Tuesday, May 3, 2016

JAMAICA 2016....

Back in April, Terry and I took a trip to Ocho Rios for our ten year anniversary.  Here are some photos....  Also, these are my brief journal entries of our time spent there.  I don't expect anyone to read it all, I'm just posting for my own documentation. 

DAY ONE....Our flight to Orlando was miserable. We flew through a huge wind storm and I was convinced that we were all going to die. At one point our plane went almost straight down and I'm almost certain every single passenger on the plane screamed in unison. I don't think I have ever prayed so hard in my life. Our shuttle (if you want to call it that) from the airport in Jamaica to the resort left a lot to be desired. It was an old brown Mercedes from the early 80's. There were a total of 7 people in this van. 3 couples and the driver. No a/c and we were all sitting on top of one another. I wasn't sure a few times if it would make it up the hills. Luckily our driver was super nice and we all made the best of it. Upon arrival at the hotel (around 2:45pm) our room wasn't quite ready. We were instructed to go get some food and check back in about an hour. Check-in is at 3:00. Three drinks and a plate of jerk chicken later we checked to see if our room was ready. Nope! It wasn't until almost close to 7 that our room was available. For the inconvenience they upgraded us to a butler suite with 24 hour room service and full bar service all day. We really didn't take advantage of this as much as we should have. Definitely worth the wait for our room, because our view was to die for!! The only complaint I had about our room was the fact that Polly the peacock liked to camp out in the tree that seemed to be right next to our window. Damn... those peacocks can make some noise!!! After getting checked into our room, we found that our luggage was accidentally delivered to someone else so we had to figure that out. It wasn't until the next morning that another couple realized they had our bags and we had theirs. My stomach was doing some crazy things....I think I was probably slightly dehydrated and of course all my pepto was in my "missing" bag. We were both tired from a long day of travel so we just decided to call it an early evening. We sat out on our balcony and just took in the view before getting some shut eye. I could stare at that view all day!!!

Day two…  Because of the whole baggage fiasco we decided to order breakfast via room service.  Neither of us had much in the way of clothing and I was in definite need of a shower, but lacked toiletries to do so.  Terry had an omelet and coffee and I had some fresh fruit and a bagel with cream cheese.  Oh the fruit….I’ve fallen in love with papaya!!  Our bags finally appeared, as I was once again sitting on the balcony.  At this point, I was really just dying to get into the ocean.  I didn’t care about the fact I needed a shower, I just wanted my bathing suit.  After a quick change and a stop at the bar I finally got to put my toes in the sand!!  AHHH heaven!!  Nothing better than walking with your feet in the ocean.  T and I found a few empty chairs and set up camp.  As advised, we lathered up really good with sunscreen.  No joke, we used at least one can of aerosol sunscreen a day.  Some days two!  Terry and I took turns visiting the bar.  Day one I was alternating between “Bob Marley’s” and “Jamaican Smiles”  Terry was hitting the “mudslides and dirty bananas” pretty hard.   
Around noon we both were starting to get hungry.  We decided to do some exploring around the resort.  We visited the concierge desk and made arrangements to schedule our day excursions.  We also attempted to make dinner reservations.  I was pretty bummed that the fanciest dining option in the resort was completely booked for the week.  I wanted to try it at least once.  Terry didn’t mind, that meant that he didn’t have to get super dressed up for dinner.  We made reservations for The Jade Samurai (Japanese steakhouse) for that evening…..the only time they had available for the entire week.   Since we knew we were going to be having a large dinner we decided to grab a plate of jerk chicken from the outside bar area and another round of adult beverages.  Yes, I did drink a lot! 

