Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 102
February 1, 2000

Last Update 28 Jan 2000

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JAMAICA: COUPLES NEGRIL BY ALISON AND BRETT FOX

My  husband  Brett  and  I  recently  returned  from our honeymoon at 
Couples  Negril,  Jamaica.  We  were there from November 24th through 
December  1st,  1999.  I  did  a  lot of research on this website and 
others  before  my trip, and I wanted to share my experiences so that 
hopefully they will help others make their vacation decisions.

We  arranged  our  trip  through  Apple  Vacations and took a charter 
flight  from  St.  Louis  to  Montego  Bay. The flight was fine, very 
uneventful.  When  we arrived in Montego Bay, we were directed by the 
Apple  representative  to  the  Couples  desk.  They took care of our 
transfer  from  the  Montego  Bay airport to Couples Negril. Since we 
arrived  in  the  middle  of the day on a Wednesday (apparently not a 
big  travel  day),  we  were  the  only ones going to Couples at that 
time.  So,  instead  of  taking  us in a bus or van, the took us in a 
taxi  to  the  resort.  The  drive  took about an hour and forty-five 
minutes,  and  it  was  fairly uncomfortable. The roads were not very 
good,  but  I think it was much better in a car instead of the bus or 
van. 

We  arrived  at  Couples  Negril  around  4 and the check-in was very 
smooth.  They  brought  us  champagne and took us and our bags to our 
room.  From  the  minute  we  arrived  we  were treated very well. We 
actually  heard  a  rumor  from  some  of the other guests that if an 
employee  of  Couples  ever  tells  a  guest that the guest cannot do 
something,  that  the  employee  would be fired. I don't know if it's 
true  or not, but the staff could not have been more accommodating or 
kind   during   our   stay.   From  the  maids  and  waiters  to  the 
entertainment  staff  and  bartenders, we got top notch treatment the 
whole week.

We  pretty  much  did  the  same thing everyday, so I'll tell about a 
typical day and then give some highlights.

We  usually woke up between 8 and 9 o'clock, the rooms were very nice 
and  the bed was comfortable, but the curtains that they had over the 
French  doors  didn't really block the sun very well, so we didn't do 
too  much  sleeping  in. You had the option of ordering a continental 
breakfast  at  night  that  would  be  delivered  to  your  room at a 
specified  time  in  the  mornings, but we like full breakfasts so we 
never  did  that.  We  would  go to brunch in the Terrace restaurant, 
which  was  served  buffet  style. They had a woman making omelets to 
order  and also pancakes and waffles. The omelets were great, I would 
highly  recommend them. They always had a selection of bagels, toast, 
fresh  fruit,  protein  shakes,  cheese,  some  kind  of  potato  (it 
varied),  lox,  French  toast,  eggs,  Danish,  and  various Jamaican 
dishes.  There  was definitely something for everyone, even if you're 
a picky eater. 

After  breakfast,  we  would  go  and  set  up  on  the pool deck. We 
preferred  to  be  at the pool for a few reasons—it was closer to the 
bar  and  the  deck chairs were more comfortable then the ones on the 
beach.  We  went  to the beach everyday, but we liked to setup at the 
pool.  We  were  there  over Thanksgiving, and I think the resort was 
about  half  full, so we never had a problem finding somewhere to lay 
out,  but  I imagine if there were more people there that it would be 
more  of  a  problem.  We would usually lay out for awhile (me in the 
shade  because  I  burn  very  badly,  Brett  in the sun). There were 
waitresses  who  would  take  your drink orders and bring you drinks, 
and  sometimes  we would go to the bar and hang out there. We spent a 
lot  of  time  at  the  swim  up pool bar with our favorite bartender 
Shahid.  My favorite drinks were the strawberry banana daiquiris, but 
they  had  so  many  great drinks. Ask for a "Bob Marley"—it's a shot 
that's  three  different colors (in layers) and then they light it on 
fire and you drink it through a straw. 

Lunch  was  either  at  the  beach  grill (burgers, hot dogs, chicken 
sandwiches,  fish  and chips, etc.) or at the Terrace Restaurant. The 
beach  grill  also  had  great  cheese fries—definitely try them. The 
terrace  restaurant  would  set up lunch buffet style, and they would 
always  have different cold salads, and various hot dishes. I usually 
ate  salad  (pasta  salad  or  potato  salad  in  addition to regular 
lettuce) and cheese and crackers. 

We  spent  a  lot  of  time at the pool bar in the afternoons, but we 
would  also  go  and  float in the ocean on rafts. We also took out a 
Hobie  sailboat  and we tried windsurfing. I wasn't strong enough for 
the windsurfing, but Brett had a little more success. 

