In this guest post, my assistant Nancy, who is a keen golfer, shares her recent stay at Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa which we won in the Passports with Purpose Giveaway.
Life in the central United States offers a variety of climate changes. Stormy spring weather quickly morphs to the hot and steamy “dog days” of summer. Autumn brings relief with mild temperatures and colorful foliage. Then, often suddenly, comes the cold, sleet and snow. It’s then that Midwesterners seek respite from the grueling winter weather.
For many the perfect escape is sunny Florida. That’s why my husband and I were thrilled to be gifted a two-night stay for two at Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. Located in the Florida community of Ponte Vedra Beach and close to the Atlantic shore, it’s a perfect winter break location.
A serene oasis
Marriott’s Sawgrass resort is located in an oasis of nature, just off the scenic A1A highway. The serene setting immediately put us into a tropical state of mind. After checking into our room with a lovely pool view, we set off to explore the Audubon rated grounds.
We strolled around the edges of the lake bordered by cozy villas nestled among lush plantings, where a gazebo provided a wide view of the main hotel building. Crossing the lake bridge, we approached an expansive outdoor deck. After a drink from the outdoor bar we settled in to watch ducks paddle around a waterfall in the distance. Signs indicated the possibility of an alligator sighting, but we were not so lucky. This seemed the perfect Florida setting, with gentle breezes, bright blue sky and Spanish moss-draped live oak trees.
Continuing our tour, we sauntered around the two pools surrounded by colorful plantings and sun loungers. Although still a bit cool for us, some hardy souls were splashing about.
Sharing your vacation experience
Nearing the lobby we encountered one of Marriott’s “Selfie Spots”. Guests are encouraged to frame themselves against the picturesque background and post the photo on social media using the tag #onlyatsawgrass. Complimentary wireless in the lobby and public areas of the resort make this a snap. This spot featured the opportunity to hit a golf ball to the green on the small island in the lake beyond. Although we are avid recreational golfers, we declined to attempt the shot. We imagined the employee designated to take the paddleboat across the lake to confirm a potential hole-in-one was not disappointed.
As evening approached we obtained our complimentary cocktails, the signature Sawgrass RumRunner. Finding a spot around the lower level outdoor firepit, we toasted to an enjoyable first day in paradise.
Heading to the sand
Bright and early the next day we boarded the complimentary shuttle for the short ride to the resort’s beach access. The Cabana Club, situated on Ponte Vedra Beach, boasts sugar-fine white sand, Olympic-size pool, and beach side dining. Although brave enough only to roll up our trousers and walk at the edge of the surf, we did partake of another Selfie Spot with the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean in the background.
Returning to the resort, we boarded a chauffeured cart that transported us to the adjacent TPC (c) Sawgrass clubhouse where we were met by one of Marriott’s volunteer “Storytellers”. We thoroughly enjoyed the intimate guided tour of this elegant facility rich with golf history, artwork and memorabilia.
After browsing the pro shop we returned to the golf cart for a tour of the Stadium Course. We marveled at hole 17, perhaps the most recognizable hole in golf, with its heart-shaped island green. Proof that this hole is challenging to even the best golfers are the many thousands of balls retrieved each year from the surrounding water. This day, however, we heard no one call “fore”, as the course was closed in preparation for the famous Players Championship held annually in May.
Thanks to Marriott for providing our stay at Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa through their donation to Passports with Purpose, a travel blogger’s initiative designed to raise funds for various causes around the globe. Our appreciation to Heather who generously gifted us this package.
Who is Sawgrass Marriott best for?
Serious and casual golfers alike will find an abundance of courses nearby. The resort is within easy driving distance to the beaches of the Atlantic Coast, and St. Augustine, America’s oldest city, is a short drive away.
The resort is conveniently located an easy 40 minute drive from Florida’s Jacksonville airport.
To book Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa
Book your stay at Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa on their website at Marriott.com and follow their social media channels on Twitter @SawgrassMR, on Facebook and on Instagram. To compare prices and book use my Hotels Combined Booking page.
Other places to enjoy in Florida
Stepping out onto the white painted balcony I breathed in the warm Caribbean air, edged with the freshness of morning. Below me the pool area was still, except for the murmur of running water. Over the tops of the palm trees a cruise ship was moored in the bay at Port Zante, with the green slopes of Mount Liamuiga rising beyond. This was Ocean Terrace Inn in St Kitts where I stayed recently, a stylish 4 star hotel that is looking fresh and bright after its recent renovation. Read on for my review.
Where are we staying?
