The Home of Daddy's Day Dare! ~ I am just trying to stay above water

Archive for the tag “Jamaica”

To all those that have served: Thanks for this day!

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone!  I hope you had a chance to relax or have some fun or do what ever you like to do on your free days off from work.

We decided to take the kids out to the beach for the first time this season. I don’t think they had been to the beach since about June of last year.

I really hadn’t been out to the beach in almost a year as well, except for a glorious time or two when I only could spare  minute.

Our visit was ideal and instantly reminded me of vacations and beach visits from the past…

It really was a wonderful day. Even Mom remarked on how perfect everything was; the water was crystal clear, the air temp, the wind, the crowds.  It made for a nice escape.

clear blue Atlantic

Like I said, even given it was a holiday, a 4-day weekend, the beaches were not too crowded.

Memorial day crowd

Of course we did leave our house at 10:15 to avoid the beach swarm to the coast.

But we had our usual good time. The girls were a little slow to embrace the beach, forgetting where they left off at last summer. They quickly found themselves at home in the tidal pool. They made a few friends there. Poor Skylar, she had to lug around her inner tube swimmie all through out the 8 inch deep tidal pool; kinda like her purse. It was too funny!

We arrived as the tide was going out. The vacated sand made for a nice wide, flat beach.  There weren’t many waves due to the low tide so you could just wade out and keep going. Eventually I lured Dylan out to go for a swim with her ol’ dad. As you can see, she really didn’t care for that too much…

The girls had a good time playing in the water and ocean again.

girls playing

I had a great time acting like a kid in the ocean again. It was fun. It was relaxing. A great time for some little pondering with the Big guy.  It was a nice escape. And it felt good to be in my old beach chair again.

Back in my chair

Here is a brief look at our day on the ‘Isle Of Palms‘.  Thanks for taking time out of your hectic Memorial Day to drop by my beach here in 3D.

To all those Veterans, who helped secure our country and way of living so that we could enjoy a purrfect 3 day weekend (and get paid for it) I want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

Happy Memorial  Day everyone!

Jamaica Mistaica

Is it cold where you are? We are under yet another winter storm advisory here. I feel a need to escape t some place Hot! So with this Valentine’s holiday coming up had me reminiscing over past holiday trips, since we can’t actually go on one this year. Its been fun looking at pictures and reliving past experiences. It helps take the chill off! Thinking back, the trip that is the most memorable was the year we spent Valentines in Negril, Jamaica. So if you have a few minutes, can I tell you a funny story? Funny, now, that is.

First I have a few disclaimers! A) This vacation trip was a good five years ago. Any resemblances to this blogger in the pictures is merely coincidental. B) All the rumors you have ever heard about Jamaica are true….It is a beautiful tropical island, yes, there is a ganja drug problem there, and tourists do actually disappear there. C) There are many, many beautiful resorts there, most by the big chains from Breezes to Sandals and more. We unfortunately didn’t stay at one of them.

The view I had from my beach chair

Arrival: We flew into Montego Bay airport. Now for a third world air port Jamaica’s was pretty nice, with no hassles upon arrival, once they staffed the Passport arrival area. In fact, it may be one of my favorite air ports because it is small and there is a Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville right on premises. This is particularly cool for when you are waiting for your flight to arrive on the way home. Margaritaville has a great menu and a gift shop that is sure to leave you cashless, in case you had any funds left at the end of your vacation.

As with any trip when leaving the country, always do your research first! One very valuable tidbit we found was find yourself a taxi driver in Jamaica before you arrive. I can’t under estimate this enough, given what we heard about some. We actually found a few advertised on the Internet with references. Stepping out of the air port, on to the curb with your luggage, this piece of research paid off from the beginning.

The cab drivers were thick as thieves, trying to get you to ride in their cab. I immediately pulled out my sheet and asked for “Juan, our cab driver”. They all quieted down in an instant and one said he is over there. We went over to his cab stand, introduced ourselves, and boarded his cab. Once inside this rustic 4 door sedan, he turns around points to a small cooler on the back seat and asks, “ Would either of you care for a Red Stripe? I brought one for each of you.” Score one for Jamaica! (It took almost 7 hours to get a Guinness in Ireland) Double score, since my wife doesn’t drink beer!

