Category Archives: Travel

Florida – Big Talbot Island State Park

We had set out a goal for ourselves to explore the coast of Florida. I mean, in general, we are trying to travel EVERYWHERE, but in particular, we wanted to visit all of the named beaches in the state (as well as visit all of the state parks, etc., etc.).

We had decided earlier in the week that we wanted to drive out to Jacksonville this weekend and find something to do. Of course, we also wanted to make sure that we made it out to the ocean at some point during the day. Jacksonville is about a 3 hour drive from Tallahassee, to it’s at the edge of how far we want to travel for a day trip – to make sure we can get there, spend some quality time seeing things, and get back without exhausting ourselves too much or feeling hurried.

I woke up extra early in the morning on Sunday and started Googling things to do around Jacksonville. I read about Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks and thought they looked cool and had plenty of nature to explore and enjoy – just our thing! So, I’m pretty sure I hopped out of bed and started getting ready for the day – waking Donald up in the process and letting him know that I had an IDEA!

We were up, caffeinated, showered, ready, and on the road by 8 am. Amazing what a little motivation will do (I’m not lazy, but I will resist giving up on cuddles). Before we knew it, 3 hours had passed and we had arrived. Our first stop was Kayak Amelia, where we rented some beach cruiser bikes. We headed north out of Kayak Amelia toward Big Talbot Island State Park, first crossing a section of road that was one lane wide, and the traffic alternated directions. Bikers were directed to wait until the car traffic had crossed the bridge, then cross the bridge using the full width of the lane while traffic in both directions are stopped.

There are limitless times to stop, look, and capture. We cannot catch them all, nor should we.


We appreciated the slower pace the bikes offered us vs. traveling in our car. We really had an opportunity to view the scenery and take in the beauty of the park. We could speed up and feel the wind in our faces, or stop and hop off the bikes to look at something closer.

The branches were thick and twisty, below which grew dense patches of ancient palmettos.


I loved the variation in the colors of green and the interplay of the sunlight shining through the leaves. Such a mix of light and dark produced beautiful scenes that filled me with awe as I rode. I don’t know how many times I said, “Oh! Look! It’s so pretty!,” but it was always applicable. Donald really helps me to slow down and appreciate these things around me. I like them, but I am usually driven to go-go-go and see the next thing. He helps me to slow down and really savor where I am.

The bike path wound through the most lush canopy. The shadows danced on the ground before us.


The sky was bright and as energetic as the shimmering Atlantic waters.


After we had biked a while (a few miles?), we came to a long, wooden boardwalk overlooking some water. I’m always a sucker for water, and it was fun to ride the bikes and hear the sound that the tires made on the boards. We saw a lot of shore birds, but most of them were across the waterway from us, so I don’t have good photos of them. At some point, I want to invest in a good zoom lens for my camera, but on this trip, we just had the GoPro and our phones (more portable).

A long boardwalk guided us over tidal intercostal waters.


In the distance white-capped waves can be seen far from the coast.


We finally made it to where we could see the Atlantic Ocean! I don’t think I can stress enough how beautiful it is here. The sunshine and the salt in the air…. delightful!

The coastal islands seemed small and distant but held much life including many dunes.


I could have spent the whole day on this beach, just listening and watching the waves roll in.

Busy shore birds pay little attention to us as they work the sands in search of a meal.


So many birds! They weren’t afraid of any rogue waves and would walk right in the water. There were some seagulls, but also many smaller birds like this little guy. So cute! Donald has an owl call (at least, I think it’s an owl?) that he makes to try and attract the birds.

Dead wood is so alive in the stories it holds of the storms and other happenings it must have seen.


This stretch of beach in Big Talbot Island State Park is known as Boneyard Beach. The description from the Florida State Parks website, “Sculpted by nature, this shoreline boasts 30-foot bluffs and a striking beach peppered with massive driftwood trees that recall images of an elephant graveyard.”

Some dead wood can be functional and serve as a walking stick. Maybe this is one is a bit too large.


I love Donald’s whimsical and playful side. It comes out at various times, but especially when we are interacting with nature. OMG, that branch. I’m pretty sure it would have held off even the Balrog. “Thou shalt not pass!”

So much life lives at the intersection of ocean and land.


I get it. The Atlantic is generally darker and grayer than what you see here. We have taken creative license with our image editing, but I’m enjoying the higher saturation images, even if it makes the Atlantic look more like the Caribbean. πŸ™‚

The many shades of green present from the oaks to the palmettos seems endless when the sun strikes them.


The beauty of the sun filtering through the dense foliage… there are no words. So here are some photos, so you can see a little bit for yourself.

The paths are endless. So much to see around every bend.


Towards the end of our bike trip from Kayak Amelia, I was getting really tired. We had ridden almost 10 miles total on these beach cruisers where you stop moving fairly quickly if you stop pedaling. However, just before we needed to cross at the one-lane area of road, there was an offshoot path. Donald was riding ahead of me, so I called out that I was going to explore it and deviated from the sidewalk, thinking he was going to catch up soon. The path was darker and twisty, and went downhill. It was dense with plants and roots and pine needles. I had initially thought that it was just going to parallel the bike path, but it was taking me deeper into the forest, and I wasn’t hearing Donald behind me, so I finally stopped to catch my breath (and take this photo).

