My Wilsons Travel

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

While here in Tampa for my in-laws 50th Anniversary, my family decided to visit The Florida Aquarium along with my niece and sister-in-law!

I must say this was an awesome little aquarium to checkout.  We went through the whole thing in just abut 3 hours. One of my kids’ favorite things was at the very beginning, where there is a large water pit with piles of crushed shells that you could dig through and search for shark’s teeth, stingray bones, and other fossils.  They really loved this and everyone found at least ONE shark’s tooth!  Just be for-warned that they could get pretty wet!  I bought a shirt from the gift shop because my son got soaked trying to reach down and scoop out shells. They absolutely loved it though and they were so excited when they found a tooth!

There’s always some cool activity to watch or listen to.  We were lucky to be right there when they brought out an African Penguin! My son is OBSESSED with penguins and this really was also one of his highlights.

Another highlight, of course, are the SHARKS! Besides the ocean animals, there were also birds, snakes, frogs, owls, turtles, etc.  Lots of Florida wild life to check out.  The otters were the cutest!  I think maybe they might be my favorite animal now.

We were here on a weekday, so it wasn’t crowded at all.  The only downer for me was NO DOLPHINS!  Florida and no dolphins?  Seemed strange.  But, its still a pretty awesome aquarium and a good activity to get kids away from screens and have fun learning!

I would definitely recommend the Florida Aquarium if in the Tampa Bay area!

So, while on my mini-vacay visiting my brother in Charleston, SC he and his wife introduced me to mouth-watering Texas Style BBQ!  Yep, I said Texas BBQ in Charleston, SC! check out my video for some behind the scenes and into the pits!

Lewis BBQ was the highlight lunch spot, and we weren’t the only ones dying to enter the gates of BBQ heaven either.  The line was wrapping around the building, but it moved super fast. Everybody and their momma wanted some of this stuff.

We sat around our paper mats and dived right into some amazing smoked brisket, beef short ribs, and texas hot guts (housemade sausage)! We also sampled the mac-n-cheese, collard greens, potato salad, and green chile corn pudding.  Oh, did I forget to mention, we totally hit up the bar for cocktails and beer.

All the meat was amazing. There’s no doubt about that. The sides were pretty good. I thought the collard greens for a little too sweet for me, however my sisters loved it. The macaroni and cheese was my favorite!

It was an awesome, flavorful lunch and I must say the best BBQ I’ve ever had…. I think Texas BBQ might have won me over that good ol’ carolina style…

After lunch, the Pit Master himself, John Lewis, gave us a tour of his smoke house. Walking into the smokehouse was like walking into the depths of hell.. IT WAS HOT… but the smell was oh so HEAVENLY… There were rows and rows of smokers and tons of meat getting prepared to be devoured by all the BBQ lovers that were waiting in that long line that was beginning to snake around the building.

You can really tell that BBQ is John Lewis’s passion and there’s no question about it, he deserves every honor and award he’s gotten. He’s totally the King of Texas BBQ.

My sister and I drove up Charleston, SC from Florida to visit my baby Brother and his new wife!  I have never been to this awesome city and my brother was super excited to take us to one of his favorite spots in the area, R Kitchen.  It stands for Rutledge Kitchen, or “OUR” Kitchen, or Ross’s Kitchen.  It could also totally stand for REALLY REALLY AWESOME!

www.youtube.com/watch

The concept is amazing and the food is delicious and the menu is always different. You never know what you’re going to get here. It’s around $30 for a 5 course meal hand picked by your chef. The atmosphere is very intimate with just a handful of people sitting around an open bar area where the chefs prepare and plate your food. The wine is plentiful and included! The music for the night was definitely my style.

I would definitely recommend this place for some fun adult time. I would definitely not bring kids here, unless they had some sort of kids theme dinner or something, but not sure if they do that…

The menu for the night was: SOUP, MACnCheese, Ramen, Chicken, and Chocolate Something…. LOL  I can’t wait to go back one day.

Oh. I had to post a pic of the awesome pin up girls I saw in the bathroom. Forgot to get a pic of the other wall which has tons of foods and recipes. Chef Devin calls it Food Porn. LOVE IT!

Let me first give you a bit of background on me. I’m American born East Indian. I’ve never been to India yet but when I go see my parents in Southern Virginia, a vegetarian Indian feast is what we have every day for lunch.

Now it’s very hard to find Indian food that is like home. Its kinda like what they say about Chinese food…. it’s not REAL Chinese food. Same goes for Indian. For me that is.

Well, I found this little gem in Tampa. It’s delicious. It’s real! It’s almost like home.

Royal Sweets and Fast Food was awesome. The ladies in there are so sweet and nice. The place is a hole in the wall, nothing fancy. But the food was good!

My sister and I shared a few things.

Pani Puri (you have to just put the whole bad boy in your mouth and experience the explosion of flavors)

Somosa Chaat (this was a vegetarian Somosa covered with goodness. Think of it as an Indian enchilada)

Rava Dosa (these are like crispy crepes that you can fill with the spiced potatoes, and a few other toppings like sambar which is like a yummy vegetarian gravy, coconut chutney, and another red chutney)

Besides that they have countless Indian sweets and Indian trail mixes to fill all your hearts desires.

Check it out.

This place is awesome. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who would like to try some authentic Indian food.

So for our summer 2017 trip we decided to hit up Turks and Caicos.  It was amazing!