On checking in I was shown to my bedroom, in one of the lower hotel buildings built on the hillside. Thank goodness for the helpful young man who carried my bag across the terraces and down all the steps. There are around 50 rooms here, mostly in the modern buildings around the pool that were built in the 1960s and have recently gone through a full renovation.
In my bedroom I found bags of space, with two queen beds just for all for little old me, cool tiled floors and cheerful yellow, red and green scheme that reminded me of the colours of the St Kitts flag. By the window was a cushioned built in seat and out on the white painted balcony, a couple of wicker chairs and a table to sit overlooking the pool area.
I wondered whether my room was exceptional in its size but when I had a look around some of the others, I found they were just as spacious, with dark, plantation style wood, fresh colours and contemporary style.
My bed was extra comfy, the ice bucket filled ready, with a percolator and ground coffee should I need to make some in the morning. The air conditioning kept everything comfortable, although having just left the chilly UK, I was more interested in feeling the warmth of a Caribbean than in shutting the heat out.
My huge bathroom with separate bath and shower incorporated a dressing and wardrobe area, with open hanging space, shelves and a small safe (although disappointingly not large enough for my laptop). The iron and ironing board was most welcome since the clothes in my case were looking a bit sad and crumpled.
My view of the Pool area
One of the favourite things from my two night stay at Ocean Terrace Inn was the view from my balcony over the landscaped pool area towards the bay and the island’s capital of Basseterre. There was often a cruise ship in port and I can see why the hotel is a popular choice for cruise guests and crew to come and spend the day by the pool.
The hotel is built on several different levels with most of the rooms overlooking the pool area. In some places the water was shallow for children to splash about, in others deeper for swimming. Everything was beautifully landscaped with local stone planted with palms, shrubs, and purple flowering bougainvillea, as well as a swim up poolside bar.
The jaunty turquoise sun loungers matched the turquoise of the pool with orange and white cotton sunshades completing the colourful scene. Even though I was out sightseeing most days so didn’t get much sun lounger time, I found the a walk around the pool and gardens before breakfast with the sound of the cascades and waterfalls very soothing.
Around the hotel
From the pool and surrounding garden area, steps led up to two tiled terraces for guests to sit outside. Wooden pavilions and green sunshades offered protection from the heat of the sun and colourful seating provided a relaxing place to sit, with flowering shrubs and palms to soften the tiling.
Continuing to the upper level, the reception and main hotel entrance adjoins the quiet residential road where a taxi will drop you off and opposite was the Verandah restaurant with more attractive planting and a water feature at the entrance.
Breakfast and Sunday Brunch
On my arrival I enjoyed a late lunch in the Verandah restaurant, at the end of the Sunday Brunch buffet which is quite a tradition on St Kitts. Sunday is very much family time on St Kitts when everyone will go to church in the morning and than relax with a big family lunch at home. Those who prefer not to cook will treat themselves to leisurely Sunday Brunch at one of the local hotels or restaurants around the island, so this is a popular weekend event.
Those who aren’t having an extended Sunday brunch will probably be found at the beach just liming (that’s the St Kitts version of relaxing and chilling out with your friends). I arrived at the end of the buffet when most guests had left but enjoyed the excellent spread of salads, and hot dishes both local favourites and international dishes.
The bright and airy Verandah restaurant, with traditional dark wood flooring and colourful paintings, is also where you’ll also have breakfast. Rather than sit inside, I preferred a table on the terrace with a view over the bay. My only quibble was that the clear plastic blinds were rolled down masking the view, due I think to catering for American tastes to keep everything fully air conditioned.
I didn’t get the chance to eat at Verandah in the evening, but their Carib-Asian menu using local island produce infused with an Asian flavour looked delicious. I also enjoyed my breakfast from the a la carte menu, and decided to order the bush tea which I’d heard about, made of local herbs like basil and lemon grass with an inbelievably fragrant aroma.
If you are from the UK or Europe where a breakfast buffet in normally included in your room rate, you should be aware that the hotel follows the American approach of breakfast being charged separately. You can either select from the a la carte menu or choose in advance to book breakfast under a set price meal plan. ($15 Continental buffet breakfast, $20 Full breakfast). Depending on how you book, be sure to check whether a breakfast package is included.
Dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf
During the stay I tried the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant which belongs to the hotel, although it’s just across the road at the bottom of the hill (the security guard will let you out through the gate by the pool). The restaurant is set right by the water with an open verandah and a beautiful view over the lights of Basseterre and the port.
