Sunday, May 29, 2011

I Hear Miami is Nice this Time of Year

Honeymoon Day 8 - Monday, May 9, 2011 - Return trip to Dallas, with unplanned Miami excursion

Monday morning, we woke early at 4:00 am (3:00 am Dallas time), so we could get ready in time for our taxi to pick us up at 5:15 am. It was a 45 minute ride the airport. Luckily, we were able to leave a little later than airline regulations would suggest because the airport in Tortola doesn't open until 6 am.  (Our flight was scheduled for 7:20 am, so according to airline recommendations we should have been at the airport at 5:20 am)

When we got to the airport at about 5:55 am, there was no counter agent at the American Airlines counter until about 6:20, so we just waited. In Tortola, after clearing the counter agent, you have to go to another desk to pay the BVI exit fee before going through security. After all the various check-points, we were waiting at the gate at about 6:45. Boarding should have started in about 10 minutes. We were headed home... or were we?

Several loud speaker announcements reminded passengers for our flight to San Juan to get to our gate for boarding, but then at 7:05, 15 minutes before our scheduled departure, they finally told us that the plane was having mechanical problems that would cause a 30 minute delay.  At 7:30, the delay was extended; at 8:00, it was extended again. By this point, passengers had started calculating the latest we could depart and still make the 11:20 connecting flight to Dallas (about 20 of us were headed for that Dallas flight). The verdict was that, if we left by 10:15, we'd probably be okay because it's a 30 minute flight, but we also had to clear customs in San Juan.

Because the Beef Island airport is very small, there is just a glass wall through which you can see the tarmac and all the planes, so we could see the mechanics on a ladder working on the propeller. There was a general murmur of excitement when the mechanics stepped away the propellers were fired up for a test. At 8:30, they announced to us that the plane was fixed and we would begin boarding when the crew arrived.

When the crew arrives?! They're not here? We were supposed to leave over an hour ago; why aren't they here? The crew did not arrive until 10:15. The gate attendant could give no explanation for why the crew wasn't there. I should point out that you could get to the airport from the furthest point on the island in an hour. Taking an hour and 45 minutes for the crew to arrive was absolutely ridiculous, particularly given the fact that the plane was already delayed over an hour for mechanical issues.

After all that frustration, the plane finally took off at 10:45 (30 minutes after our deadline to make our Dallas connection). When we got to San Juan, we got through customs relatively quickly, but despite our Dallas flight being 30 minutes delayed, we saw that the flight had already departed when we got through customs. All the Dallas-bound passengers got in line for re-booking. The agents were a little overrun. In fact, one said in a loud  voice to us that only passengers who have missed their flight should be in this line. We all, slightly annoyed, responded that we had, in fact, all missed the same Dallas flight because of the crew not showing up for our flight until 3.5 hours late.

Luckily though, American Airlines was able to rebook us through Miami to make it to Dallas that same day.  It would be at 10:15 pm instead of 3:30 pm, but at least, we weren't having to spend the night in the San Juan airport for the next flight to Dallas.

We ate lunch at an airport grill. We were both starving by that point because we'd just had a couple pieces of bread left over for our breakfast, thinking that we would have a better breakfast in San Juan 3.5 hours earlier. I had Quesadillas and John had a Bacon Burger.

The flight to Miami was un-eventful. The Miami airport was particularly overpriced and annoying. We ate dinner at the Corona Beach restaurant, which refused to make even the slightest substitution (which resulted in me eating the rice off John's plate and John eating the fries off my plate).  I had ribs and John had fish tacos... it was by far the worst meal of the trip.

We were exhausted, but delighted to finally be on the way home when we boarded the flight to Dallas.  John's parents met us at baggage claim in Dallas, and we finally got home a little after 11 pm, we'd been awake for 20 hours, and a particularly frustrating 20 hours at that.

Since we didn't take any pictures on that long day, here's a few pictures from after we got back.
The scene we came home to
Another view of the mess that was our entry room.
A few gifts had come while we were away, and this is probably John's favorite
Day 2 to Day 7 - See the difference?
When we got back several people said to us, "You didn't tan at all".  To those people, you are wrong... we were just pretty pasty when we left.  :)

And thus ends the account of the Hansen Honeymoon.  Despite the frustration of the last day, we really enjoyed ourselves, and we hope to go back and stay on Cane Garden Bay for a long weekend or holiday in the future.  

