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Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, located on the island’s north side, combines two of our very favorite things about Cayman—incredible natural beauty and rich history! John Lawrus is the General Manager of Botanic Park, and we recently had the honor of taking a tour of this incredible park with him.

John shared with us that Botanic Park, owned jointly by the Cayman Islands Government and The National Trust, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The park was opened by its namesake, Queen Elizabeth herself, in 1994. (John had the honor of meeting the Queen at the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show, where the park took home a Silver Medal!) When it first opened, the only completed attraction was the Woodland Trail.  Since then, the park has grown by leaps and bounds, encompassing 65 acres in total and boasting beautiful features like the Floral Colour Garden, the fascinating Heritage Garden, and award-winning orchids, plus it's home to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program through the National Trust. You can even spot some blues roaming throughout the park!

Originally from Canada, John moved to Cayman around 18 years ago to work in Botanic Park. He’s always had a passion for plants since childhood. Though he initially studied finance in school, the pull towards working with nature proved stronger than the pull towards numbers. He went back to school, attending the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, which is one of the most highly regarded educational tracks in the horticulture field. The coursework was intense, and John said that the students even had room inspections! But he knew the program provided unparalleled job opportunities in the field, so it was all worth it. After graduating, John worked at the UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver before seeing a job opening in Cayman. From there, he's worked his way up from Garden Supervisor to Deputy General Manager to his current position as General Manager today.

John’s passion for preservation and his enthusiasm for the calming power of nature is contagious. As a bit of an “indoor girl” myself, I’m not usually drawn to learning about plant life on my own. But hearing John talk about the origin of certain trees, flowers, and uses for medicinal plants made me realize I've been missing out. I really enjoyed learning about which herbs can be used in teas to help with various ailments. John also told us the story of a particular tree that was knocked over by hurricane winds. The tree was able to withstand the damage and has continued growing, just in a new direction.

My personal favorite part of the park was the Heritage Garden, which pays homage to native plants that have played a huge role in Cayman’s history. (It's also the winner of the Silver Medal from the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show in London!) In addition to highlighting important species like the Silver Thatch Palm, it also includes fruit trees, a medicinal garden, plus an original Caymanian house, owned by the Rankine family circa 1900. John told us that eight members of the Rankine family lived in the cozy iron-wood home—it's a little hard to imagine today! Instead of having a lawn with grass, the home was surrounded by a sand yard, which has been replicated down to the white conch shells lining the pathway to the front door. There’s even a “caboose” kitchen, which is separate from the main house.

Silver Thatch Palm lines the roof of the Heritage House, which is decorated to match how it would have looked in the early 1900s.

As we walked through the park, John shared his favorite aspects of his job—getting to spend time in nature and the ability to provide a beautiful place for others to come and enjoy. He loves being able to work in a place that provides peace and relaxation for others. John says he especially loves the diversity of plant life in the park— beautifully landscaped areas located next to spots with a more “rugged” feel where the plants grow a little more freely.

Enjoy a stroll in the shade on the Woodland Trail. 

John is also incredibly proud of the work being done on the new Children’s Garden within the park. With much-appreciated support from all the Rotary Clubs across the island, construction on phase one began in December 2018, and the Garden Grow Zone was just recently completed. Once it’s finished, the Children's Garden will include awesome features like a sensory garden, splash pad, maze, observation tower, and more. As a father to a young daughter, John said he was very excited to help provide a place where kids can be kids—to play in the dirt, get a little sweaty, and just enjoy spending time outside. He said the design for the park kept children of all personalities in mind—from those who prefer to run around and crawl through tunnels to those who would rather take in their surroundings a little more quietly from a comfy seat. (If you're interested in keeping up with the Children's Park, follow Botanic Park on Facebook for more info!).

When he isn't taking care of the park, John enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He likes to relax by going fishing or spending any time around water (which, as we know, Cayman offers the best of all water-related activities!) He also lives on the north side of the island, and gave us a few hints on the best place to grab a bite in the area—he recommends Over the Edge Cafe and Kurt's Corner in Old Man Bay, which is "the truest pub on the island." He recommends even more highly that you get your lunch to-go and come eat it in the park.

A blue happily takes in some sun.

