I get around.
I get around.
I left work around 11am, picked Matt up at home, and we drove to an offsite airport parking lot just south of the airport. Usually we’d get a cab or park at Terminal 2 for short trips like this, but we had a $10/day coupon. That’s cheaper than a cab!
The shuttle picked us up at my car, and we were at the terminal within ten minutes. Add to that the fact that we got to use our brand new Trusted Traveler numbers, and our total time from the car to our seats at Surdyk’s Flights past security was 20 minutes. Incredible.
Our flight was delayed, presumably due to the sequester, so we had plenty of time for lunch and a beer. Since they weren’t yet boarding when we got to the gate, we climbed up to the observation deck, which was conveniently located nearby.
Our flight was uneventful, and we landed nearly on time at Reagan National. If you’re going to DC, don’t bother with Dulles or Baltimore… National is where it’s at. It’s basically in the Potomac River, and it’s on the Metro. Those other two are most definitely not.
Matt and I bought tickets for the Metro and hopped on a train heading south to Alexandria. I could see our hotel from the station, a half-mile walk away. (I knew that before I booked it, but it was worth the extra travel time since it was super-cheap.) When we got to the station exit, we saw a van sitting there with the hotel logo on it. A shuttle? WIN. We hopped on board with two other people and got a ride to the hotel instead.
The Courtyard by Marriott was exactly as you expect… clean, business, oriented, and friendly. The rooms were very recently updated, so they were especially nice for a place well under $100/night. I’m a fan. We unpacked our bags (we were traveling light, so that didn’t take much effort) and headed right back to the Metro station. The shuttle wasn’t out front, so we walked back instead. It only took 10 minutes.
In the hotel we’d done the math on Metro cards, and decided it was a better deal to buy the week-long pass even though we’d only be there for a little over three days. It’s $35 and includes unlimited rides, with a surcharge for rush hour. (We ended up paying less than $1 total for ‘surcharges’, so yeah, it’s worth it. The Metro can be expensive.) We bought those and boarded a train into the District.
We were ready for dinner by the time we arrived half an hour later, so we headed right to Matt’s first restaurant selection: Daikaya. It’s about 2 blocks from Verizon Center. We got seats at a shared table for eight, with the two sides facing each other. It would’ve been kind of strange except for the divider in the middle for condiments. The menu is fantastically simple in the ramen-part of the restaurant: you have four options, plus some sides and beverages. (One of the beverage options is “buy a six-pack for the kitchen”.) I got the vegetarian ramen, of course, and it was fantastic, especially with chili sprinkled all over it. Going there early was also a really good plan, because by 7:30 there was a line forming. It would’ve been worth it regardless, and they got food out amazingly fast.
Full of noodles, we set off in search of one of life’s other needs: beer. We’d done our research ahead of time, and had a list of good options together with notes about the Metro stops near which they were located. A few of them were near the restaurant (that area north of the Archives stop seems to have a ton of really great food and drink now, in addition to all the incredibly touristy stuff), so we decided to try those first. It was about 8pm, and we knew we weren’t going to be up for a very long night.
We found R.F.D. Washington right past the Chinatown gate. All evidence pointed to it being the bro-iest bro bar on earth, from the Irish pub styling to the cavernous warehouse of an interior (not to mention a fair number of bros already there), but their beer selection was unbelievable and the bartenders were great. We found seats along the side of the bar, where we could keep an eye on both the Nats game and the patrons, and dug into the beer list. I tried two from DC breweries (Three Stars, whose gose was excellent, and DC Brau) and one from Virginia (Devil’s Backbone).
We hung out there for a couple hours, talking and watching sports, and watched the place start to fill up. A couple of girls repping for Goose Island came in to hand out samples, and since we were sitting at the end of the bar, we witnessed how complicated that process can be. Their first trays were full of 312 samples, which we gladly took advantage of (I needed something to take ibuprofin for my neck, because I’d slept uncomfortably on the plane). When those were empty, the bartender said they’d run out the supply. They picked a different beer, and had to pay for it in advance before the bar would hand it over. They made a few rounds, then disappeared until later when I found them sharing a handicapped stall in the women’s room, drunkenly moaning about their man problems. AWESOME.
Then there was the bachelor party. There were 12-15 guys in the 25-40 year old range, all wearing the standard button-down shirt and jeans. We decided they were from Boston or somewhere near there, based on their really annoying accents (the yelling over each other didn’t help). They came up individually to buy beers, complained about the prices (the prices were actually shockingly low for a bar in the middle of a large city), and exclaimed about what an awesome deal they’d gotten at the hotel. We wondered which ones we’d see laying in the gutter in Chinatown later. (When I returned from the bathroom, the bartender was lining up 12 Jager bombs for them. Even he was laughing about how incredibly bro they were.) When our tab arrived, we had to double-check to make sure they’d charged us for everything, because it was so unbelievably cheap.
We decided to take a break from the bachelor party entertainment and check out a cocktail bar nearby instead. We were kind of underdressed for The Passenger, especially on a Friday night, but I didn’t care much. If there’s one thing I know about classic cocktail bars on that order, it’s that your service from the staff depends almost entirely on your drink choices. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, if you order a Long Island, you suck.
The place was packed. I angled for a place near the server station at the edge of the bar, and waited for a free bartender. While we stood there, Matt pointed out the fact that they had Fernet on tap. And the thing is, when you’ve had multiple highly entertaining experiences with Fernet, from the skull shotglasses in Boston to our DJ BFF in Los Angeles and the time we had it sitting on the floor of Roma Termini station after the longest day of our lives… well, you order it when it’s on tap. When the bartender finally got to me, I placed our regular cocktail order, plus the two shots.
She brought those first so we could do them right away, then made our drinks. That’s good service right there. We took our drinks and went to stand against the wall amongst the crowd.
After a few minutes, we noticed people leaving a little enclosure nearby, which seemed to have two bench tables in it. We grabbed one of them, and a server came in to finish up with the other group sitting in there. We hung out for a while and didn’t see any sign of her again, so we weren’t sure if they were doing table service anymore. (We didn’t need food anyway, but the wait at the bar was long.) After a while, our drinks were empty and we decided it wasn’t worth the effort of waiting in line and giving up our table, so we went to go close the tab.
The same bartender came to help me again, and suddenly there were two half-shots of Fernet there with our check. See what I mean about service? It’s good to know awesome bartenders are the same everywhere.
We headed back toward the Metro station, with a quick stop at Walgreens along the way. The Chinatown Walgreens was more like a gas station than a regular Walgreens; it was almost all food and drinks. We picked up a six-pack of DC Brau for our hotel room, and went to get the Metro. 25 minutes later we were at our Eisenhower Avenue stop, so we walked back to the hotel and enjoyed a beer on the couch before bed.
And let it be known that DC Brau makes some really good beer. We’d only chosen it because the cans were easier to carry!
The alarm on my phone forgot to go off Saturday morning, so we got a later start than intended. (The extra sleep was nice, though.) We got on the metro around 10:30 and rode to L’Enfant Plaza. Our intention was to see as much of the National Mall as possible, until our feet fell off.
(Spoiler alert: our feet almost fell off.)
The thing we noticed first was the incredible number of food trucks lining the streets that crossed the mall.
I decided on falafel, and Matt got a Philly cheesesteak. We took our food to a good viewpoint on the mall, and sat in the grass to eat. It was fantastically nice outside.
After our early lunch, we walked toward the Capitol. The mall was crowded with tourists, as always, including massive groups of teenagers on school trips.
Bally loves America, obviously.
Even after that mile or so, I was starting to realize that my choice of shoes wasn’t the best for walking. Since I’d only brought a backpack, I didn’t want to carry two extra pairs of shoes, and as we had dressy plans later that night, I took a pair of sandals that I’d never walked any distance in. It was too warm to wear sneakers, so that was my choice. DUMB.
We walked down the other side of the mall, skipping most of the museums. Since it was really nice that day and was supposed to rain Monday, we figured we’d cover some of them later. We did decide to go into the Air & Space Museum: initially it was because I had to go to the bathroom, but it was a good excuse to wander around and see things. It’s still my favorite (the annex in Virginia is even better… why don’t they have shuttles there?).
We stopped into the castle, because I hadn’t been there in years. We picked up a few souvenirs (which I got a discount on, since we get Smithsonian Magazine), then went to check out the rest of the building. They have a fascinating array of totally random artifacts in there.
From there we headed toward the Washington Monument. My feet were trying to kill me, but that wasn’t going to stop the walking. The monument was still covered in scaffolding because of earthquake repairs.
We had a deadline for our tourist activities that day, because we had cocktail and dinner reservations later. That meant we had to be on the Metro by 4pm, in order to go back to the hotel, change clothes, and ride back. (That made me regret having a hotel so far away just a little bit, but it was so much cheaper than the district hotels, it was worth the effort.)
We figured we didn’t have time to walk all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, since we’d only covered half the mall in that amount of time. Also, my feet were killing me. We headed toward the White House instead, because it was only half a mile or so.
The side streets to the White House are all completely blocked off by security gates and guards; I feel like that wasn’t always the case, but I’m not positive. You can’t get anywhere near it except at the usual spot, directly in front. We followed the crowds, passing by a group of anti-abortion protesters with huge grotesque photos all over the sidewalk. I was diplomatic and didn’t curse at them, though I did thank the gun control protesters for being there.
The plaza in front of the White House was full of police, tourists on Segways, and random protesters. We took our photos, and Bally snuck inside the fence. We then headed toward a much-needed break at the Old Ebbitt Grill, one of the ten oldest bars in America, and haunt of many a corrupt politician.
I asked at the server stand if we could sit at the bar, and they told me there were FOUR of them to choose from. We went into the back room and found an awesome old bar with nautical decor, and exactly the kind of bartender you hope to see: a loud, sarcastic old guy in suspenders.
I ordered a Manhattan, and took his recommendation for whiskey: WhistlePig Rye. I was not disappointed.
We hung out there for a while, resting our feet and enjoying listening to the people around us. There was a very loud, tipsy group of older ladies from the east coast at the end of the bar who were flirting with the bartender. We shared a Negroni, then got our check and headed to the Metro station to ride back to the hotel.
We had to walk from the station to the hotel, but we’d walked so much at that point we really didn’t notice the soreness much anymore. I knew I had blisters, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. We changed quickly, and decided to request the shuttle so we didn’t have to walk back. The driver was there quickly, and we were soon back on the train heading downtown.
Our destination was Jose Andres’ Minibar, the cocktail-focused side of the new Barmini (where the president and first lady had dined recently.)
We love Jose Andres from his TV appearances and his restaurants in Las Vegas. Since DC is his home, we were very excited to visit his new cocktail bar. We made reservations far in advance to be sure to get in, and the rules were intimidating: there’s a $50 fee for no-shows, you can only have your seats for 2 hours, and you have to press the doorbell at a nondescript door 5 times to get in.
We arrived a little early and found the door. We stood there for a very long time before the hostess came to get us. She was a tall, gorgeous lady dressed perfectly, and I was instantly glad we’d made the effort to dress up. She took us through another door, and we walked into a small room with a bar that sat 8 people, and several other creative seating areas. One of them had a wicker hanging chair, and another had a couch made of tufts painted to look like cactus. Everything was shiny white and modern, and there was a two-way mirror into the restaurant portion. The bar was totally open, so that we could see everything that was going on. It was amazing.
I wanted to be a tourist and take pictures of everything, but stuck to just the one, subtly. We ordered cocktails off the extensive menu, and watched the bartender make them in very elaborate fashion. (Their mixing technique was very Toby Maloney-esque.) They had a massive variety of glasses in vintage styles, seemingly for every style of drink. And they had fancy gold mixing tins and jiggers! We were impressed.
We had three drinks apiece over the couple hours we were there, and they were uniformly great. We also ordered a couple appetizers: Matt had a foie gras banh mi slider (which was delivered in a tiny cardboard take out box a la McDonalds), and we shared a truffle grilled cheese. SO GOOD. We learned some new things from the bartender, too.
While we were sitting there, the awesome hostess was quietly telling the staff that someone important was coming in (I couldn’t catch the name), and they were to be treated as if they were anonymous. EXCITING! Every time the light flashed over the door to indicate a new visitor, we subtly peered at them to see if we recognized them. As far as we could tell, nobody famous showed up while we were there, but we’re also pretty bad at recognizing celebrities.
Finally it was time to head to dinner, so we got our check and went to use the bathrooms before we left. The hostess led us out, and asked me about my Gemini tattoo, since she was one, too. Her birthday is a day before mine on June 7th, so I asked if she knew that that was also Prince’s birthday. She was pretty excited that we knew that fact.
This is the wall in the bathroom, by the way. You never, ever have to worry about running out of toilet paper there.