What I didn’t know, was that he hadn’t heard me and had spent some time riding back and forth on the bike path, until someone mentioned seeing me go down this trail. (I suppose I can get distracted by new sights and adventures.) He caught up to me and we decided to bike back out (instead of taking the trail to the end). It was pretty, but we were tired and looking forward to our next adventure on Amelia island, just north of where we were (our next blog post!).

Happy Adventuring!

— Jenn and Donald

South Haven 2012

Yesterday was the family reunion, and from the time that I heard it was going to be so close to Lake Michigan and South Haven, I wanted to take some time and head over there. I love being by the water and 15-20 miles is NOTHING to me! πŸ™‚ The only question was if Mom would go for it.

We spent the night in Paw Paw. In the morning, I dragged her to St. Mary’s Catholic Church for Sunday Mass. It was a cute little church right by the court building that we had looked at yesterday. All around the church, the sidestreet parking was clogged. We managed to find the last parking spot in the tiny parking lot, but people were already creating a middle line of cars where it wasn’t legal to park — just to be able to get in to Mass! A good sign, right? πŸ™‚

We were a little bit late, and so we took a seat in one of the back pews, like any good Catholic would do. After Mass, I snapped a couple pictures to prove I was there and grabbed my Mass ticket (parish bulletin). I was surprised to find that it was only 4 pages long! At both my parishes, it’s usually more like 12!


Next, we headed out of town. I didn’t have a lot of charge on my phone, so instead of using the GPS, I just found my way to M-43 and headed west. I wasn’t going to stop until I hit water! We had heard that there was a Blueberry Festival in South Haven this weekend and thought it would be good to check that out. We pulled into town and ended up on Phoenix Street. Just past the downtown area, right before the road dipped down to go towards the lighthouse, there were barricades for the festival. Luckily, there was also on-stree parking RIGHT THERE! We couldn’t have asked for a better spot!

We were on the southwest corner of the intersection, and on the northwest corner was this sign:

I liked looking at all of the boats in the marina. If I could, I would love to live on the water and have a boat (or two or four) of my own!

As we were walking down to the pier, we saw this big, pink flower. It was huge! Probably 7-8 inches in diameter! Even though it doesn’t really look that big in the photo.

And, finally, THE BEACH!


And the lighthouse:


With sailboats on the water!

We read all of the graffiti on the lighthouse. I saw one that said “Hannah was here” and wondered if it belonged to Hannah Ekblad…
Hannah Was Here

I even got Mom to take a picture…. And she was happy that I didn’t push her in the water! πŸ™‚

I tried taking a self-portrait, although it turned out a little funny because I kept squinting in the bright light.

We didn’t take the time to actually swim on the beach, but I did sit down on the edge of the pier and dangled my feet over the side!

More pictures of kids playing in the sand:

Seagull footprints:

Even though I had my good running shoes on, I still walked across the sand to take pictures of the waves. These are tiny compared to the waves of the ocean, but I will take what I can get! πŸ™‚

All of the water and boats actually looked like this:
I added contrast to most of the other shots, but it was kind of cool as they were normally, with almost nothing to tell you where the sky ended and the sea began….

Like me, you might be wondering why my mom was looking at her feet so intently. Well, it appears that where she was standing, when she took a step, the sand would shift and “crackle out” about 12 inches away from her foot.

The Ubiquitous Seagull Shot:

Another look of the beach, pier and lighthouse:

I took pictures of some treats for Erwin:

And for Lindsay:

Amy had suggested that we eat at the Phoenix Street Cafe while we were in town. So, after browsing through a couple of neat little shops, we did just that! I’m not sure if my brother or my dad would have enjoyed it as much as we did.

Here is Mom’s Asparagus Sandwich:

And my Spinach Burger (no meat was harmed in the making of this burger!):

Right next door to the Phoenix Street Cafe was The Blueberry Shoppe. I got 5 pounds of blueberries to take home, some mix to make Blueberry White Chocolate cookies, blueberry jerky, blueberry truffle, and we each tried a blueberry drink.

Mom got the Blueberry Lemonade (which was the better-tasting of the two):

And, although I would have preferred the Blueberry Lemonade, I opted to try something different and got the Blueberry Jelly Belly soda.

Our quick vacation to South Haven was now complete, and we headed back home. Plus, our 3 hour time limit for parking was about over…. πŸ™‚

New Jersey Roadtrip!

I was asked to be Marissa’s sponsor for Confirmation, and the day had finally arrived! I took about a week off work and decided to drive out to New Jersey. I asked people about places to stop along the way, and managed to spend at least a little bit of time at each of them.

