A Travellerspoint blog

Padre Day 2: Hook, Line, and Seagull

We woke the next morning about 9:30a to an overcast and windy day, a perfect day for kite-flying. Only we had no kite. So we set off to find one and to pick up the supplies we had forgotten the day before, most importantly, fishing licenses. We first stopped at the local grocery store, the Blue Marlin. Their computers were down so no fishing licenses were to be had there. As luck would have it, there was a kite store right next door. But our luck ran out. It was closed due to a death in the family. We drove down the strip a ways and found a souvenir shop with kites and bought two. They told us the best place to get fishing licenses was the pier in Port Isabel. So back across the bridge we went and finally, success! While we were there, we threw in some Cajun fried fish and french fries for lunch.
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The condo provided us with some great beach chairs. We loaded up our ice chest, our kites, and fishing gear and headed to the beach in front of the condo.

La Internacional from the beach.
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Mike got the kites out and in the air. There was plenty of wind for flying.
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After he bored with that (i.e., the kites got tangled), he got set up for surf fishing. He'd gotten a pole holder so he could both fish from the water and from his beach chair.
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Unfortunately, the only thing he caught wading in the water was seaweed. So he decided to join me on the beach and lazy surf fish for a while.
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Mike had his line in the water and we were just sitting there talking when we heard the line run out. He jumped up, thinking he had a fish. I looked out at the rod, trying to figure out what was happening as it seemed like something was off. Sure enough, a seagull had flown straight into the fishing line and gotten itself wrapped up. Another lady on the beach saw it, too, and came running over to help us get the poor thing untangled. It was so scared while Mike was untangling its wing that it threw up. Finally, he got it untangled and gave it a little toss and it flew off. Thankfully, it was not hurt.

Our setup.
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After the harrowing bird experience, Mike went up to the condo to make us a couple of pina coladas. The blender blew up. Great. We have a travel one that we could have brought but didn't since the condo came with one. This did not make me happy. We gave up and went to the hot tub.

Our new mission became finding a place for dinner that was open past 8p on a Sunday night. This proved harder than it would seem. I must have called about five places before I found one - Burger Fi, a gourmet burger place just down the street. We stopped in for a quick dinner before they closed up for the night. I had a breakfast burger and fries and Mike had a chili dog with onion rings. Both were really good.
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We went home and called it an early night.

Posted by deniseandmike 14:28 Archived in USA Tagged texas padre vi Comments (0)

Padre Day 1: Can We Get Some O.J....Please?

Our decision to spend a week in Padre in October came about sort of suddenly. We had already taken a big vacation this year to Curacao but wanted to do something more local just to get away after Fall tax season ended. We mulled over a few locations but decided on Padre for a couple of reasons. Mike and his dad used to go there almost annually each Thanksgiving when he was a child. He had so many memories there yet hadn't been there in some 20 years. I had never been there, the farthest south for me was Port Aransas. So we planned a Saturday-to-Saturday trip for late October, flying in and out of Harlingen. Our good friend, Vi, who travels with us frequently, was raised in Raymondville, just a few miles away. She would drive down to visit her family for a few days then spend Tuesday thru Saturday with us. It was a perfect plan. Mike and I would have some alone time at first then we would have friend time to end the week.

We headed to Love Field on a Saturday morning for our flight to Harlingen and I soon remembered why I usually avoid flying on weekends. The Parking Spot was full and we had to divert to overflow parking. Since we're both TSA Pre-check, we got thru security quickly, even with Mike checking his gun, and made our way to Cool River Café for some breakfast fare. We were politely informed that breakfast was over at 10a. My watch said 9:55 but ok. So we ordered some lunch instead with a bloody mary for Mike and a mimosa for me. Nope. No mimosa. They were out of OJ. What? How can a restaurant be out of OJ? I looked across the way at Whataburger which was serving up plenty of it. Are you kidding me? I went with the bloody mary instead which was so spicy I could barely drink it so Mike got two. We finished our food and got to our gate only to have to wait in line during boarding while they took someone OFF the plane who had just boarded. Not sure what that was about. The first leg of the flight was fine. We made a pit stop in Houston but stayed on the plane. A crew of old, fat, drunk fishermen sat in front of us on the second leg to Harlingen. Lovely. We finally made it to Harlingen and got our luggage then stood in line FOREVER to get our rental car. While we were standing there, I noticed Mike had on two completely different colored shoes. I have no idea how he did that or how we didn't notice. Dorkity dork dork! Our smallish SUV was finally ready and we hit the road to Padre. The area had very recently had a lot of rain, evidenced by the floodwaters we drove thru in several places, but we made it to the La Internacional condos around 4:30p.

