Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rain Rain Go Away

I woke up this morning to the chirping of the birds and the summer breeze of the island wind. The palm trees were swinging and dancing, the ocean's tides ebbing against the sandy-white beaches. The sky was perfectly blue, in harmony with the backdrop of the lush green mountains.

Only thing wrong with the picture? It was raining. Pouring rain. And on top of that, it was my birthday.

So to make up for it, I ordered room service - continental breakfast with pastries, strawberries, banana, coffee and juice.

Breakky tray

As usual, this came half an hour later, on par with island time. The lady who delivered it said they are usually inundated with orders at this time of the day, so it's hard to get any order right on time. 

Oh well, it was worth it, because it came in a dainty little tray replete with 3 pastries, juice (which they got the wrong order of orange instead of mango as I had ordered), coffee, strawberries and jam.

Cup of joe

The strawberries were uber fresh and refreshing, especially after not eating much fruits for a while. You would think that in this part of the world fruits should be in abundance. But alas, that is not the case.

Freshly imported strawberries

Only downside was that a banana was not included in the meal, as described in the menu =( I'm craving for a locally grown banana!


Hubby had the blueberry muffin, and I the mini croissant (since I had to finish the pastry from yesterday). We shared the caramel-pecan danish, which was guiltily sweet and sticky but devilishly good. 

Since it was pouring rain outside, we decided to head to the Galleria (go figure) for some indoor shopping. It's an outlet mall beside the dock where the cruise ships dock, with the usual stores like Coach, Cache, Claire's, etc.  

On the way over the taxi cab driver was explaining to us and the pair next to us (who were also from New York -- a Brooklyn school teacher), and how the locals welcome the occasional showers because they catch the rain with a special system in the basement to reuse later for their household hydro.

Hubby got a shirt from Tommy, but I scored nothing. The stuff here were all too similar to the stuff in the mainland, with nothing eye-catching and no good sales. I guess since everything needs to be imported to this island, it can't get any cheaper than in the mainland. Nothing is made here on the island, so I wondered how the locals can survive with their income and expensive housing. 

So we decided to hop over to Megan's Bay, purported to be one of the top beaches by National Geographic. We hopped onto an island safari taxi, a Muslim one that is.

The cab driver was purely Muslim, dressed with the muslim traditional garbs, except with an island theme of tie-dyed purple. His cab bore slogans like this...

On the way over, we climbed some tortuous roads, but the sight was amazing.

Finally, we got to Megan's Bay. There's a $4 admission fee because it's a national preservation area.

It's just like the pictures - white sandy beach, turquoise waters, rolling mountains...ahhh, paradise on earth. Even comes with a lifeguard.

We grabbed some chairs in the shape and jumped right into the waters. It was a bit chilly at first, but quickly we got used to it.

What I liked best about this beach is that it's purely sand, so you don't get hurt by jagged rocks poking out here and there. Also, there's a gradual descent into the waters, much like a swimming pool. And it feels really nice swimming in the light summer rain (only came periodically for a while).

You're not allowed to swim past the buoys, or else the seagulls guarding it will come and attack you.

I'm watching you (and your food)

Past noon time, I was starving. I was actually eyeing one of 'em restaurants (talking like an islander now!) at the outlet place that had a mango curry vegetarian stir fry lunch special, but hubby wasn't hungry at the time because he was still full from the muffin and half the pecan pastry he had for brekky.

As usual, it took forever for the food to come. Unlike Coki beach, this beach had a rather uneventful menu consisting of overly greasy pizza, burgers and fries.

Hubby got a sirloin burger with melted mozzarella cheese, which came with tomatoes, onions and a pickle on the side. His burger didn't look too appetizing, with a giant piece of white mozzarella plastered over the browned meat.

 I got a gyro with what I believe to be caesar dressing and hummus.

Surprising, it tasted pretty good. I wolfed down all the veggies, including hubby's tomatoes. I can't believe how good veggies taste after being on an island all-carb diet. The meat was tender and not too spicy like the ones you find in New York streets, but I was a little skeptical of its quality. But I finished the whole thing, because I was so hungry from not eating anything before. I really amaze myself sometimes at the size of my (expandable) stomach.

After lunch, we did a little lounging under the sun. Then hubby got a pina colada drink which was so sugary it was like drinking iced sugar.

After a few more hours of swimming, we decided to head back. Guess where this local art was draw?

In a taxi bus!

The couple riding the bus with us wanted to go to Mountain Top, which was exactly where I wanted to go for a tramcar ride (but hubby didn't). The driver stopped by alongside the road so we could admire the height and view from the top.