It takes about a good two hours to travel to Negril from Montego Bay. So our cabby asked if we were hungry. We said yes. So before we left Montego Bay he pulls off to a quaint road side café; a locals only type of joint. He asked if we ever had Jerk Chicken before? We shook our heads no. So he said, “come on…”

We had our first taste of Jerk Chicken by some locals that knew how to prepare it. It was great! It was served on paper plates with a big helping of dirty rice. I stumbled upon another Red Stripe. So far so good. The rest of our trip to the resort was very bi-polar. Very beautiful scenery coupled with views of poverty ridden towns, that we have grown accustomed to seeing in the Caribbean. It always leaves you wondering what happens to all the tourist money, taxes and jobs that come into a tiny country like this.

The Resort: We arrived at our resort, Merrills III. It was only our third all-inclusive we had been to and easily the least glamorous. But it was what we could afford at the time, and given what we just drove through, very adequate. We unpacked, cased the joint for amenities and waited for dinner…..Jerk chicken and rice. 😦

We ate. We explored. We went to bed. Hmmmm? I can see through the roof. The ceiling above us was very much a thatched roof. We could literally see some stars. Trying to be positive, we thought very appropriate for a beach side resort…as long as it doesn’t rain.

On the other hand, if the property directly beside you happens to be an outside, midnight beach bar, with absolutely no walls, right on the beach, catering to late night beachcombers because the volume is so loud it draws them in from two miles away, then we have a problem. (Sigh) And, yes we were in Jamaica. And, yes every song was reggae but there are some songs that should not be covered in a reggae motif. The Captain and Tennile’s “Muskrat Love” is one for instance. Even after days of hearing this it still made no sense. Live bands playing top 40 hits to a reggae beat just don’t sound good. Reggae songs sound good. The Bee-Gees do not. This bar started around 12 midnight. It was very loud, like our beds were stage front. And the party lasted until the sun came up. Pretty cool if you were 20 or so. I guess.

The beach and ocean was beautiful though. Our room opened up to the pool area (beside the beach bar!) on one side and above the kitchen on the other We had either Jerk Chicken or Jerk Pork everyday for lunch and dinner. And regardless of which entrée we were having that night, the kitchen side always smelled like pot. When in Rome we thought!

Beach: The beach was nice; coarse white sand and clear blue Caribbean waters. Gorgeous! We were there to tan and snorkel and just relax and figured to spend most of our time there. Considering how much sleep we weren’t getting at night (from the outdoor bar silly person!) It was the place to be. Relax with a Red Stripe and soak up some vacation I thought. My foot had to be wrapped in tape every day from a running injury so the idea of walking far in the sand or shallow surf was really out of the question any way.

A wrapped foot kept me on the beach and out of the water

But what is with the armed guards on each side of the resort? The resort had rental police at each side of the beach along the property’s borders. We soon deduced it was from keeping unwanted locals off the property and harassing the guests. A few hours later we found out they were on the beach to keep unwanted locals from harassing the guest….on the beach.

You see the beach front was open to anybody walking by and the best way to describe the traffic along the beach was think about your last professional baseball game you went to. How many vendors marched by you there, selling a wide variety of goodies?

Negril’s beaches were very similar. You had all kinds of locals parading down the beach, trying to sell you their goodies. They tried to sell relaxing tourists everything from aloe plants, baby bananas, jewelry, bandanas, people-who-knew-people that sold the local crop, souvenirs, and even a Valentines Day dinner and snorkeling cruise aboard a sailboat. They all sounded just like those barkers at the ball parks. If you made eye contact they closed in. If you said no, they tried harder. If you got frustrated and asked them to leave, and they figured out you were an American, they called you a racist (we all must be racists in America evidently). This is when the policemen on the beach stepped in. Now this didn’t happen all the time but you did learn not to make eye contact. It is with this type of mentality, of a local beach peddler, that we were advised not walk very far on the beach at night. ..very unfortunate on a Valentine’s getaway!

