Las Vegas – Part II

***Continued from previous post.

{April 4 – 4:50 pm PST – Las Vegas, Nevada}
What a long day! Got up for 8:30 am and met Ryan & Stacey outside our hotel. We walked over to Hooters and ate breakfast at the Mad Onion. Jordan had eggs, bacon, and potatoes; I ordered a breakfast burrito with beans and rice on the side ($25.00 USD including tip). The food was good but I could hardly finish half the burrito.



We walked down the Strip together, popping into souvenir shops along the way. Bought some shot glasses. We also found some black T-shirts with a bride and groom on them and the words “GAME OVER” printed at the top, which the boys bought so that they could wear them to “crash” Chris & Katie’s wedding. Walked all the way down to the Venetian and watched the gondolas for a bit. I spent $14.05 USD in Sephora on some yummy Tuscan blood orange cream and grapefruit body scrub. I love that store! We also went into the Mirage and paid $15.00 USD per person to get into the Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat. There’s a huge pool where dolphins swim around, and then a second pool where the dolphins will do a few tricks and you can pay a small fee to swim with them. After watching the dolphins for a little while, we meandered into the secret garden portion and saw some beautiful cats – lions, a leopard, a panther, and a gorgeous snow white tiger. Before leaving we bought some ice cream to cool ourselves down. I picked out a few items at the gift shop ($13.00 USD).



During the walk back we stepped into the CVS so I could buy the picture frame I had spotted during an earlier visit. The frame was only $7.99 there and I had seen the exact one in other souvenir shops for close to fifteen dollars! Stacey and I also had our picture taken with Superman! 🙂 Then we headed back to the Tropicana, hoping to make it in time for Chris & Katie’s small wedding ceremony. We were not technically invited to the ceremony, only their parents were, but by the time we showed up we had already missed it. The boys wore their “GAME OVER” T-shirts, too. We hung around for a little while until the newly married couple came back from having their photos taken, and then took a few more pictures with them.



{April 4 – 8:45 pm PST – Las Vegas, Nevada}
After saying goodbye to our friends, we went looking for a place to eat dinner on our last night in Las Vegas. Jordan ended up with an expensive slice of pizza from a place in New York New York that he said wasn’t even that great. I bought myself a mocha frappuccino from the Starbucks and sat with him while he ate. We left that place, as none of the restaurants really appealed to me, and ended up at Hard Rock Cafe. I’ve never been to one before. I ordered a pulled chicken sandwich with seasoned fries and Jordan ordered the apple cobbler with a big glass of milk, totaling $30.00 USD (including tip). Not bad, we managed to keep the food cheap!

On our way back down the Strip we went into ROSS and I found a dress that doubles as a skirt for $15.00 USD, a purple Guess handbag for $40.00 USD (normally worth a hundred dollars), and a baby outfit for my nephew. We spent quite a bit of time in that store, browsing. Finally we made it over to the Coca-Cola store so I could buy a magnet for my sister. For a tip, Jordan had a couple photos taken with a guy dressed up as a character from his favourite video game, Halo.



Now we’re calling it a night. We’re being picked up by the shuttle at 6:15 am tomorrow and I know we’ll be dead tired if we stay out any later. I can’t believe how much fun I had here and I regret that we can’t stay a few extra days. We never even reached the end of the Strip! Maybe another time? Well, time to pack!

***End of journal.

A few hiccups on the way home. When we reached the airport we were informed that the computers were all down and there was a HUGE line-up, all the way outside the doors. We were very lucky that we arrived early, because many people missed their flights. We made ours just in time. Stop-over in Chicago, and then home sweet home!

Las Vegas – Part I

After our trip to Jamaica in February, we hadn’t planned on taking any more vacations for quite some time. However, a good friend of Jordan’s planned to get married in Las Vegas during the first week of April. His friend, Chris, had mentioned to a bunch of their buddies that everyone would be welcome to come out for a good time in Vegas. After some thought, we decided that Las Vegas sounded like fun and we might as well go since we had the opportunity! Neither of us had any interest in gambling, which was one of the reasons why I initially didn’t want to go, but some research on TripAdvisor convinced me that we could still have a good time exploring The Strip and hanging out with our friends.

