33 Things

Sunday was my birthday, I turned 30 *ahem* and-a-few-more… and I thought that it was the ideal opportunity to open up and tell you a bit about myself. So here goes nothing!

1. The only perfume I’ll wear is Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Eau de Parfum. (I’ve been wearing it for 17 years now and recently massively freaked out when I was struggling to find the EDP any time I passed through duty free (the EDT will do at a push, but it totally doesn’t smell the same…) I have since been reassured that it hasn’t been discontinued (but I’m still tempted to buy in bulk to be on the safe side.) Possibly you could accuse me of being unadventurous and set in my ways, but hey – I likes what I likes.

2. I passed my Grade 8 trumpet exam (but haven’t really played it since – which I’m pretty devastated about) and was a complete band geek at school; big band, orchestra and choir (even though I can barely sing a note…)

3. I suffer from terrible stage fright (which probably contributed to me no longer playing the trumpet) and any kind of performance or public speaking (no matter how informal) leaves me shaking.

4. I’ll eat pretty much anything – with the exception of tripe and baked beans (truly the devil’s creation) and maybe weird crunchy bugs/scorpions (although I’m not completely ruling it out)

5. Following on from point #4 – I am a massive foodie, eating out and cooking (and drinking) are pretty much my favourite things to do and where most of my disposable income goes (read: is the reason that I don’t have any savings).

6. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life it would probably have to be pasta! No, wait – cheese… No, pasta. Okay – pasta with cheese. Seriously though, creamy, cheesy pasta makes me ridiculously happy, especially when served with a generous dusting of freshly cracked black pepper and a chilled glass of white wine.

7. Still on the food topic – I am totally missing my sweet tooth! Which is fortunate as I already have far too many vices (yes cheese and wine, I’m talking about you… again…)

8. I’m a perfectionist – but to the degree that it hampers me in every day life since I don’t like to try or show anyone something unless I know that I’ll be good at it… I like to be good at things! This is something that I’m trying to work on and any advice is much appreciated.

9. Conversely to point #8, I’m hugely messy. I don’t mean to be, I’d love to be tidier (and my husband would love that too) but I just never seem to have enough time/have too many clothes, handbags, shoes/not enough storage space.

10. I am the typical Taurean – passionately loyal with a love for food and the finer things, creative, reliable, stubborn and utterly bull-headed. Anything you’ve ever read about a Taurus female is likely 110% true for me.

11. I’ve been with my husband for 7-years and married for two – he’s my best friend, my favourite person and there’s no one I would rather be on this crazy adventure with! You can read a little more about us (and see a few wedding pics) here.

12. I’ve been living in the BVI for 9-years, straight out of university. It was the age old story – girl meets boy – boy convinces her to move across the Atlantic – boy breaks up with girl – girl decides to stay anyway because she’d made so many friends… 🙂

13. Speaking of university I studied Italian and spent a year attending L’Universita Di Pisa, living in Tuscany.

14. I’m the biggest wimp. I shut my eyes (and cover my ears) and hide under the dogs during scary movies.

15. Speaking of the dogs – we have 2, my sweet old Roxy girl (who we think is nearly 12) and the 70lb wuss that is Oscar – you can see more of their Caribbean adventures on my Instagram here.

16. I’ve never managed not to cry at a wedding… and not polite, pretty, dainty tears! Big, ugly, dribbly crying which is pretty embarrassing when I’m sobbing my way through their vows as a bridesmaid. (Recently this reached new frontiers when one of my best friends sent me the video of her wedding ceremony and I cried my way through that too).

17. I’ve been a bridesmaid 7 times, three times as a child and four times as an adult.

18. Weddings are one of my favourite things and when I finished university being a wedding planner was my chosen career – buuuuut then I moved to an island and got sidetracked…

19. I have a pretty big phobia of sharks – which can limit the amount of fun I have swimming/snorkeling around my tropical island.

20. I have zero hand-eye coordination and can’t play tennis (or any other racket sport) to save my life. I am not good at this.

21. I suffer from chronic resting bitch face – sooooooo many times people have met me and confessed that they thought I hated them or was really grumpy/unfriendly… I’m not, I promise… (except maybe if you wake me) which brings me to…

22. I could sleep professionally – I’m just waiting for it to become an Olympic sport or something that would legitimately pay by the hour… any amount of light, movement, noise or crowd – I can sleep! I am nearly impossible to wake. I am seriously talented at sleeping… zzz

23. I love, love, love to travel – in the last couple of years I’ve finally woken up to the fact that travel is truly the best thing that money can buy. Sadly it doesn’t stop me from buying expensive handbags… but I’ve started prioritizing experiences and trips with my husband.