Now the beach wasn’t all bad. We walked up to a locals craft market and found some nice things to bring home. We found another Margaritaville beach bar about a mile in the other direction down the beach. This was very nice; like a mini resort. We spent half of our souvenir money there it seems. It turns out half of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville’s are located in Jamaica, which is another story (summed up in the video at the end). But if you are a fan, it was a pretty cool place to be on in barefoot, sun burned, half-naked on vacation.

I blew out my flip-flop

We met other nice people. Ate at some nice beach side bistros we found while beach combing (you can only eat Jerk Chicken so many times!). We were actually enjoying ourselves on the beach, as we should. Did I mention all-inclusive and Red Stripe? We actually had everything we wanted except…. snorkeling. So on Thursday, when the lady selling the Valentine’s Dinner Cruise and snorkel trip passed by we hopped at the chance.

St. Valentine’s Dinner Cruise: Our vacation getaway to some place warm had been OK so far. A little sleep deprived, but OK. But it was Valentine’s Day coming up and we hadn’t had a chance to swim with the fishes yet. We thought this was just what we needed to make our trip …memorable!

The plan was to sail on this large sail boat, sail down to a snorkeling spot, swim for a while, and then be served a dinner on the boat on the way back while the sun set. It sounded like fun!

We boarded the boat with the other 20 or so passengers. Everything was included , including a bar downstairs in the cabin. We proceeded to sail down to the snorkel spot. Then we heard a voice from the captain’s chair, “Oh no! Pirates!”

A chuckle in his voice kept me from terror. I turned around and here, speeding up to us, was a motorized canoe with two freaky dread lock males aboard. Now, I don’t know Jamaican pirates from Somalian but I didn’t like this. They came on board, went down below for a few minutes, then left the same way they arrived. We were spared!

It wasn’t long after I noticed, couple by couple going downstairs, two at a time, then coming back up. It wasn’t long after that we got wind of that familiar cash crop of Jamaica’s rising from the cabin below. Modern day pirates in deed! Watch out Tubbs and Crocket! (sorry 1980’s refereance) I smiled to myself…no escape!

We reached our snorkel location. It was at the foot of what was called one of the 10 most famous bars in the world, Ricks!

See the local climbing the cliff to get back up to Ricks?

Here was a bar, on the west side of Negril, with perfect sunsets, where the apparent draw is cliff diving! Can you imagine?  Getting all Red Striped, feeling invincible (or invisible) and jumping two stories into the famed Caribbean Sea? With no apparent way to get back up to the bar…unless you can climb the cliff wall. Have you ever been THAT drunk? Not me. I’ve done some crazy things

Watch out below!

but …..

We grabbed our snorkel gear and hopped in the water. The water was nice and clear. Their were enough fish swimming to keep it from being a wasted dive. We explored the caves and tried to stay clear of the drop site from above. Not too bad really. We enjoyed it.

We finished and climbed back in the boat, toweled off and prepared for our Valentine’s Dinner Cruise dinner. You guessed it, Jerk Chicken and rice of course  😦

We ate our modest meal, happy to have finally been able to snorkel. We watched the coastline as we motored back home. Not a bad day all in all. Even met some pirates!

We soaked in the scenery along the coast. Oddly, I noticed we were slowly being left alone. Did I smell? Whassup? It seems everyone had migrated over to the ocean side of the boat. I stood up and looked over and then grabbed my wife by her hand. As we were cruising home without a doubt the most beautiful sun was slowly setting on the horizon. Nobody talked (they were all stoned…..just kidding). We just watched as something beautiful was happening before our eyes. Then someone pointed to a solitary sailboat was on a collision course with the sun on the horizon. The timing could not have been better scripted. As the sun slowly dipped halfway into the sea the silhouette of the sailboat cut across the orange ball, sailing directly in front of it before our eyes. It was like it was a scheduled perk of the V-Day cruise. It was a Valentine’s Day gift to us.

Our Valentine’s sunset. Can you see the sailboat approaching?

With apologies to myself, my family and all future readers, I was not going to spoil this moment by whipping out a camera. I decided to take a picture early, tuck the camera away, put my arm around my wife and just enjoy this moment unfolding at sea. The camera doesn’t come close to capturing the moment anyway. It was a special moment, at least to me and few future Valentine’s moments could ever stack up to it.

