Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jamaica Mon! -- Who We Met...

More photos! Thanks for checking back!

Just one quick pic of us, on the pier at Sandals Montego Bay the first full day we were there...

We met so many interesting people while we were in Montego Bay. I found that, in general, Jamaican people were beyond outgoing, friendly, and helpful -- way more than I expected. In fact, when we were asked (and we were asked often!) if this was our first trip to Jamaica and we answered yes, we most often got a huge smile, a handshake, and a "Welcome Home!" LOL

First, let me say that I love the music in this country. I've never really listened to a lot of reggae...but couldn't wait to get myself a Bob Marley CD when I got home! LOL The first evening we stayed, there this cool reggae band playing at the Almond Terrace at the resort:

And the second evening we were there, a group called "Children of the Drums" came. They were a tribal drumming and dancing group -- so fascinating to watch!

At the resort, we also met Jeff. Jeff was one of the locals that were allowed to sell their handicrafts on the resort property. Each morning, he would anchor his boat in the water in front of the watersports area and spread his shells out on the dock:

These were shells he had dived for himself, and every morning we would see him washing them and cutting the sharp edges off. Then he'd gather them up and set up his little table right beside the watersports area. He'd polish them up beautifully and sell them to the people staying at the resort. We'd hear him say "Good morning, my princess, what pretty shells do you like to see today?" He was so sweet!

These shells were extraordinary. He had pink and peach ones, and brown and white ones. Of course, I bought a few to bring home. I would have bought the huge ones, some as large as my head, but I didn't think I had enough room in my suitcase!

And of course, we had resident peacocks at the resort. They just walked around and did their own thing. That was very strange!

And then, we went on a Jungle Canopy Tour, by Chukka Tours. WOW! Incredible! More on that another day...but our guides were fantastic! They cracked jokes and made us laugh and taught us things about Jamaica's natural habitat, all the while swinging us through the trees like monkeys. Here we are, with Raner and Alvando, our Chukka guides.

OK, I guess this wasn't a person -- but it was cool to see! At the airport on the way home, we saw the real Jamaican bobsled. Cool, hey? I couldn't help taking a pic.

And probably one of the most moving, and humbling, experiences I have ever had was on our John's Hall tour. We took a full day tour into the mountainous area of Jamaica to a village. We saw the way people lived there, and heard the stories of how they survive with shelter, water, electricity, and food. This is one of the houses we saw in the village.

Then we stopped at Mount Olive Basic School, in that same village. I couldn't believe the barbed wire fence all the way around.

Some of the children came out to greet us, and they sang a couple songs and recited a poem for us. One of the songs they sang was "Lord, I lift your name on high" and after this experience, I will always remember these children every time I hear that song. They were so enthusiastic and sweet, despite the circumstances they live in.

We then had the opportunity to go inside the school and visit with the children for a little while. There were about 100 children in a school the size of my house! It was divided up into three classrooms, which were this size.

This school was for 3-6 year olds. We went back to the 3 year olds' classroom and this little girl caught my eye. Her smile was so engaging and the light in her little eyes just shone. I kneeled down to talk to her and suddenly I had five or six kids swarming around me!

I don't think we understood each other very well. I was speaking English and she was speaking the local dialect, Patois, but I tried to communicate with her as best I could. She loved my sunglasses and wanted to try them on so I let her. And she kept "petting" my hair and saying "Smooth! Smooth!" which made me laugh. Her hair was done up in little frizzy cornrows -- it must have seemed odd to her to feel my hair.

Before we left I gave her a big hug, and all the other children who were around me. Their liveliness and enthusiasm and gregariousness just really moved me. I'll always remember her little face smiling up at me!

So many wonderful people -- and only a week there. I'll update with more photos soon -- I still have to tell you about ziplining and the 250 year old church and all the activities that we did! Stay tuned! And thanks for looking.
Happy scrapping!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jamaica Mon! Where We Stayed...

I've had a lot of requests to see pics from our "honeymoon", and so here they are!

First, the story...

When my hubby and I were engaged in 1997, I heard about the romantic resorts in Jamaica called Sandals. Couples only, all inclusive, totally romantic -- they sounded like heaven! We planned to go to Sandals Montego Bay for our honeymoon...and then a sweet little house in DH's hometown came up for sale and we used our honeymoon fund for a down payment. Alas, no Sandals -- we went camping instead!

Fast forward to 2008 -- ten years of marriage, same house, two kids, two cats, a big job change, and we found ourselves with a bit extra to take a nice, romantic trip. Of course, we automatically thought about Jamaica and booked a week at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay. So we went, and it was the most wonderful week -- completely exceeded my expectations and we're back refreshed and hooked on this beautiful country AND Sandals resorts!

Here are the pics -- at least the first few. We saw so much and took so many pics (800!) that it will take a few posts to show you even the best ones. In this post, I'll show you around the Royal Caribbean resort where we stayed:

Off we is the view from the plane. We were so excited to see Jamaica that the 6 hour flight (7, actually, because we stopped briefly in Regina) seemed to take forever!

When we got to the airport in Montego Bay, we waited at the resort lounge for a few minutes while the shuttle loaded our bags, and after a quick stop at Sandals Montego Bay to drop off some people, we ended up here in the hotel lobby. They served us champagne while they checked us in and we stopped off at the beach bar for a (very rummy!) pina colada on the way to our room:

Our room was incredible! We had booked a regular beachfront room, but were upgraded (without asking!) to the Honeymoon Luxury Beachfront Suite. We even had Concierge Service -- which was a sweet bonus! Here is the inside of the room (at least part of it) with the four-poster king sized bed, jacuzzi suite, and walkout patio that faced the ocean:

The outside of our suite, with Russ hiding in the doorway:

This was the view from our patio.

And the same view at night:

Our building was in a quiet area, at the very end of the resort, which we loved. The building had its own pool, hot tub, and beach area. This is the view of the Kensington building from the front:

Our building wasn't far from all the action. From the main beach, you just had to go through the gardens, and around the corner of the Balmoral building. There is a little path to the right of this building that led to our area:

This is the main beach. It was never really busy, and you could always find a couple of lounge chairs when you wanted to! The sand was so white and the water was incredibly blue!

There were gardens everywhere. If you wanted to find a cozy, secluded little spot -- they were always just a short walk away. Little gazebos, hammocks, airondack chairs -- lots of little cubbyholes to explore.

One of the coolest things about Sandals Royal Caribbean is that it has it's own private island. Sandals Cey was just on the reef, within sight of the main resort. There you could find the Thai restaurant, the "Jerk hut" with Jamaican cuisine, a pool, a bar, and a couple of beaches.

They took you over to the island whenever you wanted to go, in this neat dragon boat:

This was the restaraunt that we ate at most of the time. It was open for breakfast and lunch, buffet style. At night, they had the torches lit and you could order from the menu and sip champagne right besdie the sea....

The Almond Terrace was the open area where all the evening entertainment took place. Also, you could sit there and enjoy relaxing any time of the day here. When we woke up on Saturday, Valentine's Day, the staff had decorated the Terrace for the special sweet!

That's the resort in a nutshell! There was so much more to see and experience there, it would take hours to tell it all. All I know is that this was definitely not my last trip to Jamaica, especially Sandals. The service was wonderful and the atmosphere was so relaxing -- I can hardly wait to go back!
We went and saw so many different things -- more pics are coming!
Until then, happy scrapping!