(music: Puesto Pal Jangueo, Los Fuertos)
The Mr. and I just returned from an 11 day trip to Mexico. Take a look ...
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(music: Puesto Pal Jangueo, Los Fuertos)
The Mr. and I just returned from an 11 day trip to Mexico. Take a look ...
Our trips to Jamaica are always magical. I just cannot get enough of the island, the people who live there, the culture, the sunshine, and the food. Last March, we branched out from our usual visit to Couples Negril (CN) resort, risking an experience we know we would love for the possibility of a new adventure. I, of course, researched our new destination, Couples Sans Souci (CSS), thoroughly and arrived with a list of things we had to try (see Ocho Rios, Jamaica: 100 Memories.)
(photo: just past the spa, there are some wonderful hidden seats overlooking the ocean)
(photos, clockwise from top left: gorgeous tropical flowers at the entrance to the resort; one of the many palm trees; my standard rum and Ting at the beach grill for lunch; breadfruit!; view of one of the resort sailboats from the spa elevator; stairs into the mineral pool; so, so many stairs!; detail of the coral tile by the entrance to the resort)
Overall we loved the understated elegance, the special hidden places we discovered all over the resort, the slightly more sophisticated demographic of our fellow travelers, the tropical foliage, waterfalls, and beautiful surroundings here. The staff here is remarkable and made us feel right at home, many of them joking with us that we would never return to Couples Negril after our week there. The food is also outstanding and, although I usually have a million photos of what we ate, I was clearly too busy stuffing it all in my mouth to bother with pictures.
(photo: view of the mineral pool, spa, and hidden beach as well as G block where we stayed in suite G16)
(photos, clockwise from top left: celebration decorations; the gorgeous light green water; Crackers, the parrot; the entryway to the hidden beach by the spa; Palazzina, where we ate breakfast and several dinners; us at the Starlight Gala; one of many banana banshees I drank by the main pool)
This resort was built in the 60s and has that old-school Hollywood-on-vacation glam vibe. The mineral pool used to be the main pool and I could just envision how stylish the place must have been then. If they served alcohol there, we wouldn't have moved from that spot. They do however serve delicious cassava chips with pumpkin jalapeño and roasted artichoke dips at the veggie bar. SO good!
(photo: view from Casanova restaurant)
(photo: view of the main beach)
Our room was enormous and had the most amazing view! In the morning, since I'm an early riser, I would watch the white egrets fly towards wherever their feeding grounds were for the day and then again at night, watch them fly back. (Quick note: The Chikungunya virus, spread by mosquitos, was pretty prevalent when we were there. Just make sure you use heavy duty insect repellent before you throw open those slider doors on the balcony. I forgot on day one and promptly got bit.)
(photos, clockwise from top: the are-you-kidding-me view from our suite G16; view of the main beach; the Mr. in the mineral pool; a fabulous lamp in the main lobby; the floor tiles in the spa)
On my birthday, I got a hot stone massage in one of the many massage huts on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I could hear the waves crashing below and felt such gratitude for my life and the opportunity to be in Jamaica again to celebrate.
(photos, clockwise from top: there are SO MANY steps at this resort and we found walking down to the spa and taking the elevator up to our building was easiest path (or the laziest); us at dinner at Casanova, we had a table outside and could listen to the nighttime entertainment below; the gorgeous blue steps at Palazzina -- no longer blue after their recent renovations; couples can paint rocks to leave at the resort -- many repeaters just add their latest dates to their rock; the view from my massage hut)
When we are in Jamaica, we try to get off the resort to experience some of the real Jamaica. We hired a driver, Orville, to escort us to Scotchie's, rumored to have the best jerk on the island. The place is filled with tourists and clearly isn't "real Jamaica" but it serves up some really good food! I love breadfruit and ordered a side with my jerk chicken and a Red Stripe (of course!). We bought lunch for Orville and enjoyed sitting with him and talking over our delicious meal.
(photos, clockwise from top: Scotchie's; jerk chicken, roasted breadfruit, and Red Stripe; birthday jerk photo at Scotchie's)
One of the best things we experienced was on our last night. Couples rewards people who visit their resorts multiple times (we're called "repeaters"), and we learned that we had quite a bit of resort credit left to spend so we booked a private sunset tour on their speedboat, Dolce Vita. Somehow we managed to not spill a drop of champagne even though we were bumping all over the place at high speeds. The Mr. got to drive and we had a nice tour of Dunn's River Falls, Lobster Dave's and the cruise port, and some of the nearby resorts, like the iconic Jamaica Inn.
(photos, clockwise from top left: one of my favorite photos of the Mr. -- totally relaxed and loving life; Lobster Dave's; us as the sun went down and the Mr. took the wheel; Dunn's River Falls; sunset; us in front of the Jamaica Inn; and the end of the champagne.)
So, I'm guessing many of you may be wondering which resort or which side of the island we liked best. As far as the resorts themselves go, if they could move the older part of CSS with it's old school glamour, tropical foliage, and gorgeous views next to Couples Negril; add a floating dock to the CN beach, and get someone to carry my up the stairs, it would be the perfect resort. Both are amazing places to visit, have wonderful people, and fantastic food.
(photo: view from G block looking over the hidden seats past the spa)
(photos, clockwise from top left: the Mr. at the main pool where we spent most of our time; gorgeous foliage we saw on our nature walk with a member of the staff; awesome tile; a local boat on the beach; us at the Beach Party our first night there (BIG smiles); and some of the straw items for sale by local vendors.)
But this is where my heart is clear: Ocho Rios made me feel a little like I was playing dress up. Negril -- with its long sandy beach, cliffs, super casual vibe, and easy mingling of tourists and locals -- makes me feel like I'm 20 years old, wearing cut off jean shorts and flip flops. It's more me than I am.
While we don't have a trip booked for Jamaica just yet (GASP!), I'm certain we will return soon. I'm curious about other parts of the island like Port Antonio, but I won't be able to resist the pull of Negril for too much longer.
For more details, feel free to read my review on Trip Advisor.