24. I squirrel away interesting facts and trivia which means that my brain is full of useless information but also means I’m quite good at pub quizzes.

25. I’m fiercely independent and have been since childhood (sorry Mum!) – I can and I will change that tyre (in white jeans and heels, if necessary – yes, that happened) or that fuse, I can (but often forget to) check my oil and I will figure out how to get most everything done (even if it involves a quick Google first) but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a helping hand from time to time.

26. I have terrible taste in television. I’m currently mid-way through a Grey’s Anatomy marathon (it had been 9 years since I had last seen an episode so you can only imagine how many I had to catch up on…) and it is driving my husband mental! (Sorry. Not sorry.) When we first met it took him a couple of years to successfully wean me off KUWTK… and I like to binge watch Come Dine With Me and First Dates until my eyes bleed. I’m fascinated by the dynamics between people and with relationships.

27. I love to people watch! When I lived in Italy one of my favourite past times was grabbing a coffee, sitting in a sunny piazza and watching the world go by. I do it here too, except now it’s a beach bar… I get this habit from my mother!

28. I taught myself basic sign language – including the alphabet and some very random words and phrases… swimming costume, orange juice, umbrella… It’s safe to say I won’t be holding any long conversations any time soon.

29. I’ve been wearing my cat-eye eye makeup (and using the same brand of eyeliner) for half of my life.

30. I’m rose gold obsessed! I think I (and everyone around me) was hoping that it was just a phase… but I’m fairly certain that it’s here to stay… what can I say? I’m just that basic!

31. Professionally I work very hard at taking care of other people’s life admin, their travel, their plans, their renewals, their deadlines. It requires me to be very organised and juggle a lot of different things. Personally I am exceptionally bad at taking care of my own life admin, recently letting my passport expire for an irresponsibly long time, losing my marriage certificate etc… (it’s not actually lost, it’s just in a really, really, really safe place…)

32. I use the phonetic (military) alphabet daily.

33. I have one baby sister, who I adore! I am lucky to have the most wonderful supportive family, who give me both roots and wings. But I do miss them terribly! Though we’re now scattered across the globe (and across many time zones), I know that they’re only a phone call away. Plus, now we have a few exotic places to meet up!

So there you have it – 33 things that you probably didn’t need to know about me! But now you do…

Any little idiosyncrasies that you can share that will make me feel better about being quite so weird?

Charlie x

48 hrs on Virgin Gorda

No trip to the British Virgin Islands would be complete with a visit to the beautiful island of Virgin Gorda. Home to one of our most recognizable tourist attractions – The Baths.

But the sad reality is that so much of the rest of what Virgin Gorda has to offer gets overlooked in favour of a visit to our famous monolithic building-sized boulders and I want to show you what else you should be including on your tour.

To explore Virgin Gorda properly I would suggest that you need a minimum of 36-48 hours – that should give you just enough time to hit our beaches, enjoy some meals, tour the Baths and get over to the North Sound and the outer islands.

Follow me – I’ll show you around!

First things first – in order to really explore Virgin Gorda you’re probably going to need a car. The friendly taxi drivers are very good if you’re looking for the odd trip but, if you’re going backwards and forwards over Gorda Peak and in and around the Valley, a rental will likely prove more cost effective. There are a few good rental companies about including L&S, who will meet you at the dock and Speedy’s who will give you a small discount on one of their cars if you came over on the ferry with them.

Secondly – where are you going to stay? If you arrived on a charter boat then you’ll have your own comfy quarters, but if you’re just popping over for the weekend you’ll be looking for a roof over your head. Keep in mind that Virgin Gorda is made up of two main areas, the Valley and the North Sound, you’ll need to decide which one you want to base yourself in.

For those that wish to stay in The Valley a comfortable and family-friendly option is Guavaberry Spring Bay – a little resort made up of affordable one, two and three bedroom wooden cottages nestled among the boulders. Each charming little house is fully equipped with kitchen, living area, bathroom and patio deck and some of the cottages are available with a/c at a small extra cost.

If you fancy something a little more luxurious, perfect for a romantic weekend getaway, I suggest that the newly renovated, and super chic bedrooms, at Saba Rock would be the perfect spot to lay your head. Many of them feature gorgeous balconies ideal for enjoying a glass of champagne and taking in the views of the North Sound.

