Tag Archives: Family Vacation

A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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What’s a Trip to Jamaica Without Some Good Jerk Chicken?

Photos of the outside of Scotchies Restaurant in Jamaica

While nothing is more Canadian than having a cold beer and watching hockey, there are probably not many more things that are more Jamaican than drinking a Red Stripe and eating jerk chicken. As mentioned in my last blog, when it was time for lunch everybody that I was with wanted to go for good jerk chicken. Thankfully, when it came to finding a good restaurant, we knew we were in good hands. We were spending the day with Patrice Bailey, a well-known tour guide in the area and she highly recommended Scotchies Jamaican Restaurant.

Scotchies is a small restaurant chain with three or four locations on the island. They specialize in making authentic jerk chicken by placing it on a wood fire, covered with bamboo. While the food is cooked low and slow, you really can’t beat it, whether you order chicken, ribs, or any of their side dishes. Everything comes out hot, fresh and right off the grill!

The price is ridiculously reasonable. At Scotchies you pay for your food, find a table to dine at and pick up your meal when it is ready. While the service may have been a bit slow (hey…good food takes time!), I was really impressed at how clean the employees kept the seating area. As soon as guests left, employees rushed to clean off the tables, so they would be available for other guests.

One thing that I always look for in a restaurant is whether locals are also eating at the establishment. Since more than half of the people eating at Scotchies were locals, if the food keeps them coming back, it clearly has a good reputation. In fact, we didn’t arrive at the restaurant until after 2 pm and the place was still packed with a lunch time crowd!

If you get down to the area, I suggest grabbing lunch or dinner at Scotchies. Sun… ✓, fun… ✓, and good food… ✓!

Scotchies Jamaican Restaurant
876-953-8041
Scotchies on Trip Advisor

 

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Ja’ Makin me Happy…Patrice Bailey!

Photo of Patrice Bailey on one of her Falmouth Tours

Last year, I got to know Patrice Bailey when I began planning a day trip for my family to explore the area near the Port of Falmouth in Jamaica. Our cruise ship was docking there for the day and I wanted to plan an excursion to make the most out of our stay, since my research showed that the port was located in the middle of nowhere with nothing really around it.

While I was surfing the web for ideas, a tour guide by the name of Patrice Bailey kept coming up…and with great reviews, I decided to send her a short email. Within a few hours, I was communicating with Patrice by phone and email, and we made an arrangement to hire one of her colleagues to drive us from Falmouth to a beach in Montego Bay, since she herself was fully booked. When we arrived at the port, Patrice introduced herself with hugs all around before sending us on our way, with our tour guide. We immediately felt like family.

Our tour guide was really friendly and he even managed to give us a short tour of the area before taking us back to the ship. He also took us to a great local place for Jamaican patties, which was the icing on the cake!

Flash forward to 2017 and I gave Patrice a call when we chose a cruise revisiting Falmouth. Since we had developed more of a personal friendship over the last year, during our numerous email exchanges, I invited Patrice to lunch as a thank you for planning a great trip the year before. Patrice accepted the invitation but when we arrived, she surprised us with an entire day of fun filled activities.

Patrice took us on a tour of the area, which included the neighbourhood that Usain Bolt grew up in, as well as a couple of gorgeous lookout points. We then went to a secluded beach, where there were only a few other people nearby and you could see blue water and white sand for miles. When we were ready for lunch, we asked her about good, local jerk chicken. Patrice said, for really good jerk chicken, she would only take us to one place and that began our 45 minute drive to Scotchies… more about that in my next blog.

After our great lunch, Patrice showed us a few beach clubs that we can visit on future trips and took us back to the port where we hugged and promised to keep in touch.

Being in the hospitality industry, I typically make friends wherever I go, but I have met my match in Patrice. If you are looking for someone to make your experience in Falmouth amazing, Patrice Bailey is definitely the way to go. She is really easy to deal with, professional, reasonably priced and a barrel of fun!

Patrice Bailey Tours
1-876-509-7542
patbailey52@yahoo.com
www.patricebailey.com

 

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Dive with Martin… I Did!

Cozumel Scuba Diving and Contest Alert

Many of the cruises I have taken over the past few years have docked at a port located in Cozumel, Mexico.  When I visit the area,  I normally go scuba diving.   Cozumel is known for having beautiful diving conditions…so why wouldn’t I take advantage of it?

When I was there last year with my wife and daughter, we decided to book a snorkeling excursion, since neither of them scuba dive.  While there were dozens of local businesses to choose from, we chose to go on an excursion with Dive with Martin, since it was located right at the pier and they provide both scuba diving and snorkeling packages at a great price.

This year when we were returning to Cozumel, I decided to call Dive with Martin to see what kind of deals they could offer us.  Once again, they provided us with a better price than the other dive shops and even included the cost of the rental equipment in the low price.

I have been very pleased with Dive with Martin as a company.  They provide good quality equipment and fabulous customer service.  All of their instructors are qualified, competent, friendly and professional and they always take us to great dive sites.

As an added bonus, they let my wife and daughter come along on the boat for a nominal fee, so they could snorkel along the surface while my friend and I went drift diving.  To make my wife and daughter feel more comfortable, the captain of the boat kept moving the boat closer to them as they drifted away from the boat.  This was a nice touch and and truly went above and beyond to see to it that they felt comfortable and safe while snorkeling.

If you decide to make a reservation at Dive with Martin, they have an associate working in the United States who can help you book your reservation.  If you call… tell Paddie that David Lipton from Toronto says, “Hello”!

Dive with Martin
503-949-5985 (USA)
503-949-5985 (Mexico)
www.divewithmartin.com

Contest Alert:
Our friends at Mexico Xpertz are having a contest where they are giving away a trip to Mexico to one lucky follower.  To enter the contest click here.

 

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The Galveston Express Will Impress

Galveston Express Bus

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to begin a series of blogs about some great services and businesses I encountered during my recent vacation. As with all of my blogs, I will be highlighting both large companies and small businesses.

For many years I have gone on a number of cruises. Most of the time when I go on a cruise, I sail out of Florida ports, such as Miami or Fort Lauderdale, however, recently my family and I decided to try something different when we found a well-priced cruise sailing out of Galveston, Texas.

Unlike the Florida ports, where it only takes a short cab ride to get to the ship, the Port of Galveston is more challenging to get to since it is located about 45 minutes away from Houston Hobby Airport. After doing some research, it became clear, it was going to cost anywhere from $30.00 to $50.00 each way, per person, to get to and from the port.

With this in mind, my wife and friend found a company that was on the lower side of the price scale – The Galveston Express. Not knowing what to expect, we booked our tickets and hoped for the best. We arrived at the airport pick-up location 30 minutes before our scheduled departure time and were delighted when our shuttle arrived 15 minutes early.

The driver was very polite, professional, and organized. He helped load all of the passenger luggage into the vehicle and had a list of all the people who had a booking on this particular trip. The shuttle itself was a newer vehicle, very comfortable and well air conditioned. We had a great drive down to the port.

After our trip, once again, the driver arrived at the port 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I really like this business practice. It puts customers minds at ease, knowing they did not miss their shuttle.

The Galveston Express provides excellent customer service, current model vehicles, and the most reasonably priced transportation within the Houston area.

While I’m not sure I would sail out of Galveston again, because of the added expense ($180.00 for a family of three) and unpredictable weather, I would not hesitate to use the Galveston Express if I was in need of a transportation provider.

Galveston Express
409-762–4397
www.galvestonexpress.com

 

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