Our trip to Grand Cayman
May 26-29, 2010
We are lucky to have friends with timeshare condos in cool places!
This year, our good friends Rick and Colleen Matthews
invited us to join them at their 2-bedroom timeshare on Grand Cayman.
They would be there from Saturday to Saturday, May 23-29.
Due to KC’s work schedule, we would not be able to leave until Wednesday, the 26th,
but two and a half days...it was better than nothing!
The Reef Resort on the eastern side of Grand Cayman island.
Press here for link to The Reef Resort (a new window will open).
THANK YOU Rick and Colleen!
for making this vacation possible.
Because this was a short trip, and I didn’t want to spend it taking pictures and notes, I expected this travelogue to be shorter than the others. But, we came home with 320 pictures of which 84 made it into the travelogue. Granted, many of them are pictures of food, and I must warn you that looking at them will make you ravenous, but we still squeezed a LOT into two days!
I brought this page up in record time, less than one day, so I’m SURE there are grammatical and spelling errors all over the place! I will correct them as I find them. If YOU find any, please let me know – I hate reading anything that has errors in it!
I have received many notes from strangers who have read our logs and used them to plan their own trips. If you are one of these people, please know that we really love hearing from you and are gratified that you enjoy these as much as we do. But, remember, this was OUR experience – yours may be different – and you should not treat this log as a ‘review’ of any sort. Thank you! Please keep your comments and suggestions coming!
Day One, Wednesday May 26th
Our flight left at 5:45 A.M Wednesday morning and the car came to pick us up at 3:45 which meant we would have to be up at 3:00am. Since that is my normal bed time, and I knew I would not be able to sleep if I tried to go to bed earlier, I decided to stay up all night and sleep on the plane.
Travel and dinner at Portofino
The trip to the airport was uneventful and the flight left on time. I fell asleep as soon as we were airborne but KC, who had managed to sleep from 1:00a.m. to 3:00a.m., stayed up and worked, so when they announced that we would have to stay in our seats once we reached the gate at Miami’s airport, to allow medics to “do their job”, he was able to explain that there had been a medical emergency while I slept – someone had gone into diabetic shock. We were only delayed a few minutes, though, and easily made our connection arriving at Grand Cayman a little after 11:30 a.m..
Rick had offered to pick us up so we ditched our rental when we saw his smiling face drove the 30 miles or so to their condo, room 204 at The Reef Resort
, stopping to pick up a bottle of Seven Fathom’s Rum on the way.
The currency here is the Cayman Island dollar and the exchange rate was US$1 for CI$1.25. The Seven Fathoms was CI$32 or US$40. I have not yet found a local distributor for it.
Our “room”, the lock-off, could not have been more perfect! It was huge with a king size bed, a double sink and a private bathroom. It also had a balcony with a view of the ocean, 30-feet away.
Our room, the lock-off :
The fabulous view from the room:
We were all hungry so we went down to the Rusty Pelican, the bar on the beach, and had a quick lunch: grilled mahi-mahi for me and jerk chicken wrap for KC, both of which were delicious. We also started sampling the frou-frou drinks, a Rum-Runner for KC and a mango margarita for me.
The froufrou drink menu:
On our way back to the room we stopped in the lobby to watch the promotional video on the stingray tour as I had been reluctant to go on it. The rays looked docile enough and I had worked out a plan to cover my arms and legs from the sun (I had some laser treatments done on them before we left and was advised to stay in the shade) so I agreed to give it a try and we added my name to the reservation.
KC and Rick took Conor, Rick and Colleen’s 8-month-old son, down to the pool while I unpacked. They also took a glass of rum and coke which they promptly spilled, so when Colleen and I went out on the balcony to see how they were doing, they begged us to bring them another drink. We went in to see if we could rig up a pulley using the blender but, before we could, KC came up to get the refill.
Conor and KC in the pool:
“I am not giving up these glasses no matter how many funny faces you make!”
Distance from pool to condo (Colleen and I are standing on condo balcony):
Our room seen from the pier.
