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Caribbean Chronicles – Part Five

Published 27/02/2013 by julierkendrick

Sorry for the long gap between posts, loads been happening but anyway to continue the story.

The next day was Barbados. Sam and I had been looking forward to this island especially as we were going to swim with turtles later that morning. My boy was full of confidence now that he had walked underwater with a huge helmet on his head and he couldn’t wait to get going.

The day was blisteringly hot so I ordered Trevor to cover up completely and stay out of the sun as the colour of his body was still reminiscent of an uncooked salmon. We walked into the port terminal and picked up the tour bus which drove us a short way to a 5* catamaran crewed by 5 lively guys. Loud music was played, rum punch was poured and we were off to swim with turtles.  After about an hour the boat stopped and we were issued with snorkel gear and given a quick lesson on how to use it. Then we all gingerly climbed into the perfect blue waters. Having never snorkeled before I found it hard to keep the tube in my mouth and breathe normally without gallons of salty water pouring down my throat. After a while I got the hang of it and happily swam around looking at the beautiful coloured fish, completely different to the ones we had seen in St Maarten.

Trevor snorkeling

Trevor snorkeling

I looked around and saw that Sam had taken to snorkeling like a duck to water (cliche intended). He was swimming next to his dad happily but for those of you who know Sam know that he cannot stop talking, so was constantly spitting out the tube and mouthfuls of water in order to tell us where we should be looking.  The crew had also jumped in the water and was throwing out bits of bread and before we knew it we were surrounded by huge sea turtles.  They joined us and swam alongside us as if we were all the same species. Occasionally one would bump me and I’d turn to say sorry (as any good Brit would do) before reaching out to stroke his hard shell. We swam for about an hour all told and then be climbed back on board the catamaran. The captain, a craggy faced man called John called Sam up to the helm and let him drive the boat home.  It was a great day, one that Sam will certainly never forget. We had an underwater camera that we used but I have yet to have the photos developed so fingers crossed there will be some great pics for you to see soon.

Captain Sam

Captain Sam

Meeting our new friends for pre-dinner drinks, a great meal and then post dinner drinks was becoming a habit we could fast get used to. Diane had burnt her nose quite badly and endured constant teasing from me about the lovely scab and when we had our photo taken at the meal I promised I would buy the picture just so I could have a lasting memory of her hooter for future amusement.  Everyone seemed to be miffed that for some reason I was the only one going brown while everyone else turned varying shades of pink. In fact, in the photos we have commented that it looked like I have been on the cruise for months while they had only just joined.

Me looking tanned with Diane and Zoe not so much.

Me looking tanned with Diane and Zoe not so much.

That was almost the end of our first week, we just had one day at sea while we sailed back to Puerto Rico to pick up the next lot of cruisers and drop most of the current lot off.  We had decided that we would use this day as a day of rest (ha ha) and to work on our tans. Obviously this was to include copious amount of cherry rum and cocktails of the day but that goes without saying by now.

In the afternoon I had my spa appointment. This was an aromatherapy relaxation pod, a half hour treatment in an enclosed pod where you relax and afterwards feel as if you have had 3 hours sleep. Marvellous. I was imagining being taken to a quiet room filled with aromatic oils where beautiful music was being piped through the walls and where I could close my eyes and drift away for a lovely rejuvenating half hour.  However, as seems to have become the norm, I was completely wrong as I was taken down into the gym where a large pod that looked a little like a flight simulator was positioned in the middle of the floor. I was instructed to get in and then it was closed, albeit my head was sticking out the end. Then after 5 minutes of trying to find the right button to press the instructor flashed me a blindingly white smile and said, “Now Mrs Julie, just relax. I be back soon.” Off he went and the pod burst into life. Well that’s not entirely true. The seat became warm and puffs of hot air were blown up and down my body. There were no gorgeous smells and the pumping of the gym music was all I could hear along with the grunts of over developed males lifting weights the size of cannonballs. Half an hour later, the pod had fizzled out and the instructor was nowhere to be seen. I lay there for a few minutes until boredom started to set in and I started to feel a little foolish with my head hanging out the end of a flight simulator smiling at the gym goers as they passed by.  In the end I called out “Hello” a few times and sure enough, Mr Bleached Teeth released me from my prison. “You, like?” He asked. I didn’t really know what to say so I just nodded and mumbled something incoherent. He seemed happy enough and shook my hand vigorously as I left saying loudly “Thank you Mrs Julie. you come soon back”.

