Beaches, Negril, Jamaica – Ya Mon!

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     Whenever we travel, we come back to Maryland’s ridiculous weather, and I think, “Why do we live here?” We went to Jamaica for Spring break, and I came home feeling the same way. Why do we live here, when we could live somewhere with beautiful, clear, turquoise waters, gorgeous beaches, and bright sunshine? Not to mention lots of incredible water sports, and plenty of interesting foods and beverages to choose from. Ya mon! Beaches Negril was awesome. And everybody actually says “ya mon,” so we did too. When in Rome. Probably you shouldn’t say “ya mon” in Rome. But you could try it and see how the Italians feel about it. Get back to me. Maybe they’ll laugh. Maybe you’ll get a pizza in the face.
     We knew we wanted Beaches, because we’d been to Beaches Turks & Caicos, and they know how to do a family all-inclusive vacation. And after the $100 we spent every day on breakfast in Hawaii for the four of us, when my children only ate a half of a bagel and a small carton of milk, we wanted to forget about the stress of “how much is this meal/snack/coffee/drink gonna cost?” Really, we just wanted to pay up front and then never get out our wallets again. So that’s what we did.
     The first choice to make was Beaches Negril or Beaches Ocho Rios. Here are the boys, pointing to Negril on a map:
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     We chose Negril, despite the fact that it’s a 90-minute drive from the airport, because the amount of actual beach at the resort appeared to be much larger, and the ratio of restaurants to rooms was better. To get there, we purchased the MoBay Club Fast Track in/out of the country for about $300 for the 4 of us. Think Disney Fast Pass. It was worth every penny. When we landed, we were met by our own reggae-singing friendly Jamaican man, and he swept us through the airport past the massive lines of people and through the confusion (it was mobbed and I would have been totally lost); he had us checked in and at the Sandal’s lounge in under 20 minutes. (Sandal’s owns Beaches.) It would have taken us several hours otherwise. The Sandal’s lounge sported lovely bathrooms, snacks, and serve-yourself beer, soda, and a bar with complimentary drinks as well. We had enough time for about a half a beer and a pit stop before we were called to our bus. The bus was itself was decent – comfortable with big windows. The ride was a slow 90 minutes, but I took the opportunity to try and see as much as I could off the resort. The countryside is poor, with many houses that appeared to have been started, but then construction abruptly ended, resulting in half-built properties. To the left I could see the land and the different houses, and to the right the ocean.
     When we arrived at the resort, Mason announced that it looked better than the pictures. The kids couldn’t get off the bus fast enough – they were so eager to explore. Mason was right – the resort was gorgeous! The landscaping was magnificent, and the indoor/outdoor feel of the walkways at the entrance was enchanting. The staff were friendly and really bent over backwards to make us comfortable and welcome. We sat down with a bunch of other families, signed in, and were offered drinks as we waited. The signature cocktail was The Mesmerizer, featuring rum and coconut. From there Krystal escorted us to our room. Located on the 2nd floor (of a 3-floor building), we had one room with a king-sized bed, bath, and private balcony, and the kids had an adjoining room with trundle beds and their own bath/balcony as well. And the view incredible. You could see the ocean and the lovely green and floral grounds from both balconies. We chose the beachfront concierge option, which meant our room was stocked with beer, wine, water, soda, juice, and any liquor we wanted. We skipped the liquor, but it was nice to have beer and wine in the fridge. The Montpelier buildings in Calypso Cove had recently been renovated, and they were gorgeous. Here are some views of the landscape, and from the balcony off of our room:
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     The beach access was really from anywhere in the resort – the beach was long and the resort lined up well with it. The water was mostly calm and incredibly clear. There’s an enormous main pool that sits beside the main buffet restaurant called The Mill. Then there’s a smaller pool with a swim-up bar right next to the water park. Also, the water park was directly beside the beach. So Damian and I could sit at the pool bar or sit on the beach, and the kids could easily run around the water park and still be in sight all the time.  This is Corey in front of the water park:
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     The food overall was very good.  It’s just that the breakfast and lunch options were limited. There’s The Mill buffet, which is good if you want fast, and Stewfish right on the beach. Stewfish sports picnic tables dressed up with fancy table clothes, glassware, and sea shells, and you order from a menu. I tried just about everything they had, since we ate there every morning.  Eggs Benedict (classic or smoked salmon), breakfast burrito, pancake stacks with a sugar cane in the middle and blueberry, maple syrup, and/or caramel sauce on the side, waffles with chocolate sauce, etc. My favorite was the local breakfast platter – spicy fish, sauteed kale, johnny cake, and fried plantains. Such a great combination of sweet and salty – we ordered a pastry basket, fruit plate, coffee and juice every day as well. They also had mimosas. And as it’s right at the edge of the ocean, we watched the water sports set up each morning. The boats came in for the daily activities while we were there. The staff there are wonderful – they made us feel so at home and welcome. One woman was in love with Corey – she rubbed his head and offered to take him home with her.  This is a shot of Stewfish (under the latched hut), the edge of the beach bar, and the boats for the water sports:
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     And of course there was Stewy, the kitten, named for being a regular at the Stewfish breakfast. He’s a brave little soul – he looked like he’s maybe 12 weeks old (I say that because Shadow was about his size when we got him), and he came for his bacon at breakfast, but he wasn’t annoying. He hung back until we’re ready to feed him. I hope that people don’t complain about him, because he was really adorable, and the kids fell in love with him.
     For lunch the Mill buffet spot was the main choice. There was only one sit-down option at lunch – Mariachi, the Mexican place. It was good, but if you wanted to order from a menu, that was it. There is a bbq place that you could go and order food from and then take it wherever you liked. They sport things like jerk chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, etc. There is also Dino’s, where you can get wood-fired pizza from 11 am – 6 pm right on the beach. One day, we grabbed food from both the bbq place and Dino’s and took it to Soy, which is the sushi place (closed for lunch), and at their gorgeous (empty), Asian-themed outdoor tables and looked at the grounds/fountains while we ate.  Here’s a shot of the tables at Soy:
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     Dinner options were the best. Lots of different choices. The Venetian offered fancy Italian fare, and we dressed up for that. The boys were so cute in their collared shirts, exclaiming about the fancy decor in this round restaurant that sits atop the Mill up a narrow staircase. From the Venetian:
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     There was a hibachi place where we were entertained by our own chef. We also had sushi for dinner at Soy, and it was wonderful as well. From hibachi:
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     We ate at Stewfish twice at night as well, for their seafood. Lobster, snapper, lots of interesting desserts, and a chance to watch the sunset over the water while dining. There was a Jamaican beach party one night with steel drums, and it was like having a giant wedding reception right on the beach. Super fun!
     Damian and I also chose to pay extra for a dinner for two on the beach to celebrate our anniversary. The table was steps from the water, we had our own butler/server for the meal, and the food was amazing. Several courses, with a glass of champagne to start, lobster, scallops, filet, wine, and a white chocolate & raspberry dessert to finish. The sun on the water was beautiful. It’s an experience I’ll probably never have again; I’m so glad we chose to wish each other well after so many years of marriage in such a spectacular and memorable way.
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     The Cafe de Paris, which they also had in Turks, offers all-day fun coffees and crepes or little pastries. There’s a case of small treats, like carrot cake cupcakes, mini chocolate cakes, mini cheesecakes, mini lemon bars, mini blueberry cakes, mini orange cakes, little red velvet cakes – you name it. I went and tried all the fun coffees after lunch with one of the small treats. I had a Cafe Italien one day (coffee with Amaretto), and Francais another (coffee with coffee liqueur, gran marnier, and whipped cream), and Irish Coffee with Baileys. The boys went before breakfast pretty much daily and got pre-breakfast chocolate chip cookies. Corey usually got two, he admitted – one for each hand. Can’t beat that teen logic.
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     There’s even an herb garden!
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     The included water sports were pretty spectacular. There’s a glass-bottom boat ride that you signed up for the day before – or sometimes you can get in the morning of – they usually ran at 9 and 10 am when the water is nice and calm. We did that at 10 am early in the trip, and it was wonderful. I’m not a boat fan, but the water was calm, and the boys particularly loved being able to look through the glass at their feet and see all the huge starfish and interesting fish under the boat. “Big Bear” was our guide, and he was friendly and funny. I also loved not having to don a snorkel for this activity, because no thanks. I don’t snorkel. From the glass-bottom boat ride:
     Damian and Mason do, however, snorkel. And they did. While Corey and I hit the water slides. The snorkeling boat went out several times a day, too, and you just sign up and then show up at your time. It’s about an hour for that. If you want more adventure, you can SCUBA. If you’re already certified, you just sign up and go. If you’re not certified, you can pay $100 per person to have an instructor get in the pool with you and teach you, then you do a short, shallow (15-20 feet), instructor-led dive. If you want to get fully certified, you can do that too for $500 a person. Which is pretty amazing, if it’s something you want to do. Me, not so much. Damian and Mason tried the SCUBA, but Mason couldn’t handle it, so they never made it past the pool. Which was fine – I was proud of him for trying.
     There’s also water bike paddle boats, kayaks, banana boats, sail boats, and water skiing. We did the banana boat and got tossed way out in the ocean, which terrified poor Mason, so we swam to the boat and I asked if we could ride back on the boat, while Damian and Corey climbed back on that banana boat. Damian attempted the water skiing, which was a pretty hilarious failure. He even signed up for a lesson, but he still couldn’t get it. Not that I tried it. But the boys were howling with laughter and made fun of him mercilessly, especially when we saw a lady who was at least 70 years old do it successfully. They were like, “Oh my God – Mom! There’s a grandma doing it! Look!” Damian was a good sport about the whole thing, laughing right along with us.
     The water park was very nice, too. There were two huge water slides, which was great for many reasons. One is that I could pound those slides with the boys and burn off some of the massive amount of food I was eating. There were a ton of stairs, so I did that for about an hour a day several times. The slides overlooked the ocean, too, so the view from the top was worth the climb. Plus it was fun!  There’s a splash zone type area too with smaller slides, dumping buckets, and water spouts that the boys loved. They met a bunch of other kids while playing, so that was nice for all of us.
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     We spent a lot of time in the ocean as well. Unlike other beaches we’ve been to, like Ocean City and Cape Hatteras, where the waves move you down the beach, you could just stand in the water and relax. You could rent fancy cabanas for the day for $150, but we didn’t do that. I didn’t want to feel like we had to stay in one place. If you walked up and down the beach for a few minutes, there’s always a couple of chairs in the sun or the shade. The fancy cabanas:
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     (Above Mason and I lounge at the beach bar.) The drinks and the bars were all fantastic as well. Plenty of options for both the kids and the adults. The kids drank chocolate monkeys, virgin pina coladas, icee lemons, you name it. The featured liquor was rum, which was nice for me, since that’s really the only liquor I like, but they had lots of other options as well. I met a friendly couple at the beach bar who told me that their bartender, Shaunoozie, made them one too many Shaunoozie boozies the day before, and they were paying for it with some hair of the dog. There were two swim-up bars in the pools, a main bar off The Mill/lobby area (where there was entertainment nightly) also. Since we had the concierge service, I brought a bottle of champagne from our room to the beach one day in an ice bucket and just lounged. Ahhhh! That was luxury.
     We didn’t do any excursions, because there was so much to do right on the resort. But there’s a dolphin swim, a trip to Rick’s cafe, and a few other options that you could book easily at the excursion desk for an extra fee.
     As for shopping, you could buy gifts/necessities from the gift shops, and there were some interesting locals who walked the beach daily selling hand-made jewelry and other trinkets. There’s a guy with brightly colored socks piled on his head we saw every day. I bought a beaded ankle bracelet from a lady in a beautiful turquoise dress named JaNice (Jah- NIECE), and she fitted it to my ankle right on the beach. I wore it the rest of the trip and it never came off. Looking forward to wearing it this summer as a conversation piece.
     One other thing the boys loved was having an evening swim. We’d let them swim in the main pool after the sun set, and we sat on the comfy chairs beside the pool to watch them while we sipped our after-dinner drinks and enjoyed treats from Cafe de Paris. Here’s a shot of the pool at night, and a day time shot of some of the chairs we sat in:
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     Overall we had an amazing time as a family. The boys are older now, and this resort was on the smaller side, and so we were able to afford them a little more freedom, which in turn allowed us a little more freedom.  There are moments that I’ll never forget, including one early evening when I found myself with a rare bit of time alone. I walked over to the beach bar, got myself a glass of crisp white wine in a plastic wine glass, and waded out, about waist deep, in the water. The ocean that day was the picture of perfect calm, and I could see my feet below me. Not many people were in the water just then, and the sun was moving across the ocean, creating a riot of spectacular colors. I sipped my wine, breathed in the soft air, and just enjoyed the peace.
     And I’ll leave you with a couple of shots of us. Go to Negril. Tell me what you think. Ya mon!
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When the Power Goes Out at the Beach, Hit the Mountains