We vacationed in Jamaica again this past March. After four years in our beloved Negril, we decided we wanted to explore a different part of the country. Because we've loved our time with the Couples Resorts, we chose Couples Sans Souci in Ocho Rios as our home for a week.
"The details are not the details. They make the design." - Charles Eames
Last year I started keeping a list of the tiny things I wanted to remember from our annual trip to this special island. It's those moments that make the experience so wonderful. Here's the 2015 list:
Towards the end of hurricane season and right before all the resort prices sky rocket for the winter, the Mr. and I take a trip to the Caribbean. We call it a short trip since it's less than seven days (although six isn't really all that short, is it?). We've gone some place different every time and use different criteria than we do for trips of seven nights or more:
After putting all of that into our research process, the winner this year was the Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resorts for adults only in the Bavaro area of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. One of the things we learned our first time in the DR, is that "Punta Cana" is a really big area and your resort can be an hour and a half drive after you arrive. This resort is less than 30 minutes from the airport.
It's a fantastic place to go if you have travelers who want a lot of options. The adult resort is connected to a much bigger family-friendly resort. We were able to go there and enjoy all their amenities (casino, more restaurants, lots of shopping), but they could not come and enjoy ours. We also found the crowd to be much more international (Russians, Canadians, Brits) with only a handful of Americans, which translates into a much more peaceful experience around the pool. No "Woo Girls" or loud hollering after a round or two of drinks.
A few highlights from our trip ...
Clockwise (from top left): a mojito and my favorite drink of the trip, a chechee kapapuka (which tastes like an orange creamsicle); the path to our room (garden view with an extremely comfortable bed); one of several sculptures in the common area near the pool; there is plenty of shade and lounge chairs around the pool
Top to bottom: a view of one of the unique features of the pool -- it also had a jacuzzi in the center and pool beds in the water; the resort is next to a public area on the beach that has shops and options for various tours
Clockwise from top left: one of the cool things about Punta Cana is that they have left many of the palm trees directly on the beach; La Pina -- bar at the far end of the resort where you could get tropical drinks in a pineapple or a coconut; the view of the beach to the right of the resort towards the family-friendly section; lots of beds for lounging; and interesting seating sprinkled through the resort
Clockwise from top left: pool beds, which were quite comfortable (note that the pool is pretty deep so it can be hard to drink your fruity pina colada while wading); the lighting in La Brisa where we had lunch every day (the grilled fish with lime was my favorite!); no swim-up bar at this pool but they did have chair service; the Mr. at the bar at La Pina
The beach to the far left of the resort near La Pina is pretty empty and a great place to sit if you need some peace and quiet.
If you are curious about more specifics of this resort, feel free to read my TripAdvisor review here.
(originally published on March 25, 2014)
Oh, friends, we've been back from Jamaica for over a week. That beautiful island of sunshine, smiling people, lush greenery, and the bluest of blue shades is just the faintest of memories now.
However, while we were there, I kept a simple running list of wonderful things that happened each day. Last summer when I was on the Cape for two weeks, I kept a similar list and found it to be such a great way to capture the feelings, thoughts, and special moments of my vacation. Turns out I wrote down 100 memories from our nine days in paradise. Here's the entire list:
I have lots of photos, too, friends. Of course I do. Stay tuned for the visual companion to these memories. Irie!
(originally published on January 6, 2014)
I know it's taken me a while to get around to putting this post together. You'll see why at the end.
The Mr. and I started a winter survival strategy last year by adding an additional trip to warmer climates right before the snow usually starts falling. With our annual Jamaica trip at the other end, we've created symbolic parentheses to our least favorite season.
We took the first flight out of Boston on a mid-November morning. So early that I had this little space all to myself. Even though we were up at 3:30 am, I was psyched for our trip! See face below.
It was the first time we were able to keep our electronic devices on during takeoff so I popped in some Bob Marley and relaxed the 45 minutes to NYC and then the few hours to Punta Cana. And once there, we had an experience that made my heart soar! We disembarked out of the BACK of the plane, on to the tarmac, and into the palaba-style airport. SO AWESOME!
However, the experience inside the airport was the antithesis of Jamaica's no-worries-mon arrival. I was STRESSED. People pushing, grabbing bags, luggage carts digging into the back of my legs, elbows jabbing. And then our transportation to the resort fell through and we had to rely on the kindness of one of the luggage guys to get us where we needed to go. I will admit it, I was rude to him. So rude. Luckily, the Mr. is much more trusting than I am and the guy totally saved our vacation. Despite how rude I was. Lesson learned.
After about an hour's drive, much of it on a disappointing stretch of highway (no water views), we arrived on the most beautiful beach with amazing resort grounds to match.
The beach was so wide and the surf really intense. The first day we were there, I decided to take a walk on the beach while the Mr. snoozed by the pool. As soon as I set foot on the sand, I noticed people running and hotel employees with walkie-talkies rushing past me. And then I realized there was someone in the water and he was in serious trouble. I mean serious trouble. No one could get to him and he kept getting pulled out further and further. They had to launch a boat (that barely made it over the waves intact) to rescue him. I honestly thought we were watching someone lose their life. Needless to say, I did not venture past my ankles the rest of the trip. (And, people, use your brains! That red flag is there for a reason. Don't you watch Dateline?)
Luckily, the pool at the resort was incredible. It seemed to go on for miles! There were plenty of chairs and beds (yep! we took a very nice nap on one). Some had palabas, some did not. We also got in the habit of walking from one end to the other to cool off. There was also a separate quieter pool (bottom left hand corner below) that we never got around to visiting.
The swim-up bar was in the middle of the pool, never too far away.
And the rest of the resort was equally as amazing and had all sorts of activities like squash courts, pool tables, tennis and basketball courts, a giant chess set, archery, miniature golf, a casino, on and on. There were games and activities (like a pineapple throwing contest which the Mr. participated in and meringue lessons.) If you were bored here, it was your own fault!
