All Around Jamaica Again: Days 14-15 – Negril to Runaway Bay to Home

Friday November 14th. Negril to Runaway Bay with an unscheduled stop.

I wake up today in time to get coffee…yay. I love BCC’s coffee…it’s good and it’s free and it is served with that condensed sweet milk that I wouldn’t look at if I were home but tastes perfect in Jamaica.

At Blue Cave there is now a restaurant! This is awesome, there has never been one when I have stayed here before. I ask for a menu and order a late breakfast of ackee and saltfish and sit down to enjoy my surroundings. It is another gorgeous day. The water is sparkling, the sky is blue, it is hot but not obnoxious. My table is in the shade and I have that book still to read. Aaaaahhhh, is all I can say.

My breakfast, slightly eaten (sorry)

Artsy shot of the castle behind my plate:

The restaurant is kind of set up in this thatched roof area but you can eat anywhere, including your room, if you choose. SO BCC now has room service!

Calm blue sea

You can see the beach from BCC.

Nice day for snorkeling

Samsara – this is post-Paloma, by 3 days or so:

Boats and jetskis go by a lot.

…and here is Blue Cave, from the yard.

I have a few errands to run this morning, Lydie picks me up to go to town to get some containers for additional jerk sauce. We get those and I pack while he fills them for me.

I take care of my bill with Petrona – this is the first time I have seen her in the two days I’ve been here, I wish I could stay longer.

I have mixed feelings about where I am going next…I will spend my last two days in Runaway Bay at Breezes, an all inclusive adults-only resort.

I was messing around on Skyauction earlier this year and accidentally won an auction. I got a great deal, but I hadn’t really decided if I wanted to spend two nights (their minimum) at this place on this trip. But I had to choose dates soon after the auction so I figured what the heck, I’d probably be out of money (I wasn’t) and tired (I was, kind of) by this time and I could get a free ride there from the airport and a free ride back on Sunday. So I told them I’d take the two days at the end of this 2 week trip.

I haven’t stayed in an AI or even a large resort since my first trip to Jamaica in 1987. I remember it pretty well, I enjoyed it, but this is not the Jamaica I like to spend time in anymore.

I am not whining…just ambivalent about going.

The last JUTA shared ride I can take to the airport (where I can get a free transfer to Breezes) is at 1:30, and if I want to get it that late I have to meet them at their office next to Beaches Sandy Bay. Lydie is still around getting sauce together so he gets my bags for me, I pack the rest of the sauce, and like a bat out of hell he speeds down the beach road while I call and ask JUTA to please please wait for me.

The tires on his pickup literally scream – I know there was rubber on the road – as he almost misses the turn into their office parking lot, gravel is flying, and he comes to a hard stop in front of a rather disapproving looking woman and a man who I presume is my driver.

Turns out Lydie knows him, of course. They chat while they load my bags, I say goodbye to Lydie and I get in the car…it will be just me and one other person who we are picking up at Sandy Bay.

My driver is Leroy and he is very nice. Apparently Sandy Bay has been calling saying the woman is ready to go (sorry, that’s my bad) and she is out front when we arrive. But are her bags there? Of course not. We wait a good 10 minutes for them to be located and brought out. Typical, I tell Leroy, and he smiles .

The woman gets in the back (I take the front seat whenever I can and as I got in first, I take it this time too) and says hi then basically falls asleep. Leroy and I chat – I haven’t passed this way on the trip yet, and we chat about all the new construction that is going on.

Just past Lucea my co-rider wakes up. She joins the conversation and it turns out she is a dentist, or dental tech, I wasn’t sure, and she comes to Jamaica 2x a year to set up free dental clinics in the country. She has been in JA for something like 2 months now and is finally headed home. She has great stories and I could tell she has a great love for Jamaica and a desire to make things better there.

We arrive in MoBay quickly – so quickly she is really early for her flight. She asks me if I am in a rush…heck no, I have no schedule, and wonders if we might stop at Dead End Beach so she can say hi to some friends that work at Sandals Inn which is closed for renovations, but they are there.

