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Cayman Airways – One of the Eight Best Airlines for 2015?

Sir Turtle on Plane

I am a fan of our national carrier, Cayman Airways – who wouldn’t love an airline that gives out free rum punch and allows not just one but TWO FREE checked bags (or truck tires, as the case may be – story later) – but, really, one of the 8 GREAT AIRLINES for 2015?!!  Really?!!!

This was considered newsworthy on the Cayman Islands’ local news in early October and, well, this I had to read more about.  Turns out that Richard Bangs of travel blogging fame (he is also an author, videographer and currently hosts two shows on PBS), identified Cayman Airways as one of eight airlines that he found “exceptional”.  We are all familiar with the exotic ads for the likes of Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and Emirates but….Cayman Airways?!  Huh?

Richard calls it the “Bird of Paradise”.  He lauds the free rum punch (there is also fruit punch for those of you who do not imbibe alcohol), the two free checked bags and the lack of an ordinary airport in Grand Cayman (not all of us agree about this part but….).  The article is accompanied by a youtube video (taken in 2012) and after watching, I fell in love with my adopted country all over again.

And now the truck tire story….we were coming home from our first trip out of Grand Cayman after moving here in 2007.  As many do when they get “island fever”, we had spent a long weekend in Miami, shopping (and eating) ourselves until we couldn’t move.  We cleared immigration and were waiting for our luggage, very excited as Cayman Airways allows two free checked bags and we had been on a spending binge (there isn’t a lot of shopping available on an island with less than 55,000 people).  Customs generally allows each resident to bring in CI$350 (about US$417) of goods duty free and we were making the most of our first opportunity.  The luggage started spilling out onto the conveyor and out popped two truck tires!  An older man calmly picked them up and rolled them over to the customs line and, after presenting his receipts, carried on out of the airport!  Since duty is usually 22% on goods brought in from overseas, this man had just saved himself quite a bit of money.  No freight charges (Cayman Airways let him use his two checked bag allowance for the tires) and no duty!  Smart man!  These weren’t the only non-luggage items that came off the conveyor (regularly seen are televisions and vacuum cleaners) but were still the oddest…what do you think another carrier would have done?

So, if you are coming to Grand Cayman through any of New York, Dallas, Chicago, Tampa or Miami in the United States….give it a go; as Richard says, take the Bird of Paradise (Cayman Airways also flies to Havana (Cuba), Montego Bay and Kingston (Jamaica), Le Ceiba (Honduras) and Panama).

It will also be of some comfort to those “nervous nellies” who don’t like to fly (e.g., my son) that Cayman Airways has a perfect track record!

And, if you need another reason to try it out, who can resist an airline that has a pirate turtle as its official mascot?  Sir Turtle greets every passenger when you embark and disembark from a Cayman Airways’ plane.  And now that I’ve written this, I can suddenly see why it’s on the list….go Cayman Airways!

Sir Turtle

“BEST OF GRAND CAYMAN” LIST – FROM OUR GUESTS

One of the best things about renting out our homes (No Big Ting and Coral Loft) is hearing from our guests about what they liked (and even what they didn’t – it makes us be better hosts). Last week, one of the extended families who visited took the time to give us a “Best Of” List and I thought I’d share it:

Best off-beach snorkel – Cemetery Beach or right here (at No Big Ting – thanks!)

Best restaurant – Rackam’s (George Town); Over the Edge (close 2nd)

Best bike ride – Starfish Point (from No Big Ting – about 2 miles)

Best sunrise – here (No Big Ting)

Best excursion – Bioluminescence Tour with Mike

Best scuba dive – the Playing Field, diving with Ocean Frontiers

Best “little kid” beach – Starfish Point (ask anyone where to find it – near Kaibo)

Best drink – rare rum mojito at Kaibo.

So then I thought I’d have a look back at the guest book comments this past year to see what others thought…here’s what they said (in no particular order):

Star watching (get the iPad Night Sky app here)

Where available, I’ve tried to give you a link.  I’ve also added in a couple of YouTube videos for your enjoyment.

