Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Vacation | Cayman Islands, Part 2 (More than Margaritas)

Hello again, blog friends. To anybody who read Part 1 of what I promised would be a two-part story about our adventure on Grand Cayman back in the spring, I apologize.

Somehow, half a year has gone by since I wrote that post. If anybody is still curious about what we did (besides drinking all of the margaritas in Margaritaville), here, at long last, is Part 2.
Cayman Spirits Co.
Our first outing away from our resort was to the Cayman Spirits Co., makers of "handcrafted artisanal rum." 
Cayman Spirits Co.
The tour of the distillery was short -- about 30 minutes -- and sweet -- ending in a tasting room, where we got to sample all of the different varieties of rum that the company makes. 
Cayman Spirits Co.
Jim thought the banana rum was the best, but (once again) he was wrong. The coconut was much better. Mmmm. We bought a bottle (along with a carton of pineapple juice to mix it with) to take back to our room, because man (and woman) cannot live on margaritas alone.
crosswalk
The Caymans are a British territory, which is a mixed blessing for American visitors like us. The good news is that everybody speaks English. The bad news is that everybody drives on the left side of the road.
taxi in George Town
We walked or took cabs everywhere we went, because neither one of us was brave enough to get behind the wheel ourselves.
Camana Bay shopping center
On our second day on the island, we went for a walk and wandered into a cute little shopping center called Camana Bay. Sadly, we couldn't do much shopping because it was a Sunday, and virtually all of the stores in the Caymans are closed on Sundays.
ice cream shop window
Restaurants were open though, so we drowned our sorrows in ice cream.
wild chicken
And we had a good laugh at all the chickens strutting around the shopping center. I guess feral chickens are everywhere in the Caribbean (at least on all of the islands we've been to), but to a farmgirl from Wisconsin, they always seem a little out of place.
mosaic
In the middle of the shopping center, we discovered a five-story observation tower that had a stunning sea life mosaic all the way up one wall.
sealife mosaic
I think I took more photos of the mosaic on the walk up than I did of the view when we got to the top.
Camana Bay
I was utterly charmed by Camana Bay -- until the next day, when we were talking to a local woman about it and she informed us (none too happily) that it was owned by a billionaire Styrofoam cup magnate from Michigan who, after he inherited his fortune from his father, denounced his American citizenship, moved to the Caymans (which is a tax-free country) and bought up a quarter of the island's real estate. 
Camana Bay
Camana Bay lost a little of its luster after that, in my mind, at least.
submarine tour Grand Cayman
On another day, we took an underwater submarine tour. (Sorry about the tilted horizon. I'd like to blame the margaritas for my shoddy photography, but I'm pretty sure I didn't start drinking that day until well after the sub ride.)
Atlantis Submarines
Here's the interior of the sub (at a more sober angle).
submarine tour Grand Cayman
Cards like this one were hanging in front of all of the portholes to help us identify the fish that lived in this part of the Caribbean.
 submarine tour
Unfortunately, this is mostly what I saw. A big blue window with some nondescript little floaties swimming by. Jim claims he saw a lot of the actual fish pictured on the card, but every time he tried to point one out to me, it had mysteriously disappeared by the time I was looking.
Breeze's Bistro
After our submarine ride, we walked around George Town and had lunch and drinks at an overpriced bar/restaurant, directly across from where the cruise ships come into port. (There's no dock; the ships just anchor offshore, and tenders ferry the passengers back and forth.)
Breeze's Bistro
The bar had a very fun Caribbean vibe ...
Breeze's Bistro
... and the view of the water and the downtown was amazing, which more than made up for the inflated prices.
Breeze's Bistro
The best part was that the waitresses were wearing T-shirts featuring Caymans' sayings like the one pictured above. I should probably explain here that my husband's family has always called him "Bobo" for some reason. (The bar had shirts for sale, but, sadly, only children's sizes.)
George Town
In the Caymans, Bobo means "buddy" or "the object of one's affection."
Margaritaville
We spent the rest of that afternoon bar hopping and shopping in George Town.
souvenirs
Fortunately we remained (just) sober enough to refrain from buying any of the many, many, many kitschy souvenirs we saw (although it was touch and go for a while there).
blue iguana
Another outing took us to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, where we saw one of the island's beloved blue iguanas. (Can you see him in the photo above? He's right in the center of the picture, but he's pretty well camouflaged. We were almost on top of him before we noticed him.)

Invasive green iguanas are everywhere on the island, but the blues, which are native to the Caymans, are sadly few and far between. The botanic park operates a recovery program that is trying to bring the population back.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
Our hike through the botanic park also took us past quite a few trees that looked like this. Apparently they got knocked over when Hurricane Ivan battered the island in 2004 and then just started growing upward again.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
We also got to see this guy (which I really could have done without -- I haaaaate snakes). Thankfully he just slithered around this pink post and then headed off into the forest. We were told there are three types of snakes on Grand Cayman, none of which are poisonous. But still. After we saw this guy, I kept staring at the ground in front of me because I was paranoid I was going to step on one of his brethren.
Pedro St. James National Historic Site
We also spent some time at the Pedro St. James National Historic Site, which is home to the oldest building on the Caymans. The three-story structure dates back to 1780, when it was built by Jamaican slaves for its British owner. Later, it hosted the first meeting of the elected parliament of the Cayman Islands and became known as the birthplace of democracy.
Pedro St. James National Historic Site
The building had many uses over the years and eventually fell into a state of disrepair and was abandoned. In the 1990s, it was bought by the government of the Cayman Islands and restored. If you're into history, it's an interesting site to explore.
Pedro St. James National Historic Site
The house was designed to take advantage of its coastal location, with a series of louvered shutters and doors that can be opened to bring cool winds in when the weather is nice and then closed to provide protection from storms.
Grand Cayman cafe
Here's a cute little Caymanian cafe that we had lunch at one day. I loved the high ceilings and the bright colors, but the truth is we were only inside the restaurant long enough to snap a couple pictures and ask to get a table on the patio (because it was a beautiful, sunny, 85 degree day in the Caymans, and it was snowing back home).
Cemetery Beach
I took this photo one day when we were walking down Seven Mile Beach. The site of a cemetery there -- on some of the island's most valuable real estate -- seemed odd to me, but we were told the ground further inland is a hard coral limestone that's impossible to dig into, so graves are located seaside by necessity.
Cayman Islands currency
Here's a picture of some Caymanian currency, just because I thought it was delightful.
Owen Roberts International Airport
This was our final stop on Grand Cayman: the Owen Roberts International Airport, which is the most insanely crowded airport I've ever been in. It was literally wall to wall people.

I have hundreds of other pictures, but I'll stop here, before I lose the one or two readers who stuck with the post this far. (Your welcome.)

P.S. The Caymans are in the western part of the Caribbean and were not not hit by the hurricanes that devastated the islands in the eastern Caribbean earlier this fall. I heard they had some flooding and damage from a tropical storm this past week, but it sounds like it was relatively minor, so if you're looking for a warm winter or spring vacation destination, the Caymans are open.