Saturday, December 29, 2012

Day 3 - Barbados

It is appropriate that today's entry is about Barbados. Eight years ago today we got married on this beach in Barbados. On this cruise we got to go back to "our":little beach for a while.

It wasn't as easy to get there as you might think. First, neither of us knew the name of the beach. Neither of us could remember the name of the little church right next to the beach. We tried searching for "Anglican churches on the beach in Barbados" but that didn't get us anything that looked or sounded familiar. We tried searching for the wedding planner who helped us Barbados but apparently she has left the business. Early on the morning we landed in Barbados I remembered that I took a picture of the church and had all the photos from our earlier cruise on an online backup site. Using the ship's wi-fi, I found the photo. Now we had a name, Church of Jesus the Good Shepherd, but not a location. Now we needed was someone who knew where it is.

Outside in the taxi queue we finally found Vincent, at driver who knew where the church is and who was willing to take us there.

Vincent told us later why the other drivers were so reluctant to take us, even if they knew where the church is. Only so many taxis are allowed in the port area at one time. Once the taxi drivers leave the port area they have to wait for the queue to open up so they can get back in. Since ours was the only boat in port that day, it was unlikely he would get back in and get another fare. The drivers were all looking for big scores – major tours around the island or whatever. They didn’t want a single one-way $20 fare. We tried to make the day worth his while. He waited for us at the church/beach. When we walked back to to the car, we asked him if there was a beach nearby where we could snorkel. Vincent took us to hotel so we could change into bathing suits, then to a beach called Paynes Bay where we could snorkel with turtles. 

Again Vincent waited for us. From Paynes Bay he took us on a tour through the city of Bridgetown and on to Lobster Alive. This restaurant is right on the beach. The lobstermen bring their catch in here to be weighed sorted and ultimately set to other restaurants on the island. It''s also where you make contact with the boat that takes you parasailing, which we did on our wedding day. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) the parasailing boat wasn't available this time. Nor were the flying fish sandwiches we ate there last time. They've taken them off the menu. Now it's pretty much lobster dinners that start at $100 Barbados ($50 US). Too rich for our blood! But we did meet up with Amy and the crew there and had more than a few cold Banks beers. (Banks is the staple local brew.)

From our cruise eight years ago, I had a photo very much like this one of the beach taken from Lobsters Alive. When we returned from that trip, that photo became my desktop wallpaper. I always referred to it as "my happy place." That was before we moved to our current paradise in Puerto Rico.

By a twist of  "destiny" (the ship we sailed on the first cruise was named Destiny) today is not only our wedding anniversary but also the anniversary of the day we opened Ola Lola's.  So happy anniversary to mi amor, mi dushi, mi querida, my love. And happy anniversary to all of us at Ola Lola's!

Friday, December 28, 2012

A day at sea

The opening of my journal entry for this day reads, "Steaming south at sunrise somewhere in the Caribbean, watching flying fish over the ocean."

Our second full day out was our "day at sea," the long day of travel from St. Thomas to Barbados with no island stops. If you gotta be confined to a ship for a full day and a night, a cruise ship is a good place to be. We spent a lot of time just hanging with the grandkids. Most of my pictures from this day are of Kennedy.

It was also the first "Captain's Formal Night" in the dining room. We

got to have dinner with all these beautiful people.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

St Thomas

Our first port-of-call was St. Thomas. This seems to always be the first stop out of San Juan on Carnival. Overall, St Thomas is too commercialized and "civilized" (for lack of a better word) for my taste. However, we found a great cab driver named Henry who took us across the island to a beautiful beach called Magens Bay. All the way up and over the island Henry shared tons of local color and local information.

There's really no other way to put it: Magens Bay is a postcard setting.

The beaches on St Thomas are managed by local "associations." At Magen's Bay they charge an admission - $2 for locals, $4 for off-islanders. But they provide restrooms, separate changing and shower rooms, and a snack bar serving adult beverages, complete with a young lady in a bikini who will bring you a drink right on the beach. Okay, some parts of civilization are good.

On the way back Henry stopped so we could look out over the port at our ship. That view is the top photo.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Back from crusin'

Yes, this time we really gone for a week. We went off cruisin' the islands with our daughter Amy , son-in-law Miguel, our grandkids, Miguel's mother, brother and his girlfriend. We sailed on Carnival out of San Juan - yay! no flying! - to St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St, Kitts, and St. Maarten.

The ship doesn't sail from San Juan until 10:00 pm so there is a fair amount of hanging-around time once you board. First stop: FOOD! I mean, if there's nothing else to do on a cruise ship, you can always eat. This cruise we ate every dinner, including the first night, in the dining room.

 It didn't take the kids long to discover the pool, or in this case, the hot tub. They splashed around as the ship was preparing to leave.

The way things were arranged, Kennedy was staying with us in our stateroom. Originally both kids were going to stay with us to give the parental units a break. When Miguel's mother decided to join us, it worked out that Kai stayed with her. We were supposed to have Kennedy in bed but we all snuck out on deck for the "getting under way" party. Shhhh! Don't tell her mom.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Ola Lola's dressed up for Christmas

Merry Christmas to all our family, friends, loved ones! And to all the world, peace.

