Email Marketing Campaigns – Robots, Humans And Shoes Slashed Whilst Lions Roared

When you are planning an email marketing campaign, there are two important issues to be addressed. The first issue is ensuring that your email marketing campaign gets delivered and the second is persuading the recipients of the email marketing campaign to open the emails and read them.

Email Marketing Campaigns – Robots

Despite the scare headlines about the death of email marketing, it is alive and well and email marketing campaigns are still fighting a running battle with their arch-enemies – the filterbots. These are the poorly trained robots that filter out legitimate marketing emails and correspondence from your relatives but persistently deliver enormous amounts of rubbish right into your mailbox.

You have probably had the experience of signing up for an email marketing campaign – you know, the sort that offers a useful training course or a series of interesting articles – and then finding that you only get about half or two thirds of the promised emails. Sometimes a ten part email campaign mysteriously disappears after part seven or you receive all of the email marketing campaign except parts 1, 5 and 9. It always seems random but we are told that the filterbots are trained to seize mail containing certain words, symbols or combinations of words and symbols.

The really infuriating thing about the bots is that they seem to be unable to distinguish the difference between a junk email marketing campaign and email from a contact in your personal address book. How dare these bots decide on your behalf that you will not receive email from your excitable friend who uses double and triple exclamation marks in correspondence! Ok, multiple exclamation marks are vulgar but being eaten by robots seems rather a harsh punishment for a mere lapse of taste. The filterbots, although not particularly intelligent, are cunning: they leave no evidence, they devour every scrap of the mail they steal, so you can’t prove they have committed the theft. You can’t fight the bots so you need to weave a cloak of invisibility for your email marketing campaigns.

Anyone doing research in the hope of creating a successful email marketing campaign will come across advice on how to get past the filterbots and will discover in advance that certain words and phrases must be avoided. These dangerous words include “money back”, “100% satisfied”, “money-back guarantee” and “order today”. So whilst the author of an email marketing campaign will have this advance warning, such matters will not have come to the attention of your Granny. Granny will wonder why you didn’t reply to her email asking for your advice on her proposed stair lift purchase even though she told you in her email that the company offers a guarantee and she wanted to send off her order today. If Granny is deaf, she won’t be able to sort this out with you by phone, and the filterbots will have created a terrible rift in your relationship.

Email Marketing Campaigns – Humans

Armed with your knowledge of the bots’ weakness for certain fodder, you can make sure your email marketing campaign contains no tempting words that would turn your campaign into a series of tasty bot snacks. So, you’ve done your research, you know the words to avoid and you have found a neat tool that will read your email and tell you if you have accidentally used a “bad” word in your email marketing campaign. The next thing to consider is getting the emails read by the recipients. Having gone to a lot of trouble to plan you email marketing campaign and robot-proof it, you want to give the emails the best possible chance of being read. With one eye on the banned word list, you need to think of the human beings who will receive your email and create subject lines that will make them want to read each email. A tall order but not impossible. There are things you should do and things to definitely avoid. Your email subject heading should (a) stand out, (b) engage the recipient’s interest, (c) relate closely to the body of the message and (d) not look like hype.

To make your email marketing campaign stand out, you can indent the subject by using “>>>>>>>>” or “__________” or “********” but don’t be tempted to use exclamation marks or all capital letters. These will catch the human eye but they will also attract the scrutiny of the filterbots who will most likely gulp the email down without even bothering to look further than the subject line. Don’t be tempted to put L@@K in the subject heading of a business email, that sort of thing is fine if you are writing to a friend but it does not convey a professional image.