Gotta give a shout out, though, to one of our guests, Andrew.  He’ll be down again shortly for his third trip and he has made several referrals (which have been rewarded with quantities of Seven Fathoms Rum – just so you know we don’t take his business lightly).  Andrew made the mistake of putting in some wonderful drawings on his first visit and Colin was delighted.  After their last visit, he couldn’t wait to get back to No Big Ting to see Andrew’s new renderings. He was SO disappointed that he actually asked Andrew where they were.  Andrew responded by sending Colin his very own drawings – and I’ve added them here for your enjoyment.

What Andrew Learned on His Vacation in Grand Cayman

What Andrew Learned on His Vacation in Grand Cayman

Love, love this!  If any of you have any suggestions for our guests, please let me know – we want our guests to get the most out of their vacation!

And for those of you on your way to visiting us, have a look over and see if you can find something you like!

PASSENGER PICKS IS A PASSENGER PICK!

 

Val Kegel

Val Kegel

Visitors to the Cayman Islands flying on Delta Airlines have an advantage over those flying on other airlines – flight attendant Val Kegel!  And what’s so cool about Val?

 I was at our home, No Big Ting, checking to make sure everything was in order for our newest guests and I picked up a sheet I hadn’t seen before in my stack of magazines and other information for our visitors on what to do and what to see in the Cayman Islands. Oh my goodness! Val has a Fun Fact Sheet that she distributes to every visitor on her flights to Grand Cayman.

 Val has been flying for 40 years and she decided to put her “last years” (her words, not mine) to use by providing information that she receives from visitors to Grand Cayman.  She has strict rules :) – she needs seven unsolicited recommendations from passengers before a business or site is put on her sheet and three negative reviews will get that business taken off the sheet (she says that a business can redeem itself by turning things around and getting another seven recommendations).

 So what does she have to say? I had a look at her lists to see what I thought and they are very interesting and diverse!  She suggests matching going into George Town with cruise ship days so you can pick a quieter day to go shopping, she mentions some businesses that will give you a break on fees (note to No Big Ting and Coral Loft guests – our car rental agencies give better rates than those mentioned in Val’s sheet) and she gives all sorts of valuable information about shopping, dining, attractions, diving/snorkeling and fishing. I really like her “Best Breakfast”, “Best Brunch” and “Best Lunch” lists and she has loads of information that most visitors won’t ever get until they’ve been to Grand Cayman several times!  While I don’t agree with some of her picks (but enthusiastically endorse many), that’s even better as it means visitors to my homes don’t get my biases!

 I found her website a little loaded down with advertisements but don’t let that stop you from going to the site and getting her Fun Fact Sheet – it’s a gem!  There is also much more information on many of the places she just mentions in the Fun Fact Sheet. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association has also made her an honourary ambassador and they were right to do so!  Since many of you don’t/can’t fly on Val’s flights, I thought it only right to let you see what she has so thoughtfully provided (she updates her lists twice a month). Thanks Val!

P.S.    Many of the businesses on Val’s Fun Fact Sheet will give you a discount if you show them the Fun Fact Sheet so take a peak – discounts are always a good thing!

WHO YOU FA?!

The Cayman Islands Tourism department emails flood my inbox – usually notifying me of some new regulation for keeping my vacation rental homes (No Big Ting and Coral Loft) up to their very strict codes (do check that your rental is licensed so that you aren’t disappointed); but today I got a lovely surprise – the launching of their new quarterly e-magazine called Soul Magazine.  The first edition provided some basic information about the Cayman Islands including the history and some symbols – our coat of arms, the wild banana orchid, the Cayman parrot and the silver thatch palm. There are also brief articles on this year’s Pirates Week (which, for reasons known only to the founder, lasts for 10 days), Pedro St. James, Seven Fathoms rum (a favourite of many of our guests who seem to return only for the rum – yes, I’m talking about you, Andrew) and a calendar of upcoming events.  Have a peek!

Oh, and the title of today’s post? That’s Caymanian for “whose your family” (I’ve heard older Caymanians ask “who you belongs ta”?).  The person wants to know where you come from – who are your parents, siblings, grandparents? At the last census in 2010, 135 countries were represented in the Cayman Islands so it’s a natural curiosity.

