Restaurant Review: Muqueca

Teddy and I had the pleasure of dining at Muqueca, a local Brazilian seafood restaurant. We were looking for something a bit different, and seafood is very friendly to both of our diets, so we decided to try something new! Boy, were we glad we did.

We started by ordering two glasses of the house red wine. Neither of us is a wine expert, but both of us really enjoyed the wine, and the prices were extremely reasonable. We started with a coconut shrimp appetizer, and were really happy with the texture of the shrimp – it was very well cooked, and we loved the sauce that came with it!

For my  main dish I went with the Plantain and/or tofu moqueca, while Teddy had the shrimp moqueca. Both dishes were served with rice, and came in clay pots to keep the dishes warm – they were sizzling when they hit our table! Both of us really enjoyed out dishes, and we had plenty left for leftovers.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was casual – on a Wednesday night it wasn’t extremely busy, but there was a steady stream of small parties in the restaurant. The decor was friendly, and there were lots of reminders that this was a Brazilian establishment, including a soccer game on the TV by the bar!

We would absolutely go to this restaurant again, and encourage you to try it if you’re in the Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge. I’m sure we’ll be back!

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A weekend in the US Virgin Islands: Monday

If you’re catching up on our last few days in the US Virgin Islands, check out previous posts here and here!

Monday morning began in a similar way as the previous ones – another relaxing breakfast with a stunning view of St. John. We decided to head to the National Park again since we had such a wonderful time on Saturday. Plus, the weather just kept getting increasingly perfect, so it was hard to think of doing anything else!

After having such a positive experience with the Virgin Island EcoTours, we decided to jump on the opportunity to experience another Virgin Island EcoAdventure! We opted for the Honeymoon beach package, which included unlimited access to a lounge chair, lockers, kayaks, snorkels, stand up paddle boards and floating mattresses. We felt like it was a superb deal, particularly when there are so few people on the beach!

Honeymoon Beach

We spent the day alternating between the water and the smooth sand. I enjoyed lots more snorkeling while my mom paddled around in the kayak. I even tried stand up paddle boarding! I really think trying it in the ocean for the first time isn’t the best plan, but I didn’t fall in! My mom even gave it a go! It was more relaxing than I expected – very similar to canoeing. I enjoyed the challenge of balancing, though.

Every turn was a stunning view

We ended our relaxing day getting a light meal on St. John (and more pina coladas, too!) before heading back to St. Thomas. Our ferry ride was at dusk, and it was really neat to see the islands at night. St. John is almost entirely national park, and the lack of development is quite apparent at night!

On Monday morning we packed up our things and said goodbye to the US Virgin Islands. Our trip home involved a quick stop in Puerto Rico, which was also quite beautiful from the plane! We had a wonderful time visiting the Caribbean, and I am already looking forward to my next adventure.

A weekend in the US Virgin Islands: Sunday

If you’re catching up, check out our first day in the US Virgin Islands here!

On Sunday we decided to stay on St. Thomas to do some kayaking and snorkeling. We decided to sign up for the St Thomas Mangrove Lagoon Cas Cay Kayak & Snorkel tour with Virgin Island EcoTours. We ended up getting super lucky and were the only ones on our tour! Our guide, Jake, was excellent and did a wonderful job personalizing the tour to our interests. We hopped into kayaks and started paddling through the Mangrove trees. They actually grow in open ocean, so though it looked like we were surrounded by islands, we were actually in open waters!

Our first snorkeling stop was in deeper waters deep in the Mangrove trees. We saw an absolutely stunning star fish, and got comfortable with snorkeling. There were lots of cauliflower-like jelly fish which I particularly enjoyed. There were also loads of pelicans dive bombing the water for fish, and we had a blast watching them!

After getting back into the kayaks, we headed into another area that had stunning snorkeling – a shallow coral reef. What an incredible sight! There were all different colored fish hanging out on the coral, along with lobseters, conchs, puffer fish, dozens of types of coral and just so much beauty! I really loved this stop. We learned so much about the biodiversity we were seeing in each place, and Jake was great about giving us plenty of time and freedom to explore. We also had a great chocolate break – our lips were so salty from all the snorkeling!

Finally, we paddled across a small lagoon and landed at our final snorkeling spot. This last place was a bit deeper, and the fish were quite a bit larger. The tour group has also been working to rebuild some of the reefs in the area and we saw evidence of the returning fish. I particularly loved the angel fish here, but the electric blue fish were beautiful, too! Again, we spent plenty of time exploring and learning about the island and animals.

All in all, I can’t say enough excellent things about our experience with Virgin Island EcoTours. We learned so much, and had an excellent morning kayaking and snorkeling!

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on Sunset beach, which was extremely close to our hotel. When the sun made us sufficiently tired, we headed over to Cruzan Beach Club, a restaurant that sits right on the water. Such a beautiful view!

We enjoyed happy hour pricing on run drinks, and a delightful celebratory meal for my mom’s birthday. It was the first time she celebrated her birthday in a bathing suit – there’s a first time for everything! Not something a November baby expects, though.

We ended the evening pouring over the gift my sister and I gave to my mom – a new cookie cookbook! Needless to say, we were pretty dissapointed that we didn’t have an oven at our disposal. I’m anticipating a few new treats for the holidays this year 🙂

A weekend in the US Virgin Islands: Saturday

This weekend my mom and I decided to celebrate her 60th birthday in style – in the US Virgin Islands! My parents when to St. John on their honeymoon exactly 30 years ago, and it just so happened that my dad would be traveling this week in Europe so wouldn’t be able to celebrate. I was looking to enjoy the benefits of having a full time job (i.e. PTO!) so my mom and I decided to head south for a long weekend!

