Monday, April 15, 2019

Saturday April 13, last full day on the island

I woke early - around 5:45 am - to the sound of birds rising to meet the day.  I decided to spend my last relaxing morning on the property with my zoom lens and a leisurely stroll around area near the Fleming house to check out the birds as they sought out their breakfast. 

I spotted one earlier in the trip, but finally captured a decent shot of a Jamaican Mango hummingbird, large for a hummingbird and endemic to the island.

White wing dove, somewhat backlit, but a good enough shot to ID

A couple of Jamaican woodpeckers

While looking for the woodpeckers, this yellow-billed parrot flashed overhead and I reflexively hit the shutter on my camera.  I didn't have enough time to focus, but the flash of tail color that I caught helped to positively ID the bird.

There were 3 parrots eating in a palm tree, I stood under it for about 20 minutes waiting for them to move to where I could get a clear shot.  Finally one flew out, and was kind enough to land on a well lit tree branch for me.Yellow-Billed parrots are also endemic to the island.

Just in case my pinhole photos of the banyan don't turn out, I stopped by with my DSLR to grab a few shots.

I headed back to the room around 7:30 to wake D and G for breakfast.  Down at Bizot, I decided to change it up and enjoy some foods I can't easily get back in the states.

Steamed callaloo, roasted tomato, and a plate of local fruits.

The weather was pretty clear and sunny, though windy, so the ocean was a bit too choppy for any more snorkeling.  G and I decided to spent mid-day around the pool, alternating between cooling off in the water and reading our books in the chairs.  By lunch time D had himself involved in a lively game of dominoes at the bar, so G and I meandered down to the Bamboo Grill for lunch.

I can't remember if I'd taken a picture of the actual kitchen part before - here it is, along with the menu board.

I had the fish in foil, plantain, and roasted sweet potato.  G was not very hungry so she had some festival.

After a bit more time in the pool and time to read, G and I headed back to the room to shower and begin packing.  It didn't take very long to have things decently organized, so I picked up some photo gear and headed out for a walk around the grounds.

Mocking bird will not allow you to park beyond this point!

Another lensball shot of the rocky shoreline, this time with clear skies.

Pretty contrast of the foliage against the sky 

Back on the main beach with the lensball

The main beach at Goldeneye

This is the island in the middle of the beach.  I called it the "party island", although I rarely saw anyone on it - it seems to be designed to host a large party.  There are chairs and lounges in little spots of sand...

...and at the end of the island there is a stone bar, behind the bar is a massive stone bench and table.

From the table looking out at the endless sea.  

The view looking up from our beach chairs, the palm trees are technicolor against the blue sky

Saturday night at Goldeneye is a giant party, with a huge pool-side buffet dinner at Bizot Bar and massive bonfire on the beach.  After finishing up a bit more packing and cleaning up for dinner, we all headed down to Bizot just as the buffet was being set up.  I took a few photos of the set up before the food was brought out.  Also, I don't usually prefer to eat at buffets because it is difficult to ask questions about ingredients, but the head chef of the kitchen came out and walked me through the entire buffet, listing all the ingredients in everything and guiding me through what I was and was not able to eat.  Goldeneye will be getting a great review from me just on how they handled my allergies throughout the trip.

D played dominoes until dinnertime (sorry for the darkness, I didn't want to turn on the flash)

Soup and bread station - the soup was a "pepper pot" soup, made with callaloo, coconut milk, spices, and root vegetables.

The salad bar (I avoided it due to the bowl of chopped egg)

Rice and peas and roasted vegetables

The BBQ station included beef, suckling pig, and jerk chicken on 3 different grills.

The seafood station had grilled mahi mahi, and seafood saute with your choice of shrimp, scallops, calamari, and mussels.  To the right of this was a massive table filled with cheeses, crackers, and fruit... and around the corner to the left (which I didn't see until later) were three trays of sides - mac & cheese, roasted sweet potato in peppers and roasted plantain in peppers.  