We may have had a few cocktails while we were there. The Coco Loco was my favorite -- they would chop off the top of the coconut with a machete, pour the contents in the blender, add rum, add coconut milk, blend with ice and pour it back in the coconut. It tasted nutty and not so sickly sweet as some of my usual fruity favorites.
There were 10 restaurants on the resort, one of them was right on the beach, Las Olas, which was just the perfect beach lunch place.
They made pizzas there in a wood fire oven. They were quite popular! We also tried the Dominican rice (upper right hand corner below.) I will say the food overall here was hit or miss. Some of the meals we had were really good and some were just ok. I will say I very much appreciated the waiter at The Grill going next door to The Lobster House to get me some lobster to go with my steak. Service here was really good and everyone was very friendly.
The resort also had a botanical garden that I went to visit every morning on my walk around the grounds. There was a small flamenco of flamingos, some beautiful and friendly parrots, and some of those gorgeous white egrets.
I just love this photo and how you can see his feathers flying in the breeze. Beautiful, beautiful birds!
One more look at that beach, the palm trees, and the surf!
One observation I would like to share: I'm a pretty laid back person and I like to just chill most of the time. I found there to be a slightly elevated energy level here. I'd like to see more of the island to see if it's the culture of the place. It may have been the high-energy salsa music and the energetic staff (quite different from the reggae music and no-worries-mon vibe of Jamaica.)
So, why I've been dragging my feet on this post: I don't support the Dominican Republic's recent ruling to strip citizenship rights from people born in that country to parents who were there without documentation (read Haitians.) If you have no idea what I am talking about, please read this. While we had a wonderful time and would like to see more of the island, we've decided not to return until the government changes this policy.
(originally published on March 29, 2013)
So far, I've spent every birthday of my 40s in Jamaica. Its become a goal now to keep this tradition going -- although I've widened the circle to include any warm, Caribbean island.
This year, we celebrated on the awesome, word-of-mouth tour of Negril bars, the One Love Bus Bar Crawl. The tour is free and you make reservations by emailing the driver, Lenbert, directly. (NOTE: Make sure you tip the man well when the tour ends!) He picked us up at the designated time at our resort in this super fun rasta-colored bus. We then picked up about 35 like-minded and fun-loving people, most having to stand in the aisles, as seating is limited. No one cared though. We were all there to have fun!
Our first stop was Sunset After Dark.
Inside was great open space, friendly people ...
... the most awesome Bob Marley mural in all of Jamaica ...
... and a deck with an incredible view! We watched pelicans diving for their food as we enjoyed our first Red Stripes of the afternoon.
Our next stop was a short distance down the road, Mi Yard.
The people here were so gracious! They brought out trays of Jamaican specialties for us to try. I, of course, gobbled up everything -- the fried festival (Jamaican fried dough) and escovitch (fish) were delicious!
Mi Yard is right across the street from the ocean and the Love Boat bar.
When it was time to scramble back on the bus for our next destination, the Mr. and I sat in the front. Lenbert was blaring Fly Robin Fly, which is now in heavy rotation on my playlist and, is on right now as I write this.
The Mr. took the first position shotgun and I sat behind him. I have the whole thing on video and can't wait to get that together for you all to see. At this point, I was thinking, "this is the best birthday ever!"
Our third stop was On the Rocks.
Let me take a moment here to share a travel tip about the tour. Bathrooms. Not always available and when they are, not always fully equipped. So, use one when you see it (a little mantra my mom taught me) and bring along a packet or two of Kleenex and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Toilet paper and a working sink were rare.
The DJ booth here was really fun. And although you can't see it in these photos, the bar is right on the water and there is a tiny beach there that was filled with sea glass. And a dead puffer fish. If you've been following Juniper Disco closely, you know how fascinated I am by things that wash up from the sea.
There appeared to be some rules here at On the Rocks. The "at the bar" part cracks me up.
Most of us tried to finish up our drinks before we got on the bus until Lenbert said, "You can drink on the bus. This is Jamaica." So funny how conditioned we are to follow the rules from back home. Notice how quickly I acclimated.
Our next stop was the No Limit Bar.
Again there seemed to be a rule here, but it was a little more generalized than the last bar.
In the back there is a small outdoor space. And a PARROT. Lenbert told us that farmers shoot these birds because they like to eat the ganja seeds. I bet they do.
After this we went to a restaurant/bar, called Choices, where a huge spread of Jamaican food was waiting for us (for $5). Sadly, I only took video of this place and no still shots.
Our sixth bar was a place I had long been curious about, having seen it from both the road and the water side. Xtabi is right on the cliffs and had some really fun things to explore -- gorgeous views and caves right on the ocean.
I have some great video of this as well -- including our descent into the caves and the amazing things we found there!
By this time, it was getting rather close to sunset so we headed to a bar just past the oh-so-famous Rick's Cafe (of cliff-jumping activities from last year) to a much more rustic, agriculturally enhanced bar, Sir D's Lookout.
Nothing more really than a few wooden boards on a cliff!
The farther point with the three trees on it is where Rick's is.
If so inclined, you could climb down to the water.
And the views of the sunset were really spectacular!
We were told that we should expect to visit six or seven bars during our trip and that the roster changes every time. Lenbert was quite generous that night and took us to one last bar, Bella Donna's, where we were each greeted with a warm hug.
We enjoyed one more Red Stripe and a slice each of some awesome pizza!
And, since I can't really end a post on Jamaica with a photo of pizza, here's one of Bob Marley instead.
The drive back to the resort was pretty fun, with all of us singing at the top of our lungs and feeling pretty good about our afternoon together. Remember, tip Lenbert well when you leave the bus!
To reserve your spot on the One Love Bus, email Lenbert Williams at email@example.com.
(originally published on March 27, 2013)
One of the things I look forward to the most on our trips to Jamaica is the overwhelmingly fresh, isn't-it-gorgeous fruit offerings at breakfast. We've also developed a bit of a habit of taking our first meal of the day out on to the deck, overlooking the beach.