Next time you're on island, we can't recommend a visit to Botanic Park enough. John even says, it's "the most peaceful place on island," especially to take a walk, and who are we to argue with him? So pack yourself a picnic and come take it all in. And if you see John, be sure to ask him to show you his favorite plant in the park!

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In the spirit of Easter, we are excited to introduce our guest blogger for this month, Claire Moore, who recently attended Mass at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in West Bay. Claire shares her wonderful experience worshiping while on vacation in Cayman below! 

During my time spent in the Cayman Islands, the experiences that stand out the most were the ones that showed me the true lifestyle of the Caymanians. . . and what better way to experience the local community than to attend a Sunday service at a neighborhood parish? From the exterior, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church seemed to resemble any modernly designed church one would find in middle America; however, once I walked in, I was met with an explosion of color from all around. The beautiful and bright Caribbean sun worked its magic through the stained glass windows, streaming in through both sides of the room. The people standing up front in the choir had bright smiles on their faces, ready to sing their hearts out. Even the congregation all seemed to be dressed in vibrant, island colors—a mix of locals and tourists alike waiting for Mass to begin. Growing up Catholic, I knew what to expect from a typical Sunday church service—the familiar songs, the readings from the Bible, the homily from the priest, and of course, communion. However, this service was already off to a unique and intriguing start.

I remember Father Edwin, the priest residing over the Mass that morning, seemed to have a quiet yet joyful peace about him as he read from the gospel of Mark: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . and you must love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” I smiled to myself when I heard those words, since everything about my experience in the Cayman Islands so far had reflected that sentiment. I thought of my first encounter with the lovely Patricia at Christopher Columbus Condos, welcoming us all to the island with her warm hugs and infectious smile. I thought of Scottie, our scuba instructor, who kept us smiling with his knowledge and wonder at the sea creatures below. Before I could drift off too far into my memories, we were all standing up together to say the Our Father and exchange the sign of peace. Once again, the room filled with this palpable spirit of joy as everyone turned around and shook hands with each other, beaming smiles on their faces. I thought to myself how easy it was to already feel like a neighbor in Cayman when everyone is treating you like their own!

The joy continued as the choir soared into a beautiful rendition of the “Lamb of God,” nearly bringing a tear to my eye. In that moment, the passion and love that the choir showed for their faith took my breath away. It helped me to focus and to pray with more authenticity, even if I had been through the motions of this service many times before. I was truly inspired to thank God for such a blessing, experiencing His love on such a beautiful island surrounded by such loving and spirit-filled people.

As communion was wrapping up, I packed up my things, expecting to leave shortly thereafter. However, Father Edwin smiled and asked all the visitors to the parish to stand. As a few people from my pew and I stood up, the choir again burst out into joyous song, singing their “Welcome Song” to us. At this point, I was laughing out loud! The people of Christ the Redeemer parish truly took loving God and loving your neighbor to the next level that morning. I walked into that church feeling like a tourist, just out for another new experience on the island, and I left feeling like a local, a neighbor, a friend. I could not recommend this experience more; not just for deepening your faith, but also for tasting the true Cayman kindness that truly exists everywhere you go on the island.


Father Edwin with Claire and her boyfriend, Devon
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Allow us to introduce you to Caymanian native, Gilbert Nicoletta or “Gil” as most people know him on island.

Gil owns Joe Tourist Outdoor Adventures, an awesome company that offers eco and cultural tours of Grand Cayman and day trips to Little Cayman. The company gives guests the ability to customize and personalize their visit to the island, while sampling authentic native food, snorkeling with wild sea turtles, cliff-jumping, exploring local limestone caves and enjoying all the natural wonders of the rustic Eastern Districts.

A media professional and entrepreneur with almost 35 years experience in print journalism, television and radio, Gil has written and reported extensively on entertainment, politics, personalities, culture/travel, business and a myriad of lifestyle and hard news topics. He got his start in journalism at age 17 working with the Cayman Nor'wester magazine and then later for The Cayman Compass daily newspaper as a reporter and photographer. Gil moved to New York City in 1983, where he worked as a freelance journalist for 10 years. Cayman called him back home in 1994, where he did a little bit of everything media wise. Gil says his journalism background allows him to provide guests on his tours, with unparalleled exposure to the historical and cultural landscape of the Cayman Islands.

