A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: swendl

Texas Blues

Better late than never - an eventful trip home

overcast 28 °F

CSC_0007.jpgSorry about the late entry, but I like to finish what I started.

Our last night in Jamaica was extra-special for me. I was one of three performers at the Talent Show. Not a big crowd in attendance, maybe 60 people or so. My first selection was the Josh Groban tune, "You Raise Me Up" - the band behind me did a super job of backing me up, and it went very well. Folks even got out on the floor and danced! Later in the show I did a second number, "Can't Help Falling In Love", the old Elvis song. Got a good ovation and was very pleased that I didn't pass out.

And suddenly, it was over.

We had to be up early Thursday morning for the bus ride back to Sangster Airport in Montego Bay. Had a fairly long-ish wait there for our flight to Miami. There was a Jimmy Buffet restaurant in the airport concourse, one of those bars where you can sign your name with a felt-tip pen anywhere you can find space. So if you're ever there, look for the "Steve and Cindy, January 2012" with a heart around it on one of the pillars.

We had two connecting flights on the way home. First was Miami, then Dallas. Miami is where our troubles began. We had to wait in line to clear immigration, wait in line to go through security again, then find out gate. We worried about missing our flight because everything was taking so long. No worries though, we arrived at our gate with a few minutes to spare. After boarding, however, we got concerned about how long it was taking to push away from the gate. Twenty minutes..."we are having mechanical difficulties, just a few minutes more"...then 45 minutes...then an hour. Finally, after perhaps 1.5 hours of waiting, we were airborne, but knew that the delay would likely cause us to miss our connecting flight in Dallas. Folks in the plane were not happy. Made for an anxious flight.

Turns out we missed our flight by about 20 minutes. It was the last flight out of Dallas for the day, so we were stuck till morning. The airline gave us vouchers for a meal (used them at a TGI Friday's in the airport) and for a hotel stay at a Hawthorn Suites nearby. It was probably 10 pm by the time we straggled into the hotel, completely demoralized and exhausted. Since the airline doesn't let you have your luggage in these situations, you are stuck with whatever you have in your carry-on. Grabbed a toothbrush and other sundry toiletries at the hotel desk. We were really roughing it :)

Everyone slept like the dead. Except Steve, who slept not a wink. Overtired I guess. I was a walking zombie by morning. We were up at 4:15 to catch our 6:30 flight to Cedar Rapids. Finally, clear sailing, and a short flight home.

When you sign up for air travel, you also sign up for potential headaches. It's the "price of doing business" I guess. Made for an awkward end to an otherwise enchanting week.

Thanks to all who followed the Great Jamaican Hen Migration of 2012. We loved reading your comments at the end of the day. The Hens are now comfortably settled in their home roosts, waiting until the urge to take flight overtakes them again.....

Posted by swendl 09:19 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Hens Attempt Flight!

Settle down ladies, the flight is tomorrow. And we'll use a plane.

semi-overcast 84 °F

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Although it looks like the hens are trying to fly, they were just getting ready to dip their tail feathers in the Caribbean for an afternoon dip.

Wednesday was another easy day in paradise. The sun played a lot of hide-and-seek again today. I guess this mainly-overcast-occasional-rain pattern is typical for January in this part of the country. Nonetheless, we had no complaints. It was dry today and perfect beach weather - no worries about getting a major sunburn.

The prize Jeanne won last night was a gold charm (I think I have that right, I'll have to double check with her). I'm not much of a judge of such things, but the ladies thought it was nice.

Photos from the day are here. Here are a couple of photos of the fence separating resort property from the trinket shops next door, the ones we had such trouble extricating ourselves from yesterday. They start out pleasant and welcoming, but start ramping up the pressure to buy, and get some of their cohorts involved, all talking to you at once, wanting you to look at this, and buy that, and "check this out over here!" I think we would have all climbed the fence if the security guard hadn't let us through the gate as quickly as she did. It was certainly an experience.