This decision came at the end of February when I noticed the decent price for a WestJet package, flying Toronto to Las Vegas, and staying at the newly renovated Tropicana Las Vegas resort. It was right in our budget. Unfortunately, by the time Jordan’s leave pass was signed and given back to him, it was a few days into March and the great price I had noticed jumped up $600. We were almost unable to go due to that huge increase in price, but my travel agent was able to book us flights and the same hotel for only a hundred dollars more than the February WestJet package. We ended up on a Continental flight from Toronto / Dallas / Las Vegas and an American Airlines flight Las Vegas / Chicago / Toronto. In one months’ time I was able to scrape together $500 spending money for the both of us as long as we didn’t gamble.

So here is my journal from our April adventure in Las Vegas, Nevada!



{April 1 – 2:15 pm EST – Toronto Pearson Airport}
We left the house this morning just before 9 am so we could first stop at the bank to withdraw cash and exchange it for US dollars. Arrived at the Economy Park n’ Fly close to noon and caught the shuttle to airport. Easy check-in with Continental Airlines and security was fairly quick for myself. Jordan was given a pat-down and then security went over his backpack and laptop with a fine-tooth comb. Had a quick but expensive bite to eat: chicken wings, two beer, fries, club sandwich for $35 CAD (MasterCard). Now we are waiting at our gate after having been informed that our flight to Dallas has been delayed by two hours, which will cause us to miss our connecting flight. Luckily I was the first person to run up to the counter and explain our situation, and the nice lady changed our connecting flight to a later one.



{April 2 – 9:00 am PST – Las Vegas, Nevada}
What a looooong day yesterday was. We barely made our connecting flight in Dallas. Once off the plane we literally ran for the Skylink monorail to get to gate A39 from D, and just caught the last of the boarding line! The flight was smooth but Jordan and I didn’t have seats next to each other. Arrived in Sin City at 8:30 pm Pacific Standard Time. Grabbed my bag from the carousel and went to inspect the long line for a taxi. Decided it wasn’t worth the wait and bought tickets instead for the shuttle bus ($24 USD round-trip for the both of us). While we waited for the bus, Jordan bought a $3 USD bottle of Dr. Pepper from a vending machine. After a very long wait we boarded the shuttle and were the first to be dropped off! I was so happy to finally be here, but very exhausted with a bit of a headache from the flight.



Our friends, Ryan & Stacey (not the ones getting married), were waiting for us in the Tropicana lobby. They stayed at the Luxor and had arrived the day before us. We checked in, took the elevator to our floor in the Paradise Tower, dropped off luggage, and inspected our room. Very large and spacious, everything was fresh and new. The whole place smells like coconut suntan oil, which is neat. Ryan & Stacey convinced us not to go to bed yet but to walk some of The Strip with them so they could show us around. First we walked over to MGM Grand to get a frozen drink from Fat Tuesdays: $12 USD for a tall peach bellini slushie alcoholic drink. So good! I was starving so we grabbed a meal at Wendy’s for a very late dinner. Then walked over to the Bellagio to watch the spectacular fountain show! At long last we made it to bed by 1 am PST (4 am EST). Now we’re up and getting ready for our first breakfast in Vegas and a trip to Hoover Dam with Ryan & Stacey!



{April 2 – 8:00 pm PST – Las Vegas, Nevada}
Ryan rented a red Cobalt from Tropicana. We drove to the Premium Outlets mall and shopped there after breakfast. First we went into the IHOP but the line was really long, so we decided to skip that and walk over to “Dunkin’ Donuts” for food. Jordan and I spent under $10 USD on our food. At the mall I spent $70 USD on a pair of dirt biking gloves and a pair of jeans for myself at the Fox Racing apparel store. At the huge Skechers store I got a pair of sandals for myself and another pair for Jordan ($100 USD). We spent most of our time in those two stores or looking at luggage; there wasn’t anything else of interest to the four of us. Grabbed an iced tea and Gatorade from the “Dunkin’ Donuts” kiosk ($3.88 USD) before hitting the road. Stopped at Carter Powersports for awhile to look at bikes. Jordan bought me a chest guard and elbow pads for $190 USD, but he didn’t find anything for himself.



