Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Jamaica 2015: Week 5

My sister-in-law (T) and I were up early as we were going back to Old Fort Bay for the day. It was an easy drive there and we were at Chandra’s cottage before 11am. We had hoped to spend some time at the beach after we’d gone through some ideas with Chandra but as soon as we got there it started raining. Boo! We didn’t see any point in sticking around and started driving back at about 2pm. When we were halfway home, it started pouring – and it carried on most of the way back to Kingston. It was raining so heavily, we could barely see a few feet in front of us.

We got back to Kingston at around 4pm and went straight over to my aunt and uncle’s place. My brother (S) had taken my nephew (Baby A) over for a swim so we stopped there and had some tea before heading home (it hadn’t rained at all in Kingston). Even though all I’d done that day was sit in the car for a few hours, I was exhausted by the time we had dinner (jerk chicken and jerk pork from Scotchie’s – yum!). I got into bed and S and T went to Dub Club with my cousin and one of his cousins – they’d just arrived early that morning.

I spent Monday at home – reading and doing a bit of work. S was home early from work so we went to PriceSmart for some groceries. I spent Tuesday at the office.

On Wednesday, T and I went to Devon House with Baby A. Entrance cost us US$6.50 each and included an ice cream at the end of the tour. Apparently Devon House Ice Cream is the fourth best ice cream in the world. It was just the three of us on the tour, which was quite nice.

Devon House was built in 1881 by Jamaica’s first black millionnaire George Stiebel. He had 99 properties – and would have probably had more but it was illegal to own 100 properties during the period). Devon House remained a residence until 1967 when it was bought by the National Trust and restored. It was declared a national monument in 1990.

We were taken through the Entrance Hall and into the Dining Room (with the original Chippendale dining table and chairs – and a print of a Velazquez painting on the wall). We then saw the Living Room which has a 17th-century Venetian mirror in it. The Games Room had a bagatelle table, backgammon set and a folding card table. We saw two bedrooms and their ensuite bathrooms, the Sewing Room and finally the Grand Ballroom. It was spectacular!

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The chandelier is the original one that George Stiebel bought for the room. The Wedgewood ceiling is also the original ceiling of the House. There was a Broadwood piano, said to be one of the earlier prototypes of the ‘piano-forte’. I asked if it was in working condition, but our tour guide said it wasn’t.

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Our tour guide explained that the kitchen and stables used to be where the restaurants and shops now are, in smaller buildings located around the Great House. The Grand Ballroom was the end of our tour so we went back downstairs and decided to get some ice cream. I tried the coconut flavour and T had the Rocky River. Considering we got one scoop each, it was a really big scoop! We had to eat it fast though – or it would have melted in no time. When we were finished we walked around the shops for a while and I picked up a couple of scented candles from Starfish Oils.

On Tuesday night we went over to my aunt and uncle’s for dinner. We had a few drinks as well but it wasn’t a late night.

On Wednesday, T, Baby A and I went to the Tea Tree Creperie on Lady Musgrave Road for lunch. We couldn’t decide what to have so we ordered two and shared them. We had the Brie and Pesto crepe with mushrooms and the Ham, Swiss and Asparagus crepe. They were both so good. For dessert we shared the Tiramisu crepe.

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Yummy!

On Wednesday night, T was out with a couple of friends so S and I had dinner with our cousin and his cousin at Market Place. We sat outside at East, the Japanese restaurant, because we also wanted to order some food from China Express. We were so full by the end of dinner! Not to mention hot – because there was no breeze whatsoever where we were sitting.

I was home on Thursday, reading mostly and doing some work. I’ve really managed to get through a lot of books while I’ve been in Jamaica – it’s been great.

On Friday afternoon, we went over to my aunt and uncle’s. T took Baby A for a swim while I read my book. We went home for a while and ended up having dinner there that evening before heading to a friend’s birthday party at Tracks and Records (Usain Bolt’s bar). I was hoping he’d be there, but sadly he wasn’t. I did see Sean Paul though – I met him briefly last year (at the same friend’s birthday party). Anyway. I ended up having way too much rum and coconut water.

I spent most of Saturday in bed. S went to Maiden Cay on his friend’s boat, T was in and out with Baby A, and I just chilled at home. It was a waste of a day, to be honest – but it’s not like I had anything else to do!