We continued to soak up some sun, and down some drinks until we needed to head upstairs to dress for dinner.  It was at this point on day two that I decided that fixing my hair wasn’t even going to be an option.  Humidity and my hair don’t mix!!  After showering, I sat on the balcony letting my hair air dry/frizz out while Terry showered as well.   Our reservation was for 6:30.  Around 6:00ish we started to head downstairs.  We just wandered around, stopped at the bar, walked on the pier and stopped at the bar again, before making our way to the Jade.  Dinner was good, I loved the fact that they took special precautions to make sure that us people with allergies weren’t affected!  Most hibachi grills do not do this!  It also worked in my favor that the duck was replaced with chicken that evening…..as I’m not a huge duck fan.
With full bellies, we stopped at the bar again (are you noticing a trend here??) we meandered around the resort a little.  Stopping here and there to chat with people.  We met a nice couple on our “shuttle” to the resort.  We perused the gift shop, walked the tiny length of the beach (really my only major complaint, I wish the beach was longer!!!) and made our way over to the outside piano bar which was showing “The Hangover” on a movie screen in the pool.  We caught the tail end of the movie, had a few more drinks and then made our way back up to our room.  I was a little taken aback by the fact that people “smoke” wherever and whenever and no one even bats an eye.  It’s the norm in Jamaica.  But yet tobacco smokers are banished to the fence area?? 


 Oh how nice it was to wake up to the sounds of the ocean.  Equally as nice….It was great to sleep in a little and not be awoken by someone chanting “mommy mommy mommy”.  I love my kids, don’t get me wrong….but Mommy needs some grown up time as well.  We slowly made our way downstairs for breakfast at the buffet.  Another day with full on frizz head and daunting a ponytail and no makeup.  I’m not a coffee drinker.  My morning beverage is cranberry juice and a diet coke.  Apparently Jamaica has something against sugar, because their soft drinks don’t taste the same and neither does any of their dessert items.  I would have paid good money by the end of our trip for a coke.  But I digress….  Anyway, I ordered a Cranberry juice and water to go along with my meal and T got his usual pot of coffee.   We each ate our share and then some from the buffet.  We knew that we were getting a later than normal start and that we probably wouldn’t be eating lunch that day.  After being at the buffet for almost 45 minutes my cranberry juice finally arrived.  One thing I must learn is how to be more relaxed and try to live like the Jamaican people!!  Their lives are so simple.  No one rushes around, everything is so slowly paced but yet everyone is always happy. 
 After definitely eating too much we once again hit up the bar and took a quick stroll down the beach… slowly making our way back up to our room to change.

We took our time getting our suits on and getting ready for our trip to Dunns River Falls.   We made our way back down to the lobby area to catch our shuttle.  We caught the bus with one other couple from our resort.  They too were celebrating their anniversary at Jewel.  We kind of paired up with Da-John and Monique.  As advised by our tour guide….we decided to share a locker, thus cutting the rental fee of $12 in half.   We made the trek down to the ocean and then quickly started climbing up.  Those dudes don’t waste any time.  About halfway up, I slipped on a rock busting the heck out of my knee.  Nothing major but it did hurt like heck.  We made it to the top.  Looking back now, I wish I had taken more time to stop and look around at the beauty of the falls.  I didn’t take in how gorgeous the scenery really was.  I was more concerned about whether or not I could make it to the top.  I also wish that I had taken a water camera with me.  We have no photos from the falls.  L  I wasn’t paying $15 for an awful photo of us.  While exiting the falls, we were harassed no less than 15 times from the locals trying to get us to purchase something.  I quickly learned to not make eye contact and to keep moving unless I was really interested in something.

 We returned to our locker with Da John & Monique.  We dried off, returned our locker key for a $3 refund (which would ultimately turn into our drivers tip) and waited for our shuttle back to the resort.  My legs were immediately on fire.  My calf muscles ached and my knee was swollen from the fall.  Nothing I couldn’t deal with…..but man, that was one heck of a work out.

Straight off the bus we hit up the bar.  I ordered two drinks.  What’s better for aches and pains than alcohol right??  J   At the bar we ran into some ladies that we met back on day one….Blair and Sara.   We spent some time chatting with them at the bar before going upstairs to change and shower for dinner.  I got slightly side tracked by watching a wedding on the boardwalk from our balcony.  Terry and I both showered and decided that we weren’t really up to doing much.  We both were tired so we went downstairs and ordered a wood fired oven pizza and a calzone.  We ate on the patio and had several more drinks.  We really didn’t do much of anything that evening except relax and drink too much.  But that’s what vacations are for right!?!?!?!?