Virgin Gorda also has a host of beautiful rental villas available for larger groups but many of them will have a minimum stay stipulation.

Okay, now we have the logistics out of the way – let’s start building your itinerary! (I’m going to base this around a weekend, but many of these items can equally be done Monday-Friday too).

Day 1 – 

We’ve already discussed the fact that you need to visit the Baths, to miss them would be a complete travesty. But before you head off on that little hike you’re going to need to fuel up. So let’s start with breakfast at Top of the Baths.

Normally I’m hesitant to try a restaurant so close to one of the sights – wary of falling into a tourist trap, but Top of the Baths is one of those rare places that enjoys ideal situation and a great breakfast! All the usual suspects are on the menu (pancakes, French toast, eggs benny) along with a few more unusual options like my favourites – the creole omelette and the Tunisian eggs (I like a bit of spice to my breakfast!) all of which come with a choice of tea or coffee.

Tip: Get there early, if you can (it opens at 8:00 am) (a) to ensure that you get there before breakfast finishes and (b) so that you can get on and hike the Baths before the crowds arrive. 

Right, once you’ve finished your food it’s time to get cracking and get down to the Baths, grab some bottled water before you go. Hopefully it’s still nice and early and shouldn’t be too crowded (I always recommend checking the cruise ship schedule before you plan a visit) or too hot. Please keep in mind that the hike through the Baths is reasonably strenuous and shouldn’t be undertaken if you suffer from heart problems or an underlying medical condition.

Pay your $3 entrance fee to the National Parks and follow the sandy path down to the entrance to the Baths before making your way through the maze of boulders. Be sure to stop and get pictures in the ‘Cathedral’ which is the largest of the caves with a triangular opening and a small hole at the back where the light comes in and bounces around the cavern and off the water. It’s very pretty and is the quintessential image of the Baths – the lighting is also quite flattering 🙂

Hopefully you didn’t bring too much with you and you can squeeze your way through the nooks and crannies. The responsible part of me advises that you wear some sort of amphibious footwear, but equally I always do it barefoot and have never had an issue.

Eventually you are going to pop out at Devil’s Bay – a beautiful little stretch of white sand a calm turquoise water. If you brought snorkel gear it’s a lovely spot to test it out. Equally you might just want to wade in, bob around and cool off!

When it comes time to leave you could just head back the way you came and go back through the Baths, or you can take the shortcut up to the car park – but personally I like to continue the walk around through Stoney Bay (which is definitely the path less travelled)! As the name suggests it’s a shingle beach that looks across to Fallen Jerusalem. To find it head towards the far end of Devil’s Bay and find the gap in the rocks, there’s a little path.

It’s very quiet and there’s lots of wildlife hanging out undisturbed, there will almost certainly be lizards and hermit crabs and I’ve even seen a couple of small snakes sunning themselves on the path. They’re all harmless and will beat a hasty retreat when they hear you coming!

The path will eventually meet the shortcut to the car park and you’ll end up back by Top of the Baths. Consider paying a visit to Mad Dog Restaurant & Bar for a cold refreshment before you head out, it’s on your left-hand side as you leave the car park (I have it on good authority that their pina coladas and bushwhackers are some of the best you’ll find).

Now – I suggest moving on to Spring Bay for a quick stop, if you’ve chosen to stay at Guavaberry you may have already found this little spot, since it’s right next door. If not head back towards Spanish Town and you’ll see the sign on the roadside. It’s another pretty little beach with boulders, but it tends to be a lot quieter than the Baths!

Stop a while – or if you’re hungry by this point we can progress to lunch…

For lunch we’re going to head up the mountain to Hog Heaven which has one of the best views in the Territory! High up on the hill, perched right on the edge, overlooking the North Sound is this great ribs joint. Simple BBQ food done well. There are other things on the menu but I always gravitate towards the ribs – fresh and local meat (it’s owned by a pig farmer). Why would you go to a place named Hog Heaven and eat anything else? 🙂 The cocktails are great too – frozen rum smoothies!

If BBQ food’s not your bag do not despair – I have you covered! Head into nearby Nail Bay to the Sugarcane Restaurant for some lighter fare – salads, soup, burgers, wraps and even some local favourites including Anegada lobster freshly grilled (when in season) just make sure you still promise to stop by Hog Heaven for a smoothie (and a few pictures!)

On the way back down the mountain after lunch make sure you park up at the various viewing stations for gorgeous views up and down the island and consider hiking Gorda Peak… Work off that lunch with a steep hike up through the brush to the viewing platform (you will need trainers) it’s not for the faint of heart (hopefully you didn’t have too many of those smoothies). I promise that tomorrow’s activities will be less strenuous!