Yea!  We're Married!

Did I Mention We Like Relaxing on the Beach?

Honeymoon Day 7 - Sunday, May 8, 2011 - Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

When Sunday came around, we were a little sad to know it would be our last day on the beach because our flight was at 7:20 the next morning.  Sunday morning, we slept late again, read some, and went to Myett's office to check-out of the cottages (they don't open the office until 9 am the next morning, by which time we should be long gone, so we wanted to get checked-out in advance.  We also scheduled to have a taxi pick us up at 5:15  Monday morning.

An interesting note about the Beef Island airport: It doesn't open until 6 am, so despite the fact that American Airlines insists that even in the BVI, you should arrive 2 hours before your international flight, that would be silly in Tortola if your flight is before 8 am. We were glad we checked with the office staff on when we should get the taxi because otherwise, we'd have been waiting outside the airport in the morning.

We were running low on cash by day 7, so we found the local ATM and stocked up.  Then we spent a little of that cash at the gift shop at Myett's.
Our 2 souvenirs: The free bottle of rum from Myett's and some wooden turtles
We realized that we didn't have a picture of the outside of the cottage.  We were staying on the left side.
1 of 2 signs at the road.
The other sign out front.  We're a little sad the cottages are for sale.  Hopefully, whoever buys them will keep them hotel style property because we'd like to come back, and we think they're a great place to stay. - In case you're curious, the 4 cottages (basically 4 small, 1 bedroom duplex halves) are listed for $1.3 million. 
We ate the rest of our sandwich fixings and ice cream for lunch.  Then, we went out to enjoy the beach.  The water was a little chilly, so we read a bit until it warmed up. We swam and then laid out on the beach a little more.
Ready for one last swim
After the beach, we showered and packed. Then we went back to Myett's to check our flights and emails. (I felt like we didn't have enough pictures, so the phone came with me)

The beach from where we checked email
Myett's bar and restaurant (Dinner on Thursday and our internet access locale)
We took a stroll along the beach before dinner to get some more pictures and soak in our last evening.

For dinner, we went to Big Banana Paradise Cafe. John was attracted by the Lime Seared Mahi Mahi, and I got the Caribbean Chicken. We asked for desert options and the only thing they had was Key Lime Pie, so we had Key Lime Pie for a second day in a row.

The view from our dinner table

Sunset during dinner
We asked someone on the beach to take this shot, so we'd have one picture with both of us taken from more than an arm length away.
We tucked in to sleep a little early that night with our alarm set for 4 am to get ready for our taxi at 5:15 am. Reflecting on the trip, we were both very pleased with how it came out. We hadn't tried to do a ton of activities, and in the end, we were really glad that we had just relaxed instead of having a schedule and activities to make. Other than breaking the camera, everything had gone smoothly, and both hotels we stayed in were great. 

Unfortunately, we failed to knock on wood about everything going smoothly. Stay tuned for one last entry about our journey home.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cruise Ship "Invasion" and "Cookie" Birds

Honeymoon Day 6 - Saturday, May 7, 2011 - Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

On Saturday, we slept in, as was our usual. This morning we planned to save our swimming for the afternoon since the previous morning had been a little chilly. Instead, we decided to bring our books to the beach and read while sitting out in beach chairs.

Before we headed out that morning
When we got to the beach, we found something quite different than we'd see the previous 2 days.  There were about 100 people on the beach, instead of 4-10 like we'd become accustomed.  If you've been reading all these honeymoon posts, you may remember that our taxi driver from the airport when we got to the island warned us that there were 2 days (Tuesday and Saturday) during our trip when there would be cruise ships docked at the island.  On Tuesday, we slept in so late that we barely saw the cruise passengers and those we did see were headed back to the ship.  On Saturday, though, we were up a little earlier and shared the beach with them for about 2 hours before everything returned to normal.

