Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Peace, Joy, Love

The words on the Christmas tree at the Coyaba Resort, Jamaica say it all. (It was real too and smelled divine) Peace, Joy, Love. 

I wish you all peace, joy, love and more for 2013
Thanks for reading my blog and giving me such positive feedback and a reason to keep writing. It is my intention to share my knowledge and travels and hopefully inspire you to do the same if you're not already!

Happy New Year!!!

Jamaica .. not all about the beach

I'm so glad I got the opportunity to go back to Jamaica again! After visiting 12 years ago and stating that I wouldn't care to go back and we'd done the all tourist things .. so what reason would you ever want to go back for? How naive of me! An invitation to a good friend's wedding was the catalyst  and it just proved to me that you should never set anything in stone. Nothing stays the same and neither should it. I'm not saying it's perfect but I wouldn't want it to be. Each place has it's own character and everybody's experience is their own.

Pool at the Cardiff
This time around we got a morning flight from Miami to Montego Bay, a mere 1 hour 15 minutes away, so we were at our hotel by early afternoon sitting by the pool enjoying our free welcome rum punch.  Our first accommodation was in the area of Runaway Bay - The Cardiff Hotel and Spa - set in the hills overlooking the bay.  We stayed for a week with other guests of the wedding party and it was a lovely quiet, home from home atmosphere where the staff were friendly and hospitable. A great place to relax and do the real vacation chill out! The private beach is about a 10 minute walk away but the hotel operates a shuttle service there and back. I would say that if you choose to stay here on your own, you would be wise to hire a car to get around as the taxi's are quite expensive and there really is nothing nearby.  Ocho Rios and the surrounding attractions like Dunn's River Falls and Mystic Mountain are within 20 minutes drive away and a day trip to Kingston is just that! There's a lot more to do besides .. it just depends what you want.

Overlooking the harbour
The wedding was held mid week at the Shaw Park Gardens nestled in the hills above Ocho Rios. It is a stunningly beautiful place - a rainforest with lush vegetation, waterfalls and birds and butterflies flying and fluttering freely adding to the romanticism of it all. This topped with a cocktail party complete with steel band overlooking the harbour and the light fading into dusk and you have a near perfect scenario. It was a truly magical afternoon followed by a full on party around the pool back at the Cardiff Hotel.

Coyaba beach
At the end of our stay there, we transferred back to Montego Bay to spend our last 24 hours or so at the Coyaba Resort. Not only is it a beautiful setting, a relatively small and intimate resort, but it is a mere 10 minutes away from the Robert Sangster International Airport. Don't let this put you off, there is very little in the way of aircraft noise. I found the people to be helpful and friendly, the food was great and I definitely want to go back to this resort and sample the riches of Montego Bay itself.

I'm so grateful to have had the second chance with Jamaica... thank you Norman and Yolanda.

See you later alligator

Whilst we were visiting Miami, we could not pass up the opportunity to visit Gator Park in the heart of the Everglades and take an airboat ride through the "river of grass".  

The Everglades was coined "The River of Grass" by Marjory Stoneman Douglas  because the water is not stagnant like that in swamps, but instead travels very slowly from north to south. The Everglades is one of the world's largest and slowest flowing rivers. 

Our guide was a quirky, barefooted guy with a raspy voice that conjured up images of rusty nails. He was a real character who obviously enjoyed his job and as he turned the engine over he would call out to the alligators by name (obviously all for show) and they would appear in the water alongside the boat. I think the vibrations in the water caused by the engine being switched on and off was the more likely lure!

C'mon out lil fella
The first part of the ride was slow so we were able to observe alligators, soft shell turtles and various species of birds and plant life at close quarters. Then he cranked up the engine and off we went at pace over the water that seemingly stretched as far as the eye can see. He threw in a few jack knife turns which caused the water to spray over everyone and the whole experience was exhilarating! It's hard to believe the water is only a few inches deep.

After the boat ride we went to an alligator show presented by another character with a craggy face and voice to match. All he needed was a parrot on his shoulder!  As well as demonstrating how the natives wrestled with the alligators in order to keep and eat them, the show featured the largest toad I have ever seen, a snake, a giant scorpion and a cockatoo. Normally I am not comfortable watching any kind of display involving animals but this one was relatively short and very informative giving a brief history of the native people who inhabited the area and their relationship with their environment. 

River of Grass
The Everglades: River of Grass is a non-fiction book written by Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 1947. Published the same year as the formal opening of Everglades National Park, the book was a call to attention about the degrading quality of life in the Everglades and continues to remain an influential book on nature conservation as well as a reference for information on South Florida.

