Sunday, June 1, 2008

Jamaican Vacation

Memorial Day Weekend '08 had us back on the road, traveling once again to the crystal clear waters and lush hills of Jamaica. We plan to visit all of the major destinations in Jamaica together. Last year we went to Negril, this year our stop was Ocho Rios and next year we plan to stay in Port Antonio. Ocho Rios is known for being rich in tradtion, culture, food and lifestyle. It's the area of Jamaica known for constant motion and activity with a plethora of great restaraunts, shops and attractions within close proximity. Because of this we decided to forego staying at the customary all-inclusive resort, we decided to stay at a local resort in Ocho Rios where we'd be able to venture out each day and experience all that the city is known for.

Our hotel was on a steep hill overlooking the downtown city center of Ocho Rios. The views were stunning with a clear view of the Caribbean as well as the numerous mountains that surrounded us. After our 2 hour ride from the airport in Montego Bay we arrived in 'Ochi' early Friday afternoon. We spent the afternoon touring the hotel, hanging out at the pool bar and later had dinner on the property at the on-site restaraunt and rested up for our busy Saturday.

Saturday morning was filled with excitement for the highly anticipated trip to one of Jamaica's crown jewels, Dunn's River Falls. After enjoying a great breakfast at the hotel (which offered a selection of local Jamaican dishes as well as standard American fare) we took a taxi to The Falls. We arrived bright and early, before the crowds began to build. After getting into the park and getting situated, it was time to tackle the falls. It was John's first time to Ocho Rios and seeing the falls was breathtaking. Cynthia had memories of visiting the falls with her family as a little girl. The rushing white water, the smooth rocks, the steep but accessible inclines were a challenge that we were ready to tackle.

Initially we took the guided tour. There were approximately 20 people (plus 2 guides) in our group, mostly Europeans including a very nice couple directly ahead of us from London, England. The guides did a great job of alternately leading the group and snapping pictures/videos of the tour. It may or may not show on our faces but the cool water was a great refresher on what was shaping up to be a hot day. We had an amazing time walking up the falls, carefully navigating the rocks and wading thru water that, at times, was chest high. There were no less than 2 'springs' where we were fully submerged in the cool mountain water. To call it anything other than an amazing experience would be doing it a disservice.

We decided to make Saturday a beach day so once we ascended the falls we relaxed on the beach and spent some time in the water. The memory that stood out the most in Cynthia's mind from Dunn's River was how beautiful the beach was and how clear the water was. She marveled at how many years later the water was still the same. We waded and swam in the crystal clear water for about 30 minutes before our attention was caught by the jet skis. We took advantage of the calm waters and rented the jet ski for a quick 30 minute ride. After the jet ski we tackled the falls one more time, this time without the help of the guides. At first we were apprehensive about climbing without a guide, because they don't suggest it. Cynthia was insistent on getting some great shots of the falls using her own camera before leaving. We decided to slowly make the climb exchanging the camera between the two of us along the way. As we made our climb, we saw a lot of local children practically running up the falls with ease. Some fell but quickly got back on track. This sort of eliminated some of our fears as we continued to the top. After getting changed, we caught a taxi from Dunn's River to Margaritaville. When we got there it was extremely crowded with young children and loud music was blasting. As we stood in line waiting, the manager came up to us and explained that there was a High School Beach party going on. He said he wanted to let us know that it would be very noisy just in case we were looking for a relaxing atmosphere. He must have read our minds because that is exactly what we needed after our day at Dunn's River. We had planned on kicking back and having a few drinks and dinner by the beach at Margaritaville. We decided to go to another restaurant called John Crows closer to downtown. The food was extremely delicious and we sipped our drinks as we watched the passers-by.

Sunday we ventured out to another gem of the country, Port Antonio. While here, we planned on visiting the legendary Boston Jerk Center; bamboo rafting on the Rio Grande; as well as visiting the Somerset Falls or Reich Falls. We had met a driver the previous day coming back from Dunn's River Falls, who offered to do the tour for us. We set out early Sunday morning on our journey. Along the way we got great pictures of the Caribbean, a castle and the famous Blue Mountain. Our driver showed us the location where the famous movie Blue Lagoon was filmed. On the drive over, we reveled in the beauty of the countryside of Port Antonio. This will definitely be our next stay in Jamaica.