I tried absolutely everything they put out: (clockwise from top) fresh papaya, watermelon, Jamaican apple (which has very little flavor and more of a consistency like a pear), and naseberry (looks and tastes something like a fig. So good!).
More fruit, with pineapple this time and mango juice. They also had WARM banana bread and some pretty tasty hash. Corned beef hash, that is.
Clockwise from top: cheese (please! I had a slice every morning), more papaya, sour sop (with the watermelon like seed -- the juice is my absolute FAVORITE but the fruit itself has a mushy texture), a boiled banana (which tasted like a potato), more naseberry, and a stick of sugar cane.
One of the days we sat by the pool instead. I had papaya juice and the white thing on the right is a boiled dumpling. The Mr. thinks its odd that I love these so much. I blame my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. We love dough.
Muesli ... in a COCONUT shell!
I even participated in a Jamaican fruit tasting while I was there. From the top: coconut, sugar cane, sour sop, star fruit, Jamaican star apple fruit (purple), Jamaican apple, naseberry. When I was at the spa, they taught me how to eat the purple fruit correctly -- you fold it over and squeeze out the mushy stuff. It stains, so watch your super cute coverup when you eat these!
And this is the national fruit of Jamaica, ackee.
Which is served in a traditional Jamaican dish, ackee and salt fish. I tried some with breakfast and it tasted like scrambled eggs and salty fish. I liked it!
Although breakfast was my favorite, we ate excellent food pretty much all day. This was an amazing lunch I had: clockwise from top, cocobread (Jamaican bread made with coconut milk), rice and peas (as Jamaicans call it), some sort of pork, fried plantains, and breadfruit (which tasted like BREAD. Seriously! And totally appealed to my dough-loving tastebuds.)
Jerk chicken, of course!
Fried snapper. On cocobread. Yummy!
Friday nights are lobster nights at Couples Negril. I have to admit, it can be hit or miss but these lobster tails at Heliconia were cooked just right and were served with a wonderful buttery sauce.
In years past, I have posted photo after photo of their amazing desserts. I tried to keep it a bit more under control this year but you really do just need to look at how beautiful these are!
And the carved watermelons were everywhere! This one is my favorite.
This year they had a champagne toast on the beach at sunset. You could get a shot of flavoring in your champagne, and we opted for raspberry.
So ... here's where things were not perfect. (Gosh! Life is so hard!) My favorite drink in Jamaica is the Dirty Banana, which is made with real bananas. Up to this point. This year, they made it with mix. MIX. Only one day did they have real bananas and those ran out quickly. I read on the message board that there was some issue with the banana crop this year, but who knows? Anyway, I got a "proper Dirty Banana," as the Mr. called it, at Xtabi.
I also enjoyed an ice-up papaya (fresh papaya, rum cream, dark rum, & house-made pineapple-ginger syrup) at Pushcart.
And because we enjoyed them so much last year, we ordered the jerk chicken skewers.
And the jerk sausage.
A few Red Stripes were had, of course!
On the last full day that our new friends were at the resort, we all took a walk down the beach to the Office of Nature, where we enjoyed some fresh grilled lobster. So tasty!
Our last gasp tradition before we leave Jamaica is to have a cocktail and a snack at Margaritaville in the Montego Bay airport (after we procure our rum and rum cream to take home with us!) It was only 10am but who cares?
This jerk chicken pizza with pineapple wasn't bad either. And you can bet I took that little Jamaican flag home with me where it now sits on my Juniper Disco Lounge desk!
(originally published on March 25, 2013)
There is a difference between vacation and travel. Vacation is focused on getting away from something, from home, from work, from life. Travel is about going towards some place, about being immersed in wherever you are going. Our latest trip to Jamaica was more about being there than about being away from our lives. I tried to explain that to people when we returned home, but most people just wanted to talk about the weather. Bostonians are obsessed with weather.
So, Juniper Disco readers, I am counting on you to get it. To get that I didn't just go on vacation. That I traveled to a place I love deeply. That fascinates me to no end. And that fills my heart with joy.
The water and beaches in West Jamaica are just gorgeous. That color is like nothing else in the world. You know how regimented I need to be when I fly so I don't freak out (including not looking outside)? I was craning my neck to see out the window during our entire leg from Orlando to Jamaica because this color was everywhere below us (That and Cuba. Cuba!) I had entered the magical zone where all my anxieties and hang-ups disappeared.
We are decidedly pool people. I know that seems at odds with my love of the ocean. I can walk up and down the beach all day long but I really like to relax by the pool. This is our view of the swim-up bar.
And what came to be our spot for most of the week plus.
This was our third trip to Couples Negril and a number of people -- both fellow resorters and staff members -- recognized us from our past trips. One person even told me they saw my video! Here we are with some of the new friends we made this time around. Such great people!
We also took a couple of trips to the cliffs to enjoy the sunset. At some point in my life, we will stay in one of those huts at the Rockhouse Hotel. The sound of the ocean lapping right outside, jumping off the cliffs into the water, and watching the sunset every night seems like heaven!
This papaya drink disappeared in about 30 seconds.
There's that color again (at Xtabi)!
We chilled in the beach chairs at our resort with champagne, listening to a live saxophonist while the sun set over Bloody Bay. They really do treat you like royalty at Couples!
They also feed you like kings and queens! The beach party is one of my favorite nights. And they do this every week. Incredible. (Look at that sky!)
We also made friends with the locals. There is something about Jamaicans that just puts me completely at ease. I think it's their energy. The Mr. thinks it's the thin film of smoke that is present all over the island. Either way, I find myself syncing with their completely relaxed vibe. Yeah, mon.
We now have an annual tradition of visiting the original Office of Nature for the freshest and tastiest lobster ever!
The grounds of our resort are lush and tropical. Birds are singing all day long. It is what I miss most when we leave here and return to the city.
That and these birds.
We spa'd this time (the Mr.'s first spa experience ever.) The spa is enclosed but open enough that I could hear the birds singing and the ocean lapping at the shore while I laid in my peppermint sea twist wrap.
And we listened to the Silver Birds play three times while we were there. So fun and energetic -- it is amazing what they do!