While talking to Gil we also discovered that he’s a passionate motorcycle adventurer. In fact, he’s taken his motorcycles across all 50 US States. He’s also ridden 24 of the 28 EU countries and last year, he rode for three months in Canada, visiting all the provinces, except Manitoba and Newfoundland.

With his love for adventure and authentic experiences, we had to ask Gil to share a few of Cayman’s best kept secrets with us, too. For old-school Caymanian ambiance he recommends Al Frescos in West Bay. To “get a phenomenal sunset in the east” he suggests heading to South Coast Bar and Restaurant in Breakers. And of course he recommends taking a tour with Joe Tourist Outdoor Adventures. The day trip to Little Cayman features a three-course meal, a boat trip to the deserted cay of Owen Island and snorkeling on Bloody Bay Wall—all of which will give you a fabulous introduction to one of our beloved Sister Islands.

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Countdown to Cayman

One of our very favorite comments to see guests post on social media, is “30 more days” or insert just about any number in the quotes! (Meaning 30 or however many more days until you and your family or friends get to join us at Christopher Columbus Condos.)

We love these comments because we know it means you're so excited that you're literally counting down the days. And we don’t blame you. Grand Cayman is the best place in the entire world. Although, we may be just a little biased. ;)

So, whether you are about to make your first trip to visit us or you are coming back for the 5th time, we thought it would be nice to share a few creative ways to countdown to Cayman and build on the excitement.

Craft time!


  1. Make a Dry Erase Sign

Print out a sign with any words you want and put in a glass frame! Grab a dry erase marker and update the number everyday.

Download our PDF here


   
spotify island playlist
  2. Create Your Own Pineapple Countdown

A tropical twist on a classic construction paper craft. You'll need scissors, a pencil, tape and of course, construction paper. Take off a ring each day, and when it's gone it's time to go to the beach!

Get Instructions


     

  3. Eat One Treat a Day

This idea is both delicious and helpful for kids to see how much time has passed and how much is left before your big trip! Fill up a jar with whichever candy or snack you choose. With each day that passes by eat one piece of the snack inside until the day you leave for your Cayman Vacation!

Download the Printable

     

  4. Download a Countdown App on Your Phone

There are a ton of options for both Android and iPhone users to download an app and carry their countdown to Cayman reminder with them wherever they go! We like the Dreamdays (iPhone app & Android app) because you can customize your event background with your own photos. (You can also use backgrounds provided with the app for 99¢.)

If you use any of the ideas above or if you've done something else to countdown to Cayman we would love to see it! Use the hashtag #loveccc and #countdowntocayman and we may feature your post on the Christopher Columbus Condos social media pages!

Hopefully these tips add extra excitement before your trip, and if you don't already have a trip planned get to planning over on our Availability and Rates page!

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The Search for Sea Glass

Are you looking for a unique souvenir to remember your trip to the Cayman Islands? What about a piece of a rum bottle, sipped on by a great sea captain as he looked out over the waves on a full-moon night?

Take some time to search for sea glass on your next trip to Cayman and you may find just that or at least a piece with equal character. ; )

What is sea glass?

As I was planning my first trip to Grand Cayman, the idea of searching for sea glass immediately caught my eye. Growing up in the land-locked Midwest, I’d never heard of it and was intrigued by its beauty, mystery, and enthusiastic hunter community.

Sea glass forms after pieces of discarded glass tumble, roll, and crash around for years in the waves of water. After anywhere from ten to one hundred years, the sharp edges are worn smooth and the once-shiny surface takes on a more frosted look. Round, rock-like pieces of sea glass make their way to the shoreline and await discovery by people like you and me. 

Sea glass forms specifically from bodies of salt water, while similar “beach glass” comes from freshwater sources. A trained eye can spot the difference between sea and beach glass due to the piece’s luster—salt produces a more opaque surface. This stuff is so popular that it's even produced commercially, but the commercial glass will have a much shinier, cleaner look to it which indicates it's an imitation.

