CHAMPAGNE OCCASIONS & HONEYMOONS

There is something so delicious about this time of year!  Apart from the turkey and trimmings….. it’s a thing called love and family and sweet beginnings. Many a canny mother or dad seem to know to keep a special bottle of champagne hidden away for that “unexpected” occasion.  Champagne

We are going to the New Year’s Eve celebration of the NC Symphony again this year and I hope we are treated once more to another romantic evening.  Last time as we gathered for the second half of the concert the young girl sitting next to me, a total stranger, turned to me in sweet joy to show off her brand new engagement ring!  Her boyfriend had proposed to her during the interval and she was beside herself with delight!! A whole row of unassociated persons united for a few short minutes rejoicing, laughing and exclaiming with the happy young couple.

Yup, it’s the time of love, family and sweet beginnings.  Planning a wedding can be stressful and a somewhat daunting undertaking – but planning the honeymoon afterwards can be the easiest part if you turn to experts for help!  We have that expertise in romantic destinations.

This is the perfect time to try an exotic trip to Africa.  It’s surprisingly affordable.  Combine the elegance of the Cape winelands and the stunning scenery of the Peninsula with the thrill of a photographic safari in the bush.  Makoro canoeOr travel to the golden sands and pounding surf of the Indian Ocean and on to Big Five Wildlife in Zululand.  Glide on makoro canoes through the Okavango Delta, watch elephants splash and play in Botswana, marvel at the magnificent Victoria Falls and end your journey sipping sundowners as you watch the sun set from the top of ancient granite boulders. Marriage is a big adventure and what better way to celebrate than starting out with your own African adventure?

Do you dream of the sun-bathed islands of the Caribbean and see the two of you relaxing on white sand beaches, toes in warm aqua oceans while sipping something tropically colorful?  There are so many wonderful resorts to choose from on a bewildering array of islands, each with their own particular charm.  It makes all the difference to have expert assistance in picking out the one just right for you.

Perhaps it’s the time-drenched cultures of Europe that appeal.  A rambling wander through countryside dotted with castles, vineyards, olive groves or lavender fields.  Castle ChateauxJourney down a river on an elegant cruise, ride bikes or hike mountain trails, take a fast train or test drive a new Mercedes, focus on food or beer or art.  There are so many ways to make memories in Europe and what a special way to begin your life together!

Planning honeymoons and destination weddings are some of our most favorite trips.  It’s such a wonderful way to begin and as we celebrate our 33rd year of marriage – we think we know what we are talking about!  We’re looking forward to hearing from you in 2014 and beginning those plans.

Jamaican Sandals Royal Caribbean

Our exploring over for the while, we returned the car to the depot at the airport and met up with the Sandals Representative in the luxurious private lounge in the arrivals hall.  Our luggage was tagged and taken away while we were offered an ice-cold drink and then escorted to our mini-van.

Beach at Sandals Montego Bay

Beach Sandals Mo Bay

We traveled with other passengers who had just flown in to the island, many of whom were returning Sandals guests, something we found not to be uncommon.  We were booked to spend the rest of the week at Sandals Royal Caribbean and as such were the last to be taken to our hotel.  We were able to get a peek into the Sandals Carlyle Inn and the Sandals Montego Bay on our way.

All of Sandals Resorts are adult-only luxury included resorts and sold as such with the emphasis on “couples in love”.  I was a little skeptical about this and not at all sure if I would find it to be a little cloying and even uncomfortable.  How wrong I was!

Ocean and beach view at Royal Caribbean

Ocean and beach view at RC

From the minute we arrived, the high standard of service and discretion that the staff employed was reassuring and it turned out to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable vacations we have ever enjoyed.  Imagine no whining or screaming kids to detract, no childish demands to impinge upon your time, nobody else’s bad mannered children to irritate – just no children!

In addition, the emphasis on couples in love means that everyone is taken care of, “hooked up” or “coupled”, so you never find yourself in a position where you are being picked up, propositioned, or made to feel uncomfortable.  It’s such relief!  And makes for easy friendships and conversations whether you are in your couple or having some alone time while your partner is at the gym, or diving or whatever!

Keith windsurfing

Windsurfing

It is as easy to spend time just the two of you, as it is to meet new friends or even plan to go as a group of favorite friends.  It’s the perfect resort to enjoy a destination wedding with only your adult friends in attendance, or travel with your close family.

Sandals Royal Caribbean resort is spread out in such a way that there are so many different places to go and things to enjoy that you have to make a plan to meet!

Private coves at Royal Caribbean

Private coves at Royal Caribbean

With gorgeous landscaping all set around buildings offering different experiences from swim-up rooms, to beachside walk-out suites, there is bound to be something to appeal.

This resort is designed around a series of little coves all looking west over their private island and beyond the stunning sunsets.  It is an exclusive, intimate and very inviting place to enjoy some special time with your precious partner.

Sunset on Jamaica

Sunset on Jamaica

Jamaican Island Exploration

The afternoon rain storms seem to have set in over the west and so we drove in the opposite direction with little other agenda than that of exploring.  We followed the coastal highway east from Mo’ Bay towards Ochos Rios.  We discovered much of the countryside to be so familiar to that of parts of Zimbabwe, that at some time I said to Keith to “pinch me!  This looks and feels like we are in Mutare!”  In so many ways it could have been –  Mutare by the sea!  Flamboyants, figs, bananas, sugar cane, bougis, even trees that looked remarkably like our acacias!

