Monday, January 26, 2015

Everyday Things to do and See on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

It's January or maybe February in the northern hemisphere. The holidays are over, and suddenly snow isn't quite so merry. The cold seems more biting than crisp. This is when I dream of beaches and tropical breezes to transport me to that summer siesta I crave without wishing months of my life away. That dream might take me to Grace Bay on Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos.

Providenciales, called Provo locally, was rated the best beach destination in the world by TripAdvisor in 2011. I have my own favorites elsewhere, but I won't hotly argue the point. The electric-blue waters surrounding the islands, technically part of the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Caribbean, are simply stunning. The Turks and Caicos are geographically part of the Bahamas Islands group (or vice versa), but--resorts aside--the T&C have an upscale, much less developed and tacky feel than many parts of their Disneyfied northern neighbor.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tips for Surviving a Domestic (or International) Home Relocation

So you’re moving, maybe even to a different country. Whether on your own or supported by a corporate relocation package, there’s bound to be a lot on on your mind: “Where can we settle that gets me to work quickly? Should we rent or buy? Are there subdivisions close to services and nightlife? Is it a safe location for me and my family?” Moving house is one of the most stressful life events people can go through. It’s often ranked right up there with the loss of a loved one, job loss, or serious illness. Our family has moved multiple times (6) in the last few years due to job relocations, and our experience has been that there a lot of resources that address your big questions. But here are some tips beyond the standard relocation firm checklist we wish we had known about before first-hand experience.

Getting Around
Map reading skills are invaluable, but if you're moving to an unfamiliar place consider investing in a car GPS (rent one if you're doing a house-hunting trip far from your current home). Nowadays, a Smart phone's maps app can serve the same purpose.

Relocation is stressful enough without getting lost, especially if it's a new country with different traffic rules. Windshield wipers in bright sunshine or sudden, erratic turn signals when it’s overcast are dead giveaways of the driver on a new side of the road. I have vivid memories of learning to drive on the opposite side of the road in Perth, Western Australia while my wife frantically tried to navigate with the UBD (the road directory that came with our rental). Our suggestion to cover the cost of a car GPS  to my HR department was adopted for subsequent expats, one of whom gratefully thanked me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Picture of the Moment - Uluru as it Normally Is

Okay, it's not normally cloudy at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and I didn't capture the brilliant hues of sunrise or sunset, when the big monolith lights up like fire. But that's why I like this pedestrian picture of one of the world's iconic places, it's my memory.

So what if it's not calendar-worthy? This is my Uluru. And, it's hard to find commercial photography of the place that captures the typical terra cotta palette like this. Everyone is looking for the money shot. But even on an overcast day it rises from the vast desert plain like a supernatural sentinel.

Do you cherish an equally humdrum photo of a special place you visited?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Photo Essay - Valley of the Winds Walk at Kata Tjuta

There's another whole aspect of the Red Centre in central Australia besides the iconic Ayer's Rock. The name Kata Tjuta may not have the musical quality of Uluru, and even the English designation, "Olgas," is suggestive of an ugly stepmother. The Pitjantjatjara phrase Kata Tjuta means "many heads," and there are 36 of these steep domes of bald rock an hour's drive west of Uluru, in Australia's Northern Territory.

But the Valley of the Winds loop walk (7.4 km) at Kata Tjuta is an equally spectacular alternative to Uluru, without the crowds. It should not be missed by any visitor to this jewel of Australia blessed with the physical capability. We went on one of only a handful of overcast days in any given year, but the site of monolithic domes shrouded in morning mist is its own unique experience.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The World's Most Beautiful Beach?

Who is the world's most beautiful woman? Where is the most livable city? The combination of individual answers to only a handful of such subjective questions is unique to any one person. I'm not sure my personal preference can be effectively weighed against someone else's. And, popularity doesn't always equal "best."

So it is with "best beach." Best for swimming, surf or snorkelling? Most beautiful? Most secluded or best to be seen at? Myself, I might have a different answer for each scenario, so I'm always puzzled by Internet lists on popular websites (CNN or such) that attempt to quantify such a thing, sometimes with a different top-ten list every year. Just how does a beach drop or gain in rank? Was there a lot of erosion this year?