Finally, we reached the Hoover Dam! Parked in a free area, then walked down. Amazing views and we took plenty of photos. Beautiful day, windy, but humid compared to being in Las Vegas. I bought some postcards at a gift shop. We ate lunch at “High Scaler Cafe”: $21.35 USD for my chicken wrap with fries, and Jordan’s chicken fingers with fries, plus a large fountain pop. After eating we walked slowly back up the hills to where we’d parked the car.



We stopped at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on our way back to the hotel but it was very crowded. Instead, Stacey and I snapped some pictures from the vehicle. Dropped off the rental car, put our purchases in our room, and then headed over to the Luxor to see their room and hotel. The hotel is shaped like a pyramid and the windows in the room are slanted on an angle; it’s pretty neat! I found the hotel a little shabby though. We got frozen drinks at “Evening Call” in the Luxor. Jordan and I both got the passion berry flavour called “Call Girlz” ($7.00 USD for 17 oz and $11.00 USD for 25 oz). From there we walked leisurely through to Mandalay Bay, intending to visit the aquarium and shark reef but then we realized we can’t take the beverages inside.

Getting ready to see Cirque du Soleil’s “KA” tonight! I hope I can stay awake; I’m exhausted!



{April 3 – 3:30 pm PST – Las Vegas, Nevada}
Met up with Ryan & Stacey at our seats in the KA theatre at MGM Grande last night. This particular Cirque show has a storyline and I’m still not sure if I liked it or not. There was plenty of acrobatics, but it didn’t really “feel” like a Cirque show, if that makes sense. Some of the scenes were pretty cool but I did fall asleep a few times. I wonder if maybe I was just too exhausted to be able to enjoy it?

This morning Jordan and I left the hotel around 9:00 am and walked up the Strip on the New York New York side and made it as far as Caesar’s Forum Shoppes. Bought some water, chocolate bars, and a Vegas calendar at the CVS, a magnet for my friend Stacey back home, and some other souvenirs (all for under $12.00 USD). Browsed around the Crystals shopping centre; the stores are very upscale. Popped into the Cosmopolitan for a look around. Admired the beautiful ceiling of blown glass flowers in the Bellagio lobby, and wandered through the butterfly-themed courtyard.



We ate lunch at The Cheesecake Factory in Caesar’s Forum Shoppes, which was a recommended affordable place to eat that I read about on TripAdvisor. I ordered a delicious smokehouse BBQ burger with fries, Jordan had a pizza and beer, for $35.00 USD (including tip). While walking back to our hotel after lunch, Jordan was asked for money by a guy on the street. He offered the guy his beer instead, which he took with thanks. We’re going to head over to the lion habitat at MGM Grande in a bit, to meet up with a few people.



{April 3 – 10:00 pm PST – Las Vegas, Nevada}
Met up with our friends Ryan & Stacey and Chris & Katie (the couple getting married) around 4:00 pm at the MGM Grande’s lion habitat. We waited and waited to see the lions fed but nothing happened, so we left after taking a few photos. At one point Jordan asked me to hold his drink and as soon as I took it from him a security guard came over and asked for my I.D. Almost 29 years old and he thinks I’m underage. We left and wandered over to the Luxor to show Chris & Katie around. Headed over to Mandalay Bay and paid $16.95 USD per person to get into the aquarium and shark reef. It was neat to see but my camera battery died; I ended up taking some pictures with Jordan’s camera but it didn’t do a great job, unfortunately. Stacey had a headache so she and Ryan returned to their room while the remaining four of us walked over to New York New York. Jordan, Chris, and Katie wanted to go on the roller coaster. The ride costs $14.00 USD. Jordan said it’s not worth the price itself, but it was cool to go on the ride.



Jordan and I returned to our hotel afterward to change footwear and grab a sweater. The days are warm and windy and the nights are cool and windy! Walked over to M&M’s World and wandered around the store but didn’t end up buying anything. Checked out the Coca-Cola store as well, and bought my sister a Coke magnet. We ate dinner at Denny’s, trying to keep things cheap: appetizer platter and a chocolate milkshake for $13.00 USD (including tip). So tired, it’s time for bed!

