Cayman Bucket List ( by Janice)

No matter where we live, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine and miss the opportunities around us.  As we planned our “Big Trip” we jotted down a bucket list of family adventures to have at home in Cayman. This was our bucket list.

Bucket list we had on our fridge

Sailing –one of our first family adventures: we rented a small Hobie cat on Seven Mile Beach to sail with Amelia. We also had two of our farewells with friends and colleagues on the RedSail 70ft catamarans.

Kayaking – we kayaked in Bodden Town and South Sound. Amelia loves Sand Cay in South Sound (the “desert island”) – now is a safe time to visit because the endangered terns have finished their July/August breeding.

Snorkeling in South Sound – we loved snorkelling to the wreck of the Pallas; this was also one of our first adventures. My favourite was hearing Amelia say “ooooh!” through her snorkel when she saw the coral and fish. It’s important to check that the current isn’t too strong.

Snorkelling with turtles – Bloody Bay in Little Cayman is best places to see turtles without disturbing them (guidance from the DoE). Amelia however tells us that turtles are quite ‘boring’; she does this to tease me, and after helping with too many rehabs and rescues.

Tide pools – Amelia loved exploring the little pools behind the rock ledges at Surfers Beach with Wendy and the big pool at Pageant Beach with us – though we had to snorkel out of the pool toward the shipwreck to see more marine life.

Waterslides – Amelia’s favourite. Our neighbour Laima rented the best inflatable waterslide for our neighbourhood celebration when the Cayman Islands came out of lockdown.

Wakeboarding – Thank you for teaching us Rob and Dave! This was a big item on our bucket list.

Mangroves – we boated through Booby Key channel and showed Amelia and her friends about the mangroves. One day we will take Amelia snorkelling in the mangrove roots.

Bioluminescence – we snorkelled in BioBay at night – like flying through fairy dust.

Snorkelling shipwrecks – we visited other shipwrecks too, like the one at Pageant Beach.

North Side Beaches – we picked up tacos from the taco truck, picnicked in the shade on Barefoot Beach, and then walked the deserted red brick path along the top of the cliff.

Movie – Amelia saw her first movie in the cinema (Mary Poppins in New York) with Aunt Emily and Uncle Michael and had a cosy movie day with her friends when a tropical storm trapped us all in Little Cayman; one of her favourite things on the trip.

New playgrounds – many to explore but Dart Park is always our favourite.

Stargazing – we even saw the International Space station.

Hiking – thank you Dave for taking us hiking in Cayman Brac.

Body surfing – we had so much fun body surfing on a rough day on Seven Mile Beach and Amelia even had a real surf lesson with Mica – she could not stop talking about it.

Farm – we toured a farm in Bodden Town with Amelia and bought so much beautiful local produce from Patrick during lockdown.

Bonfire – we had beautiful bonfire nights on our beach with sausages and marshmallows and fireworks at New Years. The best one was when we were allowed back on our beach after lockdown.

Caves – Amelia ‘discovered’ a cave in Cayman Brac and was hooked on seeing them all.  

Riding – Amelia did a small pony ride but was too young for trail riding – definitely something we will need to do in Europe.

Thank you to our wonderful friends and family for sharing these adventures with us.

And this time I know it’s for real

Let us hope Freddie Mercury can predict the future! We have our tickets booked and an appointment at Euro Camping Cars to collect the motorhome! We depart Grand Cayman on 18 September, arrive in France the next day and collect the motorhome on the 21st! Exciting times!

Dave_Showing_Amelia_The_Brac_Bluff

For the last couple of years we had visited Little Cayman (the smallest of the three islands) for a family vacation. The family holiday didn’t happen this year due to the lockdown. When the travel restrictions to the Sister Islands were lifted we decided to take a ‘late’ holiday before our ‘big trip’. We spent a weekend on Little Cayman with friends and a week on Cayman Brac with family. We got stuck on Little Cayman for an extra night due to bad weather associated with Tropical Storm Laura. Laura would become a major hurricane by landfall in Louisiana. It was Amelia’s first trip to the Brac and its bluff and caves.

