Sporty friends found it Grand

Ronnie No Mates, that was me, until two friends came over from London last month to break the streak of never having any visitors to the Cayman Islands in the five years I’ve lived here.

Fraser Shaw, 53, a friend since childhood, and his son Ollie, 25, came for six days and stayed at the Comfort Suites. It was such an entertaining intro to the Caribbean for them that Fraser kept a journal of all his experiences in Grand Cayman.

“I am a busy London detective working at Scotland Yard and after a hectic summer of Olympics and Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations I was ready for a holiday.

“After two weeks in New England, including a couple of nights in New York, we headed down to Grand Cayman for my first ever visit to the Caribbean.

“After a lengthy flight from Boston via Miami we arrived to a hot and humid night so the cool air-conditioned lobby of the Comfort Suites hotel came as welcome relief. Then it was off to Singh’s Roti Bar for some spicy food and reggae music.

“After breakfast the next morning I walked the 50 or so yards from the hotel down to the beach and there it was; my first sight of the Caribbean Sea. And what a sight!

“Deserted white sand, dotted with palm trees, gently sloping to meet the clear turquoise blue waters teeming with several varieties of fish clearly visible from the shore. I couldn’t wait to get my snorkel and dive in. Unfortunately however American Airlines would not be delivering my missing luggage until the evening.

“Thankfully I had a good friend on the island in Ron Shillingford who searched his wardrobe for the biggest shorts and T-shirt he could find and soon we were on our way along the beautiful coastal road to Rum Point for lunch.

“En-route we stopped in at the King’s Sports Centre, an excellent facility, to watch some roller hockey and a karate grading.

“They were only children but boy were they competitive. Then on to Rum Point and some al fresco dining with fine views of another splendid beach. The beach restaurant wasn’t busy and soon I was enjoying Mahi Mahi with rice and beans washed down with a refreshing rum punch.

“In the afternoon we drove to South Sound, in amongst some of the grandest houses on the island. The venue was the rugby club for a hotly contested seven-a-side tournament.

“I was a keen rugby player in the past and represented London Scottish for 17 years and was impressed with the warm welcome and with the standard of play.

“After a sea swim and a relax in the hotel’s hot tub and – having now received my luggage – a change of clothes it was off to the Ed Bush stadium to see West Bay’s Under 15s take on a touring side from Honduras.

“It was energetic and keenly competitive with no shortage of skill. I particularly enjoyed the jerk chicken and plantains on sale at the ground.

“What a day it had been and how much we had crammed in. A couple of drinks and supper at Calico Jack’s and we were ready for bed after drinks at Mango Tree.

“The following day was Sunday 21 October. Up early and a short walk down to the beach and round the headland to a beautiful deserted stretch of sand. Then it was in to the wonderfully clear and warm turquoise sea for our first taste of snorkelling.

“We were immediately transported into a fantasy world of coral and dazzling tropical fish. Every size shape and colour of the rainbow and they proved to be as curious as we were, coming right up to us.

“Suddenly Ollie frantically gestured to me and I looked past him to see what all the fuss was about and then I saw it; a majestic turtle lazily gliding through the water only a few feet from us, clearly completely unconcerned by our presence.

“I have only ever snorkelled around the UK before which, literally and metaphorically, was a world away from the Caribbean experience.

“Unfortunately we were so carried away that we stayed in far longer than we first intended and both ended up with sunburnt shoulders.

“We took lunch at Stingers and in the afternoon we took a leisurely walk around Camana Bay, with its elegant shops, eating places and inland waterfront.

“That evening there was more football, this time at the TE McField Annex for the charity shield match between Scholars International and Elite, two bitter rivals from West Bay.

“A good sized crowd was treated to a hotly contested match which was eventually decided late on with Scholars taking the trophy. It was after nine by the final whistle and, being Sunday, most of the restaurants were closed but we did manage to grab a late meal of chicken wraps at Sunset House.

“The next day, a bit sore from the sun the day before we decided to laze around the pool in the shade for the morning before going to Champion House where many local office workers treat themselves to the extensive buffet and refreshing fruit punch.

“I had turtle soup to start, which was delicious whilst the whole time trying not to think of the beautiful creature we had seen the previous day. The food was plentiful and tasty and the service, provided by the delightful Evelyn, was attentive as well as very amusing.

“Back to the hotel for a lazy afternoon in the shade around the pool, reading my book and watching the iguanas soak up the sun. We had a couple of sundowners whilst watching the American football on the TV at Stingers.

“For dinner we went to Paradise, the restaurant that is. I had the most wonderful meal of lobster and shrimp in champagne sauce which ranks alongside the very best meals I have ever enjoyed. Then it was Chelsea’s bar for some drinks.

“With the sunburn easing slightly it was a quick dip in the morning before we went to Hell, a bizarre wee place that has the feel of a colonial outpost.

“I assume it came by its name from the sinister black rocky landscape to the rear of the souvenir shop. Having purchased a set of three pepper sauces from Rosa in the shop we went down the road to Liberty for lunch – delicious braised oxtail with rice and beans.

“We allowed our meal to settle by laying on the West Bay Public beach. After a swim we ambled back along the beach towards our hotel for a while. When the heat became too much we took one of the quirky, but extremely regular and good value buses back to the pool.

“In the evening we went to Dog House sports bar in Grand Harbour for snacks and drinks with Tom Mason, general manager at Comfort Suites, and had a close encounter with what was to become Tropical Storm Sandy.

“Suddenly the wind whipped up a gale, the clouds built up and dumped what seemed like a year’s rain in about five minutes flat!

“Ollie and I thought that our beach holiday was over – surely the bad weather was here to stay and we only had a day left. We went to bed a little dejected.

“But on the Wednesday, blue skies, bright sunshine and light winds – we couldn’t believe it. Taking advantage of this unexpected bonus Ollie and I went straight next door to the Marriott Hotel to hire jet skis from the Red Sails concession.

“I’ve never jet skied before but it was just like riding a motorbike – only more exhilarating and well worth the hire charge.

“We had hoped to go to Stingray City in the afternoon but the forecast of strong winds meant leaving it until our next visit.

“Lunch was at Welly’s Cool Spot and that evening we had cocktails at Royal Palms followed by dinner of red snapper at Mango Tree.

“Then we went to for a last drink in Coconut Joe’s before retiring early as we were on the 7am back to Miami then Boston the following morning.

“We had a wonderful few days and took with us memories that will last a lifetime. The beauty of the landscape and wildlife, the warmth of the people and the variety and quality of the food were truly exceptional.

“And we hadn’t spent a king’s ransom in doing it. The hotel was excellent value for money and by eating, for the most part, where Caymanians ate we experienced the true taste of the island and all the better for that. We feel sports tourism in the Cayman Islands deserves greater promotion.

“We had crammed a lot of activity in to a short period of time but we have left some activities to look forward to next year; scuba diving, Stingray City, deep sea fishing…I can’t wait!”

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