We walked a few blocks up the street to Zaytinya, another Jose Andres joint, where we had reservations at 8. There was a crowd out front, in the lobby, and the place was absolutely monstrous. It had the look of one of those fancy downtown chain restaurants that we generally avoid, but we quickly found out that was a misconception.
Our table wasn’t quite ready, so we went to the bar for cocktails. Again, I was glad we were dressed up… most of the crowd there was fairly fancy. After 20 minutes or so our table was ready, and we were hungry enough that we already had plans for the bread basket. The menu was an innovative mix of Lebanese, Greek, and Turkish food, and it all looked delicious. Plus there were plenty of vegetarian options (including an entire vegetarian mezze page). On our server’s recommendation we ordered three mezze apiece, including a cheese plate. One of my very important life rules: always order the cheese plate when you’re out for a nice dinner.
We ate the flatbread and they brought more, so we used that for cheese. There was still a piece in the basket, but they brought another one. We had to put it far away from us so we didn’t risk a bread basket avalanche. The small plates started arriving, and everything was excellent. We had a glass of Raki to celebrate, too.
We were getting full and still had one dish left on the way, but it was starting to look like it wasn’t going to appear. At that point, we were hoping it didn’t, since we couldn’t have eaten it anyway. Finally the server brought our check, and we breathed a sigh of relief, especially since we weren’t charged for it. Our entire fancy meal was only a bit over $100, too… we were shocked.
Leaving, we found the streets crowded with Capitals fans celebrating the team clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I felt like I was amongst my people! We decided to walk a bit and see what was nearby for cocktails, since my blisters were killing me. Only a few blocks away, we saw a marquee that beckoned us: Cuba Libre. A tropical-themed rum bar? I don’t even know why that would appeal to us.
The place was pretty full and we didn’t want to ask for a table, so we went to stand by the bar near an empty seat next to a questionably-taken seat. The lady there said her friend had left, so we scored the last two seats at the bar. Their menu was primarily mojitos, as expected, and they boasted a giant rum list. We got mojitos, which were good but waaaay too sweet.
After a while, they started clearing tables from the dance floor, which was surrounded by a low fence. Then they cleared the tables outside the dance floor, from the rest of the restaurant. Finally, they started taking bar stools. The guy who took ours told us that the entire floor was for dancing (and he did so in such a joyful way, it was awesome). We stood there waiting for the music to start, and decided to enjoy a rum flight in the meantime. We of course made the bartender climb a ladder to get them, which made the other bartender declare us big spenders. (The rum wasn’t even that expensive, they just seemed to be a mostly-mojito crowd.)
By the time the first song was over, the dance floor was full. It was fantastic, and unlike anything that ever happens in Minnesota. Plus there were some dancers there who really knew what they were doing.
We hung out there for a while watching the dancing, and finally decided to go elsewhere to be able to sit down again, since my feet hurt. We walked over to a Belgian place several blocks away called Brasserie Beck, but walked in just as they were closing. We used their bathrooms and then decided to head back to the hotel, since we had beer there, and it was midnight.
As much as I wanted to see what the Metro was like at 3am, I didn’t really want to experience it in person. Our train was fairly empty, and everyone riding out to the Alexandria area seemed to be asleep. I limped back to the hotel, and we enjoyed a DC Brau on the couch before bed.
We got up Sunday morning and headed back down to the National Mall, to cover the half we’d missed on Saturday. We got off at the Smithsonian stop, which put us about a mile from the Lincoln Memorial. My blisters still sucked, but wearing sneakers helped. Plus it was cooler outside, so we were comfortable in warmer clothes.
I don’t think I’ve seen the WWII Memorial before, though it looked really familiar.
The water was empty because they were doing work between it and the reflecting pool.
Blue skies would’ve been nicer, but at least it wasn’t raining!
Bally continued loving America:
I always forget how gigantic the Lincoln statue is. It’s seriously impressive.
His view isn’t bad, either.
From there we walked over to the Korean War Memorial, where a Korean news show was filming a documentary about it. The announcer was awesome.
I like this memorial because it’s quiet and out of the way.
Plus it’s kind of haunting.
We passed the Vietnam Memorial, too, but didn’t stop long because we’ve both seen it before. As with the previous day, we had plans that kept us moving!
We stopped at the Einstein statue to recreate a photo Matt’s parents had taken when he was a teenager. Bally joined him this time.
I realize this makes it sound like we were only out walking around for 15 minutes, but it was really a few hours. There’s a lot of ground to cover in DC, and the west end of the Mall is poorly represented by the Metro.
The nearest station was Foggy Bottom about a mile away, so we headed that direction, into the GWU campus. We boarded a train and rode to Metro Center, then transferred to the green line with the rest of the entire Nationals fan base.
(Metro tip: if you know a train will be crowded, go to one of the end cars. They’re always slightly less packed.)
Fifteen minutes later, we all disembarked a few blocks from the stadium, down by the dockyards. It’s a pretty interesting neighborhood, and reminded me somewhat of the waterfront in Baltimore.
The stadium was really nice. It’s fairly new, and pretty similar to Target Field. I was thrilled to see that the racing presidents were hanging out in the plaza for pictures! William Howard Taft, America’s fattest mascot, was new this year, and we were pretty excited about it.
We were fairly early, so we had time to walk around and see the place. The upper level concourse was totally open, and offered great views underneath the giant screen. The best restaurants seemed to be there, too.
Matt was set on Shake Shack. We debated about it for a minute because of the huge line (as compared to anywhere else in the building), but decided it would be worth it. AND IT WAS. They even had a veggie option, which was a huge portabella mushroom stuffed with cheese. It was amazing.
After our quick lunch, we walked down a mile of ramps to the first level of the stadium. Our seats were in the last row of a section down the 3rd base line, and they were pretty great. Once it started raining halfway through the game, we were really glad to have them, because they were under the overhang.
It was Nationals-Reds, and somehow we ended up flanked by Reds-fan couples on either side. I wasn’t really cheering for anyone in particular (except for ex-Twin Denard Span), so that was fine. The game was a decisive Reds victory, and people started leaving fairly early. The rain encouraged that, too.
We headed out shortly before the end of the game, figuring the Metro wouldn’t be too crowded by then. We had to stop into the store so Matt could by a long-sleeved tshirt, because it was actually cold outside! It was a huge change from the previous day. By the time we left, though, it had at least stopped raining.
The Metro was indeed really empty, so we boarded around five, switched trains downtown, and rode up to the stop nearest Adams Morgan, a.k.a. DC’s hipster-est neighborhood. It was about a mile walk to our destination, so we were glad that the two places we’d picked for cocktails and dinner were at least right down the street from one another. Our feet hadn’t exactly recovered yet.
Our first stop was Jack Rose Dining Saloon, which had just opened at 5pm. Matt had read about their incredible whiskey selection and cocktails, and that was no joke. Three walls of the sizable restaurant were lined with bottles from all over the world, and the very expensive ones were behind bars. We grabbed seats at the bar and pondered where to even begin. With cocktails, of course!
After we finished, Matt decided it was time to sample some of the whiskeys we’d never had before. We paged through the extensive list, and decided on a few things, including a Corsair quinoa whiskey (because we’d met and loved the Corsair guys in Vegas), and a hopped whiskey from Charbay. I figured I’d hate the hops one, but it was amazing.
As usual, once we’d talked to the whiskey expert for a while, we developed some cred. It would’ve been nice to stay longer and take advantage of that, but we needed food. While Jack Rose had that, there was a BBQ place just down the block that had vegetarian options. So, basically, heaven.
Smoke and Barrel wasn’t terribly crowded at 7:30 on a Sunday night, so we got a table right away. The place used to be an old punk bar that served a lot of vegan food (much like our beloved Triple Rock), so the new owners put in a BBQ restaurant that still tried to hold true to that tradition. They did so in excellent fashion.
I ordered vegan spareribs with roasted jalapeno cheddar grits. The spareribs were fantastic, but the grits were so good I thought about making out with them (Matt would’ve been fine with it). Their beer list was really good, too, so we had a couple of those with dinner. At the end I was too full to finish my grits, which was just shy of a national tragedy. I still think about them fondly.
It was only around 9:30 at that point, but we were tired and wanted to get up early the next morning. We decided to grab beers and head back to the hotel, so we stopped at a grocery store on the mile-long walk back to the Metro. When we arrived, Matt had to go to the bathroom, so we walked around the weird shopping area there that was just shutting down for the night. We snuck into the side door of a Chipotle unnoticed, and while I was waiting for him in the hallway, an employee came barreling out of the kitchen, swearing his head off about customers. He saw me there, stopped cold, and started apologizing profusely. (There was something about how white people needed their burritos at 10pm, which was hilarious.) I told him several times it was no problem, since obviously we were there stealing the use of their bathrooms.
We hopped on the Metro and rode back to Alexandria for our traditional beers on the couch before bed. We couldn’t finish the DC Brau, so hopefully the cleaning staff took advantage of it after we checked out.
It was raining Monday morning, so our plan to save the indoors stuff to the last day had worked out well. We rode down to Gallery Place, had a fast breakfast and coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and then walked over the the International Spy Museum. I’d been there several years ago, and knew Matt would enjoy it.
I like the museum for proving that all the insane spy stories you’ve heard are realistic. They have a million examples of mini guns, suicide devices, hidden messages, and bombs. It’s laid out in such a way that a person like me with a short attention span can stay entertained the whole time, and the entire lower level is dedicated to James Bond (and how realistic his devices are). We’re planning to visit the Mob Museum in Vegas soon, and part of my interest in it is the fact that it’s run by the same company that built the Spy Museum.
After a couple of hours there, it was time for lunch. I’d heard that the Mitsitam Cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian was excellent, so we headed that direction. Even taking the Metro part of the way, it was a long walk.
I was surprised to walk into a cafeteria-style restaurant, but then we started looking at the menus and realized it was, in fact, excellent. There wasn’t a ton of vegetarian food there, but I did fine. The food represented all manner of native populations in the Americas, and it was uniformly delicious. The place is really expensive, especially for a Smithsonian cafeteria, but it was worth it.
I wished we had more time to see the museum, but we really wanted to get to the American History museum before leaving DC. We walked over there, and upon entering saw signs all over indicating that one entire side of the building was closed for renovation. At least that gave us something to focus on, because there was no way we could see everything!
I love the transportation sections, especially about railroads and cars. Matt likes the ships. Bally likes hanging out with the vegetables.
There was also a featured section with some of the favorites from their collection. Kermit the Frog was there!
We also noticed that the Smithsonian has Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine in their collection. I owned that tape. Sigh.
We made the most of our little time there, and then rushed to the Metro by the National Archives when it was time to go. (Google Transit directions are THE BEST. Seriously.) We rode back to the hotel, passing through National Airport as we had every day there, and managed to catch the shuttle just as it picked up another passenger. We asked the driver if he would swing back through after dropping the guy off at the other hotel, and he said he would. We got our bags from the front desk, the shuttle returned, and we were quickly back at the Metro station to head to the airport.
Thanks to the shuttle ride, we were early enough to the airport to be able to get dinner before leaving. We checked menus at a few places, and everything except for TGI Fridays was a seafood place. Fridays it was! (In their defense, their airport locations have several decent vegetarian options – that was not the case years ago – and incredibly friendly staff. So I can’t disparage TGI Fridays too much.) We got drinks and split a couple appetizers while watching planes on the tarmac.
We sped through security once again thanks to PreCheck, and boarded our flight shortly after. We had a brief layover in Detroit, where we sat watching the NBA playoffs on one of their gigantic TVs.
Back at MSP, we headed directly to the remote parking shuttle, which was sitting there waiting. Thanks to carry-on luggage and our efficient driver, we were home from the airport within 45 minutes of landing. How often does that happen?
My very short review of TSA Precheck: GET IT, IT’S AWESOME. REALLY.
Now for a longer review.
Matt and I recently applied for Global Entry, which allows pre-approved members access to expedited customs and immigration processing when entering the US. That’s really nice, and the technology is cool, but the main reason we wanted that is because it also entitles users to membership in TSA Precheck. That’s the domestic version, which gives you access to expedited security screening at 40+ airports (with more being added).
For Global Entry, you have to pay a $100 application fee, tell them every detail about your life, and if you’re approved, you’re invited to an interview at a nearby airport a couple weeks later. While the interview seemed intimidating, it wasn’t. They already have your background check, so they ask a few basic questions, take your picture and fingerprints, and show you how to use the customs kiosk. While it takes another few weeks to be issued your Global Entry card, you get your TSA Precheck number right away.
We had our interviews Wednesday, and went home to update our Friday reservations with our new numbers (they’re called Trusted Traveler numbers by the airlines). The boarding passes printed with “TSA PRECHECK” at the top, so we knew we were set.
