A Travellerspoint blog

Grand Cayman Day 1: Travel Day

Mike and I have been traveling together every year for a few years but this year, we decided to invite our long-time friend, Vi, along. When I asked Vi where she'd like to go to most in the world, she said....an island. So for her 60th birthday, we invited her to Grand Cayman with us for 10 days.

She came over the night before and spent the night and we all headed to the airport about 10am. Travel day is usually pretty unexciting but this particular day, there was a suspicious package found in the airport. They shut the terminal down until about 11:45am. There was a lot of waiting around and lack of information.

We barely made it through security in time for our flight so we had no chance to eat or visit the duty free shop. This turned out to not be an issue as they served us free rum punch and Cuban sandwiches on our Cayman Airways flight.

We arrived early to Grand Cayman and picked up our Suzuki Grand Vitara SUV. It was about a 30 minute drive to our villa on the East End so we stopped at Blackbeard's Liquor Store on the way. We arrived in the dark about 7:30pm and there was no electricity. I called the owner who told me that the power company had shut off the electricity even though he paid the bill. Of course, I was suspicious about this but he assured me that it would be back on ASAP.

Because it was dark and there was no power, I failed to take pictures of the villa upon arrival (and apparently the entire 10 days). It was a huge and beautiful house, right on the water. There were four stories and three of those had decks. The first floor was an open living room, dining room, and kitchen area with a half bath and balcony overlooking the ocean. The second floor had a master bedroom and bathroom as well as two extra bedrooms and a shared bathroom. Since Vi was the birthday girl, we let her have the master suite and private balcony. We took one of the extra bedrooms and used the other for luggage. On this floor, there was an iron, spiral staircase going up to one more bedroom on the fourth floor. The basement had a futon, a couple of additional beds, full bathroom, and laundry room. It opened up onto an outdoor deck so it was perfect for storing our wet dive and snorkel gear.

To pass the time until the power came on, we decided to grab some dinner just down the road at Eagle Ray's.


I had the lionfish tacos.

Mike had lobster spring rolls.

Vi had coconut shrimp.

There were pina coladas all around. After dinner, we made our way home to find....no power. Fortunately, it came on a little after 10pm. We were finally able to cool down and relax. We ended the evening with a night walk on our rocky beach and then collapsed in bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 21:53 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman mike vi Comments (0)

Santa Fe: Work Made Fun

I don't travel much for work but occasionally I travel somewhere for a conference and this was just such a trip. I thought I'd invite my friend, Brenda, to tag along because I knew she could amuse herself and it would make my free time much more fun. We decided to go a day early and stay a day late. Brenda battled torrential rains to fly from Houston to Dallas where we met at the gate for our flight to Santa Fe. After some breakfast, we boarded our very empty flight and took off.

Once landing in Santa Fe, we picked up the rental car then made our way to Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument for a little hiking. This park is known for its cone-shaped formations made by volcanic eruption some six or seven million years ago. We did a relatively easy three mile hike thru the slot canyons, enjoying the scenery along the way.




















We left there and drove the short drive to Santa Fe, checking into the El Dorado Hotel. It was quite cold and windy but we braved the weather to walk across the way to Casa Chimayo for dinner. We started with sangria and a delicious guacamole with sweet corn relish. For dinner, we had the red chile stacked enchiladas which were very good.


After dinner, we went back to the hotel and crashed, tired after a long day of traveling and hiking.

The next couple of days I had to attend my conference all day long. Brenda entertained herself by going shopping and visiting the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. On Thursday, we had a terrible dinner at Wine Bistro where I ate burned crab cakes and Brenda had a not-so-good shrimp salad. We ended the evening in the hotel hot tub. That evening we got a light snow.

On Friday, I met Brenda for lunch at Santa Fe Bite where we split a green chile cheeseburger and onion rings. After my conference was over, we walked around the plaza, looking thru the shops that were still open. Most were closed because it was the end of the day and not high tourist season. We had dinner reservations at Eloisa, a restaurant in the sad-looking Drury Inn. It had great recommendations, however, so we gave it a shot.

We sat at the Chef's counter which was fun to watch them prepare the food before it went out. We started with a hamache crudo.

I had the blue corn crusted elk with local cookies and ice cream for dessert.


Brenda had the scallops in a curry sauce and a chocolate dessert.


We wandered back to the hotel and stayed up late talking, laughing, and drinking Strongbow.


We had a little time before our flight left on Saturday afternoon so we decided to explore Canyon Road which is the arts district of Santa Fe. We had red chile breakfast burritos at Gecko Cafe before exploring the various art galleries and installations.

A greyhound made of metal.






We made our way to the airport where security was a mess and the flight was overbooked. They were bumping people from the small plane due to weight restrictions. While there, I ran into one of Mike's doctors from Dallas who was also on our flight. Luckily, we were not bumped and we made the flight home.

Posted by zihuatcat 23:45 Archived in USA Tagged santa fe brenda Comments (0)

Dubai Layover 2: Boats and Burj

We flew from Capetown back to Johannesburg for one last time then on to Dubai. We had about 10 hours to spend in Dubai, already booked up with reservations, and the airline provided a free day room for us to relax. It was a decent, clean room, but not somewhere I would normally stay. We didn't care. We were so tired that all we cared about was a nap in a real bed. We had a boat ride scheduled for 10:30a and we seriously thought about cancelling it because we were so tired. Instead, we drug ourselves out of bed and took a taxi to the Dubai Marina Yacht Club where our chariot awaited.

The boat was owned by a husband and wife team from the US. They went over safety procedures, handed out the life jackets, and we were on our way. We spent quite a bit of time motoring thru the marina.