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Who doesn’t love the beach? Our family is no exception. Every year the extended bunch hits the Outer Banks in North Carolina, renting several houses and meeting up to enjoy the sun, water, and one another’s company in a beautiful setting. The vacation is planned a year in advance, and my sons, Corey & Mason, look forward to this time to play in the sand with their cousins,Sydney & Evan, and extended cousins – and yell at me in protest that they don’t really need any sunscreen – all year long. (Above is a shot of our alternative vacation – Deep Creek Lake, in the mountains of MD.)

So you can imagine the devastation we all felt when a bridge construction accident led to the severing of the power to Ocracoke Island as well as Hatteras Island (where our rented house sat, unoccupied, beckoning to us) a mere two days before our vacation was set to begin. Lights out, my friends!

A flurry of activity began the moment the lights went out. A mandatory evacuation of Ocracoke Island was announced, and ferries ran non-stop to take the tourists off the tiny remote island. Only residents and employees were allowed to remain. I thought, okay, well, there goes our annual trek to Howard’s Pub, our favorite restaurant/bar on Ocracoke, with its huge welcoming screened-in deck and wonderful food and draft beer selections. But! Perhaps the rest of Hatteras Island would not suffer the same fate, and we would be able to go, even if there was limited power supplied by generators and we had to forego A/C and rely on charcoal grills to cook our food. Glamping sounded pretty good to me, considering that the weather was supposed to top out at a high of 81 degrees, the house we rented was gorgeous, AND the beach access was the same, with our without power.

With this hope in mind, and considering that the car was already packed for our vacation, we set off for Kill Devil Hills, which is not as remote as Hatteras Island, even though it is still part of the Outer Banks. We had pre-paid for a room at the Quality Inn (it’s a dump – don’t go there – and that’s all I’m going to say on that subject), and we were still hopeful that the power might be restored before our vacation was set to begin. We left at 4:30 AM and reached the Outer Banks by 10:30 AM, giving us almost the whole day to enjoy.

And we did. We visited the Wright Brother’s Museum – a place we’d always wanted to see, but in the past had just driven by as we powered our way all the way out to Hatteras Island. It was really fun. We listened to an informative speech by a park ranger and then meandered around the site, seeing the marked take-off and landing spots the Wright Brothers used, and taking in the spectacular views after we hiked all the way up to the memorial. This is a shot of us up at the memorial. As usual, I’m not looking at the camera.

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Afterword we did lunch at Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar. The sky lounge, where we had appetizers and drafts as we looked over the ocean, was my favorite part, but it was a nice little lunch spot. Then it was on to the beach! The best part of our hotel was that it’s beach front, and we got ready and hit the beach for a few hours, making the kids wildly happy and allowing us some time to relax.

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After cleaning up, we hit Goombay’s for dinner, and the seafood was wonderful. I had red snapper in a creamy but still light sauce and some delicious chardonnay, and it was a hit with the kids too. Plus we could walk there from the hotel – nice on the way out, but not so much on the way back, because a storm was threatening to blow my hair into a fashion that would only have been acceptable in the ’80s. We opted for Uber instead.

During our stay in Kill Devil Hills, we learned that our trip to the Hatteras Island house was officially canceled (boo!), but my wonderful mother-in-law (who we had rented the house with, along with my BIL and his wife) had spent the better part of the day booking us a back-up vacation in Deep Creek Lake, MD. The only minor issue with this plan for us is that Deep Creek is 400 miles from Kill Devil Hills, but we thought – who cares? We’d never been there before. And if the boys had been denied their week with the cousins, we might have found ourselves in a tenser situation than the current nuclear stand-off between the US and North Korea. Would you want to go there? Me neither.

