Catching Katy

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Swimming Pigs

Since my previous post about our honeymoon was getting long, I promised to write one specifically about the excursion. As I said, there were plenty of free activities at Sandals Emerald Bay, but there were also optional excursions and we decided to not be completely lazy every single day.

Now I may have been – at first – a little underwhelmed going to the Bahamas (a feeling that was completely unfounded and wrong), but when my husband told me what excursion we would be doing I almost cried. Ever since I was little I have loved pigs. Don’t ask me why and I don’t know where that love came from (mom? dad? anyone know?), but I love pigs. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out we would be SWIMMING WITH PIGS. Even now, almost 9 months later, I am reliving the excitement. I had also seen this excursion on The Bachelor so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The tour was done by Great Exuma Water Sports. They had 2 time options – a morning and afternoon. We decided we could suck it up and set an alarm one morning, knowing that the weather would be more mild than the middle of the afternoon on a boat. I want to say there were about 25 of us on the tour but that could be way off. There was a short bus ride to the other end of the island where we boarded the boat and took a nice little ride through the Exuma islands. The guide was great – telling us stories and history about the area and specific islands. And just riding around in a boat was fun enough!

But of course we were there for more. The first stop was Pig Island and it is definitely something you need to experience. As the boat nears the island, pigs literally begin running into the water. They swim to the boat, amidst sting rays swirling around below the surface. (You can see some of it in the video on my last post). We jumped out of the boat, into the water, and began feeding the pigs chicken hot dogs. Only the big ones really swim out into the water but there are little ones too that hang out at the edge of the water on the island. I guess eventually they learn to swim because that’s where the treats are. They also bring a bucket of leftovers to feed to both the big pigs and little pigs to make sure everyone gets some grub. We hung out with the swimming pigs in the water for a bit then made our way up onto the island where I immediately found a cute little friend. I held him like a baby and he fell asleep in my arms. Once again, I was almost in tears.

I could talk about the pigs for days. I was in love and would have brought that little piggy home if I could. But there was more to the tour! Our next stop was a little island that bordered both the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay where there is a cool blow hole. It also had beautiful views. I think you would typically do some reef snorkeling there as well but the Atlantic was very choppy that day and it would not have been a pleasant snorkeling experience.

Our guide found a live starfish along the ride, which we passed around the boat (then returned to the water). We stopped at another island to see and feed Bahamian Rock iguanas (who eat grapes). And our last stop was by the little island to do a little snorkeling since we couldn’t do it at the reef.

I would definitely recommend this tour if you visit Great Exuma. It was nice to get out of the resort for half a day and we still got some good nap time by the pool after we returned. I cannot imagine a better honeymoon – my husband did a FANTASTIC job planning – and Sandals definitely set the bar high for all-inclusive resorts.

 

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White Sandy Beaches

Since I took a hiatus from the blog, I want to go back and cover some things that happened during that hiatus. Our wedding was a major part of the time which could cover many, many posts. Those posts are TBD. But the honeymoon was definitely the best part of my hiatus (besides the vows of course, honey) and I definitely want to share that.

My husband planned the honeymoon with a little help from Jennifer at Epperly Travel. Regardless, it was one thing I did not have to think about at all and yes, I completely trusted him with this planning. And he actually succeeded in keeping it a surprise! Jennifer was very helpful with the details and it was nice to know there was someone there to handle any last minute details or unforeseen disasters. He had some parameters we discussed together – beach, all-inclusive, and not somewhere that took a lot of travel time (have to maximize that vacation time). I definitely recommend going the travel agent route for your honeymoon and Epperly Travel was fantastic.

We ended up at Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma, Bahamas. I won’t lie – when I heard we were going to the Bahamas, I was a little underwhelmed. When I think Bahamas, the only thing I picture is Atlantis and super water slides and tourists. But that image could not have been further from the truth. Great Exuma is further south than Grand Bahama, Nassau, and the better-known parts of the Bahamas. It was a 2 hour non-stop flight from Atlanta (perfect) to the quaint little airport in Georgetown then we were shuttled the mere 20 minutes to the resort.

