Ad-“Marin” du View

Ad-“Marin” du View

 

If I’m in the photo or the photo is really really professional, then the photography credit goes to Paul Woo.

We had expected that similar to our last time with them in Sardinia it would involve a frenzy of check-ins, security deposits, last minute provisional shopping, except this time without the 2 flash thunderstorms. Instead, we woke up this morning to something even crazier: finding out that 90% of the yacht staff would test positive for COVID-19 this morning after a trip they had sailed on the week before.

Therefore, in the best interests of everyone’s safety, a decision was made to cancel the itinerary entirely. We sadly would miss out saying hi to our friend and intended our skipper Umbi (who we were so lucky to have in Sardinia). Although he continues to test negative for COVID-19, he also did not want to take a chance to eventually test positive while sailing with us. Such professionalism. I respect that. WE STILL MISS YOU UMBI.

Especially after having our fill of Fort-de-France, we decided to reframe this unfortunate series of events with the irony of a Yacht Week trip now truly turning into a monsoon proper, where we would have no idea what the next step would be but pressing on anyway. Therefore continuing onwards without expectations, we asked our concierge at Simon Hotel to arrange a driver to take us to the marina at Marina du Marin from Fort-de-France.

And as luck will reorient itself for us, they luckily got us a wonderful driver and guide named Daniel, who after taking us to Sacré-Coeur de Balata also pulled off to the side of the road for a spontaneous jump behind the bar to serve us their local aged and white rum, complete with syrup and muddled lime.

 

 

Every travel serendipity now tastes 10 times sweeter of a victory.

 

 

Once we arrived at the marina an hour later, we were informed by the yacht staff that they actually may have found us a replacement skipper from Croatia, who just so happens to be vacationing on a nearby island and therefore did not partake in last week’s trip that got 90% of the staff positive for COVID-19. If he tests negative upon his arrival tomorrow, we may be able to salvage whatever bit of our trip that remains viable.

Umbi even left me a gift at the marina office!

 

 

After our check-in and all the logistics, we waited for our yacht to be prepared.

 

By 6:30pm the yacht was ready and we got pick our cabins onboard our newly christened yacht, Free Willy.

 

 

After settling in, we had dinner at L’Annexe for first night celebrations for getting this far despite the circumstances.

 

 

- At time of posting in Marina du Marin, it was 27 °C - Humidity: 74% | Wind Speed: 23km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Getting Out of Omicron City to Fort-de-France, Martinique

Getting Out of Omicron City to Fort-de-France, Martinique

 

If I’m in the photo or the photo is really really professional, then the photography credit goes to Paul Woo.

It’s time for another joint journey with The Yacht Week on our second collaboration together, this time for a much smaller excursion to visit Martinique and St. Lucia amidst all this craziness with Omicron.

With NYC at nearly a 1 in 3 positivity rate and CDC telling us we can go back to work after as few as 5 days from a positive COVID test, and after a week of drowning in understaffed healthcare facilities across the city due to COVID positive tests, I’ll take my 14 days of daily negative rapid antigen and PCRs as a sign to quit while I’m ahead and getting the fuck out of Omicron City.

I feel that instead of working as a glorified human testing site (since so few patients are getting sick or hospitalized due to most of NYC being vaccinated so I feel pretty useless as a doctor these days), I feel it’s safer for me and my own mental health to take a week isolating myself on a boat with other fully boosted healthcare workers who have gone through the same shit-show and rigorous negative testing requirements. The only exception in our group is one person who had tested positive at least more than 10-14 days ago before testing negative on both a rapid antigen and PCR at least 3 more times before starting this trip with us. We’re also fully boosted for an extra layer of security.

And sadly not all of us made it: I had 4 monsooners drop out at the last minute due to being unable to make these requirements. We started with 11, and we’re now down to 6. Luckily I bought G1G travel insurance for all of ourselves a week ago, so the 4 are getting 100% of their money back as COVID-19 is covered in the trip cancellation policy. I hope this is good enough…otherwise we’re all going to quit tomorrow and you’ll have no more safe or open hospitals left to keep society afloat.

Therefore, unlike our Sardinia trip which consisted of us filling 3 yachts out of 22 in the fleet, this time we kept it to filling a single yacht out of 5 total on this route.

Flying direct into Martinique from the USA is nearly impossible unless you’re lucky to get a cheap flight from Miami. Otherwise I had to finagle a hack flight path consisting of 2 separate bookings of JFK to PTP in Guadeloupe and then PTP to FDF to make the itinerary affordable (<$300).