Evenings  we  would usually have cocktails before dinner, then eat in 
either  the  Terrace  Restaurant (which was sit-down during dinner as 
opposed  to  buffet)  or  at the beach grill. The menu at the Terrace 
for  the  evenings  was  usually  limited, but it was very good. They 
would  always  have  a selection of hot and cold appetizers, soups, a 
self  serve  salad  bar,  and  probably  6 or 7 entrees. At the beach 
grill,  they  would have 3 different kinds of pasta and three sauces. 
You  could  mix  and match however you wanted. They also would have a 
soup  of  the  day  and an antipasto plate. In addition to the pasta, 
you  could  have steak or chicken or a couple of other meats for your 
entree. It was always good.

There  was  one  fine dining restaurant called Oteheite (we never did 
figure  out  how  to  pronounce  that).  You need reservations to eat 
there—you  make  them  during  the day at the guest relations desk. I 
would  suggest  making  your reservations when you first arrive, they 
do  book up and we were there when the resort wasn't very crowded. We 
ate  there once. The food was excellent, but the portions were small. 
I  was  satisfied, but I think Brett probably would have been able to 
eat more. 

At  9:30  every  night,  there was some sort of entertainment. It was 
usually  pretty  good,  it  lasted  for  about an hour. Then at 11:00 
(after  the  entertainment)  the piano bar had a sing-a-long. We went 
there  for  a  couple of nights—it was actually really fun. The piano 
player,  Paul,  would play whatever song you wanted him to—even if he 
didn't know it. We met some really fun people there.

The  resort  offered  some  special  trips that were included in your 
price.  There was a catamaran cruise than ran 3 times a week. We went 
on  that and it was very fun. There's a bar on the boat and they also 
had  a  guy  on there with a guitar and other instruments. The cruise 
went  to  a  place  where there was a waterslide, cliff jumping and a 
rope  swing.  I'm  not  very adventurous so I stayed on the boat, but 
Brett  went  off  the waterslide and the rope swing and said it was a 
great time.

They  also  offered trips into town for shopping and a trip to Rick's 
Café.  We  decided  we  didn't really want to do any shopping, and we 
were  going  to  go  to Rick's but we scheduled massages too close to 
when  the  bus  was leaving, so we didn't go there either. I've heard 
it's  fun  and  it's a nice place to see the sunset (you couldn't see 
it  from  the resort because of where it was located—we saw it on the 
cruise), but we didn't really care.

As  far  as the rooms are concerned, we paid a little extra and got a 
"beachfront"  room.  I  would  say  don't  waste  your  money  on the 
beachfront  because none of the rooms truly face the beach. If you're 
going  to  splurge  on a room, upgrade to a suite—those looked really 
nice.  The  grounds  are  absolutely  gorgeous, so even if you're not 
facing  the  beach  or  ocean, you'll have a beautiful garden to look 
at.  Our  room  was on the first floor and it was really close to the 
Terrace   Restaurant.   It   was   fairly  loud  at  night  when  the 
entertainment  was  going on, but that only lasted for about an hour, 
and  we  really  liked  the  location  because  it  was  so  close to 
everything.  We  were going to switch rooms because of the noise, but 
we  decided  we  preferred  being close and dealing with the noise at 
night (it was ALWAYS quiet after 10:30).

On  our  way back home, we decided to fly from Negril to Montego Bay. 
For  the  record,  I  HATE flying and I've never been in a plane that 
wasn't  a  jet  before,  but we had heard such horrible stories about 
the  ride  on  the busses and vans (remember we were in a taxi on the 
way  to  the  resort but there was another couple leaving at the same 
time  we  were  so  we would have had to take a bus) so I decided I'd 
rather  be  uncomfortable  for  15  minutes  instead  of 2 hours. The 
resort  booked  us  on  an  Air Jamaica Express flight—it was $45 per 
person,  1 way. You don't pay for the flight until you get to Montego 
Bay.  They  charge  5%  extra  if  you charge it on a credit card, we 
still  had  cash (American money is fine) so we paid cash. The flight 
was  not nearly as bad as I was anticipating, it was a 6-seater plane 
and it really only took 15 minutes.

Overall,  I  would  HIGHLY  recommend  Couples Negril. We are already 
planning  another  trip down there hopefully later this year or maybe 
next  year. The resort was beautiful, the staff was wonderful and the 
weather was great. What more could you ask for?