As the name suggests, Fisherman’s Wharf is all about the seafood, a highlight of St Kitts since it’s all locally caught and the fishing boats offload their catch along the seafront nearby. Typical island dishes are on the menu with starters of conch chowder or coconut crusted shrimp and for a main course Grilled Mahi-Mahi with a citrus salsa or Lemongrass scented grilled snapper.
Of course I couldn’t go without trying the lobster with ginger lemon butter sauce which was delicious, but if you are looking for meat dishes there are also several options such as steak, ribs or ginger chicken with passionfruit sauce. The restaurant is open evenings only from 6.30pm to 10.30pm Monday to Saturday, closed Sundays.
Are we being served?
From the reception staff to the guy who carried my bags down all those flights of stairs, to the waitresses in the restaurant, I found all the staff at OTI were friendly and enthusiastic, falling over themselves to be helpful. I’d heard that investment in staff training was part of the refurbishment programme and re-opening and it certainly showed in the positive attitude of everyone I met at the hotel.
Are we in the digital age?
The free wifi worked very well for me, both in my room and in the restaurant and reception areas – not bad considering the hotel is spread over a number of different buildings. You can also keep up with hotel news and happenings on the social media channels on Twitter @OceanTerraceInn on Facebook and on Instagram
Ocean Terrace Inn is set on the hillside, on the edge of the island capital of Basseterre, overlooking the bay towards the north of the island. It’s a pleasant 10 minute walk along the sea front into town or to the cruise port of Port Zante where there are plenty of shops catering for tourists. The location is ideal for those who want to be located close to Basseterre, but have a base to see the rest of St Kitts, since you’re a 15 minute drive from the beaches of the south east peninsula or the historic sites of the northern-east part of the island.
Who is Ocean Terrace Inn best for?
The hotel will suit leisure or business travellers looking a relaxing base for visiting Basseterre and the rest of St Kitts. The friendly atmosphere and medium size will suit couples, solo travellers and groups of friends as well as families with school age children. Because the hotel is built on multiple levels, visitors with mobility issues or with very young children may find it difficult to manage all the steps. The hotel is a short taxi ride from the airport, so would be a good choice for those who want to explore Basseterre and the surrounding area at the beginning of their holiday, perhaps combined with a stay at another hotel by the beach for a few days after that.
To Book Ocean Terrace Inn
Book your stay at Ocean Terrace Inn on their website at OceanTerraceInn.com and follow their social media channels on Twitter @OceanTerraceInn on Facebook and on Instagram. To compare prices and book for hotels on St Kitts use my Hotels Combined Booking comparison page.
Good to know
- There is no shop on site or close by so you might need to get any local items in Basseterre (10 mins walk) or walk along the seafront to the shops in the cruise shop, Port Zante (10-15 mins walk) if you need tourist items.
- If you’re visiting St Kitts on a cruise, the hotel can also sell you a day pass for use of the pool area and other facilities.
- The hotel offers a free daily shuttle service to the beaches on the south-west peninsula of the island.
- If you are there on a Sunday, be aware that shops will be closed and everything very quiet in Basseterre as this is considered a day of rest when Kittitians like to go to church and spend time with their family.
- If you want a change from eating in the hotel’s Verandah or Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant, there’s also Serendipity next door serving both Caribbean and International cuisine, with a view over the bay.
What to see in Basseterre
Your stay at Ocean Terrace Inn is the ideal opportunity to visit the island’s capital of Basseterre and some of the other things nearby. Here’s what we recommend;
- Wander around the streets of Basseterre, especially Fort Street and Bank Street to get the feel for the relaxed island capital of St Kitts. If you are looking for something in paricular don’t hesitate to ask for help from any of the locals, the Kittitians are known for their friendliness.
- Check out the green Victorian-style clock at the Circus roundabout, modelled on London’s Picadilly Circus and have lunch as Ballahoo with an open terrace that overlooks the Circus.
- Pop in to the National Museum close to the Circus. While the displays are rather old fashioned, there’s plenty of fascinating information about the island’s history.
- Walk through the shady and green Independence square that was once Basseterre’s slave market, noticing the doors to the cellars in the houses around the square where the slaves slept.
- Visit the Gallery Cafe on the north side of Independence square, featuring the work of local artists with a charming cafe serving home made cakes, fresh juices and coffee which you can enjoy in the shady courtyard garden.
- If you need tourist souvenirs, you’ll find plenty of choice at Port Zante, including a craft market. The covered Pelican Mall has more small shops and also offers free wifi.
- At lunchtime, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, check out the vendors along the Bay Road and in the steets of Basseterre selling all kinds of delicious street-food and local food specialities.
