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:: Off to Union Island via Grenada

Ok, so it's back to the travel log entries. This week Amy and I are going to visit our friends Tim and Cambria in the Caribbean. For those of you who don't know them, Tim and Cambria have been Peace Corps volunteers since.. late 1999. Originally they were assigned to Macedonia (see their website, read their cool journal). Unfortunately, civil war started to break out in 2001 and the PC evacuated all of its volunteers (not before T+C saw live mortar fire). After a bit of culture shock in the US (e.g., a wedding with a sea lion show), T+C reenlisted in the PC and got a new assignment in the Caribbean. They're now on Union Island, which is a tiny island just north of Grenada. Being that (1) Tim and Cambria are the coolest people we know and (2) we've been promising to visit since they left, Amy worked out all the travel details last week so we could go see them.

Just three long hops away

As it turns out, getting to Union Island is a bit of a hassle. Today we flew from Atlanta to Miami to San Juan (Puerto Rico) to Grenada. Tomorrow, we'll catch a boat or two to get to the actual island. There were the usual setbacks today that make traveling a pain. We had to get up at 5am, we waited for a Marta train for 45 minutes in the cold, there was a three hour layover in Miami, etc. But hey, we're going to the Caribbean, so we can't really complain. Anyways, we got through Grenada customs at about 9pm. What a long day. It wouldn't feel like traveling, though, if it didn't seem like you were taking days off the end of your life.

Once we cleared customs ("What did you bring with you?" "Clothes....and.. uh.. Clothes."), we caught a taxi to our hotel. Taxis are kind of funny here- most of them are those euro mini-vans, and the owners usually have a lot of pride in their rides. Our taxi had the word "Flames" scrawled across the top of the windshield, and the floor in the back had been covered with black and white vinyl floor tiles (like what you'd find in a kitchen). Anyways, the hotel was pretty close to a harbor and was a welcome site to the end of the day. In addition to having AC and a TV, the place had a pretty good restaurant that stayed open late. While we were curious about the area, we were just too tired to do any exploring, and instead crashed for the night.

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:: Island Hopping

Today our big task was getting from Grenada to Union Island via boat. We woke up early, repacked all of our stuff, and walked about ten minutes to our ferry in St. George's. Along the way we saw one of those huge cruise ships docked in the harbor (AIDA?). St. George's looked like an interesting place to explore, but we didn't want to miss our ferry. Maybe we'll take more of a look around on the way back.

St. George's from the water

The first of today's two boat rides is from St. George's/Grenada to Carriacou Island. The boat is pretty much what you would think of when you say ferry boat (two levels, lots of seats). The ride was pretty nice- in addition to seeing a lot of island coastline, there were parts of the ride that had some fun swells. Tim says that there's an underwater volcano in the area that stirs up the currents. Tim also says you can sometimes see sea life (turtles, dolphins, etc.), but it was a bit overcast on our ride and we didn't spot anything.

An hour and a half later we arrived at Carriacou Island. CI looked a lot more appealing than Grenada (it was smaller, more remote, and had fewer package-deal tourists). After we de-boated, Tim and Cambria showed up, drenched from head to toe from the speedboat ride. They were giggling because their ride to CI had been a bit rougher and wetter than they had expected. They walked us over to customs and helped us get our paperwork stamped up.

Carriacou Island

As it turns out, the guy with the speedboat that Tim and Cambria had talked into picking us up had bailed at the last minute. Luckily, they found another guy on Union who agreed to take them to CI to retrieve us. We all hopped on board his bright red, wooden speedboat, and then promptly hid under a tarp to seek shelter from a little bit of rain. [ note: Rain doesn't usually last for too long in the Caribbean, so usually people stop what they're doing, seek shelter, and then wait it out. ] A few minutes later things cleared up and we got the boat going (well, after a group panic when Tim noticed his wedding ring was missing.. but luckily it turned up on the floor of the boat.. augh..)

The speed boat was a bit of a roller coaster ride. About five minutes into it, the engine conked out. The owner got the motor started, but decided to take things slow to be safe. Unfortunately, going slow means that when you hit a wave, the splash often goes inside the boat instead of behind it. Therefore, we got fairly well soaked by the trip. It was exciting though- we'd go slow for a bit (having waves wash over one side of the deck), then we'd speed up (meaning you would bounce all over the place and have to hold on to the rail to stay in the boat), and then the engine would conk out. The first time the motor stalled out, Tim calmed us by telling us how common it is for the coast guard to find boats drifting in the ocean without any sign of what happened to the crew. doah.. Anyways, while we were a bit cold in the end (and drenched), the ride was a blast. I just wish I'd worn my swimming suit.