JAMAICA: NEGRIL BLUE CAVE CASTLE BY LIZ AND PHILIP MAHER

Trip 1/00

We're  back  after  nine  glorious  days (and Philip is out shoveling 
snow  right  now!) - where to start? I'm going to try to write this a 
little  touristy  so  people who haven't been before can use it. I'll 
try not to bore you yardies ;-) 

This  was  our  first  trip to Negril to stay - my 4th trip to JA - I 
went  to Sandals MoBay on my first trip about 10 years ago, villas in 
Ironshore  after  that. My husband Philip has been going to villas in 
Ironshore  with  his family since he was a kid. So we weren't Jamaica 
newbies  but  we  were Negril newbies - our Negril experience to this 
point  had  been  day  trips:  a  stop  on  the beach, a stop at Mrs. 
Brown's,  a  trip to Rick's then back to Ironshore. This was also our 
first  trip  to  JA without our kids (5 and 2) since we had them. The 
negril.com  board was the source of most of our good info on where to 
stay  and  what  to  do, the rest came from people who saw me post on 
the  negril.com board and took the time to e-mail me privately. I had 
ongoing  conversations  with  several  people  about Negril before we 
went  - big thanks to the board, Jamaica Mike, Rasta John, Tanis, the 
Negril  Sistas e-mail group, NegrilJeff and Dave from Jersey and I'm-
sure-I-forgot-more  for  all  their  pre-trip  help. Where I refer to 
people in this report, it is mainly by their negril.com "handles".

Flights  all  went  well,  we  arrived  in MoBay right on time, about 
1:45. (USAir) 

Jamaica  Mike  and  several  others recommended Lee Weinstock of Back 
Roads  Jamaica  for  our  airport  pickup.  Had we been 4 people this 
would  have  been a dirt cheap shame, as we were only two it was just 
a  really  exceptional  value  :).  Lee's  from Ohio originally, been 
living  in JA for 7 years. What is really neat about this is that Lee 
knows  Jamaica  as  a  resident but has been a tourist there too - he 
can  really  appreciate  what  you'll want to know and do and you can 
ask  all  your  questions  on the way and most often he'll be able to 
answer  with  authority.  He also introduced us to many of the people 
we  hung  out with the rest of the trip. We felt "hooked up" in every 
way.  For  us, it was especially neat to meet Lee as it turned out we 
knew  several people in common, both in MoBay and in Ohio. We spend a 
lot   of   time   here   seeing   a   band   called  ekoostik  Hookah 
(www.ekoostik.com  - if you were a Deadhead you'll love to check them 
out  and you can listen to their Negril shows from last year online). 
Turns  out  Lee  went  to high school with the keyboard player and in 
fact  arranged  the  huge  trip  down  we'd just missed last year for 
about  150 people and the band for a week last June. If they go again 
this  June  we'll DEFINITELY be there - a bunch of cool Hookah freaks 
running  around  Negril  sounds like just too much fun to miss again! 
This  "small  world"  thing happened repeatedly through the trip - we 
kept  meeting people who knew people we knew both from the US and JA. 


Lee's  pickup  is *not* an airport transfer, it is a trip. Lee picked 
us  up  right at the airport door. I'd asked Lee if we could take the 
back  way  (through  Sav-la-Mar) since I'd never gone that way before 
and  I'd  heard  the  coast  road  was  bad.  Had  we asked to travel 
directly  to  our hotel I think we would have made it in 1 1/2 hours. 
However,  our  trip  was  more  like  6  :)  Lee met us with cold red 
stripes  in the cooler and we were off. The ride was beautiful. Since 
we  opted not to do the coast road, we didn't do his usual tour out - 
I'll  tell you about that later as we did do it for the return. First 
stop  in  Negril was Alfred's. Had a drink or two, got into the beach 
feeling,  met  some people. We also stopped at Kuyaba. Then we headed 
up  to  Three  Dives,  next  door to Xtabi on the cliffs. This was to 
become  our  Negril  home  away  from home. Paula and Lloyd (everyone 
calls   him  "Lloydie",  pronounced  "lidey")  are  fantastic  hosts. 
Nothing  like  sitting  down  for  good conversation and a great meal 
with  the  owners  of  the  place you're in. We had some of Lloydie's 
excellent  jerk  chicken  (he's  a  chicken farmer too so it's REALLY 
fresh)  that  night and got loose. There's a small bar and restaurant 
with  tables  by  the road and a beach bar down by the cliff edge and 
there  are,  in  fact,  four dives, not three. Philip finally did the 
dive  the last day we were there. If you can dive Rick's you can dive 
here  easily  but  there's  also  a (long) ladder to the water if you 
just want to swim or snorkel. 

We  did  sunset at 3 Dives most of the days we were there. Great view 
and  VERY  laid  back  atmosphere. Lloydie plans to add more hammocks 
soon  but  in  the meantime there's the one and we often sat near the 
restaurant  just so we could chat with Llod and Paula. In addition to 
the  great chicken, food and drink is cheap (I think we paid $60J for 
red  stripe)  and  we  had  the  BEST lobster there. Lee'd told us to 
order  a few hours ahead so Lloydie could go get them (he doesn't let 
lobsters  lay around all day - these are FRESH). We did and for $14US 
each,  we  each  had  1  1/2  grilled  lobsters  with  garlic butter, 
callaloo,  rice  and  peas (red beans)....it was the best meal we had 
and  we  had  a  lot  of  them.  Paula  said  to say sometimes if the 
lobsters  are  really  big they only give you one :). If you've never 
had  Carribean  lobster, it's different from Main lobster - all tail, 
really, and well suited to Jamaican spices. 

