Sunday, November 03, 2013

Grand Vacation in Grand Cayman

The Cayman Islands are a British territory in the Caribbean, just southwest of Cuba, about one hour flight from Miami.  They have one of the highest standards of living in the world, as evidenced by the many multi-million dollar mansions we saw on our small stretch of beach alone.  The local people are very helpful, handworking and friendly. 

As usual, we chose to rent a home/condo, instead of living in a room in a hotel.  We also chose to stay on the northside of the island, Caiman Kai, over the heavily populated and commercial Seven Mile Beach area, with its hundreds of restaurants and shops.  Being British, driving is on the left side of the street with the steering wheel on the right.  It was a tense adjustment at first for Georg, with my reminding him "drive on the left" every few minutes at first.  I was navigating with instructions from the condo owner and a map and we drive around in circles for some time before getting on the correct road to the north shore.  To complicate matters, there were roundabouts every few streets, resulting in my pointing vigorously in which direction Georg should go.

The drive took around one and a half hours, interrupted by a stop at a liquor store.  Like most countries associated with Great Britain, liquor can only be purchased at a dedicated store for that purpose, not in grocery stores like in the States.  We also made a stop for some basic breakfast items to get us through the next morning.  Food prices are very high for some items, a porterhouse steak costing as much as $27.  We planned to eat our big meal out and just keep light food items in the house.

Once at our detached condo, located in the Gardens of the Kai complex, we discovered we were the only ones there, due to its being off season.  The beach, ground and pool were ours to use alone.  Starfish Point, famous because large, red starfish, or sea stars would congregate there was a short walk to the left.  Rum Point, named after the pirates who frequented the area years ago, was a two minute drive to the right.  Kaibo Yacht Club, a resort and restaurant, was literally a two minute walk away.  I felt we had made all the right choices.  The price was right: $1100 for the seven night stay and we lucked out with the weather.  That's why the price was lower, because it was the hurricane season.  We were told it had rained for two solid weeks before we arrived.  While we were there we had blue skies and no rain until the last two days, when the rainy weather returned, just in time for us to go home!

The highlight of the trip for me was a catamaran trip to Stingray Sandbar.  We took the boat from Rum Point.  Apparently, fishermen had made a habit of dumping their chum buckets at a certain point, attracting stingrays, and they have been coming back ever since.  They are so tame, they seem to crave contact with humans.  Perhaps that is because the tour operators get in the water and feed them.  Georg got right in the water with his snorkel.  It took me a bit longer to get over my initial fear.  But when I did, I didn't want to leave.  They would rest on your arms and let you hold them.  You could run your hand over and under them and pet them.  The boat captain explained that these stingrays were a different kind than the one that killed Steve Irwin.  The barb on those were lower toward the tip of their tail, whereas the ones we interacted with had the barb on the base of their body and it is to protect them from predators coming up behind them.

I felt in more danger from a young chicken than I did the stingrays.  Let me explain.  We visited the Cayman Turtle Farm, where you can observe the large turtles and interact with the smaller ones by picking them up and handling them.  Also on the grounds were numerous huge iguanas and families of hens and their offspring, which were nearing maturity.  I was talking to the young chickens and being friendly toward them.  At one point I turned my back and, to my dismay, I felt something fly up and attach itself to my t-shirt in the middle of my back.  I had no idea what it was, except that it had claws of some kind, because it was scratching me.  I started screaming "Get it off, get it off!", running around and flailing my arms wildly.  I was pulling at my shirt trying to shake it off.  People ran toward me, responding to my call for help.  In the meantime, Georg was sitting in a rocking chair, faintly bemused by my predicament.  Finally it released its claws and flew off of me.  By this time I realized it had been one of the young chickens.  From now on, I will not be turning my back to any chickens!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Los Cabos, Mexico

We had a unique opportunity to visit Los Cabos, on the Pacific side of Mexico because my brother Peter owns a timeshare and was generous enough to let us use it.  Usually on vacation we rent a house and I do a lot of the cooking and shopping, as well as keeping the bed made and house picked up.  This time all I had to think about what where and when we were going to eat, what to drink, and when to go down to the pool.  We were there nine days and for nine days it was sunny and warm.  That is the biggest appeal:  the guarantee of perfect weather.  We've been other places where you have at least a few days of rain, but not here. 

I was so impressed with the staff, from the man who raked the sand all day long, to the housekeeping staff, to the waitstaff.  Each one was friendly to a fault and seemed genuinely happy, even though they were working very hard at a menial job catering to a bunch of spoiled tourists.  The facility was spotless, dust and cobweb free, and we could have eaten off the floor.

Speaking of eating, it was only by the grace of God (and my swimming for hours on end each day) that prevented me from coming home 20 lbs heavier.  All inclusive means you can drink as many drinks and have as many meals you want, whether from the swim-up bar, the five restaurants or room service.  Our favorites were the sushi restaurant and the Italian restaurant, Portofino. 

We were among many newly married couples, or couples who actually got married at the resort.   We witnessed three such ceremonies.  The first was the most entertaining.  The groom arrived in a motorized glider which buzzed over the seated guests at water's edge with the theme music from James Bond over the loudspeaker. The glider landed and he emerged, in a white suit, to the applause and cheers of the guests.  Pumping his fists in the air, he ran through the guests to his bride who was coming down the walkway from the hotel. 

The ubiquitous Arch was on our list of things to do and we took a small boat ride to the rock formations and beaches surrounding the landmark. 

My favorite part on tropical vacation is always the sunrise and sunset, watching the sun creep up tantalizingly and this was no exception.  The view from our balcony afforded us some spectacular views.