My next recommendation for an all-inclusive trip is to splurge at least once for the butler service. It just makes your trip feel that more special and personal. Our butlers made our dinner and spa reservations, claimed beach chairs for us every day, brought drinks and snacks to the beach, brought dinner to the room if we wanted to dine in, and just made sure we had everything we needed at all times.

So how was it?! The beach was beautiful and about a mile long, private just to the resort guest. The weather was perfect – not too hot and I think I wore a sweater one evening while we were there. April is a great time to go. Two pools – the party pool and the quiet pool gave good options depending on your mood. The food was delicious. There are 11 restaurants and we ate at 10 of them. One is just coffee and desserts and some are just for lunch. Our favorite was definitely La Parisienne, the French restaurant. It was so nice to not have to worry  about paying for anything.

There are also plenty of activities included if you are not the lay and do nothing on the beach type. We do enjoy laying doing nothing (at the beach at least), especially after the wedding, but we made sure to try out a couple activities. There is a cruise-ship type schedule of activities every day (corn hole tournament, karaoke, etc.) if that’s your thing. There are water sports included. We went out on a hobie cat (like a sailboat) and took a kayak out one day. There are also swings and hammocks along the beach which was a nice change of pace from the lounge chairs. This resort also has golf if that’s your thing!

I realize this post is getting long so I am going to save our excursion for a separate post because there is plenty to say about that as well. It really is like a cruise on land! We also hit up the spa for a couples massage and it was wonderful and relaxing. You have to treat yo’self on your honeymoon!

This was my first all-inclusive and my first Sandals experience and I really have nothing but good things to say about it. Sandals Emerald Bay was perfect for us. We have a list of others we would like to visit because we will definitely be repeat Sandals customers.

I leave you with a little video I made. It was fun to have a Go Pro on the trip to get some extra memories and water pictures and video. Look for the excursion post to come – it was definitely the icing on the cake.


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Adios, Atlanta

The time has come! Seven new wonderful friends and I are leaving for Nicaragua this weekend! If you missed my first post, click here to learn what this trip is all about and why I’m going. A big thank you to everyone who supported me financially and made this trip possible. We have worked hard to prepare a VBS curriculum for kids in the area as well as put together 120 hygiene kits for those kids (with a wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a comb, and cup). These, and so many things we take for granted having readily available will be a huge gift for the kids we come into contact with. We will also be helping with some home improvement projects in the area.

I’m so excited for this experience – personally and for us as a group – and prayers this week are appreciated (especially for no volcano eruptions or tropical storms 😉 ). I’ll do a post or two when I get back, but while we are there I will be keeping our trip blog up-to-date. Visit the site and follow it if you want daily updates and pics! Can’t wait to share stories and [lots of] pictures! Adios!

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Fairhope, AL

Although I visit Alabama regularly to see family, I realized I’ve never posted about it! Granted, a lot times we are just hanging out at home, which is totally fine, but we do some fun stuff too!

My last trip down, we had some amazing food. My brother and sister-in-law live in Daphne, AL but her parents live in Fairhope and we spend a lot of time there as well. Especially because Fairhope has an adorable little downtown on the bay and has some great restaurants. That’s also where my last triathlon was a couple years ago!

We had a kid-free dinner on Friday night at Camellia Cafe. Their website is down (and has been), so I apologize for not remembering everything we ordered (which was a lot), but it was all delicious. We started with beverages and appetizers (yes, multiple appetizers). My sister-in-law and I got a delicious drink (sorry, can’t remember what it was!), though it was maybe a little sweet to have more than one. For appetizers we got fried green tomatoes and pot stickers (I can’t remember what was in the pot stickers – I think it was pork belly – but they were very good). My entree was amazing: pan seared duck breast served on polenta (I think it was cheesy) and asparagus.