They came up at 5:00 and after a quick shower we left for our dinner reservation at Portofino Wreck View Restaurant, a few miles down the road, stopping on the way to pick up some unflavored coffee. We had a table on the “ocean side patio,” overlooking the wreck of the Ridgefield on the Barrier Reef of Gun Bay, and watched the sun go down while we dined.
I started out with a cocktail, a yellow bird.
KC started with a bowl of soup but,
having had only 2 hours sleep the night before,
he fell asleep in his chair before it arrived:
Our dinner was delicious – they really know how to cook fish on this island!
Filet of snapper with banana mango beurre blanc on a bed of spinach
(with some of Conor’s snacks in the background):
Colleen’s lobster in light egg batter with mushrooms, tomatoes, and shallots in a beurre blanc:
Rick’s lobster tail with lemon butter
(and Conor’s sweet potatoes in foreground):
Sunset and moon rising:
At this point the mosquitoes came out in droves – big bloody things when they were squished – so we hurried through our dessert (a very moist banana bread pudding and apple pie a la mode) and coffee, both of which were excellent, and went back to the room.
Colleen put Conor to bed but, although we were both really tired, it was only 8pm, so we TRIED to stay up. KC failed miserably much to Rick’s delight. Every time we heard KC start to snore, Rick would sneak up on him and decorate him with stuffed animals, or something like that.
KC, asleep, with Rick creeping up on him
KC waking up as soon as Rick gets too close,
and Rick, unable to contain himself:
At 9:00 pm I plugged the camera battery into the charger (the current and outlets are identical to the US), we hit the hay, and slept until 9:00 the next morning!
Day Two, Thursday, May 27th
Our bed was REALLY comfortable and the A/C worked well so we slept like logs for twelve hours! When I got up RiCoCo were in the pool so KC and I made coffee (fortunately there was a coffee machine in our room, too, so we did not have to comingle the flavored and unflavored versions) and hung out on the balcony until they returned. Rick and KC made breakfast – scrambled eggs, sausage and toast – which really hit the spot.
Lunch at Kaibo, boat ride to Stingrays, Barefoot Man at dinner
After breakfast we showered and changed and then drove around the other side of the island to Kaibo Marina and Beach Bar and Grill, on the north-western coast (is there anything NOT on the coast?), near the dock for the Stingray tour. Once again, the food was delicious! I had a seared sushi-grade tuna wrap and KC had fish and chips.
When I ordered my drink I asked whether they used a margarita mix, since I have to avoid MSG, and the waiter was a bit impatient when he told me that “Oasis doesn’t have any MSG in it but you should order something else to be sure”. I did, but I was irritated by his tone until he prevented me from ordering the grilled mahi-mahi because the “island spices” they use are Prudhomme spices which DO have MSG in them. Not only did he avert a migraine but my tuna was superb!
After lunch we drove to the dock and signed up for the stingray tour (I can’t remember the name of the tour operator but it was NOT the one associated with The Reef because their tour does not run on Thursdays). I was apprehensive…it was very hot, I’d had a big lunch, and the alcohol in my drink had gone right to my head. I hoped I would make it!
The boat was a large catamaran and there were about 20 passengers plus 4 crew – the skipper, the deck hand, the photographer, and the guide. Fortunately, a large area (around the bar!) was covered and there was a bench with padded cushions so I lay down. The boat would stop first at a snorkeling area and then continue on to Stingray City.
Colleen, Rick and Conor
KC watched as they raised the sail and then hung out on the deck while we made our way, slowly, to the snorkeling point. He donned his mask and flippers and then jumped into the water, unlike the rest of the passengers, who went in demurely down the stairs! Colleen went in to cool off while Rick watched Conor and then Rick and KC went off snorkeling. Rick took all the pics below since he has a waterproof camera and I had stowed mine safely in my bag once the boat left the dock.