We got back to our beach, walked hand-in-hand back to our resort. Resolved to be forced fed yet another midnight version of Muskrat Love, and remember that day for a long time. Pirates for crissake!

Jamaica left us with some wonderful memories of a beautiful island yet inhabited by hundreds of panhandlers. We resolved never to go back because of that. Many of the locals were just too nasty if you ventured off the property. And we like to walk on the beach at night. There are too many other Caribbean islands out there, just as beautiful, we thought.

 And we resolved to explore every one of them for some more memories.

The sun setting on our Jamaican vacation

“What do you mean you lost the camera?!”

Jimmy Buffett’s Jamaica Mistaica:

Jamaica: FDR III…EARNED frequent flyer miles

My wife and I were real excited to go on this trip to the Caribbean for a big reason, we have not been on a vacation since August of 2011. We each have changed jobs over the past year and taking time off was just not possible as we each tried to get established in our new positions. Add to that length of no R&R was the fact that a lot of the utility and benefits of that last vacation were wiped out by the plane ride home.

You see our last vacation we flew the kids up to Ocean City, NJ. We could do this as US Air owed us a trip after we cancelled our flights that we made 3 weeks before we found out Skylar was going to be born back  in 2010.

Well on that last flight home, US Air neglected to send a plane to take us.

You see we were to fly out of Philly. It rained real hard that day. It turned out that it rained real hard up and down the east coast. The flight that was supposed to take us home that Sunday was never able to leave  the ground in New York, due to all the rain. This was Sunday afternoon around 12:00 noon. I HAD to be at work Monday by 5:00am and now no way to cover those 600 miles to get home.

It was very stressful. Daddy had to stand in line and then bargain to get a flight the same day. Staying overnight was not an option. Mom had the tougher job of pacifying an 18 month and 3.5 year old little girls  that desperately needed a nap in an airport. At 3:00pm we were at our end.

We ended up finding a flight that landed at the closest airport some 6 hours later. We found a friend to go pick us up there and we got home around 11:00pm. We did. Or luggage didn’t. No one told our luggage that our flight was cancelled and it showed up in Charleston the next day. All in all not very amusing.

But that trip was far in the past. Just a memory of what could go wrong, not that it ever would again. Right?

Last week he had to hop on a ‘puddle jumper’ to Miami from Charleston. The international trip began at 7:00am in Charleston. So get there with plenty of time. Right?

We all woke up around 4:30am. We got showered, dressed, breakfast(ed). As I am finishing up poor Dylan walks in my bathroom, her head held down. She says, “Daddy…this is a disaster.”

“Huh? What do you mean Dylan? Why is this a disaster?”

She  said, “Getting up this early. This is a disaster.” ~preachin’ to the choir girl!

“Well maybe you both can sleep on the plane Dylan.” I hope, I hope, I hope.

The girls didn’t sleep but they did pretty good and we were proud of them. The last time Skylar was on a plane she was 18 months old with an ear infection. This trip had to be better than that? Right?

She and Dylan both did great. As much as they love to spot planes in the sky, they each were unimpressed as the plane’s wheels left the ground at takeoff. In fact, Dylan pulled the window down. The rising sun was too bright for her eyes.

“Daddy, the plane has a leak”

We landed in Miami and hustled to our next terminal, got on the plane and prepared to be vacationed. No problem mon.

We taxied out to the runway and then we sat. And we sat. And we sat. Are we waiting for takeoff I wondered? Then, the pilots voice came over the loud speaker, “Attention passengers…we have a warning light on our dashboard so we are going to have to turn around and get it checked out.

And we sat. Can you imagine what runs through your mind when the pilot says we have to fix your plane? Especially through all the waiting and no communication?

Finally the plane began to taxi back to the American Airlines terminals.

And we sat.

The pilot’s voice came over the intercom again, “Well we have made it back to the bays but now we are waiting for one to open up. All the bays are full. As soon as we get word one is available we will head over. Please stay seated with your seat belts on.”

“Did you hear that Dylan? Skylar?” Yea, good luck with that!

And we sat. We had enough time on hands to wonder why this mysterious warning light on the dashboard didn’t come on before we pulled away from our terminal?