***Continued in next post.

Jamaica – Part II

***Continued from previous post.

{February 9 – 6:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
Dragged myself out of bed at 5 am to shower, get dressed, and pack my beach bag with towels, cash, and sunscreen. We were in the lobby by 6 am, just on time to be picked up for our trip to the Blue Mountains. No time for breakfast, just a granola bar. Dark outside and we’re the first ones on the bus; turns out the driver made a special trip to pick us up. When we first tried to book the trip, the Jamaican Tours agent said there weren’t enough people wanting to go (meaning, in Montego Bay) so we would have to try for another day. But because we showed such an interest in this bicycling tour, she called the tour company again and they agreed to have us picked up. Anyway, we picked up more people in Ocho Rios and Runaway Bay, then headed all the way across the island to the Blue Mountains. We drove for hours, past lush banana and papaya plantations.



First we stopped somewhere for a quick brunch of toast, eggs, juice, and rolls. I really have no idea where we were. But then we hopped back onto the bus and drove up some pretty crazy winding roads to get to the top. Endless photo opportunities through the window. Absolutely breath-taking landscape. Once at the top everybody picked out a bike and were given a helmet, elbow protectors, and knee pads for safety. We were told we were not allowed to bike down the mountain without wearing them. Now I must mention that there was a Belgian family with our group, a mother, father, and daughter, and they caused some trouble when we first picked them up. Apparently they didn’t have their tickets (ie. proof of purchase) for the tour and weren’t going to be allowed on the bus. They delayed us quite a bit and finally were allowed to come. They were very loud during the ride. Now that we had our bikes and were ready to go, they put up a huge fuss over wearing the safety gear. Oh. My. God. I could not believe how annoying they were being; all I could think was “Just put the stuff on and let’s go already!” But they finally got their way and didn’t have to wear the knee and elbow pads. Idiots.



Anyway, we were finally on our way! A pretty smooth ride all the way down, some bumps and ruts, but lovely weather for biking and taking in our surroundings. There were special “check points” where our guides had the group stop and they spoke about the region and pointed out local flora and fauna. We inspected a primary school, tasted Blue Mountain coffee brewed outside in a large iron pot, and ate slices of grapefruit one of the guides picked off a tree by the side of the road. We were shown different leaves and herbs that are used to brew into a tea that, after drinking for a couple days, removes all traces of marijuana from one’s bloodstream so that the person can visit a doctor and not be caught with the drug in their system. At the bottom of the trail we got back on our bus and visited a nearby waterfall. By now it was cooler and I didn’t want to swim, but Jordan was the first into the water! He almost lost his glasses, too. There was also a beer-drinking contest that Jordan and two others volunteered for. Afterward, tipped the tour guide $250J and the driver $300J (approx $3.50 USD).



{February 9 – 8:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
Just got back from dinner and some shopping. Delicious pasta for dinner at “Little River”. I am addicted to this dish. So far there hasn’t been much opportunity for me to shop. I brought money to spend and I was determined to spend it all before leaving. So after dinner we visited the hotel shop and I ended up spending about $75 USD on a beautiful sundress, a blue “Jamaica” T-shirt, photo frame, two postcards, and a gorgeous pink tote bag.

{February 10 – 10:15 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
First thing after breakfast, we went down and signed out one of the catamarans since it’s such a gorgeous day. However, not much wind so we didn’t get very far, just kinda floated around and enjoyed the solitude and sunshine. The sky was so blue and hardly any clouds at all. We were allowed to sail for an hour for free but got bored after half an hour of hardly any movement so we returned the catamaran and found ourselves some chairs on the beach. Jordan joined a game of volleyball, which didn’t last long because there were only a few players, and then we went for a dip in the water. Lazy, relaxing day. Later, we visited the craft stalls just off the property, along the beach, and bought some beaded bracelets, necklaces, and a couple shot glasses ($15 USD).