When you get to the airport, head to the Trusted Traveler lane at security. You’ll know it because it’s the one that doesn’t have 200 people standing in it. (It’s usually the same lane used by super-elite frequent flier members.) Scan your boarding pass on the scanner and if it beeps, the agent will wave you through. Go through security. Keep your shoes on, your jacket on, and your toiletries in your bag. (I think they only think they were requesting was that people empty their pockets.) Grab your bags and celebrate not having to rush to your flight! The end.
Matt and I made it from the parking lot, on the shuttle, and through security in under 20 minutes on Friday, and security flying back from DC was equally fast. If you’re a frequent traveler, this is absolutely worth the money.
Our friends who were married in Jamaica visit there yearly on their anniversary. We’ve been trying to arrange a trip with them for a long time, but the scheduling never worked out. We finally planned far enough in advance to make it happen in 2013.
We spent part of the time staying with them up on the cliffs in Negril, then several days on Seven Mile Beach. Our final night (Matt’s birthday!) was spend at an all-inclusive in Montego Bay. We’ll never make the all-inclusive mistake again. Apart from that, it was a fantastic, relaxing trip, full of ocean, amazing Jamaican food, and plenty of local rum and beer.
We’ve already decided that next time we go to Jamaica, we’re just staying on the cliffs. It’s probably the friendliest place in the world.
(The entire photoset is here on Flickr.)
Read from the beginning below, or jump to each day:
We got up at 6 and drove to the park-and-ride lot south of the airport. My parents were picking up my car so we didn’t have to worry about it being towed in a snow emergency, but I didn’t want to make them get up so early. I emailed them the location, and we headed to the light rail. It was freezing, but there was no way we were bringing winter jackets to Jamaica… I had sandals with wool socks, a hoodie over a tshirt, and jeans that I could roll up when we arrived. Also, the all-important flipflops in the carry-on.
We took advantage of the Medallion bag drop-off, which was very fast. The airport was really busy already with all the cruise passengers heading to Florida. I had to check both bags in my name, because for some reason Delta doesn’t think Jamaica qualifies as an international flight. We went through security quickly, and then headed to meet Kris, Orsi, and the kids at French Meadow for breakfast. Since we were already on vacation, we celebrated with mimosas.
We headed to the gate after an hour or so. I changed into flipflops, rolled my jeans up, and boarded the plane. I was READY for Jamaica.
We had exit row seats, and Matt took the window (which meant I got it on the way back). I knitted, did sudoku, ate the sandwiches we’d prepared for lunch, and chatted with the guy next to us. It was his first time in Jamaica, and he seemed really wary of the whole idea. His wife insisted on it, though. He also couldn’t believe we were going for 11 days. He told me they were staying at the Grand Palladium, which was basically the opposite of what we were doing. It looked incredibly fancy, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a whole lot of actual Jamaica there.
We landed in Montego Bay around 2:30, and went to stand in the gigantic line for customs and immigration. (Note: when Delta tells you to fill out one form per family, don’t believe them. Jamaica requires one per person, unlike the US.) Kris and Orsi got to go ahead with the kids, so we watched them wistfully as they headed to the front of the line. The room was way too warm, and I was dying for water.
We finally got past the crabby immigration lady, and went to pick up our bags. Customs was easy, and from there we headed into the room full of shuttle company booths. K&O had pre-arranged a shuttle, so we paid cash ($50 each roundtrip, which wasn’t bad at all) to get on the bus with them. Orsi and I boarded with the kids and the bags, and Kris and Matt headed to the open-air bar to buy beer for the journey – this is ESSENTIAL, don’t forget it! – as well as patties, a spice bun, and coco bread. The driver, Junior, was excited that Kris had picked up Dragon Stout instead of Red Stripe.
Our busmates were two girls who seemed a little too proper to be going to Negril (we talked to them a bit, and they were at least funny), and a bunch of Iowans in the back, including an old guy in a “co-ed naked tanning” tshirt. The Iowans were all pretty quiet, and also jealous of our beer. It was raining in MoBay, but quickly cleared up as we left town.
We made the usual stop halfway to Negril so that we could supply our every need (i.e. beer, snacks, and weed for those who wanted it). The Iowans stocked up on something like 300 beers. I got drinks for the four of us, and we all piled back on the bus. Junior pointed out a bunch of interesting things along the way, and had details about all the towns we were passing through. We saw a ton of Jamaican goats and roosters, but didn’t expect to see camels – apparently they’d added them as an attraction at the Dolphin Encounter. We also passed the Grand Palladium, a gigantic sprawling walled resort in the middle of nowhere.
The farther we got, the more beer bottles we heard rolling around in the back of the shuttle, and the more boisterous the Iowans got. We were pretty sure they managed to down all 300 of those beers on the hour-long ride. We got to Negril, and dropped the uptight girls at Riu Palace, one of the fancy all-inclusives at the far end of the beach. We were not at all surprised they were staying there. We then dropped the Iowans at their hotel on the beach, and helped Junior clean up all the beer bottles rolling around. (He had told the Iowans to leave them, since they’re returnable.) Next it was our turn, so we headed up the cliffs to Samsara.
K&O have stayed there on their anniversary every year for six years. We figured we’d stay with them for part of the trip, then go down to Samsara’s sister hotel on the beach. The idea of not staying on the beach at all didn’t sit that well with us, though we’d later learn that it wasn’t as big a problem as we suspected.
The doorman, Michael, greeted them excitedly as we arrived, and they introduced us to him. We checked in, and headed to our room. I instantly fell in love with the place; one side of it is a series of bungalows attached together in pairs, and there are four or five small bungalows on stilts facing the ocean. Each of them had a two-person swing underneath, and their own recliners. Matt and I had a bungalow in the back corner of the property, with two hammocks out front on the porch. It was a huge room with two beds, and octagon-shaped. The bathroom was also large, with a step-down shower stall. We were a little worried about the lack of A/C, but it turned out that the open windows and ceiling fan made it very comfortable at night.
We unpacked a bit, then headed to Kris and Orsi’s room to meet them. They had a room facing the pool (which did have A/C, so we’ll consider that next time). They had already greeted half the hotel (it’s the kind of place where the same people visit at the same time every year), so we left the property and headed down the road to Kris’ favorite bar on earth, No Limit. We’d tried to find it on our previous visit, but were unsuccessful.
They had also been going there every year, and had become friends with the owners, Byron and Nav. Nav is a teacher, and the kids love hanging out with her. They would often stay and hang out with Nav while the adults went to dinner or sat at the bar. Kris introduced us to them, and I ordered a Red Stripe from Byron. Matt asked for white rum, and ended up with Appleton and Pepsi instead. Americans don’t tend to drink the overproof, apparently.
The place was tiny… the bar sat maybe eight, with a couple of small tables in the corner. There were the traditional Jamaican icons framed all over the place, overproof ads with near-naked women, and also Tupac. That made us instantly love it.
There was a domino table out front with a group of locals playing, and it’s so close to the street that the person in the outside chair has to watch for traffic.
The bar back was fantastic, too. Also, Kris told Byron the place looked bigger, and he explained that he had built out EACH END of the bar by a few feet on either side. Byron apparently loves his construction projects.
No Limit is also home to Ziggy, the angriest parrot in Jamaica. He lives in a cage out behind the bar, and during the day hangs out in the tree near his home. Late in the afternoon, he climbs to the top branches and screeches his head off. Byron said there are some wild (well, released) parrots who live in Negril, so he’s just calling to his friends.
Kris went outside to see Tony, the guy with a resident oil-drum grill, and ordered fish and chicken. We went next door to the convenience store (Lance’s), and got plantain chips and a cheese bun for me. We sat around drinking and waiting for the jerk to be ready, because it took half an hour or so. Once it was ready, we gathered up our food and the kids and headed out. The menfolk stopped into Lance’s again for a bottle of rum, beer, and ice, and we all convened on the patio outside the bar at Samsara for dinner.
The kids put on a dance show after dinner, and then Kris went to put them to bed. It was starting to get too windy to play cards outside the bar, so we relocated inside the bar. I thought it was weird to walk in there with our own drinks, but they said they didn’t care.
We played hearts for a while, and finally got annoyed at the incredibly loud Canadian talking to people at the bar. Orsi headed to bed, so Kris and Matt and I walked back to No Limit. The bar was far more crowded that time of night. We got a couple Red Stripes, then wandered across the street to Pee Wee’s, a cute tiki hut of a bar overlooking the ocean. The bartender offered to sell us weed, and we politely declined. He then got out a huge stick of it and passed it around for everyone at the bar to smell. The other bartender was a Canadian woman who visited Negril the same time every year and apparently helped out around the place. She was pretty entertaining.
We went back to No Limit for one more drink, then headed back to the hotel to sleep. A huge storm blew up in the middle of the night, and it was so loud on our roof (which I’m pretty sure was metal) that I was convinced it was hailing. That wasn’t entirely feasible in Jamaica, however.
We got up around 10:30, and could hear the wind still blowing like crazy outside. The rain had stopped, at least. I had a pretty intense round of paranoia when I saw a dead cockroach under the bed (there’s no avoiding them in tropical places, but you still prefer to not see them), and discovered that we both had bug bites all over our legs. I inspected the bed for bedbugs, and found zero evidence of them. It was probably just mosquitoes.
We made crappy instant coffee and headed down to the pool while K&O and the kids went to breakfast. The pool had a wall around it so the chairs were somewhat protected from the wind. The staff was gathering up everything that could possibly fly away from the entire patio area, because the weather was apparently expected to get worse.
I started reading Islands in the Stream by Hemingway, which is basically the absolute perfect book to read on an island. It was good distraction from the Euro guy across the pool who was proudly showing off his taint to the world.
The waves were getting higher, splashing up over the cliffs and pouring onto the patio. It was really entertaining to watch.
Kris and Orsi showed up with beers, so we hung out drinking them with our feet in the pool. The kids were napping in their bathing suits so they’d be ready to swim right away when they woke up.
When they woke up, we all went to swim for a while, then spent time in the hot tub watching the crazy waves. Around 2:30, we climbed out and headed to our room to shower and change so we could have lunch and/or dinner.
(Our room was in the back right, with the hammocks out front.)
Because nobody would want to hurry right to a meal, we went to No Limit first.
We inspected some of Jamaica’s many roots drinks, and had beers at the bar. I took a bunch of pictures of Bally hanging out there, too.
We met Nav, and got her advice on good vegetarian options in the cliffs. The kids hung out with her, playing with stuff on the front porch. Ziggy was sitting up in the tree napping.
The four of us were sitting at the bar talking to a couple from Maryland who were cycling around Jamaica, when we heard a loud rumbling coming up the street. It was the One Love bus, a weekly pub crawl (and the reason that No Limit was open earlier in the day than usual). We grabbed our beers and headed out to the house in back as all the (mostly Canadian) tourists from the beach started to pour in.
After a while they wandered out back to visit Ziggy. The bus driver got out a mop and held the handle up to him, and he climbed on board. They took a bunch of pictures, while being warned to not touch him if they wanted to survive the day. A couple people asked if we lived there, which was kind of confusing.
After the bus left for the next place, we played dominoes out front for a while. Kris got the chair in the street.
Finally, it was time to head to dinner. We went next door to Lance’s shop, and K&O’s friend called a cab for us. We all piled in and headed up into the hills to a place called Just Natural. It had moved recently from along the road back into the rainforest.
The place was unreal. There was a small building with the kitchen and some tables up front, and then trails leading back into the forest with other tables scattered around. Everything was very makeshift and fascinating.
There were fruit trees everywhere, and potted vegetables and herbs all over the place.
We picked a table under a shelter, which turned out to be a good decision later when it started raining. We alternated between hanging out at the table and wandering around on the trails looking at the plants.
The bathroom was made of bamboo and tarps, with an open top. The toilet was a normal commode, but they had also fashioned a urinal out of an upside-down gallon bottle. We took turns visiting it just because it was so awesome.
There was a bowl of tamarind on the table, and a bunch of homemade hot sauce. We ordered drinks first, then food.
One of the owners showed us the kids’ play area she’d built out of logs and a half-pipe. At the bottom was a mattress so the kids didn’t hurt themselves. It was great.
We had an excellent meal. I ordered callaloo and cheese pasta, and drank rum and mango juice. Toward the end of dinner it started raining, so the other diners out in the rainforest had to scramble to find a sheltered spot. After we were done, we headed up front to the little shop; Matt bought a bottle of their hot sauce, and Orsi got earrings. We hung around waiting for our cab for a while, and headed back down to the hotel.