For more info on the Everglades National Park go to

Art Basel Miami Beach 2012

Installation at Scope
I'd heard about it and checked it out online but nothing prepares you for the actuality that is Art Basel Miami Beach. You would be hard pressed to see it all even if you were there from start to finish. Thousands of artists from all over the world exhibiting in more than 260 galleries. There are numerous installations, pop up exhibits, film screenings and parties to attend all over the city.  

John Matos
Judd Tully, a writer for the magazine Art + Auction and veteran of the fair, says: "Miami is a party city. You either have to be young or a glutton for punishment." I have to agree!

Not only are the gallery owners and/or representatives there, a lot of the artists are in attendance too and it's interesting just to walk around and meet the people responsible for all this creativity and talk to them about their inspiration, techniques and processes. And of course, everything is available to buy from affordable art to works costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We spent two overwhelming days at Art Miami, Scope, Art Asia and Overture looking at art from every conceivable genre - some beautiful, some innovative, bazaar, weird, inspiring .. it's ultimately all in the eye of the beholder.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2013 December 5-8

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Welcome to Miami

This was my first trip to Miami. It's a place I've always wanted to visit particularly for it's large concentration of Art Deco buildings (which I love) and tropical climate. A perfect getaway from the cold and dark of the European winter and also a chance to relax and get some much needed sun.
We stayed at The Anglers Resort South Beach for the first three days - an area full of boutique hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. Having said that, this particular hotel was set back a little from the main drag and was relatively quiet and secluded but still close enough to walk to the beach, shops and nightlife. I would definitely recommend it and would go back there again. There's lots to see and do if you like architecture, performing arts, museums, eating, people watching, shopping etc etc ..the list is endless.

Miami lifeguard huts
One thing I noticed and appealed to me was the life guard huts situated all along the vast beach front. Each one is a different design and colour and originated from an artistic project in 1992 in which some major artists participated. I think I photographed the majority of them on my walks along the beach! On further investigation this is what I discovered.

The Beach Hut Miami Beach and South Beach huts are so iconic that their design is now studied in major architectural schools. There are 29 Beach Hut Miami Beach and South Beach huts in Miami and 16 of them are located in South Beach. They have various designs and colors from the look of a lighthouse to patriotically-painted red, white and blue to a hippy style with large flowers painted on it. Some even have extraterrestrial influences. These should be on your list of must-see attractions during your stay in Miami.

We moved to the Fountainebleau hotel for the next four days to meet with friends for the Art Basel Exhibition (more on this in the next post). It is one of the most historically and architecturally significant hotels on Miami Beach. Opened in 1954 and designed by Morris Lapidus it was arguably the most luxurious hotel on Miami Beach. It has featured in many movies and tv series and was frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra. In complete contrast to the Anglers and the South Beach vibe, this is a 1500+ room resort with twelve restaurants and bars (including Hakkasan and Scarpetta) on a scale which reminded me of resorts in Las Vegas. The patrons are hip and trendy and there is a constant buzz - a party like atmosphere - great if you like that sort of thing. Although it was run in the manner you would expect of such an establishment, I much preferred the personal touch of the Anglers. A party I can find anytime, anywhere!!

Brazilian hair treatment verdict

frizz free at the beach
As a follow on to my last blog about fighting the frizz factor, I applied the keratin treatment two days before my departure to the heat of Miami. The application was simple - wash hair with the clarifying shampoo then apply the conditioning treatment, leave for 30 minutes then blow dry section by section.  I have to say having done this now, next time (if I decide to go to the trouble) I will get a hair savvy friend to help.  It was a bit of a chore and I had to shut the door of my bedroom so as not to set off the smoke alarm whilst I was using the hair dryer!! This process was then followed by using straightening irons in small sections to seal the hair and make it sleek. I got the desired effect but my hair felt a little heavy and somewhat greasy although it looked okay. I had to live with it like this for a minimum of 2 days without tying it up and it was a relief when I could finally wash it!

However, after the first wash I have to say that it was definitely smoother and subsequently easier to wash and blowdry. On a trip to the Everglades we were sprayed with water as the driver of our boat did a stunt manoeuvre and my hair stayed pretty much as it was! The wind was also quite strong though so this could have been a contributing factor!

The photo above shows my hair after a swim in the sea and allowing it to dry naturally. The curl was definitely reduced and without fluffiness so I can personally confirm that this product actually works! It is available from most drug stores/pharmacies at a fraction of the price of a salon treatment.

Organix Brazilian hair therapy

29/12/12   Noticing a month on that a little bit of frizz is returning so at least it served it's purpose and does what it says on the packet!