……while I slept
After what seemed like an eternity to me, but what was a short half an hour to them, the snorkelers came back and we motored to stingray city. I had on leggings to protect my legs and put on KC’s long sleeve t-shirt to protect my arms then climbed down the stairs into the water.
“In the olden days” the local fishing boats would pull into this bay to clean the day’s catch and the rays soon learned it was a place to get a free meal so they started hanging out there. While the fishing boats no longer do this, the tour boats do, so the rays still come. The government recently changed the laws about feeding them because the rays were getting fat and lazy so only the guides may feed them. Even though we had no food, they still allowed us to pet and kiss them.
Rays converging on the tour guides
KC and I petting a large female held by the deck hand
the dark skin on top feels sandy
the white skin on the underside is soft and smooth.
KC kissing a ray for 7 years good luck
(And the ray whipping its tail around in ecstasy
and splashing the deck hand in the face!)
Barb kissing a ray for 7 years good luck
(in these shots you can see how my expensive salon-dried coif
had morphed into a mess of curls in the island humidity)
Those rays must think we humans are nuts….
Conor petting a ray
Barb holding (or trying to hold) a young male. The males are smaller than the females and the light skin on this one meant he was young. Since they can only swim forwards I was told to hold him in front of me but, as soon as the current floated him even a little bit away from my body, he was off and I couldn’t hang on!
Back on the boat (we only had a half hour here, too) we rinsed the salt off with a pitcher of ‘grey water’ and then motored back to the dock. I paid $62 ($50 CI) for the four pictures the professional took of us kissing the rays but I have to admit that Rick’s were as good or better than hers. The one of KC at the top of this page was taken by the pro, the rest were taken by Rick.
Conor was tired, he hadn’t had his normal afternoon nap, and crashed in Rick’s arms on the deck of the boat.
Conor hoping for a sip of Rick’s beer
On land, we nipped into the gift shop for Colleen to buy a t-shirt for Conor. I almost bought some hot sauce but the bottle was 5oz and I was not about to check my bag for 5oz of liquid so I passed it up.
When we got back to the condo Rick and Colleen took Conor for a swim.
Conor and Colleen in the pool
At 6:00pm we showered and changed and then went over to the resort dining room for dinner and the Barefoot Man show. The menu is fixed price and there were two options for each course. The amuse-bouche was a very spicy jalapeno cornbread, which was delicious, and tomato and olive bruschetta. Our second course as a green salad with raspberry vinaigrette.
Checking out the menu in the large dining area
KC and I had Mahi-mahi in a pepper cream sauce
Rick and Colleen had chicken and shrimp
(Conor had formula)
Key lime pie for dessert
(by the time this arrived I was too full to eat it!)
Although he is originally from Bavaria, George Nowak has been on the islands since 1971, and he is one of the most entertaining acts I’ve ever see!. His music is primarily ‘island style’ and he sings many classic songs but he changes the words in such a clever way that I was laughing so hard I was crying throughout most of the show. Titles like “If You See Kay” (say that one out loud to “get” it), It’s A Moray (done to the tune of It’s Amore), and “She Loves My Deck” are examples of his creative sense of humor. I bought four CD’s and can’t wait for the one with “Tiger in the Woods” to be released.
Barefoot Man and Chuck, his one-man-band
KC and Rick, roped into helping with the song “Alice”
KC, Barefoot Man and Barb
The show ended at 10pm so we went back to the room where Rick and KC polished off the Seven Fathom’s on the balcony. The air was thick with mosquitoes again so I went in at 10:30, after snapping this shot of the unusual cloud formations. It had been a loooong day but a phenomenal one!
Clouds and moon
Day Three, Friday, May 28th
Although we were in bed by 11pm I woke up with a migraine at 1:00a.m. and took a Zomig which made me sleep until 9:00. KC was already up and was working! Apparently, there was some crisis which, because Monday was a holiday, couldn’t wait until we got back on Saturday. We offered to skip the day’s planned activities so that he could attend to the issue but he didn’t want to give up 50% of an already short vacation so, after Conor’s daily dip in the pool, we piled in the car and drove to Hell, a small 3-building town on the north-western tip of the island.
