Saturday, January 24, 2015

Arriving in Jamaica...

After an adventurous Thursday evening playing plumber at home, we were up bright and early on Friday morning to catch a flight to Miami.  I still wasn't 100% sure where we were going as we arrived at Dulles Airport.  My best guess was still Montego Bay based on Nick's hints that we were going to a bay, it was beachy, and it would be warm.  

When we checked in at the kiosk at Dulles, it printed out boarding passes to Miami and... to Jamaica!!!  Nick had to admit he didn't think that I would guess it as quickly as I did.  

Our first flight to Miami was quick.  We got to our connecting gate and waited.  Apparently, catering was taking their sweet time loading the soda cans onto our flight to Jamaica.  So, we waited and waited for about 45 extra minutes until the flight started to board.  We got on the plane and settled in as we noticed that no one else was getting on the flight.  Never a good sign.  The news didn't get better when the pilot came on to announce that they had stopped boarding the plane because of a "computer error" and that a maintenance crew was coming out to check out the airplane.

NOOOOOOOOOO!!  Cue Jenn panicking as I made Nick start googling other flight options to Jamaica.  In the worst case scenario, at least we had gotten as far as Miami.  I could lay on their beach all weekend???

However, the panic was short-lived as all of a sudden, more people started boarding the plane again.  We never got an explanation for the delay,  but it must not have been anything significant.  We lifted off about an hour late, but we were finally on our way to Jamaica!!

We loved Jamaica's airport process vs some of the other Caribbean islands that we have visited (I'm looking at you, Bahamas!).  They had lots of kiosks where you could scan your passport, obtain a very scary photo of yourself, and proceed to your luggage.  The whole process from getting off the plane to getting in a taxi took about 20-30 minutes (vs the 90 minutes to 2 hours in the Bahamas).  

The ride to the resort was about 30-40 minutes due to Friday afternoon traffic on the island.  And then we arrived at our resort... Secrets St. James Montego Bay.  The resort included two hotels combined into one large property since we also had access to all the amenities at the neighboring Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay.  The location was amazing as the property jetted out on a peninsula into the bay so we were surrounded by water all the time and the views were amazing.  Also amazing - adults only!  

Image courtesy of Secrets Resort website

Check-in at the resort was a tad bit of a pain-in-the-you-know-what as they demanded that Nick find the reservation on his phone and email it to them, even though he had booked the room months ago and they had our room/keys ready for us.  I asked what would happen if he couldn't find the email (as he continued to search and scroll through his phone for several minutes) and I never really got a straight answer.  Thankfully they placated me with a mimosa as I sat there while Nick continued to search his gmail account.  Eventually they admitted that they needed the email because the room was booked through a third party and they needed the confirmation to get something (I'm assuming money!) from that third party vendor.

FINALLY... we got escorted up to our room.  I stepped out on the balcony, spotted the gorgeous beach, the clear blue water, and went right back into the room to unzip the luggage.  Within 4 minutes, I was changed into a bathing suit and ready to go!  Within 5 minutes, I was raiding the all-inclusive mini bar in our room.  Within 6 minutes, I was relaxing on the beach...

Tastes like Jamaica!

From leaving our bed to my lounge chair, total travel time was about 10-11 hours, including cabs, flights, layover in Miami, flight delay, check-in, etc.  It was finally time to RELAX!  Nothing says relaxing like a beach waitress, a lounge chair, and the sound of waves at your feet!

His, hers and our view for the afternoon

I loved the western view of the mountains in the distance.  It actually reminded me a bit of the French Polynesian island of Moorea, where we spent part of our honeymoon back in 2009.  As the sun started to set, we decided to abandon our beach and explore the rest of the resort a bit.  

We quickly found one of our favorite spots to watch the sunset.  The resort placed these double Adirondack chairs all over the property - they were the perfect place to relax!

Gotta love those views!

We kept walking around the property and discovered "our spot."  It instantly became that place that we had to visit every evening at sunset.  It had everything - water views, green grass, the piano bar, the restaurants, palm trees, etc.  The piano bar had both inside and outside seating and live music seemed to be playing all evening long.  We grabbed a drink and watched the sun set over the bay and the mountains.

L - The piano bar
R - Outside seating at the piano bar with the bay/mountains in the backdrop and a live band setting up for the evening entertainment

Nick checking out the sunset

No lie - we were the last people in our bathing suits on the property that evening!  We hung out at "our spot" long after the sun set.  Soon enough, the property came alive again with people heading to dinner at all the surrounding restaurants.  Nick and I agreed that this area of the resort was by far the best place to hang out.  The smells from the restaurants were fabulous.  The bands were great.  The bar mixed up strong drinks and we had amazing views of the water and mountains.  