Taking the 7:50am AF 621/Delta 8251 flight from JFK to PTP, I landed 4 hours later at 1:15pm, and then because of a last minute cancellation by Air Antilles, I instead joined Sabrina, Kimmy, and Paul in taking off again at 2:30pm for a 3:15pm arrival into FDF. Tammy and Koichi would join us later in the evening on Air Antilles and AirCaribes flights.

 

 

After arriving into Martinique, we hailed a cab for about 10 euros per person into the city center.

 

 

Settling into our lodgings within the hour at Simon Hotel by the bay, we then sauntered in an empty plaza outside. One of my favorite things in life are freedom you feel in the first few minutes of every new trip.

 

 

We then walked over 10 min into a city completely shuttered for Sunday.

 

 

We headed into town to Market Hall Fort-de-France.

 

 

Then turned back around for a visit to Schœlcher Park which faces the town’s cultural center and Court of Appeals

 

 

Nearby, don’t miss St. Louis Cathedral, built in 1895.

 

 

Nearby is the town’s prettiest structure: Bibliothèque Schœlcher, which houses the works of abolitionist Victor Schoelcher.

 

 

We then crossed into Parc La Savane for a glimpse of local living.

 

 

We then kept walking further down to enjoy music by the Malecon at sunset:

 

 

We then walked down peninsula past the park for Fort Saint-Louis: a fortress, former naval base, and now public museum originally built during the reign of Louis XIII.

 


 

Afterwards we finally had our first meal of the day at the hotel terrace restaurant where we devoured their entire menu despite missing items.

 

 

Then we took back a bottle of white wine and enjoyed a round of “We’re Not Really Strangers” before kicking off an impromptu jam session: Tammy somehow packed both a guitar and ukelele in her carry-on; she even almost brought a keyboard!

 

 

The next morning we tried to visit all of the above when everything would be open on a Monday, including the best fried fish sandwich I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Thanks to Paul’s find, we went to find the obvious reason why: Asian.

 

 

The town is so small we didn’t mind another walk around the neighborhood:

 

 

 

After enjoying a rooftop drink, we then set off on our cab ride to the marina to be with the rest of the yacht weekers. If you have time on your drive, do a short detour for Sacré-Coeur de Balata, surrounded by cliffs north of Fort-de-France.

 

 

The views from here:

 

 

- At time of posting in Fort-de-France, it was 23 °C - Humidity: 73% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Love In The Time Of Corona/COVID-19: I Am Not Throwin’ Away My Shot

Love In The Time Of Corona/COVID-19: I Am Not Throwin’ Away My Shot

Immunized. Protected. Vaccinated. And I had no idea I would get the COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer) until 3 minutes before it happened.

We shall travel again. There is hope.

And in the few hours since my shot I just shared mochi donuts with my staff, swabbed 40+ people for COVID-19, ordered a sandwich and kbbq for delivery, and put back in place a patient’s dislocated shoulder within minutes (usually takes longer!) while digesting said donuts and craving the kbbq. If there’s an immediate side effect of the vaccine, it’s extreme efficiency, eating well, and feeling bulletproof.

Now almost at 50 vaccines in my blood (after all we’re all travelers here who needed a few more before, right?) and I’m digging this feeling of invincibility and the day we’ll be traveling again. 🤷‍♂️ Just sayin’

And so a new dawn emerges in NYC. I can’t say this enough, we shall travel again.

 

. . .

(24 hours later)

 

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A post shared by Calvin D. Sun, MD (@monsoondiaries)

 

Any vaccine side effects so far? This☝️is my first 24 hours since getting the COVID-19 vaccine + 2 months since getting the annual flu vaccine. Does it look like my life has been ruined by 45+ vaccines in my blood?

Yes, vaccines can produce incredible anxiety of the unknown. But so has COVID-19 and we have plenty of data that it’s STILL killing 3000+ people a day. We have plenty of data that not a single vaccine has done as much.

I remind myself that I’ve always made a habit of “do what scares you.” Run towards the 🔥. Embrace change. How else do you think I — and thousands of my friends and readers of my travel blog I’ve taken physically along with me — traveled to 190+ countries in 9 years while as a FULL TIME medical student and doctor-in-training without skipping a day of class or missing work, while paying off $200,000 USD in student loan debt, and still graduating to become an MD on time? …And there’s a point to that seemingly unnecessary 😂😒 (sorry not sorry) statement: Does such a life belong to someone who has “suffered” from the nearly 50 vaccines in his blood?