We  also met Tracy at 3 Dives that night, fretting over Rob trying to 
get  a  computer  thing  working  in  time  for  the  sunset  show at 
Mariner's.  Lloydie and Paula post lots of photos in the restaurant - 
I  promised  to  send  some  of  ours down too. Ask Paula to tell you 
about cooking for all those hookah-heads :) 

After  a few hours meeting (lots of) people and getting in the Negril 
frame  of  mind,  Lee  brought  us  to our hotel. We picked Blue Cave 
Castle  for  several  reasons. First, it was recommended by both new-
Negril  people and old-timers alike and the price is right. RastaJohn 
also  has  done a very nice web site for them with dozens of pictures 
we  pored  over  for hours before we left. Pictures sell this place - 
it  IS gorgeous. We reserved the penthouse (the very tippy-top of the 
castle)  for  $20  more  than  a regular room for the first 4 nights. 
Rates  vary but you can expect to pay what it says on the web site or 
perhaps  a  bit less) We planned to find a beach place for our last 4 
nights  since this was our first Negril trip we thought we should try 
both the cliffs and the beach. More on that later. 

Blue  Cave Castle is owned by a woman named Susan, from New York City 
(just  like  us  until  5  years  ago when we moved to Ohio). She got 
married  two  weeks ago to Patrick, a businessman in JA. Both live in 
the  castle.  Susan  built the castle with (I think) her ex. She told 
me  they  bought  the property in 1974 and built the castle gradually 
from  then.  She  still  has  plans  to  expand  certain  areas - the 
penthouse  where  we  stayed  will  grow, the restaurant may re-open, 
etc.  More  funny  "small  world"  things  with Susan - even my mom's 
hairdresser in Ohio turned out to be a friend of hers! 

There  were  so  many things we liked about Blue Cave - the view from 
the  grounds  is  gorgeous but when we climbed the (three flights of) 
stairs  up  to  our  room - the view became absolutely incredible. We 
had  four  deck/patios  of our own (we wondered aloud often where the 
other  50  people  we should be sharing the space with were!) and the 
one  on  top  of  our room offered awesome views of Negril beach, the 
cliffs,  the  sea  and  the  hills  -  it's  a  completely 360 degree 
panoramic  view  obstructed  only  by  the hills to the east. We just 
walked  around with our mouths open the first few days. The castle is 
the  highest  point  around  there  and  we  stayed  in  the  highest 
part...it's  also not so far up the cliffs that the view of the beach 
is  lost  (as  it is further along) and we really enjoyed looking out 
at  night  -  the  lights  on  the  beach  were  like a long necklace 
glittering  on  the  white sand. That room is made for honeymooners - 
totally  private up there. We had a kitchen but other than the fridge 
and sink, we didn't really use it. 

The  room  is  not  like  any  we'd stayed in here or in JA. It's not 
fancy  in the sense that the towels and sheets don't always match and 
there's  a  crack  or two in the ceiling but everything says "castle" 
and  it's so over the top, it's cool. The wooden bed and wardrobe and 
every  other  piece  of furniture had castle touches - the top of the 
bed and the tops of most everything is cut like this: 

The  bedspreads  were castle-ey, the walls are castle-ey - to get the 
idea  you  almost  have  to go, or at least check out the pictures on 
the  web  site  (link  below). The price was really cheap for what we 
got. 

Susan  puts  out  coffee  every  morning  and we grew to love "coffee 
hour".  Everyone ("everyone" meant about 15 people when we were there 
-  this  is a relatively small place) comes down to the tables by the 
sea  and  has coffee and conversation - the other guests when we were 
there  included  a  group  of ten staying at Blue Cave for their 13th 
time  and  assorted  friends  of Susan and people like us. One couple 
was  there  with  their two 20ish kids and they came up to one of our 
balconies  to  hang  out  for  a little while after we got in. A very 
cool group of people. 

There  isn't a restaurant at Blue Cave at the moment though there may 
be  when  you get there. No matter anyway, we grew to love our little 
neighborhood  on  the  cliffs - lots of food and drink within an easy 
walk.  We  found  a  place  called  Just  Natural  early  on  and had 
breakfast  there  several  times.  It's  a  little way up the cliffs, 
close  to  Xtabi  and  Three Dives, on the land side of the road. The 
few  tables  (6?)  are in a beautiful garden that blocks the road and 
to  an  extent,  the other tables. I never learned the waitress' name 
and  I'm  sorry  because  she  was so friendly - perfect attitude for 
first  thing  in  the  morning  -  always  happy  and smiling :). The 
Jamaica  breakfast  of ackee and saltfish was delicious and came with 
several  different  kinds  of  fresh  fruit, a dumpling (like a heavy 
biscuit),  callaloo  -  all  for  about $6. Philip enjoyed the french 
toast w/ fruit. We highly recommend a stop by. 