Today several massive cruise ships docked at the Ocho Rios port. I'm sure Wednesdays are a financial bonanza for that area.

The ladies did more reading, more lounging, drank more "drinks of the day" (in Sharon's case, Diet Coke), and enjoyed the resort's happy, pleasant atmosphere. The young staff are extremely energetic and go out of their way to tease you and make you feel happy. One fellow squatted behind Cindy's beach chair - Jeanne and I saw him but a finger to the lips swore us to silence. He then used a feather to tickle Cindy's ear from behind. When she finally caught him he was all giggles. The staff learn your names and do a lot of high fiving and fist-bumping with you. Your wish is their command. We all agree that it was an excellent resort and an excellent vacation overall. The only poopy part was the long bus ride from the airport to the hotel. But, it is what it is. No problem, mon.

Another wedding at the resort today.

We will be sad to leave the Jewel tomorrow. Our flight leaves Montego Bay around noon, and we are scheduled to arrive in Cedar Rapids about 9:30 Thursday night. However, we understand a winter storm is approaching Iowa, so we'll just have to see what happens.

Steve's song selections at the talent show tonight will be "You Raise Me Up" and "Can't Help Falling In Love". The band was unable to practice with me this afternoon as planned, so I won't hear them until I step onto the stage. Wish me luck. The only saving grace is that I'll never see any of these people again, so if I bomb, it isn't the end of the world.

Thanks for following our adventures. There may be a final posting if I have idle time in an airport tomorrow, or if we end up staying in Dallas because our CR flight is cancelled!

Posted by swendl 16:57 Archived in Jamaica Comments (2)

Jeanne Mellon, Come On Down!

First Place Winner!

The Beach Party, as mentioned, was moved indoors due to rain - they had a lovely buffet setup for us, after which they provided entertainment, which included a band, a fire eater (how DO they do that?), a "nail dancer" (walking on a bed of nails), a snake handler (this is the point where Sharon suddenly decided to go back to the room), a contortionist, and some dancers. We enjoyed it all. The highlight, however, was Jeanne winning the drawing for a free gift from the jewelry shop at the resort! Jeanne did the perp walk up to the front to get her prize, but apparently didn't act excited enough for the emcee's tastes, so poor Jeanne was made to turn around, go back, and do it over again, this time with the proper enthusiasm! Luckily Steve just happened to have a camera on hand to record the big moment. It was hilarious and Jeanne was a very good sport about it all. We find out in the morning what she actually won.

The video, hopefully, can be viewed here. It begins with a staff member demonstrating for Jeanne how excited she is supposed to be.

Steve sang a little more karaoke tonight and was invited to participate in the talent show tomorrow night.

Nightie night!

Posted by swendl 20:47 Archived in Jamaica Comments (1)

Topless !

No, it's not what you're expecting....

rain 78 °F

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Unless you're expecting "man boobs".

The day started and ended with rain. In between were several hours of excellent beach weather, which brought folks out in force to the sand. Calm seas today, which we took advantage of. Cindy and I took a sea kayak out for awhile, after which Sharon took a turn with me. Reading dominated the day for the ladies, photo-taking for Steve, who's getting a kick out of his new camera.

The main excitement today was our trip to the "dark side". At the end of the beach is a fence separating the resort property from the public beach, where packed stalls of jewelry, t-shirts, and other tourist goods are sold by locals who are eager for your business. Jeanne, Sharon, and I went over while Cindy held our spot on the beach. It was an exciting experience. Although they advertise "no pressure", the vendors are quickly on top of you, trying every trick in the book to get your dollar. No prices - everything appears negotiable. I got a t-shirt for myself and a sarong for Cindy, and it all turned out OK, but we were very glad to get back to the other side of the fence. And, of course, a fellow offered to sell me marijuana as soon as we got over there.