We scarfed some breakfast and then meandered back to the beach to dip our toes in the sand….

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……for about 20 minutes before throwing our suitcase back in the car and hitting the road, Jack. I was personally really excited for part deux of our vacation adventure, and while it was a boatload of driving, I’m not sorry we did either part.

We drove in via the West Virginia route in order to avoid 95 traffic horrors, and that was the right choice. We saw all sorts of beautiful scenery along the way, and lost our beach chairs off the roof on a back road rather than a highway (oops), which possibly saved somebody’s life. The strap holding them up there snapped after hundreds of miles of my driving. Rossen Reports has already phoned me about filming a reenactment of the incident.

But we made it safely, after about 8 hours of travel, in time for dinner with the rest of the family. The house was gorgeous, high up on the mountain, and offered a spectacular view of the lake below (the first picture in this post is the view from our house). Here are the kids, looking down at us from their loft:

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The next day we pretty much hit the ground running, and we took advantage of the many activities that Deep Creek offers at the resort. Here are the 10 of us before our adventures began:

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First, we hit the mountain coaster, which is a no joke thrill-ride down the mountain that had me swearing and vowing to never do it again, while Mason (who drew the short straw and got stuck with me as a partner) yelled “Mom! Don’t hit the breaks! Here comes another turn! WOOOOHOOOO!” He was terrified to do it beforehand, and then he was a total maniac and wanted to hit it 10 more times after he did it. Typical Mason. Corey also loved it, and, since he’s 12, he was old enough to drive one of the coaster cars himself. Nobody died during this event, so I guess it was a success.

This is Amanda & Sydney (with Shawn) on the coaster before going up on the mountain coaster:

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And then a shot as they were heading up the mountain (scenic chair lift on the right):

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But that was by no means the scariest event of the day. Not. Even. Close.

After the mountain coaster, eight of us, including the four kids and their parents, hit the Spider Monkey obstacle course. Here we all are, thinking “This is gonna rock!” Idiots.

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This course ends with a 200-foot zip line, and that was a lot of fun, but the rest of it turned me into a terrified shaking weenie. The course is maybe 20 feet up in the air, but it felt like about 200 feet when I was up there, and I’m not even afraid of heights. It starts with a 40-foot spider web that you have to pull yourself through, stepping on wildly moving ropes and grabbing onto ropes with your hands, and the ground looks mighty far down as you swing all over the place and pray your arms don’t give out before you make it to the other side. Here is Evan, showing us how it’s done:

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Then you make it to the other side platform. Where another obstacle awaits you. A rope bridge that swings all over the place. Sydney demonstrates her agility here:

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Then it’s a skate board attached to some ropes, just floating through the air. I don’t want to skateboard on the ground. I don’t know why I thought it would be fun to skateboard through the air. The hardest obstacle for me was the next one – a bunch of long boards, spaced at angles, dangling from ropes, so that your balance was all over the place and the next foothold/rope to grab was always just out of your reach, forcing you to jump/grab for it to advance.

It ain’t over yet.

Before the zip line course conclusion, a balance beam awaits you. With a huge gap in the middle and nothing to hold onto. At this point I thought, well, that’s all she wrote. The fire department is going to have to come and rescue me with a ladder. Or maybe they can just knock me off with the hose. But either way, I was pretty sure it was over.

Until it wasn’t, and I pretty much just ran across and then hugged the pole on the platform at the other side. I thought about kissing it, opted to retain the tiniest shred of dignity,  and instead jumped off and did the zip line to the end, where I also considered throwing up. I did not throw up. Amanda felt the same way, but she too managed to do it. Girl power!

Where were the kids during all this, you ask? All four of them just beasted out and did the course before any of the adults even started. They were out of their harnesses and cheering (or jeering) us on from the ground. Stinkers. Fearless stinkers. But still – stinkers. Here’s Corey doing the zip line like a boss:

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From there we recuperated with the 30-minute scenic chairlift up the mountain, and it was spectacular. Deep Creek is not only home to summer lake fun, but also winter activities with the Wisp Ski Resort.