Now it’s back to reality and getting ready to leave. “And this time I know it’s for real” or do I? I feel my apprehension levels rising; doubt is knocking at the door. Deep down I know it’s right to start our travels but this doubt character is a persistent knocker!

We have formed a rough plan for the first few days after we take delivery of the motorhome. I think the combination of jet-lag, excitement and adjusting to driving a 7.4m long vehicle (as comparison my Toyota Hilux is 4.8m long) could be a recipe for disaster so we’ll take it easy. The first night that we have the motorhome will still be spent in a hotel, followed by a night in a campsite and then we’ll test the self-sufficiency of the motorhome by spending a night on a France-Passion site.

We are re-working our route (doubt it will be the last time!) as we will try and avoid Covid hotspots. I had envisaged we would criss-cross France, head to the Mediterranean before heading to Italy. With cases increasing along the French Riviera we are likely to head to the castles and mountains (southern Germany , Switzerland and Austria) before heading to Italy.

I have found The Local and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control websites useful for monitoring the new cases. I have added a new page to the website that has a list of resources that we have found useful and/or interesting.

Are our stars aligning? Or déjà vu?

Recently it was announced that our airport would remain shut for an additional 30 days to 30 September but that bi-weekly flights to Gatwick were in the works. The press release from the Governor’s office stated “My team is actively working with BA about a fortnightly flight for the next couple of months starting in mid-September. As the press release said, discussions are at an advanced stage.”

So we have a tentative departure date (mid-September) and Europe is managing its increased cases. It also means we have approximately five weeks to complete all our To-Do List items. While progress has been made in the last few months, it’s still a daunting task!

Or will we get close to departure only to find that lockdowns are announced and that we are back to square one?

Keeping following us (we’re on FaceBook and Instagram too) to find out what happens!

We have a motorhome

Motorhome arriving in Veron

Our new motorhome has arrived at Euro Camping Cars today! We have a motorhome!

This means that the itchiness to start our travels increased 100%!

But at home we still don’t have an open airport. And we still have a lots of loose ends to tie up at home. So it will still be a while before we see the motorhome for ourselves.

As soon as Amelia saw the photograph she pointed to the area above the cab and exclaimed “My bed!”

Enough posting on our blog, I have a To-Do list to work through; I don’t want to be the one who is responsible for delaying the start of our travels!

As Europe opens up so we have been thinking about our route

Our original route had us starting in July and heading to Portugal, Morocco and Spain during the first few months. As we are likely to start in October, it is looking like we will tack these countries onto the end of the European leg.

We had hoped that the Brexit transition would be extended but that has been acknowledged as not happening by both the UK and EU so we will still be doing the Schengen Shuffle from the end of March 2021.

The draft map that is now forming looks as follows:

  • October 2020 to March 2021 – France, Italy and Greece (black)
  • April to June 2021 – Turkey and eastern Europe (maybe a visit to Egypt?) (red)
  • July to September 2021 – Germany, Scandinavia and across to the UK (black)
  • October 2021 to January 2022 – UK and Ireland (quite possibly a trip back to Cayman) (red)
  • February to April 2022 – Portugal, Morocco, Spain and prepare to ship the motorhome to southern Africa (blue)

But, let’s see how the opening of Europe progresses before we get too ahead of ourselves.

As we come to the end of May

We still in our holding pattern; some things have changed but many have not.

Before the end of the pandemic, Gary had submitted his resignation effective 31 May so he is in his last week at work. He plans to enjoy being a stay-at-home Dad before taking on his new responsibilities of chemical toilet emptier and chief chauffeur!

The production date of the motorhome has been pushed to early July as the factory had been closed for a while.

Playing in the rain
Playing in the rain

Amelia has been taking the shelter in place restrictions. Yes, there was disappointment when the complex’s pool and followed by the beaches were closed. Luckily those have re-opened. Amelia had been looking forward to being home-schooled so her education has progressed well. Her maths, writing and reading have all come along well and she has developed a sense of humour! Plus she and Daddy have been riding bikes most days so her cycling skills have improved too. Did I mention she is also an expert on Zoom (she has 3, sometimes 4, school Zoom calls a day).