At four o’ clock we hopped on the free shuttle to “Rose Hall Shoppes” and wandered around there for awhile. There was a Scotiabank ATM there, even though two workers at the hotel said there wasn’t, so I used that to get out some cash without having to pay any fee. Bought some cool magnets, a black tote bag for my sister ($12 USD), etc.
Took some photos of me in my new sundress by the picturesque waterwheel. Back at the hotel, picked up two more bags of Blue Mountain coffee from the store, plus some Jamaican vanilla extract with cardamon ($30 USD). Also found a ladies Fossil watch that I actually liked, so purchased that as well for $85 USD (I’m so picky with watches). Ate dinner at “Jambalaya”, the Cajun restaurant, at 9 pm, but because we had a quick bite to eat before going to the “Shoppes”, we were not overly hungry. The food was just alright, nothing spectacular.


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{February 11 – 7:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
Yet another fun and adventurous day on our final day on this beautiful island! We ate an early breakfast of fried eggs and then met in the lobby for 7:45 am. First off, an extremely bumpy ride out of Montego Bay to the south coast to Black River. Small group, only five of us and all Canadians, so we introduced ourselves and chatted during the ride. Once at the Black River crocodile safari, we piled onto a boat with some others. Black River is the country’s longest navigable river. Our guide pointed out egrets, herons, osprey, fish, mangroves, and five different crocodiles. For each one he brought the boat as close as possible. He explained that during the day the crocodiles are docile; it’s only at night that they are dangerous because it’s hunting time for them. We learned that the river is called Black River because the water looks a dark sludgy brown or black. But if you fill a water bottle with the river water, it’s perfectly clear. After that lovely, hot boat ride we ate lunch right in the open-air buiding: jerk chicken, rice, pork & beans (too spicy), and cole slaw.



Another winding, heart-jarring bumpy ride 30 minutes away to famous YS Falls. Hopped on a tractor that pulled us in a sort of trailer with bench seats that took us from the main building where the souvenirs are to the park where the falls are located. Got bit by mosquitoes! We were allowed to go off on our own and explore, as long as we met back at a certain time. The falls kind of rise at different levels and at each level there are pools that you can swim in. At one level there is a rope swing that Jordan jumped off a couple times. Everything was so beautiful, but there were also a lot of people. Took lots of photos, of course.



When we got back, we ate a hamburger at “Uncle Tony’s” and then walked down to the sister resort, Iberostar Rose Hall Suites. Wandered around their shops, which are a lot better than our measly two stores. Collected some final souvenirs: postcards and magnets ($11 USD). Now we are back at the resort. Suitcases are stuffed to the gills! We need to be ready to go at 10:45 am tomorrow (Saturday). Goodbye Jamaica!



***End of journal.

Getting through security when leaving the island is just as much a pain as arriving. Had to remove all excess sweaters/shirts and even shoes (that’s the first time I’ve ever been asked to take off my shoes at an airport). Regardless of those inconveniences, what an amazing trip! When I look back on our trip now, I’m so happy that we did more than just lounge around the resort. There was so much to do and see on the island! I think my favourite thing to do was climbing Dunn’s River Falls and bicycling down the Blue Mountains. For me, those activities were adventurous.

Jamaica – Part I

Jamaica, my first trip to the Caribbean! I really needed a break from work and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to go. After Europe in October, we didn’t think we would go on another vacation for awhile, considering the expense, but Jordan wanted to go somewhere after returning from his deployment. He knew he would have extra leave time to use in February so we chose a week in that month. I requested the time off work, and then started researching which Caribbean island to visit. Even though I would have loved to go to the Dominican Republic, Jordan specifically said anywhere but there. Since he was in Haiti last January as part of the DART team, he claims he has no desire to visit that island any time soon. Maybe another time I’ll convince him!

So my search led me to the lovely island of Jamaica. And once I’d decided on the destination, I hopped onto TripAdvisor and started sifting through all-inclusive resort listings. After reading a bunch of reviews and asking some questions on the TA forums, I picked out the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Resort as the place to stay. I sent off an email to the travel agent who set up our Europe trip and she booked the Westjet package for us: Ottawa departure to Montego Bay, February 5-11th, 2011.

For spending money we brought some US dollars, but I had the majority of my cash turned into Jamaican dollars (represented as “J”). Most places will accept either currency. For tipping, we used either $1.00 USD or $100J. All the vendors would give us US prices and then I’d have to ask what that would be in Jamaican dollars. I think if we were to go again, I’d just stick with US dollars.