Actually we were still quite pleased with the behavior of our girls. They had not cried or whined. Mommy did a great job of prepping their carry-on bags with some great kid activities. No more disaster in Philly! Right?

Dylan played school on her computer

Another twenty minutes went by and we started to roll again. We had to taxi over to the other side of the airport where a terminal became available. The pilot’s voice came on, “Well we found a bay to get repairs. When we come to a stop we will let you disboard so you can stretch your legs. The repairs should take about an hour so meet back at this terminal in 60 minutes.” Only an hour I thought?

And we sat.

It turns out nobody told the maintenance man where we were or he didn’t have a ride over. Eventually they did let us leave the plane. We grabbed our carry-ons and the kids and tried to find something to eat. We rode the skytrain at Miami International, hit the restrooms and found our way back to our new terminal, where we sat. Well Dylan and Skylar didn’t. They were either climbing the windows or laying on the carpet by the terminal doors now.

Eighty minutes went by from our unboarding when a voice finally came over our terminal.

“Well flight 1491 we have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that it is going to take longer to fix your plane then we originally thought. The good news is that we found another plane for you to take you to paradise. You can board that new plane now. It is at  terminal 6. If you have not grabbed your carry-ons please pick them up from this plane before you head down to terminal 6 and your new plane. No worries, no cry”

Well he didn’t actually sing the Bob Marley song but he did say paradise, which sure wasn’t the interior of an American Airlines jet!

We were at terminal 46. OK, here we go. We were familiar with the airport by now. We opted to hoof it to the new terminal instead of climbing the stairs up to the sky train (this was good!)

The four of us had made it all the way down to terminal 30 when a  voice came over the airport’s intercom, “Attention flight 1491, your plane is now ready. Head back to your plane and prepare for takeoff.

REALLY!? Is this a joke?

So we restepped our path back to the terminal, stood in line, and prepared to board.

We found our seats, strapped in and prepared for our overdue trip to Jamaica. We really should have been at our resort by now! Step up American Airlines!

Well……we sat.

It turns out those that rode the skytrain down to terminal 6 missed the call back to the plane. So we had to wait for everyone on the flight to make it back. We sat.

It turns out American Airlines never staffed terminal 6. The handful of people that made it down there waited and no was there to tell them they were at the wrong place. We sat in our airplane’s seats a total of another 40 minutes waiting for the very last passenger to make it back to the plane.

Well they eventually did. We DID taxi to the runway. We DID take off this time. As the plane’s wheels left the ground the passengers all erupted in a sarcastic round of applause. Dylan had  nailed it, “Disaster”.

You may know the rest of the story and our License To Chill. We landed in Jamaica some five hours late, found our ground transportation waiting for us, rode to Runaway Bay and then were “Wow’ed” with our reservation’s upgrade, chocolate cake and champagne.

Upon departure, EACH of our flights on the way home were delayed from the  incoming flight being  a late arrival as well, making our wait and traveling day that much longer.  Again. But it did give us some time to goof at the airports!

They’re not in Finland but….

at the Margaritaville restaurant in the Jamaican airport

…where I met an old friend. Yes, I am a Pirate…

American Airlines, being the international airline that they are, really did step up. We all received emails saying they were giving us an additional 40,000 miles on our frequent flyer accounts. As if?

I think I am trying US Air next time. I never thought I would be saying that again.

So tell me,

What has been your worst travel story?

What has been your funniest?

Jamaica: FDR II…Love For Water Knows No Boundaries

As parents I think our three main responsibilities are to keep our kids safe, help them to grow up to be good citizens, and keep them happy. I think that last one is the thing that keeps us going sometimes, seeing the unbridled smiles on our kid’s faces. I mentioned in my prior post how Dylan really had a great time in the water on our vacation. She had a great time and it gave me a chance to really bond with her.

While we tried to take advantage of the nanny program with our wonderful nanny, Sharlene, Dylan still wanted to hang with Mom and Dad in the morning, instead of playing with our nanny, because we were going to the beach.

One particular morning she cried and cried  as we tried to convince her she would have more fun playing with our nanny, as Mom and Dad were ‘all played out’. She cried and so we said come on.