I love my life.

To read more about Jamaica, click here.

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Jamaica 2015: Week 4

On Sunday morning, we decided we’d go to Hellshire for lunch. I’d never been there and my parents keep raving about it, so I was keen to go. So my brother (S), sister-in-law (T), nephew (Baby A) and I left home at around 12.30. I was told it was about 45 minutes away. On the way, we stopped to pick up one of S’s friends – and off we went. When we were about 20 minutes away, T called Screechie’s (the restaurant) to order our food as it gets quite crowded on Sundays.

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Hellshire Beach consists of several different restaurant shacks on the beach – all serving fresh fish and seafood. We’d ordered four fried snappers (each one comes with ‘festival’ or fried bread), one fried bammy (cassava) and one steamed bammy with vegetables.

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Screechie’s wasn’t crowded but we still waited a while for our food. The beach was quite crowded but the breeze was lovely! The only thing that was annoying was that people kept trying to sell us things every few minutes – from toys to sunglasses…

The fish was excellent – and so was the ‘festival’! Then again, most fried things are good…

Before we left, T and I went to use the washroom – we had to walk around the back of the restaurant to an enclosed area. The door was held closed by a nail at the top of the door which could be twisted to open and close the door. Inside this space, it looked like a junkyard – there were a few people milling around, a couple of dogs, an old car engine, an old Pepsi machine which had been taken apart and a few other random bits and pieces. Fortunately the bathroom was clean. Well, it seemed clean – but it’s hard to tell when the tiles on the floor and the walls are dark brown!

The drive back didn’t take very long at all and we were home by 4pm.

I spent the whole of Monday at the office and got lots done.

On Tuesday T and I were invited out to lunch by a friend and her mum. They took us to East – a Japanese restaurant in Marketplace. We had some edamame, a couple of salads and the yellowtail with jalapenos to start with, and then shared a spicy Philadelphia roll and prawn tempura roll. For dessert we shared a coffee-flavoured dessert which was covered in whipped cream. I’m not sure what it was called, but it was delicious – and I’m not even a big fan of coffee desserts.

Some general observations while I’ve been here:

  • People walking in the street seem to be in no rush whatsoever to get where they’re going (if they even know where they’re going) – then again it’s pretty hot so perhaps they’re simply conserving energy
  • People (mostly men) ride bicycles that are way too small for them – but then I don’t think they really care as long as they can get from A to B
  • My hair seems to be getting more and more curly each day that I’m here – it’s out of control
  • Mosquitoes love me

I spent Wednesday at the office again – and in the evening, S, T and I popped over to my aunt and uncle’s for a while.

On Thursday morning, T and I went to a Zumba class at Chai Studios, not far from the house. And that evening S, T and I went to watch a CPL (Caribbean Premier League) cricket match at the National Stadium with some friends – it was my first cricket match. We had tickets for the ‘Party Stand’ (what used to be the ‘Mound’) – tickets were J$1500 (less than US$15) and included a ticket for a meal (options were burgers, chicken wings and jerk chicken) and drinks were free. Sponsored drinks, that is – so Appleton Rum, Stag beer and I’m not sure what else. The Jamaica Tawallahs played Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel. Jamaica batted first – so that part was fun and everyone was really into it. In the second half, people lost interest and we didn’t even stay to the end.

I spent all of Friday at home. I read some of my book, I did some work, I played with my nephew. We ordered some Chinese food that evening and had an early night.

On Saturday we went to the beach on a friend’s boat which is docked at the Yacht Club, close to the airport. Just before we got on to Norman Manley Highway, I noticed a sign that said ‘Crash hot spot’ but didn’t think anything else of it. Less than two minutes later, as we turned a bend, we came extremely close to a head-on collision with another car that was overtaking a third car. Fortunately S has quick reflexes and managed to swerve out of its way. And fortunately there was enough space for him to swerve into because it would have been a terrible accident. We made to the Yacht Club and found the boat.