Thursday, May 19, 2011
I got off to a late start because I was giving people “just a minute more” to send me their prayers for Fr. John’s birthday project. πŸ™‚ I didn’t actually get on the road until about 1 pm. I used my new enhanced driver’s license at the border in Sarnia for the first time and entered a foreign country (!!). It was sunny and beautiful and I quite enjoyed the Canadian countryside as I cruised along listening to Catholic talks on CD. Everything was in bloom, and the wildflowers made wide swaths of yellow, blue and purple in the green of the grass.

When I arrived in Niagara Falls, I stopped on the US side. The park entrance was gorgeous with all of the flowering trees:

Everything seemed to be in bloom and it was just gorgeous:

Flowering Tree

The path took me down to the rapids right before the Falls:



It was a lovely day, and I wished that I had some more time to spend in the park.
However, I was starting to not feel well and thought it better if I pressed on to Letchworth State Park, where I was going to stay the night. But first, I wanted to walk along the river one more time and maybe walk across that bridge up there…
Clouds over Niagara - dscn1033

This is the view from the bridge (not THE bridge, but a little bridge):


At the end of the bridge was this flowering tree. I know, it’s a lot of flower pictures, but I’m a sappy flower-loving girl like that! Deal with it! πŸ™‚

Tulips, tulips, everywhere!



This is the view of the bridge passing into Grand Island:

Along the drive through upstate New York, there were several areas with these windmills.

This part of the drive had the most hills warning trucks to be in low gear. I had been a little anxious about traveling this “mountainous” part of the journey because the weather report had indicated severe thunderstorms, but Thank God! the weather held out. As I got closer to Letchworth, there were fewer and fewer rest areas and cities. By the time I got to Castile, I hadn’t seen another car or another human for a couple hours. It was really disconcerting. It was also getting dark and was about 8:30 pm or so. I got to where the GPS said the park should be, and didn’t see anything. I drove down the road a little further and saw some signs for it, and finally made it to a sign that indicated for me to turn left for the park, but I promise you, there was NO place to turn left! I continued on the road, getting increasingly anxious (mostly because of the lack of people). My GPS wasn’t working, it was getting darker, I couldn’t figure out these signs (there must have been multiple park entrances), and I had 100 miles to empty. I was sure that there was a gas station within 100 miles, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find it. Plus, I was still feeling sick and was looking forward to the bed in that cabin I was going to rent for the night.

After seemingly driving around in circles for 30 minutes, I finally found a park entrance. I was so relieved to see the guard shack! Pulling up to buy my park ticket and arrange for the cabin, I saw that there wasn’t anyone in the booth. Okay. Well, it’s later in the evening, they probably just pulled in to another booth further in, right? There wasn’t any barrier to the park, so I continued my way in. Didn’t see another booth. Didn’t see where the campgrounds or cabins were. Didn’t see any people. Okay, this is creepy. I passed a house on one side of the street and a little parking lot with another building on the other side of the street, but these weren’t labeled as anything, so I continued down the road. I got to the end, where it said, “Service Vehicles Only.” Obviously, this wasn’t where I was supposed to be either. I turned around and headed back. I got back to the house and the parking lot and parked next to the only car in the lot (no people, again). I resigned myself to sleeping in my car for the night. I got out of the car and took a walk around to see what was there. I followed the sound of water down this trail and found a scenic overlook. In the distance, I could see one of the waterfalls lit up:
I went back to the car and checked out the building next to the parking lot. It was a public restroom! Running water, electricity and everything! Score! πŸ™‚ I turned in and tried to sleep. Not the most comfortable thing I’ve done, but it wasn’t that bad.

Friday, May 20, 2011
I got up pretty early and thought that I should exit the park before I got arrested for trespassing or something. The first think I did was go back down the path to the scenic overlook I had run across the night before. Sadly, it was so foggy that I couldn’t see a thing.


I cleaned up in the public restrooms, rearranged my car and started to make my way out. My phone, of course, was about dead, so I couldn’t check the GPS or anything. As I made my way back to the park entrance I had come in, I saw a sign for “Lower Falls” and decided to follow it. It ended at a (deserted) parking lot, with a trail leading to the Falls. It was wet and foggy, but quite nice.

Right off the parking lot was this cute little restroom, much more rustic than the one by the parking lot where I stayed the night:

This is the “trail”:

This was my first view of the river:


These were the stairs in the park: stone steps, wet and half covered in leaves. Just what a girl with a neuromuscular disorder needs to be climbing on when there’s not another soul around. Good thing I fancy myself a billy goat and lack a self-preservation gene! πŸ™‚
Some even had warning signs, which was nice of them.



This is the first rocky outcropping that I happened upon and immediately scrambled atop it for a better view of the river.

Views from the rock:


On the one side of the path were signs like this:
warning us not to get too close to the edge. The forest just dropped off into the river, and there were no fences or anything to keep people safe from their own stupidity.

This is a picture of how it just drops off into nothing:

This, I thought was funny, the trail was covered in tree roots. And it was all wet and muddy and quite slippery.
What was I getting myself into?

My first view of the lower falls! And look, see how it just drops off? I could just walk right over the edge. No safety net.