The road through Ashton (looking towards water)

We pulled into the harbor at Tim and Cambria's town (Ashton) in Union about an hour after we left. Tim told us all sorts of info about the islands and area along the way. After docking, we took about a five minute walk to get to the house that they rent. Wow.. I must say I'm impressed. It looks pretty nice, has a great porch, and you can even see a corner of the ocean from it. They live on the top floor (of two) and have electricity and running water (not so common on the island). Maybe I like their place because there are neighborhood goats, sheep, and chickens wandering around their yard.

Tim and Cambria's Pad (remember Fantasy Island?)

We spent the afternoon drying off and catching up. Tim and Cambria are the only PC volunteers on Union Island (which is roughly 8x1 miles and has about 5,000 people). Like a lot of the islands, there's a good bit of poverty and the school system has some issues. When T+C moved here, they realized that the schools were in such bad shape that they couldn't just create a few classes to teach students (Tim says it's hard to teach a computers class when some of the students can't even read). Instead they're trying to improve the schools by training some of the teachers (Why? Well, some of the teachers are just people that got good grades and graduated from the high school. There's a foreign languages teacher that...doesn't speak the foreign language she teaches.). The schools of course are under funded, and there isn't much encouragement for students to excel (if you don't pass an entry test to get into high school, you're flat out kicked out). It seems like an impossible situation, but Tim and Cambria are the most capable people I know, and it sounds like they're at least making a difference in some peoples' lives..

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:: Snorkeling at Big Sand

Ahhh.. It's nice to finally be at Tim and Cambria's and officially on vacation. Today we decided to head over to the beach that's closest to Tim and Cambria's place for some snorkeling. After about a 15 minute walk through the underbrush, the path we were on spit us onto a road (well, the road), which brought us down to the coastline. This beach was nice and sandy, and had a rickety, covered picnic table (a relief to those of us who have a history of getting scorched). Right up the beach a bit was a small (10 room) hotel that was built just recently by some Belgium folks (at $150 a night it's the most expensive place on the island). Tim and Cambria said that the folks filming Pirates of the Caribbean might be filming on Union, and if they do, this is the place where Johnny Depp would probably stay. Hmm.. it boggles the mind how our local graph of "six degrees of separation" would change if Tim and Cambria started hanging out with Johnny. We'd be like.. two hops away from Hunter S. Thompson. I wonder how many hops we are away now..

Keeping an eye on the Belgians

Er, anyways, yeah we went to the beach. After dousing ourselves in sunscreen, we put on the snorkeling gear and went out to look at some of the coral. The snorkeling was pretty good (especially for someplace that you could swim out to). In addition to your basic, colorful Caribbean fish, we collectively saw a balloon fish, an eel, a lobster, and even a barracuda (which scared the crap out of Tim for a while..). Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the disposable underwater camera today, so no fishy pictures.

After the snorkeling, we walked over to the Belgium hotel and had some drinks. [Hmm.. sounds like we're in a Hemingway story..] While we were there, Tim and Cambria met with some of the hotel people to check on reserving a room for the mother of another PC volunteer. The mother is some kind of travel writer and is planning on coming down here for a month to work on her next book. They let us check out a few of the rooms (pretty swank.. nice porches, good view of the water, air conditioning, internet.. yeah, this is the place the local will toss if there's ever an uprising). On the way out of the hotel, Cambria stealthily dropped hints that we were walking back to Ashton. This paid off as someone offered us a ride back into town in their pickup truck for free. Ahh.. Life is all about the struggle for bumming free rides off other people..

Mayonnaise Strength Sunscreen

I must say that the sunscreen that Tim and Cambria have is amazing. Today we were out during the brightest part of the day and didn't get any sunburn. It's stuff that they were issued through the PC, which apparently knows what really works. I'll have to get a big box of this stuff for future trips. Anyways, similar to yesterday, Tim and Cambria hung out with us for the rest of the afternoon and then went in to school to teach some classes. Oof. Good thing we didn't suggest that we go climb up that mountain behind Tim and Cambria's place today..

