Grand Cayman: Day 1

Two weeks ago, I hopped on a plane and flew down to Grand Cayman Island for a few days in the sun and on the surf.

I had been looking to close out the year with one more flight and even though Turks & Caicos was calling my name again (for $350), the $400 tickets to GCM tempted me into exploring a new island. I was happy because we managed to accomplish a good deal in five days without going overboard; we still had plenty of relaxation time and my self-made itinerary was flexible enough that we did not feel overwhelmed.
We got up bright and early on Tuesday morning and headed to the airport.

I love packing for tropical trips because bikinis and swimwear take up virtually no room. As usual, my sister and I ended up sharing my little Brics soft spinner. I also took along a tote (which was filled with puzzle books, coloring books, my Nintendo DS, iPad, chargers, and toiletries) while Sis took a backpack with similar entertainment items. We left our Dad to his own devices and he took his own small spinner.
United didn't have any flights available on Tuesday so we flew via American Airlines (which meant we had a short layover in Charlotte). On the first leg, the flight was pretty empty so we got to spread out a little.
My heart started racing when we finally hit the turquoise beauty of the Caribbean.
After doing virtually no research on lodging, I ended up just booking a room at the Marriott because I was downgraded from Platinum Elite status to Gold Elite status earlier this year and am set to lose that altogether pretty soon and I wanted to take advantage of my status while I still had it.

And then, after the fact, I did a little research and saw that comparable hotels had a similar, if not more expensive pricing, so I was smugly satisfied. I also managed to snag a rate that offered $50 resort credit (for food), which worked out nicely for us.

The hotel is pretty fancy; it's really modern and clean and as you walk in, you are offered a welcome drink. It was a super fresh strawberry drink (maybe a toned down lemonade? I'm not sure) and it's alcohol-free so the kids can grab a cup too.
Thanks to my elite status, we were upgraded from the standard room I had picked (which was the cheapest option, probably with either a street view or a side view, probably of another hotel) to a junior suite with a beach view on the top floor of the hotel. Granted, the hotel is only five floors, but you really don't need much height to enjoy a view of the ocean.
Isn't this view stunning? (This photo was taken later on in the week; we arrived much earlier than sunset, I just wanted to share this gorgeousness.)
Since we were feeling a bit peckish, we went down to the indoor eatery, Anchor & Den, to enjoy a light lunch (where our resort credits came in handy). Dad got the crispy smelt, which was really good (not at all fishy) and served with a delicious aioli.
M got the empanadas of the day (which were carnitas-filled). They were crispy and cheesy and the pork was tender. We were impressed.
I ended up with the cod fitters (a.k.a. buñuelos) which were incredibly light and flavorful. I need to try and make these at home for sure.
After lunch, M and I left out dad to relax poolside (with the Nook we bought him last Christmas) and we hopped on bikes (complimentary rentals through the hotel) and headed down to Kirk's to pick up bottled water for the week. It was a short ride that wasn't too stressful (the drivers were pretty generous to bikers on the road).

However, the ride back was a little more interesting. We'd picked up two six-packs of water that would easily fit in our bike baskets. The cashier pointed out that these two six-packs were more expensive than the twenty-four-pack. We bought the more economical pack but then had quite a time trying to figure out how we'd transport the giant case back to the hotel. We ended up tossing a few bottles into M's basket and then I grabbed the rest of the case and forced it into the tiny basket. The bottles weren't in the most secure position (especially considering the ride was a bit bumpy) but we made it back, almost. In the driveway of the hotel, M managed to drop one bottle. When she got off the bike to pick it up, the entire bike fell over and all of the bottles went rolling. We managed to save them all, but it was definitely a funny ordeal.
With the water bottles safely in the mini-fridge, we headed downstairs and onto the beach.
We took a v. short detour to test out these cute orb chairs (which were insanely comfortable) before we made use of the water trampolines.
For our first dinner, we headed to Casanova, which was just a short drive south on Seven Mile Beach. The owner and the majority of the staff are Italian which makes the experience a little more fun (unless they're faking their accents, which is something my sister was wondering about, kind of like in that scene in 30 Rock with Jack and Diana when they pass that Italian restaurant on Valentine's Day).
We were given complimentary bruschetta to start, which was a little salty but nice. For our meals, M and I each got a mixed green salad (which was simply tossed in fruity olive oil, salt, and pepper, which I found to be perfect; M thought it needed a little squeeze of lemon). M opted for the seafood risotto, which was super creamy and delicious and packed with seafood.
Dad got the penne al aragosto, which had a nice, fruity tomato sauce and big chunks of lobster.
I went for the linguine tutto mare, which was generously studded with seafood and doused in a delicious garlicky tomato sauce.
For dessert, we shared the sticky toffee pudding, which wasn't as toffee-flavored as I would have liked, but still delicious. Overall, we certainly enjoyed the meal but all of us were chugging waters when we got back to our room, as we found the food a little salty.
Since we'd had a long day with hours of traveling, we called it a night after dinner and turned in. I settled into bed with my puzzle book and then fell asleep in our comfortably air-conditioned room.

I'll be sharing each day's activities individually, so come back for more!