To engage the recipient’s interest in your email marketing campaign you can employ one of the following techniques: (a) state a powerful benefit – “xxxxxxx Satisfies Your Need for xxx” (b) pique curiosity – “xxxxxxxx Has Uncovered the Secrets of Success” (c) write your subject line with a news angle – “xxxxxxxx Launches xxxxxxxx For Those Who Want to xxxxxxxxxxx Fast!” (d) offer Immediate Gratification – “With xxxxxxxxxxx, you can start xxxxxxxxxx before the sun goes down tonight”

The subject line of your email must be relevant to the body of the message. If you want to annoy people and ensure they never open another email from your marketing campaign, pick an important sounding subject line – eg “Urgent – Re Your Account” for an email that has nothing to do with any account held by the recipient. People do not like to be misled or tricked and will not forgive you if they think you are trying to fool them. Using an irrelevant title to get someone to open an email is tantamount to lying to them. People will remember this behaviour and might even block all future emails from you. Words such as “: time-sensitive, only 3 days left, powerful, offer about to expire, exclusive, limited, secret” are known to attract attention but should only be used in appropriate circumstances, ie when they relate to the contents of the email.

Create an email marketing campaign subject line that doesn’t look like hype. This has to be the hardest one of all as it is subjective. What looks like hype to one person will look like a reasonable proposition to another. A perfectly genuine statement will be suspected hype to an overly cynical person. The first thing to do is to avoid anything that you personally think looks like hype. Ask yourself if it would convince you if it turned up in your mailbox or if you would immediately hit the delete button – if you can’t even convince yourself, you will be causing a similar reaction in other people. Never make over-inflated claims in the subject line, make sure you can back up any statements you make. If you can do this and still create an alluring title for your email, you will have a good chance of getting your email marketing campaign read if it gets past the filterbots.

Email Marketing Campaigns – “Shoes Slashed Whilst Lions Roared”

“Shoes Slashed Whilst Lions Roar” is my favourite email subject line of all time. I believe this is an example of a near enough perfect subject line for an email marketing campaign. It has all the elements: the words stand out from the run of the mill titles, it engages the recipient’s interest, it relates closely to the body of the message and it does not look like hype.

This subject line was used in an email marketing campaign run by a mail order company I had previously used for purchasing online. I might or might not bother to read emails from the company depending upon how busy I was. I couldn’t resist opening this email because the title intrigued me. Although it was easy to guess that the “Shoes Slashed” would relate to reduced prices on footwear, I couldn’t figure out where roaring lions would come into a clothing and footwear catalogue, so I simply had to read the email. The email carried details of special offers on footwear (as anticipated) and English Lions Rugby shirts, which were apparently a roaring success. The dramatic sounding subject line was, in fact, directly relevant to the body of the mail and nothing about it bears the tell-tale mark of hype.

Email Marketing Campaigns – Final Word About The Beginning

The first mails in your email marketing campaign are the most important so should be especially carefully crafted from the aspects of both bot-proofing and engaging human interest. If you can get the first couple of emails delivered and read, people who are interested in what you have to say will recognise your name and will want to read any further emails from you that arrive in their mailbox. It is also a good idea to suggest in the first couple of emails that the recipients should add you to their “white list” to ensure they don’t miss future important mail. All this might not make your email marketing campaigns 100% filterbot proof but it is the best mere humans can do in this particular battle.

Copyright 2005 Elaine Currie

How To Pair Craft Beer With Great Food

There is not much better in this world than a great meal paired with a delicious, full-flavored craft beer. Most people think of pairing food with wine, but fine beers offer much more versatility than wine does. Because there are so many styles and such a wide range of flavors, craft beer compliments a whole spectrum of food flavors. Seasonal beers go wonderfully with seasonal meals as well.

In order to make it easier to think of which beer goes with what food, a good rule of thumb is to think of ale like red wine, and lager as if it were white wine. Strong hoppy ales, like IPAs, can overwhelm the cuisine so be sure to pair them with strong and spicy food. Also remember to pair like flavors; tart goes with tart, and sweet, with sweet. The beer ought to be slightly more sweet or tart as the food being served. Taste is subjective, though, so it is important to be experimental and adventurous. Try new and unusual beers, and discover how they taste paired with your favorite meals.

The most widespread lager style beer is Pilsner, and the most common ale is a Pale Ale. Both, of course, are terrific with an excellent meal. A classic pairing for any number of the outstanding American Pale Ales would be with a juicy hamburger and cheddar cheese. If you can muster dessert, Pale Ale also goes greet with a maple bread pudding. A classic Pilsner is ideal in the summer because it is so crisp and refreshing. Pair a nice German Pilsner with barbecued chicken breast and a fresh mixed greens salad.