The lounges were removed and tables were set out around the pool

The dessert table

I started with the soup, which was delicious and honestly I could have just eaten that all night.

grilled mahi mahi with fruit salsa, roasted vegetables with peppers/onions, suckling pig

D and G at dinner, we took a table near the bar for the extra light

G and I at dinner

The bonfire - the photo doesn't do it justice, the bundle of wood was 7 feet high when they started it

My second plate of food - mostly sauteed shrimp and a bit of the beef

This dinner had the largest crowd I'd seen at Goldeneye, but it was still spread out to the point where we felt like it was a private dinner just for us.  We stayed out pretty late, enjoying the food and drinks, and as the other tables began to wind down, D headed over to the bar to get into a full-on tournament of dominoes.  G and I were getting tired, so we headed back to the room to settle in for the night. 

There's not a lot to say about Sunday - we woke up early, showered, and had our luggage packed into a van by 6:45 am.  On our last walk across the property, as we were crossing the bridge, a massive leopard stingray swam up the lagoon directly below us (too quickly for me to grab a photo, unfortunately, but the experience was cool!)  The drive to the airport was 2 hours of us alternately nodding off.  Security was interesting - they flagged my carry-on to be inspected for "electronics", but fully inspected the bag that didn't have the electronics in it.  I stood with my hands folded in front of me so that I wouldn't react when the agent started pulling out my cameras, but I did cringe as she yanked my pinhole camera out of it's case and started turning it over (I'm so glad I wrapped it in bubble wrap!)  Our flight to Charlotte was uneventful, customs was empty so we had no problem going through, and we made it to our gate with a half hour to spare before our scheduled boarding.  Our connection flight ended up being delayed by an hour, first because there was no plane, then because there was no crew (due to them being on other delayed flights)  In the end we landed roughly 2 hours later than expected, but happy to be back home safely.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

April 12 - all sunshine and blue skies

After such a rainy afternoon and into the night, it was lovely to wake up to perfectly clear blue skies and bright sunshine.  I spent a little time backing up photos on the deck and watching a few birds pop around the trees before heading down to Bizot for breakfast.

Blue Mountain coffee and a lovely view

After breakfast, G and I moved our beach chairs directly in front of the porch

The view from the porch to the spectacularly beautiful Caribbean sea.

The wind and water were the calmest we'd seen since arriving, so D and I took a couple kayaks out onto the ocean to explore the coastline.  I was nervous because the shore just off the property has a lot of coral structure which is important to avoid (both to keep from damaging the coral and also because the mild undulating waves will suddenly break when they hit the coral structures)   

D is off traveling up the coast

I went a little further and in closer than before to get another angle on Fleming Beach.  Sorry the horizon line was crooked, I was in a bit of a rush to snap the photo and keep paddling.

Further up the coast from Fleming Beach

Back in from kayaking, the three of us headed out to the beach to swim.  The beach changes quickly from sand to seagrass and then you have to swim out past the center island to get to the coral areas.  We didn't feel like heading that far out, so we came back in and switched to the pool.

When we ordered drinks, I had no idea they would be delivered to the pool!

We spent a major portion of the day by the pool, alternating between swimming and sitting with our books.  Lunch was back at Bizot with a bowl of peanut/red bean soup and side of fries for me.  Once we hung up our swim gear for showers, I headed out with my film cameras to take a series of photos of the massive Banyan tree at the front entrance to Ian Fleming's house.  

Goldeneye offers guests a cocktail hour on Friday nights down at Shabeem bar near the beach huts, which is also an excellent spot to watch the sunset.  As evening drew near, D and I sat in the beach chairs out front of the villa.

The view looking up from the beach chairs - still clear blue skies in spite of the predicted "thunder showers"

On our way to the cocktail hour I spotted another small blue heron at the playscape firepit area.

Enjoying a couple of drinks while waiting for the sunset.  The staff also came around with trays of munchies including plantain topped with ackee, which is (sadly) the only ackee I've had on this trip.

The clouds were minimal at sunset.

We had dinner up at the Gazebo restaurant again.  The entrance to the restaurant has a series of photos from the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, which was filmed in Jamaica.

Dan shot this panoramic of the restaurant lobby for me.

