Monday, July 12, 2010


Walking up the stairs from the subway; jostled and bumped by too many people trying to cram into too little space I was hit by a harsh realization.

I’m part of the cattle again.

Some refer to it as ‘The Rat Race’, but I’ve always viewed commuters as part of a herd. Being pushed and prodded towards individual seven by seven foot cubicles until some soundless whistle blows at which point we get pushed and prodded back to our homes.

Sorry. I guess transitioning back into the real world is tougher than I expected.

Let’s focus on some fun things. Like me! And I suppose my vacation. Let’s break it down old school, shall we?

Place: We stayed at the Marriot Beach Resort which is just as relaxing and fun as it sounds. Since we booked some special package through Expedia (DOT COM!!), we had all of our meals and drinks paid for. If you know my drinking problem and super human tolerance you also know Marriot lost on that deal. Lost big time!

The hotel was right on Seven Mile Beach, had a pool three feet from said beach and a turtle lagoon that ran through the center of the courtyard. The two boys spent countless hours trying to lure them to the side with fake food so they could pick them up.

Look, a turtle that now fears boys from Boston

While that was nice and all, what really made my week was the service people who would come up and take your drink orders. On the beach! That’s right. We just sat on our lounge chairs and lovely ladies would bring us drinks right to our chairs. There were even gents walking around setting up umbrellas for shade if you wanted.

Wait, I’m not done! There was a bar right by the beach, so you wouldn’t have to wait for the waitresses if you thought they were too slow or too busy to bring you a beer every 10.2 minutes. One 30 second walk would bring you to the Sol Bar which had a plasma broadcasting either the World Cup, BBC News or Wimbledon. There was also a sit down, outdoor veranda where we could saunter up in our bathing suits for a sit down lunch.

And did I mention it was all included? I mentioned that, right?

Extras: Since there were many families Marriot provided some kid entertainment. There was a parrot named ‘Echo’ (other requisite name would have been Polly) who liked to perch on any and all children’s arms, the previously mentioned turtle lagoon, untold numbers of iguanas and lizards roaming all over the island (including a favorite we named ‘tripod’ due to his missing front leg), and a kid’s ‘club’ that would have daily activities like arts and crafts and feeding the turtles in the afternoon.

'S'up, amigo?'

But that all pales in comparison to the glorious morning when Sir Spongebob Squarepants made an appearance. Look, I even have photographic proof:

His pineapple is now owned by Marriot

We got pics with the boys hugging Spongebob which my youngest is still talking about.

Food: I’ll admit that when I heard all our meals were included, I was skeptical. I thought we’d be eating hamburgers and hotdogs or mac and cheese all week. Not that I would have had a problem with that at all.

Instead we had not one, not two, but three different places to eat. The Red Parrot in the lobby, the Sol Bar by the beach and Solstice which was the veranda overlooking the ocean. And they all had different menus. Red Parrot was a hoity toity Italian place, Sol had pub food, and Solstice had a higher end every man’s menu that included my favorite meal of the week: Surf and turf. Buttered and grilled lobster tail with a six ounce New York sirloin. I had it three times in six nights. Fucking fantastic.

But the highlight of the week was a desert from Red Parrot. It was chocolate mousse on top of a white sponge cake which in turn was on top of vanilla pudding. It was served in a large martini glass and could be the best friggin’ thing I have eaten all summer.

In a completely related note, I gained about 5 pounds in one week. None of you should blame me one bit.

People: Let’s face it, you could be on the most beautiful place on earth but it would be wasted if the people around you were assholes. Fortunately, Grand Cayman has the most pleasant, non drug induced happiest people this side of…wherever there are really happy people.

They smile, come from all over the world (we met people from India, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, and this strange land called Texas), and are willing to talk to you about anything and everything.

The hotel staff bent over backwards to make sure your stay was trouble free and cleaning staff would leave little treats for the boys once in a while. This included mints, chocolates and stuffed turtles that were quickly named ‘Bob’ and ‘Turd’ and spent quality time fighting each other.

What's refreshing, though, is how the residents actually welcome the tourists with open arms. The taxi drivers will wave and ask if you need a ride, then good naturedly haggle with you on the price. One of them bet another guy $100 he could get all twelve of his friends into his cab with my family already in it. The driver won. Easily. The gift shop owners all greet you like long lost friends and will help out by going into the back room for different sizes or colors. They are very customer oriented without the smug condescension you get from other islands (Looking your way, Aruba).

Quick sidenote here: We met three different couples from New York City and every one of them apologized to everyone after admitting they were from the city. As in ‘We’re from New York….Sorry….’ I finally asked the last guy ‘Why does everyone apologize when they admit they’re from New York?’ which drew loud laughter from everyone else listening. The guy meekly mumbled ‘I was just trying to be nice’ which I didn’t understand until I notice my oldest boy was wearing his Red Sox hat.

Note to all New Yorkers: Just because people are from Boston doesn’t mean we hate all New Yorkers. We just hate your Bronx team and – to be completely honest – we don’t even hate them all that much anymore since 2004 and 2007. Winning two World Series titles has taken the sting out of our seething, emotional despising. Let’s keep that between us.

