Dreams do come true.
Scratch that. Dreams, with thorough planning and preparation, do come true.
I admit, the first sentence carries with it a little bit of romance, a little chance. At heart, I am a dreamer. And I love romance. Those close to me will also tell you that I’m also a very practical girl and can plan things to death. I grew up, however, with lots of romance and love and happiness in my heart and I sincerely do expect life to unfold with as much love, romance, and happiness as possible. Now, imagine these dreams/plans and romance combined with a like-minded spirit — my sweet husband.
I don’t know exactly when it started but I reckon it was in 1983. This was the family’s first trip back to Jamaica since migrating to Canada in 1980. It was just the 4 of us: Mom, my brothers H and K, and me. I was 11. We spent a month in Jamaica with Mom driving us around the island in a VW Beetle.
My Uncle J was still alive at the time and he would always treat us to ice cream. (My emotional favourite flavour of ice cream is still grapenut.) He worked on cruise ships and in restaurants as the restaurant captain or chef de rang, if I recall correctly. At some point in time, perhaps before I was born, Uncle J worked at Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay.
And so began my obsession.
Pretty much every trip to Jamaica included a drive past the brilliant white walls and the black wrought-iron gates of Half Moon Resort. From the road you have a view of lush vegetation, tall palm trees, and hibiscus plants with their pink or red blooms. I yearned to know what lay beyond. Often, stories would arise mainly from my Aunt D who talked about having visited Half Moon. Uncle J talked about Half Moon too.
And then, about 3.5 years ago, I found a pamphlet about the resort in D’s garage.
WHAT?! (That was my reaction when I saw the pamphlet. It was pinned to the wall inside his garage. I snatched it from the wall and, while holding it in his face, asked him “where did you get this?” I was breathless. Why would he, this French man that I was just getting to know, have a pamphlet on the resort? I mean I didn’t even have a pamphlet and it was my dream place!)
And that’s where my obsession became a shared dream/goal/plan. A dream that has been realized for I can now tell you what lies on the other side of those white walls, the wrought-iron gates, and the lush vegetation: absolute heaven.
After our short flight from Toronto, we arrived at Sangster International Airport where we quickly cleared customs and found the Half Moon Resort lounge. After making arrangements for our return shuttle to the airport and a having a quick, refreshing drink, we hopped in our shuttle for the 10 minute drive to the resort.
I was already in heaven and the floating-on-a-cloud feeling wasn’t about to end. The bell men tended to our luggage while we were escorted to our check in area. With a rum punch in hand, we were efficiently checked in by Camille. Camille gave us a little map to the resort and explained everything we needed to know. And she told us we were going to have a great time.
(This is where I tell you that every Half Moon Resort employee, prior to and during our stay, told us we were going to have a great time. On their Facebook page they guarantee pending guests that a good time awaits them. Ditto on their website. And here was Camille, the 5th person in a matter of 30 minutes, telling us the same thing.)
One of the bellmen escorted us to our Hisbiscus Suite and checked the room to ensure that we had everything we needed. With the beach a mere 15 feet from our terrace and two pools — one with a swim-up bar — nearby, we were set. We spent the rest of the day lazing on the beach and enjoying the moment. That evening, after a wonderful dinner at Seagrape Restaurant, we came back to enjoy a bottle of champagne courtesy of the hotel. (And yes, we’re talking real champagne here. Drappier, if you want to know.)
We easily could have spent our week doing nothing. Our first order of business however was to rent bicycles. The resort is massive, about 400 acres, and getting around on foot would be limiting. (We could have rented golf carts but D and I both felt that riding bicycles would be more fun. And it was a lot of fun.) We decided to book some time to play with the dolphins, to swim with the horses, and to get a hot & cold stone massage at the Fern Tree Spa.
I don’t know that I’ve laughed so much while in the presence of two animals, Toni and Reggae, which easily outweigh me even at the ages of 3 and 4. Half Moon Resort has their own dolphin lagoon where you get to learn a little about dolphins before heading out to interact with them. Dolphins appear to be docile animals given the perma-grin on their faces so it’s easy to forget how strong they are and how quickly they can move. We were completely impressed and awed by the dolphins. Interacting with them had us laughing for the entire encounter.
We also decided on a morning swim with the horses the day after our frolic with the dolphins. D and I had previously done a ‘swim with the horses’ during our previous trip to Jamaica. It was a blast but Half Moon’s version took things a notch higher. Whereas our previous swim had the horses only shoulder deep in the water — this was still deep because these were big horses — the horses at Half Moon actually swim. They were actually running in the water with the sea floor below them. To add to the fun, we were instructed to let go of the reins at a certain point, grab the horse’s mane, and lift our legs behind us. In essence, we were floating above the horse’s back while holding his mane. That wasn’t the end. When instructed you could slide back and grab the horse’s tail and have him pull you. (I didn’t do this part as I had visions of not being able to grab the horse’s mane and, because no one had noticed that I was in difficulty, I was left floating out to see until finally ending up in Cuba.)
No dream honeymoon/vacation is complete without a trip to the spa. I’ve used services at several spas but I’m not a spa-aficionado. As for D, he had never stepped foot in a spa. After reading the Fern Tree Spa’s menu — I love that spas use the word menu — we decided on the hot & cold stone massage. There are no words that would adequately describe the experience. D and I both longed to linger at one of the spa’s dipping pools for the rest of our stay. It was a total zen experience.
I should also take the time to mention the food. D and I opted for the buffet at Seagrape every morning. The buffet offered a mix of continental and Jamaican food. Of course, there was fresh fruit every morning; we happily scarfed down slices of mango, pineapple, and watermelon. The same was true for lunch. Dinner was a different affair altogether with added choice of either The Sugar Mill Restaurant and Il Giardino. After dinner, we headed to the bar to sample some of the finest rum on the planet, Appleton Estate‘s 21-year old rum and the Master Blender’s Legacy.
Our only off-campus excursion was a visit to my Aunt D. I say sadly because Jamaica is such a beautiful island with so much to see and do. Staying at a resort does not give visitors a full picture of the island or her people. Every time I return to Jamaica I am greeted by a simple “welcome back” or “welcome home” from the customs agents. The feeling of returning home or being in the familiar only grows from there. Being in Jamaica is like being in my mother’s embrace: it’s comforting; it’s familiar; it’s warm. I truly love Jamaica and her mountains, her beaches, her lush vegetation, her people…
The best way to sum it all up is via the Jamaica Tourist Board‘s tag line: “once you go, you know.”
Camille and all the other Half Moon Resort employees we met — the bellmen, the concierge staff, the servers at the bars and restaurants, the gardeners, the pool staff — were absolutely correct. We had a fantastic time and we’re looking forward to going back.
And you, what is your favourite vacation spot?