For more extreme barbecues you might want to bring a strong, hoppy IPA. I’ve found that a very peppery bone-in ribeye tastes amazing with a well hopped IPA. The piney and citrus notes of the hop bomb perfectly compliment the tender, spicy, slightly fatty meat. Recently there is a craze for double or Imperial IPAs that are extremely hoppy and high in alcohol content, but normally balanced with a thick almost sweet maltiness. These double IPAs are delicious with a grilled leg of lamb seasoned with much garlic and rosemary, or a tender smoked beef brisket. Furthermore, cheese lovers swear by the flavor combination of blue cheese and Gorgonzola with IPA.

Strong, hoppy IPAs are also classic with curry, whether Thai or Indian, green or red. The strong hoppy overtones balance spicy meals very well. I also believe that the exotic flavor undertones and citrus elements found in the extremely hopped IPAs match the over the top shock of some Thai or Indian food.

Years ago I went to Belgium and could not get enough of the the classic Belgian meal, moulle e frites, mussels and fresh-cut French fries. Of course, the Belgian beer is world renowned. Every small town has a pub that makes remarkable beer, and in the cities you can sit outside in an outdoor cafe and enjoy a big steaming pot of mussels and drink some amazing beers. Witbier is a classic with steamed mussels, but when I was in Belgium I preferred to try as many different Abbey Dubels and Tripels as I could, and they paired perfectly with the succulent North Sea Belgian mussels.

Belgian Abbey Ales are getting quite popular in the U.S. and it is now easier to find Abbey Dubels and Tripels in the more well stocked liquor stores. Expert American craft breweries are also adapting the traditional recipes to create concoctions that dazzle. They carry quite a flavor punch because of their unique natural yeasts, as well as the tradition and craft that goes into producing them. Because it can be quite strong, an Abbey Tripel compliments spicy cajun food and the marriage of extreme flavors is a high in and of itself. An Abbey Dubel is slightly more subdued, and tastes terrific with a hearty meat stew. For dessert, try a Tripel with dark chocolate bread pudding, and pair an Abbey Dubel with baklava and other non-chocolate desserts.

I prefer dark beers in the winter time, and these hearty brews need a meal that is equally warming and substantial. Porters, though very dark, are not high in alcohol content, and are slightly sweet with a nice toasty malt flavor. Pair a porter with smoked and roasted meats or fish. Porter is perfect with chocolate, and desserts with peanut butter and coconut too.

Stouts are already pretty filling, so be prepared. I tried an oatmeal stout with Oaxcan Mole chicken once and it was amazing. The sweet and thick stout was the perfect match for the spicy, earthy mole. Imperial Stouts are very strong and high in alcohol content. They overpower most foods, but are fabulous with dessert, like a chocolate raspberry torte.

There are so many remarkable beers to try. The recent boom for American craft brewers is producing a fantastic amount of outstanding beers of various styles to discover and enjoy. I recommend that you ask your favorite bars and restaurants to expand their beer menu and that you make it a point to experiment with beers you have never tried and pair them with foods to discover sumptuous flavor combinations that take the taste buds to new heights.

Working From Home – Telemarketing – Do You Have What It Takes?

More and more people every day are looking for ways of working from home. Working from home has never been so popular and the choice of types of employment seems endless. You might decide to start your own home based business and work long hours to achieve a dream of supporting your family from the profits of the business. Perhaps you simply want a job you can do at home, maybe just for a few hours a week to bring in a little extra money.

Up until a few years ago, work from home opportunities were rare and poorly paid. This type of work from home slavery still exists but technology has caused a dramatic increase in the number of genuine work from home opportunities available, both for the home based business entrepreneur and for the stay at home mom who wants a job she can fit in around the kids’ schedule.