However, if a steep hike doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, consider paying a visit to one of our other National Parks and explore the Copper Mine ruins instead.
After this there will be enough time to maybe take a quick nap and hopefully a shower – you’ll want to be ready before sunset though because we’re headed to CocoMaya for cocktails and sunset views by the fire pit before dinner!

Get to CocoMaya, grab a seat on the swings and a lychee champagne cocktail, maybe sample a snack or two at the bar – share the edamame. Then make your way into the restaurant and enjoy their delicious tapas style small plates and mains (also designed to be shared). I actually have too many recommendations for this place (I’ll obviously have to do a full post soon) but I will say this – get the churros for dessert… you won’t see them on the menu (they are hiding on the iPad) but they are seriously good… dunk them in the milk ice cream and espresso.

By now you should be ready to roll your way back to bed!

Day 2 – 

If you’ve read my post on what to eat in the BVI you may remember a mention of the Sunday buffet brunch at the Bitter End Yacht Club. It’s fab and only $45 including bottomless mimosas. Buuuut I recently found out that the Sunday breakfast buffet (8:00 am – 10:30 am) is only $25 and still includes the mimosas! Bargain! Plus, the breakfast buffet is where they hide all the bacon… so that’s where we’re headed! Pick up the boat at Gun Creek for the short trip over.

After breakfast stay a while at the Bitter End and explore – there are a couple of little walks that you can do, you can lounge on the beach or swim out to the platform. Ask nicely and you can even rent a Hobie cat for an hour. Head over to Saba Rock to browse the gift shop, check out the aquarium, maybe enjoy a drink and the views.

Then I have a couple of suggestions for your afternoon.

Book a tour with Gumption at Sea It Clear, either his wildlife tour or the glass bottom boat tour. Be aware that they are both very popular so availability is limited and it will need to be booked in advance.

Or hook up with local dive operators DiveBVI and (it hopefully goes without saying that you will need to abstain from the mimosas if you’re choosing this option) request to dive the new Virgin Gorda attraction an artificial reef project, the Kodiak Queen. Advanced reservations and open water certification are required. On afternoon dives snorkelers may also be able to join, but please check first.

If you’re staying a second night I have a couple of recommendations for dinner!

If you’re staying in the North Sound head over to the restaurant at Leverick, situated upstairs you can look out over the marina as you dine. The seared scallops or the lobster risotto make for tempting starters and they serve the juiciest strip loin steak. Downstairs serves a more casual menu of pizzas, tacos, snacks and wraps.

If you’re headed back to the Valley, consider checking out Chez Bamboo for an eclectic mix of different cuisines; sushi, Caribbean dishes, delicious dim sum items – there is truly something for everyone!

Wow this is a long post – see, I told you there was lots to do in Virgin Gorda! Any suggestions you think that I’ve missed?

Charlie x

PS. You can find more recommendations for what to do and where to eat in the BVI here and here!

Gain A ‘Scents’ of the BVI with EC Soap Co.

Way back at Christmas time (in one of my early posts) I wrote a gift guide for island girls that included my favourite local soap store, the EC Soap Co. They make such beautiful and unusual items that are just perfect for gifting.

Photo via EC Soap Co. 

All of their products are handmade here in the BVI with all natural, raw materials harvested from around the Territory, working with local farmers to source the freshest, organic ingredients.

EC Soap Co. soap bars often feature natural exfoliants to gently buff and polish your skin – like the dried ginger pulp in their summery ‘Ginger Island’ soap, or the ground mint leaves in the refreshing ‘Minty Rose’.

Photo via EC Soap Co.

Along with the gorgeous handmade soaps with their unusual colours, textures and scents they also stock lotions, balms and bath salts.

Photo via EC Soap Co.

I’m thrilled to announce that their new website is up and running and that with it comes international shipping!

Even better, from now until Mother’s Day they are offering 20% off with the code mothersday17!!

So, what are you waiting for?

In celebration of the new website and their soon-to-be global soap domination. I sat down with the owner Alex Durante (one of my favourite Caribbean entrepreneurs) to find out a bit more about what she’s been up to and why her products are so special:

Photo: Alexandra Durante via EC Soap Co. 

TBA: Alex, What made you want to start your own business and why did you decide on soaps?