We all bought some souvenirs today, including some neat hand carved stuff. "Big Ed" (real name Edward Small) was the carver, and he proudly posed next to a couple of his larger creations, which are featured on the hotel grounds. I got a carved fish from him, which he graciously engraved for me. He and his brother are both carvers actually, and are allowed on the grounds every 12 days to sell their wares. Ed's brother is a "Rasta" (Rastafarian - one of the main local religions, and he described their philosophy of peace and one-ness. "One Love" is their motto).

I took a lot of random photos of random beach-goers today. All the photos can be viewed here. Just some sights and sounds from our day.

They planned a beach party for us tonight, but rain will force it indoors.

Take note of Steve's new cap -- it features a bottle opener built into the brim!

Posted by swendl 17:32 Archived in Jamaica Comments (3)

Life's A Beach

Caribbean Chillin'

semi-overcast 75 °F

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A whole lot of nothin' going on down here.

Which was exactly the plan.

No problems, no "situations" -- thus far anyway. A day of relaxation, Jamaica-style.

Last evening we got dressed up a bit and had dinner at the Italian-themed restaurant onsite. It was excellent. Afterward we sat near the pool, chatting, enjoying the silvery evening, backlit by that gorgeous full moon. The combination of soft light, background music from a nearby party, and that mild tropical air captured us all in it's spell, and we sat a good long while. Sharon and Cindy turned in around 10, but Jeanne and I stayed up and visited awhile, eventually migrating to another bar where karaoke was scheduled. The bartenders are all a hoot - Ephraim and Decoy (yes, his real name) were our hosts at this venue, and they were great. Steve did a rendition of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco". Great time. Finally got back to the room around 12:15. Mellon kids, your mom still knows how to party! I was trying to get her up on stage but no go. This time anyway.

Today's weather was similar to yesterday's, although much windier. Sailing or kayaking was really not an option. After our buffet breakfast at the Coral Cafe, we changed to beach wear and headed straight for the sand, where we spent pretty much the entire day. The sun was in and out - I detect a certain pattern here - sunnier mornings, cloudier afternoons. When the sun did manage to come out, it rendered the sea a captivating color, an emerald green, which simply takes your breath away. We willingly let ourselves be hypnotized by those ancient rhythms of the sea: the waves come in, the waves go out. Repeat. And again. Over and over. A natural anti-depressant. No wonder the natives are so laid back down here.

An assortment of pictures from last night and today can be found here. Terry, you'll finally find a picture of Sharon modeling swimwear. Incidentally, Sharon lost one of her prized water shoes. While she dozed in her beach chair, a wave snuck up and grabbed a shoe, pulling it to a watery grave. She had to buy a new pair. The ladies are reading fools on this trip, finishing a lot of books between them thus far. Methinks they are going to run out of reading material before we run out of vacation. Terry, I included some flower photos for you. And yes, Jane, the purple hotel photo was for you. Here's another today for good measure, along with a shot of the resort kitty. We even lucked out and got some photos of a couple getting married here! Very cool setting for that. Added some shots of a volleyball game, and a picture of a Jamaican local, all smiles, as he tries to sell his wares on the beach. The hotel staff keep them moving, but they keep coming back.

They have two giant hot tubs here, about 15 feet across each. We did a littler immersion therapy there this afternoon. Steve also found one of those big foam body pads in the pool. Has a built-in headrest. You just hoist yourself onto it, lay flat, and float. The pool curves this way and that, and a gentle swipe of the hand is all the steering and paddling you need to do. There are two swim-up bars here. The bar stools are actually underwater. While you sit at the bar you are in water up to your waist. In my case, it was a FLOAT-up bar. Drifted up there, ordered the drink of the day, and floated away. Repeat. And again.

I think the ladies plan to eat at a different restaurant tonight. They want steak. Sharon didn't like the way the steak was described on the menu, so she's boycotting, and will eat at the pizza joint we found our first night. She thinks the pizza there is "mighty fine".

After that, who knows?

Thanks for reading.

Posted by swendl 17:16 Archived in Jamaica Comments (3)

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