The Internacional condos are located on the far northern part of the island, on the oceanside. This is where Mike and his dad used to stay all those years ago when they came to Padre. He really wanted to return there so I found a one bedroom that would work for us.
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The décor of the condo really needed some updating in my opinion.
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The advertised telescope didn't work.
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The condo was much smaller than I realized but was okay for what we paid for it. I didn't realize, however, that the refrigerator was not a full-size refrigerator and was not pleased at all about this. We had trouble fitting our food and drinks in it. In addition, when we arrived, someone had spilled a colored liquid all inside the freezer and this had not been cleaned before our arrival. I had to spend time cleaning this mess up before we could use it.

While it was still daylight, we wanted to go down to the beach for a little bit to see how the water felt. Mike realized he forgot his swimsuit so he wore bike shorts that he usually wears under his suit instead.
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There were some people kitesurfing.
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The dogs were out, too.
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It started to get a little chilly so we went back to the condo and warmed up in the hot tub. This became a favorite for us over the week with its warm waterfall.
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We went back upstairs to change clothes and saw this rainbow from our balcony.
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Before dinner, we wanted to pick up some supplies for the condo so we stopped off at the liquor store and grocery store. We got home and realized that we paid for ice but forgot to get it. We also forgot to buy fishing licenses. But most importantly, we bought champagne for mimosas but FORGOT THE OJ! It's like there's a mimosa troll somewhere trying to prevent me from having one. Give me a break! By now, we are hungry and tired so we just walked across the street to the Wanna Wanna Beach Bar for dinner. There was an awesome band called Pelican West playing so we had some killer pina coladas and peel & eat shrimp, lack of OJ forgotten. We stumbled back home later after closing the place down.

Posted by deniseandmike 12:01 Archived in USA Tagged texas padre vi Comments (0)

Curacao Day 10: Annoying Bubbles and a Miami Surprise

The next day was our last full day on the island and unfortunately, Mike was having a full-blown flare-up. He needed to rest but he didn't want me to waste my day doing nothing so I decided to go back to Playa Lagun for a snorkeling visit. I loaded up the car with my gear and the underwater camera and set off. I spent a wonderful hour snorkeling and taking lots of pictures. I saw so many different fish hiding in the rocks. Since it was a Friday, it was much less crowded than the Sunday we were there before. I was very excited about the pictures I had taken. When I got back to the house and checked the camera, however, I discovered a big problem. I had forgotten to take the lens off and remove the air bubble that forms when you submerge the camera so NONE of my pictures had turned out. Talk about a huge disappointment!

After I returned, we drove around and took some pictures of our neighborhood. It was filled with houses of all different colors.
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At this rather run-down property, someone was building a wooden boat by hand.
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This was the little grocery store we visited almost every day for snacks, Cokes, and beer.
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Just before leaving for dinner, we enjoyed our last island sunset.
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We had reservations for dinner at Fishalicious, a small, Dutch seafood restaurant where, even with a reservation, we had to wait 30 minutes for our table. We started out with the shrimp croquettes.
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MIke had the clam chowder.
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I had Dover sole.
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We left immediately after dinner so that Mike could return to bed. I spent the rest of the evening packing our bags. The next morning, the house manager came over to check us out at 10a. Our flight didn't leave until a few hours later so we passed the time with drinks and lunch at Pirate Bay then headed to the airport.

