Sunday, January 18, 2015

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

All three of the U.S. Virgin Islands have a very different vibe. St. Thomas has the nightlife, the cruise ships and the big-name resorts. St. John has the outdoorsy activities, the hiking and the snorkeling. St. Croix is where you'll find remnants of the Danish influence - historic towns, pastel buildings and lots and lots of expats.

We stayed at three different hotels during our USVI visit (two on St. Thomas) and our stay on St. Croix, at Renaissance St. Croix Carambola, was my favorite. It's a trek to get there - up a mountain, along winding roads, but so worth the trip. Renaissance Carambola is secluded and quiet. The beach amenities aren't as luxurious as what you'll find at Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, naturally, but it's a pretty and clean beach with plenty of space and chairs.

The drinks are fairly priced, the food is really good (the dinner menu was actually downright impressive, I thought!) and the resort is beautifully designed with dark wood finishing, billowing white curtains and spacious rooms. It's a very lush, tropical setting. The staff was friendly, helpful and chatty. I loved it!

If you have some time to kill on St. Croix, definitely visit the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Tours aren't particularly earth-shattering, but the distillery is a local point of pride and it's a cool 45-minute-or-so geek-out session. For $8, you get the tour plus four tastings and two full drinks in the bar afterward! In one visit, we snagged up cheap souvenirs (duty free booze!), tasted really good rum, got introduced to the wonder that is Velvet Cinn and learned where bananas really come from. (Random, I know.)

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me and Stjepan Alaupovic
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Our day exploring St. John had a lot of those "I don't ever want to forget this" moments. First, it's absolutely beautiful. Sixty percent of the island is a natural preserve, so it's mostly emerald-green, overgrown foliage that cascades from the mountaintop down into white sandy beaches and crystal-blue waters.

Second, it's super easy to reach from St. Thomas...just a quick (and scenic!) 20-minute ferry ride. Because our trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands was a relatively quick one, we decided to only overnight on St. Thomas and St. Croix. If I could do it all over again, I'd probably opt out of staying on St. Thomas and just split my time between St. John and St. Croix. Nothing wrong with St. Thomas - it's just a little more built-up than the others and St. John is, well, everything they say it is.

If you plan on trekking around St. John, I recommend hiring a taxi service. We (me, the husband, my brother and my sister-in-law) worked with a man named Kenneth Louis and he was great. (He's a preferred vendor of the USVI tourism board.) We did a kayaking, hiking and snorkeling tour with VI Ecotours, which was awesome because it gave us access to the otherwise very exclusive Caneel Bay. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen! The water was perfect. The kayak over to the beach from the meeting spot is really pretty and the hike - albeit too long in my opinion (really, you should be in the water as much as humanly possible in a place like St. John!) - was an interesting view into island life.

(Plus, we saw deer at the Caneel Bay Resort!)

It was one of those perfect-weather days and I didn't want to get out of the water. My brother loves anything to do with snorkeling and seeing as how we don't see each other much these days (he's still in AZ), I was mostly just happy to have the time with him. The little things, you know?

The sun was just starting to set as the four of us kayaked back to the meeting spot from Caneel Bay. I'll never forget that fiery sunset or the clear Caribbean water...or the fact that I got to see it with three of my favorite people paddling alongside me.

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me and Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: VI Ecotours

Monday, January 5, 2015

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

It's been a gross pattern of snow, freezing rain and in-your-face wind here in New York City lately, so in an effort to at least mentally escape, I started combing through pictures from our U.S. Virgin Islands trip last August.

As fate would have it, we were able to line things up so that we could visit at the same time as my sister-in-law and brother, so the four of us got to spend a few days together enjoying the island vibe. Our first night was at the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas and we just spent our stay on the beach, which, as you can imagine at a resort like that one, was pretty perfect: plenty of lounge chairs, free standup paddle boards and snorkeling gear, and a full day of sun and blue skies.

The sunny weather was a happy treat considering a hurricane had come through the islands just days before our trip. That's the trade off when you go during low season - less crowds and less hassle, but a risk of storms. As a result, the island dealt with rolling power outages for the first two days of our trip, but it really wasn't anything too bad. It was resolved fairly quickly and then we enjoyed a stretch of great beach days.

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas

Monday, December 8, 2014

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I wish I had had more time in Charlottesville. The few days that I spent in Virginia were mostly packed with back-to-back site visits of destination wedding venues. That's what most people don't tell you about travel writing - when you're on assignment, you're lucky to spend an hour in any one place.

In fact, you're often rushing from appointment to appointment, connecting with and interviewing sources, snapping photos for reference, burying your head in a notebook, trying to write down all of the things that you'll need to remember for that article that's due next week, next month, maybe a year from now. It's a lot of fun, but it's no vacation.