And then all too soon, it was time to leave. I had to put closed-toe shoes back on. Which matched the chairs. Sigh.
Soon come ... my annual feasting Jamaican-style post. And a play-by-play ride along with the One Love Bus Bar Crawl on my birthday! Irie, friends!
(originally published on March 18, 2013)
I'm BACK! Still pouting and edging quickly toward grumpy but here, nonetheless.
We had an awesome time and I'm slowly working my way through all my photos and videos. There is a lot to share! Including a very fun birthday celebration on the One Love Bus bar crawl through the West End of Negril with Fly Robin Fly blaring out the windows. (That video is 70s-fabulous, by the way. Note: not for kids.)
While the photos will show you a lot about our trip, they won't show you everything. When my brain has time to slow down, it's amazing what pops up. Here's what else happened ...
Made some awesome new friends. Read two books. Thought about life. Walked around in a swimsuit for eleven days and decided it would be a good idea to start exercising more regularly. Wore some hardcore Australian 30+ sunscreen and still got a tan. Totally overpacked. Learned a new phrase: "piss on it!" Committed to FINALLY changing my last name. Discovered wearing white jeans for the flight home was not such a great idea. But stashing a Tide to Go pen in my tote was.
Ate papaya every day and in some cases, every meal of every day. Realized I need to work on my posture. Tried a bunch of new foods. Admitted to the Mr. that I need to see an eye doctor. After swearing off shots years ago, did two in one day. Learned some Jamaican Patois and finally figured out what Pitbull is saying in the remix of Sean Paul's "She Doesn't Mind" ("Wha Gwan, Jamaica"). Chased a hummingbird around the garden. Tried to figure out a way to wear caftans to work back home.
Did not have one bit of anxiety during our three flights. Even completely forgot I was on a plane at one point when I was engrossed in Breaking Dawn, Part 2 and silently chanting "Get that Dakota! Get HER!!" Arrived with dark brown hair. Left with blonde streaks. Had a teeny, tiny terrifying panic attack while wrapped in peppermint, seaweed, ACE bandages, and saran wrap. Slept, and slept, and slept. Discovered the reggae channel. Realized I look like Sheldon Cooper when doing a fist bump no matter how hard I try to look natural.
Discovered a new motto, which I will be posting on my office door:
"Oh, please don't you rock my boat (don't rock my boat)
'Cause I don't want my boat to be rockin' (don't rock my boat)"
Learned quickly that I was the only one at the resort, not counting the staff, who knew the words to all the Sean Paul songs. Vowed never to move to the Midwest or Canada. Ate lobster three times. Had someone tell me I look 32 (I do, too! Shut up.) Reconfirmed I do not like loud people. Reminded myself a hundred times to just go with it. Except when asked to play volleyball. Decided to plan trips to Charleston, Ft. Lauderdale, the DR, and Barbados. Tried water aerobics with cocktail in hand. Confirmed I really, really need a new camera. Missed writing this blog. A lot.
Give me some time to get my photos in order. I'll have some great posts for you later this week! (60 days until the boat starts running to Ptown! Summer is coming, people!)
(originally published on March 4, 2013)
I'm about to get all Oprah on you. When I travel, I try to set an intention before I leave. Most of the time my intention is to be open to whatever comes my way. Sometimes it's just to get through the flights without a panic attack. And other times it's to give myself the space to rest and not pack every second with activity.
As we prepare for our annual trip to Jamaica, I'm stumped for an intention. Mostly I just want to be there. I have a huge list of things I'm looking forward to -- fresh papaya and sour sop juice every morning, my daily bird stalking in the garden, grilled lobster at the Office of Nature, the drive from Montego Bay to Negril, snorkeling with pretty fish, Dirty Bananas by the pool, the sounds of the tree frogs at night, jerk chicken, the sun ... Sorry. It's easy to get lost there. But maybe that's the intention this time around -- to get lost in the moments while I'm there.
I know I usually leave you all with some posts while I am gone. Not this year. I've decided to take a real break. I'll likely share some photos on Instagram and a few videos on Vine. Maybe I'll even be inclined to compose a tweet or two. Feel free to follow me there. This space will be quiet until I return in two weeks.
Now for that video I promised you! This is only the second video I've ever made and I learned so much in the process. As they say, "Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle." I'm ecstatic to share it -- with all its imperfections.
Watch until the end. The last clip is my favorite. And now, the debut of my Jamaica video ... click here!
Irie, my friends!
(originally published on December 14, 2012)
Finally!, you say, we get to the flamingo story! There is some primal, tactile urge underlying this all, mixed in with the thrill of the forbidden. You may all have other ways of expressing this basic human need but mine is manifested in a little hobby I've made of touching wild animals. I'd make it my job, if I could. But let's get to the story ...
The Mr. and I, after spending the day in Nassau, Junkanoo Beach, and the Fish Fry, decided to visit the flamingos at Ardastra Gardens and Zoo to give me another chance at touching one. (Mother List #205.)
Ardastra is an incredible place, where you can get really close to the animals that live here.
Many of the birds were not in cages.
This parrot kept saying "hello" and occasionally "hi" to us. The Mr. took a liking to him and even suggested we get one of our own.
This one squawked. A lot. And loudly.
A meerkat! Gosh, they were cute!
And a curious little capuchin monkey.
One of the highlights of our time there was being able to feed the lory parrots!
After disinfecting our hands, we all entered their habitat and were given some apple slices. Instructions were simple: hold out your apple and the bird will fly to you.
Here's one on my hand. They were quite gentle and completely focused on the apple. Even though I wanted to grab it and hug it, I refrained and allowed the gorgeous bird to eat in peace.
Aren't they amazing? This one was on the Mr.'s hand.
Peacocks were roaming free all over the place. Every time I see one, I cannot quite get over how intense their coloring is! (And, as you all know, I am an expert in bird coloration.)
And then ... I spotted them! The flamingos roam free, too!! The Mr. snapped this photo of me running towards slowly approaching this group for photos.