Inland roads

The road wound away from the coastline at times and through gaps cut through limestone toward the interior.  At some points we were driving with some relatively high limestone cliffs on our inland side and noticed plenty of caves and crevices reminding us of Jamaica’s pirate history.  We drove off the main road to visit the coastal town of Falmouth where a brand new cruise terminal is being constructed and will be one of the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines ports of call. It will be the only new thing in this little town which looked to all intents and purposes like a film set for Pirates of the Caribbean!

Falmouth church

Weather battened and beaten stone buildings hold solid place besides tiny wooden houses once painted bright tropical colors but now faded to pastel shades.  Buzzing shops and informal markets are alive with a sudden mass of people, cars, mini-buses and battered pick-ups all thrusting and shoving their way through the little tangle of town streets and all following their own set of rules.  We just brought our own set into the general melee!

We escaped the sudden chaos and set back onto the coastal highway heading towards Runaway Bay and whatever else we would see along the way.  The lure of the mountainous inland proved too much and we branched off towards the interior.

Traveling through the steep hills we wound our way ever upward on narrow and often pot-holed roads that twisted like some tormented serpent through the impossibly thick and lush vegetation.  Little communities clustered around make-shift church buildings, goats and chickens, evidence of farms and small-holdings with dwellings set further back and surely with the most fabulous views over the ocean far below, are carved out of this bush.  Impossibly speeding mini-buses roar around the corners honking horns to warn of their imminent arrival, send the occasional bicyclist and ubiquitous goats scattering or hugging the crumbling edge of the road.  It never fails to amaze me how one always seems to find the fastest drivers in the most laid-back cultures!  Nothing else ever seems to be in a rush or has only the vaguest awareness of time!

Fishing at sunset

It was fantastic to find ourselves high above the coastline and in the Jamaican hills.  There were views everywhere you looked.  Toward and out over the ocean, taking in the bays and coves and distant headlands, the reef showing in places with gentle surf cresting white waves against the shallow coral shelves and inland to west and east, mile upon mile of rolling hills and deep valleys all cloaked in impenetrable dark green vegetation.  As a descendant of pioneers growing up in a land dependant on agriculture, the impression of rich untapped agricultural wealth was overwhelming.  But then I suppose it could be looked at too as rich virgin nature in a world of ever increasing over development – and relished as such.  We certainly did.

Ocean visits

There are no two ways about it – I just love the sea!  Any time I get a chance to spend some time down at the beach, I’ll take it.  Any beach.  Any sea.  Any season.  Any time.  There is something about being close to that huge body of water that soothes my soul and revitalizes me at the same time.  It doesn’t really matter what ocean either. 
I have lived on the Indian Ocean and relished the crashing surf and long golden rough sands of the beaches there.  I love the rocky coastline with its tidal pools and sheltered coves of northern Zululand which also dot the Wild Coast and the Cape.  The magnificence of the cliffs, long rolling waves and stunning views as you drive the famed Garden Route of eastern South Africa, incredibly duplicated half way across the world on the Big Sur of California.  Or driving the Mendocino coastline through timeless redwood forests with breathtaking vistas across the Pacific Ocean and brisk ocean breezes, always cool even in the heat of summer. 
The cold waters of the Atlantic up around England with its chalky cliffs and huge tidal variation, smugglers caves and ancient shipyards have their own appeal.  Wind-blown walks on high promontories, exploring lonely sea-surrounded castles with wisps of fog blowing in with whispers of medieval happenings.  Like I said, any chance I get, I am down at the sea! 
And can anything at all compare with the multi-hued aqua colours of the warm Caribbean waters?  Gorgeous, silky soft water reflecting sequin shades of blues and greens sparkle in tropical sunshine. There’s a magical playground just below the surface filled with every cartoon fish-character you could ever hope to meet.  Beaches of white and pink and pastel coral colours, just beg a lazy afternoon snooze in a hammock strung between palms.  Every island a find and potential treasure – a worthy life-long goal, that of acquainting yourself with each one! 
We live on the eastern seaboard of the Atlantic Ocean now and close enough that we can reach our ocean shores in a short drive.  The North Carolina coastline, I read somewhere once, is actually longer than the Californian coast if measured in miles in and out all the many inlets and bays.  An extremely varied and fascinating coastline with stories and fables unique to the people of this state and intricately tied up with the very first settlers to ever arrive from across the sea. 

Most unique to this area are a string of border islands, mere banks of sands covered in wild sea oats, which provide a protective barrier to the mainland. This creates large bodies of water between mainland and island, called sounds.  They thrive with life both above and below the water and in turn provide much recreation and sustenance to those fortunate to live and play here. 

Iconic lighthouses have provided safety and direction to ships both large and small for decades and are often on the list of vacationers to this region.  Each one built or decorated in a very different and instantly recognizable pattern.  Huge black and white diamonds decorate the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, while black and white twirls mark the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, for all the world like some monochrome candy cane, as unique!
Sometimes my purpose when I travel down to this sea is to explore another lighthouse but often it is just to spend unhurried time there.  On the beach, by the sea, listening to the call of the gulls and hearing the ceaseless rhythm of the waves.  As I said, it soothes my soul and reminds me that there is something far bigger and more eternal than me.  It puts “me” into perspective again. 
101 Painted Fall Way, Cary, NC 27513 | email: su@lazylizardtravel.com or keith@lazylizardtravel.com | tel: (919) 463-8009
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