So, week one was over. But fear not my salty friends there is much more fun to be had in week two.

Next time we hit St Thomas and St Kitts where I face yet another fear but this time lose dismally.

Anchors aweigh pirates.

Julie 🙂

Caribbean Chronicles Part Three

Published 16/02/2013 by julierkendrick

First stop St Croix, US Virgin Islands.

After a pretty restless night, sleeping in a new bed in a room that moved I woke up to hear Trevor and Sam chatting on the balcony. Stepping outside I walked into a wall of heat and had my first glimpse of St Croix. Pastel coloured houses nestled into the side of the hills and as I looked along the jetty to the white sandy beach I could see a row of brightly coloured shops and cafés. It was 8.30am and people were already streaming off the boat towards the little town. From my vantage point on deck 10 they really did look like loads of little worker ants.

However, before we joined the throng into St Croix we wanted to explore the ship a little more. 14 decks to be discovered. We had already found the promenade on deck 5 with the shops and eateries and a four piece jazz band constantly performing happy lively music so we ventured further afield, this time to deck 12. 4 jacuzzis, two salt water pools and hundred of sun loungers were situated at the front of this deck. A running track snaked its way round the whole of the top of this (although why anyone would want to run in this heat is beyond me). Deck 13 was accessed by steps leading from the pool deck to, yes another pool deck and hundreds more sun loungers. Even with 3000 people on board you can never feel cramped here. The view was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and it wouldn’t be the last. Vast blue sea, the bluest I could have imagined as far at I could see, meeting the pale blue sky of the horizon. With the sun glistening off the waves, this was paradise.

Paradise

Paradise

Anxious to get into the little town, we changed into shorts and T-shirts and I mentally apologise to the citizens of USVI for my pasty white body desperate for the sun to change its hue.

“Welcome to St Croix”, a security official invited us through a gate into a little square of palm trees, bright colours and Caribbean music. Little trinket shops had Sam reaching for his money to buy his first souvenir. After about half an hour we stopped in a little café for a snack where I was offered an iced blueberry latte. As weird as it sounded it was delicious, like a muffin in a cup. Afterwards we took a little stroll on the beach before it was time to head back to the ship for dinner and evening entertainment.

Sam has been on at us for ages that he wants to eat lobster and luckily for him it was on the menu in our restaurant of choice that night. He did baulk a little when it appeared in front him, eyes and all but to give him his due, he ate it all. Trevor was also relieved as it was the only thing on the menu that cost extra so at least it wasn’t wasted.

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Sam and his lobster

Bellies full we wandered down to deck 3 into the Lyric Theatre where we were shown to our priority seats, definitely the best in the house. We were treated to a fantastic show from the 16 singers and dancers, completely up to Broadway standard and I hankered back to my youth and my time on the stage with envy of these talented performers. Afterwards, weary and sun kissed we went back to our cabin and sank into bed.

The next day we arrived at our second port of call, St Maarten where Trevor informed me that we were going to walk under the sea wearing a huge helmet.  Although I had no idea what he meant, I was looking forward to it. First, though we made a trip off the boat into the tax free shopping centre just on the island. Sam bought a jazzy Caribbean shirt and decided to wear it straight away. Once back on the boat we got changed into our swimming gear, grabbed towels and the underwater camera and off we went.

