Our Jamaica trip – an introduction

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m putting these posts up around 2 months after our trip simply as work and life have been ridiculously hectic. I couldn’t update while we were there as the wireless wasn’t up to it.

A couple of points to note:

a) Keep $22 (or equivalent in J$ or GBP) to one side, per person, for your departure tax at the airport. Even most scheduled flights don’t include this fee.

b) Do the excursions if you’re there on a resort. They’re worth it (see the posts)

c) Considering a wedding? Considering abroad? We can’t rate Jamaica highly enough, and in particular the Royal Decameron Club Caribbean where we were staying. Our wedding planner was just the most wonderful woman who put up with our chopping, changing, indecision, flexibility, inflexibility, plans, ideas, lack of planning, forgetfulness… Oh, and the weather.

d) Other Jamaican staff were pretty much along the same lines. Wonderful people.

e) Do listen to weather reports. Jamaica, along with many parts of the world, doesn’t do “a bit windy”. When they tell you to stay in your room, flipping do it.

f) You’ll struggle to get to certain areas without using public transport, taxis or rental cars. Mainly because they’re too damned dangerous. We couldn’t get a taxi to drive us to the outskirts of Kingston as the drivers we asked said that first we would be mugged and then they’d take the car.

Anyway, on with the posts…

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We Jammin’

The trip to Jamaica was eventful for it’s uneventfullness. We stayed at a hotel in Altrincham as it was near the airport and offered free car parking for the duration with a taxi ride to the airport in the morning. Our taxi driver was a great chap, pointing out all the footballers’ houses (he wouldn’t stop to let me urinate in Roy Keene’s letterbox) and making sure we knew the best way to get picked up when we returned. The trick, folks, is to get your taxi at T2 departures, not arrivals. It saves the taxi paying a parking charge that they’ll pass on to you, and it’s also far less busy.

The flight was fine with decent grub (airline food doesn’t deserve the bad reputation it’s gained) and the kids were amazing. Little Miss was a bit tearful, but she doesn’t like travel (at all – anything further than Nana’s is “abroad” in her eyes); Little Mister was incredible given the 10 hour flight duration; and Littler Miss was staggering. She barely slept and probably cried for something approaching 14 seconds during the entire journey.

If there was a downside, it was the Scouse couple behind Gillian who caused her to pass Littler Miss over to my folks (on the opposite bulkhead) a couple of times as it seemed they were going to come to blows. The “gentleman” of the couple was on a path to a hiding from both of us with his behaviour towards his wife, but in all honesty she wasn’t helping. Huge credit must go to the flight staff who calmed them down as best they could otherwise I’m sure someone within the surrounding few rows would have laid the wanker out, if for no other reason than to stop him yelling obscenities with children around.

The transfer at Montego Bay was pretty smooth with minimal immigration worries. The staff at the counters chatted to each other and with us, and the lady going through our stack of passports went from “why haven’t you signed this” officialness to “Oh my, she’s gorgeous!” as soon as it came to checking Littler Miss’s details.

A one-hour bus ride to our resort in Runaway Bay followed with good company from the driver and other staff, which of course required a tip. A point of note is that Jamaica is very much a “tipping” culture – the monetary sort, not the drunk mid-Western United States bovine-bothering college student type. Having saif that, they’re quite fair but we felt bad tipping in UK coinage as all of our travel money was still packed.

Our resort seems lovely though I’ve only seen it in the dark. We’re at the Royal Club Decameron on Runaway Bay. Due to the 6-hour time difference, it’s night on 3am as I write this having just sampled some rather excellent Mexican Rice and refried beans from the restaurant. That’s “real world” time. Here in “holiday world” it’s not even 9pm. The room is “functional” as we’ve opted for little wooden cottages. There is aircon, a fan, nice TV and comfy bedding. We’ll have to adapt how we bathe Littler Miss and it’s not The Ritz but it is lovely and about 30m from the beach.

My one quibble is that internet access is an additional extra so I’m not sure when I’ll get posts and photos up, but will do my best especially next Monday when we get married!

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Another dinky update

Co-national flag for use on sea and abroad. Fr...