Dylan and I played for about an hour in the ocean that morning then I told her I had to get out and rest.

She said, “OK Daddy, I’ll go to the Kid Zone with Skylar then and I won’t cry.” Atta way Dylan!

We went to a downstairs restroom where I could put some dry clothes on her. AFTER, I changed her she told me she had to go to the potty. I huffed and started to unpeel her play clothes. How dare her discomforts get in the way of my play time! 🙂

Dylan said, “Sorry Daddy. I didn’t want to pee in the ocean.” What a cool kid I thought. Even I don’t like the ocean THAT much.

When asked what Dylan wanted to do before we went on vacation without hesitation she would say ‘ride the big blue slide’. We viewed some videos of our resort on Youtube before we came down. Ol’ Miss Fearless wanted to have some fun combining a giant slide with her love for the water. Each day, we found out, I had to ask the lifeguards on duty to ‘turn on’ Big Blue, since the resort’s occupancy was so low. The lifeguard would give us a time for when Big Blue would be primed and ready. Once she got on the slide she would keep playing there until lunch. She would slide down and then I would pretend to race her in the water to steps at the other end. She loved it and never tired.

If you want to see what I mean, as well as some smiles and personality from Ms. DYLANism check out some of the fun on the video below.

But her love for the water and craziness was not restricted to Big Blue. As I mentioned earlier, each day she did something new and amazing in the water.

One day she finally held her nose and dove under the water. This had been a summer long project with no results. Now, finally, in the clear blue Caribbean, she said, “Watch this Daddy!”. Then she did it! No prompting. She just gave it a try.

The next morning, while we were swimming in the pool with “the red slide”, she uttered those same amazing words as she stood on the side of the pool: “Watch this Daddy!” Then she took a leap from the side and did a flip into the water! I gasped and laughed at the same time.

Where did this come from? She popped up from beneath the water with a big smile on her face (so cool to see). I had to laugh. She took my laugh as winning approval for her stunt. She made her Dad smile. She enjoys that about as much as I do seeing the smiles on their faces. “Hey Mommy, did you see what your daughter can do?”

“No problom mon”

The next day we rode in the resort’s glass bottom boat to a reef about 15 minutes away. I wanted to show our kids the colorful fish in the water in hopes they would be interested in learning how to snorkel with mom and dad.

We got to our destination and the staff threw some food in to attract some fish. Then, two other vacationers in our boat jumped in the water to do some snorkeling themselves. After about 5 minutes of watching, Dylan told me she wanted to get in the water too.

We all had our life preservers on so I thought why not. I jumped in the sea and then Dylan jumped into my waiting arms. She swam and kicked around a bit and then just flipped over on her back to float. She was so at ease doing this and smiling at all times. And then it hit me. She was floating on her back about a half mile from land in about 40 feet of water and didn’t have one care in the world. Amazing! A four year old that loves the water this much. I wish I would have brought our camera as it was such a Kodak moment.

We stayed in the water about 10 minutes or so. Everyone had returned to the boat so we had to make our way back. The boat was anchored at the reef. I know. I wasn’t a big fan of dropping and dragging an anchor on a reef either. However, the wind and tide had carried us both about 20 yards from our boat. So in an attempt to get her out of the water I said, “Come on Dylan, I’ll race you to the boat.” And that girl paddled and kicked her way, into the wind and tide, all the way back to the boat. Again, four years old! It took her a lot more kicks, given her size, then it took me. And she did it with a smile on her face.

An international hot spot

One of the nice things about traveling is that you can meet some really nice people.This trip was no exception. On our first full day at FDR I saw a father playing with his two daughters in the big pool. I soon found the man had two daughters the same age as ours, ages 2 and 4. Both of his girls loved the water too.

They were from Switzerland. They had been to FDR before (yes, either brainwashed or magic). He and his wife knew how to play the nanny game. I could tell. Every morning, while they were off diving, Dylan got to play in the pool with their oldest, Lillya.

Both of these girls were shy at first. Reto, the father, said as much. But you could tell Lillya loved the water. And I think a mutual admiration quickly built. Lillya could do some things in the water Dylan couldn’t. And Dylan could do somethings Lillya wouldn’t dare.