It was a little strange to see; the beach was bustling in a way that it wasn't the rest of our time there.  There were other beach chair vendors who chairs were stacked and chained the rest of our trip, but on Saturday morning, all the chairs were set out and several beach bars were operating. One of the vendors actually mistook John and I for cruisers, and asked us when we had to be back to our boat. By about noon however, everyone from the cruise had cleared out, the vendors stacked up their chairs, and the extra bars closed up.

We decided to eat lunch this day at the one beach bar that was open everyday: Stanley's Welcome Bar.  We heard one of the other patrons explaining that, years ago, when they first came to this beach, Stanley's and a restaurant on the far end were the only things on the beach.  Now, there 6 or 7 restaurants.  We started our lunch with some Conch Fritters, which were quite good, and then I had a Salmon Burger and John had a Bacon Cheese Burger.

After lunch, we went for a swim and read on the beach a little more.  Then, we showered, ate some ice cream, and headed back to Myett's for some internet action.  I brought my phone again to get some sunset pictures.

Not sure what inspired me to take a picture of my feet in the sand, but it seemed appropriate at the time.  :)

There were a couple interesting large sand sculptures out on the beach that evening
John catching up on a little internet news
For dinner, we went back to the cottage and had sandwiches (and more ice cream). Then, like most other evenings, we read our books while relaxing in the breeze. Each evening as we were enjoying our nighttime read, there were some unusual sounding birds in the area - John nick named them "Cookie" birds because they sound like a little kid saying, "Coo-kie?" in a high pitched squeak. There were bird noises all day, but the "Cookie" birds only made those noises in the evenings. After John pointed out the sound they make, it was hard not to laugh and say "Coo-kie?" all evening.  Just one of the many things that add to the charm of the island.


Sandals, Salad, and top it off with Key Lime Pie

Honeymoon Day 5 - Friday, May 6, 2011 - Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

We woke mid-morning on Friday and went out to the beach to take a swim. Clouds were covering the sun though, making the water a little chilly.  Instead of swimming, we just walked the beach and sat out on the chairs in front of Myett's.  Eventually, we went back to the cottage to read, but not long after we got to the cottage, the sun peeked out from the clouds.

We went back out to swim and enjoyed the slightly chilly water. After that, we showered, napped, and ate sandwiches at the cottage, followed by some ice cream for desert. We relaxed and read for a while, and then we decided to go check out the internet (available from the bar at Myett's), and I brought my phone with us to the beach to take pictures.

One side of the beach.  The cottages are a few second walk from the beach (maybe 25 yards behind the tree line), pretty much directly behind the farthest stack of chairs you can see in this picture.
The other side of the beach.  Myett's hotel and restaurant is the closet building in this picture.  We could use the chairs at Myett's for free, so when we would just sit out, this is typically where we did it.

Note that in all these pictures (taken in mid-afternoon on Friday), you see very few people and only 5 or 6 boats anchored in the bay.  This is how it was most of the time.  It felt like a secret get-away.  I love going to places in off-season.  (The only drawback to the off-season thing is that a highly rated restaurant on one end of the beach was closed, we supposed because the owners were on vacation for the first week of off-season)

Imprints from the novelty flip-flops my bridesmaids gave me at my bachelorette party

This time out on the beach was the only time I wore those flip flops because the rubber makes my feet sore, but John spent the whole time walking in my footsteps behind me to wipe out cutesy imprints they left.  It made me smile to see that he missed a few when we were back on the beach at dinner time.

We took a nap before heading back to the beach for dinner. This time we ate at Rhymer's on the Beach.  I had Mahi Mahi and John had King Fish, but the real story from this meal was what I ate before the Mahi Mahi: Salad.  Anyone who's been out to eat with me knows that I eat very few vegetables, and I never get salad.  We didn't notice that the meals at Rhymer's come with salad and, it being off-season, we were the only people in the restaurant.  When they brought out the salad, it just seemed really rude, not to eat it. I was in the middle of wagering with John to get him to eat some of mine and some of his, but he suggested that I try just dousing mine in the French dressing on the table. I had never had French dressing, but I now know I really like it... With French dressing's help, I actually ate half the salad, and the crazy thing is, I didn't hate it... I didn't much like it either, but it was tolerable.  :-)  We topped off our meal with a slice of Key Lime pie.