Once we got to Port Antonio, we went immediately to the jerk center. We ordered the BEST jerk chicken John had ever tasted and and a fresh jerked fish for Cynthia with "festival". Local vendors rushed up trying to sell jewelry, homemade juices and other delicacies. John got some fresh squeezed natural pineapple juice and Cynthia had the passion fruit. We ordered some jerk pork and lobster to go. Boston Jerk definitely delivered on the high praises we had heard about before we left on our trip.

Upon leaving the jerk center, we set out to the bamboo rafting on the Rio Grande. The afternoon was growing late and the timing was perfect for the ride. Our 'captain' Roy told us the history of the river, the surroundings and stories of his life growing up swimming and fishing those very waters. He introduced us to a delicious local fruit, Rose Apples, plucked fresh from the trees hanging over the river. A rafter with cold refreshments came up and we purchased some for ourselves as well as a red stripe beer for our rafter. The tour included an experience that neither of us will ever forget. We got to a shallow area and walked to a natural 'seat' in the river. The cool waters flowed over us as we sat and basked in the beauty of nature surrounding us. We enjoyed our drinks and slowly continued upward on the river and waved at other rafters going by. The backdrop of the Blue Mountain peak towering over us made this the most serene experience ever. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that we will forever cherish. We slowly rode back on the bamboo raft to the dock, taking in the setting sun and calm waters. Traveling the long 3.5 hour trek back to Ocho Rios from Port Antonio was well worth it as we reveled in the day that we had and the adventure we shared.

After a couple of days filled with excitement and adventure we decided to make Monday a relaxing day in town. We took our time and made our way to the downtown city center (about a 5 minute walk) and sat for a few hours at the local 'hot spot', Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We had drinks, lunch and just enjoyed watching the Caribbean roll into the beach. Some light shopping and an evening walk to Juici Patty for beef patties and Coco bread. These are undoubtedly the best beef patties you can find on the Island. We spent the evening at the bar savoring some last blended fruit (John's favorite) and island rum punch.

We had a wonderful time in Jamaica, especially since we did something different by not going the all inclusive route. It allowed us the freedom to set our on path, experience local flavors and people. We are looking forward to next year's Port Antonio visit there. Right now, we are planning our next trip, to the Big Apple-New York City- for July 4th. That should be an exciting one!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

2008 Vacations Tentatively Scheduled

After a much needed break from our busy 4th quarter 2007 excursions, our batteries are recharged and we're ready for more new and exciting sites and adventures in '08! We've sat down with the calendar, spun the globe and have come up with an '08 that's sure to be great..

An international journey is kicking things off and it will be a Memorial Day weekend trip to Jamaica. We've decided that before we get married we want to visit each other's "true roots" so we're starting with a trip to the island where Cynthia spent her first 15 years. Spanning 5 days, we'll tour the island, from the plush resort areas of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, Dunn's River Falls and the like to less commonly known parts as her hometown of May Pen. This trip will be filled with memories that most vacationers can only dream of. (May 22-May27)

It'll be 2 countries in 2 months when we join Cynthia's sister Melese and brother in law Dale as well as nephew Nate on their trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It'll just be a quick trip with family but jam packed with incredible sights and sounds. John hasn't been to "The Falls" since he was a teenager and Cynthia has never been but has always wanted to go. The roaring falls and picturesque landscape will surely be breathtaking. (June 20-22)

Next up, we are planning to take a bite out of the Big Apple for July 4th weekend. One of Cynthia's long time best friends, Michelle, lives in NYC and we've been promising to come visit her. What better way to celebrate our nation than to be in it's most vibrant and exciting city on it's most celebrated day? Unfortunately for John, his beloved Mets are out of town that week so we won't be able to catch a game, but maybe next time. Fireworks at Central Park, shopping, a trip to the Hamptons (Diddy, can we come to the BBQ?) possibly a show and who knows what else await us in "The City". (July 3-July 6)

Continuing traditions are the theme for the next 2 trips. Each year, John's closest friends the Williams, the Whitmores and the Anglins all take a beach trip for a week at the end of July/early August. This year the location will be the coast of South Carolina. While some details are still being ironed out, there are certain aspects of the trip that never change. There will be plenty of laughter, great food and lots of love in the house this year again. There's also the small matter of the John & Derrick vs. Steve & Chris golf game that remains unsettled from 2007 in Panama City. A furious back 9 comeback fueled a tie at the end of 18 holes that was left unbroken. Get on those sticks boys, no excuses this year! (Dates TBD)

