Monday, 21 March 2011

River Beech Pub

19th March 2011

We were invited to see "Southside Cindy and the Sliptones" at the River Beech Pub, Chillicothe.

What a night!

The pub is opposite the Illinois River and has great views, only the week before we saw Bald Eagles in the trees by the river bank.

When you enter the pub you are greeted by a pine bar in front, and off to the right is the resturant again in pine with the stage at the far end. Our friends had reserved a table close to the stage, and when we arrived the band was setting up.

The pub has some speciality foods such as Beef Briscket  or Catfish, however we had eaten earlier so we did not try the food.

The band was superb, Cindy has such a stage pressence, and her voice was amazing. She was accompanid by a Backing singer, Keyboard player, Bass Guitar, Drums, and an Acoustic Guitar. It was not long before every one was up and dancing.

Great band, and a great evening.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Agatucci's - Peoria Illinois

Agatucci's is one of the oldest restaurants in Peoria. Vincenzo Agatucci left his own town of Calascio in Italy in 1904. After working in the Coal Mines, he opened a small grocery store on 2nd Street around 1920. In 1926 he bought the existing building on a small dirt road the furthest point North of Peoria.

During the depression he turned the grocery store into a restaurant to better serve the community, and following prohibition, he purchased a liquor licence (No 13), and it is the oldest liquor licence in Peoria. After the Second World War the family started to make Pizza's as the returning soldiers all wanted Pizza when they returned.

We went with Carl and Mike, and were introduced to Danny and Tony the current owners. They were great, and showed us where the underground room was; that was used during the prohibition period for drinking. Alas we could not go into the room as they have tiled over the entrance, and have placed a booth there as well.

We had their Pizza with Italian Beer. It was just great the beer was light and very refreshing, and the Pizza was a thin crust with lashings of cheese and fresh ingredients. Just a delight.

Tony then told us about a recent attempted armed robbery at the restaurant.

"At first I thought, 'what is this, a joke or something?'" Dan Agatucci, co-owner of the restaurant said. "But then I turned around and saw him in the mask."

Co-owners Dan Agatucci and cousin Tony Agatucci were closing up behind the bar.
That's when the pistol-toting robber ordered the pair to hand over cash. Tony Agatucci had locked the safe and was buying time by telling Scott he didn't know the combination. As the gunman kept his gaze and weapon trained in that direction, Dan Agatucci calmly grabbed a gun kept in the restaurant.

As loudly as he could, Dan Agatucci screamed at the gunman, "freeze!" The intruder panicked and ran out of the front door.

"I don't know if he thought there was an officer in the back or what," Dan Agatucci said.
Dan Agatucci chased the suspect out the door and fired a shot into the air to warn pedestrians that there was a man with a gun. Tony Agatucci grabbed a gun and ran after the gunman, as did his father, Jim Agatucci, who runs the kitchen. They chased him west on West Gift Avenue, firing several shots.

Dan Agatucci said police "came out of nowhere" and made an arrest near robbers home. The entire matter did not last much longer than a minute.

What a story, and what an evening. A well deserved 10 out of 10. We will visit Agatucci's again.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Puerto Rico

22nd February 2011

We arrived in Puerto Rico at around 5:30pm, and took a taxi to the Hotel. We checked in and guess........... yes we ended up in the same room we had when we arrived a week ago the famous 'Bunker' room.

After checking in we took a taxi to the old town in San Juan. The taxi driver was real friendly and talked to us all the way. When we arrived the fare was $21, and as we only had $20 dollar notes available the driver said he was happy with $20 (He had no change available).

The old town is very beautiful and is full of old colonial architecture. 

We spent several hours walking around and enjoying the sights. It was a shame that we saw many poor people sleeping on benches, it made you feel how lucky you are in life.

We decided to look for a typical restaurant that served local food, and after asking several people we came across a restaurant called 'Raices' (In English this means Roots).

The restaurant was super busy. You had to reserve a table outside and there must of been over 20 people waiting. They did how ever have some tables and chairs so you could sit and enjoy the weather while you waited.

After around 35 minutes were were called to say our table was ready and we went inside. The decoration was great, it was made to look like you were at the entrance to an old shop selling everything from hardware to vegetables. On the far wall there was a huge mural painted on the wall that made you feel warm and comfortable.

The waitress 'Marcela' was superb, she took time to explain all the items on the menu. We ordered some drinks (Mojitos), and they arrived in a metal mug with straws. they tasted great. We then ordered our meal from the menu. Silvia choose 'Mofongo' with Cancan Pork Chops, and I choose the Cancan Pork Chops with rice and green beans. We also choose Tostones to share.

The meal arrived on metal plates and in metal bowls and was spectacular, it was also immense we could easily have fed 4 or more people.

The food tasted as good as it looked (11 out of 10), and we will both remember this night for a long time. My Pork Chop was over a foot long.

The food was just too much so we took a doggy bag, and returned to the Hotel.

The next day we flew back to colddddd Peoria taking our doggy bag with us, and we finished the meal for supper that evening.

If you have been following this Blog series I thank you for taking time to share our adventures. This was a Holiday of a lifetime, and we feel so privileged to have been able to make this trip.