Hell, Cracked Conch, Georgetown
The (lava?) rock formation that give the town it’s name
The town post office
While Hell was a tourist “trap”, the place we went for lunch, Cracked Conch, was pure elegance! At the top of West Bay, on a spit of land jutting out into the ocean where snorkelers can get right into the water without hiring a boat to take them to the edge of the reef, we had a table in their main dining room on the upper level, out of the sun, but with a full view of the activity below. The food was both creative and delicious.
Johnny-cakes for an amuse-bouche
Cracked conch lightly breaded with pickled fennel and curry mayonnaise
KC, tired of having every meal photographed
The juicy jerk pork belly sandwich he was protecting
(and Conor eyeing his fries)
Mahi-mahi with fried yucca and scotch bonnet vinaigrette
Rick’s conch chowder
After a thoroughly satisfying lunch we drove into Georgetown to see whether we could get a deal on a camera, something the island is supposedly known for. Before leaving the condo, we had researched prices for the Canon 50D and 2 lenses on Amazon. Our first stop was Cathy Church, one of the better known camera shops on the outskirts of the downtown area, in the Sunset House, but they didn’t carry Canon. They directed us to another store, Cayman Camera, right by the main shopping mall.
We parked behind Guy Harvey’s, a renowned local marine wildlife artist, so Colleen could buy a shirt for Conor, and then wandered over to the camera store stopping in some of the many jewelry stores along the way, hoping to find a stingray charm. We had no luck with the charm (you would think that would be a priority for them) and based on the prices in the jewelry stores, our expectations were low regarding the camera.
Cayman Camera did carry Canon but they were out of both the camera body and the lenses we were looking for. When I asked what the prices would be, if they had them, we were quoted a number that was $100 MORE than Amazon for both the camera body and the lenses. It appears that the ‘duty free pricing’ advertized by the tourist industry as not as great as they would have you believe….
On the way home, KC was anxious to get back to work, and when Rick suggested that we stop and get another bottle of Seven Fathom’s to take back with us, KC snapped that we “aren’t going to check any bags!” so Rick got back on the road. Conor had a full diaper and he, too, was getting fussy, so we hurried back to the ranch. (In retrospect, maybe we should have checked that bag….)
I nipped down to the beach bar with my book to try some more of the frou-frou drinks while KC responded to the myriad calls he’d been receiving all day. The first one I ordered, a Pink Sand Beach, made with vodka, blackberry liqueur, Chambord and ice cream, was probably my favorite of all the ones I tried that weekend.
Pink Sand Beach
I followed that with a mudslide but this one was made with a South African liqueur I had never heard of, Amarula, made with the local Marula fruit, a little-known stone fruit high in protein and fat with a subtle nutty flavor typically eaten fresh or made into jelly. The oil is high in the antioxidant oleic acid. Hmmm…sounds like a wonder food! At any rate, the Amarula was good and it is available locally, so it will be added to our Quark’s arsenal next year!
Rick and KC went for a “man walk” where they found a LIVE conch (!) and then KC met me at the bar and ordered his own mudslide.
No idea what this is, but KC is grinning
Around 6:00pm Rick and Colleen joined us and we moved to a table for dinner, grilled mahi-mahi for me and fish and chips for KC. KC gave a large part of his meal to one of the two cats which roam the beach there. Our waitress from the night before, Doris, told us that they belong to the hotel and that she is responsible for feeding them.
KC entertaining Conor while we wait for dinner
After dinner we walked down to the pier to feed the fish and I was surprised to see that they really do go for whatever you throw in! I took a movie but I don’t know how to upload it so here is a photo.
Fish gobbling down Colleen’s bread roll
The sun going down over the resort as we were feeding the fish
Since this was our last day, and inspired by KC giving the cat a part of his dinner, Rick brought down some leftover pork roast which Colleen fed to a thin kitten we saw on our way back to the room. My camera has a LOT of trouble taking pictures in low light and the focus delay was so great I took about 30 pictures to get the two below.