Labor Day 2007 took us on one of our most memorable trips of last year. We embarked on a 7 day cruise to The Bahamas, St. Thomas & St. Marteen. We decided on that trip that we would make that a yearly ritual. This Labor Day we are cruising out of Miami and headed out on the Western Caribbean. The cruise we've chosen will take us to Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, Roatan Island in Honduras, Belize and Cozumel, Mexico before returning back to Miami. These destinations are unchartered territory to us both of us so we're looking forward to exploring and experiencing things we can only, to this point, imagine about. (Aug. 30-Sept. 6)

Keeping up with the holiday theme, Columbus Day Weekend has us traveling to the great Northeast. John grew up in Schenectady, NY, about 3.5 hours north of NYC. Since his family moved in 1990, John's been back only twice, most recently in 2004. This 'homecoming' is a chance to revisit some of his favorite places from his childhood. Elmer Ave. Elementary School, Central Park Middle School, Linton High School, Union College, "The Warehouse", Northside Little League, Friendship Baptist Church, possibly a trip to the apple orchards that held so many memories of fresh cinnamon sugar doughnuts with warm apple cider and of course, his childhood home. While there, a trip to Homestyle Pizza and picking up a few boxes of Friehofers Chocolate Chip cookies, a local favorite, are a must! After spending some time in Schenectady, we're going to spend a couple of days in the mountains of Vermont, just a short 3 hour drive away. The fall foliage is breathtaking in pictures and even more amazing in person. Waking up to beautiful sights, a crisp Northeast fall morning and breakfast with fresh maple syrup has anticipation for this trip at an all time high. (Oct.9-Oct.13)

Just a couple weeks later, a celebration of love takes us to the island of Nassau, Bahamas. John's sister's best friend Dawn Jones and her fiancee Wayne Roberts are getting married on the same island of their engagement on October 25th at the British Colonial Hilton in Nassau. The wedding traveling party is cruising out of Port Canaveral outside of Orlando, but we're going to take the short flight over and meet everyone there. Cynthia is working closely with Dawn to coordinate events the day of at the hotel. The day is sure to be full of emotion as Dawn and Wayne unite as one. While John's sister Cindy won't be there in person, she will be smiling one of her biggest smiles ever as she watches it all from heaven. (Oct. 24-26)

In late November, South America comes calling. For Thanksgiving and Cynthia's birthday we're heading to Brazil. It's a place we've both talked about going to visit since we started dating. Brazil is a country of amazing sights, music, food and culture and we want to soak in all that it has to offer. Among all of the sights to be seen, Cynthia wants to see Cordordova Mountain and Sugar Loaf Mountain while for John, visiting the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer is a must. (Nov. 26-Dec. 2)

For the Christmas holiday we'll head back up to the (relatively) cold weather in Delaware for the season. It's always a blessing to be able to spend time with family, especially at that time of year. Plans are to spend New Years in DC to ring in 2009 so we'll be able to enjoy lots of time in the MD, DC, VA, DE area. (Dec. 24-Jan. 2)

As always we plan to travel to DE for John's nephew (May 18) and niece (November 9th) birthdays. In addition, there will be weekend trips to Atlanta, a trip to NC for Maggie Valley & The Biltmore Estate in Ashville, visits out West to Las Vegas to see the Grand Canyon, and Utah to see Monument Valley and other US destinations we may want to see along the way.

We love the travel and love the company of our friends so you are welcome to join us on any of our travel adventures!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

2007 Recap Video

video

Here's our 2007 Recap Video Postcard from all of our adventures. Relive the year with us as we share pictures of our journeys, our friends, family and loved ones. We hope you enjoy viewing this as much as we enjoyed putting this together for you.

Love, John & Cyn

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy New Year!

In a first for most of us in Colorado, we celebrated New Years in multiple time zones. For our New Years Celebration we stayed in and cooked (Dwayne's fried shrimp, John's grilled BBQ salmon, Nedelka's sweet potatoes, rice and garlic spinach), listened to music-more on that in a minute- and popped plenty of champagne. Dwayne was hilariously using 'natural refrigeration' by tossing the bottles of champagne out of the sliding glass door into the snow! For all we know, some lucky soul could be popping champagne in May when all the snow melts.