Monday, 7 March 2011

British Virgin Islands - The Final Days

19th February 2011.

We woke earlier to set sail for Cooper Island. The wind was in our favour today so we made good progress. As we were on our way a Dolphin came close to the boat, but left before we had time to get a photograph. After 3-4 hours we arrived, and fixed the Yacht to a can. We had a quick lunch, and then took the dingy to the island. We browsed the local gift shop, and bought some small items as souvenirs. We then made our way to the bar to buy ice for the boat. While there we had a quick cocktail and Silvia made friends with the local barman. After a short while we headed back to the yacht before the ice melted.

Silvia Carrie and myself then got back into the dingy and motored to the nearby beech. There were lots of Pelicans diving into the sea to catch fish. When we beached we noticed we had a puncture in the dingy, but we thought it was not too bad, so Carrie and Silvia went into the sea with Silvia's best friend (The inflatable dolphin). I decide to explore the island a little, and took some pictures of the vegetation, a wild goat, and an island lizard.

The island was deserted, however in several places you could see where construction had started, but then had been abandoned. The ruins were covered with cacti and wild brush, so I assumed they had been left for many years.

I then went to the sea to do some snorkeling. In the meantime Carrie went to check the dingy, and decided we needed to make a repair. As we had no repair kit she swam back to the yacht, whilst Silvia and I carried on enjoying the warm sea and the fish. We saw several Green Turtles enjoying sunshine

When Carrie returned, she advised she could not find a repair kit, and no other yachts nearby had one either, so we made a temporary repair using Duct Tape. I then used a pump to blow up the dingy while Silvia swam back to the yacht. After about 30 minutes we managed to get the boat inflated, but in the meantime the tide had gone out and the dingy was high and dry on the beach. Carrie and I struggled to get it back into the water, and eventually manged. By this time the dingy had inflated somewhat so I had to add more air before we motored back to the yacht.

 Silvia and Carrie swam back to the bar to see if they had a repair kit, and I stayed on the yacht with David drinking a glass of wine while we listened to some music and talked about many things in life.
The sun was very hot but a light breeze on the yacht made it very enjoyable.

Silvia and Carrie returned to the yacht with news that we had no luck getting a repair kit. So we decided to spend the evening on the yacht enjoying the night sky and each others company.

We woke early the next morning. There was a stiff breeze of around 40 knots, and as we sailed back to Tortola the boat was inclined at 40 degrees. Again the wind was against us so we had to tack several times to make headway. David tried to make some drinks below deck, and we could hear him laughing loudly to himself as the boat bucked and swayed from side to side. How he managed to finish without spilling any I will never know.

After we went below deck, and it looked like an earthquake had hit the yacht. This was the first time I took the helm and steered the yacht. It is amazing how you can feel through the wheel when the yacht is happy with the actions you are taking. I will make a sailor yet!.

We arrived back in dock at the marina on Tortola, and spent the rest of the day removing rubbish, washing down the deck to remove the salt, and giving the cabin a clean. We then went to the marina to take our laundry, and spend the evening at the bar. I ordered us all a Jambalaya. It was absolutely delicious. We had a few drinks while Silvia and Carrie went into the pool. We stayed until around 10pm, then returned to the yacht, where Carrie had made a supper with the remaining provisions.

We stayed up for several more hours before going to bed.
The morning was our last day. We had to collect the laundry, buy some items to make minor repairs to the yacht, and spent a little time sight-seeing. we then returned to the marina to say thank-you and farewell to David as he was staying one more day, then took a taxi to the airport at beef island. The taxi ride took around 30 minutes, and was very strange as on the island they drive on the left side of the road with left-hand drive cars, so seeing around the mountain corners was very difficult.

At the airport we were surprised to see Chickens and their Chicks wandering all over the place even on the runway side of the airport. We were then on our way to Puerto Rico for our final afternoon/evening before returning to Illinois, but that will have to wait for my next blog. 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

British Virgin Islands - Next 2 Days

18th February, we are still at Cooper Island.

We awoke early and went around the island to Cistern Point on the Dingy, to a famous area for Snorkeling. Silvia took some bread from the yacht, and in a few seconds we were surrounded by hundreds of fish eager for a free meal, one even came over and bit her finger.  We were fortunate to see many species of fish, including Blue Tang, Angelfish, and Sergent Majors

I was by now becoming a little bit of an expert with the Dingy, and after an hour or so, I herded everyone back on board to return to the Yacht. After a light snack, we unhooked from the Can and set sail for Scrub Island. The weather was again very calm with little wind, and we took several hours of sailing against the wind using tacking to get to the island.

Norman Island was very busy and we sailed around the bay many times until we found a Can to attach the Yacht. It was a little worrying this time as by the time we got to the Can there was only 4 feet of clear water between the bottom of the Yacht and the sea bed.

I had again been helping with the sailing, and when we arrived I worked hard to get the sails down and covered for the evening. When down I noticed we had a stow-away on board so I took the camera and captured a picture. You can see from this picture that it was a Brown Pelican. It liked our company and decided to stay and prune its feathers for around an hour before it took flight.