So we do. We stop in and she offers to buy Leroy and I a beer which we accept, and we drive down to the Buccaneer. I admit in all the time I have spent in MoBay, I have never been to Dead End beach or even down this road. It has hotels on it I have never heard of, a lovely beach across the road, a lively little bar scene and a front row seat on the airport traffic:

It’s really nice…I would stay here sometime if it were convenient…I am not a big fan of MoBay but this area is just a little off the beaten path in town, the beach is great, and the people are friendly. Leroy tells me it is a bit of a lover’s lane, I can see that. Even now cars are parked along it, people enjoying the beach.

We enjoy a beer together…I like Leroy and I wouldn’t mind hanging out with the dentist some more too, but eventually she has to go get her plane. It is a weird feeling hanging out with someone who is savoring their last minutes in Jamaica when it isn’t YOUR last minute in Jamaica. I still have two days.

A this point, Leroy asks me if I want to blow off the Breezes transfer if he gives me a good deal to take me all the way to Runaway Bay. He does offer a nice deal and I tell him I’d love to – if he will make a stop for me for an hour or so along the way. He agrees, and we drop off the dentist and head east once again.

BR>I have asked Leroy to take me back to Duncans Bay as it is right on the way to Runaway Bay. I miss it already, and I’d like one more visit there before I go to Breezes and then home. I call Barry and Cher and Barry is there, though Cher is out of town. He says of course to come on to the house.

Leroy and I turn off the highway and get to Duncans Bay easily enough – he knows someone who has owned a villa in Silver Sands, but again we have just a touch of difficulty finding the house. We ask someone on the road and are again directed to it. Seems we were one street too far from the beach.

We call out from the gate and Barry meets us. It is Friday and Jamaica Jewel has a party most Friday nights in their bar – Bar is getting ready and some people have already arrived, though are at the beach.

We give Leroy the grand tour and he is loving the area. He and bar seem to get along really well and we all sit and have a drink and chat.

I want to walk over to the beach, and show it to Leroy too so bar walks over with us. Once again we see Edwin the fisherman and he and Leroy have a great time talking about Rose hall in the 1930’s and all sorts of things. We walk along the beach, stop in to Leroy’s Bar, check out the fishing beach.

Before I know it’s been nearly two hours and we’d better go. A couple of last shots of the beach…the sun is beginning to set and as you can see in Duncans bay it sets over the mountains. It’s beautiful.

Leroy appears to be in no hurry at all but it will be dark soon and no one likes to do a lot of driving at night in Jamaica, in my experience. So we reluctantly say goodbye to everyone in DB and head east once again.

It’s dark when we pull into Breezes Runaway Bay. There is a big entrance, orderly and somewhat imposing landscaping, a guard at the gate, a large driveway…we are in resortland. Leroy pulls up and the door is opened, someone is getting my bags….it’s nice. Turns out Leroy knows someone waiting there for a ride so we say our goodbyes, I get his card, and he heads out with his friend. I will definitely call him next time I am in Negril, he was a great driver and I feel I got to know him on our long day trip together.

I am directed to the main desk to check in – no line, no one else is waiting. This is actually one (albeit small) reason I took the private ride…pulling with a bus load of people would have meant a wait to check in. They have all my info and I give them a credit card to cover any incidentals (my bill upon checkout is $14 – entirely spent in the gift shop where I could walk in with nothing but a sarong over my suit and charge whatever I needed).

I am taken to my room which was 2802 or something like that…probably as far away from the beach and “stuff” as one can get, near the spa and tennis courts, if you know the place. I was on the second floor and looked over a plunge pool for the room below. My room is spotless, the bathroom is in earth tones tiled with a huge steam multi-shower head shower (no bath), my bed (actually there are 2) is really comfy, there’s a flat screen TV, a small balcony with two chairs overlooking the garden area…I am all set. This is the “standard” room and it is very comfortable. It is a lot like a nicer motel or hotel in the US, a box shape with two beds, dresser, desk. Other than art and bedding it doesn’t have much of a Jamaican feel, but it is more than adequate considering I do nothing in it but sleep and shower.