After dinner, it was back to the cottage to close out another wonderful day with reading in the dinning area and a good night's sleep.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rum and Lobster

Honeymoon Day 4 - Thursday, May 5, 2011 - Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

On Thursday, we slept in a little and packed up our things.  We bought sandwiches at the Dockmaster's Deli that is attached to the Village Cay Hotel. John got a Grad Slam Hero and I got the Chicken Parmesan.  We checked out of the hotel and got a taxi to the north side of the island.

The drive across the island was an adventure.  Tortola has many steep, winding roads, that often are only passable by one car at a time. It appears that some tourists actually rent cars on the island, but in my opinion that would be insane. Crazy difficult roads, American style cars driven on the left side of the road, and no street addresses to guide you - It's a recipe for disaster.

The view from Myett's Restaurant
We spent the second half of our week at the Cane Garden Bay Cottages, which are operated by the same people that run Myett's Bar, Restaurant and Hotel.  We got to Myett's to check-in around 12:30, but we were earlier than planned.  We waited a little bit at the restaurant for our cottage to be ready.

The cottage was great... lots of space to relax, all to ourselves.  The owner of the cottages, Craig from Canada, was in town while we were there.  We met him at the office when we checked in at Myett's.  He's owned the cottages for over 20 years, but appears to be trying to sell them now.

The living room/kitchen
With the room, we got a complementary bottle of rum.  Neither of us drink rum, so there were several jokes about what to do with it, but in the end, we just decided to bring it home and ofter our friends some refreshment in our coming poker nights. (The rum is above the sink in the picture above)

Bathroom... obviously :)
The dinning area.  There are only screens, no glass on those openings.  It made a nice breeze in the evenings.
The patio and entry.
The bedroom.  The bedroom, unlike the rest of the cottage, was fully enclosed and air-conditioned.
After settling into the cottage we took a nap and then went out to test the waters for a swim.  The water was great, very clear and blue, and a nice comfortable temp.  This is supposed to the beginning of the off season, but it was perfect.  Also, we were 2 of maybe 10 people on a half mile of beach!

Once we'd had enough swimming for the day, we went back to the cottage for a shower and nap.  Then, we went to the local grocery mart and got some supplies.
Our spoils: Note the Ice Cream, Yum!
In the evening, we took a stroll on the beach to check out all the available restaurants, and then, settled in at Myett's for dinner.  I had lobster, which was great though bigger than I expected, and John had Blackened Mahi Mahi.  Also, I should note that it was Cinco de Mayo, so Myett's had some special guest musicians for the evening.  The music was a bit over powering, so we didn't stay to listen for too long.

We ended out first evening on the beach reading in open air room of the cottage, and still hearing the slightly strange band playing over at Myetts (One of their songs was a Calypso version of My Heart Must Go On).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Baths, but no Tub

Honeymoon Day 3 - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - The Baths, Virgin Gorda

We woke up early Wednesday because we had a busy day planned.  We ate breakfast at the Village Cay Hotel restaurant.  I had 2 eggs and toast.  John had a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.

After breakfast we trekked back to the port to get our ferry tickets.  We got a package deal with the ferry service for a round-trip ferry (9 am departure, 3:30 pm return), taxi service to The Baths beach, and lunch at a restaurant called The Bath and Turtle.

Waiting for the ferry
On the 30 minute ferry ride
What looks like a large residence on one of the islands
The taxi that took us to The Baths.  When we were traveling with bags, taxis were enclosed vans, but most taxis on the islands looked like this.
Once we got to the beach, we had to tell the taxi driver when to pick us up for lunch.  We decided on about 12:30, so we could eat a late leisurely lunch before catching the ferry back.  There were a couple older women doing the lunch thing too, so we set to have the taxi at the same time.

When we got to The Baths, there were 2 options of paths to take down to the beach.
The path we chose seemed to go on forever.
But, finally, we got to beach.
The Baths is so named because giant rocks have created what looks like smaller pools of water.  There are giant rocks all along these 2 beaches (The Baths Beach and Devil's Bay Beach), and the 2 beaches are connected by The Caves, which is where the smaller pools of water are in amongst a labyrinth of giant boulders.

