Archives – February, 2006

Bat Day – Mike from Brooklyn

I thought this was hysterical! Hide the kids, crank up the volume!!

Bat Day v.1

Bat Day v.2

Compliments of The Kid From Brooklyn.com

1 Comment February 25, 2006

PNS – Here it comes!!

PNS is taking over! I sit on the computer for an hour each night trying to tweak every imaginable variable to get the lowest fare. What if I left from Newark, maybe Atlantic City? What if I left Monday, or Sunday, or a week later or a week earlier? It’s a few weeks of obsessive-compulsive insanity that in some ways keeps me sane.

Then it’s the hotel. I have an ideal room in my mind though every amenity can be altered as needed either for a better price or for another momentarily more important amenity.

I love to find the cheapest place in Negril which also has the most things on my moving target list. It’s not that I’m poor, but I like the feeling when someone is wowed by my Blue Cave Castle pics and I can say, “All that, and for only $35.00 a night!” All bow to the “Travel Guru”!

My main requirements are a balcony or patio, a mini-fridge, and an indoor shower. I really don’t ask for much. The balcony, veranda if you must, is just a little private space outdoors to read, chill-out and have some “me” time. The fridge is for Red Stripe, water and leftovers. Actually all food goes in there, Jamaican insects are survivors, and will be roomates if you’re not careful. Lastly the indoor shower, I don’t even need hot water, and although I never actually stayed in a place with a communal bathroom, I almost did, once.

There are some niceties like a kitchenette, or a hammock that can push a property several notches up my list. My favorite place, accommodationally speaking, was Banana Shout. We were there just weeks after Hurricane Ivan (10/04), the place was a construction site, but the house rocked. Two verandas with hammocks, a hot plate with a coffee pot, it even had hot water, though the water in Negril is never really cold.

My finalists for my 2006 Easter trip are Traveller’s, Hidden Paradise, Catcha Falling Star, The Yoga Center and Banana Shout. Traveller’s has a great price and always seems so well kept. Hidden Paradise offers breakfast. I snooped around on my last Negril trip, and it too seems like a place that gets a lot of TLC from its owners, but both those places are on the beach side and I find myself becoming a cliff dweller.

Catcha Falling Star is awesome and is currently topping my list. It has everything I want, is beautiful, and Rob from The Real Negril got me a great deal. Banana Shout and The Yoga Center are sentimental favorites, both wonderful places I’ve vowed to come back to.

So you see, I’m a mess!

Any suggestions to further muddy the waters?

Peace :)

Vinny

Leave a Comment February 20, 2006

Yoga Center – Review

I stayed at The Negril Yoga Center in April 2004. This was the trip that really turned me into a Negril freak. I booked on price and the beach location, but found so much more. If you’re used to fancy this place may not be for you, unless you’re looking for something totally different.

Location:

The Yoga Center is right on Norman Manley Boulevard, aka Beach Road, a quiet oasis in the hustle bustle. It’s on the “Garden Side” of the road, but easy beach access right through Travellers or Shields.

It’s an easy walk to the roundabout on a wide foot friendly section of road. It’s also close to all the lower beach bars and hotels. I spent time at Kuyaba and Selina’s both easy walks.

Accommodations:

I stayed in Bamboo 1, at first I was a little taken back by the pink paint but when Marsha said it was coral not pink I felt better. The room, cottage actually, was a classic eight-sided cabin with a high domed ceiling, a fan, and tiled bathroom with ambient temperature shower. I don’t like to call it “cold water” because the water isn’t cold it’s more like washing in rain water, very exhilarating. The room had a big comfy bed, and was set in a lush garden. The place is rustic, but not dumpy by any means. It is very clean and the food is fast, fresh and tasty. They have a community kitchen that I didn’t use, but there were people who seemed to use it every day. The biggest negative was my room had no patio or balcony, and I put a premium on personal outdoor space.

People:

There was this really cool guy named Alan who was staying there in a tent. I think he stays there for several months every year, and it was like he was part of the staff. The cook, I think her name was Claudia, made great coffee and tasty breakfast. Marsha, the manager was great resource, she knew what was going on every day, and she consistently pointed us in the right direction. Also the place attracted other budget conscious single travelers, there was always something to do and people to do it with.

Property:

The property has plenty of flora and fauna. The garden is lush and colorful, when you drive by the vegetation is so thick you can’t see inside. The buildings seem to have grown there along with the trees and bushes. The yoga pavilion is a big space for meditation and yoga classes. I missed those, but my favorite feature is the Hammock Hut. In the back corner of the property stands the hammock hut, a thatched hut with no walls, with four hammocks and a bench. The breeze blows through and the thick thatch keeps the sun’s rays at bay. With no balcony or patio, the hammock hut was a blessing.