I inched as close as I could get. And as you can see from this next set of photos, I was super close!
Every now and then, one would stretch its leg and wing.
Look at that neck!!! You can see the bones in it. Isn't that amazing? Nature, you are awesome!
Despite my best efforts at this point, I had not yet touched one. They would let you get really close, but not close enough to touch. Plus, when they stretched out their neck, they were almost as tall as me. I kept thinking, "You are pink and all but you're kinda big."
However ... these flamingos are special. They march. And they are world famous, having been featured in a 1957 issue of National Geographic. When it was time for the show, I pushed over small children to get to the front row.
How can you not love these birds?
We learned that the oldest ones were close to 40 years old. Which means some of these birds were here when I last visited in 1990! Wow.
And THEN ... they announced that they would be selecting a few people from the audience to go out into the marching ring WITH THE FLAMINGOS! As soon as I heard that, I gave my camera to the Mr. knowing I was going out there. There wasn't a doubt in my mind. When the guy came around to our section, I was all ready to wave my arms and jump and down but before I could even move, he pointed right at me and said "you!" I clapped my hands like a little kid, I was so excited! When I asked the Mr later how the guy knew I wanted to go, he said, "Um ... it was pretty obvious."
Here I am waiting for the flamingos to get to me.
And here I am as they approach! Notice my finger sticking out, ready to touch one!! So the Mr. switched to video at this point so I don't have a photo of what happened next as I was swarmed by the flamingos.
But I will share that it is pretty funny! They made us stand on one leg like a flamingo. Which I did. As I inched towards every bird that got close enough to me, that finger was outstretched in hopes that I'd make contact. In the end, I did not touch one. But I am crossing it off my list because chances are that is as close as a human being can get to a flock of flamingos! And I loved every minute of it. Check.
(originally published on December 13, 2012)
You may have noticed that everything is super colorful in the Bahamas. That includes seating. A few examples ...
Tomorrow, I end Bahamas week with my flamingo story!
(originally publised on December 12, 2012)
Nassau is filled with color, street art, and fabulous signage -- all with that gorgeous tinge of Caribbean decay I mentioned that I love. A few fun things I discovered as we walked around ...
A super friendly mural near the cruise ship terminal.
This appears to be a Coke ad but how discotheque is that font? LOVE. (Wait ... it looks a lot like the font in my new logo!)
This is just a temporary wall hiding some construction behind it. But it is a wonderful spring green color which looks incredible against that blue sky and the yellow building in the background.
And this is just a wooden board. Painted yellow. Totally unintentional art.
Another temporary wall but with some really great graphics. I LOVE the stars!
Red dots on sign posts.
Green dots, too.
And some gorgeous street art.
I love this sign! A skateboarding, crown wearing, conch holding, slightly chubby Bahamian boy in a green shorts suit. If that doesn't catch your attention, what would?
(originally published on December 11, 2012)
Right in downtown Nassau, you can access the colorful-and-oh-so-local Junkanoo Beach. We had finished with our Nassau exploration and started walking in the direction of our resort in Cable Beach. As we passed this, we couldn't resist looking at all the colorful huts and signs here. Although I would not recommend you make this your main beach stop, it's fun for a short visit! (And can we just take a moment to admire that finial and the ombre sunset colors at the top of the sign post? Wow.)
Not sure who the targeted crowd is but it's a place where you can get 4 beers and 4 shots for $9.99.
And they have awesome beach hut decorations!
You can also drink ALL DAY for $39.99. We did not see anyone who seemed to have opted in to this offer, however.
The sand around the area has a lot of coral. I spotted this awesome spiral pattern on one. (And now I wish I put it in my bag to go home. It would look awesome on my Juniper Disco Lounge desk.)
Its really close to the cruise ship terminal and we watched this one greeted by two tug boats who assisted with the parking. Note: you can smell the fuel here so, like I said, it's a short visit site.
Colorful huts line the beach. The main road, West Bay Street, is right behind it.
We sat here.
And ordered the Ginger Switcher. With rum.
Which we sipped while we relaxed and enjoyed the sunshine and the gorgeous water in front of us.
I am going to digress here but I am just going to say that some American travelers annoy me. When I went on TripAdvisor to get some facts on Junkanoo Beach when I was writing this post, I saw a few negative comments about this place. It is what it is. It's a city beach. A fun city beach with sunshine and warm temperatures in November, tasty drinks, and ocean water that is nothing like what we have in Boston. If you want everything to be perfect and "American", go to Atlantis or stay home. Or better yet, learn to appreciate what is right in front of you. (Hopping off my soapbox now.)
(originally published on December 10, 2012)
I can't believe it's taken me this long to put a Bahamas post together! The wait is worth it. I promise. Even though the Mr. and I were only there for 5 days, we managed to do and see so much!
But first, here's the beach at our resort. We stayed in Cable Beach, which I highly recommend. The beaches are awesome here and you are far enough away from the super touristy area by the cruise ship terminal and that monstrosity, Atlantis on Paradise Island. It's a quick $1.25 ride on the jitney into town and taxi's run about $15 into Nassau.
The water in the Bahamas is like no other. So, so clear and that gorgeous color runs as far as the eye can see.
And here is a view of the pool we frequented at the resort, in front of that gorgeous water.
My obsession with palm trees did not go unattended. I seriously could stare up at them all day long! Oh, and I did.
And this was the view from our hotel room. Even though we had a resort view room rather than an ocean view room. Perhaps we should tell them we could see the ocean?
I drank a lot of pina coladas. They were not skimpy on the rum.
The Mr. likes to sample the local beer. He ended up liking Sands better than Kalik. They both tasted like frat beer to me.
Our first round of conch fritters. Tasty but really, really heavy. Note: do not order as an appetizer. They are a meal in and of themselves.
This steel drum player serenaded us by the pool. So relaxing and fun!
Even though we had some clouds while we were there, we had also had rainbows!
This is a jitney. You really can go anywhere you need to on these. But they stop running at 5:45. And you may get a crazy driver like we did for one leg of our trip. I held onto the seat for dear life and closed my eyes until it was time to hop off. Which I did while it was moving. Good times.