Our plane left Curacao about 30 minutes late, giving us only one and a half hours to change planes in Miami. When I bought the plane tickets months prior, we had three hours to change planes but in the meantime, American changed the flight times, giving us a shorter layover. To top it all off, there was bad weather somewhere else in the Caribbean so there were tons of people arriving in Miami at the same time. This created a line to re-check bags that wound all around the luggage carousels. People who had flights were trying to cut lines and I got into several verbal exchanges with people trying to get in front of us. As if we didn't have a flight to catch as well! We made it through the line about 30 minutes before our flight was to leave but were informed that we couldn't get on the plane because they didn't have enough time to get our luggage on. Apparently they needed 45 minute to load the luggage. Seriously? So, because American had changed our flight times, they sent us to the Doubletree in Miami for the night, gave us food vouchers, and re-booked us on an early morning flight. We went straight to the hotel and crashed, returning to the Miami airport at 6a, only to face more huge lines and an agent who tried to charge us baggage fees again. Once all of that was sorted, we had breakfast at a London pub-type place and finally boarded our flight, making it home mid-morning. And after that experience and one I had prior going to Turks and Caicos, we now try to avoid the Miami airport whenever possible.

We really enjoyed this trip to Curacao but we both agree that we probably wouldn't return. The pros? We LOVED the house because of the price, the privacy, and the easy access to diving. We loved that the island had local culture, great restaurants, and some nightlife but wasn't a party island. We liked that most of the beaches had facilities for eating and drinking. But if we go to the ABC islands again, we'll probably return to Bonaire. It doesn't compare with regard to island culture (it's more Americanized), beaches, food, and nightlife but the diving is incomparable. Bonaire's marine life is undeniably better in our opinion and that would sway us to Bonaire over Curacao any day.

Posted by deniseandmike 17:22 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

Curacao Day 9: Submarine Celebration

Today I woke up a year older and in a new decade of my life. It was my 40th birthday. Since that's kind of a momentous occasion, we wanted to do something a little different. We booked a submarine ride with Substation Curacao. We would travel 500 feet below the surface in a submarine. I was a little nervous about this, not about something awful happening, but mainly about being claustrophobic. But I could tell online that there was a large picture window in the sub so I was hoping this would stave off those feelings. Our appointment was at 11a and we arrived a little early for orientation.

We watched a safety video and drew designs on Styrofoam cups that would be strapped to our sub to show compression at 500 ft.
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Afterwards, we went outside and watched them lower the sub into the water with a crane.
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They had us take our shoes off and put on socks to wear on-board the sub.
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This is the boat that rides along on the surface above the sub for safety reasons.
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Then it was time to climb aboard through the very, very small porthole.
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Luckily it was just the two of us and the pilot.
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Sometimes they fill it with four guests. Honestly, for the price you pay to do this, I would be pretty upset about that. There would not be enough room to be comfortable and have a good view if that were the case. The pilot sits in the back and we layed down on either side in front of him, looking out the big picture window.
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We descended slowly underwater. The chase boat remained above us and a scuba diver followed us down to 50 or 60 feet to take pictures.
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Porkfish.
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Unfortunately, we saw LOTS of lionfish.
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The deepest were at over 400 feet. I have no idea what they eat at that depth.
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Some new species of fish have been discovered during sub rides. These are some discovered recently at almost 500 feet.
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Our deepest depth on the gauge.
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Black coral on the way back up.
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Coral overhang.
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Small fish hiding in a barrel sponge.
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Schoolmasters.
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French angelfish.
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The ride lasted about an hour and a half and was more scientific in nature than scenic but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Not many people get to have such an experience. Afterwards, we were hungry so we stopped at a local restaurant on the beach called Seaside Terrace.
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I had some fried lionfish that were wonderful.
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Mike had crab salad.
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We drove back to the house to relax for a while. We spent a couple of hours on the back porch then decided to go back into town for some shopping and casino time. That would be shopping for me and casino time for Mike. By this time, Mike was starting to feel a flare up coming on. But it was my birthday so he powered on through my birthday dinner at The Wine Cellar. He wasn't hungry at all but ordered some stuffed mushrooms. He didn't end up eating any and the kind waiter noticed and removed them from our bill. I, on the other hand, had lobster bisque and chateaubriand. Although this restaurant receives very high reviews and the service was outstanding, I thought the food was much better at other restaurants we visited. Since Mike wasn't feeling well, we went home to bed.