And wouldn’t that be the irony…if you instead catch and spread to your loved ones a virus that’s being witnessed to be capable of slaughtering 3000+ people in one day after 8 months, instead of choosing 100+ alternative vaccines out there that have been studied through multiple trials…and has so far killed 0 people (let alone 3000+) a day after 8 months?

So you can let yourself be, or have a loved one possibly be one of the 3000 dead/on the lung transplant list/can’t eat or smell by 2022.

Or protect you and your loved ones with a simple shot where it’s somehow still allowing me to do all that☝️in the past 24 hours, and then get to come travel with me ASAP where we eat and drink — aka continue to consume way weirder and more dangerous stuff into our bodies than a vaccine — as we explore this crazy beautiful world together.

For immunizations, for travel and for the sake of your fellow humans; “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

 

. . .

(72 hours later)

 

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A post shared by Calvin D. Sun, MD (@monsoondiaries)

 

This☝️is now 72 hours since getting the COVID-19 vaccine + 2 months since getting the annual flu vaccine. Does it look like life has been ruined by 45+ vaccines in my blood?

Full IG Live with @lisalingstagram at hour 48: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CI85HhrKroR/?igshid=1iqhj59xtmgun

The post-vaccine experience may vary (honestly so far it hasn’t really lol) — but it’s better than the alternative experience with COVID at 3000 deaths a day — and at least for myself and so far 100% of those in my orbit (hundreds at this point!) who have gotten the shot are *ALL STILL ALIVE AND LIVING WELL.* ALL of us already back at work (heck I worked some 12 hours immediately after getting mine and had a great rest of the shift), saving lives, building houses, hiking, bouldering, seeing patients, and generally living our normal lives with a little more hope than we had before getting the vaccine. Our post vaccine sore arms and itchy left nostril (and I think that’s it) have all resolved on their own within 48 hours.

All that we feel left since is a pervasive feeling of joy, catharsis, and relief akin to that spectrum of emotions where one feels after graduating, or finishing an exam that you spent 9 months studying for, or delivering a child after 9 months of carrying it to term. It’s definitely been 9 long months, and we finally see a light at the end of this 9 month long tunnel.

For immunizations, for travel and for the sake of your fellow humans; “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

 

 

Love In The Time Of Corona/COVID-19: The Second Wave

Love In The Time Of Corona/COVID-19: The Second Wave

I told you there always will be a next wave. It was only a matter of time —

Here in NYC we’re now better at screening and treating for COVID-19, but crisis fatigue means far fewer people care. More non-COVID emergencies are mixing in with the COVID crowd so patient volumes are both higher and trickier to work through, and this time there’s no more out-of-state volunteers around to help (everyone’s got COVID problems of their own now). Burnout never went away. The 7pm applause is long gone (and we expected that)…but we still have student loans, I still don’t have access to a PAPR, and many colleagues are asking me for job referrals, struggling to pay off those loans because of all those elective surgeries cancelled across hospital systems mean less pay.

Is the next wave just 🦠? Or is it dismay, disappointment & discouragement? Travel had been a distraction from those feelings, but now without travel it’s COVID. Many of us had a hunch we’d be thrown under the bus — healthcare workers have been more accustomed to fighting for others that we soon forget how to defend ourselves, but I don’t think many of us are close to becoming emotionally prepared when we finally arrive at that reality.

This new wave therefore differs from the first. The sequel brews insidiously, festering within a status quo of willful ignorance, conspiracies or complacency. Those of us who paid attention always knew that the system was not just “about to collapse:” It already has.

Collapsed because your local frontline healthcare worker probably has felt overwhelmed for months and then neglected by a society they swore oaths to protect. How many of us have died this year? How many types of “rationing care” have already been implemented across the country? How would any of it be considered sustainable for a developed nation when our next public health crisis could be right around the corner?

The vaccine may be on the horizon, but damage has been done; it’s already too late for some of us. Hopefully the next wave I’m riding on is the one where we rebuild.

Until then, back to work ✌️.

🖼  by @alisonlaneart based on a 📸  by Kareem Black.

 

 

79 years ago today, carrier-borne strike forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy commanded by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto launched a surprise attack on the unwitting US naval base at Pearl Harbor. Within a few hours, 2,403 military and civilian personnel were dead, hundreds more injured, as many mighty ships of the US Pacific Fleet were sunk or reduced to blazing hulks. It took nearly a full 4 years from that point, millions more casualties on all sides (including two atomic bombings), and untold sacrifices for the US to secure ultimate victory over the Empire of Japan.