 

Saturday morning, we took a girls morning and went out for breakfast and errands. The Warehouse in Fairhope is my new favorite place. If you know me at all, you know that breakfast/brunch is my favorite meal, so that is saying something. They have a great menu, whether you want a quick coffee and donut, or to sit and enjoy a filling breakfast. I had chicken and waffles that were to die for. The chicken melted in my mouth and the whipped sriracha butter was a perfect little kick. Highly recommend. Oh and the cold brew coffee was also great – you can have it with milk, chocolate milk, almond milk – pretty much whatever your heart desires.

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Colorado

I had the chance to head to Colorado for work and since I have never set foot in the state, decided I needed to take full advantage. My wonderful friend quickly hopped on board to go with me for the weekend before work started, even though it would a quick one, because she loves Denver. I was a little disappointed that it snowed pretty much the entire weekend – a wet, gross flurry. There were a few breaks, and it definitely affected our potential outings, but don’t worry, we still had a great time.

And let me just say that people in Colorado are the nicest I have ever met. Every hotel employee, restaurant host and server, drivers, park staff, random strangers – all insanely, genuinely nice. Drivers don’t fly 20 mph over the speed limit and they actually stop for pedestrians.

Denver

Despite the weather, we made good use of our time. We got in late Friday so just went straight to the hotel. Important travel tip: the light rail was recently expanded to the airport, so you can take that from the airport to downtown. We did not know this, so we rented a car (the airport is about 25 miles outside the city) but ended up not really needing it. Oh well! We are both morning people and on eastern time, so we were up early on Saturday with nowhere to be until 10am, so we did make use of the car to hop over to Voodoo Doughnut for a nutritious breakfast. Delicious. Cash only. Go early to beat the lines (at 6:30-7ish it was empty). We got ready then hopped on the free 16th Street mall ride bus to Coors Field. We took the stadium tour (still snowing) which was really cool (to me at least). Fun fact of the day – there are heaters under the natural grass field to trick the grass into thinking it’s warmer than it is to make it turn green. What?! After that we met some of my friend’s friends for brunch, then spent the afternoon hitting up some fun brewpubs and bars.

 

Garden of the Gods

Work was in Pueblo, CO 2 hours south of Denver. It was a cute little town, but we were working. Luckily we finished training mid-day on Wednesday and I was staying that night back in Denver to fly out the next morning. The weather cleared and was perfect by Monday (didn’t wear my jacket again after Sunday) and I was itching for some outdoor activities. I drove back through Colorado Springs and made a little detour to Garden of the Gods. It’s more touristy and not ‘hiking’ per say, but talk about beauty. Breathtaking views of the Rockies, incredible rock formations. Instead of driving up, I did do the short “hike” from the visitor center up to the paths, and climbed a little on some of the rocks to just sit and take it all in. Definitely recommend this, especially if you only have a little time to spare and are in or going through Colorado Springs.

 

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Like I said, I am a morning person and am a sucker for sunrises. So I set my alarm nice and early on Thursday morning and drove over to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in the dark. Red Rocks is a completely natural, open-air amphitheater – the only one in the world. There were already a few people there working out when I arrived and the sun was just beginning to paint the sky with it’s colors. I walked around, down to the bottom of the theater, back up to the top, scoping out some good photo spots. Despite the warmer weather all week, it was cold and windy up at the amphitheater, but luckily I had put my sweatshirt on. To get the blood flowing, I ran some of the steps on my way back up and quickly lost my breath. And I’m not completely out of shape. Definitely a good workout. Anyway, I found a good corner at the top and watch the sun slowly rise behind the stage with downtown Denver in the distance. Pictures do not do it any kind of justice, but I tried. It was incredible and nothing but the simple work of God reminding us that there is true beauty remaining in the world. Definitely want to get back to Red Rocks for a concert sometime.

 

I had a great trip, even the work part went well, and I definitely recommend a trip to Colorado, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. I will definitely remain on my list to return to for more outdoor fun and beauty.


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Nicaragua

If you know me personally, you probably know that I have been lucky enough to have done several international service trips in the past 10 years to Guatemala (3 trips) and Haiti (1 trip). Those trips were unforgettable and gave me a chance to not only experience other cultures and grow personally, but to see first-hand both the struggles and strengths of other cultures and people.