The only thing I don’t like about my room is the distance from places I generally want to be – beach, restaurant, etc. I try to minimize visits to it by carrying a beach bag with most stuff I will need through the day…camera, towel (a towel card is provided but I’ve been using my own beach towel all along and just continue to…I don’t need the responsibility of the towel card and potential towel loss), book, sunblock, etc.

I drop my stuff and walk toward the beach to check out the resort. I have a keycard to keep track of but I am in an AI where everything is included and if it isn’t, I can charge it. So I don’t need to carry much.

I walk through the lobby which is quite large and has a piano, a bar, some shops, a restaurant. On towards what I perceive to be the “action” – the beach bar. There are people sitting there hanging out and I ask a nice looking woman if she minds if I sit next to her.

Turns out she is elmo from the tripadvisor board, lives near me and her husband seated next to her is from a town about 5 minutes from me. Small world .

I ask the bartender for whatever he considers his special and get a nice rum-fruit-mango sort of frothy drink – perfect. We are chatting and I am soaking in the radically different atmosphere. Myisland, also from the TA board stops by and we chat as a group. It was lovely to meet both of you.

Dinner gets going in the main dining area at 7 I think…and it must be about hat time because people are moving from the bar to the dining room. I sit a little longer, soaking it all in, and eventually head to the hostess to be seated.

She takes my hand and beckons to a couple standing behind me and seats us 3 together. This couple is Jamaican, from Montego Bay, and is celebrating their anniversary by spending the weekend here. I tell them I feel terrible about crashing their romantic dinner on their anniversary but they are very gracious about it and we hit it off quite well.

We are served drinks, water plus whatever we want from the bar, and get up to check out the buffet. I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by the food on offer. There is an entire section for Jamaican food – escoveitch fish, curry goat, pork and chicken were all on offer at some point. There is a pasta bar where a chef would make pasta to order with veggies and seafood or chicken. I ask for whatever he thinks he makes best and get a delicious mix of tomato and alfredo sauce, veggies and scallops. There is soup – pepperpot, one of my favorites, a salad bar with not very appealing fruit and all the standard stuff, breads, desserts (never tried any of those, I’m not a big dessert person), non-alcoholic drinks.

I was a little apprehensive about the food here. One of the main things I enjoy about visiting Jamaica is eating authentic Jamaican food. I’ve had some incredible villa cooking this trip that will be very hard to top – they made everything we wanted and made it really, really well. I’ve had lovely home cooked meals at Jamaica Jewel. I’ve had Jamaican fast food and uptown food in Kingston, I’ve eaten at Erica’s and 3 Dives and Blue Cave Castle in Negril.

Breezes will not be able to top any of that as they cook for hundreds of people and seem to bland down their Jamaican food a bit, but I will not starve, I can tell. And it is quite nice to just walk over to the buffet and eat if you feel like it. There is also a beach grill that has patties and jerk chicken and burgers and hot dogs that is open between buffet times but I am always so full I never try it. I also heard several times about a midnight buffet set up somewhere but I seemed to miss that both nights too.

I really enjoyed my dinner with “the couple”. Turns out she works as a manager at a large resort in MoBay where a good friend of mine was also a manager, and they know each other. Her husband works in security software or something like that. We run into each other over and over through the weekend…in the water, in the disco, at the piano bar…more on that later. I am always trying to give them a little space on their anniversary weekend but they are really cool and we do wind up hanging out together a lot.

We hang out after dinner a bit and check out the entertainment – some kind of cabaret show, pretty cool to watch. I wander back to the bar and hang a bit, check out the lobby bar, check out the disco. There never were more than a few people in the disco but the DJ was GREAT. I made a request or two (the Barack Obama song by Cocoa Tea was played on the radio constantly…it’s very catchy) and he offered to burn me a cd (to buy). I took him up on that and enjoy that cd a lot now that I’m home.

