Monday, February 28, 2011

A Remote Hotel---Part II

Below is a photo of  our room.  Someone from Britain told us it was classified as a four star.  It WAS on a nice beach.  It did have good and pleasant  staff.  But it took two days to get a remote control for the TV and almost every single night we came back to a room that had been cleaned with all the used towels removed...which meant we had to call for towels each night.  We were later told that they had a shortage of towels!  We also learned that some rooms got tissues and others did not and we never figured out why.  The package required we participate in the meal plan, which we did.  It was not 4 star food...but it was at least 3 star.  You will notice in the photo below there is absolutely no decor.  Nothing on the walls anywhere including places to hang towels...which we didn't have, as they say in Jamaica, "no problem, mon".  It did have a maze of wonderful swimming pools and swim gear and small boats included in the price, and almost every night there was live entertainment in the outdoor ballroom!

The photo below is of a rustic but expensive little place high in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica where we did not stay, but did eat a lovely lunch.  It is owned by the local record producer (the one who made Bob Marley famous) and it has photos of all the famous rock stars such as Steve Tyler, Mick Jagger, etc. who have stayed there.  Rooms were $300 a night.  Not outrageous, but not cheap.

At this fancy hotel you get these views above.  In the distance, over the edge of the swimming pool, is the view of the Kingston harbor.  We did get quite a bit of rain during out stay but not enough make us miserable.

As can be seen this hotel (Strawberry Hill) sits high in the misty mountains.  It is a rather precarious and winding narrow drive up the steep hills and is not for the faint of heart or for those who value living.  Once you are here, you pretty much stay here.  We actually caught an electric cable from a post leaning slightly across the road as we head down in our small tour bus.  The black cable, still attached to the pole, grabbed the side view mirror and made all our hearts stop as the bus driver had to slow down suddenly and then back up to loosen the tension on the cable.  Our guide kept assuring us it was just a telephone cable as he grabbed it with his bare hands and lifted it over the mirror to release it.  He did not have me convinced!

The perfect place to get away, but not exactly what I think of when I think of a Rolling Stones retreat.  Each cottage has its own little balcony with a lovely view.  Pool is unheated, so I don't know how much year round swimming gets done.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jamaica -- Part I --- The People

Travel to other countries is always a challenge.  It is exciting, scary, sometimes unexpectedly costly or annoyingly slow!   I am an experienced traveler, which means I know to expect the unexpected and to just accept what I cannot change in the process.  I know to give the local the benefit of the doubt and to not be insulted because I am viewed as a rich explorer who has money in all of my pockets.  I realize being polite and careful is always the best approach.  Keeping as low a profile as possible (you cannot look local no matter how hard you try in 90% of the places you travel) means you will be able to determine more carefully what you want to see.

Jamaica.  Think about that word.  Close your eyes.  What do you see in your mind's eye?  If you have been there you will have a very different image than someone who has not and who must depend on news headlines or tourism ads.  I learned that Jamaica is far more developed in terms of tourism than I expected.  LOTS and LOTS of sterile all-inclusive hotels that have modern high-end shopping areas within walking distance near major beaches.  There are also the smaller and perhaps more tired hotels that retain island charm and a little far from any town or village.  I stayed somewhere in between.  I will tell you of my prejudice that I held before getting there.  I expected the people to be somewhat sullen and angry about their poverty.  After all, they came from slaves that had been treated extremely cruelly.  They fought hard for their independence.  I expected them to put up with me and my money but not interested in me as a person.  BUT I was very, very wrong.  The people of Jamaica are brilliant like sunshine.  They are polite and soft like a fragrant temperate breeze.  Many are well educated and anticipate your questions.  They are very patient and while some approach you only to start a conversation and then ask for money, most understand if you do not want to buy that wood carving or dress.  Most accept "No thank you" with generous grace.

So Part I is all about the people:

These young school boys on tour were more interested in us than the historic fort...just look at those mischievous smiles.

The girls are more somber, but Jamaica culture does still view women as sex objects
and thus they approach the different with care.  I watched a soap opera or two on TV
and hope women have stronger leaders sooner rather than later.

Lots of folk art, but nothing I needed to take home.  Here
is a wood carver working on a Bob Marley bust.

Every tropical area my husband tries to find that perfect drinking
coconut that has bubbles.  They are hard to find!

This young man worked on the coffee plantation (owned by a Japanese)
that we visited.  I just LOVED his hair.

This young pregnant gal worked outside our hotel
walking the beach and
waiting every day to braid someone's hair.  Not my
best look, so I passed.

This fellow was taking a break at Spanish town.  Notice he has his
pants leg rolled up for bike riding.

He does this every day and yet that smile is so fresh and beautiful.

These school girls are taking provocative poses ( like teenagers everywhere)
and I wondered if this was going to end up on a Facebook page soon.

We took a bamboo raft trip down the river and this guide
was on the raft behind us.

For some this is a Caribbean vacation...NOT ME even if the rum is free! (Go ahead and
click on the photo and see if you recognize someone!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unpacking Just to Pack Again

I had a wonderful trip in South Florida and in Jamaica.  I am back...but we barely got to our friend's house in mid-Florida to repack my husband's camp gear and canoe when we got a phone call that daughter was having problems with premature labor---6 weeks early.  We drove late into the night and then left Savannah, Georgia early the next morning and drove straight home.