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:: Turf and Surf

Today was a bit of an action packed day (well, at least for lazy people like us). We all packed into a van and went into Clifton (the large town on the island). Besides walking, vans are the main way of getting around on the island. Like on Grenada, the vans here are clean and European looking, although there are also a few Japanese pickup trucks with seats and a roof that you can take. The vans have either three or four rows, and they try to squeeze as many people in as they can (four people per row at busy times, sometimes more if there are small kids). The rides only cost 2EC a person (less than $1US), and there are only a handful of drivers on Union. As a result, Tim and Cambria know most of the drivers by name. The rides are also a bit thrilling, as the roads are narrow and often have deep gullies next to them for rain runoff.

Anyways, we took the van into Clifton to go see an old fort on a fairly tall hill. The driver (Justin?) was nice enough to take us up as far as the road would go, which cut off about half of the overall hike. Along the way up there were several scenic views of the island. At the top there was an old and fairly small fort with a few cannons. A sign on the fort sez (I took a picture of it to read it later):

This fort has been built between 1776 and 1783 to protect the island against the French Navy and the allies the American Privateers during the American War of Independence. The 16-pounder cannons were brand new models much lighter than the previous ones and may be prototypes, as that gauge had never been used in the navy of that time. Their range was nearly 5 miles.

Yep. So.. we wound up staying at the top of the hill for a while because it was nice and breezy up there, and there was a great view. While we were perching, we watched the drama of a speedboat rescue operation unfold. It took us a while to figure out what was going on, but we think the rescue boat had been called out to tow in a boat that had gotten stranded off the coast of Union. Too bad the mighty Kodak camera only has a 2x zoom.

After a while we decided to head back down the trail and go to the beach near the airport. We skirted along the edge of the yacht club grounds (making Popeye noises.. well, at least I did), and stopped at a nice little spot that was down from the docks. We put on the snorkeling gear and swam out beyond the yachts to a reefy kind of area. Once again, we saw lotsa nice little fishies, none of which I can remember the names of. From there we swam out to a tiny little island called Russell (sp?) island, where this guy Russell lives. In the above picture it's that little island just beyond the yachts. Afterwards, we swam back to our beach and devoured some pringles and cookies that we'd brought with us to the beach.

On the way back home we wandered by the area where the yachters dock. There's a fancy shmancy restaurant there that has two outdoor pools- one for lobsters, the other for a bunch of nurse sharks. In both of these tanks, the animals seemed to be playing some kind of underwater rugby, as all the animals were piled up on each other (when there was plenty of room to move about). Maybe they're scrimmaging for a big game between each other. If only we were yachters, we'd know for sure. We headed back home and sacked out for the day..

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:: Island Hopping

Ahh.. Today is Friday, and since Tim and Cambria don't have to teach classes this afternoon, we decided to splurge a bit and catch a sailboat cruise around some of the neighboring islands. The cruise we signed up for was with Capt. Yannis- an all day, all-you-can-eat/drink cruise on a 60' Catamaran. Yeah.. that's a big boat. Tim says that they can take over fifty people, but usually they don't get more than twenty people (probably because there aren't that many tourists on Union, and many of those tourists came by yacht anyways). We showed up at around nine, ate some fresh croissants from the French gourmet store across the street, and hoped that there wouldn't be too many people joining us on our boat ride.

Getting on board

Fortunately, we picked a good day to go for a boat ride. When we boarded the boat, there was only one other tourist joining us for the trip. She was a friendly UK lady down here on holiday, looking to make the most of the all-you-can-drink clause in the cruise contract. We soon learned that there were also four Italians that would be joining us, but they were running a bit late and wouldn't arrive for another hour. This turned out to be a good thing for us, because Capt. Yannis and his crew decided that he would take us to a bonus island rather than wait at the dock all morning. Cool.. While we motored away from Union, the crew brought out some breakfast food that we busily devoured (mm.. cheese and onion sandwiches and fruity bread). Tim set the pace for the rest of the day by ordering a rum punch to go with breakfast. While the cruise wasn't all that expensive, the conversion from US to EC dollars made us feel like we had to eat and drink our money's worth before we picked up those scheming Italians.

Morpion Island. Home of.. the bottle-opener.