Eventually I take myself off to bed – tomorrow I can check the resort out in daylight.

Saturday November 15th – Runaway Bay

I wake up to a dark room – Breezes has some serious blackout curtains – but I just know it is sunny out. I pull the curtain and sure enough, blinding sun pours into the room. I want to check out the resort in daylight, maybe book a snorkel trip, and I’m hungry for breakfast.

I changed into a swimsuit and sarong and grabbed my beach bag and set out to see what was what.

This is the view from my balcony:

And here finally is the beach. Part of the reason I was interested in this particular resort (and messing around on skyauction with it) is because I heard it is on a really nice natural beach and sure enough, it is. Typical north coast water with all those shades of blue, white sand, palm trees, and calm.

I join a couple of guys for breakfast. They’re recently divorced and have activities planned for every day – ATV tour, falls, scuba diving, you name it, they’ve booked it. They’re just OK company honestly but the food is great. There is my favorite – ackee and saltfish which is just OK. The best of the trip was at the villa in Treasure Beach – they made is nice and spicy. All the normal breakfast stuff was also there – bacon, coffee, eggs, pancakes, French toast, sausage, fruit and an omelet station where the pasta station was the night before. There is a line for that so I skip it – I refuse to wait in a freaking line in Jamaica for anything but to get into a show.

I excuse myself from the two divorced guys and head out to see about booking a snorkeling trip. These are included at Breezes, as is scuba. I haven’t scuba dived since the last time I stayed at an AI, in 1987 or so, but I really enjoyed it. If I’d had more time at the resort I would have taken the resort course and done it again but I am flying tomorrow and it’s not cool to dive close to flying. Incidentally golf and tennis are also included at this resort, lessons and all, but I don’t really do either.

I find the watersports desk and sign up for a 1:30 trip – there are 4-5 trips a day weather permitting.

Here are a few photos I took walking around..the infinity pool:

Looking to beach volleyball and the circus thingy:

The beach

People playing beach volleyball

Games around the pool

Games of one sort or another go on here all the time. While you don’t have to participate, if you are in the general vicinity you can get sucked in without realizing it…trust me on this. If you choose to participate you can earn “Breezes bucks” that are good for rum and coffee and stuff like that in the gift shop.

I videotaped one such game:

I spent the day swimming in the sea…having foofoo drinks at the swim up pool bar…eating…hanging out reading. Sometimes I parked at the beach bar and people would come sit and chat for a bit then they’d move and someone else would come…this is a very easy place to be a single person if you enjoy chatting with new people.

I was wearing an Obama t-shirt at points through the trip and that always sparked interesting conversations with people. Here at Breezes was no exception. I met a really nice young couple who had been Obama campaign volunteers. He was from Chicago, she from Richmond and they met and fell in love working on the campaign…it was very sweet. I think they arrived at Breezes right after the election.

I made my way over to the watersports area for my snorkeling trip at 1:30. There was only one other person going and with e cost of gas and all you’d think they might have cancelled it or bumped us but no, we go out.

A few shots from the boat….

People from another resort (Hedo 3 maybe) snorkeling

There are a lot of smaller hotels and guesthouses in Runaway Bay. I’d like to try one sometime, the beach is beautiful all the way long, past Breezes, on to Flavours Beach Bar.

Our snorkel guy:

This boat does glass bottom boat tours too. I never can see much through those windows.

Snorkeling was nice. There are some areas with broken and dead or sand-covered coral (boat? storm? Who knows…one big elkhorn was totally broken off, it was sad), but some areas with beautiful towers and canyons and fans. I even saw a zinc roof down there, courtesy of Hurricane Paloma which apparently destroyed the craft village on the public beach.

We snorkeled for maybe a half hour then headed back in. It was nice to get out.

Here’s a little video from the boat:

I am looking a little longingly at Flavours beach bar, a spot I have been told about by people who go to Runaway Bay. It is owned by an ex manager of Breezes. I’d like to go but I’m already not carrying any money around and getting some means going all the way back to my room…I am just not up to it so I shower off after my trip and head to the Breezes beach bar again.