Jamaica is in the same time zone as Ontario, and the electrical outlets accept our plugs. Anyway, here is my journal from our fabulous stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica!

{February 5 – 9:10 am EST – Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier Airport}
Yesterday I worked until 4:30 pm and then rushed home to finish packing the rest of our – meaning Jordan’s – luggage. He stuffed everything into one carry-on bag, whereas I had packed a large suitcase and a carry-on. I never know what I want to wear, I’m terrible at packing light. Made egg-fried rice for a quick dinner. We locked up the house and headed to Ottawa sometime after 6 o’ clock and found our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, by 9 pm. Checked in, paid for a parking permit for the week, then went up to our room. Comfortable king bed and spacious room. Changed into our swimsuits and took a dip in the indoor pool. I hung out in the hot tub because I didn’t think the pool water was very warm. Went to bed sometime after 10:00 pm, knowing we had to be up extra early the next morning.



Woke up at 4:30 am this morning to have a quick shower and dress. Down to the lobby for 5:50 am to catch the free shuttle to the airport. Jordan grabbed a green tea to go. Once at the airport we checked in and then sat down for breakfast at one of the restaurants – fried eggs, bacon, toast, and potatoes, way too much food for that early in the morning. Found our gate and boarded just after 8:30 am. Sitting here on the Westjet plane, with nothing but a packet of Bits & Bites to eat and something to drink. Nothing on this flight, other than tiny snacks and beverages, is free, not even movies to pass the time. While I read a book, Jordan watched something on his Netbook.

{February 5 – Noon – Over the Bahamas}
Flying over the Bahamas! Took some photos. Wow, looks so beautiful from the sky. So much green and blue. Soon we’ll be flying over Cuba!



{February 5 – 7:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
We landed fifteen minutes early and spent almost one and a half hours in line to get through Customs. Heat not that bad; air-conditioning in the building made it bearable. By the time we got through that line, everyone’s luggage had been taken off the belts and piled on the floor – Jordan had to sift through everything to find my bag. Left that room and found the Jamaican Tours booth to collect our passes for the hotel transfer. We boarded the proper bus and the driver told us some information about the island. A few clouds in the blue sky, warm but with a nice breeze. We arrived at the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Resort just before 4 pm and checked in quickly. We were given a cold drink during check-in; I don’t know what it is but it certainly tasted tropical! Our room is on the same floor as the huge lobby, but far enough away that we can’t hear any noise. To us it was the perfect location, because we didn’t have to walk very far for food or to get to the pool.



Decided to stroll around the grounds to get our bearings. The hotel provided us with a map that showed all the restaurants and listed the times that food is available at each one. Grabbed a hamburger and fries at the beach buffet, “Uncle Tony’s”. While we ate we watched a wedding take place on the beach. After eating we walked up to the lobby and made a reservation for 9 pm at the Japanese à la carte restaurant called “Samurai”. I’ve never eaten Japanese food before so this will be a new experience for me.

{February 6 – 10:10 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
The “Samurai” restaurant last night was cool. The food was cooked in front of us while the chef put on a show of tossing his cooking utensils. To start we were served sushi rolls, then our choice of soup, and finally teppanyaki with fried rice. The fried rice was delicious and for the teppanyaki I ordered beef and chicken, and Jordan had the salmon and octopus. Jordan had some desserts but they all looked like they were made of gelatin so I stayed clear.



Today we woke up early to eat breakfast at the indoor buffet, “Little River”. After sampling a bunch of different breads, fruits, cheese, and fried eggs, we headed inside to the lobby for a briefing with our Jamaican Tours representative at 10 am. We booked a trip to Dunn’s River Falls for Monday (tomorrow), costing $65 USD per person (on AMEX). Returned to our room to change into swimwear and then descended on the pool! I expected it to be much warmer, but brrr it was cold! The breeze certainly didn’t help. We went to the swim-up bar and ordered a couple drinks and then proceeded to shiver and drink cold cocktails. I decided I was not a fan of the cold water and climbed out and instead we lounged on the beach and soaked up the rays. There were no chairs available at the pool but plenty on the beach. There’s lots of natural foliage on the beach for shade if you’re not able to find a palapa.