Weather: While not perfect (cloudier than usual due to some strange effects from the hurricane in the Gulf and numerous low pressure systems rolling through), it was still beautiful and warm and tropical and lovely. It was actually nicer down there than it is in Boston right now. Since we got back it’s been hot and sticky and nasty. Too bad we don’t have a beach four feet from our back door.

Pardon me while I sob for a few minutes.

Sorry, not done yet.

This helps. That's a beach, btw, not a pool. Feeling better now.

Attractions: We took a few trips outside the hotel to the North Side of the island, the Turtle Farm and Hell. Yes, Hell, which the boys loved and got a hat and t-shirt from. I think it’s simply because they like saying Hell over and over and getting away with it.

If you’re wondering, this is Hell. It’s just the name of a town on Grand Cayman which strange rock formations that – yes…look like Hell.

Oddly, you lose interest in Hell fairly quickly

The biggest draw for everyone was the reef right off our beach at the hotel. Wifey, the boys and I spent many lost hours snorkeling the area enjoying the company of colorful fish which we let the boys feed now and then.

If you were wondering they love Goldfish crackers which struck me a bit as cannibalism. To each their own, right? Besides it made for great snorkeling when every fish from the area swarmed around us in a friendly feeding frenzy.

Good times.

Bad Things: All was not sunshine and flowers, though. My oldest got sick with a vicious cough after sitting in front of a little girl with the same cough on the flight down. Yeah, that’s right. Bring your sick girl on an enclosed metal tube that circulates the same air so she can cough all over the place and get everyone else sick. Thanks a fucking lot.

Interestingly, we had to go through immigration and customs when we arrived on the island and the little girl was hacking like a lung cancer patient while waiting in line. Only the immigration person never questioned why this girl was laying on the tiled floor or what illness she had before allowing them to pass on through. I’m no health expert, but what if she had the swine flu or SARS or some other as yet undiagnosed, highly contagious disease? What if she was a walking pandemic? Nothing? Not even a ‘can we let our doctors take a quick look at her before we let you into the general public and spread your filthy contagion all over our country’?

You can bet I was cursing that family when number one son woke up sounding like a 50 year smoker on Tuesday morning.

I was also cursing the reef in the ocean that morning because I broke my toe on it my first full day there. I was attempting to walk around the visible, man made reef the hotel had put in place after Hurricane Ivan swept through a few years ago and destroyed the natural one already there when I smashed my foot against a sand colored piece of it. Didn’t even see it. Just walking along when BAM! I went down instantly, hobbled back to shore and examined my bleeding, mangled toe. It was ugly and I wound up limping around the rest of the week. It’s still not right. Something is squishy and out of place, but it doesn’t hurt any more.

My youngest son also stepped on a sea urchin which led to much crying, a visit from the medic on staff and a 20 minute foot soak in the hot tub. If you ever step on one, do not pull out any pieces that may be in your foot (as I attempted to do with my son). That just releases more toxins and makes it feel worse. Instead soak your foot in very hot water or a vinegar and water solution for about 30 minutes and the stinger will fall out by itself.

I considered peeing on it, too, but fortunately remembered that was for jellyfish stings thus preventing an embarrassing and premature end to our stay there.

Bottom Line: Just a great, fun, relaxing, booze fueled stay on one of my favorite places on earth. Highly recommended. Just bring plenty of sunscreen. 50 or above should do it.

Today’s distraction: Learn more about Hell, which is really where we should go upon dying. That or Cemetery Reef about a mile down the street. Yeah, I could do that. By the way, one of the attractions of Hell is the local Post Office where you can send postcards; complete with the ‘Sent From Hell’ postmark on them.


Julie L. said...

The DMB song "Ants Marching" always comes into my head when I'm walking up the stairs in the subway. I don't know which is worse -- my commute or the fact that I have a Dave Matthews Band song constantly stuck in my head.

Grand Cayman sounds awesome, and I'm thinking about taking a trip there (I'm also considering the Dominican Republic because it's super cheap). My husband and I don't have any kids, nor do we particularly like kids, do you think the resort you stayed at would be a bad choice for us? It's hard to find a good vacation place for couples -- we don't want to stay at some hotel that features a big orgy-fest, but we also don't want to be surrounded by senior citizens.

BeachBum said...

My wife and I were anti kids for more than 5 years of marriage and spent most of our vacation time traveling.

The Marriot Beach Resort is more family oriented, but it wasn't obnoxious with kids, if you know what I mean. There were kids there, but they weren't running the place and making too much noise.

Still, don't know if that was just the week we hit it or I'm just immune to it now. I would highly recommend Grand Cayman anywhere you stay. During our honeymoon we stayed at the London House which was a condo, but that means having to purchase all your own meals. That adds up down there.

We did stay at a place on St Lucia called Rendevous, which was a kid free resort. Not sure if it's still there and still adults only, but it was great and all inclusive. It also wasn't one of those 'swingers' places, but just nice, friendly couples (many from Canada) hanging out and drinking and having fun.

If you look around you may be able to find places that cater to the kid haters in all of us.