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We hit Honi Honi for a fun happy hour and views of the lake, including a mama with her baby ducks in tow, afterward. I’d go there again in hot second, despite the fact that the server got all our drink orders wrong. That speaks to the ambiance, for sure. The crab dip and fresh guacamole were delicious, too. The kids found this massive chair at Honi Honi:

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The next day featured mini golf and Funland for the kids, plus a trip to the lakeside beach. There is sand there, and roped off swimming, but there are also rocks galore. The kids really liked it, but we needed swim shoes and giant floaties to really enjoy it. Next time.

The next day the event was a relaxing and informative pontoon boat tour. The listed time was an hour, but our tour guide was clearly on island time, because we cruised calmly around the lake for closer to 90 minutes. This was a highlight for me. It was just so beautiful and serene out there, plus it was fun to look at the houses on the lake as well as the other people enjoying water sports from speed boating to wave runners to water skiing to tubing off the back of other boats. Here are some shots from the pontoon boat:

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We decided to do a morning hike the next day, and we hit Swallow Falls State Park for a gorgeous trek through the woods. The kids loved it. The adults loved it. The temperature was great in the shade of the forest, and we did the whole loops, taking some side paths and wandering onto the rocks right next to the various waterfalls in the park. There were moments when I thought I might slip on a rock and find myself swept away by the rapidly churning water, but luckily this didn’t happen. Swallow Falls pictures:

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After our hike, we rewarded ourselves with a visit to the Lakeside Creamery, where they make all their own ice cream, and it is delicious. We made our selections and then sat at a picnic table and enjoyed the lake views while we ate. Mason and his ice cream cone (birthday cake and cotton candy in a waffle cone):

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Damian, Corey and I decided to hit the lake the following morning for a wave runner adventure. It was SPECTACULAR! The best wave runner experience of my life. We had total freedom on the lake, and since it’s 65 miles around, we had a TON of ground to cover. And cover it we did. At break-neck speeds that made me think I might go flying off the back while my husband tried to reenact the motorcycle scene with Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.” I didn’t really object, though, until we started doing donuts. At which point he said, “We have to show our son a good time.”

Uh huh.

The rest of the family was set to kayak that afternoon, but there weren’t enough kayaks. This was sad for the adults, but good for the kids, because we ended up at Inflatable Water Park, which none of us had ever done before, and they just LOVED. They climbed up these huge inflatables – think bounce houses made for the water – jumped or slid off the tops, swam/ran around water obstacles, and just generally got crazy for the duration of their time. During which the adults enjoyed margaritas and a lovely view from the picnic table. Until a lightning bolt caused immediate evacuation, but there was only about a minute left on their time at that point, so who cared? The inflatable water park shots:

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We also found a fun little bar/restaurant right at the water park called Ace’s Run with a spectacular balcony overlooking the lake:

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Damian took the boys back to Wisp the next day to re-do the mountain coaster and also to do the next-level zip lining course, the hour-long canopy tour, and hit Ace’s Run for a late lunch afterward with his brother, Amanda, and the cousins. After the Spider Monkey, there was no way I was going to try the canopy tour, and it sounded intense from what the boys said. High atop the trees, with rope bridges, huge zips, and two crazy 20-year-old guides who tried to shake them off the challenges. No thanks. I like my book.

In between all these wild activities, we ate some excellent meals, drank some really good wines, and played a lot of corn hole and cards. Overall, it was an excellent adventure. Damian and I are considering buying a lake house and retiring up there. If we do, you should come and visit us. Here we are on our last night, looking stupid-happy considering we were about to roll out. I guess we had a good time!

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The Night We Ate a Whole Duck

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That’s right! I ate a whole duck. Or rather, I ate about half a duck, since my husband gets credit for sharing the duck with me. I think this vastly improves my street cred. Above is a shot of us as we were heading in to dinner from Parasol Down (a gorgeous spot for a drink) at The Wynn.

What is she talking about? I’m talking about Wing Lei, Las Vegas, located in The Wynn Hotel, which is the first Michelin-rated Chinese restaurant in the country. They offer a chef’s tasting (with wine pairing, if you like) menu that features several courses made with – you guessed it! – one perfectly-roasted Peking duck. But who wants to eat that much duck? I didn’t. In fact, when Damian suggested we embark on this culinary adventure, I said, “That’s a lot of duck.” But adventure is the right word for it, and it was absolutely amazing.