Vinny :)

http://negrilyoga.com

Leave a Comment February 20, 2006

Banana Shout – Review

I went to “The Shout” in October 2004 less than a month after hurricane Ivan hit the West End of Negril head on. The damage to the resort and the entire area was devastating, but with all the trappings of tourism stripped away we got to experience the soul of Banana Shout.

Location:

Right on the cliff, the ocean views are spectacular. It’s a small property, sort of pie-shaped with the point at the street entrance. Being on the far end of the West End resort area it’s quiet, but if you’re walking to anywhere other than Rick’s (next door) bring good shoes. 

Accommodations:

We stayed in the big 2 floor cabin called Seaside 1, and even though the new owner has raised rates, this is one of the best values in Negril.

The first floor has a kitchenette with a full sized fridge, sink and hot plate with plenty of pots, pans, dishes, silverware and utensils. There’s even a percolator style coffee pot. Two couch/beds, an armoire and a big round kitchen table fill the rest of the space. Plenty of hurricane shuttered windows keep the room lit, cool and airy without compromising privacy.

The bathroom is large and well lit. The shower has excellent pressure, there is an electric hot water heater, but we never used it. The fresh ambient water makes for a refreshing experience.

Upstairs is the bedroom. We got to calling it the bamboo lung. Two double beds, a high ceiling and an efficient fan to circulate the cool Caribbean breeze all night long.

The most spectacular feature of Seaside 1 is the two, yes two, verandas, one on each floor complete with hammocks. The sunset view from the hammock on the second floor veranda is an experience everyone should enjoy at least once in their life, there’s even a table to hold your Red Stripe at arms length.

People:

My trip to “The Shout” was several years and one owner ago, so my people comments may be out dated. We were the only ones there, so we had them all to ourselves.

Mark Conklin, the owner and writer of the book Banana Shout, was there rebuilding the place, and his time and stories really added depth to our visit. Anne Marie the housekeeper took good care of us, a few authentic Jamaican home cooked meals and a pretty bright smile each time I looked her way. Alex was the yardman who no matter how busy he was re-building the resort, he was there to open the gate, flag us a taxi, whatever we needed. It was like staying with a family. 

Property:

It’s not really fair for me to gauge the property. When I was there it was a construction site and the entire garden was wiped out, and though the process of construction and wall rebuilding added a texture to my trip that continues to make it one of my most memorable, it’s not what most normal people would enjoy.

The cliffs themselves are a great feature of the property. Limestone walls, platform and stairways allow you to jump, dive, or safely walk right in to the warm Caribbean waters. We spent several remarkable sunsets right above the water. 

I’ve been by “The Shout” several times since staying there and the garden has bounced back well. The cottages are painted bright funky colors giving the place a bohemian feel commensurate with its vibrant history.

Vinny :)

http://bananashout.com

Leave a Comment February 20, 2006

NJ Transit – Or Lack Thereof…

I like trains. I take them often. They give me the time and the solitude to read and/or write. So, on Monday I figured the train would be a superior choice over negotiating traffic after the Great Nor’easter of 2006.

After a full days work I walked the half mile to the Hoboken Train Station, I usually ride the subway-esque path train from small Hoboken Station to big Newark Station for points south, Trenton, Philly, home.

This Monday genius boy decided to try the cushy, well heated NJ Transit train out of Hoboken at 6:01, change at Secaucus Transfer Station and pick up the 6:21 Northeast Corridor to Trenton with a connection to Philly.

NJ Transit said they had computer problems and due to the twenty inches of snow, they had to re-route trains all over the state, I think there was a conspiracy to trick a small group of weary travelers.

A big red sign lit up at Track B in the Secaucus Transfer Station, each train line has a corresponding color, the Trenton line is red. The sign read “Northeast Corridor 6:21PM Track B.” An announcer parrots these words and in a few seconds a huge friggin’ train pulls in with the word “TRENTON” festooned all over it in big bright lime colored LED letters.

So, being trusting, I stepped aboard, the doors closed and the computer generated car announcement said “Train to Trenton, next stop Newark Penn Station.” I sat back in the comfortable maroon faux leather seat, and felt good about my decision to go this route. I had a window seat just one stop ahead of the hoards that come aboard at Newark making it a standing room only trip.

“What was that?!?” my brain screamed!

He repeated, “THIS IS THE SUMMIT EXPRESS, PLEASE DISREGARD THE CAR ANNOUNCEMENT, I REPEAT, THIS IS THE SUMMIT EXPRESS, THIS TRAIN IS GOING TO SUMMIT.”