Anyway...that  first  night.  I  knew  that  it was Rasta John's 50th 
birthday  (from e-mail with him before we left) and had posted on the 
negril.com  board  that  we'd  be  at the Negril Yacht Club (where he 
works)  that night to celebrate. After we got settled in our room, we 
headed  out  for  a night out. A word about transportation here. Just 
step  out of your hotel and if you don't see a cab, start walking. We 
never  walked for more than a minute or two before one came along. We 
knew  vaguely that cabs should cost $1 or $2 US to get most places in 
Negril,  per  person.  We  never  had  trouble  getting  good fares - 
occasionally  a  cab  would  ask  for  more (then come down) but very 
often  they  just  OK'ed  what  we  offered. A few ex-pats told me we 
could  have  gotten  around  for  less. We usually offered a bit more 
than  we knew it should be and most cabs just said OK - haggling over 
$0.50  is  not  what I like to do on vacation and we felt the cabbies 
needed  that  money  more  than  we  did.  Do always settle the price 
before  you  get  in  the car and remember cabs you catch on the road 
almost  always  charge by the person - we'd say "$50J for both of us, 
OK?".  We didn't take cabs in Negril for long though, as I'll explain 
later.  If you take gypsy cabs in New York like I did growing up, you 
know this routine. 

We  got  to  the  NYC  around 9 or 10 and met Rasta John. Another New 
Yorker!  (this  trip was really like that - RJ went to high school in 
Brooklyn  right  near  my  high  school in Brooklyn...). Pretty soon, 
Blondie,  Fred  (ff),  Cindy,  Lucky  Lady  and  quite  a  few  other 
negril.com  boardies  showed  up  (I *knew* I should've written names 
down  while  I  was  still  at  the  bar - I apologize to the folks I 
talked  to  and whose handles I still managed to forget!). For all of 
you  going  down  for  Feb  4th  -  you'll  appreciate  this  - every 
introduction  was "Hi! My name is so-and-so and I post as so-and- so" 
followed  by "Oh! YOU'RE so-and-so! How's this thing or that thing?". 
It  was  a  hoot. Consider dual name tags for the board party or just 
go  with the Negril flow and have fun figuring out who everyone is :) 
We  had a lot of fun that night. My husband's not a net person but he 
thought  it was really neat how we all "knew" each other when we met. 


Back at Blue Cave by midnight we relaxed and enjoyed the view. 

The  next day we went to rent a motorcycle. I was glad Philip is very 
comfortable  on  a  bike  and used driving/riding in Jamaica. Lloydie 
from  3  Dives  has  a  brother  named Eddie. Eddie rented us a Honda 
Interceptor  for  $40US  per day, deposit only $100US, cash or credit 
for  the  deposit,  cash for the rental itself. The bike was great to 
have,  it  let  us  travel  where  and  when we pleased and we took a 
couple  of really nice rides into the hills. We called those rides to 
Sheffield  and  around  the "wave rides" because of the one-hand wave 
greeting we shared with everyone we passed. 

Philip  popped  the  clutch cable the second day so we drove the bike 
to  Three  Dives  and Lloydie took it. Eddie gave us a brand new dirt 
bike  the next day and some extra time with it for our (very minimal) 
inconvenience.  I  highly  recommend Eddie - good bikes, honest guy - 
the  mechanical  issue  was quickly and professionally taken care of. 
Scooters  should  be  much less there, I forgot to check. He's on the 
beach  road  at Alfred's right between the sign (on the beach side of 
the  road)  and  the  Cambio. He doesn't have a sign yet but he's NOT 
Taurus rentals, they're next door. 

We  were  going  to  rent a car instead originally but the high cost, 
the  very  high deposit ($1000US!) and assurances that we didn't need 
it  convinced  us  not  to.  It  was the right decision. The bike was 
perfect and cabs were easy. 

We  passed  through  roadblocks  on  the  west  end  road  on several 
occasions.  We  never  got  stopped but there were plenty of worried- 
looking  tourists  getting  their cars searched. Once the block is up 
it's hard to see until you're right there so TRAVEL LIGHT. 

Some travel details: 

Yes  you  can  use  credit  cards  but  I don't recommend it. All the 
places  we  liked  only  took cash and the places we did use the card 
were  generally  overpriced.  Next  time  I'll  leave  the  card  for 
emergencies  and bring more cash. The ATM card worked fine but we had 
trouble doing a credit card cash advance. 