For more Caymanian sayings, turn to The Cayman Islands Dictionary by Kevin Goring (available in most book stores on island).  My favourite word is “bobo” – meaning “buddy” – but it came to be VERY well-known when there was a botched robbery (very rare in Cayman – the robbery, not the botched – they are almost always botched) of a liquor store.  One of the would be robbers ran out and ran into a local – the robber stuck a gun into the local’s face and demanded his gold necklace; the local (witnessed by dozens) grabbed him and threw him down and said “nah today bobo”!  fortunately, the police were nearby (the gun was not loaded) and the crooks were apprehended!  The result – t-shirts proudly worn by many residents stating “nah today bobo”!

The most recent Soul Magazine edition can be found here. Stay in touch so you can sound like a local, eat like a local and play like a local!

WHO IS DREADY?

dready_art_on_wall_at_ritz_2013 For those of you who are residents of the Cayman Islands or have been to our homes (No Big Ting and Coral Loft), there is no need to introduce Dready – he is everywhere on the islands.

But who is the artist?  Why does Shane draw the way he does?  What inspires him? Where can you find his work? 

Let me give you some background. Dready is, according to Shane Arquârt, “a style of faux primitive art” and Shane uses the pseudonym for all things artistic.  Born in Jamaica, raised in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Belize and educated in Canada, the United Kingdom and United States, one might begin to see that this artist is a contrast between two very different worlds.  I asked him how he got started and he told me that he was always interested in art, always drawing and writing, but he took the path to economics, commerce and business in school (as many of us do, due to parental pressures).

The art, Shane told me, grew out of advertising and marketing projects and then…well, you can see the evolution. He told me that his first work was “Caribbean cliché” with Dready placed in situations, then Dready and the world he occupied and then people started asking for Dready to show up in settings that were theirs (as we, at our vacation rental homes, have done).  I love these people and,  if you are a long time resident or spend a lot of time in Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands, Barbados and/or the Cayman Islands, you will see them in real life everywhere.  They have a language and an attitude all their own. He has said that he tries to focus on a “West Indian sensibility with a humourous twist” – the mischievous man-child West Indian male and the stern, independent West Indian woman.  I personally see this every day on the street, at my workplace and in my daily life so I love that Shane displays it so clearly and with such a sense of humour.bashment_green_blog

The art is an expression of his youth (or, “yute”, as he calls it) and there is a very mid to late 70’s vibe because that reflects his experiences and memories. Shane has a love of colour and his work is done digitally and graphically (on a computer). You can see from some of the art shown here how the colour shines through but it is only when you stand in front of a piece of his work that the vibrant colours hit you. He tells me that this is the very core of Dreadyness – large blocks of simple colour, a healthy touch of whimsy and the breaking of things down into their most simple essence.

dready_rainbow_on_blue_finalYou can find his artwork all over Grand Cayman – in the Ritz Carlton gallery (don’t be shy – it’s free to go in – it’s all along several passageways on the way to the cross bridge over the main road), the Kennedy Gallery, Pure Art, or you can call or email him ([email protected]).  He does commissions – witness the signs at our homes (absolutely stunning and easily spotted from a long way away) – and I even asked him to redesign a work for us that I had seen hanging elsewhere; the piece is stunning but I wanted an earlier rendition of it with a very different back colour.  He was very obliging and it is now proudly hanging in No Big Ting.

jus-chillin-2out-osaWhere is the completed art displayed? Well, simply – everywhere! Aside from peoples’ homes, it’s on postcards, boats and t-shirts.   Shane also does wedding invitations, save-the-date-cards and birthday invites. He does car commercials with Sean Bodden in the Cayman Islands and they are really very funny – especially when you live here and recognise the local places. Here is a fun example.  His work is also found in the United Kingdom – football (soccer) clubs, clothing companies, restaurants and in people’s homes.  Also, I’m told, we can see it on the walls of the Bacardi headquarters in Miami.

Shane also has a line of t-shirts at Caribbean Canvas Company (in the Local Artist Series). He tells me that it was the founder of CCC, Hugh Treadwell, whose request to do something different was a driving force in the evolution of Dready.