Ate dinner at “Little River” in the air-conditioning. There is so much to choose from for food. I am in love with the pasta with cream sauce that is cooked right in front of you. Still wearing long sleeved shirts. Later, at the lobby bar, I had a frozen strawberry margarita and Jordan drank a mojito. The Super Bowl is happening in the Calypso Theatre but we’re not interested in watching football. Getting late so we’re heading to bed.

{February 7 – 6:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
Today’s tour was a trip to Ocho Rios for shopping at a centre called “Taj Mahal” and then to a craft market. Bought some Blue Mountain coffee ($12 USD) at one of the shops, as well as a couple postcards, a keychain, and a country patch for a total of $25 USD (including the coffee). At another shop I spent $15 USD on a beautiful frame and 2 more keychains for a couple people at work. At the craft market, the people were very pushy, which I did not enjoy, and I only ended up buying one item – a pink waterproof zippered pouch for carrying money ($4 USD).



After shopping, and making friends with the ladies on our tour bus, we drove to the “Ruins at the Falls” restaurant where we had to each pay $15 USD for lunch buffet. I thought that lunch was included in the tour price, but apparently it wasn’t. The food was alright but definitely not worth what we paid. After eating there we headed over to Dunn’s River Falls and walked through the parking lot in our skimpy swimsuits to get our tickets. We had to leave everything on the bus, even towels. Our tour guide even said to leave glasses behind but I wore mine anyway, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to see to climb the falls! A nice lady gave me a string to wear around my neck that attached to the glasses so that I wouldn’t lose them. Finally we were brought to our guide and walked down the beach, and then we all linked hands and started climbing! It was exhilarating and the water was very cold but after awhile you don’t even feel the cold. We brought along Jordan’s waterproof camera and there were plenty of opportunities to take pictures. I had a lot of fun during this part of the tour!



When we returned to the hotel, exhausted, Jordan and I ate dinner at “Little River” and we were back in our room by nightfall. Watched some television and fell asleep.

{February 8 – Noon – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
This morning we ate breakfast and then booked a dinner reservation for “Uncle Tony’s Steakhouse” for 9 pm tonight. Also booked the Cajun restaurant for Thursday at 9 pm and some other fun activities to keep us on the go! Excursion for Wednesday (Feb 9): full-day Blue Mountain bicycle tour, $157 USD per person (on AMEX). Excursion for Friday (Feb 11): Black River safari to see crocodiles and a visit to YS Falls, $88 USD per person (on VISA). Wanted to go sailing after completing these bookings but winds are too fast right now and we were asked to try back later.



{February 8 – 10:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
Still couldn’t sail due to high winds. For a day that started out as the warmest so far, it turned chilly and rainy pretty quickly. We went for a walk along the beach all the way to the Grand grounds and back, even though it rained a bit on us. Ate dinner at the steakhouse. Buffet selection not that great but the onion rings, pork chops, and potatoes were delicious! Wake-up call set for 5 am tomorrow morning as we need to be in the lobby by 6 am!

***Continued in next post.

Europe – Part VI

***Continued from previous post.

{October 20 – 9:11 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Still not feeling well, big surprize. Couldn’t get up for the alarm and ended up sleeping til 10 am. Before heading out for lunch we went down to the lobby and I asked if there was any store nearby that I could buy cold medication from. The lady said to try “D.A.” since I would need a prescription to visit a pharmacy. So we went there and got some Kleenex packs and some cold medication. The store didn’t have anything like Advil or Tylenol and the lady there gave me some medication with Dutch all over the label and she explained to take a couple pills every hour.

Found lunch at “Small Talk”. I had a cheese omelet with toast and black tea while Jordan had fried eggs with toast and a cappuccino. Can’t remember how much it cost. While we were waiting for the food it started to rain and a bunch of people surged into the restaurant. After eating we hopped on a tram to Centraal Station (to get out of the rain) and bought two train tickets to Sittard, for tomorrow. Tickets cost 44€ total and would get us to Sittard before 4:30 pm, just in time to be picked up by Tyler & Tammy. Then we boarded the #9 tram, got off at Plantage Middenlaan, and walked to Hortus Botanicus. Entrance fee of 7.50€ per person. It was a little disappointing because I expected to see more flowers, but there was a butterfly conservatory and a cactus greenhouse, etc.