Part 2 of 2

When  I  left  off  we were on day 2 and had just rented a motorcycle 
from  Eddie.  We  had  to take a little ride of course, but were also 
eager  to  get  into  the water - we never made it in that first day. 
Back  at  Blue  Cave  Castle, we grabbed our snorkel stuff and walked 
down  the  steps  to  the  water.  Blue Cave has several sundecks and 
steps  down  the  cliffs.  One is right in the middle of the garden - 
you  walk  down the steps and are inside a cave that you can swim out 
of  into  the water - very neat, there's a shower down there too. The 
water  was  a  bit  rough so we opted for the steps OUTSIDE the cave. 
Water  is  beautiful there, about 15 feet deep and plenty of fish and 
stuff  to  look at. We saw some gars and other reef fish, some coral, 
some  small underwater caves and ledges - all in all good snorkeling. 
One  guy  who was staying at the hotel (for the 13th time!) regularly 
snorkeled  from  Blue  Cave  over to Xtabi and the Pickled Parrot for 
sun  and  red  stripes  then  snorkeled  "home"  - he was awfully fit 
though,  we  just snorkeled around our little cove and took plenty of 
lay-in- the-sun breaks :)

We  had  our  lobster that night at Three Dives - that was delicious! 
So  much food...we'd have gained 20 pounds if we didn't swim and walk 
like  we  did!  Sunset  was  also  spent at Three Dives, watching the 
bonfire  go  up  and  chatting  with Lloydie and Paula and Ricky (the 
bartender  by  the  cliffs  there)  and  a couple of Americans having 
trouble   making  it  home  -  we  saw  several  trips  get  extended 
indefinitely  by those lucky ones who didn't have to get back to kids 
and  work!  That  night  was  a quiet one for us as we'd been out the 
night  before  -  we  chilled  in  our little home in the sky for the 
evening. 

It's  only been a few days since we got back and already the days are 
blurring  together...that  third  day,  though,  was  Lee Weinstock's 
birthday  and  he  came  out  to Negril for the day. We met him, Rob, 
Tracy,  and  a  couple  of people Lee'd just dropped off for lunch at 
Kuyaba.  Thoroughly  enjoyed  the  company  and  the food - lunch was 
delicious  and after that, a little beach time was in order. It was a 
bit  chilly  but  I LOVE the water so we swam and worked on the tan a 
bit.  Couldn't get over how relaxed we were feeling! This day, I also 
e-mailed  my  mom  who had our kids to let her know we'd gotten in OK 
and  all.  That  was a relief but not as much as the next day when we 
spoke  on  the  phone  and  they  were  absolutely  loving  being  at 
Grandma's  -  from then on I was one relaxed mommy, free to enjoy the 
trip!  It was really different not having the kids with us - we could 
go where we w anted when we wanted - very Negril :)

That  night,  after dinner (we ate at Xtabi - very good service, food 
was  good  too, a bit pricey but we could use the credit card and the 
view  of  sunset  was nice - we watched Dave from Cleveland dive from 
Three  Dives  from  our table), we met Tracy and the three of us went 
out  to  Alfred's  for music that night - great but a bit hot. It was 
raining  and  no  one  on the beach wanted to be in the rain so there 
were  like  hundreds of people crowded under Alfred's roof - made for 
a  lively  bar  scene  :).  We  went  out  in  the rain. Headed up to 
PeeWee's  for a bit, played a few games at the bar. Enjoyed ourselves 
immensely.  At  that  point,  Philip  was pretty tired so Tracy and I 
dropped  him  off  at  "home"  and went on to MiYard. Again, met some 
great  people  and  had  a  blast.  Tracy dropped me off at Blue Cave 
around 4AM :)

We'd  planned  all  along to stay only 4 nights at Blue Cave and look 
for  a  good  beach place for the last 4 nights. So we had a mission. 
We  got  on  the  motorcycle the next day after a lovely breakfast at 
Just  Natural - AGAIN. Their Jamaican breakfast was the best hangover 
food  :)  I'd  intended  to  stop  by  Chippewa,  Beach  Club Condos, 
Nirvana,  Beach  House  Villas and Sea Gem. We'd already seen Sea Gem 
and  thought  it would be too loud in the middle of everything there. 
We  drove by Chippewa and looked at the grounds but after a moment we 
didn't  see  anyone so we left, planning to come back. Grounds looked 
lovely,  little cabins scattered through. It's across the street from 
the  beach  and  the price is right. Negril Beach Club was a bit more 
than  we  wanted  to pay. We stopped at Beach House Villas who showed 
us  a  really  lovely  room that was much more than we wanted to pay, 
the  one  that  was cheaper we couldn't see then. Again, nice grounds 
and  the  room  we saw was amazing, step off the porch onto the beach 
kind  of  thing,  with  a kitchen and living room. We also stopped at 
Whistling  Bird  but  they  didn't  have a room to show us right then 
either.  Again,  lovely  gardens.  Nirvana did have a lovely room and 
great  gardens - there's a fence between the hotel and beach which is 
a  little  weird but I could imagine it'd be nice with kids. The room 
we  saw  also  had  a  kitchen  and living room and was a much better 
price (Thanks Lonnie!) than the similar setup at Beach House.