You don’t need to be rich to buy Shane’s work – it’s on postcards, bookmarks and t-shirts everywhere.  His canvas and print work is very affordable and even his commissioned work is quite reasonably priced (he’ll even negotiate a little if you are budget challenged – just don’t tell him I told you) and he is happy to allow the finished work to be used on several things (we have used our No Big Ting sign to develop drink coozies and postcards that we give away to our guests). Take a look at his site – you will leave feeling happy and you gotta love an artist that makes you feel happy!daniel's_chickens

THE BEST MUDSLIDES IN GRAND CAYMAN

126-Atlee_MudslideMy favourite quip about the “proper” mudslide is from the folks at the Wreck Bar at Rum Point Beach (which is, as folklore has it, where the mudslide was first invented) in answer to a question that many tourists reportedly have asked (how much is a virgin mudslide?): ice is free!

 So what is a mudslide? It’s a delicious, chocolaty milkshake of a drink that, if over indulged in (in my case, that means two!), will make you fall down and/or go to sleep – if you don’t get brain freeze first!  This is not for children (or people who don’t tolerate alcohol well).  This is a very grown up drink.

 The recipe for a mudslide is simple (but not easy to properly make, as witnessed by the annual competition by the local bars):

                     1 part vodka

                    1 part Kahlua (or coffee liqueur)

                    1 part Bailey’s (or Irish cream)

                    chocolate syrup

                    ice – lots of ice

 Some of the bars and “mixologists” on island and around the world have tried to improve upon the recipe, adding ice cream and whipping cream and various other things but “purists” believe that you should only use the basic ingredients!   

 I asked my husband, Colin, for his “secret” recipe for creamy, smooth, icy-cold mudslides (makes 4 large portions): take 4 large glasses and swirl chocolate syrup around the inside of each glass. Next, measure and pour 4 ounces each of vodka, Kahlua and Bailey’s into the blender (Colin said that he uses a touch less vodka but adds a bit of extra Bailey’s and Kahlua).  Add about 2 cups of ice to the blender and blend on high power until all the ice is crushed.  Add more ice (a few cubes at a time – you will probably need 3 to 4 cups of ice in total) and keep blending until it is nice and thick (like a McDonalds’ milkshake).  If you put in too much ice the mudslide will get too thick and may stop blending in the blender – no worries, just add more vodka, Kahlua and Bailey’s (hmmm….this explains the “extra” portion that he always gets)!     chocolate swirl

 And, the “pièce de résistance”: after you put in a milkshake straw (for proper consumption), squirt a shot of Kahlua down the straw (Colin uses a marinade injector) – but tell your consumers first – or it could be a problem!

 So, where do you go and how do you judge?

 First – find a designated driver.  Next, hit up the various bars for some serious drinking. The Wreck Bar mudslide was the winner of the best drink at this year’s Taste of Cayman. The year before that, at Blackbeard’s competition, was Billy Bones Bar.  I have also heard good things about mudslides at Kaibo Yacht Club, the Royal Palms and Sunset House (My Bar).

 The best mudslides, though, in my opinion, are at No Big Ting  or Coral Loft (depending on where we are) – made by Colin when we have friends over but, since he has not yet seen fit to open a bar, I guess you’ll have to find the second best!  Happy taste testing!

 

BREAD AND CHOCOLATE – DOES THAT SOUND VEGAN?

Bread and Chocolate RestaurantI’m a meat eater – there, I’ve said it.  I naturally tend to stay away, then, from restaurants that advertise themselves as vegan or vegetarian and, to its credit, this place seems to understand that.  The tag line for Bread & Chocolate is: modern, responsible, delicious.  Have they got it right!

 I first heard about this restaurant just after it opened in early 2013.  In the middle of George Town, capital of the Cayman Islands, it had taken over a spot that had previously held another long time restaurant that served “local” food.  So, even though the restaurant itself doesn’t advertise itself as vegan, everyone refers to it as “you know, that vegan restaurant” across from the court house”.  A friend, though, challenged me to go over after I complained that I was tired of the usual lunch fare in town.  She said that I wouldn’t even know that it was a vegetarian restaurant. Well, she was right (but don’t tell her that – she will be crowing about it for days)!

 I went in to this tiny jewel of a spot and was immediately struck by the delicious desserts laid out in a cooler that was crying out for me to pick something – anything!  The chalk board on the wall listed the specials of the day and the staff were cheerful and welcoming.