Our first (and bonus) Island was Morpion Island. You may have heard of this famous "island" because... it's about 50' long and has only one structure on it- a thatch umbrella with a bottle opener attached to it. Cool.. We picked out some snorkeling gear from the sailboat, hopped into a little dingy, and motored over to the island. After a few minutes of surveying the entire island (yep, there's a bottle opener), we trounced into the water to look at the fishies. The snorkeling wasn't bad, although it was a bit choppy on the ocean side. The island is encircled by a coral reef about 30 feet off the beach, which looked really cool underwater. It was kind of like this massive, rock hedge just a foot or so beneath the surface of the water (which made me glad I wasn't in charge of steering the boats). Anyways, our one of the ship's crew-members came back in the dingy to pick us up after a while. Amy and I were the last ones to the dingy, so we had to hop into the raft like Navy Seals. Well.. it was more like flop into the boat like actual seals. When we got back to the Catamaran, the captain turned the boat around and zipped us back to Union to pick up the late folks.

After issuing the hellos and confirming that we didn't speak the same language as the late people, we got underway to our next set of islands- the Tobago Cays. We were really looking forward to these islands because Tim and Cambria had had good snorkeling experiences in this area (I might add that the free rum punches were starting to kick in as well). When we reached the island, the captain ran the boat to about 3 feet of water and had the crew drop a ladder-plank from the front of the boat for us to storm the beach. Like little drunken soldiers we took the beach and crossed the island (where the snorkeling was said to be better).

Invading Tobago

The snorkeling on this side of the island was in fact great. The water got deep fast, making it easy to swim to the coral. Right off the bat, Cambria spotted and pointed out a small number of medium sized squid. They hung out in a line, undulating, as they watched us watch them. We saw lots of other cool looking fish in the area (including a few trumpet fish that were different colors). The only annoying thing about the swim was that we noticed that one of the yachters in the area had decided to anchor the back of his boat by tying it to the coral. If only we were Navy Seals.. with rope cutting knives.

When we got back to the boat it was lunchtime. While the Captain set sail for the next island, the crew started working on preparing lunch. We, on the other hand, got back to work on those rum punches. After about a half hour, the captain pulled the boat into Saltwhistle Bay at Mayreau island. Lunch was brought out as a buffet of different Caribbean dishes- saltfish (the national dish?), fired fish, chicken wings, lentils, rice, some vegetarian stuff.. It was all very tasty.

Saltwhistle Bay at Mayreau

After lunch we were set loose on the island. Being that we were a bit tipsy (and Tim and Cambria didn't think the snorkeling was that great on this island), we decided to hang out in the water and toss the football around. We walked around the island a bit, crossing over to the other side to walk in the ocean (it's the water in the distance of the above picture). Back on the Caribbean side, we swam back out to the boat to place some more drink orders.. The crew also let us take a few dives off the side of the Catamaran.

A girl and her football

The last island on our trip was Palm Island. The ride over to this island was the most interesting sailing of the day. There was strong (ocean?) wind to move us along, and we bounced around a bit on the waves (sometimes, the boat would hit a wave just right and you'd get splashed if you were sitting on the trampoline canvas up front). Palm Island was.. kind of silly. It's pretty much owned by an expensive resort, but they still let people come and use part of its beaches (perhaps there's a law). There were signs every so often reminding you that the resort had rules, but we were a bit drunk and surly by this point, so we didn't notice so much. We tossed the football around in the water some more. While we were standing in the water, Amy decided to stop drinking her rum punch after someone noticed that the half empty glass was suddenly almost full again. Whoops. Gotta watch out for rogue waves. The folks from the boat kind of bonded together over being drunk and obnoxious on someone else's private beach. It was kind of cool.

On our way back to Union, Tim started talking with the Captain to see if it would be possible to be dropped off at Janti's (sp?) bar. So... Janti is a guy from Union Island that decided to build a bar. Well, more to the point, he decided to build himself a tiny island and then build a bar on top of it. Janti's Island is about half a mile off the coast of Union in fairly shallow water. He gets a lot of business from yachters that come over to his place in their dinghies for a nightcap. Pretty cool, huh?

Booze Island

Capt. Yannis said it wasn't a problem to be dropped off on the island (although it was up to us to find a ride back). Being that leaving the island was an issue we could address later, we happily dropped into the water and waded over to the island after the Captain pulled up rather close to the island. Janti quickly recognized Tim and Cambria, and brought us our first round of drinks (probably a bit relieved that our huge Catamaran hadn't beached itself on his handmade island). We found ourselves a spot on a bench in the hut of the island, and sipped down a few rum spiked tropical drinks. Somehow, I managed to trick Cambria into believing that it was really only Tim and Amy that were drunk.