I freaked! I felt like a trapped animal! I scurried to and fro scratching on the windows as the station disappeard into the night, trying to get my mind around what just happened.

Standing in the aisle, I could see through several cars to an older conductor speaking to a petite Asian woman with flailing arms, and a really exasperated looking Indian guy. As I approached the situation I realized the kindly older conductor was a burned out government employed jack-ass with the empathy and slack-jawed cluelessness of a newt (please feel free to substitute the slimy invertebrate of your choice).

After she was done and got no satisfaction, I chimed in, but soon realized I was wasting my time talking to a brick wall. I don’t mean to disparage brick walls, at least they stand firm while you talk to them, he just held up his employee ID.

I didn’t get mad, ballistic asshole man did not make an appearance. A fellow traveler told me the head conductor is up front and that I should go talk to the boss. So I walked through half a dozen cars and found the boss.

I told him our situation, somehow becoming the spokesman for our little group. I guess union seniority trumps middle management, since he never addressed the dolt six cars back, but he did raise some hell and called a few people and seemed like he was on our side. It was kind of like the McDonald’s manager that seems personally angry that your Filet-O-Fish came to you sans tartar sauce.

The long and short of it was we had to get off at Summit, walk over to the middle track and take the very next train to New York, get off at Secaucus Transfer Station and try again to get to Trenton. The instructions came along with a most sincere apology.

There were about ten affected travelers on the middle platform in Summit when the very next train arrived, and like lemmings we boarded.

In less than three minutes aboard the train to make right the evenings wrongs, I saw an attractive woman in a red coat sitting across the aisle with a most flabbergasted look on her face. She was speaking to a conductor, “What do you mean this train isn’t stopping at Secaucus!!” she said in calm, shocked disbelief.

And with that same, I live at the teat of the New Jersey taxpayer attitude, deadpan but appreciably less smarmy delivery, “Nope, but you can get off at Newark Broad Street, then catch a bus or taxi to Newark Penn Station, or you can go back to New York.”

I spoke up, but she just listened and replied in the exact same words, though at least her implied “F**k You” gave her just a tinge of personality.

The Lady in the red coat and I went back and forth a few times trying to figure a way just to get on any train headed south.

“It would be funny if it wasn’t happening to me,” she joked.

We decided to split a cab and get to Newark Penn Station as soon as we could, but as we got off the train and to the street, the bus was just pulling up. The only good timing NJ Transit showed all night!

I was actually getting excited, I had a good chance of getting the 7:30 train to Trenton, then the 8:40 to Philly and maybe be home by ten.

I dashed off the bus and all but ran through the station, leaving my new friends behind. I arrived on Track 4 at 7:33, looked up to the board and saw the 7:30 Trenton was running five minutes late, woo hoo! finally a break!

Looking around the crowded platform, I realized my train had several trains ahead of it. I stood there out of breath and confused trying to digest what was going on.

Then came the garbled announcement, ” The 7:28 Long Branch Local will be arriving on Track 4 in ten to fifteen minutes, the 7:30 Trenton will be five minutes behind that, Long Branch first, Trenton Second on Track 4.”

It didn’t take too long to figure the math, I’d miss the connection at Trenton and wouldn’t be home till almost midnight.

I gave in and laughed aloud. Its funny the looks one gets when one bursts into laughter in a public place full of dreary commuters.

I looked up to see the petite Asian girl, the Indian guy, the Lady in the red coat and a few others from the misdirected Summit crew, we’d kind of bonded. They were the only others laughing.

Peace :)

Vinny
AKA-Disgruntled Traveler

1 Comment February 16, 2006

Clean off your Damned Roof!!

I’m a roof cleaner, I’m also a cart returner and a hose roller.

Continue Leave a Comment February 13, 2006

Jamaica Bound April ’06

Here I go again!

Finally nailed down the details, well at least the dates and flight. I’m leaving the day before easter and coming back 9 days later.

This will be my second April trip, it’s a great time to go. The “Sumer Season” and lower prices kick in April 15th for most of Negril, unfortunately my number one destination The Blue Cave Castle doesn’t drop prices till May 1 :(

I have it down between three places; Hidden Paradise, Banana Shout and Heartbeat. There are a few other possibles, but I plan on booking this weekend and I’m tired of weighing pros and cons.

If any of my Negril friends will be there that week, drop me a line, I know of a few that’ll be around, and a friend from Philly may be coming by for a few days.

Peace :)

Vinny

Leave a Comment February 9, 2006


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