 Bread & Chocolate serves breakfast and lunch and did I mention the desserts?  It also has a decent selection of organic coffees and teas, fresh juices and fruit.  The breakfast menu has its justly famous Bread and Chocolate (French toast stuffed with chocolate hazelnut butter and bananas, dipped in coconut and tahini batter and topped with fresh fruit)! Oh. My. Goodness! There’s also regular French toast, waffles, pancakes and the “usuals” – a breakfast scramble (with a twist), biscuits and gravy, breakfast tacos and fruit.  You can also add coconut ice cream and/or pure maple syrup to any breakfast!  I have to stop writing and go over there right now…

Okay, back to business. Lunch is a variety of salads, soups, “lunch plates” (shepherd’s pie is a staple) and a range of sandwiches. My favourite is the portobello sandwich and there’s even a spin on the BLT (made with tempeh bacon).  The staff uses whatever is in season and everything is prepared without the use of animal ingredients. They are quite rightly getting a following – and not just because of their vegetarian fare.  Our office had a “taste off” one day: chocolate chip cookies – one from a long-established coffee shop and the other from Bread & Chocolate. You know who won…just saying…so the moral of the story is that you don’t have to sacrifice deliciousness to be responsible.  Go there! You’ll be glad you did! Really!

Hours: Mon – Fri 8-4, Sat 10-3

 Phone: 1 345 946-6239

 Address: corner of Dr. Roys Drive and Edward St. (or, you know, across from the courthouse near the bus park)

MIND’S EYE – TWO SIDES TO THE STORY

Miss Lassie's HouseWe don’t have many cultural sites in the Cayman Islands.  The country was originally settled (so the common folklore goes) in 1658 by soldiers from Cromwell’s army and later by pirates, refugees from the Spanish Inquisition and shipwrecked sailors; but it didn’t have many inhabitants until the mid-1970s (numbering less than 1,000 in 1800 and about 5,000 in 1900) and the islands were Jamaican dependencies until Jamaica declared independence from Britain in 1962.  At that time, the country broke its formal ties with Jamaica and is today a British Overseas Territory (current population (2013) is about 55,000 people).

 One popular cultural site to visit, though, is a small house in South Sound.  We “on island” all know it as “Miss Lassie’s house”; however, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation (CNCF) has gone to great lengths to restore her homestead and the property is now called “Mind’s Eye – the Visionary World of Miss Lassie”. The home was named, we’re told, as a result of her saying, “I see it in my mind’s eye”. It was placed on the 2012 World Monument’ Watch List of endangered world heritage sites alongside such well-known places as the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Valley of the Kings.Mind's Eye

 Miss Lassie, born Gladwyn Bush, began painting at age 62.  A self-taught artist, she described having a “visionary experience” and began painting – not just on canvas but on any surface close at hand: her walls, ceilings, windows, pillows and other furnishings in her home including the front of her refrigerator! According to Henry Muttoo, director of the CNCF, her art leans heavily on Christian themes and the sea and she is revered as an intuitive artist, one of several in the world who have “managed to retain the innocence and playful instincts of children – where they lost themselves in their work”.

 She was recognised by the Queen of England (having been made a member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1997) and her works are documented in an art book published by the CNCF.  Miss Lassie died in 2003 at the age of 89. 

 So now, what’s so interesting about that, says you?  Another folk artist with her artwork preserved.  Loved and revered by all…

Well, not everyone remembers Miss Lassie the same way. In fact, a friend of mine remembers living nearby when he and his brothers were young. He owns up that they might have been a little rambunctious…but he recalls Miss Lassie chasing them down the beach (which, in the Cayman Islands is public land) with a machete calling them “little bitchin’ bastards”!  He also tells of Miss Lassie’s son, Richard, chasing their dog with a fishing spear.  His exact words about her – “she was legitimately nuts”.