There I meet a woman from a town near Runaway Bay. She and her husband have just checked in and are spending the night at the resort. She says they do it once in awhile because she likes to drink a lot and it’s included :). I have noticed a fair number of Jamaican guests here and I think that is cool…a resort like this makes for a nice break for a lot of folks, apparently, especially if you live in the city. My new friend and I chat about her town, where I have been, how I should go to her town sometime. I do now have it on my “list” because of this really cool place she told me about…an outdoor roller rink! I used to work at one every summer in Central Park called Goodskates; it was a huge part of my life back in the roller disco days so I am totally psyched to go check the Jamaican version. We sat and talked for quite awhile as an afternoon rain shower drove everyone off the beach, she looked at the photos on my camera and we tried a few different frozen drinks. Her husband was very quiet but she was a lot of fun.

I ate dinner with a fun group I met that afternoon, two couples from Philly and the Jersey shore. We stayed and watched the cabaret show again, which ultimately turns into a reggae/dancing thing.

My new pals went off to bed and I wandered into the lobby. I need to go out. It is my last night in Jamaica and I want to spend at least a little bit of it outside this resort.

So I grab some cash from my room and walk to the front door and the Breezes guy gets a taxi for me. I tell him I’d like to go to Flavours, the beach bar down the way. We go, but it is closed. There was a big stage show in Priory this night and I think a lot of people went to it. I’d been invited by a couple of people to go but I just don’t have the energy and I know how late these things go. So I tell him I’d just like to go to a bar, any bar really. He drives towards town and pulls into one. It’s like so many I have been to….side of the road, parking area, bar with tables and bar stools, a few people hanging out, Christmas lights. It is perfect. I invite my driver to sit with me for a bit and we have a beer and talk.

The reasons I’d leave a lovely resort with free booze and pay a driver to take me to go pay for beer at a pretty standard roadside bar may be lost on many people, but I know it will make sense to many of you too. I wanted to hear MY sounds of Jamaica…dogs barking, traffic, patois, radio….I wanted to smell it. The resort just wasn’t making me feel like I was really here….right out on the road and down a mile or so, there it was…my Jamaica. The resort was beautiful, the bars in lovely settings on the water…but the music and the overheard conversations and the smells and the sights just made me feel like I was in a really nice place…but not really Jamaica.

I’d have stayed out longer if I had more cash but it was too late to get any at the resort desk. Anyway, I’d gotten pretty much what I came for….a little of that last night of the trip bittersweet experience of Jamaica. If I could have run into the hills at that point I’d probably have done it.

But we go back. I thank the driver and walk into the lobby.
My friends form dinner the first night, the couple from MoBay, were hanging out at the piano bar. A pianist was playing for a few folks, including Mrs. Anniversary, her husband was sitting nearby but not at the piano. He invited me to sit and we talked a bit while she and some other very talented women sang. She came over and convinced me to join them at the piano, which I did for a good hour or two. I used to sing professionally when I was a LOT younger, and though years of abuse have taken a big toll I still enjoy it and I can carry a tune, more or less. That song book had some wild tunes in it and the pianist could play them all.

The pianist was supposed to stop playing at midnight or something but he stayed over an hour longer because everyone was having so much fun. It was the sort of thing I’d never do if not specifically asked to do, but it turned out to be really fun.

After that ended I wandered back to the disco…a group of women here for a wedding that I’d met the night before were there and we danced a bit again. My friend the couple came in and we all danced…that disco was freezing cold with AC and rarely full but dark and the music was great so it was always nice to hang there. When the lobby and beach bars closed, more people came to the disco because it was the only place still serving alcohol. and it does so “until the last guest leaves”. I think we closed it around 3.

I have to leave Jamaica tomorrow but not until like 11AM or so, I will have the morning. If I can get up….

Sunday November 16th – Heading Home

What the heck can you say about the last day of a great trip? No matter how nice it is, it sucks. Then again, this has been over two weeks and I can’t say I haven’t seen and done a lot…I’ve moved more on this trip than even ones where I’ve rented a car. I miss my kids; I am ready to go home. It helps a lot that I know I will be back in March.

