This took me a while to get finished, so apologies for the delay.
A somewhat chaotic trip this time, due to various people's other commitments. For those not in the know I own a property in the West Bay area that I rent out, so pretty much every trip has work that needs to be done. This one was excessive and didn’t go at all to plan, meaning that in my 2 weeks there I really didn’t have much downtime at all. However, I will focus on the more traveler-oriented aspects of it, rather than moaning about contractors and my many trips to A.L.Thompson (the hardware store).
Let’s start with:
Tried a few new places and revisited a few old ones. A wrinkle this time was that the latter part of the trip we had a Vegan along with us, so I was intrigued to see how the island would live up to its culinary reputation….
Sunday Brunch at Agua – Sunday Brunch is an art form on this island, and is highly recommended for those that enjoy food. I have done the Ritz, Kimpton and Luca before, so had that to compare it to. The spread was by no means as lavish as the other three, but in some ways the quality was a bit better in some regards. The alcohol option (an extra $15) didn’t just include unlimited bubbly, but also a range of cocktails, which I found to be innovative and highly enjoyable. The egg selections, rather than being out on the buffet, were cooked to order, which meant that they were fresh and extremely tasty (and still unlimited). The Beef Wellington was excellent, too. A very nice brunch at a lower price point than we were used to.
Bacaro – a newer place close to the new Morgan’s Seafood location. Venetian-style small, medium and large plates, great cocktail list. Very tasty food all-round. Service was fantastic and the space is really nice. Will definitely go back here.
The Tasting Room at the Cayman Wine Boutique – located in a strip mall on West Bay Road (so the Seven Mile Beach strip) – another new experience. If you enjoy good wine, then this is a great place. We went here as an impromptu get-together with friends and had a really great time. They mostly do birthday parties and other larger groups, so private dining. The small plates there were utterly delicious, and the owner is a really great guy. If you have a larger group and want an amazing private dining experience, I can highly recommend it.
Macabuca – this is a regular haunt for me, as it’s close to my place in West Bay, close to the Turtle Centre. Great service, really good food and (surprisingly) had several vegan options which were quite delightful (coconut ceviche, for example) – they really outdid themselves. One of the best bars/restaurants on the island to watch a sunset, in my opinion. I am a fan of their chicken curry, but others like the conch. One tip – something that is not on the regular menu – sometimes the chef makes salted caramel ice cream which is amazing.
Tukka – on a drive around the island we stopped here for lunch. I like the place – great space, and the porch is really nice overlooking the water. I’m not quite sure why we have to have fake mallards (ducks) out in the water, but I am assuming there is a good reason. Food was very high quality and provided something a little different – my Aussie Burger was very tasty, and large.
Rackhams – we were in George Town and wanted to watch the sunset so ducked in here for the first time. Definitely more of an open-air city bar vibe, just right by the water. Their curried cheesy French fries were out of the park good, and the baked brie was extremely tasty.
Gelato & Co – this is in Camana Bay and a regular stop for me – walk right by the Haagen Daz ice cream place and head for the Crescent where this delightful “Cremeria Italiana” makes their own truly Italian style sorbets and gelatos. The coffee is amazing, and their baked goods are works of art. In addition to the standard Italian flavours like Stracciatella, and Bacio di Dama, they will used locally-sourced fruits like Guava, Mango, Papaya and Soursop.
Vivo – On a previous trip I had got a smoothie after a shore dive, but this was my first time for lunch. One of our group is vegan, so this was pure heaven for her. Nice casual location where you can watch the divers, and really tasty food. In addition to vegan fare they also serve lion fish.
George Town Yacht Club – went here for dinner one night as I had heard good things about it. Would definitely rate it higher as a lunch place than dinner, although it wasn’t bad.
*Other Things We Did*
Cayman Marathon – no, I didn’t run it, but our friend ran the half. Getting up at 4am to be downtown George Town for the start at 5am was a bit rough for most of us, but seeing how exhausted some of the runners were at the finish line I can see why they do that. We went out to the half-way point water station and saw Santa and his elves giving out water and Gatorade to the runners. It was very well-organized and the volunteers at the water station did a fine job of encouraging everyone and making sure that folks had a good time. She now wants to bring her whole running team for the next one.