We  told  Nirvana we'd let them know. As we left, we started thinking 
about  missing morning coffee at Blue Cave, and our neat room and the 
view  and the mosquitos on the beach and we decided right then we had 
to  stay  where  we  were.  We'd  already  gotten too attached to our 
"neighborhood"  and  the  people  in it. Rasta John was helping Susan 
with  some  Blue  Cave  website  stuff  so he was around - we enjoyed 
breakfast  together  one  morning and spent a couple of hours getting 
scandisk  to  run  on his PC :) We stayed on at Blue Cave but decided 
to  switch  to  a less expensive room - one also with fewer stairs :) 
Susan  moved  us  into Room 8 which has a balcony with a great sunset 
view  and  a  large  bed,  bathroom, fridge and again, that castle-ey 
mahogany  furniture.  This  room  had  some  southwestern  stuff  and 
African  masks  too  -  lots  to look at, great atmosphere. Susan was 
told  the masks were magic awhile back and had a nightmare about them 
that  night  so  bought some South American masks to equal things out 
:)  We  had stawmat rugs here vs. the oriental rug in the penthouse - 
every room we saw there is different, and nice.

One  of our favorite little trips happened on the spur of the moment. 
We'd  been at the beach, talking to Eddie at his motorcycle place and 
changing  money  at  the  cambio next door. Riding home, we saw thick 
black  smoke  billowing  out  over the water. We pulled over to let a 
large  fire  truck  pass.  Pretty  soon, it was clear that two little 
seaside  shacks  (on  the  west  end  road,  going  out of town) were 
totally  on  fire.  It  was  sad - luckily they were restaurants, not 
homes,  so  no  one was hurt, but that was two businesses that had to 
start over completely. Everyone watching looked rather sad.

It  was  clear  we  were  not going to pass through the road for some 
time  so  we turned around. Paula up at Three Dives is from Sheffield 
and  had  told  us  we should take a ride out past the lighthouse and 
around,  through  Orange  Hill.  We  figured since we weren't getting 
home  on the cliffroad we could do Paula's trip in reverse, going out 
the  Sav  road  and returning by the lighthouse. We didn't have a map 
but  we  knew the route vaguely and Paula had said to just ask people 
along the way. So that's what we did.

We  set  out  the  Sav  road  and  when  we  thought we might be near 
Sheffield,  we  asked  a  man by the road. Sure enough, we just had a 
minute  or  two  more  and we turned off the main road. The drive was 
beautiful  -  pretty,  hilly  country  and  small  towns  and  farms. 
Everyone  waved  when  we  went  by,  just one hand up, so we started 
calling  these  rides  the  "wave rides" because we all waved at each 
other  as  we  drove  along:) It was funny how the waving s topped as 
soon as you got close to "big city" Negril...

Anyway,  we rode along, asking here and there how to go, and around a 
bend  I  saw  this  sign - "Jamaica Jurassic Park". I asked Philip if 
he'd  seen  it  too  and we decided this was one of those things that 
You  Should  Not  Drive By. We turned around and pulled in. There's a 
little  restaurant/bar  there and a man with glasses came out. Behind 
the  restaurant,  we  could  see  large  metal  sculptures of - yes - 
dinosaurs  - and huge flowers and ferns all made of metal and painted 
and  worked  into  these  amazing  shapes. Turns out the man with the 
glasses  is the artist. We grab a Ting and he gives us a little tour. 
He  does  his  work down the road - I can't imagine how he gets these 
things  moved!  My kids would have loved it - there was also a little 
playground  but  only 2 other people there when we were. It was a fun 
stop.

We  made  it  back  to Negril, though somehow through town and not by 
the  lighthouse.  We  needed  to  ask  directions more specifically I 
think  -  we  were  helpfully  directed  right  back  to  town :). No 
problem,  the  fire  was  out.  We  did  take  the  ride out past the 
lighthouse  another  time  - out to Hog Heaven and beyond. That was a 
really  beautiful  ride  too,  and the roads are strangely smooth and 
wide  -  the  best roads we encountered the whole trip! Seabirds were 
around  a  lot  up  there, often on the road. These little trips just 
wouldn't be the same in a car, we were glad for the dirt bike.

