Bank on a good time in Grand Cayman: part two

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

Continued

Close by to the Botanic Park, you’ll find the 2.5 mile Mastic Trail – the route used by islanders to transport timber from the Northside of Grand Cayman to Bodden Town, right up until the 18th century – and a reminder that there’s more to the island that sand and sea. As you tramp past banana orchids (the national flower), silver thatch palms, ancient mastic trees and lens friendly wildlife (endemic Cayman parrots, West Indian woodpeckers and Caribbean doves are all present and correct), the pollution and high rises of hectic Beijing life seem a million, million miles away.

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Indeed for those attracted by the great outdoors, Grand Cayman has much to offer and nature lovers won’t want to miss the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm. When Christopher Columbus sailed through the region back in 1503, he saw so many turtles that he named the islands ‘Las Tortugas’. Times have changed: the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm, the only one of its kind in the world, breeds now endangered green sea turtles and then releases them into the wild. Visitors can tour the farm and see the creatures in various stages of growth.

For a dose of culture, head to Pedro St James (aka Pedro Castle), the only building to have survived a massive hurricane in 1785. It’s hardly the V&A but this beautifully restored three storey plantation style house, gives you a flavour of Cayman’s colonial period of life; it was here that an end to slavery was declared in 1835 and the story is told in fun 3D presentation.

Sleepy Bodden Town, the original capital of the Cayman Islands, could be your next port of call. This time warp town is only a couple of kilometres away from the current capital, Georgetown, but it feels like another world. In the former you’ll find the usual Caribbean clichés: islanders swigging rum while swinging in hammocks, radios playing reggae and rural roads lined with homegrown produce stands. By contrast the Disney-esque (all the buildings have been painted in candy pink or mint green ice cream) Georgetown targets cruise shippers in search of tax free shopping.

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If Grand Cayman is celebrated for its glitzy shopping, its cuisine is less well known although that’s changing. Celebrity chef and co owner of top New York restaurant Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert, has created two restaurants. Periwinkle offers a casual alfresco dining experience while Blue – the islands only AAA Diamond rated restaurant – is the place to dine on delicate coconut ginger soup with avocado and yellow fin tuna in a savoury soy citrus vinaigrette amid elegant, sea inspired décor. For post dinner drinks, make for a beachside bar blaring Bob Marley music. Calico Jacks is a top spot to quaff Cayman Mudslides (a plastic cup of frothy vodka, kahlua, tia maria and ice cream) at tables shaded by ketchup coloured umbrellas before dancing away the calories on the sand with friendly locals as well as Australians, Canadians and Jamaicans; Cayman draws people from all over the world.

They come here on holiday and then return repeatedly as the island vibe and slack paces works its subtle inexorable magic. In time, completely enchanted they find a way (thanks to Grand Cayman’s position as the world’s fifth largest financial centre) to move here for despite having a village called ‘Hell’, the island is anything but. All told, this is one of Caribbean’s top treats and a great place to call home (Sylvester Stallone, George Michael and Microsoft number two, Paul Allen all have beachside residences) whether for a week’s vacation or a whole lot longer…

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