If you have a professional qualification such as being a Lawyer or Accountant you can quite easily set up a home based office. If you have a practical qualification such as being a hairdresser, beautician or nail technician you can build up your own mobile business. If you have no particular qualifications but possess a talent for something such as carpentry or sewing or welding, you can make things at home and sell them at craft fairs and art exhibitions. If you have no particular qualifications or talents but possess some imagination and drive, you can carve out your own niche by identifying a need in your community and providing a service to fill it.

If you have no qualifications, no talent, no skills, no imagination, you could become a telemarketer. The only attributes a telemarketer needs are:

1. A phone

2. A friendly manner (optional in some circumstances)

3. The ability to memorise and recite a script

4. The ability to tell lies in a convincing way

5. A conscience on psychopath level

6. An inner radar enabling you to identify the least convenient time to phone people

7. the ability to talk for a long time without pause

8. Tenacity

9. A thick skin.

Recruitment advertising might mislead you by stating that a clear speaking voice is a requirement but I can tell you from experience that this is not so. Provided you can make your scripted speech without being sidetracked by questions from your prospective customer and have no qualms about the size or number of the lies necessary to close a deal, you will easily find employment in the field of telemarketing.

If you think this sounds mean, just think for a moment about telemarketers. You know, the people that make unsolicited phone calls to you when you are in the middle of bathing the baby or having dinner or when you are up a ladder trying to hang wallpaper. You dive for the phone trying not to drop a slippery baby or trying to swallow your food without choking or trying to control the gummy wallpaper that wants to stick to you, the ladder and everything else around you. You manage to pick up the phone without suffering a serious accident and find yourself listening to a complete stranger who wants to sell you something you don’t need and don’t want.

While the baby howls, your dinner gets cold or the wallpaper dries in creases, this person talks at you relentlessly and seemingly without the need to take a breath. Only when the dripping soap suds or congealing food or the fact that your hand is glued to the phone finally drive you to interrupt, will there be a pause. This pause, however, is nothing more than a brief mini-second’s respite before the script is resumed. You won’t get the chance to say enough to turn the soliloquy into a conversation. You see, telemarketers are trained to capitalise on the fact that most people are polite. Most people in this situation don’t like to interrupt and won’t hang up the phone until the caller has finished speaking and goodbyes have been said.

The only ways to end a call from a telemarketer are to agree to purchase whatever he is offering you or to hang up the phone while he is still reciting his script. If you are too polite to hang up, you might as well just agree to purchase right away. There is absolutely no point trying to reason with a telemarketer; if you say you don’t want to buy his elephant because you can’t stand grey, he will ask you to tell him your favourite colours and then he will swear a solemn oath that the elephant he is offering you is yellow with pink polka dots. A tempting offer! By giving him that tiny bit of information about your personal taste, you have given the telemarketer his hook: he is offering you something in a colour-scheme you said you like, how can you reasonably refuse?

Even though the baby might be blue with cold or the dinner completely solid or the wallpaper glued to your shirt, don’t accept the offer. A yellow with pink polka dots elephant might sound like a real novelty and acceptance might seem like a way to end this miserable phone call. The thing here is that, when you receive it, that elephant will be of the grey variety. I don’t like to say this but telemarketers lie and, the more incredible the lie is, the more they will protest that the offer they are making you is genuine and too good to be true. Well, they get it half right: it will undoubtedly be too good to be true.

Copyright 2005 Elaine Currie

Finding The Real Caribbean

Why Go

Somewhere out there exists the real Caribbean- A hidden land pleasantly lacking foreign owned all-inclusive resorts that gate guests in and keep the island out. On this island expats, sailors, guests and locals merge into a unique blend of camaraderie shared over cold beers while serenaded by the rhythms of reggae and steel drums. Here one falls asleep to the cry of the neighbor’s pet goat and wakes up to the alarm of the resident rooster. This secret land, although hard to get to, is well worth the visit, or perhaps even an extended stay. Whether you fly, sail or swim, in order to meet the real Caribbean face to face one must get themselves to Bequia, the crown jewel of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

History

The island, only nine miles south of St. Vincent (known as the “Mainland” to locals) was first settled by the Arwak people. The Arwarks were eventually eliminated by the Caribs, a warlike race who took over the island and named it “Becouya”, meaning “Island of Clouds”.
The long period of European colonization began in 1664 when the French claimed Bequia, although permanent settlements were not established until 1719. Between 1763 and 1783, the English and French flip flopped control of the Grenadine islands until the Treaty of Versailles gave ultimate control to England.

