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Cayman Islands

Away We Go (pt.3)

While it was a week ago today that my cousin Michelle got married in the Cayman Islands in which Nolin and I took a trip (just the two of us) to attend, I am still having a good time reliving the adventure.  It was an experience that I will never have the ability to fully put into words but I am so grateful to have experienced.

As the wedding quickly approached, Nolin, Erin and I headed off the beach to try and get Nolin to take a nap so that he would be well rested for the evening’s activities.  No such luck, Nolin was having a grand time playing in the room and crawling all over me like a jungle gym.

All of a sudden, it was time to leave for the wedding and I wasn’t exactly sure where the day had gone.  Next thing I know, Nolin hasn’t slept, I am still trying to put food in his mouth while pulling up his pants and Erin is trying to make sure I have everything packed in the bag.  We hurried out of the room (sans pacifier) and hopped in the limo with Michelle and my family.  Nolin’s first Limo ride.

When we arrived, it was hot…it was Africa hot which didn’t bode well for a slightly overweight father who for some reason decided to where a long sleeve dress shirt and likes to sweat.  The venue was amazing right over the water and rocks, so Nolin and I explored while we waited.  Then wouldn’t you know it, Nolin fell asleep.  Twenty minutes before the wedding.  I flew this kid out of the country for a wedding and he fell asleep…awesome.  He slept through the whole thing, only to wake up as Michelle and Don were pronounced man & wife.  He was slightly startled but sat up and then started clapping.  Timing = Perfect.

The remainder of the evening was absolutely perfect and I was so glad that my sister and I could be there to celebrate with Michelle & Don.  We got back to the hotel and everyone decided to go hang out at the hotel pool.  I decided not to call my cab driver friend to babysit, and instead I played responsible parent and put Nolin to sleep and hung out in the hotel room.

The following day was our day to explore.  Erin, Nolin and I borrowed my cousin’s rental car and made our way to the other side of the island to see the Pedro St. James Castle.  I am not sure why I thought I would be the best nominee to drive, but that is how it worked out.  Again, they have American cars that drive on the wrong side of the road..not cool.  Besides the slightly chaotic first left hand turn and then a missing direction in which we drove around the roundabout four times until we figured where we needed to go (Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben), we escaped unharmed.

We arrived at the castle and Erin’s first comment was castle’s in the Caymans look a lot different than Castle’s in Europe.  As we learned, it wasn’t really a castle.  It was a house that had a lot of history, burned down, was rebuilt to look like a castle as a tourist trap, and then they rebuilt the house over the castle.

They had a Pirates of the Carribean style movie that went along with it, in which there was lightening and mist during the rain storms.  In one section they announced the abolition of slaves in the Caymans to which Nolin screamed “yeaahhh” and clapped. Again, Timing = Perfect.

We walked around the property for a while and were amazed at the views.  Nolin met a new girlfriend who thought I was a local and Erin was a visitor and showed us some other areas of the property that we probably wouldn’t have experienced without her knowledge.

Sweating and hot, we finally wrapped up our educational portion of the trip and headed back to the hotel and the beach.  Nolin slept for over two hours on the beach and woke up in time for one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen.  A fantastic Italian dinner followed and then we headed back to prepare for our trip home in the morning.

We were told to give at least 2.5 hours to get through customs, so we got to the airport a little after 8am for our 11am flight.  Five minutes later we were through customs and hanging out in the terminal of the Cayman airport.  Helpful Travel Tip:  There is not a lot to do in the terminal of the Cayman Airport.

Once again Nolin was beyond awesome on the plane ride and we made it to Tampa safely.  Besides an angry customs agent we picked up our car and headed home with no troubles…much to the delight of a mother in waiting.

Nolin, your first International trip could have been rough since it was just with me, but you managed to make it a trip I will never forget and I thank you for that.  It has almost been a year since you entered our lives and it looks like we are just getting started…


Away We Go (pt.2)

Nolin and I left the airport ready to head over to the hotel.  At this point I was beyond excited to unpack our things and meet up with everyone. I guess Nolin was too, he  just kept saying, “yeeeah” and clapping his hands.

We caught a taxi to the hotel.  It was definitely different riding in an American style car (steering wheel on the left) on the wrong side of the road.  Not to mention the cab driver had no problem coming within 4 inches of a car in front of him before applying the breaks…but it’s the islands so it is all good.  He also offered up babysitting services (several times) for Nolin if I wanted to go snorkeling or scuba diving.  “Here in da Caymans we do dat for you” he told me.  And I kept thinking well back in the States we don’t give strange cab drivers our children to look after.  Even though we were on island time, I decided to not to partake in the local babysitting custom.

As we got to the hotel, we immediately had 3-4 greeters meet us at the taxi. One set Nolin’s stroller up as I started to strap him in.  Another grabbed my bag as I got Nolin’s book bag and the camera case.  I paid the taxi driver (minus babysitting services) and turned around to find my bag (and more importantly) Nolin gone.  WTF? I haven’t even been here for 30 minutes and I have already lost my son. I rushed in the front door as one of the greeter’s was trying to get my name, only to find my suitcase over by another group of guests (and no greeter within site) and Nolin still being wheeled away and laughing. I mean what is it with these Caymans and their desire to babysit…do they think I am that incapable of taking care of him?!