The theme of the evening's music was 'That's My Sh...', where we all picked out 3-5 (or 8 in Marise's case!) of our favorite songs from any genre, Rus downloaded them into his I-Pod and DJ Brandon played the list. When your song came on, you hopped up and yelled 'That's My Shhhhh!' (there were kids present so we kept it clean) and danced. Some of the songs were, Get Money by Lil Kim, Before I Let Go by Frankie Beverly, Gotta Get You Home with me Tonight by Foxy Brown and the one that moved the crowd the most, The Show by Doug E. Fresh.


We paused for the ball dropping in Time Square at 10pm local time, celebrating with our Eastern Time Zone friends, partied up to 11:59 local time and counted down to 2008 Mountain Time. We rang in the New Year with Kanye West's hit, The Good Life-the theme for all of us in the upcoming year. "I go for mine, I got to shine, now throw your hands up in the sky.. I'ma get on this TV mama, I'ma put it down, hey, I'm GOOD!'
The music lasted well into the night/early morning as the party went on.




The following morning Marise cooked breakfast for the masses as the girls prepared to embark on their previously delayed spa and shopping day. They headed out as the guys hung out at the house watching New Years Day bowl games. Later that evening, Cynthia and I decided to go on our sleigh ride that we had planned for New Years Eve but was canceled due to the weather. Our sleigh ride was at 7:30pm local time so as you can imagine the sun had long since been down and any warmth it provided earlier in the day was GONE! As we boarded the sleigh the temperature couldn't have been higher than -10 degrees. It was easily the coldest either one of us had ever been.

The short (thankfully) ride thru the snowy mountains led us to a cozy log cabin where we fortunately were seated near the wood burning stove which helped to warm us up quickly. We were informed the dinner and show had a cowboy theme from the 1860's. We poured hot chocolate into tin mugs, were served our food on metal plates and were "entertained" by cowboy songs and poems. We were served bbq chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob & fresh rolls. The food was excellent, especially the apple pie served for dessert. It was truly an experience.


The following morning it was up EARLY (3:30 AM) to wrap up the vacation and head back east. The 2 oversized SUVs we had rented for the week weren't sufficient for all of the luggage so we had a transport van come just to drive bags to the airport! All of us flying back to Ft. Lauderdale were on the same flight that left at 9:30am. Brandon, Nedelka and Kyla flew back to Maryland at 8:30. We left sub zero temperatures in Colorado to come back on the coldest day in Florida in over a year! Of course, everything is relative, FL cold was 55 degrees!

We're home safely with pictures, memories and lots of winter clothes to stick in the closet. Stay tuned for the next adventure!

Monday, December 31, 2007

Vail, Skiing and Snowed In?

Saturday brought more cold temperatures (sensing a theme here?) and a day trip to Vail, CO, vacation destination to the stars. We all layered up, got everyone ready, loaded up the vans and off we went. It took a little under an hour to get there thru the mountainous terrain and snow fluuries.
Vail is a suprisingly small village (from what we saw) replete with condos, shops, restaurants and ski slopes. We saw more people dressed in ski attire than regular clothes walking around the village. We wandered around for a bit, had some (0verpriced) lunch and hit a couple of shops to collect our normal souveneirs (spoon for Cynthia, golf ball for John-hint hint if you travel). Sadly we didn't see any stars out and about but it was a nice day outing capped off by all of us getting fitted for our ski outing on Sunday.

Sunday morning and the slopes were calling! We woke up, ate a little breakfast and it was time to head out to the great outdoors. We had gotten some advice on how to dress to stay warm from Dr. Bill, a long time friend of Brandon and Nedelka and we tried to follow his advice. Here's some advice of my own, as the picture can attest, when it's 13 degrees, snowing and windy, there's not enough clothes to keep you warm while you're outside, but I digress. We got out there, got dressed (ski mask, helmet and ski boots which were an ordeal on their own) and made our way to the mountain. After getting our lesson and lift tickets we (Cynthia & I, Camille, Tan, Jerome, their daughter Caprice and Nedelka-the rest chose snowbarding) met up with our instructor and started with the very basics. I will give all credit to those who grasped and embraced the instruction. I followed along enough to the point that I wouldn't fall flat on my face but all I was concentrating on was trying to make sure I still could feel all 10 toes!

