just beachy, thanks!
Well shit. I just renewed the domain for this site and forgot I’ve bought part of the stuff-you-need-to-make-a-website for 3 years already so I should keep this puppy going! This particular post I thought I had put up and, as the beautiful Eric Ripert restaurant Blue had a kickin’ 10th birthday cookout last week, I wanted to come back and revisit our time in the sun. But it wasn’t up so, about 8 months too late, here are some photos of my first ever real trip to the beach! Xoxo.
Back in April my parents, B and I treated ourselves to few days in Grand Cayman – my first vacation in about 4 years and, with the exception of an ‘MTV Spring Break’ in college, my first ever real ‘beach’ vacay! Better late than never.
My first (very brief) taste of Grand Cayman was in 2005, less than a year after after Hurricane Ivan devastated most of the island. We only spent a few hours as part of a Holland America cruise stop, but I fell in love quickly with the quaint, slightly British feel of the island, even thought it was still rebuilding. As I came to realize on this trip, there is a very specific, very clean and affluent area they keep up for the cruise ship tourists – the real island is a completely different world.
The nice, north side
We stayed in a gorgeous house in Cayman Kai – definitely the richer part of the island. The plots of land up there are $400k plus, and houses under 7-figures are few and far between. There are incredibly stringent laws about Cayman residency and even stricter rules about citizenship – if you’re not born in Cayman, you likely have another equally-gorgeous house in another country too and only come to Cayman to visit. When I win the lottery (yes, when) my second home will be there, but for apparently only for 8 weeks of the year, as is permissible by law.
Literally just down the steps from the front door of our cottage was this amazing private beach. There were maybe 12-15 houses in the whole complex, all set in small semicircles with a green garden in the middle of each arc, and beach access with a smattering of boat docks for all. In the mornings, we walked along the beach, up and around the point, and back down the other side of the little peninsula to a grand mansion, straight out Gone With the Wind, which had been turned into a restaurant (casual bar and beach front dining on the main floor, upscale dining on the top floor, and a coffee house to the side, along with a dock, a boat taxi to the ‘tourist side’ of the island, and rentals for boats and wave runners and toys). The entire time there, I saw 2 other people on our private beach. And lots of critters like fish, red starfish, lobstery things, and a few eels. The house is owned by a family friend who graciously gave us a HUGE discount, but its my understanding they rent for about $4,000-6,000 per week. As beautiful as it was tho, the best parts were the lanai, the cute beach cats that came for food/snuggles every morning, and the herds of tiny hermit crabs that crossed up the garden path from the beach every evening.
The weather most of the week was absolute crap – rain and storms, which was apparently very overdue, so I’m glad for the locals but it was quite sad for us. We spent a few hours out of each day baking our skin at a slightly-kitsch little resort called Rum Point, where we rented snorkels and flippers, paddled around, drank an extremely large amount of fruity punch and Red Stripe, and even rented one of those giant ocean-going tricycles we dubbed the Cutie-Boat (think banana boat, powered by cutie clementines instead of banana peel). For $45, we got 45 minutes of pure quad-burning, skin roasting, mouth parching, sweaty ocean floating, mostly spent bitching, arguing about steering, and dodging paddle boarders (equally miserable and panicked) and million dollar ‘hopper’ boats. We witnessed an insane party where roughly 50 expensive mini-yachts all floated up and their tanned beautiful (wealthy) occupants hopped out into the bay where they just stood there for an hour drinking and blasting music, then all got back in the boat and floated back to, I assume, some mystical trendy island oasis.
We also did a few of the tourist staples like Stingray City and the Botanical Gardens. Due to the bad weather, Stingray City had been ‘closed’ for a few days and the guides mentioned the Stingrays were a little feisty/agitated (hangry?) but we thought nothing of it until I and a 10 year old boy both got ‘bitten’ by an extremely grumpy stingray. Ouch! Instead of teeth, they have these two cartilagey rollers which they use to suction up food, quite like how the bottom of your vacuum works. The resulting ‘bite’ was a 2″ round rug burn hickey type cut which oozed and bled and then bruised and made me a little sad, and really hesitant to go anywhere near any more of the stingrays which, in hindsight, was a shame. No hilarious smiling stingray selfies for me. The fish around the reef were absolutely amazing though (Finding Nemo-worthy), and the boat was glass-bottomed and had a great crew.
My absolute favorite part of the trip was the meal we had at Blue by Eric Ripert. My parents decided to go to the sushi restaurant upstairs while we had the most amazing feast of oysters, tuna tartare, smoked scallops, various fresh fish, and many many $20 cocktails. My favorite two were a Vesper (of Ian Fleming fame! True to the original recipe, which I thought was impossible in the 21st century), and the most amazing Negroni I’ve ever tasted. To know me is to know I love a Negroni – this one was made with exquisite coffee and dusted with dehydrated Campari that came in a tiny vial and looked like magic fairy dust. The service was amazing, the decor and atmosphere was extravagant, the patrons were all impeccable and it will truly be a ($500) meal of a lifetime.
As a self-professed ‘not-beach-person’, I’m surprised to find I’m quite desperate to go back or maybe try the Virgin Islands or Barbados next. When I’ve saved up a bit more, I’d really really love to go to the Galapagos. The two things we didn’t get to do, mostly due to weather, are visit a shipwreck (there are 2 you can snorkel, and I’ve always always wanted to see a shipwreck – how devastatingly romantic) and kayak out to the bioluminescence in the bay outside the house. When the moon is out and the water is calm, little algae in the water glow like fireflies when you move/touch the water. It’s apparently one of the most amazing sights on earth – my parents managed to go a few days after we left and I’m gutted I missed it. Next time, I’ll also bring a GoPro, take so many more pictures, and spend a little bit longer just puttering around instead of trying to ‘do’ things. Until then, Suntan City will have to do.