Perhaps this remembrance is especially poignant to me because *more* Americans died nearly *EVERY SINGLE DAY LAST WEEK* from COVID-19 than were killed at Pearl Harbor. You don’t have to imagine what a Pearl Harbor or 9/11-scale tragedy happening every day with no end in sight would look like, because we are living that reality now. When we reflect on the greatest generation and the sacrifices they made to secure peace and prosperity in their time, and ask ourselves, have we done enough – everything in our power – to rein in this unfolding disaster, what will our answer be?

Reposted from my middle and high school buddy @leizmonk and he recommended that I share with his permission. @ Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Ohio Gozaimasu!

Ohio Gozaimasu!

 

 

“All of life is a foreign country.”

 

Today ends nearly 5 months since my last monsoon, and 5 years since my last domestic road trip across America. Sometimes it takes a pandemic to put a life of travel on pause, but alas, even life has its rest stops.

 

 

I’ve survived and worked enough to reach this point: After 3 months sheltering in place before I began to peek above our fences with last month’s trial road trip in New England, and amidst months of posting on my social media about what was going on outside of NYC regarding the rise and plateau of COVID-19, a small group of us have now decided to band together and finally see the rest of the country westwards for ourselves.

Maximizing safety, I can assure the many of you reading that not only many of us have traveled together already before, but also a large portion of us have had direct face to face healthcare experience with COVID-19 and stared at this pandemic in the face. Add on face coverings, hygiene training, a self-sufficient RV that can be sealed from the outside world if need be, and with all of us having tested negative for COVID-19 this week, we don’t know how — other than to not travel at all (which would be unsafe for my mental health) — we can get any safer than this.

For a more in depth point by point analysis on what we’ve done to maximize safety, check out our previous entry.

It’s been so long since I’ve led a trip, I even missed packing.

 

 

Yesterday I briefly showed Brynn around NYC as she arrived in from Maine (it’s her first time back in the city in 10 years!), and then introduced her to the other first-time monsooner Noeleen:

 

 

. . .  then we rendezvous’ed with the 5 others based in NYC for one final in-person orientation going over expectations, hygiene training, COVID-19 infection training, and contingency plans.

I also reassured everyone about life when returning home from the trip as on the NY State website, it’s written: “The requirements of the travel advisory do not apply to any individual passing through designated states for a limited duration (i.e., less than 24 hours) through the course of travel.” Given our nature of monsooning, we don’t plan to be anywhere longer for 24 hours in a high prevalence state, so hopefully no issues when we return!

One toast to celebrate good vibes and good luck.

 

 

Look how excited I get at 6:30am. We’re going on an adventure!

 

 

This morning we met bright and early at 7am for breakfast at Bluestone Lane in Astor Place.

 

 

Mask on?

 

 

Mask off? You can’t please everyone.

 

 

After everyone was ready, we then hailed a Lyft SUV for an hour’s drive to the NYC chapter of Road Bear RV in Middleton, NJ.

 

 

After an hour filling out the necessary paperwork and paying off the remaining balance to pick up our pre-reserved RV, we got to know our home for the next 10 days: A 12 foot high, 27 foot long Class C motorhome.

 

 

It comes complete with a full kitchen: oven, microwave, dining set, sink, coffeemaker, plates, silverware, and stovetop.

 

 

In the back is a full bathroom (with shower!) and queen sized bedroom that can be expanded outwards.

 

 

And in the front, we have a work station with couch that both can be converted into full-sized beds, as well as a queen sized bed in the cab above the driver’s seat.

 

 

After another hour acclimating, we set out west into Pennsylvania at 10:30am.

At this point, a girl named Rachel who I had just met for the first time 12 days ago in NYC reached out to say hi on our way through PA into OH…and who am I to say no if you’re on the way? So we did just that about an hour and a half later:

 

 

After an hour’s lunch with Rachel and her husband Chris, we then continued on the 6 hour drive towards Cuyahoga Falls in Ohio, in the outskirts of Cleveland.

 

 

We had already been briefed this would probably be the least photogenic and eventful part of the trip, so we made up for it with good music and the excitement for the adventures ahead.

 

 

Planning this sometimes feels like:

 

 

“And he had a nice home in Ohio with wife, daughter, Christmas tree, two cars, garage, lawn, lawnmower, but he couldn’t enjoy any of it because he really wasn’t free. It was sadly true.”