I decided to forgo the suitcase at this point and catch up to Nolin.  I finally got Nolin from the runaway greeter, walked back over to my suitcase and then checked in.  So much for island time being relaxing.

We got to the hotel room, quickly unpacked the essentials and I covered Nolin in Sunscreen from head to toe (no sunburns on my watch), got him dressed in his matching lobster bathing suit, muscle shirt and hat in preparation for a little time on the beach. I tried for sunglasses to complete the cool ensemble, but after he ripped them off, I figured I wouldn’t press my luck.

We got to the beach, and I was instantly amazed at how nice it was.  With the sun blinding my eyes (I forgot to pack my own sunglasses), I heard a loud “There he is”…I guess people were really excited to see me. At that moment my sister and cousin’s friend Cristina came running out of the ocean bypassed me and grabbed Nolin.  Guess I wasn’t really the man of the hour.

We spent about an hour on the beach and in the pool before we went up to get ready for the rehearsal dinner.  Nolin went crazy for both the ocean and pool, so I knew he would enjoy his time in the Caymans.

We arrived at the rehearsal dinner to this elegant setting around a color changing pool and canopy tents surrounding the tables.  I felt like I was entering a dinner scene from The Hills (minus the Heidi/Spencer drama).

We had an awesome dinner, and it was great to meet the members of Don’s family who were able to make it to the wedding.  Nolin was cracking everyone up and finally fell asleep in his stroller until we left to head home.  I was expecting a rough night of sleep when we got back to the room, but he was a champ and slept until 9am (10am East Coast time) when my cousin called for us to come hang out in her room.  In less than 24 hours Nolin had already quickly adapted to island time…this was going to be a great trip!

Away We Go (pt. 1)

We packed up the car, made last-minute mental checks of everything we could possibly need, watched Jenn say good-bye then go back to the car and say good-bye again and again and again (this was her first significant time away from Nolin since he has been born), and then backed out of the driveway…Away We Go.

While (for several reasons) I have been very excited about my cousin Michelle’s wedding in Grand Cayman, I have also been extremely nervous.  After all a trip with an eleven month old by yourself is always challenging, much less an international trip. Yes Erin (aka Aunt Geee), I know we were sharing a hotel room with you which cut down slightly on the male bonding, but we figured we’d let you join the wolf pack.  I knew in the back of my head that Nolin would be fine, but again you never know.

It started with a two-hour drive to Tampa.  Nolin slept for about 30-40 minutes and then entertained himself the remainder of the time reading his books (That’s Not My Monster & Velveteen Rabbit were this trip’s choices), singing songs to himself and pointing at things as we drove by.

Then we got to the airport, where again I was greeted with people who didn’t think that a single man could be capable of handling a child.  I had one lady that I slightly bumped into as I was pulling Nolin’s stroller off the x-ray machine and subsequently apologized to (since technically she bumped into me, it did not really require an apology, but I was feeling good and excited) she responded “no problem, I don’t envy your situation at all”.  Without thinking I said “I would, I am going to the Caymans” and Nolin and I continued on our way.

Then we met the Mexican Scientologist (Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up).  She was at the gate and trying to figure out where they were picking her up for her auditing classes.  She was having trouble getting her credit card to work on the phone, so I lent her my phone. She was doing her best to try to understand what they were asking her to do (if this was any indication, her auditing process may be very difficult).  It turned out to be me talking to the Scientologist pickup person, arranging a meeting place and escorting her there while she took over feeding Nolin in the airport.  She was very thankful and pleasant and I figured it was just one more adventure as we make our way.  Although, I am a little scared that they now have my phone number and John Travolta or Tom Cruise are going to end up at my door trying to convert me (wouldn’t that make a story?!).

Finally we got on the plane for a direct flight (just a little over an hour…score!) to Grand Cayman.  The flight attendant gave me a baby loop.  In all the traveling I have done with Nolin, I have never received one of these.  It is basically a seatbelt that attaches to your seatbelt for lap babies.  I think Nolin was just as confused by his new lack of freedom as I was.

Then it happened again.  I’m not sure if it was the really bad Star Wars shirt (trying to look authentic, but you know he paid $75 for it at Urban Outfitters), three different blackberry’s or the fact that when the gentleman came over to our row, he started sanitizing the seats and arm rests beside Nolin and I, that clued me in to the fact that he was not very excited about sitting next to a small child (even though his wife was one row back with their two kids).  He gave us a few death star stares and did his best to ignore us.

Nolin wouldn’t be defeated that easily even though the baby loop had forced him into a position with one leg in the air and the other somewhere off to the right.  Nolin started giving him the point.  He did his best not to look, but he couldn’t help it.  He would try to sneak a peek, while keeping his sour grimace.

Then Nolin’s magic worked.  He began to smile and laugh at Nolin and talked to us for the remainder of the flight.

We landed with no incidents, and walked into the Cayman Airport for Nolin to receive his first (of many) stamps on his passport.  It was such a neat moment, and I wanted so badly to  take a picture or video tape it, but figured it may not make the rehearsal dinner quite as fun if Nolin and I were detained. It may also hurt my credibility as a capable father, so we quickly made our way to the hotel, anxious to meet up with everyone who was already there.

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