family vacation at the EXACT SAME TIME we would be there! So I changed the reservation again to match their tour itinerary. Just before the trip I got a text “so did we send you our updated itinerary?” Oops. They wouldn’t make it to Biarritz after all. So I shortened our stay in Biarritz and added a day at a different hostel in Spain. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it sure keeps me on my toes!

And then there’s the new city blues of getting off a bus in a strange underground bus station and trying to find your way to your temporary home for the night. If you’re still a teeny bit jetlagged the sights and sounds can be overwhelming, and it’s all I can do not to walk straight into traffic! Google maps is a godsend, but not perfect. Eventually we found our hostel in the Gros district which was everything I expected a hostel to be – slightly dirty, slightly stinky, with one bathroom for the entire floor, but in a great location! We were right above a popular pinxtos bar and restaurant which set us up for a wonderful breakfast the next morning!

In the interest of research, we checked out the beach so we could compare the Spanish coast to the French coast, and then met our friends at a cider bar for dinner. As someone who needs to be gluten free for health reasons, a cidery is heaven. Especially when I find natural, cask-conditioned, unfiltered, dry cider! The best cider I’ve had since living in England! And the best part… The bartender pours it from a great height – part aeration, and part theater. Yep, that’s his “I’m sexy and I know it” look, lol.

Did I mention the crazy coincidence that allowed us to meet up with Marybeth and Trent and their kids in Spain? What a cool experience for middle schoolers to travel to another country, play soccer with kids from around the world, and experience new cultures and new foods. (the 10-year-old boys were particularly impressed with topless sunbathers.) It was amazing to have the opportunity to spend time with them 💕

I was thrilled about the cider, but Capt. Mike’s heaven was finding an artisan ice cream shop that really does gluten free right. For 3.50€, you get 2 scoops of deliciousness in a gluten free cone. AND, when you say “soy celiac” they wash their hands, grab a clean ice cream scoop, lift up the top container of ice cream and dig into the new one underneath so there’s no cross-contamination. If that’s not enough, Capt. Mike confirms it’s the best chocolate ice cream he’s had since he visited Greece ten years ago. Heck, I don’t even like ice cream very much, and I ate some. Something tells me we’ll be visiting at least once a day while we’re in San Sebastian!

What do we do when we’re not on the boat?

For the past two years now, we’ve been “seasonal cruisers.” That means we live on Sanitas full time from approximately November to June, and then we store her in a safe place on land during hurricane season. So far, we really like this approach. It keeps things fresh – we’ve always got something different to look forward to, and it gives Capt. Mike a break from worrying about boat safety, weather, and navigation for a few months. It’s like a vacation from our vacation! But where do we live and what do we do when we’re not on the boat?

To make this cruising lifestyle work, we had to sell our home, our cars, and most of our things (Does it bring me joy? ….. Does it fit on a boat? ….) so we don’t have a home to return to during hurricane season. The good news is – we can go anywhere! The bad news is – we can go anywhere! … which involves a lot of research, planning, and an adventurous attitude. This year, we tucked Sanitas safely into storage in Fajardo, Puerto Rico and flew back to Colorado where we are blessed with generous friends and family who open their homes and their guest bedrooms to us when we visit.

I was lucky to be able to attend a retreat of Skirt Sports brand ambassadors from around the country during our first weekend in Boulder. It was really wonderful to meet such positive and supportive women in person after being “friends” on social media for years. We heard TESS talks from inspiring women, hiked, ran, ate, drank, and had a lot of fun together. The weekend culminated in a half marathon that I was not sufficiently trained for, but was still a lot of fun.

Capt.Mike and I moved to Colorado in 2003, so we have LOTS of friends and family here. By the time we moved onto our boat in 2017 we had mountain biking friends, road biking friends, running friends, work friends, Skirt Sports friends, book club friends, snowboarding friends, and UK friends. We tried to fit in a visit with every one of them in the past month. This involved a lot of driving, and a lot of eating and drinking!

Did I mention eating and drinking? After six months of cooking one-pot meals in my tiny galley, and eating beans and rice, the variety of food available (even gluten free beer!) in Boulder, CO was dizzying. Plus, I couldn’t resist going on taco and margarita tour.

We were extremely happy that it stopped snowing in Boulder days before we arrived – on May 29th!?! You might notice Mike and I are wearing jackets and hats in a lot of these photos, while Coloradans are wearing shorts and t-shirts. Apparently your blood really does thin while living in the tropics for six months. 🤣 Once summer arrived in Colorado, we took every opportunity possible to hike in this beautiful state. We were so lucky to have amazing trails right in the Boulder City limits, or within a 15-minute drive! I even hiked a few new-to-me trails that I somehow missed while we lived here. I love the Colorado blue skies, snow capped mountains, and variety of vegetation; everything from pine trees to cactus.

In between hikes, we fit in a few particularly fun events. Did I mention we consider this time in Colorado a vacation from the stresses and discomforts of boat life? When in Colorado, we always need to see a concert at the amazing Red Rocks Amphitheater concert venue.

And we borrowed cruiser bikes from Brittany and Erik so that we could participate in bike-to-work day.

All of our socializing involved our good friends – playing cards, doing pedicures, cycling around Boulder.

We have a leave-no-trace policy for our guest room stays. Or, as Capt. Mike says, “take only memories, leave only carpet vacuum stripes.” Since we aren’t working, and we have plenty of extra time, sometimes we can help out around the house. Mike has hauled rocks, repaired bikes, and even put together IKEA furniture.

All in all, our visit to Colorado went much too quickly. Tomorrow we head to the airport for the next stage of our land adventures. Tomorrow we fly to France and then to Spain where we plan to hike the Camino de Santiago – approximately 500 miles across Spain!