Under English rule, agriculture, particularly sugar, was promoted throughout the island. When the sugar trade declined, the people of Bequia turned towards the sea and began a culture of fishing, whaling and boat building. The whaling industry attracted Scots and even today their lingering influence is felt. Because whaling is considered an indigenous tradition, the country is allowed to catch two whales per year under international treaty.

In 1979 St. Vincent and the Grenadines attained independence but remained part of the British Commonwealth. Due to its off-the-beaten-path location, Bequia, and the country as a whole, has focused on local, authentically Caribbean tourism that appeals to yachters and adventure travelers. In a large part, the lack of mass-tourism is a direct result of the stringent policies of beloved Prime Minister J.F. Mitchell, who once said:

“The tourist dollar alone, unrestricted, is not worth the devastation of my people. A country where people have lost their soul is no longer worth visiting. We will encourage only small numbers of visitors whose idea of a holiday is not heaven or paradise, but participation in a different experience. We shall try to avoid the fate of some of our Caribbean neighbors who have ridden the tiger of tourism only to wind up being devoured by it. Large super-luxury hotels with imported management, materials, and values bring false prosperity with the negative side effects of soaring land prices that kill agriculture, polluted beaches, traffic jams, high rise construction that ravages hillsides and scalds the eyeballs – the very problems that the visitors want to forget.”

When to Go

Although Bequia’s tropical climate makes it an ideal year-round destination, the best time to go is during the dry months. The dry season runs from approximately January to May and the rainy season from June through December, with July being the wettest. From September to November hurricanes are always a potentially dangerous occurrence.

How to Get There

This remote island is reached by air or sea. Flights can be booked directly into Bequia’s small, J.F. Mitchell airport via Barbados on LIAT, Mustique Air, SVG Air or TIA. The more common route is to fly into St. Vincent and then ferry to Bequia’s Admiralty Bay. Ferries run a half a dozen times a day and take approximately one hour, dock to dock.

By far the most popular mode of transportation is via private yacht. Long a yachties paradise, Admiralty Bay serves as a watery parking lot for these sometimes luxurious carriers of both the rich and famous and those who just enjoy taking to the sea. Customs is located directly opposite the ferry dock in Port Elizabeth.

Getting Around

Being only a mere seven square miles in size, the entire island can be taken in with a leisurely stroll. Other options include dollar buses, taxis (pick-up trucks with canvass awnings over the cabs) and water taxis for beach hopping. Taxis can be picked up at The Almond Tree in central Port Elizabeth, which is literally just an almond tree where the taxi drivers sit in the shade and wait for business. Fares should be negotiated prior to the trip.

Best Attractions

Bequia is not a destination full of marquee attractions since the real attraction here is its laid back local tempo. In fact, a popular answer to the question of “What’s there to do?” is a simple, “Nothing”, which is exactly the beauty of the island. Be sure to pack lots of paperbacks, crosswords and playing cards. However, when you’re not busy “doing nothing”, here’s some things to occupy your free time:

Beaches

Bequia’s mountainous terrain blesses it with several secluded harbors lined with long stretches of peaceful sands. All beaches are public, but its rare you’ll see more than a handful of people at any given time. The closest beach to Port Elizabeth is Princess Margaret Beach. The beach is lined by a tropical forest of shady palms and overlooks the turquoise waters of Admiralty Bay and its mooring of bobbing yachts. Princess Margaret is assessable by foot; just follow the Belmont Walkway.

Lower Bay Beach, located around the corner from Princess Margaret, is also accessible by a footpath located at the far end of Princess Margaret Beach. Lower Bay is a white sand beach with tranquil waters perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Along its rocky tips, sea turtles and octopuses abound. The village located along the main road has several options for food and drinks. Dawn’s Beach Café is a popular place for sandwiches and beers whereas Keegans is known for its evening beachside barbeques.