That first morning they would watch each other after they came up from the water. At first, it seemed, they were watching to see what the other was doing. Later it was to see if the other was watching.  If Dylan jumped in the water then Lillya would jump in from her side of the pool. If Lillya went down the slide then Dylan would. And both would show off with their Dads. It was cute to follow.

With the help of the Dads the girls were introduced. Then they played with each other in the pool every morning for the rest of the week. It didn’t matter that they could not communicate real well. Lillya did know some English. Lillya’s mother, Heather, was born and raised in the US. The girls mainly communicated by their love for the water and seeing and appreciating what the other could do. Dylan had met her match. They played all day in the pool that first day after the introduction. Then, as we walked back to the room at the end of the afternoon, Dylan looked up with the towel wrapped around her and said, “I think I made a new friend today.” You couldn’t help but be happy for her.

Take a look at some of Dylan’s and Lillya’s fun:

Both Heather and Reto were swimmers in college. And they educated their daughter(s) well in both English and swimming. She reminded me of Diane Lane with red hair. He looked like an Olympic swimmer. Both were special people and avid travelers. I am glad we all had a chance to meet. Once again I was happy for our daughter as she got to experience a little bit more of this big world with Lillya, although she couldn’t appreciate how far away and different the two girl’s lives actually were. Yet you could tell she did feel special for making friends with someone just a little bit different than the girls back home.

The last afternoon they played together. Reto tried to get his daughter out of the pool to get ready for dinner and so did I. Reto had trouble with his girl and then so did I. Dylan just kept swimming and playing in the water like she didn’t hear me. Finally, after my third attempt to get her out and my tone getting a little louder, Dylan yells back without looking up, “Princesses Rule!”

Well, a….a….yes, they certainly do.

Jamaica: FDR… License To Chill

Well, we made it back! The girls and I snuck off to the island of Jamaica for 7 days ~ barely. Thanks AMERICAN AIRLINES! That was sarcasm.

We found a nice all-inclusive in Runaway Bay, Jamaica called the FDR Resort. Parents, this is the place to be! When they say “all-inclusive” they take the term a little bit further and give you a real-life nanny every day from 9-5. They are the only resort in the Caribbean that does this and one of only 2 resorts in the world (I read) that gives you a nanny. These nannies come highly acclaimed (Trip Advisor) and become part of your family.

Also, you get a small kitchen in your suite and the nannies stock it for you! We had a sheet where you can request any of 6 soft drinks, beer, wine, a cheese and cracker tray, cereal, milk, fresh fruit and more. This was so cool I thought.

To get there, we had to be on a plane at 7:00am. So we had to be at the airport by 6 Saturday morning. We flew to Miami and the girls did great. We were supposed to head to Jamaica but had difficulty leaving the town through a myriad of difficulties with our airplane, at one time wondering if we were going to go at all. It truly was a comedy of errors, yet not funny at all, and surely not one of American Airlines best moments (more to come).

But we finally landed in Jamaica. Due in at noon, we landed around 4:45pm. A very timely shuttle took us to our destination. Once there, our mood quickly turned around as we found our reservation had been upgraded! I requested an OF 1 BR Suite and we ended up an OF 2 floor 2BR Suite. Our new vacation home had a nice big living room with pseudo-marble tile floors, mahogany and cherry wood furniture and fixtures, high ceilings (Ugh!), and more. What a great surprise and a nice ending to a long and difficult day!

A sunrise from our room.

I asked for a second floor room in our reservation so we could get an ocean view with no worries of the kids running away at Runaway Bay while we were in the shower. That part was nice. Now, with a two-floor suite with high ceilings, my calves were burning the first two days. Do you realize how many trips you make to a kid’s room? Now that room was upstairs. Those high ceilings made for some steep, steep stairs. I thought I was in shape but my calves were hurting. Be careful what you wish for, right?

We received our upgrade, in part, because I told them that Saturday was my anniversary (it actually was Friday) and also because the resort was fairly empty so they had rooms to spare.  Being the middle of September I imagine most of the resort’s target market had just taken their kids back to school this month. FDR had 8 buildings for guests but only the ocean front building was occupied. We had the place to our self!