Uses

The uses for sea glass are as myriad as the colors it comes in. Some like to use it in jewelry making, wall art, statement pieces in jars or bowls, votive candle holders, as worry rocks, and more. Use pieces as inspiration for stories about the glass’s origin—is it the perfume bottle of a famous aristocrat from the 1920s, window glass lost during a storm, or a soda shared between a couple on their first date? Let your creativity run wild—the most important thing to keep in mind when searching for sea glass is to have fun.

Types of sea glass

Sea glass comes in a rainbow of colors from a variety of places, from old trash dumps to shipwrecks. Most common sources include beer, liquor, and soda bottles—a high percentage of white, brown, and white/clear sea glass can be sourced to these bottles. More rare colors include glass from medicine bottles, kitchenware, household decorations, and even auto/boat glass. Some rare colors you can keep an eye out for are cobalt blue, lavender, orange, lime green, cornflower blue, jade, and black.

With historical knowledge of commercial dying processes, some sea glass can even be dated to a particular era. For example, lavender glass can be traced to a change in the chemical processing of glass around WWI, and some sea-foam green can be traced to old Coca-Cola bottling practices. The sea glass enthusiast community has lots of great resources online to help you narrow down the origins of your finds.

So the next time you’re on Seven Mile Beach at high or low tide, grab your sun hat, a couple of friends, your imagination, and see what treasures you can find. And don’t forget to share photos of your sea glass finds with us using #loveCCC on Instagram.

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The way I met LeTher Robinson was a bit unconventional, however in our brief interaction, she epitomized what it meant to be CaymanKind and I am so grateful. 

Earlier in the week I made a reservation to go underwater with Atlantis Submarines in Georgetown. When the day came for my dive, excitement was quickly replaced with extreme nervousness. I had just driven on the opposite side of the road (and car) for the very first time in my life just days before. To get to Atlantis, I had to drive on the opposite side of the road, by myself with only a screenshot of directions to Georgetown. That's right, no GPS!

Fast forward a bit and I finally made it to Georgetown, although I had missed the submarine's departure time. I was upset, thinking I had just spent money on a missed adventure and frazzled from having gotten lost in an area completely unfamiliar to me and not in my directions. If you're wondering how I eventually found my way all I can say is two words: divine intervention. 

Although I missed my ride in the submarine, I still wanted to find my way to the Atlantis to see if I could reserve a spot on their day dive the following day. As I began walking around I noticed a sign for the Sandon Feat Gallery and decided to go in and see if anyone inside could point me in the right direction. 

I was immediately greeted by two women (LeTher and her coworker) who were working in the gallery that day and told them my situation. I asked LeTher if she could look up some information for me on the gallery's computer. To be honest I was so stressed out at the time, that I wasn't thinking very clearly. So, when they simply suggested that I tell the workers and Atlantis my situation and see if I could reschedule it was like a weight-lifting lightbulb went off in my head. I know, that's one powerful lightbulb! ;) 

I found out that the Atlantis building was just a short walk down the road. With all that taken care of I began to look around the gallery while talking to LeTher. I found out that she is originally from Jamaica and has lived in Cayman for over 14 years. She and her husband have two kids, a son and a daughter. She went to Cosmetology school and even owned her own salon at one point! 

Today, LeTher is often hired for her interior decorating skills and specifically loves paintings. It's clear from these interests that she truly appreciates art and has a creative spirit! What better place to live than Cayman where there is so much beauty to be inspired by. Once I introduced myself as a member of the marketing team for Christopher Columbus she even began inquiring ways she could improve her own marketing skills. 

I'm so thankful to LeTher for her Cayman KINDness to me on a stressful day. It just goes to show you that little things you do for others can still make a big difference!
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Christopher Columbus Condos is lucky to have a close community of owners, staff and returning guests. So when one of our own has something he or she is willing to share, we love to share it with this community and newbies alike.

Seven Mile Beach sceneRussell (Rusty) Bloodworth, a longtime owner and friend of the CCC community, recently shared a few watercolors that he's painted throughout his years in Cayman. The talent, emotion and human spirit that is so eloquently displayed in each is touching. 

My favorite is the painting of the late Captain Marvin featured above. Captain Marvin Ebanks pretty much started the chartered boating business in Grand Cayman and went on to found Captain Marvin's Watersports, a very successful tour operation still doing business in Cayman today.