I ventured out to take a picture on a rock.  Sadly, this is the last picture my point and shoot camera would take.
After taking the above picture, we walked down The Baths beach to explore a little.  At first we didn't realize that some of those big rocks are just beneath the surface of the sand.  We were walking along the level where the water just barely covers your feet when it comes in, and at one point, we were crossing over a rock with a little moss on it.  When I realized there was a rock there, I took the first couple steps carefully, but my footing seemed fine.  Then, the water came in... I slipped, I fell, the camera (that was still out and ready to take pictures) fell with me.  The camera had a small impact on the rock and only got a little water on it, but that was all it took.  The camera tried to turn back on for a couple minutes, and then, it just gave out.  I was fine... except my pride (I had to walk around in a wet dress for the next hour) and I was sad to loose the camera.  

For the remainder of the week, anything that caused the slightest inconvenience, particularly sea weed brushing against us while swimming, got an exclamation of, "Nobody likes you, Mossy Rock!"

The following pictures are some I found online of the caves.  After spending a few minutes mourning the camera, we climbed through the caves to Devil's Bay.
This is the Cathedral Room, which is the first room of the caves on the path from The Baths Beach.

I don't think John enjoyed The Caves as much as me because at several points in the journey we had to bend down and pass through narrow gaps in the rocks.  Some of the openings seemed a little short to me, so I imagine it was even worse for John with 11 more inches to clear and a backpack on.  I offered to carry the backpack, which he refused... I think he didn't want me to fall and get that wet too.  ;-)

Devil's Bay beach was smaller than The Baths beach, so after hanging out on the Devil's Bay side for a few minutes, we wanted to head back to the other side.  Instead of climbing back through The Caves, we decided to climb back up to the welcome center and take the entrance path back to The Baths beach.  We had thought the path to The Baths beach was a little long, but there weren't low rocks to duck through, so we figured that it would be easier for John than going back through The Caves.

It turns out that the path from the welcome center to Devil's Bay is about 3 times as long as the path to The Baths.  We were exhausted by the time we got to the top and wished we'd just gone back through The Caves.  We bought a water and waited a bit, but we did eventually head back down to The Baths and enjoy the beach and water for a little while more.

We met the taxi and our fellow lunchers (June and Peggy) right on schedule to head out to lunch.  We developed a saying to help us remember their names: Peggy like the month and June like John's Aunt.  :)  Lunch was back near the port at The Bath and Turtle and included punch, a Caribbean burger for me, and a Grouper burger for John.  

The taxi driver said the waitress would call him when we were done with lunch, and at the latest, he'd pick us back up on the way to the port with a group heading back at 3:00.  Lunch didn't take 2 hours, so by 2:00 we were done eating and by 2:30 we'd wandered around a bit and were just waiting, sitting with Peggy and June, for our return trip .  By 3:10 we were a bit concerned, and I think that if it weren't for another taxi driver, who knew the company our tickets were with, driving by, our driver may not have remembered to come get us at all.  (The waitress who was supposed to call was no where to be found, and had been a bit rude during lunch, so we doubted she had done her part)  We got to the ferry in time to run on board as they were making last calls.

When we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted from all the walking, falling, climbing, ducking, and nervous waiting. The obvious thing to do was take a nap!

Supreme Court of the BVI and the only hospital in the BVI is the bigger, white building in the back
After some resting, we headed back out on the town for dinner.  We found a neat place called Sabroso Churrasco Grill.  It was just down the road from the hospital, pictured above (The picture was actually taken on Tuesday while we were wandering, but I couldn't use my iPhone to take pictures of Sabroso Wednesday because it was already dark).

Sabroso was neat because you pick your meat, your sauce, and 2 sides, and you make your own meal.  John and I wound up getting almost the exact same thing though: we both had Tangy BBQ sauce, potatoes, and macaroni pie.  The only variation in our selections was that I got chicken and John got beef.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and spent some nice time reading on the porch. This was our last night in Road Town, and we were looking forward to spending the rest of the week relaxing on the beach.