There was so much spray coming from the falls that I had a hard time keeping my camera lens dry enough to take a photo.

I actually was good and didn’t hike beyond the sign. I merely hiked…laterally…closer to the drop off above the falls. πŸ™‚




Since it was the end of the trail, I had no option but to turn around and head back. This time, I took a moment to check out the other side of the path, dragging my attention away from the water (I’m such a sucker for water!).


By my first rocky outcropping there were incomplete “stairs” going down to this overlook:

The outlook itself was almost completely flooded out and very muddy, but it had some great views:




Here’s looking back at the Lower Falls:


On the far side of the overlook was another set of stairs heading down, in parallel with the river, leading to a bridge which crossed over to the other side of the park.

This bridge was pretty high off the water, which is important to remember for the next part of my story:


See, the bridge itself was flooded out, and I was not a fan of the idea of getting my shoes and socks any more wet and muddy than they already were. So, here I was… Looking at the bridge, trying to think of how I would cross it without getting wet.

Did you see that? The wall of the bridge? It’s like a ledge. About 18 inches wide. I bet I could walk on that ledge across the bridge.

I tried to get a picture from the ledge of the river. You know, to document my stupidity, right? So here I am, on an 18″ ledge, looking through a camera… πŸ™‚ I got about 1/2 way across the bridge before I started to get scared of falling, since, despite my billy goat tendencies, I am actually afraid of heights… So, I turned around and went back.




Now, it was time to ascend back to the car and head again towards New Jersey.

But first, a stop at another overlook, right by the entrance of the park. You can see why they call this the Grand Canyon of the East. πŸ™‚




There was another guy there, taking photos. I was so thrilled to see him, because I hadn’t seen another human in 12 hours. I asked him where the nearest gas station was, and after a while, he understood what I was asking and tried to give directions. Thank the Lord the GPS was working, despite the fog! πŸ™‚

Here’s a video clip of the last overlook, before I left Letchworth:

This is what the drive was like: a little rain here and there, some Catholic CDs and a river alongside the road for most of the trip!


Now entering Pennsylvania!

There was not too much to see in Pennsylvania, so I pretty much blasted through. However, as I got close to New Jersey, the last exit in Pennzie, in fact, I decided that I had some time to kill and stopped by the Crayola Crayon Factory.
Completely ironically, Derek was also at the Crayola factory (but the real one, not the tourist one) for a job interview! I picked up some Dry Erase Crayons and Glass Markers and headed off again. πŸ™‚

Now for the raison d’Γͺtre! Marissa’s Confirmation! We ate dinner that Derek made for us, then got cleaned up and on the way to St. Magdalen de Pazzi Catholic Church in Flemington. All the confirmandi were dressed in red robes. There were a lot of kids being confirmed, and this was just one of two groups! πŸ™‚ Sadly, the church asked that family members not take photographs during the liturgy, so I don’t have too many.

Here’s Marissa in the car on the way to church. Her dress was lacey; she thought it was a rather “Churchy” looking dress. πŸ™‚



After Mass, we briefly stopped in the social hall and had our picture taken with her priest. We went to TGI Friday’s for a late night snack. There, along with expressing a desire for a disco ball for her room, Marissa said that she wanted to go to confession. Since we were planning on taking a trip to New York City in the morning, I suggested that we see if we can make confession at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. High-fives were exchanged. πŸ™‚

Saturday, May 21, 2011
What can I say? I love trips into the city! πŸ™‚ The crowds of people don’t bother me in the slightest. πŸ™‚ I love all the different buildings and stores. It’s all quite beautiful. Diane got us passes on the Grayline Uptown Bus Tour, which was good, since all my previous trips have been downtown, below say, 60th street. I’ll try not to glut you with photos, but it’s rather difficult for me to not share them all! πŸ™‚

Times Square


Diane on the tour bus!


Columbus Circle


All kinds of fancy old buildings on the Upper West side! πŸ™‚

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
And my favorite of this cathedral:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son....

Union Theological Seminary

General Grant National Memorial

Brownstones in Harlem

Public Service Announcement from the City of New York:

Central Park: I wish I had more time in the city where I could wander around the park

The Seal of the City

I love the bird flying on top of this roof!

The Guggenheim Museum

This is MY kind of sidewalk! πŸ™‚


It was getting pretty late in the afternoon and we hadn’t eaten yet…


I love how detailed this building is!

The Irish Pub: I wish this pub were more noticable…

I still have to see this play one of these days!

Times Square, Again

Madame Tussaud’s: Our Next Stop!

Pope John Paul II and I
He’s trying to help me take the photo!
Jenn and Pope John Paul II - dscn1457

Marissa and a Rockette

Diane finding someone shorter than she!

That’s right, dude! I’m stopping your puck with my foot! Bwahahaha!

Happy Feet 4D
We are stylin’ in our shades!

Watch out!

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Chrysler Building

Church of St. Francis of Assisi

We had dinner at a place called, I think, Lucky’s, across the street from Penn Station.