Rusty and his family went on their first excursion with Captain Marvin in 1981, and over the years they formed a very close relationship with the Captain. The Captain used to take them out to dive for conch, out to Stingray City (which wasn't even named that then), and then he would proceed to the North Sound reef to spear fish with his helper. Captain Marvin made an experience of it by shelling and marinating conch (pictured in the watercolor) and then he'd take his groups to Rum Point where he cooked the fish on an open fire at the beach for all to enjoy a terrific meal. He was a wonderful man and a Caymanian legend. 

Rusty has been painting Cayman 'en plein air' for over 35 years and has painted a variety of people and places; his latest painting from November 2015 features the fish market in Georgetown. Painting en plein air requires a true commitment to the chosen subject as artists stand for hours to capture the people and places they want to emote on canvas. I think this commitment to place and the human story really shine through in Rusty's paintings. He let me in on a secret that he does have a tiny three-legged stool that helps him from getting too fatigued during his sessions. Nevertheless, as a writer, I can relate to the desire to tell stories, and I think that's done so beautifully in the paintings below. As time passes so do those special moments, and by painting them they get to live on forever really unlike any other form. Some of the houses that Rusty has painted over the years unfortunately no longer exist on the island, so I hope you enjoy these special glimpses of Cayman times over the past 35 years.

blue cayman house watercolor
Cayman Boat Repair
  Fish Market in Georgetown, November 2015
         
cayman house
  cayman shed

girl hunting for crabs
         
lady at rum point
  People at hermit crab rock
  boarded up house in west bay
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Most likely your favorite mementos from vacations are your photos and the memories that go with them. Photos are incredible memory joggers, and can put you right back in those blissful moments away from the every day grind. Photos you take in Grand Cayman can put you right back on the magnificent, wide-stretching, sandy beaches of the Caribbean. Follow the tips below to get your best beach photos yet - all with people you love in one of the most beautiful places in the world.


  1. Swing on the beach.

Take advantage of the oversized swing on our beach. It's perfect for family photos, and it's really fun to get photos while in motion, so don't be afraid to actually swing in it!


   

  2. Try a tilted angle.

Tilt your camera for a fresh view that will add an artsy touch to your photo.

     

  3. Create romantic silhouettes.

Place your subject(s) in front of a setting sun and voila your subject(s) will become a silhouette. If you're using a phone camera tap on the sun while in shooting mode to make sure the lens focuses on the light of the sun and not your subject.

     

  4. Capture footprints.

Trail one of your loved ones on the beach and take a photo of their footprints. If you are on a couples trip ask someone to take a photo of the two of you walking together. Little ones have precious footprints, too!

     

  5. Play on the shoreline.

Get a photo of small kids as the tide crashes into them. You'll get lots of giggles, squeals and funny expressions.

     

  6. Throw on a floppy hat.

Bring a couple of beach hats along. They can be used to create a wistful moment like this photo or sophisticated photos and fun ones, too. I especially love to see photos where the wind is catching someone's floppy hat.

     

  7. Bring fun sunglasses.

Pack a couple pairs of fun, funky, goofy and stylish sunglasses to take photos in. They add to the care-free vibe of the beach. If you have a little one don't forget to get sunglasses for them, too.

     
heart in sand
  8. Write something in the sand.

Draw something simple, or write something sweet like "I Love You" or get nostalgic and write your names and the year in the sand. The options are limitless!

     
underwater photo of girls with sand dollars
  9. Bring an underwater camera.

So much happens underwater in Cayman. You can go snorkeling directly from our beach! There's a lot to see and document, so don't forget to bring a waterproof camera.


More Photo Tips

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Every once in a while we need a little extra inspiration. A simple trip to the beach is our cure-all here on the island: Sinking our toes in the soft sand, listening to the gentle cadence of the waves, letting the sun kiss our skin. It's a wonderful thing that we never take for granted. Hopefully you will enjoy it soon, too, but in the meantime we've put a few photos from the Christopher Columbus Condos beach together with some amazing quotes that will take all of our landlocked friends down to the islands. We hope you enjoy them!










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