It was our friend’s new boat and S and T hadn’t been out on it either. It’s called Jus2Bad (seriously, it is). The boat was big. When you walk in, there is a living area with an L-shaped sofa on one side and another seating area on the other side. Down a couple of steps is the kitchen area with a sink, fridge and microwave. Down a couple more steps are three bedrooms – the master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, a second bedroom with a double bed and ensuite bathroom, and a third small room with bunk beds. It can sleep six comfortably, but if you use the sofas in the living area as well, you could sleep about ten or twelve on the boat. There’s also an 11-foot whaler on the bow.

It took us about an hour to get there but ‘the beach’ turned out to be Maiden Cay – a mound of sand in the middle of the ocean. On weekends, boats drop their anchors while their passengers swim, drink, snorkel, barbecue and dance in the middle of the sea.

We were there till about 3.30pm, sailed back by 4.30 and were home by 5.30 or so. We had to get ready in a rush as we were going out for dinner and were supposed to be there at 7pm. We left home shortly after 7pm and got there at around 7.20pm.

Dinner was in one of S and T’s friend’s gardens. She’s a caterer by profession and every couple of months she hosts an evening called ‘Dining with Lex’ where she charges a fixed amount per head for food (drinks were extra). There were eight of us on our table, but there must have been about fifty people there for dinner.

Dining with Lex - menu

Dining with Lex – menu

I thought the food was really good and the presentation was innovative. What a creative way to get more clients! There was also karaoke for those who wanted to sing. We left after dinner at around 10.30pm as T and I had to be up early the next morning.

I love my life.

To read more about Jamaica, click here.

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Jamaica 2015: Week 3

My sister-in-law (T) and I left Kingston at around 11.30am to head to Old Fort Bay near Ocho Rios. The drive was lovely – as we went through Sligoville and on to the highway. We didn’t hit any traffic and were at Scotchie’s by 1.15 in time for lunch! We had some jerk chicken and coconut water – and then went on to Old Fort Bay which is just 5 minutes from there.

We were spending three nights at Old Fort Bay on a yoga retreat, the same one I did the year before. We were at Old Fort Bay Cottage by 2pm and were met with cold towels and a hug from Chandra, the yoga teacher and organiser. This year, it was just T, our yoga teacher, a girl from Vancouver and me. As the cottage wasn’t full, T and I were able to have separate rooms with a shared bathroom. We were all at the beach by 2.30pm.

Old Fort Bay

Old Fort Bay

I think this is one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever been to… We had a gentle yoga session in the garden followed by dinner of coconut fish curry and rice. It was delicious. We also had a couple of bottles of wine and T and I tried to teach the other two how to play Kalooki. The game that took an hour in Kingston took over 2 hours that evening! We all went to our rooms at around midnight.

I slept so badly. I was so hot. The fan in my room didn’t reach the corner of the room where the bed was. At around 2.30am I decided to move the bed but the wooden frame was so heavy, I barely moved it a few inches. Still, it was better than no air and I did eventually fall asleep.

I woke up drenched in sweat and couldn’t wait to get to the beach for our yoga session. It was very windy that morning though – and the corners of our mats kept getting blown over! It was a good session though – and I enjoyed rinsing the mat (and myself) off in the ocean afterwards.

We went back to the cottage for breakfast (scrambled eggs and toast) and at about noon I decided to take a nap. The others walked to Laughing Waters, a private waterfall about 20 minutes away. I was tired and had a bad headache so I decided to skip it – I’d been there last year so I didn’t feel too bad about missing out. I’d also moved the bed closer to the fan so I could be more comfortable.

At around 3pm, I got up and went to the beach. There weren’t many people around as it was a Monday, but the beach was beautiful. I noticed a small sand crab not far from where my sunbed was and spent a while watching it. It crept out of its hole towards various objects, and then quickly grabbed them and scuttled back to its house. And then it did the same thing over and over again. It was fascinating to watch. This little guy knew exactly what he was doing with his life! I continued watching him until a wave went over his little burrow – and he didn’t come out again. Aren’t they somehow waterproof??

The others came back from Laughing Waters at around 4pm and we relaxed at the beach for a while longer. After dinner (mango shrimp and rice and callaloo) we went back to the beach for a moonlight walking meditation. We just walked along the shore, we could go into the water if we wanted to, we could do anything we wanted but we couldn’t speak to each other until we were back at the house. We had an early night that night and I slept soundly.