Day Four… Wednesday.   We awoke this morning to pouring rain….like windy sideways rain.  Boo!  We slowly got started and made our way down for breakfast.  Omelets, French toast, blueberry pancakes and bacon!  Again, 30 minute wait for cranberry juice.  But I digress, I knew better at this point.  It rained all through breakfast.  The open air restaurant was getting soaked, but most people didn’t care.  We ran into several couples that we had become acquainted with.  All of us hiding out from the rain.  Our day excursion was scheduled for 1:45 but we were to meet our shuttle in the lobby at 11:00.   We spent quite a bit of time just hanging out at the café after eating.  Basically all of us looking for cover.  We learnt that another couple (their names elude me at this point) were also going to Dolphin Cove in our same tour group.  Around 10:30 we all decided to go get changed and meet back in the lobby….it’s still pouring.  Our shuttle was late, must be a Jamaican thing?  Everything is about 10-15 minutes behind schedule.  We boarded the shuttle, still pouring.  Our driver’s name was Charma.  I remember this because Terry said “His name is charmin?  Like the toilet paper”.  We were to meet him back at the entrance for pick-up at 4:00pm.  A short 15 minute drive up the hill and we had arrived, approx. 11:45ish.   We still had two hours until our dolphin swim.   Apparently, there are many things to do at dolphin cove that were all closed down because of the wind and rain.  We missed out on the shark adventure, snorkeling, swimming with the sting rays, the water slide, the bird exhibit.  I was seriously bummed.  At one point they were actually cancelling dolphin swims.  I was getting worried.  All my life I have wanted to swim with dolphins.  It topped my bucket list.  So basically for almost 90 minutes, Terry and I parked our rear ends under a little wooden structure to hide from the rain.  He wanted to leave but I wasn’t going until I knew for sure that our time frame was definitely going to be cancelled.   Around 1:30 it magically stopped raining.  We were fitted in life jackets, given instructions on hand signals for the dolphins and prepped for our swim.  I was literally ecstatic!   We were allowed to wear our shoes to walk into the swimming areas, but had to leave them on the ramps.  We were told to jump in and swim to the far side.  Our dolphin (whose name also eludes me) had just had a baby 4 days ago.  They were making sure that the baby (who was also in our area) was where it needed to be, away from people.  I jumped right into the water.  So excited that I forgot about the whole salt water thing.  I ended up with a mouthful.  I really didn’t care.  The dolphin came and slowly swam in front of us, basically getting us used to her environment and her acquainted with us.  We were able to touch her as she swam by.  We each individually (there were 6 people in our group, no one we knew) got to take turns with the dolphin… holding it, hugging, kissing, dancing with it.  Then we watched as it went back to her baby for a moment.  After tending to her child…We each got to take a ride with the dolphin.  Essentially, it pulled each of us individually across the length of the swimming area….not super far.  While it was a short ride it was still super cool!!  I only wish that I had known about the extended swim.  I would definitely had paid a lot more to spend more time with the dolphin(s).  All in all, I think our swim lasted maybe 25 minutes.    We returned our life vests, dried off, turned in our locker key and started making our way towards the exit.  We were hoping that we would be able to arrange for an earlier pick up.  Everything was soaking wet and most things were still shut down.  Luckily another Jamaica Tours Bus just happened to stop and we hopped on.   Once again, we went straight from the tour bus to the bar.  Both of us ordering two drinks a piece.  We went back up to our room to shower.  The salt water from the dolphin swim was much different from the ocean.  You literally could wipe salt from your body.  Terry joked that we needed some tequila for shots.  J  We chilled on our balcony for a few while finishing our beverages.  I went to hop in the shower only to find that we had no towels.  Luckily I noticed prior.  I called housekeeping and they told me they would deliver some “momentarily”.  90 minutes later Terry decided to go down to the front desk.  He was told that they were on their way.  He made a stop at the bar grabbing us a few more drinks.  He returned to the room and we chilled on the balcony once again.  Finally housekeeping delivered some towels…..probably close to 2 ½ hours after our original request.  At this point we both rushed to shower, dress and head downstairs for the beach party/dinner.  All the restaurants (minus the grill) were closed this evening so eating on the beach was really our only option.  We were seated at a table with a bunch of Canadians.  All drunk and being very rude.  We ate from the large buffet placed on the beach.  The food was sitting on surfboards that were being hoisted by barrels.  It was really cute.  Terry stood in line forever for jerk chicken and pork.  He said it was worth the wait.  I was happy with the salad and an ear of corn on the cob.  The dessert once again left me wanting something more.  Sugar is limited in Jamaica.  The apparently monitor all the sugar content in the food.  Coke is different, all the desserts aren’t quite as sweet as they are in the US and definitely the $3 candy bar from the gift shop are different.  But nothing a couple of mixed drinks couldn’t fix!  J   We finished eating and went to grab a couple of drinks.  We walked around for a while….following the peacock, determined to capture a suitable picture to show the girls.  We ran into Blair and Sara again.  We joined their table on the beach.  We stayed out on the beach watching the entertainment (local band, local dancers, a snake charmer, a contortionist, a fire eater, and some other local talent) until it started raining again.   At that point we grabbed two drinks each and headed to our room for the evening. 