 Other neighbours remember broken glass bottles stuck on Miss Lassie’s fence; some say because she didn’t want people to come into her yard and others say that she was keeping evil spirits away.  Apparently, even the chain link fence was painted.  Still others remember her home as pretty messy – “the kitchen was a chaos of open tins of food gone bad…no place to sit in the chairs that were covered with paintings, paint and painted household items…a broom with a paintbrush tied on to it for painting on the ceilings”.  More than one person referred to her as “delusional” and the New York Times wrote that “some people call Gladwyn Bush a madwoman”.  No matter what you believe to be true, the stories are a little more interesting than the mythology that has grown up around Miss Lassie and her art.

And by the way, Miss Lassie wasn’t oblivious to what people said: she knew that people thought she was crazy but, according to her, “they even said that in the newspaper.  But it didn’t bother me.  A person can’t hurt you by what they think.”  Even Henry Muttoo, arguably the hugest supporter of her work, stated that the “reputation that she had was like a lot of older people – if you get on her wrong side she would curse you.  So this is why perhaps she had this reputation of being a madwoman.”

 After seeing and hearing those stories, I can’t go by her former home without remembering that side of the artist!

 So, as Paul Harvey used to say: “now you know the rest of the story”.

 That shouldn’t stop you from going to see Miss Lassie’s site – it has been lovingly restored and the artwork is bright and interesting (if not to everyone’s taste).  Appointments must be made for a guided tour – up to eight persons at a time; phone (345) 949-5477.  They are currently giving tours on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month. Just remember – Miss Lassie wasn’t just a folk artist – but a real person with a real life – with all that comes with it – perhaps not the saint that she is now portrayed to have been but a colourful and unforgettable woman!

IGUANAS AND CRABS AND CROCS – OH MY!

Land CrabThe other day I was driving back from East End with a friend who was staying at one of our Cayman Kai homes, No Big Ting.  Just a half mile before we got to the turn off that would put us onto North Side Road (which turns into Rum Point Drive – don’t get me started on street names here), I saw a giant concrete land crab out of the corner of my eye!  I have lived in Grand Cayman since 2007 and thought I knew where all the cool stuff was on island.  I was wrong!

I turned around and there was a lovely spot to park (it’s marked for parking with a welcome sign).  A set of signs on one of the trees announces “Davinoff’s Concrete Sculptures”. I couldn’t believe what I saw – tucked away off the road, surrounded by beautiful native and tropical plants (coconut palms, agaves, lilies, frangipani(plumeria to some), oleander, sea grape trees) on a beach sand yard (an old style Cayman front yard) were the most fascinating concrete sculptures – and the more we walked around, the more we discovered.  The land crab, a crocodile and a blue iguana all stand out when you first arrive. A feature area, looking very much like a pond with lilies in various stages of bloom, has a sea turtle (pearl and silver necklaces lovingly placed around his neck); a mermaid (her hair and headdress resplendent in a variety of small shells, her scales made from green bottle glass and a coral fan tail) sits elegantly on a rock; a decidedly scary eel, green and rearing up in the middle of the “pond” – teeth ready to strike; and a stingray, dark grey and hiding among the lilies, all delight.

Well, after all of the discoveries, I had to go and do some research – who had done this?  Who was “Davinoff”?  And why wasn’t there more information about this too interesting site?!

Onto the internet (whatever did we do before we had the internet?)…and there I discovered the secrets of the Concrete Garden (well, some of them, anyway – thanks to George Nowak (the Barefoot Man – his alter ego)).

David Quasius (nicknamed Davinoff) and his wife, Kathy, have been living in North Side for extended periods since 1998.  From Sheboygan, Wisconsin, David was looking for something to do when not fishing or snorkeling and decided to give concrete sculpturing a try. The sea turtle was his first sculpture and later there was the mermaid, stingray and then an eel. A tarpon, its scales made from oyster shells is an interesting use of natural elements. As the number of sculptures increased, the couple decided to move them closer to the road so that others could enjoy them.

The first new sculpture after the move was Ivana, the blue iguana.  She is beautifully coloured and majestically posed – and people began noticing the garden. In 2011 Davinoff constructed Romenio, a 17 foot Cuban crocodile and then 2012, the land crab named Clawdette (my favourite – no, wait – the sea turtle is my favourite – no…).  In 2013 Davinoff has entwined a huge concrete snake into the frangipani tree, a red apple with a large bite out of it dangling on a nearby branch. The most ambitious project so far – a HUGE scorpion – so large and realistic as to make me turn away cringing (not surprisingly, a big hit with any kid who has seen it with me)! David’s goal? To sculpt animals associated with the Cayman Islands.  My favourite, though, is a mother hen and her baby chicks, right next to the chicken crossing sign!