Funny..All those yachters, but nobody wanted to sit with us..

We hung out on the island (with a bunch of goofy yachters) and watched the sun set. One by one we watched the yachters hop in their dinghies and motor off (with them probably making cackling popeye noises). At this point we (well, I at least) started worrying about how we were going to get home. Yeah, we could maybe swim, but, not with our backpacks, and not in the dark. However, like a good bartender, Janti saw our dilemma, talked to some folks, and found us someone who was willing to take us back to the island for free. The wooden boat was a bit shaky with all of us drunk people in it, but we stayed dry. I remember looking up and watching all the stars in the night sky, which seemed to go on forever.

The Peace Corps life is starting to sound pretty good..

When we reached the dock, we tiptoed by the pools of sharks and lobsters, trying not to disturb their rugby planning efforts. Somehow we caught a van back to Tim and Cambria's place. Wait, there was a visit to a bank in there somewhere.. with a hen and its chick in the parking lot. In any case, we made it home ok, fixed and devoured some Mac and Cheese, and then slept pretty soundly. Wow.. quite the day..

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:: An Evening at Lambi's

Ooof. Friday's outing left us a bit rough on the edges, so we wound up taking it easy this weekend. Today we just did some snorkeling at Big Sands and hung out. In the evening we bugged Tim and Cambria to let us take them out for dinner somewhere on the island. They suggested a place in Clifton called Lambi's, because (1) Lambi's has a big buffet with all sorts of Caribbean food and (2) their friend Ras-I plays in a steel band there sometimes. Now for the record, both of these items were completely true. The food was pretty good (although I had some trouble eating some of it after watching the chickens, sheep, and goats all week), and the band was really cool (Ras-I was a trip. He would act out parts of the music- falling down, tossing his drum sticks, etc. The amazing thing was that he always made it back to the drums when his part came back in.).

So I say the above two items were true, because the rest of the evening at Lambi's was..rather unexpected (by any of us). Apparently, Lambi has been trying to lure more tourists in since the last time Tim and Cambria ate there. After the band finished, Lambi got on an over-amplified microphone and started rambling on about many things. Stuff like, what a great experience Lambi's is, and how we should tell all our friends (which, I guess we're doing now). At this point, we noticed that there were three girls by the buffet, wearing some traditional (?) dancing clothes and holding a limbo stick. Hmmm.. Sensing the awkwardness of the situation (and how these things usually degenerate), Tim had the smarts to excuse himself from our table, presumably to go to the bathroom or get a drink from the bar.

Meanwhile, Lambi introduces the ladies and says that the lead girl is there to demonstrate some traditional dances. In my head I'm thinking, "ok, well, that'll be awkward, but it's no forced-group-limbo. Maybe the stick thing is for something else.. like a small pole vaulting exhibition. Wouldn't that be interesting?" The lady does her dance, which is interesting but a bit weird since it seems so out of context. It's also a bit awkward because Lambi continues to ramble on over the microphone.. occasionally saying some things he probably shouldn't be saying, but mostly just shouting "Oye!" in time with the music. The fact that Lambi is sort of an older guy with a pot belly, and that he would join in with the dancer sometimes made it kind of creepy.

After the dancing bit, Lambi starts wandering around the room, asking tables where they're from, and poking the microphone in people's bidness so they too could experience the marvels of feedback. France.. Germany.. Belgium.. He started getting closer to our table and still no Americans. Netherlands.. France.. I told Amy "if he asks, say Canada, Amy. Canada." Sure enough, he picked out Amy when he got to our table. "..the US?". Oh well.. While we violated Bob's first rule of travel (never admit you're from the US), it's probably better than attracting Canadians over to the table that would probably bust us, and then go on and on about (aboot?) their fine socialized medical programs.

While the table inquisitions were going on, the dancing girls began setting up the limbo stick up front. I told myself, "ok, so it really is a limbo stick. Don't worry though, I'm sure the limbo will be on a volunteer basis. And by the way, it sure is taking Tim a long time to get that beer.." The next thing I know, Lambi and the girls are going to a French table and trying to encourage some French guys to get up, by well, grabbing his arms. My awkward-social-situation senses finally go off. "Ok, Game over. I know where this is going." I excused myself, and headed to the safety of the buffet table. From there I noticed that Tim was hanging out at the back of the restaurant, near an open door to the docks (ahh.. an escape). I joined him, and soon after, so did Amy and Cambria. It was like we were in some kind of awkward junior prom.