Day Five….                                                                                      

 I awoke super early this morning.  Not sure why.  I watched the sun come up from our balcony.  I could sit and listen to the waves of the ocean for days.   I checked the weather on my phone and saw that another storm was going to be moving through around lunch time.  I awoke Terry.  He wasn’t super excited about getting up, but I told him that if we wanted any outside time  that he would need to get moving.  We stopped for a quick breakfast and then hit the pool.  We were the first in the pool.  We floated around on a raft for probably close to an hour before having some mid- morning drinks at the swim up bar.  The DJ was playing some nice tunes and we literally just chilled for several hours.  At noon there was a game of “name that tune” in the pool.  Terry came in second place and won some “jewel dollars”.  I honestly forgot about them so I have no clue what the jewel dollars are even for.    At this point was starting to get cloudy.  We went up to the room to change clothes for lunch.   The buffet was a sad attempt at Asian food.  Terry and I both decided that after our first plate we were finished and that we would visit the grill outside instead.  I was really disappointed.  It’s not that hard to cook rice.  Apparently we were not the only ones who thought this.  At the grill we met up with another couple that had also just left the buffet and decided on pizza instead.  As we were sitting outside eating our lunch it started to rain….again with the hard, sideways rain.  L  We sat in the lobby for a bit (the only place to get a decent Wi-Fi connection) and tried to facetime with the girls.  We walked through the gift shop again and then decided to go upstairs and shower.  We hung out in our room for a while.  Luckily we could sit on the balcony without getting wet.   Dinner this evening was supposed to be on the pier.  Due to the storm it was moved inside.  We went downstairs around 5:30 to the treehouse bar.   We met up with Blair and Sara again and had a few drinks and shot the breeze for a while.  Dinner was to be a 6 course meal.  Due to the fact that every other restaurant was closed (except the outside grill) the treehouse bar was packed.  Terry and I were pondering over whether or not we were going to attend the dinner.  First course was scheduled for 7pm and we knew tomorrow would be an early day for us.  After chatting with Blair & Sara we all decided to grab a pizza and hang out outside.  The rain had let up slightly so we could sit in the covered area without getting wet.  We drank and chatted until about 10pm and then decided to go upstairs.  L

Day Six…..