I spent the hours of that evening unpacking and doing laundry and then early yesterday drove up here to my daughter's house to take care of her now that she is on bed rest for as many weeks as possible.

I should loose much weight in the coming weeks as the laundry room and coffee pot and my bedroom are in the basement, the kitchen and kids rooms are on the main floor and daughter is tucked away upstairs!  It seems they had four loads of laundry waiting for me and only odds and ends of food to cook, so, this morning I am heading out to the grocery to buy sustenance.  I have a renewed respect for those taking care of invalids!!  Daughter was glad to see me as she kept getting forgotten at mealtimes,  Hubby was so busy with the kids.

Working on the over 700 (!) photos that I took on my recent adventure, and I will post a few now and again as I wait for this third grandchild to grace us with (his I am guessing) presence.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Wasting" Time

No, I did not take this lovely photograph; and yes, I am still on travel.  This is not a photo, actually, as some of you may have determined already.  It is a pencil drawing by a Russian, perhaps from someplace called Imereti?  Do you read Russian or Cyrillic?  I think the artist's name is Stanislav Nikireev (using Google translator).  I am fascinated by his reproduction of the clarity and reflection of water using just paper and graphite!   Go here and scroll down for more lovely drawings in pencil to while away the time until I return.  Be careful, because if you study the links to the gallery you can click on and on into endless beauty and your morning will be gone in no time.  I came across this link on someone else's blog...but have forgotten whose and cannot give them credit.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tabor's Deck

We actually hired a young boy to replenish the feeders as they are depleted every 4 days...this bird hobby thing is expensive!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Going Away

Like the snow birds I will be going away for several weeks in the coming month, and perhaps, depending on wireless connections, not posting or reading as I fly (drive) south.  This is an escape from winter, a reunion with old friends, a vacation, a biding of time at a country home, a visit to a cemetery, and a week's adventure on a Caribbean island.  We seem to want to squeeze it all into one small package before we die and fortunately we have just enough money and just enough health to do that at this time in our lives.  Living frugally and living part of the time overseas has paid us well.

For one of the weeks my husband will be on an adventure of fishing and camping in the wilderness of the Everglades with an old (in his 70's) friend..if the old dude's shoulder mends!  Hubby will be spiritually one with dormant (hopefully) mosquitoes, the abundant (un-hungry) alligators and the ever present potential for catching fish.  He will be sleeping in a tent on platforms throughout the marsh and muddy islands and cooking over a kerosene stove.  If his GPS loses its signal in the thousands of islands, he may be lost forever.  I have no envy of this adventure and will be happy to stay with the friend's wife on their simple country estate in Florida.  The wife (Martha) and I know each other only a little but have much in common, although I still was feeling guilty about descending on her for over a week.  Then it was explained to me that she is very much looking forward to this visit and I saw the light.

First, her husband, while a decent chap, is somewhat tedious, talks too much, tells a few too many off-color tales of young college students he taught a long time ago, and in general, can be a bit of a bore as he is very, very, very smart.  Now in all honesty, the talking too much can be applied to my hubby as well if not the other attributes.  My husband's enthusiasm for life can make him a bit of a bore to others at times also.  So, perhaps, their partnership in the wilderness will be a success and provide both us women with respite while they chase away the wildlife in the glades.

Martha has had much tragedy this past year or more with the diagnosis of a heart condition for her.  This was followed by the death of one of her daughters-in-law, wife of her youngest son, after a lengthy tragic illness.  To add more weighted agony, this widowed son was soon diagnosed with epilepsy causing the loss of his drivers licence and the total dependence on his parents for transport to and from work.  A few months later Martha lost her oldest son to a sudden illness causing her second, now widowed, daughter-in-law to take their only grandchild and move away to be nearer to her family for economic and other reasons.  When I visited Martha last winter she said she was feeling guilty for having panic attacks.  (I, myself, might never crawl out of bed again if faced with these challenges.)  I am always so amazed at the warriors in this world.

Thus, she is looking forward to my visit saying it will be a break for her.  I am going to bring wine and books and maybe some gifts of music CDs and certainly some patience and love.  I first connected with Martha at an outdoor picnic at Wolftrap (an outdoor theater) where she brought wonderful food and wine.  I looked back on that summer evening decades ago...and can only say "What the he**!"  How and why did life turn on her so?

After this visit hubby and I will head to Ft. Lauderdale to visit my husband's parents' graves which we haven't been to in a decade.  These pilgrimages are necessary at times and something I never thought I would do when I was younger and far less nostalgic.

Then we are off to Jamaica, a last minute decision without forethought, an island I have always wanted to visit ever since I saw an Arthur Godfrey (he was an ancient TV personality) show filmed there.  I was about 12 at that time and the beauty of this island has always stayed in my mind.  We will see if the memory lives up to my expectations, because I am aware of the poverty, crime, and other problems of the island.  We are experienced travelers and rarely disappointed when we head out.   It will be difficult in my mind to once again be a very rich person in another land realizing my life is so covered in cotton batting.  This place will require us to be a little less adventuresome and more of a tourist, but the spirit of the Jamaican people has to count for something!  There should be plenty of opportunity for photos...and more boring posts when I return if we do not find ourselves too isolated at the resort and with 'canned' trips.

So until then, unless I can post something while in Florida,  I will be both physically and virtually away AND I will not have to watch the Super Bowl!