A short boat ride took us to a catamaran moored just off the shore and we were given a talk by a Canadian guy called Mike. He showed us the huge helmets we would be wearing that weigh 75 pounds. However once in water they become almost weightless. They looked like something an astronaut would wear with a big handle on the top. We would then walk down a ladder off the side of the boat into the sea, 20 feet down where we would then be taken around an underwater trek. I was very excited now as was Trevor. Sam, however was nervous and wasn’t sure he was going to do it. After some encouragement from us he said he would give it a go and the crew said that they would stay with him so that if he wanted to go back up they would take him.

Trevor went first and I followed with Sam by my side, but only two steps down the ladder he panicked and was brought up again. I didn’t want him to worry so I said I’d stay with him but the crew wouldn’t hear of it and assured me that Sam would be fine and that they would convince him to come down.

The helmet was placed over my head onto my shoulders and I started the descent. As soon as I went under I was surrounded by the most beautiful tropical fish that darted around me in shoals, never once bumping into me. 20 feet is a pretty long way down and I had to pop my ears a few times before I reached the bottom where everyone else was waiting. We were standing on a wooden path flanked by a rail to hold on to. As we waited for the rest of the crew to join us I figured Sam had backed out but all of a sudden I saw his little feet descending the ladder holding firmly onto the hand of the girl diver. Both Trevor and I beamed at our little boy and his bravery and the girl handed him over to Trevor but stayed by his side the whole time, just as she had promised.

As we made our way along the trail the crew coaxed various sea life creatures to us and gave them to us to hold if we wanted.  The first thing I held was a huge water spider, something that no one else wanted to touch. It crawled up my arm and felt like sticks poking at me, very strange.  A little further along I put my finger into a sponge which sucked onto it, again a very strange feeling. The next thing I was given was a big sea urchin placed in my palm. The girl diver indicated for me to turn my palm face-down and when I did I felt the urchin’s suckers grip my hand and when it let go I felt the popping of each sucker as it released its hold.

seatrek0012

Sea Urchin

Although Sam didn’t want to touch any of the sea life I was still so proud that he managed to walk the whole trail without panicking and going back up.  Trevor took loads of photos with the underwater camera but we have yet to see if they came out or not.

After an amazing experience we travelled back to the dock by boat and then boarded the ship once again, just in time to change for dinner.

Next time we visit Antigua and St Lucia.

Pip pip me hearties.

Julie 🙂

Caribbean Chronicles Part One

Published 11/02/2013 by julierkendrick

I am sitting on the balcony of our gorgeous suite aboard The Adventure of The Seas watching the shoreline of St Croix, US Virgin Islands slowly receding. I wipe my brow, turned my face toward the gentle tropical breeze and spared a thought for my friends and family back in a snowy UK. Pahahahaha like hell I do. I am enjoying this Mai Tai far too much to sympathise for long.

So, let’s start from the very beginning. We left our house on Friday night to stay in the Holiday Inn at Heathrow in preparation for our flight on Saturday. As excited as we were, we didn’t really expect the journey to be a problem but long haul flights with connections have been an issue for me in the past. (Read Costa Rica Tales for my first hellish journey this way).  We were flying to Miami and connecting to Puerto Rico. Simple? No!

To be honest, the ten hour flight into Miami was fairly pleasant, long but not too painful. The real problem started when we arrived at the gate to disembark. The seat  belt sign flicked off and everyone stood up and struggled to get their hand luggage* out of the overhead lockers elbowing people in the head in their rush. Then we waited and waited and waited a little more. By now people had sat back down and grumbles about missing connecting flights could be heard. After about 20 minutes the captain’s voice came over the tannoy informing us that the ground staff were having trouble connecting the walkway to the door of the plane. I’ve since thought about how that could possibly be. Had our plane shrunk in height during the flight? Were the ground staff incompetent enough to be trying to attach the wrong end? I’ll never know and frankly 45 minutes later no one much cared as we were all making noises about missing our next flights.  As we still had two hours before our plane left I reassured Trevor that all would be fine. Of course I had forgotten about the joy that is immigration.  Eventually the pilot gave up waiting on the ground staff to secure the walkway and moved our plane one gate over where we disembarked 50 minutes after landing.