So there we were! We made it to vacation, finally. Upon inspection of our new digs in Jamaica we found a chocolate cake and a bottle of champagne in the frig with our name on it too. THANKS FDR! To the resort’s credit, the whole staff did go out of their way for you, from the bartenders to lifeguards to maintenance to our great nanny, everyone went above and beyond with smiles on their faces. This was just the beginning we found out.

Nicely done FDR!

Further inspection of our upgrade revealed a nice, anniversary size king size bed upstairs. The bed may have been a bit old as it creaked quite a bit; maybe louder than any bed I had ever heard. But it was OK, we were on vacation. No problem mon!

The kids didn’t see ‘king size’ bed but a ‘jump castle’. And so, before we herded them off to bed our first night, we first had to shush them after jumping on OUR bed for 45-60 minutes. That next morning it became apparent how noisy that bed was as I got a high-five, two thumbs up, a wink and a nod from many of the guests down at breakfast. Not all of those gestures came from the men either. Those kids had made me ‘Legend’!

FDR was really built to cater to the kids too; young and old. Skylar enjoyed playing in the Kid’s Zone with our nanny the most. Both girls enjoyed feeding the rabbits and fish and doing crafts. They each made necklaces and tie-died Tee’s. The last day was goat races!

While both our girls like the water, Dylan is much more acclimated to it. She would follow mommy and daddy to the beach and pools in the morning. She made me ask the staff to turn on ‘Big Blue’, the 50 foot water slide, each morning so she could ride it. (Stay tuned) It seemed every day she either surprised or amazed us on her lack of fear and love for the water, including doing flips and floating in 40 foot ocean water. She also made a new friend, Lillya, from Switzerland. While they didn’t share much of the same language (Lillya did know a bit of English at 4 years old) they did communicate by sharing their love for the water, impressed with what the other could do. It was cute to see.

Lillya and Dylan jumping in together

Mom and Dad found a friend too in a secluded sanctuary at the edge of the resort, where we could hide from the rest of world, daring it to find us. We had a good breeze, great weather, and some crystal-clear tropical water to appreciate and cool off in.

A view from my lounge chair in our hidden sanctuary

The resort had an open-air gym that was actually above the poolside bar. There, the treadmills dreadmills had a beautiful view looking down at the neighboring beach, water and reefs. In fact, the water was so clear that, while running on this second-floor treadmill I could spot and follow fish swimming in the shallows at this beach in front of me. It may be the best view from a treadmill in its portion of the northern hemisphere!

Not your usual beach run

We did lots of research in shopping for and choosing this resort. Our other choices were a Disney Cruise, a fabulous Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos, and our favorite Breezes resort in Curacao. We chose this resort, relying heavily on all the great comments by past vacationers on Trip Advisor.com. It seemed three out of four commentators on the resort, had been to the resort before and vowed to return again and again. in fact the reviews were so identical that the tourists seemed some sort of brainwashed. Everyone raved on the nannies and called them family. Everyone. They all sounded the same, brainwashed.

But Monday afternoon, 15 minutes into my specially beach-laden Ipod, the therapy started to work on me too. I have a special coastal Ipod I have taken to the Caribbean for the past few vacations. After listening to it for those prescribed 15 or 20 minutes, if you could wring me out, you would get drops of liquid sunshine, a salty coastal breeze, all wrapped up in a Tanqueray and Tonic flavor.

So, with my Ipod, sprawled out in my lounge chair, relaxing quietly in our own little sanctuary by the clear blue sea, sipping endlessly on my T&T,  the magic hit me too.

I’m coming back!

These nannies give parents a License To Chill; a rare, coveted document to new and old parents for ‘extended’ relaxation. Not just the 5 or 10 minutes we occasionally get.

Here’s a quick look at one day of our vacation:

We had few other fun things occur on our trip too but my wife made me do a ‘pinky-swear’ that I wouldn’t blog about them.

So take some picturesque Caribbean water, add shots of wonderful Jamaican weather and breezes with a splash of coastal melodies, finish with a scoop of ice and a well trained nanny, shake (not stirred) and you too can have a ‘License To Chill’.

If I haven’t bored you I would like to tell you a few more stories from our vacation over the next few days. Pack your bags and come a long with us!

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