Co-national flag for use on sea and abroad. From 1978 the sole national flag of Greece (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a reminder that after a lengthy stay in the UK, Gillian and I will be off to Jamaica in October for our wedding. I’ll try to keep things updated, but there’s no guarantee depending on affordable wi-fi access! If we’re really lucky, we might be able to visit one of the other nearby islands/countries but there are limits due to how long we have to remain in Jamaica before/after the wedding for legal reasons. Basically, if we’re not there for long enough then our marriage wouldn’t be valid!

We’ve also just booked our summer hols for 2013, and will be going to Crete. This will be my first time in Greece, and although it’s a package tour (no backpacking with three kids!), we’ll still be trying to cram in a lot of activities and excursions for me to report back on. The hotel claims to have free wi-fi, so with luck I’ll be able to keep the blog updated too.

The plan is to maybe have another break next year with the kids (looking like Center Parcs) and a long weekend somewhere just for Gillian and myself. I’m thinking Syria, but I don’t think she’ll be up for it somehow…

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Ben Nevis – conquered

Top of Ben nevis

Top of Ben nevis

[Full set of images available on Flickr]

Well, that’s another one of those nice things ticked off a list. I’ve been to the northernmost point of mainland Britain, the eastern-most & southernmost parts of Australia, the southernmost part of continental Asia, the highest point in IndoChina (although I believe that claim’s disputed)… and now I’ve been to the highest point in Britain as well.

Thank you to all those who sponsored me and helped raise money for the St Andrew’s Hospice – a genuinely good cause, with lovely staff who did a great job in organising today’s fundraiser. With 200+ schoolchildren and staff scrambling up the mountain they made sure everyone was accounted for, shepherded and got home safe. Obviously, the Ben Nevis mountain staff also deserve thanks, as do the St John’s Ambulance staff and everyone at the Ben Nevis Hotel who fed and accommodated us at the end of it all. And even let the staff have a free shower!

To paraphrase the great Douglas Adams – the first 1000 feet were the worst. And the second 1000 feet. They were the worst too. The next 1000 were no fun at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.

Then it started to snow.

Only a slight dusting, but enough to make the stuff which had already been lying somewhat more slippery and the last couple of hundred feet more of a challenge. Up until then, I’d be taking a layer of clothing off every half hour. The sun was out, my balding pate was getting redder and sweat was running down my face.

That last little hike was probably the hardest purely as I had to spend as much time looking for footprints to stand in as I did making sure I didn’t slip backwards more than I walked forwards.

There isn’t a whole lot at the top other than a pair of stone… somethings and a tiny shack. And a great sense of achievement. Oh, and a corking view.

I made it up early enough that the clouds were only just coming in, so managed to see in all directions. The snaps (link at the top) should give you an idea of the incredible scenery on the way up and from the peak.

The journey down was no cakewalk either. As well as the skiddy snow, my legs were somewhat achey. The muscles I used on the way up were very different from the ones I needed on the way down! This was partly a good thing as I had developed a hell of a pain at the top of my left leg – something I’d not had for many years, but that’s because I don’t exercise enough. Going downhill stopped this particular pain, but allowed many others the chance to surface. Joy.

Still, I made it up and back again in a little under 5 1/2 hours, which I’m quite pleased with. The nice staff at the bottom gave me a little medal and – more importantly at that point in time – juice, energy bars and a banana.

A shuttle was taking people back to the hotel where we got to freshen up and fill up on “proper” food before the journey home.

A very hard slog, but all the best things are worth the effort.

If you feel the need to donate to the charity, by all means drop me a quick email or contact them directly via the web link above. I’m sure they’ll be happy to take your money!

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Ben Nevis walk – sponsors please!

Ben Nevis, in Scotland, is the highest point i...

Ben Nevis, in Scotland, is the highest point in the British Isles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not often I’ll ask for cash, but I’m doing a sponsored walk up Ben Nevis on May 6th and I need to raise £90 before then. If anyone would be kind enough to sponsor me a few quid, please let me know and we’ll work out how to get the dosh to me.

Obviously, if you’re local then I can just get the cash. Anyone else can probably get it to me via bank transfer or *spit* PayPal. If you’re a UK taxpayer, make sure I get your postcode and house number as well so we can claw more back off the government!

Oh, the cause – it’s St Andrew’s Hospice. Not one I’ve been associated with in the past, but one that the school I currently work at raises a fair bit of money for.

Thanks in advance, folks.

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