Thursday, December 27, 2018

Uncommon Christmas - Other People's Vacation Pics

Long ago, in a time before there were Cruising Plans, there were Big Christmases.  I spent weeks buying up things I thought my kids wanted, and on Christmas mornings, we spent mere minutes ripping through all of the boxes until nothing was left but a pile of wrapping paper big enough to hide a body... or three!

When I think back on all the money I spent there are no memories of the gifts themselves.  But when I think of all the money we've spent on Family Vacations... the memories come flooding in ~ often accompanied by a welling of joyful tears.  Now that's where the value truly lies... Many times I've said I wish I had opted for family travel instead of piles of useless gifts.  Now we're putting our money where my mouth is!

They're HERE!  
It's been more than three years since I've seen my youngest daughter in the flesh. Sure, we keep up on Facebook and I know what she's been doing, but it's not the same as being able to wake up in the morning and know that while I can't see her yet... she's here on the boat, breathing the same air as I am, and that we can spend our day doing everything together or nothing, whatever strikes us.
We picked them up and dragged them back to our lair just as the skies began to look threatening!
Cheesie Mom-Smile and indulgent Daughter-Smile.  Not sure what's going on with Scott back there!

Thrilling Grocery Excursion!
That's what I got for Christmas in Grenada, 2018!  My happiness overflowed... not when she told me that they were thinking about coming to Grenada over the Christmas Holidays, but when she sent me the flight itinerary!  That's when I knew it was going to happen and I could begin planning!

When I asked Brittney what she and her husband, Scott wanted to do with their time here, her answer was simple.  They wanted to rest.  Well that makes my planning frenzy a bit awkward!

They would be in the middle of a move from an island in the South Pacific to California and they needed some down time to decompress between their old life on Guam and their re-entry into the US.

And besides... they've lived on their own island paradise for the past three years, so they would not be wowed by our island home. Nevertheless, I couldn't let them come here without at least one official island tour.  Quite out of the ordinary for my usual preparation routine for guests, that's the only thing I planned... A Chico Tour.  Right after a trip to the grocery store, that is.  You wouldn't believe how much food these kids can EAT!!!

If you read my blog, you'll have already seen many of these places so I'll just store my photos here where I can see them again when I'm old and forgetful.

No Island tour is complete without a stop at Concord Falls.  It's kind of "on the way" to anywhere so it's a nice first stop.  It was beginning to rain as we arrived, so we hid inside for a bit.

She's my daughter... of COURSE she's taking pictures!
Obligatory group waterfall selfie!

Moving on... we stopped along the way to take a look at the Sorrel growing beside the road.  It's funny that I was thinking "I thought that this only bloomed at Christmas".  Duh!  Christmas is in a few days!

Living in the islands where it's never winter and there are no commercials, it is hard to feel the Christmas Spirit.  The fact that we arrived here in Grenada just before Thanksgiving ~ over a YEAR ago! ~  just blows my mind!  Yes... the Sorrel is blooming - AGAIN!

Work is all done for today...
Next stop, the Nutmeg Processing Plant where things were pretty quiet.  We took a brief tour of the empty workspace.  We've visited three of these plants and they were in different phases of operation each time.  There's no way to get all of the experience without visiting at different times of the year.  The farmers bring in the nuts that they've harvested from the ground beneath the nutmeg trees, then the processing is done here.  We were able to fill the kids in on how it all works, and we got to see the guy who labels the sacks at work - a new thing for us!

These stencils are used to label the sacks according to where they're going AND identify where they're from!

The Diamond Chocolate Factory was up next on our tour!  Bruce and I have visited two of the chocolate producers here on the island, and this is by far our favorite chocolate!  Our tour was brief, but we were really only here for the chocolate anyway!  We stocked up!

Cocoa pods growing on the trees.  They mature at different times.
The cemetery on Leaper's Hill was our next stop.  We picked up some traditional Roti from Helena's and sat on the hill overlooking the Caribbean Sea for a peaceful lunch.  Then we took a short tour of the cemetery where we learned a little about some of the residents and gazed out at the spot where so many of the early occupants of the island met their death to escape enslavement at the hands of early French colonizers.
The view from Leaper's Hill
Pressing on... We took a side-trip to Levera Beach.  It's a beautiful stretch of shore where the waves crash a little less gently than our side of the island, creating a sloping shore that's just perfect for local boys to perform aerial acrobatics as they spring into the sea!