Lots of the passengers started running to collect their suitcases and continue on their journey but of course we still had plenty of time until our flight…. Yeah, scratch that, we quickly came to a huge long snakelike queue that seemed to be at least two miles long,  to get through immigration and our hearts sank. Like all the other sheep we joined the end and slowly shuffled along, left and right through the lanes until we reached a tiny little female security officer who directed us to stand in another queue to get to the immigration officer.  Trevor was geting increasingly agitated, Sam was becoming bored and I tried to keep smiling and reassuring everyone that it would all be fine.  However, I nearly had to physically restrain Trevor, when, just as we got to the head of the queue a man came and stood in front of us without explanation. It turned out that he hadn’t filled in his forms correctly and had been sent away to do this and then rejoin the queue at the front. Of course it would have to be our queue. Luckily for this guy’s health he didn’t take long and we were soon through the other side. Now even I had admitted defeat and we began running to pick up our cases with less than half and hour to take off. I now knew that Miami is my nemesis. The last time I was here it claimed me for the night (and then charged me for the priviledge) and now it looked like it was happening again.

Ten minutes later, cases claimed and dropped off again, boarding passes at the ready we hit security again. I wouldn’t mind but we were not even leaving the damn airport but still were subjected to these rigorous searches. So belts, shoes, watches and all manner of other items came off and half naked and clutching our trousers at the waists we sprinted the final hurdle to Gate 48, the farthest gate in Miami Airport, of course. As we hurtled along I contemplated grabbing the mobile defibrilator that was conveniently placed along the concourse for other victims of Miami’s missed connection marathon. Gate 48 finally appeared and as we reached our goal with two, yes TWO minutes to spare the information board flashed up “Flight 1299 to San Juan delayed 1 and half hours”  We had no words, just where the hell was that defibrilator? You can’t make this stuff up.

miami airport 2

So, the rest of the journey to our hotel in San Juan was fairly uneventful but I don’t think any of us had ever been so glad to see a bed.

Next time, we board the boat and find out what it is like being VIP’s.

Ahoy there mateys til next time

Julie 🙂

*What the hell is this thing that people have about hand luggage? They seem to take mini suitcases into the cabin now and then spend ages trying to stuff them into the overhead lockers along with all their duty free. I wouldn’t mind but no one ever seems to need what they have in there during a flight.

Off On My Travels

Published 06/02/2013 by julierkendrick

Those of you who follow my blog will remember that last year I went to Costa Rica and wrote my Costa Rica Tales blog to entertain you all with stories of my escapades. Well on Friday I am off to the Caribbean on a cruise for 16 days. So I have decided to write my blog again. I will be going with my husband Trevor and son Sam and I hope to be posting some great pics along the way. I’m sure I’ll have loads to tell you all so please don’t forget to have a read and of course I’d love to read your comments.

Look out, Caribbean Chronicles is on the way.

AdventureOfTheSeas04

 

 

Tales From Costa Rica – Part 8

Published 04/11/2012 by julierkendrick

Well here we are, the final installment of my trip to the beautiful land of Costa Rica. You have heard about my awful journey there, the wonderful times I have had and the amazing people I met and I hope that you would now consider it somewhere you might like to visit.  I would highly recommend it of course.

So the only other thing to cover now is my journey home. For me the journey back always seems to take twice as long as the journey there. Maybe it’s because by that time I’m longing to turn into Dorothy, click my heels together and wish myself home. Sadly this is not yet possible and I am stuck with a car ride, two planes, a bus and another car ride to get home.

On Sunday morning I packed my case and tried very hard to squeeze everything back in. I don’t know about you but it never fits in as well on the return journey and I have to fight with the zip for 10 minutes or so until my fingers turn purple and I’ve broken about 3 nails. Only then does it finally close completely. We had to leave at 9.15 so that we could drop the car off and get to the airport. Annie’s flight was 5 hours earlier than mine so I would have to sit and wait for a while. I didn’t mind that, I had a good book and could write some more blog while I’m hanging around.