Sunday, May 22, 2011
Today was a pretty relaxed day. Diane and I caught the noon Mass at St. Magdalen’s. When we got home, we found a little kitten in the driveway. She was taken in and adopted by the family.
Throughout the night, we debated names for her.
Eventually, I think Diane settled on the name Chloe, but we will see if it sticks.

Monday, May 23, 2011
Their house is next to a farmer’s house, and they even have one cow which is theirs!
The tub is for washing the dogs. Don’t worry, there’s indoor plumbing! πŸ™‚

Today, Marissa went to school and Derek, Diane and Garrett headed off to work. I thought this would be a great time for me to head over to Wernersville, PA to check out the gravesite of Fr. Walter Ciszek, who wrote the book “He Leadeth Me” which I recently read.

On my way out of town, I passed by St. Magdalen’s and decided to stop and take a few pictures, since it is such a pretty church:


As I was taking photos, I saw people going into the church. I asked someone and as it turns out, they were having Mass in 5 minutes! What awesome timing! πŸ™‚


Jesuit Retreat Center at Wernersville, PA

Jesuit Retreat Center



Fr. Ciszek’s grave



I walked through the entire cemetery, praying at each grave marker. It was foggy and wet out and my shoes and jeans got soaked! πŸ™‚ But I loved it. I then popped into the retreat center for a look around. There was a sign on the door that said, “Walk in” and so I did. πŸ™‚

I took pictures of their artwork, too!




And their living spaces!


And their worship spaces!





Even the entrance to the retreat center was pretty, so on my way out, I parked my car in the middle of the street and took a few photos. πŸ™‚


It took about 2 hours to get to Wernersville from Stockton, and on the way back, Diane messaged me on Facebook and let me know about some Lost Caverns. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stop by and see them, but as I came up to them on the highway and saw the signs advertising them, I decided to pull off and check it out.

It was pretty neat. This is a photo of one of the first rooms, which had been used previously for weddings. The stuff on the wall is called flowstone.

This one is an apparently rare and delicate formation where the water comes up from the rock:



It was interesting to hear stories of how the caverns had been used variously as wedding sites, dance hall, cool storage for the golf course across the street and even for stashing bootleggers’ treasures during the Prohibition!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Today’s the day I had to leave to head for home. I had packed most of my stuff the night before and left about 6 am. I drove to Rochester, NY where I met up with Bill McDonald, my godmother’s brother. He met me at the memorial park and showed me her site.
Marker for Pat's remains

It was a beautiful area in the forest. There was a tiny waterfall and creek nearby.
Forest site

We then headed into Rochester proper and had a lovely lunch. It was really nice to be able to catch up with him.

After lunch, I started on the second half of the long trip home. It was pretty uneventful. I didn’t make any random stops, really, although I did make a wrong turn and start heading toward Toronto when I was in Canada. And the thing with my GPS in Canada… It will track you and tell you the upcoming turns and things, but it will not update if you make a wrong turn! But I managed to turn around and find my way back to the correct highway without too much anxiety. It was almost too bad, because I’m sure I would have enjoyed Toronto!

And, who minds a detour when you have cool driving sunglasses like this? Until the next trip, Ciao!


Jamaican Vacation

Originally published at Critical Mass.

Lindsay and I decided to get away from the cold and from the turmoil of daily life and take a vacation somewhere warm, where we could relax, calm ourselves, and try to re-center ourselves on the Lord. Since it was Lent, we joked that we were giving up cold weather for Lent. πŸ™‚

This is the first view of Jamaica from the plane:
Jamaica as seen from the plane - DSCN6328

Day One: Monday, March 23, 2009
We arrived in Jamaica and made it through Customs fairly easily. We were greeted by the representatives from Apple Vacation, who gave us our vouchers for the transfer to our hotel. We were taken to our bus, and once their we were offered Red Stripe beer — as we were waiting! We didn’t take them up on this offer, but hey! Hospitality! πŸ™‚ After a couple of times circling and returning to the airport to get one more passenger, we were finally on our way to the hotel. We were the first ones off the bus, as our hotel was only about a mile or two from the airport.

We checked in and were met by a representative from Apple Vacation, who told us a little about our surroundings and signed us up for the Dunn River Falls trip for Wednesday afternoon. Our hotel was fairly basic, but had air conditioning, a little balcony, was clean and the staff were very nice.

We went out to grab some lunch and explore the area a bit. We ate at the Jamaican Bobsled Cafe, where you could sit in one of the bobsleds from the Olympic team. Proceeds from the meal went to support the Jamaican Olympic Bobsled team, and you could tell that it was a big thing here.
Jamaican Bobsled Cafe - DSCN6596
It was here that Lindsay had her first Red Stripe of the trip. I had a salad and it had one of the best salad dressings I’ve ever tasted — I think they used guava, but you’d have to ask Lindsay to be sure. Definitely some tasty business!