Lake Victoria was our next stop.  Bruce and I haven't been here so it was nice getting to see the view!

Having another photographer around gave us many photo ops!

Leaving there, we zoomed along the abandoned runway of the old Pearls Airstrip where we stopped and got a closer look at these old Cuban airplanes.  Our son-in-law has a keen interest in aviation so it was fun to poke around.

I think these are bullet holes!!!
Definitely bullet holes!

Remains of the passenger seats
Did I mention our friends from Kelley Nicole came with us on our tour?
Last on the day's list was my favorite.  I had been waiting excitedly all day to show this magical place to my daughter and her husband.  It's my Happy Place on Grenada and not to be missed.  You can almost always count on having Mt. Carmel Falls to yourself, and they are making improvements daily.  Every time we come here, we are amazed at the ingenuity of the people here, in how they use the natural resources.

So many photos!  It's difficult to choose!
I got immense pleasure from watching the kids climb around on the falls.  Reminder: This is a depository for our vacation photos...

Climbing for exercise left them slightly soggy, but happy!
One of the guides here lead us back along the trail to show us the newest addition to the falls.  They have blazed a trail to another pool just downstream.

They've created an oasis where you can soak and float in this private paradise.  More intrepid visitors can have fun sliding down the rock watershed into the pool.  We will have to save that for another day as it's getting late and the cool mountain air is giving the kids a chill!

Scary face tree!
Cruise ships in port at St. Georges
We sat out the next day on the boat.  It was rainy and the kids just wanted to relax.  We were happy to oblige!  We aren't used to the activity so having a day to just chill was perfect for all concerned.  Besides, we needed to rebuild our strength for exploring the town of St. Georges the following day!

After the local bus ride, we picked up some Doubles for lunch, another of the special treats I wanted to share with the kids, then we climbed up the long, steep stairway to view the old fort.  How's that for exercise???

The views are stunning as always and I'm pretty sure they don't have anything like this back on Guam, so the kids got to see something new!

Gotta love their youthful spirit... even though they ARE in their 30s!
30 is the new 20

Full moon rising over the anchorage
I think the hustle and bustle of the market in St. Georges on a Cruise Ship day was a bit overwhelming for our guests.  We did a brief tour through the market square and popped into a couple of stores in search of the elusive eggs... Seems like the island's egg supply is scarce right before Christmas.  If your favorite recipe calls for eggs, you'd better stock up at Thanksgiving!  Luckily we had a small feast planned and we could do it without eggs.

The following day we stayed home.  Our Son-in-Law was gracious enough to do some boat chores for us that Bruce has been putting off.  We CAN do these jobs, but they aren't our favorite, and we thought that Scott would enjoy the opportunity to swing from the mast in the bo'sun's chair...  He replaced the spacers on the SSB antenna as a warm-up...

That's him WAY up there!
Then we hoisted him to the top of the mast to replace our burned out anchor light.  It wasn't an easy job and the boat was rocking just a bit - the movement is magnified at the mast top!

Scott was up there quite a while as there was very little extra wire for the installation, and he had to improvise a bit.  Luckily he's a Wiz at this type of work and he got the job done.

Imagine our horror when he finished and returned to deck level, we found him visibly relieved to be done!  Turns out... he wasn't overly excited about going up the mast due to a tendency toward fear of heights!  OMG!  Had we known, we would never have asked him to go up there!  But his dedication to being the helpful Son-in-Law kept him silent...  Well now we know!

Very soon he got over the shakes and we dedicated the remainder of the day to him... He could do whatever he pleased and that pretty much meant ~ SURFING~

Who knew that our boat was anchored just a few hundred yards from the best surf spot on the island???  He went out there alone and had a blast until we came out to get him in the dinghy.  After all of that activity, we figured he would be too tired to swim back to the boat... AND I wanted to get some photos!