Before all that though, I had woken up at about 5.30 and was really glad; I didn’t want to miss another minute. I could hear Monroe moving around downstairs and I knew he would have a big pot of coffee on. I went down and sure enough there he was in his shorts with his blue cap on busying himself in the kitchen.  We exchanged good mornings and with our coffee went and sat on the porch as usual. We sat for a while in silence, both enjoying the sight of the clouds playing on the tops of the mountains, listening to the morning calls of the exotic birds and catching the odd glimpse of a red squirrel climbing the tree to steal little pieces of the bananas. This would be something that I miss greatly and I told Monroe so. He is such an interesting guy and has led a life so different from my own that I am fascinated every time he talks to me. To my surprise he turned to me and said, “You know, I will miss you too. You are a lovely lady and a very talented writer. I could listen to your tales for ages.” I was quite choked up at that. Here was I thankful that I was meeting all these fabulous people and they had been thinking the same about me. Only last night Earl had told me that I am a beautiful spirit. What lovely things to say.

At about 9am just as I had finished packing, the door flew open and Lily came running upstairs. She thought she had missed me and when she saw the car still outside she was relieved.  We had a huge hug and yes, both of us cried. I will think about Lily often. She is stunningly beautiful with a big heart and a great sense of humour. I will miss our laughs. Randomly we swapped phone cases so that we would have something of each other. Photos were taken and before I knew it we were off. 24 hours later I would be home.

Monroe and Lily

We stopped at Denny’s for breakfast and I ordered a side of pancakes as I wasn’t overly hungry. Goodness knows what they would have brought me if I had asked for a full breakfast, see the size of the pancakes in the photo below. Ha ha.

A side of pancakes

After dropping off the car and being bused to the airport, Annie booked in and we went for a final coffee. We reminisced for a while about the fab week we had spent together and all too soon she had to go and I was left alone. I remembered that on the journey out I had felt like a grown up, really for the first time and I felt it again then. That may seem strange considering I’m 42 years old but there is a reason for this.

In 1995 my father died suddenly and a few months later I started to have anxiety attacks. Over the following years this became a full blown anxiety disorder from which I have suffered greatly. 3 years ago I was also diagnosed as having rapid cycling bipolar disorder (I won’t go into what that is here, if you want to know Google will tell you). I have had long periods where being too far away from my home was a huge fear in itself and I have struggled not to let this ruin my life. I have never stopped going outside although it would have been very easy to do that sometimes but I have found it very debilitating and also very hard on my family. On top of this I have a fear of flying (now you’re thinking I’m a wreck of a woman, I know, I’ve thought it myself for many years). However, this year I was medically retired from work as a police officer and I found I was much more able to cope without so much stress. So, not one for doing things by halves I decided that this would be the year that I conquer all my fears at once. Before I could change my mind I booked this trip to Costa Rica. Four and a half thousand miles from my safe place, travelling on four planes and all this on my own. So before you throw me a pity party let’s just get back to where I left off. I was alone in the airport feeling grown up, yes? Well it was because I was feeling so proud of myself. I had done it. Yes I still had two planes left to take but I had already conquered it all. I had not had to take one anxiety tablet during the whole week. Obviously I had them with me (Trevor says my bag is like a portable pharmacy), but I didn’t need to take them.

So with my new found confidence I boarded the first plane and as we took off I quietly thanked God, the land of wonder that is Costa Rica, the beautiful people who treated me so well and I said goodbye to the old flaky Julie and looked forward to sinking into my own bed next to my wonderful, supportive, long suffering husband who was waiting for me.

Me and my wonderful husband Trevor

I just wanted to thank you all for reading this blog and for giving me so many positive comments on here, on twitter and in person; it is great to have your support. I will of course continue blogging about writing and anything else I think may interest you and in February 2013 I am going on a cruise round the Caribbean, this time with Trevor and Sam so of course I will be blogging about the whole trip, warts and all. I hope you will share it with me.

See you soon.

Julie 🙂