When we sat down, I was struck by the lovely decor, and then taken completely by surprise when I tried to hang my purse off the side of my chair only to be offered a chair for my purse. And this was no extra chair they had lying around. It was a gorgeous little mini affair that looked like it would be really comfortable if I were either a two-year-old or a purse. This is the kind of luxurious detail that I never would have anticipated, but really appreciated. Who wants to put their purse on the dirty floor? I need a purse chair!

We were greeted, confirmed that we wanted the Peking duck tasting with the wine pairing, and then our adventure began! First, our duck was brought to the table, looking perfectly roasted and whole, with a white towel wrapped discreetly around its head. This nearly sent me into a fit of giggles, but I guess the alternatives were not great. Either they wave a headless duck in front of your face, at which point maybe you decide to bail or potentially become a vegetarian, or they offer Daffy with his dead eyes staring at you and his beak sadly flopping open with his tongue lolling out the side. “I’ll just have the fish. Thanks.” We approved our duck (I wonder what happens if you say, “I don’t like that duck.”), and we began our adventure.

Out came the sommelier with our first wine, which was a lovely port. The first course of duck was served table side. Bits of crispy and tender duck were sliced off in neat, thin strips and served on delicate pancakes with thinly sliced cucumbers and spring onions, topped with a hoison sauce. The richness of the meat was perfect with the crispness and slight sweetness of the port. This was my favorite course, though I enjoyed them all.

Next we were presented with a duck salad, perfectly plated, and a Chardonnay. It was not overdressed, and I’d never had duck as part of a salad before. Delicious.

After the salad came duck soup. This was paired with a white wine made from a grape that I am completely unfamiliar with, and sadly I can’t remember what it was, but it was once again the perfect choice with the soup. Bite-sized pieces of duck, along with noodles and some other flavorful items were brought to us in the bowls, and then the server poured a thin, not-too-salty broth over top of this at the table. I love that kind of a presentation with soup.

Then it was the main course, which was a wok-fried duck, served with a rich and delicious rice full of exotic mushrooms on the side. I could not finish this part, but each bite I took was delectable. This was paired with a German red wine. The fact that it was German and red took me by surprise, as I’m more familiar with the white wines from that country, but it was quite good and matched up with the course very well.

Finally, as I was considering waving my white flag of surrender, dessert appeared along with a dessert wine. The dessert was some kind of a mousse topped with a hard white and dark chocolate domed shell served over a chewy brownie. The brownie portion was a little dry, but the mousse was light, smooth and creamy – a nice way to end a very rich meal. We were also brought little truffles and mini pineapple upside down cupcakes to go.

It was a fantastic experience, and I’m so glad we went. The sommelier was knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive, and while I am often disappointed in the small pours that come with a wine pouring, I was not at all disappointed at Wing Lei. There was enough wine in my glass to have a sip with each bite, if I wanted to, and a bit left at the end of each course to linger over. The meal was perfectly paced, also. I really can’t say enough good things about it. It’s crazy expensive, but worth it. Just don’t shoot craps after you’re full of everything the sommelier offers you – if you’re like us, you’ll have a great time, but it won’t go well…….

We did not take any pictures of our food. What were we thinking? Clearly, we weren’t. But here are a couple of shots of us dressed for dinner, once again at Parasol Down, and then one of me at the end of the meal at Wing Lei, with my eyes closed, holding up not a white flag of surrender but a little “happy anniversary” chocolate, since this was our (belated) anniversary celebration.

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You can see the restaurant’s decor in the background of this last shot. I had a great time taunting Damian for his pink drink in the previous shot. It had lavender in it. If you asked me the very last drink I’d think Damian would ever order, I might say, “A pink fruity drink with a purple flower in it.” Guess I was wrong about that. After I took his picture with the foo-foo drink, I then managed to take about 15 shots of my own drink (a glass of Trefethen Chardonnay) on the table. Oops.

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And finally, this is the view from our hotel room at The Wynn:

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Not too shabby. We had a marvelous breakfast at the lovely Terrace Cafe the next morning, but that is a story for another day….