- Take a short taxi ride to Ital Creations close the airport, a small organic farm with a food trailer selling delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes at lunchtime as well as fruit smoothies and juices.
- The closest beach is a 10 minute drive away at Frigate Bay, normally quiet during the day but a popular place for locals, expats and visitors to enjoy a drink and a meal in the evening when all the beach shacks and restaurants are open on “The Strip” – we enjoyed the relaxed sports bar style and excellent local dishes at Boozies.
- If you’d like to explore further afield, there are plenty of beautiful spots on St Kitts – read about the 10 perfect postcard shots of St Kitts.
Have you visited St Kitts and if so, what did you enjoy?
Visitor Information for St Kitts
To plan your visit to St Kitts check out the tourism board website at www.stkittstourism.kn or follow their social media channels: Twitter @StKittsTourism | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest |
British Airways flies to St Kitts from London Gatwick twice a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays with the flight going on to nearby Antigua. There are regular ferries every day to Nevis, with a journey time of 45 minutes from Basseterre, making it easy to plan a combined stay on both islands.
To start and end your holiday on St Kitts in style, the YU Lounge offers a private terminal at the airport. A private car will meet you from the plane and whisk you to the luxurious lounge where snacks and drinks are available. While you are waiting your luggage will be picked up and you’ll be cleared through security by the YU Lounge staff.
Thanks to Ocean Terrace Inn who hosted Heather’s 2 night hotel stay and to the St Kitts tourism board who provided Heather’s visit to St Kitts.
Read more about St Kitts
If ever there is a must-see site that epitomises Ancient Greece it is the Acropolis. This rocky hill is topped by the Parthenon temple dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war who planted the first olive tree on this very spot to found the city of Athens. On a visit with my parents in late February, we experienced warm and sunny weather, making it an ideal time to visit the Acropolis before the scorching heat and crowds of summer descend on Athens.
I had visited the Acropolis on a previous trip to Athens for TBEX blogger’s conference – read about it here. On Saturday afternoon I walked up as I’d done before, hoping to photograph the ancient temples in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun, but was disappointed to find that the site closes early at 3pm in winter.
Undaunted, we returned the next day and climbed up the steep pathway winding up to the top, which my parents who are in their 70s had to navigate quite cautiously since the rock was worn and slippery in places. Although the site is flatter at the top there are many places where the ground is very rocky and uneven, so older visitors will need to take care.
I hope you enjoy the video below about the Acropolis, Athens
Passing through the gateway of the Propylaea at the top of the steps we had our first view of the Parthenon, the iconic temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, after whom the city of Athens was named. Within the temple originally stood a 12 metre high gold and ivory statue of Athena, although it was lost in the Byzantine era and only copies remain. Around the top of the temple runs a frieze of all the gods which now resides in the Acropolis Museum, since most of the original stone carvings have been replaced with copies.
A surprising aspect of the Parthenon is that much of it resembles a building site, dominated by scaffolding and cranes, with a restoration underway that will continue for some years. The temple seemed to have been partly dismantled, with blocks of stone and parts of ancient columns piled up ready to be hoisted into poition. In another area near the entrance, some of the carved stones that will replace the frieze could be seen close up, stacked as if in a timber yard.
Once we had walked around to the front of the Parthenon, we found a scaffolding free view of the temple. At the furthest point of the rock, a raised area provided plenty of selfie opportunities as well as a view of Athens, sprawling endlessly towards the mountains. While my parents established themselves to sit a while in the shade, I went to explore the other main monument, the Erechtheion that stands on the northern side of the Acropolis rock.
This temple was built on the sacred spot where the goddess Athena is said to have planted the olive tree, the symbol of Athens that brings peace and prosperity. The temple is best known for the Caryatids, the row of maidens in draped tunics that support the roof. The ones here are copies, since the originals are in the Acropolis Museum, with one in the British Museum (part of the ‘Elgin Marbles’ collection that Greece is campaigning to have returned).
Need to know for visiting the Acropolis
- Around the site are information signs telling you about each temple and of course if you visit as part of a guided tour, you will get plenty more information. If visiting independently, you can hire a registered guide at the entrance if you wish, or use your guidebook to give you an overview of the site.
- You can’t get inside any of the ancient buildings so it’s more about taking in the views of the temples and over the city of Athens and wondering at the huge scale of this iconic site.
- There are toilets at the top of the Acropolis rock but nowhere to buy drinks or refreshments, so you should at least take some water with you. In the hotter months it will be baking up here with only a few places for shade.
- The entry is €12 per adult, €6 for reduced tickets (aged 65+ from EU if you produce a passport) and this gives entry to a number of other sites for 7 days.