It was really hot on Tuesday and yoga was tough, even at 8.30am. The breeze from the day before had disappeared and the water was much calmer too.

After our breakfast of saltfish and ackee and plaintain, we went back to the beach and floated around in the waves for a while. I even saw two small fish right next to me and was so surprised to see them that my sudden movement scared them off. We spent most of the afternoon at the beach – I dozed off on my sunbed for a while. At about 4pm, T and I went to the craft market in Ocho Rios. She wanted to get a drum for my nephew (Baby A). Chandra came with us as she was looking for paintings for the cottage. It was hot in that market though – I couldn’t wait to get out of there. We had our evening yoga session on the beach, watching the almost-full moon rising while the sun was setting. Magical.

Dinner that night was fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and bammy (cassava). The cook, Ms June, also made us a ‘special’ cake. Forget about being ‘special’, the cake itself was unbelievably light and fluffy. I only had one piece though, which was enough for me. I was in bed, reading, quite early that night.

When we got to the beach on Wednesday morning, the tide was really high. We barely had enough space for our yoga mats – and Chandra did get wet a couple of times. My mat was fine until the very end when I was lying in savasana, and suddenly felt water creeping up to my waist. It was such a welcome relief from the heat that I started smiling. After our customary dip in the water, we went back to the cottage for breakfast – scrambled eggs, sausages and toast. T and I got our stuff together, and were headed back to Kingston by noon.

That evening, we went over to my uncle and aunt’s place for a little while and then came home for dinner.

On Thursday, T and I took Baby A to PriceSmart for the weekly groceries and then I caught up on some work as I hadn’t done anything all week. I had a really lazy Friday – I read my book for most of the day and had a mani/pedi.

On Friday night, we met up with a couple of S and T’s friends. We had dinner at Taurus Court restaurant in Musgrave Commercial Centre. The service was average – and we waited a while for the food. But it was so worth it. S and I shared a hot and sour soup – and we both agreed that it was excellent. We also had malah shrimp (disappointing), Thai style chicken (good, but not really Thai – more like chicken with cashew nuts), roasted char siu (not bad) and pan-fried spare ribs with garlic (amazing). I was so entertained by the menu:

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Cockbum Port?

Cockbum Port?

I could have changed every single page of it!

After dinner we went to a bar called CRU – it’s a really nice rooftop bar, and it was packed. The music was good, the drinks were good, the company was fun. It was also my latest night out and we were home at 2am.

Saturday was really lazy. T took Baby A for a swim in the late afternoon but I didn’t get ready until 5pm. That night we went over to one of S’s friends for a barbecue. We were the first ones there and we were on time. The next person didn’t arrive until an hour and a half later and others an hour after that! Time-keeping is not one of their priorities here, clearly. The food was good though – spring rolls and crab cakes to start with, and lasagne, salad and garlic bread for the main course. We were the first to leave at around 11pm – but I’d already faded at around 9.30pm. I couldn’t wait to get into bed.

I love my life.

To read more about Jamaica, click here.

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Jamaica 2015: Week 2

I was up early on Sunday, like the day before. I just didn’t want to waste any time indoors when I could be outside on that gorgeous deck! I was outside a little after 8am with a cup of tea and my book.

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We had breakfast at 9am (scrambled eggs, bacon, croissants) and then it was just me for a while.

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I was feeling a bit burnt from the day before and tried to stay under the umbrella as much as possible (except when I was in the water). We had a lunch of chicken sandwiches (from the leftover roast chicken the night before). I carried on reading while everyone else napped. I had the place to myself again…

We left at around 4pm to head back to Kingston as my brother (S) didn’t want to drive back in the dark. What a lovely, relaxing weekend! I was seriously sunburnt though – around my shoulders and collarbone…

On Monday morning, I realised how badly sunburnt I was.

Ouch!

Ouch! I spent the rest of the week peeling…

My sister-in-law (T) and I took my nephew (Baby A) to the supermarket to pick up a few things for the house. That evening we went over to a friend of S and T’s to celebrate her birthday. I hadn’t met her before but my aunt was there with a couple of her friends who I’ve known for a while. It was a nice evening – we had some wine and some homemade Chinese food (excellent) and a delicious homemade coconut birthday cake too. People meet up early here so we were home by 9.30pm, even though it felt like much later.