Jimmy Buffet has a Christmas song he says merry Christmas to all the places he's lived. So, in the Buffet spirit -

Merry Christmas, Medina - to Amy and Dan and Annie and Shauna and "vhitaker" Kyle. Merry Christmas, Cincinnati - to Vicki and her family and Cathy and her family. Merry Christmas, Michigan - to BJ and Carrie, to Jason and Sara and Ken and Mary and Kevin and Sue and Jason, Erin, and Jonah, and so so many others. Merry Christmas, Indiana - to Jen and Jason and Savannah and Scarlett. Merry Christmas, Chicago and Milwaukee and Madison. Merry Christmas, Connecticut - to Cathy and Gary. Merry Christmas, Colorado - to Sirah and Betsy and Mary and Roger. Merry Christmas, California - to David and Liane and Stanley and Charlie. Merry Christmas, Oregon.

And Feliz Navidad, Puerto Rico.

May the day bring you peace and the new year health and prosperity. 

Merry Christmas. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A bit of a rant

A good friend posted a picture on Facebook today. The picture showed Charlie Brown and Linus standing next to the iconic Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The caption has Linus saying "Isn't it strange that America is the largest Christian nation in the world and we can't say 'Merry Christmas.'"

This bothers me on so many levels. Mostly it's just wrong. America is NOT a Christian nation. The Founding Fathers, whom the Christian right are so fond of invoking, made sure we would not be a Christian nation. Or a Jewish nation. Or a Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Hindu, Shinto or any other kind of religious nation. The very first amendment to the Constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." John Adams, the second President and one of the Founding Fathers, said, "the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

Some of us are Christian, a broad term encompassing every variation from Catholic to Southern Baptist to Mormon to storefront and street corner preacher.. Some of us are Jews, Muslims, atheists (why isn't that capitalized?), agnostics, deists, believers, nonbelievers. Collectively we are (or are supposed to be) a nation tolerant of all religious beliefs while officially recognizing none above the others. (It's sometimes difficult to get those who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus to go along with this.)

The second part of the words put in Linus's mouth (by someone other than The Creator Charles Schultz) is also wrong. Precisely because we are not a Christian (or any other religion) nation, we can say, "Merry Christmas." We can also say "Happy Hanukka," "Joyeu Noel." "Joyous Kwanzaa," "Feliz Navidad," "Joyful and Peaceful Solstice." We can even wish another soul  that horrible all-encompassing "Happy Holidays," which is not an attack on Christmas but rather includes all of the above and wishes for New Year's. "Happy Holidays" is in reality a much larger, more inclusive greeting than the more limited "Merry Christmas" which truly only applies to Christians.

There another poster making the rounds on Facebook that says pretty much the same thing: wish me Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukka, Joyous Kwanzaa, or Happy holidays. It ends with:

"I will not be offended. I will be thankful you took the time to say something nice to me."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Party on the deck

Dare I say it - Another fabulous party on the Ola Lola deck! Last night we welcomed singer/songwriter/musician Anna Cheek and her musician friends Cookie Rodriguez, Joe Scannell, Tachi Ruiz and Ronnie Abreu for their "For Friends and Neighbors" jam.

Anna used to live here but now lives in mid-state New York. She comes back to visit periodically but rarely has the opportunity to perform here "for friends and neighbors." Cookie is a great guitar player who lives here on the island - and a long-time friend of Anna's. They hatched this scheme for a "friends and neighbors" gig and Cookie asked us about having at Ola Lola's.


So last night the place was rocking with Anna's original music and some good ol' rock 'n' roll.

We took the "friends and neighbors" bit one step farther. For many years, when we've done kite festivals or other events, we've always tried to connect them to a cause. This gig was no different. We had a little fundraiser for our friend Dottie. She's had a very tough year. Her mother passed away unexpectedly this year. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer. After her mother passed away, she had to move out of the house where they were living. While moving a huge metal gate fell on her and knocked her out. Some years in doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Through the kindness and generosity of our community we raised nearly $400 to help Dottie with expenses. And that was with an event put together in less than 48 hours.

Huge thanks to Anna and Cookie for having their get-together at Ola Lola's and for allowing us to piggyback our efforts for Dottie. And huge huge thanks to our wonderful "friends and neighbors" who made this such a success.

Next up - our holiday/anniversary party coming up December 29.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Anna Cheek live at Ola Lola's

Although she's from New York, musician/song writer Anna Cheek has lots of friends in our corner of the island. This weekend she's coming "home" to PR. With the help of friends Cookie Rodriguez, Joe Scannell, Tachi Ruiz and Ronnie Abreu she's coming to Ola Lola's for a special "For Friends and Neighbors" performance.

We're also using this as a benefit for one of our friends and a member of our extended Ola Lola and Puerto Rican family. The last few months have been rough on Dottie, mentally, physically and financially. Her mother passed away unexpectedly this summer. Her husband was recently diagnosed with cancer. So we're having a small fundraiser to help her out as part of the "For Friends and Neighbors" gathering.

So if you're in the area Sunday evening, swing on by Ola Lola's for great music, fabulous food, amazing drinks and help a little with a great cause.

We'll post more after the event.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

'tis the season

Coquito is a favorite drink of the holiday season here. It is the Puerto Rican version of eggnog. Some recipes even use eggs. Ours doesn't have eggs but it's creamy and rich anyway. Most Puerto Rican versions use some kind of rum, from pitoro (local incredibly potent rum moonshine) to cheap rum to Don Q Cristal or better. We use a lesser-known licor from Spain called Cuenta y Tres. It's a little different flavor and like everything else we do at Ola Lola's, it gives our coquito our own special spin. Cheers!