We are waiting to see when Europe opens its external borders and to see how the different countries fare as they ease the lockdown restrictions. We are hoping that we can depart sometime in September or October.

We’re in a holding pattern

Wow! How the world has changed in the last two weeks since the last update! And unfortunately the vast majority of the change has not been for the better.

The Cayman government has been very proactive. Schools were immediately closed and cruise ships were not allowed to dock. This has been followed by shutting the airport, asking people to work from home and banning gatherings to an evening curfew (which will run for 2 weeks) to a 2 1/2 day lock-down. The lock-down eases tomorrow and we will have a 10-day ‘shelter at home’ order (soft curfew).

This hammer approach appears to have worked and we have one potential local transmission of Covid-19.

The motorhome is scheduled to be built in Germany and collected from a dealership in France. Plus to fly to Paris we need to transit through the US.

So it is looking like the trip’s commencement date will be delayed. Given how fluid the situation is and how quickly things change, we are not thinking about when we will start the trip. Luckily the trip will be long enough that a few months delay isn’t the end of the world. Image if we had only decided to travel for a year.

Flightfeeder tracking
Drop in number of planes spotted is remarkable

In the attic I have a FlightFeeder , a device that listens for radio signals from ADS-B aircraft transponders and decodes them to determine aircraft positions. The global airline shutdown can be seen here in the Caribbean. The FlightFeeder recorded 439 aircraft on Saturday, 14 March (Saturdays typically record the most aircraft) to a low of 71 aircraft today! Cayman shut its airport on Sunday, 15 March, and other countries in the Caribbean and Central America shut their airports over the next week.

Let’s do our part to help the world and flatten the curve before we worry about travelling.

So much to do

The homepage shows that we have 112 days left until we fly to France!

The to-do list has been growing but each weekend we have tackling tasks and seem to be making progress.  Over the last couple of months we have cleared out the attic (a couple of boxes at a time), sorted the bathroom cabinets, the linen closet, clothes we do not wear anymore, etc.  Progress has not be quick but it has been steady and the plan is that when the rush comes (in the last couple of weeks before we leave) we will be prepared.

Two big-ticket items have been resolved.  We have found alternative employment for our absolutely wonderful nanny, Aracely, and we have found people to rent our apartment.  While we were not stressed about these two tasks, we are relieved they are done.  

As a side note, Aracely started working for us when Amelia was six months old and we asked that she speak to Amelia in Spanish (Aracely is from Honduras).  It is amazing how well Amelia speaks Spanish through just talking to Aracely.  Her vocabulary is not as extensive as English vocabulary but she conjugates her verbs well and the pitch and cadence when she speaks changes when she speaks Spanish.

Gary stops working a month before we depart and he will be cleaning and painting the apartment.  While it sounds like he will have lots of time, we will be spending a few days on the Sister Islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, and are planning to move out of the apartment a week before we leave.  So the month has become 2 ½ weeks!

The to-do list also includes the preparation for our first few days in France.  We will want to ‘hit the road’ as soon as possible but also know that we will be jet-lagged and need to fit our new home.  At the moment our thinking is that, we will spend a couple of days buying homewares (we will order as many items online as is possible) and learning about the motorhome’s systems before we take delivery and drive off into the sunset.  We are thinking that we will spend the first night at a campsite and from the second night will stay on properties listed on France-Passion.

Breaking the news to my colleagues

Breaking the news to Gary's colleagues

Gary used this world cloud art to break the news to his colleagues that he was leaving. People got close to figuring out his riddle which is impressive given we live on an island and hardly see a motorhome!

There were a lot of “Wait, what did he just say?” followed by “Can I be your porter/chef/baby-sitter/insert your role here?”

The cloud art contains details on our vehicle, and route/places we plan to visit.