 

As we approached Akron, we received a trend of messages telling us to eat at local favorite burger joint Swenson’s, which is also a favorite of LeBron James (I’d say he’s a little biased being that he’s an Akron native himself…).

So we did just that, sampling their iconic Galley Boy burger (and in our case we had four).

 

 

We arrived at Streetsboro / Cleveland SE KOA Holiday by 9:00pm, settling in after our first long day on the road.

 

 

It took us about to figure out the hookups by ourselves but we managed.

 

 

The sleeping arrangements took a little longer.

 

 

Tomorrow we continue onwards to Chicago.

 

“I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” 

 

- At time of posting in Cuyahoga Falls, it was 23 °C - Humidity: 74% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: mostly sunny/clear

 

From Wall Street To Maine Street

From Wall Street To Maine Street

 

 

After nearly 3 days in Rhode Island, we head onwards to my first time ever setting foot in Maine.

While the COVID rates here have remained low like the rest of the Northeast, they’re not quite containing it as well as NYC, CT or Rhode Island

 

 

But luckily for us when we arrived at our hotel in downtown Portland, the AC Marriott, we found out that TODAY would be their first day reopening after a 1-2 month lockdown. This meant our room definitely would be clear of COVID-19 as nobody had stayed there for more than enough time for a lonely virus to die off on any surfaces (usually 3 days).

 

 

When you check in, they make you check off and sign this on the honor code (they don’t check for your results otherwise):

 

 

After 10 minutes settling in, we walked out to explore Portland, beginning with a 15 minute walk to the Portland Observatory (closed due to COVID):

 

 

We then walked 10 minutes towards the water and the majestic scenery of the Eastern Promenade:

 

 

It’s a dog paradise still at East End Beach:

 

 

Weaving along the coast back to downtown Portland, we came across a series of abandoned railroad carriages:

 

 

Once back in downtown Portland, we strolled around the charming cobblestone-lined paths of Old Porta quaint historic tourist district that before the pandemic also had functioned as a hip nightlife hot spot for locals.

 

 

As of the time of positing the traditional seafood spots by the waterfront have just begun reopening for outdoor and partial indoor dining.

 

 

When restaurants like Scales was too full, we managed to get seats at the last minute at DiMillo’s On The Water.

 

 

When in Maine…

 

 

…you do it right…

 

 

…and I definitely do it right.

 

 

The next morning we wandered past Old Port into the more modern Downtown Portland where I sampled some of my favorite espresso so far at Speckled Axe.

 

 

In the area and under better circumstances (aka if there were no pandemics), you can visit the magnificent interiors of Portland Museum of Art

 

 

…and Victoria Mansion, one of the most historic homes of the 19th century.

 

 

We then headed back to Old Port for an outdoor seaside lunch at Gilbert’s Chowder House:

 

 

…and we followed up with Duckfat‘s famous fried donuts served with caramel dipping sauce.

 

 

Heading out of Portland at 2pm, we drove 10 minutes to Bug Light Park, named after its tiny 24 foot tower that has a direct view of Portland Harbor.

 

 

The much larger and historic (and Maine’s oldest) Portland Head Lighthouse, built in 1791 and located within the 90-acre Fort Williams Park, is another 10 minutes’ drive south.

 

 

After a 20 minute cliff walk at the park, we drove back to Portland and showed up about an hour late to our online reservation (whoops!) we had made for a tandem kayak at Portland Paddle.

Luckily for us in the era of COVID they honored our reservations as demand here still remains low.

 

 

We spent about an hour kayaking in the bay, going as far out west as an abandoned railroad bridge by I-295 and as east to Pomroy Rock.

 

 

Another thunderstorm then arrived in the evening, so we sat that out back in our hotel before compelling ourselves to walk in the rain for our 8pm reservations at Scales.

Remember the Baked Alaska we had 3 years ago at Eleven Madison Park and 10 months ago in Greenland? We had it again here!

 

 

But this has been the running theme of Portland thus far:

 

 

Finally on day 3 of our time in Portland, we decided to finally honor all the recommendations for us to try The Holy Donut the next morning, especially their Vegan Fresh Lemon, Vegan Chocolate Caramel, and Maple Bacon potato donuts.

 

 

And I’m glad we did, physically distanced lines outside and all. 

This is a great send off for the road as we now drive up the 3 hours north to Acadia National Park!

 

- At time of posting in Portland, ME, it was 16 °C - Humidity: 66% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: thunderstorms