Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Grand Cayman with kids: Beach Day

Day One

On our first full day in Grand Cayman, my husband decided he'd get up bright and early to go for an early morning run on the beach. The sun rises quite early here so it was an easy task to look forward to. While he was gone I packed our beach bags, complete with breakfast for the kids, which was non-luxurious dried cereal and fruit. The kids are usually up early at home but for some reason decided to act like they were on vacation or something and whine about getting up - how unlike them! I guess they're getting older and realize that vacation means...sleeping in!

I did finally get them up and we all got ready and headed down by about 7:30 am. My husband had snagged the best beach chairs he could, which were actually already in the second row! Come to find out you need to be down there putting towels on the chairs before 6 am if you want a front row!!! We were happy enough with our location as we could still see the kids playing in the sand and the water.

Mike had stopped at the Boulangerie in the resort which served various breakfast items until 11 am. We enjoyed a muffin and coffee in the morning sun with our feet in the sand! After we all ate, I took a walk with Braden & Ava along the shore. The rising sun cast a beautiful pink light and was just such a beautiful start to the day.
Morning beach walk
Morning beach walk2
Beach A and B
Morning beach walk3
Our lovely morning walk on the beach

After spending the morning on the beach, we headed back to the room to get ready and head to the grocery store. Kirk Market was just down the road from our Marriott Resort. I had done some research prior to the trip and found this to be a great option due to having many allergy-friendly and organic items. Ten-year-old Braden said it reminded him of a cross between Kroger and Whole Foods...it did have that feel to it. I was very impressed that they carried our favorite allergy brand, Enjoy Life. Everything from chocolate bars, cookies, and cereal bars were available. The prices on these allergy-friendly items were fairly comparible to what we pay back home in the US. However, when you have food allergies and dietary restrictions you are used to paying more anyway so it didn't hurt too much!

We grabbed some produce, bread, lunchmeat, and then decided we would grill out for dinner that day. We also got some organic hotdogs, all the fixin's for a proper hot dog feast, along with charcoal and lighter fluid. We stopped at the resort to drop off some of the grocery items in the mini fridge and then proceeded to a beach called Spott's Bay.

Spott's Bay lies on the southern part of Grand Cayman Island. We drove south through Georgetown and then proceeded east towards the East End. We had to look carefully as the beach access areas are actually quite small. You really need to be watching for the small "beach access" signs to find them. We saw a small cemetery and lucked out with a parking spot in the small lot as well. I had read ahead that there were grilling facilities here, although it was just one rustic-style grill on a hill so it was a bit awkward to use. Nonetheless we got our fire going and enjoyed our picnic in the shade! We were very impressed by the beach. It had quite a different feel than the wide, open stretches of sand of Seven Mile Beach where our resort is on. Spott's Beach also seemed to be a hangout for the locals. It is always a point I try to make in travel to go where the locals go to truly get a sense and feel for a place. There were also some beautiful palms on the beach which not only provided shade but made the beach look so pretty!

Spotts Beach view from grill
Spotts Beach view from grill2
View from grilling area of Spott's Beach

After we cleaned up our picnic we changed in the car (took turns as there weren't any facilities here). Braden, Mike, and Ava took turns snorkeling and were so excited when they saw a huge sea turtle just swimming about! We had decided ahead of time that the famous turtle farm on Grand Cayman was not something our family would be interested in, however seeing one floating along freely in the wild was exactly what we had hoped to see!

underwater12
underwater 10
Braden snorkeling with the sea turtle!

Spotts Beach
Spotts Beach Mike and A snorkeling
Spotts Beach A and B
Spotts Beach B with shell
Great day at Spott's Beach!

After a bit of snorkeling and swimming we decided it was time to head back to the resort and relax for the remainder of the day. The kids and I headed down to the courtyard which had been beautifully lit up at night.

701
The beautiful resort lit up for evening relaxation

Braden brought down his Mad Libs and we had fun with that for a while before heading up to bed. We needed to rest up because we had a fun adventure planned for the following morning!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Grand Cayman with kids - Travel day(s)

Our spring break trip this year was off to the sunny, beautiful island of Grand Cayman! We had quite the flight plan to get there, though, due to using airline miles and my late booking of the trip. I figured a little pain was worth the gain of going to Grand Cayman!

Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands, which lie just south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea. It is a mostly flat "scrubby" island with sandy ground and not much in terms of lush vegetation. There are beautiful flowers and tall palms that keep it looking tropical, however.

We were most looking forward to the gorgeous beaches: powdery white sand and clear, turquoise water. Grand Cayman was originally called Las Tortugas by Christopher Columbus, which is the Spanish name for turtles. Turtles and stingrays are some of the amazing creatures living in the waters surrounding the island, which we knew would be incredible if we'd see them in their natural territory.

Our day started off with a 2 pm flight to Washington DC. From there we had a 3 hour flight to Houston with an overnight layover. We used points to cover our hotel stay at the Houston Airport Marriott so we could rest comfortably before jetting off to Grand Cayman the next morning!

We were up early as it also happened to be Easter morning. The kids used a phone as a flashlight bright and early to hunt for their baskets. Thankfully the Easter Bunny delivered their "Easter baskets" sometime in the middle of the night! They each had a few small things and of course jellybeans and Peeps. After a very early breakfast, we caught the shuttle to the airport at around 7 am. It was a quick ride to the airport and we were soon off to the Caribbean!

Once we arrived and cleared customs we walked a short distance across the street to National Car rental. Mike had to get a temporary Cayman driver's license which cost $20 at the rental agency. It took a bit for our car to finally come around. The kids and I had been waiting outside with our luggage and were getting a little hot in the strong sun! We did find it a little surprising that there were roosters and chickens just wandering about!

We soon settled into our Subaru Legacy, complete with driver's side on the right side of the car. Grand Cayman is a British Overseas Territory so you follow the rules of the road in Great Britain. Mike quickly orientated himself with driving on the left and we proceeded to the resort! Thankfully, the traffic is pretty light and the roundabouts, although they take some getting used to, help make driving there relatively smooth.

When we arrived at the Marriott we were greeted with delicious sparkling, fruity drinks. It was a great welcome to the Marriott Beach Resort! The lobby was spacious and gorgeous, with a bar and ample seating in the center. There were couches and tables for groups to hang out at, a gift shop, and a restaurant. The decor was light and airy with soaring ceilings - all perfect for a beach resort!

Resort stingrays
Beautiful stingray artwork in the lobby

resort inside
That's my family over there in the beautiful lobby!

We were initially told that our room was not ready yet so we headed to the bathrooms to change into shorts. Mike was given a resort cell phone so they could call him on it once our room was done. It just so happened once we were changed we got a call on the cell phone that our room was ready!

We got settled in, I unpacked while Mike took the kids to explore a bit, as we usually do when we arrive somewhere. We then couldn't wait to check out the beach! After a walk along the water we stopped at an outdoor table where you could have mojitos made poolside. We decided to indulge and were so glad we did - they were delicious. The bartender told the kids they could help make their own drinks, which they happily did.

Resort A making mojito/
Resort mojitos2
Making delicious mojitos...the kids even made their own non-a verions!

We had a great first day and were looking forward to the days to come!