We cruised along the Dubai shoreline for a while, admiring the architecture of the buildings and hotels.



The famous Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the "most luxurious" hotel in the world.


The boat ride was very informal and relaxing and were were so glad we hadn't canceled. Hungry now, we took a taxi back to the Thai restaurant, next to the Burj Khalifa, that we visited on the way over. The fountains were active this time.


Feeling awake and human again, we made our way to Dubai Mall, where Mike had an appointment to fly an Emirates A380 simulator. One of Mike's hobbies at home is flying airline simulators and he was really looking forward to flying a real one.






He didn't crash or kill anyone so it was a successful flight. The simulator pilot was actually impressed with Mike's skills.

The third appointment of the day was a visit to Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, at 163 stories (1,900 ft). Our tickets allowed us to visit the observation decks on floors 124, 125, and 148. It was one long elevator ride to the top but the view at sunset was incredible.

View of the fountain where we had lunch earlier in the day.






By the time we reached the ground floor again, it was dark, and the fountain show that runs every half hour was starting. It was perfect timing.





The last stop of the day was dinner at TOMO, a sushi restaurant atop the Raffles Hotel. We had a beautiful, night view of Dubai while eating delicious, fresh sushi.


Our flight leaving Dubai was at 3a so after dinner we headed back to the hotel to shower and rest before the flight. We had a couple of drinks at the hotel bar, took our shuttle back to the airport, and ended the trip of a lifetime, arriving back in Dallas at 10a the next day.

Posted by zihuatcat 15:15 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged dubai Comments (0)

S Africa Days 8-9: Fire and Food Porn

After a few long days, we slept in today. We were supposed to visit Robben Island by boat, which we were both looking forward to, but Mike was having a flare up and needed to rest. So I spent the day at the Wharf, by our apartment, shopping and exploring my own. Shopping is usually better on my own anyway. I had made reservations for dinner about six months in advance at the Test Kitchen, a restaurant on the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list. Unfortunately, Mike was too sick to go. I thought about going on my own but honestly wasn't in the mood. Instead, I went next door to the One and Only and had the chef's tasting dinner at Nobu. One of the great things about South Africa is the exchange rate. This dinner would have cost me about $250 in Dallas but in Capetown, it was only about $100.










Mike was feeling a bit better the next day, our last day in Capetown. He wanted to do a little shopping so instead of going to the Wharf, I had the bright idea to find a market I'd heard about downtown. We took a taxi there and were dropped off. The market turned out to be more of a local shopping market with clothes, shoes, etc rather than a souvenir or craft type place so we didn't stay long. We thought we weren't far from the apartment so we started walking in what we thought was the right direction. It was most definitely not! While we were lost, we came across some shady dudes who made us pretty uncomfortable. Luckily I spotted a taxi and almost got myself run over trying to flag him down. He stopped and took us back to the Wharf.

We did some shopping and stopped off at Mike's favorite tapas place for drinks on the patio overlooking the harbor. While we were there, there was a fire onboard a ship in the harbor. I don't think anyone was hurt but it caused quite the uproar for a while.





After the excitement died down, we headed back to the apartment to get ready for dinner. We had reservations at La Colombe, a French restaurant outside of Capetown in the Cape Winelands. This restaurant was previously on the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list and it definitely deserved that award.





One last night cap at the One and Only, a bit of packing, and we were once again ready for a good night's sleep.

Posted by zihuatcat 12:06 Archived in South Africa Tagged south africa capetown Comments (0)

S Africa Day 7: Seal Party on the Cape

This was the day I was most excited about....we were going snorkeling with Cape Fur seals. It was an early morning start as we drove to Hout Bay to meet our guides. When we arrived, we were fitted with heavy duty wetsuits and boarded our boat to head out for the trip. Some seals were hanging out in the harbor.

It was a beautiful ride out to Seal Island. Once there, the guides went over safety information and then gave us free time to snorkel with the seals. They were incredibly interactive and entertaining but the little buggers were so quick, it was impossible to get a decent pic.





We were given about an hour to snorkel but the water was so cold, even with the wetsuits, that Mike and I could only stay in about 30 minutes. We retreated back to the boat and warmed ourselves with some hot chocolate.


The Cape peninsula is scattered with beautiful beaches throughout. On our way back to Capetown, we stopped off at one, Fish Hoek Bay, for a little souvenir shopping and fish and chips at Mariner's Wharf.




We got back to Capetown and as we parked the car, we realized that Table Mountain seemed pretty clear today. Mike suggested we take the opportunity to visit since visibility is such an issue. We didn't want to miss it. So we got cleaned up and drove over.

Table Mountain is a plateau that sits about 3,000 ft above Capetown. There is a cableway that takes you to the top where there is a restaurant/bar and a viewing area with multiple platforms. The views from the top are outstanding (so is the wind).

From the bottom

In the cable car on the way to the top




The cables at the top

The restaurant/bar at the top serves wine and beer, too. They would never do that in the US.






These brazen birds were everywhere, much like grackles in Texas.


View of Signal Hill, where signal flags were used in prior times to communicate weather warnings and anchoring instructions to ships. Now, every day at noon, the South African Navy fires cannons from the top of this hill.

View of Capetown Arena, built for the 2010 World Cup.

View of Lion's Head, a 2,195 ft peak.

View of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.



We stayed for a few hours on the Mountain and the clouds started rolling in.




We decided it was time to go as we certainly didn't want to get in a crowd trying to get off the Mountain.

We had a lovely seafood dinner while listening to music that night at Pigalle and our standard nightcap at the One and Only. It was a long day and we were ready for bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 10:38 Archived in South Africa Tagged south africa capetown Comments (0)

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