We'd  decided  to stay in MoBay our last night in Jamaica because our 
flight  was at 2:30 and even if we took the back way, we weren't sure 
if  there'd  be  traffic or not. That meant we'd have to leave pretty 
early  and  lose t he half-day. So, we decided to have Lee pick us up 
around  11  the  day before to go back the coast road way and stop by 
some  falls,  make  a  day  of it. The falls Lee took us to is called 
"Five  Fingers" and it's somewhere up in the hills near Lucea. It's a 
small  family operation way up there and the road was something else! 
Curves  on the side of the mountain...I'm glad I wasn't driving but I 
was  really  glad to get to see it - really beautiful country. One of 
the  things  I  love  about  Jamaica  is it's big enough to visit 100 
times  and never see the same things but you make friends you want to 
visit again and again too!

Anyway,  for  $10US  (both of us) to the family, whose daughter acted 
as  tour  guide  and  escort,  we  hiked down to the falls. This is a 
pretty  steep  hike but there are steps cut all the way down and when 
you  get  to  the  bottom  there's  this beautiful, deep, pool with a 
single  set of falls cascading down. I'll add pictures when I develop 
them  :)  We had the place to ourselves and swam (refreshing - you do 
get  used  to  it, really - it was not very hot the day we were there 
so  the water was extra-cool), chatted with Lee and enjoyed ourselves 
immensely.  We  got  a  couple  of  red stripes from the family store 
before we went down. 

We  went  on  and stopped for late lunch at a restaurant by the water 
near  Round Hill, where, incidentally, How Stella Got Her Groove Back 
was  mostly  filmed. We laughed a lot - the waitress was so bad (told 
us  they were out of everything - Lee found the owner who informed us 
they  DID  have  everything)  we  got the bartender reassigned to our 
table,  it was very funny. I don't remember the name of the place but 
it was right on the sea and the food was good.

We  got  to  MoBay in the late afternoon needing a place to stay near 
the  beach  and town because we wanted to be able to walk places. I'd 
checked  out  a  couple  of hotels online before I left so we stopped 
first  at Caribic House. It was cheap but kind of depressing. We also 
stopped  at  Doctor's Cave Beach Hotel, too expensive. We wound up at 
El  Greco,  on Queen's Drive on top of the hill. Mo Bay has a tourist 
strip  (Gloucester  Ave  -  the "Hip Strip") and right behind it is a 
very  steep  cliff with a road on top. Our hotel was up top but there 
is  a 16 story hotel/apt building on the beach road there and we just 
walked  across  a  covered  indoor  overpass and took the elevator of 
that building down to the beach. Neat.

El  Greco  was very nice - new, lovely grounds, good security, we had 
a  suite  w/  kitchen and living room. We hated it. We were so bummed 
to  NOT  be in Negril. MoBay felt like a cold city to us (and this is 
where  we  usually  go!)  after  that, and our nice hotel felt really 
sterile  after  Blue  Cave's  kitschy rooms. We made the best of it - 
had  a great Chinese dinner at Guangzhou, went to Doctor's Cave Beach 
and   snorkeled   our   last   morning,   had   lunch   with  Lee  at 
Margeuritaville  before  we went to the airport, but next time I'd do 
Lee's  excellent  tour  with  the  falls on the way down and take Air 
Negril at the last possible minute on the way back!

The  thing  that especially struck us about Negril is how comfortable 
everyone  is.  Most  places  had  locals,  tourists,  ex-pats  -  all 
together  hanging  out.  In  MoBay  things  felt  more  segregated  - 
tourists  here, locals there. We met more non-tourists this trip than 
in   all   the   others  combined!  We  felt  absolutely  comfortable 
everywhere in Negril.

Notice   how   we're   already  talking  about  what  we'll  do  next 
time...thinking  maybe  June  if Hookah goes down.......Lee get ready 
for a call!

The trip wouldn't have been the same without:

Lee  Weinstock,  Back  Roads Jamaica: jamlee@cwjamaica.com, 876- 953-
9849,  www.negril.com/leesmain.htm  -  for  airport  "transfer" (much 
more  than  a  ride!)  or custom tours anywhere to anything including 
some private little places Lee knows about.

Blue      Cave      Castle      Hotel:      Susan,      876-957-4845, 
http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Beach/8668/index.html   or  older 
site at http://www.bluecave.com/ - fun place with a great feel

Irie  Vibes  at  3 Dives: Lloydie and Paula, our home away from home, 
right  after  Xtabi  going  up the cliffs from town, lunch, sunset or 
later on for the bonfire

Just Natural, breakfast, across the street from Xtabi, more or less 

Eddie's  Bike  Rental, at the entrance to Alfred's, right next to the 
cambio. Scooters and motorcycles from a good guy.

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