Downtown Nassau is a mixed bag of street vendors, high end retailers, and lots of gorgeously painted buildings with a tinge of Caribbean decay that I think is so awesome. This is one of the government buildings. In pink!
Swoon! SWOOOOONNNN! A wall made of conch shells. I can't speak.
Like I said, lots of colorful buildings!
Men selling conch shells and starfish line the Nassau harbor.
If you go, this is a MUST. There is an area at Arawak Cay called the Fish Fry. Colorful huts, each serving some sort of seafood (fried grouper and snapper and all the conch dish variations you can imagine). On weekend nights (we went on a Friday), the place is hopping with a mix of locals (who show up with their families) and tourists. There was a live band playing tropical tunes and people dancing, eating, and sipping on daiquiris. Local police monitor the area pretty closely so don't worry about safety. We loved it!
And one of the best things about Cable Beach and our resort, is the Daq Shack across the street! Everything is made with fresh fruit which they picked right off the shelves. I had the absolute best banana daiquiri of my life! Like stop-talking-to-me-I-need-to-concentrate-on-this-awesome-drink good.
I wanted to take this home with me. Colorful stripes under a straw roof covering a bar by the ocean. So much awesome there.
My shell contraband.
Our last evening we headed the opposite direction from Nassau to Compass Point. The Mr. spotted an ad for this place and we both thought it looked awesome. And it was.
Turns out the place was built by a Jamaican-by-way-of-Britain who started Island Records. I instantly fell in love with the place. Colorful huts, quiet, right on the water, a small pool, and something of an intimate community feel to it.
If you look closely, you can see the Mr. in this photo sitting at our table at the very end of the patio.
And here's the view sitting at that table.
I had been craving pizza, so we enjoyed one while watching the sun go down and the sky turn dramatic. It was the perfect way to end our trip! And quite possibly the best pizza I've ever had.
I have more Bahamas posts this week, including more fantastic colorful photos and the story of my flamingo encounter. So stay tuned!
Oh right, I also won $1,000 at the casino slots on our first night. And I am not a gambler at all and had been debating about cashing out after my $80 win. The Mr. convinced me to keep playing and, with the very next push of a button, I won big!
(originally published on November 28, 2012)
Tomorrow, the Mr. and I are going to The Bahamas! Woot! Woot! It's not my first visit to Nassau. That would have been freshman year, spring break. When I was digging out the old photos for Brave and Bold Week, I found these!
I'm guessing this was for Junkanoo, now that I actually know what that is. I did not then.
Yeah, I had some big hair back then! And I dressed like a boy. With cute sneakers.
I remember passing this right before we saw the sign for quicksand. Seriously.
I loved the colorful buildings!
This is my favorite shot! See that sneaky look on my face? Trying to touch a flamingo! #205 on my Mother List. Even back then. So close! Damn albino peacock.
This time around I'm pretty sure they won't let me in without a passport like they did last time (I accidentally packed mine in my carry-on ... that got CHECKED when they couldn't find room for it on the plane. I remember watching it go down a conveyor belt and thinking, is that my bag??) We weren't oceanfront at all, the hotel was sketchy, one of my roommates got a WICKED sunburn (so bad that I was scared for her but didn't know the emergency number in The Bahamas), we brought boxes of cereal from home to eat, and spent all our money on booze.
I'm curious to see how I'll like it this time around. Come to think of it, we may still spend all our money on booze.
I've left you a few posts while I'm away. See you next week!
(originally published on March 24, 2012)
It wouldn't be a Juniper Disco post without some good food photos. I cannot tell you how well we ate when we were in Jamaica. This should give you some idea ...
Jerk chicken. The FIRST thing I ate. When we arrived, our room wasn't ready so they told us to go get something to eat. The words were barely out of her mouth before we were sprinting down the stairs to the beach grill. So freaking good!
My favorite salad in the whole wide world! This caeser salad is prepared at the table and served in a parmesan cheese bowl and sprinkled with crispy proscuitto bits. The first time I had this I saved my cheese and proscuitto for last and the waiter tried to take it from me before I was done. I almost stabbed him with my fork. It's that good.
My birthday lobster at the legendary Office of Nature (the real one -- it's the second one on the beach in Bloody Bay with the really rustic bar.) We watched the lobster pulled from the ocean. And watched it die. The Mr. said the people there were amazed I wasn't shrieking when that knife sliced him in half. I'm hard core like that. I also watched them grill it and put almost an entire stick of butter on it. And then I ate it, sans forks, like a happy little kid. With my $3 Red Stripe.
Friday nights are Lobster Nights at the resort -- we had two Fridays there. Yippee!
Apologies to the vegetarians ... I actually had only a small bite of this. You all know my rule about not eating baby animals.
Spring rolls at Lychee.
So this is my absolute FAVORITE thing at breakfast. I know it's only dough, but I LOVE IT!
Typical morning breakfast: french toast with syrup of the day, one piece of bacon, fried bammy (NOM!) , and fresh fruit and juice. Look at that papaya!
More morning fruit ...
Curried conch -- my first taste!
This year they switched out the self-serve-whenever-you-want corn chips for cassava chips. So yummy!
Chicken Balls Soup!
The desserts were ridiculous ...
Fruit tempera (this one is banana.)
My second favorite drink, the Miami Vice.
Coconut water was available every morning.
This ended up being my favorite juice. It is not sour at all and has a nice mild sweetness to it.
The Mr. brought us One Nut shots ... the top is milk frothed with tequila, rum cream is the second layer, and grenadine is on the bottom. Have to say it was pretty tasty!
A watermelon cooler --rum blended with watermelon, lime juice, and house-made pineapple ginger syrup -- with the Rockhouse in the background.
And my favorite drink (and first of the trip), a Dirty Banana. It was always my first drink of the day at, um, 10:00 am when the swim-up bar opened. Luckily, we brought a huge bottle of rum cream home and found a great recipe that is pretty close to the real thing so we can have a little taste of Jamaica whenever we want.