ECSCo: I always like a challenge and it seemed that putting my creative skills to good use in the business world was a great idea to start. The British Virgin Islands have tons of untapped resources and soap was a great market to get into because we have access to raw materials from local farmers and we are turning our products into brilliant forms of art by using different scents and colorings to create intricate designs.

TBA: What is the best thing about being your own boss? And the biggest downside?

ECSCo: The best thing is that I can create my own future and decide as to where I want/need my company to go. The biggest downside would definitely be the day to day determination to succeed, even on that particular day you aren’t succeeding. You always have to be positive, even when you know that you feel differently.

Photo: EC Soap Co. Team via EC Soap Co.

Creativity obviously runs in the family as her father (pictured with her here) is renowned local artist Lutia Durante.

TBA: Do you have any regrets or anything that you would have done differently?

ECSCo: I should have branded EC Soap Co. sooner, but hey, we are on this earth to learn and grow right?

TBA: Where do you see your business going from here? What’s next for EC Soap Co.?

ECSCo: I desperately want EC Soap Co. to start exporting on a massive scale. We would be the first to export in such numbers thus supporting the economy as well as the people that live here. I also see us eventually being a 95% locally made company (5% being imported packaging) with local ingredients all being grown here.

TBA: If you weren’t killing it with your own business – what would you have wanted to do?

ECSCo: I honestly can’t answer that question! Ha ha. I’d probably be working on charter boats? I love people and being around them so I can’t fathom sitting behind a computer all day. It would definitely be service orientated.

So get gifting ladies – to your mamma, or even to yourselves, you deserve it!

Charlie x

www.ecsoapco.com +1 (284) 346 1023


Yesterday was my two year wedding anniversary and I am celebrating this event with some (uncharacteristically) soppy reflections and a quick look back at some of our beautiful wedding pictures. 

Two years have gone by so fast, but we’ve had a lot of fun. 

We’re working hard, but we live in paradise. 

We’re saving for the future, but we’re making some beautiful memories. 

We have no idea where we’re going, but we have a shared idea of how we’ll get there. 

One of the things we’ve been focusing on since we got married is prioritizing travel. 

We no longer give physical gifts for significant occasions, but instead we have been trying to give travel and experiences which has meant that we’ve (almost) traveled more in the last 2 years than we had in the previous 5… (disclaimer: a significant part of our vacation time is always dedicated to our family and friends in the UK). 

I’m hoping to document some of our upcoming travels here – but in the two years we’ve been married we have managed Puerto Rico, NYC (and my first UFC fight), a whole LOT of California (on our RV honeymoon road trip – plus some bonus Nevada and Arizona time), Kansas City, St. John (USVI) and St. Maarten. 

There is no one that I would rather share these adventures with – he’s my best friend, my team, my big spoon and my partner in crime! 

I hope that he will keep coaxing me out of my comfort zone, while I continue to challenge him on practically every point. 

We’re the perfect combination of opposites attracting, while being oddly similar – both brutally honest and stubborn. 

He loves me despite my moods and messiness and I live with his inner (outer) petrol-head and his huge collection of wheels (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).

Here’s to celebrating two wonderful years and looking forward to many more.

Charlie x
All photos by Peach & Jo Photography

BVI Spring Regatta 

It’s Regatta season in the Caribbean and all along the island chain, crews have been arriving from around the world, tacticians are studying the wind conditions and keen sailors are out walking the docks – offering themselves as ‘rail meat’.

bvi springImage By: Ingrid Abery (Ingrid Abery)

bvi spring IIImage By: Ingrid Abery (Ingrid Abery)

bvi spring IIIImage By: Ingrid Abery (Ingrid Abery)

This week was the annual BVI Spring Regatta, a week of ‘warm water, hot racing and cool parties’. Every year we mark our calendars for the end of March/beginning of April and get ready to welcome the hundreds of sailors and sailing fans that flock to our waters to doggedly compete and party hard.

Sadly, this year I didn’t make it out on the water, but was still keen to get involved in the evening festivities and explore Regatta Village at Nanny Cay.

Live music and local pop-up food stalls, cheap rum drinks (it’s sponsored by Mount Gay) and scores of gentlemen in matching crew t-shirts talking mishaps and mis-tacks.

The marina’s are packed, the atmosphere is buzzing and the races are close… Friends and bitter race rivals catching up on the results of the previous weekends’ regattas and ribbing each other about the next days racing.

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset
The Elmtones performed Saturday night.

My next favourite BVI sailing event doesn’t take place until October – so I’ve got plenty of time to get practicing my jibes before the Willy-T Virgin’s Cup…

Charlie x