Friendship Bay plays hosts to the third of the island’s accessible beaches and is best reached via taxi. Located on the windward side of the island, facing the Atlantic, the waters here tend to be less clear and rougher. However, the pristine scenery of mist-shrouded islands floating along the horizon, its isolation and lack of boats blocking the view easily make up for any shortcomings. Further, the complimentary beach chairs are worth the trip themselves. The Moskito Bar, an open-terraced beachside bar and restaurant, mixes up a wide array of tempting tropical drinks which can be enjoyed either on the sand or in a bar side swing. Live bands often play well into the night.

To Spring and Sea Turtles

Bequia’s number one bonafide tourist attraction is the unique Oldhegg Turtle Sanctuary, located in the remote Industry Bay region. The most rewarding way to reach the site is to walk there and take a taxi back. The walk, which can be steep and several hours long, will give you a true perspective of the island.

Begin by taking a right at the road running next to the New York Bar in Port Elizabeth. At first the hike is nothing but an unimpressive trek straight up the hillside. However, once you reach the crest be sure to turn around for a panoramic view of Admiralty Bay. Continue down the hill, past the foul smelling island landfill, and into the remote community known as Spring. Here you will pass Spring Pottery, located in the ruin of an old sugar plantation. The shop sells handmade, local crafts and artwork, along with being an operating pottery kiln open for tours. Up the hill from here is Spring on Bequia, a boutique hotel famous for both its views and Sunday afternoon curry buffets.

As you continue on you will pass the desolate Spring Bay, with its towering palm trees and old stone aqueducts. From here it is back up the hill, at the top of which you are greeted by past-the-horizon views of the Grenadine islands and gently seductive Caribbean Sea. From this vantage point you also can get a good feel of the shape and sounds of Bequia.

At the foot of the hill is Industry Bay, home of the oldest home on the island, which is still locally owned. From the Bay it is just a short walk to the humble Oldhegg Turtle Sanctuary. Founded by former sailor, Orton “Brother” King, the sanctuary nurses and breeds hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles in an effort to replenish the Southern Caribbean’s rapidly disappearing turtle population. Mr. King started the project when he was camping on the beach now located adjacent to the site. While sleeping under the stars he was awakened by the unsettling feeling that someone was throwing sand at him. As he cautiously came out of his slumber he saw at his feet a mother sea turtle laying her eggs. Fascinated by this creature, he built his home here so he would be around to watch the turtles hatch. Inspired by this miracle of nature, Mr. King went on to start the sanctuary program and to date has raised and released thousands throughout the surrounding islands. Admission is a $20.00EC donation.

Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth is the only real “city” on the island. However, a place that has two streets, efficiently named Front Street and Back Street, can hardly be considered a city. Yet it is here where all of the island’s energy converges. Besides being the starting point for the hotel and restaurant lined Belmont Walkway, the city proper has its fair share of attractions. At the very least, a stroll down harbor lined Front Street and back on neighborly Back Street gives you a glimpse of day-to-day Bequian life.

Along the way, be sure to poke your head into one of the handful of churches along the road. Often times all you have to do to find them is listen for the energetic and beautiful gospel signing radiating from their walls.

The main draw of Port Elizabeth is its boutique craft, clothing, art and grocery shops. For a selection of colorful local crafts and clothing, start at Local Color. Located on the Belmont side of Port Elizabeth in the upper story of a dive grocery store, Local Color specializes in tropical inspired women’s clothing and basic island souvenirs. Noah’s Arkade, adjacent to the Frangipani, also sells an excellent collection of homemade crafts, postcards, antique replica maps and clothing. For local books, along with a good selection of mass-paperback fictions for beach reading, the Bequia Bookshop is your place.