My drink of choice on this trip: Black Passion - Blackwell Rum, fresh orange juice, and passionfruit juice.
For dinner I had the marinated tomato carpacio salad and baked cauliflower again.  After dinner we headed back to the room to retire for the night.

Friday, April 12, 2019

April 11 - switching rooms and lots of rain

 I woke early Thursday and sat on the deck working through some photos and updates online.  As I waited for the restaurant to open for breakfast, I noticed an egret hunting among the mangrove roots just across the lagoon.

All those thousands of tiny fish, so little time.

For breakfast I had the porridge, callaloo, and roasted tomato combo again.  While eating I spied a couple of yellow-crowned night herons fly over the beach, so I tiptoed my way around them to get a shot with the sun to my back.

We were scheduled to move rooms today, from a lagoon cottage to a beach villa.  We were not sure if we'd have to stow our luggage or if we could just move straight to the room, so we walked up to the main office to chat with the concierge about the move.  There I saw the entrance driveway which leads to Ian Fleming's house, and a massive banyan tree.  I'll be returning to photograph it properly, but I did notice this branch of the banyan had cut across another tree, which in turn grew around the expanding trunk.

G and I called this "Nom-Nom Tree"

In order to make the move smooth, we needed to re-pack our stuff to make it transportable.  We worked on that for a bit, then waited for the new room to be available.  I took advantage of the down time to wander the property a bit with my lensball and DSLR

This is on the edge of the property

There is a large field called the "playscape" which has a firepit surrounded by stone seating and tall, grassy-looking flowers.

On my walk I spotted an photographed a bananquit, one of my favorite Caribbean birds.

The clouds were thickening and I felt a few sprinkles, so I made my way back to the cottage, where I spotted a lizard hanging out on the bench.

Fabulous lizard is fabulous.

We called over to the office to let them know we were ready to have our luggage picked up, and found out that the new room was ready for us to move right into, so we waited just a bit longer to drop our luggage before heading to lunch.

A quick tour of the new villa:

The full kitchen is off to the side of the living room

Living room area is on a lower level, the couch doubles as G's bed (and unlike other places we've been, this is an actual spring mattress, not a futon mat)

The bedroom is up three steps, separated by a thick curtain

The wall is open to the bathroom/tub area, water closet is through the little door on the left

Standing at my bedside looking back towards the curtain, the length of the wall houses a long and sturdy desk.

one of the front porch seating areas

The other side of the porch

Looking out to the main beach, the rain is picking up again

The whole back yard is the shower

After dropping off our bags, we walked across the beach to Bizot for lunch

I had the snapper with veggies and rice & peas again

The rain continued to come in waves all afternoon.  During a brief break the water off the beach seemed really calm, so D and I floated in it for a bit, but as I'd had such a large lunch I just couldn't swim for long.  It began to rain more anyway, so we headed in to shower up.  It was interesting to shower while it was raining, and this yard has more birds in it than the last one... so every so often I would be startled by the sound of fluttering wings above my head.

D headed to the bar to find a game of dominoes, I sat on the porch to read.  I ended up dozing off to the sound of the ocean waves.

We had a pretty laid back afternoon and evening, staying out of the rain in either the villa or at the bar.  We decided to venture off property for dinner, and there were several suggestions to go to Chris's Cafe in Oracabessa.

The wall of the restaurant

The stairs to the terrace seating

It was this, plus one other occupied table.

The salad was refreshing: cucumber, carrot, tomato, and pineapple with a simple oil/vinegar dressing (similar to a cucumber salad at a Thai restaurant)  D and G each had some fried chicken, the rice and peas were good, the curry shrimp was great, but the lobster (brown dish bottom right) was bad.  Not unpleasant, but spoiled.  D only had one bite, I only smelled it after he ate it.  The ammonia smell actually burned my nose.  

While most of the rest of the dinner was pretty enjoyable, the lobster part put a bit of a damper on the experience.  We took the opportunity to stop at a grocery store for some snacks and headed back to the room.  We were all quite honestly feeling a bit off-color because of the dinner, and after a bit of soda water and ginger cookie, I headed off to bed.

Today (April 12) has dawned bright and sunny, and my stomach seems to have recovered alright, so I'm off to find some Blue Mountain coffee.