After spending some time there, we walked from the Plantage district to the Heineken Experience building. Even if you don’t like Heineken, or beer for that matter, it was still cool to go through the tour for 15€ per person (on VISA again). Kind of neat to see the process of how it’s all made. Myself, definitely not a Heineken fan, but we’re in The Netherlands! We had a sample partway through and then at the end of the tour we could use the buttons on our wristbands to trade for two more drinks. I kind of hurried us out of there since I was feeling pretty awful and was getting a pounding headache. Too cold out to do anything else, and getting late, so we returned to the hotel and sent Tammy a message to let her know what time we’d be arriving tomorrow. There’s still so much that I wish we could have seen, and I regret not getting to Leiden, but with our limited time and illness it is just not possible.



For our final dinner in Holland we ended up at “Mezzaluna” for pizza and pasta. Unfortunately I couldn’t taste my food, nor smell it, but it looked tasty. Add in green tea and a hot chocolate and the meal came to 23€. Now back to our room to rest and take some more drugs, which aren’t working very well. Why is there no Advil Cold & Sinus here?!

{October 21 – 11:50 pm – Tüddern, Germany}
Woke up to the alarm at 8 am to start packing. Now I have one small suitcase, my purse, the Salzburg bag, and the Amsterdam bag, plus Jordan’s suitcase, all crammed with stuff. Yikes! At 10:45 am we went over to the bakery for a sandwich, cookie, and apple turnover (7.10€). I ate half the sandwich, Jordan had the cookie, and we packed away the food. Checked out a little before noon. Hopped on the #2 tram to Centraal Station and boarded the 12:38 pm Eindhoven train rather than the 1:38 pm due to a very tight transfer schedule between trains. We figured that, if we did happen to miss our connecting train, we wouldn’t be late for Tyler & Tammy. At Eindhoven we got on the bus to Weert, and then took the final train from Weert to Sittard (still in The Netherlands), arriving at 3:18 pm. Waited inside in the warmth til 4:45 pm for our ride. Long day, but it felt great to be back at our friends’ home. Later that evening we ordered food to be delivered: pizza, fries, and schnitzel. Didn’t eat much as I still was not feeling well. We watched “The Hangover” and then I took some Nyquil (yes, REAL drugs!) and fell asleep.

{October 22 – 11:12 pm – Tüddern, Germany}
This morning I was still sick so I decided to not accompany Tyler and Jordan to the Düsseldorf Airport. I had a granola bar and apple turnover for breakfast, and some water. My nose is sore. Jordan and I have our suitcases packed, finally. Tyler picked him up before lunch and left for the airport. Even though Jordan and I are parting today, with him heading back to work in the Middle East, I’m glad to be going home tomorrow. I had a nap from 1:30 to 3:30 pm and ate leftover pizza for dinner. Tammy and I watched the new “Robin Hood” movie and then I went to bed. Coughed all night.



{October 23 – 10:30 am – Tüddern, Germany}
We leave in an hour for the airport. I made myself some tea with sugar and peanut butter on toast for breakfast. Trying to stay away from milk, as that makes my cough worse. I have no idea how I am going to handle the two plane rides home in my state. My ears are plugged and I can hardly breathe. I should be in Toronto by 8:15 pm tonight, then a looooong drive home!

{October 23 – 3 pm EST – Somewhere Over Atlantic Ocean}
Tyler & Tammy drove me to Düsseldorf Airport. Before checking in I thanked them profusely for allowing us to stay with them. Got my boarding passes. The first flight to Amsterdam was only 30 minutes on a little plane. Once in Amsterdam, I found my gate after passport control. I’m on my way home! What an amazing trip!

***End of journal.

Made it home in one piece. The last flight home was great, no turbulence, however my plugged ears caused a lot of pain on the descent to Toronto Pearson Airport. Such excruciating pain, I don’t know how I stood it. During the flight I kept myself pumped with cold medication, otherwise I got coughing and couldn’t stop. Home sweet home.