I went back to the office on Tuesday to do some work. T met us for lunch that day, and we went to Fromage Gourmet Market on Hillcrest Avenue. We all had the burger and fries – the burger was excellent. S and I went back to the office after that but were in a bit of a food coma, as you can imagine!

On Wednesday morning, T and I decided to use the gym at my aunt and uncle’s place a few streets away. They have a small gym in the house – a treadmill, a bike and a cross-trainer. There’s also a small multi-gym and some free weights. My first choice was the treadmill but it was out of order. I spent 20 minutes on the cross-trainer and then did some upper body weights. It wasn’t the best workout but I was just so hot. I don’t know how anyone gets anything done here. Just behind the gym is a koi pond where Baby A kept himself entertained by feeding the fish.

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That afternoon T, Baby A and I went back to PriceSmart – T was hosting her Baby Group at home on Thursday morning and needed a few things. I’d already told her I’d be going to the office that day! Afterwards she said it had gone well and there weren’t as many mums/babies as she thought there’d be. On Thursday evening, we went over to S and T’s friends’ place (the same friends who had the birthday at their place on Monday) to play Kalooki (Jamaican Rummy). I’m not a card player and it took me a while to get my head around this – partly because the game moves really fast! The game only lasted an hour or so and we were home by 7.30 to have dinner.

On Friday evening, we went to Medusa’s Bar and Grill – just off Hope Road – they do steaks on Friday night and it’s a regular outing for S and T and a few of their friends. I thought it was a good sign that a Prince song was playing as we walked in! We each had the 10-ounce sirloin (I couldn’t finish mine) which came with French fries, sour cream, Scotch Bonnett pepper and a few other toppings you could choose. We had a few drinks as well – and we were home by 9.30pm.

We lazed around on Saturday and then popped in to see my aunt in the afternoon. She had some other friends over too and we had a few bottles of wine between us! S, T and I dropped Baby A back home and then went to Roe for dinner. To start with, we had fried crab sticks, a garden salad and shrimp gyoza; for our main course we shared the crispy tuna roll and pork ginger. I think there was one more roll, but I can’t remember what it was. I also had another glass of wine. We were home early and T and I sorted out our packing for the following day. We were driving to Old Fort Bay near Ocho Rios for a 3-day yoga retreat (the same one I went to the year before).

I love my life.

To read more about Jamaica, click here.

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Jamaica 2015: Week 1

I came to Jamaica in July 2014 to visit my brother (S) and his family. I was in Kingston for most of the time, and also went on a yoga retreat near Ocho Rios for one week.

This year, I decided I’d stay a bit longer. I got in on a Tuesday afternoon (16th June) and was so impressed with the new automated immigration system! I placed my passport face down on the scanner (open to the page with my photo and details) and my details popped up on the screen in front of me. I had to confirm they were correct and then type in the address of where I’d be staying. The machine took a photo of me (not pretty after a 9-hour flight) and then printed off a slip of paper with my details on it. I took it to the immigration man who tore off his part of the slip and gave the other part back to me. I then went to the carousel to wait for my luggage. It was hot. And it was crowded. And the carousel hadn’t even started yet. What I noticed last year (and again this year) is that everyone waits as close as possible to the wall where the luggage comes out instead of spreading themselves around the carousel. I waited on the opposite side and had a bit of room to breathe for a while! My bags eventually showed up and I wheeled the trolley towards the ‘Nothing to declare’ area. Unfortunately the customs officer thought I did have something to declare and asked me to put my bags through the X-ray machine. And then they opened my trolley bag – for what, I have no idea. I was finally allowed to go and wheeled the trolley towards the exit. As I got there I was approached by a porter who said he’d help me. ‘No, thank you,’ I insisted – I’d managed this far on my own and I could see S waiting outside. Just as I got to the door, I was stopped by another man who pointed to a sign that said ‘NO TROLLEYS BEYOND THIS POINT’. How was I going to manage two suitcases, a trolley bag and my handbag without a trolley? The same porter was still hanging around, so he ended up helping me after all!

We got home at around 5pm and my nephew (Baby A) was about to have his dinner. I hadn’t seen him in a year and he’s toddling around now – and he’s such a doll! Of course he whined when I picked him up – it would take some time to get used to me and I’d brought lots of little toys and books to buy his affection with over the next few weeks.