Banana stool

Apparently, this place is also famous for the Banana Daiquiri. I checked up later on what constituted a daiquiri (versus a smoothie), and here is what I found:

Daiquiri (pronounced /ˈdækəri/, is a family of cocktails whose main ingredients are rum, lime juice, and sugar or other sweetener. There are several versions, but those that gained international fame are the ones made in the El Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba.
Originally the drink was served in a tall glass packed with cracked ice. A teaspoon of sugar was poured over the ice and the juice of one or two limes was squeezed over the sugar. Two or three ounces of rum completed the mixture. The glass was then frosted by stirring with a long-handled spoon. Later the Daiquirí evolved to be mixed in a shaker with the same ingredients but with shaved ice. After a thorough shaking, it was poured into a chilled flute glass. In more recent times it has become a drink blended with cracked ice or (shudder) ice cream.

I didn't actually get their daiquiri, which was a little regretful. But looking back, what was most regretful was not getting a real island banana! Sigh.

Pirate Statue

Can't really see the above picture clearly, but this was beside the daiquiri bar (6 million sold so far!), featuring a lady pirate sporting some of her swords kung-fu style.

The View from the Top

It was an amazing view, let me tell you. Unfortunately there was no tram car that day, because they only operate when the cruise ships dock. But the sight was spectacular.

One legged-one armed pirate

Throughout the ride it occurred to me that I never had any ice cream this whole trip. When we got back to the hotel, the first ting (island talk again!) I did was run to the corner store and grab some ice cream.

 It was between this or cookies and cream, and I decided on mango because hubby loves it so much.

Great decision! It was amazing - a strong scent of mango infused with smooth, creamy ice and milk. See? That's why you should always think of others first.

For dinner, we finally went to the place we had always wanted to but never got a chance - Coco Joe's! It was our last night here too, so perfect to wrap up the vacation.

I couldn't wait to taste Coco's, especially after seeing the size of their plates (the nachos w/ cheese and beef looked so tantalizing when I passed by the restaurant one day after swimming).

The restaurant was hustle and bustle when we got in, and the people in front of us basically sat themselves down. The waitress asked us what to drink, and we ordered the usual.

Gingerale n Ice Tea

Then after 15 min later (as I watched the large family behind us make their grandchildren eat ice cream, which was on the house because their orders came too late), another waitress asked us again. Oh well, I felt sorry for the island people working there, because they are probably not used the time-demanding tourists.

It was supposed to be a 3-course dinner special, but they didn't have that, which was even better because we wanted to order off the menu. 

Since I wasn't feeling all that hungry, I ordered a Crab-Avocado salad. Hubby got some fish tacos (go figure), and for starters we got some fish n chips. 

Once again, we had to wait another good half an hour. But let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

Fish n Chips w/ Tartar Sauce

Wow, these fish n chips were amazing! The fish is actually real fish! Freshly caught and then fried to perfection. This sucker was crispy and tender, and when dipped in the tartar sauce...well I'll feed that to your imagination.

And the fries, must I go on? The fries were full of garlicky seasoning, and fried to perfection. It was full of potato-y starch, making it soft and crunchy just like the fish. It's amazing the portions of this dish, because one piece of fish was the size of the single Mahi Mahi we got the first day at Sunset Grille.

My crab salad was amazing as well. The crab was so fresh, salted with just the right amount, then drizzled with charred citrus dressing. When you fork a bite of crab with fresh lettuce, then topped with fresh avocado (yes, actually fresh this time!), the result is sublime.

Crab-n-Avocado Salad

A note here - only thing I didn't like about this salad was the cheese. It had the texture of firm tofu, but then tasted kind of mushy with a weird mildly sticky aftertaste. The name of the culprit? Manchego. Probably never eating that again.

Fish taco

I didn't get a chance to try to fish tacos, but I'm sure they were just as delish as my salad. I did taste the cabbage-radish slaw inside, and it was scrumptious! Crunchy, sweet, sour - the right melange of healthy ingredients and flavorful overtones. 

Salad (see I'm starting the segregate the cheese?)

Once again, we managed to clean up our plates. (Mind you, this is on a semi-full stomach and just stuffing it down!)



Complete! (Did what I could with the cheese)

And to finish off...

Brown-sugar roasted pineapple wedge

It was between this and the Cubano Bread Pudding. But since we were both stuffed to the max from the rest of the food, we settled on this. Actually, we also wanted to try the Island Brown Sundae with rum bananas and chili-chocolate sauce (I heard the little kid behind me say that everything is good but the sauce tastes funky!) I didn't get any birthday candles on this, because the restaurant was still quite busy with action so I didn't want to draw any attention. 

It was actually served on a grilled pineapple wedge, so the ice cream was melting as we ate it. The pineapples on the side were fresh and provided a nice, sour contrast to the sweet ice cream. I loved dipping the pineapple into the ice cream, though I wished I had more fries to do the same. 

The perfect finish

So it turned out that I did get what I wanted this birthday - with a beautiful beach, ice cream, and most of all, wonderful company with the one I love the most =-)

But next year - Rain rain go away, please don't come on my birthday! 

Coco Joe's
**** (4/5 - would have been perfect except for the slow service)

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