As it was getting late we decided to stay on the Yacht for the evening so we made a Steak BBQ with salad for our dinner turned on some light music and had a few drinks, talking the night away under the stars and a beautiful full moon.

I woke early the next day so went up on deck to enjoy the weather. I was really fortunate to see some frigate birds, and managed to get this picture against the early morning clouds.

Silvia, Carrie and David soon awoke and Silvia rustled up some wonderful scrambled eggs for breakfast. David who never finishes his breakfast made a new record and cleaned his plate for the first time.

After breakfast we got the Dingy ready and sailed across to the marina 'Tierra Tierra' on the island. The marina was spectacular. Beautiful painted walls, a bar in the pool with pool seating, a water slide, and an upper level restaurant.

The sun was just perfect so we got some sun beds and small tables and decided to enjoy the good weather.

Silvia and Carrie decide to go for walk, and visited the local store, clothing shops, and gift shops. I was really lucky as they decided not to buy anything (What a relief).

When they returned, Carrie went to the pool to read a book and Silvia went to the pool for a swim and to enjoy the weather. I stayed with David enjoying the sun and a large cocktail made with Chocolate sauce, rum, vodka and some other things. It was a perfect drink.

At lunch time we decided to order a mix of different foods to share, we choose the Chilled Shrimp, Crab Cake Sandwich, and Jerk Chicken wings. It was just perfect, and was cooked really well. 

After lunch Silvia and I went to the pool whilst David stayed on the sunbed and Carrie went back to reading her book. Silvia and I swam for a while then decided to try the water slide. We enjoyed it so much we were like little kids and went again and again and again. Eventually we returned to the sun beds to relax.
 As evening started drawing in we noticed that the local Rotary club were holding a Charity Auction for invited guests. We saw many luxury Yachts arriving and smart men accompanied by very elegant women began to arrive. When they got to the end of the pier they were offered a cocktail in a colourful glass, and went off to an upper floor for the big night. We decided it was time to take a shower and return to our yacht for the evening. On the way back from the shower a waiter gave Silvia a wonderful cocktail meant for the Rotary club guests, and we heard over the speaker system that Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic etc) had arrived and would conduct the auction.

We took one last picture together in the restaurant before we left, and returned to our yacht. What a great day with many memories. On the yacht we had dinner and some drinks before going to bed for the evening. We had to plan to get up early the next day for our longest sail yet to Norman Island.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

British Virgin Islands - First 3 Days

Tuesday 15th March we travelled to Puerto Rico via Dallas. It was a long flight, and the airlines wanted to charge for food. We arrived in Puerto Rico at around 10:30 pm, and took a taxi to the Hotel Howard Johnson in Isla Verde. After checking in (we had the 'Bunker' a room with no windows on the ground floor), we went for a short walk to a Pizzeria/Bar, and had some drinks to unwind from the trip..... they were super strong, the bar tender just poured the drinks into the glass with out measuring.

We got up early on the 16th and took the short flight from Puerto Rico to Tortola; British Virgin Islands, it took less than 30 minutes. The view from the plane was spectacular, and the runway ends right next to the beech.

We took a taxi to the marina and got our first view of the yacht that would be our home for the rest of the vacation. The yacht was called Chimere, and it is a classic over 30 years old, but well looked after and in super condition.

Next we had to go shopping to get provisions for the sailing trip. We filled 2 shopping trolleys (Carts), and had to take them back to the boat over an unsurfaced car park... what an effort it was like going cross-country.

We loaded all the provisions, and then had to prepare the yacht for sailing, this included filling the water tanks, checking the engines, checking the refrigerator was working, ensuring all the lines (ropes) were free of knots, etc.

When complete it was well into the afternoon so we went to the marina for some cocktails. A live blues band was playing, they were fantastic, and we danced the night away, making some new friends along the way. Eventually we returned to sleep on the yacht as we had a early departure planned for the morning. The sleep was great, the boat was gently rocking, and it lulled you into a deep sleep.

Thursday 17th we woke early and departed from Tortola to Cooper Island. There was little wind, so as this was our first trip on a yacht it allowed Silvia and I to learn some basic sailing skills like hoisting the sails. We arrived at Cooper Island early afternoon so after fixing the yacht to a can (buoy) we took a swim in the clear Caribbean sea. Silvia made a new best friend (an inflatable dolphin), she used it as a bouncy aid to relax in the clear blue sea.

We swam for around an hour, then returned to the yacht to prepare for dinner. When ready, we went to Willy-T's; a large boat that serves as a restaurant/bar. We went in a uniform of blue T-shirts, plastic trilby's, and large Elton John style glasses. We ordered several dishes, and the food was good. We then stayed on for a few drinks. It was very strange that being so far away from Illinois we met a group from our city Peoria, and another group from the next city Bloomington. Whilst on Willy-T some thoughtless person untied our dingy, and we had to make a rescue mission to get it back, otherwise we would not be able to return to our yacht. Fortunately we managed to rescue the dingy, and Carrie (Our Captain) trained me on how to use the out-board motor.

We eventually returned to the yacht and Carrie, David, Silvia and myself relaxed on deck for several hours watching the stars before going below for yet another deep sleep.