I woke up in time for breakfast. Packed up my bag and left it outside my door as instructed in my little checkout notice from Breezes.

Normally I’d get in one last swim but I am just not in the mood. I eat – in street clothes for the first time, shoes and all – and take a few photos. I find the entertainment guy who the DJ left my cd with and pay him and pick that up. I see my buddy from the town near Runaway bay and assure her I’ll call when I’m back in JA so we can go roller skating.

I look at some stuff in the gift shop but decide I can probably do better at the airport. I try not to get too sweaty – it’s hot. I go back to my room, my keycard won’t work anymore. I guess they think I’ve left. No problem, the maid is down the hall and she lets me in.

I head to the lobby with my backpack, leaving the suitcase where it is by the door. I don’t want to mess up their schedule by taking it myself.

The transfer is running a little late so I sit at the lobby bar. One of the ladies that was singing at the piano bar last night comes by and says goodbye.

I am drinking diet coke..I don’t like to drink alcohol and deal with the airport (unless I am going TO Jamaica – that is a different thing!). I attempt to get a couple of patties to take along but no luck, they are not ready yet.

I take a photo of Breezes Pelican Bar…NOTHING like the other Pelican Bar I visited last week!!

When the van finally arrives, I ask if I can sit up front – no problem, as everyone else is getting in back anyway. The driver and I chat some on the way but mostly I just look out the window, thinking over my trip, soaking in my last views. We pass the Duncans Bay exit and I look longingly at it.

We pass all the huge new Spanish hotels…Gran Bahia, Riu, Iberostar, that new condo thing Palmyra…the coast is really getting full of these now, there aren’t many quiet neighborhoods like Duncans Bay left on the north coast…and even there I notice a fair bit of land that could be developed. I sure hope that doesn’t happen.

We eventually arrive. I tip the driver and check in…easy and fast. AA was great; I have no complaints at all.

Before going through security I head over to Island Grill, the fast food place where all the drivers eat. I get some fish and some soup and take it outside to eat it – I am early, I have time. I sit on a bench and watch travelers pull up in their vans and taxis, everyone looking tan. I always wonder, watching them, if they had a trip like mine, if they love Jamaica as much as I do, if they hated it and can’t wait to go home or they are feeling the pull to stay like I always do?

Based on my last experience with security at MBJ I head in with time to spare but it was FAST, hardly any line at all. Because it’s Sunday or just because they have this whole new area for it I don’t know, but I am in the terminal shopping area in about 5 minutes.

I really don’t like shopping very much. I rarely buy stuff in Jamaica, I have conch shells and rasta jewelry and all that from previous trips. I did buy a necklace from Cher at Jamaica Jewel (she makes jewelry, that’s why the house is called that) and have worn it most every day I’ve been here. I like original art and had I seen any I might have bought it. But going to Time Square or any place like that is like torture for me, so I always wait until I’m at the airport with nothing to do but shop.

They have a GREAT bookstore now, lots of US and Caribbean authors. I buy a couple of books there. I get my daughter a basketball in JA flag colors that says “No Problem”. I get a pair of JA boxers for my son. I grab some spices and sauce, and some blue mountain coffee for my parents who have been taking care of my kids all this time.

I board the plane and try to sleep but Miami is only an hour and a half away, so I don’t. I read. Off the plane there I have like 3 hours to kill so I get sushi at the hotel in the airport. I go hang out outside because it is still warm here and I understand snow is already falling at home.

Before I board I go back to La Carreta, the Cuban place, and get another couple of tamales to take with me on the plane.

I fly home, and my mom picks me up. She’s put my kids to bed at my house and they are in their beds when I get there at about 1AM. I tiptoe in and kiss them both…they sort of wake up and hug back, but they have school in the morning so I don’t fully wake them. I head to my room and snuggle in my own bed. It’s been wonderful, and now I am home.

It’ll soon be time to start that trip report….

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