The bar had a karaoke night with a wandering reggae band, and the very drunk Canadians were enjoying the hell out of it. We sat outside the bar again and watched the waves slamming into the cliffs, even more intensely than they had that morning. Once the bar started closing down, we went to our room to play cards on the patio. Kris wore the awesome cap we’d brought him from home; Matt had had it since he was a kid, and wanted to pass it on to a true Michigan State fan. The kids hung out in our room watching movies on the iPad, then fell asleep.
We switched to dominoes after a while, and then K&O headed back to their room. Matt and I watched Jamaican music videos for a while, and the highlight of that was seeing a reggae version of Phil Collins’ “One More Night”. Seriously amazing.
We got up a little after 9 and met up with our friends for breakfast. We walked up the road to Jackie’s place, but it appeared to be closed even though there weas a breakfast menu on the wall. We hung around for a bit to see if anyone showed up.
Nobody seemed to be around, so we walked up the hill a little way to look around.
There were a few people up working, and guys passing on motorcycles. Mostly it was just us and the wild dogs, though.
I decided I wanted to own the Hype Bar:
We went back to the main road and kept going toward another place they’d been before. It was the first time I noticed the huge castle overhanging the cliffs, too.
Jenny’s Cakes had a full breakfast selection, plus cakes. A ton of them. It was also billed alternately as the Country Bar (businesses in Negril seem to have multiple interchangeable names, as far as we could tell). I wanted to cry a little when I heard “Chicken Fried” coming from inside the building.
We got a picnic table out in the yard and ordered a cake plate for the kids. We got super-strong coffee with condensed cream. Delicious. Also, our server was hilarious. We loved her a lot.
I had a callaloo omelet, and Matt got this feast with saltfish, ackee, and four different starches:
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped in at Pee Wees for a rum punch. They made them different than most places, more like a smoothie. We hung out at the bar there overlooking the ocean for a while.
We stopped at the convenience store again and talked to Pila while the menfolk went inside for beer, rum, and ice. We took all that back to the hotel and sat in the wading pool with our refreshments while the kids swam. The sea was much calmer than the previous day.
Kris gave us a tour of the cliffs on the Samsara property. We saw blue crabs scrambling around the rocks, and a stairway and ladder down to a good snorkeling spot. There’s also a big hole in the cliffs that forms a natural Jacuzzi, and it was pretty full from the waves. We then headed to the main pool to swim for a while, followed by the hot tub. Then we headed to the room to shower and change.
They dropped off a coconut at our room, so Bally hung out with his new pal:
Kris headed to Hi-Lo, the big grocery store in town, and Matt and I took some beers to a table on the patio where we could play dominoes. We had Red Stripe Bold (which is delicious), a ton of water (I was very grateful to the bar there for always having a giant cooler of ice water available), and ate some plantain chips. Matt won, but just that once.
Kris and Orsi showed up, and we went to the Samsara bar to take advantage of 2-for-1s. We hung out at our table waiting for sunset, because it was the first clear day we’d had there. While we were sitting there, we heard a loud SPLAT and found half a needlefish laying on the ground a few feet away, where a bird had dropped it.
Sunset did not disappoint. We went down to our end of the hotel grounds to watch, along with several other guests.
Matt insisted I call this “The Old Man and the Sea”, obviously:
After sunset, we crossed the street to Pablo’s for dinner. While we waited for food, everyone practiced their Usain Bolt.
Matt had hot wings, salad, conch soup, and curry goat. I had a huge vegetarian platter with callaloo and rice and peas.
After dinner, Orsi took the kids to the hotel and we headed back to No Limit with Kris, of course. I had rum punch, and we watched curling on TV with a guy from Saskatchewan. I was entertained by the resident wild dog who circled the bar constantly.
Kris and I played Jenga, and I won. He left around 10:30, so Matt and I went across the street to Pee Wee’s. There was a band playing there, and the bar was pretty crowded. We ended up playing Jenga there, too, because apparently that’s the thing you do at bars in Negril. (Note to self: buy Jenga.) We had a whole bunch of rum punches and stayed too late, but it was nice to see a place that was still hopping late at night.
I woke up at 10:30 and kind of wanted to die from the previous night’s rum punches. I put on my bathing suit and a dress, and we went to find Kris and Orsi on the patio. I decided to claim one of the poolside covered beds while they went to get patties and run errands; I knew that meant they’d be gone forever, but I didn’t care. My bed was comfortable.
I dozed on and off, drank a Dragon Stout Spitfire very slowly, and read my book for the almost three hours they were gone. They finally showed up with a soy patty for me. Matt said they’d also stopped at the ATM at ScotiaBank, hung out at the Canoe Bar, and stopped into another bar owned by a friend. That’s exactly how I figured the errands would go.
We hung out in the pool for a while, then the hot tub. After that, we went to the far end of the property and swam around the reef with snorkel masks on. Near sunset, it was time for cliff-jumping. Kris tore off his shorts and ran to the edge of the cliff and jumped, much to the delight of the drunk Canadians at the bar.
I watched them jumping for a while, then decided it was finally time to try it myself. From the jumping spot, you can see a round sandy gap in the reef, but there were still plenty of rocks down below. I was worried that I wouldn’t jump far enough and would hit them, but Kris swore it was deeper than it looked. I took a few steps back and jumped, and felt for a second like it was actually scarier than skydiving. But it was awesome, and there’s a ladder to make climbing out easy.
For dinner we decided to try Ciao Jamaica, the restaurant across the street on the other half of Samsara’s property. It’s a cute two-level place with a balcony wrapped around the building. We got a big table indoors, and ordered cocktails and dinner. I had a cheese and callaloo patty, and we shared bruschetta. Our server insisted that Kris call her by her name instead of “Miss”, which was pretty amusing.
After dinner, Orsi and the kids headed back to the hotel and we went with Kris to No Limit. We had a couple beers and sat around watching Tru TV in Spanish with the other people at the bar. Hearing the old Jamaicans crack up over dudes falling down on TV was hilarious.
A fight erupted at the domino table outside, and Byron got so annoyed that he went out and gathered up the dominoes. As the guys playing dispersed, he brought the tiles inside, shoved them in a plastic bag, and tightly wrapped them and stashed them under the bar. Once things cooled off later he went to bring them back out, and he’d hidden them so well that he had trouble finding them again.
We headed back to the hotel early, around 11:30. It had been a long exhausting day of doing very little!
We slept really, really hard Wednesday night, and it was glorious. We got up at 9:15, met up with everyone, and headed to Jackie’s again to see if it was open. It was not, so we went to Pablo’s for breakfast instead. I had an egg sandwich and coffee. The kids split a meal, and Orsi had a Red Stripe, the breakfast of champions.
After our meal, we went back to the hotel to pack up. Since we were only moving hotels, I made very little effort to pack in an orderly fashion. Everything got tossed in my giant suitcase, and we rolled them down to Kris and Orsi’s room and went to check out. Since it was 10, the bus was there to take everyone to our hotel on the beach, but we didn’t want to head down there yet. Plus it’s only about $6 for a cab, so it’s easy.
We headed to the hotel bar to hang out. Our favorite bartender, Sharona, was working. When she called Matt ‘Ginger’, we almost fell over laughing. She looked pretty proud of herself. We sat around there for a long time, and Kris told us to go tell them that we wanted a cab ride from Chunky at 2pm. We did that, and went back down to sit around.
Round about 2, we went back up to the front and grabbed a cab. (I don’t think the driver was named Chunky, but that’s fine.) He dropped us off at our new hotel, Legends, and we checked in. We couldn’t get into the room til 3, so we left the bags with the front desk and headed to the beach. Since we didn’t have our bathing suits yet, we obviously had to go hang out at the bar for a while.
We were very near Yellow Bird, a place we’d liked the last time we were there, despite the Cornhusker flags hanging all over the place. We decided to partake in their signature drink (one of the four or five that are 2-for-1 ALL DAY): the Dirty Banana. (It’s not ice cream, it’s blended banana and juice and such.)
Round about 3pm, we walked back to the hotel and got our room key. We were right near the front desk, on a long walkway that led to the restaurant, bar, and beach. We had a nice patio with two adirondack chairs and a table, and our room had air conditioning and a gigantic bed with two tables built into the sides for our luggage. We also discovered we could get free wifi on our patio from Kuyaba, the resort across the way.
We unpacked a little, changed, and headed to the beach. We swam for a long time, then hung out looking at the ocean and drinking beer in beach chairs. We decided to stay for sunset, since it was a tradition.
We got up to leave right afterward, and K&O and the kids were just arriving for dinner. We showered quickly, changed, and walked down the beach to find dinner. Nothing looked super-promising except for Kuyaba, but that was right next door so we kept walking. We finally decided on Bar-B-Barn, a big place with a firepit set up on the beach. We got a table right away, then some waters, and then proceeded to wait FOREVER, even though the place wasn’t busy at all.
We finally got a drinks, then ordered dinner. I asked for the Ital stew, which I was really excited about, and of course they were out. She said they could do rasta pasta with ackee instead. We got pumpkin soup, which was great, and then suddenly nothing happened again for a very long time. There’s Jamaica time, but this was something far worse. It was confusing.
Finally the food arrived, and everything was cold or not great. Except for my pasta, which was fantastic. Atti ate a whole pile of ribs and chicken, so he and I seemed to be the only ones satisfied with our meal. I started to worry that all the food was going to be like that on the beach.
On the way back, the men headed to the convenience store while headed back up the beach. The kids did cartwheels in front of the hotel, and Orsi introduced me to Michael, the awesome security guard at Legends. We sat around on the patio while the kids watched movies in our room. Kris and Matt returned with beer and this special drink for Matt:
They headed back to Samsara around midnight, and Matt and I went to bed, immediately after watching a slow, halting version of the screaming goats on YouTube.
We got up shortly after 9 and got ready for the beach. The kids knocked on our door to let us know they’d arrived on the shuttle, so we headed down there to meet them. Michael pointed out their chairs to us, so we hung out there for a while as they swam. After a while, we decided to join them.
There was a partially-eaten dead starfish in the water, so of course Kris had to throw it around. Blech.
Once we were done swimming, Orsi decided she wanted to walk up the beach. (This was code for “go to bars”, apparently.) Kris didn’t feel like going, so she and I headed off in the direction of Yellow Bird. We stopped and experienced the joy of a Dirty Banana. After those were done, we walked up further and found Drifters, where their friends tended bar. It’s set off behind some properties on the beach, so it’s not easy to find.
Orsi introduced me to them. They’re a slightly older couple, and they’re awesome. The husband is Scottish, and the wife British. We had a beer there, and saw one of the original Drifters making phone calls at the bar, arranging for a karaoke night on Sunday. I was sad Matt wasn’t with me, because I know he’d want to see him.
On the way back, we stopped at Yellow Bird again and got two 2-for-1 Dirty Bananas, so we could bring them back for Matt and Kris. They of course started melting the second we started down the beach, so I arrived very sticky. Kris refused to drink it, because he thought it wasn’t manly enough. HIS LOSS.
(Fun fact: if you drink Dirty Bananas, you get “Dirty Diana” by Michael Jackson stuck in your head forever. It’s not pleasant.)
We hung out at the chairs for a while, then went down the beach in the other direction to get some patties for lunch. Matt and Kris declared themselves dancehall stars, and started making up music constantly. It was something to hear, believe me.
We went to the room to shower and change, then out to the road to get a cab to take us into town. Matt took the front seat, and the other five of us piled in the back. The driver dropped us at the Corner Bar, a place that we’d noted on our last trip was always the loudest building in town.
They didn’t really have much vegetarian food, but Matt got me an order of fries and a beer. They all had various varieties of fried chicken and brown-down.
When we finished, a guy came by and asked if he could take the bones for his dog. He poured all the boxes into one, and cleaned off the table for us. We then hailed another cab and rode up to the Canoe Bar just in time for happy hour.
After a while, Kris decided to take the kids back to the hotel while we hung out. A glass-bottom boat pulled up to the beach and a bunch of old people lined up to get out. I had had enough rum that I really, REALLY wanted to see one of them fall in the water, and I was not disappointed. At least she had the presence of mind to save her camera bag.
We had another round of drinks and made plans to meet up the next evening. Then we all used the bathroom for the 20th time there, and headed off in different directions on foot: Orsi up the cliffs, and Matt and I back toward town.
Once we made it down the hill, we cut through the little mall and headed toward the parking lot by Hi-Lo. There was a whole crowd of cab drivers there yelling to us, and we told them no thanks. One of them then pointed out the ATM across the way from Hi-Lo, which was good since it was almost disguised in there. We both got cash, then went grocery shopping.
We got rum, beer, snacks, and sunscreen, since we’d run out. The sunscreen didn’t have a price on it, so the cashier asked if I wanted to check it first. I said no, since we needed it anyway. (It was under $9… that’s a good deal regardless.) Also, I was once again aware of how incredibly much easier it is to always carry local currency in Jamaica. Everything is so much cheaper, since everyone estimates their own exchange rate for USD.
We walked back through town near the roundabout, which was really crowded that time of day. A guy stopped us and told us that he had been asked by the government of Jamaica to rewrite the Lord’s Prayer in patois. And he did, but they stole it from them and never gave him credit. He asked if he could recite it to us, so I said yes. (I knew he was angling for money, but hearing it was amazing.) He tried to sell us one of his other psalms in patois, but we told him to keep it and gave him cash for the privilege of listening. It was pretty excellent.
We dashed across the roundabout (there’s always some life-risking involved), crossed the Negril river with the trees full of egrets, and headed toward our hotel. On the way, I had to stop and take a picture of a Jamaican basketball court, since of course we were traveling with our basketball friend.
We sat on the patio drinking some (not) delicious Rum Fire, then decided to go get dinner. We went next door to Kuyaba, which was pretty full despite it being fairly late in the evening for Negril dinner. Our table was up front on the patio, overlooking the beach. Matt had browndown and conch, and I had extremely delicious ital stew peas. It was a far better meal than the previous night’s.
After dinner, we decided to make our obligatory visit to Margaritaville, since it’s a tradition. We headed up the beach, noting a few interesting-looking (and still fairly busy, which is unusual) bars along the way. We reached the point where we could see the neon at our destination, but in between us and the bar was a building sticking out into the water. We saw it from a ways off, but had to actually walk up to it to even grasp the concept of a building BLOCKING THE BEACH in Negril. It made no sense at all.
We stood there considering our options for a minute. It looked like we could probably climb past it (on the pile of questionable-looking sandbags surrounding it) without getting our clothes too wet, but what if we tried to come back later and the surf had come in farther? We weren’t wearing shoes, so going out to the road and cutting around it wasn’t possible. We gave up and headed back the other direction.
We decided to go to Bourbon Beach, which was advertising a free reggae show that night. It was basically being put on to advertise the Capleton show the next night, but that was fine with us. I love Bourbon Beach.
We got drinks at the crowded bar, then grabbed a picnic table to watch the show. There was a solid mix of locals and super-hippie ladies hanging out. The band would play a couple songs, then make an announcement about the Capleton show, then go back to the music. Guys were wandering around selling tickets and weed.
My favorite moment was when the band played “Welcome to Jamrock” by Damian Marley. That made me so happy.
As the show wrapped up, we headed back toward our hotel. The beach was pretty empty apart from the people at Bourbon Beach. We arrived at Legends to find the beach gate locked, so we tried to go through the restaurant. Those gates were locked, too, but there was a security guard inside who told us to go next door to the restaurant. I said, “Kuyaba?” and he said yes. We went over there and the gates were closed, too, but they weren’t locked. We went inside and closed them behind us, and felt REALLY awkward about walking through a closed restaurant, barefoot, in the dark, especially since we knew there was a gigantic birdcage with a loud, crabby cockatoo in the back.
As we neared the exit that led to the resort, we ran into another security guard who told us to be careful walking through. I asked him if we could get to Legends this way, and he said yes. There’s no gate between them except the one by the road, though, so by the time we’d walked across the parking lot and out onto the road, we were regretting being barefoot.
So my advice to you is to bring flipflops with you if you go out at night on the beach, just in case. Those gates close early.
We got up Friday morning and got a cab up to Samsara. Orsi had taken Szof to school with Nav, so it was me and the boys for the day. Pila hailed a cab for us, and we rode into the hills above town to a place called both Ragabones and the Red Dragon. Matt and Kris were in search of the best jerk pork in Negril.
The pork wasn’t quite ready yet (it was around 11), so we got beers and hung out at a table. Kris had mentioned that they had the coldest Red Stripes around, and it was no joke: the bottles iced over instantly.
Atti and I hung out while Matt and Kris went to check on the meat’s progress. I loved the place instantly, because it was covered in stickers from all over the world. Many of them were from Wisconsin, confusingly.
Thankfully, they had a little shop on site for those of us who didn’t eat jerk pork. Matt got me a cheese bun. (That might seem disappointing, but it’s not. The wheat cheese bun is the BEST.)
We took a bunch of pictures there, because of our love for the Red Dragon in Minneapolis. This place wasn’t quite the same, but it was still awesome.
Our cab driver waited for us the whole time, and after lunch took us down to the farm store in town. Kris wanted seeds and a machete. They didn’t have either at that store, so we went further down the road to another one. THEY didn’t have seeds, either, but they definitely had a giant machete.
We took everything back to the hotel, and took this picture to send Orsi, so she was aware of what was going on while she was at school:
Orsi showed up, and the kids went to nap. We changed into bathing suits and went to go snorkel off the cliffs. The visibility was pretty good, and there were blue crabs climbing all over the rocks. Kris saw some eels, too, but I couldn’t find them.
We swam from that spot down to the area where we’d jumped off the cliffs before. Kris managed to find a crowd of tiny jellyfish along the way, and got stung a lot by them. I got a couple stings on my arm, but they weren’t bad. We climbed out of the water, and Kris got vinegar from the bar to put on his stings. Those invisible jellyfish are a bunch of jerks.
We dried off and changed again to head to No Limit. What we learned there is that you can just buy yourself a bottle of Appleton. Byron didn’t have Diet Pepsi, so I ran next door to buy some. I left it at the bar, which made it convenient when we stopped back later.
While we were sitting there, a huge storm erupted. I couldn’t believe how much it rained in half an hour’s time. We waited out the storm with our rum, and Kris’ roots drink.
Once the rain let up a little, we left the kids at the bar (under Nav’s care, not the drinkers) and got a cab to Pushcart for dinner. We got there and found it closed for a private party, so we went to 3 Dives instead. It was still raining a little, and everyone was damp.
The place was mobbed, so I figured it would take forever. We found a spot to sit and drink beer while the men went to order. The food didn’t actually take that long at all, surprisingly. I had a giant vegetarian plate, and ate it with all of the hot sauce in the world.
After dinner, we rode back to No Limit. Kris and Orsi grabbed the kids and went back to the hotel, and Matt and I stayed and ordered another drink from Nav, who was tending bar. (They said they’d never see her do that before, which was funny.) We grabbed a cab back to our hotel, and hung out on the patio for a bit. We went to bed just as Capleton was coming on at Bourbon Beach, so I had trouble getting to sleep from the show echoing down the beach.
Kris, Orsi, and kids came down to the beach on the shuttle again, and we joined them in the ocean. After floating around for a while and drinking beer in our beach chairs, we decided to go over to Yellow Bird for our daily visit.
We had dirty bananas, then did a lot of time sitting around staring at the beach and passers-by and joking. We got hungry after a while, so Matt and I walked down the beach to the patty shop (Jamrock!) to get some lunch. We brought them back to Yellow Bird, because we wouldn’t want to miss out on the 2-for-1s.
Of course the patty man showed up right after that. (Not that anyone was sad about more patties.) He showed Orsi how he’d modified his bike for beach-rolling purposes: the pedal on his side was removed, as well as the seat. He was in no real hurry to get the patties down the beach, either, and hung out at Yellow Bird for a while.
The kids made a new friend, and spend the time running around and playing in the sand with him. As they did every day, a couple Jamaicans rode slowly past on horses, trying to get people to ride. They also hung out in front of Yellow Bird for a while, and sat on their horses texting. I made a mental note to add that to my to-do list.
Later in the afternoon, we decided we could maybe switch bars for a while. We all piled in a cab, and Orsi fell in love with the driver’s hat, so she traded him. (His was way more awesome.)
He dropped Matt and Kris in town near the cricket shop, and the rest of us rode up to the Canoe Bar. Orsi and I got a table on the balcony overlooking the beach, and the kids headed down to play. The men arrived shortly after that, just in time for happy hour. Matt had an awesome West Indies cricket cap, and Kris had yet another gigantic knife.
We had an informal travel mascot meetup while we were there. These dudes have been a lot of places.
We ended up staying there long enough that we decided to just stay for dinner. The kids were tired, so K&O took them back to the hotel while we stayed. Matt placed a 2-for-1 drink order right as happy hour was ending, and somehow managed to end up with FOUR “Rock the Boats”. He ordered lionfish for dinner, and I had amazingly delicious curry tofu. It’s not so hard to be vegetarian AND get something other than rasta pasta if you go to the right places.
We were on our own for the evening, so we decided to get our Margaritaville visit out of the way. We grabbed a cab for the cliffs, and arrived to find the place pretty empty (it was probably 8:30 or 9ish, so that’s late for the beach), and the last of the resort shuttles was leaving. We sat at the bar near a couple who were having a night of it. We could tell because the lady kept slurring very loudly about how it was her 37th birthday.
We ordered the obligatory rasta shot (which is surprisingly delicious) and margaritas. After a while, I had to ask the couple near us where they were from, because I had a suspicion. They were from Watertown, Wisconsin, outside of Milwaukee. They were there without the kids, celebrating her birthday by drinking four billion margaritas, as far as we could tell. We didn’t hold out much hope for the lady being able to stay on her chair much longer, but suddenly their dinners arrived and she rallied.
We hung around there for another drink (and to watch sports on TV, which was rare), then decided to head back down the beach. We had shoes with us this time in case we couldn’t get around that building in the ocean.
We reached it and peered around to see if it looked safe. While we were doing so, another group came up behind us, and one of the guys was PISSED about that development. We all decided to do it, and made our way across on the sandbags. It wasn’t the safest thing in the world, but it worked.
On the way down the beach, we passed what was left of 23/7, our favorite bar on our previous trip. According to the internet a while back, the owner (who was from New York) got in some kind of beef with a local guy and tried to kill him with a machete. Then he fled to Canada, and people came and knocked down the bar. All that’s left of it is the tiki hut, so probably it should belong to us.
We went and stood under it and toasted.
We saw that Roots Bamboo was still hopping, and since it was another favorite from the last trip, we stopped there instead. We got drinks, and god knows if I even remember what we were talking about. I was obsessed with the wires hanging out of the back of the cash register, and made Matt take a picture of them.
We went back to our hotel after that, and were glad to find the beach gate open again.
We got up Sunday morning and headed to the beach, intent on enjoying the hell out of our last day in Negril. We asked Michael if he’d seen Kris and Orsi, and he said he hadn’t that day. (It turns out they were calling our room, but we weren’t there.)
We swam for a long time, sat around in beach chairs drinking beer and generally collecting the sun. There was a couple of old guys serenading our area with awesome old reggae songs, and people were flying by on jet skis and parasails. There was a lot to look at.
After a while it was time for lunch, so we walked down to the patty place. They were closed, so we decided on Bourbon Beach instead. We went in to get a table, and a very energetic man working there gave us a flyer for the next night’s show. We told him we couldn’t make it since we were leaving Negril, so he said he would call the airline and have our flight rescheduled for us. If only.
Matt ordered some awesome-looking jerk chicken, and I got the only vegetarian thing on the menu, a caesar salad. It ended up being shockingly good. We sat there for a long time, enjoying the food, the beer, and the view. I love Bourbon Beach!
I managed to pick up a wifi signal and there was an email from Orsi saying they’d tried to call to make plans. I emailed back that we would plan to meet them up at Samsara in time for sunset. We hung out talking to the table next to us for a while, and one of the guys said he’d been coming to Negril for 20+ years. I can’t tell you how many times we heard the same exact thing from people: it’s not for everyone, but if you love it, you just keep coming back every year. I totally understand that, because I can’t wait to go back again.
The enthusiastic employee came by and asked if he could take Matt’s chicken bones for his dog, the Marlboro Man. That made me want to just stay in Negril forever.
Since we were there for the first time during the day, we checked out the wall of fame. Matt recognized pretty much everyone on there. Awesome.
We went to Yellow Bird for a Dirty Banana, as was tradition. I realized we were finally fully in the swing of the beach the last few days: swim in the morning, sit around doing nothing much more than sunning and staring at the ocean, drink some beer, sit at a bar for a few hours, go get some food when you’re hungry. It’s an amazingly fantastic change from normal life, and one that takes me a while to get used to.
I took forever to finish my Dirty Banana, because for the first time ever it was way too sweet for me. Matt had his plus a couple of rum punches which I helped finish. Miss Josephine, the old lady I’d met during our first visit to Yellow Bird that trip, came by and set up her table with jewelry for sale. I’d told her then that I would stop by and look, and I was true to my word. We picked out a necklace for my mother-in-law’s birthday.
After a while, we headed to the room to shower and change. We got a cab to Samsara, and wandered around the place looking for them. We ran into Peter, and he said they’d gone off down the road. We grabbed some drinks at the bar (it was conveniently happy hour), and grabbed a table on the patio to wait for them and generally enjoy life.
They showed up a bit before sunset, and Kris handed Matt yet another bottle of tonic wine. Matt celebrated our last sunset there in style.
(He said it smelled like Parmesan rind. Gross.)
While the sunset, we told Kris and Orsi about our great moneymaking idea that we’d developed earlier. It’s called COOOOOOLLLLLLD WATA Enterprises, because of an old rasta I overheard at No Limit. I wanted to remember forever how much he enjoyed drinking his cooooooolllld wata. Anyway, the premise is this: we’re a really shitty yet entertaining excursion company. Rather than offering you the best of all the local tourist attractions, which are bound to be mobbed and mostly fake anyway, we take you on a real adventure. Some of the ideas we came up with were:
– Open Bottom Boat (bring a bucket!)
– Stand on Some Rocks (photos extra)
– Poke the Ocean with a Stick (this is based on a fishing boat I’d see earlier, and discussion about wanting to go vegetarian fishing again)
– Sinking Ship (the ship starts to sink, and you have a limited time to escape. Those who survive get a certificate.)
Also, Matt decided his dancehall name was “Deep Frya”. Yes, we’d all had some rum by then.
The kids were still with Nav at No Limit, so the four of us got a cab to Pushcart, which was finally open this time. I hadn’t expected anything so fancy, but it totally was. It’s part of the Rockhouse property, which Matt and I had eaten at on our last trip. They had real cocktails (not just super-sweet boat drinks), and the menu was great. We ordered almost one of everything.
The ackee patties were my favorite, followed by the Bush Man Stew. Matt and Orsi shared some insanely spicy prawns that were the size of miniature lobsters.
We had a fantastic meal there, and it was a good way to wrap up our stay in Negril. After bally hung out with Haile Selassie, of course.
We rode back to No Limit, and hung out with Nav and the kids out back for a long time. When we went in for a drink, a rasta (who was very drunk, and told us he had 2 kids: one in Switzerland, and one Ireland) started lecturing us about how “the boy” might not live here, but Jamaica was his home, and so it was a crime to take him away from it. We agreed with him, and told him a couple times that he wasn’t our son, he was our friends’. (Also, the rasta couldn’t have cared less about “the girl”, just Atti.) He was hearing none of it, though, and escalated into yelling at Matt about taking the boy away from Jamaica. We excused ourselves to the back again.
After a while, it was time to say goodbye to Nav, Byron, and the most awesome bar in Negril. We thanked them for everything, settled our tab, and swung by the store for supplies before heading to Samsara. We sat on the porch drinking for a while (where we met a guy and his girlfriend from St Paul, strangely), then went down to get a table on the patio outside the bar. We had quite the array of refreshments:
The bar had karaoke going on again, and they were giving a bottle of Appleton to the winner. I tried to convince Matt and Kris to sing, but the contest ended before I could get them to commit. The super-loud Canadians were in full swing again, and their accents drove me insane. We played cards for a while, and when Kris and Orsi headed to their room, we told them we’d see them in Atlanta.
Matt and I packed up and went to go walk around the grounds to look at the stars, and decided that next time we go back to Negril, we should just stay at Samsara the whole time. It’s fantastic, and getting from there to the beach is incredibly easy. There’s no real need to stay there.
We headed out the front gates of the hotel (which were closed!) and stood out on the walkway waiting for a cab. A car came flying past and pulled over quickly across the street, but there was no real indication that it was a cab otherwise. It sat there running while we stood looking at it for a while, and finally decided to go over there. There was no evidence of any other drivers around at that point.
We asked the guy in the passenger seat if they could take us to Legends, and he said yes. I went to get in the back seat, and had to move a couple bottles of rum out of the way. I said something about them, and the guy said, “Yeah, you can move them. Don’t worry, we’re not drunk.” He was slurry, which was not encouraging. The driver was female, and didn’t say a word to us.
They made a U-turn to head back down the cliffs, and he asked her if she was alright. As far as we could tell he was drunk and it was his car, and she wasn’t very comfortable driving a stick. We were totally in an illegal cab in Negril, but we figured as long as we got there alive it was fine.
The guy told us it’d be $1000J to our hotel. Matt balked, saying we paid $600 to get up there. ($500-600 was the going rate, depending on the driver and how much of a sucker you were.) They argued for a bit, and finally the guy said, “OK, six hundred, but be sure to tip.” Matt agreed. We hung on for our lives as we drove through the curves in town, but the lady driver seemed to be fine. When we got to the hotel we jumped out as fast as possible, and Matt handed the guy $1000 anyway. It was worth it for the extra adrenaline.
We headed to the room to finish packing up our stuff (this time I actually did pack things properly and weigh the bags, since I didn’t want a make a huge effort with it in Montego Bay), and headed to bed.
The last time we’d been in Jamaica, we had to get up way too early in the morning in order to be on the shuttle to the airport. Nobody wants to get up early in Jamaica, so the plan this time was to spend the day (which just happened to be Matt’s birthday!) in Montego Bay, close to the airport, and not have to rush to do anything.
We got up, finished packing and cleaning up our room, and went to check out of the hotel before 11am. Our shuttle wasn’t coming for a while, so we left our bags in the front office and walked down the beach for patties. Of course Jamrock wasn’t open again – that made them 1 for 3 – so we walked back to the hotel. We didn’t have any great ideas, but there was a bar there, right?
On the way, we stopped to thank Michael for everything. He said more words at that point that we’d heard him say all week. That guy is awesome.
We grabbed seats at the Legends bar and got rum punch. I heard scrambling behind us, and turned to see some of the feral beach cats chasing a pretty sizable crab around. It was excellent entertainment, even if Matt and I had to lift our feet to keep away from his claws. The crab finally took refuge under a tray table in the corner, where the cats couldn’t see it.
Then it was time to head to the shuttle. We paid our tab, gathered our bags, and rolled out to the parking lot. A loud group with the most annoying New York accents on earth was there, too, so we were not excited about the prospect of sharing a shuttle with them. The minibus rolled up, and the driver only had that group on the manifest. We weren’t sure if we were forgotten or just awaiting another bus, but while they sat there figuring things out, another one rolled up. That was ours.
There was one other couple on the bus, and of course they were Minnesotan. They had plastic cups and a bottle of vodka, intent on enjoying the ride back to MoBay. We talked with them and the driver the whole way back, and the driver was great. We learned a lot about Jamaican food and the landscape. As the couple downed more vodka, the lady became more and more incoherent and giggly, and the guy got quieter. By the time we arrived at the airport an hour or so later, I was glad to finally not have to talk to them anymore.
Our driver took us on to the Holiday Inn SunSpree, and pointed out Scotchie’s along the way, so we knew how to get there. Orsi had said it was across the street, and she was right. The driver dropped us at the hotel, and we expected to have to pay him extra for the ride there (versus the airport), but he didn’t ask for anything more. Matt tipped him well instead.
So our original plan in Montego Bay was to stay at Toby’s, a highly-recommended, very reasonably-priced hotel. But we had a bunch of credit on Hotels.com, and decided to redeem it to stay at the all-inclusive, since with our discount it ended up being much cheaper AND had free drinks. (We didn’t really care about the food part, but since it was Matt’s birthday we figured we could just hold up the bar there for free.) The second we set foot in the lobby, though, I had a lot of regrets about that.
Don’t get me wrong, the place was very, very nice. It was clean, spacious, and the rooms had every amenity that they didn’t in Negril (super-strong A/C, hair dryer, fancy shower and toiletries). The grounds were huge, and there were at least four different beaches that were perfectly-groomed. There was even an island you could wade to, full of beach chairs and hammocks. There were bars in several locations, and nice shops. They had all the resort-type things that I’m unwilling to pay for, like the spa and high-end dining. It’s exactly the kind of thing you want out of a cruise ship, but there’s one critical difference: on a cruise, people leave the ship to visit foreign countries.
The place was very crowded, and of course there were kids everywhere. It seemed unlikely that one would be able to find a quiet spot anywhere near the pool. (Thankfully, there was an adults-only beach at the far end of the property, which we discovered later.)
Anyway, we checked in, and of course were early so we couldn’t get in the room yet. They gave us fruity welcome drinks and put really annoying concert-style wristbands on our wrists (I always make fun of wristbanded all-inclusive people in my head when we’re on vacation, and then I WAS ONE OF THEM). We took the bags to the porters’ closet and got tickets. I held onto my carry-on bag with my purse and a million other things. What I hadn’t realized is that Matt was planning to go right over to Scotchie’s for lunch (we hadn’t really eaten anything yet that day), and my bag weighed about 50 pounds. We agreed to switch off along the way.
We headed right back out the front of the hotel, and were asked if we needed a cab. We said we were walking, so they told us to be sure to sign out at the front gate. We gave the lady there our name, and another woman was standing right outside, offering to braid my hair. I said no thanks, and we left the property and crossed the highway.
It was approximately a million degrees that day, so it was uncomfortable. Actually, I’m sure it was the usual high-80s that it is everywhere in Jamaica in February, but being even a little bit off the ocean made a gigantic difference. We were instantly covered in sweat, and my bag was not the most pleasant thing in the world.
There were guys selling the usual things across the road, so they walked with us and asked if we needed weed, souvenirs, or whatever. We said thanks, but we were at the end of our trip. We met one guy per block, as if they each had their own territory. Near the little “artisan village”, a guy introduced himself as Derek, and asked us to come into his shop there. We said we would stop by on the way back from lunch, but we were dying of hunger. He made us promise, and we did. We didn’t need souvenirs, but there would be no getting away from Derek.
A couple blocks down, we found Scotchie’s, and got a table in the shade under the thatched roof. The place was awesome.
It was also a great time to be at the most famous jerk hut in Jamaica, because there was nobody there at 3pm on a Monday. We ordered beers and food. There wasn’t much vegetarian there, but I had enough to eat. Matt’s lunch looked excellent.
When we were done, we headed back toward the resort. From that direction, we could see how absolutely monstrous it was. It was a multi-block walk to Scotchie’s, but the hotel stretched almost that entire distance across the highway. Once we reached the artisan village, Derek was right there waiting. He led us to the shop he said was his, while all the ladies sitting outside the 30 or so other shops (which were really just little closets) yelled at us to please come visit them next. We were the only people there, so it was a little overwhelming.
It became apparently right away that this was not Derek’s shop, but probably someone he knew. We stood in there looking around a little while the owner directed a fan at us. (Awkward.) We finally decided on a little wooden bird painted in Jamaican colors, and the owner explained what the colors meant (you have to hear that at least ten times on every trip to Jamaica… it’s required). Matt did a great job of haggling, and she was not thrilled that we were only interested in that one thing. We took our bag and headed right back out of the artisan village, much to the other ladies’ disappointment.
Derek came right along with us, so I asked him if the shop owner was his wife. He laughed and said no, he was the walking shop! He then unzipped his fanny pack and started pulling out handmade jewelry. We said no and thanked him about ten times before he finally accepted that we weren’t buying anything else, and headed back to the resort.
We signed in, got our room keys, and were taken across the property and up to our room by one of the bellboys. I can’t really explain the whole conversation, but at one point he joked about taking his dick out to compare with Matt’s and find out who was a true local. Seriously, Jamaicans are OBSESSED with their penises. It’s hilarious. (The macho thing gets old, but it meant that I never had to talk to people if I didn’t feel like it. Matt’s the man, so clearly he’s always in charge.)
I was not at all excited to be there after being in such an awesome place as Negril, but we decided to make the best of it. I changed into a beach dress and we went down to find chairs and drinks. The pool was so mobbed with humans that we skirted it completely. The first bar we tried had ice cream drinks in addition to beer and liquor, so that line took forever. They were setting up hamburgers and fries nearby, for some reason. We decided to keep going and find another bar.
Farther down the way, we found a tiny little beach that had thatch umbrellas, beach chairs, and was nearly deserted. It was also very close to another bar, so we decided on that. It was only 4:30 or so, but the bar was packed with yelling drunk people, and had the atmosphere of every fratboy bar in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m not saying that Negril is not packed with drunk Canadians (it is), but they’re more spread out and nothing is every really like… THAT. We got drinks and took them to our chairs.
The beach-settin’ was very nice, on the other hand. There were birds everywhere, and the sunset was pretty. There was also a pair of girls making out in a chair ahead of us, which seemed ballsy considering Jamaica’s opinion of gay people. (No country is perfect, unfortunately; hopefully they’ll get over their stupid fears someday.)
Matt was nice enough to make several trips to the bar on our behalf, so I didn’t have to move from my quiet spot away from the All-Inclusive People. As the sun went down, tiny crabs started popping out of their holes in the sand. We sat there watching them in hysterics for a long time. They were excavating their crab-holes, and the way they popped out and tossed sand was the best. One of them kept throwing sand into the other guy’s house, too.
After sunset, the staff started collecting the beach chairs, and we figured it was time to figure out what the hell was going on with dinner around there. We had to cut back through the pool area, so we learned that the usual buffet was closed, and they had moved it outside for the night. They were apparently doing that in conjunction with entertainment on the stage in the middle of the pool. We noticed that everyone had suddenly changed into what is commonly referred to as “resort wear”, which was both stupid and entertaining. We went to the room to change into our equivalent… I put on a slightly nicer dress, and Matt wore a polo. We also mixed drinks in the room, since we had some delicious Rum Fire overproof from Negril.
The pool area was chaos by the time we got back down there. There seemed to be servers running around, but we didn’t see any indication that they were actually seating people. There was a DJ on stage playing such hits as “Hot Hot Hot” and anything by Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas (nothing Jamaican… I’m not sure we even heard reggae the whole time we were there).
We wandered around looking for a host stand or anything on that order, and couldn’t find it. We decided to grab a table instead, and see if that was the trick. The tables weren’t set with silverware, napkins, or water, so we were hoping that that might happen. We sat there for a long time as servers rushed around helping other tables, so apparently that wasn’t how it worked, either. We decided we didn’t care, and headed for the buffet.
I liked the salad bar, since it had, you know, salad, and bread. The food was everything you get at an Old Country Buffet. There was hardly anything vegetarian, either. Matt managed to find silverware on a serving table, so at least we could eat. Even now, I have no idea how dinner service is supposed to work there. I do know that there were one billion white people all running around scarfing up crappy food, though. I wanted some stew peas or a patty.
After dinner, we went to get more drinks and headed down to the far end of the property to see what was down there. We found an empty adults-only pool that appeared to still be open but unattended. There was also another nice beach at the far end past the pier, so we grabbed two beach chairs and sat there staring at the ocean and the stars. And laughing about what a ridiculous place it was. We did not belong there at all, and I felt horrified that none of those people were ever going to experience how amazing Jamaica is. It’s depressing.
Matt did get to try out one of the exciting COOOOOLLLLD WATA excursions, though, and I didn’t even charge him for the photo I took. We went back to the room to drink rum and play dominoes.
We got up, finished packing everything the proper way this time, and rolled our suitcases down to the lobby shortly before the noon checkout time. Matt ran the towels back to the return hut so we weren’t charged $80 apiece, or whatever it was. Since we had plenty of time to kill before our flight, we went to the souvenir shop at the resort. They actually had some really cute stuff, so we picked up a few things (including my new purse).
It took some work getting the new stuff into my suitcase without opening everything up entirely, but I managed. We went to the entrance to get a cab, and one of the guys working there cut off our wristbands and asked if we wanted to keep them as a souvenir. I didn’t really want a souvenir of my time at the generic all-inclusive, but we took them anyway.
Our cab turned out to be one of the vans you usually take to the airport if you pre-book. It was just the two of us this time, though. Our driver asked about what we’d seen in Jamaica, and then told us about how he had friends in California who sent him marijuana seeds. As we arrived at the airport, he took out his phone and started showing us pictures of his crops. Awesome.
The airport was very quiet, and check-in was easy. We got to take the Medallion line to drop the bags, and then headed to security, which was really fast as well. We were there plenty early, so we went to go find lunch (we hadn’t had anything but coffee so far) and of course ended up at Air Margaritaville. Since we’d been there on the previous visit, it was officially a tradition.
We ordered Guinness, and our server told Matt that dudes ordered it because it made them horny. I didn’t want to mention that EVERYTHING seems to make the men horny in Jamaica. Matt got a burger, and I had the veggie wrap. It was at least 70% shredded lettuce, but it was still incredibly appealing just because it was fresh. After our meal, our server told us a long story about how he liked it when it was cold, because then it made his lady want to cuddle up close to him. Oh, Jamaicans.
After lunch, we did a bunch of shopping in the airport. We picked up a huge bottle of Havana Club and some high-end Appleton from the duty-free store, some Marcus Garvey dominoes from a souvenir shop, and got beverages for the flight. We then grabbed seats at the bar near our gate, and Matt went to use up his remaining $J to buy beers. He quickly learned that people don’t often use Jamaican currency at the airport, for some strange reason. We weren’t sure why, because it’s much cheaper that way, and you’re likely to have some left over.
While we were waiting for our flight to board, there was an announcement about one of the other Delta flights to NYC. The guy on the microphone said that the co-pilot was trying to point something out to the pilot on a map on a clipboard, and then there was a bump and his pen fell into the plane’s console. While that was probably harmless, there was the potential that the pen could get stuck in the mechanism that controlled the aircraft’s tail. Therefore they had to tear apart the console to find it, and they were very sorry for the delay. Those of us who were not flying to New York thought that was all incredibly hilarious.
After a while it was time to board, right around the time that Kris and Orsi were likely arriving at the airport from Negril. I was a zone ahead of Matt, so I took the duty-free rum box and boarded first so I could get a good spot in the overhead compartment. We had a two-seat row to ourselves, which was very comfortable indeed. The flight seemed to take forever to board, and we were held up well past our scheduled departure. People kept arriving from other flights, both the (eventually cancelled) New York one and others that were apparently delayed or cancelled due to bad weather in the southeastern US. Finally the plane was packed full, and we were on our way to Atlanta, still somehow close to on time.
Leaving Mobay, I could see the hotel and Scotchie’s from the air. (The hotel is the first large one up on the coast past the sandbar, a little below the middle of the photo. Scotchie’s is just south of the circular drive across the street from the hotel.)
About half an hour into the flight, we passed Cuba again! I could see a lot of detail of the farms from above.
We landed just a little late in Atlanta, and headed as fast as possible towards Customs and Immigration. I was glad to be toward the front of the flight, so we could get there before the rush. It’s about a 400-mile walk from that terminal to Customs, but we arrived to find no wait at all. The surly agent stamped our passports in invisible ink (seriously, I can’t find the stamp), and we headed to baggage claim to get our suitcases.
The bags were all latched shut with an industrial twist-tie, and we’d been instructed not to open them to put duty-free stuff inside. We carried it up to Customs, and I only got a little nervous about the drug dog sniffing around all the luggage, because he was so cute. The Customs guy took our form and didn’t even ask us anything, so we walked away reveling in yet another successful Cuban-contraband-smuggling effort. At the bag drop for connecting flights, one of the baggage handlers showed me how to remove the lock so I could put our rum inside. We sent our bags off with a little prayer that they’d make it to Minneapolis, and headed to the main terminal on the train to find some dinner.
We’d eaten at the Sam Adams Brewpub before, so we headed there and looked at the menu. We didn’t see a single vegetarian item on the list, so we proceeded down the concourse. I was pretty sure we were going to end up with fast food pizza for dinner, but then Matt decided to take a look at the TGI Friday’s menu. The last time I’d been in a TGI Friday’s (several years ago, at least), they also put meat on top of everything, but this menu actually had a few vegetarian items, including a really delicious-looking veggie burger. So we sucked up our pride (how snobby can you be in an airport, anyway?) and got a table.
Our super-awesome server brought us two gigantic mojitos, and then our meals. The veggie burger was indeed amazingly good. The Gophers were playing Indiana on many giant TVs around the restaurant, so we were happy.
I checked Facebook, and Orsi had sent a message that they were still in Montego Bay. We figured we’d be running into them in ATL since they were only an hour behind us, but apparently the storm had bumped everything back several hours. They were sitting around the airport, knowing that they’d be spending the night in Atlanta. We’d gotten really lucky!
We boarded the plane and took our spots in the exit row. My seat didn’t have an armrest, so it was gigantic and comfortable. Matt was stuck between me and a lady who snored, but at least she was nice about it. We couldn’t get ESPN on the seatback TV so we missed seeing the Gophers court storm, and didn’t even hear about it til the next day. Our flight back to MSP was uneventful, and our bags had indeed come along for the journey. I switched to wool socks and Keen sandals from my flipflops, put on a hoodie, and we went out to wait for my parents in the cold.
We arrived at the airport Thursday morning to find our flight had been delayed because, according to Delta, there was too much air traffic heading to the west coast right then. (Really?) When we finally boarded, I found my exit row window looking somewhat less-than-safe, with something that looked like medical tape holding it in place. That made me a little nervous.
I dozed on and off and worked on my knitting, then Matt and I had the very delicious sandwiches we’d packed for the trip, because now we are THOSE PEOPLE.
We arrived only a little late in San Francisco, and headed to the information booth to by transit passes. April picked us up outside, and took us to lunch at Zante Pizza. We ordered a vegetarian Indian pizza and Indian beers, and life was very good.
April drove us to our hotel, the Executive Hotel Vintage Court, and we checked in and dropped off our bags. I wasn’t sure what the hotel would be like, but it ended up being much nicer than I’d expected. We then ran back down to where April was waiting, and headed toward Telegraph Hill to see Coit Tower. I’d been there on both previous visits, and I wasn’t going to ruin a good streak.
The sky was fairly clear, so we could see almost everything except for the Golden Gate Bridge.
After we finished taking in the scenery, April drove us down to Fisherman’s Wharf and dropped us off to go be tourists. We walked down by the little beach, then headed toward the historic ship dock. The national park was closing down for the day, but the visitor center was open, so we stopped in to see the museum. Further down the wharf, we noticed the Musee Mecanique, and decided to go in and see what it was about. It was FANTASTIC, and free!
All the machines took quarters, so I dug some out of my purse and we tried some of them. In the back, they had a collection of old video games, as well as skee-ball and whack-a-mole. I wished I had way more quarters than I did.
We decided to walk down the Embarcadero toward the Ferry Building, which was about a mile and a half a way. We encountered the same pedicab guy three or four times, and he tried unsuccessfully to convince us to hop in each time. It’s not really a vacation if there isn’t a ton of walking. Along the way, we passed the Alcatraz ferry dock, and the huge complex they were building for the America’s Cup in 2013.
We finally reached the Ferry Building Marketplace, and found it full of awesome restaurants and shops (I was really excited to see Cowgirl Creamery’s outpost there). There were a bunch of little places with carry-out, and some full-service restaurants with outdoor patios facing the bay. We weren’t hungry at the time, but I made note of the empanada cart.
Matt’s destination of choice was Boccalone, which sold two things: pork products and water. He lamented not being able to carry on gigantic hunks of meat, and settled on some smaller packaged bits instead, and also a t-shirt.
We got a couple glasses of water and went to go sit and examine our maps to figure out where to go next. We weren’t ready for dinner, but it seemed like a pretty good time for beer. I didn’t see anything great on the map, so we decided to just walk for a while and see what we could find. While we walked into the financial district, I searched around for beer bars and finally noticed the Rogue Brewpub on the map. PERFECT.
I quickly discovered just how excellent Google’s transit directions are. We found our way to a bus stop, and the bus arrived right when Google said it would. We fired up our transit passes and hopped on. Within a few stops, the bus became packed to the point of preventing excess breathing. I kept checking the map as it counted the stops along the way, but still managed to miss it by one. We hopped off and walked back a block to the brewpub.
We sampled some of their excellent beers and hung out for a while, trying to decide whether we wanted to have dinner there or elsewhere. After a while, it became apparently that they were setting up for trivia or bingo, so we decided to go somewhere else. Matt researched a couple recommendations, and we decided to try Comstock Saloon, which was less than half a mile away in North Beach.
It turned out to be a very good choice for dinner. They had a great cocktail menu, and our entrees were excellent, not to mention a huge step up from what we’d have found at the brewpub. (My gnocchi with mushrooms and sunchokes made me very happy.) Matt pointed out the gutter running along the front of the bar beneath the stools; according to David Wondrich, that used to be so you didn’t have to leave your spot to go pee. REALLY.
Since we had to walk through Chinatown to get to our hotel anyway, we decided to seek out the notorious Red’s Place. We found it down the end of an alley, and walked in to find the bartender and one person sitting at the bar. We assumed by the way he was talking to the bartender that he worked there, but no… he was just in it for the long haul.
I decided to go with their special, a shot of Jameson and a Budweiser for $7. Matt wanted a beer upgrade, so he asked for an Anchor Steam. The bartender asked if he wanted the last of their Christmas release (it seemed a little early, but whatever), so he took that. Because of that, she decided it was time to celebrate Christmas in the bar, and went to put Christmas music on the jukebox.
Two women and a man came in a little later and said they were celebrating one of the ladies’ birthdays, but she looked not very happy about it. When we finished our drinks, we inquired about the scary-looking bottles on the back bar. They were both Chinese whiskies, and the bartender described the one in the red bottle as being kind of like Jagermeister, but made from sour apples. The other one, which looked like something you’d put in an engine, she said was best avoided. We believed her, and got a shot of the first one instead. It was surprisingly delicious.
Much as we’d have liked to spend our night and possibly the rest of our trip at Red’s Place, we knew better. We decided to go elsewhere, and promised ourselves that we would bring Steve and Colleen there. It was an easy walk from our hotel, after all.
We headed toward the financial district, and found a place called Rickhouse that we’d seen listed in Foursquare as having a giant whiskey collection. That was no joke:
The place was crowded, but we found a spot at a barrel next to the bar where we could order. I got a Sazerac and asked the bartender to make it with really good rye, because I had faith in their selections. After a while a couple of bar stools opened up, so we moved there and examined the menu. I had a corpse reviver next, and we talked to the bartender for a while. Then we decided it was probably time to head back to our hotel, since our friends would be arriving the next morning.
In preparation, we stopped at a corner store to pick up something to bring to their hotel room. I was going for champagne, but Matt saw the Moscato and had to get that instead. GAG. We also picked up a couple of cans of Tecate for the room, and walked back up the gigantic hill to our hotel.
Matt and I got up Friday morning and walked the half-block up to the cable car stop on Powell Street. We were about six blocks up the giant hill from the turnaround, so it was already pretty full when we got on. We got seats a bit later, and I discovered it’s actually easier to stand on the cable car than try to keep from sliding around too much on the wooden seats.
We rode all the way down to Fisherman’s Wharf, and went into the Buena Vista Cafe for Irish coffees. If there were tourist badges for San Francisco, we would have earned at least six of them just in that half-hour.
The bartenders were a couple of old guys with fancy mustaches and ties, and they made the coffees 12 or so at a time, tossing a sugar cube accurately into each one from an impressive distance. We sat at the bar to enjoy the show, but couldn’t get breakfast there since they didn’t serve at the bar. That was ok, because the menu looked overpriced and underinspired.
So we went to In-N-Out Burger instead. As usual, there was a line out the door, and the food was great. While we were eating, Colleen texted to say their plane had landed at SFO. We wandered in and out of a few shops at Fisherman’s Wharf, then headed back to the cable car stop to ride back to our hotel.
We stopped into our room, grabbed the bottle of Moscato, and walked the couple of blocks to their hotel. The Triton was VERY VERY trendy, and the walls were covered with the text of “On The Road”. I couldn’t stop staring at it, so I doubt I could have slept there. We enjoyed our delicious Moscato, by which I mean we tolerated it, and then we set off in search of lunch. (In-N-Out was… brunch. Yeah.)
We walked through Chinatown, stopping to take a photo of Red’s Place along the way. I wouldn’t want to forget the most awesome bar in the world.
One of the first restaurants we passed in North Beach, Giordano Brothers, had a sign out front saying they served Pittsburgh food. I didn’t really know what that meant, but Steve and Colleen were more than excited to show us, having both lived there. We got a table and ordered beers.
This is what Pittsburgh food looks like:
They even had two vegetarian versions of the gigantic sandwich with fries on it. (How we managed to do anything after eating lunch, I will never know.) While we were there, we showed them our plans for Saturday night, which we’d learned about at the museum at Fisherman’s Wharf.
(I also gave Colleen Drunk Cat, which I’d torn out of Skymall. It was hard to stop looking at it.)
After our late lunch, it was time to head to our ferry. We walked the mile to the Ferry Building, and passed through to see all the shops again. On the far end, we found the stop for our ferry to Alameda. While we waited there, Matt and Steve started writing their own sea shanties, so that they could present them at the shanty sing-along Saturday night.
We boarded the boat and got a table. The shanties continued, most of them about “a ferry to Old Alameda”. And the rhymes… well, they were pushing it a little. The ferry took us into the channel between Alameda and Oakland, which is very industrial and full of gigantic container ships. We noticed a building with “Hangar One” on it, and knew that was where we were headed from the dock. The ferry landed at Alameda Main Street, and we got off with a bunch of commuters who were all headed to the park-and-ride.
We were following directions on the St George Spirits website, which said their building was a half-mile walk from the ferry docks. From what we’d seen arriving, it appeared to be a lot farther away, but at least we knew what direction to go. (According to Google Maps, it’s actually exactly a mile.) We headed off that way, walking through semi-deserted dirt parking lots along the shipping channel because there weren’t any sidewalks. There weren’t many people, either; there were a few people fishing, and evidence of someone’s sleeping quarters inside a giant bush. There was a dog park with a few dogs laying down, not running.
The entire place was so surreal that we decided we were probably going to die. I took a picture in the hopes that someone would eventually find my camera and be able to recreate the moments leading up to our murder.
Then there were no people, and then road took a sharp left turn into a naval base. That definitely didn’t seem like somewhere we wanted to walk, but it was the only option, and we knew St George’s was on the other side of it.
We saw a man standing at the gate to the base, so we got more and more nervous as we neared him. Once we got up close, we saw that he was just a guy standing and smoking there, even though there was really nowhere nearby for him to have come from. We avoided him and passed through the gates (where someone had spray-painted HELP on the window), and realized that the base was obviously no longer in use.
Just past the gates, there was a baseball diamond with a group of men playing something resembling softball, only there were at least three people on each base, including behind home plate. (There were also a ton of geese hanging around in the outfield.) There was gym that seemed to still be in use, and farther along on the right, a skate park with a few teenagers. The entire left side of the street was empty barracks in varying states of abandonment. Some of the windows were boarded up, some were broken, and some had falling-down curtains, which really added to the ambiance. We were positive we were going to die.
Finally we got to the end of the street and saw the giant warehouse with St George’s logo on it. We had to go around the back to get in, but we were reassured once we saw cars in the parking lot. Their view is pretty excellent, too, looking out over the old airstrips toward San Francisco:
We went inside and checked in for our tour, which we were very early for. We hung out in the lobby, just being happy to have survived. There were a bunch of people there doing tastings, and the place was still decorated for Halloween. It seemed appropriate.
After a while, everyone showed up for the tour and we headed into the distillery. We’ve seen a lot of them, but it was pretty awesome to hear about their approach… they use all-natural ingredients, which is a big change from a lot of the flavored vodka makers.
In the back near the bourbon barrels, there’s a shark. The guy leading the tour explained that it’s the same shark that ate Samuel L Jackson in Deep Blue Sea, and that the employees liked to ride it around the building sometimes.
After the tour, it was time for the tasting. We all lined up at the bar and sampled about a million of their offerings. The infused vodkas were legitimately great, too.
Then it was time to head back to the ferry. We were the only ones leaving there on foot, of course, and this time it was dark. We didn’t see any evidence of haunting or murderers in the empty barracks, but there were still people at the skate park in the dark. We made it out of the base, and walked back through the giant parking lot again. There was at least one car parked there with completely fogged-over windows. (When I think romance, I think of the shipping channel in Alameda.)
We waited on the dock for the ferry, which only took about 5 minutes to arrive. A couple people got off and headed to their cars. I asked the guy who was taking tickets if the boat went to Oakland first before heading back to San Francisco, and he became very confused. He told us the boat wasn’t going to San Francisco, which made us a little nervous. We didn’t want to be stuck in Alameda, but we really didn’t want to be stranded in Oakland, either. He finally told us to go talk to the guy on the boat, so we went down there and boarded.
The guy explained that yes, they did stop in Oakland and then headed back to San Francisco. The other guy didn’t speak very good English, so he must have misunderstood the question. We got margaritas from the bar, and grabbed a table. There were only a couple other people on the boat at that point, and by the time we landed at the last stop on Fisherman’s Wharf, we were the only people on the ferry.
We needed dinner, stat, which was kind of unfortunate since we were in the most crappy-tourist-restaurant-laden part of town. We walked down the Embarcadero looking at menus, and finally found a seafood restaurant that looked sufficient. There was a guitar guy playing in the mostly-crowded bar area, but the restaurant was nearly empty.
We looked over the menu, and everything was crazily overpriced. Our server brought a basket of rolls, so we ate those and ordered beer and appetizers rather than a full dinner. We sat there talking about a building Steve had learned was a sex club in Seattle, while a creepy guy sitting by himself at a nearby table didn’t bother disguising the fact that he was listening to our entire conversation. We paid up and headed to the bus stop to ride to the Tonga Room, figuring we could probably get more food there.
Matt and I knew what the interior of the Tonga Room looked like, and that it was inside a hotel, but we didn’t realize it was inside the Fairmont Hotel. (We also didn’t realize that the three-block walk from the bus stop would be up an insanely steep hill.) We were shocked at the fanciness of everything in the lobby. There was a sign for the Tonga Room pointing downstairs, so we headed that way and found the entrance at the very back of the building. It looked alarmingly like a club entrance in Vegas.
We were also a little shocked at the $7 cover and the fact that it was incredibly busy that early in the night, but we ended up at a table right between the bar and the dance floor, where we had a great view of the disaster unfolding around us.
First of all, there was this lady sleeping at the table next to us. She spend about 20 minutes like that, and then went and danced the rest of the night after the bouncer woke her.
There was a large group of people taking up most of the bar area and dance floor (which was also packed), and they were all clearly on the wealthier end of the spectrum. After overhearing bathroom conversations between some of them, we figured out that it was probably the most expensive rehearsal dinner event of all time. It seemed like probably half the people in the room knew each other, and some of them were in various stages of hilarious drunkenness. Colleen said there was even a girl crying on the far end of the bar.
The mai tais were way too sweet, but the scorpion bowl was awesome:
In the middle of the room, there’s a pool (the old hotel swimming pool, as a matter of fact) with a barge floating in it. That’s where the cover band plays. Every half hour or so, there’s fake thunder and light-flashing and it rains over the swimming pool, near the dance floor. That coupled with the pre-wedding spectacle going on around us made the entire thing really entertainingly surreal.
After our scorpion bowl, it was time to call it a night. I just wish we could have seen the aftermath the next day when all those people had to go to a wedding.
We had the best intentions of getting up Saturday morning to watch the Minnesota (us) – Michigan (Steve and Colleen) football game, but since it was at 9am and the only bars we knew would have it were far away, they decided to sleep in instead. I was up early, so I ‘watched’ it on my phone. Not that I really cared, because I knew exactly how it would end up. Our football team is godawful.
We met them at their hotel a bit later and rode the BART to the Mission for lunch at Pancho Villa. I was thrilled to find a tofu ranchero burrito on the menu. After a ton of food and a beer, we were ready to go be tourists. We rode back to where we’d come from, and walked to SFMOMA.
We only had 2 1/2 hours there, but we figured we’d see what we could. Our first stop was the rooftop patio, because it was gorgeous outside. It was kind of hard to leave there, actually.
We managed to see a pretty decent amount of the museum, including a really good Jasper Johns exhibition. We had a bit of time to hit up the gift shop for some souvenirs, and then decided it was time for beer. Luckily, there was a little brewpub called ThirstyBear right around the corner!
After a couple beers, we headed back to our respective hotels to change. Colleen and Steve came to meet us at our room, and we went to grab the town car they’d called using Uber. It was the first we’d heard of it, and the idea was indeed pretty awesome. Our driver took us over to the Japantown area, and dropped us off near State Bird Provisions.
We waited for a short time for our reservations, and got a table in back. We ordered beers, and our server explained how it worked: they had dim-sum-style carts going around the restaurant, and you could also order a few items off the menu, if you wished. We decided to wait for the carts.
The food was really impressive, but the carts were very low on the vegetarian offerings. We ended up ordering a couple things off the menu so I could have more dinner. All in all, though, it was great, and insanely popular. The line got a lot longer as we ate, and it was already late in the evening.
We walked over to Japantown mall in search of a beverage at a store that was just closing as we arrived. We decided to go check out a bar we’d seen on the way to the restaurant instead. When we got there we found a bouncer and a certain degree of fanciness involved, so we nixed that idea and went into a nearby pizza place for beers instead. We hung out there for a while watching sports, and then decided it was time to take them to the GREATEST BAR ON EARTH.
Colleen ordered another town car, and we had to chase him up the block because he had the location wrong. We got in and the whole car smelled like the driver’s really intense cologne. I said something about wanting water, so he told me to take a bottle from the back deck. I was happy to have it, but even the plastic was permeated with that smell. Amazing.
He dropped us at Red’s Place, where we got to introduce them to the joys of Chinese whiskey and the awesome jukebox.
Steve played a pretty amazing playlist, to the delight of some of the other customers. (It included “Call Me Maybe” and “Hey Jealousy”.) We decided it was finally time to leave when “Come Sail Away” came on, so we walked down the street in Chinatown singing it. (To the delight of some passers-by.) We were maybe a bit raucous, but then Chinatown was totally deserted. Nobody seemed to mind too much.