Posted by deniseandmike 15:41 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

Curacao Day 8: Bitch Out at Blue Bay

We slept in today and woke up to spend a lazy morning watching the boat traffic and eating crackers and Boursin cheese for breakfast. This is one of my favorite snacks and I was surprised and excited to see that Centrum had it for sale. One of the ships in front of the house was The Ocean Mariner. It had been coasting around back and forth, back and forth for days for no apparent reason. It had no course listed on Mike's marine app. We had a little joke going that the Captain was drunk and couldn't figure out where he was going.

The pilot boat was busy doing its thing.
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A few fishing boats were tooling around as well. We compared the eco-factors of two of them while we watched. There were these two guys who just had a little rowboat and they would fish as they drifted along.
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Then there were these two guys who had a motor and actually dropped anchor out on the reef!
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Here comes the biggest environmental impact of all.
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Around late morning, we packed up all of our empty tanks and headed over to Blue Bay for Mike's last dive and to settle our account. I was not even going down that road today, just planning on snorkeling. I wanted to enjoy the day without the diving stress I had endured all trip. We started with pina coladas and lunch at Azzuro, as usual. Afterwards, Mike went deep and I went snorkeling. Blue Bay has a rocky pier that goes out to a point and then horseshoes into a little bay area around the left side of the main beach area. There was a group of guys fishing off the end of this rocky pier on this day. I'm not sure this was even legal but it was sure annoying to try and dodge their casting hooks. Worse than that, apparently the cruise ship we'd seen earlier had dumped off a bunch of people here and they were flailing about in the water and standing on the reef. So frustrating! I'm not sure why people seem to think that knowing how to swim is not a pre-requisite for snorkeling. I had a nice time anyway and saw lots of marine life. This is a good snorkel site when it's not crowded as lots of fish like to hide in these rocks.

Mike took the camera diving.

Peacock flounder.
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Fish inside tube sponge.
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Mike's dive watch at 202 feet.
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Yellowhead wrasse.
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I've never seen anything like this before and cannot figure out what it is. Some kind of eel, maybe?
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After Mike's dive, we met on the beach and I found out that he had gone to 219 feet, by himself, on nitrox. Now I wasn't happy about this but I learned a long time ago this was not a fight I would win. Mike is an ex-commercial diver with LOTS of dive experience and he does what makes him happy and he does it responsibly. It may not seem so to others but the buddy system doesn't work for everyone. Unfortunately, the dive shop did not agree with this philosophy and when we went to pay for our tanks for the week, they were pretty unhappy to learn we had used an odd number of tanks. This made it pretty obvious we hadn't been buddy diving. They were even more upset when Mike opened his mouth and told him about his dive today (I had told him not to). He got an earful about solo diving and deep diving on nitrox. In any event, I don't think we're welcome back at Diveversity at Blue Bay anytime soon.

One divemaster from Austria that did seem to understand Mike's position.
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After that experience we decided to cool down at the bar with a pina colada before heading home to clean up for dinner. It was a long drive across Curacao and into a part of town we'd never been to before. So much so that Mike thought I had screwed up the address and that GPS was wrong. It was not. We were dining at El Gaucho, an Argentinian steakhouse nestled on top of a large hill, which overlooked the city of Willemstad.

View from our table.
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We started with El Gaucho's wonderful salad bar. I ordered the hanger steak and Mike ordered the beef short ribs. Both were outstanding. We had a dinner guest who wandered through while we ate, down below us on the hill. But he was polite and didn't beg.
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After dinner we made the long drive home and hit the bed early.

Posted by deniseandmike 14:21 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Tagged curacao Comments (0)

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