Saying goodbye to paradise was hard.  We were scheduled for a 7:25 shuttle to the airport.  Our bags were to be picked up at 7:00.   At 6:40 the bellhop was knocking at the door.  Of course, I wasn’t ready to part with my baggage yet so he said he would swing back by.  That never happened.  At 7:15 we said goodbye to our upgraded suite for the final time and hauled our baggage downstairs.  Three other couples that we had met were also on our shuttle.  Thankfully this time our airport transportation was a larger mid-size bus that sat all of us comfortably.   As we headed back to Montego Bay our bus stopped at two other Jewel resorts.  They looked nice, but honestly Dunn’s River looked a lot more attractive.  Even almost a week into our trip, I still couldn’t get used to the driving on the wrong side of the road.  The drivers in Jamaica are crazy.  There are two speeds…. Crazy fast and grandpa slow.   The ride to the airport was enjoyable.  It really made me grateful for all that we have.  Seeing the poverty through some parts of town broke my heart.  The stray goats all over the place, watching people urinate on the side of the street, people walking barefoot and filthy through town.   While Jamaica was a beautiful place to visit, It made me so thankful to be a US citizen.  We arrived at the airport shortly past 10.  Our flight wasn’t until 12:35.  We walked through all the duty free shops.  I found two hand carved jewelry boxes that I had to get for the girls.  We also purchased some rum, coffee beans and a ridiculously priced lunch.  NO JOKE…..our lunch was almost $40 for 2 burgers, 2 fries and 2 crappy Jamaican cokes from Wendy’s.  Going through customs in Jamaica was a breeze.  No one even looked twice at us.   We boarded our plane to Orlando.  The flight was quick and easy.  I chatted with a gentleman who is originally from KC Missouri.  He now lives in Montego Bay and runs an AT & T call center.  It was a very interesting conversation.  He told me that they just raised the minimum wage there to $2.50 per hour.  He said that even though his employees all live in extreme poverty that they always have great attitudes and value their jobs.  He was on his way to Orlando to play golf.      We hustled to baggage claim to get our luggage.  Shockingly our bags were already on the carousel waiting for us.  We grabbed our bags and briskly walked to the US customs area.  The line was insane.  I thought for sure that we were going to miss our connection.  After about 45 minutes of waiting in line it was our turn.  I had been carefully watching everyone in front of us, as I wasn’t sure what kind of questions they were going to ask.  Everyone in front of us was with the agents for 3-5 minutes, almost as if they were playing 20 questions.   We walked up to the counter and handed them our immigration forms and passports.  The agent looked at me and asked what the purpose of our trip was.  I told him we were celebrating our 10 year anniversary.  He looked over at Terry, looked back at me and said congratulations, stamped our passports and said have a nice day.   I was floored.  I couldn’t believe it.  We rounded the corner and there was the transfer area.  We dropped off our bags and headed to our gate.  We even had time to grab a real American diet coke full of sugar and a snickers bar!  J  Our flight back to Indy was uneventful.  We landed shortly after 8pm.  We had to wait close to 45 minutes before our bags appeared on the carousel.  We took the elevator to the garage and within minutes were at our car.  I noticed the cold, since like an idiot I was still wearing shorts and flip flops.  It wasn’t until we pulled out of the covered parking that I noticed it was snowing.  BLAH!!! 


Airplane selfie!

Outside the Montego Bay airport.....waiting for our shuttle

He just couldn't wait to get into the ocean!

View from our balcony!

Just Because....

More balcony views....

Life Size Chess...

This was delivered to our room one night...

Terry chilling on our balcony....

The hammock

That damn peacock....

At dolphin cove we did get to feed some birds then it started raining.

Dolphin pictures will be a whole separate blog post!  Stay tuned!!!

Addison drew me this picture before we left.  She asked me to take a picture of it on the beach.

Margaritaville at the airport on the way home.

Airplane selfie on the way home....

The girls and their shells.  Both girls wanted me to get them shells from the beach.  There were no shells on the beach so we bought these conch shells from some locals.

And their jewelry boxes we got them.  They are really cool, hand carved boxes.

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