After lunch, we changed and headed for the beach. We were told that it closed in about 30 minutes (it was 4:30 pm), but we were anxious to check it out. This is our first view of Doctor’s Cave Beach:
Doctor's Cave Beach - DSCN6330

Another view of the beach:

There were lifeguards on duty:

I won’t necessarily say what I did:
or what someone else did:
Lindsay sleeping on the beach - DSCN6357DSCN6406

At one point, I was walking along the edge of the water, and a man approached me, calling himself “Smoky Joe.” He had cannabis plant logos all over him. I had an idea what he was trying to sell me, and it wasn’t really the red, yellow, green and black embroidered bracelets that he had. After talking with him for a few minutes, and telling him we were from Michigan, he saw that I wasn’t going to buy anything and said, “Respect!” and continued walking down the beach.

The tranquility of the beach was amazing:

We got to watch a beautiful sunset and marvel at God’s creation:

Then, we headed back to the hotel, cleaned up and headed out for some dinner at Margaritaville:
Where we had yummy drinks and convinced the waiter to take our picture:
We had quite a good time while we were there talking with most of the people we came across. Everyone was very friendly. We quickly learned that the majority of the income to the area came from the cruise ships, so we were often asked if we were from “the boat.”

Our final stop for the night was the casino-type place across the street, which had karaoke, popcorn and ice cream/cream rum drinks.

Day Two: Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Today we got up early and caught a cab to 7 am Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.
The taxi was $10, although the church was only about a mile away. We had believed the desk clerks when they said that we couldn’t walk there from our hotel. We resolved to walk all the rest of the time. 1 mile each direction — uphill both directions! Seriously! πŸ™‚ When we got to the cathedral, we saw all the school children in their uniforms walking to school.
There was a small booth set up at the driveway/base of the hill for the kids to buy snacks, pencils, notebooks and other things on their way in.

The woman in red at the right side of the picture let us use her hymnal and marked the pages for us. On each subsequent day, she would always make sure we had a hymnal and knew what to sing.

Looking out the front door from inside the cathedral, you could see the bay and the mountains.

Their tabernacle:

Their stained glass windows:

After Mass, we still had about an hour before any of the shops downtown opened for the day, so we decided to walk around. We were greeted by a man named Roy, who at first seemed only to want to help us cross the street, but ended up giving us a tour around downtown Montego Bay (for a fee).
Our tour guide, Roy - DSC03604Lindsay and our tour guide, Roy - DSCN6539

Here is the Sam Sharpe center, a plaza in the middle of downtown, for Sam Sharpe who helped to free the slaves of Jamaica:
DSCN6510Sam Sharpe Center - DSCN6511

This is St. James church, built in the 1700s. It is an Anglican church.
St. James - DSCN6515
They even had steel drums up in their choir loft!

The children of Jamaica start attending school at the age of 3, called Basic school for ages 3-6. After that, they attend primary school:

Then, we began the walk back to the Hip Strip, where our hotel was located. One mile each direction, uphill both ways, but it wasn’t bad (see how Lindsay’s grinning), and look at our view!

We had breakfast at The Pelican, which was the only restaurant open. There we discovered that omelettes were $595.00!! (Okay, Jamaican dollars) Then we did a little shopping, got dressed and headed for the beach for a day on the sand!

Look at that water! How could you not just jump right in?

I wanted to take a picture from the dock, so I went over there and what did I hear? “Michigan!” What? Oh, yes. My friend, Smoky Joe, from the beach the night before. He said that he had seen me “and my friend” walking around the Hip Strip last night, and was thinking of picking us up. Oh boy.
Smoky Joe - DSC03631

Lindsay playing in the water:
Lindsay in the surf - DSC03640

Me playing in the water:
Jenn in the water - DSC03642

The weather was perfect. It was about 82 degrees, with a constant breeze. The water was great. The perfect temperature if you hadn’t been baking in the sun. Once you had been laying out for a while, when you went back in it was deliciously cool. Since there were no lockers on the beach, Lindsay and I took turns lying on the blanket and swimming. This was where we did the majority of our reading. I was reading “The Imitation of Christ,” while Lindsay was reading “The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.”

At the end of the day, when we were sufficiently burnt, we went back to our hotel to change, and then grabbed dinner at The Pork Pit:
The Pork Pit - DSCN6548
who had the best food that we experienced during our trip. Seriously, look at all that yumminess:
The Pork Pit - DSC03653
We tried the jerked chicken, jerked pork, jerked sausage, and jerked shrimp. They had this special sauce which was amazing. We also had some kind of rice and beans as a side dish, but after the jerked meat, it was a little plain. I tried, I believe, their pineapple soda.