Our flight left from Boston early on Friday, and by the time we arrived on St. Thomas mid-afternoon we found ourselves in the middle of a tropical storm! Not ideal for a Caribbean weekend getaway. Luckily the weather got much better for the rest of the weekend, but we spent Friday night hunkered down and even ordered a pizza! It must be vacation if we’re ordering food to be delivered – we never do that! We relaxed at our Bed and Breakfast, Two Sandals By the Sea Inn and crossed our fingers that the weather would improve.
Two Sandals By the Sea Inn

Saturday

…and boy did it! We woke up to an incredible view from our balcony of the mountains on St. John. The sky was a bit overcast, but kept improving through the day!
View while eating breakfast on the porch
We enjoyed a lovely breakfast before heading down to Red Hook Harbor to catch the ferry over to St. John. The trip is only about 2 miles, so the ferry ride was about 20 minutes. However, the water was extremely choppy, and it felt more like a roller coaster than a relaxing ferry ride! Given that my mother and I are both very susceptible to motion sickness, it was a good thing the trip wasn’t too long!
We arrived on St. John and headed over to the Virgin Islands National Park visitor center, a quick walk from the harbor. From there we set out on a lovely hike through the forrest. The plants were so interesting – lots of cacti, ferns and tropical plants. Everything was so lush, the air was humid, and I loved it! We finally ended up on a beach, and boy were we glad that we’d brought our bathing suits. This was our view:
Solomon Beach
HOLY COW! Literally. It looked just like that. WOW.
We spent a while relaxing in the incredible beauty of the beach before continuing on our hike. Stunning views met us the higher we went. Both of us were very glad that we decided to bring our hiking boots – the recent rain and rendered the trails quite slippery and muddy. Regardless, it was stunningly beautiful and we loved it.
We made a stop to refuel at the North Shore Deli in Mongoose Junction and had the most refreshingly wonderful Pina Colada’s ever! I also enjoyed a wonderful veggie burger. After enjoying the air conditioning and sipping every last drop of our drinks, we headed back to St. Thomas on the ferry. An evening of playing cards followed – a Mom/Mary vacation tradition. An excellent day!

A morning with the Dalai Lama

The day after Halloween I had the pleasure of hearing the Dali Lama speak! He was traveling in the US, and scheduled a speaking engagement open to the public on Saturday morning at the TD Garden. Typically home of the Celtics, this was a huge change! Regardless, I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to hear such an icon of peace and human happiness speak.
My dad has had a long-term interest in Eastern Philosophy, and even earned a degree in it. He later attempted to be slightly more pragmatic and earned an engineering degree, but his interest in philosophy is strong, and he came into town to spend the day with me and Teddy.
The Garden was absolutely packed – it was incredible! I’ve never actually been to the facility (reminded me that I should see the Celtics sometime while I live in Boston!) but we got to our seats just before the program began. It started with a beautiful dance by the local Tibetan Cultural Society, the sponsor of the even. It was really interesting to see the beautiful garments, hear the music, and watch the traditional dances. Next, Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a brief introduction, and then the Dali Lama came on stage!
After hearing him speak, I learned a bit more about the Dali Lama’s life. Born in a rural village, he was identified as the 14th reincarnation of the Dali Lama in his early childhood. Political tensions in China and Tibet became quite charged, and he actually hasn’t returned to his native country since 1959. Incredibly, he has remained the spiritual leader of the region despite living in India. Since this time, he has traveled the world speaking about peace, inter-faith dialogs, environmental issues, Buddhism and other topics.
The first thing that struck me about him was how spry he is! Though he is currently 79 he hopped up the stairs onto the stage and was extremely funny! I expected him to be a bit more reverent, but it was a really pleasant surprise.
The title of his talk was “Educating the Heart and Mind” and he started by discussing how people area all the same. We are all humans, and all want to lead a happy life. Difference exist between us, but are secondary, and highlighting them only lead to problems. He talked about how difficult change is, but how important it is to respect the people we are surrounded by, and respect their valid desire to lead a happy and productive life. He suggested that we can change society by changing ourselves as individuals, and that this is how we can create a more peaceful world.
After speaking for a while, the Dalai Lama answered some questions submitted by children in the audience. I really enjoyed these – apparently he has an old pet cat, gets angry sometimes, and used to repair clocks (no wonder I like him!). Finally, Richard Gere spoke some concluding remarks. Pretty cool to hear him speak, too!
Overall, it was extremely inspirational hearing him speak to these points. His lessons of peace, forgiveness and respect are some of the most valuable in the world, and it was incredible to see him in the flesh. Teddy, my dad and I were all in an excellent mood as we left the Garden!
Later in the afternoon we headed into the North End to enjoy a lovely Italian meal at a small restaurant. It’s difficult to go wrong in that neighborhood, and we had an excellent meal! We walked over to the Paul Revere house to take a very interesting tour of the home where he lived. I’m a pretty big history fan, so loved re-visiting this place! I went on school field trips many moons ago, so it was great to see it in a new light.
No trip to the North End is complete without a visit to Mike’s Pastries, so we slipped in there to enjoy an excellent canoli before heading home. All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday!