Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yeah Mun: Riu Ocho Rios

So, the big question:  was the honeymoon worth the awful trip there and back?  Short answer:  yes.

Long answer is a bit more complicated.

OK, so we know from my last post that when we finally--finally--arrived at our resort, I was beyond exhausted, I was more tired than I have ever been in my life.  Naturally, I wasn't in the greatest mood.

So when we trekked up to our room to find it dark and rather gloomy, I was not inclined to forgive.  The blankets were super thin which I guess makes some sense in Jamaica, but they were not very comfortable.  The beds themselves were worse.  They were super hard and not at all inviting even in my nearly comatose state.  The colors in the room can only properly be described as "blech," and even with the windows completely open, the room was dark.

I was not happy.  We seriously considered switching to a much more pleasant-looking suite even though it was an extra $150 per night. We probably would have gone for it if the suite beds had been softer.

Granted, I was not in an easy-to-please mood when we first laid eyes on the room, and Daniel didn't mind it nearly as much as I did, but the decor seriously put a damper on the trip for me.

 The only thing I liked about our room's interior was the differently shaped towels they would leave us each day.
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Fortunately, the rest of the resort was far more pleasing.

Riu Ocho Rios

We stayed at the Riu Ocho Rios, a large resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and it was basically what it promised to be.

The view was the best thing about our room.
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We had a view of their wedding gazebo.  We actually saw a wedding there.
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 Couldn't resist a new wrap.
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Being a lover of all things water-related, the ocean access and pools were a big selling point for me, and I was not disappointed.  Though not huge and annoyingly roped off to a shallow area because of the reef, the beach was long, warm, and inviting with lots of trees, chairs, and tropical drinks.  There were only a few people there trying to sell things to you, and it became clear to us quickly that they were not supposed to be there, making them easier to avoid.  The water itself was a fantastic temperature though cloudier than I expected.  All in all, certainly satisfactory.

The pools were better.  Normally, I ditch the pools for the beach when it's right there and the same temperature, but these pools did not want to be ignored.  They were large with fountains, waterfalls, lounge chairs (in the pool!), and the crown jewels:  at least one swim-up bar in each pool.  Heavenly.  I cannot express how pleasant it is to swim up to the bar, grab a Jamaican Smile, and then sidle over to a bubble-filled booth to sip it.  I'd say we spent at least 70% of our time at the resort in the pool.

 Pool Bar

Riu is an all-inclusive resort, so we did not have to pay for food or drinks at all while we were there.  I cannot express how gloriously freeing it is not to have to worry about the prices of these essentials (yes, alcohol is essential on your honeymoon).  We ate and drank whatever we wanted and did not have to worry about it.  I left mounds of food on my plate everyday uneaten, and I do feel a little bad about that, but it was my honeymoon, damn it, and I'm not going to apologize for it.  The free drinks were the best part.  Not only did we not have to finish them, but we could try all sorts of things and not have to feel cheated if they tasted bad or if we decided halfway through that we didn't feel like a drink after all.

This is how we discovered rum cream.  Rum cream is an amazing and wonderful substance that I have only seen in Jamaica, and I expect never to find its equal.  It's like Bailey's if Bailey's was made with rum instead of whiskey.  For low alcohol, high sugar drinks fan like me, it was perfect.  My drink of choice during the trip was the Jamaican Smile which is essentially a slushy with rum cream.  It.  Was.  Awesome.  (Btw, thanks Laura for recommending it!)

From reviews, we knew not to expect much from the food, and it was pretty much what we expected.  I definitely had a tough time finding things to eat the first few days because my stomach was all wacked out from the time change, stress, and lack of food I had had in the weeks leading up to the wedding.  I really wanted easy to digest foods at that point like pasta, but there wasn't much like that.  I definitely would not recommend Riu Ocho Rios to vegetarians because you will starve.  The meat was definitely the most edible food.  Anyway, as my stomach returned to normal, I found things I liked.  The jerk chicken was by far the best dish available.  And there were so many things to try that even with the food being less-than-stellar, I gained five pounds by the time we went home.

Now, that was for the buffet-style restaurants.  Each guest was allowed to visit each of the "real" restaurants once during the week, and their quality was vastly superior to the ones open to everyone.  Those restaurants looked classier, had dress codes, used actual servers, and had genuinely good meals.  The steak was good enough that I ate my entire massive portion unassisted even after gorging on rum cream and sweets all day.  I wish we had been able to go to these restaurants for a couple more meals because they made us feel like we were really on our honeymoon.

Overall, we had a pleasant experience there.  You could tell the resort was on the cheaper side, and I don't think I'd go back, but for the amount we had to spend at the time, it served well enough.  It was certainly worth the less than $200 a night that we paid.

From the entrance hall.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Yeah Mun: Sojourn to Jamaica

It occurs to me that I never actually posted about our honeymoon.  Clearly, the time has come.

Our flight to Jamaica was a red eye in every sense of the word.  As you may remember, we did not have a ton of money to spend on the honeymoon as we were mostly relying on our honeymoon registry to make it happen, so we had to take the cheapest flight available.

Sunday morning (the day after the wedding), we were still in Marin.  Though our flight left from San Francisco, we had to drive back to San Jose to drop off a bunch of wedding stuff which meant we needed to budget about 2.5 hours for driving that day.  Lame.  I think by the time we got home and did the repacking we needed to do, we had about an hour before we had to leave to relax.

Obviously, I was already exhausted at this point, not having had a good night's sleep for several months but having been particularly busy and not asleep for the past few weeks.  On top of that, our plane left around midnight.  I cannot sleep on planes.  Or any other moving vehicle for that matter.  I'm just really bad at it.

By the time we got to the airport, and that is a story in itself (decided last minute to spurn public transit, tried to park at BART [subway] and couldn't, and ended up having to park in long-term airport parking.  Woops), we were so tired that I thought even I might have a chance of sleeping on the plane, and I think I may have got in half-an-hour or so.  The thing was, we had a stop, so we didn't really have much time to sleep anyway.

We got to Texas (goodbye promise to never use the George W. Bush airport) around 6 in the morning, and something amazing happened.

Now, I don't just have trouble sleeping on moving vehicles.  I have trouble sleeping in dark, silent rooms at night.  That is to say, I have trouble sleeping all the time, so trying to sleep in a bright, busy airport for me is like trying to become CEO of Disneyland.  Ain't never going to happen.

Clearly, I had never been as tired in my life as I was on that airport floor because I actually fell asleep for a bit.

The honeymoon, for me, was about recovery as much as it was about celebrating our marriage.  I needed a vacation more than I can possibly express.  My airport nap proved that.

I don't think I slept on the plane to Jamaica.  One can only ask so much after all.  It was funny though, as we were waiting to get on the plane, a number of other disheveled newlyweds crept into line around us.  Really makes you realize just how "special" a honeymoon in the Caribbean is.

Anyway, after we had got to the airport and gone through customs and stuff, a shuttle met us to take us to the resort.

Now, I had no idea how big Jamaica was or how long it would take.  Previous experience with this sort of thing lead me to expect about half-an-hour at most.

I think it took an hour-and-a-half to get there.  At that point, I was even more exhausted than I had been in Texas.  How do I know?  I fell asleep on the bus.  Without even trying.  In full sunlight with people around me and massive bumps in the road.  That was truly unprecedented in my life and solid proof that weddings fucking drain the life out of you.  I hope never to be that tired again, but I am kind of proud of myself for falling asleep like that.  It may never happen again.

When we finally got to the hotel, we had to stand in a massive line before getting our room.  It was hot and sticky, and I wanted nothing more than to be able to lay down.  I was too sick and hungry to even accept the cocktails they offered us in line.

Finally, finally, we got to our room, and I basically collapsed onto the bed, not planning to get up again for about a year.

Getting to Jamaica was the worst travel experience I have ever had.  I mean, most of that was because of the exhaustion, but doing the whole red eye and transfer planes thing while taking so long to get to the hotel once we actually got there was pretty awful.  We were traveling for almost 24 hours, and it really doesn't need to take that long to get to Jamaica (it's maybe a 6 hour flight from California).

So the moral of this story is if you can take a non-sucky flight to your honeymoon, do it.  If you can't, make sure you have a week at least wherever you're going because it's just not going to be worth it otherwise.  And trust me, you are not going to do anything in your first 24 hours there, so don't plan on jumping right into activities.

What was your trip to your honeymoon like?  Did you take traveling into account when you planned it?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Six(ty) More Years!

Today, Daniel and I have been together for six whole years.

I know most people stop celebrating their dating anniversary once they get married, but we couldn't quite give the old one up.  When you've had one anniversary for five years, you become rather attached to it, thinking of it as, you know, your anniversary.  The real one.  We may not celebrate it forever, but I think it will always mean something to me, just because we were together for so long before getting married.  It signifies that extra five years on our accomplishment list.

Even without the "length of time we've been together vs. been married" thing though, I think our dating anniversary would still be special for me.  I know a lot of people don't get this, but to me, when we got together is more important than when we got married.

I knew basically from the start that I wanted to be with Daniel for the rest of my life.  It took me some time to be positive, and there were definitely periods when I wavered, but for the most part, I've always thought that we would get married--and stay that way.  The wedding itself was more about logistics and being absolutely sure of our commitment and having dealt with other things first, but it was always going to be just a matter of time.

Of course, we're celebrating our wedding anniversary, you know, bigger.  We're going on a trip and everything then while tonight we're only going to dinner.  But to me, this is the night to really celebrate our time together, to remember how we met and all we've done since then.  After all, we have innumerable wonderful memories from our first five years together.

So Daniel, I'm glad that you're my husband, but tonight I celebrate you being my life companion.  Here's to six wonderful years together.

 06/07:  Our First Summer Together

 07/08:  Tea in London

 08/09:  Disneyland!

 09/10:  Sledding in Chicagoland

 10/11:  Road Trip Back to California though the Grand Canyon

 11/12:  Our Wedding

I love you.

Is your dating anniversary important to you?  Or is it all about the wedding?  What makes you reflect on your relationship?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Winding Down: Sunday Brunch

Initially, I was very much against having a brunch the day after the wedding.  It was one more thing to plan, and I thought I would be too exhausted to want to take part in it and that I would want some alone time with Daniel after the whole wedding business.  Plus, I had been to these things before with Daniel's family, and at the time, it really seemed like it was just an excuse for his family to get together.  Obviously, if we were going to do something like that, I would want it to be equally my people and his.

But in the end, he talked me into it.  I again resisted giving up control to Daniel's aunts because I feared it would become too much of a "their family" thing.  I may have ended up being rather rude about it as well (I hope not, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if they were offended by my attitude as the day drew near.  Sorry guys).  In the end, it became necessary for me to get stuff off my plate, so I agreed to have them plan it too (mostly).

I am so glad Daniel and co. pushed me into it.

It never occurred to me before the wedding just how much it would mean to have (nearly) everyone close to me in the same place at the same time.  But that weekend I finally figured out not only that I was not going to see many of these people again for quite some time but that having them together, getting to see all of them and having them meet each other, was a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  The wedding itself went by so quickly, had so much going on, and had so many people involved that it was really nice to have other time to actually talk to our guests, especially people we had neglected at the wedding.

Plus, I like small groups of people.  It's just easier for me to talk that way.  So having events with 20 - 30 people instead of 80 made things much less overwhelming for me.

At the same time, I'm glad I stayed involved in planning the day before and after events, even if I may have been the slightest bit irascible in our dealings (yeah...again, sorry about that).  They had a whole different image in mind, but I fought to make sure all of the wedding guests were invited (since basically everyone was from out of town anyway) and to have it at one of the hotels where people were staying so that we could maximize the number of people who could attend.  I don't think fighting the exhaustion would have been worth it to me if we hadn't done these things.

These were the highlights of the brunch for me:

*I really don't know who took these pictures, but I don't think they'll mind me reposting them.*

 My bathing suit was not particularly visible.  Daniel's, not so much.

1.  I got to wear a sun dress and a bathing suit.  There really is nothing like going casual after you've been wearing a massive, tight, poofy dress for a day.

2.  I got to talk to people I love but that I largely ignored during the wedding because I talk to them on a regular basis.

3.  I got some quality time in with our friends Dana and Derek.  Dana had been a lifesaver to me after we moved to San Jose, one of two close friends I still had in the Bay Area.  This was the last time we saw them before they moved to Wisconsin.

4.  Daniel finally got a picture with all of his cousins.  Apparently, children of cousins count.  Carrying on this tradition is really important to him, so I'm glad he got his picture.  I'm also glad we got the following picture of his baby--second cousin? cousin once removed? no idea--Garrett.

Note the hand.  And the mouth.  Priceless.

All in all, a great way to end the wedding weekend and well worth the extra (minimal) trouble.  Especially because I got to go swimming in the massive hotel pool after most of the guests had gone.

Did you do a morning after brunch?  Were you glad you did/did not?

Classy Wedding by the Sea