It’s also a  geocaching site for those of you who participate…

The welcome sign and parking spots mean that people can visit without impeding traffic.  The only things that David and Kathy ask: please don’t litter and respect their privacy (their home is on the same property behind the park).

I’m told that the elusive Cayman parrots also like to hang out in the trees and eat the sea grapes– they are hard to see – green with red throats – I usually hear them (they are NOISY) long before I see them (they frequent our home near Rum Point).  I haven’t seen any at the garden but I plan to go back regularly to see what Davinoff’s next project will be.  Actually, I have been trying to get out weekly to see a particular agave plant (also known as the century plant) growing in the garden.  It’s bloom spike has grown to over fifteen feet.  Once it finishes flowering, the agave will die but the flowering is spectacular (since a plant will take 15 to 20 years to grow its flower).

You can find the park in Old Man Bay at 249 Old Robin Road – about a half mile before the North Side Road/Old Robin Road/Frank Sound Road turnoff.  It’s free and I promise you will be charmed.

Sea Turtle and Mermaid

BEACH BUBBLES IN BODDEN TOWN – WHAT A FIND!

Beach Bubbles soap Let’s be clear – very few goods and souvenirs are actually made in the Cayman Islands.  We are a very small country (less than 55,000 people spread over 3 islands and 100 square miles) with little in the way of natural resources; therefore, many of the goods you will find are shipped in from other countries. There are some exceptions – and Beach Bubbles in Bodden Town is a terrific place to find some Cayman made items!

 I had been meaning to stop in for years but always seemed to be in a hurry whenever I went by the shop (it’s in a tiny strip mall across from the Bling Bling Salon and a block away from the Turtle Nest Inn). What was I thinking? I finally managed to drop by recently and was overwhelmed by the items in the store – and in a good way!  When you walk in, the smells are so delightful and Nina Squires is super friendly and loves to chat about how she makes all of her soaps and her lotions.

 Now – about the soaps (the base is goats milk) and lotions – Nina makes them all herself right at her shop and they are creamy and gorgeous on your skin.   Mango, Cayman sea breezes, coconut (my favourite), simply citrus (okay, maybe this is my favourite), key lime, lavender – all smell just like their names (I had to force myself not to bite into the mango).  And wow! do the lotions feel wonderful – not greasy at all.  She even has a line for men.Mango soap

 People have also been raving about her neem soaps and lotions (I haven’t tried them yet) – said to relieve mosquito and sand flea bites (and protect from them), and help with eczema and psoriasis. According to Nina, this plant is known as the village pharmacy in India. She also stocks moringa leaf powder (to make into tea), telling me that moringa is the most nutrient rich plant discovered to date.  You will find pages of 5-star reviews and thank-yous from people about all of these products on TripAdvisor.

Her products are all reasonably priced and, if you don’t want to indulge in a full bar of soap (c’mon, it’s only CI$5.00 a bar, folks), she is happy to make up a sample size for a dollar. I buy samples for my rental villas (No Big Ting and Coral Loft).  If my guests want to get more, her name, address and phone number are all on the wrapper.  She ships internationally, too.

NicolaNina also sells hand-made jewelry (including exquisite sea glass necklaces), fun art items and other authentic Cayman gifts – such a happy shop to go into and just have a visit (her bunny, Nicola, is a big draw for the kids, too).  Having lived in the Cayman Islands for over 20 years, she is also very knowledgeable about all of the best things Cayman and will give you all kinds of tips – where to eat, what to see, etc.

 Beach Bubbles is open every day from 10 to 5 but, let’s get real.  She is a one woman show and sometimes she needs to be out of the shop so do call first to make sure she’s in when you are going to be there.  It’s a long jaunt out only to find that she had to go into town to get some supplies. Her number is: (345) 926-5812. Check her out on FaceBook – the photos will have you salivating.

Update: Nina and Beach Bubbles were recently featured on the wonderful original programming – Made in Cayman series – see it here!

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