(originally published on March 23, 2012)
This year we stayed on the garden side of the resort in Jamaica. We were so lucky to get a first floor corner room so that I could sneak out every morning before the Mr. woke up to go on a walk around the grounds. I was amazed by all that I saw in those early hours before the other guests started moving around (and making noise.) I was even visited by a swallowtail hummingbird one morning. I was so stunned when it appeared before me, I gasped. It was the most beautiful bird I have ever seen -- emerald green with a long plume-like curly tail and it sounded like it was singing to me. After it flew away, I started crying. It was just one of those amazing moments that is impossible to recreate in words. I get a little misty thinking about it. While I did not get a photo of that magical instant, I did manage to capture a few others ...
These first three birds I saw almost every day. I learned to approach them as quietly as I could and as slowly as I could. But we danced every morning -- me seeing how close I could get and they trying to keep a safe distance. I got a few squawks and sometimes they flew to the roof of the spa or into a tree, but mostly they let me be near them. I am so grateful for that!
This is a Jamaican woodpecker (or more specifically, a Jamaican woodpecker's behind -- I tried to get his head but he kept building that nest!). I overhead someone say, "oh, we have those at home." And I thought, "I'm pretty sure you don't." It always fascinates me how some travelers spend their entire time away comparing everything around them to what they know from their lives back home.
These little yellow birds are FAST. It wasn't until the last day that I was able to get a photo of one.
These pigeonish birds are all over the resort. This one decided to join us for breakfast.
Remember Bob from last year? We went to the other side of the resort to see if he was still there. I think he recognized me.
The one end of the beach is covered with tiny hermit crabs. I could have sat there all day and watched them. I also freaked out when one touched me -- I picked up his shell and thought he'd stay in there but he decided to fly out onto my finger. Yep, I screamed.
If you've ever been to Jamaica, you've heard the loud chorus of tree frogs that sing at night. The resort sponsored a tree frog hunt one evening and the Mr. and I were dying to see one! We left the meeting point and not 15 seconds later did the guide say, "There's one." We thought they'd be really hard to spot! They are teeny tiny but they don't move when you shine a flashlight on them.
As the Mr. pointed out, this gecko looks like he is pole dancing on the hummingbird feeder!
There is a turtle that lives in the pond by the spa. I was really lucky that he decided to show himself one morning.
There are several ponds around the resort. This one is on Bob's side and is filled with fish.
And there were many gorgeous flowers and plants all around us. We were there long enough to see flowers bloom and die, bloom and die ... I was amazed by the short life span of some of them. And how quickly they would grow.
I am certain when we go back we'll stay on this side of the resort again. It's wonderful to have this lush tropical garden to start and end your day after spending most of your time at the pool and beach. It really is Eden.
(originally published on March 20, 2012)
Jamaica. The word conjures all sorts of things for people -- reggae, Bob Marley, Rasta, rum, sandy beaches, cliff diving, um ... agricultural products, sun, sun, and more sun. For me it also means freedom and joy. I've always been a warm weather, sun-on-my face kind of gal. Much like my beloved Ptown, the place lives by the anything goes mantra, "No worries, Mon!" And no worries did we have.
One day during our trip I had two things on my To Do List: float around in the ocean on my floatie and, by the time I was finished doing that, I couldn't remember what the other one was. Back home my Non-Blogable To Do List had grown to over 11 pages (I counted when I got back) and my personal list fills the first section of my dot grid notebook. We lost track of time, couldn't remember which day it was, and had conversations like: "I wonder if they'll have corn chips or cassava chips today." I never read a single word while I was there, I watched the palm trees sway, the birds fly around, the water ripple back and forth, the clouds float by -- I wanted to be nowhere else but right there in that moment.
Returning to real life has been challenging and there may have been a few tears hysterical breakdowns in the past couple days, but the temperatures have been in the 70s here and that has helped.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip to Couples Negril. I'm busy working on my Picasa album and am learning to use my movie software so I can share some of the video footage I shot while there.
(originally published on March 4, 2012)
After what has seemed like an unbearable wait, in a few short days we leave for Jamaica. We're headed back to the same resort where I celebrated my 40th birthday last year. Friends living in the midwest will be joining us for part of our trip -- and two of us will be celebrating birthdays while we are there!
One of the best parts of going on vacation is the anticipation (and the planning of outfits -- I'm totally overpacking and I don't care.) Here are a few things I am looking forward to:
Last year for "Jamaica Week" (redubbed "11 Days of Jamaica" for 2012), I left you some videos to watch while I was away (this one and this one and this one). Again this year, I have something fun in store. I will also leave you with the words of that wise sage, Justin Bieber: "I'm gonna live my life, no matter what we party tonight; I'm gonna li-i-i-ve my life, I know that we gon' be alright. Wo-oh oh oh oh, wo-oh oh oh oh ..."
(originally published January 21, 2012)
I am a firm believer in the carrot theory, sprinkling fun incentives in front of me to get me through the wretched and nasty months of Not Summer. One of those fun little carrots took the form of an extended weekend get away to Puerto Rico with the Mr.
We've been to Puerto Rico twice. And twice we've stayed at La Concha. And twice we haven't left the resort except to venture out to dinner or to the casino up the street. So don't ask me what San Juan is like. I've only seen the airport, the short ride to La Concha, and a postage stamp slice of Condado.
We spent the majority of our time at the pool. This one in particular (there are four; two you see here.)
It was 82 degrees and sunny most of the time with the occasional passing rain shower in the morning ... or deluge ... never lasting long enough to dampen our spirits or ruin our sun worshipping rituals.
The resort is fabulous ...
... and so was our room.
Drinks were fruity and frosty. The mojitos were especially good -- with a perfect balance of lime and mint. And just the right amount of sweetness.
Food was fantastic! Sliders were made with longaniza and the guacamole was perfect.
Even though we were there for a short time, we returned to the chilly air of Boston refreshed. And ready to count down the weeks until our next carrot ... Jamaica in March!