Don't forget... it's my vacation pic depository!  Scott had a blast out there! Even though the surf wasn't huge... it was enough to be fun AND he said it was rare that he didn't have to compete for waves with a multitude of other surfers.  Having it all to himself was a treat!

Finally we fetched him and then we all relaxed on the boat for the remainder of the day... and the next.

On Christmas Day, our vow to give experiences instead of gifts was honoured by all so there was no flurry in the morning... just a peaceful start to our day. We pulled up the anchor and set out for a sail down around the the southeast tip of the island, and up the east coast to take a mooring at the Grand Mal Anchorage.  It seems that our new habit of putting Scott into dangerous situations has carried through to the sailing lesson.  We gave him the duty of helping with the main sheet but unfortunately failed to properly convey the violence with which the boom would move in the jibe.  He narrowly missed dire injury, and spent the rest of the day with a sore eye due to being caught in the face as the sheet flew from one side to the other.  He was good about it but we felt really bad.  I guess not having sailed this boat in over a year has left us more than a little bit rusty.

Our first unblocked sunset in many months!
Conditions were quite a bit more lively than we expected on the east side of the island.  After a "sporty" sail, we were happy to catch a mooring in a very protected spot where the swell was minimal and the view was maximal!

We relaxed for the rest of the day, postponing our snorkelling trip until tomorrow.  This trip was all about spending time together, resting the kids up for their move after the holidays, and just being together after the long time apart.

I couldn't choose, so I posted BOTH!
Brittney and I got busy throwing together our Christmas Dinner.  It was a much abbreviated version of our favorites from years of tradition.  We just don't have room to make the mountains of food we normally have.  But what we did have was delicious and plentiful!

The next morning we got up and took off around the nearby point to do some snorkelling at the Underwater Sculpture Park!
It wasn't crowded when we arrived, but soon the diver trippers arrived!  We got in and got out!

Visibility wasn't great, but the kids got to see it better by diving down closer to the sculptures.  They're both divers and very much at home in the water.

We spent much of the morning in the water, then relaxed over a nice lunch... again the view was stunning. Then we dropped the mooring and motored the short distance back to the anchorage outside of St. George's Harbour.  The kids would be leaving the following day and we had arranged for their taxi to pick them up from the harbour basin.  But we didn't want to think about that now...

Sooner than I liked, the morning came.  The kids wanted to pack in as much fun as they could, so after packing, they took a quick swim in the crystal clear waters around the boat.  During most of their visit we had been anchored in the more murky waters of the south coast bays.  This was a real treat, and while it would have been awesome to have had this clarity for their entire visit, the swell produced a bit of discomfort in the night for the kids.  They happily gave up the clarity for a better night's sleep!

A bit of laughter held back the tears.
All too soon it was time to bustle them off to the taxi.  We made two trips ashore and Brittney and I went in search of a few more chocolate bars while the guys went back to the boat for more stuff.  The taxi arrived and we said our last minute goodbyes.  Who knows when the next time we will all be together will come.

I'm so proud of both of these young people, and the ONLY reason I'm not a wreck letting Brittney go, is because I know that she is in such good and loving hands with Scott.  It makes a mom's job so much easier knowing that her baby is strong and responsible herself, yet has that added layer of security in a strong and supportive spouse.

Suddenly they were gone.  Just like that.  The sound of my daughter's laughter rung hollowly in my ears as Bruce put his arm around me and gave me a firm hug.  The tears started to fall even with the tight smile that I forced to my face.

I can tell you truthfully that the worst part of a visit with the kids is the quiet moments after they leave.

It's like all of the air has been sucked out of the space around me and I can hardly breath.

We both sighed heavily and spent one more moment missing her... missing them.  Then we turned toward the grocery store and went in.  We returned to our Cruising life and the plans to leave Grenada that would mark the huge changes to come.  No time to miss my baby when we have so much to do!

People.  If you are lucky enough to have children that still want to vacation with you when they're grown, make time to make memories with your kids.  They are the best, and most uncommon gift of all.