Festival of Lights – this is a sort of kick-off to the Christmas season at Camana Bay. First one of the local church choirs sang Christmas Carols for about an hour – really nicely-sung, too, with some new carols we didn’t know. Then the boats in the harbour turned on their Christmas lights – some of them were amazing efforts – lights all over them. The super-moon was out with a few clouds, so some of the photos were amazing. Following this, there was a fireworks display. We all agreed that it was probably one of the most interesting, different and yet very Christmassy things we had done in years.
Snorkel – Smith’s and Spott’s – Smith’s was one of the best snorkels I had done there – the water was nice an clear, and we saw a couple of peacock flounder as well as all the usual critters. While a lot of the coral there is quite badly bleached, there is some new growth which was encouraging, and the soft corals were really in abundance.
This was my first snorkel at Spott’s – the only other time I have been there the weather was pretty rough. Didn’t see a lot on the sea grasses on the way out, even though we went up and down, so the first half was quite disappointing. But then we went out over the barrier and things got a lot more interesting. No turtles, which the site if famous for, of course, but loads of large schools of fish and a particularly friendly porcupine fish which followed us around for quite a while.
Jamaican Sorrel – each trip I try to make a new drink, using local ingredients – I have made Cayman Swanky’s before (using local Seville Oranges) and have a soursop cocktail recipe that I am dying to try. This time, though, I couldn’t find fresh soursop juice, so was searching around. One of the staff in Kirk’s gave me the low-down on making Jamaican Sorrel - a traditional Jamaican Christmas drink - from scratch. I started out with 2 pounds of sorrel and made a pitcher of pure heaven with it!
Seven Mile Beach - spent a couple of days on the beach between Calico Jack's and The Kimpton Beach. Really nice after the cruise folks have gone, but even when there aren't cruise crowds, they fill the beach up with blue chairs that you have to rent, so there is no real shade to be had, even though the beach is fairly empty. It's a shame that they do this. A quick walk up the beach showed me that the former Tiki Beach is a sad sight - construction barriers up and the place is falling apart and becoming an eyesore. I heard rumours that its future will be as a cruise visitor destination again, but in a different format than it used to be. Work does not appear to have started, though. The beach at Calico's was probably the deepest I have ever seen it, their gain is the Marriott's loss, apparently.
This trip the traffic was worse than I have ever seen on the island. When I was first there, before the ETH was built, West Bay Road could get very busy, but people would let each other in. Now, it just seems like it’s wall-to-wall traffic and not just at rush hour. It seems like the improvements being made are just shifting the bottlenecks to other places. There were also lots more traffic accidents than I have ever seen before, and most of them were at the roundabouts, and involved rental cars (hence my post a while back about how to negotiate roundabouts). Driving around was far more of a hassle than I have ever been used to before.
Groceries – Fosters vs Kirks
Visited both a couple of times – The Fosters was the West Bay one. The general consensus of my group was that the selection at Kirks was better, but the prices at Fosters were lower. My vegan friend was in paradise in Kirks – she was finding stuff that she couldn’t find at home in Canada and had to order online, plus some things that she had never heard of before. She was taking photos of labels so that she could look into ordering some of it at home. She said that prices for the vegan stuff were pretty much comparable to home.
Far from perfect this trip – I ended up getting just a single dive in (from Macabuca) to test out my new BCD, but in most of West Bay there were waves crashing on the shore continuously. It made for some really nice morning coffees by the water and sunsets, but made it difficult to go in for a quick swim. Having a heated pool in our complex made things that much nicer, though.
Probably due to bad luck, the American flight from Charlotte landed after all the other flights, so even though I wasn’t there on a Saturday the wait in line at Immigration was the longest I have ever had (I didn’t time it). However, the immigration officer was great – he asked me whether I had been to Cayman before – I said yes, and he asked how many times. I paused to think, and he asked “more than 4?” I said “oh yes, plenty more than that!” His reply? “Welcome home”. My icy cold heart melted just a little at that because each time I visit, Cayman feels more and more like home to me – or the home I wish I could have.
There are always new places to try for dining options – we still haven’t been to a few places that are on my list. Every time I get to try something different.
We introduced 3 people to the island that had never been there before – one Brit and two Canadians. They all totally fell in love with the place, even though the weather mostly didn’t cooperate. They all plan to come back soon and enjoy it again. It was good to see the place afresh through their eyes.
Cayman does Christmas the way I wished that other places would – much more of a family festival than an excuse/impetus to go shopping.
I really hope they sort out the traffic problem soon, as more overnight guests are going to be staying on the island.