One of the restaurants to the left and the piano bar to the right

We decided that we needed to head back to the room to clean up and get ready for dinner.  We passed another beautiful seaside/poolside restaurant on our way back to the room...

We had lots of different restaurant options on property, so we decided to check out the the farm-to-table restaurant for night #1.  There's nothing like sitting outside eating dinner on a warm and humid night, especially when it's winter back home.  We most definitely spent some more time at the piano bar for post-dinner cocktails until we called a very long day to an end.  Nick predicted I would be up at dawn to enjoy every minute at the beach...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Twas the Night Before a Trip....

Twas the night before Nick and I were scheduled to leave on a trip and we should have been sound asleep, but... there's always an adventure at our house!

For my birthday in December, Nick teased me with a future mystery trip to an unknown location for the MLK holiday weekend.  He had me take off Friday from work and gave me few details, except that we were headed out to "a bay."  The Type-A personality in me has been tortured for the past month wondering where we would be going.  But, since I kidnapped Nick to New Orleans for his 35th birthday, I couldn't complain too much.  So, I submitted my leave slip for a day off from work and waited for more details about the trip.

On Thursday evening, I ran out to get a pedicure after getting a clue that we would be going somewhere "beachy" and that I needed my passport for the trip.  Mimi arrived on Thursday night and helped to entertain Georgia while Nick and I packed (aka - Nick packed and I mimicked his outfits with similar clothes).  Nick had previously ran down to the storage area in the basement to grab suitcases earlier in the evening.  I realized that our sunscreen was down in the storage area too, so I went back down and realized that one area of the cement floor seemed discolored and darker.  Since I was barefoot, I ran my newly pink (and perfectly manicured toe) over the seam in the floor and discovered that it was slightly damp.  I immediately screamed for Nick in complete and utter panic with two thoughts pounding in my head...

Thought#1 - We've already had a flooded basement and it was absolutely NO FUN, especially since we had just moved into the house and I was on maternity leave with Georgia after her discharge from the NICU.  
Thought#2 - We were approximately 7 hours away from leaving the country!

Within a few minutes, Nick diagnosed the issue... our sump pump wasn't working.  Seriously with the sump pump drama... again?!!  Flood #1 during the summer of 2011 was caused by the sump pump being installed incorrectly by the builders.  

I ran upstairs to call the emergency plumbing number that the builders provided to us.  The lovely lady on the other end guaranteed that someone could come out the following day to look at the problem.  I guaranteed them that Mimi would be here to meet whomever they sent out to the house.  Meanwhile, Nick was doing his best to pry the sump pump cover off to get a better look at the issue and Mimi took Georgia upstairs to work on Operation Bedtime.

Nick decided to try to use the shop vac to drain some of the water out of the hole, but after it filled up after just a few seconds, he realized that it would take forever and we needed a different solution.  So, off to Home Depot he went at 8:55pm while I paced the house and attempted to keep myself busy packing.  At this point, I may have been wandering around the house making statements like, "We can't leave the country if the house is going to flood tomorrow!"  

Did I mention that our plan was to go to bed at 10pm since we were being picked up at 5am by the car service?!?!

Nick text from Home Depot to declare (thankfully) that they were open until 10pm and he was going to buy a new sump pump and install it himself.  Great!  Huh?  Sure!

He got home and was a man on a mission.  He wasn't messing around this time.  He got out the big drill and got that sump pump cover off in record time.  It was not a great sight...

Totally and utterly full

Nick was a machine at this point.  He grabbed the old pump out of there, installed the new one, fired up the saw to cut down some pipe to fit the new pump, and we were back in business.  When he turned on the new pump, it was instant Niagara Falls out back.  The new pump that Nick purchased was a stronger model than the old pump and it immediately got to work.  Nick went out to the back yard to check that the pump was running and you could hear the gushing water as soon as you opened the back door.  It continued to run like that for several hours.

I immediately text a friend - "Always marry an engineer!"  

I was absolutely blown away that Nick knew how to repair the sump pump.  I admit it - impressive.  Who knew my husband was a part-time plumber???  We decided to keep the appointment with the plumber to make sure that everything looked okay the following day.  Nick also immediately ordered a back-up battery system and high water alert alarm for the new pump so we wouldn't be caught off guard again!

So, our 10pm bedtime was completely shot.  After quick showers and shoving our clothes into the suitcases, we finally got to bed right before midnight.  Our 4:30am alarms went off pretty early, but adrenaline kicked in and we were off on our way to Dulles Airport.  

Caffeine inhalation and Nick ordering a battery back up system!

A few hours later it was wheels up to Miami and then off onto our weekend trip to...