Historically, Port Elizabeth was a place of boat building. However, as the carriages of the sea transformed from wood to steel, the town adapted by taking the same skills and craftsmanship and applying them to building model boats. Throughout the streets of Bequia small boat building shops can be found. Here visitors can both buy model boats, some costing as much as a real boat, but also watch the artist practice their time-honed trade. The best places to catch boat building in action are Withfield Sails, Mauvin’s and Sargeant Bothers’, all located on the far end of Port Elizabeth.

One cannot be a traveler without taking the time to visit the town’s local market. Bequia is no exception to this golden rule of travel. Unlike other international farmer’s markets, the farmer’s market in Bequia is known as the Rasta Market. It is held daily in a government-founded structure given to the local Rastafarians to sell their produce of pineapple, passion fruits, mangos and guava. The market is open 7am to 6pm Monday through Saturday and from 7 am to 4 pm on Sundays.

Other Notable Sites

Hamilton Fort, located on the far side of Admiralty Bay, is a colonial style 18th century fort guarded by sea-worn cannons. It provides a scenic and quiet place for an afternoon picnic retreat. Both Cinnamon Garden and Mount Pleasant offer shade and secluded gardens with panoramic, natural views. Paget Farm, a small fishing community and home to the lovely Banana Patch Studio, is another worthwhile destination.

Best Unusual Attraction: Moonhole

A magical, if not eerie, mix of Frank Lloyd Wright’s taste for the natural and Gaudi’s aptitude for the abstract, Moonhole is a collection of over twenty free-form homes melting from the rocky crags of the island’s rugged sea cliffs. The original settlement was built by Tom Johnston, an American architect and developer. The concept was to create homes that were purely natural and thus are built without windows or doors. The entire place is part of nature, with tree branches snaking their way through bedrooms and lizards scampering across mud-packed kitchen floors. None of the walls or ceilings are even close to being conventional as all are curving or sloping in a way that is reminiscent of the eroding mud of the cliff’s the homes are built from.

Today about half of these unique treasures have been restored and serve as a resort, of sorts. There is no electricity, but lamps are provided and some have solar panels. All showers are cold. Tours are available but must be booked in advance by calling 458-3068.

Out and About: Sailing to the Tobago Cays

As the Grenadines have historically been reserved for those of the sailing type, one cannot pass up an opportunity to see the islands from aboard a classic Caribbean schooner. The Friendship Rose, a wooden ship built in Bequia’s Friendship Bay, offers daily sailing excursions departing from Admiralty Bay. Launched in 1967, The Friendship Rose was originally commissioned to carry fertilizer between the islands, before becoming the Grenadines official mail boat and later serving as the ferry between Bequia and St. Vincent. Today its sole responsibility is to usher tourist to and from Bequia and such romantic Grenadine destinations as Mustique, Caanouan and the Tobago Cays.

If there is only time for one sailing excursion, then it must be to the reef-ringed and white sand swept Tobago Cays. The collection of four uninhabited and completely natural islands that comprise the National Maritime Park is the perfect place to spend a water-themed adventure. Once here you can spend their day exploring the underwater treasures of Horseshoe Reef, where the movie Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, or enjoy a relaxing rest on one of the numerous desert island beaches.

Regardless of how you spend your day, nothing beats swaying in the canvass Crew hammocks strung between the ship’s towering wooden masts, digesting your gourmet lunch and enjoying the collision of the pure blue sky with a blue tie-dyed sea. This is the essence of the Grenadines’ splendor.

Other Island Activities and Entertainment

Bequia is blessed with coral reefs and spectacular diving and snorkeling spots. Several outfitters are based on the Belmont Walkway, with the best being Bequia Dive Adventures and Dive Bequia.

If Bequia seems laid back and tranquil during the day, it transforms itself into an all-island beach party by night. On any given night of the week there is live music under the stars playing somewhere, all you have to do is follow your ears. The biggest party on the island is the weekly Thursday Night Jump Up at the Frangipani. Starting with a three course dinner of char-boiled steaks, shrimp, pastas, tropical fruits and the most delectable deserts in the Caribbean, this all night party quickly becomes a mass of drinking and dancing to steel drum music on the soft sands of the dance floor. Other popular places to catch music include The Pirates Table (784-458-3900), The Whaleboner and L’Auberge des Grenadines (784-458-3201).