Over the past few years, Buckhead Church (a campus of North Point Ministries) has become a very important place to me. I volunteer in the children’s ministry as well as on the Singles Volunteer Team. I have also built wonderful relationships through two different small groups over the years. And this year, I decided to apply for a Global X trip.

June 18-25 this year, I will join 12 others to Nicaragua to serve the people there. I am excited for the relationships that can come out of an experience like this, both within our group and abroad. I am also excited for what we, as a group, can do with the people of Nicaragua, both physically and relationally. We will work with HOI, a nondenominational, nonprofit Christian organization headquartered in Tucker, GA, in Finca el Peten, Nicaragua. Our team will have the opportunity to help with construction projects as well as work with children at VBS.

This trip cannot happen, however, without the support of you, my wonderful and supportive friends and family. I am asked to raise $2,250 and I am asking you for any support you can offer – $5, $20, $100 – no amount is too small or too large, and it’s tax deductible! If you cannot support me financially I totally understand, but do ask for your thoughts and prayers in preparing for this trip.
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Thank you in advance for your support (and for those have already donated) and I can’t wait to share my experience with you later this year!

If you would like to write a check, please contact me for details.

Peace and love,
Katy


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Athens

This is the final post about my trip – are you relieved?! This actually combines the arrival and the end of the trip, both of which took place in Athens.

We arrived in Athens Sunday night around 6pm and met our group and tour director. We checked into the Athenian Callirhoe Hotel, then took a little walking tour to the edge of the Plaka (a neighborhood) for dinner at Plakiotissa, recommended by our tour director (they even had live music!). Being the first night, I of course had to try the local drink of choice: ouzo. I knew I didn’t like licorice flavor, but when in Greece, right?! (I couldn’t finish it.) We wandered a little that night with our new friends, another mother/daughter pair in our group, but didn’t wander too far since we had just arrived and had to get up early the next morning!

Skip ahead a week and we arrived back in Athens Sunday night to the Royal Olympic Hotel. Very swanky. We took a walk to Smile for dinner, also recommended by our first tour director, and had a feast of chicken souvlaki (a very popular local dish – basically chicken skewers but seasoned deliciously). But Monday brought the Athens adventure.

We started the day on a bus tour of the city seeing many sites. The solid marble Panathenaic Stadium was built in 1896 for the first modern Olympic Games and is still used today. We saw a statue of Greece holding Lord Byron, who helped in the war of independence for Greece. We pulled off in front of the Parliament building (the Old Royal Palace) where the tomb of the unknown solider is also. It was time for the guards to change places (but not the full changing of the guards), which was fun to watch. We saw the buildings of the original university and the National Library.

The rest of the guided tour was to the Acropolis of Athens upon which is built the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena (along with other ancient buildings). It was very cool to see the actual Parthenon after visiting the replica in Nashville (yes, Tennessee). It was in the 5th century BC that the construction of these buildings took place. This was a very important place for the Greeks to worship their gods. The architecture is incredible and the views of Athens are breathtaking. After some free time on the Acropolis, Elena took us on a walking tour through the Plaka – lots of shops and beautiful streets. We found a restaurant off the busy streets and had a late lunch with our friends, then wandered over to the newly opened Acropolis Museum. The museum is built on top of ruins of the ancient neighborhoods at the foot of the Acropolis and there are glass walkways and openings to see into these ruins – very cool. And of course there are amazing artifacts in the museum – the coolest of which are the Caryatids of Erechtheum – the statue columns holding up the porch of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis. They have actually pieced together most of them in full. One is housed at the British Museum, the others at the Acropolis Museum.

We wandered back to the hotel, doing a little shopping along the way, did some repacking, wandered around a little (getting lost) and have a late dinner, then getting ready for our 3am wake-up call. Yes, 3am.

I’ve attempted to describe this wonderful country in words and pictures, but you really just have to see Greece in person. Move it to the top of your list (it was top on mine) and just go! If you’ve read this far, I’m very impressed and hope you weren’t bored. But maybe you can refer back here when you plan your own trip!