We started with one ski and making our way in a wide circle with that. Then the other ski and the same drill and then both skis. As we advanced to moving side stepping up to a small incline and making various slides down the hill (basic, shuffling the feet, making a wedge) the altitude got the better of Cynthia and she needed to sit the rest of the session out. I continued on as we went to the top of the hill and came down. Camille loved it, Nedelka, Tan and J enjoyed it also. Cynthia said I did a really good job, but I think gravity had more to do with it than anything. Meanwhile the surprise of the session was Caprice. Tan and Jerome both marvelled at how quickly she picked it up and how much fun she had. After the lunch break most of us stayed in the lodge while Camille and Caprice went back out on the slopes and Rus, Brandon, Dwayne and Marise went back out to snowboarding. At the end of the day everyone had a memorable time and now for those of us who aren't going back later this week we can say, 'We ski'd!'

When we came back from skiing, the girls had spa appointments scheduled for 6pm. They headed out to the spa, but 20 minutes later here they came back in the front door! Turns out the winds had kicked up even more than earlier in the day and due to the blowing snow, visibility was negligible. We were snowed in for the night!! Turns out the Colorado Dept. of Transportation has closed the main highway (I-70) west of Denver (where we of course are!) and it remains closed cuurently. Rus, Brandon & Dwayne cooked dinner for the group, the wine was flowing, jokes exchanged and plenty of laughs. Good food, good friends, great times. "You know how we do!"
Cynthia's altitude sickness took a turn for the worse so she was bed ridden for most of the evening but after getting some oxygen, she was back to about 80% of her normal self. Jerome also struggled with the altitude and had an oxygen tank delivered to the house. The service told him that they had taken 100 calls for vactioners needing oxygen assistance. We had planned to go snowmobiling today but decided when we got up that she wasn't really healthy enough to go. We are still going to try to go to our planned New Year's Eve sleigh ride so there's more news to come!! ** UPDATE-It was cancelled due to the weather conditions. **

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Winter Wonderland

It's a winter wonderland alright.. Cynthia is wondering when can we come back and John is wondering how he was lured into cold weather again!

John's legendary hatred for cold weather was tested immediately when the announcement came from the flight deck upon our descent into Denver that the temperature was 15 degrees! That was downright balmy compared to the -5 degrees the in car thermometer read as we drove the 2+ hours thru the mountains to the house in Breckenridge. Once we arrived however, the house is nice, cozy and nestled in a picturesque neighborhood up in the mountains.

The altitude difference cannot be understated. Imagine the feeling of running a 100 sprint after just walking to the kitchen! The shortness of breath and lightheadedness are conditions we all have to endure as we get adjusted to being more than 10,000 feet above sea level.

This morning the temperature when we arose was an even 1 degree. Despite feeling the effects of the altitude, Cynthia was like a kid with a sugar IV drip she was so excited to see the snow, snap pictures and 'frolic'. The frolicing lasted all of about 90 seconds, remember it was 1 degree! She kept remarking how beautiful it is and how much she loves it.

We also brought a little late Christmas to the crew which provided a surprise to them all as they made their way to the kitchen to the smell of pancakes, eggs, bacon and Dwayne's fried sweet potatoes. The guys all received monogrammed golf towels, the BB's received travel jewelry boxes, Caprice & Jasmine got some clothes, Kyla got a Disney see and draw and Drew got a picture frame collage with pictures from his birthday party at Disney.

We've got plans to travel to Vail this afternoon to spend the day before coming back to B-ridge for dinner tonight. A couple of the crew are struggling with altitude sickness but we'll power thru it. More to come!

Friday, December 28, 2007

97 Degrees of Separation

We're getting ready to head to Colorado this afternoon and after staying up to 1am packing last night all I can say is WHEW!! The good news, the guest bedroom no longer looks like a mall exploded.. The bad news, where are we going to put all of our winter stuff when we get back?!?! We'll deal with that when we return I guess.

So as I get online this morning the sunshine streams thru the windows, a neighbor wearing shorts and flip flops walks her dog thru the parking lot, another beautiful South Florida morning. I go to www.weather.com &
I looked at the top of the screen to my default home city of Pompano Beach and it reads 80 degrees. I put in Breckenridge, CO to see what we're facing and I see the current temperature.. It says -17 degrees with a wind chill of -37!!

Now I'm no math whiz, but to me, that seems like a 97 degree difference!! What are we getting ourselves into?

Stay tuned, it's going to be an interesting week..