Special Events

Bequia would not be a Caribbean island if it didn’t have its own slew of action packed festivals. Each year things get kicked off right with the Old Year’s Night party, full of music, dancing, food, and fireworks being shot off from the yachts and ferries. Every Easter Bequia plays host to the Bequia Easter Regatta, with yacht races in the day, cultural events during the evening, and partying all night.

Best Eats

For upscale gourmet dining under the stars, there’s no better place than the Frangipani. Expect to feast from a diverse menu of chicken, steaks, seafood and plenty of pastas, rice, citrus fruits and fresh produce to accompany your main course. Don’t forget to save room for dessert: lime meringue and French silk pie, chocolate mousse and creamy cakes will tantalize your sweet tooth. The banana pancakes at breakfast are a Bequian must.

Mac’s Pizza cooks up the best lobster pizza, a Bequia original, on their brick ovens. Surprisingly, curry is a popular spice on the island (785-458-3474). For a fusion of the best of Indian food with a splash of the Caribbean, try the chicken curry garnished with mango salsa and Nan at the Gingerbread (784-458-3800).

For ethnic eats, the Plantation House Restaurant is owned and operated by Italians and thus serve up the best pasta dishes this side of Italy. For Mexican fare, Tommy Cantina on the Belmont side of Port Elizabeth is an excellent choice for spicy fish tacos (and their margarita menu is not to be missed).

Where to Sleep

The Gingerbread Hotel, located on Admiralty Bay along the seaside Belmont Walkway, an architecturally impressive hotel, is perfect for those looking for simple seclusion yet still staying close to the central action of the island. The hotel is built in the popular gingerbread tradition found throughout the island, with intricate hand cut fretwork enhancing the façade of the dining rooms and guest rooms. Both luxury and budget rooms are available.

On Bequia’s windward side, at the end of a narrow, bumpy road, a 10-minute drive south of Port, The Friendship Bay Resort sparkles with a bright, new personality thanks to its resourceful Swedish proprietor. This cheery and brightly colored sea cliff hotel is tastefully set into its natural surroundings and provides all guest stellar Caribbean views. The property consists of the main building atop a hill, a cluster of cottages below, and a thatched bar and restaurant facing two kilometers of windswept beach (784-458-3222).

Amid a tangle of tropical foliage, in town midway along the busy waterfront promenade, the small, classic West Indies-styled Frangipani is steeped in local history. Once home to Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell and still owned by his family, this appealing property centers on a building that resembles a New England whaler’s home with its cedar shake and pale blue shutters. Not only is “The Frangi” one of the most popular hangouts for travelers, it is also highly regarded as the place to be by the locals, giving it a uniquely blended, homey personality. The cabanas on the hill are luxurious suites, but the five simple guest rooms on the second floor of the main house are a steal.

The peach-color colonial house with pastel blue accents, huge verandas on three sides, and a palm-studded lawn of a former Caribbean plantation is now under Italian management as the Plantation House Hotel. The hotel sprawls along the oceanside Belmont Walkway and is lined with the plantation’s original stone fence. Guests have easy access to Port Elizabeth’s shops and restaurants and fine views of the bustling harbor.

Perched on a hill on the windward side of the island, Spring on Bequia overlooks Spring Bay from the ruins of a 200-year-old sugar mill set among coco palms and a tropical pasture populated by cows, sheep and large land crabs. This small, isolated, award-winning yet understated property does not focus on the beach. Rather, it is an ideal place for those seeking peace, quiet, and delicious West Indian food in informal, aesthetically pleasing surroundings.

For Your Safety

Bequia takes pride in its relatively crime-free existence. Although whiffs of marijuana can be smelled regularly, the sale of it is rather undercover. The greatest risks to your safety and well-being are from the manchineel trees located along the beaches. If touched they may cause an aggravating skin rash. At the time of writing there were several reports of armed robbery occurring along the wooded paths leading to Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay Beach. It is best to use precaution and walk in groups or take a water taxi. At the very least, ask your hotel on the status of the trails.