Travel writing is my job, but it's also something that I love to do. So, I've decided to try and slow down on my trips and take the time to really enjoy a moment when it draws me in. In Charlottesville, that moment was the two hours (!!!) we spent at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. After a lunch of cheese, brick-oven pizza and an arugula salad (for good measure), we took advantage of the free picnic blankets they hand out to guests and sat down with our bottle to take in the rolling hills of fall foliage.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

How do I describe the vibe at Pippin Hill? I'm not even sure...it just...was. It was busy enough to have a good flow, but not too busy to where you couldn't find your own plot of grass on the lawn. There were couples, groups of friends, families with infants flailing about happily in their Baby Bjorns. There was a carefree Saturday afternoon buzz in the air. Staff was friendly; not for the tips, but because they just are friendly in Virginia. It was perfect.

Pippin Hill is owned by a husband and wife team. He's got a background in advertising and she's a local weddings expert. It makes total sense. They've nailed it as far as hospitality goes...and it's not all about the superficial. Pippin Hill is absolutely beautiful, yes, but the food is also delicious and the wine is great.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

While in Charlottesville, we stayed at The Boar's Head Inn, another place I would have loved to spend more time. It's charming, comfortable and very low-key - the kind of inn where guests congregate in the living room for coffee every morning and tea and pastries every afternoon. Our room was cozy but also very modern and it looked out onto the lake.

We woke up early one morning to take a walk around the property and ended up chatting with a couple who's daughter is going to college here in New York City. They were both UVA alums, in town for the big homecoming game that weekend, and en route to catch a party bus that was taking them to the stadium. They almost missed it because they were giving me their recommendations on other beautiful wedding venues to check out for my story. This is Virginia, friends.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I also wanted to mention - on our ride up to Charlottesville from Richmond, we made a stop at Tuckahoe Plantation (pictured up top). It's Thomas Jefferson's childhood home. Now, the family that lives in the house rents the outdoor spaces for weddings and special events. The Southwestern girl in me still can't believe places like this exist...

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: Virginia Is For Lovers

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

On a trip to Virginia in October, I spent a few days in Richmond. Most of the time was reserved for touring the city's weddings venues as part of research for a story, but I did manage to sneak in a few nerdy-fun history stops, The Virginia State Capitol being one of them (where a lot of movies have been shot, including Lincoln...they used it as The White House).

I hopped on a Segway to tour the city's other historical landmarks and of course made sure to try out some of Richmond's best restaurants. My favorite was Comfort, where Chef Travis Milton's Appalachian family recipes take center stage. During a site tour at Maymont, a preserved 1800s mansion with vast lawns and beautiful views, I spotted one of the coolest and most ornate beds (IT'S A SWAN!) I've ever seen.

Fall was in full swing during my visit and I'll never forget the colors that I saw peeping out around the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: Virginia Is For Lovers

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Somehow it's already Dec. 4. I say this every time, but I really don't know where this year has gone! Is it possible to ever get to a place where "busy" isn't the first adjective you use to describe life? I really freaking hope so. I need to stop saying "Oh, good, busy..." in response to "How are you?" Maybe that will be a New Year's resolution. Add it to the list!

Any way, it's been a year of very happy travels. One trip I never got the chance to share on my blog, but wrote about for Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, is Mexico's Riviera Nayarit. I can't say enough how much I loved my time here. It's a beautiful region with some of the most delicious food I've ever had.

I stayed a couple of nights at the St. Regis Punta Mita, where the design and architecture were great, but also where I spent most of my time at the pool or at the Mita Mary food boat...fresh seafood caught from off the shores and then served up just minutes later. I also caught the staff setting up for a beach dinner reception just before sunset.

Even though I would have been perfectly happy with my beach --> pool --> Mita Mary food boat routine for those few days, I did make it a point to venture off into Nayarit's charming towns: the laid back, surf-town happiness of Sayulita (choco-banana!), charming Bucerias (tuna tartare on the beach at El Brujo), and artsy San Pancho (where I didn't get a pic, but lunch at Don Pedros is a must).

Enjoy the pics, friends.

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Riviera Nayarit

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

During my stay at Disney Aulani Resort & Spa, I did venture off property one day for a few delicious hours on Oahu's North Shore. The group and I made a stop to visit some sea turtles, hiked to Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau historic site for scenic views, and then went to Haleiwa for much-needed Matsumoto shave ice and, of course, a stop at the Leonard's Bakery truck (in the K-Mart parking lot!) for some pillowy malasadas, aka Portuguese donuts. (These.)

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Oahu's North Shore - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: North Shore