Curtis gave us a lift to the airport and of course our flight was delayed an hour before we even checked in. When I am picking someone up I'm always monitoring the status of the flight online so I don't have to sit and wait if there are delays, and there are delays, lots of delays. Never thought to check for my own flight. We arrived in Toronto at about midnight and after getting our luggage and making the journey to the other terminal it was 1am. Everything was closed and other than a few people sleeping the terminal was deserted. We settled in with our books and magazines to wait for our 6am flight. AJ and Brad showed up from their long day meeting with friends and then the Merciers came in from the hotel they stayed at. Before we knew it we were sitting on a 757 high over the states on our way to Jamaica.
The flight seemed to take forever. We were lucky enough to be located a few rows behind the Princesses of Mississauga, a group of 5 married women heading down without their husbands. They were loud. I've never seen a flight attendant snap but one of the princesses managed to arrange that for us as she took off her seat belt and stood up before the crew had even moved when we touched down. They had a unique way of dealing with cabin pressure change, they sat with dixie cups pressed to their ears during the descent, and then they got louder as they squealed about the water. I wonder why NASA never picked up on that economical method, I stuck with my gum.
The views coming in over the water were amazing as we could see Cuba and many small islands in the turquoise water. Once we landed and were herded into the terminal in Montego Bay we began the long process of lining up and waiting to line up and wait some more. That feat completed we were directed to our bus that would take us to the resort. Our bags were quickly snatched by a uniformed gentleman who rolled them the 100 steps and then dropped them at the back of the bus for his waiting partner. "you have something for me and then you watch you bag go on the bus mon, take care of the boy there mon". All I had was $15 in Canadian at this time so he got the $5. His partner picked up the bags and put them in the cargo hold and followed me to the front of the bus looking for his share. Sal and I got on the bus and we decided to give him something as well, might as well have our luggage when we get there. This was going to be expensive, we weren't even out of the airport and were uncomfortable twice.
I'm not sure what to say about my first impressions of Jamaica. Most cities and countries hide their poverty stricken and uglier spots. Jamaica lines the main highway with them. As we careened down the road, dodging slow moving vehicles, passing like we were in a Porsche and tailgating like the peloton in the Tour de France it was all there. Mansions on manicured landscapes and shacks pieced together from any available materials, beautiful golf courses and garbage strewn lots, schoolkids in their uniforms and the poor. There must have been a huge clearance sale on building blocks as it seemed everyone was building a house or adding another floor. The craftsmanship of the block work was, well let's just say some of our masons here could run a class or two starting with how to lay a level line. Many of the creations had very ornate designs but were only partially finished, without a roof or missing a wall, surrounded by scaffolding but devoid of any workers. In some cases a long wall resembling a fence would be sitting in an empty area without any concievable purpose, alone on the property.
Formula 1 should really look into holding a race in Jamaica. There is an excellent pool of drivers. Every vehicle has a working horn, a hard working horn. At one point we were passing a slower vehicle after having it disappear. We were high up in the third row in the coach-style bus and I could not see its rear window. As we passed on the 2 lane road another car passed us using the shoulder of the oncoming lane. Beep beep. I'm sure the law reads 'one must honk at every other driver at least once, and then attempt to beat him to wherever he is going'.
We made a stop about midway to Ocho Rios for refreshment, primarily Red Stripe beer, the local brew. It was pretty tasty, similar to Rickards Red with a bit of a bite in the aftertaste. This spot was probably the hottest I felt during the entire week.
When we finally pulled into the long palm tree lined driveway of the Riu resort everything changed. It was beautiful. And then there is the beach, fine sand stretching into the water giving it the turquoise color. Some rooms weren't quite ready but we had a quick look around, checked in and then relaxed. The endless buffets had a pretty good mix and the main courses were changed up enough to provide variety. They also have some specialty restaurants but their story will be told in a later post.