Tim and Cambria were really embarrassed about how things had turned out (which, I hope they know they shouldn't be.. The best travel stories are the ones where you later think, "just what the hell was going on there?" and "how the hell did I get involved in that?"). We had fun. Plus, now we can make Tim wince by saying "Oye!? OYE!?!".

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:: One last outing..

Since it's been so good to us, we decided Sunday to try Big Sands one last time. It was a good day for snorkeling, as we saw a few lobsters (hanging out below some coral), a few needle-nose fish, and a big sea cucumber (kinda nasty looking). The fish seemed to like us a bit more this time. Maybe it was just because we (finally) remembered to bring along some crackers to feed them.

Before everyone showed up

When I was getting out of the water, I met this older guy from Germany who said he had been coming to Union for ten (or twenty?) years. He was pretty friendly and told me a bit about the island from his perspective. He said that Big Sands used to be even nicer before they built the hotel- the trees used to grow right up on the edge of the beach, so you could catch some shade after a swim. He said he was worried about how developers will probably come and slowly overtake the island. I guess the one natural defense the island has going for it (ironically) is squatter's rights. From what I understand, if you buy a piece of land and there's a local that's been living on the land for some time, the local has some rights to the land. Hopefully, the government will stick with this policy and not let big money push them around..

It was kind of nice hanging out at Big Sands on Sunday because some of the locals came out to the beach to go swimming. A lot of kids from Tim and Cambria's part of the neighborhood were there, so it was nice to feel like we knew some of the folks at the beach. Tim was a bit of a hero to these guys, as he let them borrow the football, snorkeling gear, and a float thing we had brought with us. He also went back into the water to play with the kids after the rest of us had conked out on the picnic table. Cute kids..

Because you never know when that big wave will come

Aye.. The time has really gone pretty fast down here. After Big Sands, we spent a bit of the afternoon trying to figure out how exactly we're going to make our way back home. Our flight out of Grenada isn't until Wednesday, but the boat schedules from here to there are a little rigid. Amy and I finally decided to plunk down the loot and just pay for a flight from Union to Grenada. It costs more than the boat rides, but we're a bit worn out. Plus, Tim and Cambria say that the flight off the island is a bit exciting (or scary, your word choice). After making our reservations, we settled in for the night. We had the last rum, coke, and lime drinks, and watched the super bowl on tv (Henri will be happy to know that every so often, someone would say "Go Bucks!").

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:: Donuts in Grenada

So yesterday we said our goodbyes, paid our exit fees, and caught our flight off the island. As promised, it was a pretty exciting trip- it was a small prop plane, that seated about nine people on four two-person benches (the extra person was a kid that sat next to the pilot. I think the kid made everyone nervous when he said "What buttons am I not supposed to push?"). The overall flight took less than twenty minutes, including a stopover we made in Carriacou. Aye.. It was a bit nerve racking looking out the window and thinking about how little was holding us up in the air (needless to say, it brought back memories of the skydiving stories I'm sure you've heard more than once from me).

While we're in Grenada, we're staying at the Siesta Hotel. It's just a few blocks away from the Grand Anse beach (which Amy says is somewhat famous). Last night after we got in, we just walked around a bit trying to find something to eat. We settled on an Italian place just up the street from us. Wow.. While it took forever to get the food, it was worth the wait (especially since we were afraid we'd have to eat at KFC). It was a bit bizarre walking around the neighborhood. For some reason it reminded me a lot of the Technopole in France. Maybe it was just that we had to walk across a large field and through a weird mall (that looked like The Cora) to get anywhere. Ahh.. nostalgia.

The view from the hotel

Today (Tuesday), we woke up and walked down the street to go to a store enticingly marked with a big "Mike's Donuts" sign. Heh heh.. the place was kind of a trip. When we walked in, an older guy (Mike?) was bickering with the lady behind the counter (maybe Mike's wife?) about getting his coffee. On the counter was a jar marked "Swearing Cup" that had several dollars and coins in it. The lady was friendly to us and told us to ignore the other guy as he "thinks he should have his coffee before the customers". When the next guy in line ordered a cup of coffee, Mike said something like "Your going to have to wait, because that asshole out there got the last cup".. We chuckled to ourselves and went to a table outside to munch on our donuts.

