Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sheffield peregrines in Provo

Woke up on Tuesday to a familiar sound, I though it was one of our peregrine falcons from Sheffield outside of the window. Looked out, and there it was, tearing a smaller bird to pieces. By the time I'd got my camera, the smaller bird was gone and the falcon was having a rest. Got a reasonable picture of it on my camera, this ones not so good form my phone. From a quick glance at Wikipedia, I think it's an American Kestrel.

Went for a walk along the beach. Really busy, as you can see.

And the sea really is that colour. A pelican thoughtfully stopped to fish right by us.

Then back to the pool for Stuarts daily 40 lengths. Went to see Helen for lunch and delicious tuna sandwiches, and when Owen woke for his nap we tried out their pool which is lovely. Owen enjoyed kicking around and splashing.
Lots of fun time playing with Owen later, who loved Grandpa's car keys.

Another fab meal cooked by Toby at the BBQ, mohito chicken, washed down with mohitos of course! Came back and thought we'd have a nightcap at the resort bar, but it was shut. They obviously go to bed early here.

Wednesday we went for an adventure, and drove to North West Point, most of which is down an unmade road, and the last couple of miles down a sandy track. Probably best if we don't tell the hire car company where we've been. Luckily the tyres stayed undamaged and we didn't get stuck in the sand. Another glorious beach.

And more bird life, an egret and an osprey. The osprey has made its nest on a pole which had think has had a light in it in the past, and the nest is made from all sorts of rubbish it has picked up, including some bright blue rope from Fisherman's nets.

On the way back we stopped for lunch at Da Conch Shack.

Stu had conch, I had jerk chicken and rice and peas, washed down with local beer. Another day, another beach, another beer.

I bought a conch shell from a local seller, and also found a couple in the sand which will look good somewhere at home. Not sure where yet.

Back for a swim and a read by the pool. Then off to see Owen again before bedtime, and dinner at the Tiki Hut with Toby. It was chicken and ribs night. So, we had chicken and ribs. Plus a couple of mohitos of course.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Provo adventures

Off on our travels again. This time back to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands to see Toby and Helen. Drove to Heathrow Saturday afternoon, with our suitcases and big box of assorted stuff, mainly presents for Owen and some treats! We did get comments when we posted this on Facebook that it looked like we'd packed a light sabre.

Decent meal at the Sofitel and an early night and early start. Great news on the plane, headsets are allowed during takeoff and landing. I.m not a brilliant flyer, and hate takeoff, so to have loud music in my ears while we took off was great, drowned out the noise of the engines.

Bizarrely we got our first gin and tonic at 1030, and lunch at 1100, but I always think time isn't real in a plane! Then I fell asleep listening to random songs from my iTunes. Everything for folk to musicals, classical to reggae. Think I slept on and off for about 4 hours. Then read and watched TED talks. An hour stop over at Nassau, and we arrived.

Met by Toby and Owen, a short drive to theirs where we met Helen, and unpacked the box. Owen loved his new chair sent to him by his Granny

And all of his birthday presents form is, including his first bike

Had a lovely meal of BBQd chicken, cooked on the communal gas BBQs they have, great idea, and then checked in at our resort, very tired we intended to go straight to sleep, but realised the Oscars were on, and we were for once in the right time zone to watch them, so we did!
Then a very long jet lag induced sleep.

Woke up to glorious sunshine, and had breakfast by the beach. The view whilst we were choosing breakfast was pretty impressive.

It was nice to see the resort in sunshine, having arrived in darkness last night.

Stuart needed to get him swimming, a good 40 lengths, whilst I watched and listened to music. And floated in the pool occasionally.

After a quick lunch. Helen and Owen met us on the beach where we had a fun time building sandcastles so Owen could jump on them, and even made it for a paddle. The sun was going down by now but it was still warm and the light was fabulous.