On the way there, a man came up to us on the sidewalk and started walking with us. He showed us his Jamaican passport and said that his name was Desmond. It became clear that he was another person who made some extra money by selling ganja. He walked us to the Pork Pit and up the stairs. He backed away a little as we looked at the menu, but came back up to us again to talk as we were waiting to place our order. It was a little uncomfortable for me — I am not used to having people come up like that and follow me to my destination. When we got our meal, he sat down with us at the picnic table and watched us eat. He didn’t seem like he was a bad guy, just a little creepy. And I don’t like being watched while I eat, even by friends. At one point, Lindsay got up from the table, and he told me that I should “ditch my friend” and he would “show me a good time tonight.” Oh boy. He wandered off around the time we were going to leave, so I was relieved that we wouldn’t have to try and get rid of him before we got to our hotel — I didn’t want him to know where we were staying. We thought that maybe he had tried to sell something to the Australian people the next picnic table over. When we took the stairs back down to the street level, he was there waiting for us. He walked with us back towards the main part of the strip. As we were walking, he pointed out a little park area on the other side of the road, saying that it was a nighttime hangout. I didn’t think it was a good idea to go off the main street, but Lindsay started heading that way. She was walking a little bit ahead of us. Desmond took the opportunity to grab my hand and had his thumb massage my palm. That was kind of freaking me out. Happily for me, he soon found someone in the park that he wanted to talk to, and Lindsay and I could leave. Between him and “Smoky Joe,” I began to joke that I had 2 drug dealer boyfriends.

We spend some time at The Twisted Kilt, an Irish bar (go figure):
The Twisted Kilt and Palm Tree - DSCN6586
The bartenders there were very friendly. Their names were Everett and Anthony:
Everett, Jenn and Anthony - DSCN6564Everett, Lindsay and Anthony - DSCN6565
They had signs posted around the bar with cute sayings, which I took pictures of for Fr. JJ:
Why God created liquor - DSCN6563Irish Diplomacy - DSCN6584
The Twisted Kilt had 2 for 1 martinis, and we were encouraged by our bartenders to keep up with one another. πŸ™‚

Day Three: Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Today at Mass, we had a different priest. This is us with Fr. Leo:
Jenn, Fr. Leo and Lindsay - DSCN6588
He is a missionary priest, recently reassigned to Jamaica. He told us that he had previously been assigned to Jamaica 49 years ago, and in between had been assigned in China and Africa. He said that he walked, past our hotel, down to the airport (about 2 miles) every morning. We asked him what the extra prayer was at the end of Mass yesterday, but he was not sure. He asked if we would be coming to Mass on Friday, when Fr. Carl would again have morning Mass, but we were leaving tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. He said that he would be having lunch with Fr. Carl, and that he would ask him to write out the prayer for us, and that he would give it to us at tomorrow’s Mass. From Fr. Carl and another parishioner, we got the location of a Catholic bookstore, and said that we would check it out tomorrow morning.

We headed back to the hotel to get ready for our afternoon trip to Dunn’s River Falls. On the way, we may have made a stop to kiss one of the “locals”:
Lindsay pretending to kiss the elephant - DSCN6593Kissing the Elephant - DSCN6594
As you can see, I was perhaps a little more affectionate than Lindsay. πŸ™‚

We also did the majority of our shopping this afternoon. After we had scouted out many of the shops in the last few days, we pretty much knew what we wanted and what to expect for pricing. We mostly got liquor (rum) and coffee (okay, this was me — I brought some back for the office, for Fr. John and Fr. JJ, and for myself). We stopped near the hotel where an older local woman was selling fresh fruit. We ended up giving her $5 US and getting several bags of fruit, including one of the best-tasting mangoes I will ever eat. We also got half of a papaya (the woman split it with us, since we didn’t have enough money to buy all of it), a custard apple, and a naseberry.

We got ready and waited in the hotel lobby for our bus to pick us up to take us the hour-and-a-half to Dunn’s River Falls. And we waited…. And we waited…. Finally, we contacted the Apple vacation people, who contacted the people in charge of the tour. They had forgotten us. So, they sent out another person, to drive us to meet up with the tour bus. The tour bus had gotten pretty far without us.

Along the way, I made Lindsay try to take pictures out the window of the golf courses we passed, for Fr. John:
Golf Course - DSC03679

Shortly before we arrived at Dunn’s River Falls, we stopped at a little place where we could buy snacks, water shoes, and other things. There was one attraction which particularly called out to Lindsay:
Red Stripe Vending Machine - DSC03688

We met a couple of guys from Canada, Laurence and Alec, and hung out with them for much of the trip:
Laurence, Jenn, Lindsay and Alec - DSC03700
Laurence and I were fans of being *right* under the waterfall, while Lindsay and Alec were careful not to be.

Making our way up the falls was more difficult than I had anticipated. You really had to be careful how you were stepping to make sure you didn’t slip. And there were places where the water was gushing past you pretty fast! It was a longer climb than we had thought. We both loved the falls. If we hadn’t been expected back on the tour bus to return to Montego Bay (because the Falls was in Ocho Rios), we might have gone up it a second time. πŸ™‚ Here’s a view looking back at a portion of the falls:
There were spots where we got to go down a “slide” and fall backwards into a “pool.” Very, very fun. πŸ™‚ I’m glad we got to take Lindsay’s camera. I think I’m going to have to invest in a waterproof camera for our next vacation. πŸ™‚

I don’t know about Lindsay, but I was worn out by the time we got back. She had been talking with the guys on the bus, but I had started to get motion sick from sitting backwards to talk to them, and was pretty quiet for the ride. I hope they didn’t think I was rude — I just didn’t want to get sick. 😦