- In winter (Nov-March) the site opens 8.30-3pm and in summer 8am-7pm. We were there in late February when it was not too crowded but in summer I imagine that the crowds are huge, so you may want to visit early or later in the day when the tour groups have gone home.
Visiting the Acropolis Museum
After the Acropolis, our next stop was the Acropolis Museum, a world-class setting for the treasures of the Acropolis hill that rises above it. Most of the statues and friezes on the Parthenon have been brought here to preserve them, being replaced by modern copies on the temple itself.
On the outside, the museum shows its clean, modern lines with walls of glass to shed plenty of natural light and give views towards the Acropolis rock. The museum is built over the remains of the ancient city and you can look down into the kitchens and latrines of Ancient Greece as you walk towards the entrance.
The open galleries on the first floor are supported by columns and many of the sculptures from different periods of the Acropolis are on display here. Originally many of these would have been painted in bright colours, very different from the serene white marble appearance of today. I was surprised to see how different the statues would have looked, with almost garish blues and reds and details picked out in gold.
On the third floor, the Parthenon Gallery is laid out to mimic the Parthenon itself, with steel columns in place of the marble pillars of the Parthenon, and the friezes that ran all around the sides of the temple and formed the pediment at the top.
Where parts of the frieze were missing, for instance the parts that are on display in the British Museum, a copy was shown in raw plaster next to aged ivory colour of the original carving.
Most famous are the Caryatids that you’ll have seen at the Erechtheion on top of the Acropolis; this is where the real ones are kept to preserve them from the elements. They are also a favourite spot for visitors to have their photograph taken which is allowed in this part of the museum although not in all the galleries.
On the second floor we watched a video in English about the history of the Acropolis which made it quite clear where they stand on the Elgin collection, now kept in the British Museum. There is a long-standing campaign to have these artefacts from the Parthanon returned to the Acropolis museum which you can even vote on as you pass through Athens airport.
We finished a very enjoyable visit to the Acropolis Museum with a drink on the sunny terrace cafe looking up at the Acropolis Hill above.
Need to know for visiting the Acropolis Museum
- The museum is set at the foot of the Acropolis Hill next to Acropolis Metro station.
- Entrance charge is €5
- Open normally 8am-8pm April-October, 9am-5pm Nov-March (check website for variations some days)
- There is a great cafe with waiter service and views of the Acropolis from the terrace
- On the top floor, watch the video in English about the history of the Acropolis.
- Photography for personal use is allowed in some but not all of the galleries.
Around Athens there are plenty of other ancient sites and here are just a few that we enjoyed.
Sunset at Areopagus Hill
Walking along the path from the Acropolis Museum leading toward Monastiraki you’ll see the Areopagus Hill, a rocky outcrop which has some wooden steps to allow you to climb to the top. From here you can get a great view of the Acropolis as well as over the whole city and it’s a favourite place to come at sunset as the city turns golden below you.
The Odeion of Herodes Atticus
On the pedestrian route that leads past the museum up to the Acropolis you’ll pass the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, with solid stone arches through which you can glimpse the ancient theatre that was built in 161AD by a wealthy Athenian in memory of his wife. In summer the 5000 seat theatre is used for music, opera and concerts during the Athens festival that runs throughout the summer.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus
On one of our walks in the neighbourhood of our hotel we passed by the Temple of Olympian Zeus, set in a grassy park, although the gates were shut when we were there, so we had to content ourselves with a view through the railings. The temple was constructed over several centuries but fell out of use in the third century AD and the stones used for building elsewhere in the city. Today you can see a group of decorative Corinthian columns and the one that fell over in a storm, showing the round, carved sections like giant stone coins that made up the column.
Have you visited the Acropolis or the Acropolis Museum and if so, what was your favourite part?
More articles from Greece
Where to stay when visiting the Acropolis
I highly recommend the 5 star Electra Palace Hotel where I stayed with my parents and sister while in Athens. This elegant, luxury hotel is in the Plaka district of Athens, at the foot of the Acropolis, and is well situated to walk easily to most of the ancient sites. The hotel is classic in decor and is a haven of calm to return to at the end of your day’s sightseeing.
Even when not sightseeing, you’re never far from those prized Acropolis views, since there is a rooftop pool and bar to relax in the hotter months as well as a rooftop restaurant serving modern Greek cuisine where you can dine in the evening.
Compare prices and book for hotels in Athens on my Hotel Booking Page powered by Hotels Combined
Thanks to the Electra Palace Hotel, Athens who hosted Heather’s stay at the hotel.