After a quick swim in the pool to get rid of the sand, we ate in the restaurant on the beach, where Owen was completely transfixed by the live music, and amused the whole place by dancing to the reggae music. Finally, my favourite drink of the islands, a mohito.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lazy holiday in Jamaica

Last year we went to Jamaica for our 10th Wedding Anniversary, but got hit by Hurricane Sandy. Luckily they gave us a free holiday,  so we took it. Here's a blog about what we did. Which was very little :-)

Get up 5am for taxi. Accident on M1so lots of queues. Cab driver goes off piste and we have to use my phone as sat nav to get to Gatwick after 5 hours.
After check in priority pass gets us into lounge for coffee and breakfast.   Nice.
As we board we notice staff are checking everything manually. Told on plane that power cut affected part of terminal, all systems are down. Flood in server room?
On tarmac for 3 hours, watch staff manually checking every bag. Watched a whole film before take off.
Good flight. Watched Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp and Alan Partridge.  After landing, straight to Sandals arrivals lounge for first Red Stripe of holiday. Yay! 100 min bus journey to resort. Arrive too late to meet butlers, (yes, we have butlers).
Up to room. Towel art on bed

Unpack. Order room service. Burgers, chips, beer. At 6 am UK time. Does wonders for resetting clock.

Up latish. Phone butler on mobile phone left in room. Collect us in golf buggy to take to breakfast. This was view from our table

Then beach, swim. Rum punch. 
Jerk chicken, rice and peas, beer for lunch, in sun. Unlike last year. 
Afternoon in pool bar sampling cocktails. Dirty banana, White Russian. Pink lady. To name but 3. Forget rest.
Back to room for nap!  Buggy to dinner. Kelly's Dockside. On pier, in ocean, beautiful, mixed starter then Surf and turf.

Walk up to bar. Couple of drinks. I fall asleep. Narcolepsy or jet lag?

Up late, again. Buffet breakfast. To pool. Very hot. Spend morning relaxing on floats, drinking champagne. 

Back to villa. 
Lunch of club sandwich, salad, fries, brought by our wonderful butler  Damian and Oshane together with bottle of Jack Daniels because it was about the only drink not in our room and we'd said we liked it!

Afternoon by our private pool

 trying to watch my son Dans play which was being streamed from Drama Studio. Wifi not really up to it, but managed to hear the sound from most of it.  
Various cocktails, all home made.
In evening went to beach club for beach party. Given a coconut filled with rum as we got there

Good food,  had steak and lobster. 

Entertainment began with a fire eater, then two pirates, called "One Pair" because they each had one leg, but a different one, so they only had to buy one pair of shoes....  Got more cringeworthy after that - drunk Americans in a dance competition.  Lots of twerking. So, up to bar for drink. Awesome fiddle player entertained us there.

Back over road to Polo bar. Very bad piano player. Not our night for entertainment.  Back to room to find towel turtle on bed. Which was nice.


Up late again. Butler took us to buffet breakfast. Here he is coming to get us

Getting used to starting day with Bucks Fizz, or Mimosa as they call it here. Back to room, read reviews of Dans play. All good. Watched a video review. Also good. Walked down through lush gardens and took bus to Rivera side. Short walk to pool. Hot. More lounging. More cocktails. 
Lunch by pool of fresh cooked pizza. Very good.
Then more reading, more lounging, more cocktails. Back to room for well earned rest after a busy day.

Over to seaside for dinner in Reef Terrace. Fantastic Caribbean restaurant overlooking sea. Great moon. Lots of jerk chicken, coconut shrimp and tamarind beef.

Over to pool bar for more cocktails, including a red yellow and green Bob Marley. Looked good, but was too sweet. Think its the only one I've had that I've not liked.

Spent an hour chatting to other tourists and barmen.

Then up to amphitheatre for steel band, but had to sit though some games first, men vs women, although it was quite funny. 

Steel band were amazing, not sure how they play and dance at same time. So energetic.

Even Michael Jackson turned up. Didn't get video, but he was great and moonwalked sideways. Better than MJ,

Back to our bar for nightcap and listened to some good piano playing.

Buffet again, this time had a freshly cooked omelette.
Watched 3 huge birds circling, looked like buzzards. No-one seemed to now what they were. Described to us as John Crows, but they weren't crows, and vultures. Think they were definitely buzzards.

Sat by our pool for a while, then down to main one. Decisions, decision, pool or beach. And if pool, which one? Several to choose from, and all in amazing surroundings.

Main pool for most of day. A few cocktails, lunch in buffet, and read most of new Bridget Jones book.
Cocktails and more reading in villa, then dinner in China Doll which is the Chinese restaurant, in Jamaica, with a French chef. Drinks in bar with couple from Kent. Discussed tricky subject of tipping butlers!