We got back to the hotel and changed. I had seen a Jamexican restaurant and thought this would be good. Turns out, it was attached to our hotel, but not yet open for business. Lindsay remembered another one up the road, so we ate there. I was picky and ended up “customizing” my dinner. I am such a pain sometimes, but the wait staff were very tolerant. We hadn’t noticed when we went in, but this particular restaurant didn’t take credit cards, so I had to leave Lindsay in the restaurant while I found an ATM. The tourist police directed me to one. It was locked, but they said to use my ATM card to get in (it was in a little alcove or room right off the street). I said that I didn’t have one of that particular bank’s ATM cards, but apparently this didn’t matter, you just needed an ATM card or credit card of some nature to unlock the door. A very interesting security measure. You could take out either Jamaican or US dollars (felt odd pressing “foreign currency”). We stopped by the Twisted Kilt again on the way home, to grab a few drinks and tip out the bartenders (since they had processed our credit card the night before and we didn’t get a chance to add a tip). We headed back to the hotel — still waiting to hear from the Canadian boys to see if they wanted to meet up somewhere — and ended up falling asleep really early, maybe 9 pm or so. I guess the Canadian guys called Lindsay sometime about 12:30 am, but that was a little late for us to go out.

Day Four: Thursday, March 26, 2009
Today at the end of Mass, Fr. Leo made an announcement before the final blessing about us. He pointed us out and told the rest of the people that “today, our visitors who have been with us these past few days will be leaving us.” He prayed for our safe return home and encouraged us to come back and visit. He held out an envelope, so I walked up to the sanctuary (in front of everyone!) to receive it. Everyone clapped for us. I was a little embarrassed at the attention, but it was a really sweet thing to do. We felt so welcomed there. πŸ™‚

When we opened our envelope, we saw not only the prayer, but a short note on a sticky for us:
My Dearest Sisters,
Thank you for joining us at Mass over these past 3 days. It was great to worship with you. When next you are in Montego Bay, please do not hesitate to worship with us.
Peace and Love,
Fr. Carl — Rector

Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, be my sanctification
Body of Christ, be my salvation
Blood of Christ, fill all my vein
Water from Christ side, wash out all my stains
Passion of Jesus, my comfort be
O good Jesus, listen to me;
Within Thy wound I fain would hide,
Never to be departed from your side,
Guard me when the foes assail me
Call me when my life shall fail me
Bid me come to Thee above
With the saints to sing Thy love
World without end. Amen!

Take my body Jesus, eyes, ears
thought and tongue; Never let
them Jesus, help to do Thee
wrong. Take my heart and
fill it, full of love for Thee.
All I have I give Thee, give Thyself to me.

It was still a little early to head over to the Catholic bookstore, so we walked back to the strip for breakfast.
Welcome to Montego Bay's Hip Strip - DSCN6597
We ate at The Pelican and Lindsay ordered the national dish, Ackee and Codfish:
Ackee and Codfish - DSCN6604
It was interesting. We thought that the codfish was mixed with eggs, and that the ackee was something else on the plate. Turns out, the ackee just looked like scrambled eggs. She also got a boiled green banana, yams, and two rolls/biscuits which tasted like doughnuts. I was boring and had an omelette.

After breakfast, we went back to downtown Montego Bay to go to the bookstore. We found that they only took cash, so went in search of an ATM. By the bank, we saw some policemen. Unlike the tourist officers, these carried semi-automatic rifles. They mean business. It took us quite some time to figure out the ATM. It only dispensed Jamaican currency, and it took awhile to figure that out and then to put in the proper amount. Probably the only time in my life I will ever withdraw $10,000 from my account! πŸ™‚
$10,000 Jamaican - DSCN6608

The Catholic bookstore was tiny. It was about 2 bookcases within a florist shop. The top shelf of books were “loaners,” and not for sale. We were looking for some prayer books which were specifically Jamaican, but there were not many like that. We still wanted to support the store, so we picked out some of the more unique books and ended up with quite a stack to take back home.

We were getting pretty tight on time, so we hustled back to the hotel to pack. While we were waiting for the shuttle to the airport, we ate the last of our fruit, the custard apple and naseberry:
Custard Apple/Starapple - DSCN6611Naseberry - DSCN6613
The custard apple was very sweet and very sticky. The naseberry was similar in texture to an apricot, and tasted like nutmeg.

Our last view of that beautiful water before heading home:
Gorgeous Water - DSCN6619

It was a wonderful vacation! Truly, thank You, Lord! πŸ™‚

Spring Lake Vacation

Seth and I took a vacation to the west side of the state to visit our friend, Ryan.

We visited with his pets, Felix:
and Naja:

The house was beautiful:

We even got to see tiny little frogs down by the dock! πŸ™‚

We made a quick trip up to the Frederick Meijer Gardens, where they had some orchids on display:
I’m pretty sure we took a bunch more pictures with our film cameras; I just haven’t scanned them in yet. πŸ™‚