Normally we stay at all inclusive resorts and book at least 2 rooms. Its such a bummer that most places have occupancy of max 4. What about us crazy moms that have more than 2 kids?  So, this time I decided to use HomeAway.com and look for a vacation rental.  Turks and Caicos is an excellent destination for having a vacation rental.  I chose a 2 bed/2 bath condo at The Ocean Club West.

The Ocean Club West:  

  1. The location is prime. Its walking distance to the grocery store and many restaurants. We did NOT rent a car.
  2. The condo itself was great for us because it has SPACE! The kids loved it because they said its like having a home at the beach. I really loved this better than staying in a regular hotel/resort because you have space! Also, we are late risers, here you can make your own meals at your own time.  Beats having to wake up late and eat lunch stuff for breakfast because we missed the breakfast times. So I made breakfast for the crew every morning before heading out for the day. Also I should say its really hit or miss on the comfort level of beds, etc. since the rentals are privately owned.  My sister-in-law came with us and she slept on the pull-out which she said was rather uncomfortable. And I didn’t think our bed was all that comfortable either, compared to Choice hotels or Hyatts and Marriotts. Also, the other down side is the cleaning.  Being that you come in from the beach every day, there’s an exorbitant amount of sand on the floors. Also you have to clean up after you cook, etc. etc.  Its like being at home to an extent.  I also wished that I found a condo with a balcony so Boss and I could hang out for some quiet time.
  3. The OCW pool was awesome. The kids favorite part of the day was going to the pool.  They would much rather be there than the beach. We took our Beats by Dre speaker down and found us a nice spot, blasted some music and watched the kids jump into the pool over and over again. IT WAS AWESOME. I’m glad I took my underwater camera because I got some awesome shots of them. I’m also so extremely thankful that my kids have been in swim classes because this has made vacationing so much better!  Just a few years ago, my Wild and Fire would hang on to my neck anytime they were in the water, which made my time not so relaxing! Now I can just sit back and relax and watch them go wild. There was no swim-up-bar here but the bar is right by the beach and it was great. They had good food and good drinks. We ended up eating lunch here most days.
  4. The OCW beach is absolutely beautiful. The sand is soft and silky, the pink umbrella’s really made for beautiful pictures, and the water was calm and warm and crystal clear. There was always umbrellas available. We never had to play “the towel game” at the beach or the pool for that matter. The kids found tiny crab and built sand castles. It was very relaxing. Of course the difference here vs. a resort is that there’s no food/drink service on the beach. But not really a big problem, I just sent Boss to the bar to get me a Mojito. It was all good!

Food:

  1. So as far as food goes. I made the family breakfast every morning. I am so glad that I brought one whole suitcase full of food and supplies with me because the prices at the Graceway Gourmet grocery store are EXPENSIVE! Mainly because everything is imported and the island’s soil does not allow for any crops to grow. So even fruits and veggies are expensive.  I made pancakes for the kids from the mix I brought with me and made them bacon and eggs with apples that I bought from the store. I also made spaghetti and pasta salad so we can have some food for quick lunches and even dinners for the kids. Examples of what I brought with me: tuna, pasta, salad dressing, mayo/ketchup, salt/pepper/sugar/seasonings, pancake mix, snacks, granola bars, instant coffee, dish detergent, sponge, laundry pods, hand soap, toilet paper, wipes, etc.
  2. Crackpot Kitchen – The restaurant is super close to OCW, however, we only ate there once. The food was ok but it was just uncomfortable sitting there. There is outside seating and inside too (I think) but we were seated outside. It was HOT and the flies were relentless. The kids weren’t having it! They didn’t care for the food and it was pretty pricey.
  3. Turks Kebabs – We actually ate here a couple of nights and my vegetarian sister-in-law was also pleased with their falafels.  The food was good and the ambiance was great too. They make their own hot sauce here and its AWESOME!
  4. CocoVan – This was absolutely AMAZING. Boss and I came here by ourselves and it was so dang good! Our favorite by far. We couldn’t get reservations for CocoBistro, but I’m sure that is probably just as good if this food truck was that great. There is outdoor seating here and the ambiance is very nice. A little bit of a walk from OCW, but not bad at all. Awesome date night.

Excursions:

  1. Provo Ponies – This was the highlight of Peace’s vacation. She and I went for some mommy/daughter time and I’m so glad we did. I definitely would recommend this excursion for older, patient kids. The ride down to the beach was beautiful and going into the water was an experience I’ll never forget and I’m sure my daughter will always treasure. She found it wildly hilarious when the horses began to poop in the ocean!  LOL  The people that care for the horses really do a lot of hard work and they love the horses! The horses seem very happy too!
  2. Caicos Dream Tours – Our whole family did the Dream Day Getaway package. It was a full day with snorkeling, BBQ lunch, and discovering!  Everything was awesome and so were the crew onboard. Peace snorkeled for the first time and she loved it. Wild got in the water for a bit and got right back out. And little Fire didn’t attempt it. The waves were a bit rocky so it was totally understandable. However, even without snorkeling this tour is awesome because it takes you to a couple of spots where you can get out and search for sand dollars, star fish, and iguanas! My kids found a GIANT STARFISH and they were so excited! The BBQ lunch was also fantastic, the captain cooked while we explored the little island.

All in all, I would say this was one of my favorite family vacations. We all were able to relax and have a good time being together. We probably would not do a return visit, only because there’s so much more of the world to see. Stay tuned!