Same old...
Breakfast, pool, lunch, reading, swimming, cocktails.
Got pictures of Johncrows which we can now definitely say are Turkey vultures

Dinner in a Kimonos for tappenyaki. Excellent food, but not as much showmanship as you'd get from a Japanese tappenyaki

Drink in pool bar, and then to auditorium to watch Jamaican drummers and dancers. Good show. 

Back, nightcap, bed. So tired again. Wondering if its the anti-histamines I'm taking to calm the insect bites I picked up when we first got here. Maybe need to cut down on them.

Breakfast, beach. Sea. Rum punch.

Lunch in Kelly's looking at the ocean. 

Bit of a walk along beach, looking at fish, sea urchins.
More beach.
Pool for cocktails
Back for rest

Dinner in Valentines which is Italian.
Reggae night in auditorium. Excellent singer. 

Pianist in Polo bar, good player but can't sing! Remember him from last year.

Breakfast, then to Riveria pool

More reading.
Pizza for lunch.
Thunder, rain, lightening whilst we eat lunch under an umbrella. Soon clears up. 
More cocktails. The barman tells me it "tastes like chicken" as he hands it to me. I'm glad to say it didn't.
Dinner in Neptunes which is  on beach. Really good fish stew.

Back for amazing chocolate buffet - so much chocolate in one place. Even had chocolate cocktails.

Pool. Reading. Cocktails Swimming. 
So many wasps (or bees) round the pool bar it was getting a bit dangerous to go too close. 
Lunch in buffet
More pool
Dinner in Manor, a Caribbean restaurant. Managed to eat in a different place every night, and all excellent.
Said goodbye to Damian as he wouldn't be on duty tomorrow.

Finished packing, had breakfast and checked out by 11
Had great tour of grounds from Oshane - he used to be a gardner and knew all the plants, and took us to some places on the report we hadn't seen before. We saw mango trees, avocado trees, and amazing flowers.

Then spent some time by pool, followed by lunch in the grill. 
Back to pool and Oshane brought us a cocktail and a dish of coconut shrimp which was delicious. 

And that was it. Bus to airport, and hour in lounge, and we were off. And our flight was 90 minutes shorter because we had a storm behind us giving us a bit of help!

Fabulous holiday. And as you can see, it was hectic!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Taking a hawk for a walk

For my birthday last January Stu bought me a days falconry experience - and for various reasons I've just got round to using it. I've flown birds a couple of times and loved it, but only for an hour or so and only with other people, so to do it for a whole day, and on my own with lots of birds and a falconer was fantastic.

We went to SMJ Falconry which is near Haworth. It was a terrible day, mist, wind and drizzle, but I'd already had to cancel one because of bad weather, so we set off regardless. The scenery was spectacular - those of you who know the area will know how rugged it is, and some lovely, "northern" villages with dark stone house and dark satanic mills lurking in the mist.

Luckily the weather cleared up a bit in the morning, and I had a great introduction to the birds, from a tiny hawk, who was lovely,

to some amazing owls,

and falcons

They were all fascinating. I didn't realise how many different types of owl there were - I think she had over 50 there.

Then I got my chance at flying them. The owls and hawks will fly to your glove, the falcons tend to be flown by them chasing a lure which is spun by the falconer. It was a great experience. Here's a kestrel landing on my glove.

And one of the barn owls

Of course, they don't fly to you for the fun of it - they want the food you have in your glove. We had day old chicks, or bits of them. Only when they've flown to you a few time are they rewarded with a whole one or two - and owls can swallow them in one go.

But the best bit of the day was taking a hawk for a walk. Really. Bit like taking a dog, but it flew. Or walked sometimes. We had a harris hawk called Toby. Here he is:

I let him off the glove and went for a walk along footpaths and across fields, and he came with us. Sometimes he flew up over the valley, trying to catch the thermals, then he would come back to us and land on a fence or rock. Sometimes he walked with us. Of course, he did get fed when he came back, but it was a great experience.

One of the kestrels took a liking to Stuart's shoulder:

and one landed on my head.

 Totally my fault as I turned away as he was flying towards me, and he had to land somewhere. My head just happened to be the highest point.

It was a great day - I got to handle and fly loads of birds, and learnt so much about them. I would certainly recommend it if you are interested in these magnificent birds of prey.