We had an earlyish dinner and S went off to play poker while I unpacked and settled in.

I pottered around the house on Wednesday morning. I had some tea and breakfast and watched Baby A playing with his toys. S came to pick me up for lunch – we stopped at the pharmacy first (I’d fallen when I was in London and grazed my knee quite badly) and then went to Roe, a Japanese place at Sovereign North. We both had the sushi bento box which was really tasty and then he dropped me back home.

My sister-in-law (T) arrived that evening – she’d been to London and Venice for her cousin’s wedding (we’d also met the week before in London). She was exhausted (and so was I) so we all had an early dinner and called it a night.

On Thursday I decided to go to the office with S. I had a lot of work to catch up on and my plan was to go to the office a couple of days a week to get it all done and relax the rest of the time. Also, the office is air-conditioned whereas the living/dining rooms in the house are not – and even in the bedrooms, the fans are on in the day and air-conditioning at night. Even though the temperature in Kingston is about 32/33C it feels hotter than Dubai as it’s so humid (I sometimes feel like I’m even sweating in the shower) and we really take air-conditioning for granted living in Dubai… So, I went to the office and managed to get a bit done. We ordered chicken shawarmas for lunch – yummy! We left the office early as we were going to PriceSmart (the equivalent of Costco in the UK) to pick up food for our weekend in Port Antonio. On the way home, I spotted this house and found it amusing:

Welcome 'Om'

Welcome ‘Om’

We went home, picked up my T and Baby A, and off we went. We picked up all kinds of things – wine, fruit, vegetables, bacon, salmon and some stuff for the house too. Fitting it all in the car was quite a challenge!

Once again, we had an early night as we had a long day the following day. We were all up early on Friday and eventually left the house after an early lunch. We got to Port Antonio at around 4pm and most of the drive was beautiful. I do get freaked out by the bends in the mountain roads and at how close the other cars drive! My uncle and aunt have a house (Nautilus Villa) in Port Antonio, near the Blue Lagoon (where the movie was filmed), so we stayed there for the weekend. It is gorgeous – the deck looks out on to the ocean and is built above the water so when you get in using the ladder you’re already in water that’s 10 feet deep (and so clear).

The Blue Lagoon is behind those rocks surrounded by trees

The Blue Lagoon is behind those rocks surrounded by trees

The entrance, dining room, one bedroom, kitchen and deck are all on the ground floor. On the first floor are two more bedrooms and a living room.

The upstairs living room

The upstairs living room

The beds must all be Super King size because at least four people could have slept comfortably in mine!

We unpacked and then had a drink on the deck. The sun was already starting to set and none of us felt like swimming right then – even though it was still hot. We’d asked for dinner to be served at 8pm, and just before I went up to my room to wash my hands. I realised I should have gone up earlier and closed the windows so that there wouldn’t be any mosquitoes (and who knows what else) buzzing around. As I opened my door, I was greeted with a blast of cold air. God bless the housekeeper – she’d already closed the windows and turned on the air-conditioning! I was so happy!

S, T and I had dinner on the deck. The cook had made salmon in an orange/mustard sauce with a mixed salad and sweet potato fries. Baby A and his nanny were already asleep. By 9pm I was tucked up in bed with my book.

On Saturday morning I was up so early. I was on the deck before the staff arrived at 8am and I think the butler was quite surprised to see me there! I had a cup of tea, enjoying the ocean breeze and my book.

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We had breakfast at 9am – eggs Benedict, bacon and jerk sausage. We soaked up the sun a bit more and then when it was too hot to bear it any more, we got into the water.

S, T and Baby A

S, T and Baby A

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We had some lunch at around 1pm (grilled lamb sliders and chicken wings) and then it was back into the water. It was so hot. At around 5pm, some of S’s friends stopped by with their families – there were six kids running around (not including Baby A – who was quite overwhelmed)! They only stayed an hour or so but it felt like it was much longer! After they left, we all showered and got ready for dinner (roast chicken and asparagus). We sat up on the balcony for a while and, once again, I was in bed soon after 9pm. I’d finished the book I was reading and started another one that night.

I love my life.

To read more about Jamaica, click here.

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