Colleen feeding the kitten
Back in the room, I packed while everyone else hung out in the living room. Rico’s flight was at 11:30 but we decided to drive down with them and hang out at the airport for two hours (our flight didn’t leave until 12:40) rather than hire a taxi. That meant we had to be up at 8:00am so we hit the hay at 10.
Day Four, Saturday, May 29th
At 7:15 KC woke me up to tell me that Rick had misread their itinerary and that their flight left at 10:30, not 11:30, and that we would need to leave at 7:45 if we wanted to drive down together. Fortunately, I had packed the night before and was ready to go in half an hour.
The drive down was uneventful. Colleen checked them in while Rick returned the car. We would have checked in, too, but the AA counter was not open yet. They had a few minutes before they had to go through security so we went up to The Hungry Horse restaurant on the upper level and they wolfed down two empanadas while KC and I ordered a proper breakfast and settled in with our respective books.
The Hungry Horse at the airport
Our breakfast was delicious, especially given that we were in an airport restaurant.
Grilled Portobello, provolone, avocado, and tomato on croissant
Ham and cheese omelet
I was FINALLY able to get a picture of the odd black birds that were everywhere. They had the most unusual tail, vertical like a rudder. They also had a very loud piercing voice!
Odd black bird
At around 11:00 am we went down to check in, since we had not yet received notification that the upgrade on the short leg had come through, and it was lucky we did because we were NOT on the wait-list even though two AA agents had previously assured me that we were. The upgrade was available, though, so we thanked the nice lady and moved through security into the waiting area.
All five gates were at one end of the room and it was packed. We waited patiently and then got in line, hoping to be first on because our seats were the bulkhead and we had two large carry-on bags. That was not to be, though, as I was waylaid by this officious female who kept barking orders at me but, because of her thick accent, I didn’t understand a word of what she said so I didn’t immediately obey which made her angry. That, in turn, made me angry. But the final straw was when she refused to let me repack my bag after she had removed every one of my carefully packed shoes to scan the soles (WHY are they still looking for yesterday’s bombs????) although it was obvious that the bag would not close over the enormous mess she had made.
I was, and still am, furious. I totally understand the need to prevent explosives from getting on the plane but what is the point behind refusing to let me touch my stuff after she’s scanned it? It was a classic case of someone abusing their authority. My opinion of the island up until that point had been favorable but now, it was as low as it can be. She had ruined the trip for me and I intend to make sure that as many people as possible know about their inconsideration. Yes, I intend to write a letter to their chamber of commerce.
When they finally let me board, I exploded with a string of vitriol. Poor KC didn’t know what had hit him! But, he did manage to find a place for my bags and the rest of the trip was uneventful.
Miami airport, though, is horrendous – a long, long walk to a one-car (crowded) tram which takes you to passport control, followed by another long walk to baggage claim, and then on through customs. When we were getting off the tram, I whipped around to face the door, knocked KC’s bag over in the process, and then tripped on it. He did a little dance righting his bag and then exploded with a string of vitriol at me ending with, “…do you think we can get through this airport without looking like the Keystone Cops?!?” I nearly bust a gut laughing and can’t even relate the incident without breaking up.
We breezed through customs but then, after walking in circles trying to find our way back into the terminal, we had another long walk OUTSIDE, in Miami heat, to terminal D followed by a fourth trek to the Admiral’s Lounge where peace finally reigned. I repacked my bag, bought a fresh bottle of water, and snuck a few of the MSG-free corn chips I’d brought with me. KC had a chicken wrap since we didn’t think we’d get a meal on the plane.
The flight left on time and not only did we get dinner but it was really good! Pepper steak for KC and cheese tortellini in a mushroom cream sauce for me.
The flight arrived almost half an hour early and because we had no checked bags we were home by 8pm.
The reef from the air!
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Last Revised: June 2, 2010
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