After a few minutes Mike came out and had a seat at a table with some customers. While smoking a cigarette, Mike rambled on about different things, occasionally punctuating his sentences with various curse words. In one of his stories he was talking about buying toys for his kid.. The line we liked was something like "We buy all these toys.. his room is like a gaddamn toys-r-us. And you know what he plays with? pots and pans. Eh? Pots and pans!".. Heh heh.. The guy was real friendly, and very likeable for some reason. Amy and I started talking about how we should open a donut store on Union Island (next door to Tim and Cambria's youth hostel, of course), and call it "Craig and Amy's Gaddamn Donuts". Our schtick will be like Mike's, we'll go around angry and swearing all the time, but in a way that's more comical than spiteful. Sigh.. Remind me to start playing the lottery when I get back.

After donuts, we changed at the hotel and walked over to the beach. I guess it's famous because it goes on for so long (plus there are a bunch of resort hotels along the way). After Union, we weren't all that impressed, but hey, it's another tropical island. Every so often a vendor would stroll by trying to sell tourist things.. As Todd would say.. Eh...

Since the food was so good there last night, we went back to the same Italian place for lunch today. Ahh.. I can't begin to describe how good the food was. Maybe it's just that when we're traveling, it's always a relief to find a place that is good and has something Amy can eat (i.e., vegetarian). After lunch we hopped in a packed van and went into St. George's. It's definitely a cute, harbor town. We walked up a hill to an old fort (which looked like it was still being used as a local prison..?), and took in the view. We piddled around the city a bit, but the streets were noisy and busy, so we didn't feel too inclined to stay. We checked email at an internet cafe, and then caught another van back to our area. For dinner tonight we went to a resort up the street. It was a huge mistake, as it was overpriced tourist food. Grenada's been fun, but.. It sort of makes you sad to think about how flavorless these tourist package deals can be.. That's just an opinion though. I'm sure it beats sitting at home looking at the cold Atlanta skies..

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:: Voting ourselves off the Island

Aye, today was a sad day because it's the day we had to leave the sunny islands and return to our wintery, land-locked city. This morning we woke up, packed our suitcases, and caught a taxi to the airport. Overall, the airport was a bit annoying. Not because it was disorganized (which it seemed to be), but because it was the first time we had to mix back in with Americans in a while. Americans who still can't understand why their luggage is being inspected (maybe the Grenada security people didn't see your "taxpayer, non-terrorist" passport). Oof.

I do my little dance on the tarmac

After we checked our bags (and paid the Grenada exit fees), we went into the airport terminal and immediately started looking for something to blow our remaining EC money on. Considering that the airport had rum, t-shirt, and jewelry shops, I think we kept our heads by only buying some breakfast (ok.. and about 5 candy bars for the road). Waiting around for our flight was a drag, as we had to once again hang out with the other Americans and listen to loud people talk about their tropical experiences at different hotels. Oof.

Yep, that's Union -- Photo By Amy!!!

All of our three flights were rather uneventful. Changing planes in Costa Rica was a nightmare, because we had less than an hour to do the customs shuffle. Amy was fairly pissed at the lack of concern and instructions exhibited by the guards. We did the O.J. (er.. as in airport dash, not wife killing) and just caught our flight out. In Miami we had a two or three hour layover, which we used to explore the airport in great detail. Guess what we found there? My next door neighbor (the one in the wheelchair). He was visiting family or something (in addition to the airline losing part of his wheel chair, they also managed to lose his brother. Whoops!).

While in the Miami Airport, I found one of them-there Internet Touch-screen phones and managed to fire off an email to Kelly begging for him to come pick us up in Atlanta. When our flight got in, we were happy to see the fine young lad attempting to decipher the coded information on the baggage terminal monitors (hmmm.. maybe he never actually got our message at all, maybe he was just receiving a transmission from the mothership). In any case he graciously drove us to L5P/East Atlanta, where we promptly ordered beers and a large pizza with jalapeņos. mmm.. yeah, jalapenos, that's just what traveling people should be eating.

I feel like I should end this whole trip-capade thing with some Jerry Springer-style closing thoughts. Er.. Thanks a bunch, Tim and Cambria, for everything. It was great to see you guys (especially in the islands), and once again, you defend your "coolest people we know" title belt. Hopefully, we can talk Steve and Tuba into coming down to see you (at which point we'll turn them into taco-mix mules for you). Aye.. It's going to be hard getting used to this weather again..

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